United States beef imports in South Korea - Wikipedia
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 14:27
U.S. beef imports in South Korea made up a $504 million industry for the American beef industry in 2010. The import of U.S. beef was banned in 2003 in South Korea and in other nations after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy was discovered in the United States. At the time, South Korea was the third-largest purchaser of U.S. beef exports, with an estimated market value of $815 million. After a number of failed attempts at reopening the Korean market, imports finally resumed in July 2008 leading to the massive 2008 US beef protest in South Korea. In 2010, South Korea again became the world's third largest U.S. beef importer.
Import ban [ edit] The Government of South Korea banned imports of U.S. beef in 2003 when a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease was discovered in a cow in Washington. By 2006, the United States Department of Agriculture would confirm a total of three cases of BSE-infected cattle, two raised domestically, and one imported from Canada. At the time, South Korea was the third-largest purchaser of US beef exports, with an estimated market value of $815 million. An early attempt to reopen the Korean market in the fall of 2006 failed when the Korean government discovered bone chips in the shipment. Sporadic attempts made in the following year also failed for similar reasons.
Protests [ edit] Throughout the ban, domestic beef farmers and local activists opposed re-opening of the market to U.S. claiming that American beef would cause mad cow disease. When the Lotte Department Store attempted to sell US beef in July 2007 during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, local activists stormed the meat counters and hurled cow dung at department store workers, abruptly terminating the resumption of sales. When President Lee Myung-bak assumed office in February 2008, it was widely expected that he would relax the ban on US beef as part of the process of ratification for the South Korea '' United States Free Trade Agreement concluded by his predecessor, Roh Moo-hyun. Lee Myung-bak's attempt to reopen the Korean market to US beef along with protests against the Free Trade Agreement led to the country's largest anti-government protests in 20 years.
Lifting of import ban [ edit] Despite the protests, US beef imports resumed on 1 July 2008. On 2 July 2008, Han Seung-soo, Prime Minister of South Korea bought 260,000 won worth of U.S. steak to eat with his family at his official residence to alleviate public worries about US beef. Imports of U.S. beef grew throughout 2008. During that year, Australian beef accounted for 60% (12,753 tons) of a total 21,184 tons of imported beef, but U.S. beef became the second largest supplier of foreign beef with 20% (4,439 tons). With continued import growth since the lifting of the ban, in 2010, South Korea surpassed US beef imports in Japan for the first time to become the largest market for U.S. beef in Asia.
In 2012 South Korea ramped up inspections of U.S. beef imports following the U.S. government's confirmation of a fourth case of BSE but did not halt imports. South Korea ended the special inspections two months later.
References [ edit] See also [ edit]
The magic formula - Korean golfers
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 14:24
ON JANUARY 29th, Lydia Ko (pictured) became the youngest woman ever to win a professional golf tournament. At 14 years old, she's not yet old enough to drive a car. But she can drive (and putt) a golf ball well enough to beat a pack of adult pros. This staggering achievement provokes a question: Why are Korean women so good at golf?
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South Korea is a small, crowded country. It has only 0.7% of the world's population, and hardly any room for golf courses. Yet four of the top 10 female golfers in the world are Korean, as are 38 of the top 100 and 144 of the top 500. And these extraordinary numbers do not include women of Korean ancestry, such as Ms Ko herself, whose parents moved to New Zealand when she was six.
One theory is that modern Korean society is so competitive'--think of the effort Korean kids put into passing exams'--that it breeds champions. There may be something in this. I once played with a Korean friend on a course near Seoul. A few holes from the end, lightning started stabbing the hillsides around us. I suggested abandoning the match'--who wants to walk around in an electric storm waving a long piece of metal in the air? But my Korean opponent would have none of it. He'd fought in Vietnam, and wasn't scared by the mere threat of electrocution. He insisted on finishing. Naturally, he won.
Another theory is that Korean fathers push their daughters harder than dads elsewhere. The father of Se-Ri Pak, who has won five major tournaments and 25 LPGA tournaments overall, made her get up at 5.30 every morning and run up and down the 15 flights of stairs in their apartment block to build up her strength. He made her practise in the cold until icicles formed in her hair. And to overcome her nerves, he made her sleep all night in a cemetery. Small wonder Ms Pak has been so successful'--and was hospitalised for exhaustion in 1998. (Biographies of Ms Pak and other Korean women golfers can be found at Seoul Sisters, a fan website.)
My theory, for what it's worth, is that three forces are at work. First, Korea's lack of space means that golfers start off hitting balls at a driving range instead of playing a proper course. This means they hit a heck of a lot of balls. (A proper round of golf consists mostly of walking between shots, which is not good practice for anything.)
Second, Korean culture stresses constant repetition in pursuit of perfection. That's how calligraphers and taekwondo masters train. It's also a good way to develop a reliable golf swing.
Third, Koreans have a tendency to follow trends. Before 1998, when Ms Pak won the US Women's Open and became a national heroine, not many Korean women played golf. Immediately afterwards, legions of Korean girls took up the game. Within a decade, they were dominating it.
The Texas Church Shooter Should Have Been Legally Barred From Owning Guns : The Two-Way : NPR
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:39
Law enforcement officials continue their investigation at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas on Monday. Scott Olson/Getty Imageshide caption
toggle captionScott Olson/Getty Images Law enforcement officials continue their investigation at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas on Monday.
Scott Olson/Getty Images Updated at 8:30 p.m. ET
The Air Force says a mistake allowed Devin Patrick Kelley to buy guns. On Sunday Kelley opened fire on a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
The former airman had an assault-style rifle and two handguns '-- all purchased by him, according to federal officials '-- when he shot and killed 26 people.
Devin Patrick Kelley served 12 months in a plea deal for the assault of his wife and stepson, crimes punishable by up to five years. Texas Department of Public Safety via APhide caption
toggle captionTexas Department of Public Safety via AP Devin Patrick Kelley served 12 months in a plea deal for the assault of his wife and stepson, crimes punishable by up to five years.
Texas Department of Public Safety via AP He also had a known record of domestic violence. In 2012, while he was in the U.S. Air Force, he was court-martialed for assaulting his then-wife and stepson. He served a year in confinement at a Naval facility in California after a plea bargain.
Under federal law, his conviction disqualified him from legally possessing a firearm. But there was an apparent breakdown in getting information about his conviction to the proper federal database.
"Initial information indicates that Kelley's domestic violence offense was not entered into the National Criminal Information Center database by the Holloman Air Force Base Office of Special Investigations," said Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek in an email.
Top Air Force brass have ordered a complete review of the case.
Kelley purchased four guns over a four-year period beginning in 2014, according to federal officials; all those purchases were made after his court-martial conviction and discharge.
An official at the Pentagon tells NPR's Tom Bowman that a mistake resulted in neither the arrest nor the conviction being listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, the database that would have flagged him as ineligible to purchase a firearm.
"This was mishandled by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, where Kelley was serving when he was arrested," Tom reports. "An investigation is now underway, and the Air Force is taking it very seriously, said the source."
"The Service will also conduct a comprehensive review of Air Force databases to ensure records in other cases have been reported correctly. The Air Force has also requested that the Department of Defense Inspector General review records and procedures across the Department of Defense," said Stefanek.
Retired Col. Don Christensen, who was the chief prosecutor for the Air Force at the time of Kelley's general court-martial, tells NPR that the case was serious.
"He fractured his baby stepson's skull," Christensen says.
Kelley accepted a deal, pleading guilty to a charge of assault on his wife and to a charge of "intentionally inflicting grievous bodily harm" on the child, Christensen says. His crimes were punishable by up to five years confinement (the military equivalent of a prison term). As part of the deal, Kelley received an 18-month cap on his confinement and was ultimately sentenced to 12 months.
Kelley's punitive discharge '-- a bad conduct discharge '-- did not prohibit him from owning a gun, as a dishonorable discharge would have.
But under federal law, anyone convicted of "a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year" is prohibited from possessing a firearm. The same is true for anyone convicted of "a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence" under a provision that allows no exception for the military or law enforcement.
Kelley's conviction qualified under both categories, Christensen says.
NPR's Martin Kaste reports that Academy Sports & Outdoors, a store that sold Kelley guns, says it ran a background check on Kelley twice in the past two years. Kelley passed each time, the company says.
If Kelley's convictions were never uploaded into the system, that could easily explain how he passed. But even if they had been uploaded, there might still have been trouble getting information into the right hands '-- there's a sort of language barrier between military and civilian justice systems, Christensen says, with different terms for the same kinds of crimes. If the military described a general court-martial for assault, with a sentence of one year, the civilian authorities might "never realize" it was a domestic violence conviction punishable by five years, he says.
In general, there are some "gaping holes" in the current background check system, as NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben reported last year, which can allow people who should fail background checks to buy guns anyway. And if Kelley had purchased a gun from a private seller, he wouldn't have had to pass a background check at all, Martin notes.
Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says Kelley applied for a license to carry a gun and was rejected, Martin reports. He notes that Texas requires a background check but also has additional training and tests that Kelley may not have completed.
As NPR has previously reported, mass shootings are often linked to domestic violence. In fact, in a majority of mass shootings, the shooter's current or former partner, or another family member, is among the victims.
German army 'plans for break up of the European Union' in war game scenario
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:33
T he German army has war-gamed the break up of the European Union in study of security crises that could face the country by 2040.
Military planners in Berlin played out a scenario in which a growing number of countries follow Britain in leaving the EU, resulting in an "increasingly disorderly" world, Der Spiegel reported.
"The EU enlargement has been largely abandoned, more states have left the bloc," strategists wrote in a study cited by the magazine.
"The increasingly disorderly, sometimes chaotic and conflictual world has dramatically changed the security policy environment for Germany and Europe."
D er Speigel said the study could inform German armaments programs in the next several years.
The scenario was one of six examined in a study of security challenges German generals believe could unfold over the next 23 years.
The other five include one in which some central and east European states enter an "Eastern bloc," presumably a reference to the growing influence of Russia.
O ther scenarios envisaged European countries embracing "state capitalism" and a halt to globalization.
A spokesman for the German Defence Ministry said the study, called Strategic Perspective 2040, made "robust predictions" but did not attach probabilities to them.
He declined to comment on content of the report, saying it was confidential.
Self-driving shuttle in Las Vegas got into an accident on its first day
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:16
Jason Ogulnik | The Washington Post | Getty Images
A Navya Arma autonomous electric shuttle prepares to move along Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, U.S., on January 14, 2017.
A Las Vegas-based self-driving shuttle service celebrated its launch day by getting into an accident with a human driver, according to a news report from local Nevada broadcast station KSNV News 3. The shuttle, made by French startup Navya and owned and operated by French private transportation company Keolis, operates on a 0.6-mile loop around downtown Las Vegas offering free rides to residents. Within an hour of starting its new expanded operation today, following a two-week pilot test back in January, the shuttle hit the front end of a large delivery truck as the human driver pulled out into the street from a loading bay.
A spokesperson for AAA, which is working with Las Vegas and Keolis to sponsor the program and survey driver attitudes toward autonomous vehicles, confirmed on Twitter that the accident was actually the truck driver's fault. As is the case with a vast majority of accidents involving driverless cars, you can chalk this one up to human error. Luckily, only the front bumper of the shuttle was damaged, and none of the eight passengers or the truck driver were injured.
A representative of the Las Vegas city government posted a note on its official Tumblr page further describing the incident:
The autonomous shuttle was testing today when it was grazed by a delivery truck downtown. The shuttle did what it was supposed to do, in that it's sensors registered the truck and the shuttle stopped to avoid the accident. Unfortunately the delivery truck did not stop and grazed the front fender of the shuttle. Had the truck had the same sensing equipment that the shuttle has the accident would have been avoided. Testing of the shuttle will continue during the 12-month pilot in the downtown Innovation District. The shuttle will remain out of service for the rest of the day. The driver of the truck was cited by Metro.
It's good to know that testing is confirmed to continue. Keolis' service marks the country's first ever driverless public transportation option, and it feels largely indicative of how a majority of Americans will first interact with autonomous cars. While the crash will undoubtedly stoke fear among the more paranoid, artificial intelligence-fearing crowd, the best way to prove the viability of self-driving vehicles is to get more of them on public roads where passengers and drivers alike can experience the technology.
For more from The Verge:
Apple says it immediately contacted FBI about unlocking Texas shooter's iPhone
Uber's 'flying cars' could arrive in LA by 2020 '-- and here's what it'll be like to ride one
Scientists save child's life by growing him new skin
Saudi Arabia Is About To Confiscate $33 Billion From Four Of Its Richest People | Zero Hedge
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:12
Earlier today, when discussing the Saudi bank account and asset freeze (and confiscation) of dozens of princes and ministers, we said that just the haul of billionaire prince Alwaleed's $19 billion in various holdings, including nearly a billion dollars in jewelry, plans, yachts, furniture and cash...
... would be an efficient way of refilling Saudi's rapidly declining foreign reserves. And refilling they need: as shown in the chart below, Saudi reserves have declined from their peak in 2014 by over a quarter trillion dollars as a result of the roughly 50% drop in gas prices in the past 3 years.
Of course, it's not just Alwaleed whose net worth is at risk of becoming nationalized. As Bloomberg writes, "the stunning series of arrests has implicated three of the country's richest people, including Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, who's No. 50 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index ranking of the world's 500 richest people, with $19 billion. Also being held are the kingdom's second- and fifth-wealthiest people, as well as a travel-agency mogul and Bakr Binladin, a scion of a one of the country's biggest construction empires." He is also, of course, Osama bin Laden's brother as discussed yesterday.
All told, up to $33 billion in (arrested) royalty wealth is at risk of confiscation.
Here is Bloomberg's breakdown of the 4 Saudi individuals who stand to lose the most from the latest purge:
Alwaleed bin Talal, $19 billion
Owns stakes in Twitter Inc., News Corp. and Citigroup Inc.Nephew of the late Saudi ruler, King Abdullah. Son of Prince Talal and Princess Mona El-Solh, daughter of Lebanon's first prime minister, Riad El-Solh.Made his first billion dollars trading land and acting as a point man for multinational companies seeking local contracts.Alwaleed's publicly traded Kingdom Holding Group released a statement saying it "enjoys a solid financial position" and the government has "full confidence" in the company.
* * *
Mohammed Al Amoudi, $10.1 billion
Controls an empire that has investments across Africa, Europe and Saudi Arabia.Born in Ethiopia to a Saudi father and Ethiopian mother.Moved to Saudi Arabia as a young man and made his first billion in the late 1980s through construction, aided by an early government contract to help build the country's underground oil storage facility.Assets include Sweden's largest oil refiner, Preem AB, real estate and numerous contracting businesses. In Ethiopia, where he's said to be the biggest private investor, he owns hotels and a gold mine, and has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in large-scale farms growing coffee and rice.Tim Pendry, Al Amoudi's London-based spokesman said in a statement Monday that the arrest "is an internal matter for the kingdom and we have no further comment to make other than to say that the overseas businesses owned by the Sheikh remain unaffected by this development."
