Cover for No Agenda Show 952: iChip®
August 3rd, 2017 • 2h 59m

952: iChip®


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

Goldwater Rule
Psychiatry Group Says Members Can Comment on Trump's Mental Health - Scientific American
Sat, 29 Jul 2017 20:18
A leading psychiatry group has told its members they should not feel bound by a longstanding rule against commenting publicly on the mental state of public figures'--even the president.
The statement, an email this month from the executive committee of the American Psychoanalytic Association to its 3,500 members, represents the first significant crack in the profession's decades-old united front aimed at preventing experts from discussing the psychiatric aspects of politicians' behavior. It will likely make many of its members feel more comfortable speaking openly about President Trump's mental health.
The impetus for the email was ''belief in the value of psychoanalytic knowledge in explaining human behavior,'' said psychoanalytic association past president Dr. Prudence Gourguechon, a psychiatrist in Chicago. ''We don't want to prohibit our members from using their knowledge responsibly.''
That responsibility is especially great today, she told STAT, ''since Trump's behavior is so different from anything we've seen before'' in a commander in chief.
An increasing number of psychologists and psychiatrists have denounced the restriction as a ''gag rule'' and flouted it, with some arguing they have a ''duty to warn'' the public about what they see as Trump's narcissism, impulsivity, poor attention span, paranoia, and other traits that, they believe, impair his ability to lead.
Reporters, pundits, and government officials ''have been stumbling around trying to explain Trump's unusual behavior,'' from his seemingly compulsive tweeting to his grandiosity, said Dr. Leonard Glass, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. The rule against psychiatrists offering their analysis of the emotions, thought patterns, and beliefs underlying such behaviors, Glass said, robs the public ''of our professional judgment and prevents us from communicating our understanding'' of the president's mental state.
Last week, in an essay in Psychiatric Times, Glass called the prohibition on such communication ''an unacceptable infringement on my right and duty'' to discuss issues ''where the perspective of psychiatrists could be very relevant and enlightening.'' He ended the essay by announcing his resignation from the American Psychiatric Association, which adopted the rule in 1973. He had been a member for 41 years.
Called the ''Goldwater rule,'' the prohibition on offering opinions about the mental state of public figures was adopted after some psychiatrists answered a 1964 survey on whether Sen. Barry Goldwater, the Republican presidential candidate that year, was mentally fit for the Oval Office. The rule states that it is unethical to offer a professional opinion about a public figure's mental health, including the presence or absence of a disorder, without that person's consent and without doing a standard examination. In March, the psychiatric association reaffirmed the rule.
The group acted despite growing criticism that the Goldwater rule is outdated and even unethical for preventing psychiatrists from pointing out behaviors that raise questions about a government official's mental state. No other medical specialty has such a rule; cardiologists are not prohibited from offering their views of an official's fainting spell, for instance, as long as they make clear that they have not examined the person.
Although opposition to the Goldwater rule has existed for years, it intensified with Trump's candidacy and then election. In October, a book titled ''The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President'' will be published.
''When the book comes out, there will be renewed furor about the Goldwater rule, since it is precisely about what is wrong with him,'' said psychiatrist Dr. Lance Dodes, a retired professor at Harvard Medical School who is now in private practice in Los Angeles.
A number of psychologists have spoken to reporters about what Trump's statements and actions might reveal about his emotional and cognitive state. Although the American Psychological Association ''prefers'' that its members not offer opinions on the psychology of someone they have not examined, it does not have a Goldwater rule and is not considering implementing one, an official told STAT.
The psychoanalytic association went further. In its July 6 email, it explicitly stated for the first time that the organization does not subscribe to the rule. That position had been implicit for years, but the association's ''leadership has been extremely reluctant to make a statement and publicly challenge the American Psychiatric Association,'' said one psychoanalytic association member who asked not to be publicly identified criticizing the other group.
One stated rationale for the Goldwater rule is that psychiatrists need to examine patients in order to properly evaluate them. In fact, for decades the State Department and other federal agencies have asked psychiatrists to offer their views on the psychological state of foreign leaders, Glass pointed out, evidence that government officials believe it is possible to make informed inferences about mental states based on public behavior and speech.
''In the case of Donald Trump, there is an extraordinary abundance of speech and behavior on which one could form a judgment,'' Glass said. ''It's not definitive, it's an informed hypothesis, and one we should be able to offer rather than the stunning silence demanded by the Goldwater rule.''
The Goldwater rule has long been odd in that violating it carries no penalties. In principle the psychiatric association could file a complaint with a member's state medical board. That has apparently never happened. Nor has the association ejected a member for violating the Goldwater rule. That is something it, as a private association, would be legally permitted to do.
A state agency, however, is subject to the U.S. constitution, civil liberties experts say, and penalizing psychiatrists for speaking out would likely be a violation of their first amendment rights.
Republished with permission from STAT. This article originally appeared on July 25, 2017
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President: Bandy X. Lee: 9781250179456: Books
Sun, 30 Jul 2017 14:52
The consensus view of two dozen psychiatrists and psychologists that Trump is dangerously mentally ill and that he presents a clear and present danger to the nation and our own mental health.
This is not normal.
Since the start of Donald Trump's presidential run, one question has quietly but urgently permeated the observations of concerned citizens: What is wrong with him? Constrained by the American Psychiatric Association's ''Goldwater rule,'' which inhibits mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not personally examined, many of those qualified to answer this question have shied away from discussing the issue at all. The public has thus been left to wonder whether he is mad, bad, or both.
In THE DANGEROUS CASE OF DONALD TRUMP, twenty-seven psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts argue that, in Mr. Trump's case, their moral and civic ''duty to warn'' America supersedes professional neutrality. They then explore Trump's symptoms and potentially relevant diagnoses to find a complex, if also dangerously mad, man.
Philip Zimbardo and Rosemary Sword, for instance, explain Trump's impulsivity in terms of ''unbridled and extreme present hedonism.'' Craig Malkin writes on pathological narcissism and politics as a lethal mix. Gail Sheehy, on a lack of trust that exceeds paranoia. Lance Dodes, on sociopathy. Robert Jay Lifton, on the ''malignant normality'' that can set in everyday life if psychiatrists do not speak up.
His madness is catching, too. From the trauma people have experienced under the Trump administration to the cult-like characteristics of his followers, he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.
It's not all in our heads. It's in his.
Ministry of Truthiness
They Are NOT Broke'--Snopes' GoFundMe Is a Scam To Fund a Dirty Divorce
Wed, 26 Jul 2017 09:17
Snopes is in trouble. According to a self-launched fundraiser, the ostensible fact-checking website, founded in 1994, is on the financial ropes and needs your support to stay open. A GoFundMe for the supposed hoax-debunking site has since been set up and is going viral. If it continues raising money at this current rate, it will easily surpass its goal of $500,000 by the end of the day.
While Twitter followers flock en masse to throw money at David Mikkelson, one of the controlling partners in the Snopes business, they'd do well to understand why it is he has no money.
Snopes, as a business, is not broke. David Mikkelson '-- who's been accused of defrauding the website to pay for prostitution '-- is broke.
Snopes' estimated value is in the tens of millions, with a daily revenue intake around five figures '-- a day. They are currently ranked in the top 2,600 websites globally as well as being in the top 700 domestically. The behemoth 'fact-checker' is nowhere near being broke.
However, thanks to a dirty divorce between David Mikkelson and his ex-wife Barbara Mikkelson, the company has turned into a glorious shit show.
If you read their GoFundMe page, David alleges the site is being ''held hostage'' by a ''vendor'' it contracted with in 2015 and ended its ties with this spring. He claims that the Snopes site and this ''vendor'' are engaged in a legal battle that could eliminate their ''financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.''
READ MORE: Snopes, the Supposed Arbiter of 'Fake News' -- Accused of 'Defrauding Own Site to Pay for Prostitutes'
However, as the Nieman Lab at Harvard University reports, that legal battle seems to be an argument between Snopes co-founder David Mikkelson and his ex-wife, Barbara Mikkelson, over control of the company.
The ''vendor'' mentioned in the GoFundMe is Proper Media, Barbara's side of the Snopes business venture she began after the divorce in 2015.
Essentially, David Mikkelson is begging for money to fight his ex-wife for control over their fact-checking empire. He even notes this on the GoFundMe page, ''(not to mention covering our legal fees).''
As Nieman Lab notes, Snopes parent company Bardav, Inc. and the vendor, Proper Media, filed complaints against each other over issues stemming from that contract termination. Snopes alleges that Proper Media continues to control the advertising on, and is withholding revenue from those ads from the Snopes team. Proper Media, meanwhile, alleges that David Mikkelson ''has engaged in a lengthy scheme of concealment and subterfuge to gain control of the company and to drain its profits.''
''Mikkelson was unhappy that Barbara maintained ownership of half of what he always considered to be his company after the divorce,'' Proper Media's original complaint reads. ''Thus, after Proper Media's purchase of Barbara's share, Mikkelson sought to finally gain control of Bardav by aligning and conspiring with (Vincent) Green.''
Yes, this mudslinging conspiracy talk is actually coming from the people who claim to be the arbiters of online truth.
So, as their supports continue to throw money at the GoFundMe campaign '-- at the current rate of $30,000 per hour '-- the reality is, that their efforts are most likely in vain.
READ MORE: Snopes Conveniently Silent on WaPost's Dangerous Fake Story About Russia Hacking US Power Grid
As media analyst, Thomas Baekdal pointed out Monday in a series of Tweets, people should '-- like Snopes tells them to do '-- remain skeptical.
Nieman Lab reached out to both David Mikkelson's company and Barbara Mikkelson's company. However, they only received a reply from Proper Media, Barbara's venture.
''Proper Media suggests that the media conduct its own fact-check of the fundraising plea posted today on,'' Karl Kronenberger, counsel for Proper Media, wrote in an email response. ''In summary, today's post only confirms Proper Media's allegations that Mr. Mikkelson has drained the company's bank accounts and is unable to operate Snopes profitably without Proper Media's expertise and management.''
What these new revelations show us is that Snopes '-- a website that gained notoriety for debunking online myths '-- is a cluster fuck.
Fraud, embezzlement, and using company funds to pay for prostitution are just a sampling of the accusations against the CEO of the fact-checking website.
As TFTP reported last year, in November, David remarried '-- his new wife is a former porn actress and escort '-- and is now one of the site's fact-checkers. As for these accusations, reports the Daily Mail,
READ MORE: Snopes Conveniently Silent on WaPost's Dangerous Fake Story About Russia Hacking US Power Grid
''They are accusing each other of financial impropriety, with Barbara claiming her ex-husband is guilty of 'embezzlement' and suggesting he is attempting a 'boondoggle' to change tax arrangements, while David claims she took millions from their joint accounts and bought property in Las Vegas.''
In a court document from last June, Barbara contended, ''He's been depleting the corporate account by spending monies from it on his personal expenses,'' such as purchasing his 'girlfriend's' ticket to Buenos Aires and $10,000 for a ''personal vacation'' to India.
As Claire Bernish so eloquently pointed out last year, one point incontestably underpinning the personal battle behind the scenes at the company demands an urgent question '-- with money as the seemingly only motivator, can the public ever be assured Snopes' checked facts are accurate at all?
Perhaps Snopes has finally been Snoped.
Snopes, in Heated Legal Battle, Asks Readers for Money to Survive -
Wed, 26 Jul 2017 10:27
Snopes, the fact-checking website that once focused on debunking flimsy internet rumors but has expanded into a 16-person operation that calls out political leaders for dishonesty, is locked in a legal battle that it says has drained the money it needs to survive.
The site, which gets all of its revenue from advertising, created a crowdfunding page on Monday, raising $500,000 from readers in one day to remain operational indefinitely. It says that Proper Media, the vendor that runs its advertising services, has withheld the site's revenue and has refused to relinquish control of the site. That leaves Bardav '-- the company that owns and operates Snopes '-- with no way of moving the site to a new host or installing its own ads, said David Mikkelson, a founder of the site.
''We have had no income whatsoever for the last several months,'' Mr. Mikkelson said in an interview on Monday.
When asked how long the site could last without a successful fund-raising drive or legal victory, Mr. Mikkelson responded: ''Not a whole lot longer.''
Proper Media and its lawyers tell a starkly different story. They say that Snopes employees will continue to be paid from the advertising revenue, and that Mr. Mikkelson should be removed from the company because of wasteful spending.
The two sides, which have sued each other in separate claims, present entirely conflicting descriptions of who owns the company and what is being withheld from whom. The earliest chance for resolution appears to be a court hearing scheduled for next week.
Whether the squabbling will affect Snopes's ability to produce its popular mythbusting remains to be seen, but the disputes are unlikely to be settled until there is legal clarity on the underlying structure of the company.
Proper Media considers itself an owner of Bardav, not a vendor. As Proper Media tells it, Barbara Mikkelson, Mr. Mikkelson's ex-wife, sold her 50 percent share to Proper Media in 2016, but for tax purposes it was bought in the name of its individual members ''for the benefit of Proper Media.'' Two Proper Media officers, Drew Schoentrup and Christopher Richmond, would get 20 percent stakes in Bardav, while three others would own 3.33 percent stakes.
Proper Media said the deal included Mr. Schoentrup taking a seat on a two-person board alongside Mr. Mikkelson.
But Mr. Mikkelson, who owns the other 50 percent of the Bardav shares, said that Mr. Schoentrup does not sit on the board, and that the five shareholders should be viewed individually, as opposed to collectively, giving Proper Media equal ownership.
Mr. Schoentrup's on or off status on the board is crucial in Mr. Mikkelson's decision to cancel Bardav's contract with Proper Media, which handles many of the technological and advertising services for Snopes. In March, Bardav gave Proper Media a 60-day notice that it would be terminating the contract, effective May 8. Mr. Mikkelson said the contract was agreed to when Snopes was a much smaller company, but now it had its own business-focused employees and other services ''can be obtained much more cheaply from other vendors.''
Karl Kronenberger, a lawyer for Proper Media, said in an interview on Monday that Mr. Mikkelson cannot cancel the contract without calling a board meeting '-- which, in Proper Media's view, would include Mr. Schoentrup. The company has continued as if the contract remained valid.
Last week, a court ordered Proper Media, which cannot directly pay Snopes employees, to release $100,000 of the advertising revenues to Bardav, on the condition that the money be used for expenses and not be paid to Mr. Mikkelson, according to Mr. Kronenberger. Proper Media sued Mr. Mikkelson in May, accusing him of mismanaging the company's funds and abusing his position. (Mr. Mikkelson said he hadn't received money from the company this year aside from expenses and salary, which he said made him the lowest-paid employee at Snopes.)
Mr. Kronenberger said Mr. Mikkelson has locked Proper Media out of Bardav's bank accounts and ''key databases it needs to do its job,'' and he disputed that Proper Media had locked Bardav out from making technological changes.
''Mr. Mikkelson has absolute control of this domain name,'' Mr. Kronenberger said. ''He can move it within minutes.''
As for the advertising revenue, ''Our position is nothing is being wrongfully withheld,'' he said.
But on the crowdfunding page, Mr. Mikkelson wrote that ''although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site's hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or '-- most crucially '-- place advertising on it.''
Both sides hope a court hearing scheduled for Aug. 4 will begin to bring some clarity. Proper Media hopes the judge will remove Mr. Mikkelson from the company, while Bardav is hoping the judge requires Proper Media to hand over the rest of the advertising revenue, including some money from before the contract termination took effect.
For more than 20 years, Snopes has been a destination for batting down the urban legends and viral misinformation all too commonly found on the internet, first in email forwards and later in popular but misleading articles. At first run entirely by David and Barbara Mikkelson, it developed a reputation as an authority on declaring simply whether such tidbits could be believed.
In recent years, the site added staff as it took increasing aim at the routine falsities of the political process. In December, Facebook made Snopes a key part of its efforts to combat fake news, including it in a group of fact-checkers that would be alerted if enough users flagged an article as fake.
On Monday, Snopes used its website and social media accounts to promote its crowdfunding effort. It reached its $500,000 in about one day.
''We're just trying to pick a number that we're sure we can continue operations for, let's say, through possibly the end of the year, or at least the next several months while all this is happening,'' Mr. Mikkelson said.
Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:23 in Danger of Shuttering, which began as a small one-person effort in 1994 and has since become one of the Internet's oldest and most popular fact-checking sites, is in danger of closing its doors. So, for the first time in our history, we are turning to you, our readership, for help.
Since our inception, we have always been a self-sustaining site that provides a free service to the online world: we've had no sponsors, no outside investors or funding, and no source of revenue other than that provided by online advertising. Unfortunately, we have been cut off from our historic source of advertising income.
We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the web site hostage. Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site's hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or '-- most crucially '-- place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us.
Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.
As misinformation has increasingly threatened democracies around the world (including our own), has stood in the forefront of fighting for truth and dispelling misinformation online. It is vital that these efforts continue, so we are asking the community to donate what they can. (Our suggested donation is $10, but if you can give more please consider doing so '-- every little bit helps.)
We need our community now more than ever, as it is only through your support that can remain the community and resource we all know and love.
Sincerely yours,
Team Snopes.
Please note that any amounts sent to through or otherwise are purely a donation, and this is not an offer to purchase securities or any other interest in its parent company). All donations are non-refundable, and you will own no equity, debt, or other interest in its parent company) as a result of your donation. Since its parent company) is not a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, donations are not tax-deductible as a charitable contribution but will be allocated in their entirety to operating expenses, legal fees, and the continuation of our overall mission to fight misinformation. Implodes, Resorts To GoFundMe | Zero Hedge
Tue, 25 Jul 2017 11:25
Via, is a liberal blog from 1994. The website claims to be the internet's oldest and most popular fact-checking site. Last year, Snopes Co-Founder was accused of embezzling company money, and spending it on prostitutes.
Now you can find the blog begging for $500k in funding via GoFundMe. So, far the campaign has raised $18,000 in 3 hours via 710 people...
Another victim of the fake news campaign backfiring on the left.
* * *
Some additional "color" from iBankCoin:
A key member of Facebook's ministry of truth, Snopes, has hit a major snag which may force them out of business. Apparently too cheap or stupid to run a contract for their primary source of income past an attorney, the 'arbiters of truth' appear to be in major financial trouble after claiming a vendor is holding ad revenues hostage, and have set up a gofundme page which has raised $130,000 of it's $500,000 goal within hours.
We had previously contracted with an outside vendor to provide certain services for That contractual relationship ended earlier this year, but the vendor will not acknowledge the change in contractual status and continues to essentially hold the web site hostage.
Unfortunately, we have been cut off from our historic source of advertising income. ''
That outside vendor was none other than San Diego based Proper Media, which bought out Snopes co-founder Barbara Mikkelson's share in the company for $3.6 million following a nasty divorce.
According to the San Diego Union Tribune:
Established in 2003, Bardav, Inc. was the joint venture of Snopes creator David Mikkelson and his then-wife Barbara Mikkelson, who each owned one share and 50 percent of the company. The couple divorced in 2015. In July of 2016, Barbara sold her stake to Proper Media's five equity holders for $3.6 million.
