814: Produce & Pipelines

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 50m
April 7th, 2016
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Executive Producers: Thor Odelsting, Sir Henry P. Biglin, Sir Smilesalot Ryan Merritt, Craig Lucca, Daniel J Franco

Associate Executive Producers: Sir Sander Hoksbergen Baron of the Alps, JQ, Ron Nooren, Sean Regalado

Cover Artist: Patrick Buijs

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NO AGENDA NOVELS-Home - Scott McKenzie
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 15:53
Latest release: The Boy with Involuntary Social Network Disorder (A No Agenda Novel)
Kindle US | Kindle UK | Print US | Print UK
Boy meets girl. Girl opens boy's eyes. Boy's life changes forever...
Paddy's just a regular guy. He drinks beer, watches football, chases girls and posts everything about himself online. Then he meets Laura, but he's shocked to discover that she lives her life almost entirely offline. She doesn't use social networks and doesn't even have a mobile phone.
But despite Laura's differences from every other girl he has known, Paddy is drawn to her, and she opens his eyes to the world around him. He discovers how social networks can be used to manipulate the public, and he finds himself faced with decisions that could lead him to abandon everyone and everything he knows for the chance of love and a real purpose in his life...
The Boy with Involuntary Social Network Disorder is the latest novel from the author of One Day in Gitmo Nation, A Gitmo Nation Christmas Carol and The Foot on the Shore. It is inspired by the topics discussed on the No Agenda show, hosted by Adam Curry and John C Dvorak.
Drawing Dead: A Tale of Poker and Vampires
Audiobook narrated by Alex Hyde-White now available! Click the audiobook links below to find out more and listen to a sample.
Kindle US | Kindle UK | Print US | Print UK | Audiobook US | Audiobook UK
Eddie Nelson is a professional poker player, testing his skills in Las Vegas at the World Series of Poker for the first time. Unfortunately, he's on the worst run of his life and can't afford his buy-in to the Main Event. Then he meets a shadowy figure called Raphael who offers to back him for a fifty-fifty split of any winnings. But if he loses, he has to play in a private tournament of Raphael's choosing...
Proudly associated with Pittsburgh Writer
Amazon.com: The Boy with Involuntary Social Network Disorder (A No Agenda Novel) eBook: Scott McKenzie: Kindle Store
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 02:45
Boy meets girl. Girl opens boy's eyes. Boy's life changes forever...Paddy's just a regular guy. He drinks beer, watches football, chases girls and posts everything about himself online. Then he meets Laura, but he's shocked to discover that she lives her life almost entirely offline. She doesn't use social networks and doesn't even have a mobile phone.
But despite Laura's differences from every other girl he has known, Paddy is drawn to her, and she opens his eyes to the world around him. He discovers how social networks can be used to manipulate the public, and he finds himself faced with decisions that could lead him to abandon everyone and everything he knows for the chance of love and a real purpose in his life...
The Boy with Involuntary Social Network Disorder is the latest novel from the author of One Day in Gitmo Nation, A Gitmo Nation Christmas Carol and The Foot on the Shore. It is inspired by the topics discussed on the No Agenda show, hosted by Adam Curry and John C Dvorak.www.noagendashow.com
TODAY
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Why do we say 4 CORNERS of the earth
Millennials are offended by words, especially when words are in text messages and not spoken. Without context, text is usually perceived according to the mood, attitude and filters of the recipient at the time it is received.
Native / Incumbent Citizen Privelege
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Virtual reality is the act of using technology to achieve something we are already capable of and have been for centuries: the ability to change our view.
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EuroLand
EU-Ukraine Association Agreement '' the complete texts - Mission of Ukraine to the European Union
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 20:39
Disclaimer: Please note that the documents published on this website are only for information purposes.
Text of the initialled AgreementPreamble
Title I: General Principles
Title II: Political Dialogue and Reform, Political Association, Cooperation and Convergence in the Field of Foreign and Security Policy
Title III: Justice, Freedom and Security
Title IV: Trade and Trade-related Matters
Title V: Economic and Sector Cooperation
Title VI: Financial Cooperation, with Anti-fraud Provisions
Title VII: Institutional, General and Final Provisions
ANNEXES to the AgreementAnnexes to Title IV: Trade and Trade-related Matters
Annexes to Title V: Economic and Sector Cooperation
Annexes to Title VI: Financial Cooperation, with Anti-fraud Provisions
PROTOCOLS to the AgreementProtocol I (Title IV: Trade and Trade-related Matters)
Protocol II (Title IV: Trade and Trade-related Matters)
Protocol III (Title V: Economic and Sector Cooperation)
'Ook referendum over TTIP en CETA' - Binnenland - PAROOL
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:30
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Dutch reject EU-Ukraine deal '' POLITICO
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 20:39
Morning ExchangeFrancesco Guerrera's daily briefing on the intersection of political and financial power.
Brussels PlaybookRyan Heath's must-read briefing on what's driving the day in Brussels.
Morgen EuropaFlorian Eders werkt¤gliches Briefing zur europ¤ischen Politik.
Brussels InfluenceA weekly intelligence and analysis newsletter on money and lobbying.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte casting his vote | Bart Maat/AFP via Getty Images
Turnout projected to be just over the threshold needed to send deal back to parliament.
ByCynthia Kroet
4/6/16, 9:13 PM CET
Updated 4/6/16, 10:19 PM CET
The Dutch government suffered an embarrassing defeat Wednesday as voters overwhelmingly rejected an EU deal with Ukraine, with 64 percent voting No, according to an exit poll.
Turnout was 32 percent, according to provisional data from the broadcaster NOS, just 2 percent above the threshold needed to send the issue back to parliament. Earlier projections had put turnout at just under the 30 percent threshold.
The final result was due late Wednesday evening, polling organization Ipsos said. If the turnout does stay above the 30 percent mark, it would be the worst possible outcome for the Dutch government.
Although the result of the referendum is non-binding, Dutch law says that a No vote, combined with a turnout of more than 30 percent, would mean the deal having to be discussed again by parliament.
The deal '-- officially an ''association agreement'' '-- which aims at improving trade between the EU and Ukraine, provisionally came into force on January 1, but needs to be ratified by all 28 EU members. The Dutch parliament has already backed the deal.
Geert Wilders, leader of the far-right Freedom Party, was quick to take to Twitter after polling finished, saying the result was ''great'' and hoping that the turnout passed the 30 percent mark.
Emile Roemer, leader of the Socialist Party, said: ''I am happy with the result. People wanted to tell the government that Ukraine is too corrupt to sign an agreement with. They also wanted to show that Europe is only there for the elite and multinationals.''
Alexander Pechtold, leader of the liberal D66 party, which supported the deal, said: ''I had hoped that the Yes and No vote would have been more tied.''
Earlier, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who cast his ballot at a primary school in The Hague, had urged citizens to vote Yes.
''We have to help Ukraine build up a judicial state and its democracy. To support its minorities like Jews and its gay community. Therefore I call on the entire Netherlands: go vote and vote in favor,'' he said.''Europe needs more stability at its edges.''
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had warned that a Dutch No vote could lead to a ''continental crisis.''
''I want the Dutch to understand that the importance of this question goes beyond the Netherlands,'' the newspaper NRC quoted Juncker as saying in January.
''I don't believe the Dutch will say no, because it would open the door to a big continental crisis,'' he said. ''Russia would pluck the fruits of an easy victory.''
The referendum was seen by many political commentators as a vote on the EU and on Rutte's government.
It was the first referendum to take place under a Dutch law that obliges the government to call a public vote on any petition that gets the support of 300,000 people. In this case, GeenPeil, an initiative set up by a far-right, Euroskeptic website called GeenStijl, collected more than 400,000 signatures in six weeks last fall.
The vote is an embarrassment for the government as it holds the rotating presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers, and it brings back painful memories of another EU referendum.
In 2005, the center-right government of Jan Peter Balkenende backed a Yes campaign for plans to give the EU greater powers through a European Constitution, with disastrous results.
More than 60 percent voted No to the constitution, three days after the French also rejected the idea. The level of opposition and the turnout '-- 62 percent '-- exceeded all projections.
A No vote was also seen as a boost to the ''Brexit'' campaign.
''If the Dutch people vote No today, it will be a incentive for the British voters to say no,'' Wilders had said.
Wikileaks Reveals IMF Plan To "Cause A Credit Event In Greece And Destabilize Europe" | Zero Hedge
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:48
One of the recurring concerns involving Europe's seemingly perpetual economic, financial and social crises, is that these have been largely predetermined, "scripted" and deliberate acts.
This is something the former head of the Bank of England admitted one month agowhen Mervyn King said that Europe's economic depression "is the result of "deliberate" policy choices made by EU elites. It is also what AIG Banque strategist Bernard Connolly said back in 2008 when laying out "What Europe Wants"
To use global issues as excuses to extend its power:
environmental issues: increase control over member countries; advance idea of global governanceterrorism: use excuse for greater control over police and judicial issues; increase extent of surveillanceglobal financial crisis: kill two birds (free market; Anglo-Saxon economies) with one stone (Europe-wide regulator; attempts at global financial governance)EMU: create a crisis to force introduction of ''European economic government''This morning we got another confirmation of how supernational organizations "plan" European crises in advance to further their goals, when Wikileaks published the transcript of a teleconference that took place on March 19, 2016 between the top two IMF officials in charge of managing the Greek debt crisis - Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF's European Department, and Delia Velkouleskou, the IMF Mission Chief for Greece.
In the transcript, the IMF staffers are caught on tape planning to tell Germany the organization would abandon the troika if the IMF and the commission fail to reach an agreement on Greek debt relief.
More to the point, the IMF officials say that a threat of an imminent financial catastrophe as the Guardian puts it, is needed to force other players into accepting its measures such as cutting Greek pensions and working conditions, or as Bloomberg puts it, "considering a plan to cause a credit event in Greece and destabilize Europe."
According to the leaked conversation, the IMF - which has been pushing for a debt haircut for Greece ever since last August's 3rd Greek bailout - believes a credit event as only thing that could trigger a Greek deal; the "event" is hinted as taking place some time around the June 23 Brexit referendum.
As noted by Bloomberg, the leak shows officials linking Greek issue with U.K. referendum risking general political destabilization in Europe.
The leaked transcript reveals how the IMF plans to use Greece as a pawn in its ongoing negotiation with Germany's chancelleor in order to achieve the desired Greek debt reduction which Germany has been pointedly against: in the leak we learn about the intention of IMF to threaten German Chancellor Angela Merkel to force her to accept the IMF's demands at a critical point.
From the transcript:
THOMSEN: Well, I don't know. But this is... I think about it differently. What is going to bring it all to a decision point? In the past there has been only one time when the decision has been made and then that was when they were about to run out of money seriously and to default. Right?
VELKOULESKOU: Right!
THOMSEN: And possibly this is what is going to happen again. In that case, it drags on until July, and clearly the Europeans are not going to have any discussions for a month before the Brexits and so, at some stage they will want to take a break and then they want to start again after the European referendum.
VELKOULESKOU: That's right.
THOMSEN: That is one possibility. Another possibility is one that I thought would have happened already and I am surprised that it has not happened, is that, because of the refugee situation, they take a decision... that they want to come to a conclusion. Ok? And the Germans raise the issue of the management... and basically we at that time say "Look, you Mrs. Merkel you face a question, you have to think about what is more costly: to go ahead without the IMF, would the Bundestag say 'The IMF is not on board'? or to pick the debt relief that we think that Greece needs in order to keep us on board?" Right? That is really the issue.
* * *
VELKOULESKOU: I agree that we need an event, but I don't know what that will be. But I think Dijsselbloem is trying not to generate an event, but to jump start this discussion somehow on debt, that essentially is about us being on board or not at the end of the day.
THOMSEN: Yeah, but you know, that discussion of the measures and the discussion of the debt can go on forever, until some high up.. until they hit the July payment or until the leaders decide that we need to come to an agreement. But there is nothing in there that otherwise is going to force a compromise. Right? It is going to go on forever.
The IMF is also shown as continuing to pull the strings of the Greek government which has so far refused to compromise on any major reforms, as has been the case since the first bailout.
As the Guardian notes, Greek finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos has accused the IMF of imposing draconian measures, including on pension reform. The transcript quotes Velculescu as saying: ''What is interesting though is that [Greece] did give in '... they did give a little bit on both the income tax reform and on the '... both on the tax credit and the supplementary pensions''. Thomsen's view was that the Greeks ''are not even getting close [to coming] around to accept our views''. Velculescu argued that ''if [the Greek government] get pressured enough, they would '... But they don't have any incentive and they know that the commission is willing to compromise, so that is the problem.''
Below is Paul Mason's summary of what is shaping up as the next political scandal.
The International Monetary Fund has been caught, red handed, plotting to stage a ''credit event'' that forces Greece to the edge of bankruptcy, using the pretext of the Brexit referendum.
No, this is not the plot of the next Bond movie. It is the transcript of a teleconference between the IMF's chief negotiator, Poul Thomsen and Delia Velculescu, head of the IMF mission to Greece.
Released by Wikileaks, the discussion took place in Athens just before the IMF walked out of talks aimed at giving Greece the green light for the next stage of its bailout.
The situation is: the IMF does not believe the numbers being used by both Greece and Europe to do the next stage of the deal. It does not want to take part in the bailout. Meanwhile the EU cannot do the deal without the IMF because the German parliament won't allow it.
* * *
Let me decode. An ''event'' is a financial crisis bringing Greece close to default. Just like last year, when the banks closed, millions of people faced economic and psychological catastrophe.
Only this time, the IMF wants to inflict that catastrophe on a nation holding tens of thousands of refugees and tasked with one of the most complex and legally dubious international border policing missions in modern history.
The Greek government is furious: ''we are not going to let the IMF play with fire,'' a source told me.
But the issue is out of Greek hands. In the end, as Thomsen hints in the transcript, only the European Commission and above all the German government can decide to honour the terms of the deal it did to bail Greece out last July.
The transcript, though received with fury and incredulity in Greece, will drop like a bombshell into the Commission and the ECB. It is they who are holding E300bn+ of Greek debt. It is the whole of Europe, in other words, that the IMF is conspiring to hit with the shock doctrine.
The Greeks are understandably angry and confused; As Bloomberg reported earlier, "Greece wants to know whether WikiLeaks report regarding IMF anticipating a Greek default at about the time of the U.K. June 23 referendum on its EU membership is the fund's official position" government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili says Saturday in e-mailed statement. For its part, an IMF spokesman in e-mail Saturday said it doesn't "comment on leaks or supposed reports of internal discussions."
Two side observations:
1. has a "Snowden" leaker now emerged at the IMF; if so we can expect many more such bombshell accounts in the coming weeks; or perhaps the reason for the leak is less nuanced: a bugged hotel.
2. it may be another turbulent summer in Europe.
Source
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Israel warns: Europe flooded with hundreds of jihadists planning to strike - Middle East - Jerusalem Post
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 18:15
Europe has been flooded with "hundreds of jihadists planning to strike Western targets on European soil," Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told his Polish counterpart, Antoni Macierewicz, in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
"We are concerned that what we saw in Paris and Brussels is just the start, and that attempts to carry out terror attacks in Europe will continue," he added.
Turning his attention to events north of the Syrian border, Ya'alon said, "We do not expect there to be stability and an end to the bloodshed in Syria anytime soon." "In the war there, there are many conflicting interests and too many players in the arena. Some of these players, the global jihad organizations for example, are determined to continue fighting," he added.
Jihadists in Europe are stockpiling weapons and knowledge that they obtained through fighting in Syria, as well as extremist ideology, Ya'alon warned.
Addressing the humanitarian catastrophe afflicting Syrian civilians, Ya'alon said that Israel is providing medicines, food, "and anything that refugees who reach our northern border need. As Jews, we cannot ignore this human tragedy."
Ya'alon, who hosted Macierewicz at his bureau at the Defense Ministry, discussed the latest situation in the Middle East, its influence on Europe, and on ways to continue strengthening bilateral Israeli-Polish defense ties.
"Israel and Poland share common values and interests, as well as many, complex challenges," Ya'alon said during the meeting. Defense cooperation benefits both countries, he said. "Unfortunately, Israel is very experienced in dealing with these challenges, both in in their conventional and terrorist perspectives, rockets, and more. We are prepared to cooperate and share knowledge and technology."
The defense minister stressed the cooperation in place between the Polish and Israeli defense industries, as well as defense establishments and militaries.
Brussels 'spending more on propaganda than anti-terror' | | The Times & The Sunday Times
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:32
Cartoon strips, games and colouring books are among the literature that the EU produced last year
The European Union spends more on propaganda than on counterterrorism measures, according to Vote Leave.
Researchers with the pro-Brexit campaign claimed that the EU's budget this year apportioned almost '‚¬20 million (£16 million) more to communications than to combating terrorism.
It also said that 1,021 staff members in the European Commission work in the directorate-general for communications, and no more than 392 in the department for migration and home affairs, which presides over counterterrorism policy.
In addition, the European parliament will spend '‚¬79,256,500 this year on communication activities, and the European Court of Justice will spend '‚¬521,500, it said '-- bringing
Panama Papers
There are no secrets. Only information you don't yet have.
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:44
Over a year ago, an anonymous source contacted the S¼ddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and submitted encrypted internal documents from Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian law firm that sells anonymous offshore companies around the world. These shell firms enable their owners to cover up their business dealings, no matter how shady.
In the months that followed, the number of documents continued to grow far beyond the original leak. Ultimately, SZ acquired about 2.6 terabytes of data, making the leak the biggest that journalists had ever worked with. The source wanted neither financial compensation nor anything else in return, apart from a few security measures.
The data provides rare insights into a world that can only exist in the shadows. It proves how a global industry led by major banks, legal firms, and asset management companies secretly manages the estates of the world's rich and famous: from politicians, Fifa officials, fraudsters and drug smugglers, to celebrities and professional athletes.
A group effortThe S¼ddeutsche Zeitung decided to analyze the data in cooperation with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). ICIJ had already coordinated the research for past projects that SZ was also involved in, among them Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks, and Swiss Leaks. Panama Papers is the biggest-ever international cooperation of its kind. In the past 12 months, around 400 journalists from more than 100 media organizations in over 80 countries have taken part in researching the documents. These have included teams from the Guardian and the BBC in England, Le Monde in France, and La Naci"n in Argentina. In Germany, SZ journalists have cooperated with their colleagues from two public broadcasters, NDR and WDR. Journalists from the Swiss Sonntagszeitung and the Austrian weekly Falter have also worked on the project, as have their colleagues at ORF, Austria's national public broadcaster. The international team initially met in Washington, Munich, Lillehammer and London to map out the research approach.Making of
Video-FehlerIhr Browser unterst¼tzt leider die auf dieser Seite verwendete Technik zur Videowiedergabe nicht. Bitte aktualisieren Sie Ihren Browser.Hier gibt das Video zum Download.The dataThe Panama Papers include approximately 11.5 million documents '' more than the combined total of the Wikileaks Cablegate, Offshore Leaks, Lux Leaks, and Swiss Leaks. The data primarily comprises e-mails, pdf files, photo files, and excerpts of an internal Mossack Fonseca database. It covers a period spanning from the 1970s to the spring of 2016.
Moreover, the journalists crosschecked a large number of documents, including passport copies. About two years ago, a whistleblower had already sold internal Mossack Fonseca data to the German authorities, but the dataset was much older and smaller in scope: while it addressed a few hundred offshore companies, the Panama Papers provide data on some 214,000 companies. In the wake of the data purchase, last year investigators searched the homes and offices of about 100 people. The Commerzbank was also raided. As a consequence of their business dealings with Mossack Fonseca, Commerzbank, HSH Nordbank, and Hypovereinsbank agreed to pay fines of around 20 million euros, respectively. Since then, other countries have also acquired data from the initial smaller leak, among them the United States, the UK, and Iceland.
The systemThe leaked data is structured as follows: Mossack Fonseca created a folder for each shell firm. Each folder contains e-mails, contracts, transcripts, and scanned documents. In some instances, there are several thousand pages of documentation. First, the data had to be systematically indexed to make searching through this sea of information possible. To this end, the S¼ddeutsche Zeitung used Nuix, the same program that international investigators work with. S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and ICIJ uploaded millions of documents onto high-performance computers. They applied optical character recognition (OCR) to transform data into machine-readable and easy to search files. The process turned images '' such as scanned IDs and signed contracts '' into searchable text. This was an important step: it enabled journalists to comb through as large a portion of the leak as possible using a simple search mask similar to Google.The journalists compiled lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The "party donations scandal" list contained 130 names, and the UN sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the 11.5 million documents.
The researchFor each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this person's role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal?Generally speaking, owning an offshore company is not illegal in itself. In fact, establishing an offshore company can be seen as a logical step for a broad range of business transactions. However, a look through the Panama Papers very quickly reveals that concealing the identities of the true company owners was the primary aim in the vast majority of cases. From the outset, the journalists had their work cut out for them. The providers of offshore companies '' among them banks, lawyers, and investment advisors '' often keep their clients' names secret and use proxies. In turn, the proxies' tracks then lead to heads of state, important officials, and millionaires. Over the course of the international project, journalists cooperated with one another to investigate thousands of leads: they examined evidence, studied contracts, and spoke with experts.
Among others, Mossack Fonsecas' clients include criminals and members of various Mafia groups. The documents also expose bribery scandals and corrupt heads of state and government. The alleged offshore companies of twelve current and former heads of state make up one of the most spectacular parts of the leak, as do the links to other leaders, and to their families, closest advisors, and friends. The Panamanian law firm also counts almost 200 other politicians from around the globe among its clients, including a number of ministers.
The companyThe company at the center of all these stories is Mossack Fonseca, a Panamanian provider of offshore companies with dozens of offices all over the world. It sells its shell firms in cities such as Zurich, London, and Hong Kong '' in some instances at bargain prices. Clients can buy an anonymous company for as little as USD 1,000. However, at this price it is just an empty shell. For an extra fee, Mossack Fonseca provides a sham director and, if desired, conceals the company's true shareholder. The result is an offshore company whose true purpose and ownership structure is indecipherable from the outside. Mossack Fonseca has founded, sold, and managed thousands of companies. The documents provide a detailed view of how Mossack Fonseca routinely accepts to engage in business activities that potentially violate sanctions, in addition to aiding and abetting tax evasion and money laundering.
About S¼ddeutsche ZeitungHeadquartered in Munich, S¼ddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) is one of Germany's leading newspapers. SZ has a total readership of 4.4 million for its print and online media. Its investigative journalism team counts five people, three of which are members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The S¼ddeutsche Zeitung has won a number of prestigious awards for its research work. Its team has cooperated with other media organizations on a number of projects, including Offshore Leaks, Swiss Leaks, and Lux Leaks, which ICIJ coordinated. At the beginning of 2015, an anonymous source began sending the S¼ddeutsche Zeitung data from Mossack Fonseca, a provider of offshore companies. This marked the beginning of the Panama Papers project.
All Putin's Men: Secret Records Reveal Money Network Tied to Russian Leader · ICIJ
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 10:51
Vladimir Putin and Sergey Roldugin forged a bond as young men. Fast friends, almost like brothers, they cruised the streets of Leningrad, singing and, in Putin's case, occasionally getting into fistfights.
As Putin rose to power as Russia's supreme leader and Roldugin made a name for himself as a classical cellist and conductor, the two remained close. Roldugin has performed for Putin and high-profile guests at the president's official residence and has given media interviews that softened Putin's fearsome image.
Now a leak of secret documents reveals another, hidden side of their friendship.
The records show Roldugin is a behind-the-scenes player in a clandestine network operated by Putin associates that has shuffled at least $2 billion through banks and offshore companies, an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, German daily S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and other media partners has found.
In the documents, Roldugin is listed as the owner of offshore companies that have obtained payments from other companies worth tens of millions of dollars. A company linked to the cellist also grabbed secret influence over Russia's largest truck maker, another snagged a big slice of Russia's TV advertising industry.
It's possible Roldugin, who has publicly claimed not to be a businessman, is not the true beneficiary of these riches. Instead, the evidence in the files suggests Roldugin is acting as a front man for a network of Putin loyalists '' and perhaps for Putin himself.
Roldugin did not respond to detailed questions. Reporters from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an ICIJ partner, met briefly with the musician after a concert in Moscow last week. Roldugin told them he needed more time to review the questions and determine what he could say.
About 100 financial deals related to the network are described in the leaked documents. They are complex. Payments are disguised in various ways. On paper, shares in companies are swapped back and forth in a day. Documents are backdated. Questionable financial penalties are assessed. The rights to multimillion-dollar loans are sold between offshore companies for $1.
In almost every instance, the result is the same: money and power moves in the direction of the network, to companies and people allied to Putin. The network's covert deals allowed it to receive money in a variety of ways including hundreds of millions of dollars in sweetheart loans from a bank controlled by the Russian government.
The leaked documents come from the files of Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm that registered some of the Roldugin companies and helped administer the network's holdings in the British Virgin Islands and other offshore havens.
For years there have been reports '' mainly from whistleblowers '' about Putin's secret wealth. A few offshore companies, a palace and a mega yacht have all been said to belong to the Russian leader. Various news organizations have also noted how the people around Putin have become rich. Yet a detailed picture of the hidden financial affairs of Putin's circle has remained elusive.
The records reveal what until now has mostly been the stuff of rumor: how Putin's cronies secretly conduct their business. The law firm's internal files show how minions and proxies created structures to hide and move the secret wealth. The records include email correspondence, bank account forms, loan agreements, share transactions and passport scans. Dates, cash amounts and contract terms are detailed.
Loyalty and long-held relationships help bind the network together. It's a fraternity of Putin confidants. Many of the men whose interests are reflected in the leaked files are Putin comrades whose history with him traces back decades to St. Petersburg, the city known, before the fall of the Soviet Union, as Leningrad.
There is Roldugin, who is godfather to Putin's eldest daughter. Then there is Yury Kovalchuk, a banker who forged links with the future president when Putin was a municipal official, and Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood chum who has become a billionaire through state-sponsored construction projects, oil pipelines and other ventures.
Many of the men linked to the network, including Putin, share something else in common besides history. They are connected to the St. Petersburg-based Bank Rossiya, which the U.S. government has identified as Putin's personal cashbox.
The files make clear that Bank Rossiya built the network. Its employees tended to it, working to create the offshore companies, assigning ownership to Roldugin and others and shepherding the transactions through banks in Russia, Cyprus and Switzerland.
The economic model for how members of Putin's circle have shared the profits from this network was also established back in St. Petersburg. In the 1990s, Putin and the Bank Rossiya owners created a cooperative for a gated community where they all had houses. The cooperative kept a bank account in common. Each could put money in, and anyone could take it out.
Nowhere in the Mossack Fonseca files is the name of the Russian president, a former KGB spymaster, actually mentioned. Audio recordings and witness accounts show that even when Putin's closest confidants privately discuss his financial dealings, they use pseudonyms for him or simply gesture to the heavens rather than utter his name.
It's inconceivable, though, that the network could have existed without the knowledge and support of Putin, said Karen Dawisha, a U.S. political scientist who has written extensively about Putin and his regime.
''He takes what he wants,'' said Dawisha. ''When you are the president of Russia you don't need a written contract. You are the law.''
After receiving detailed questions from ICIJ and its media partners, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denounced the forthcoming articles in a press conference as ''an attack'' and ''a series of fibs,'' according to Russian news services. Peskov reportedly said that the questions concerned offshore companies and ''a large number of businessmen Putin had never seen in his life.''
''Denying something numerous times or commenting on something that has no relation to us is just silly,'' Peskov told reporters.
Ties of friendshipThere is a video on YouTube of Arkady Rotenberg, a former judo instructor who became a billionaire thanks to Putin. He is standing with a group of men. Putin walks past, flanked by his security detail. Rotenberg doesn't see him coming. Without breaking stride, Putin rubs Rotenberg's head, mussing his hair, like one would a dog or a child.
Of all those in his inner circle, Arkady and his brother Boris Rotenberg have known Putin the longest. Their friendship dates to the 1960s, when as boys they sparred together in a martial arts club. The ties of friendship grew to encompass business as well.
The European Union and the U.S. government issued sanctions against Arkady Rotenberg in 2014, in retaliation for Putin's invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. also sanctioned his brother Boris.
The U.S. Treasury noted the two had ''amassed enormous amounts of wealth during the years of Putin's rule'' from Russian government contracts, including roughly $7 billion for the Sochi Olympic games. The sanctions document coyly described the reason for the designation as ''acting for or on behalf of'... a senior official'' of the Russian Federation.
In 2013, the year before the sanctions were issued, one of Arkady Rotenberg's companies received potentially lucrative government contracts to work on a proposed $40 billion natural gas pipeline between Russia and Europe. Around the same time, three anonymous companies made huge payments into the Putin network, records show. Two of the shadow companies, and likely all three, were controlled by Arkady Rotenberg, according to the Mossack Fonseca files.
Loans from these Rotenberg companies totaling more than $231 million appear to have gone to a British Virgin Islands-based company called Sunbarn Limited, created by a manager at Bank Rossiya. The loans had no repayment schedule.
Arkady Rotenberg did not respond to a request for comment.
In the case of the Rotenbergs, the Mossack Fonseca documents suggest hidden business dealings between Putin and his old friends. When it comes to Sergey Roldugin, the documents in the files falsely state that he is not politically connected, obscuring the musician's role in the scheme.
There's no question that Roldugin and Putin are close. Some publications have called him Putin's best friend. In the early 1980s, Roldugin arranged a double date on which Putin met his future wife, Lyudmila.
Putin selected Roldugin to be the godfather of his first child, Maria, a sacred role in Russian Orthodox tradition. A photo of Putin cradling Maria, beside his wife and Roldugin can be readily found on the Internet.
Mossack Fonseca and bankers in Switzerland appear to have ignored easily obtainable evidence of Putin and Roldugin's bonds. Banks are required by law in Switzerland to determine if account holders are connected to politicians to safeguard against improper use of the account. The industry term for this is ''politically exposed persons,'' or PEPs.
The Mossack Fonseca files contain an application by Gazprombank Switzerland in 2014 to open a bank account for a company in Roldugin's name. The form explicitly asked whether the owner of the company had ''any relation to PEPs or VIPs.''
The answer: ''no.''
''The bank had a legal obligation to check these declarations,'' said Mark Pieth, former head of the organized crime section of the Swiss justice ministry. ''Roldugin is, by his proximity to a serving head of state, clearly an exposed person.''
Gazprombank declined to comment.
In a letter to ICIJ, Mossack Fonseca said the firm has ''duly established policies and procedures'' to identify and handle cases involving politicians or people associated with them. It said the company considered those cases to be ''high risk'' and conducts more intense checks and periodic follow ups. ''We conduct thorough due diligence on all new and prospective clients that often exceeds in stringency the existing rules and standards to which we and others are bound.''