* * *
Saleh Kamel, $3.7 billion
Self-made finance and healthcare entrepreneur started running bus services for Hajj pilgrims and later founded the kingdom's first driving school.Regarded as one of the pioneers of Islamic finance, a method of banking that complies with Islamic law and is today a $2.2 trillion industry.Kamel founded Manama, Bahrain-based Albaraka Banking Group, an Islamic bank with $23.4 billion in assets at the end of 2016.Carved out an early niche for himself by becoming the first non-government company to sell services to consumers.Jeddah-based holding group, Dallah Albaraka, owns more than a dozen businesses, spanning hospital operator Dallah Healthcare Company, real estate developments and snack-food factories.Albaraka Banking Group said in a statement that the arrest didn't have a direct impact on the company and that Kamel didn't serve on the bank's board.
* * *
Nasser Al Tayyar, $600 million
The 60-year-old amassed a fortune that's tied to publicly traded Al Tayyar Travel Group Holding Co., one of Saudi Arabia's largest travel agencies.Founded the business in 1980 with four employees and about $300,000 after a stint in the reservations department of Saudi Arabian Airlines.The company books airfare and hotel rooms, and also organizes specialized travel, like foreign medical trips, and Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Islam's holy cities.Al Tayyar's shares slumped 10 percent at the close in Riyadh reaching their lowest since June 2012.The company said in a statement to the Saudi Stock Exchange that its operations are continuing, and that it's safeguarding the interests of its customers and shareholders.
* * *
The brother of Osama Bin Laden heads one of the kingdom's largest construction companies, Saudi Binladin Group.The closely-held firm was started by Bakr's father, Mohammed, in 1931, and has built some of the kingdom's biggest and most notable projects, from the expansion of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, to airports and King Abdullah Economic City.The company had revenue of $3 billion in 2016, and ownership is split among more than 20 descendants, according to Orbis, a database of company information published by Bureau van Dijk.And while the people listed above may soon find themselves up to $33 billion poorer, at least they will do so in style: they remain confined at the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton...
... where the atmospehere, however, is less than enjoyable.
Still, more arrests may be imminent: according to Bloomberg, two of the four Saudis on the Bloomberg index haven't been detained in the sweep: hotel magnate Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber, who has an $8.3 billion fortune and splits his time between Paris, London, Vienna and Jeddah, and Prince Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Kabeer, the biggest individual shareholder in food processor Almarai Company, who has $4.7 billion. If the Saudi budget needs an additional $13 billion in urgent funding needs, they will likely be next.
* * *
The moral of the story: the Saudi royal family - whether in conjunction with Jared Kushner or independently - certainly knows how to kill two birds with one stone: not only has Mohammad Bin Salmaneliminated the bulk of his potential political opponents in one day, he also boosted the Saudi reserves by 7% in one day.
There is just one trade-off: if Riyadh thinks it is sending a soothing message of stability to potential Aramco investors that the rule of law in Saudi Arabia is sacrosanct, and that contractual agreement in Saudi Arabia are inviolable, well... good luck.
Paar honderd Catalaanse burgemeesters doen dagje Brussel | NOS
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:10
"President, president, president", scanderen zo'n 200 Catalaanse burgemeesters in een Brussels museum. Ze hebben zich daar verzameld om hun eer te bewijzen aan de afgezette Catalaanse regiopresident Carles Puigdemont. Ongeveer een kwart van de ruim 900 burgemeesters is afgereisd naar de hoofdstad van de Europese Unie.
Als de ex-president dan eindelijk binnenkomt, heffen de burgemeesters hun ceremonile wandelstokken uit eerbetoon, daarna beginnen ze aan hun toespraken.
Eerder op de dag verzamelden zich demonstranten van alle gelederen in Brussel. Aan de ene kant van het Schumanplein, in het hartje van de Europese wijk, stonden de Spaanse demonstranten. Precies aan de andere kant, nauwlettend door de politie in de gaten gehouden, wachtten de Catalaanse separatisten op de burgemeesters.
En nauwelijks 500 meter verderop gaven Catalaanse ondernemers een persconferentie waarin ze met grafieken lieten zien dat het met de zaken op dit moment niet zo goed gaat. Carlos Rivadulle was (C)(C)n van die zakenmensen. Hij komt uit Barcelona en was op uitnodiging van de liberale fractie in het Europees Parlement.
"Ik volg de wet, dat zouden die burgemeesters ook moeten doen. Als zakenman heb ik erg veel last van al het gedoe", legde hij uit. "Maar ik ben niet de enige die geld verliest. De hele economie gaat achteruit, de consumptie loopt terug en er zijn minder toeristen, dat voelen we allemaal."
No Civil War In Lebanon! '' STEVE PIECZENIK TALKS
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 13:09
No Civil War in Lebanon!
A warning to the Trump administration: leave Lebanon alone, lest you create an uncontrollable civil war.
The recent unexpected resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri was clarion call to the Middle East region that war could be imminent between the Sunnis and Shi'ites-using their proxies.
Lebanon is a very beautiful country with an interesting mixture of different sects and religions. Once, Lebanon was considered the Switzerland of the Middle East because of its political/financial stability. However, in the 1970's it transformed into a region of major conflicts. We do not want or need that now! It's not in anyone's basic national security interest.
The recent trip by Jared Kushner to Saudi Arabia is believed to have precipitated the sudden, unexpected resignation of the stabilizing presence of Lebanon's Prime Minister, Saad Hariri. On Sunday Hassan Nasarallah, the head of the one-time terrorist group Hezbollah, stated that Hariri's resignation was imposed by Saudi Arabia. [Times of Israel, Toi Staff, November 6,2017].
In the past few decades, I have fought against Hezbollah and met with Hezbollah officials in Lebanon. I can assure that Hezbollah has become a legitimate part of the Lebanese army/society. It consists 10K-15K hard-core combatants meticulously trained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard [IRG] in Iran. It would be absolutely self-destructive for Israel or America to consider entering into a war against Hezbollah or Iran.
I have repeatedly stated that Hezbollah/Iran are no threat to our basic national security. In fact, the IRG has fought alongside our own troops against the CIA/ Saudi/Turkey created ISIS in Iraq.
It is believed that Saudi Arabia at the insistence of Jared Kushner/Trump convinced the young Saudi Prince Salaam to fire Hariri because he had a close alliance with Hezbollah in order to form a unity government in Lebanon.
According to the NY Times, November, 5, 2017 [ Anne Bernard]: '''... Mr Nasrallah appeared to be 'trying to de-escalate the situation and contain it' because the resignation, which leaves Hezbollah without a Sunni governing partner, could strip it of 'legal and political cover'.
It could also make the Lebanese government more vulnerable to sanctions against the group, which is listed as a terrorist group by the USG.''
During the 1970's-80's, I was involved in trying to resolve the ongoing Lebanese War. I pleaded with my colleague in the Reagan Administration, Lawrence Eagleburger, not to send 200+ Marines into Beirut. I knew that they would end up as cannon fodder.
Unless one has been involved in a terrible civil war or a chaotic combat experience, it is very difficult for the ruling political/military elite to determine the proper strategy and tactical course in a civil war. I can say with certainty that the Hezbollah forces of today are far better fighters than they had been decades ago. Unlike the Israeli soldier, the Hezbollah combatant has been fighting/ training consistently during the guerilla/insurgent conflicts in Iraq/Syria for the past ten years. The IDF has extremely talented but young fighters. Nasrallah knows all too well that the next war between Hezbollah and the IDF will be catastrophic for both sides.
Every IDF soldier killed or wounded is the equivalent of 30 US troops. So the last IDF/Hezbollah War on July 12, 2006 located near Zar'it-Shtula , resulted in a 34-day military conflict in Lebanon, near the Golan Heights. That brief conflict is believed to have killed 1,300 Lebanese people and 165 Israelis [equivalent to 4950 US troops]. This invasion into Lebanon displaced over one million Lebanese and 400,000 Israelis. [Wikipedia]. Another 1,244 IDF were wounded [comparable to 37,320 US forces].
I urge the mothers of both sides to refuse to send their respective sons/daughters into a combat which will result in nothing more than a useless bloodbath. If Israel enters into war, then the USG will follow for no good reason other than they are seemingly our best ally. This is not reality given Israel's past attacks on our Liberty Ship and the 9/11 Mossad-created World Trade Center implosion.
The former Israeli Prime Minister [2006-2009], Ehud Olmert, said the following:
''In Israel we tend to be carried away by our emotions''.
Keep calm and avoid a war!
Nordics fail to win back crown as world's best English speakers - The Local
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:58
Very good English speakers, but not the best. Photo: Twixx/DepositphotosScandinavians are among the world's best non-native English speakers according to a global ranking, but have found themselves bested by the Dutch for the second year running.
The English Proficiency Index (EPI) from global language training company Education First (EF) put the Scandinavians behind the Netherlands for non-native English skills.
The Swedes were handed back the bragging rights over their Nordic rivals, snagging second place with Denmark following in third spot, down one place on last year. Sweden last came top in 2015 and Denmark in 2014. Norway came in fourth and Finland in sixth place. Iceland was not included in the study.
Eight countries in total earned the "very high" proficiency distinction, with six of them found in Europe: Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Singapore, Finland, Luxembourg and South Africa.
"High levels of English proficiency go hand in hand with Europe's multiculturalism, economic integration, tourism, and mobility '' even at a time when some Europeans are questioning their common project and the value of globalization itself," said the EPI report.
The report added that very-high-proficiency countries tend to share three characteristics: they teach English as a required foreign language from primary school, focus on communication in the classroom rather than rigid grammatical rules, and have well-travelled citizens who are also exposed to English on television.
"The Scandinavian countries have been in the top five since the index started seven years ago," Malin Ankarberg, Country Manager for EF Sweden, told The Local.
"With our small languages combined with a history of openness and strong international relations, English skills have become very important for Scandinavians. When applying for jobs, whether it is a seasonal job in the service industry or a manager position, you are expected to have a high English level," she added.
According to Ankarber, areas where Scandinavians could improve further are "presenting and negotiating in English on a professional level".
The ranking was based on more than one million people being quizzed on their English skills in 2016. The participants were not randomly selected, but were people who volunteered themselves to take the tests, which means that the results are slightly biased towards people who are interested in language learning.
However, EF EPI said that the sample was "balanced between male and female respondents and represents adult language learners from a broad range of ages". Only countries with a minimum of 400 test takers were included in the index, it added.
Harvey Weinstein's Army of Spies | The New Yorker
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:57
In the fall of 2016, Harvey Weinstein set out to suppress allegations that he had sexually harassed or assaulted numerous women. He began to hire private security agencies to collect information on the women and the journalists trying to expose the allegations. According to dozens of pages of documents, and seven people directly involved in the effort, the firms that Weinstein hired included Kroll, which is one of the world's largest corporate-intelligence companies, and Black Cube, an enterprise run largely by former officers of Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies. Black Cube, which has branches in Tel Aviv, London, and Paris, offers its clients the skills of operatives ''highly experienced and trained in Israel's elite military and governmental intelligence units,'' according to its literature.
Two private investigators from Black Cube, using false identities, met with the actress Rose McGowan, who eventually publicly accused Weinstein of rape, to extract information from her. One of the investigators pretended to be a women's-rights advocate and secretly recorded at least four meetings with McGowan. The same operative, using a different false identity and implying that she had an allegation against Weinstein, met twice with a journalist to find out which women were talking to the press. In other cases, journalists directed by Weinstein or the private investigators interviewed women and reported back the details.
The explicit goal of the investigations, laid out in one contract with Black Cube, signed in July, was to stop the publication of the abuse allegations against Weinstein that eventually emerged in the New York Times and The New Yorker. Over the course of a year, Weinstein had the agencies ''target,'' or collect information on, dozens of individuals, and compile psychological profiles that sometimes focussed on their personal or sexual histories. Weinstein monitored the progress of the investigations personally. He also enlisted former employees from his film enterprises to join in the effort, collecting names and placing calls that, according to some sources who received them, felt intimidating.
In some cases, the investigative effort was run through Weinstein's lawyers, including David Boies, a celebrated attorney who represented Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential-election dispute and argued for marriage equality before the U.S. Supreme Court. Boies personally signed the contract directing Black Cube to attempt to uncover information that would stop the publication of a Times story about Weinstein's abuses, while his firm was also representing the Times, including in a libel case.
Boies confirmed that his firm contracted with and paid two of the agencies and that investigators from one of them sent him reports, which were then passed on to Weinstein. He said that he did not select the firms or direct the investigators' work. He also denied that the work regarding the Times story represented a conflict of interest. Boies said that his firm's involvement with the investigators was a mistake. ''We should not have been contracting with and paying investigators that we did not select and direct,'' he told me. ''At the time, it seemed a reasonable accommodation for a client, but it was not thought through, and that was my mistake. It was a mistake at the time.''
Techniques like the ones used by the agencies on Weinstein's behalf are almost always kept secret, and, because such relationships are often run through law firms, the investigations are theoretically protected by attorney-client privilege, which could prevent them from being disclosed in court. The documents and sources reveal the tools and tactics available to powerful individuals to suppress negative stories and, in some cases, forestall criminal investigations.
In a statement, Weinstein's spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, said, ''It is a fiction to suggest that any individuals were targeted or suppressed at any time.''
In May, 2017, McGowan received an e-mail from a literary agency introducing her to a woman who identified herself as Diana Filip, the deputy head of sustainable and responsible investments at Reuben Capital Partners, a London-based wealth-management firm. Filip told McGowan that she was launching an initiative to combat discrimination against women in the workplace, and asked McGowan, a vocal women's-rights advocate, to speak at a gala kickoff event later that year. Filip offered McGowan a fee of sixty thousand dollars. ''I understand that we have a lot in common,'' Filip wrote to McGowan before their first meeting, in May, at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. Filip had a U.K. cell-phone number, and she spoke with what McGowan took to be a German accent. Over the following months, the two women met at least three more times at hotel bars in Los Angeles and New York and other locations. ''I took her to the Venice boardwalk and we had ice cream while we strolled,'' McGowan told me, adding that Filip was ''very kind.'' The two talked at length about issues relating to women's empowerment. Filip also repeatedly told McGowan that she wanted to make a significant investment in McGowan's production company.
Filip was persistent. In one e-mail, she suggested meeting in Los Angeles and then, when McGowan said she would be in New York, Filip said she could meet there just as easily. She also began pressing McGowan for information. In a conversation in July, McGowan revealed to Filip that she had spoken to me as part of my reporting on Weinstein. A week later, I received an e-mail from Filip asking for a meeting and suggesting that I join her campaign to end professional discrimination against women. ''I am very impressed with your work as a male advocate for gender equality, and believe that you would make an invaluable addition to our activities,'' she wrote, using her wealth-management firm's e-mail address. Unsure of who she was, I did not respond.