Prior to the sale, Bardav had contracted Proper Media for web development and advertising services on, with the companies agreeing to split revenue earned from advertisements.
In May, Proper Media filed suit against Bardav and Mikkelson with the San Diego Superior Court of California over ownership of the site, alleging that Mikkelson attempted to gain control over the business and block Proper Media from its share of profits. Snopes counter sued, arguing that Proper Media has not paid Snopes its share of advertising revenue since March. Motions by both the plaintiffs and defendants are scheduled to be heard on Aug. 4.
Who could have imagined that the biased 'fact-checking' website run by militantly liberal rabid anti-Trumpers and co-founded by a cheating, whore mongering, cat-abandoning, embezzling degenerate would sign a sloppy contract?
The arrangement with Proper Media follows revelations that David Mikkelson secret PayPal account to allegedly funnel advertising revenue from Snopes into his personal accounts so that he could travel around the world banging whores behind his wife's back '' according to court documents obtained by Wesearcher / Gotnews.
As iBankCoin reported in December, while engaging in debauchery behind his wife's back, Mikkelson wrote off just about everything as a business expense, embezzling a reported $98,000. The Snopes co-founder has since settled down and married a [NSFW] part time porn actress, administrator (spicy!), and sex worker. As in, she has a website devoted to being a whore. Apparently she's a pretty good one despite being ''past her time as an adult model.''
In the same divorce papers, David Mikkelson fired back, claiming his ex-wife Barbara took millions from their joint account and bought property in Las Vegas.
No word on whatever happened to the cat'...
Snopes, the internet's foremost fact-checking website, may die in a messy legal battle - Vox
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 12:31
For as long as the internet has proliferated viral chain letters, fearmongering urban legends, too-good-to-be-true morality tales, scams from Nigerian princes, and false conspiracy theories, one website has done more than almost any other to stem the tide of misinformation:
Launched in 1994, Snopes is the internet's most thorough and reliable site dedicated to debunking hoaxes, myths, and fake news. It's so trustworthy that last year, when Facebook began enlisting fact-checking organizations to help it weed out fake news stories from its news feeds, Snopes was one of the five entities entrusted with the task, along with the Associated Press and other news outlets.
But now Snopes's future is very much in doubt.
According to a short note posted to the Snopes website on July 24 (which links to a new website called Save Snopes), the site is in danger of shutting down completely, due to a complicated legal battle with ''an outside vendor.'' Snopes's owners claim the vendor is ''essentially hold[ing] the web site hostage'' by refusing to relinquish control of the domain and denying them any access to advertising revenue.
''Although we maintain editorial control (for now) ... we cannot modify the site, develop it, or '-- most crucially '-- place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us,'' the site's owners wrote. ''Our legal team is fighting hard for us, but, having been cut off from all revenue, we are facing the prospect of having no financial means to continue operating the site and paying our staff (not to mention covering our legal fees) in the meanwhile.''
The legal fees in question relate to three different lawsuits with several complicated, overlapping factors, as well as some very tricky distinctions between individuals and companies.
The first lawsuit has been brought against Snopes's parent company, Bardav, by the ''vendor'' '-- a company called Proper Media, whose owners also have ownership stakes in Bardav. Proper Media is attempting to oust Snopes founder David Mikkelson from Bardav even though Mikkelson owns 50 percent of the company, due to what Proper Media alleges is grievous mismanagement.
The second lawsuit is a countersuit brought against Proper Media by Mikkelson (via Bardav) in an attempt to recoup advertising revenue from Snopes that Proper Media controls and that Bardav claims it is owed. More critically, the countersuit is an attempt to prevent Proper Media from continuing to exercise any further control over '-- control that Mikkelson claims is based on Proper Media's attempt to combine its individual owners' stakes in Bardav so that Proper Media can claim 50 percent ownership of the website.
In essence, both companies are trying to legally maneuver one another out of having any control over Snopes.
The third and final lawsuit concerns one of Proper Media's own former co-owners, a man who has essentially shifted his allegiance and may now hold the key to deciding who '-- if anyone '-- legally controls Snopes.
With these ongoing disputes awaiting resolution '-- the competing motions will all be heard in court this Friday, August 4 '-- Mikkelson has set up a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of raising $500,000 in an effort to ensure Snopes's survival. The campaign has already been tremendously successful, with more than 23,000 supporters donating more than $665,000. But even with this infusion of cash, the website's future remains murky '-- so murky, in fact, that Snopes might be facing a shutdown after more than two decades online.
Two different companies are fighting for control over all of's advertising revenueHere's what we know about the conflict based on the claims made in each of the three public court filings:
Snopes was founded in 1994 by a husband-and-wife team, David and Barbara Mikkelson. The Mikkelsons eventually started a parent company for the site, which they named Bardav.
The Mikkelsons divorced in 2015, and David and Barbara each received 50 percent of the company. That same year, Bardav entered into a partnership with a tech startup called Proper Media. According to the Atlantic, the partnership agreement dictated that Proper Media '-- whose CEO is Chris Richmond, founder of the beloved wiki TV Tropes '-- would ''provide content and website development services as well as advertising sales and trafficking'' to Snopes.
The next year, in 2016, Barbara Mikkelson sold her half of Bardav to Proper Media, dividing it among Proper Media's five individual shareholders. (As the Atlantic explains, because Bardav was an S corporation, its shareholders had to be people and could not be other companies.) This left Richmond and company president Drew Schoentrup each with 20 percent ownership of Bardav, and Proper Media's three other shareholders evenly splitting the remaining 10 percent.
The result was that David Mikkelson suddenly shared ownership of Bardav with five other people, instead of just one. All five of those co-owners were also co-owners of Proper Media, and were, according to Proper Media's lawsuit, obligated to uphold their ''fiduciary duties'' to Proper Media while dealing with Bardav. The suit states that ''These fiduciary duties include duties of loyalty, care, and good faith, and any actions taken adversely to Proper Media are expressly prohibited.''
It's not terribly clear whether the conflict between Proper Media and Bardav developed before or after Barbara Mikkelson's sale of her half of Bardav. The Atlantic reports that in February of this year, when the San Diego Union-Tribune visited the Proper Media office to write a story about Snopes, tensions were high; the Proper Media staff apparently felt the 2015 development agreement between Bardav and Proper Media had saved Snopes from technical obscurity, while the Snopes staff felt ''worried that the co-owners didn't understand what Snopes was, and that they only wanted to juice its revenues, so they could sell it.''
Shortly after the Union-Tribune article was published, a falling-out occurred between one of the co-owners of both companies, Vincent Green, and his four fellow co-owners at Proper Media. Green had been working with Mikkelson on the Snopes website since Proper Media first became involved with Bardav in 2015. Proper Media's lawsuit against Bardav, filed in May, alleges that in February 2017, ''Mikkelson conspired with Green to block Proper Media's access to the personnel, accounts, tools, and data necessary to manage Snopes.''
A few weeks later, in March, Mikkelson officially canceled Bardav's 2015 contract with Proper Media. Or rather, he tried to '-- but Proper Media is disputing whether he had the right to do so (more on that below).
And in April, after allegedly spending the previous two months essentially working for Mikkelson instead of Proper Media, Green formally resigned from Proper Media and went to work formally for Bardav '-- a move that left his ownership stakes in both companies up in the air.
Are Snopes's owners individuals or part of a company? This is the main question that will decide Snopes's fate.You may be wondering why Vincent Green's seemingly tiny 3.33 percent share in Bardav matters, but in fact it matters a great deal.
This is because the Bardav and Proper Media are warring over whether, when the five Proper Media co-owners bought ownership in Bardav, they did so as individual shareholders or as representatives of Proper Media. If Green is an individual shareholder, he could take his meager slice of the Bardav pie and join it with Mikkelson's 50 percent stake, effectively giving Mikkelson the controlling interest in the company.
But now that Green has left the company, if Proper Media's co-owners are obligated to represent Proper Media in its dispute with Bardav because they acquired their Bardav shares while doing business as Proper Media, Proper Media may have the right to reclaim Green's share, allowing the company to retain its collective 50 percent ownership of Bardav.
Essentially, Proper Media believes it owns a full 50 percent stake in Bardav (and thus a 50 percent stake in, despite Green's departure. But Bardav believes that Mikkelson's 50 percent stake, combined with Green's 3.33 percent, gives Mikkelson the controlling interest in the company.
Which means the question of ownership is essentially a he-said, she-said issue that the courts must decide. As things currently stand, without a court ruling, Mikkelson/Bardav will have to keep paying Snopes's staffing and operation costs while Proper Media controls the site's ad revenue. (And some have speculated that Proper Media might ultimately try to sell its stake in Snopes for a profit, with little care for potential buyers' intentions '-- thus further endangering Snopes's mission and future.)
In order for Proper Media to win its lawsuit against Bardav, it must successfully argue that Vincent Green's 3.33 percent share in Bardav is still part of the Proper Media collective now that Green has quit working for Proper.
Conversely, in order for Bardav to win its lawsuit against Proper Media, it must successfully argue that the shares Barbara Mikkelson sold to Proper Media were sold to its co-owners as individuals, according to the terms of the original sale contract.
Both lawsuits are asking for the court to clarify and confirm the details of the original transfer of Bardav shares to Proper Media via Proper Media's five co-owners. (That contract, though available to the court, can't be made public for reasons of confidentiality.)
The court's decision could hinge, in part, on an odd wrinkle about Bardav's board of directorsAs part of Bardav's suit against Proper Media, David Mikkelson is claiming that Proper Media is ''wrongfully withholding money owed'' to Bardav, refusing to pay Bardav any advertising revenue or to let him have complete control of, even though he canceled Bardav's contract with Proper Media. He's currently seeking an injunction against Proper Media that would force the company to turn over to Bardav all advertising revenue accrued from Snopes since April, and relinquish its hold on the domain.
Proper Media, for its part, is disputing the validity of Bardav's contract cancellation by claiming that its president, Schoentrup, is on Bardav's board of directors, and thus should have been consulted before the contract was canceled. Proper Media is further seeking damages against Bardav for what it alleges is Mikkelson's ''gross financial, technical, and corporate mismanagement.''
In Bardav's lawsuit, Mikkelson accuses Schoentrup of essentially pretending to be a director on a nonexistent board of directors. The implication is that Bardav's ''board'' of two people evaporated when Barbara sold her half of the company.
But both companies appear to have had Mikkelson and Schoentrup sign, as ''directors,'' an amendment to Bardav's nonexistent bylaws. In Proper Media's lawsuit, Schoentrup argues that this document is proof that he's on Bardav's board, while Bardav argues that such an amendment, even if the company had bylaws to amend, would have been invalid anyway due to the language of the original sale contract between Barbara Mikkelson and Proper Media/its five co-owners.
Clearly, there's quite a bit of messiness here (to say nothing of a snake eating its own tail). Stacey Lantagne, a law professor at the University of Mississippi who writes for the Contracts Prof law blog, told Vox that this type of situation usually arises from building a business without clear documentation in place. Lantagne pointed out that while normally the details of a company's governance are outlined in its corporate bylaws, according to Proper Media's suit, Bardav doesn't appear to have ever had bylaws.
The conflict over the question of who is on Bardav's board of directors is a perfect example of the type of confusion that can result.
''This seems like the type of complex mess that can often result when transactions involve close personal relationships, like significant others, and the chain of events is less than fully documented,'' Lantagne said, pointing to Barbara and David Mikkelson's apparent failure to establish bylaws when they first formed Bardav. ''As these warring allegations prove, executing all the documents you can to memorialize your organizational structure can help eliminate ambiguity going forward.''
Proper Media likely can't oust Mikkelson from his own company, but that doesn't mean Snopes's survival is guaranteedAccording to the San Diego Union-Tribune, Proper Media is arguing that ''Mikkelson is unfit to serve as a director'' of Bardav and wants to effectively oust him from his own company. But Lantagne told Vox that since Proper Media won't be able to command more than a 50 percent share of Bardav, such an outcome doesn't seem likely.
''It seems like Proper Media can't gain a controlling interest [in Bardav],'' she told Vox. ''At best, it can get to 50 percent and one board member, which could deadlock corporate decision-making.''
But no matter what the court decides, Snopes's editors '-- in addition to Mikkelson, the site employs a staff of 15 people '-- are reportedly fearful of what Proper Media's continued involvement in Snopes could mean for the website, and unconvinced that Proper Media fully understands Snopes's unique and increasingly vital function on the internet.
When reached by email, a Snopes representative pointed to a press release issued July 25 by the law firm representing Baldav. "We've argued in court that the public will be harmed if is forced to shut down,'' attorney Paul Tyrell said in the release. ''The outpouring of support in response to the GoFundMe campaign makes it undeniable that the survival of is a matter of public interest." Representatives for Proper Media did not respond to a request for comment.
But the site's operating costs are reportedly as high as $100,00 per month. Without advertising revenue to help pay staffers and conduct site maintenance, readers' generosity can only go so far.
Proper Media and Bardav's respective lawsuits will be heard in court on August 4. Until then, Snopes's fate, like so many of the urban legends the website has set out to debunk over the years, remains in dispute.
No corporate sponsors for Trans protests
Psychologists say more and more young people are entitled | indy100
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 14:38
Research has discovered that large amounts of young people are developing an entitlement complex.
The psychological trend comes from the belief that you are superior to others and are more deserving of certain things.
This form of narcissism has some significant consequences such as disappointment and a tendency to lash out.
Psychology Today reports that some examples of entitlement range from the disregard of rules, freeloading, causing inconveniences and like to assume the role of leader when working in groups.
So called millennials, who were born roughly between 1988 and 1994, tend to have this characteristic as a 2016 study found.
The University of Hampshire found that youngsters who were studied on issues of entitlement scored 25 per cent higher than people aged 40 to 60 and 50 per cent higher than those over that age bracket.
Dr Joshua Grubbs, who conducted the research, which was published in the Psychological Bulletin is quoted by Spring as saying:
At extreme levels, entitlement is a toxic narcissistic trait, repeatedly exposing people to the risk of feeling frustrated, unhappy and disappointed with life.
Often times, life, health, ageing and the social world don't treat us as well as we'd like.
Confronting these limitations is especially threatening to an entitled person because it violates their worldview of self-superiority.
The study looked at 170 cases and determined that entitlement leads to a cycle of disappointment, anger, negativity and a constant need for that person to tell themselves that they are special.
Professor Julie Exline, who was also involved in the study added that this system only creates more issues and can lead to problems with other people.
The entire mind set pits someone against other people.
When people think that they should have everything they want '-- often for nothing '-- it comes at the cost of relationships with others and, ultimately, their own happiness
In order to break from this mentality experts believe that an individuals should learn to become more humble, more grateful and accept their limitations.
Psychology Today also offers some other alternatives to solving the problem.
These including retrospectively reflecting on annoying incidents from someone else's perspective, promote others achievements and stop justifying things to yourself that are wrong.
HT Spring Psychology Today Telegraph
More: The one way to tell if someone is a narcissist
YouTube Bans Canadian Professor | The Daily Caller
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 12:20
A professor in Canada who refuses to use gender-neutral pronouns and criticizes social justice issues was banned from using his Google and YouTube accounts Tuesday, regaining access hours later with no detailed explanation provided.
Professor Jordan B. Peterson of the University of Toronto disputed Google and YouTube's decision to lock him out of his accounts, according to correspondence obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation.
''Please tell me what principle I have violated,'' said Peterson in his email to Google upon discovering that he was locked out of his account. ''I have not violated any terms that I am aware of and have not misused my account.''
The psychology professor has over 350,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel, which he uses as a platform to post his lectures, interviews, and Q&As.
''We understand you've recently been unable to access your Google account, and we appreciate you contacting us,'' said Google in a response. ''After review, your account is not eligible to be reinstated due to a violation of our Terms of Service.''
But Google did not provide any details regarding which rule the professor violated.
When emailed at his Google address, Google returns an ''Address not found'' error message.
''I've had that account for the last, say, 15 years,'' said Peterson to TheDCNF. ''All of my correspondence is in that account. It's hundreds of thousands of emails from people all over the world.''
The professor said he initially thought it was just a mistake.
''But the fact that they reviewed it and then decided that my account is not eligible to be reinstated indicates to me either that this is quite a curious mistake or that there's something that's political going on that is associated with censorship.''
Peterson reiterated that he had not violated the terms of service, stating that he had only recently posted a video detailing his plans for the future. The professor said that he could not
''This is just another example of these big companies that either [kowtow] to pressure'...or deciding on their own accord who gets to communicate and who doesn't,'' he told TheDCNF. (RELATED: Canadians Could Face Hate Crimes Over Using The Wrong Gender Pronouns)
Peterson's YouTube videos criticizing social justice regularly obtain tens or hundreds of thousands of views. The professor came under scrutiny in 2016 after criticizing a bill which could potentially criminalize using the wrong gender pronoun to identify someone. That bill is now law.
(UPDATE: Peterson reported that he regained access to his Google and YouTube accounts shortly after the publication of this piece, but the company still has not provided the professor with specific reasoning for his ban.)
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MTV 'Moonman' Becoming Gender-Neutral ''
Tue, 01 Aug 2017 11:06
July 31, 2017 12:39 PM
MTV's iconic Video Music Award, the ''Moonman'' is going gender neutral.
Related: Katy Perry to Host MTV Video Music Awards
According to MTV president Chris McCarthy the ''Moonman'' will be replaced by a ''Moon Person.''
''Why should it be a man? It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist,'' McCarthy told The New York Times.
The timing is appropriate, for the first time at the VMAs the ''Best Female Video'' and ''Best Male Video'' categories have been combined into ''Artist of the Year.'' The move is not surprising, it follows the network's decision to get rid of gender-specific categories at their Movie & TV Awards show earlier this year.
The oral sex gender gap is real, and it's not okay | Metro News
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 12:21
Why are straight women giving more oral sex than they're receiving? (Picture: Alamy/ started having sex when I was 17.
I'm now 23, and can count the number of times guys have gone down on me on two hands (without closing and reopening those hands, I mean. I'm talking fewer than 10 times).
If you asked me to count the number of blow jobs I've given in that same time period, I'd have no idea. I've lost count.
This isn't me bragging about my blow job skills or my number of sexual partners (many of those blow jobs were on the same guy. My sex and dating life is pretty shit).
This is me, questioning why it is that I've given significantly more oral sex than I received, why I haven't asked for more, and why it's seemed totally acceptable for so long.
Masturbation Month: How to have better orgasms I'm tired of it. I'm tired of blow jobs being a given, while going down on women is something special. I'm tired of just accepting that idea, of accepting men's excuses, and of quietly pretending that this isn't happening.
It's a small issue in the grand scheme of gender inequality. It's not as important as the gender pay gap, or rape culture, or honour killings.
But we need to talk about it. Because women's sexual pleasure matters. It's important. And maybe, just admitting that an oral sex gender gap exists will get us to start changing things.
Oh, and just think about how much happier the world would be if there were more orgasms. Fixing this one thing could make everything else a little bit better.
(Picture: Myles Goode/Metro/Alamy/Getty)Now, to be clear, I'm not just ranting about my lack of oral sex (although yes, former and future partners, I would quite like to receive more, please). This is an issue that young women are dealing with everywhere.