Roldugin's friendship with Putin likely landed him in the exclusive club of Bank Rossiya shareholders. In 2010, a Russian news service disclosed Roldugin owned more than 3 percent of the bank.
The cellist told the New York Times in 2014 that ''years back'' he had needed money and that arrangements were made to get him a stake. What he had to do for those shares was not specified.
The history of Bank Rossiya is all about its shareholders working together cooperatively.
Lake of moneyYury Kovalchuk and Putin turned their attention to Bank Rossiya in 1991, when its largest shareholder was still the Leningrad Communist Party.
At that time, Putin was deputy mayor and the person responsible for attracting foreign investors and forming public-private partnerships.
After the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Putin signed the documents bestowing ownership of the bank on a newly formed joint venture created by Kovalchuk and others, according to Dawisha, author of ''Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?''
''Putin's function was to make legal what would otherwise have been illegal,'' Dawisha said.
Kovalchuk became majority shareholder and board chair of this new version of Bank Rossiya. When the U.S. government sanctioned him in 2014, it described Kovalchuk as one of Putin's ''cashiers.''
In the mid-1990s, Kovalchuk and a few other shareholders of the bank owned dachas a few hours outside of town on the eastern shore of the Komsomolskoye Lake. Putin found the money to buy a property. The men formed a co-operative society to benefit the eight residents of their shared gated community, which was called called Ozero (the Lake).
The Mossack Fonseca files show that the communal principles that defined Ozero continued with Bank Rossiya and its participants more than a decade later.
About an hour's drive from the site of the Ozero cooperative is the Igora ski resort. According to local media reports, the high-end resort is Putin's favorite place to ski. Bank Rossiya publicly helped finance its construction. The wedding of Putin's youngest daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, took place amid great secrecy on the resort grounds in February 2013, according to Reuters.
Tikhonova married Kirill Shamalov, the son of Nikolai Shamalov, an Ozero cooperative member and original Rossiya shareholder. Within a year and a half of the wedding, the younger Shamalov, barely out of his twenties, managed to borrow about $1.3 billion from Gazprombank to acquire 21 percent of Sibur, one of the biggest petrochemical companies in Russia, a stake that was worth at least $2 billion a little more than a year later, Reuters reported.
A Russian company called Ozon holds title to the ski resort. Bank Rossiya's Kovalchuk is a co-owner of Ozon. Beginning in late 2009, Ozon received $11.3 million worth of loans from a key offshore company in the Putin network, the Mossack Fonseca files show. The loans carried an interest rate of 1 percent.
One $5 million loan was revised and extended multiple times and was converted to Russian rubles; the exchange rate and new amendments reduced its value and ultimately, the amount owed, the leaked documents show.
A lawyer for Kovalchuk said information about Bank Rossiya was available from pubic sources, adding: ''We do not understand why your decision was to address these questions to Mr. Yury Kovalchuk.''
Bank Rossiya did not respond to detailed questions about its role.
War and peaceIn early August 2008, Russian troops rolled into Georgia for what would be a five-day war. They traveled on Kamaz trucks. Putin had long been a champion of the company, visiting its factories and even taking a Kamaz racing truck for a spin for the benefit of news cameras.
Five months earlier, the leaked records show, the classical cellist Sergey Roldugin made moves to secretly gain a degree of management control over Kamaz, a company with revenue of $3.51 billion in 2007.
In March 2008, the Mossack Fonseca's files show one of the Roldugin companies was given a secret option to buy a minority stake in Kamaz through a company called Avtoinvest.
Putin adviser Ruben Vardanyan was board chair and principal owner of the bank that ran Avtoinvest, a big shareholder in Kamaz. In 2008, Vardanyan wanted to consolidate a majority hold on Kamaz, according to press reports, but he needed help. The government of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan held a significant portion of the shares of the company; it had to be persuaded to sell.
As part of the deal, Roldugin's company obtained a potential say over all aspects of the operation of Kamaz such as ''approval of the business plan and budget'' and approval over which foreign corporations would be able to invest in the company, if Avtoinvest got its majority.
Roldugin's company paid $1.5 million for the option and potential rights.
In return, the agreement found in the Mossack Fonseca files spelled out that Roldugin's company was expected to lobby for the ''project,'' which was described as getting Avtoinvest its majority.
By late April 2008, Tartarstan entered into an agreement to sell its shares to Avtoinvest, at below market price, according to press reports.
Putin relinquished the Russian presidency the following month, swapping positions with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, another confidant who had been with him since the St. Petersburg days. Despite the change in title, there was little doubt that Putin retained control.
During his time out of the presidency, 2008 to 2012, Bank Rossiya's balance sheet ballooned from under $4 billion to more than $8 billion. And the network of Putin associates kicked into high gear.
As Putin was stepping down, Kamaz was booming and making big plans. It announced that it would spend $1.5 billion by 2012 to modernize and double production. Kamaz also began exploring the sale of an ownership stake of up to 42 percent to a foreign buyer, according to press reports at the time.
Then the global financial meltdown hit Russia's automotive sector hard. Kamaz cut its workweek to four days and slashed production. Roldugin's company never exercised its option to buy its Kamaz shares. In December 2008, German carmaker Daimler did buy a piece of the company '' but 10 percent of it, not 42 percent. To get its slice of Kamaz, Daimler paid $250 million to the Vardanyan investment bank that owned Avtoinvest.
Vardanyan declined to answer specific questions because it involves ''proprietary and confidential'' information, which he is not authorized to discuss.
''The project was arranged as commercial arm's length transactions with consultation among legal and business representatives to ensure compliance with existing regulations,'' said Vardanyan.
Kamaz did not respond to a request for comment.
Hidden dealsIn September 2009, a Mossack Fonseca compliance officer flagged a transaction for $103 million involving a company called Sandalwood Continental Limited. The manager for Bank Rossiya that was arranging the transaction wanted Sandalwood corporate directors - who were stand-ins provided by the law firm - to approve the deal. But its size seemed worrisome.
Sandalwood was the lynchpin of the entire Putin-linked network. One of Sandalwood's roles appeared to be to borrow money from the Russian Commercial Bank (RCB) in Cyprus, which in turn was backed by Moscow-based, state-controlled bank, VTB. The $103 million began as a loan to Sandalwood from RCB Cyprus.
The owner on paper of Sandalwood was Oleg Gordin, a small businessman with a background in ''law enforcement agencies,'' according to an RCB bank account opening form found in the files. Gordin also had power of attorney on some of Roldugin's company bank accounts.
Gordin did not respond to a request for comment.
Between 2009 and 2012, Sandalwood had lines of credit with RCB for about $800 million, according to the files. Sandalwood loaned out about $600 million in 2009 and at least $350 million in 2010.
The loans RCB made to Sandalwood were highly unusual for a bank. They went to a borrower who had no discernible business model that would allow it to pay back the money. The loans carried no security. Most did not require installment payments but instead relied on a promise that the entire amount would be returned after a certain time span.
''The assumption that RCB Bank Ltd is a so-called 'pocket' for highly-ranked Russian officials is utterly unfounded and certainly does not correspond to the actual state of affairs,'' wrote Michael Maratheftis, head of media communications for RCB, in an email response to detailed questions from ICIJ and its media partners.
Maratheftis said the bank was legally precluded from answering questions about ''third parties,'' but it has always acted in ''a transparent manner.'' He said the bank has forwarded ICIJ's questions to legal authorities in Cyprus for an ''independent investigation.''
Sandalwood also functioned as a link in a chain of loan-swapping shadow companies. It assigned the rights to interest payments in the millions of dollars to companies - including one of Roldugin's, which paid $1 dollar to receive $8 million a year in interest. Two banking experts who reviewed the Sandalwood loan assignments and an RCB loan made to the company said the documents raised multiple red flags and didn't seem to make economic sense.
''It would appear that tax evasion, fraud and or some other predicate act is underlying these transactions for purposes of money laundering,'' said David Weber, academic director of fraud management programs at the University of Maryland and former special counsel for enforcement for the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.
RCB's Maratheftis said the bank ''was always in full compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering Regulatory Framework.''
According to an analysis of the Mossack Fonseca data by ICIJ and its reporting partners, about $2 billion passed through the network between 2008 and 2013, most of it through Sandalwood Continental.
Sandalwood also served as a credit card of sorts, lending to more than two dozen associated companies. It lent money to everything from the Igora ski resort's owner to a hotel near the Finnish border. When Sandalwood loaned to other offshore companies, the repayment terms were sometimes as long as 20 years.
In the case of the $103 million loan, Sandalwood had borrowed it from RCB and immediately flipped the money to a Cyprus company called Horwich Trading.
The Bank Rossiya manager shepherding the transaction wanted Mossack Fonseca's Panamanian directors to sign the Horwich Trading loan agreement on behalf of Sandalwood quickly. One of the Mossack Fonseca partners suggested that they get a letter indemnifying the law firm first, possibly to avoid being held responsible for the any looting of RCB.
Then Jurgen Mossack, a co-founder of the law firm, chimed in:
''I believe this is delicate,'' he wrote in Spanish in an email. He was worried that ''we could be witnessing payments of questionable origin and purpose.''
The Bank Rossiya manager explained that the loan was structured to take advantage of a tax treaty between Cyprus and Russia. To gain approval, he provided a letter of indemnity and other materials and created a regular repayment schedule for the loan. It's the only loan from RCB to Sandalwood in the files that had a schedule of regular repayments. It is also the only time in the files that Mossack Fonseca appears to have objected.
The modifications satisfied Mossack Fonseca. The Panamanians also took comfort from the fact that a Swiss law firm, Dietrich Baumgartner & Partners, helped process paperwork for the Bank Rossiya network.
''As we are working with this client from a reputable Russian bank for some years now, and our legal client of reference is a well-known Swiss law office, I think we can accept the explanations and go ahead,'' a lawyer from Mossack Fonseca's Liechtenstein office wrote.
Deitrich Baumgartner & Partners declined to comment.
A later email detailed the fees Mossack Fonseca charged Sandalwood, which were based on the amount of the loans. For helping to create the paper trail for the $103 million, it earned $2,030.
Mikhail Lesin was intimately involved in the efforts of Putin and Bank Rossiya to control Russian media. As Putin's first media minister, he oversaw the regime's propaganda push. Lesin's government tenure paralleled the growth of the bank's media empire.
While in government, Lesin played a key role in brokering deals that put critics in the media under ownership that was more closely aligned with the Kremlin. In the wake of these efforts, voices critical of the Russian regime fell silent.
After Medvedev replaced Putin as president, Lesin left the government and joined the nation's biggest private media group, Gazprom-Media, which Bank Rossiya managed.
Gazprom-Media was only part of the media conglomerate that Bank Rossiya built. Its sprawl has earned the bank's chairman, Yury Kovalchuk, the nickname the Russian Rupert Murdoch. In 2005, Bank Rossiya bought a stake in a small television network, which Putin then designated as a national broadcaster, greatly expanding its reach and profit. It also took over Ren-TV, muting critical voices and investigations of the government.
Now, the Mossack Fonseca files reveal that there was a secret component to both Lesin and Bank Rossiya's media dealings. Lesin had a company called Gloria Market Ltd. based in the British Virgin Islands. He created it in 2011, to collect money from advertising, according to a source of funds form found in the Mossack Fonseca files.
In the late 1990s, Lesin had helped set up an advertising sales company called Video International that at one point controlled as much as two-thirds of the nation's television advertising. While Bank Rossiya publicly owned 16 percent of Video International, a Roldugin offshore company created by the bank secretly held an additional 12.5 percent stake, the files show. According to its 2014 bank account forms, the company, International Media Overseas, had annual income of about $10 million from its holdings.
A lawyer representing Video International declined to answer detailed questions, stating the information was non-public in Russia.
Roldugin's International Media Overseas did more than simply hold media stakes. In 2011, the company entered into backdated share agreements with an offshore firm based in the Cayman Islands. The revenue went to Switzerland where backdating is legal. Identical share amounts were swapped between the parties, offsetting each other, so no actual shares needed to change hands. Instead, the companies agreed to the exchange and then simply paid the profit as if it had actually taken place. In 2011, International Media Overseas gained $463,800 from the deals. Sandalwood Continental netted almost $4 million from these types of transactions between 2008 and 2011, the files reveal.
Crisis managementPutin's circle of friends and associates are driven by two imperatives: confidentiality and control. They hate risk. Putin has shown he is willing to take aggressive steps to maintain secrecy and protect communal assets.
By December 2011, the financial system of Cyprus, where Sandalwood Continental did most of its business, was in trouble. The country began negotiations with Russia for an emergency loan. Toward the end of that year, Sandalwood, which banked with RCB Cyprus, began to transfer its loans to another British Virgin Islands-based company called Ove Financial.
In 2012, Sandalwood assigned dozens of loans, sometimes in amounts of hundreds of millions of dollars, to Ove Financial for $1 each, sometimes for nothing at all.
Ove Financial also served as one of the shareholders of Mikhail Lesin's Gloria Market.
Ove Financial banked in Luxembourg, which was safe from the kind of turmoil that afflicted Cyprus. The company also used another Panama-based offshore incorporator called Morgan & Morgan. Complaints sprinkled through the email traffic indicate Bank Rossiya managers were less than happy with Mossack Fonseca's service because the law firm took too long to move documents or did not prepare them exactly as specified.
The network would continue but without Mossack Fonseca or Sandalwood Continental. As a result, in 2013, Sandalwood shut down.
Putin's associates made other changes to shore up the network. A new proxy took Roldugin's place as owner of the company that had been involved in Kamaz. Roldugin hadn't always been the most conscientious front man. At one point, a Bank Rossiya manager had complained to Mossack Fonseca in an email that it was a challenge to arrange for Roldugin to sign documents. This would no longer be a problem.
Around the same time, the members of the Ozero Cooperative began to transfer some of the massive wealth they had accumulated to their children. And Arkady Rotenberg made his son Igor the owner of some of his secret Mossack Fonseca companies, the leaked records show.
These generational transfers are signs of the rise of a new Russian aristocracy.
The Rotenbergs and other billionaires who have flourished under Putin's protection are having an impact on the Russian economy.
The top 10 percent of wealth holders in Russia own 85 percent of all household wealth in the country, according to a 2014 Credit Suisse report. Meanwhile, 83 percent of the population has less than $10,000 in personal wealth. Inequality in Russia is so bad it deserves its own separate category, the report stated.
In 2014, Lesin resigned from Gazprom-Media. Russian press reports blamed a conflict between him and Bank Rossiya's Kovalchuk. Lesin relocated to America, where he allegedly owned millions of dollars in property, holdings that had raised the suspicions of U.S. authorities.
In November 2015, Russian media reported that Lesin died of a heart attack in a hotel in Washington, D.C. Four months later, Washington's chief medical examiner announced a cause of death that seemed anything but natural. The medical examiner said Lesin died of blunt force trauma to the head and had bruises on his neck, torso and limbs. Police are investigating the death.
How many secrets of the Putin-linked network Mikhail Lesin took to the grave may never be known.
Contributors to this story: Olesya Shmagun and Roman Anin
ICIJ, the "official" interpreter of the Panama Papers, is funded by George Soros' Open Society, Ford Foundation etc.
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 15:03
Bill Kovach, United States, former curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and an American newspaperman for 30 years, is the North American representative and chair of the ICIJ Advisory Committee.
Kovach has been a journalist and writer for 40 years, including 18 years as a reporter and editor for The New York Times. As an editor, Kovach supervised reporting projects that won four Pulitzer Prizes, including two during his two-year tenure as editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the first Pulitzers awarded to that paper in 20 years.
Kovach was a 1988-89 Nieman fellow at Harvard University and remained as curator of the Nieman Foundation journalism fellowship program until 2000.
Among his many other awards are the Sigma Delta Chi Award for contributions to journalism research in 2000, the National Mental Health Award in 1968, the New York State Bar Association Award in 1968, the AEJMC Professional Freedom and Responsibility Award in 1992, the Sigma Delta Chi First Amendment Award in 1996, the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism in 2000, and the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, which was accompanied by an honorary doctorate from Colby College.
Kovach served on Pulitzer juries from 1987-1990 and is a board member of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Kovach is a long-time advisory board member of the Center for Public Integrity.
Charles Lewis, United States, is a tenured professor of journalism and founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington, D.C.He has been a national investigative journalist for more than 30 years, and is the founder of the Center for Public Integrity and its International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Lewis left a successful career as a producer for ABC News and the CBS News program 60 Minutes and began the Center, which under his 15-year leadership published roughly 300 investigative reports, including 14 books, its work honored more than 30 times by national journalism organizations.He has been a Ferris Professor at Princeton University and a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Rosental Calmon Alves, United States/Brazil, is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the first John S. & James L. Knight Chair in International Journalism. For a decade, Alves worked as a foreign correspondent for Brazil's daily newspaper, Jornal do Brasil, reporting from Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and the United States. He taught journalism at two Rio de Janeiro universities and in 1987-88 became the first Brazilian to be selected as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. As a correspondent and editor, he has participated in or directed several investigative reporting projects. Alves is the Latin American representative on the Advisory Committee.
Phillip Knightley, Britain, was a member of The Sunday Times' Insight team in its heyday, and it was there that he first uncovered the Kim Philby spy scandal. He later discovered that the newspaper's executives had informed British intelligence about the activities of their journalists.
The Australian-born Knightley also played a central role in investigating and exposing thalidomide birth defects and later detailed the scandal, which came to be known as the Profumo affair, in his 1987 book An Affair of State.He is the European representative on the Advisory Committee.
Gwen Lister, Namibia, founded The Namibian in 1985 during apartheid colonialism in the country. The newspaper and staff were consistently targeted by right-wing elements and security forces because of the perception that the newspaper supported the liberation movement. Lister was jailed twice, in 1984 under the Official Secrets Act, and in June 1988, when she was detained without trial and denied access to a lawyer. Authorities jailed her the second time in an attempt to force her to reveal the source of a secret document she had published, which proposed sweeping new powers for the police. She was four months pregnant at the time. Attacks on the newspaper and harassment of its staff culminated in an arson attack that destroyed the offices of The Namibian in October 1988.
After independence in 1990, the newspaper was again targeted by right-wing elements after a front-page report about a possible coup attempt against the new government. The editorial offices were damaged in a phosphorous grenade firebombing. In these and other bombings, The Namibian never missed an edition.
The role of The Namibian in pre-independence Namibia has been honored by a number of international awards. In 2000, Lister was named one of 50 World Press Freedom Heroes of the last half century by the International Press Institute. In 1992, she was awarded a Committee to Protect Journalists' International Press Freedom Award and the Press Freedom Award of the Media Institute of South Africa.
In October 2011, after 26 years at the helm of The Namibian Lister handed over the reins to Tangeni Amupadhi. At the same time she formalized the non-profit Namibia Media Trust which owns the newpaper, and appointed other Trustees. Lister is Executive Director of The Free Press of Namibia (Pty) Ltd and Chairs the Trust - in terms of which the profits of The Namibian are ploughed back into promotion of free and independent press, excellence and training in journalism in the wider media community.
Lister was a 1996 Nieman fellow at Harvard.
Goenawan Mohamad, Indonesia, is founder and editor of Tempo magazine, Indonesia's most-respected newsmagazine. It was banned by the Suharto government in 1994 after publishing details of the government's purchase of aging East German destroyers, a confidential subject of dispute among Suharto's cabinet members. In 1995, Mohamad founded the Institute for the Studies on Free Flow of Information (ISAI) which produced alternative media intended to circumvent censorship. Mohamad later formed the Alliance of Independent Journalists, the only independent journalism organization in Indonesia. Following Suharto's resignation in May 1998, Mohamad led a group of reporters in restarting Tempo online and in print. Mohamad was a 1990 Nieman fellow at Harvard University and in 1997 received the Nieman fellows' Louis Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. In 1998, he was awarded the Committee to Protect Journalists' International Press Freedom Award. Mohamad is a visiting history professor at the University of California at Berkeley this year, where he will teach courses in Indonesian and Southeast Asian culture. Mohamad is the Asian representative on the Advisory Committee.Reginald Chua is Editor, Data and Innovation at Thomson Reuters, based in New York. From July 2009 to March 2011, he was Editor-in-Chief of the South China Morning Post, responsible for the editorial operations of the Hong Kong-based news media company. Prior to that, he had a 16-year run at The Wall Street Journal, including as a Deputy Managing Editor in New York, where he managed the global newsroom budget, supervised the graphics team, and helped develop the paper's computer-assisted reporting capabilities. He began a 16-year career at the Journal as a correspondent in Manila, opened the paper's bureau in Hanoi, became the longest-serving editor of the Journal's Hong Kong-based Asian edition, then moved to New York, where his initial duties were to manage the paper's global newsroom budget and administration. During his eight-year tenure as editor of the Asian Journal, the paper won numerous Society of Publishers in Asia awards for editorial excellence; staff at the paper also won a Pulitzer Prize and an Overseas Press Club of America award. He also covered the Philippines for the Straits Times, worked at Reuters in Singapore, and was a television and radio journalist at the then-Singapore Broadcasting Corp. A native of Singapore, Reginald graduated with a Master's in Journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's in Mathematics from the University of Chicago.
Brant Houston, United States, is a journalism professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he holds the John S. & James L. Knight Chair in Investigative Reporting. Houston served for more than 10 years as executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE), a nonprofit organization of more than 4,000 members, and as a professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He co-founded the Global Investigative Journalism Network in 2003 and is chair of the recently formed Investigative News Network. Before joining IRE, Houston was an award-winning investigative reporter for 17 years at metropolitan papers in the United States. He is author of Computer-Assisted Reporting: A Practical Guide and co-author of The Investigative Reporter's Handbook. He has taught investigative reporting and computer-assisted reporting in more than a dozen countries.
The Panama Papers could hand Bernie Sanders the White House | Voices | The Independent
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 12:16
The revelation that the rich and wealthy are shovelling money in overseas tax havens is not a particularly surprising one. Nevertheless, the sheer scale of the 11.5 million document leak from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca has whipped up an overdue storm and forced the issue of tax justice back on the agenda. It is likely that the Panama papers is just the tip of the iceberg, and if even more is revealed about the financial affairs of world leaders, the implication for global politics will be huge.
The Democratic presidential primaries in the US have been characterised by surging anger at the global elite. The Panama papers scandal will only fuel popular indignation at the actions of perceived establishment figures '' those who have stood idly by and allowed this huge miscarriage of justice to take place.
Although there have been no major American casualties over the leak at this stage, all of the presidential candidates will be questioned about the scandal. And nobody is going to be under more pressure than Hillary Clinton. For some Americans, she is the embodiment of a ''global elite'', while Bernie Sanders is its antithesis.
The huge leak exposes governments across the globe wilfully ignoring tax avoidance by the rich. Although Clinton has not been linked to any malfeasance in the leak, there is a sense that she is among the elite rich, some of whose members have benefited from such schemes.
It has been revealed Clinton pushed through the Panama Free Trade Deal at the same time that Sanders vocally opposed it, citing research warning that it would strictly limit the government's ability to clamp down on questionable or even illegal activity. Even if the Clintons remain unmentioned in future tax bombshells, Sanders can continue to exploit the narrative that Clinton is part of the demographic responsible, and has assisted in flagrant abuses of the system through trade deals.
As this scandal looks intent on dragging on, it is now increasingly likely that undecided voters will swing towards the Sanders camp in the vital primaries coming up, including New York. In a general election, Republican favourite Donald Trump's alleged historic tax dodging will leave him in hot water in comparison to Sanders' squeaky clean record. He is the only candidate who even speaks in terms of the 1 per cent vs the 99 per cent. Should he secure the Democratic nomination, early general election polls suggest Sanders would knock Trump out of the park.
But this more than a battle of candidates, it is a battle of ideas. Globalisation, heralded by the likes of Hillary Clinton, has enabled the richest in society to exploit the system while ordinary working people pick up the tab. This has been going on for decades; as a political family, the Clintons have done nothing about it. Hillary continues to describe her opponent's policy platform as 'pie in the sky', yet corporations paying their fair share of taxes could easily fund many of Sanders' proposals.
The longer this scandal this kept alive the more beneficial will be for Sanders. And if any more skeletons in the Clinton closet see the light, it will parachute Bernie Sanders into the White House.
'Corruption' as a Propaganda Weapon '' Consortiumnews
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 16:31
Exclusive: Mainstream U.S. journalism and propaganda are getting hard to tell apart, as with the flurry of ''corruption'' stories aimed at Russia's Putin and other demonized foreign leaders, writes Robert Parry.
By Robert Parry
Sadly, some important duties of journalism, such as applying evenhanded standards on human rights abuses and financial corruption, have been so corrupted by the demands of government propaganda '' and the careerism of too many writers '' that I now become suspicious whenever the mainstream media trumpets some sensational story aimed at some ''designated villain.''
Far too often, this sort of ''journalism'' is just a forerunner to the next ''regime change'' scheme, dirtying up or delegitimizing a foreign leader before the inevitable advent of a ''color revolution'' organized by ''democracy-promoting'' NGOs often with money from the U.S. government's National Endowment for Democracy or some neoliberal financier like George Soros.
Russian President Vladimir Putin delivering a speech on the Ukraine crisis in Moscow on March 18, 2014. (Russian government photo)
We are now seeing what looks like a new preparatory phase for the next round of ''regime changes'' with corruption allegations aimed at former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The new anti-Putin allegations '' ballyhooed by the UK Guardian and other outlets '' are particularly noteworthy because the so-called ''Panama Papers'' that supposedly implicate him in offshore financial dealings never mention his name.
Or as the Guardian writes: ''Though the president's name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern '' his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage. The documents suggest Putin's family has benefited from this money '' his friends' fortunes appear his to spend.''
Note, if you will, the lack of specificity and the reliance on speculation: ''a pattern''; ''seemingly''; ''suggest''; ''appear.'' Indeed, if Putin were not already a demonized figure in the Western media, such phrasing would never pass an editor's computer screen. Indeed, the only point made in declarative phrasing is that ''the president's name does not appear in any of the records.''
A British media-watch publication, the Off-Guardian, which criticizes much of the work done at The Guardian, headlined its article on the Putin piece as ''the Panama Papers cause Guardian to collapse into self-parody.''
But whatever the truth about Putin's ''corruption'' or Lula's, the journalistic point is that the notion of objectivity has long since been cast aside in favor of what's useful as propaganda for Western interests.
Some of those Western interests now are worried about the growth of the BRICS economic system '' Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa '' as a competitor to the West's G-7 and the International Monetary Fund. After all, control of the global financial system has been central to American power in the post-World War II world '' and rivals to the West's monopoly are not welcome.
What the built-in bias against these and other ''unfriendly'' governments means, in practical terms, is that one standard applies to a Russia or a Brazil, while a more forgiving measure is applied to the corruption of a U.S. or European leader.
Take, for instance, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's millions of dollars in payments in speaking fees from wealthy special interests that knew she was a good bet to become the next U.S. president. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''Clinton Stalls on Goldman-Sachs Speeches.'']
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Or, similarly, the millions upon millions of dollars invested in super-PACS for Clinton, Sen. Ted Cruz and other presidential hopefuls. That might look like corruption from an objective standard but is treated as just a distasteful aspect of the U.S. political process.
But imagine for a minute if Putin had been paid millions of dollars for brief speeches before powerful corporations, banks and interest groups doing business with the Kremlin. That would be held up as de facto proof of his illicit greed and corruption.
Losing Perspective
Also, when it's a demonized foreign leader, any ''corruption'' will do, however minor. For example, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan's denounced Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for his choice of eyewear: ''The dictator in designer glasses,'' declared Reagan, even as Nancy Reagan was accepting free designer gowns and free renovations of the White House funded by oil and gas interests.
Or, the ''corruption'' for a demonized leader can be a modest luxury, such as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's ''sauna'' in his personal residence, a topic that got front-page treatment in The New York Times and other Western publications seeking to justify the violent coup that drove Yanukovych from office in February 2014.
Incidentally, both Ortega and Yanukovych had been popularly elected but were still targeted by the U.S. government and its operatives with violent destabilization campaigns. In the 1980s, the CIA-organized Nicaraguan Contra war killed some 30,000 people, while the U.S.-orchestrated ''regime change'' in Ukraine sparked a civil war that has left some 10,000 people dead. Of course, in both cases, Official Washington blamed Moscow for all the trouble.
In both cases, too, the politicians and operatives who gained power as a result of the conflicts were arguably more corrupt than the Nicaraguan Sandinistas or Yanukovych's government. The Nicaraguan Contras, whose violence helped pave the way for the 1990 election of U.S.-backed candidate Violeta Chamorro, were deeply implicated in cocaine trafficking. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.'']
Today, the U.S.-supported Ukrainian government is wallowing in corruption so deep that it has provoked a new political crisis.[See Consortiumnews'com's ''Reality Peeks Through in Ukraine.'']
Ironically, one of the politicians actually named in the Panama Papers for having established a shadowy offshore account is the U.S.-backed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, although he got decidedly second-billing to the unnamed Putin. (Poroshenko denied there was anything improper in his offshore financial arrangements.)
Double Standards
Mainstream Western journalism no longer even tries to apply common standards to questions about corruption. If you're a favored government, there might be lamentations about the need for more ''reform'' '' which often means slashing pensions for the elderly and cutting social programs for the poor '' but if you're a demonized leader, then the only permissible answer is criminal indictment and/or ''regime change.''
Ukrainian Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko.
One stark example of these double standards is the see-no-evil attitude toward the corruption of Ukraine's Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who is touted endlessly in the Western media as the paragon of Ukrainian good governance and reform. The documented reality, however, is that Jaresko enriched herself through her control of a U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund that was supposed to help the people of Ukraine build their economy.
According to the terms of the $150 million investment fund created by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Jaresko's compensation was supposed to be capped at $150,000 a year, a pay package that many Americans would envy. But it was not enough for Jaresko, who first simply exceeded the limit by hundreds of thousands of dollars and then moved her compensation off-books as she amassed total annual pay of $2 million or more.
The documentation of this scheming is clear. I have published multiple stories citing the evidence of both her excessive compensation and her legal strategies for covering up evidence of alleged wrongdoing. [See Consortiumnews.com's ''How Ukraine's Finance Minister Got Rich'' and ''Carpetbagging Crony Capitalism in Ukraine.'']
Despite the evidence, not a single mainstream Western news outlet has followed up on this information even as Jaresko is hailed as a ''reform'' candidate for Ukrainian prime minister.
This disinterest is similar to the blinders that The New York Times and other major Western newspapers put on when they were assessing whether Ukrainian President Yanukovych was ousted in a coup in February 2014 or just wandered off and forgot to return.