Filip continued to meet with McGowan. In one meeting in September, Filip was joined by another Black Cube operative, who used the name Paul and claimed to be a colleague at Reuben Capital Partners. The goal, according to two sources with knowledge of the effort, was to pass McGowan to another operative to extract more information. On October 10th, the day The New Yorker published my story about Weinstein, Filip reached out to McGowan in an e-mail. ''Hi Love,'' she wrote. ''How are you feeling? . . . Just wanted to tell you how brave I think you are.'' She signed off with an ''xx.'' Filip e-mailed McGowan as recently as October 23rd.
In fact, ''Diana Filip'' was an alias for a former officer in the Israeli Defense Forces who originally hailed from Eastern Europe and was working for Black Cube, according to three individuals with knowledge of the situation. When I sent McGowan photos of the Black Cube agent, she recognized her instantly. ''Oh my God,'' she wrote back. ''Reuben Capital. Diana Filip. No fucking way.''
Ben Wallace, a reporter at New York who was pursuing a story on Weinstein, said that the same woman met with him twice last fall. She identified herself only as Anna and suggested that she had an allegation against Weinstein. When I presented Wallace with the same photographs of Black Cube's undercover operative, Wallace recalled her vividly. ''That's her,'' he said. Like McGowan, Wallace said that the woman had what he assumed to be a German accent, as well as a U.K. cell-phone number. Wallace told me that Anna first contacted him on October 28, 2016, when he had been working on the Weinstein story for about a month and a half. Anna declined to disclose who had given her Wallace's information. Over the course of the two meetings, Wallace grew increasingly suspicious of her motives. Anna seemed to be pushing him for information, he recalled, ''about the status and scope of my inquiry, and about who I might be talking to, without giving me any meaningful help or information.'' During their second meeting, Anna requested that they sit close together, leading Wallace to suspect that she might be recording the exchange. When she recounted her experiences with Weinstein, Wallace said, ''it seemed like soap-opera acting.'' Wallace wasn't the only journalist the woman contacted. In addition to her e-mails to me, Filip also e-mailed Jodi Kantor, of the Times, according to sources involved in the effort.
The U.K. cell-phone numbers that Filip provided to Wallace and McGowan have been disconnected. Calls to Reuben Capital Partners' number in London went unanswered. As recently as Friday, the firm had a bare-bones Web site, with stock photos and generic text passages about asset management and an initiative called Women in Focus. The site, which has now been taken down, listed an address near Piccadilly Circus, operated by a company specializing in shared office space. That company said that it had never heard of Reuben Capital Partners. Two sources with knowledge of Weinstein's work with Black Cube said that the firm creates fictional companies to provide cover for its operatives, and that Filip's firm was one of them.
Black Cube declined to comment on the specifics of any work it did for Weinstein. The agency said in a statement, ''It is Black Cube's policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company's work. Black Cube supports the work of many leading law firms around the world, especially in the US, gathering evidence for complex legal processes, involving commercial disputes, among them uncovering negative campaigns. . . . It should be highlighted that Black Cube applies high moral standards to its work, and operates in full compliance with the law of any jurisdiction in which it operates'--strictly following the guidance and legal opinions provided by leading law firms from around the world.'' The contract with the firm also specified that all of its work would be obtained ''by legal means and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.''
Last fall, Weinstein began mentioning Black Cube by name in conversations with his associates and attorneys. The agency had made a name for itself digging up information for companies in Israel, Europe, and the U.S. that led to successful legal judgments against business rivals. But the firm has also faced legal questions about its employees' use of fake identities and other tactics. Last year, two of its investigators were arrested in Romania on hacking charges. In the end, the company reached an agreement with the Romanian authorities, under which the operatives admitted to hacking and were released. Two sources familiar with the agency defended its decision to work for Weinstein, saying that they originally believed that the assignment focussed on his business rivals. But even the earliest lists of names that Weinstein provided to Black Cube included actresses and journalists.
On October 28, 2016, Boies's law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, wired to Black Cube the first hundred thousand dollars, toward what would ultimately be a six-hundred-thousand-dollar invoice. (The documents do not make clear how much of the invoice was paid.) The law firm and Black Cube signed a contract that month and several others later. One, dated July 11, 2017, and bearing Boies's signature, states that the project's ''primary objectives'' are to ''provide intelligence which will help the Client's efforts to completely stop the publication of a new negative article in a leading NY newspaper'' and to ''obtain additional content of a book which currently being written and includes harmful negative information on and about the Client,'' who is identified as Weinstein in multiple documents. (In one e-mail, a Black Cube executive asks lawyers retained by the agency to refer to Weinstein as ''the end client'' or ''Mr. X,'' noting that referring to him by name ''will make him extremely angry.'') The article mentioned in the contract was, according to three sources, the story that ultimately ran in the Times on October 5th. The book was ''Brave,'' a memoir by McGowan, scheduled for publication by HarperCollins in January. The documents show that, in the end, the agency delivered to Weinstein more than a hundred pages of transcripts and descriptions of the book, based on tens of hours of recorded conversations between McGowan and the female private investigator.
ReadThe contract between a private security firm and one of Harvey Weinstein's lawyers.
Weinstein's spokesperson, Hofmeister, called ''the assertion that Mr. Weinstein secured any portion of a book . . . false and among the many inaccuracies and wild conspiracy theories promoted in this article.''
The July agreement included several ''success fees'' if Black Cube met its goals. The firm would receive an additional three hundred thousand dollars if the agency ''provides intelligence which will directly contribute to the efforts to completely stop the Article from being published at all in any shape or form.'' Black Cube would also be paid fifty thousand dollars if it secured ''the other half'' of McGowan's book ''in readable book and legally admissible format.''
The contracts also show some of the techniques that Black Cube employs. The agency promised ''a dedicated team of expert intelligence officers that will operate in the USA and any other necessary country,'' including a project manager, intelligence analysts, linguists, and ''Avatar Operators'' specifically hired to create fake identities on social media, as well as ''operations experts with extensive experience in social engineering.'' The agency also said that it would provide ''a full time agent by the name of 'Anna' (hereinafter 'the Agent'), who will be based in New York and Los Angeles as per the Client's instructions and who will be available full time to assist the Client and his attorneys for the next four months.'' Four sources with knowledge of Weinstein's work with Black Cube confirmed that this was the same woman who met with McGowan and Wallace.
Black Cube also agreed to hire ''an investigative journalist, as per the Client request,'' who would be required to conduct ten interviews a month for four months and be paid forty thousand dollars. Black Cube agreed to ''promptly report to the Client the results of such interviews by the Journalist.''
In January, 2017, a freelance journalist called McGowan and had a lengthy conversation with her that he recorded without telling her; he subsequently communicated with Black Cube about the interviews, though he denied he was reporting back to them in a formal capacity. He contacted at least two other women with allegations against Weinstein, including the actress Annabella Sciorra, who later went public in The New Yorker with a rape allegation against Weinstein. Sciorra, whom he called in August, said that she found the conversation suspicious and got off the phone as quickly as possible. ''It struck me as B.S.,'' she told me. ''And it scared me that Harvey was testing to see if I would talk.'' The freelancer also placed calls to Wallace, the New York reporter, and to me.
Two sources close to the effort and several documents show that the same freelancer received contact information for actresses, journalists, and business rivals of Weinstein from Black Cube, and that the agency ultimately passed summaries of those interviews to Weinstein's lawyers. When contacted about his role, the freelancer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that he had been working on his own story about Weinstein, using contact information fed to him by Black Cube. The freelancer said that he reached out to other reporters, one of whom used material from his interviews, in the hopes of helping to expose Weinstein. He denied that he was paid by Black Cube or Weinstein.
Weinstein also enlisted other journalists to uncover information that he could use to undermine women with allegations. A December, 2016, e-mail exchange between Weinstein and Dylan Howard, the chief content officer of American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, shows that Howard shared with Weinstein material obtained by one of his reporters, as part of an effort to help Weinstein disprove McGowan's allegation of rape. In one e-mail, Howard sent Weinstein a list of contacts. ''Let's discuss next steps on each,'' he wrote. After Weinstein thanked him, Howard described a call that one of his reporters made to Elizabeth Avellan, the ex-wife of the director Robert Rodriguez, whom Rodriguez left to have a relationship with McGowan.
Avellan told me that she remembered the interview. Howard's reporter ''kept calling and calling and calling,'' she said, and also contacted others close to her. Avellan finally called back, because ''I was afraid people might start calling my kids.'' In a long phone call, the reporter pressed her for unflattering statements about McGowan. She insisted that the call be off the record, and the reporter agreed. The reporter recorded the call, and subsequently passed the audio to Howard.
In subsequent e-mails to Weinstein, Howard said, ''I have something AMAZING . . . eventually she laid into Rose pretty hard.'' Weinstein replied, ''This is the killer. Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.'' Howard then reassured Weinstein, ''They are not. And the conversation . . . is RECORDED.'' The next day, Howard added, in another e-mail, ''Audio file to follow.'' (Howard denied sending the audio to Weinstein.) Avellan told me that she would not have agreed to co¶perate in efforts to discredit McGowan. ''I don't want to shame people,'' she said. ''I wasn't interested. Women should stand together.''
In a statement, Howard said that, in addition to his role as the chief content officer at American Media Inc., the National Enquirer's publisher, he oversaw a television-production agreement with Weinstein, which has since been terminated. He said that, at the time of the e-mails, ''absent a corporate decision to terminate the agreement with The Weinstein Company, I had an obligation to protect AMI's interests by seeking out'--but not publishing'--truthful information about people who Mr. Weinstein insisted were making false claims against him. To the extent I provided 'off the record' information to Mr. Weinstein about one of his accusers'--at a time when Mr. Weinstein was denying any harassment of any woman'--it was information which I would never have allowed AMI to publish on the internet or in its magazines.'' Although at least one of Howard's reporters made calls related to Weinstein's investigations, Howard insisted that he strictly divided his work with Weinstein from his work as a journalist. ''I always separated those two roles carefully and completely'--and resisted Mr. Weinstein's repeated efforts to have AMI titles publish favorable stories about him or negative articles about his accusers,'' Howard said. An A.M.I. representative noted that, at the time, Weinstein insisted that the encounter was consensual, and that the allegations were untrue.
Hofmeister, Weinstein's spokesperson, added, ''In regard to Mr. Howard, he has served as the point person for American Media's long-standing business relationship with The Weinstein Company. Earlier this year, Mr. Weinstein gave Mr. Howard a news tip that Mr. Howard agreed might make a good story. Mr. Howard pursued the tip and followed up with Mr. Weinstein as a courtesy, but declined to publish any story.''
Weinstein's relationship with Kroll, one of the other agencies he contracted with, dates back years. After Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, an Italian model, accused Weinstein of sexually assaulting her, in 2015, she reached a settlement with Weinstein that required her to surrender all her personal devices to Kroll, so that they could be wiped of evidence of a conversation in which Weinstein admitted to groping her. A recording of that exchange, captured during a police sting operation, was released by The New Yorker last month.
During the more recent effort to shut down emerging stories, Kroll again played a central role. E-mails show that Dan Karson, the chairman of Kroll Americas' Investigations and Disputes practice, contacted Weinstein at his personal e-mail address with information about women with allegations. In one October, 2016, e-mail, Karson sent Weinstein eleven photographs of McGowan and Weinstein together at different events in the years after he allegedly assaulted her. Three hours later, Weinstein forwarded Karson's e-mail to Boies and Weinstein's criminal-defense attorney, Blair Berk, and told them to ''scroll thru the extra ones.'' The next morning, Berk replied that one photo, which showed McGowan warmly talking with Weinstein, ''is the money shot.''
Berk defended her actions. ''Any criminal-defense lawyer worth her salt would investigate unproven allegations to determine if they are credible,'' she said. ''And it would be dereliction of duty not to conduct a public-records search for photographs of the accuser embracing the accused taken after the time of the alleged assault.''
Another firm, the Los Angeles-based PSOPS, and its lead private investigator, Jack Palladino, as well as another one of its investigators, Sara Ness, produced detailed profiles of various individuals in the saga, sometimes of a personal nature, which included information that could be used to undermine their credibility. One report on McGowan that Ness sent to Weinstein last December ran for more than a hundred pages and featured McGowan's address and other personal information, along with sections labelled ''Lies/Exaggerations/Contradictions,'' ''Hypocrisy,'' and ''Potential Negative Character Wits,'' an apparent abbreviation of ''witnesses.'' One subhead read ''Past Lovers.'' The section included details of acrimonious breakups, mentioning Avellan, and discussed Facebook posts expressing negative sentiments about McGowan. (Palladino and Ness did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)
Other firms were also involved in assembling such profiles, including ones that focussed on factors that, in theory, might make women likely to speak out against sexual abuse. One of the other firm's profiles was of Rosanna Arquette, an actress who later, in TheNew Yorker, accused Weinstein of sexual harassment. The file mentions Arquette's friendship with McGowan, social-media posts about sexual abuse, and the fact that a family member had gone public with an allegation that she had been molested as a child.
All of the security firms that Weinstein hired were also involved in trying to ferret out reporters' sources and probe their backgrounds. Wallace, the reporter for New York, said that he was suspicious when he received the call from the Black Cube operative using the pseudonym Anna, because Weinstein had already requested a meeting with Wallace; Adam Moss, the editor-in-chief of New York; David Boies; and a representative from Kroll. The intention, Wallace assumed, was to ''come in with dossiers slagging various women and me.'' Moss declined the meeting.
In a series of e-mails sent in the weeks before Wallace received the call from Anna, Dan Karson, of Kroll, sent Weinstein preliminary background information on Wallace and Moss. ''No adverse information about Adam Moss so far (no libel/defamation cases, no court records or judgments/liens/UCC, etc.),'' Karson wrote in one e-mail. Two months later, Palladino, the PSOPS investigator, sent Weinstein a detailed profile of Moss. It stated, ''Our research did not yield any promising avenues for the personal impeachment of Moss.''
Similar e-mail exchanges occurred regarding Wallace. Kroll sent Weinstein a list of public criticisms of Wallace's previous reporting and a detailed description of a U.K. libel suit filed in response to a book he wrote, in 2008, about the rare-wine market. PSOPS also profiled Wallace's ex-wife, noting that she ''might prove relevant to considerations of our response strategy when Wallace's article on our client is finally published.''
In January, 2017, Wallace, Moss, and other editors at New York decided to shelve the story. Wallace had assembled a detailed list of women with allegations, but he lacked on-the-record statements from any victims. Wallace said that the decision not to run a story was made for legitimate journalistic reasons. Nevertheless, he said, ''There was much more static and distraction than I've encountered on any other story.''