A recent study surveyed 899 Canadian college students (and here, I'd like to note that this whole article is from the perspective of a twenty-something, discussing heterosexual relationships. We don't currently have any data on oral sex equality for the older generation, which could be enjoying a glorious oral free-for-all. And lesbians are having loads of wonderful oral sex all round.), and found that while 63% of the young men they surveyed had received oral sex as part of their most recent hookup, only 44% of women could say the same.
A mini, very informal, poll of a few of my London-based friends revealed the same kind of thing. Those in heterosexual relationships told me they went down much more frequently than their boyfriends went down on them.
The excuses for not going down are wide-ranging.
(Picture: Getty)The ones I've heard personally include: 'It hurts my neck', 'you take too long to come', 'I don't know how', and, of course, the classic 'can't we just have sex?'
And these are just the ones I hear when I ask for oral outright '' which doesn't happen often.
Usually the oral sex mismatch isn't so obvious or openly discussed. It's the fact that a guy won't initiate oral without prompting, but will happily signal towards their dick, expecting oral action as a necessary precursor to penetrative stuff.
It's their lack of enthusiasm. Their general attitude of 'do I have to?'.
And this is ridiculous, because these same guys fully expect enthusiastic, energetic, mindblowing blow jobs on a regular basis.
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for's just get real. Men who refuse to regularly go down on women, but expect blow jobs '' your excuses are bullshit.
Okay, so your neck is a bit sore. Stick a pillow down there to rest us on. Change positions. That'll help.
We have to put up with the ache of moving our heads back and forth while kneeling or bending over, keeping a rhythm, and using our hands, all while trying to breathe.
Giving someone else sexual pleasure shouldn't be unpleasant or painful, but it does require a bit of effort, and it's not easy. As sexual philosopher Samantha Jones once declared: 'They don't call it a job for nothing'.
Women are willing to accept a little discomfort to put their partner's pleasure before their own. Men expect women to do that.
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler for men are all too often not willing to do the same in return. When a woman is doing it, it's just a normal part of sex. When men do it, it's a special effort worthy of high praise.
I'm not sure why this is.
I think a lot of it has to do with the way we talked about sex when we were all growing up.
Masturbation Month 2016: What I wish someone had told me about masturbation when I was 16 Young men who went down on women were weak, whipped, 'bowcats'. Men loudly denied that they'd ever gone down on women. For some reason (ingrained sexism and the objectification of women, I reckon), men were seen as weak if they gave a woman pleasure rather than using women for theirs.
This probably wasn't helped by the total absence of men going down on women in popular culture.
Blow jobs, whether implied by a woman slowly kneeling down before a male actor, or actual visuals of a bobbing head, were (and remain) commonplace in films and on TV. Seeing a man giving oral to women on screen feels like a rarity. I still remember being surprised when Simon dipped beneath the covers as Alisha sat back and enjoyed in an episode of Misfits.
Magazines shouted about blow jobs tips that would blow his mind, but stayed eerily silent on clit-licking techniques.
It's a message that both young men and women have internalised: that blow jobs are a casual, expected thing up for discussion, while going down on women is shameful, secret, and somehow more sexual or intimate.
Those ideas carry through today.
In my group of friends, a blow job is something that would be likely to happen the first time you get sexual with someone '' either as a precursor to sex or on its own.
Receiving oral, meanwhile, would only happen after sex, usually in a more regular dating or relationship setting. It's considered more intimate, more relationship-y, the opposite of quick, casual pleasure.
Penises: casual. Vaginas: not so much. (Picture: Liberty Antonia Sandler/ is why both single and coupled-up straight women are experiencing oral sex inequality. In relationships, the precedent is set, excuses are accepted, and blow jobs are regularly given. When single, receiving oral doesn't happen because you don't get to that 'intimate' stage.
And when you consider that around 80% of women find it difficult or impossible to orgasm from penetration alone, the oral sex gap goes a long way to explaining the bigger orgasm gender gap, too. Which is a real issue.
The oral sex gender gap has other worrying effects on our sex lives.
When I started having sex, men's lack of expressed desire to get up close and personal with my vagina made me worry that there may be something wrong with it.
(Picture: Getty)Sure, they never said anything. But I began to wonder: was my vagina ugly? Did it taste bad? Was I doing something wrong? Was I horribly unattractive?
Those insecurities made me uncomfortable not just asking for oral (what if I was making them do something they really, desperately didn't want to do because I had a hideous monster vagina?) but receiving it. I couldn't relax. I worried that my partners weren't enjoying it the way that I enjoyed giving blow jobs (because they're fun and it's enjoyable to give other people pleasure, if you were wondering).
More: SexIs this the most intense sex toy in the world? We braved the Sybian experience
What your favourite sex position says about you
Eye-opening advice about what to do if you get a sex toy stuck in your rear
Where to go and what to do if you're into sex in public
And so I accepted not getting as much oral as I was giving. I didn't question it. I carried on with the mismatch so I wouldn't have to deal with oral sex I felt I couldn't enjoy.
What a miserable way to have sex.
Now, I'm realising that it's time for me to change this situation '' personally and in a bigger sense.
(Picture: Getty)I'm not going to accept a total lack of oral from guys who expect to be given oral whenever they fancy it. I've started questioning why men aren't going down. I've started outright asking them to do it. And I hope that these conversations will make my sexual partners realise that I shouldn't have to ask '' oral should be given freely, joyfully, and enthusiastically, because they actually want to give me pleasure, rather than feeling obligated to.
I want to encourage other women to speak up and talk about this too.
I'm not in any way suggesting you get out a little notebook and keep a tally chart of times you've given and received (but if you do, please send me your data. I'd love to get into those stats).
Men explain what they actually want their partners to do with their balls I'm also not saying that if men are horribly opposed to oral, they need to force themselves to do it '' although if that's the case, they shouldn't expect oral in return. I'd also question what their issue is with vaginas.
What I'm suggesting is that if you feel like you're not getting the oral sex you deserve, it's time to talk about it. Firstly with your partners. Raise the conversation, question the inequality, and explain that you really would like them to go down on you more. If they don't initiate oral, ask for it.
Stop accepting ridiculous excuses. Don't let yourself worry about stubble, or not having showered in the last few hours, or how your vagina looks. They don't do the same when it comes to their penises, and you still go down. You're fine.
But also, please talk to your friends about it. Vent. Let other women know that they're not alone, and their lack of orgasms isn't because they're doing something wrong, or there's something wrong with their bodies.
We need to admit that the oral sex gender gap is a real thing. We need to stop accepting it as the norm. And we need to bloody well sort this out, because I, for one, am fed up of it.
MORE: Everyone's favourite female masturbation metaphors ranked from worst to best
MORE: The 24 emotional stages of faking an orgasm
MORE: 27 things men need to hurry up and learn about having sex with women
Former Clinton Foundation CEO Eric Braverman reportedly cooperating with US federal investigators in return for "use immunity"
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 05:04
I am told by a reliable source that Erice Braverman is cooperating in a federal investigation (run from a NY US Attorney office) of the Clinton Foundation charity network.
If my source is correct, Braverman has been given "use immunity" and has met at least three times with authorities--he is certainly smart enough to know the extent of ongoing frauds and undisclosed, material "related party" transactions involving illegal private gain and inurement.
This is not the first time US authorities have examined the Clinton Foundation:
My US source says:
In my opinion, Mueller, Comey, and Rosenstein each have disqualifying conflicts in any current investigation of the Clinton Foundation and its affiliates.
Mueller and Comey missed obvious frauds during the 2001 through 2005 investigations--giving the Clintons passes then only emboldened them.
Mueller and Rosenstein did not land hard enough on Rajat Gupta who, through McKinsey, the Global Fund, and in numerous additional ways was a central figure in the Clinton Foundation and American India Foundation frauds from 2001 forward.
Mueller and Rosenstein did not land hard enough on Ranbaxy for their role distributing adulterated generic drugs inside the U.S.A. (not simply HIV/AIDS drugs) and adulterated HIV/AIDS drugs purchased by PEPFAR and then sent numerous places.
Mueller and Rosenstein also did not land on Laureate for securities fraud and for hiding material compensation to Bill Clinton, as well as public corruption invoilving IFC investment in Laureate off market-based terms in January 2013.
Finally, Comey likely obstructed investigations into Clinton charity frauds in 2001 through 2005, and then from September 2013 through May 2017.
The major European contributor to the Clinton Foundation is now engaged in preliminary criminal investigations with significant milestones planned for this September.
There will be a few Australian faces wiped free of smiles.
The Clinton Foundation documents prove there was no tender. To whoever managed the process for Gillard and Combet - I hope they made it worth your while.
Agenda 2030
The Climate Crisis
Extinction Symbol
Wed, 26 Jul 2017 16:11
Extinction SymbolThe symbol above represents extinction. The circle signifies the planet, while the hourglass inside serves as a warning that time is rapidly running out for many species. The world is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and this symbol is intended to help raise awareness of the urgent need for change in order to address this crisis. Estimates are that somewhere between 30,000 and 140,000 species are becoming extinct every year in what scientists have named the Holocene, or Sixth Mass Extinction. This ongoing process of destruction is being caused by the impact of human activity. Within the next few decades approximately 50% of all species that now exist will have become extinct. Such a catastrophic loss of biodiversity is highly likely to cause widespread ecosystem collapse and consequently render the planet uninhabitable for humans.
In order to spread the message as widely as possible, please create this symbol in any location you feel able to. Thank you. Large symbol to download and use freely for non-commercial purposes - Symbol
Stencil template of the symbol to download and use freely for non-commercial purposes - Stencil
Join the flickr group and post examples of the symbol that you've created - flickr group
Follow on twitter -
Direct link to this page, please disseminate -
More information on the mass extinction currently taking place -
Please note: In response to several companies attempting to use the symbol on their mass-produced clothing/giftware products, the following clarification is now made: The extinction symbol is a not-for-profit participatory project. The creation and free use of the extinction symbol by individuals in their personal artwork or other forms of expression is strongly welcomed and encouraged, but any form of commercial use of the symbol is completely against its ethos and should therefore be refrained from.Thank you.
Sperm counts have declined by more than half for Western men, study finds - Health - CBC News
Thu, 27 Jul 2017 12:52
Sperm counts for men in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have declined by more than 50 per cent in the last four decades, a large research review has found.
"That's very worrisome," said the study's lead author, Dr. Hagai Levine, who works at the Hebrew University's Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine in Jerusalem.
Levine and his global team of researchers found no significant sperm count decline among men in South America, Asia and Africa, although they acknowledge far less information was available for those continents.
Dr. Hagai Levine, of the Hebrew University's Hadassah Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine, is the lead author of the study. Levine says he wanted to get a definite answer to the question of whether or not sperm counts have declined. (Hebrew University )
The findings were published Tuesday in the journal Human Reproduction Update. They not only suggest a problem with male fertility in Western countries, Levine said, but also signal that men's health could be at risk, since previous research has shown that sperm count can be a predictor of wellness.
Although past research has also shown that sperm counts are decreasing, not everyone in the scientific community has taken the reports seriously because of concerns about their limitations and methodology, the authors say.
"I felt that this question of male fertility is a neglected question," Levine told CBC News on Tuesday, noting he wanted to use improved methods and "statistical power" to get a definite answer to the question of whether sperm counts have declined.
Environmental factors blamedLevine and seven other researchers from Israel, the U.S., Denmark, Spain and Brazil performed a comprehensive review of more than 7,500 studies on human sperm count, eliminating those that didn't meet stringent criteria to ensure data consistency. With the 185 studies left, they did a meta-regression analysis '-- a method of making sense of multiple studies by accounting for variables to maximize the accuracy of the results.
In the end, their conclusions were based on sperm samples collected from 42,935 men around the world between 1973 and 2011. They found that over those 38 years, sperm concentration declined by 52 per cent, while total sperm count decreased by almost 60 per cent among men from North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
The study did not delve into what's causing declining sperm counts in Western countries, and more specific research is needed, Levine said. But he said past studies have shown environmental factors play a role.
"Even though we did not study the causes, it's clearly not genetic causes," Levine said. "It must be the change in the modern lifestyle and the environment that we live."
That theory rings true for Dr. Keith Jarvi, chief of urology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and a male fertility expert. Jarvi was not associated with Levine's study. After reviewing it, Jarvi told CBC News he believes the findings are sound and raise important questions.
The black lines in this graphic from the study show the decline in sperm concentration and total sperm count among men in Western countries between 1973 and 2011. Researchers say there is no indication that the decrease has levelled off. (Hagai Levine et al/Human Reproduction Update)
"You have to ask why is this happening on a society level? Is this a reflection of something else that's happening, and this is just basically a marker for some other health concern that's going on with men?" Jarvi said.
There are a few likely lifestyle and environmental factors, he said.
"On average, men's weight is going up, so there's higher rates of obesity, and we also know that obese men have lower sperm counts," Jarvi said. "So you can start to correlate weight and reduction in sperm counts."
Environmental exposure to "estrogenics" '-- including female hormone compounds '-- can also reduce sperm counts, he said, noting that plastics are among the sources of estrogenics in the environment.
'Canary in the coal mine'Both Jarvi and Levine say there are steps men can take individually to improve their fertility, including stopping smoking, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.
But the study shows the need to deal with declining sperm count on a societal level, they say.
"It's costing money, because more and more people are needing IVF [in-vitro fertilization], so there's a fertility cost," Jarvi said. "You really got to wonder why this is happening."
Investment by governments and funding agencies into understanding the causes of low sperm count '-- and then preventing it '-- is critical, Levine said.
"We call it the canary in the coal mine," he said. "If the canary dies, the solution is not to replace the canary, you know, to get a sperm donor. That's not the solution. We need to see why this is happening and to solve it."
Scientists dim sunlight, suck up carbon dioxide to cool planet
Wed, 26 Jul 2017 20:21
OSLO (Reuters) - Scientists are sucking carbon dioxide from the air with giant fans and preparing to release chemicals from a balloon to dim the sun's rays as part of a climate engineering push to cool the planet.
Backers say the risky, often expensive projects are urgently needed to find ways of meeting the goals of the Paris climate deal to curb global warming that researchers blame for causing more heatwaves, downpours and rising sea levels.
The United Nations says the targets are way off track and will not be met simply by reducing emissions for example from factories or cars - particularly after U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 pact.
They are pushing for other ways to keep temperatures down.
In the countryside near Zurich, Swiss company Climeworks began to suck greenhouse gases from thin air in May with giant fans and filters in a $23 million project that it calls the world's first "commercial carbon dioxide capture plant".
Worldwide, "direct air capture" research by a handful of companies such as Climeworks has gained tens of millions of dollars in recent years from sources including governments, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and the European Space Agency.
If buried underground, vast amounts of greenhouse gases extracted from the air would help reduce global temperatures, a radical step beyond cuts in emissions that are the main focus of the Paris Agreement.
Climeworks reckons it now costs about $600 to extract a tonne of carbon dioxide from the air and the plant's full capacity due by the end of 2017 is only 900 tonnes a year. That's equivalent to the annual emissions of only 45 Americans.
And Climeworks sells the gas, at a loss, to nearby greenhouses as a fertilizer to grow tomatoes and cucumbers and has a partnership with carmaker Audi, which hopes to use carbon in greener fuels.
Jan Wurzbacher, director and founder of Climeworks, says the company has planet-altering ambitions by cutting costs to about $100 a tonne and capturing one percent of global man-made carbon emissions a year by 2025.
"Since the Paris Agreement, the business substantially changed," he said, with a shift in investor and shareholder interest away from industrial uses of carbon to curbing climate change.
But penalties for factories, power plants and cars to emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are low or non-existent. It costs 5 euros ($5.82) a tonne in the European Union.
And isolating carbon dioxide is complex because the gas makes up just 0.04 percent of the air. Pure carbon dioxide delivered by trucks, for use in greenhouses or to make drinks fizzy, costs up to about $300 a tonne in Switzerland.
Other companies involved in direct air capture include Carbon Engineering in Canada, Global Thermostat in the United States and Skytree in the Netherlands, a spinoff of the European Space Agency originally set up to find ways to filter out carbon dioxide breathed out by astronauts in spacecrafts.
Not Science FictionThe Paris Agreement seeks to limit a rise in world temperatures this century to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), ideally 1.5C (2.7F) above pre-industrial times.
But U.N. data show that current plans for cuts in emissions will be insufficient, especially without the United States, and that the world will have to switch to net "negative emissions" this century by extracting carbon from nature.
Riskier "geo-engineering" solutions could be a backstop, such as dimming the world's sunshine, dumping iron into the oceans to soak up carbon, or trying to create clouds.
Among new university research, a Harvard geo-engineering project into dimming sunlight to cool the planet set up in 2016 has raised $7.5 million from private donors. It plans a first outdoor experiment in 2018 above Arizona.
"If you want to be confident to get to 1.5 degrees you need to have solar geo-engineering," said David Keith, of Harvard.
A facility for capturing CO2 from air of Swiss Climeworks AG is placed on the roof of a waste incinerating plant in Hinwil, Switzerland July 18, 2017. Arnd Wiegmann Keith's team aims to release about 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) of sun dimming material, perhaps calcium carbonate, from a high-altitude balloon above Arizona next year in a tiny experiment to see how it affects the microphysics of the stratosphere.
"I don't think it's science fiction ... to me it's normal atmospheric science," he said.
Some research has suggested that geo-engineering with sun-dimming chemicals, for instance, could affect global weather patterns and disrupt vital Monsoons.
And many experts fear that pinning hopes on any technology to fix climate change is a distraction from cuts in emissions blamed for heating the planet.
"Relying on big future deployments of carbon removal technologies is like eating lots of dessert today, with great hopes for liposuction tomorrow," Christopher Field, a Stanford University professor of climate change, wrote in May.
Jim Thomas of ETC Group in Canada, which opposes climate engineering, said direct air capture could create "the illusion of a fix that can be used cynically or naively to entertain policy ideas such as 'overshoot'" of the Paris goals.
But governments face a dilemma. Average surface temperatures are already about 1C (1.8F) above pre-industrial levels and hit record highs last year.
"We're in trouble," said Janos Pasztor, head of the new Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Project. "The question is not whether or not there will be an overshoot but by how many degrees and for how many decades."
Faced with hard choices, many experts say that extracting carbon from the atmosphere is among the less risky options. Leaders of major economies, except Trump, said at a summit in Germany this month that the Paris accord was "irreversible."
"Barking MadRaymond Pierrehumbert, a professor of physics at Oxford University, said solar geo-engineering projects seemed "barking mad".
By contrast, he said "carbon dioxide removal is challenging technologically, but deserves investment and trial."
The most natural way to extract carbon from the air is to plant forests that absorb the gas as they grow, but that would divert vast tracts of land from farming. Another option is to build power plants that burn wood and bury the carbon dioxide released.
Carbon Engineering, set up in 2009 with support from Gates and Murray Edwards, chairman of oil and gas group Canadian Natural Resources Ltd, has raised about $40 million and extracts about a tonne of carbon dioxide a day with turbines and filters.