In a major ''investigative'' piece, the Times concluded there was no coup in Ukraine while ignoring the evidence of a coup, such as the intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who they would put into power. ''Yats is the guy,'' said Nuland '' and surprise, surprise, Arseniy Yatsenyuk ended up as prime minister.
The Times also ignored the observation of George Friedman, president of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, who noted that the Ukraine coup was ''the most blatant coup in history.'' [See Consortiumnews.com's ''NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.'']
The Propaganda Weapon
The other advantage of ''corruption'' as a propaganda weapon to discredit certain leaders is that we all assume that there is plenty of corruption in governments as well as in the private sector all around the world. Alleging corruption is like shooting large fish crowded into a small barrel. Granted, some barrels might be more crowded than others but the real decision is whose barrel you choose.
That's part of the reason why the U.S. government has spread around hundreds of millions of dollars to finance ''journalism'' organizations, train political activists and support ''non-governmental organizations'' that promote U.S. policy goals inside targeted countries. For instance, before the Feb. 22, 2014 coup in Ukraine, there were scores of such operations in the country financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose budget from Congress exceeds $100 million a year.
Carl Gershman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy.
But NED, which has been run by neocon Carl Gershman since its founding in 1983, is only part of the picture. You have other propaganda fronts operating under the umbrella of the State Department and USAID. Last year, USAID issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the globe, including ''journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.''
USAID estimated its budget for ''media strengthening programs in over 30 countries'' at $40 million annually, including aiding ''independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,'' In Ukraine before the coup, USAID offered training in ''mobile phone and website security,'' which sounds a bit like an operation to thwart the local government's intelligence gathering, an ironic position for the U.S. with its surveillance obsession, including prosecuting whistleblowers based on evidence that they talked to journalists.
USAID, working with billionaire George Soros's Open Society, also funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in ''investigative journalism'' that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what looked to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014.
Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his ''findings'' always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Though most genuinely independent bloggers are ignored by the mainstream media, Higgins has found his work touted by both The New York Times and The Washington Post.
In other words, the U.S. government has a robust strategy for deploying direct and indirect agents of influence. Indeed, during the first Cold War, the CIA and the old U.S. Information Agency refined the art of ''information warfare,'' including pioneering some of its current features like having ostensibly ''independent'' entities and cut-outs present U.S. propaganda to a cynical public that would reject much of what it hears from government but may trust ''citizen journalists'' and ''bloggers.''
But the larger danger from this perversion of journalism is that it sets the stage for ''regime changes'' that destabilize whole countries, thwart real democracy (i.e., the will of the people), and engender civil warfare. Today's neoconservative dream of mounting a ''regime change'' in Moscow is particularly dangerous to the future of both Russia and the world.
Regardless of what you think about President Putin, he is a rational political leader whose legendary sangfroid makes him someone who is not prone to emotional decisions. His leadership style also appeals to the Russian people who overwhelmingly favor him, according to public opinion polls.
While the American neocons may fantasize that they can generate enough economic pain and political dissension inside Russia to achieve Putin's removal, their expectation that he will be followed by a pliable leader like the late President Boris Yeltsin, who will let U.S. operatives back in to resume plundering Russia's riches, is almost certainly a fantasy.
The far more likely possibility is that '' if a ''regime change'' could somehow be arranged '' Putin would be replaced by a hard-line nationalist who might think seriously about unleashing Russia's nuclear arsenal if the West again tries to defile Mother Russia. For me, it's not Putin who's the worry; it's the guy after Putin.
So, while legitimate questions about Putin's ''corruption'' '' or that of any other political leader '' should be pursued, the standards of evidence should not be lowered just because he or anyone else is a demonized figure in the West. There should be single not double standards.
Western media outrage about ''corruption'' should be expressed as loudly against political and business leaders in the U.S. or other G-7 countries as it is toward those in the BRICS.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book,America's Stolen Narrative,either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Rothschild Humiliates Obama, Reveals That "America Is The Biggest Tax Haven In The World"
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 16:51
In his speech yesterday, following the Treasury's crack down on corporate tax inversions, Obama blamed "poorly designed" laws for allowing illicit money transfers worldwide. Since the speech came at a time when the entire world is still abuzz with the disclosure from the Panama Papers, Obama touched on that as well: "Tax avoidance is a big, global problem" he said on Tuesday, "a lot of it is legal, but that's exactly the problem" because a lot of it is also illegal.
There is one major problem with that: of all the countries in the world, it is none other than the country of which Obama is president, the United States, that has become the world's favorite offshore "tax haven" destination.
As Bloomberg, which first broke the story about Nevada's use as a prominent tax haven early this year, writes, "Panama and the U.S. have at least one thing in common: Neither has agreed to new international standards to make it harder for tax evaders and money launderers to hide their money."
Over the past several years, amid increased scrutiny by journalists, regulators and law enforcers, the global tax-haven landscape has shifted. In an effort to catch tax dodgers, almost 100 countries and other jurisdictions have agreed since 2014 to impose new disclosure requirements for bank accounts, trusts and some other investments held by international customers -- standards issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a government-funded international policy group.
In short: while Obama is complaining about corporate tax avoidance and slamming Panama, he is encouraging it in the U.S.
Places like Switzerland and Bermuda are agreeing, at least in principle, to share bank account information with tax authorities in other countries. Only a handful of nations have declined to sign on. The most prominent is the U.S. The other ona is, of course, Panama, and we just saw what happened there.
The latest reporting "underscores the secrecy in Panama," said Stefanie Ostfeld, the acting head of the U.S. office of the anti-corruption group Global Witness. "What's lesser known, is the U.S. is just as big a secrecy jurisdiction as so many of these Caribbean countries and Panama. We should not want to be the playground for the world's dirty money, which is what we are right now."
For Obama, however, it is important to not let facts get in the way of a good speech, or welcoming the dirty, laundered money of the world's uber wealthy, be they criminals or not, as they transfer their wealth from Panama to Nevada, Wyoming and other tax sheltering destinations in the U.S.
To be sure, the US has taken steps to keep track of US assets abroad, but not of foreign assets in the US.
In 2010, Congress passed the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, as the U.S. Justice Department began prosecuting Swiss banks for enabling tax evasion. Fatca forces certain financial firms to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service any foreign accounts held by U.S. citizens.
Fatca doesn't, however, bind banks to provide information on foreigners with U.S. accounts to regulators abroad. The U.S. has entered into agreements with some other countries requiring such exchange with foreign regulators, but tax planners say they are considered relatively easy to avoid.
That's where the OECD came in, with its own international take on Fatca that the U.S. declined to sign.
Panama has been one country which has done everything in its power to delay and dilute its compliance with OECD regulations.
In a January interview, an official at Trident Trust Co., a big provider of offshore vehicles, said it was seeing a large number of accounts moving into Panama because of its weak commitment to the OECD regulations. "The Panama office was extremely overworked, because a lot of people are re-domiciling to Panama from BVI and Cayman," said Alice Rokahr, a Trident official based in South Dakota. In late February, OECD officials said publicly that Panama had been "removed from the list of committed jurisdictions" that agreed to share information.
The latest coverage of shell companies created by a Panamanian law firm could give the OECD new ammunition to put pressure on the country to sign onto the information-sharing agreements, some tax experts said.
But while one can criticize Panama, and with cause, for enabling tax evasion, at least its leaders don't pretend to be saints, who do precisely what they condemn. Far less can be said about Obama.
"The U.S. doesn't follow a lot of the international standards, and because of its political power, it's able to continue," said Bruce Zagaris an attorney at Berliner Corcoran & Rowe LLP who specializes in international tax and money laundering regulations. "It's basically the only country that can continue to do that. Others like Panama have tried, but Panama can't punch as high as the U.S."
And confirming just that, in a statement issued Monday by OECD secretary general Angel Gurria, the OECD said "Panama is the last major holdout that continues to allow funds to be hidden offshore from tax and law-enforcement authorities."
The statement didn't mention the U.S., which is the OECD's largest funder.
And there it is: the US, simply because it is the biggest - and wealthiest - bully in the yard, can dispense morality all day long, but just don't ask it to practice what it preaches.
Meanwhile, advisers around the world are increasingly using the U.S. resistance to the OECD's standards as a marketing tool - attracting overseas money to U.S. state-level tax and secrecy havens like Nevada and South Dakota, potentially keeping it hidden from their home governments.
Advisors such as Rothschild, profiled initially by Bloomberg's Jesse Drucker.
Rothschild, the centuries-old European financial institution, has opened a trust company in Reno, Nev., a few blocks from the Harrah's and Eldorado casinos. It is now moving the fortunes of wealthy foreign clients out of offshore havens such as Bermuda, subject to the new international disclosure requirements, and into Rothschild-run trusts in Nevada, which are exempt. * * * For financial advisers, the current state of play is simply a good business opportunity. In a draft of his San Francisco presentation, Rothschild's Penney wrote that the U.S. "is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world." The U.S., he added in language later excised from his prepared remarks, lacks ''the resources to enforce foreign tax laws and has little appetite to do so.''
And that is all you need to know.
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Music and film magnate David Geffen implicated in Panama Papers leak | Consequence of Sound
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 18:13
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists made waves on Sunday when they published a massive leak of confidential documents dubbed the Panama Papers. The documents allegedly detail the offshore bank accounts of some of the world's richest and most powerful individuals, many of whom have been accused of using tax havens to hide their assets. Among the prominent names attached to the leak are FIFA, the worldwide soccer association, and Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, who succumbed to political pressure and stepped down on Tuesday.
Relatively few Americans have been named in the Panama Papers, but one of them is a name music fans will likely recognize. According to McClatchy reporter Kevin Hall (via International Business Times), music and entertainment mogul David Geffen is among the individuals implicated in the leak.
''Americans really would be doing this not to hide from taxes, but to hide money they got in other ways that perhaps are less legal,'' Hall explained. ''It's not the average rich guy it's the rich guy who's really doing something wrong who seems to be in this data.''
Geffen has been a powerhouse in Hollywood since founding Asylum Records in 1970. He went on to also found Geffen Records and DGC Records. These labels are associated with some of the most prominent acts in music, including The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Nirvana, and dozens of others.
He's also a co-founder of DreamWorks SKG alongside Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg.
It's worth noting that having such an account isn't necessarily illegal, and McClatchy's report couldn't be independently confirmed by Consequence of Sound.
McClatchy mistakenly noted that singer Tina Turner was part of the Panama Papers before clarifying that she was part of a 2015 investigation of private Swiss banking.
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ICIJ Organization Report
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:19
The Center focuses its investigations on the following areas: money and politics, government waste/fraud/abuse, the environment, healthcare reform, national security and state government transparency. We have won more than 50 major journalism awards, including the George Polk Award and numerous honors from the Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Online News Association, Overseas Press Club, Society of Environmental Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.2016 Awards
The Mobile-Home Trap
Reported by Dan Wagner with Mike Baker and James Neff of The Seattle Times. Edited by Alison Fitzgerald.
Scripps Howard Award, Business/Economics reporting - FinalistSociety of American Business Editors and Writers, Print, Daily Newspapers, Investigations, Division 2Capitol Gains
Reported by Rachel Baye and Ben Wieder, with Tony Bartelme, Doug Pardue, Glenn Smith and David Slade of the The Post and Courier. Edited by Kytja Weir.
Scripps Howard Award, Community Journalism - FinalistSouth Carolina Press Association, InvestigativeSouth Carolina Press Association, Judson Chapman - FinalistInformation graphics portfolio
Work by Chris Zubak-Skees, Yue Qiu and Erik Lincoln.
Society of News Design Award of Excellence, Best of Digital Design.Information graphics portfolio
Work by Yue Qiu.
Society of News Design Award of Excellence, Best of Digital Design.Unequal Risk
Reported by Jamie Smith Hopkins, Maryam Jameel, Sandra Bartlett. Edited by Jim Morris.
Society of American Business Editors and Writers, Digital, Explanatory, Divison 1 - FinalistHedge Funds Get Cheap Homes, Homeowners Get the Boot
Reported by Jared Bennett. Graphics by Chris Zubak-Skees and Yue Qiu. Edited by John Dunbar
Society of American Business Editors and Writers, Personal Finance - Finalist
2015 AwardsEnvironmental Justice, Denied
Reported by Kristen Lombardi, Talia Buford, Yue Qiu, Ronnie Greene and Kristian Winfield. Edited by Jim Morris.
Editor & Publisher EPPY Awards, Best Investigative/Enterprise Feature on a Website with under 1 million unique monthly visitors - FinalistFatal Extraction: Australian Mining in Africa
Reported by Will Fitzgibbon and Eleanor Bell. Design and development by Chris Zubak-Skees. Multimedia by Eleanor Bell. Data reporting by C(C)cile Schilis-Gallego. Additional editing by Suzana Gashi. Executive Producer: Kimberley Porteous
Walkley Awards, All Media Multimedia Storytelling - FinalistEditor & Publisher EPPY Awards, Best Innovation Project with under 1 million unique monthly visitorsEvicted and Abandoned: the World Bank's Broken Promise to the Poor
Written and edited by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the Huffington Post and media partners. Project Manager: Michael Hudson. Director: Gerard Ryle.
How the Center for Public Integrity is Funded | Center for Public Integrity
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:19
Award-winning investigative journalism is priceless '-- but it is not free. The Center for Public Integrity is fortunate to enjoy the generous support of foundations and individuals around the world.
Funding supports our editorial priorities, such as the environment, money in politics and international reporting, but it never determines the Center's editorial direction. We maintain a strict firewall between funding and our editorial content. Our funders and donors support us because our investigations are non-partisan, fair, have impact and raise the level of debate on complex issues of critical, global importance.
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Wikileaks Accuses Panama Papers Leakers of Being Funded by Western Billionaires
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 06:35
Home>>Business>>Wikileaks Accuses Panama Papers Leakers of Being Funded by Western BillionairesTyler DurdenApril 5, 2016
(ZEROHEDGE) Earlier today, for the first time we got a glimpse into some of the American names allegedly contained in the ''Panama Papers,'' largest ever leak. ''Some,'' not all, and ''allegedly'' because as we said yesterday, ''one can't help but wonder: why not do a Wikileaks type data dump, one which reveals if not all the 2.6 terabytes of data due to security concerns, then at least the identities of these 441 US-based clients. After all, with the rest of the world has already been extensively shamed, it's only fair to open US books as well.''
The exact same question appeared in an interview conducted between Wired magazine and the director of the organization that released the Panama Papers, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, or ICIJ, Gerard Ryle.
This is what Ryle said:
''Ryle says that the media organizations have no plans to release the full dataset, WikiLeaks-style, which he argues would expose the sensitive information of innocent private individuals along with the public figures on which the group's reporting has focused. 'We're not WikiLeaks. We're trying to show that journalism can be done responsibly,' Ryle says. He says he advised the reporters from all the participating media outlets to ''go crazy, but tell us what's in the public interest for your country.'''
Question aside about who it is that gets to decide which ''innocent private individuals'' are to be left alone, Wikileaks clearly did not like being characterized as conducting ''irresponsible'' journalism. To the contrary, many in the public arena have called for another massive, distributed effort to get to the bottom of a 2.4TB treasure trove of data which a handful of journalists will simply be unable to dig through. moments ago on Twitter, Wikileaks accused the ICIJ of being a ''Washington DC based Ford, Soros funded soft-power tax-dodge'' which ''has a WikiLeaks problem.''
Moments later, in a subsequent tweet it added that the ''Putin attack was produced by OCCRP which targets Russia & former USSR and was funded by USAID & Soros.''
And so, a new contest is born: one between the ''old'' source of mega leaks, and the new one. We wonder if and when Edward Snowden and/or Glenn Greenwald will also chime in.
But we are far more interested if now, that there appears to be a war brewing between Wikileaks and ICIJ, who what ''information'' will be released next, and whether whatever comes out will put the entire Panama Papers project in a different perspective, one which, as even Bloomberg has hinted, may have been to benefit the last remaining global tax haven around, the United States itself, as well as the most notorious provider of ''tax haven'' services in in said country: Rothschild.
This article (Wikileaks Accuses Panama Papers Leakers of Being Funded by Western Billionaires) originally appeared on ZeroHedge.com and was used with permission. Tune in! Anti-Media Radio airs Monday through Friday @ 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. Help us fix our typos: edits@theantimedia.org.
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Shut Up Slave!
White House under fire for 'censoring' video of French president's speech | Daily Mail Online
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 21:00
The Obama administration is under fire for briefly censoring a portion of video footage in which French president Francois Hollande uttered the phrase 'Islamist terrorism' '' a pairing of words that the president has consistently cut out of its homeland security lexicon.
Calling the omission the result of 'a technical issue with the audio,' a red-faced White House re-posted an unedited version of the footage late on Friday.
Hollande's remarks Thursday in Washington, following a bilateral meeting with President Barack Obama, urged continued cooperation between European nations and the United States to fight what the White House refers to as 'violent extremism.'
'But we're also well aware that the roots of terrorism '' Islamist terrorism '' are in Syria and in Iraq,' Hollande said, according to the official translation. 'We therefore have to act both in Syria and in Iraq, and this is what we're doing within the framework of the coalition.'
'ISLAMIST TERRORISM': Francois Hollande referred to 'the roots of terrorism '' Islamist terrorism,' but the second part initially vanished from the translator's voice-over in the White House's version of video
This highlighted screen capture from the White House's website shows the English-translated words omitted from official video of Hollande's March 31, 2016 remarks in Washington
The White House's English transcript retained the complete text.
Its original video did not: It erased all the words in English after the phrase 'But we're also well aware that the roots of terrorism.'
The initial footage, uncut, was restored hours later with a message from the White House. Both versions remain on YouTube at different locations.
'A technical issue with the audio during the recording of President Hollande's remarks led to a brief drop in the audio recording of the English interpretation,' the message read.
'As soon as this was brought to our attention, we posted an updated video online here with the complete audio, which is consistent with the written transcript we released yesterday.'
Any changes to the website's text would have been even more easily noticed because the interpreter's full translation was distributed to the White House press corps at 6:40 p.m. on Thursday, just 90 minutes after Hollande spoke.
The video switch was first noticed by the Media Research Center, a conservative nonprofit that monitors thousands of hours of news broadcasts every year in search of liberal biases.
MISSING IN ACTION: The White House briefly removed the video on Friday before restoring it and also uploading the uncut version
NODS: Obama is seen nodding along with Hollande after the translator says Hollande believes the roots of 'Islamist terrorism are in Syria and in Iraq'
Its researchers captured a screen-shot of the YouTube channel with the warning that the video 'has been removed by the user,' before it reappeared along with the unretouched original.
It's not clear how a technical glitch could explain the White House seamlessly integrating raw video footage with an English translator's voice until it included a phrase that has been proscribed from the Obama administration's official communications.
But at least one other version of video from the event had similar problems.
Rumble, a media company that redistributes licensed video with ads and shares revenue with online publishers, offered a version of Reuters video footage on Friday that eliminated just one word in the translator's voice.
It was 'Islamist.'
Spies In The Skies: Here's Where FBI Planes Are Circling U.S. Cities
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 21:29
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German Television Pulls Satire Mocking Turkey's Erdogan
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 15:14
GERMANY'S STATE BROADCASTER, ZDF, apologized on Friday for what it called satire that had crossed the line into slander and removed video of a comedian reading an obscene poem about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from its website and YouTube channel.
The poem, which was read by the German satirist Jan B¶hmermann on Thursday's edition of his late-night show ''Neo Magazin Royale,'' described Erdogan in vile, obscene terms '-- even comparing him, at one stage, to Josef Fritzl, an Austrian man who fathered seven children with a daughter he held in a cellar for 24 years '-- but the text was presented as part of a comic demonstration of the difference between satire and slander.
Although video of the entire show has disappeared from ZDF's official channels, an excerpt of the segment, with Turkish subtitles, can be viewed on the website of Bild, the German tabloid. The clip includes a reaction shot of Ralf Kabelka, B¶hmermann's sidekick, frowning at one particularly egregious line.
As Alexander K¼hn explained in a column on the segment for SpiegelOnline, the conceit of the sketch was that B¶hmermann was, in faux innocence, trying to understand where the line between satire and defamation was, by reading lines from the poem that might be considered slanderous. Kabelka was helping him by listening and pointing out what could not be said on television.
The issue has been in the news all week in Germany because of the Turkish government's official complaint about a music video mocking Erdogan, which was broadcast on another German television channel. Turkey's foreign ministry tried, and failed, to convince the German government to have that relatively mild spoof removed from the internet.
Erdogan, who is visiting Washington this week, along with his heavy-handed security detail, said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour on Thursday that he was ''open to criticism,'' but ''we shouldn't confuse criticism with insult and defamation.''
He added that he had no problem with ''a simple sketch,'' but ''satire with the president of a country at its core, which results in defamation and insults, is something different.'' Pressed by Amanpour as to why he did not simply ignore such jokes, Erdogan said that he reserved the right to sue anyone whose mockery of him insulted the Turkish voters who had elected him.
ZDF's director of programming, Norbert Himmler, said in a statement that the network gives wide latitude to its satirists, ''but there are also limits to irony and satire. In this case, they were clearly exceeded.''
Although the Erdogan sketch is no longer online, one inspired piece of B¶hmermann's show from Thursday remains on YouTube. It is a music video mocking xenophobic German nationalists who were caught on video in February hurling insults at terrified Muslim refugees, and chanting, ''We are the People!''
B¶hmermann was repulsed by footage of that incident of a mob surrounding a bus outside temporary accommodation in the village of Clausnitz, 19 miles south of Dresden.
As he and others noted, the use of the phrase ''We are the People'' (''Wir sind das Volk'' in German) was particularly disturbing because it had been appropriated by the anti-immigrant nationalists from a slogan used in protests against the East German government in 1989. In the past two years, it has been adopted by a group known as Pegida '-- a German acronym for a name that translates roughly as Patriotic Europeans Against the 'Islamization' of the West '-- which holds mass rallies against Muslim immigrants in Dresden and other cities in the former East Germany.
B¶hmermann's response to the incident is the very funny song ''Be Deutsch!'' first broadcast on Thursday, in which he praises '-- in English, to a German metal beat '-- the virtues of a more tolerant, Birkenstock-wearing, multicultural, modern Germany that is standing up to the nativists. ''Say it clear, say it loud,'' the chorus goes, ''We are proud of not being proud!''
The song, which was promoted on social networks with the hashtag #MakeGermanyGreatAgain, was also partly inspired by the rise of similar groups in other countries, and goes on to compare Erdogan and Donald Trump to Hitler. ''Maniacs with wicked hair,'' B¶hmermann sings, ''Ja, ja, ja, we have already been there.''
Germany Investigating Comic Suspected of Offending Turkish President Erdogan - WSJ
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:15
BERLIN'--German prosecutors have opened an investigation against a television comedian on suspicion of offending Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, escalating a dispute over press freedom that comes as Germany relies increasingly on Turkey to solve Europe's migrant crisis.
The prosecutor's office in the city of Mainz is launching proceedings on suspicion that prominent German comedy host Jan B¶hmermann breached a law that...
Turkish Citizenship Database
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 14:54
Turkish Citizenship DatabaseWho would have imagined that backwards ideologies, cronyism and rising religious extremism in Turkey would lead to a crumbling and vulnerable technical infrastructure?
This leak contains the following information for 49,611,709 Turkish citizens: (IN CLEARTEXT)
National Identifier (TC Kimlik No)First NameLast NameMother's First NameFather's First NameGenderCity of BirthDate of BirthID Registration City and DistrictFull AddressLesson to learn for Turkey:
Bit shifting isn't encryption.Index your database. We had to fix your sloppy DB work.Putting a hardcoded password on the UI hardly does anything for security.Do something about Erdogan! He is destroying your country beyond recognition.Lessons for the US? We really shouldn't elect Trump, that guy sounds like he knows even less about running a country than Erdogan does.
Let's take a look at the data:
mernis=# SELECT * FROM citizen WHERE last = 'ERDOGAN' AND \ first = 'RECEP TAYYIP' AND \ date_of_birth LIKE '%/%/1954';-[ RECORD 1 ]------------+-------------------------uid | 33693950national_identifier | 17291716060first | RECEP TAYYIPlast | ERDOGANmother_first | TENZILEfather_first | AHMETgender | Ebirth_city | ISTANBULdate_of_birth | 26/2/1954id_registration_city | RIZEid_registration_district | GUNEYSUaddress_city | ANKARAaddress_district | KECIORENaddress_neighborhood | KAVACIK SUBAYEVLERI MAH.street_address | KUSADASI SOKAKdoor_or_entrance_number | 26misc | mernis=# SELECT * FROM citizen WHERE last = 'DAVUTOGLU' AND \ first = 'AHMET' AND \ address_city = 'ISTANBUL' AND \ date_of_birth LIKE '%/1959';-[ RECORD 1 ]------------+------------------uid | 12409622national_identifier | 51541376338first | AHMETlast | DAVUTOGLUmother_first | MEMNUNEfather_first | MEHMET DURANgender | Ebirth_city | TASKENTdate_of_birth | 26/2/1959id_registration_city | KONYAid_registration_district | TASKENTaddress_city | ISTANBULaddress_district | BAHCELIEVLERaddress_neighborhood | BAHCELIEVLER MAH.street_address | ISMAILPASA SOKAKdoor_or_entrance_number | 25misc | mernis=# SELECT * FROM citizen WHERE last = 'GUL' AND \ first = 'ABDULLAH' AND \ mother_first = 'ADVIYE';-[ RECORD 1 ]------------+--------------------uid | 47612408national_identifier | 21353291242first | ABDULLAHlast | GULmother_first | ADVIYEfather_first | AHMET HAMDIgender | Ebirth_city | KAYSERIdate_of_birth | 29/10/1950id_registration_city | KAYSERIid_registration_district | KOCASINANaddress_city | ANKARAaddress_district | CANKAYAaddress_neighborhood | CANKAYA MAH.street_address | SEHIT ERSAN CADDESIdoor_or_entrance_number | 3misc | Downloadmernis.sql.tar.gz (1.5GB compressed - 6.6GB uncompressed)
Torrent | Magnet URL
SHA512(mernis.sql): b1f61764c44117ae9d11e3a825b34b042e973797b94b29a5b4b65cfc009ea5b49be7fc5438c2f5fb388b7431c3d967ea959bc976c4bc81123a18dee68a61feba
Turkish Citizenship DatabaseWho would have imagined that backwards ideologies, cronyism and rising religious extremism in Turkey would lead to a crumbling and vulnerable technical infrastructure?
This leak contains the following information for 49,611,709 Turkish citizens: (IN CLEARTEXT)
National Identifier (TC Kimlik No)First NameLast NameMother's First NameFather's First NameGenderCity of BirthDate of BirthID Registration City and DistrictFull AddressLesson to learn for Turkey:
Bit shifting isn't encryption.Index your database. We had to fix your sloppy DB work.Putting a hardcoded password on the UI hardly does anything for security.Do something about Erdogan! He is destroying your country beyond recognition.Lessons for the US? We really shouldn't elect Trump, that guy sounds like he knows even less about running a country than Erdogan does.
Let's take a look at the data:
mernis=# SELECT * FROM citizen WHERE last = 'ERDOGAN' AND \ first = 'RECEP TAYYIP' AND \ date_of_birth LIKE '%/%/1954';-[ RECORD 1 ]------------+-------------------------uid | 33693950national_identifier | 17291716060first | RECEP TAYYIPlast | ERDOGANmother_first | TENZILEfather_first | AHMETgender | Ebirth_city | ISTANBULdate_of_birth | 26/2/1954id_registration_city | RIZEid_registration_district | GUNEYSUaddress_city | ANKARAaddress_district | KECIORENaddress_neighborhood | KAVACIK SUBAYEVLERI MAH.street_address | KUSADASI SOKAKdoor_or_entrance_number | 26misc | mernis=# SELECT * FROM citizen WHERE last = 'DAVUTOGLU' AND \ first = 'AHMET' AND \ address_city = 'ISTANBUL' AND \ date_of_birth LIKE '%/1959';-[ RECORD 1 ]------------+------------------uid | 12409622national_identifier | 51541376338first | AHMETlast | DAVUTOGLUmother_first | MEMNUNEfather_first | MEHMET DURANgender | Ebirth_city | TASKENTdate_of_birth | 26/2/1959id_registration_city | KONYAid_registration_district | TASKENTaddress_city | ISTANBULaddress_district | BAHCELIEVLERaddress_neighborhood | BAHCELIEVLER MAH.street_address | ISMAILPASA SOKAKdoor_or_entrance_number | 25misc | mernis=# SELECT * FROM citizen WHERE last = 'GUL' AND \ first = 'ABDULLAH' AND \ mother_first = 'ADVIYE';-[ RECORD 1 ]------------+--------------------uid | 47612408national_identifier | 21353291242first | ABDULLAHlast | GULmother_first | ADVIYEfather_first | AHMET HAMDIgender | Ebirth_city | KAYSERIdate_of_birth | 29/10/1950id_registration_city | KAYSERIid_registration_district | KOCASINANaddress_city | ANKARAaddress_district | CANKAYAaddress_neighborhood | CANKAYA MAH.street_address | SEHIT ERSAN CADDESIdoor_or_entrance_number | 3misc | Downloadmernis.sql.tar.gz (1.5GB compressed - 6.6GB uncompressed)
Torrent | Magnet URL
SHA512(mernis.sql): b1f61764c44117ae9d11e3a825b34b042e973797b94b29a5b4b65cfc009ea5b49be7fc5438c2f5fb388b7431c3d967ea959bc976c4bc81123a18dee68a61feba
Turkey to probe massive 'personal data leak'
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 16:41
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European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - Implementing the EU-Turkey Agreement '' Questions and Answers
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 16:47
On 18 March 2016, EU Heads of State or Government and Turkey agreed to end the irregular migration from Turkey to the EU and replace it instead with legal channels of resettlement of refugees to the European Union. The aim is to replace disorganised, chaotic, irregular and dangerous migratory flows by organised, safe and legal pathways to Europe for those entitled to international protection in line with EU and international law.
The agreement took effect as of 20 March 2016, and 4 April 2016 was set as the target date for the start of returns of people arriving in Greece after 20 March and of the first resettlements. Today thus saw the start of two processes: returns from the Greek islands to Turkey to make clear that this is a dangerous route and the wrong route; and the first resettlements of Syrian refugees from Turkey to Europe, to underline that this is how Europe lives up to its responsibilities as a continent committed to the Geneva Convention and to the fundamental right to asylum.
The implementation of the agreement requires huge operational efforts from all involved, and most of all from Greece. As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, this is a Herculean task. Greece and Turkey are the two governments in charge of implementing the agreement. It is their authorities who have to do the legal and operational work. The Commission is assisting Greece with advice, expertise and support from the EU budget and by coordinating '' via the EU Coordinator Maarten Verwey '' the support which is being provided by other Member States and EU agencies.