Other reporters were investigated as well. In April, 2017, Ness, of PSOPS, sent Weinstein an assessment of my own interactions with ''persons of interest'''--a list largely consisting of women with allegations, or those connected to them. Later, PSOPS submitted a detailed report focussing jointly on me and Jodi Kantor, of the Times. Some of the observations in the report are mundane. ''Kantor is NOT following Ronan Farrow,'' it notes, referring to relationships on Twitter. At other times, the report reflects a detailed effort to uncover sources. One individual I interviewed, and another whom Kantor spoke to in her separate endeavor, were listed as having reported the details of the conversations back to Weinstein.
For years, Weinstein had used private security agencies to investigate reporters. In the early aughts, as the journalist David Carr, who died in 2015, worked on a report on Weinstein for New York, Weinstein assigned Kroll to dig up unflattering information about him, according to a source close to the matter. Carr's widow, Jill Rooney Carr, told me that her husband believed that he was being surveilled, though he didn't know by whom. ''He thought he was being followed,'' she recalled. In one document, Weinstein's investigators wrote that Carr had learned of McGowan's allegation in the course of his reporting. Carr ''wrote a number of critical/unflattering articles about HW over the years,'' the document says, ''none of which touched on the topic of women (due to fear of HW's retaliation, according to HW).''
Weinstein's relationships with the private investigators were often routed through law firms that represented him. This is designed to place investigative materials under the aegis of attorney-client privilege, which can prevent the disclosure of communications, even in court.
David Boies, who was involved in the relationships with Black Cube and PSOPS, was initially reluctant to speak with The New Yorker, out of concern that he might be ''misinterpreted either as trying to deny or minimize mistakes that were made, or as agreeing with criticisms that I don't agree are valid.''
But Boies did feel the need to respond to what he considered ''fair and important'' questions about his hiring of investigators. He said that he did not consider the contractual provisions directing Black Cube to stop the publication of the Times story to be a conflict of interest, because his firm was also representing the newspaper in a libel suit. From the beginning, he said, he advised Weinstein ''that the story could not be stopped by threats or influence and that the only way the story could be stopped was by convincing the Times that there was no rape.'' Boies told me he never pressured any news outlet. ''If evidence could be uncovered to convince the Times the charges should not be published, I did not believe, and do not believe, that that would be averse to the Times' interest.''
He conceded, however, that any efforts to profile and undermine reporters, at the Times and elsewhere, were problematic. ''In general, I don't think it's appropriate to try to pressure reporters,'' he said. ''If that did happen here, it would not have been appropriate.''
Although the agencies paid by his firm focussed on many women with allegations, Boies said that he had only been aware of their work related to McGowan, whose allegations Weinstein denied. ''Given what was known at the time, I thought it was entirely appropriate to investigate precisely what he was accused of doing, and to investigate whether there were facts that would rebut those accusations,'' he said.
Of his representation of Weinstein in general, he said, ''I don't believe former lawyers should criticize former clients.'' But he expressed regrets. ''Although he vigorously denies using physical force, Mr. Weinstein has himself recognized that his contact with women was indefensible and incredibly hurtful,'' Boies told me. ''In retrospect, I knew enough in 2015 that I believe I should have been on notice of a problem, and done something about it. I don't know what, if anything, happened after 2015, but to the extent it did, I think I have some responsibility. I also think that if people had taken action earlier it would have been better for Mr. Weinstein.''
Weinstein also drafted individuals around him into his efforts'--willingly and not. In December, 2016, Weinstein asked the actress Asia Argento, who ultimately went public in The New Yorker with her allegation of rape against Weinstein, to meet in Italy with his private investigators to give testimony on his behalf. Argento, who felt pressure to say yes, declined after her partner, the chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain, advised her to avoid the meeting. Another actress, who declined to be named in this story, said that Weinstein asked her to meet with reporters to extract information about other sources.
Weinstein also enlisted two former employees, Denise Doyle Chambers and Pamela Lubell, in what turned out to be an effort to identify and call people who might speak to the press about their own, or others', allegations. Weinstein secretly shared the lists they compiled with Black Cube.
Hofmeister, speaking on Weinstein's behalf, said, ''Any 'lists' that were prepared included names of former employees and others who were relevant to the research and preparation of a book about Miramax. Former employees conducting interviews for the book reported receiving unwanted contacts from the media.''
Doyle Chambers declined an interview request. But Lubell, a producer who worked for Weinstein at Miramax decades ago, told me that she was manipulated into participating. In July, 2017, Lubell visited Weinstein's offices to pitch him on an app that she was developing. In the middle of the meeting, Weinstein asked Lubell if they could have a private conversation in his office. Lubell told me that a lawyer working with Weinstein was already there, along with Doyle Chambers. Weinstein asked if Lubell and Doyle Chambers could write a ''fun book on the old times, the heyday, of Miramax.'' ''Pam,'' she recalled him saying, ''write down all the employees that you know, and can you get in touch with them?''
A few weeks later, in August, after they had made the list, Weinstein ''called us back into the office,'' Lubell recalled. ''And he said, 'You know what, we're going to put a hold on the book.' '' He asked Doyle Chambers and Lubell to ''call some of your friends from the list and see if they got calls from the press.'' In early September, Weinstein summoned Lubell and Doyle Chambers to his office and asked them to start making calls to people connected to several actresses. ''It got kind of intense,'' Lubell recalled. ''We didn't know these people, and all of a sudden this was something very different from what we signed up for.'' Several of the targeted women said that they felt the calls they received from Lubell and Doyle Chambers, and from Weinstein himself, were frightening.
Lubell told me that hours before the first Times story broke, on October 5th, Weinstein summoned her, Doyle Chambers, and others on his team, including the attorney Lisa Bloom, who has since resigned, to his office. ''He was in a panic,'' Lubell recalled. ''He starts screaming, 'Get so-and-so on the phone.' '' After the story was published, the team scrambled to respond to it. Bloom and others pored over pictures that, like the ones featured in the Kroll e-mails, showed ongoing contact between Weinstein and women who made allegations. ''He was screaming at us, 'Send these to the board members,' '' Lubell recalled. She e-mailed the photographs to the board ahead of the crisis meeting at which Weinstein's position at his company began unravelling.
Since the allegations against Weinstein became public, Lubell hasn't slept well. She told me that, although she knew that Weinstein ''was a bully and a cheater,'' she ''never thought he was a predator.'' Lubell has wondered if she should have known more, sooner.
After a year of concerted effort, Weinstein's campaign to track and silence his accusers crumbled. Several of the women targeted, however, said that Weinstein's use of private security agencies deepened the challenge of speaking out. ''It scared me,'' Sciorra said, ''because I knew what it meant to be threatened by Harvey. I was in fear of him finding me.'' McGowan said that the agencies and law firms enabled Weinstein's behavior. As she was targeted, she felt a growing sense of paranoia. ''It was like the movie 'Gaslight,' '' she told me. ''Everyone lied to me all the time.'' For the past year, she said, ''I've lived inside a mirrored fun house.''
Taylor Swift's Attorney Rebuked Over Letter Demanding Article's Retraction : The Two-Way : NPR
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:54
The article in question argues that by not tacitly embracing progressive politics, Taylor Swift "could well be construed as her lending support to the voices rising against embracing diversity and inclusion emblematic of Trump supporters." John Shearer/Getty Images for DirecTVhide caption
toggle captionJohn Shearer/Getty Images for DirecTV The article in question argues that by not tacitly embracing progressive politics, Taylor Swift "could well be construed as her lending support to the voices rising against embracing diversity and inclusion emblematic of Trump supporters."
John Shearer/Getty Images for DirecTV Just four days before the release of her newest album, a letter from Taylor Swift's attorney demanding that a website retract and delete an article critical of her has drawn a sharp (but also winking) rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union.
A letter dated Oct. 25 and addressed to Meghan Herning, the executive editor of a small California blog named PopFront, claimed that the site's article titled "Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation" was defamatory and that if it was not retracted and removed, "Ms. Swift is prepared to proceed with litigation," according to a copy of it made public by the ACLU.
(The letter's author, attorney William J. Briggs II, did not respond to a request confirming its authenticity, nor did a Swift representative respond to a request confirming that Briggs represents Swift.)
The article in question '-- which veers between Kanye West's interruption of Swift at an awards show, the appropriation of Swift by white nationalists, the eugenics movement of the early 20th century, World War II and American silence toward the Nazi Party, and the lyrics of Swift's recent single "Look What You Made Me Do" '-- ultimately argues that Swift's perceived silence on political issues "is not innocent, it is calculated." The article argues that by not tacitly embracing progressive politics, Swift "could well be construed as her lending support to the voices rising against embracing diversity and inclusion emblematic of Trump supporters."
The article's rhetorical veracity is not the point for the ACLU, however '-- only that PopFront was stating an opinion about Swift, not asserting any facts.
In its response, the ACLU of Northern California writes that "Ms. Herning and PopFront will not in any way accede" to the demands. Swift is a public figure '-- as the ACLU explains '-- a designation that gives critics and journalists broad protections in what they can legally write about those figures. Anyone suing for defamation on behalf of a public figure must prove both that the writer whom they're suing published false information and was aware beforehand it was false and published it anyway. In addition, opinion is, by definition, not defamation.
The ACLU writes that Briggs' letter, a "threat" according to PopFront, does not convincingly argue that the blog purposefully defamed Swift. "Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation," reads the ACLU's letter '-- shoehorning in two references to Swift's upcoming album Reputation and her 2014 hit "Shake It Off," in a single sentence.
In his letter, Briggs points to two instances that seem to undercut any connection between Swift and far-right political movements. He refers to a Washington Post story without any Swift comment that says there is no reason to think she is a neo-Nazi; he also quotes one of Swift's lawyers as saying it was safe to say "the singer is not amused" by the allegations. Briggs' cease-and-desist itself could possibly be taken as a third denial.
In a PopFront post on Monday, both Broadly, a Vice vertical "devoted to representing the multiplicity of women's experiences," and Complex Media were cited as publishing similar articles addressing the alt-right's appropriation of Swift. Requests to both asking whether they had received similar letters from Swift's attorneys were not immediately returned.
Reputation, Swift's sixth studio album, is out on Nov. 10.
MINIX: 'Intel's hidden in-chip operating system | ZDNet
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:46
Maybe you're not paranoid. Maybe they are out to get you. Ronald Minnich, a Google software engineer, who discovered a hidden MINIX operating system inside "kind of a billion machines" using Intel processors, might agree with this.
Why? Let's start with what. Matthew Garrett, the well-known Linux and security developer who works for Google, explained recently that, "Intel chipsets for some years have included a Management Engine [ME], a small microprocessor that runs independently of the main CPU and operating system. Various pieces of software run on the ME, ranging from code to handle media DRM to an implementation of a TPM. AMT [Active Management Technology] is another piece of software running on the ME."
In May, we found out that AMT had a major security flaw, which had been in there for nine -- count 'em -- nine years.
"Fixing this requires a system firmware update in order to provide new ME firmware (including an updated copy of the AMT code)," Garrett wrote. "Many of the affected machines are no longer receiving firmware updates from their manufacturers, and so will probably never get a fix," he said. "Anyone who ever enables AMT on one of these devices will be vulnerable."
Quick! How many of you patched your PC or server's chip firmware? Right. Darn few of you. That's bad. It's not every processor, but if you or your hardware vendor has "explicitly enabled AMT", your machine is still vulnerable to attack.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called for Intel to provide a way for users to disable ME. Russian researchers have found a way to disable ME after the hardware has initialized, and the main processor has started. That doesn't really help much. ME is already running by then.
But Minnich found that what's going on within the chip is even more troubling. At a presentation at Embedded Linux Conference Europe, he reported that systems using Intel chips that have AMT, are running MINIX.
If you learned about operating systems in the late '80s and early '90s, you knew MINIX as Andrew S Tanenbaum's educational Unix-like operating system. It was used to teach operating system principles. Today, it's best known as the OS that inspired Linus Torvalds to create Linux.
So, what's it doing in Intel chips? A lot. These processors are running a closed-source variation of the open-source MINIX 3. We don't know exactly what version or how it's been modified since we don't have the source code. We do know that with it there:
In addition, thanks to Minnich and his fellow researchers' work, MINIX is running on three separate x86 cores on modern chips. There, it's running:
TCP/IP networking stacks (4 and 6)File systemsDrivers (disk, net, USB, mouse)Web serversMINIX also has access to your passwords. It can also reimage your computer's firmware even if it's powered off. Let me repeat that. If your computer is "off" but still plugged in, MINIX can still potentially change your computer's fundamental settings.
And, for even more fun, it "can implement self-modifying code that can persist across power cycles". So, if an exploit happens here, even if you unplug your server in one last desperate attempt to save it, the attack will still be there waiting for you when you plug it back in.
How? MINIX can do all this because it runs at a fundamentally lower level.
x86-based computers run their software at different privilege levels or "rings". Your programs run at ring three, and they have the least access to the hardware. The lower the number your program runs at, the more access they have to the hardware. Rings two and one don't tend to be used. Operating systems run on ring zero. Bare-metal hypervisors, such as Xen, run on ring -1. Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) runs on ring -2. MINIX? It runs on ring -3.
You can't see it. You can't control it. It's just humming away there, running your computer. The result, according to Minnich is "there are big giant holes that people can drive exploits through." He continued, "Are you scared yet? If you're not scared yet, maybe I didn't explain it very well, because I sure am scared."
What's the solution? Well, it's not "Switch to AMD chips". Once, AMD chips didn't have this kind of mystery code hidden inside it, but even the latest Ryzen processors are not totally open. They include the AMD platform security process and that's also a mysterious black box.
What Minnich would like to see happen is for Intel to dump its MINIX code and use an open-source Linux-based firmware. This would be much more secure. The current software is only secured by "security by obscurity".
Changing to Linux would also enable servers to boot much faster. According to Minnich, booting an Open Compute Project (OCP) Server takes eight minutes thanks to MINIX's primitive drivers. With Linux it would take less than 17 seconds to get to a shell prompt. That's a speedup of 32 times.
There's no reason not to make this improvement. Minnich noted, "There are probably 30 million-plus Chromebooks out there and when your Chromebook gets a new BIOS, a new Linux image is flashed to firmware and I haven't heard of any problems."
Specifically, Minnich proposes that Intel, and AMD for that matter:
Make firmware less capable of doing harmMake its actions more visibleRemove as many runtime components as possibleIn particular, take away its web server and IP stackRemove the UEFI IP stack and other driversRemove ME/UEFI self-reflash capabilityLet Linux manage flash updatesOver this, the new Linux firmware would have a userspace written in Go. Users would work with this Linux shell using familiar commands. This would give them a clear view of what was happening with the CPU and other system components.
At the same time, since UEFI is so easy to hack, he wants the "UEFI ROM reduced to its most basic parts".