"We're mainly looking to synthesize fuels" for markets such as California with high carbon prices, said Geoffrey Holmes, business development manager at Carbon Engineering.
But he added that "the Paris Agreement helps" with longer-term options of sucking large amounts from the air.
Among other possible geo-engineering techniques are to create clouds that reflect sunlight back into space, perhaps by using a mist of sea spray.
That might be used locally, for instance, to protect the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, said Kelly Wanser, principal director of the U.S.-based Marine Cloud Brightening Project.
Among new ideas, Wurzbacher at Climeworks is sounding out investors on what he says is the first offer to capture and bury 50 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the air, for $500 a tonne.
That might appeal to a company wanting to be on forefront of a new green technology, he said, even though it makes no apparent economic sense.
Bill Nye Says Old People Must Die For Climate Science To Progress
Mon, 24 Jul 2017 11:52
Comedian Bill Nye ''The Science Guy'' said Wednesday that the climate change movement can only move forward once the older generation begins to die off.
''Climate change deniers, by way of example, are older. It's generational,'' Nye told the Los Angeles Times in an interview. Nye added that he shouldn't be too hard on older citizens, however, because he is ''now one of them.''
''We're just going to have to wait for those people to 'age out,' as they say,'' Nye said, adding that ''age out'' is a euphemism for dying. ''But it'll happen, I guarantee you '-- that'll happen.''
Nye used the interview to pitch his newest book, ''Everything All at Once: How to Unleash Your Inner Nerd, Tap into Radical Curiosity and Solve Any Problem,'' which lengthily discusses climate change, among other issues.
The former children's show host has also received plaudits from Hollywood for his newest television show, ''Bill Nye Saves The World.''
The Television Academy Awards nominated the show's writers earlier this month for an episode suggesting that sexuality exists on a spectrum. The episode raised concern from conservatives and YouTube denizens alike, many of which mocked the show for awkwardly associating social sciences with physical sciences.
The nominated episode contains the music video, ''My Sex Junk,'' which aired in April on Netflix, featuring actress Rachel Bloom singing a song about transgenders, gay sex and how sexuality is a fluid concept. Bloom's song appears to lament the fact that humans are relegated to living lives as strictly male or female.
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Why Conservative White Males Are More Likely to Be Climate Skeptics - Scientific American
Tue, 25 Jul 2017 19:01
When it comes to climate change denial, not all human beings are created equal. As a recent study shows, conservative white males are less likely to believe in climate change.
"It's not surprising," said Aaron McCright, sociology professor at Michigan State University, who is a white male himself. But anecdotal evidence is not scientific, he said. "You really don't know what's going on until you crunch the numbers and find out."
Besides the trend amongst skeptics, the study also found that conservative white men who self-report a high understanding of global warming -- dubbed "confident" conservative males -- are even more likely to express climate change denial.
McCright's study, "Cool dudes: The denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States," was published online in July and printed in the October 2011 issue of Global Environmental Change, which ranks first out of 77 journals on environmental studies.
The study has created somewhat of a buzz, said Riley Dunlap, co-author and professor of sociology at Oklahoma State University. The paper was well received in academic circles, but he admitted he was concerned about a backlash from the conservative movement. While there have not been any major outcries, the study appears to have raised a few temperatures in Chicago.
"This paper is a transparent effort to take the focus off the actual scientific debate and instead engage in race baiting, class baiting and other sociological devices to win a science argument," said James Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at the Chicago-based Heartland Institute.
But from McCright's perspective it was important to find out to what extent the sharp debate over climate change at the elite level had trickled down into the general public in recent decades. "Within the ranks of elites, climate change denialists are overwhelmingly conservative white males," reads the report, pointing to figures like talk show host Rush Limbaugh and Marshall Institute CEO, William O'Keefe. "Does a similar pattern exist in the American public?"
'Cool Dudes,' a bloc that stands out in the crowd
McCright and Dunlap's analysis used polling data on climate change denial from 10 Gallup surveys from 2001 to 2010. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 72.4 percent of the American population reported as white in 2010, and 77.1 percent in the year 2000. This majority made it difficult to draw conclusions about the relationship between other races and climate change, said McCright, because the Gallup survey sample size was so small.
To test for the trend amongst conservative white males, the researchers compared the demographic to "all other adults." Results showed, for instance, that 29.6 percent of conservative white males believe the effects of global warming will never happen, versus 7.4 percent of other adults. In holding for "confident" conservative white males, the study showed 48.4 percent believe global warming won't happen, versus 8.6 percent of other adults.
As a point of comparison, McCright also tested the beliefs of conservative white females. He found 14.9 percent believe the effects of global warming will never happen to 29.6 percent of their male counterparts. McCright said the finding is due more to the women's political stance than their gender or race. The data on conservative white females was not published in the "Cool dudes" study.
To understand why there is a trend amongst conservative white males, the Gallup data was cross-examined with research about the "white male effect" -- the idea that white males were either more accepting of risk or less risk averse than the rest of the public.
The white male effect could stem from the notion that, historically, white males have faced fewer obstacles in life, said McCright. But another school of thought sees the adoption of risk tied to personal values. "It has to do with their identity as an in-group," he said. "Something that would challenge the status quo is something [conservative white males] want to shun."
Climate change, a challenge to identity?
According to the literature on "identity protective cognition," people believe messages coming from the people they identify with most and ignore messages that are contrarian, Dunlap said. While all groups have a tendency to do this, he said, in the case the climate change, conservative white males are especially likely to exhibit this self-protecting characteristic.
McCright says, up to 40 percent of all white males in the study sample believe in hierarchy, are more trusting of authority and are more conservative. Conservative white males' motivation to ignore a certain risk -- the risk of climate change in this case -- therefore, has to do with defending the status of their identity tied to the white male establishment.
This result is bolstered by the Yale University "Global Warming's Six Americas" report for May. The study found that none of the "dismissive" group -- those who don't think the climate is changing or want legislation -- believe global warming will harm the United States in 50 years. The dismissive group also skews male and conservative, said "Six Americas" co-author, Edward Maibach, director of the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication.
But for Donald Braman, associate professor of law at George Washington University, who works on risk perception studies, the focus on white males and climate change could be somewhat misleading. "My worry is that [McCright's paper] might suggest to people that there is something distinctive about the way conservatives and officially, conservative white men, deal with new information," he said. "The truth is that those same cognitive mechanisms push all of our buttons."
Braman says a similar effect reveals itself amongst progressives when it comes to concerns about nuclear power, for instance. In the Yale Law School "Second National Risk & Culture Study" researchers found that despite expert opinions espousing the relative safety of certain forms of nuclear energy, progressives are still concerned about it, Braman said.
Values shape factual beliefs across an array of phenomenon, he said. "If it's conservative white males on global warming, pick a different issue and you'll find another group that has trouble thinking in a way that agrees with experts."
'A very receptive audience'
The political divide on climate change was concentrated in the run-up to the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, McCright said. At that time most global warming skepticism came from public figures, he said. But in 2000, climate change beliefs held predominantly by conservative white elites started to spread.
"Conservative think tanks, conservative media, corporations, and industry associations (especially for the fossil fuels industry) -- domains dominated by conservative white males -- have spearheaded the attacks on climate science and policy from the late 1980s to the present," McCright and Dunlap concluded in their study. "The results presented here show that conservative white males in the general public have become a very receptive audience for these efforts."
But Taylor of the Heartland Institute said it should not come as a surprise that the subject of human induced global warming would become more contested as it moved out of the realm of pure science into the realm of policy. The proposed solutions to climate change will "in very substantial ways rearrange our economy and the structure of our society. Of course this is going to capture the attention of interested citizens beyond the mere elites," said Taylor.
Taylor also argues that the paper's claim that "the most prominent denialists are conservative white males," overlooks the other side of the political equation. "Here's a news flash: The most prominent alarmists are liberal white males. So clearly race and gender has nothing to do with prominent alarmism or skepticism," he said.
Know thy enemy
McCright actually agrees that the study reveals more about politics than any other personal attributes. "It's not a biological or gender thing," he said. "It's a political thing." Liberal white males are more accepting of government regulations and challenges to the status quo because it fits in their political ideology, he said.
"When you start talking about climate change and the need for major changes, carbon taxes and lifestyle changes, [conservatives] see this as a threat to capitalism and future prosperity," said McCright. "So conservatives tend to be very negative towards climate change."
So what does McCright and Dunlap's research mean for climate regulation? Climate change denial has increased across all sectors of the American general public over the last decade, write the authors. And as they conclude in another recent study on the politicization of climate change published earlier this year in the journal Sociology Quarterly, "we expect that the political divide within the general public may further inhibit the creation of effective climate policy."
Perhaps, like the trend of denial among conservative white males, there is nothing too surprising about that conclusion. But for Maibach of George Mason University, McCright and Dunlap's findings do bring something new to the bargaining table.
"If you are advocating for climate legislation is helps to understand your opponents. Or if you have opponents, it's good to understand them to effectively engage with them," he said. "One [approach] is more combative, the other is more about conflict resolution. In either case it helps to know who you're dealing with."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500
Government Climate Math : The Average Of Negative Numbers Is A Positive Number
Sat, 29 Jul 2017 16:18
The average daily July temperature at all NOAA US HCN stations has dropped since 1895.
NOAA doesn't adjust daily temperatures, but after they get done hacking the monthly temperatures, they turn a July cooling trend into a warming trend.
Climate at a Glance | National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI)
They accomplish this feat through an impressive hockey stick of data tampering, which cools the past about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit and warms the present about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit . Particularly striking is the spike in tampering after the 1998 El Nino.
Twenty eight out of thirty-one days in July have cooled since 1895, but through the magic of data tampering and junk science, NOAA turns this cooling trend into a warming trend.
The hottest day in US history was July 14, 1936 when afternoon temperatures averaged 96F, and there was a huge swath of 110+ degree weather across the US.
Below you can see all of the daily temperature trend graphs for July.
U.S. Nuclear Comeback Stalls as Two Reactors Are Abandoned -
Tue, 01 Aug 2017 04:30
In a major blow to the future of nuclear power in the United States, two South Carolina utilities saidon Monday that they would abandon two unfinished nuclear reactors in the state, putting an end to a project that was once expected to showcase advanced nuclear technology but has since been plagued by delays and cost overruns.
The two reactors, which have cost the utilities roughly $9 billion, remain less than 40 percent built. The cancellation means there are just two new nuclear units being built in the country '-- both in Georgia '-- while more than a dozenolder nuclear plants are being retired in the face of low natural gas prices.
Originally scheduled to come online by 2018, the V.C. Summer nuclear project in South Carolina had been plagued by disputes with regulatorsand numerous construction problems. This year, utility officials estimated that the reactors would not begin generating electricity before 2021 and could cost as much as $25 billion '-- more than twice the initial $11.5 billion estimate.
The utilities also struggled with an energy landscape that had changed dramatically since the large reactors were proposed in 2007. Demand for electricity has plateaued nationwide as a result of major improvements in energy efficiency, weakening the case for massive new power plants. And a glut of cheap natural gas from the hydraulic fracturing boom has given states a low-cost energy alternative.
Facing those pressures, the two owners of the project, South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper, announced they would halt construction rather than saddle customers with additional costs.
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''Many factors outside our control have changed since inception of this project,'' Kevin Marsh, the chief executive of Scana Corporation, which owns South Carolina Electric & Gas, said in a statement. ''Ceasing work on the project was our least desired option, but this is the right thing to do at this time.''
A decade ago, industry officials were predicting a ''nuclear renaissance'' in a country that had not broken ground on a new reactor since the 1970s.
The South Carolina utilities selected an advanced reactor design from Westinghouse Electric Company, the AP1000, reported to have more safety features than earlier models. The utilities planned to build the two reactors next to an existing nuclear unit at the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County.
But pitfalls soon followed. Construction began before Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba of Japan, had finalized its AP1000 design, and several safety changes had to be made midway through the process. Engineers struggled with the complicated, novel project, as various components needed to be reworked.
''This was a first-of-a-kind project, so it was always going to be hard,'' said Rich Powell, executive director of the ClearPath Foundation, a clean-energy group in Washington. ''But you can also see this as a symptom of a broader problem. We've let our nuclear industry atrophy for 30 years, and we've lost the robust supply chains and expertise needed'' in building reactors.
In 2015, Westinghouse took over as lead contractor on the South Carolina project after buying out its partners, but analysts say the company did not have sufficient expertise in handling large construction projects.
In March, faced with mounting losses at its nuclear endeavors in South Carolina and Georgia, Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. Toshiba agreed to pay $2.2 billion in exchange for being released from the South Carolina project, but utility officials said that was unlikely to be sufficient to finish the reactors.
Under South Carolina law, the utilities were allowed to charge ratepayers for construction costs before the reactors were finished. The nuclear project now accounts for 18 percent of the electric bills of South Carolina Electric & Gas's residential customers. Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility, has increased rates five times to pay for the reactors.
Some environmental groups are now urging state regulators to refund those charges, arguing that the companies misled their customers.
''It was evident from the start that cost overruns, schedule delays and problems with an untested construction method'' would doom the project, said Tom Clements, a senior adviser at Friends of the Earth. State regulators have set a hearing on the issue for October.
Graphic | How Americans Think About Climate Change, in Six Maps Americans overwhelmingly believe that global warming is happening, and that carbon emissions should be scaled back. But fewer are sure that it will harm them personally.
The two nuclear reactors still being built in Georgia are both AP1000s at the existing Vogtle nuclear power plant. Southern Company has agreed to take over construction of the Vogtle reactors in the aftermath of Westinghouse's bankruptcy, but that project is also facing delays and overruns. The reactors will have to come online before 2021 to qualify for federal tax credits, although Congress is working on a bill to extend that deadline.
Because they do not generate carbon dioxide emissions, nuclear plants are often seen as a useful tool in battling climate change. Yet in the United States, few utilities today are willing to incur the risk that comes with building massive new reactors, preferring to stick with cheaper natural gas plants and smaller wind and solar farms.
If the United States had stricter climate policies, those calculations could shift, but that appears unlikely for now. President Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan, finalized in 2015, would have given South Carolina and Georgia credit against their state climate goals for finishing the new reactors, which may have persuaded local regulators to stick with the project. But the Trump administration is dismantling that plan.
South Carolina currently gets 55 percent of its electricity from nuclear power and 40 percent from coal and natural gas. The two reactors were expected topush most of the state's remainingcoal plants off the grid, reducing planet-warming emissions. But the failure of the project could lead to those coal units running for longer.
A number of companies are working on smaller, even more advanced reactor designs that they hope will prove easier and less risky to build than hulking light-water reactors. In January, Oregon-based NuScale Power submitted the first application for a small modular reactor to federal regulators, but the company does not expect to build its first working reactor until the 2020s.
Mr. Powell said the failure of the South Carolina project should not necessarily doom those advanced designs. But, he said, ''This will still be a blow to nuclear supply chains, and it could make those new reactors incrementally more difficult to build.''
Solar Company in German insolvent
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:52
MIC/Out There
Nasa offering six-figure salary for new 'planetary protection officer' to defend Earth from aliens | The Independent
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:43
Nasa is hiring someone who can defend Earth from alien contamination.
The full-time role of ''planetary protection officer'' will involve ensuring that humans in space do not contaminate planets and moons, as well as ensuring that alien matter does not infect Earth.
The pay is a six-figure salary: as much as $187,000 (£141,000) a year plus benefits.
Nasa reveal plans to fly spacecraft straight into the sun
The job post reads: ''Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration.''
''Nasa maintains policies for planetary protection, applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration.''
The three-year position '' with a chance to extend it to five years '' was created after the US signed the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, vowing to ''pursue studies of outer space ... and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter''.
There is only one other full-time role like it in the world at the European Space Agency, says Catharine Conley, Nasa's only planetary protection officer since 2014 (according to Business Insider). She is relocating to the agency's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance.
Under the international 1967 treaty, she explained that any space mission must have less than a one in 10,000 chance of contaminating an alien world, including making sure a robot or probe that is travelling past or photographing a planet does not cause harm.
''It's a moderate level,'' Ms Conley said. ''It's not extremely careful, but it's not extremely lax.''
Similarly, the new employee would work to protect Earth from potential contamination by planets like Mars, which scientists say may have once been covered in water and supported life '' and there may be chance of life there now.
The new hire will likely be part of the upcoming Nasa expedition to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. The $2.7bn (just over £2bn) Europa Clipper mission, approved by Congress, plans to map the moon's surface and analyse whether it could be habitable. The probe could crash land, however, which is a circumstance the planetary protection officer should prepare for.
Candidates will be required to travel frequently '' but like any job, there will be a significant amount of emails, proposals and other reading.
Nasa release stunning video detailing Cassini spacecraft's final journey through Saturn's rings
Candidates must have at least one year's experience as a top-level civilian government employee, and an advanced degree in physical science, engineering or mathematics. They must also have ''advanced knowledge'' of planetary protection.
The position also requires ''demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions''. The new hire will also receive ''secret'' security clearance.
Only US citizens and US nationals can apply.
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Shunned from bond market, U.S. Virgin Islands faces cash crisis
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:44
ST. CROIX, V.I. (Reuters) - For a glimpse at the precarious financial health of this Caribbean island, visit its public hospital.
Pipes underneath the emergency room collapsed in May, causing waste water to back up through the drains. Now workers and visitors '' even patients - use portable toilets set up on the sidewalk. The hospital doesn't have the cash for new plumbing.
For years the U.S. Virgin Islands funded essential public services with help from Wall Street. Investors lined up to purchase its triple-tax-exempt bonds, a form of debt free from municipal, state and federal taxes.
Now the borrowing window has slammed shut. Trouble in neighboring Puerto Rico, which recently filed for a form of bankruptcy after a string of debt defaults, has investors worried that the U.S. Virgin Islands might be next.
With just over 100,000 inhabitants, the protectorate now owes north of $2 billion to bondholders and creditors. That's the biggest per capita debt load of any U.S. territory or state - more than $19,000 for every man, woman and child scattered across the island chain of St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. The territory is on the hook for billions more in unfunded pension and healthcare obligations.
''We have a government that we can't afford, and now all of it is converging,'' said Holland Redfield, a former six-term U.S. Virgin Islands senator who hosts a radio talk show about politics in the territory. ''We're getting to the point where we may have a potential meltdown.''
Ratings agencies have downgraded the islands' credit ratings deep into junk territory. With the U.S. Virgin Islands shut out of the credit markets after a failed January bond issue, officials are scrambling to stabilize its finances after years of taking on debt to plug yawning budget holes.
The government proposes to slash public spending by 10 percent. It recently hiked taxes on liquor, cigarettes, sugary drinks and vacation timeshares. And it has threatened to auction homes and businesses of property-tax deadbeats.
Governor Kenneth Mapp is quick to reassure bondholders that they get first crack at one of the territory's largest funding sources: rum taxes. The money pays debt service before heading to government coffers, a protection called a lockbox.
The U.S. Virgin Islands has "never been late on a payment, much less defaulted on a bond or loan agreement," Mapp said during his State of the Territory address in January.