Significant first steps in the implementation of the agreement are now being taken. This morning, 32 Syrian refugees were resettled to Germany and 11 to Finland. A group of Syrian refugees are expected to leave for the Netherlands tomorrow morning. The return of a number migrants who have not made asylum applications in Greece has been carried out during the morning from the Greek islands to Turkey, in full respect of EU and international law. Continued efforts are needed from Greece, Turkey and all EU Member States in the days and weeks to come.
What was agreed in the EU-Turkey statement of 18 March?
The EU and Turkey agreed that:
1) All new irregular migrants whether persons not applying for asylum or asylum seekers whose applications have been declared inadmissible crossing from Turkey to the Greek islands as of 20 March 2016 will be returned to Turkey;
2) For every Syrian being returned to Turkey from the Greek islands, another Syrian will be resettled to the EU from Turkey directly;
3) Turkey will take any necessary measures to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration opening from Turkey to the EU;
4) Once irregular crossings between Turkey and the EU are ending or have been substantially reduced, a Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme will be activated;
5) The fulfilment of the visa liberalisation roadmap will be accelerated with a view to lifting the visa requirements for Turkish citizens at the latest by the end of June 2016. Turkey will take all the necessary steps to fulfil the remaining requirements;
6) The EU will, in close cooperation with Turkey, further speed up the disbursement of the initially allocated '‚¬3 billion under the Facility for Refugees in Turkey. Once these resources are about to be used in full, the EU will mobilise additional funding for the Facility up to an additional '‚¬3 billion to the end of 2018;
7) The EU and Turkey welcomed the ongoing work on the upgrading of the Customs Union.
8) The accession process will be re-energised, with Chapter 33 to be opened during the Dutch Presidency of the Council of the European Union and preparatory work on the opening of other chapters to continue at an accelerated pace;
9) The EU and Turkey will work to improve humanitarian conditions inside Syria.
What has Greece done to implement the agreement?
Since 18 March 2016, Greece has:
Moved all migrants who arrived on the islands before 20 March to the mainland;
Returned to Turkey 147 irregular migrants not in need of international protection, who had arrived before 20 March;
Deployed liaison officers in Turkey;
Deployed 1,500 asylum case officers and police officers to the islands;
Transformed the hotspots into closed reception facilities to avoid irregular migrants absconding when they are subject to return decisions;
Adapted its legislation to provide a legal framework for the implementation of the 'first safe country of asylum' and 'safe third country' principles.
What has Turkey done to implement the agreement?
Since 18 March 2016, Turkey has:
Deployed liaison officers in Greece;
Announced that all Syrian refugees returned to Turkey from the Greek islands will see their protection status in Turkey granted or renewed. Legislative changes to that effect have been prepared.
Ensured that all people in need of international protection returned from the Greek islands to Turkey will have access to the asylum procedures in Turkey.
How many staff from the EU Agencies have been deployed to the Greek islands?
206 Frontex escort officers were deployed to Greece over the weekend.
32 EASO officers and 5 permanent staff were deployed to Greece on Sunday and Monday. These experts came from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia. An additional 30 staff are expected to be deployed by Wednesday. EASO's presence is expected to keep growing gradually in the days to come.
Frontex and EASO both issued two calls for experts on 19 March (1,500 escort officers and 50 return and readmission experts for Frontex and 400 asylum officers and 400 interpreters plus 30 judges for EASO).
How many staff from the EU Agencies have been pledged by Member States?
Confirmed Frontex pledges so far:
Frontex has so far received proposals from 21 Member States for 44 readmission experts and 702 escort officers from the initially requested (50 and 1,500 respectively) numbers for these two profiles.
Readmission experts: 50 needed, 44 pledged
Escort Officers: 1500 needed, 702 pledged
Confirmed EASO pledges so far:
EASO has so far received proposals from 16 Member States for 452 experts, of which 120 have been nominated so far (400 asylum officers, 400 interpreters plus 30 judges requested).
Asylum : 400 needed, 396 pledged, 85 experts nominated
Interpreters : 400 needed, 22 pledged
Judges: 30 requested by EASO, 33 nominated
For regular updates on the pledged experts, consult the table here.
How many Agency staff was already present in Greece before the 20 March?
Frontex already had 674 officers deployed in Greece:
The European Asylum Support Office (EAS0) already had 21 experts working in the hotspots and 47 experts working on the mainland.
How many migrants arrived in Greece since 20 March?
Date
Number of arrivals
20/3
1,667
21/3
600
22/3
260
23/3
24/3
161
25/3
78
26/3
73
27/3
232
28/3
192
29/3
766
30/3
377
31/3
339
01/4
566
02/4
514
03/4
339*
How are resettlements and returns physically being carried out?
Resettlements from Turkey to the European Union are taking place via plane.
Returns from the Greek islands to Turkey are in a first instance taking place via ferry and bus. The operational arrangements are decided between Turkey and Greece. Frontex is assisting in the practical implementation.
Frontex has mobilised the following practical support for the time being:
3 ferries (with capacities of 246, 330 and 400 people respectively)
Over 10 buses for transportation from the hotspots to the ports
256 Frontex escort officers
The ferries this morning departed from the Greek islands and disembarked in the port of Dikeli in Turkey.
On what legal basis are irregular migrants being returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?
People who do not apply for asylum in Greece or whose applications for asylum have been declared inadmissible or unfounded will be returned to Turkey. The legal framework for these returns is the bilateral readmission agreement between Greece and Turkey. From 1 June 2016, this will be succeeded by the EU-Turkey Readmission Agreement, following the entry into force of the provisions on readmission of third country nationals of this agreement.
On what legal basis are asylum seekers being returned from the Greek islands to Turkey?
People who apply for asylum in Greece will have their applications treated on a case-by-case basis, in line with EU and international law requirements and the principle of non-refoulement. There will be individual interviews, individual assessments and rights of appeal. There will be no blanket and no automatic returns of asylum seekers.
The EU asylum rules allow Member States in certain clearly defined circumstances to declare an application ''inadmissible'', that is to say, to reject the application without examining the substance.
Among the legal possibilities that can be used for declaring asylum applications inadmissible, in relation to Turkey are:
1) first country of asylum (Article 35 of the Asylum Procedures Directive): where the person has already been recognised as a refugee in that country or otherwise enjoys sufficient protection there;
2) safe third country (Article 38 of the Asylum Procedures Directive): where the person has not already received protection in the third country but the third country can guarantee to the readmitted person effective access to the protection procedure on an individual basis and where found to be in need of protection effective access to treatment in accordance with the standards of the Geneva Refugee Convention.
On what basis are Syrians being resettled from Turkey?
Resettlement from Turkey to the EU will be carried out in the first instance by honouring the commitments of Member States under the Council conclusions of 22 July 2015 of which 18,000 places for resettlement remain.
Furthermore, the Commission has proposed an amendment to the relocation decision of 22 September 2015 to facilitate the resettlement of an additional 54,000 persons under a voluntary arrangement.
Beyond this, the Voluntary Humanitarian Admission Scheme recommended by the Commissions on 15 December, for refugees displaces by the Syrian conflict from Syria to Turkey,will be activated.
What safeguards exist for asylum seekers?
All applications need to be treated individually and due account must be given to the situation of vulnerable groups, in particular unaccompanied minors for whom all decisions must be in their best interests.
All applicants will also be able to appeal the decision.
Will asylum seekers remain in Greece during the appeal procedure?
In accordance with Greek law, when applying the concept of "safe third country" and "first country of asylum", the decision to declare the asylum application inadmissible is suspended automatically while the appeal is being treated.
Where will migrants be accommodated whilst they await return?
Migrants will be accommodated either in open or in closed reception facilities on the Greek islands.
The Asylum Reception Conditions Directive and the Return Directive contain rules on the possibility to detain asylum-seekers and irregular migrants, in particular if there is a risk of absconding.
Detention must only ever be a means of last resort and must be proportionate.
The Commission is therefore asking Greece to pay particular attention to the needs of vulnerable people and unaccompanied minors, who in principle should not be detained.
How can you be sure that asylum seekers will be given protection in Turkey?
Both the EU and Turkey agreed in their statement of 18 March to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
Only asylum seekers that will be protected in accordance with the relevant international standards and in respect of the principle of non-refoulement will be returned to Turkey.
In addition, the EU is speeding up the disbursement of funds from the '‚¬3 billion Facility for Refugees in Turkey. This funding will support Syrians in Turkey by providing access to food, shelter, education and healthcare. An additional '‚¬3 billion will be made available after this money is used to the full, up to the end of 2018. The UNHCR will be a key actor in the resettlement process to provide additional support and supervision.
What operational support does Greece need in order to implement the scheme?
The implementation of the agreement requires huge operational efforts from all involved, and most of all from Greece. EU Member States agreed to provide Greece at short notice with the necessary means, including border guards, asylum experts and interpreters.
The Commission estimated that Greece needs:
Around 4,000 staff from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX:
For the asylum process: 200 Greek asylum service case workers, 400 asylum experts from other Member States deployed by EASO and 400 interpreters;
For the appeals process: 10 Appeals Committees made up of 30 members from Greece as well as 30 judges with expertise in asylum law from other Member States and 30 interpreters;
For the return process: 25 Greek readmission officers, 250 Greek police officers as well as 50 return experts deployed by Frontex. 1,500 police officers seconded on the basis of bilateral police cooperation arrangements (costs covered by FRONTEX);
Security: 1,000 security staff/army.
Who is coordinating this support?
Heads of State or Government meeting in the European Council on 17-18 March 2016 agreed that "the Commission will coordinate and organise together with Member States and Agencies the necessary support structures to implement it effectively."
President Juncker appointed Maarten Verwey to act as the EU coordinator to implement the EU-Turkey statement. Maarten Verwey is the Director-General of the European Commission's Structural Reform Support Service. He leads a team which has already been on the ground in Greece since October 2015, working hand-in-hand with the Greek authorities to address the refugee crisis, by accelerating access to emergency funding, improving the coordination between the various actors, addressing administrative bottlenecks and facilitating knowledge sharing on border management and relocation. The EU coordinator has at his disposal significant resources from relevant European Commission services in Brussels (in particular DG HOME) and EU agencies (FRONTEX, EASO, Europol).
The EU coordinator is organising the work and coordinating the dispatching of the 4,000 staff that will be needed from Greece, Member States, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and FRONTEX.
What financial support is being provided to Greece?
The Commission estimated the costs of the practical implementation of the agreement to be around '‚¬280 million euro over the next six months.
The EU will support Greece to put in place the necessary human resources, infrastructure and reception capacity in order to carry out registrations appeals processes and large scale return operations.
Emergency assistance
Since the beginning of 2015, Greece has been awarded '‚¬181 million in emergency assistance. For 2016, the Commission has significantly increased the emergency assistance budget under the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and the Internal Security Fund (ISF) - the total amount of emergency funding available in 2016 for the refugee crisis now stands at '‚¬464 million. '‚¬267 million has been earmarked for Greece. Requests for financing can be introduced by the Greek authorities and International Organisations operating in Greece to manage the refugee and humanitarian crisis. This funding can be made available for the funding of reception centres on the islands, as well as support for return operations (transport and accompanying measures). This funding can also be used for the temporary deployment of additional Greek staff.
Funding available under the Greek multiannual National Programmes
The emergency funding comes on top of the '‚¬509 million already allocated to Greece under the national programmes for 2014-2020 ('‚¬294.5 million from AMIF and '‚¬214.7 million from ISF).
Frontex funding
'‚¬60 million euro is available in funding for return operations, including the reimbursement of the costs of Frontex return experts, the reimbursement of transport costs (including vessels made available through Frontex) and the reimbursement of police officers for return escorts (including police officers seconded by other Member States on the basis of bilateral police cooperation agreements).
EASO funding
Under the budget of the European Asylum Support Office, '‚¬1.9 million is available to support Member States under particular pressure in 2016 with the funding of, for example, case workers, judges and mobile containers.
Humanitarian Emergency Support
On 2 March, the Commission proposed an Emergency support instrument for humanitarian purposes, providing '‚¬700 million over the next three years, to be used within the European Union to provide a faster, more targeted response to major crises, including helping Member States cope with large numbers of refugees. The instrument entered into force on 16 April 2016 (Council Regulation (EU) 2016/369). The estimated needs for 2016 are '‚¬300 million with a further '‚¬200 million each for use in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
What happens to migrants who were already in Greece before 20 March?
The Greek authorities, EU Member States and EU Agencies agreed to accelerate relocations from Greece and provide rapid humanitarian assistance to Greece. In view of the emergency situation on the ground, 6,000 relocations should be achieved within the next month and at least 20,000 relocations completed by mid-May 2016. So far 581 persons in need of international protection have been relocated from Greece to other Member States.
In total 19 Member States have pledged 2,762 places for relocation from Greece. The Greek asylums service has registered 2,592 relocation applications.
1,986 relocation requests have been submitted to Member States, among which 1,124 have been accepted. 862 are still pending.
* Update: Figure for number of migrants arriving in Greece on 3 April amended.
Caliphate!
At the gates of Europe: Radical Islamists buy land in Bosnia - DWN
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 19:52
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Elections 2016
Planned Parenthood Exec Slams Hillary Clinton For Calling A 'Fetus' An 'Unborn Child' - Breitbart
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:33
Diana Arellano, manager of community engagement for Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, tweeted Sunday that Clinton ''calls a fetus an 'unborn child' & calls for later term restrictions,'' a statement Arellano says ''further stigmatizes #abortion.''
Arellano suggests in another tweet Monday that Clinton has a ''condescending'' tone toward young people.
Before sending those Tweets, her profile identified Arellano as working for Planned Parenthood Illinois Action:
On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, Clinton told host Chuck Todd, ''the unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights.''
My position is in line with Roe v. Wade, that women have a constitutional right to make these moment intimate and personal and difficult decisions based on their conscience, their faith, their family, their doctor. And that it is something that really goes to the core of privacy. And I want to maintain that constitutional protection. Under Roe v. Wade as you know there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions after a certain point in time. I think the life, the health of the mother are clear. And those should be included even as one moves on in pregnancy. So I have been '-- I've had the same position for many years.
When asked by Todd ''when or if'' an unborn child has constitutional rights, Clinton responded:
Well, under our laws currently, that is not something that exists. The unborn person doesn't have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn't mean that we don't do everything we possibly can in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support. It doesn't mean that, you know, don't do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations. But it does not include sacrificing the woman's right to make decisions. And I think that's an important distinction that under Roe v. Wade we've had refined under our Constitution.
Arellano's tweets are especially noteworthy since Planned Parenthood and its allies in the establishment abortion industry have endorsed Clinton in the primary '' a first in the history of the abortion business.
Clinton's comments come as Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards campaigns for the Democrat candidate in Wisconsin in advance of the Tuesday primary.
''This is sort of the pinnacle of everything we've fought for all our lives,'' Richards said about electing Clinton, referring to her as ''a woman who has been standing for women her entire life.''
The abortion industry thrives on dehumanizing the unborn child for fear of turning more people against the procedure. Planned Parenthood and its allies in the abortion lobby even deny the science of ultrasound technology as they try to fend off any state legislation that requires women to view an ultrasound of their unborn baby prior to making the final decision to abort.
Newsbustersnotes Clinton's ''leftist heresy:''
In addition, the specific term ''person'' is a legal concept that includes rights and statuses that the law protects, including protection of a person's life under the laws against homicide. Pro-choice intellectuals have long said that even if an unborn child is a ''life,'' it is not yet a ''person.''
Guidelines issued by the International Planned Parenthood Federation discourage pro-choice advocates from using terms such as ''abort a child,'' instead recommending ''more accurate/appropriate'' alternatives such as ''end a pregnancy'' or ''have an abortion.''
'''Abort a child' is medically inaccurate, as the fetus is not yet a child,'' the guide reads'...
National pro-life leaders noted Clinton's comments.
''Although Hillary Clinton is first and foremost a politician striving furiously for the highest office in the land, she is also a rational human being and an affectionate grandmother,'' said The Catholic Association's Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie in a statement sent to Breitbart News, adding:
As such, she angered her powerful financial backers at Planned Parenthood by referring to an unborn baby as a ''person'' and a ''child.'' The abortion mega-provider is appalled that Clinton, grateful recipient of their lavish campaign contributions, should forget that their first and best corporate strategy to increase profits is dehumanizing the fetus. Of course, no one, not even Clinton, can close their eyes to the scientific fact that a fetus is anything but a young human person, and abortion the end of his or her short life.
Chairman of the House Select Investigative Panel investigating Planned Parenthood's abortion practices '' Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) '' released the following statement in response to Clinton's remarks:
Secretary Clinton's comment that an ''unborn person'' doesn't have constitutional rights was strikingly callous. My message to Mrs. Clinton is '-- it's an unborn child. The analytical coldness with which she dismissed rights of unborn children reveals a type of hardened core that shocks the conscience. Further, abortion restrictions are in place precisely because an unborn child does have constitutional rights. Secretary Clinton, a trained attorney, should know the law. Her comment reveals a mindset that lacks any compassion for unborn children and may signal an intention to use executive action to block even minimal protections of life at its most vulnerable stage.
How Clinton's email scandal took root - The Washington Post
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 00:30
This article reflects a revised number for the FBI personnel working on the Clinton email case. Correction at conclusion of story.
Hillary Clinton's email problems began in her first days as secretary of state. She insisted on using her personal BlackBerry for all her email communications, but she wasn't allowed to take the device into her seventh-floor suite of offices, a secure space known as Mahogany Row.
For Clinton, this was frustrating. As a political heavyweight and chief of the nation's diplomatic corps, she needed to manage a torrent of email to stay connected to colleagues, friends and supporters. She hated having to put her BlackBerry into a lockbox before going into her own office.
Her aides and senior officials pushed to find a way to enable her to use the device in the secure area. But their efforts unsettled the diplomatic security bureau, which was worried that foreign intelligence services could hack her BlackBerry and transform it into a listening device.
On Feb. 17, 2009, less than a month into Clinton's tenure, the issue came to a head. Department security, intelligence and technology specialists, along with five officials from the National Security Agency, gathered in a Mahogany Row conference room. They explained the risks to Cheryl Mills, Clinton's chief of staff, while also seeking ''mitigation options'' that would accommodate Clinton's wishes.
''The issue here is one of personal comfort,'' one of the participants in that meeting, Donald Reid, the department's senior coordinator for security infrastructure, wrote afterward in an email that described Clinton's inner circle of advisers as ''dedicated [BlackBerry] addicts.''
Clinton used her BlackBerry as the group continued looking for a solution. But unknown to diplomatic security and technology officials at the department, there was another looming communications vulnerability: Clinton's Black­Berry was digitally tethered to a private email server in the basement of her family home, some 260 miles to the north in Chappaqua, N.Y., documents and interviews show.
Those officials took no steps to protect the server against intruders and spies, because they apparently were not told about it.
The State Department released 52,000 pages of Hillary Clinton's emails as part of a court-ordered process. Here's what else we learned from the publicly released emails. (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)
The vulnerability of Clinton's basement server is one of the key unanswered questions at the heart of a scandal that has dogged her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Since Clinton's private email account was brought to light a year ago in a New York Times report '-- followed by an Associated Press report revealing the existence of the server '-- the matter has been a source of nonstop national news. Private groups have filed lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act. Investigations were begun by congressional committees and inspector general's offices in the State Department and the U.S. Intelligence Community, which referred the case to the FBI in July for ''counterintelligence purposes'' after determining that the server carried classified material.
The FBI is now trying to determine whether a crime was committed in the handling of that classified material. It is also examining whether the server was hacked.
Dozens of FBI personnel have been deployed to run down leads, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. The FBI has accelerated the investigation because officials want to avoid the possibility of announcing any action too close to the election.
The Washington Post reviewed hundreds of documents and interviewed more than a dozen knowledgeable government officials to understand the decisions and the implications of Clinton's actions. The resulting scandal revolves around questions about classified information, the preservation of government records and the security of her email communication.
From the earliest days, Clinton aides and senior officials focused intently on accommodating the secretary's desire to use her private email account, documents and interviews show.
Throughout, they paid insufficient attention to laws and regulations governing the handling of classified material and the preservation of government records, interviews and documents show. They also neglected repeated warnings about the security of the BlackBerry while Clinton and her closest aides took obvious security risks in using the basement server.
Senior officials who helped Clinton with her BlackBerry claim they did not know details of the basement server, the State Department said, even though they received emails from her private account. One email written by a senior official mentioned the server.
The scandal has pitted those who say Clinton was innocently trying to find the easiest way to communicate against those who say she placed herself above the law in a quest for control of her records. She and her campaign have been accused of confusing matters with contradictory and evolving statements that minimized the consequences of her actions.
Clinton, 68, declined to be interviewed. She has said repeatedly that her use of the private server was benign and that there is no evidence of any intrusion.
In a news conference last March, she said: ''I opted for convenience to use my personal email account, which was allowed by the State Department, because I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.''
During a Democratic debate on March 9, she acknowledged using poor judgment but maintained she was permitted to use her own server: ''It wasn't the best choice. I made a mistake. It was not prohibited. It was not in any way dis­allowed.''
The unfolding story of Clinton's basement server has outraged advocates of government transparency and mystified political supporters and adversaries alike. Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., who is presiding over one of the FOIA lawsuits, has expressed puzzlement over the affair. He noted that Clinton put the State Department in the position of having to ask her to return thousands of government records '-- her work email.
''Am I missing something?'' Sullivan asked during a Feb. 23 hearing. ''How in the world could this happen?''
Hillary Clinton began preparing to use the private basement server after President Obama picked her to be his secretary of state in November 2008. The system was already in place. It had been set up for former president Bill Clinton, who used it for personal and Clinton Foundation business.
On Jan. 13, 2009, a longtime aide to Bill Clinton registered a private email domain for Hillary Clinton, clintonemail.com, that would allow her to send and receive email through the server.
Eight days later, she was sworn in as secretary of state. Among the multitude of challenges she faced was how to integrate email into her State Department routines. Because Clinton did not use desktop computers, she relied on her personal BlackBerry, which she had started using three years earlier.
For years, employees across the government had used official and private email accounts.
The new president was making broad promises about government transparency that had a bearing on Clinton's communication choices. In memos to his agency chiefs, Obama said his administration would promote accountability through the disclosure of a wide array of information, one part of a ''profound national commitment to ensuring an open government.'' That included work emails.
One year earlier, during her own presidential campaign, Clinton had said that if elected, ''we will adopt a presumption of openness and Freedom of Information Act requests and urge agencies to release information quickly.''
But in those first few days, Clinton's senior advisers were already taking steps that would help her circumvent those high-flown words, according to a chain of internal State Department emails released to Judicial Watch, a conservative nonprofit organization suing the government over Clinton's emails.
Leading that effort was Mills, Clinton's chief of staff. She was joined by Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, Undersecretary Patrick Kennedy and Lewis Lukens, a senior career official who served as Clinton's logistics chief. Their focus was on accommodating Clinton.
Mills wondered whether the department could get her an encrypted device like the one from the NSA that Obama used.
''If so, how can we get her one?'' Mills wrote the group on Saturday evening, Jan. 24.
Lukens responded that same evening, saying he could help set up ''a stand alone PC in the Secretary's office, connected to the internet (but not through our system) to enable her to check her emails from her desk.''
Kennedy wrote that a ''stand-alone separate network PC'' was a ''great idea.''
Abedin and Mills declined to comment for this article, according to Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon. Lukens also declined to comment, according to the State Department.
As undersecretary for management, Kennedy occupies a central role in Clinton's email saga. The department acknowledged that Kennedy, as part of his normal duties, helped Clinton with her BlackBerry. But in a statement, the department said: ''Under Secretary Kennedy maintains that he was unaware of the email server. Completely separate from that issue, Under Secretary Kennedy was aware that at the beginning of her tenure, Secretary Clinton's staff was interested in setting up a computer at the Department so she could email her family during the work day.
''As we have previously made clear '-- no such computer was ever set up. Furthermore, Under Secretary Kennedy had very little insight into Secretary Clinton's email practices including how ­frequently or infrequently then-Secretary Clinton used email.''
As it happened, Clinton would never have a government BlackBerry, personal computer or email account. A request for a secure device from the NSA was rebuffed at the outset: ''The current state of the art is not too user friendly, has no infrastructure at State, and is very expensive,'' Reid, the security official, wrote in an email on Feb. 13, adding that ''each time we asked the question 'What was the solution for POTUS?' we were politely told to shut up and color.''
Clinton would continue to use her BlackBerry for virtually all of her government communication, but not on Mahogany Row.
Her first known BlackBerry communication through the basement server came on Jan. 28, 2009, when Clinton exchanged notes with Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, then chief of the U.S. Central Command, according to a State Department spokeswoman. It has not been released.
Few knew the details behind the new clintonemail.com address. But news about her choice to use her own BlackBerry spread quickly among the department's diplomatic security and ''intelligence countermeasures'' specialists.
Their fears focused on the seventh floor, which a decade earlier had been the target of Russian spies who managed to plant a listening device inside a decorative chair-rail molding not far from Mahogany Row. In more recent years, in a series of widely publicized cyberattacks, hackers breached computers at the department along with those at other federal agencies and several major corporations.
The State Department security officials were distressed about the possibility that Clinton's BlackBerry could be compromised and used for eavesdropping, documents and interviews show.
After the meeting on Feb. 17 with Mills, security officials in the department crafted a memo about the risks. And among themselves, they expressed concern that other department employees would follow the ''bad example'' and seek to use insecure BlackBerrys themselves, emails show.
As they worked on the memo, they were aware of a speech delivered by Joel F. Brenner, then chief of counterintelligence at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, on Feb. 24 at a hotel in Vienna, Va., a State Department document shows. Brenner urged his audience to consider what could have happened to them during a visit to the recent Beijing Olympics.
''Your phone or BlackBerry could have been tagged, tracked, monitored and exploited between your disembarking the airplane and reaching the taxi stand at the airport,'' Brenner said. ''And when you emailed back home, some or all of the malware may have migrated to your home server. This is not hypothetical.''
At the time, Clinton had just returned from an official trip that took her to China and elsewhere in Asia. She was embarking on another foray to the Middle East and Europe. She took her BlackBerry with her.
In early March, Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Eric Boswell delivered a memo with the subject line ''Use of Blackberries in Mahogany Row.''
''Our review reaffirms our belief that the vulnerabilities and risks associated with the use of Blackberries in the Mahogany Row [redacted] considerably outweigh the convenience their use can add,'' the memo said.
He emphasized: ''Any unclassified Blackberry is highly vulnerable in any setting to remotely and covertly monitoring conversations, retrieving e-mails, and exploiting calendars.''
Nine days later, Clinton told Boswell that she had read his memo and ''gets it,'' according to an email sent by a senior diplomatic security official. ''Her attention was drawn to the sentence that indicates (Diplomatic Security) have intelligence concerning this vulnerability during her recent trip to Asia,'' the email said.
But Clinton kept using her private BlackBerry '-- and the basement server.
The server was nothing remarkable, the kind of system often used by small businesses, according to people familiar with its configuration at the end of her tenure. It consisted of two off-the-shelf server computers. Both were equipped with antivirus software. They were linked by cable to a local Internet service provider. A firewall was used as protection against hackers.
Few could have known it, but the email system operated in those first two months without the standard encryption generally used on the Internet to protect communication, according to an independent analysis that Venafi Inc., a cybersecurity firm that specializes in the encryption process, took upon itself to publish on its website after the scandal broke.
Not until March 29, 2009 '-- two months after Clinton began using it '-- did the server receive a ''digital certificate'' that protected communication over the Internet through encryption, according to Venafi's analysis.
It is unknown whether the system had some other way to encrypt the email traffic at the time. Without encryption '-- a process that scrambles communication for anyone without the correct key '-- email, attachments and passwords are transmitted in plain text.
''That means that anyone could have accessed it. Anyone,'' Kevin Bocek, vice president of threat intelligence at Venafi, told The Post.
The system had other features that made it vulnerable to talented hackers, including a software program that enabled users to log on directly from the World Wide Web.
Four computer-security specialists interviewed by The Post said that such a system could be made reasonably secure but that it would need constant monitoring by people trained to look for irregularities in the server's logs.
''For data of this sensitivity .'‰.'‰. we would need at a minimum a small team to do monitoring and hardening,'' said Jason Fossen, a computer-security specialist at the SANS Institute, which provides cybersecurity training around the world.
The man Clinton has said maintained and monitored her server was Bryan Pagliano, who had worked as the technology chief for her political action committee and her presidential campaign. It is not clear whether he had any help. Pagliano had also provided computer services to the Clinton family. In 2008, he received more than $5,000 for that work, according to financial disclosure statements he filed with the government.
In May 2009, with Kennedy's help, Pagliano landed a job as a political employee in the State Department's IT division, documents and interviews show. It was an unusual arrangement.
At the same time, Pagliano apparently agreed to maintain the basement server. Officials in the IT division have told investigators they could not recall previously hiring a political appointee. Three of Pagliano's supervisors also told investigators they had no idea that Clinton used the basement server or that Pagliano was moonlighting on it.
Through an attorney, Pagliano declined a request from The Post for an interview. He also refused a request from the Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committees to discuss his role. On Sept. 1, 2015, his attorney told the committees that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights if any attempt was made to compel his testimony. He was later given immunity by the Justice Department in exchange for his cooperation, according to articles in the New York Times and The Post.
In a statement, Clinton's campaign said the server was protected but declined to provide technical details. Clinton officials have said that server logs given to authorities show no signs of hacking.
''The security and integrity of her family's electronic communications was taken seriously from the onset when it was first set up for President Clinton's team,'' the statement said. ''Suffice it to say, robust protections were put in place and additional upgrades and techniques employed over time as they became available, including consulting and employing third party experts.''
The statement added that ''there is no evidence there was ever a breach.''
The number of emails moving through the basement system increased quickly as Hillary Clinton dove into the endless details of her globetrotting job. There were 62,320 in all, an average of 296 a week, nearly 1,300 a month, according to numbers Clinton later reported to the State Department. About half of them were work-related.
Her most frequent correspondent was Mills, her chief of staff, who sent thousands of notes. Next came Abedin, the deputy chief of staff, and Jacob Sullivan, also a deputy chief of staff, according to a tally by The Post.
Clinton used hdr22@clintonemail.com as her address, making it immediately apparent that the emails were not coming from or going to a government address.
Most of her emails were routine, including those sent to friends. Some involved the coordination of efforts to bring aid to Haiti by the State Department and her husband's New York-based Clinton Foundation '-- notes that mixed government and family business, the emails show.