Will this work? It's still early days, Minnich warned, and you may turn "your laptop into a brick". But both for security and performance, it needs doing.
It's neat that an obscure Unix like MINIX, thanks to Intel putting it on multiple cores in its chips, may be the world's most widely used operating system. But it's no way to run modern servers and PCs.
The 'voodoo economics' of cryptos, from the 23-year-old who created Ethereum - MarketWatch
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:43
'It feels kind of like voodoo economics and the price of the token isn't really backed by anything. That's a very spooky thing.'
Sure, coming from any number of bitcoin BTCUSD, -1.76% critics, those comments would be expected. But coming from the guy who invented the second most valuable crypto before he even turned 20 years old?
Vitalik Buterin, Ethereum's co-founder, recently told developers that he's ''concerned a lot of these token models aren't going to be sustainable,'' according to Bloomberg.
Buterin is concerned about supply. Where bitcoin has a 21 million coil limit, there's no scarcity to support Ethereum prices, which are still managing to take out new highs. Regardless, he says he might do something to change that.
Specifically, Buterin says he's interested in the idea of imposing fees, known as ''sinks,'' on applications built atop Ethereum. They would limit supply by destroying, or ''burning,'' ether tokens over time. ''Introducing some kind of sinks into Ethereum is definitely something we're looking at,'' he said.
Buterin also spoke of another way to limit supply. The proof-of-stake plan, which may be put into place as early as the end of the year, rewards users for locking up some of their ether for a set amount of time, Bloomberg reported.
Meanwhile, Ethereum saw its price recover a bit on Wednesday, after a coding error resulted in the freezing up of almost $300 million worth of coins.
Militairen en zwaargewonde 'slachtoffers': dit moet je weten over de terreuroefening - AT5: de nieuwszender van Amsterdam en omgeving
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:38
woensdag 08 november 2017 | 06:55Vandaag en morgen zijn er grote terrorisme-oefeningen in Zuid en Zeeburg. Wat wordt er precies geoefend, en wat is ervan te merken in de stad? We vroegen het woordvoerder Rob van der Veen van de politie.
Wat gaat er precies gebeuren vandaag en morgen?
'We gaan een oefening doen, bij restaurant Haddock op het Zeeburgereiland en het nog ongeopende metrostation Europaplein. Maar wat die oefening precies inhoudt, kan ik niet zeggen. Dan is het verrassingseffect van de oefening weg. Wat ik wel kan zeggen, is dat het een realistisch scenario is zoals we al in meerdere Europese steden hebben gezien.'
'De gemeente, politie, brandweer, defensie, Dienst Speciale Interventies en de geneeskundige hulpdiensten doen mee aan de oefening. We beginnen vandaag om 10.00 uur, en ik denk dat de slachtoffers aan het einde van de middag van het terrein af zijn. Waarschijnlijk lopen er wel militairen rond op het terrein tot 10.00 uur morgenochtend.'
Wat merken omwonenden daarvan?
'Het kan zijn dat ze de acteurs die de slachtoffers spelen over straat zien lopen. Die zijn heel realistisch geschminkt, ze zien er dus uit alsof ze echt zwaargewond zijn. Dat kan even schrikken zijn, zeker voor kinderen. Het is dus goed om je kinderen daar 's ochtends even op voor te bereiden.'
'Daarnaast oefenen we met nepwapens. Die zullen te horen zijn, maar ik denk niet dat omwonenden daarvan schrikken. Die hebben allemaal een brief gekregen waarin dat wordt uitgelegd, en naast de oefenlocaties staan ook tekstborden met uitleg erop. Voorbijgangers zullen er dus ook niet door verrast worden. Om ervoor te zorgen dat er geen schokkende dingen te zien zijn, zijn de locaties afgeschermd met hoge schermen.'
En de rest van de stad?
'In de rest van de stad is er waarschijnlijk niet veel te merken zijn van de oefening. Er zullen waarschijnlijk geen sirenes te horen zijn, tenzij een speciale eenheid er snel heen moet. In principe zullen er ook geen wegen afgesloten zijn. Bij een echte aanslag zouden we een rijstrook op de snelweg afsluiten om slachtoffers snel af te voeren, maar dat doen we nu niet.'
Wat gebeurt er als er plotseling een echte aanslag is?
'Dan laten we bij de oefening alles uit onze handen vallen en gaan we daar meteen heen.'
Initialiseren Google Maps
KaartStreet viewAls er geen beeld verschijnt, is de locatie te ver weg van een street view locatie
Florida Blue ending coverage of OxyContin in 2018
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:32
CLOSEThe White House commission on opioids has released its final recommendations for addressing the crisis. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
Oxycontin pills (Photo: Toby Talbot, AP)
OxyContin has become one of the most recognizable brand names in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic. Starting Jan. 1, the state's largest health insurer will cease coverage of the drug in favor of a painkiller less easy to abuse.
Florida Blue's alternate, Xtampza ER, is similar to OxyContin in that it is an extended-release, oxycodone-based product.
The big difference, the company said Tuesday, is that Xtampza is more chemically suited to prevent users from crushing, snorting or injecting it '-- all means of getting a quicker, and potentially more lethal, high.
Previously:Experts gather to discuss solutions to opioid epidemic
More:Medical marijuana producer wants rules on edible cannabis products
Also:Powerful fentanyl claims Florida's littlest victims of the opioid crisis
Florida Blue's new policy will not apply to generic oxycodone, which is sold as an immediate-release drug at lower doses and is less likely to be so abused, said Scott McClelland, the company's vice president of commercial and specialty pharmacy.
"Imagine if you could take an 80-milligram extended-release (OxyContin) tablet and crush it and inject it and get it all at once, as opposed to a five-milligram oxycodone tablet," McClelland said. "So, that's the big reason there's such huge concerns about these extended-release formulations. It's a really big dose."
The OxyContin ban applies to all Florida Blue individual and group plans. Medicare Advantage plans are excluded.
Xtampza ER is manufactured by Canton, Massachussets-based Collegium Pharmaceutical Inc. Though it touts the drug's "abuse-deterrent technology" it does not guarantee that the drug cannot be abused.
The company also notes: "Although Xtampza ER is formulated to make manipulation more difficult, it cannot entirely prevent abuse; abuse of Xtampza ER by injection and via the oral and nasal routes is still possible."
More: How to help someone with an opioid problem
CLOSEDrug overdoses from synthetic opioids like fentanyl skyrocketed in 2016. Video provided by Newsy Newslook
The company's decision to drop OxyContin follows a federal declaration earlier this year that the nation is in the grips of an opioid overdose epidemic. Shortly thereafter, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order declaring the opioid epidemic a statewide public health emergency.
Opioids were the direct cause of 2,664 Florida overdose deaths in 2016 and showed up in the toxicology reports of 4,515 Floridians that year, according to an interim report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission.
Fentanyl, morphine, and heroin were the top three causes of lethal opioid overdoses. Oxycodone was fourth.
Florida Blue typically pays for 1.5 million opioid prescriptions every year, according to the company. About 8 percent of that business is for prescriptions lasting longer than 30 days, a group at a higher risk for addiction and overdose.
Florida Blue already has quantity limits on long- and short-acting painkillers. It has also required prior-approval for prescriptions of extended-release opioid painkillers, such as OxyContin and fentanyl.
The policy was updated Oct. 1 to include prior approval for short-acting painkillers needed for more than seven days, McClelland said.
"We want to prevent as much abuse and addiction and deaths related to these overdoses as possible," he said. "We're just trying to take an active role and prevent these deaths that are occurring on a daily basis."
Follow this reporter on Twitter: @FrankGluck
CLOSEFlorida legislators talk about opioid epidemic during a sit down with the News-Press editorial board. Rep. Ray Rodrigues, Rep. Dane Eagle, Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto weighed in on the subject. Andrea Melendez/news-press.com
Read or Share this story: http://newspr.es/2hQgAlR
Facebook asks users for nude photos in project to combat revenge porn | Technology | The Guardian
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:30
Facebook is working with an Australian government agency to pilot the technology. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Facebook is asking users to send the company their nude photos in an effort to tackle revenge porn, in an attempt to give some control back to victims of this type of abuse.
Individuals who have shared intimate, nude or sexual images with partners and are worried that the partner (or ex-partner) might distribute them without their consent can use Messenger to send the images to be ''hashed''. This means that the company converts the image into a unique digital fingerprint that can be used to identify and block any attempts to re-upload that same image.
Facebook is piloting the technology in Australia in partnership with a government agency headed up by the e-safety commissioner, Julia Inman Grant, who told ABC it would allow victims of ''image-based abuse'' to take action before pictures were posted to Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.
''We see many scenarios where maybe photos or videos were taken consensually at one point, but there was not any sort of consent to send the images or videos more broadly,'' she told the Australian broadcaster.
Carrie Goldberg, a New York-based lawyer who specializes in sexual privacy, said: ''We are delighted that Facebook is helping solve this problem '' one faced not only by victims of actual revenge porn but also individuals with worries of imminently becoming victims.
''With its billions of users, Facebook is one place where many offenders aggress because they can maximize the harm by broadcasting the nonconsensual porn to those most close to the victim. So this is impactful.''
In the Australian pilot, users must first complete an online form on the e-safety commissioner's website outlining their concerns. They will then be asked to send the pictures they are concerned about to themselves on Messenger while the e-safety commissioner's office notifies Facebook of their submission. Once Facebook gets that notification, a community operations analyst will access the image and hash it to prevent future instances from being uploaded or shared.
Facebook will store these images for a short period of time before deleting them to ensure it is enforcing the policy correctly, the company said.
Roughly 4% of US internet users have been victims of revenge porn, according to a 2016 report from the Data & Society Research Institute. The proportion rises to 10% when dealing with women under the age of 30.
This builds on existing tools Facebook has to deal with revenge porn. In April the social networking site released reporting tools to allow users to flag intimate photos posted without their consent to ''specially trained representatives'' from the site's community operations team who ''review the image and remove it if it violates [Facebook's] community standards''. Once a picture has been removed, photo-matching technology is used to ensure the image isn't uploaded again.
Facebook and other technology companies use this type of photo-matching technology where images are ''hashed'' to tackle other types of content including child sex abuse and extremist imagery.
The technology was first developed in 2009 by Microsoft, working closely with Dartmouth and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to clamp down on the same images of sexually abused children being circulated over and over again on the internet. There was technology that could find exact matches of images, but abusers could get around this by slightly altering the files '' either by changing their size or adding a small mark.
PhotoDNA's ''hash'' matching technology made it possible to identify known illegal images even if someone had altered them. Facebook, Twitter and Google all use the same hash database to identify and remove illegal images.
Hany Farid, a professor of computer science at Dartmouth who helped develop PhotoDNA, described Facebook's pilot as a ''terrific idea''.
''The deployment of this technology would not prevent someone from sharing images outside of the Facebook ecosystem, so we should encourage all online platforms to participate in this program, as we do with PhotoDNA,'' he said.
A Facebook spokeswoman said the company was exploring additional partners and countries.
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bay Area blogger Meghan Herning won't back down to Taylor Swift's threats '' East Bay Times
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:26
US singer Taylor Swift poses as she arrives to the 2016 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, California on February 28, 2016. / AFP / ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ (Photo credit should read ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
It's fair to say that up until Monday PopFront was a very-little-read pop culture blog that gave its Bay Area co-founders a way to expound on issues of interest to them in entertainment, society and politics, while they worked or finished school.
In fact, executive editor Meghan Herning admits they recently had been thinking about shutting down PopFront while she finished law school and studied for the California state bar and her partner worked on his Ph.D.
But their plans may change, now that the left-leaning PopFront has become a sudden viral sensation after getting tangled in a First Amendment fight with one of the biggest pop culture stars on the planet: Taylor Swift.
In the past 24 hours, Herning's Sept. 5 analysis of the pop singer's appeal to proponents of alt-right and white supremacist views has been viewed 90,000 times on Twitter.
Herning estimates that fewer than 100 people initially read the article, titled ''Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.''
But that all changed on Monday, when lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California issued a press release and a public rebuke to an ''intimidating'' cease-and-desist letter sent by Swift's lawyer.
The letter from the mega-star's lawyer came Oct. 25, some six weeks after Herning's article was published.
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Sign up for our Coffee Break newsletter here.Actually, Herning said in an interview that she was ''more confused than anything'' to receive the letter.
''How did they even find this? I can't imagine she'd even get a Google alert for it.''
In the letter, attorney William J. Briggs II called Herning's article defamatory, a ''malicious attack'' on Swift and ''replete with demonstrable and offensive falsehoods.'' Biggs threatened a lawsuit if PopFront didn't retract and remove the article, which he said falsely asserted that Swift supports white supremacy, which he said she does not.
Herning knew she had to immediately address the letter for mischaracterizing her article and to challenge its legal threat on First Amendment grounds.
It also bothered her that a rich and famous celebrity, employing high-powered attorneys, assumed it would be easy to scare a small publication, just because it wasn't likely to have a legal team on retainer.
''I showed the letter to a few friends and decided that the statement I wanted to make is that this is about free speech and about legal access,'' said Herning, whose studies at Golden Gate University School of Law focused on criminal and immigration law.
Herning was told to contact the ACLU. She realized the organization would be the perfect partner for her fight against Swift, who, she has learned, has a reputation for trying to shut down journalists who don't give her positive publicity in order to help burnish her pop music sweetheart image.
''Free speech is important,'' Herning said. ''Journalists need to stand up for their legal rights. If those messages can get across, that's all I care about.''
In its letter, the ACLU said the article is protected speech because opinion, by definition, cannot be defamatory. Moreover, Swift is a public figure, a designation that gives critics and journalists a lot of leeway in how they can legally write about those figures. Anyone suing for defamation on behalf of a public figure must prove both that the writer published false information and was aware beforehand it was false and published it anyway.
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But public relations-wise, Swift's legal move may prove to be more damaging, especially as she prepares to drop her new album ''Reputation'' this week. It could undermine what Herning calls Swift's strategy to always portray herself as ''the good girl unjustly wronged,'' a message she seems eager to convey with her new album.
On Monday and Tuesday, the ACLU's rebuke of Swift was the leading story on entertainment and news sites, effectively bringing global attention to Swift's effort to intimidate a small website that dared bring up the issue of her appeal to white supremacists.
In the interview, Herning denied Biggs' claim that she ever called Swift a white supremacist in her piece. She says she doesn't know anything about Swift's political views.
But Herning takes issue with the fact that Swift stays fiercely apolitical. Of course, Herning wouldn't be the first writer to question whether Swift stays away from politics because she doesn't want to alienate fans who voted for Donald Trump or who hold white nationalist views.
In her article, Herning employs classic techniques of cultural criticism: analyzing an artist's image, statements or works to find messages or ideas that take on added resonance when seen in a larger societal context.