But how these islands will recover from years of budget deficits and a severe liquidity crisis remains to be seen. The territory lost its single-largest private employer five years ago when a refinery shut down. Gross domestic product has declined by almost one-third since 2008. At times this year the government was operating with just two days' cash on hand.
Locals live with pitted roads, crumbling schools, electricity outages and deteriorating medical care.
At the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center, plumbing troubles are just the beginning. Doctors have stopped performing some vital procedures, including implanting pacemakers and heart defibrillators, because the facility can't pay suppliers for the devices, officials say.
''We have gone from bad to worse, and the patients are the ones who are suffering,'' said Dr. Kendall Griffith, an interventional cardiologist who recently left the island to take a job in a Georgia hospital. ''It's forcing physicians to make hard decisions."
Forgotten IslandsBefore Puerto Rico imploded under $70 billion in debt and $50 billion of unfunded pension liabilities, few in Washington noticed troubles brewing in the other inhabited U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Residents of these places are U.S. citizens, but they can't vote in presidential elections and their Washington delegates are non-voting figureheads. Despite high poverty rates and joblessness, the territories receive just a fraction of the federal funding allocated to U.S. states for entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid.
To bridge the gap, some have turned to the bond market. Bond issues typically fund infrastructure and capital projects. But in the case of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, officials increasingly relied on borrowed money to fund government operations.
Debt loads for both territories have grown to staggering proportions, now surpassing 50 percent of their respective GDPs. That's higher than anywhere in the nation and sharply above the state median of 2.2 percent, Moody's Investors Service found.
A table and chairs are seen on a terrace of a hotel in Christiansted, on the outskirts of St Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands June 29, 2017. Alvin Baez (For a graphic on U.S. territory debt, see:
Bond buyers for years whistled past the territories' shaky finances, comforted in the knowledge that these governments couldn't seek bankruptcy protections available to many municipalities.
''There was an idea that because of the lockbox structure and the fact that the territories did not have a path to bankruptcy, they had to pay you,'' said Curtis Erickson, San Francisco-based managing director of Preston Hollow Capital, a municipal specialty finance company.
That all changed in 2016 when Congress passed legislation known as PROMESA giving Puerto Rico its first access to debt restructuring. The move sparked a ferocious battle among creditors to see who would shoulder the largest losses.
Investors quickly surmised the U.S. Virgin Islands might pursue the same strategy. In December, S&P Global Ratings downgraded the territory by a stunning seven notches to B from BBB+, putting it well below investment grade.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is adamant that S&P and other ratings agencies overreacted. The territory has been unfairly ''tainted by Puerto Rico's pending bankruptcy,'' and has no intention of pursuing debt restructuring, said Lonnie Soury, a government spokesman.
In addition to tax hikes and budget cuts, he said the current administration is looking to do more with its tourism and horse racing industries to boost development.
Big Debts, Few OptionsIn the meantime, the U.S. Virgin Islands is trapped in a circle of hock that's making it tough to maneuver.
The government and its two public hospitals, for example, owe a combined $28 million to the territory's water and power authority, known as WAPA. In turn, WAPA owes about $44 million to two former fuel vendors.
Then there's the $3.4 billion of unfunded liabilities for public pensions and retiree healthcare. The pension fund is 19.6 percent funded and projected to run out of money by 2023.
Pensioners can wait months before their annuities start, because the government is behind on its contributions. St. Croix resident Stephen Cohen, 67, said it took almost a year after he retired as a high school biology teacher before he received his first check in 2016.
''A lot of people are financially stressed,'' Cohen said. ''They didn't realize how bad things would get.''
Territory officials can't say how they will close a projected $100 million budget shortfall for this fiscal year. That's on top of an accumulated net deficit of $4.4 billion, according to government financial records.
Back at Juan F. Luis Hospital, officials hope to move the emergency room into the cardiac wing so repairs can begin on the collapsed pipes.
The government has pledged $3 million for the job, but Tim Lessing, the facility's chief financial officer, wonders if he'll see it.
''The territory is in a tough position," Lessing said. "Nobody's buying the paper."
(Editing by Marla Dickerson)
Hate Trumps Love
Piers Morgan: JK Rowling's Trump slur proves her hypocrisy | Daily Mail Online
Tue, 01 Aug 2017 17:17
JK Rowling hates Donald Trump.
I don't just mean she dislikes him intensely, I mean she loathes him with a raw, visceral fury.
The billionaire Harry Potter author broadcasts this fact on a daily basis to her 11 million followers on Twitter.
Barely an hour goes by without Ms Rowling publicly attacking, mocking, sneering at and generally abusing Trump.
Of course, that is entirely her prerogative and she is far from alone in this regard.
A lot of people, including many left-wing celebrities like her, feel the exact same way about the 45th President of the United States.
Politics is a passionate business. It inflames people.
And no politician in the history of Planet Earth inflames people quite as much as Donald J. Trump.
Scroll down for video
J.K. Rowling hit out at President Donald Trump in a series of tweets where she blasted the president after seeing an edited video that attempts to show Trump refusing to shake the hand of a disabled boy
But in the real, unedited clip shared by the White House, Trump is seen greeting the little boy (left) before starting a press conference on Obamacare. That edited video clip sent Rowling on a Twitter rant where she alleged that the president avoided the little boy (pictured right)
On Friday, a video was posted on Twitter by Ansel Herz, deputy communications director for Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal.
It showed Trump appearing to avoid shaking hands with a disabled child before leaving a White House function.
'Child in wheelchair reaches up twice to shake the president's hand,' was Herz's simple but devastating caption.
'If you're disgusted by this,' he added, 'follow my boss: @RepJayapal. People call her 'the anti-Trump'. '
Disgust duly followed.
The short video clip went viral within minutes, sparking horror and rage around the world.
Keith Olbermann, infamous left-wing political commentator who now hosts a Trump-bashing GQ webshow 'The Resistance'', led the charge, re-tweeting Herz's video clip with the words: 'About Trump, this is mortifying, revelatory. OTOH, I'm somebody who shook his damnable hand. The child is fortunate he didn't touch the evil.'
For JK Rowling, this was the moment she had long been waiting for.
Here, right before our very eyes, was actual visible proof that Trump really is a barbaric, callous monster as she keeps saying.
She hit her laptop faster than Usain Bolt hits his stride.
First, Rowling retweeted Herz's tweet alongside a quote she had located from legendary civil rights activist Maya Angelou that read: 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them.'
Rowling sent a series of tweets blasting Trump after sharing an edited video that seemingly shows Trump avoiding shaking the hand of a a wheelchair-bound boy at a press conference last week. The edited video has since been taken off of Twitter
In other words, THIS was the real Donald Trump: a merciless man who would deliberately ignore a young disabled child reaching up to shake his hand.
Seconds later, she tweeted again: 'Trump imitated a disabled reporter. Now he pretends not to see a child in a wheelchair, as though frightened he may catch his condition.'
No room for ambiguity there.
Rowling was very clear: Trump knew the disabled child was there and snubbed him because he was worried about being infected with whatever disease the boy may have.
Tweets No3 and No4 came together, fast and furious: 'This monster of narcissism values only himself and his pale reflections. The disabled, minorities, transgender people, the poor, women'...(unless related to him by ties of blood, and therefore his creations) are treated with contempt, because they do not resemble Trump.'
Then, in tweet No5, Rowling got personal, invoking the spirit of her mother who died in 1990.
'My mother used a wheelchair. I witnessed people uncomfortable around her disability, but if they had a shred of decency they got over it.'
Tweet No6 explained this was why Rowling felt SO enraged: 'So, yes, that clip of Trump looking deliberately over a disabled child's head, ignoring his outstretched hand, has touched me on the raw.'
Again, she left no room for any doubt. Trump hadn't accidentally snubbed the boy, he had done it 'deliberately.'
Tweet No7 clarified why this was so vile: 'That man occupies the most powerful office in the free world and his daily outrages against civilised norms are having a corrosive effect.'
And then, in Tweet No8, JK Rowling reached peak anger: 'How stunning,' she wrote, 'and how horrible, that Trump cannot bring himself to shake the hand of a small boy who only wanted to touch the President.'
It turns out that Trump spent more time with the boy in the wheelchair than any other guest - displaying all the compassion and empathy he had been accused of failing to display
By this stage, it would be hard not to share Rowling's uncontrollable rage '' right? I suspect most of her 11.4 million Twitter followers would certainly have felt that way.
They trust Rowling.
As she never ceases to remind us from her high moral plinth, she is the very beacon of honesty, decency and fairness in a world increasingly blighted by Trump-related lies, indecency and unfairness.
She, like Rep. Jayapal, is the 'anti-Trump'.
She is someone who would never snub a disabled boy.
There's just one problem: it was all a lie.
Trump didn't snub the boy. In fact he did the complete opposite.
The full video of this incident emerged several hours after Rowling tweeted.
It shows Trump heading directly to the boy the moment he entered the room.
He greets him before he greets anyone else.
As she never ceases to remind us from her high moral plinth, Jk Rowling is the very beacon of honesty, decency and fairness in a world increasingly blighted by Trump-related lies, indecency and unfairness
Then the President crouches down, touches the boy and talks just to him for a few more seconds before moving on.
It turns out that Trump spent more time with the boy in the wheelchair than any other guest - displaying all the compassion and empathy he had been accused of failing to display.
By the time this longer video appeared, the original edited clip was everywhere, gleefully fuelled by high profile liberals.
Chelsea Clinton, who has 1.8 million followers, seized on Rowling's tweets, re-tweeting both the Maya Angelou quote and clip, and the one about how 'stunning and horrible' it was that Trump snubbed the boy.
As Sir Winston Churchill once said: 'A lie gets halfway round the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.'
Ansel Herz, once he saw the full video, immediately removed his tweets.
'Deleted because it turned out to missing some context,' he said. 'Apologies.'
Missing some context? You can say that again, buddy.
Let's be very clear: you made the whole world think Trump hates disabled kids.
Now, at this point, some five hours after her vicious tweet-storm, JK Rowling started to be bombarded with demands to delete her own tweets and apologise. I tweeted her myself to say: 'What's stunning and horrible is how you lied to viciously smear Trump. Delete these lies.'
She didn't respond, to anybody.
The world's most aggressively self-righteous tweeter went unusually silent.
A whole day went by.
Then another.
Finally, more than 48 hours later, Rowling came back on Twitter yesterday.
But not, it transpired, to delete the tweets that she now knew were 100% wrong.
No, instead she wished to rant about some deeply offensive comments made by an Irish newspaper columnist.
'This filth was published in the Sunday Times,' she seethed. 'Let that sink in for a moment.'
I didn't have much time to let it sink in before the newspaper concerned deleted the column, profusely apologised and fired the journalist who wrote it.
Yet, incredibly, indignant Rowling saw no inconsistency in allowing her own deeply offensive tweets about Trump and the disabled boy to remain on her feed.
Even the boy's mother pleaded with her to remove the tweets.
'Ummm,' said Marjorie Kelly Weer in a Facebook post, 'if someone can please get a message to JK Rowling. Trump didn't snub my son & Monty wasn't even trying to shake his hand (1. He's 3 and hand shaking is not his thing. 2. He was showing off his newly acquired secret service patch). Thanks.'
But this too fell on deaf, or stubborn ears.
Last December, in yet another rant about Trump, JK Rowling made her feelings crystal clear about people who don't apologise for getting things wrong.
She did so by tweeting this quote from the 17th century French writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld: 'No people are more frequently wrong than those who will not admit they are wrong.'
It has now been three days since JK Rowling posted a pack of lies about Donald Trump to her 11 million followers.
She knows it was wrong. We all know it was wrong.
Yet, as I write, she still refuses to delete the tweets, correct her lies, or apologise.
Even if she does so now, perhaps after reading this column, the damage has been done.
By contrast, everyone else I have mentioned did remove their tweets once they realised the truth.
Herz deleted, Olbermann deleted and Chelsea Clinton, when I brought it to her attention yesterday, also deleted.
Rowling, however, would prefer to continue using a three-year-old disabled boy to falsely smear Donald Trump, such is her blind hatred for the man.
By doing so, she is telling her millions of young impressionable Potter fans that it's absolutely fine to lie and never correct or apologise for a lie '' after spending the past two years telling them that Trump is disgusting because he lies and never corrects or apologises for his lies.
This makes her a shameful, disgraceful hypocrite.
Nobody should believe a word this self-appointed High Priestess of Honesty ever says again, about anything.
Trump Got This One Right | The Weekly Standard
Tue, 01 Aug 2017 18:30
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump was shown a disturbing video of Syrian rebels beheading a child near the city of Aleppo. It had caused a minor stir in the press as the fighters belonged to the Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement, a group that had been supported by the CIA as part of its rebel aid program.
The footage is haunting. Five bearded men smirk as they surround a boy in the back of a pickup truck. One of them holds the boy's head with a tight grip on his hair while another mockingly slaps his face. Then, one of them uses a knife to saw the child's head off and holds it up in the air like a trophy. It is a scene reminiscent of the Islamic State's snuff videos, except this wasn't the work of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's men. The murderers were supposed to be the good guys: our allies.
Trump wanted to know why the United States had backed Zenki if its members are extremists. The issue was discussed at length with senior intelligence officials, and no good answers were forthcoming, according to people familiar with the conversations. After learning more worrisome details about the CIA's ghost war in Syria'--including that U.S.-backed rebels had often fought alongside extremists, among them al Qaeda's arm in the country'--the president decided to end the program altogether.
On July 19, the Washington Post broke the news of Trump's decision: ''a move long sought by Russia,'' the paper's headline blared. Politicians from both sides of the aisle quickly howled in protest, claiming that Trump's decision was a surrender to Vladimir Putin.
There is no doubt that Putin, who has the blood of many Syrian civilians on his hands, was pleased by the move. But that doesn't mean the rebel aid program was effective or served American interests.
The defenders of the CIA program argue that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) remains our best hope for a moderate opposition to Assad. But the FSA is not the single, unified organization its name implies. It is, rather, a loose collection of groups that have adopted the FSA brand, often in addition to their own names and branding. Although ''Free Syrian Army'' sounds secular and moderate, its constituents are ideologically diverse and include numerous extremists. Zenki, for example, was referred to as an FSA group well after its hardline beliefs were evident, and few FSA groups could be considered truly secular. Several prominent FSA organizations advocate Islamist ideas, meaning they believe that some version of sharia law should rule Syrian society.
To make matters worse: FSA-affiliated rebels have often been allied with Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda's branch in Syria. Some of the most prominent FSA groups, indeed, objected to the U.S. government's decision to designate Nusra as a terrorist organization in December 2012. Al Qaeda's Syrian arm was even then strong enough to command loyalty in the face of American sanctions. There have been episodic clashes between Nusra and America's FSA allies, but more often than not FSA-branded rebels have been in the trenches alongside Nusra's jihadists.
Jabhat al-Nusra, publicly an arm of al Qaeda until July 2016, has been the single strongest organization within the insurgency for some time. Well before President Trump was inaugurated, Nusra had grown into a menace. And America's provision of arms to FSA-branded rebels worked to Nusra's advantage'--an inconvenient fact for those criticizing the president's decision.
Russia intervened in Syria in September 2015, and the timing was not accidental. Just months earlier, in March, the ''Army of Conquest'' took over the northwestern province of Idlib. This rebel coalition was no band of moderates. It was led by Nusra and included its closest Islamist and jihadist partners. The Army of Conquest was on the march, threatening the Assad family's stronghold of Latakia on the coast. Had the insurgents progressed much further south, Bashar al-Assad's regime would have been in serious jeopardy, perhaps would even have fallen. With the backing of Russia and Iran, Assad's forces rallied and stopped the Nusra-led coalition from taking even more ground. Russia saved Assad, but its efforts also stymied the jihadists' offensive'--a important fact that is often left out of Syria policy debates.
Since July 2016, Jabhat al-Nusra has changed its name twice and merged with other organizations to form a group known as Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (''Assembly for the Liberation of Syria,'' or HTS). The group is riven by internal rivalries, with some members even arguing that its leadership is no longer beholden to al Qaeda. But the jihadists are consolidating their control over Idlib as part of a totalitarian drive to dominate governance in the province.
HTS's top-dog status within Idlib is no accident. Al Qaeda's leadership and Jabhat al-Nusra have been laying the groundwork for an Islamic emirate, based on radical sharia law, in Syria since 2012. And their plan has called for exploiting Free Syrian Army groups and their CIA support.
Nusra has been happy to take advantage of the support FSA groups received from the United States and other nations supporting the multi-sided proxy war against Assad. There are dozens of videos online showing Syrian rebels firing the American-made, anti-tank BGM-71 TOW missile. The TOW is distinctive in appearance and relatively easy to identify, making it a rather public announcement of the groups involved in the CIA's ''clandestine'' program. If one wants to know which FSA-branded groups have been approved by Langley, just look for TOW missiles.
Defenders of the program argue that only a small number of TOWs have been fired by al Qaeda's men or other non-vetted rebels. Maybe. But at least some of the ''vetted'' groups shouldn't have been deemed acceptable partners in the first place. Zenki received TOWs even though its extremism is obvious. Other Islamist groups within the loose-knit FSA coalition received TOWs as well.
And Nusra used such organizations to further its own designs. Abu Kumayt, who served as a fighter in the Western-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), explained to the New YorkTimes in December 2014 that Nusra ''lets groups vetted by the United States keep the appearance of independence, so that they will continue to receive American supplies.'' Another ''commander'' in a group that received TOWs told the Times that FSA ''fighters were forced to operate them . . . on behalf of'' Nusra during a battle with Assad's forces. American-made weapons were fueling the jihadists' gains and when Nusra finally grew tired of the SRF and Harakat Hazm, another American-supported group based in Idlib province, it quickly dispatched them, taking their weapons in the process.
American-made arms helped fuel the insurgents' gains in Idlib province in 2015. Today, that same province is home to a nascent Taliban-style state.
Advocates for the Syrian opposition point to areas of the country outside of Idlib province where FSA-branded groups seem to hold more sway. But the story is almost always complicated by a jihadist presence. Take Aleppo, for instance, where in August 2016, insurgents temporarily broke the regime's brutal siege. The Army of Conquest coalition'--the same Nusra-led alliance that took over Idlib'--played a key role in the fighting, as they would in a second attempt to break the siege later in 2016.
In October 2016, the U.N.'s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told reporters that Nusra accounted for only 900 to 1,000 of the 8,000 opposition fighters in Aleppo. After objections that this modest figure was too high, the U.N. revised its estimate downward, claiming Nusra had just 150 to 200 members within the Aleppo opposition. Advocates then seized on this low figure to argue that the insurgents inside the city deserved the full backing of the West. They ignored the fact that the other, non-Nusra rebels included many extremists'--such as Zenki.
It is doubtful that the U.N.'s lowball estimate for Nusra's presence in Aleppo was accurate; Nusra produced videos showing large convoys making their way to the city, which suggested a much bigger force. But even the U.N. conceded that Nusra's ''influence'' was greater than its numbers implied, because of the jihadists' ''operational capacity coupled with the fear that they engendered from other groups.'' Part of the reason Nusra is so operationally effective is its use of suicide bombers, and a series of these ''martyrs'' were deployed by Nusra and its allies during key points in the battle for Aleppo. Without Nusra's Army of Conquest, the insurgents would have had little hope of breaking Assad's grip on the city, and TOW-armed FSA groups, some of them Islamist, fought right alongside Nusra's men.