Others involved classified matters. State Department and Intelligence Community officials have determined that 2,093 email chains contained classified information. Most of the classified emails have been labeled as ''confidential,'' the lowest level of classification. Clinton herself authored 104 emails that contained classified material, a Post analysis later found.
Before the server received a digital certificate marking the use of standard encryption, Clinton and her aides exchanged notes touching on North Korea, Mexico, Afghanistan, military advisers, CIA operations and a briefing for Obama.
Clinton adviser Philippe Reines wrote a note to her about Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. Reines started his note by reminding Clinton that Reines's ''close friend Jeremy Bash is now [CIA Director Leon E.] Panetta's Chief of Staff.'' The rest of the note was redacted before release, under grounds that it was national-security-sensitive.
On Sunday, March 29, 2009, just hours before standard encryption on the server began, Sullivan emailed Clinton a draft of a confidential report she was to make to Obama. ''Attached is a draft of your Mexico trip report to POTUS,'' Sullivan wrote.
In the high-pressure world of diplomacy, the sharing of such material had been a discreet but common practice for many years. Officials who manage problems around the clock require a never-ending flow of incisive information to make timely decisions.
Not all classified material is equally sensitive. Much of it involves discussions about foreign countries or leaders, not intelligence sources and methods. Working with classified materials can be cumbersome and, in the case of low-level classification, annoying.
On Feb. 10, 2010, in an exchange with Sullivan, Clinton vented her frustration one day when she wanted to read a statement regarding Jos(C) Miguel Insulza, then secretary general of the Organization of American States. Sullivan wrote that he could not send it to her immediately because the department had put it on the classified network.
''It's a public statement! Just email it,'' Clinton shot back, just moments later.
''Trust me, I share your exasperation,'' Sullivan wrote. ''But until ops converts it to the unclassified email system, there is no physical way for me to email it. I can't even access it.''
Early on June 17, 2011, Clinton grew impatient as she waited for ''talking points'' about a sensitive matter that had to be delivered via a secure line.
''They say they've had issues sending secure fax. They're working on it,'' Sullivan wrote his boss.
Clinton told him to take a shortcut.
''If they can't, turn into nonpaper w no identifying heading and send nonsecure,'' she said.
Clinton spokesman Fallon said she was not trying to circumvent the classification system.
''What she was asking was that any information that could be transmitted on the unclassified system be transmitted,'' he said. ''It is wrong to suggest that she was requesting otherwise. The State Department looked into this and confirmed that no classified material was sent through a non-secure fax or email.''
Security remained a constant concern. On June 28, 2011, in response to reports that Gmail accounts of government workers had been targeted by ''online adversaries,'' a note went out over Clinton's name urging department employees to ''avoid conducting official Department business from your personal email accounts.''
But she herself ignored the warning and continued using her BlackBerry and the basement server.
In December 2012, near the end of Clinton's tenure, a nonprofit group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, filed a FOIA request seeking records about her email. CREW received a response in May 2013: ''no records responsive to your request were located.''
Other requests for Clinton records met the same fate '-- until the State Department received a demand from the newly formed House Select Committee on Benghazi in July 2014. The committee wanted Clinton's email, among other things, to see what she and others knew about the deadly attack in Libya and the response by the U.S. government.
Officials in the department's congressional affairs office found some Clinton email and saw that she had relied on the private domain, not the department's system.
Secretary of State John F. Kerry resolved to round up the Clinton emails and deliver them to Congress as quickly as possible. Department officials reached out to Clinton informally in the summer of 2014. On Oct. 28, 2014, the department contacted Clinton and the offices of three other former secretaries '-- Madeleine K. Albright, Condoleezza Rice and Colin L. Powell '-- asking if they had any email or other federal records in their possession.
Albright and Rice said they did not use email while at State. Powell, secretary of state from 2001 to 2005, had a private email account through America Online but did not retain copies of his emails. The inspector general for the State Department found that Powell's personal email account had received two emails from staff that contained ''national security information classified at the Secret or Confidential levels.''
Clinton lawyer David Kendall later told the State Department that her ''use of personal email was consistent with the practices of other Secretaries of State,'' citing Powell in particular, according to a letter he wrote in August.
But Powell's circumstances also differed from Clinton's in notable ways. Powell had a phone line installed in his office solely to link to his private account, which he generally used for personal or non-classified communication. At the time, he was pushing the department to embrace the Internet era and wanted to set an example.
''I performed a little test whenever I visited an embassy: I'd dive into the first open office I could find (sometimes it was the ambassador's office). If the computer was on, I'd try to get into my private email account,'' Powell wrote in ''It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership.'' ''If I could, they passed.''
Powell conducted virtually all of his classified communications on paper or over a State Department computer installed on his desk that was reserved for classified information, according to interviews. Clinton never had such a desktop or a classified email account, according to the State Department.
On Dec. 5, 2014, Clinton lawyers delivered 12 file boxes filled with printed paper containing more than 30,000 emails. Clinton withheld almost 32,000 emails deemed to be of a personal nature.
The department began releasing the emails last May, starting with some 296 emails requested by the Benghazi committee. In reviewing those emails, intelligence officials realized that some contained classified material.
Clinton and her campaign have offered various responses to questions about the classifications. At first, she flat-out denied that her server ever held any. ''There is no classified material,'' she said at a March 10, 2015, news conference.
Her campaign later released a statement saying she could not have known whether material was classified, because it was not labeled as such. ''No information in Clinton's emails was marked classified at the time she sent or received them,'' the statement said.
Clinton has also suggested that many of the emails were classified as a formality only because they were being prepared for release under a FOIA request. Her campaign has said that much of the classified material '-- in emails sent by more than 300 individuals '-- came from newspaper accounts and other public sources.
''What you are talking about is retroactive classification,'' she said during a recent debate. ''And I think what we have got here is a case of overclassification.'' Her statement appears to conflict with a report to Congress last year by inspectors general from the State Department and the group of spy agencies known as the Intelligence Community. They made their report after the discovery that four emails, from a sample of 40 that went through her server, contained classified information.
''These emails were not retro­actively classified by the State Department,'' the report said. ''Rather these emails contained classified information when they were generated and, according to IC classification officials, that information remains classified today. This classified information should never have been transmitted via an unclassified personal system.''
One of those four emails has since been declassified and released publicly by the State Department. The department has questioned the classification of another of those emails.
Twenty-two emails discovered later were deemed so highly classified that they were withheld in their entirety from public release. ''They are on their face sensitive and obviously classified,'' Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, told The Post. ''This information should have been maintained in the most secure, classified, top-secret servers.''
Fallon pointed out that none of those emails originated with Clinton, something that he said Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the Senate Select Intelligence Committee vice chairman, has noted. ''We strongly disagree with the decision to withhold these emails in full,'' he said.
Under Title 18, Section 1924, of federal law, it is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and imprisonment for a federal employee to knowingly remove classified information ''without authority and with the intent to retain such documents or materials at an unauthorized location.''
Previous cases brought under the law have required proof of an intent to mishandle classified information, a high hurdle in the Clinton case. The basement server also put Clinton at risk of violating laws and regulations aimed at protecting and preserving government records.
In a statement, Clinton's campaign said she had received ''guidance regarding the need to preserve federal records'' and followed those rules. ''It was her practice to email government employees on their '.gov' email address. That way, work emails would be immediately captured and preserved in government ­record-keeping systems,'' the statement said.
Fallon said that ''over 90 percent'' of the more than 30,000 work-related emails ''were to or from government email accounts.''
Specialists interviewed by The Post said her practices fell short of what laws and regulations mandated. Some of those obligations were spelled out a few months before Clinton took office in National Archives and Records Administration Bulletin 2008-05, which said every email system was supposed to ''permit easy and timely retrieval'' of the records.
The secretary of state's work emails are supposed to be preserved permanently. In addition, rules also mandated that permanent records are to be sent to the department's Records Service Center ''at the end of the Secretary's tenure or sooner if necessary'' for safekeeping.
Under Title 18, Section 2071, it is a misdemeanor to take federal records without authorization, something that is sometimes referred to as the ''alienation'' of records. The law is rarely enforced, but a conviction can carry a fine or imprisonment.
Jason R. Baron, a former director of litigation at the National Archives and Records Administration, told the Senate Judiciary Committee last year he believed that Clinton's server ran afoul of the rules. In a memo to the committee, Baron wrote that ''the setting up of and maintaining a private email network as the sole means to conduct official business by email, coupled with the failure to timely return email records into government custody, amounts to actions plainly inconsistent with the federal recordkeeping laws.''
On May 19, 2015, in response to a FOIA lawsuit from the media organization Vice News, U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras ordered all the email to be released in stages, with re­dactions.
One notable email was sent in August 2011. Stephen Mull, then serving as the department's executive secretary, emailed Abedin, Mills and Kennedy about getting a government-issued BlackBerry linked to a government server for Clinton.
''We are working to provide the Secretary per her request a Department issued Blackberry to replace personal unit, which is malfunctioning (possibly because of her personal email server is down.) We will prepare two version for her to use '-- one with an operating State Department email account (which would mask her identity, but which would also be subject to FOIA requests).''
Abedin responded decisively.
''Steve '-- let's discuss the state blackberry. doesn't make a whole lot of sense.''
Fallon said the email showed that the secretary's staff ''opposed the idea of her identity being masked.''
Last month, in a hearing about a Judicial Watch lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Sullivan cited that email as part of the reason he ordered the State Department produce records related to its initial failures in the FOIA searches for Clinton's records.
Speaking in open court, Sullivan said legitimate questions have been raised about whether Clinton's staff was trying to help her to sidestep FOIA.
''We're talking about a Cabinet-level official who was accommodated by the government for reasons unknown to the public. And I think that's a fair statement: For reasons heretofore unknown to the public. And all the public can do is speculate,'' he said, adding: ''This is all about the public's right to know.''
Alice Crites contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that Clinton used two different email addresses, sometimes interchangeably, as secretary of state. She used only hdr22@clintonemail.com as secretary of state. Also, an earlier version of this article reported that 147 FBI agents had been detailed to the investigation, according to a lawmaker briefed by FBI Director James B. Comey. Two U.S. law enforcement officials have since told The Washington Post that figure is too high. The FBI will not provide an exact figure, but the officials say the number of FBI personnel involved is fewer than 50.
Robert O'Harrow Jr. is a reporter on the investigative unit of The Washington Post. He writes about law enforcement, national security, federal contracting and the financial world.
Hillary Clinton's top aide Huma Abedin gushes about presidential hopeful | Daily Mail Online
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:00
Huma Abedin spoke about meeting Hillary Clinton for the first time in a new interview, where she also revealed her fears over the State Department's release of the Democratic front-runner's emails from her time as Secretary of State.
'You know these things that happen in your life that just stick? She walked by and she shook my hand and our eyes connected and I just remember having this moment where I thought; "Wow, this is amazing,"' said Abedin.
'And it just inspired me. You know, I still remember the look on her face. And it's funny, and she would probably be so annoyed that I say this, but I remember thinking; "Oh my God, she's so beautiful and she's so little!"'
Clinton's top aide said on the Call Your Girlfriend podcast that she had met Clinton once before this, but just as she took a group photo with the new White House interns.
Scroll down for video
Top aide: Huma Abedin (above in October) spoke about her boss Hillary Clinton and the moment the two first met in a recent interview
Private communications: The top Clinton aide (above in 2010) also revealed that she is terrified about her boss' emails which are being released by the State Department
Abedin also said she was terrified about the release of her boss' emails, especially since she is on many of the exchanges that have now been made public.
'It's something I can't really think about, but I can't even imagine what's in those emails,' said Abedin.
It's something I can't really think about, but I can't even imagine what's in those emails. I would probably be mortified. I have no idea. I haven't read any of them.
-Abedin on the Clinton emails released by the State Department
'I would probably be mortified. I have no idea. I haven't read any of them.'
She then added; 'I have a policy. I never read anything about myself. I could count on one hand how many actual interviews I've done. I'll never read them. I just don't want to know.
'If it's about me personally, I honestly just ignore it.'
One of those exchanges between the two was about Clinton's inability to get a fax machine to work, and Abedin's repeated attempts to get her to hang up a phone so they could reestablish a connection to send her a document.
When asked about those emails, Abedin said; 'I think what you read in the email is a little bit of frustration that it wasn't working and my frustration that she couldn't figure it out, or whatever it was, but the backstory here is that we very often ... it wasn't unusual that when secure faxes were coming through that we had some challenges with them coming through.'
The FBI continues to investigate the emails Clinton received on a private email server and address, while tens of thousands of her exchanges have been released so far by the State Department.
Abedin then took some time to gush about Clinton and how she will be remembered in the future.
'I think that if my boss quit tomorrow, she will go down as one of the greatest American women in the history of the world,' said Abedin.
I think that if my boss quit tomorrow, she will go down as one of the greatest American women in the history of the world.
-Abedin speaking about Clinton's legacy
''We're in the midst of campaigning in New York right now, and we've been looking through her record and the things that she did in the Senate and everyone she helped from 9/11 and beyond.
'I know she's committed to making people's lives better. I wish the world could see the Hillary Clinton that I see every day because it's ... because she has done great things for this country and I'm really confident that she can do great things for - on behalf of this country when she's our president and I'm really looking forward to it.'
She was then asked about Clinton's very vocal support of reproductive rights during this primary.
'Well I think that, you know, it's something that she's spoken out about a lot in this campaign and I think particularly since the other side, you know, our friends on the Republican side have suggested some pretty scary policies and especially when we have to deal with the issues of Planned Parenthoods potentially being closed down and what the Republicans did in Congress,' said Abedin.
'I mean this notion that all women should feel like they're able to make their own decisions, not have politicians tell them what to do or how to do it but be able to give all women access to affordable, good-quality healthcare. And that's including your reproductive health which is why I think the threat of the Planned Parenthood shutdowns were so '' you know, were so scary.'
Abedin then got very personal, revealing; 'And so, you know, I even remember recently I had a little bit of a scare myself and I thought all right, I want to check myself out.
'And I'm fine. And any woman in this country should be able to go in whether it's a cancer screening or whatever it is and say '' feel like they can go and find that out and not have to worry about the cost or can I get access or how that is.
'And so that's one of the things that I know she will continue to fight for and continue to speak out about.
Fangirl: Abedin (above in 2008) also said of Clinton; 'I think that if my boss quit tomorrow, she will go down as one of the greatest American women in the history of the world'
Abedin was asked at one point what Bill Clinton's role would be in the White House if his wife was elected president.
'I feel ... just that question makes me nervous,' said Abedin, acknowledging that Clinton is still battling Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
I think what Senator McCain did shows what's great about our country which is you have people who stand up and say what they believe even if it's not the most politically sort of popular thing to do.
-Abedin speaking about Senator McCain defending her on the Senate floor in 2012 over claims she had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood
'But I think it's fair to say that as one of the most successful Democratic presidents in the history of this country that there is nothing President Clinton can't do. He's one of my great inspirations for getting into public service.'
She later added; 'And so I don't think there's anything in the world that he can't do.'
Abedin then joked; 'I have a feeling, though, that he will not be picking the china out and he will not be picking out the flowers for any of the events.'
It was not just her boss that Abedin praised either, also taking some time to acknowledge how grateful she was when Senator John McCain defended her on the Senate floor when Republicans in Congress began to claim she had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood during Clinton's time as Secretary of State.
'You know, I couldn't even wrap my head around the charges. And I think what Senator McCain did, and for which I will forever be grateful, and I have to say that I felt exactly the same way about our president, President Obama, who then there was an aid reception at the White House, and he also stood up for the Muslim-Americans, including myself, who had been sort of labeled in a way that was so upsetting,' said Abedin.
'And I think what Senator McCain did shows what's great about our country which is you have people who stand up and say what they believe even if it's not the most politically sort of popular thing to do.'
She said she was particularly grateful at that time because people began to attack her family, who had not chosen a life in the public eye.
'But I'm hoping that that's part of the past, you know?' said Abedin.
'And me and other Muslim- Americans don't have to move forward in this country having to worry about things like that which again is something that really motivates me to work for this particular Democrat because I think the dialogue on the other side has become increasingly scary.'
Controversy: Abedin's husband Anthony Weiner (pair above in July 2013) was involved in two sexting scandals in the span of two years
Abedin first began working for Clinton while she was still in college at George Washington University, being assigned to the then first lady after getting a White House internship.
She then began to work with Clinton's personal aide and took over the position when Clinton began her successful 2000 run for the US Senate in the state of New York.
I don't think I could do this if I didn't have the support of a spouse who is willing to basically be a stay-at- home dad.
-Abedin speaking about her relationship with husband Anthony Weiner
Abedin was just 24 years old at the time, and has been in that same position ever since, now also serving as Clinton's vice chairwoman in her current campaign for president.
She married New York Congressman Anthony Weiner in July 2010 in a ceremony that was officiated by Bill Clinton and covered in the pages of Vogue, getting pregnant with the couple's first child just a few months later.
The couple was not even a year into their marriage when news broke that Weiner had been sexting women online after he tweeted out a photo of his erect penis that he had meant to privately send a woman on the social media site.
He resigned from Congress soon after, and in December Abedin gave birth to a son, Jordan Zain Weiner.
In 2013, Weiner decided to run for mayor of New York City and also agreed to be filmed for a documentary about his return to politics.
He announced he would run in late May, but just two months later came allegations that he had continued to sext in the years after he resigned from Congress using the name Carlos Danger.
A 22-year-old named Sydney Leathers said she had been sharing messages and explicit photos with Weiner as recently as April of that year, giving interviews to multiple news outlets and even showing up at the event he hosted after losing in the mayoral primary that September.
Weiner, 51, has held various jobs since, and in 2015 appeared in the television movie Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No!.
Family: Abedin and Weiner have a son Jordan, 4, who Weiner cares for while Abedin is on the road with Clinton (family above in April 2015)
Abedin spoke about their relationship during the interview, saying; 'You know, I think that a marriage really only works in any situation, whether you're in politics or not, if one partner is fully supportive of the other.
'I think it's a little '' it's often a little more challenging when you're in politics because your private life, and I think everybody craves their own privacy, and so I think your private life is displayed to the world in a way that you otherwise wouldn't have to deal with if one spouse is a private person and the other person's in politics as was the case certainly in my marriage.
'But I think it works if you fully support each other.'
She then noted that her husband has taken over much of the parenting of their son as she is away from home.
'I'm on the road a lot on the campaign. As I mentioned earlier I have a four-year- old son and I don't think I could do this if I didn't have the support of a spouse who is willing to basically be a stay-at- home dad as much as he possibly can so I'm able to be on the road,' said Abedin.
'I miss my son but I don't worry about him because I know between this little village we've created between Anthony and my in-laws and my mom and our families and this wonderful woman who we have helping us I can go out and be the best professional woman that I can be because I have that support.'
She is not however planning on a run for office, saying; 'I feel like I've worked for a politician for a very long time. I've been married to a politician. I see what they go through. I'm not quite sure that I could ... I'm not quite sure that I could do that. But I have a lot of respect, a lot of respect for people who run for elected office.'
At the end of the interview Abedin also said that one of her favorite shows on television is the HBO comedy Veep, noting that it is an incredibly accurate depiction of politics in America.
'I identify with the whole show because I think to me it's the closest thing to what Washington is and it's just sort of all the things that people don't want to say they say on that show and it's done in such a funny way,' said Abedin.
In that same segment of the interview she was also asked what a podcast hosted by herself and Clinton would focus on.
Abedin said it would likely be about their love of food, or possibly shoes.
California Department Of Justice Raids David Daleiden's Home
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:51
The California Department of Justice raided the home of David Daleiden, the pro-life journalist behind the undercover videos exposing Planned Parenthood's harvesting and sale of human organs from aborted children.
Daleiden explained in a Facebook post that authorities with the California Department of Justice raided his home Tuesday afternoon and seized all video footage of Planned Parenthood employees' involvement in selling organs from aborted babies '-- including damning footage which has yet to be released.
Daleiden noted that the California Department of Justice serves under the authority of California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who has benefited politically from Planned Parenthood:
Today, the California Attorney General's office of Kamala Harris, who was elected with tens of thousands of dollars from taxpayer-funded Planned Parenthood, seized all video footage showing Planned Parenthood's criminal trade in aborted baby parts, in addition to my personal information. Ironically, while seizing my First Amendment work product, they ignored documents showing the illicit scheme between StemExpress and Planned Parenthood. This is no surprise''Planned Parenthood's bought-and-paid-for AG has steadfastly refused to enforce the law against the baby body parts traffickers in our state, or even investigate them''while at the same time doing their bidding to harass and intimidate citizen journalists. We will pursue all remedies to vindicate our First Amendment rights.
Harris, who is running for Senate, received $15,000 from Planned Parenthood during her reelection campaign in 2014, according to ElectionTrack.com. Harris has also decried attempts by Senate Republicans to defund the nation's largest abortion provider, stating that Planned Parenthood serves the needs of millions of women.
''To storm into a private citizen's home with a search warrant is outrageously out of proportion for the type of crime alleged,'' said Matt Heffron a former federal prosecutor who is now Daleiden's legal adviser. ''It's a discredit to law enforcement, an oppressive abuse of government power.''
As The Federalist reported in January, Daleiden is currently facing criminal charges in Texas for the purchase and sale of human organs, a misdemeanor, and with tampering with a governmental record, a felony. Sandra Merritt, one of Daleiden's associates, was also charged with tampering with a governmental record.
Planned Parenthood, whose employees have been caught in undercover video footage haggling over the price of human organs harvested from aborted babies in multiple videos, has not been charged with any criminal or legal wrongdoing.
The Houston district attorney who indicted Daleiden received over $25,000 in campaign contributions from the defense attorney for abortionist Douglas Karpen, who has been described as the Kermit Gosnell of Texas.
Trump to Begin Giving Policy Speeches | Donald J Trump for President
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:53
- April 05, 2016 -The Hill
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump plans to give a series of policy speeches in the coming weeks, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.
The speeches will be given in more formal settings '-- such as economic clubs or the National Press Club in Washington '-- rather than at campaign rallies.
Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the policy speeches reflect "the natural maturation of the campaign," and will cover topics such as strengthening the military, reforming education and selecting Supreme Court justices.
Trump has pledged to release a list of potential nominees to the high court in the coming weeks. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has endorsed Trump, said he has talked to the businessman about the list.
"We now talk from time to time, including today, and we went over his list, which I think would be extraordinary," Carson said.
"He's got his team studying these people very carefully."
In another attempt to flesh out his policy positions, Trump outlined how he would get Mexico to pay for his proposed border wall in a memo published Tuesday by the Post.
Pay for the Wall | Donald J Trump for President
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:50
Introduction: The provision of the Patriot Act, Section 326 - the "know your customer" provision, compelling financial institutions to demand identity documents before opening accounts or conducting financial transactions is a fundamental element of the outline below. That section authorized the executive branch to issue detailed regulations on the subject, found at 31 CFR 130.120-121. It's an easy decision for Mexico: make a one-time payment of $5-10 billion to ensure that $24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year. There are several ways to compel Mexico to pay for the wall including the following:
On day 1 promulgate a "proposed rule" (regulation) amending 31 CFR 130.121 to redefine applicable financial institutions to include money transfer companies like Western Union, and redefine "account" to include wire transfers. Also include in the proposed rule a requirement that no alien may wire money outside of the United States unless the alien first provides a document establishing his lawful presence in the United States.On day 2 Mexico will immediately protest. They receive approximately $24 billion a year in remittances from Mexican nationals working in the United States. The majority of that amount comes from illegal aliens. It serves as de facto welfare for poor families in Mexico. There is no significant social safety net provided by the state in Mexico.On day 3 tell Mexico that if the Mexican government will contribute the funds needed to the United States to pay for the wall, the Trump Administration will not promulgate the final rule, and the regulation will not go into effect.Trade tariffs, or enforcement of existing trade rules: There is no doubt that Mexico is engaging in unfair subsidy behavior that has eliminated thousands of U.S. jobs, and which we are obligated to respond to; the impact of any tariffs on the price imports will be more than offset by the economic and income gains of increased production in the United States, in addition to revenue from any tariffs themselves. Mexico needs access to our markets much more than the reverse, so we have all the leverage and will win the negotiation. By definition, if you have a large trade deficit with a nation, it means they are selling far more to you than the reverse - thus they, not you, stand to lose from enforcing trade rules through tariffs (as has been done to save many U.S. industries in the past).Cancelling visas: Immigration is a privilege, not a right. Mexico is totally dependent on the United States as a release valve for its own poverty - our approvals of hundreds of thousands of visas to their nationals every year is one of our greatest leverage points. We also have leverage through business and tourist visas for important people in the Mexican economy. Keep in mind, the United States has already taken in 4X more migrants than any other country on planet earth, producing lower wages and higher unemployment for our own citizens and recent migrants.Visa fees: Even a small increase in visa fees would pay for the wall. This includes fees on border crossing cards, of which more than 1 million are issued a year. The border-crossing card is also one of the greatest sources of illegal immigration into the United States, via overstays. Mexico is also the single largest recipient of U.S. green cards, which confer a path to U.S. citizenship. Again, we have the leverage so Mexico will back down.Conclusion: Mexico has taken advantage of us in another way as well: gangs, drug traffickers and cartels have freely exploited our open borders and committed vast numbers of crimes inside the United States. The United States has borne the extraordinary daily cost of this criminal activity, including the cost of trials and incarcerations. Not to mention the even greater human cost. We have the moral high ground here, and all the leverage. It is time we use it in order to Make America Great Again.
CYBER!
US begins waging cyber war against Isis | News | Lifestyle | The Independent
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 13:27
The US has begun waging cyber warfare against Isis, defence secretary Ashton Carter has confirmed.
As the Financial Times reports, Carter said he has issued orders to the US Cyber Command to launch online attacks against the fundamentalist group.
Speaking to the paper, he said: "I have given Cyber Command really its first wartime assignment...and we're seeing how that works out."
He added: "Even a few years ago, it would not have occcured to a Secretary of Defence to say, 'let's get cyber in the game', but here we have real opportunities."
Carter told reporters in February that the Cyber Command, which was formed in 2009, was "looking to accelerate" its digital attacks against Isis, in an effort to disrupt their communications systems, data security and financial structures. Now, it appears the cyber war is being stepped up.
The US has only vaguely alluded to its cyber warfare operations in the past, but Carter's comments are some of the most explicit confirmations so far that the US is deploying digital attacks against its enemies.
"I have given Cyber Command its first wartime assignment"
Ashton Carter, US Secretary of Defence
Lifting the veil of secrecy which covers the Cyber Command, headquartered at Fort Meade in Maryland, has been seen as an attempt by the Department of Defence to deter foreign countries from hitting the US with cyberattacks.
Thousands of people have been recruited to the Cyber Command in the last few years, mirroring the expansion of the UK's own digital defence force.
Isis's use of the internet to communicate, recruit and spread propaganda is well-known, so an increase in cyber attacks is seen as an essential part of the wider military campaign against the group by the US's top officials.
LGBBTQQIAAP
Why North Carolina's New Anti-LGBT Law Is a Trojan Horse - Truthdig
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 16:58
Jeffrey Beall / Flickr (CC-BY-SA)
This piece originally ran on ProPublica.
When North Carolina lawmakers passed what is widely viewed as the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the country, supporters said it was needed to fend off a potential wave of local laws like the transgender-friendly bathroom ordinance adopted by the city of Charlotte. Opponents have called the new law a ''hostile takeover of human rights.''
But all the attention on who can use toilets and locker rooms has overshadowed what employment rights advocates say is an even more expansive change made by the law '-- one that could affect all workers in North Carolina, not just those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
As has been widely reported, the North Carolina legislature rushed last month to pass HB2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which requires transgender people (and everyone else) to use public restrooms according to the biological sex on their birth certificate. It also bars local governments from passing ordinances like Charlotte's.
The legislation doesn't stop there, however. Tucked inside is language that strips North Carolina workers of the ability to sue under a state anti-discrimination law, a right that has been upheld in court since 1985. ''If you were fired because of your race, fired because of your gender, fired because of your religion,'' said Allan Freyer, head of the Workers' Rights Project at the N.C. Justice Center in Raleigh, '''... you no longer have a basic remedy.''
''The LGBT issues were a Trojan horse,'' added Erika Wilson, a law professor at the University of North Carolina who co-directs a legal clinic for low-income plaintiffs with job and housing discrimination claims. The broader change hasn't received much attention, she said, because ''people were so caught up in [the LGBT] part of the law that this snuck under the radar.''
Conservative-leaning groups have been trying for decades to reduce the number of civil lawsuits in the states. In HB2, lawmakers accomplished this by adding a single sentence to the state's employment discrimination law that says: ''[No] person may bring any civil action based upon the public policy expressed herein.''
The language does not repeal North Carolina's job-bias law, which continues to ban discrimination on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, or disability. But it forces workers seeking redress for discrimination into the federal system, where access is more difficult, the rules are much more complicated, and businesses often have significant advantages. Time, in particular, is on employers' side: Under federal law, fired workers have just 180 days to file a claim, versus three years in state court. In the past, workers who missed the federal deadline '-- not uncommon for someone in emotional and economic crisis '-- could sue under state law instead, said Raleigh attorney Eric Doggett. Now, he predicted, many will discover they're ''hosed.''
The law's impact could be ''extraordinarily far-reaching,'' said Julie Wilensky, California director of the national Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center. North Carolina doesn't keep track of how many discrimination cases are filed under state law. But from 2009 to 2014, workers filed more than 28,100 federal charges of workplace discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or 4.5 percent of the U.S. total (the state accounts for 3 percent of the U.S. population). Forty percent of the complaints involved race; 29 percent involved gender; and 22 percent involved age.
Business groups are playing down the impact of HB2. Bruce Clarke, CEO of Raleigh-based Capital Associated Industries, an employers' association with more than 1,200 members, contended that eliminating the right to sue was ''a technical correction'' that brings ''clarity to a confusing area of workplace law'' and takes North Carolina's anti-discrimination statute ''back to its original intent.'' He said most employment discrimination cases don't have merit and don't belong in the ''mosh pit'' of state court. ''They're people that are mad, they've had their feelings hurt, they believe they were treated unfairly in some way '... I view them like divorces,'' he said.
Republican Rep. Dan Bishop, one of the legislation's sponsors, said in an email to ProPublica that the lawsuit provision was ''incidental'' to the larger effort to revamp North Carolina's law on public accommodations and rein in local governments. ''The overall function of the law is to restore the status quo before the City of Charlotte exceeded its legal authority,'' he wrote. The change is not as sweeping as critics claim, he said, because federal law ''provides its own robust remedies and plaintiffs usually allege both federal and state law claims in the same complaint.'' He told WBTV in Charlotte that the ''exceedingly minor procedural difference'' would have a minimal effect.