She dissects Swift's recent single ''Look What You Made Me Do'' and points out how the alt-right site Breitbart seized on some of the lyrics as ''speaking to white anger and affirming white supremacy.''
''Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a 're-awakening,' in line with Trump's rise,'' Herning wrote in her piece. ''At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.''
In an interview, Herning disputed Biggs' assertion that Swift has made it resoundingly clear that she opposes white supremacist views. In previously published stories on the issue, Swift has either had a lawyer speak on her behalf or has relied on writers to make that assumption for her.
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''I get that she isn't a politician or public figure,'' Herning said. ''She doesn't need to make political statements, but there are people out there who look on her as an icon, as an Aryan goddess. Then she releases this new song, and alt-right groups are using those lyrics to advance their agenda. In this political light, you would think that, hey, she might want to say something.''
Herning doesn't know where this legal fight will go, but she has faced an onslaught of criticism from Swift fans and other people going on social media to accuse her of being malicious and spreading falsehoods about Swift. The ''trolls'' have also accused her of trying to get her 15 minutes of fame and have said worse things, she said.
But as she waits to hear if she passed her bar exam and gears up to start a new business, she has realized that she can't shut down PopFront. Not yet anyway.
''I feel like now we have to keep it going,'' she said. ''There is more that can be said about this.''
This story was updated to include information about the release of Taylor Swift's new album ''Reputation.''
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Amsterdam oefent 'vrachtwagen ramt festival' | Binnenland | Telegraaf.nl
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:23
Dat publiek bestond uit 240 figuranten met zeer levensechte verwondingen en goed ingestudeerd slachtofferschap. Naast het vrachtwagenincident werd geoefend met een onbekend aantal actieve schutters die oefenmunitie afvuurden.
De Dienst Speciale Interventies van de politie zorgde ervoor dat deze 'daders' werden uitgeschakeld dan wel gearresteerd, vertelt politiewoordvoerder Rob van der Veen. Nadat de situatie veilig was verklaard, konden ambulancemedewerkers en brandweer aan de gang met het helpen van de 'slachtoffers'.
De oefening loopt nog door tot donderdagochtend 10.00 uur. Defensie oefent tot dat moment 'bewaken en beveiligen' op het nagebootste festivalterrein en in het metrostation Europaplein, dat nog niet in gebruik is.
Over de resultaten van de oefening komt volgens Van der Veen niets naar buiten, om kwaadwillenden niet in de kaart te spelen.
Journalist pay questioned in Russian dossier court cases - Washington Times
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:05
The role of reporters is taking on added importance in federal court battles over the infamous Russia dossier that leveled unverified charges of collusion against the Donald Trump campaign.
In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Fusion GPS, the dossier's financier via the Democratic Party and the Hillary Clinton campaign money, is fighting a House committee chairman's bid to find out if the opposition research firm paid journalists.
In U.S. District Court in Florida, a self-described dossier victim wants a judge to order the news website BuzzFeed, which published the dossier in full, to disclose who gave it to them.
The cases underscore how a Moscow-sourced memorandum created as opposition research against Donald Trump in the presidential campaign last year often dictates the debate about politics and reporters' rights in Washington.
Rep. Devin Nunes, California Republican and chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, signed a subpoena to force a bank to turn over Fusion's financial records. He wants to know who paid for the dossier, which was written in a series of 18 memos by former British spy Christopher Steele. He relied almost exclusively on unidentified Kremlin sources.
Fusion went to federal court to block the move, but the law firm Perkins Coie LLP, whose partner Marc E. Elias is the Clinton's campaign's general counsel, intervened. It filed a letter acknowledging it had paid Fusion for the dossier on behalf of Democrats. Fusion and Mr. Nunes then worked out an agreement on access to some of the firm's financial records.
But the dispute heightened again Friday as Fusion renewed its request for a judge to block the subpoena because Mr. Nunes wants more information. The widened net includes the names of journalists and law firms that Fusion might have paid.
''It is contrived to substitute for the ridiculous notion that Intervenor [the House committee] can demand documents in an overbroad subpoena from a third party and not explain what it is looking for or why,'' said a memorandum filed by Fusion's law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, for U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan.
On the demand for information on any payments to journalists, Fusion cited First Amendment protection and confidentiality. It did not deny it had paid journalists.
''And they are not pertinent, as they are not related to Russia or Donald Trump,'' Fusion argues. ''In attempting to justify the overbroad subpoena earlier, Intervenor could have, but of course did not, argue the relevance to its inquiry of any such payments.''
In the court battle with Mr. Nunes, Fusion has likened itself to a group of journalists with all associated rights. Its founders include former Wall Street Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch.
Mr. Fritsch filed a declaration, saying: ''Our techniques and investigative tools for our research and investigation go beyond standard open-source methods. Fusion GPS has an extensive network of domestic and international contacts, built up over many years of reporting.''
In Florida, Russian technology entrepreneur Aleksej Gubarev, chief of Internet-platform provider XBT Holding, is suing BuzzFeed for libel.
The Steele dossier accused Mr. Gubarev of overseeing a botnet operation that flooded Democrats' computers with porn, viruses and spyware. It said the operation was financed by the FSB, Russia's intelligence agency.
Mr. Steele has acknowledged in a London libel case brought by Mr. Gubarev that he never confirmed the information and just passed it along to Fusion GPS as his final memo in December.
Sources of controversy
Fusion, which briefed a number of Washington reporters on Mr. Steele's unverified assertions, has said it was not the source of BuzzFeed's copy.
Mr. Gubarev's attorneys are trying to find out who was and whether that person warned the editors that the document was not verified.
''And as you might imagine, if you are an online storage company, to have the accusation that you are an FSB agent '-- former KGB, now FSB '-- that you are essentially co-opted by the FSB and you are launching hacking against the Democratic Party, doesn't do wonders for your business,'' attorney Evan Fray-Witzer argued at a September hearing.
He added: ''There is only one way to know what the motivation was in giving the document and what was said to BuzzFeed when they received the document.''
Katherine M. Bolger, BuzzFeed's attorney, said various states protect source confidentiality through so-called shield laws.
What's more, since the dossier was the subject of a federal investigation when it was posted in January, BuzzFeed had complete legal freedom to report on it whether true or not, she argued.
''If the United States government is investigating allegations, the press is free to report on them, period,'' Ms. Bolger said.
Ms. Bolger is demanding XBT data to determine if any of the Russian hacking on the Democrats went through the company's servers.
A federal judge's ruling is expected this month.
BuzzFeed has filed requests with federal agencies for documents detailing the FBI's dossier handling.
In his London court filing, Mr. Steele told of how he traveled to Washington at Fusion's request and briefed Washington reporters in September during the campaign.
He said through his attorneys that he gave explicit instructions that the information from Kremlin sources must be verified and that they should not quote the dossier.
''The second defendant [Mr. Steele] understood that the information provided might be used for the purpose of further research but would not be published or attributed,'' the filing stated. ''None of the journalists raised any objections.''
Yet, after the briefing, some of Mr. Steele's claims did surface in press reports and Democratic talking points to buttress the charge that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to interfere in the election.
The McCain connection
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, is one person known to have possessed a dossier hard copy through a complex set of maneuvers with Mr. Steele. The senator ended up handing a copy to then-FBI Director James B. Comey weeks after the election when Mr. Trump was president-elect.
A chronology of events would indicate that Mr. Comey had acquired the copy, during the election campaign, from a source not yet identified publicly.
Mr. McCain denied being BuzzFeed's source.
''I gave it to no one except for the director of the FBI. I don't know why you're digging this up now,'' Mr. McCain told The Daily Caller last month.
The Steele court document, which was filed in the Florida case last month, detailed how Mr. McCain acquired the copy. A business associate of Mr. Steele's '-- Andrew Wood, a former British ambassador to Moscow '-- informed the senator of its existence.
Mr. McCain then dispatched an aide, David Kramer, to Surrey, England, to meet with Mr. Steele on Nov. 28. Mr. Kramer is a former State Department assistant secretary and scholar at Mr. McCain's think tank in Arizona.
Sometime later, Mr. Steele sent the dossier in a secure mode to the senator, who hand-delivered it to Mr. Comey. He later provided his last memo, in December, to Mr. McCain, Fusion GPS and the United Kingdom government.
Here is how Mr. Steele described the handoff in his latest court filing: ''The defendants [Mr. Steele, Orbis Business Intelligence] understood that the contents of the memoranda would be treated in the strictest confidence and would only be used by Senator McCain in his official capacity for the sole purpose of analyzing, investigating and verifying their contents to enable such action to be taken as necessary for the purposes of protecting US national security.
''[Mr. Steele] expressly informed Mr. Kramer that the pre-election memoranda were only to be used for this exclusive purpose before he showed Mr. Kramer any of the memoranda. Mr. Kramer was not at this time provided with copies of the memoranda that had been prepared as at that date, but was shown copies.''
A Washington Times analysis of Mr. Steele's core charges against individuals such as Mr. Trump and Mr. Gubarev show that none has been confirmed publicly by any government investigation.
Donna Brazile Blames Clinton's Health for 'Basket of Deplorables' Remark
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:04
Hillary Clinton gets in her car while leaving her daughter's apartment building after resting on September 11, 2016, in New York / Getty Images
BY: Brent Scher
November 7, 2017 4:53 pm
Former DNC chairman Donna Brazile says she doesn't think Hillary Clinton would have remarked that half of Donald Trump's supporters belong in a "basket of deplorables" if she was in "better health."
Brazile reveals in her just-released book Hacked that she saw Clinton right before she made the "basket of deplorables" comment, and it was the first time she noticed "Hillary did not look well."
Brazile "noticed her face was puffy," "her skin looked pale and papery," and "her eyes were glazed." She approached Clinton about her health before the speech and observed her to be "wobbly on her feet" with a "rattled cough" so bad Brazile suggested medical attention.
It was after this conversation that Clinton labeled Trump supporters "deplorables"'--Brazile says the comment came because of her health.
"A short time later, I was seated in the audience at the Cipriani when [Clinton] strode up to the stage with her usual strong steps," Brazile wrote. "Then she said something that, had she been in better health, I don't think she would have said."
Brazile slams the comment in her book, questioning whether Clinton realized she was speaking at a public event.
"When she said 'basket of deplorables' I knew that no matter what she said in the rest of her remarks, this would be the comment that made it on to the evening news," she wrote. "Did she not understand where she was? This was a public event '... not one of those cozy little backyard fundraisers where I'd heard her speak freely knowing that her statements were not likely to leak outside that gathering."
Two days later on September 11 Brazile's fears about Clinton's health were confirmed when Clinton was caught on camera collapsing in New York City.
Brazile complains in the book that she was kept out of the loop that morning and slammed the Clinton campaign's attempt to lie about why Clinton fell by saying she was "overheated."
"What? Who thought that up?" Brazile wrote. "They made her sound menopausal, which was unlikely in a woman at the age of sixty-seven."
Brazile goes on to call it a "stupid explanation" and "huge blunder."
"When reporters started calling trying to find out what was wrong after she left the memorial, the campaign had not returned their calls for an hour," she wrote. "When they did, they offered up this 'overheated' nonsense that sounded like a lie."
Brazile writes that she became "as anxious as anyone in the country about the state of her health," and that the next explanation from the campaign'--that Clinton had allergies that made her cough and now had pneumonia, and then went to her daughter's house where there were little children'--made "matters worse."
"Allergies do not cause pneumonia," she wrote. "And who was going to believe that a grandma with pneumonia would go to her daughter's house to recover with two vulnerable little ones around? The situation had to be pretty dangerous for her to risk exposing the grandbabies."
"The whole story stank, and the way the campaign handled it just made matters worse."
It was following this instance Brazile says she considered replacing Clinton as the party's candidate'--not just because of Clinton's health but also because of her "anemic campaign." She ultimately decided against attempting to replace Clinton because it would be "divisive" and the "campaign was already torn apart."
"Even if Hillary was ill and the campaign had its weaknesses, the effort to replace her would be divisive," she wrote.
Former Clinton staffers have lashed out at Brazile due to her suggestion in the book that she considered replacing Clinton with Joe Biden, writing in an open letter to Brazile that she fell for "false Russian-fueled propaganda" about Clinton's health.
Brazile responded by saying critics of her book can "go to hell."
'$300m in cryptocurrency' accidentally lost forever due to bug | Technology | The Guardian
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 11:50
'We are analysing the situation and will release an update with further details shortly,' developer Parity told users. Photograph: Thomas White/Reuters
More than $300m of cryptocurrency has been lost after a series of bugs in a popular digital wallet service led one curious developer to accidentally take control of and then lock up the funds, according to reports.
Unlike most cryptocurrency hacks, however, the money wasn't deliberately taken: it was effectively destroyed by accident. The lost money was in the form of Ether, the tradable currency that fuels the Ethereum distributed app platform, and was kept in digital multi-signature wallets built by a developer called Parity. These wallets require more than one user to enter their key before funds can be transferred.
On Tuesday Parity revealed that, while fixing a bug that let hackers steal $32m out of few multi-signature wallets, it had inadvertently left a second flaw in its systems that allowed one user to become the sole owner of every single multi-signature wallet.
Q&A What is cryptocurrency? Show Hide A cryptocurrency is a form of digital asset, created through a canny combination of encryption and peer-to-peer networking.
Bitcoin, the first and biggest cryptocurrency, is part of a decentralised payment network. If you own a bitcoin, you control a secret digital key which you can use to prove to anyone on the network that a certain amount of bitcoin is yours.
If you spend that bitcoin, you tell the entire network that you've transferred ownership of it, and use the same key to prove that you're telling the truth. Over time, the history of all those transactions becomes a lasting record of who owns what: that record is called the blockchain.
After bitcoin's creation in 2009, a number of other cryptocurrencies sought to replicate its success but taking its free, public code and tweaking it for different purposes.
Some, such as Filecoin, have a very defined goal. It aims to produce a sort of decentralised file storage system: as well as simply telling the network that you have some Filecoins, you can tell the network to store some encrypted data and pay Filecoins to whoever stores it on their computer.
Others are more nebulous. Ethereum, using the Ether token, is now the second biggest cryptocurrency after bitcoin and essentially a cryptocurrency for making cryptocurrencies. Users can write "smart contracts", which are effectively programs that can be run on the computer of any user of the network if they're paid enough Ether.
Of course, to many, the purpose is secondary. The only really important thing is that the value of an Ether token increased 2,500% over 2017, meaning some are hoping to jump on the bandwagon and get rich. Bubble or boom? That's the $28bn question.
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The user, ''devops199'', triggered the flaw apparently by accident. When they realised what they had done, they attempted to undo the damage by deleting the code which had transferred ownership of the funds. Rather than returning the money, however, that simply locked all the funds in those multisignature wallets permanently, with no way to access them.
''This means that currently no funds can be moved out of the multi-sig wallets,'' Parity says in a security advisory.