The bottom line: Sunni jihadists and extremists are laced throughout the Syrian rebellion and have been for years. While pockets of acceptable allies remain, there is no evidence that any truly moderate force is effectively fighting Assad, and President Trump was right to end the program of CIA support for the Syrian opposition.
It is a dire situation, and one might easily conclude that a full alliance with Russia in Syria makes some sense. That is clearly the president's thinking. His administration has already explored ways to cooperate with Putin against the Islamic State, including brokering a ceasefire in southern Syria. But a partnership with Russia has its own downsides.
Russian and Syrian jets have indiscriminately and repeatedly bombed civilian targets. The Assad regime has used chemical weapons, which Trump himself objected to, bombing a Syrian airfield in response. The United States cannot endorse these war crimes by allying itself with the perpetrators of mass murder in Syria. The president has loudly denounced Iran and its sponsorship of terrorism throughout the world. But Russia and the Syrian government have sponsored Iran's growing footprint in the country. A recent State Department report said that as many 7,000 fighters from Hezbollah, an Iranian-backed terror group that is opposed to both the United States and Israel, are now located in Syria. These same Hezbollah fighters, along with Shiite militiamen sponsored by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are Russia's and Assad's key on-the-ground allies.
All of which is to say that there are no easy answers in Syria. But that doesn't mean the United States should keep playing a losing hand. And that's exactly what the program to support Syria's rebels was'--a bad deal.
Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
Trump aides' stunning cry for help: Admitting the president misled the American people - The Washington Post
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 12:24
President Trump personally dictated a statement that was issued after revelations that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election. The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig explain. (Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)
President Trump hates leaks. He hired Anthony Scaramucci 10 days ago to very publicly root them out, and he has even attacked his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for not investigating them aggressively enough.
But oftentimes with Trump, a leak isn't just a leak; it's an effort to save him from himself.
Such is the case with The Washington Post's big scoop Monday night that Trump personally dictated the highly misleading initial statement about Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016. Anonymous White House advisers said they had settled on a plan to be transparent about the meeting, only to have the president come in at the 11th hour and decide to try and withhold the whole truth. The result, at Trump's personal direction, was a statement that claimed the meeting was about adoption, when in fact the stated purpose of it was opposition research -- supposedly from the Russian government -- about Hillary Clinton.
Check out this detailed blow-by-blow from The Post's Ashley Parker, Carol D. Leonnig, Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger about how the Trump team responded to the New York Times learning about the meeting:
[White House director of strategic communications Hope] Hicks also spoke by phone with Trump Jr. Again, say people familiar with the conversations, [Jared] Kushner's team concluded that the best strategy would be to err on the side of transparency, because they believed the complete story would eventually emerge.
The discussions among the president's advisers consumed much of the day, and they continued as they prepared to board Air Force One that evening for the flight home.
But before everyone boarded the plane, Trump had overruled the consensus, according to people with knowledge of the events.
It remains unclear exactly how much the president knew at the time of the flight about Trump Jr.'s meeting.
The president directed that Trump Jr.'s statement to the Times describe the meeting as unimportant. He wanted the statement to say that the meeting had been initiated by the Russian lawyer and primarily was about her pet issue '-- the adoption of Russian children.
And now look at these comments from anonymous advisers:
''This was .'‰.'‰. unnecessary,'' said one of the president's advisers, who like most other people interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal deliberations. ''Now someone can claim he's the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn't want you to say the whole truth.''
And here:
Trump, advisers say, is increasingly acting as his own lawyer, strategist and publicist, often disregarding the recommendations of the professionals he has hired.
''He refuses to sit still,'' the presidential adviser said. ''He doesn't think he's in any legal jeopardy, so he really views this as a political problem he is going to solve by himself.''
And this:
Because Trump believes he is innocent, some advisers explained, he therefore does not think he is at any legal risk for a cover-up. In his mind, they said, there is nothing to conceal.
The White House's first six months, of course, have been littered with internal leaks. Many of them are owed to the warring factions within the West Wing and dissension in the broader administration. But every so often you see this kind of leak: the send-a-message-to-the-boss leak -- the spreading of unhelpful information about the president because advisers see no other way to make it stop.
A timeline of Donald Trump Jr.'s comments and contradictions about his meeting with a Russian lawyer in June of 2016. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)
And even in that line of reporting, this is a pretty remarkable cry for help. In this story, they're admitting that he is personally responsible for deliberately misleading the American people about a major topic of the Russia investigation. They're saying that he did something that could very well be construed as a cover-up and could damage his legal defense. The reason? Because they apparently can't prevail upon him in person and they think he simply doesn't get what kind of jeopardy he is putting himself in.
Part of it may simply be exasperation, as well. When you, as a White House staffer, continue to have to put up with the boss's unpredictable whims and furthering of unhelpful story lines (i.e. Russia was on my mind when I fired FBI Director James B. Comey), it's liable to lead to this kind of leaking.
Trump will surely view this as an effort by the deep state and/or the media to undermine him. He'd be better off understanding it for what it is: a desperate effort to help him help himself. After all, in this case, the advisers were right. The truth all came out in rather short order, and Trump only made it worse.
Further reading:
Trump's lawyer repeatedly denied Trump was involved in Trump Jr.'s statement. But he was.
Who are the Trump White House leakers? In Lincoln's day, it might have been his wife.
The White House was shocked '-- shocked, I tell you '-- by Anthony Scaramucci's potty mouth
Republicans are starting to draw red lines on Trump firing Sessions and Mueller
President Zuck? Facebook CEO Hires Hillary Clinton's Chief Campaign Strategist
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 05:04
Three weeks ago, when the WSJ ran an infomercial of the "down to earth" Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as just the guy next door in "Mark Zuckerberg Hits the Road to Meet Regular Folks" as part of Zuckerberg's tour of the country...
... the obvious question immediately emerged: is Zuck's publicity stunt preparation for a presidential run?
The answer increasingly looks like "yes", because as Politico reported on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton's former pollster, Joel Benenson, the chief strategist in Clinton's 2016 doomed campaign has been hired to conduct research for Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan's nonprofit, the Zuckerberg-Chan initiative. Officially Benenson's work, done through his company Benenson Strategy Group, will focus on the couple's philanthropy. However, it will give Zuckerberg access to yet another top pollster as rumors of a potential presidential run grow ever louder.
In January, the Zuckerbergs hired another top political advisor - David Plouffe, campaign manager for Obama's 2008 presidential run - as president of policy and advocacy. Plouffe had previously worked at Uber. Ken Mehlman, who ran President George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign, also sits on the board. And earlier this year, Politico reports that the couple also brought on Amy Dudley, a former communications adviser to Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine.
In retrospect, Mark Zuckerberg appears to be building an army of presidential advisors.
As part of his tour of the U.S., in June he stopped over in Iowa, a key launchpad for anyone floating a presidential bid. Zuckerberh's "Year of Travel" has been compared to a grassroots presidential listening tour and fueled speculation he could run for president.
Of course, Zuckerberg denies everything.
"Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not," he wrote in a Facebook post earlier this year. "I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative."
Zuck won't be the first, or last, politician to lie about not running. Meanwhile, the rumors of a run have persisted as the Facebook founder continues his tour and weighs in on political issues like healthcare.
War on Men
The Red Pill - MRA's
Qatar Buys Italian Warships as Persian Gulf Crisis Deepens -
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 11:50
DOHA, Qatar '-- Qatar agreed on Wednesday to buy seven Italian warships at a cost of nearly $6 billion in the latest example of checkbook defiance by the gas-rich country in its two-month-old feud with four neighboring Arab countries.
The military deal between Qatar and Italy, announced by the foreign ministers of both countries in Doha, Qatar's capital, was the latest in a slew of diplomatic and economic moves suggesting that the crisis, the worst to hit the Persian Gulf countries in decades, shows little sign of abating.
Days earlier, Qatar brought its fight with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to international aviation and trade forums, and was even seen to have advanced a breathtakingly pricey soccer transfer as a means of flexing its muscles.
The measures were countered by implacable demands from the Saudi-led quartet, and offered a sense of the challenge facing Western officials, led by the Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, who have tried to defuse the crisis, so far in vain. On Tuesday, the State Department named Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a four-star Marine general who retired in 2000, as a special representative to the Persian Gulf. He is expected to arrive in the region next week.
On Monday, Qatar lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization against its neighbors, which have cut off all trade and diplomatic ties, and closed air and sea routes into the country. Saudi Arabia has shut Qatar's only land border.
Qatar also sought help this week from the United Nations aviation body, the International Civil Aviation Organization, in a bid to open new air corridors through the Emirates, which are currently closed.
A senior Qatari official said in an interview on Wednesday that his country would adopt a more aggressive strategy to attract foreign investors in a bid to snatch business away from its regional foes.
The four nation bloc, which accused Qatar of fomenting extremism, has issued a sweeping list of 13 demands, including the closing of Qatar's influential television station, Al Jazeera, and a small Turkish military base, as well as the expulsion of several Islamists.
Qatar has rejected the demands, which it says amount to a surrender of its sovereignty. It has painted the dispute as a drive by bullying neighbors to crush Qatar's maverick, open-door foreign policy.
Western countries allied with both sides have found themselves in a diplomatic bind, even as they continue to sell expensive weapons system in the region.
The Italian warship deal that was completed on Wednesday involves the purchase of four corvettes, an amphibious vessel and two patrol boats. It was Qatar's second major arms deal since the crisis began. In June, the United States agreed to sell Qatar F-15 fighter jets worth $12 billion.
Such deals are about more than military procurement for tiny Qatar, which has just 300,000 citizens but also possesses the world's largest reserves of natural gas. Just as important, the purchases serve as means of cementing ties with Western allies, which in turn provides a strong diplomatic counterweight in Qatar's often fractious dealings with its larger Arab neighbors.
A sprawling American air base near Doha with 9,000 American service members, from which American war planes attack the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, has complicated the Trump administration's approach to the crisis.
Qatari officials confirmed on Monday that they intended to take a more aggressive approach to longstanding business pacts in the gulf.
A senior Qatari official said the country intended to introduce a new law in the coming weeks that would drop restrictions on foreign investment, such as requiring a local partner for outside investors, in an aggressive bid for new business.
Until now, the official said, Qatar and its neighbors adhered to an unwritten agreement to avoid competing with one another in specified business domains. He said Qatar would now make an aggressive bid for foreign investments of all kinds.
In Washington, both sides have spent millions of dollars in recent weeks on lobbying contracts in a bid to influence to Trump administration, whose policy is divided, with President Trump criticizing Qatar and Mr. Tillerson defending it.
China's 1st foreign naval base officially opens in Djibouti '-- RT News
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 14:15
China has formally launched its first overseas naval facility in Djibouti, an East African nation that is already hosting America's only expeditionary Marine base in Africa.
Five Chinese formations and Djibouti's Three Services Honor Guard took part in the launch ceremony on Tuesday, the People's Daily reported, referring to the base as ''the logistics facility.'' The event marked the 90th anniversary of the Chinese military.
Read more
The base is set to enable China to better support its patrols in waters off Somalia and Yemen and carry out international humanitarian operations as well as naval exercises, according to the newspaper.
More than 300 people attended the ceremony, including deputy Chinese naval commander Tian Zhong and Djibouti's defense minister, Reuters reported citing Chinese state radio.
Earlier in July, several Chinese Navy ships carrying personnel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA) set sail from their home bases to Djibouti.
Commenting on the departure, the state-run Global Times wrote in an editorial: ''Certainly this is the People's Liberation Army's first overseas base and we will base troops there. It's not a commercial resupply point. It makes sense there is attention on this from foreign public opinion.''
This year, the Chinese military industry commissioned China's first aircraft carrier, Liaoning, with the second carrier of the same class on the way in coming years. According to the Chinese press, the Navy is also expecting a third carrier, the nuclear-powered Type 003, to enter service soon.
The Chinese Navy also relies heavily on principal surface ships, including destroyers and frigates, to defend Beijing's interests.
In mid-July, the Type 052D missile destroyer Changsha, missile frigate Yungchen, and auxiliary ship Luomahu arrived in the Baltic Sea for joint exercises with the Russian Navy.
To date, little is known about China's naval installation in Djibouti. Recently, American global intelligence firm Stratfor released what appeared to be satellite imagery of the base, apparently showing its fortifications, tarmac, and a number of hangars and underground facilities.
Stratfor senior analyst Sim Tack noted the Chinese compound draws attention due to its thick security perimeter.
He also mentioned that the place is well protected against any eventuality thanks to ''China's habit of hardening their bases against potential attacks.''
Djibouti, a tiny East African nation of around 887,000 people, is sandwiched between Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia. It also hosts US, French, and Japanese military bases, taking advantage of the country's strategic location at the southern entrance to the Red Sea, near the Suez Canal.
The US Navy maintains a sizeable expeditionary base, Camp Lemonnier, at Djibouti's Ambouli International Airport. The facility is said to be the only permanent US military base in Africa.
NA-Tech News
Amazon Go Boots on the Ground Report
Amazon engineee here (Alexa specifically). The Go store is on the ground floor of the Alexa building in Seattle. Most of us have Beta access to the store (proof attached).
You walk in and a person does validate you’re an employee and you scan the barcode from the app. I went once and brought a friend (who didn’t have access). I was able to badge him and myself in and from then on we were on a combined receipt.
Looking around it looks like a small grocery store with minimal employees (there are still chefs sandwich’s and security). When you look up though, it’s creepy - it’s like an entire ceiling made of cameras, sensors, things blinking. I’m sure we’re being bathed in eight different types of cancer.
All marketing BS aside - it’s actually a very cool experience. I’m not sure how it scales to something the size of a Whole Foods though. Will be interesting to see.
Always listening to see how I can be a helpful producer. Let me know if you have any questions.
Millennials Unearth an Amazing Hack to Get Free TV: the Antenna - WSJ
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 12:43
Dan Sisco has discovered a technology that allows him to access half a dozen major TV channels, completely free.
''I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists,'' says Mr. Sisco, 28 years old. ''It's been awesome. It doesn't log out and it doesn't skip.''
Let's hear a round of applause for TV antennas, often called...
New Dating App For Verified Twitter Users | The Daily Caller
Thu, 27 Jul 2017 12:34
A dating app service announced Tuesday that it is introducing a new version in which only verified Twitter users are allowed.
After several years of availability, Loveflutter decided to adapt its platform so it can be exclusive to what it calls the ''blue tick community.'' Twitter users apply for official verification in order to appear as a special member of society.
''An account may be verified if it is determined to be an account of public interest,'' Twitter writes on one of its support pages. ''Typically this includes accounts maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas.'' (RELATED: Man Creates Dating App That Tricks Tons Of Women Into Thinking He's The Only Match)
The social media company will only grant users the subjectively esteemed blue verified badge, denoted by a checkmark, after a seemingly thorough review.
Loveflutter is harnessing the selectiveness of Twitter's blue checkmark community, which reportedly has nearly 200,000 accounts. Its new premium version called BLUE will feature ''the most happening singles on Twitter nearby'' so elite users can ''date discreetly and know who you're matching with is interesting and real.'' People's profiles will feature some of their most interesting tweets as a source of personal information. (RELATED: Dating App To Use Trump Immigration Order To Set Up Matches)
If someone doesn't have a blue check mark, then they can use the basic version for free.
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Roombas have been busy mapping our homes, and now that data could be up for sale | The Verge
Thu, 27 Jul 2017 13:27
Over the past couple of years, Roombas haven't just been picking up dust and chauffeuring cats around, they've also been mapping the layout of your home. Now, Colin Angle, the chief executive of Roomba maker iRobot, has said he wants to sell the data from these maps in order to improve the future of smart home technology.
In 2015, iRobot introduced the Roomba 980, its first Wi-Fi-connected model. This meant that while a Roomba was quietly whirring around your floors, it was also collecting spatial data using visual localization, sensors, and more. This data helps the Roomba figure out how your home is laid out and adjust cleaning patterns on-the-fly to deal with things like moved furniture. But Angle thinks it could be put to use by more devices.
"There's an entire ecosystem of things and services that the smart home can deliver once you have a rich map of the home that the user has allowed to be shared," Angle told Reuters. Angle says that this data won't be sold without permission, but Reuters says he thinks ''most would give their consent in order to access the smart home functions.''
iRobot's CEO thinks ''most would give their consent in order to access the smart home functions''According to Reuters, iRobot hopes to reach a deal to sell these maps to Google, Apple, or Amazon within the next couple of years. Roomba is already compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home '-- Apple's HomePod speaker is also on the way '-- and all could greatly benefit from the data within these home maps as they vie to offer the smart home assistant of choice.
Roomba owners can opt out of cloud-sharing functions within the iRobot Home app, but technically, the iRobot terms of service and privacy policy say they have the right to share your personal information. The information is buried, laden in legal language, and, as Gizmodo points out, includes this clause which could allow iRobot to sell the information without consent:
[We may share your personal information with] other parties in connection with any company transaction, such as a merger, sale of all or a portion of company assets or shares, reorganization, financing, change of control or acquisition of all or a portion of our business by another company or third party or in the event of bankruptcy or related or similar proceeding.
Most don't thoroughly comb over entire terms of service agreements and privacy policies before agreeing to use apps and products. While blame could easily be placed on the user, the power dynamic between service and consumer gives tech companies leverage to exploit their customers. This was recently demonstrated when the CEO of email service said he was ''heartbroken'' that users were upset it sold their data to Uber for an undisclosed fee. ''Sure we have a Terms of Service Agreement and a plain-English Privacy Policy,'' said the CEO in the apology post, ''but the reality is most of us '-- myself included '-- don't take the time to thoroughly review them.''
Will people buy into iRobot's vision of a smart home utopia and give up data maps of their home? Will that data actually be used to make home assistants work smarter for you, or just give them more advanced and targeted ways to sell you things? Perhaps the most important question is: do we ultimately value utility over privacy? It seems iRobot and its CEO are betting the answer to that is yes.
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Humans Prefer Computer-Generated Paintings to Those at Art Basel
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 12:17
Images generated by the system that were most highly ranked by humans (all images courtesy Ahmed Elgammal/Rutgers University)Some of the most fascinating research out there on machine learning as applied to art is being conducted by the enterprising researchers at Rutgers University's Art and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Computer scientists there have previously developed algorithms to study artistic influence and to measure creativity in art history. Most recently, the lab's team turned toward something a little different: it generated entirely new artworks using a new computational system that role plays as an artist, attempting to demonstrate creativity without any need for a human mind.
More images generated by the systemThe results of this study were published last month in a paper penned by Ahmed Elgammal, Bingchen Liu, Mohamed Elhoseiny, and Marian Mazzone. To test their system, the researchers showed the generated artworks to a pool of 18 people to judge, mixed with 50 images of real paintings '-- half by famous Abstract Expressionists and half shown at Art Basel 2016, a fair that represents ''the forefront of human creativity,'' as Elgammal told Hyperallergic.