But in a post for lawyers on the Employment & Labor Insider blog, Winston-Salem attorney Robin Shea, had a different take: ''We expect to see a flurry of summary judgment motions and motions to dismiss wrongful discharge claims based on this amendment.'' Shea, partner in a firm that represents employers, called the change a ''bomb.''
From the moment that the Charlotte City Council voted on Feb. 22 to expand protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, opponents vowed to strike back. A month later, Republicans who control the legislature called a special one-day session to take place the next morning, March 23, and waited until just before the first committee hearings to make the text of the legislation public.
LGBT supporters had feared the bill would be broad, but they were stunned by just how far it went. In addition to requiring that people use bathrooms according to their biological sex, the measure preempted local governments from passing any laws aimed at protecting gay and transgender people, a provision that immediately nullified more than 20 existing local ordinances. Another provision banned local minimum wage laws like the $15-an-hour ''living wage'' ordinances gaining traction around the country. The state minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.
The passage affecting discrimination lawsuits amends the North Carolina Equal Employment Practices Act (1977), which declares that it is against the state's ''public policy'' to discriminate in employment ''on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap.'' The act '-- which applied to businesses with 15 or more employees '-- did not contain explicit language allowing alleged victims of job bias to sue. But since the mid''1980s, North Carolina courts have held that the ''public policy'' doctrine does give people who are wrongfully fired because of discrimination the right to recover damages under common (non-statutory) law. In the space of the 12-hour special session, HB2 ''wiped out this entire body of law that's been in place for the last 30 years,'' said Chapel Hill lawyer Laura Noble.
Dan Blue, an African American lawyer from Raleigh who leads the Senate Democrats, views HB2 as part of a pattern of Republican-sponsored measures that have eroded voting and other rights for low-income people of color in recent years. ''It's a continuation of '... a wide assortment of things that appear to be rolling back the clock of North Carolina so that it matches the sordid history of 40 to 50 years ago,'' he said.
Others pointed to a burgeoning trend in which conservatives are exploiting a backlash against gay marriage and transgender rights to push legislation with broad ramifications. In Georgia, the governor vetoed a bill allowing faith-based organizations the ability to refuse to rent property, provide education or charitable services, or do any hiring that violates their religious beliefs. In Mississippi, a bill that passed the legislature last week would permit discrimination against anyone who has nonmarital sex. [Update, April 5, 2016: Mississippi's Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law.]
HB2 ''is more evidence that the forces behind this backlash have a larger agenda than simply attacking marriage rights for same-sex couples,'' said Katherine Franke, director of Columbia Law School's Center for Gender and Sexuality Law. ''They also seek to unravel protections against race discrimination in public accommodations and other contexts.''
Last week, the ACLU and others went to court to contest the parts of HB2 that target bathrooms and to overturn local LGBT ordinances, arguing that they violate the U.S. Civil Rights Act and U.S. Supreme Court precedent. But the complaint doesn't address the provisions affecting the right to sue under state law.
Clarke said that if workers-rights advocates and Democrats don't like what HB2 did, they should go back to the legislature. ''Go create an agency,'' he said. ''Go put order to this chaos.''
ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom.
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Roger Severino
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:16
Roger Severino oversees the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, focusing on religious liberty, marriage, and life issues.
Severino comes to Heritage from the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, where he served as a trial attorney in the Housing and Civil Enforcement Section. At DOJ, he worked on dozens of district and appellate court matters involving matters such as the Fair Housing Act and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
Prior to DOJ, Severino was the Chief Operations Officer and Legal Counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, where he argued for the rights of religious believers and houses of worship to be free from discrimination and unjustified government burdens. While at Becket, he led an international coalition in blocking proposed anti-conversion laws in Sri Lanka, won asylum for a family facing a potential death sentence in Iran for converting to Christianity, and had an amicus brief he drafted cited by the Supreme Court dissent in Kelo v. New London.
Severino has contributed articles on church and state issues for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times, and The New Republic Online.
His publications include ''Or for Poorer? How Same Sex Marriage Threatens Religious Liberty,'' in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy and ''Improving Public Education Through Strengthened Local Control,'' for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
Severino earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was President of the Society for Law, Life, and Religion, a Master's in Public Policy, with highest distinction, from Carnegie Mellon University, and a Bachelor of Science in Business from the University of Southern California where he was a National Merit Scholar.
Mississippi Passes Anti-LGBT Religious Freedom Bill
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:42
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War on Sand
/r/science -- One way to battle beach erosion is take offshore sand and dump it on the shrinking beach, a process called beach replenishment. New research suggests the strategy may have long-term negative effects on coastal ecosystems.
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 15:13
SAN DIEGO, March 29 (UPI) -- A beach isn't really a beach without sand. Unfortunately, over time, beaches lose their sand to the wind and waves.
One way to battle beach erosion is take offshore sand and dump it on the shrinking beach, a process called beach replenishment. New research suggests the strategy may have long-term negative effects on coastal ecosystems.
Scientists at the University of California, San Diego found replenished beaches had significantly diminished invertebrate populations 15 months later. Populations of polychaetes, a class of ringed worms, were especially hard hit by replenishment.
"Such reductions may have far reaching consequences for sandy beach ecosystems, as community declines can reduce prey availability for shorebirds and fish," researchers wrote in a new paper on the subject, published in the journal Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science.
Researchers at UC-San Diego measured biodiversity and abundance at eight beaches in Southern California. Each beach featured a control plot and a beach replenishment plot. Scientists then measured four, 12 and 15 months later.
"In San Diego there are multiple species of tiny worms called polychaetes," Heather Henter, a biologist and academic coordinator of the UC Natural Reserve System, said in a news release. "Little bean clams, Donax gouldii, are sometimes on our beaches by the thousands and there are various crustaceans such as amphipods, or sandhoppers, and mole crabs, Emerita analoga, that stick their feathery antennae up above the sand to filter food out of the waves in the swash zone."
Most animal types suffered initial losses, but many rebounded. The tiny worms, however, failed to recover within 15 months.
Researchers say additional studies need to be conducted to determine how long these negative effects last.
"Another key question is how frequent and widespread should efforts to replenish beaches be?" asked Tyler Wooldridge, a graduate student at UC-San Diego. "Are there times of the year when it is more or less disruptive for the animals that live in the sandy beach? To answer those questions, we need more studies."
DEPRESSION INDICATORS
DEPRESSION-SAMPLERS-COLORING BOOKS-The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt Coloring Book
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:01
The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt Coloring BookQuilting, coloring and the nostalgia of period fabrics make this coloring book the perfect companion to the Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt series.Laurie Aaron Hird's bestselling Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt series lends its sense of charm and nostalgia to this beautiful coloring book. Laurie's traditional block books, featuring actual letters from 1920s and 30s farm wives, give quilters a glimpse into this country's rural roots, commemorating their strength and hope during The Great Depression. Inspired by these books, fabric designer and graphic artist Missy Shepler created the coloring book pages, selecting time-honored blocks and filling each with detailed patterns intricately rendered with coloring in mind. The result is a coloring book to delight quilt-lovers everywhere but with a graphic appeal that extends far beyond the quilting community.
Included are:
Seven quilt designs with nine blocks each presented in an 8 x 8 format '' the perfect companion to The Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt Series.Each page is printed on one side onlyPerforated pages can be easily removed to color and display.Also included are 7 patchwork designs that capture the American quilting spirit.
Adult colouring book craze prompts global pencil shortage | News | Culture | The Independent
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:59
A surge in the number of people buying adult colouring books has threatened pencil stocks world-wide as manufacturers struggle to cope with an increased demand for quality crayons.
The world's biggest wooden pencil manufacturer, Faber-Castell, say they are experiencing "double-digit growth" in the sale of artists' pencils and have been forced to run more shifts in their German factory to keep up.
''The production of our artists' pencils has increased strongly compared to the previous year,'' Sandra Suppa from Faber-Castell told the Independent.
''Currently, we are running more shifts than usual in our factory in Stein, Bavaria in order to satisfy the global needs for artists pencils related to the colouring trend for adults.
Pencil manufacturers Staedtler and Stabilo are also struggling to keep up with demand Faber-Castell
''The trend is continuing to this day and can be felt globally '' from South America to Asia.''
Brazil has reported pencil shortages after many Brazilians jumped onto the colouring book bandwagon, The New York Post reports.
While, the famous European pencil manufacturers Staedtler and Stabilo are also struggling to keep up with demand, according to the New Zealand Herald.
Ms Suppa said the colouring book craze's ripple effect on the pencil industry could be felt in an increased want for higher quality pencils and a better variety of colours.
''People are now not satisfied with 'just' 36 colours and we are noticing a trend in people preferring bigger sets of 72 or even 120 colours for colouring.
''We are also noticing that people are investing in our highest quality artists' pencils.''
The colouring trend can be 'felt globally' Faber-Castell
Colouring books have become a surprising feature of many bookshops' bestsellers lists in recent years, with Waterstones previously noticing a 300 per cent rise in sales in just one year, the Telegraph reports.
Melissa Cox, head of children's buying at Waterstones, told the paper: ''Colouring books are doing really well at the moment, which initially surprised us'... and we realised adults were buying them for themselves.''
She added there had been a prominent increase in demand for challenging and intricate designs to fill in.
This Van Gogh documentary will be the first ever fully-painted feature film
Bestselling titles include Millie Marotta's Animal Kingdom, Emma Farrarons' The Mindfulness Colouring Book and Johanna Basford's Secret Garden.
Ms Basford, whose colouring books for grown-ups have sold some 16 million copies worldwide, including three million in China alone, told the Sunday Telegraph: "People like colouring-in because they are fed up with digital.
''There is something nice about picking up a pencil and a pen. You are not going to get interrupted by Twitter, and there is also a childhood nostalgia element to it.''
Faber-Castell attributes the sudden rise in adult colouring-in to the hobby's ''relaxing and meditative nature''.
''It allows you to catch a break from the fast-moving digital world and to give your eyes a rest from flickering computer screens," said Ms Suppa.
''Colouring doesn't require artistic training to get started, yet it offers a great sense of accomplishment when finishing a piece.''
NA-Tech News
The time that Tony Fadell sold me a container of hummus. '-- Medium
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 21:17
The time that Tony Fadell sold me a container of hummus.This hummus costs $2.99. Tony Fadell sold me a $299.00 empty container of hummus.On May 15th a critical Nest product will go dark. I'm shocked this isn't bigger news.
I don't mean that the Nest product will reach end-of-life for support and updates. No, I mean that on May 15th they will actually turn off the device and disable your ability to use the hardware that you paid for.
Google/Nest's decision raises an interesting question. When software and hardware are intertwined, does a warranty mean you stop supporting the hardware or does it mean that the manufactuer can intentionally disable it without consequence? Tony Fadell seems to believe the latter. Tony believes he has the right to reach into your home and pull the plug on your Nest products.
Here is the full story:
17 months ago, Google acquired Revolv, a very cool home automation hub. It is a small circular device about the size of a small container of hummus that uses a variety of common home automation radios to communicate with light switches, garage door openers, home alarms, motion sensors, A/C controllers etc. It also uses WiFi to talk to the Internet so that I can control my home remotely using an app on my smartphone.
Revolv'Š'--'ŠA combination hardware & software solution that Google acquired in October 2014.I am a home automation nut. When I arrive home my lights turn on. In lieu of motion detecting lights, I have a Z-wave motion detector that notifies my Revolv when there is motion on any side of our home and turns on the appropriate lights. Although I do set a home alarm, there is really no more effective vacation security than the programatic turning on, dimming, and turning off of lights in a manner that would indicate that people are home. After buying my Revolv I put my outdoor landscaping light on it and threw away the old timer. Now at Sunset my landscape lighting turns on. Holiday lighting does the same. It's magical.
As proof of my geekdom, I bought a globe lamp, put in a UV bulb and set up a dimming program so that over 20 minutes in the morning, my room goes from dark to light slowly and softly accompanied by NPR on my Sonos (which is also controlled via the Revolv).
Revolv is the director and my devices are a beautiful orchestra of home technology.
On May 15th, my house will stop working. My landscape lighting will stop turning on and off, my security lights will stop reacting to motion, and my home made vacation burglar deterrent will stop working. This is a conscious intentional decision by Google/Nest.
To be clear, they are not simply ceasing to support the product, rather they are advising customers that on May 15th a container of hummus will actually be infinitely more useful than the Revolv hub.
Google is intentionally bricking hardware that I own. They don't even dance around it, here is Revolv's FAQ.
That's a pretty blatant ''fuck you'' to every person who trusted in them and bought their hardware. They didn't post this notice until long after Google had made the acquisition, so these are Google's words under Tony Fadell's direction. It is also worth pointing out that even though they have my email address, the only way a customer discovers this home IoT mutiny is to visit the Revolv web site.
Look, I'm a big boy. It's not the end of the world. The fact is that I can fix the problem by purchasing a replacement device such as a Samsung SmartThings hub. It's not terribly expensive, a few hundred dollars. I'm genuinely worried though. This move by Google opens up an entire host of concerns about other Google hardware.
Which hardware will Google choose to intentionally brick next? If they stop supporting Android will they decide that the day after the last warranty expires that your phone will go dark? Is your Nexus device safe? What about your Nest fire/smoke alarm? What about your Dropcam? What about your Chromecast device? Will Google/Nest endanger your family at some point?
All of those devices have software and hardware that are inextricably linked. When does an expired warranty become a right to disable core device functionality?
Imagine if you bought a Dell computer and Dell then informed you that when your warranty ends your computer will power down.
Imagine if Apple put out a new policy that not only won't they replace the device for defects, but they will actually be bricking your phone 12 months after purchase.
Is the era of IoT bringing an end to the concept of ownership? Are we just buying intentionally temporary hardware? It feels like it. I own a Commodore 64 that still works.
In conclusion I leave you with this quote:
Hummus where the heart is.
If you like this article, please recommend it by clicking the heart and by sharing it on social networks. I write for fun about topics I find interesting.
Also Read: The Thing About Raising Money and Silicon Valley's Dirty Secret
Note. After being picked up in the news, people have sent me a few questions about the situation.
Q: Why the hummus theme?A: Upside down the actual Revolv device looks exactly like the photo of hummus posted at the top of the page. I could have chosen french onion dip or any number of other types of food that go in similarly sized and shaped containers, but then I couldn't have made such an amazing and appropriate joke at the end.
Q: What would you like Google/Nest to do?A: In my humble opinion, the right thing to do would have been to either provide a replacement service (Nest is working on this right?) or refund the money for those who bought the devices they are bricking.
Q: How did you find out about the shutdown?A: Revolv had committed to providing support for a specific device I owned. I went back to their site a few weeks ago to check on the status of the feature request. Surprise!
WhatsApp's End-To-End Encryption Is Now Appearing For Users Everywhere
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 19:08
Staying private online is easier said than done, but a few services are popping up that promise to shield your conversations from prying eyes. The Signal messaging app, previously known as TextSecure, comes to mind. But the WhatsApp team has been working on securing its messages using some of the same code, and now, after testing things out last month, the service is ready to roll out end-to-end encryption to all users.
With end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp asserts that only you and the people involved in your conversations can read your messages. No one, not even WhatsApp, can access them in route. Each message you send is secured with its own lock, with only you and your recipients having the key necessary to unlock. WhatsApp then claims to delete messages from its servers after they've been delivered.
I can't speak to the extent to which WhatsApp's claims are true, but the Electronic Frontier Foundation has recently praised WhatsApp, and by extension'--Facebook, for frustrating the US Department of Justice's ability to access messages in real-time. This comes nearly a year after the organization sharply criticized how WhatsApp handled user data compared to basically everyone else. It's worth stating that even then, WhatsApp still scored a few points for publically opposing backdoors.
Signs of end-to-end encryption are appearing all over. Users see a message appear inside of their conversations. An option has also appeared under the Security section of Settings.
This feature comes as the result of a server-side change, so no new update is required. You don't even need a friend online to try things out. Messages sent to yourself are apparently also secured. So go ahead, talk to yourself. We won't judge.
Thanks:Moshe and everyone else who sent this in
Medium Takes Aim at WordPress With a New Way to Power Websites | WIRED
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 14:18
Medium is launching a set of tools to help publications publish and make money on the web. Dubbed Medium for Publishers, the WordPress competitor will offer publishers a free content management system, a standalone URL, and the ability to participate in two beta experiments'--one to host promoted posts, the other to offer paid memberships.
A dozen sites have signed up at launch, including The Awl, Pacific Standard and Femsplain. The ten to follow will include Bill Simmons' new site, The Ringer, and Time Inc.'s Money and Fortune.
In Williams' version of the future, it will no longer make sense for publications to publish directly to the web at all.
Medium founder Ev Williams hopes that, as publishers struggle with the rise of ad-blocking software and the falling price of display ads, Medium for Publishers will allow them to focus their energy on creative work, rather than trying to master ever-evolving tricks, viral strategies, and social services involved in reaching their audiences.
Even two years ago, most publishers would have balked at setting up their websites on another platform, preferring to maintain a direct line to their readers on the web. But as more readers find stories via social networks like Facebook rather than individual sites' homepages, it's growing harder for those publishers to reach audiences directly. What's more, they're competing with viral experts like BuzzFeed'--not necessarily on the ideas they're covering, but on their ability to game Facebook's social algorithms in their favor to reach people.
From the start, Williams has endeavored to create a beautiful, easy-to-use platform for very good writing online. He has nurtured the persistent belief that people will want to write and read good ideas. ''There's an obsession with video today, but it's not like the written word is going away,'' says Williams, who also helped found Twitter. ''For thinking people who want to understand things and engage in discourse, the written word is superior.'' Nearly four years after he launched the site, this belief has propelled Medium into a network of more than 25 million monthly readers that is valued at $457 million.
A Third WayIn Williams' version of the future, it will no longer make sense for publications to publish directly to the web at all. If they want an audience, they'll have to choose a platform. Already, they're increasingly dependent on Facebook and Twitter to get attention, and they must constantly tweak their social strategies to stay ahead of evolving algorithms. ''It's not a game they're set up to win and not a game to help them at what they're great at,'' says Williams.
Williams is trying to position Medium as a third way'--a platform that can bring the benefits that come with large audiences while also allowing publishers the autonomy to preserve and build their brands and manage their own relationships with readers and advertisers. ''Across the board, 30 percent of all page views on Medium are driven by Medium itself,'' he says. That could provide publishers an immediate boost.
A Medium-powered site will also be able to integrate with other platforms and services on the web like Facebook's Instant Articles or the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project (AMP), a Google-backed open-source endeavor to help publishers with mobile. ''Medium is an alternative to having an island on the web. It's not an island to itself,'' says Williams.
A Platform for Getting PaidMedium for Publishers will be free to publications, offering them myriad ways to customize site design to support their brands. They'll be able to migrate archives to the site and preserve their PageRank, the analysis algorithm Google uses to determine where a page falls in search results. Readers will be able to search sites independently, and they won't need to be logged into the Medium network to read. Want to see what it looks like? Check out Billfold, a millennial finance site. In a December test, it moved 8,000 posts to Medium.
Medium will benefit because it will expand its network of readers, and it'll take a cut of the revenues from the two sales strategies it will offer: Publishers can also opt in to host promoted posts, in which a brand sponsors a post on a Medium feed. This ad product launches in beta this week with five sponsors'--Nest, SoFi, Bose, Intel and Volpi Foods. Medium will broker the deals and take a cut of the profits. The startup also plans to let publishers offer paid membership for members-only content and other perks. Readers will pay Medium directly (so potentially they can manage several memberships in one place), and Medium will take a small fee on each transaction.
Of course, in setting up shop on Medium, publishers are making a bet that Williams' version of the future is right, and that Medium will continue to out-innovate competitors and provide its writers the very best publishing tools available. That's a big bet for an 87-year-old brand like Fortune, say, to make on a three-and-a-half-year-old startup. Medium's new product could prove to be a siren song: the false promise of a chance to preserve the legacy and quality and depth of the journalism we grew to love and respect before the Internet came along and disrupted it, while ensuring the people who create it get paid. But as the climate grows increasingly challenging for publishers on their own, Williams' product also offers these publishers hope for a more promising future.
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The Horrifying Consequences of Our National Rape Kit Backlog
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 16:53
Shutterstock
This piece originally ran on AlterNet.
In 2008, two Berkeley, California, teen girls, ages 15 and 19, were brutally raped and robbed at gunpoint. In the hours following the crime they went to a local medical center, where they informed staff of what happened so that evidence could be collected for rape kits. For six years, those rape kits remained untested in an Alameda County evidence room, and correspondingly, the assailant in the case remained on the street. When the kits were finally processed in 2014, the DNA they contained matched Keith Kenard Asberry Jr., a repeat offender who later sexually assaulted another woman. Asberry now sits in prison, awaiting trail on multiple charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery. The case is an example of how rape kits can help solve cases of sexual assault. It also drives home how rape kit backlogs'--Alameda County reportedly has 1,900 additional kits that remain unprocessed'--can have tremendous and far-reaching consequences.
''When we don't test these kits, we send this message to survivors that their cases don't matter or that what happened to them doesn't matter,'' Ilse Knecht, of survivor advocacy group Joyful Heart Foundation, told the Public News Service. ''And when we do test them, we turn that around, and we affirm the survivor's account of what happened, and we take dangerous offenders off the street.''
It's long been known that rape is vastly underreported. Studies both decades old and recent consistently find an estimated 80 percent'--a staggering, troubling figure'--of sexual assaults are never reported to law enforcement. (Black and other women of color are more likely to be raped and even less likely to report, than their white peers. Male survivors of sexual violence also grossly underreport.) There are myriad personal, cultural, social and societal reasons survivors choose not to disclose sexual assault, including the fear that reporting will lead to yet more trauma and yield nothing, least of all justice. That fear couldn't be more justified, and our national backlog of rape kits is proof.
Provided they are actually tested for DNA evidence, rape kits can help identify rapists, exonerate the innocent and prevent rapists from assaulting again. Unfortunately, those outcomes are rare for many reasons, including that the overwhelming majority of rape kits are shelved and abandoned in evidence rooms to gather dust, the material within them slowly degrading over time. At last count, the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that there are somewhere around 400,000 (likely a huge underestimation) untested rape kits sitting in evidence lockers around the country. Over the last decade, thousands (here again, numbers remain fuzzy and estimates are likely unreliable) of rape kits have been intentionally destroyed or accidentally misplaced by law enforcement agencies.
The concrete numbers we do have are both shameful and disturbing. In Illinois, officials report a backlog of around 1,600 rape kits, and survivors of sexual assault can expect it to take as long as a year before testing on a kit is concluded. In Salt Lake City, Utah, of the 942 kits collected in the decade between 2004 and 2014, a little over 200 were destroyed. Kentucky last year determined it has more than 3,000 untested kits, an estimate that omits the unknown number of kits destroyed over the years by some state police departments. In 2014, the Memphis police department stumbled across nearly 200 rape kits dating back to the late 1970s, adding to a backlog across Tennessee which then stood'--but has since been reduced from'--12,000. An Atlanta hospital never turned over to cops some 1,500 rape kits dating back nearly 20 years, even in the 136 cases where patients explicitly requested in writing that they do so.
If each kit is for law enforcement the most bare-bones forensic evidence of a crime, for rape survivors the kits are documents of a devastating physical and psychological experience with potentially life-long impact. Consider the deep consequences when even one of those kits'--which require survivors, within 72 hours of sexual violation, to undergo an invasive four- to six-hour exam when swabs and scrapings are taken'--is lost, destroyed or left unprocessed on a shelf. The 2013 prosecution of a Colorado rape case was derailed when it was discovered that the survivor's rape kit, along with 48 others collected in 2009, had been improperly destroyed by authorities. (Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates, speaking with the Denver Post about the woman's reaction to being informed her case could no longer move forward, told the paper she had been ''gracious and understanding. More understanding than I would have been in that situation.'') A Savannah, Georgia, woman expressed the disillusionment and anger she felt after learning local police had destroyed her rape kit.
''It's like free rein for rapists,'' she told a local CBS affiliate. ''They might as well go ahead and legalize [rape].''
The causes of rape kit backlogs around the country are one and the same with the barriers to clearing them. Testing a single rape kit can cost anywhere from $800 to $1,000, and cash-strapped cities, municipalities and police departments report they simply don't have the money to pay for the cost. The Washington State Patrol Crime Lab announced last year that it lacks the funds to hire enough staff to get through the state's backlog of 6,000 rape kits while also handling the influx of new cases. The Daily Kos notes that in some cases, the funding problem is inextricably linked to the short shrift given to women's issues, pointing out that Kentucky gave a $43 million tax break to the Creationist Museum. Those monies, at least in some part, likely came at the cost of clearing away the state's massive rape kit backlog.
Victim blaming, shaming and disbelief, all of which keep many survivors from reporting in the first place, also contribute to the mounting backlogs and carelessness with which some departments have treated kits. USA Today, in an exhaustive study on sexual assault kits around the country, notes that a 2008 survey commissioned by the Justice Department called out Detroit police for ''negative, victim?blaming beliefs.'' Michigan State University researchers, in their resulting 551-page report, described the horrifying and stereotypical attitudes among officers that led to the backlog. Remember as you read this the thousands of survivors who encountered these attitudes upon reporting their rapes, which came from the people who were supposed to help them:
Rape survivors were often assumed to be prostitutes and therefore what had happened to them was considered to be their own fault. Adolescents were assumed to be lying, trying to avoid getting into trouble by concocting a false story about being raped. Police said that those who had been assaulted by friends and acquaintances had ''got-what-they-got'' because they had chosen to associate with the perpetrator. Case after case was labeled ''a deal gone bad'' or otherwise dismissed as ''not really a rape,'' and these attitudes directly affected law enforcement personnel's decisions regarding whether to submit a rape kit for forensic testing.
It's worth noting that 81 percent of Detroit's then-untested kits belonged to black women, making the DoJ report a frightening and infuriating look at how the intersecting issues of racism, sexual violence, misogyny and criminal injustice play out in real life.
Differing mandates, state by state and even city by city, are yet another factor affecting rape kit treatment. The Guardian uses as an example Florida, where rape kits are kept anywhere from 30 days to four years, depending on the crisis center's location. Too often, as USA Today notes, there are no ''written guidelines,'' leaving decisions to ''the discretion of investigating officers.'' Under the Violence Against Women Act, ''Jane Doe'' rape kits'--which allow survivors to have evidence collected anonymously, without reporting to police'--leave it up to states to decide when kits are tested, as well as where and how long evidence is kept. In states where specific timeframes are given for rape kit retention, survivors can end up having to periodically revisit the emotional trauma of their rapes to ensure evidence isn't destroyed. Survivor Amanda Nguyen must file for an extension in Massachusetts every six months to keep her kit from being destroyed, despite the state's 15-year statute of limitations for prosecuting rapes.
''My life is reoriented to the date of the rape,'' Nguyen told the Huffington Post. ''It's quite traumatic and it's totally preventable'...Survivors should not have to fight to keep their rape kit from the trash can.''
When rape kits are actually put to the test, it's impossible to put a price on the returns they yield for survivors and others. In Ohio, tests of 10,000 backlogged kits have led to 445 indictments. Houston, Texas, after clearing its backlog of almost 6,700 kits, discovered ''850 matches, 29 prosecutions and 6 convictions,'' per USA Today. Last year, the Detroit Free Press reported that an effort to test the city's 12,000 kits has identified ''2,478 suspects'--including 456 serial rapists'...and 20 convictions have been secured.'' Some of those cases have likely been cold for a long time, and without testing, would have remained that way.
As critical as kits are for bringing the guilty to justice, they are also often indispensable for freeing the innocent. Alan Newton served 21 years in prison on rape, robbery and assault charges. Maintaining his innocence since his 1985 conviction, Newton requested a review of DNA evidence in 1994. According to the Innocence Project, ''his request was denied because evidence had been presumed to be lost.'' Only after the organization became involved with Newton's case did ''an exhaustive search'' for the associated rape kit resume. Following its location and testing by the Bronx District Attorney's Office in 2005, Newton was cleared based on DNA evidence and released the next year.
Michael Phillips, an African-American man sent to jail in 1990 for raping a white teenager, was released in 2002, but was reincarcerated because he hadn't registered as a sex offender. Phillips filed a petition ''challenging his sexual assault conviction as well as his conviction for failing to register on grounds of innocence and alleging that DNA testing would exonerate him.'' When the petition was denied, Phillips abandoned efforts to clear his name. He was exonerated only because a Texas effort to process untested rape kits happened to uncover DNA evidence proving his innocence. By the time of his release, Phillips had served nearly 25 years behind bars.
Last year, two important efforts to test the nation's sexual assault backlog brought some of these revelations to light. In March 2015, Vice President Joe Biden announced the White House's Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which distributed $41 million to jurisdictions around the nation to help fund costs associated with handling backlogs. New York City launched a similar effort, announced by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., distributing $38 million'--taken from Wall Street rule breakers, no less'--to law enforcement departments across 20 states. In addition, on the heels of the USA Today study, 20 states have begun to push legislative reforms that will lead to backlog clearances, standardization of procedures and other critical changes. These include laws mandating the testing of all new sexual assault kits.
This is all good and incredibly overdue news. But the situation, due to its sheer immensity and the lack of quick fixes, still continues to feel dire for many. The rape kit backlog vividly illustrates the way our systems of criminal justice, maintained by fallible humans who have internalized our toxic, culturally held notions about numerous groups'--women, rape survivors across gender, people of color as ''believable'' victims and assumed perpetrators'--fail and further marginalize the marginalized, producing disastrous human consequences. We have to do more, for survivors, advocates, the innocent, and ultimately, anyone interested in achieving justice.
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Out There
Russia plans to build lunar base in 2030-2035 '-- space corporation - Veterans Today
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 16:48
MOSCOW, April 5. /TASS/. It is planned to build Russia's base on the Moon in the period from 2030 to 2035, executive director of manned space programs of the Roscosmos State Space Corporation Sergey Krikalev said on Tuesday.
''Landing on the Moon is planned by 2030, and in the following period until 2035 the assembly of the lunar base, lunar station will be carried out,'' he said.
The proposed base will include a solar power station, telecommunication station, technological station, scientific station, long-range research rover, landing and launch area, and an orbiting satellite.
Krikalev said that there will be no full-fledged settlement on the Moon in the near future, however. ''There will be no settlement like a village in which people live, tending cows, for a rather long time yet, most likely.''
Millennials
Parenting: Are We Getting a Raw Deal? | rhondastephens
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 17:14
Summer 1974. I'm 9 years old. By 7:30 am, I'm up and out of the house, or if it's Saturday I'm up and doing exactly what my father, Big Jerry, has told me to do. Might be raking, mowing, digging holes, or washing cars.