Effectively, a user accidentally stole hundreds of wallets simultaneously, and then set them on fire in a panic while trying to give them back.
''We are analysing the situation and will release an update with further details shortly,'' Parity told users.
Some are pushing for a ''hard fork'' of Ethereum, which would undo the damage by effectively asking 51% of the currency's users to agree to pretend that it had never happened in the first place. That would require a change to the code that controls ethereum, and then that change to be adopted by the majority of the user base. The risk is that some of the community refuses to accept the change, resulting in a split into two parallel groups.
Such an act isn't unheard of: another hack, two years ago, of an Ethereum app called the DAO resulted in $150m being stolen. The hard fork was successful then, but the money stolen represented a much larger portion of the entire Ethereum market than the $300m lost to Parity.
The lost $300m follows the discovery of bug in July that led to the theft of $32m in ether from just three multisignature wallets. A marathon coding and hacking effort was required to secure another $208m against theft. Patching that bug led to the flaw in Parity's system that devops199 triggered by accident.
Parity says that it is unable to confirm the actual amount lost, but that the $300m figure is ''purely speculative''. The company also disputes that the currency is ''lost'', arguing that ''frozen'' is more accurate. But if it is frozen, it appears that no-one has the ability to unfreeze the funds.
''The Parity vulnerability was the result of an incorrectly coded smart contract used by the Parity wallet to store tokens on the Ethereum network,'' said Dominic Williams, founder of blockchain firm DFINITY. ''The vulnerability made it possible for anyone to 'freeze' the tokens held by that smart contract, making them immovable. At this time, the only method we are aware of to 'unfreeze' tokens held by the vulnerable smart contract would be to create a new 'hard fork' Ethereum client that deploys a fix. This would require every full node on the Ethereum network to upgrade by the date of the hard fork to stay in sync, including all miners, wallets, exchanges, etc.''
Ethereum has rapidly become the second most important cryptocurrency, after Bitcoin, with its price increasing more than 2,500% over the past year. One token of Ether is now worth a little over $285, up from $8 in January.
Catherine Oxenberg meets with officials over daughter's cult involvement | Page Six
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 11:18
''Dynasty'' star Catherine Oxenberg met in Albany on Monday with prosecutors in the office of NY Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and presented evidence that her daughter India is being blackmailed by a cult leader.
Oxenberg believes that India is part of a harem of young women who serve as sex slaves to Nxivm leader Keith Raniere and are branded like cattle with his initials.
The ''slaves'' are allegedly disciplined with a paddle, kept on starvation diets and forced by their ''master'' to turn over nude photos of themselves and graphic written confessions as ''collateral'' to ensure they won't try to escape.
''I'm desperate to save my daughter,'' Oxenberg told a friend before the meeting. ''I want to help the other young women. I am desperately hoping the authorities take notice and investigate.''
Schneiderman's prosecutors believe the strongest case against Nxivm could be based on the women who claim they were held down and branded against their will, leaving Raniere's initials permanently scarred below their bikini line.
In a response to the New York Times about the claims, a Nxvim spokesperson said the group ''firmly opposes and condemns violence, victimhood, dishonor and abuse.''
''Some people have said this is a voluntary sorority. The women I have spoken to tell a far different story,'' Oxenberg said. ''Coercion is not voluntary. Extortion is not voluntary. Blackmail is not voluntary.''
A spokeswoman for Schneiderman said, ''Our office met to hear her concerns.''
Gov. Cuomo's office announced last month that it is reviewing why state officials have been slow to investigate complaints by former members of the cult.
NTSB Completes Evaluation of Materials from Eastern Airlines Flight 980
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:33
'WASHINGTON (Feb. 7, 2017) '--National Transportation Safety Board investigators determined materials received Jan. 4, 2017, do not contain any data from Eastern Airlines Flight 980's flight data recorder or cockpit voice recorder and do not provide any additional information relevant to the investigation of the Jan. 1, 1985, crash.
Two U.S. citizens recovered the materials from the Flight 980 crash site on Mount Illimani, Bolivia, and contacted Bolivian authorities seeking to have the materials examined. The General Directorate of Civil Aviation of Bolivia (Unidad AIG) requested the NTSB receive and examine the materials. The materials were examined in the NTSB's recorder laboratory at its headquarters. The NTSB assisted Unidad AIG under the protocols in the International Civil Aviation Organization Annex 13.
(In this photo, taken Jan. 10, 2016, in the NTSB's recorder laboratory, Washington, are the materials examined by the NTSB at the request of Bolivia's Unidad AIG. The materials were recovered from the Eastern Airlines Flight 980 crash site. NTSB Photo)
The materials provided to the NTSB consisted of several metal fragments, one damaged spool of magnetic tape and two additional off-spool sections of magnetic tape.
Examination of the materials revealed no identifiable specific serial numbers. One metal piece was identified as a cockpit voice recorder rack. Other metal pieces were consistent with parts related to the flight data recorder pressurized container assembly.
The magnetic tape on the spool was ¾-inch U-Matic video tape and when reviewed was found to contain an 18-minute recording of the ''Trial by Treehouse'' episode of the television series ''I Spy,'' dubbed in Spanish.
The magnetic tape segments were not the ¼-inch width tape from a cockpit voice recorder or flight data recorder.
The NTSB has conveyed its findings to Unidad AIG.
Melting in Andes Reveals Remains and Wreckage - NYTimes.com
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:31
LA PAZ, Bolivia '-- In the haunts of this city where climbers gather over plates of grilled llama and bottles of Pace±a beer to swap tales of mountaineering derring-do, they feign boredom when talk turns to the 19,974-foot-high Huayna Potos, a jagged Andean peak that looms over La Paz.
''A training climb,'' scoffs Julio Choque Ala±a, 32, who guides foreigners up the mountains of Bolivia, which boasts peaks higher than the Alps and the Rockies.
But such bravado fades when talk shifts to what climbers are discovering on Huayna Potos's glacier: crumpled fuselage, decades-old pieces of wings and propellers, and, in November, the frozen body of Rafael Benjamn Pab"n, a 27-year-old pilot whose Douglas DC-6 crashed into the mountain's north face in 1990.
''When I found the pilot, he was still strapped into his seat, crunched over like he was sleeping, some black hair falling from his skull,'' said Eulalio Gonzlez, 49, the climber who carried Mr. Pab"n's mummified body down the mountain. ''There are more ice mummies in the peaks above us,'' he said. ''Melting glaciers will bring them to us.''
The discovery of Mr. Pab"n's partially preserved remains was one of a growing number of finds pulled from the world's glaciers and snow fields in recent years as warmer temperatures cause the ice and snow to melt, exposing their long-held secrets. The bodies that have emerged were mummified naturally, with extreme cold and dry air performing the work that resins and oils did for ancient Egyptians and other cultures.
Up and down the spine of the Andes, long plagued by airplane crashes and climbing mishaps, the discoveries are helping to solve decades-old mysteries.
In one such find, in the late '90s, climbers on Mount Tupungato in Argentina discovered parts the wreckage of the Star Dust, a fabled British aircraft rumored to have disappeared in 1947 with a cargo of gold.
The climbers found no treasure at the crash site of the Avro Lancastrian plane flown by British South American Airways. But they did discover a preserved torso and a hand with pointed, manicured fingernails, an eerie fashion relic of 1940s London that served as testament to the fate of the plane's passengers and crew.
Scientists say the retreat of the ice is an unexpected boon for those yearning to peer back in time.
''It looks like the warming trend seen in many regions is continuing,'' said Gerald Holdsworth, a glaciologist at the Arctic Institute of North America in Calgary, Alberta. ''There are still some large snowbanks left in promising places, and many glaciers of all different shapes, orientations and sizes, so the finds could go on for a long time yet.''
Some discoveries are personal, allowing families closure after years of mourning loved ones who appeared to have vanished. Others have added alluring clues into the history of human migration, diet, health and ethnic origins, said Mara Victoria Monsalve, a pathologist at the University of British Columbia who studies ice mummies.
She said some of the most valuable discoveries in recent years include three Inca child mummies found on the summit of Mount Llullaillaco in northern Argentina and a 550-year-old iceman discovered by sheep hunters in northern British Columbia.
Younger mummies can also add to the historical record. In 2004, three well-preserved soldiers were found in a scene of high-altitude fighting from World War I in the Italian Alps. And in 2006, a military lab in Hawaii pieced together the story of a World War II airman found on Darwin Glacier in California. Identified as Leo M. Mustonen, he was buried in his hometown, Brainerd, Minn.
Even Mr. Holdsworth, who as a glaciologist is generally more interested in the ice itself, has been closely monitoring the Malaspina Glacier in southeastern Alaska, in part because he says he believes that it holds a plane that crashed near the Yukon border in 1951.
For the family of Rafael Pab"n, the pilot found high in the Andes in November, the discovery was a relief of sorts. For two decades, his mother, Yolanda Galindo de Pab"n, 69, had been tortured by thoughts of what had happened to him. She said she nurtured a theory that he might be wandering Bolivia's provinces as a result of an accident. She wondered whether his plane could have been hijacked and flown across the border into Brazil.
The discovery of his body '-- still clad in the same white shirt and gray pants he wore when he lifted off with a cargo of beef carcasses from Bolivia's eastern lowlands on Oct. 19, 1990 '-- at least put an end to the doubts.
The Andes' spine has been plagued by airplane crashes.
''It took me a very long time to acknowledge he might be dead,'' Ms. Pab"n said. ''Now we have a body. I can visit my son at his burial site and grieve like any mother has a right to do.''
The frozen corpse of Mr. Pab"n's co-pilot was discovered on Huayna Potos in 1997. The cargo plane's only other crew member, a mechanic named Walter Flores, has not been found.
Climbers here say they expect to find more remains as the country's glaciers, like Chacaltaya '-- once said to be the site of the world's highest ski resort '-- retreat. They speak with a certain reverence of glaciers guarding plane wrecks stretching back decades, including a Hercules military cargo plane from the 1970s and smaller planes that crashed into mountains after encountering storms and poor visibility.
In at least one case, the mystery is unfolding in chapters, as layers of ice slowly reveal an old tragedy.
In 2006, a climbing team on Mount Illimani, Bolivia's second-highest peak, rediscovered the wreckage of a Boeing 727 operated by Eastern Air Lines that crashed into the mountain shortly after takeoff on Jan. 1, 1985, killing all 29 people aboard.
No bodies were found at the time of the crash or during the 2006 ascent. But Roberto G"mez, 28, a climber who retrieved part of the Boeing's fuselage, said it was only a matter of time before they surface as the glacier on Illimani melts. He has already found photographs, children's clothing and, strangely, what seemed to be crocodile hides from the cargo hold at the crash site.
''The bodies and the black box are still somewhere in the ice,'' he said.
On another ascent, he found what he believes are the remains of a dead Austrian climber: a preserved foot still clad in a Salewa hiking boot.
Aware of the fate which has often met those who dare challenge Bolivia's peaks, some climbing guides here respectfully refer to the mountains as ''achachila,'' a word from the indigenous Aymara language that roughly translates as ''earth spirit'' or ''uncle.'' Before each ascent, they make offerings of coca leaves to the peaks they depend on for their livelihood.
''The uncles guard many secrets,'' said Mr. Gonzlez, who found the body of Mr. Pab"n, ''just like the graveyards in their shadow.''
Immunity lifted: Marine Le Pen threatens the jail - DWN
Thu, 09 Nov 2017 05:25
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Police: Kansas man says he put racist graffiti on own car | Daily Mail Online
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:42
A black Kansas man has admitted he put racist graffiti on his own car as a Halloween prank that got out of hand, police said Monday.
Photographs posted on social media Wednesday showed the car covered with racial slurs against blacks and messages that included 'Go Home,' 'Date your own kind,' and 'Die.'
The vehicle, covered in graffiti scrawled with washable paint, was parked Wednesday at an apartment complex near Kansas State University and the incident fueled racial tensions at the university and in the community.
After a car was was painted with racist slurs at Kansas State University, the owner of the defaced car, Dauntarius Williams, 21, has now admitted responsibility
Williams will not face charges police said Williams expressed genuine remorse 'and expressed sincere regret that his actions had resulted in the negative media attention that resulted'
An emergency meeting of the Black Student Union called that evening drew concerned administrators and community leaders as well as students.
Kansas State held a Facebook Live event the next day with worried parents. The university stepped up patrols on campus. The FBI opened a civil rights investigation into a possible hate crime.
But on Monday the Riley County Police Department issued a news release saying the 21-year-old owner of the vehicle, Dauntarius Williams, had told investigators that he was responsible for the graffiti.
Authorities concluded that charging him for filing a false report would 'not be in the best interests of the citizens' of Manhattan.
Last Wednesday Riley County Police Department were called to an apartment parking lot on Claflin Road and found a car that had been defaced with racial slurs and threats
Even the possibility of a hate crime has a big impact on the fabric of daily lives, and 'we want to acknowledge that people felt anger and pain as a result of pictures and words that they saw,' Kansas State University spokesman Jeff Morris said Monday in a phone interview. 'Those are very real responses.'
Given the climate in the country, the university plans to continue its stepped up patrols and its review into whether more cameras are needed to enhance safety on campus.
'The incident maybe wasn't real - the emotions were,' Morris said.
Police said Williams was 'genuinely remorseful and expressed sincere regret' that his actions resulted in negative media attention, and the agency issued a statement from him in their release in which he apologized to the community.
'The whole situation got out of hand when it shouldn't have even started,' Williams said. It was just a Halloween prank that got out of hand. I wish I could go back to that night but I can't. I just want to apologize from the bottom of my heart for the pain and news I have brought you all.'
Police said they recognized the difficulties the case created.
'While William's mistake had a decidedly negative impact on the community, please recognize that he, like many of us when we were young, is a young man who made a mistake and is now doing his best to own up to it,' said Brad Schoen, director of the Riley County Police Department.
The hoax came on the heels of a string of incidents at the school.
Last month, an anti-gay slur was found outside the university student union.
In September, white supremacist fliers were found on campus. And in May, a noose was found hanging from a campus tree. No arrests have been made in these incidents.
Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation | PopFront
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:37
Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor Swift subtly gets the lower case ''kkk'' in formation with ''Look What You Made me Do''
An anti''Marxist Mixtape review.
A little over a decade after her musical debut, Taylor Swift has made a career out of being portrayed as a good girl unjustly wronged. Her song catalog is stocked with tunes about how innocent she is, and how men seem to wrong her. But the most notable moment of the Taylor-as-an-innocent-victim narrative may have come when Kanye West interrupted her Best Female Video acceptance speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards to drunkenly ramble about how Beyonc(C) should have won.