The results: participants largely preferred the machine-created artworks to those made by humans, and many even thought that the majority of works at Art Basel were generated by the programmed system. So, computers may be getting closer to autonomously producing their own art that people deem creative. Also, zombie formalism is real.
Although it creates its own images, the network, dubbed a Creative Adversarial Network (CAN), relies on creative human works during its learning process. Researchers programmed it to study 80,000 WikiArt images of Western paintings from the 15th to the 20th century so that it knew what kind of images have traditionally been aesthetically appealing. But the scientists didn't want to devise a system that could merely emulate history paintings, genre scenes, landscapes, and portraits in established styles '-- a machine that truly has artificial intelligence, after all, must be creative. Once the system learned these styles, it then worked to deviate from them.
''The system has two interactive components: one that generates art and one that judges art,'' Elgammal told Hyperallergic. ''The judge is supposed to be trained on art and knows styles; the creator tries to create something that tests the taste of the judge so it will think the [generated work] is art but at the same time confuses the judge about what kind of art and style it is. By doing so, [the creator] tries to do something novel that doesn't fit into established styles but is still aesthetically appealing.''
Images generated by the system that were ranked lowest by humansAs we've previously seen with artificial neural networks, when generating systems stray too much from the norm, the results are simply creepy (hello, slimy creatures and mutant dogs/sloths!). The two components interact to maintain a balance between straying from recognized styles and going too deep into new, experimental territory that could garner negative criticism.
Researchers then tested whether or not these generated works could pass as creative to some people. An object, for their purposes, demonstrates creativity if it is both ''novel and influential.'' The first question they posed was whether humans could simply distinguish between the computer's art and human-made artworks. As Elgammal sums up in a blog post, participants believed that the generated images were made by artists 75% of the time, compared to 85% of the time for the collection of Abstract Expressionist artworks, all made between 1945 and 2007. In terms of the Art Basel paintings, participants thought that humans had made them just 48% of the time. Selected at random and chosen for their lack of figuration and obvious brushstrokes, the art fair collection featured works by David Smith, Andy Warhol, Leonardo Drew, although the vast majority of the 25 paintings, interestingly, were produced by Chinese artists including Ma Kelu, Zao Wou-Ki, and Xu Zhenbang.
Paintings from Art Basel 2016 used in the experiment, with works, in order, by: Richard Caldicott (2003), Jigger Cruz (2016), Leonardo Drew (2015), Cenk Akaltun (2015), Lang Li (2014), Xuerui Zhang (2015), David Smith (1956), Kelu Ma (1989), Xie Nanxing (2013), Panos Tsagaris (2015), Heimo Zobernig (2014), Zao Wou-Ki (1958), Andy Warhol (1985), David Smith (1956), Wei Ligang (2014), KONG Chun Hei (2016), Ye Yongqing (2015) Wei Ligang (2010), Xiaorong Pan (2015), Xuerui Zhang (2016), Xiaorong Pan (2015), Xiaorong Pan (2015), Xu Zhenbang (2015), Xuerui Zhang (2016), Zao Wou-Ki (1963)The researchers also asked their subjects to rate individual artworks based on whether they thought an image presented appealing visual structure, was inspiring, relayed an intent, and communicated a message. In general, the participants praised the generated images more than those made by real artists in both the Abstract Expressionism and the Art Basel sets.
''It might be debatable what a higher score in each of these scales actually means,'' Elgammal concluded diplomatically. ''However, the fact that subjects found the images generated by the machine intentional, visually structured, communicative, and inspiring, with similar, or even higher levels, compared to actual human art, indicates that subjects see these images as art!''
What's more, not only are people deeming them art because of their appearance, but because of their potential market value. Since the study's publication, Elgammal says he's received messages from private collectors who expressed interest in purchasing the CAN-generated works as well as galleries interested in exhibiting them. He isn't certain if the system will one day be deployed to create commissions, acknowledging that that would be ''very controversial''; the team, however, is now trying to arrange for some initial sales of works to galleries as a way to raise funds for research at Rutgers.
The interest surprised him, but the reactions certainly make sense in this culture hungry to jump on the next cutting-edge, lucrative projects. As Elgammal put it, ''It's the first time that AI has generated art that really looks good.''
Words Matter
Retard | Definition of Retard by Merriam-Webster
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 05:40
delay, retard, slow, slacken, detain mean to cause to be late or behind in movement or progress. delay implies a holding back, usually by interference, from completion or arrival. bad weather delayed our arrivalretard suggests reduction of speed without actual stopping. language barriers retarded their progressslow and slacken also imply a reduction of speed, slow often suggesting deliberate intention medication slowed the patient's heart rate, slacken an easing up or relaxing of power or effort. on hot days runners slacken their pacedetain implies a holding back beyond a reasonable or appointed time. unexpected business had detained her
Bitcoin Exchange Had Too Many Bitcoins - Bloomberg
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 11:47
This is what the hard fork looks like, inside the blockchain.
A few months ago we talked about a weird legal dispute over the Dole Food Co. buyout. Dole's chief executive officer, David Murdock, had taken it private for $13.50 a share in 2013, but shareholders thought it was worth more. So they sued, and won, and Murdock was ordered to pay shareholders an extra $2.74 a share plus interest, and shareholders were told to submit claims for their money.
But there was a problem: People submitted more claims than there were shares. This turned out not to be fraud, or carelessness: People really owned more shares than there were shares! It's just that other people owned negative shares. In rough numbers, there were 37 million shares outstanding, and people owned 49 million shares, but other people were short 12 million shares. The way short selling works is that X borrows a share from Y and sells it to Z. So Y owns one share, and Z owns one share, and X owes one share, and everything balances out and there's only one share outstanding. So the millions of extra shares made complete sense.
But that doesn't answer the question of what to do about it. When the buyout closed, back in 2013, it was straightforward enough: If you owned a share, you got paid $13.50. If you were short a share, you had to pay $13.50. So shareholders got paid 49 million shares times $13.50 a share, and short sellers paid 12 million shares times $13.50 a share. (And David Murdock paid 37 million times $13.50 for the shares he was buying. ) But in 2017, it was more complicated. If you owned one of the 49 million shares back in 2013, you were due the extra money in 2017. If you were David Murdock and you bought 37 million shares in 2013, you had to pay the extra money in 2017 -- but only on the 37 million shares you bought. But what if you were short the stock in 2013? Was your obligation discharged by paying the $13.50 in 2013, or are you still on the hook to come up with more, four years later?
The answer is a mess. The Delaware judge who heard the case sort of punted this issue to the Depository Trust Co., which keeps track of all the shares of all the companies, and told DTC to follow its procedures to figure it out. The practical answer seems to be that the short sellers' brokers were on the hook to come up with the extra money, and that the brokers' ability to go after the short sellers depended on the margin and stock-lending agreements they had with those sellers. Anecdotally, it seems that the brokers have mostly tried to seek payment from their customers who were short -- and that some of those customers feel pretty aggrieved about it. You can see why: They closed their trades four years ago, and whatever irregularities occurred in Murdock's buyout of Dole weren't their fault. Why should they have to pay for them? Even beyond the arguable unfairness, it is just administratively messy: Someone has to find all those short sellers. If you were short Dole shares in 2013, and subsequently closed your account, wound up your fund, or died, how would a broker get you to pay up?
It's all such a mess, in fact, that I wrote: "It does seem like a half-competent blockchain would be faster and cheaper and more transparent" than the messy current system of share ownership. Just, you know, blockchain it up, keep track of who owns what and who borrowed what from whom, and have a permanent legible record to keep track of these weird webs of contingent obligation.
Ha ha ha, what a fool I was. Here is an announcement from Bitfinex, a bitcoin exchange, that is mind-blowing and wonderful and far weirder than anything a Delaware court could come up with. It has to do with Tuesday's hard fork of bitcoin, in which each holder of a bitcoin ended up with both (1) the original bitcoin, on the original bitcoin blockchain, and (2) a new bitcoin, on a new "Bitcoin Cash" blockchain, which is trying to become a viable alternative flavor of bitcoin. (The convention seems to be to call original bitcoins BTC, and the new Bitcoin Cash bitcoins BCH or BCC. I'll use "BTC" and "BCH" here.) Jian Li writes:
To use an imperfect analogy from corporate finance, you could think of the fork as a spinoff. For most of PayPal's life, it was owned by eBay. Holders of the EBAY ticker owned the parent company eBay, which encompassed eBay proper as well as PayPal. On the day of the spinoff, eBay stockholders received, for each EBAY share they owned, one PYPL share. At the same time, they got to keep their existing EBAY shares.
Something a little like that is going on with the bitcoin fork, although it is a bit stranger metaphysically. It is also a bit stranger economically. In a spinoff, you'd expect the original company's value to drop by roughly the value of the spun-off company, which after all it doesn't own any more. BCH spun off from BTC on Tuesday afternoon, and briefly traded over $700 on Wednesday (though it later fell significantly). But BTC hasn't really lost any value since the spinoff, still trading at about $2,700. So just before the spinoff, if you had a bitcoin, you had a bitcoin worth about $2,700. Now, you have a BTC worth about $2,700, and also a BCH worth as much as $700. It's weird free money, if you owned bitcoins yesterday.
But what if you owned negative bitcoins yesterday? What if, that is, you had borrowed bitcoins in order to sell them short? Well, in stock lending situations, the normal way that this works is that the short sellers (stock borrowers) have to come up with whatever is distributed on a stock. If you are short a stock and it pays a $1 dividend, you have to come up with $1. If it spins off a subsidiary, you have to go out and buy a share of the subsidiary to deliver back to your stock lender. If it is acquired in a leveraged buyout for $13.50, you have to come up with $13.50. If it distributes a pony to each shareholder, you have to come up with a pony.
You could imagine bitcoin lenders taking the same approach: If you were short a bitcoin going into the fork, now you have to deliver one BTC and one BCH to your lender. Or not! In fact, when bitcoin distributed a pony of indeterminate value to its holders, Bitfinex decided -- not unreasonably -- that it would be unfair to make bitcoin borrowers come up with it. The value of Bitcoin Cash is uncertain and volatile, and forcing bitcoin shorts to go out and buy Bitcoin Cash to cover their shorts might create artificial demand for it and push up the price. So Bitfinex announced, last week, that short sellers would not have to come up with any BCH.
This creates a problem: If people are long 125 bitcoins, and other people are short 25 bitcoins, then there are a total of 100 bitcoins at the exchange. If there are 100 bitcoins, then 100 BCH will be distributed on them. But if people own 125 of those 100 bitcoins, and if you get only 100 BCH, and if the shorts don't have to come up with the shortfall, then you can't give one BCH to each bitcoin holder. One option here would be to just not give them any BCH, and ignore the whole thing, which seems to be the approach that several bitcoin exchanges took. But Bitfinex took the more customer-friendly -- though pretty ad hoc -- approach of just divvying up the BCH evenly among all the long holders of bitcoins. With my stylized numbers, if people were long 125 bitcoins and short 25, then each long holder would get 0.8 of the 100 BCH distributed to Bitfinex, and the short holders wouldn't have to come up with anything.
But this creates another, funnier problem: That's so easy to game! Here's what you do:
Set up an account, borrow one bitcoin, sell it short, collect $2,700.Set up another account, buy a bitcoin, spend $2,700.When the fork happens, your long account ends up with +1 BTC and +0.8 BCH.Your short account ends up with -1 BTC and -0 BCH (because Bitfinex doesn't require you to come up with the BCH).Net, you have $0, 0 BTC and 0.8 BCH.The 0.8 BCH were worth as much as $560.That money was totally free. This is such a dumb obvious arbitrage that lots of people tried it. Bitfinex was not happy. "After the methodology announcement on July 27th, several accounts began large-scale manipulation tactics in an attempt to obtain BCH tokens at the expense of exchange longs and lenders on the platform, causing the distribution coefficient to artificially plummet," said the exchange's Wednesday announcement, which claimed that "this kind of manipulation - including wash trading and self-funding shorts - is in violation of Bitfinex's terms of service." So:
Upon careful review and analysis, we have decided to disallow any hedged BTC balances in excess of any such hedged balances that may have existed at the time of the July 27th distribution announcement. While this may be disappointing to some, it is welcome news to the many users with bona fide BTC exposure through settled wallet balances. This adjustment increases the distribution coefficient from 0.7757 to 0.8539.
Umm? That strikes me as fair, I guess? It is also a mess, though: Bitfinex announced a policy to deal with the fork, people took advantage of the policy, and Bitfinex changed its mind after the fact. Each of its decisions was rational, and quite plausibly the fairest option available to it. None of those decisions were required by, like, the nature of bitcoin, or of short selling: There is no single obviously correct solution to these issues. Instead, each decision was sort of weird and contingent and reversible: not the immutable code of the blockchain, but just humans sitting around and trying to figure out which approach would cause the fewest complaints. In that, it's a bit like the Dole settlement process -- only instead of a neutral judge making decisions based on written contracts and established precedent, it's the people running each exchange making their own judgment calls.
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Part of me still stands by my dumb statement about Dole that a blockchain would help. It would help here too! A ledger of who was long and who was short before the fork would perhaps make sorting out these issues easier after the fact. But the bitcoin blockchain doesn't work that way: There's no primitive way to short bitcoins into the blockchain, so exchanges exist in part to provide lending services for people who want to be short. The blockchain has a certain stark logical completeness, but it doesn't address all of the actual human uses required of it. And so it has become encrusted with other human institutions. And those institutions turn out to be unsurprisingly human.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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James Greiff at
VIDEO - Mayor Of Disappearing Island Faces Al Gore And Shuts Down Global Warming Claim - YouTube
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 13:18
VIDEO - (1) New Hillary Clinton Emails Show MORE Clear Evidence Of PAY-FOR-PLAY Politics At The State Department - YouTube
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 12:47
VIDEO - Pentagon should declassify report on 'child sex abuse' by Afghan forces '' govt watchdog '-- RT News
Thu, 03 Aug 2017 11:33
The Pentagon should declassify a report on alleged sexual abuse of children by Afghan security forces, a US government watchdog said, adding that Washington should not provide further security assistance to Kabul if there is ''credible'' information on the claims.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a US government authority aimed at providing independent oversight of reconstruction projects and activities in Afghanistan, made the statement in a quarterly report.
Read more
The document mentions the body's evaluation report, released to the US Congress in June, which concerns ''allegations of sexual abuse of children by members of the Afghan security forces.'' It also discusses ''the extent to which the US holds Afghan security forces accountable'' for the alleged actions.
However, the Department of Defense (DoD) ''classified much of the information on which the SIGAR report is based.'' The watchdog thus urged the DoD to declassify the report ''so that it can be released to the public.''
''Under the Leahy Laws, DoD and State are prohibited from providing assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the Secretaries of State or Defense have credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights,'' the watchdog said.
According to SIGAR, Afghan officials remain complicit, ''especially in the sexual exploitation and recruitment of children by Afghan security forces.''
''Victim-protection efforts remained inadequate, as all but one government-run shelter for trafficking victims remained closed during the reporting period.''
In addition, the authority accuses the Afghan government of failing to develop or employ ''standard operating procedures for victim identification or for referral of victims to rehabilitation services.''
The situation often ''resulted in the government's arrest and prosecution of trafficking victims as criminals,'' it added.
Read more
Back in 2015, reports emerged that US troops stationed in Afghanistan had discovered local commanders were sexually abusing boys, and even though the soldiers had often heard the boys screaming, senior officers had told them to ignore it.
What the soldiers described resembled 'Bacha bazi,' an illegal Afghan practice that involves the sexual abuse of prepubescent and adolescent boys.
However, the Pentagon denied that it had ever instructed soldiers to look the other way when Afghan Army commanders were abusing young boys.
In 2016, the DoD inspector general started an investigation into how US military officials responded to reports that members of Afghan security and police forces engaged in the sexual abuse of young boys. The allegations raise "serious questions about international, US, and Department of Defense (DoD) law or policy related to child sexual abuse by [Afghan security personnel],'' Kenneth Moorefield, the DoD deputy inspector general for special plans and operations, said at that time.
However, no complete report has been released from the DoD since.
VIDEO - Audio: Seymour Hersh States Seth Rich Was WikiLeaks Source - Big League Politics
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 14:35
In an audio recording provided to Big League Politics by a source that currently wishes to remain anonymous, journalist Seymour Hersh confirms that Seth Rich had contacted WikiLeaks with sample emails from the leak. Hersh cites an FBI document as proof for his claim.
''There are no DNC or Podesta emails that exist beyond May 21 or 22, last email from either one of those groups. What the report says is that some time in late Spring'... he makes contact with WikiLeaks, that's in his computer,'' he says. ''Anyway, they found what he had done is that he had submitted a series of documents '-- of emails, of juicy emails, from the DNC.''
Hersh explains that it was unclear how the negotiations went, but that WikiLeaks did obtain access to a password protected DropBox where Rich had put the files.
''All I know is that he offered a sample, an extensive sample, I'm sure dozens of emails, and said 'I want money.' Later, WikiLeaks did get the password, he had a DropBox, a protected DropBox,'' he said. They got access to the DropBox.''
Hersh also states that Rich had concerns about something happening to him, and had
''The word was passed, according to the NSA report, he also shared this DropBox with a couple of friends, so that 'if anything happens to me it's not going to solve your problems,''' he added. ''WikiLeaks got access before he was killed.''
This conversation is the second in a series provided to Big League Politics.
Seymour Hersh did not contact the family with his information.
In the first audio recording, private investigator Rod Wheeler explains what happened with the Fox News coverage of Seth Rich '-- and how brother Aaron Rich was actively attempting to shut down anyone looking into the WikiLeaks connection. His story in the audio contradicts reports of White House involvement with the media reports regarding Seth Rich.
Wheeler also said that brother Aaron Rich tried to block Wheeler from looking at Seth's computer, even though there could be evidence on it. ''He said no, he said I have his computer, meaning him,'' Wheeler said. ''I said, well can I look at it?'...He said, what are you looking for? I said anything that could indicate if Seth was having problems with someone. He said no, I already checked it. Don't worry about it.''
by Cassandra Fairbanks | Tue 1st, 2017 5:08 pm EST
Wed, 02 Aug 2017 00:00
VIDEO - Lawsuit Alleges Fox News And Trump Supporter Created Fake News Story : NPR
Tue, 01 Aug 2017 16:34
Mary Rich, the mother of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, speaks at a press conference on Aug. 1, 2016. A lawsuit alleges Fox News and a wealthy Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to the Russian government by concocting a story about Seth Rich's death. Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post/Getty Imageshide caption
toggle captionMichael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post/Getty Images Mary Rich, the mother of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, speaks at a press conference on Aug. 1, 2016. A lawsuit alleges Fox News and a wealthy Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to the Russian government by concocting a story about Seth Rich's death.
Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post/Getty Images The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young Democratic National Committee aide, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The explosive claim is part of the lawsuit filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for the news network. The suit was obtained exclusively by NPR.
Wheeler alleges Fox News and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story.
Fox's president of news, Jay Wallace, told NPR on Monday that there was no "concrete evidence" that Wheeler was misquoted by the reporter, Malia Zimmerman. The news executive did not address a question about the story's allegedly partisan origins. Fox News declined to allow Zimmerman to comment for this story.