Summer 2016. I'm tiptoeing out of the house, on my way to work, in an effort not to wake my children who will undoubtedly sleep until 11 am. They may complete a couple of the chores I've left in a list on the kitchen counter for them, or they may eat stale Cheez-its that were left in their rooms 3 days ago, in order to avoid the kitchen at all costs and ''not see'' the list.
If you haven't noticed, we're getting a raw deal where this parenting gig is concerned. When did adults start caring whether or not their kids were safe, happy, or popular? I can assure you that Ginny and Big Jerry were not wiling away the hours wondering if my brother and I were fulfilled. Big Jerry was stoking the fires of his 401k and working, and working some more. Ginny was double bolting the door in order to keep us out of the house, and talking on the phone while she smoked a Kent. Meanwhile, we were three neighborhoods away, playing with some kids we'd never met, and we had crossed 2 major highways on bicycles with semi-flat tires to get there. Odds are, one of us had crashed at some point and was bleeding pretty impressively. No one cared. We were kids and if we weren't acting as free labor, we were supposed to be out of the house and out of the way.
My personal belief is that the same ''woman with too little to do'', that decided it was necessary to give 4- year old guests a gift for coming to a birthday party, is the same loon who decided we were here to serve our kids and not the other way around. Think about it. As a kid, what was your costume for Halloween? If you were really lucky, your mom jabbed a pair of scissors in an old sheet, cut two eye holes, and you were a ghost. If her friend was coming over to frost her hair and showed up early, you got one eye hole cut and spent the next 45 minutes using a sharp stick to jab a second hole that was about two inches lower than its partner. I watched my cousin run directly into a parked car due to this very costume one year. He was still yelling, ''Trick or Treat'' as he slid down the rear quarter panel of a Buick, mildly concussed. When my son was 3 years old, we had a clown costume made by a seamstress, complete with pointy clown hat, and grease makeup. His grandmother spent more having that costume made than she did on my prom dress.
At some point in the last 25 years, the tide shifted and the parents started getting the marginal cars and the cheap clothes while the kids live like rock stars. We spend enormous amounts of money on private instruction, the best sports gear money can buy, and adhere to psycho competition schedules. I'm as guilty as anyone. I've bought the $300 baseball bats with money that should have been invested in a retirement account, traveled from many an AAU basketball game, or travel baseball game, to a dance competition in the course of one day, and failed to even consider why. Remember Hank Aaron? He didn't need a $300 bat to be great. Your kid isn't going pro and neither is mine, but you are going to retire one day and dumpster diving isn't for the elderly. My brother and I still laugh about how, when he played high school baseball, there was one good bat and the entire team used it.
Remember your clothes in the 70's? Despite my best efforts to block it out, I can still remember my desperate need to have a pair of authentic Converse shoes. Did I get them? Negative. Oh, was it a punch in the gut when my mother presented me with the Archdale knock-offs she found somewhere between my hometown and Greensboro. Trust me. They weren't even close. Did I complain? Hell, no. I'm still alive, aren't I? We've got an entire generation of kids spitting up on outfits that cost more than my monthly electric bill. There were no designer baby clothes when we were kids. Why? Because our parents weren't crazy enough to spend $60 on an outfit for us to have explosive diarrhea in or vomit on. Our parents were focused on saving for their retirement and paying their house off. The real beauty of it is that none of these kids are going to score a job straight out of college that will allow them to pay for the necessities of life, brand new cars, and $150 jeans, so guess who's going to be getting the phone call when they can't make rent? Yep, we are.
Think back; way, way back. Who cleaned the house and did the yard work when you were a kid? You did. In fact, that's why some people had children. We were free labor. My mother served as supervisor for the indoor chores, and the house damn well better be spotless when my father came through the door at 5:35. The battle cry went something like this, ''Oh, no! Your father will be home in 15 minutes! Get those toys put away nooooow!'' The rest of our evening was spent getting up to turn the television on demand, and only to what Dad wanted to watch.
On weekends Dad was in charge of outdoor work and if you were thirsty you drank out of the hose, because 2 minutes of air conditioning and a glass of water from the faucet might make you soft. Who does the housework and yardwork now? The cleaning lady that comes on Thursday, and the landscaping crew that comes every other Tuesday. Most teenage boys have never touched a mower, and if you asked my daughter to clean a toilet, she would come back with a four page paper on the various kinds of deadly bacteria present on toilet seats. Everyone is too busy doing stuff to take care of the stuff they already have. But don't get confused, they aren't working or anything crazy like that. Juggling school assignments, extracurricular activities, and spending our money could become stressful if they had to work.
I don't recall anyone being worried about my workload being stressful, or my mental health in general. I don't think my father was even certain about my birthday until about 10 years ago. Jerry and Ginny had grownup stuff to worry about. As teenagers, we managed our own social lives and school affairs. If Karen, while executing a hair flip, told me my new Rave perm made me look like shit and there was no way Kevin would ever go out with my scrawny ass, my mother wasn't even going to know about it; much less call Karen's mother and arrange a meeting where we could iron out our misunderstanding and take a selfie together. Additionally, no phone calls were ever made to any of my teachers or coaches. Ever. If we sat the bench, we sat the bench. Our dads were at work anyway. They only knew what we told them. I can't even conceive of my dad leaving work to come watch a ballgame. If I made a 92.999 and got a B, I got a B. No thinly veiled threats were made and no money changed hands to get me that A. Ok, full disclosure, in my case we would be looking at an 84.9999. I was the poster child for underachievement.
Back in our day, high school was a testing ground for life. We were learning to be adults under the semi-vigilant supervision of our parents. We had jobs because we wanted cars, and we wanted to be able to put gas in our cars, and wear Jordache jeans and Candies. Without jobs, we had Archdale sneakers and Wranglers, and borrowed our mother's Chevrolet Caprice, affectionately known as the ''land yacht'', on Friday night. No one, I mean, no one, got a new car. I was considered fairly lucky because my parents bought me a car at all. I use the term ''car'' loosely. If I tell you it was a red convertible and stop right here, you might think me special. I wasn't. My car was a red MG Midget, possibly a '74 and certainly a death trap.
Look at your coffee table. Now imagine it having a steering wheel and driving it. I promise you, it's bigger than my car was. The starter was bad, so after school I had the pleasure of popping the hood and using two screwdrivers to cross the solenoids or waiting for the football players to come out of the dressing room headed to practice. Those guys pushing my car while I popped the clutch, is a memory no 16-year old girl around here will ever have, and it's a great one. Had I driven that car in high winds, it's likely I would have ended up airborne, and there were probably some serious safety infractions committed the night I took 6 people in togas to a convenience store, but I wouldn't go back and trade it out for a new 280Z, even if I had the chance. I was a challenging teenager, and in retrospect the fact that it was pretty impressive every time I made it home alive, may not have been an accident on the part of my parents. Go to the high school now. These kids are driving cars that grown men working 55 hours a week can't afford, and they aren't paying for them with their jobs.
And those new cars don't do a thing for telling a good story. I tell my kids all the time, the very best stories from my teen and college years involve Ann's yellow Plymouth Duster with the ''swirling dust'' graphic, Randy's Valiant with the broken gas gauge, and Carla's burgundy Nissan that may or may not have had a complete floorboard. A story that starts, ''Remember that time we were heading to the beach in Carla's Nissan and your wallet fell through the floorboard onto the highway?'' is so much more interesting than, ''Remember that time we were going to the beach in your brand new SUV, filled up with gas that your parents paid for, and the'...well, no, never mind. Nothing happened. We just drove down there.'' To top it all off, most of them head off to college without a clue what it's like to look for a job, apply for it, interview, and show up on time, as scheduled. If they have a job, it's because someone owed their dad a favor'...and then they work when it ''fits their schedule''.
We all love our kids, and we want to see them happy and fulfilled, but I fear we're robbing them of the experiences that make life memorable and make them capable, responsible, confident adults. For the majority of us, the very nice things we had as teenagers, we purchased with money we earned after saving for some ungodly amount of time. Our children are given most everything, and sometimes I wonder whether it's for them or to make us feel like good parents. The bottom line is that you never value something you were given, as much as something you worked for. There were lessons in our experiences, even though we didn't know it at the time. All those high school cat fights, and battles with teachers we clashed with, were an opportunity for us to learn how to negotiate and how to compromise. It also taught us that the world isn't fair. Sometimes people just don't like you, and sometimes you'll work your ass off and still get screwed. We left high school, problem solvers. I'm afraid our kids are leaving high school with mommy and daddy on speed dial.
We just don't have the cajones our parents had. We aren't prepared to tell our kids that they won't have it if they don't work for it, because we can't bear to see them go without and we can't bear to see them fail. We've given them a whole lot of stuff; stuff that will break down, wear out, get lost, go out of style, and lose value. As parents, I suppose some of us feel pretty proud about how we've contributed in a material way to our kid's popularity and paved an easy street for them. I don't, and I know there are many of you that are just as frustrated by it as I am. I worry about what we've robbed them of, which I've listed below, in the process of giving them everything.
Delayed gratification is a really good thing. It teaches you perseverance and how to determine the true value of something. Our kids don't know a damn thing about delayed gratification. To them, delayed gratification is waiting for their phone to charge.Problem-solving skills and the ability to manage emotion are crucial life skills. Kids now have every problem solved for them. Good luck calling their college professor to argue about how they should have another shot at that final because they had two other finals to study for and were stressed. Don't laugh, parents have tried it.Independence allows you to discover who you really are, instead of being what someone else expects you to be. It was something I craved. These kids have traded independence for new cars and Citizen jeans. They will live under someone's thumb forever, if it means cool stuff. I would have lived in borderline condemned housing, and survived off of crackers and popsicles to maintain my independence. Oh wait, I actually did that. It pisses me off. You're supposed to WANT to grow up and forge your way in the world; not live on someone else's dime, under someone else's rule, and too often these days, under someone else's roof.Common sense is that little something extra that allows you to figure out which direction is north, how to put air in your tires, or the best route to take at a certain time of day to avoid traffic. You develop common sense by making mistakes and learning from them. It's a skill best acquired in a setting where it's safe to fail, and is only mastered by actually doing things for yourself. By micromanaging our kids all the time, we're setting them up for a lifetime of cluelessness and ineptitude. At a certain age, that cluelessness becomes dangerous. I've seen women marry to avoid thinking for themselves, and for some it was the wisest course of action.Mental toughness is what allows a person to keep going despite everything going wrong. People with mental toughness are the ones who come out on top. They battle through job losses, difficult relationships, illness, and failure. It is a quality born from adversity. Adversity is a GOOD thing. It teaches you what you're made of. It puts into practice the old saying ''what doesn't kill you makes you stronger''. It's life's teacher. Our bubble-wrapped kids are so sheltered from adversity, I wonder how the mental health professionals will handle them all after the world chews them up and spits them out a few times.I know you're calling me names right now, and mentally listing all the reasons this doesn't apply to you and your kid, but remember I'm including myself in this. My kids aren't as bad as some, because I'm too poor and too lazy to indulge them beyond a certain point. And I'm certainly not saying that our parents did everything right. God knows all that second hand smoke I was exposed to, and those Sunday afternoon drives where Dad was drinking a Schlitz and I was standing on the front seat like a human projectile, were less than ideal; but I do think parents in the 70's defined their roles in a way we never have.I worry that our kids are leaving home with more intellectual ability than we did, but without the life skills that will give them the success and dependence that we've enjoyed.
Then again, maybe it's not us parents that are getting the raw end of this deal after all.
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MIC
US deploys F-15s to Iceland, Netherlands '-- RT News
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:33
The US has deployed 12 F-15C Eagles and around 350 airmen in Europe as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve (OAR), the Pentagon's demonstration of force designed to deter what the US calls Russian aggression against Europe.
The aircraft and troops were sent from the Barnes Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts and the Fresno Air National Guard Base in California for a six-month tour to Iceland's Keflavik and the Dutch Leeuwarden Air Base.
Read more
The American fighters ''will conduct training alongside NATO allies and partners as part of OAR to strengthen interoperability, demonstrate US commitment to a Europe that is whole, free, at peace, secure, and prosperous and to deter further Russian aggression,'' the USAF said in a statement.
During the tour the aircraft will forward-deploy to the Eastern European nations of Bulgaria, Romania and Estonia.
The deployment is one of several planned by the Pentagon. Next month it is planning to send six F-15s to Finland, which is not a NATO member, but an active participant in many of the bloc's activities.
Iceland is the only NATO member that has no military of its own, although it has a small coast guard force. The country used to host a US airbase during the Cold War, but it was shut down in 2006. Two years later US warplanes started paroling Iceland's airspace.
The US and NATO are pushing for a stronger military presence in Europe, and particularly in Eastern Europe and the Baltic, close to Russia's border. They argue that such deployment is necessary to deter Russia from military aggression.
Moscow says Western hawks are simply using the perceived Russian threat to justify greater military spending.
Earon
Thomas A. Shannon, Jr. - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:13
Thomas Alfred Shannon, Jr. (born 1958)[1] is Career Ambassador in the United States Foreign Service, and the current Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the United States Department of State.[2][3][4]
Prior to this position, he was Counselor of the United States Department of State and U.S. Ambassador to Brazil from 2009 to 2013. Previously he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, leading the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the U.S. Department of State from 2005 through 2009.[5]
Shannon holds an M.Phil (1982) and D.Phil. (1982), both in politics, from Oxford University, and a B.A. with high honors in government and philosophy from the College of William & Mary (1980).[5]
During his career as a Foreign Service Officer he has served as Special Assistant to the Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Bras­lia, Brazil from 1989 to 1992; as Country Officer for Cameroon, Gabon, and S£o Tom(C) and Pr­ncipe from 1987 to 1989; and as the Consular/Political Rotational Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, Guatemala from 1984 to 1986.[5]
Shannon served as Director for Inter-American Affairs at the National Security Council from 1999 to 2000; as Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, from 1996 to 1999; and as Regional Labor Attach(C) at the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa from 1992 to 1996.[5]
A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Shannon served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council from 2003 to 2005. From 2002 to 2003, he was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Western Hemisphere Affairs at the Department of State, where he was Director of Andean Affairs from 2001 to 2002. He was U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) from 2000 to 2001.[5]
References[edit]External links[edit]
CLIPS AND DOCS
VIDEO-Kerry: Iran 'Absolutely' Deserves Access to U.S. Dollars As Part of Sanctions Relief - YouTube
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:24
VIDEO-Obama Admin Advising Global Banks On Ways To Give Iran Money - YouTube
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 14:04
VIDEO-Greece 'postpones' next batch of migrant deportations to Turkey | euronews, world news
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:56
Greece has postponed the return of the next group of migrants to Turkey until Friday, according to reports quoting at least one Turkish official.
The official claims Greece has faced a surge in asylum requests from migrants, preventing them from being sent back.
Amid anger among migrants detained at a centre on the island of Lesbos, the deal between the EU and Turkey was again castigated as ''careless'' and ''fast-track''.
''The EU and Greece is doing something really disturbing and illegal and they're just treating refugees as human trash which should be cleaned away and this is a tragic development,'' said Wenzel Michalski, Director of the German branch of Human Rights Watch, speaking from Lesbos.
Turkey has said it is ready to take in another 200 migrants deported from Greece. A similar number were sent back on Monday.
Meanwhile the pope is to visit Lesbos next week, according to the Greek government.
In northern Greece refugee children staged their own demonstration at Idomeni '' where migrants have been prevented from crossing into the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
They marched on railway tracks in the buffer zone between the two countries demanding that the border be opened.
Police gave permission for the children to reach the border gate. The children left flowers on the fence and threw some on the other side of the border where FYROM police stood guard.
VIDEO-Erdogan warns Turkey won't respect migrant deal unless EU keeps promises | euronews, world news
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:49
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned on Thursday that his country will not go through with implementing the migrant deal reached with Brussels unless the EU fulfills all the pledges it made.
Ankara has agreed to take back migrants and refugees who have crossed the Aegean Sea to enter Greece illegally after March 20, if they fail to apply for asylum or if their claim is turned down.
In return, Europe will take in thousands of Syrian refugees directly from Turkey and reward Turkey with money, visa-free travel and progress in its EU membership negotiations.
Erdogan's warning came the day after Turkey and Germany said the accord, meant to stem the massive influx of migrants to the Greek islands, was showing signs of success
However deportations to Turkey, which started on Monday, have already ground to a halt as Greece struggles to cope with a spike in asylum claims.
According to official data, about 50,000 refugees and migrants are stranded on the Greek mainland after border closures in February sealed off a Balkan route used by thousands to reach western Europe in the past year.
Critics say the EU was in such a rush to start the returns to Turkey that it skirted legal concerns, something that will come back to haunt it once it moves on to the deportation of asylum-seekers and refugees rather than the illegal migrants sent back so far.
Human rights campaigners have questioned whether Turkey has sufficient safeguards to qualify as a safe country for refugees.
VIDEO-Turkish journalist Cengiz ‡andar in court for 'insulting' President Erdoğan | euronews, world news
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:47
"There is a possibility that the article, which is used as a mechanism to oppress thousands of people via the crime of 'insulting the president', might be abolished"
The trial of a Turkish journalist accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has opened in Istanbul and immediately been adjourned until May 31.
Cengiz ‡andar, a veteran newspaper columnist, has criticised government security policy, claiming that the crackdown against the Kurdish militant group the PKK was revenge after Erdoğan's party failed to win an outright election victory last year.
Prosecuted over seven articles he wrote, he faces up to four years in prison.
But the Constitutional Court is to hear a legal challenge to the article of the penal code under which he was charged.
''There is a possibility that the article, which is used as a mechanism to oppress thousands of people via the crime of 'insulting the president', might be abolished. We will wait for the court's decision and see how the case will proceed,'' ‡andar said outside the court.
Since 2014, more than 1,800 people in Turkey are said to have been prosecuted under the article.
In another case that has drawn international condemnation, two Turkish journalists face life sentences for publishing a video purporting to show government weapons deliveries to Syrian militants.
President Erdoğan personally filed a complaint against Can D¼ndar and Erdem G¼l from the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, and the pair were charged with espionage and divulging state secrets.
Erdoğan acknowledged the lorries that were filmed belonged to Turkish intelligence, but claimed they were transporting aid to Turkmen rebels in Syria.
The trial, which is to be held behind closed doors, has also been adjourned, until April 22.
Dundar, Cumhuriyet's editor-in-chief, has said the trial is not about espionage, but that the real target of the case was journalism.
VIDEO-Dutch voters deal a blow to government in EU treaty referendum | euronews, world news
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:42
The Dutch government may have to reconsider ratifying a treaty on closer European Union ties with Ukraine after voters rejected a partnership deal in a non-binding referendum.
Unofficial results indicate 64 percent voted ''No'' with 36 percent in favour. The turnout appears to have only just passed the required 30 percent to validate the result.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the outcome left the government in uncharted waters:
''The ratification can not proceed as was expected before, so we have to take a step by step approach. We have now to talk within the cabinet, with the parliament, with our European partners, also with the Ukraine, to see what the consequences of this decision might be.''
The vote launched by anti-EU forces is being seen as a test of the strength of Eurosceptics such as Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders who quickly turned to social media to express what he saw would be the consequences of such a result.The political, trade and defence treaty with Ukraine is already provisionally in place but has to be ratified by all 28 European Union member states for it to have full legal force. The Netherlands is the only country that has not done so.
The vote could have repercussions beyond the Netherlands. With Britain's citizens due to decide in their own referendum on June 23 on whether to leave the EU altogether, perceived Dutch disenchantment with the EU could galvanize the exit campaign.
VIDEO-Massive Document Leak Shows How The Super Rich And Powerful Hide Their Wealth! - YouTube
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:24
VIDEO-NBC & CBS Keep Up Attack on Religious Freedom Laws | MRCTV
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:58
More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.
After all three network evening newscasts blasted recently passed religious freedom laws in Mississippi and North Carolina Tuesday night, NBC's Today and CBS This Morning continued hyping ''backlash'' against the ''controversial'' measures.
At the top of Today, co-host Matt Lauer proclaimed: ''New state, new controversy. Mississippi now embroiled in a debate over religious freedom and gay rights....other states already announcing boycotts.''
VIDEO-CNN's Banfield Aghast Mississippi Law Protects Traditional Sex Views | MRCTV
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 04:56
[More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.]
On the 6 April 2016 edition of Legal View, CNN's Ashleigh Banfield deplored part of Mississippi's new religious liberty law. Banfield played up that "there was one other piece of language...it's odd....The law in Mississippi protects from discrimination claims from anyone who believes....that sexual relations are reserved solely for marriage." She asked legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, "Does that mean that cake-baker could refuse a couple that just lives together?" When Toobin replied affirmatively, the anchor was aghast: "Why is that not making bigger headlines?...I think a lot of people are...beyond the whole you can't have sex before you're married issue."
VIDEO-much Legal | User Clip | C-SPAN.org
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 02:40
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VIDEO-Panama Papers: A Weapon Used Against Political Enemies of the Elite >> Alex Jones' Infowars: There's a war on for your mind!
Wed, 06 Apr 2016 17:05
In addition to Russia's Vladimir Putin, France's upstart ''far right'' political leader Marine Le Pen has fallen victim to the selective revelations of the Panama Papers. British businessman Arron Banks, slotted to replace Nigel Farage as the leader of the UK Independence Party, has also taken heat.On Monday, Le Pen cited the papers selectively ''leaked'' by a Soros, Rockefeller and Rothschild funded ''investigative journalism'' outfit, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. ''The control-free movement of men, goods and capital, coupled with high finance's stranglehold on all levels of the economy, can only produce global fraudulent and money-laundering systems,'' she said.
The left-center French newspaper Le Monde followed up Le Pen's remarks by publishing an account implicating her close friends and family members in a tax evasion scheme operated out of a shell company in Hong Kong. The Le Monde story says Fr(C)d(C)ric Chatillon, a long time friend of Le Pen, was responsible for moving '‚¬300,000 into the offshore haven. Chatillon took to his Facebook page and argued the operation is entirely legal.
The political establishment in France was dealt a blow in December when the populist and anti-EU National Front made unexpected election gains, particularly in Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie where Le Pen won 40.6% of the vote. The previous year the party received 4,712,461 votes in the European Parliament election, finishing first with 24.86% of the vote and 24 of France's 74 seats. France's Socialist party appealed to the center-right Les R(C)publicains to cobble together a bipartisan alliance capable of defeating Le Pen, but the effort was opposed by former President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Former British Tory and UKIP donor Banks denies any involvement in a network of tax havens exposed by the Panama Papers. ''It has been reported in The Guardian that Mr. Arron Banks was named in the leaked Panama files,'' a spokesman for Banks said. ''The claim is not true. Mr. Banks has never used the lawyer named and therefore does not appear in the leaked information.'' He said companies mentioned in the article are defunct, do not trade and Banks ''looks forward to receiving an apology'' from The Guardian and the Daily Mail.
The effort to damage UKIP arrives as Britain heads into a June 23 referendum to decide if the country will leave the European Union. The Westminster elite pulled out all the stops to convince the British people it is in their best interest to reject a Brexit. The establishment is also battling against public opinion that has turned against open borders promoted by the EU and an influx of foreigners. UKIP has capitalized on opposition to unchecked immigration and opposition to the European Union.
''Ukip, thanks to its ability to capture the public mood, is fast becoming a formidable force in British politics. The political establishment is terrified. For the first time in decades its cartel is threatened. That is why the parties have lashed out so hysterically at Ukip trying to portray it as a group gripped by extremism or xenophobia,'' Leo McKinstry wrote in 2014.
As Infowars and others have noted key members of the political elite have yet to be directly implicated in tax avoidance schemes, although connections are now being made.
For instance, Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton is linked to offshore tax havens through a Clinton-connected lobbying firm and Sidney Blumenthal, a longtime Clinton associate. Clinton is linked to Sberbank, Russia's largest bank, through Podesta Group, a lobbying firm co-founded by Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta and his brother, Tony Podesta, a major Clinton bundler, writes Chuck Ross for The Daily Caller. Bidzina Ivanishvili, a billionaire and the former prime minister of the Caucasus state of Georgia, is mentioned in the Panama Papers and his name also appears in the Hillary Clinton email dump through Blumenthal.
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America must do more to promote equality
America needs to reduce discrimination
America suffers from ''political polarization''
America was built by slaves
America has too much money in politics
America has a problem with racially-biased criminal justice system, a racially-biased society, and a legacy of slavery & segregation
Many American states would have forbidden his biracial parents to marry '-- had they tried
Many American schools in the south were segregated when he was young
American democracy is imperfect
America's political process is not pretty, as evidenced by the current 2016 race
Cuba's Castro's more readily sharing his thoughts on where America is ''falling short'' will help us improve
He ''doesn't disagree'' with Castro's view that America should provide ''free'' health care, education, and social security to all
At a townhall in Buenos Aires, said one area Americans need to improve is developing ''a greater awareness of the world outside of the United States.''
At the same townhall, Obama said the Republican Party is no longer a ''mainstream'' political party, and that it's become far more right-wing as a result of its opposition to him.
Finally, he critiqued the tendency in American politics to focus so much on ''sound bites,'' which he attributed to skepticism of global warming.
VIDEO-AUDIO-Kids' Grades Can Suffer When Mom Or Dad Is Depressed : Shots - Health News : NPR
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 15:11
When parents suffer depression, there can be a ripple effect on children. Kids may become anxious, even sad. There may be behavior problems. Health may suffer.
Recently, a large Swedish study showed that grades may decline, too, when a parent is depressed.
Using data from 1984 to 1994, researchers from Philadelphia's Dornsife School of Public Health, at Drexel University, measured school grades for more than 1.1 million children in Sweden and compared them with their parents' mental health status. The study was published in a February issue of JAMA Psychiatry.
At age 16, children of mothers who had experienced depression scored about 4.5 percentage points lower in their school grades than children of nondepressed mothers. Similarly, 16-year-olds with fathers who had experienced depression scored about 4 percentage points lower.
Even though 4 or 4.5 points may not sound like much, it "can mean a lot for a student," says Drexel epidemiologist Felice Le-Scherban. It may be the difference between an A grade or a B '-- or between a D and a C '-- and small grade differences can add up, sometimes shaping a decision about whether to stay in school or quit.
The quantity and quality of education can make a difference well beyond school years, says Le-Scherban. It's one of the "strongest predictors of health and life expectancy that we have," she says.
Studies show that better-educated individuals are less likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol or be obese than those who don't finish high school or college. They tend to have a lower risk of heart disease and diabetes.
There are a number of reasons why depressed parents can have a difficult time nurturing their children, says epidemiologist Myrna Weissman, of Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
"Just think about the symptoms of depression '-- the feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, loss of energy, interest in things that usually give you pleasure," she says. "And think about having those symptoms and trying to take care of children."
The needs and demands of children can be overwhelming even for mentally healthy parents, much less those struggling to cope with depression.
"A parent who's depressed may not arrange an appointment with a teacher; may not have time to go; may not listen to the child; and may not find some solution to problems so that it lingers," says Weissman.
But, there is a silver lining: Depression is extremely treatable. Weissman has done numerous studies, including one that focused on depressed mothers. "We showed that at the end of three months, if mom got better, the children got better," she says.
The women who recovered from depression got interested in their children once again and were more loving and able to show it. Weissman says she heard from children themselves that their mom "just loves me more and listens to me."
She and others have found that psychotherapy or medication alone or a combination of the two can be effective treatments, she says.
Unfortunately, clinical depression is common, and a large number of adults can be expected to suffer a serious episode at some point in their lives. But even if you've inherited a propensity to depression, Weissman says, you can get diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, to good effect.
VIDEO-Trump Effect - vidme
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 14:52
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VIDEO-Shell Companies
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 14:48
One April morning in 2014, Jurgen Mossack, the tall, German-born co-founder of the prominent Panama City law firm Mossack Fonseca, shot off an agitated email with the subject line ''Serious Matter URGENT'' to three top members of his staff. There was trouble brewing in the British Virgin Islands, a ''secrecy jurisdiction'' whose white-sand beaches and blue Caribbean waters conceal a barely-regulated haven for people who wish to create shell corporations. Many of those people employ Mossack Fonseca to perform precisely this service.
''Swindled investors call the office constantly. We need to resign from this company immediately,'' Mossack wrote. ''At any moment, the police arrive, and we end up in the newspapers.''
As a ''registered agent,'' Mossack Fonseca provides the paperwork, signatures, and mailing addresses that breathe life into shell companies established in tax havens around the world -- holding companies that often create nothing and sell nothing, but shelter assets with maximum concealment and a minimum of fuss.
Jurgen wanted to pull the plug on representing one such firm that was raising red flags. For weeks, investors in an entity called Swiss Group Corporation had been contacting Mossack Fonseca, wondering why their annuity payments had suddenly stopped, why they had received only vague emails, whether they had been a victim of a fraud.
''SWISS GROUP CORP has shown no transparency in their processes,'' one woman wrote from Colombia on March 31, 2014, ''and now, I am worried about the investment I made 5 years ago, which is my only means of living.''
Mossack instructed his underlings to ''Please do what you have to do,'' '' and then, he added: ''Use the telephone!''
Weeks after Jurgen issued his stern orders, queries continued to pour in from investors -- including one woman who identified herself as a U.S. citizen, and others from Colombia and Bolivia. They were still groping in the dark, searching for shreds of information in the same black hole of offshore finance that routinely stumps tax authorities, law enforcement officials, and asset-tracers across the globe. By one estimate -- based on data from the World Bank, IMF, UN, and central banks of 139 countries -- between $21 and $32 trillion is hiding in tax havens, more than the United States' national debt. That study didn't even attempt to count money from fraud, drug trafficking and other criminal transactions whose perpetrators gravitate toward the same secret hideouts.
Mossack and his business partner Ramon Fonseca, a powerful political leader and best-selling author in Panama, are captains in an offshore industry that has had a major impact on the world's finances since the 1970s. As their business has grown to encompass more than 500 employees and collaborators, they've expanded into jurisdictions around the world '' including parts of the United States.
Offshore finance is an opaque world, generally hidden to all but those who profit from it.
But a new trove of secret information is shining unprecedented light on this dark corner of the global economy. Fusion analyzed an archive containing 11.5 million internal documents from Mossack Fonseca's files, including corporate records, financial filings, emails, and more, extending from the firm's inception in 1977 to December 2015. The documents were obtained by the German newspaper S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and shared with Fusion and over 100 other media outlets by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) as part of the Panama Papers investigation. The massive leak is estimated to be 100 times bigger than Wikileaks. It's believed to be the largest global investigation in history.
Drive 20 minutes outside of Panama City, past the Maersk shipping containers stacked by the railroad tracks, and you arrive at the Panama Canal. ''I've heard the canal is actually smaller in person than you would imagine,'' my best friend texted me from back home in New York. This is true. On a weekday morning last month, the sun streamed down on the lumpy hills beyond a barbed-wire fence, and a red-and-white oil tanker sat snug in a narrow channel of water, waiting for the century-old algae-covered doors of the Miraflores Locks to swing open and allow passage to the Atlantic. Six locomotive engines pulling cables attached to the ship '' three on each side '' rolled forward. Tourists crowded along the visitor center's fifth-floor terrace and snapped photos as a voice on a loudspeaker spouted factoids about one of the most remarkable engineering feats in history.
Our team had come to Panama to interview Mossack Fonseca in person, and we were getting the lay of the land. I'd staked out an offshore investment conference taking place at our hotel, taken a spin through the historic district, and cruised along the bay on Avenida Balboa, where President Juan Carlos Varela lives in a high-rise apartment complex, next to the Intercontinental Hotel. The president selected Ramon Fonseca as one of his top advisers.
If you're trying to get a handle on the bigger picture '' what ''offshore'' even means, and why it's problematic '' Panama is as good a place to start as any.
Phrases like secrecy jurisdiction, tax haven and offshore have overlapping meanings, roughly translating as an ''escape'' from laws in one place to a locale whose allure is zero-to-low tax rates '' along with tools to hide one's identity, according to the Tax Justice Network. The network, an advocacy group that argues that tax havens have exacerbated global poverty and income inequality by giving the corrupt and the rich a place to stash assets, ranks Panama as No. 13 on its Financial Secrecy Index.
In March, right before my trip, the State Department released its annual report on money laundering threats, describing Panama's lax regulations, dollar-based economy, and geographic location as an ''attractive target,'' particularly for drug traffickers with proceeds to clean. This past winter, following an FBI undercover bust, two men had pled guilty in U.S. federal court to conspiring to launder $2.6 million from a fraud scheme, using a private jet (the perfect vehicle to transport Luis Vuitton duffel bags stuffed with cash) and Panama bank accounts.
Of course, the U.S. had a big hand in shaping Panama's destiny, stretching back to days when the canal was still a pipe dream, and even laid the groundwork for its financial system today. A circle of American financiers, chief among them J.P. Morgan, made $40 million off the canal deal, following a stealthy lobbying effort to get lawmakers to choose Panama over Nicaragua, according to author Ovidio Diaz-Espino's critical history ''How Wall Street Created a Nation.'' At the time, the canal arrangement was the most expensive land deal of all time. Afterwards, Morgan and William Nelson Cromwell, the chief lobbyist for the financiers, managed Panama's finances up until the 1930s. Cromwell, who co-founded the prominent law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, also became Panama's de facto attorney General.
''Panama was largely a creation of the U.S.,'' says Barney Warf, a University of Kansas geography professor who studies offshore banking.
Today, he says, ''Panama is essentially an extension of the U.S. economy.'' It harkens back to the early 20th century, when canal workers were paid in American dollars. In the roaring, free-market friendly 1920s, Panama adopted U.S.-style corporate laws. Some U.S. ships, seeking to avoid Prohibition restrictions against serving alcohol onboard, registered in Panama instead. Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration was alarmed to find out that, as the U.S. worked to dig itself out of the Great Depression, wealthy Americans were using Panama as a tax haven.
Jurgen Mossack's family landed here in the 1960s. During World War II, his father had served in the Nazi Party's Waffen-SS, according to U.S. Army intelligence files obtained by the ICIJ. Once in Panama, the elder Mossack offered to spy on communists in Cuba for the CIA. (Mossack Fonseca said the firm ''will not answer any questions related to private information regarding our company founding partners.'')
The move to Central America positioned Jurgen Mossack to ride the offshore banking wave that crested in Panama (and around the world) in the 1970s, when the country adopted bank-secrecy legislation designed to attract foreign money. Mossack earned a law degree at a private Catholic university, then completed an MBA in London. In 1977, back in Panama City, Mossack opened his own law firm, a two-person operation: just himself and an assistant. In 1986 he merged firms with Ramon Fonseca, who had studied at the London School of Economics and then spent six years working at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva.
From the start, the firm's business involved clients with dark secrets, the ICIJ investigation shows. In 1983, six armed robbers looted $40 million in gold bars from the Brinks-Mat warehouse near London's Heathrow Airport. Less than 18 months later, Mossack formed a Panamanian shell company for a man named Gordon Parry. Parry was convicted in 1992 of laundering money from the London heist, the second-biggest robbery in Britain's history. But Mossack continued to do business with the company, despite realizing as early as 1986 that the company was ''apparently involved in the management of money from the famous theft from Brink's-Mat in London,'' according to an internal memo. ''The company itself has not been used illegally, but it could be that the company invested money through bank accounts and properties that was illegitimately sourced.''
Afterwards, the ICIJ investigation shows, the firm took steps that prevented British authorities from gaining control of the company. It wasn't until 1995 that Mossack Fonseca ended its business relationship with the company.
A spokesman for Mossack Fonseca told the ICIJ that any allegations the firm helped shield the proceeds of the Brinks-Mat robbery are ''entirely false.'' Jurgen Mossack ''never had any dealings'' with Parry, and was never contacted by police about the case, the spokesman told ICIJ.
Many times Mossack Fonseca has had no clue which nefarious characters were doing what with the companies the firm created '' as when Jurgen discovered in 2005, according to internal emails, that he was the registered agent and listed as the director for a company controlled by the Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero. The co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel was convicted in Mexico in 1985 for the brutal murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique ''Kiki'' Camarena. (Today, Quintero is again considered a fugitive by the US after walking out of prison in 2013 on a technicality).
Mossack Fonseca's senior partners instructed an employee to carry out their resignation from the company upon the discovery. "Pablo Escobar was like a newborn compared to R. Caro Quintero!'' Jurgen wrote in reaction to the news. ''I wouldn't want to be among those he visits after he leaves prison!"
This is a data map of the intersection between clients, shareholders, companies and incorporation agents who have used Mossack Fonseca's services. It represents just over a third of all the data we have access to through the leak. We've chosen to show you 115, 373 of the most connected entities so you can see how, in many case, individuals are actually related in some way.
What does that say? It tells us that the people who create shell companies through Mossack Fonseca move in similar circles.
You will notice the option to select, ''Leticia Montoya'', who is a Mossack Fonseca employee. Through the documents we have connected her with at least 10,000 companies as a stand-in director or shareholder. Ms Montoya earns around $900 a month in the HR department of the company.
The other option is to see companies that are in some way connected with the United States.
''This doesn't happen every day,'' Nancy said. She looked at the name of the entity. ''Let me see if I have anything on these guys,'' Nancy said, and went to her computer to verify the client was, indeed, theirs.
''So are we the registered agent?'' Stephen asked when she came out.
''Yeah, they're in Mexico,'' Nancy said, matter of fact. ''And we have good information on them,'' she added. She signed the papers and the process server left. As far as the contact info went that Nancy had on file, she told us, ''they might be the managers. They might be the owners. I really don't know.''
When we asked Nancy and Stephen about whether they are responsible for monitoring shady clients, they told us they wouldn't necessarily know if their clients were acting outside the law. "We don't get involved at all. We just serve as the registered agent," said Stephen. Stephen did say, however, that if for some reason their client was acting suspiciously, he would cut ties immediately.
For a decade, a fight has dragged on over whether states should have to scale back their secrecy provisions and collect the name of the true owner at the moment a company is formed. In 2009, a Department of Justice official testified to Congress that, some years, billions of dollars in suspect funds move through US shell companies on annual basis, frustrating investigations. ''There's no excuse for this,'' says retired Sen. Carl Levin, who championed pro-transparency reforms for years. ''It's very, very simple to add one line to the articles of incorporation to put down who are the real owners, the so-called beneficial owners of this corporation?''
Yet such proposals have met fierce opposition from lobbying groups, particularly the National Association of Secretaries of State. They have consistently argued that such a requirement would place too heavy a burden on the state offices that are responsible for registering companies.
''The idea that'... we're gonna turn every division of corporations in the country into essentially a division of motor vehicles, where before you can form an entity, you must have physical appearance -- it's just not gonna happen,'' says Richard Geisenberger, Delaware's chief deputy secretary of state. ''I mean that's not how secretaries of state's offices are staffed, it's not how they're built.''
Incorporating companies is big business in Delaware.
All of those filings translate to ample state fee revenues: $1.2 billion a year, according to Geisenberger.
Asked if states were concerned that collecting information about an owner's identity would cut into those revenue streams, Geisenberger said that the main concern is about maintaining the security of that information. ''I do think that people would have very legitimate privacy concerns about the ability of 50 different state jurisdictions to maintain and protect, you know, what is pretty fundamental privacy information for legal entities,'' he says. Instead, he advocates a proposal contained in President Obama's proposed budget, to collect ''responsible party'' information for all entities through the IRS.'' I think that the federal government is already well equipped to do that, because they already collect it.'' The National Association of Secretaries of State told Fusion that it agrees with this proposal as well.
But Heather Lowe, director of government affairs at Global Financial Integrity, says this ''responsible party'' definition still doesn't necessarily capture who is controlling a company. She also argues that an ID requirement at a state level is so basic, that many people already have to provide it when they apply for a library card. "The fact that a state doesn't think it's important to know who owns or controls the companies it creates is truly frightening,'' says Lowe, whose group is lobbying in support of the latest bill in Congress to require that beneficial owners be identified when they form a company in a given state. ''It's also completely irresponsible."
Attendees of the 5th Annual Offshore Investment Conference at Panama City's Hilton Hotel were greeted by the bright lights of the Star Bay casino downstairs before making their way to a second-floor meeting room. At one of end of the hall, overlooking the lobby, floor to ceiling windows showed the bay in panorama: the thinnest of waves rippling toward land and tiny ships stationary in the distance. At the opposite end of the corridor, past meeting rooms named for Vegas landmarks, the set-up for the conference was discreet: one table lined with brochures for a company called Trust Services S.A.., and another table, covered in a brown tablecloth, lined with nametags.
A woman with blondish hair and a British accent presided over the table with the nametags. Fusion's TV correspondent, Natasha del Toro, and producer Alice Brennan approached the table. When del Toro picked up a conference program, and identified herself as a journalist, the woman snatched the program out of her hands, telling her reporters could not attend the event. (Fortunately, the program was freely available online; it indicated that Ramses Owens, a former Mossack Fonseca attorney who now heads his own firm, was scheduled to speak that morning.) A few minutes later, as del Toro narrated the program-snatching incident for the camera, a man with a British accent came bellowing and told her to leave. ''You are not going to do this,'' he said. ''This is wrong.''
The offshore industry is huge, and Mossack Fonseca has not only grown with the industry, but has shaped its very geography in ways big and small, as it competes against other ''company formation agents,'' vies for the business of big banks and law firms, and courts entire governments. Ever heard of the Island of Niue? It's a speck in the Pacific that sought Mossack Fonseca's help to bring shell-company revenues to the island. The firm ''wrote legislation for the Niuean parliament, and then marketed the new product and ran the business from Panama City,'' according to the book Global Shell Games: Experiments in Transnational Relations, Crime, and Terrorism. In 2005, the island decided to shut down the industry after allegations of rampant money laundering. Mossack Fonseca didn't necessarily lose out: The firm was able to register departing Niuean entities in the island nation of Samoa, internal documents show.
Indeed, a crackdown within, or against, one secrecy jurisdiction can open new frontiers in another. In 2000, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Financial Action Task Force intensified efforts to identify tax havens and countries that fail to combat money laundering, leading to blacklisting of certain jurisdictions, including several countries where Mossack Fonseca offered products. The firm sought fresh opportunity in '' where else? '' the United States. ''These blacklists were a setback for the offshore industry as a whole, and in particular affected our firm as all four jurisdictions which we offered were listed,'' goes the voice-over narration in Mossack's 35th anniversary video, posted to YouTube in January 2013. ''In order to mitigate this situation Mossack Fonseca took action, and in only two years broadened its product offerings to include new jurisdictions, such as Seychelles, Uruguay, Hong Kong and Nevada.''
Just as the firm has expanded its reach in the secrecy marketplace, it has gone to great lengths on at least one occasion to shield its business from scrutiny.
In 2013, an Argentine prosecutor's report linked Nevada-incorporated shell companies involved in a major corruption scandal to Mossack Fonseca. When those shell companies became the subject of a federal court battle in Nevada, the leaked files show, Mossack Fonseca employees took steps to remove paper records and to wipe computer files and phone logs at its Las Vegas office. One employee even traveled from Central America to Nevada to bring back files. ''When Andr(C)s came to Nevada he cleaned up everything and brought all documents to Panama,'' according to an email dated Sept. 24, 2014.
On a Thursday afternoon last month, seven television crews from six different countries gathered in a Panama City cafe that sells trucker hats alongside its coffee display. Their cameras rolling, they deployed into the parking lot, and then up a side street of low buildings and lush trees, passing a bridal boutique, a youth hostel, a restaurant, another bridal boutique, and an awning that advertised a crafts business. Then they arrived at a building of dark mirrored glass, where a sign in the front yard displayed the name of a dental clinic occupying the ground floor and, taking up the three floors above it, the offices of Mossack Fonseca. Gerardo Reyes, an investigative reporter for Univision (one of Fusion's parent companies) who had most recently been covering the capture of El Chapo, approached the guard stationed in a vestibule under a covered entryway.
I hung back from the crews and watched Reyes in discussion with the guard. In the week leading up to this, ICIJ had sent Mossack Fonseca a series of questions, and the crews had also requested interviews that morning. ''I want to know who told you they're not going to meet with us,'' he said to the guard in Spanish. ''Which person? You don't know?''
Then we waited. Motorcycles and cars streamed by on the narrow two-lane road. A security guard dressed in blue fatigues, standing in the parking lot, spoke into his radio. People coming in and out of the dental clinic wondered what was going on. It was impossible to see inside the building. The dark glass only reflected the neighboring skyline back to us.
Twenty minutes or so went by until we began to get a response. First, a three-page statement on Mossack Fonseca letterhead appeared, and the crews started to circulate it. A few minutes later, del Toro called out to Reyes, ''Gerardo, somebody's coming.'' The crews crowded around the vestibule, and a tall man in a light blue shirt emerged to address us. It was Carlos Sousa, the head of public relations for the firm. He seemed calm, genial, and spoke briefly.
''We don't launder any money, we don't accept any money or take any money, and that's the only thing I can say to you,'' Sousa told us. And then he disappeared back inside the vestibule.
The next day, Ramon Fonseca requested a leave of absence from his adviser position to the president, citing the need to defend his firm's reputation in the wake of the allegations in Brazil. I read the news at the hotel on my phone. ''We were only registered agents, and there is nothing bad in that,'' he told the newspaper La Estrella de Panama. In a video statement, posted on YouTube, Fonseca said he asked for the leave of absence ''to defend my honor, my firm, and my country.''
Last week, on the other side of the world, a spokesman for the Kremlin told reporters that the ICIJ was preparing an ''information attack'' on President Putin, according to Bloomberg, and said that Russia has ''available the full arsenal of legal means in the national and international arena to protect the honor and dignity of our president.'' The Kremlin did not answer questions from the ICIJ about the offshore holdings of his close associates discovered in the files.
Last week, as I spoke with Nicolas Pereyra, one of the attorneys representing investors who bought into Swiss Group products, he said there may have once been a legitimate purpose for the creation of shell companies. But that's not what he sees these days. ''They are very dangerous instruments,'' he said.
-- Main story by Catherine Dunn, with research and reporting by the Fusion Investigative Unit.(C) 2016 Fusion Media Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
VIDEO-Gwyneth Paltrow to women: Steam your vaginas! - NY Daily News
Tue, 05 Apr 2016 14:38
Gwyneth Paltrow steam cleaned her private parts at a Santa Monica spa.Gwyneth Paltrow wants you to steam clean your vagina '-- but health experts think her latest lifestyle advice full of hot air.
On her GOOP website, the Oscar winner personally endorsed the Mugwort V-Steam procedure at Tikkun Spa in Santa Monica '-- a bit of TMI that's also being slammed by experts.
"If you want to feel relaxed get a good massage '-- if you want to relax your vagina, have an orgasm,'' said Dr. Jen Gunter, a California ob-gyn who specializes in vulvovaginal disorders.
"Mugwort or wormwood ... can't possibly balance any reproductive hormones, regulate your menstrual cycle, treat depression, or cure infertility," Gunter added in a blog post.
Mugwort, a popular herb in Asian medicine, is thought to cleanse the body, boost energy, neutralize stomach pain, regulate periods, and even improve mental health.
And such private parts treatment has been around for 1,500 years and was used on Chinese emperors. But we know better today.
"I would never tell anybody to do this because the potential risks are much higher than the potential benefits,'' Dr. Amos Grunebaum, an ob-gyn at New York Presbyterian Hospital, told the Daily News.
Worst case scenario? Death. Grunebaum told the News that there have been cases of women dying after filling their vagina with water or air pressure.
There is no hard research on Paltrow's vagina steaming, but Grunebaum said there is evidence that douching is bad for women's health because it messes with normal bacteria, you know, down there.
Steam that gets into the uterus may also migrate to the fallopian tubes, which could result in a miscarriage, or the abdominal cavity, which could seriously sicken the patient.
Tikkun's owner Niki Han Schwarz defended her service as completely safe.
"The last thing I want to do is harm anybody," said Schwarz, who said vaginal steam baths helped her get pregnant in her 40s.
That part of the service wasn't on Paltrow's mind when she praised the procedure, which costs $50 for 30 minutes.
Paltrow praised Tikkun Spa's service on her lifestyle site, GOOP."You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne, and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al.," Paltrow, 42, wrote on GOOP, touting the procedure's cleansing, ''energetic release,'' and hormonal balance.
Guys can take part too, except the V-steam for them goes by a different name '-- the A-steam '-- and the solution travels up a different orifice.
No word on if Paltrow's ex Chris Martin ever joined her for a steam, but the star did encourage the procedure for everyone.
"If you're in LA, you have to do it," she wrote.
It may not be limited to Los Angeles pretty soon. After Paltrow's GOOP post went up, Schwarz's vagina steamer was booked solid into the weekend.
Paltrow's peculiar picksThis isn't the first time that the Goop founder has made some outrageous pushes on her site.
The spa claims that the treatment balances hormones and is great for women's health. Doctors disagree.The ingredients in her anti brain-fog smoothie read like something out of a Woodstock hippie's medicine cabinet: "Brain dust increases mental flow, maca delivers abundant energy, mental stamina, and an elevated mood, and the vanilla mushroom protein relieves stress while nourishing the heart and spirit."
Trying to detox? Here's Gwynnie's advice: "Think about kicking the week off with a colonic '-- they definitely get things going." They're also highly criticized by the medical communuity.
Even though no hangover remedy has ever been proven to work, Paltrow swears by a beverage called Mercy: "This stuff is so good that I went ahead and invested in the company," she wrote. "You can drink it alone or mix it with alcohol to create a hangover preventing cocktail." We'll pass.
In addition to Tikkun, Paltrow also loves Mii Amo Spa in Sedona, Ariz. "The menu offers everything from psychic massage to a Sedona clay wrap, to reiki and lymphatic drainage. Meanwhile, spiritual treatments include meditation, hypnosis, and past life regression. It's like three years of therapy in three days," she writes.
On a mobile device? Click here to watch video.
mengel@nydailynews.com
VIDEO-Revealed: the $2bn offshore trail that leads to Vladimir Putin | News | The Guardian
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 15:45
A network of secret offshore deals and vast loans worth $2bn has laid a trail to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.
An unprecedented leak of documents shows how this money has made members of Putin's close circle fabulously wealthy.
Though the president's name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern '' his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage.
The documents suggest Putin's family has benefited from this money '' his friends' fortunes appear his to spend.
The files are part of an unprecedented leak of millions of papers from the database of Mossack Fonseca, the world's fourth biggest offshore law firm. They show how the rich and powerful are able to exploit secret offshore tax regimes in myriad ways.
The offshore trail starts in Panama, darts through Russia, Switzerland and Cyprus '' and includes a private ski resort where Putin's younger daughter, Katerina, got married in 2013.
The Panama Papers shine a particular spotlight on Sergei Roldugin, who is Putin's best friend. Roldugin introduced Putin to the woman he subsequently married, Lyudmila, and is godfather to Putin's older daughter, Maria.
Putin: the money trailA professional musician, he has apparently accumulated a fortune '' having been placed in ostensible control of a series of assets worth at least $100m, possibly more.
Roldugin appears to have been picked for this role because of his lesser profile. He has denied in documents to bank officials in Switzerland and Luxembourg that he is close to any Russian public figures. He has also said he is not a businessman.
Yet the files reveal Putin's longstanding intimate has a 12.5% stake in Russia's biggest TV advertising agency, Video International, which has annual revenues of more than £800m. Previously, its ownership was a closely guarded secret.
Roldugin was also secretly given an option to buy a minority stake in the Russian truck manufacturer Kamaz, which makes army vehicles, and has 15% of a Cyprus-registered company called Raytar.
He also owns 3.2% of Bank Rossiya. The St Petersburg private bank has been described as Putin's ''crony bank''. The US imposed sanctions on it after Russia's 2014 invasion of Ukraine.
Sergei Roldugin.These assets are only part of a series of linked financial schemes revealed in the documents that revolve round Bank Rossiya.
The bank is headed by Yuri Kovalchuk. The US alleges he is the ''personal banker'' for many senior Russian government officials including Putin. The Panama Papers disclose that Kovalchuk and Bank Rossiya achieved the transfer of at least $1bn to a specially created offshore entity called Sandalwood Continental.
These funds came from a series of enormous unsecured loans from the state-controlled Russian Commercial Bank (RCB) located in Cyprus and other state banks. There is no explanation in the files of why the banks agreed to extend such unorthodox credit lines.
Some of the cash obtained from RCB was also lent back onshore in Russia at extremely high interest rates, with the resulting profits siphoned off to secret Swiss accounts.
A $6m yacht was purchased by Sandalwood and shipped to a port near St Petersburg.
Cash was also handed over directly to the Putin circle, this time in the form of very cheap loans, made with no security and with interest rates as low as 1%. It is not clear whether any loans have been repaid.
In 2010 and 2011, Sandalwood made three loans worth $11.3m to an offshore company called Ozon, which owns the upmarket Igora ski resort in the Leningrad region. Ozon belongs to Kovalchuk and a Cypriot company. Putin is the resort's star patron and a reputed resident.
Eighteen months after the loans, the president used Igora as the venue for the wedding of Katerina. Her groom was Kirill Shamalov, the son of another of Putin's old St Petersburg friends. News of the ceremony, from which cameras were banished, only emerged in 2015.
The records were obtained from an anonymous source by the German newspaper S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and shared by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists with the Guardian and the BBC.
Sergei Roldugin, Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev, then Russian president, tour the House of Music in St Petersburg in 2009. Photograph: Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/Kremlin Pool/EPAThey reveal a number of other manoeuvres by the Putin circle to move cash offshore. There is nothing inherently illegal in using offshore companies.
The transactions, however, include apparently fake share deals, with shares ''traded'' retrospectively; multimillion-dollar charges for vague ''consultancy'' services; and repeated payments of large sums in ''compensation'' for allegedly cancelled share deals. In 2011 a Roldugin company buys the rights to a $200m loan for $1. ''This is not business, this is creating the appearance of business in order to continually move and hide assets,'' Andrew Mitchell QC, a leading authority on money-laundering, told BBC Panorama.
Such layers of secrecy surrounded the offshore deals that Bank Rossiya staff in St Petersburg sent all their instructions to a confidential intermediary '' a firm of Swiss lawyers in Zurich.
The Swiss lawyers in turn arranged for Mossack Fonseca to set up shell companies, typically registering them in the secretive British Virgin Islands, with sham nominee directors from Panama to sign approvals for the deals. Even Mossack's confidential records of true owners have frequently turned out to be further fronts.
Speculation over the size of Putin's personal fortune has gone on for almost a decade, following reports in 2007 that he was worth at least $40bn, based on leaks from inside his own presidential administration.
In 2010, US diplomatic cables suggested Putin held his wealth via proxies. The president formally owned nothing, they added, but was able to draw on the wealth of his friends, who now control practically all of Russia's oil and gas production and industrial resources.
Guys, to be honest I am not ready to give comments now
Sergei RolduginIn 2014, after Russia seized Crimea, the White House imposed sanctions on leading members of Putin's circle, including Kovalchuk, citing their close ties to ''a senior official of the Russian Federation'' '' a euphemism for Putin himself. The Panama Papers reveal that the Putin group appeared to have become nervous for unclear reasons after October 2012. Sandalwood was closed down and its operations switched to another offshore entity registered in the BVI, called Ove Financial Corp.
One of the companies linked to Ove Financial Corp belonged to Mikhail Lesin, Putin's media tsar and former press minister. Lesin founded the Kremlin's propaganda TV channel Russia Today but later fell out of favour. He was mysteriously found dead last November in a Washington hotel room with blunt force injuries to the head.
Asked about the offshore companies linked to him last week, Rodulgin said: ''Guys, to be honest I am not ready to give comments now '... These are delicate issues. I was connected to this business a long time ago. Before 'perestroika'. It happened '... And then it started growing and such things happened. The House of Music [in St Petersburg] is subsidised from this money.''
Roldugin declined to answer further written questions.
Roldugin presents a diploma to Sir Paul McCartney, in front of St Petersburg's then governor, Valentina Matviyenko, in 2003. Photograph: PhotoXPressThe Putin circle's use of offshore companies contrasts with the president's call for ''deoffshoreisation'', urging Russians to bring cash hidden abroad home. Others who make use of offshore companies include oil trader Gennady Timchenko, Putin's friend of 30 years. The US imposed sanctions on him in 2014. Others in the data are Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Putin's childhood friends and former judo partners. They are now billionaire construction tycoons. The Arsenal FC shareholder Alisher Usmanov also appears. He has at least six companies registered in the Isle of Man. There is no suggestion this is illegal.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin's official spokesman, declined to comment on specific allegations against the president. Speaking last week, Peskov said western spy agencies were behind an all-out ''information attack'' against him to destabilise Russia before elections. Peskov dismissed the investigation by the Guardian and others as an ''undisguised, paid-for hack job''. He said Russia had ''legal means'' to defend Putin's dignity and honour.
RCB Cyprus said it could not disclose information about its clients. It said that in October 2013 it had ''refined its strategy''. It had opened a branch in Luxembourg, received a new investor, and was now under direct European Central Bank supervision. Given this, it was ''utterly unfounded'' to suggest the bank was a ''pocket'' for top Russian officials. The bank said it had voluntarily submitted the allegations to Cyprus's money-laundering authority. The auditor PwC Cyprus said it had audited RCB's accounts but that it did not provide services to Sandalwood.
Lawyers for Kovalchuk said information about Bank Rossiya was publicly available. ''We do not understand why you address these questions to Mr Kovalchuk.''
US political scientist Karen Dawisha said it was inconceivable that Putin's friends had become rich without his patronage. ''He takes what he wants. When you are president of Russia, you don't need a written contract. You are the law.''
Panama Papers reporting team: Juliette Garside, Luke Harding, Holly Watt, David Pegg, Helena Bengtsson, Simon Bowers, Owen Gibson and Nick Hopkins
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VIDEO-Palin Takes Swing at Beck in Rambling Speech at Wisconsin GOP Dinner | Video | TheBlaze.com
Mon, 04 Apr 2016 09:54
Sarah Palin took a swing at Glenn Beck Friday night, indirectly going after the radio host for visiting the Southern U.S. border in 2014 to deliver tractor-trailers full of food, water, teddy bears and soccer balls to underage refugees.
Palin, a top surrogate for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, made her comments on illegal immigration at a Wisconsin Republican Party fundraiser ahead of Tuesday's primary. She contended that other candidates ''didn't want to talk about it,'' but Trump ''made them.''
''Now because he beat the media on that issue. '... But knowing that Trump won on that issue it should empower you to go ahead and ask the candidates,'' Palin said. '''What the heck are you thinking candidates. What are you thinking when you're going ahead and asking for more illegal immigrants?' Even illegal immigrants. Welcoming them!''
''Even inducing them and seducing them with gift baskets,'' she continued. '''Come on over the border and here's a gift basket of teddy bears and soccer balls.' What are you thinking? It's just inviting more.''
When Beck visited the border in 2014, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) joined him. Beck has been a top surrogate for Cruz in the 2016 election cycle.
''Through no fault of their own, they are caught in political crossfire,'' Beck had said of the children when he explained why he was doing what he was doing. ''And while we continue to put pressure on Washington and change its course of lawlessness, we must also help. It is not either, or. It is both. We have to be active in the political game, and we must open our hearts.''
Palin said in her speech that candidates can ''say anything they want to about immigration and amnesty,'' but ''actions scream so much louder than a politician's words'' '-- likely a jab at Cruz's participation in the border event.
Palin's speech was not well received at the Wisconsin dinner, according to reporters who watched.
''At Milwaukee County GOP dinner, probably the quietest room I've ever heard for Sarah Palin speech,'' the Washington Examiner's Byron York noted.
''After Milwaukee crowd was unimpressed with Sarah Palin's disjointed speech for Trump,'' NBC News correspondent Chris Jansing tweeted.
BuzzFeed reporter Rosie Gray wrote on Twitter that the ''whole thing was awkward.''
''How do you know Palin has faded?'' the Washington Post's Phillip Rucker asked. ''8 mins into her speech at GOP dinner and no applause yet. Some eye rolls and phone checking tho.''
The relationship between Palin and Beck has soured in recent months, with both conservative personalties exchanging words. In February, Beck said it was ''incredible'' what Palin ''will stoop to'' in support of Trump.
'--
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VIDEO-Trump predicts massive recession but economists say he's wrong
Thu, 07 Apr 2016 03:31
Trump's success with voters, despite sometimes saying things only to contradict them later, has also alarmed many leading figures within his own party. Some of them are openly plotting to try to prevent him from becoming the nominee at the party's national convention in July.
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, said on Sunday that voters were "afraid" of their economic situation when asked about Trump's remarks on CNN's "State of the Union" show.
"When people are afraid and when they're angry, sometimes people say things that they regret," he said, apparently referring to Trump's remarks. "The truth is that people are concerned about the future, and every candidate is going to communicate their message differently."
He also played down speculation that party leaders will seek to dislodge Trump by helping someone who is not yet even a declared candidate prevail at the convention, which becomes governed by complicated voting rules if no candidate arrives with a clear majority of votes.
"I think that our candidate is someone who's running," Priebus said, referring to Trump, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Ohio Governor John Kasich. The candidates will next face voters on Tuesday in Wisconsin, where recent polls tend to show Cruz holding a small lead over Trump.
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