The story, which first aired in May, was retracted by Fox News a week later. Fox News has, to date, taken no action in response to what it said was a failure to adhere to the network's standards.
The lawsuit focuses particular attention on the role of the Trump supporter, Ed Butowsky, in weaving the story. He is a wealthy Dallas investor and unpaid Fox commentator on financial matters who has emerged as a reliable Republican surrogate in recent years. Butowsky offered to pay for Wheeler to investigate the death of the DNC aide, Seth Rich, on behalf of his grieving parents in Omaha, Neb.
On April 20, a month before the story ran, Butowsky and Wheeler '-- the investor and the investigator '-- met at the White House with then-press secretary Sean Spicer to brief him on what they were uncovering.
The first page of the lawsuit quotes a voicemail and text from Butowsky boasting that Trump himself had reviewed drafts of the Fox News story just before it went to air and was published.
Spicer now tells NPR that he took the meeting as a favor to Butowsky, a reliable Republican voice. Spicer says he was unaware of any contact involving the president. Butowsky now tells NPR that he was kidding about Trump's involvement.
"Rod Wheeler unfortunately was used as a pawn by Ed Butowsky, Fox News and the Trump administration to try and steer away the attention that was being given about the Russian hacking of the DNC e-mails," says Douglas Wigdor, Wheeler's lawyer.
The back story
On May 16, the Fox News Channel broke what it called a "bombshell" story about an unsolved homicide: the July 2016 shooting of 27-year-old Democratic Party staffer Seth Rich.
Unfounded conspiracy theories involving Rich abounded in the months after his death, in part because WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cryptically suggested that Rich's death may have been related to the leaks of tens of thousands of emails from Democratic Party officials and their allies at the peak of the presidential campaign.
Fox News' story, which took flight online and ran in segments across major shows, breathed fresh life into the rumors. Fox reported that the leaks came from inside the party and not from hackers linked to Russia '-- despite the conclusions of the nation's most senior intelligence officials. The network suggested that Democrats might have been connected to Rich's death and that a cover-up had thwarted the official investigation.
The network cited an unnamed FBI official. And the report relied heavily on Wheeler, a former police detective, hired months earlier on behalf of the Riches by Butowsky.
These developments took place during growing public concern over a federal investigation into the Trump camp's possible collusion with the Russian government during the campaign. The allegations have since touched the president's son and son-in-law, his former campaign manager, his attorney general and his first national security adviser, who resigned as a result.
The question of Rich's death took on greater urgency for Butowsky after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May. Comey had been overseeing the Russia investigation. The story ran just a week later.
Fox News host Sean Hannity speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2016. Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for Fox News, appeared on Hannity's show to discuss Seth Rich's death. A week after the appearance, Fox retracted the story, saying the reporting process failed to live up to its standards. Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Imageshide caption
toggle captionSaul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Fox News host Sean Hannity speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2016. Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for Fox News, appeared on Hannity's show to discuss Seth Rich's death. A week after the appearance, Fox retracted the story, saying the reporting process failed to live up to its standards.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images Fox's report went sideways shortly after it was posted online and aired on Fox & Friends. It was denounced by the Rich family, D.C. police, Democratic Party officials and even, privately, by some journalists within the network. Within hours, Wheeler told other news outlets that Fox News had put words in his mouth.
Despite those concerns, Wheeler appeared on the shows of Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and Fox News star Sean Hannity, who devoted significant time to the story that night and in subsequent days. In speaking with Wheeler, Hannity said: "If this is true and Seth Rich gave WikiLeaks the DNC e-mails ... this blows the whole Russia collusion narrative completely out of the water."
A week later, on May 23, Fox retracted the story, saying the reporting process failed to live up to its standards. Hannity said he would take a break from talking about Rich's death out of respect for the family. And there it has largely stood '-- until now.
The fake news story
In the lawsuit, the private investigator sets out a different version of events. Wheeler, a paid Fox News contributor since 2005, alleges the story was orchestrated behind the scenes and from the outset by Butowsky, the Dallas wealth management consultant and also Fox News commentator, who hired him for the Rich family.
The following account reflects the verbatim quotes provided from the texts, emails, voicemails and recorded conversations cited in Wheeler's lawsuit, except as otherwise noted.
According to the lawsuit, Trump's press secretary Sean Spicer meets at the White House with Wheeler and Butowsky to review the Rich story a month before Fox News ran the piece.
On May 14, about 36 hours before Fox News' story appears, Butowsky leaves a voicemail for Wheeler, saying, "We have the full, uh, attention of the White House on this. And tomorrow, let's close this deal, whatever we've got to do."
Butowsky also texts Wheeler: "Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It's now all up to you."
Spicer now confirms meeting with the two but denies claims about the president.
"Ed's been a longtime supporter of the president and asked to meet to catch up," Spicer tells NPR on Monday night.
"I didn't know who Rod Wheeler was. Once we got into my office, [Butowsky] said, 'I'm sure you recognize Rod Wheeler from Fox News.' "
Spicer says Butowsky laid out what they had found about the case. "It had nothing to do with advancing the president's domestic agenda '-- and there was no agenda," Spicer says now. "They were just informing me of the [Fox] story."
Spicer says he is not aware of any contact, direct or not, between Butowsky and Trump. And Butowsky now tells NPR he has never shared drafts of the story with Trump or his aides '-- that he was joking with a friend.
Instead, Butowsky repeatedly claims that the meeting was set up to address Wheeler's pleas for help landing a job for the Trump administration. Wheeler's attorney, Wigdor, says there is no evidence to support that claim.
In the suit, Wheeler alleges that Butowsky was using the White House references to pressure him.
Wheeler did play his own role in furthering the story. But he contends that he regretted it the same day it aired. His suit alleges Fox News defamed him by manufacturing two false quotations attributed to him and ruining his reputation by blaming him as the deceptive story fell apart. Wheeler, an African-American, is also suing the network for racial discrimination, saying he failed to advance as prominently as white counterparts. Fox News had no comment on that allegation.
Who is Ed Butowsky?
Butowsky is a silver-haired brash investor who became known for helping newly rich athletes figure out how to manage their money '-- and avoid getting fleeced. A native New Yorker and son of a former top enforcement officer for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Butowsky attended the University of Texas in the early 1980s. He set up his own company, Chapwood Capital Investment Management in Addison, Texas, outside Dallas, after a long stint at Morgan Stanley.
Federal records compiled by the election finance database show Butowsky has given money to the campaigns of nine politicians: seven Republicans and two Democrats, including $1,000 to Barack Obama's campaign in January 2008.
The lawsuit alleges that Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter from Texas, played a significant role in weaving a false story about Rich's death. LM Otero/APhide caption
toggle captionLM Otero/AP The lawsuit alleges that Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter from Texas, played a significant role in weaving a false story about Rich's death.
LM Otero/AP In recent years, Butowsky has become outspoken about his political beliefs, becoming a familiar face on Fox News and its sister channel, the Fox Business Network. Butowsky has also appeared on Breitbart News' radio programs featuring then-Breitbart Chairman Steve Bannon, who became Trump's campaign chief and is now the president's senior political strategist.
Butowsky emerged as a vocal backer of Trump's candidacy. He attended Trump's inauguration, posting pictures from the day on social media. In the Seth Rich case, Butowsky presented himself as a good Samaritan who came across a sliver of information about Seth Rich's death and shared it with the Riches.
"I thought, 'You know what?' I'm going to help these people out," Butowsky said on the radio show of David Webb, a conservative Fox News contributor. "Somehow, these people need to know what happened to their little boy." He gave a similar account in an interview Monday with NPR.
Wheeler's lawsuit alleges that Butowsky's generosity is clearly politically motivated.
On Feb. 23, more than six months after Rich's death, Butowsky introduces himself to Wheeler with a flattering text, citing mutual friends from Fox News. "Behind the scenes, I do a lot of work, (unpaid) helping to uncover certain stories," Butowsky writes, as recounted in the suit.
"[M]y biggest work was revealing most of what we know today about Benghazi." Later that day, Butowsky speaks to Wheeler for about 20 minutes by phone, saying his primary aim is to help the Rich family.
The man behind the lawsuit: Rod Wheeler
Wheeler, a 57-year-old former Washington, D.C., homicide detective, was part of the Metropolitan Police Department from 1990 to 1995, when he was dismissed, according to the agency. His New York City-based attorney, Wigdor, says Wheeler was fired for insubordination after his urine tested positive for trace amounts of marijuana.
When he meets with Butowsky, Wheeler has been a paid contributor to Fox News for more than 11 years and has been actively but unsuccessfully seeking greater exposure on the network, according to the suit.
Five days later, the two men meet in person at a lunch in Washington. Butowsky introduces an unexpected third guest: Malia Zimmerman, a Fox News investigative producer based in Los Angeles who had made a name for enterprise reporting from a conservative standpoint.
MediaDNC Staffer's Murder Illustrates How Conspiracy Theorists Spread Fake NewsDNC Staffer's Murder Illustrates How Conspiracy Theorists Spread Fake NewsAccording to the account in the suit, Butowsky cautions Wheeler before they set out to meet the Riches: "[M]ake sure to play down Fox News. Don't mention you know Malia."
And Butowsky lays out a different mission than aiding the Rich family. Butowsky says he became convinced that the FBI had a report concluding that Seth Rich's laptop showed he had had contacts with WikiLeaks after speaking to the legendary reporter Seymour Hersh, who was also investigating Rich's death. According to the transcripts in the lawsuit, Butowsky says Hersh had an FBI source who confirmed the report.
In an interview this week, Hersh sounded unconvinced.
"I hear gossip," Hersh told NPR on Monday. "[Butowsky] took two and two and made 45 out of it."
Rich's parents initially welcome Wheeler's help and Butowsky's largesse. On March 14, Butowsky pays Wheeler $5,000, through a limited partnership company called Googie LP. (NPR found that Butowsky is listed in Texas public records as its general partner.)
Wheeler does not make great headway. The FBI informs Butowsky, Wheeler and Zimmerman that the agency is not assisting the Washington, D.C., police on the investigation '-- undercutting claims about an FBI report.
A Metro D.C. police detective tells Wheeler that Rich's death was likely a robbery gone awry and that the FBI is not involved.
Preparing to publish
On May 9, Trump fires Comey.
On May 10, Butowsky and Zimmerman call Wheeler to say they have an FBI source confirming emails were sent from Seth Rich to WikiLeaks, though they do not share the source's identity, according to the investigator's suit. Wheeler will later say this is the only federal law enforcement source that Fox News '-- or he '-- has related to this story.
Wheeler says he doesn't know whether that source emerged from Butowsky's conversation with Seymour Hersh or whether it was a fabrication.
The next day, Zimmerman sends Wheeler a draft of her story, which is to run initially on the network's website. It includes no quotes from Wheeler.
The night before the story ran and the day of the story itself, Butowsky coached Wheeler on what to say on the air."
On the evening of May 14, Butowsky leaves a voicemail for Wheeler raising the stakes by invoking the White House and saying, "Let's close this deal."
A bit later that night, at 9:10 p.m., Butowsky texts Wheeler, according to Wheeler's suit: "Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It's now all up to you. But don't feel the pressure."
As the night before the story is aired progresses, Butowsky is awake, online and anticipating what is to unfold in a few short hours.
Butowsky sends an email to Fox News producers and hosts coaching them on how to frame the Rich story, according to the lawsuit. Recipients included Fox & Friends hosts, Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt and Brian Kilmeade.
"I'm actually the one who's been putting this together but as you know, I keep my name out of things because I have no credibility," Butowsky writes, as reflected in the Wheeler suit. "One of the big conclusions we need to draw from this is that the Russians did not hack our computer systems and ste[a]l emails and there was no collusion" between "Trump and the Russians."
The night before the story ran and the day of the story itself, Butowsky coaches Wheeler on what to say on the air: "[T]he narrative in the interviews you might use is that you and [Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman's] work prove that the Russians didn't hack into the DNC and steal the emails and impact our elections." In another text, he writes: "If you can, try to highlight this puts the Russian hacking story to rest."
Fox goes with the story
The story breaks earlier than expected.
On the evening of May 15, Fox News' sister local station in Washington, Fox 5 DC, runs a story online at once promoting and pre-empting the network's apparent scoop. "The police department nor the FBI have been forthcoming," Wheeler tells the station. "They haven't been cooperating at all. I believe that the answer to solving his death lies on that computer, which I believe is either at the police department or either at the FBI. I have been told both."
On Fox & Friends, the hosts call the story a 'bombshell.' "
Asked whether his sources have told him about information linking Rich to the WikiLeaks email dump, Wheeler says, "Absolutely. Yeah. That's confirmed."
The next morning, the story goes national.
Fox News reports that evidence from Rich's laptop showed he had been in contact with WikiLeaks just days before the site posted those emails. Fox also reports that powerful forces were trying to quash the official investigation into his death.
On Fox & Friends, the hosts call the story a "bombshell."
Zimmerman's online story cites an unnamed "federal investigator who reviewed an FBI report" for its findings. It also cites Wheeler, incorporating two key quotations from Wheeler that do not appear on video. In each, the private investigator seemingly takes ownership of the accusations.
The first: "My investigation up to this point shows there was some degree of email exchange between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks."
The second: "My investigation shows someone within the D.C. government, Democratic National Committee or Clinton team is blocking the murder investigation from going forward. That is unfortunate. Seth Rich's murder is unsolved as a result of that."
The Riches torch Wheeler, saying they have seen no proof for his contentions.
Wheeler alleges both quotations were fabricated and untrue.
According to the lawsuit, Zimmerman promised to have those lines removed '-- but they stay in the story. Zimmerman then tells him that her bosses at Fox News had instructed her to leave those quotes in.
That same day, the suit recounts, Zimmerman writes a letter to Seth Rich's father, Joel, distancing Fox News from responsibility for what the network reported: "Much of our information came from a private investigator, Rod Wheeler, who we understand was working on behalf of you."
Wheeler challenges Zimmerman over the letter in a three-way phone conversation that also included Butowsky. The Fox News producer defends herself: "That's the email that Fox asked me to send him. They wrote it for me."
Wheeler replies: "That's not accurate, though, because much, much of the information did not come from me."
"Not about the emails. Not the part about, I mean, the connection to WikiLeaks," Zimmerman acknowledges. "But the rest of the quotes in the story did."
Butowsky weighs in: "One day you're going to win an award for having said those things you didn't say." Later, according to the recordings transcribed in the suit, Butowsky acknowledges Wheeler hadn't made any claims of personal knowledge about emails between Rich and WikiLeaks. "I know that's not true," Butowsky says. "If I'm under oath, I would say I never heard him say that."
Both try to keep Wheeler on board, however.
Zimmerman issues instructions for Wheeler's appearance on Sean Hannity's show later that evening. "Reread the story we sent you last night [that contained the invented quotes] and stick to the script," she texts Wheeler.
Despite his misgivings, Wheeler plays along. On Hannity's show, Wheeler says he doesn't personally know about Rich's emails or computers but says that a "very credible" federal investigator says "he laid eyes on the case file." Wheeler offers energetic speculation though not much more: "When you look at that with the totality of everything else that I found in this case it's very consistent for a person with my experience to begin to think well perhaps there were some e-mail communications between Seth and WikiLeaks."
The aftermath
On May 23, Fox News posts an unsigned statement retracting Zimmerman's online story.
The network does not apologize or explain what went wrong. "The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require for all our reporting," the statement reads. "Upon appropriate review, the article was found not to meet those standards and has since been removed."
In early June, Wheeler meets with Dianne Brandi, general counsel for the network, and Jay Wallace, the network's president for news. He makes his case that fabricated quotes had knowingly been attributed to him. Neither ever publicly speak of the matter afterward, until now. "Since meeting with Rod Wheeler, we have also met with Malia Zimmerman to try to determine whether Rod was misquoted," Wallace says in a statement to NPR. "As of now, we don't have concrete evidence that he was."
A Fox News executive knowledgeable about the controversy, who would only speak if granted anonymity, tells NPR, "The story was published to the website without review by or permission from senior management." The executive notes that Wallace had placed the broadcast and digital newsgathering teams under the same leadership for the first time after a series of management changes following the forced departure of the network's founder, the late Roger Ailes, and many of his top deputies.
In late June, Wheeler warns Fox News and Butowsky that he may file suit. Three days later, Butowsky tweets: "Fox News story was pulled b/c Rod Wheeler said [he] didn't say a quote ... How much did DNC pay him?" And then Butowsky tweets: "This shows Rod Wheeler has a major battle with the truth."
The two men, thrust together on a common effort for months, have been torn apart by its aftermath. In the interview with NPR, Butowsky insists that he was acting out of a civic-minded spirit for the Riches and not with any partisan or political drive. Zimmerman remains on staff at Fox News, actively reporting on unrelated stories.
A spokeswoman for the FBI tells NPR this week that the agency has played no part in the investigation of the unsolved homicide. And a spokeswoman for Washington's Metropolitan Police Department says, "MPD stands behind its original assertion that Seth Rich was the victim of a botched armed robbery."
VIDEO - Lawsuit: Fox News concocted Seth Rich story with oversight from White House
Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:04
The story was pushed in an attempt to discredit the US intelligence community's determination that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and obtained the emails released by Wikileaks, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit, which was first reported by NPR, was filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York. The plaintiff is Rod Wheeler, a Fox News contributor and former homicide detective hired to investigate Rich's death, who alleges that he was misquoted as part of the effort to put the story together. Douglas Wigdor, who is representing current and former Fox employees in other lawsuits against the network, is Wheeler's lawyer.
21st Century Fox, the Fox News Channel, Fox News reporter Malia Zimmerman and Republican donor Ed Butowsky are named as defendants. Butowsky denies the allegations in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit says in part, "The motivation behind the article: establish that Seth Rich provided WikiLeaks with the DNC emails to shift the blame from Russia and help put to bed speculation that President Trump colluded with Russia in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Presidential election. ... Zimmerman, Butowsky and Fox had created fake news to advance President Trump's agenda. Mr. Wheeler was subsequently forced to correct the false record and, as a result, lost all credibility in the eyes of the public. Mr. Wheeler has suffered irreparable damage to his reputation and his career will likely never recover."
Related: Read the full lawsuit
Butowsky told CNN that "the lawsuit is bulls**t" and said "Wigdor pulled this out of his butt to make money."
Included in the lawsuit is a text message from Butowsky to Wheeler in which Butowsky writes, "Not to add any more pressure but the president just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It's now all up to you. But don't feel the pressure."
Butowsky told CNN that this message was a joke referring to what he said was Wheeler's desire for a job with the Trump administration. "This was Rod and I," Butowsky said. "We teased all the time. We were basically telling him you are doing a great job and that the president or the White House or somebody would be interested in meeting you."
A spokesperson for the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reached for comment, a Fox News spokesperson pointed CNN to a comment that Jay Wallace, the network's president of news and editorial, gave to NPR in which he said an investigation found no "concrete evidence" Wheeler was misquoted.
CNNMoney (New York) First published August 1, 2017: 10:52 AM ET
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