Kanye upstaging Taylor in that moment not only gave that narrative merit in a lot of people's eyes, it also looked like the personification of many a long-standing white fear: a black man taking away a white woman's power. And Taylor has been playing off that narrative ever since, while America has embraced the notion of white victimhood '-- despite the reality. Kanye West is still hated for that moment, and the media has documented further fights between Taylor Swift and other pop stars such as Katy Perry, Calvin Harris, and Kim Kardashian. There is no shortage of media details about these ''feuds'', whatever their purpose may be.
On the other hand, the idea that Taylor Swift is an icon of white supremacist, nationalists, and other fringe groups, seems to finally be getting mainstream attention. But the dog whistles to white supremacy in the lyrics of her latest single are not the first time that some have connected the (subtle) dots. A white supremacist blogger from neo-Nazi site The Daily Stormer was quoted in a Broadly article in May 2016 as saying, ''it is also an established fact that Taylor Swift is secretly a Nazi and is simply waiting for the time when Donald Trump makes it safe for her to come out and announce her Aryan agenda to the world.'' What ''facts'' the blogger is pointing to are unclear (and likely invented); still, his statement exemplifies how neo-Nazis and white supremacists look to her as their pop icon.
And it is fitting: in the past few months, white supremacist trolls have jumped off line and onto the streets. Charlottesville was a coming out story for white supremacists and nationalists, a chance to show who they were and what they want '-- or really who they didn't want in ''their'' country. But the brazen white supremacists on the streets are not the only ones who have bought into the current form of white supremacy. There is still a contingent of the country that agrees with the president and his response to the tragedy of Charlottesville. For all Trump's tomfoolery and cavorting with white nationalism, his approval rating has stayed steady: almost 40% of the country thinks he is doing a good job. Perhaps this is an affirmation of the racist policies and climate that this administration has capitalized on and intensified, because racism and white supremacy have always existed in America '-- and the president alone cannot take credit for the movement.
The American eugenics movement '-- a pseudo-science theory that the human race would be improved by controlled breeding to increase the occurrence of desirable heritable characteristics that favor the white or anglo race '-- was alive and well long before Hitler came to power. In fact, the American Eugenics movement actually inspired Hitler. During the Progressive Era of the late 19th and early 20th century, eugenics was considered a method of preserving and improving the dominant groups (a.k.a. ''white'' groups '-- a shifting political label) in the population. These early ideas paved the way for racist and nativist reactions to emigration from Europe rather than scientific genetics. Meaning, as the Italian, Irish, and other immigrants poured into the country, eugenics was used as the basis for keeping those groups out. [ Source]
The American eugenics movements received extensive funding from various corporate foundations including the Carnegie Institution, Rockefeller Foundation, and the Harriman railroad fortune. Eugenics was championed by Ivy League scholars, Congressmen, and Presidents alike. One of the major campaigns emergent from the Eugenics movement was the restriction of immigration and scapegoating of immigrants, similar to what we see today. Another was the systematic sterilization of the poor and disabled. By 1910, eugenics had become so popular that even women's suffragists groups were lobbying for eugenics legal reforms. Prominent birth control advocate and Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger advocated for controlling birth rates among poor people, people of color, and the disabled.
Eugenics was popular among those who wanted the US to stay out of World War II, and until the US was attacked at Pearl Harbor, they were successful. Eugenics only fell out of favor because of the Nazi defeat in that war. Yet America never quite defeated the eugenics-based racial hatred in our country and culture, which is why it is no surprise that today the alt-right is echoing the cries of eugenicists. Indeed, signs with slogans like ''defend the European race'' are not new; the support of Trump for ''extreme vetting'' is just another form of advocacy for segregation.
Indeed, we often forget that there were many Americans who thought we entered the wrong side of the war. Th e Nazis received myriad support from the American business community and wealthy, WASP-y Americans, who seemed to see common cause. And while prior to the U.S. entering World War II, American support for the Nazis was never explicitly stated, the silence and refusal to help in the face of racial atrocities said everything. The racialized politics of the era lived on in America through segregation in housing (e.g. redlining), banking, xenophobic immigration policies, reactionaries against the civil rights movement, the Reagan era, the War on Drugs, etc.
Taylor's lyrics in ''Look What You Made Me Do'' seem to play to the same subtle, quiet white support of a racial hierarchy. Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a ''re-awakening,'' in line with Trump's rise. At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.
Aziz Ansari has aptly referred to the quiet support of white supremacy as '' the lower case kkk '': that is, the quiet racial hatred that has played a role in the social, cultural, legal, and political history of America, and not just the ''backwards'' south as some may think. Quiet racism only needs subtle encouragement, and it seems that ''look what you made me do'' fits the criteria perfectly. The song ''Look What you made Me Do'' evidently speaks to the lower case kkk; and they have embraced it.
The day the song came out, Breitbart jumped on the lyrics on Twitter: ''I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time,'' a line that they interpreted as racism and racial hatred rising from the dead. Those tired old beliefs about protecting the white race have found new racists to carry the torch (literally) and their beliefs into the 21st century. Breitbart and their loyal followers are central to the movement to be proud of being a racist, white supremacist and have the audacity to equate that with patriotism. And for liberal Bay Area natives like myself, who grew up with a healthy dose of 90's era ''racism is dead'' propaganda, it feels like racism has risen from its grave with the stamina of a White Walker. While society at large seemed to reject racism as an abstract concept, the internet provided an ''underground'' space for racists to congregate without fear of retribution until Donald Trump encouraged them to come out in the open.
Taylor's are lyrics that connect with whites that are concerned with what they see as the white dispossession of power. Breitbart highlighted another lyric on Twitter, the line, ''but I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time. Honey, I rose up from the dead, I do it all the time.'' The lyrics were paired with the image of a story about a loophole for buying AR-15s. And the lyrics speak to even more than just unnecessary gun glorification but also to the white people who have been closeted racists for years.
Later in the song, there is another telling line: ''I don't like your kingdom keys. They once belonged to me. You asked me for a place to sleep. Locked me out and threw a feast (what?).'' These lyrics are the most explicit in speaking to white anger and affirming white supremacy. The lyrics speak to the white people resentful of any non-white person having a position of power and privilege. Think of Barack Obama: the fears of white dispossession of power were actualized in his success, which was a huge factor in the appeal of candidate Trump. He is a patriarchal, rich white man that embodied the anger and white supremacist ideology.
From the White House to the streets, chants like, '' you will not replace us'' and call and responses like ''whose streets'' ''our streets'' were yelled by white men carrying torches in the night in Charlottesville a few short weeks ago are reminiscent of Swift's lyrics. ''I don't like your kingdom keys, they once belonged to me,'' is another way of saying, I will not be replaced and anger over white dispossession of power.
The lyrics validate those who feel that have been wronged, e.g. white people angry about a black president. The chant, ''our streets'' is similar to saying ''you locked me out and threw a feast.'' It is about feeling displaced, feeling wronged.
In other words, these lyrics became the voice of the lower case kkk, and Taylor's sweet, victim image is the perfect vehicle and metaphor for white supremacists' perceived victimization. With the song at the top of the charts, it makes one wonder: how large is the lower case kkk? How much are people paying attention to the lyrics of the song? It is clear that Breitbart has embraced the song as being a white supremacist anthem, so why wouldn't Trump's base '-- and other white Americans that believe they deserve their white privilege '-- embrace it as well? And considering Taylor's fan base is mostly young girls, does the song also serve as indoctrination into white supremacy?
It is hard to believe that Taylor had no idea that the lyrics of her latest single read like a defense of white privilege and white anger '-- specifically, white people who feel that they are being left behind as other races and groups start to receive dignity and legally recognized rights. ''We will not be replaced'' and ''I don't like your kingdom keys'' are not different in tone or message. Both are saying that whites feel threatened and don't want to share their privilege. And there is no way to know for sure if Taylor is a Trump supporter or identifies with the white nationalist message, but her silence has not gone unnoticed.
''Quiet racism only needs subtle encouragement, and it seems that 'look what you made me do' fits the criteria perfectly.''
Swift is not one for politics. She did not endorse Hillary Clinton until November 8th, 2016 on the eve of the election. She has stayed away from race conversations directly, but her music has been interpreted as racially offensive before. Her song '' Shake it Off '' has come under fire many times [ salon]. The song has long been considered an insult to black America, yet it debuted at the top of the charts and is one of Swift's biggest hits. It is clear her message of being white, pretty, and consequence-free is one that many in America have embraced. And like the quiet support that Trump received to the surprise of polls, Democrats, and the world, Taylor is giving support to the white nationalist movements through lyrics that speak to their anger, entitlement, and selfishness.
When Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce openly campaigned for Hillary Clinton, Taylor's political silence appeared to be a rejection of her peers' support of the inclusive Democrat platform. And when one of the most popular female artists in the world declines to join the many in her field in voicing for progressive politics, it could well be construed as her lending support to the voices rising against embracing diversity and inclusion emblematic of Trump supporters. Further, the single attacks other pop stars in the same way that the alt-right has attacked the ''liberal'' media. Taylor's song identifies with the oppressed conservative trope, and the song is indeed their anthem.
Taylor Swift was called ''Nazi barbie '' by Camille Paglia, who stated that Swift is ''a silly, regressive public image of white 50's America.'' That seems to fit nicely with the imagery of the alt-right. Her lyrics are like an affirmation for everything the alt-right has been feeling for years: oppressed, afraid to come out, and made to look like a fool. And now that they feel empowered, it befits the movement to have a white, blonde, conservative pop star that has no doubt been ''bullied'' by people of color in the media, singing their feelings out loud. And with a president that openly addresses hate groups and justifies racial hatred, this is not a time for neutrality.
And while pop musicians are not respected world leaders, they have a huge audience and their music often reflects their values. So Taylor's silence is not innocent, it is calculated. And if that is not true, she needs to state her beliefs out loud for the world '-- no matter what fan base she might lose, because in America 2017, silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor.
Taylor Swift Threatens Lawsuit Against Critic, ACLU Issues Challenge '' Variety
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:37
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is challenging lawsuit threats made by Taylor Swift and her lawyer against a Northern California blogger. On Sept. 5, Meghan Herning, an editor for the website PopFront, posted an article titled ''Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation,'' which called for Swift to publicly denounce ['...]
ACLU defends article linking Taylor Swift to white supremacists | Fox News
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:36
The ACLU and Taylor Swift are squaring off after the singer tried to get an article detailing how white supremacy movements have embraced her lyrics and music videos, and how her silence has exacerbated the matter, pulled from a website.
On Monday, the ACLU sent a letter to Swift's legal team arguing that an article posted by PopFront that links the star to the white supremacy movement should not be taken down -- as Swift has requested -- because the writer has the right to free speech.
Things kicked off on Sept. 5 when PopFront posted an article by Meghan Herning titled, ''Swiftly to the alt-right: Taylor subtly gets the lower case kkk in formation.'' In it, the writer suggests that white supremacists co-opting Swift's music as a message of support for their beliefs is no accident. The article declares that Swift's silence on matters of politics is a statement in and of itself, and it calls upon her to formally denounce white supremacy.
''Silence in the face of injustice means support for the oppressor,'' the article states.
The article goes on to suggest that lyrics from Swift's songs and imagery from her videos is meant to embolden racists.
''Taylor's lyrics in 'Look What You Made Me Do' seem to play to the same subtle, quiet white support of a racial hierarchy. Many on the alt-right see the song as part of a 're-awakening,' in line with Trump's rise,'' the article reads. ''At one point in the accompanying music video, Taylor lords over an army of models from a podium, akin to what Hitler had in Nazis Germany. The similarities are uncanny and unsettling.''
On Oct. 25, Herning received a letter from Swift's attorneys demanding that the website issue a retraction and take the article down immediately, threatening a lawsuit if they did not remove it by Oct. 24, one day before the letter was dated.
According to Variety, Herning contacted the ACLU of Northern California for help, and on Monday the group sent a letter of its own, which it made public on the ACLU's website, arguing that Swift's request is a violation of the first amendment.
''Ms. Herning and PopFront will not in any way accede to your attempt to suppress their constitutionally protected speech,'' the letter from the ACLU reads. ''The blog post is a mix of core political speech and critical commentary; it discusses current politics in this country, the recent rise of white supremacy, and the fact that some white supremacists have apparently embraced Ms. Swift, along with a critical interpretation of some of Ms. Swift's music, lyrics, and videos.''
Later in the 6-page response to Swift's attorney, the ACLU takes a jab at one of the artist's lyrics saying, ''Criticism is never pleasant, but a celebrity has to shake it off, even if the critique may damage her reputation.''
The ACLU issued its own deadline, telling Swift that her legal team has until Nov. 13 to decide if they're planning to move forward with litigation or not.
Russia and West clash over blaming Syria for chemical use
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 12:33
UNITED NATIONS (AP) '-- Russia clashed with Western nations Tuesday over a report blaming Syria for a deadly chemical weapons attack, with Moscow dismissing its findings as "mythical or invented" and the U.S. backing its finger-pointing at President Bashar Assad's regime.
The debate in the Security Council during a meeting on the report reflected the sharp differences between Russia, Syria's most important ally, and Western countries that have backed Assad's opponents.
It also raised serious questions about whether the mandate of the experts who issued the report will be renewed '-- and whether anyone in Syria will ever be held accountable for using chemical weapons, which are banned internationally.
Russia and the United States have circulated rival resolutions to extend the experts' body, known as the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM. Its mandate expires Nov. 14.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council that a revised U.S. draft circulated Tuesday included some points from the Russian draft, including the importance of high standards and sound evidence.
But she said Russia continues "to push unacceptable language only meant to undermine the investigators and divide this council."
Russia vetoed a U.S.-sponsored council resolution Oct. 24 that would have renewed the mandate of the experts from the United Nations and the international chemical weapons watchdog for a year. It said it wanted to wait to see the JIM report on the sarin nerve gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun and a mustard gas attack at Um Hosh in Aleppo in September 2016.
Two days later, the JIM reported its leaders were "confident" that Syria was responsible for an aerial attack on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 using sarin that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others who survived "acute exposure" to the nerve agent. The conclusion supported the initial findings by the United States, France and Britain.
The experts also said they were "confident" the Islamic State extremist group was responsible for the Um Hosh attack using mustard gas.
Assistant Secretary-General Edmond Mulet, who heads the JIM, told the council how experts reached their conclusions, including finding that the chemistry of the sarin used in Khan Sheikhoun was very likely to have been made from the same precursor, called DF, as the sarin in Syria's original stockpile.
In September 2013, Syria accepted a Russian proposal to relinquish its chemical weapons stockpile and join the Chemical Weapons Convention. That averted a U.S. military strike in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.
Mulet said the Security Council has "a unique responsibility" to deter all those using chemical weapons and "end the use of such weapons forever."
"I understand the political issues surrounding the situation in the Syrian Arab Republic," he said. "However, this is not a political issue about the lives of innocent civilians. Impunity must not prevail."
Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, was sharply critical of the JIM and the report, especially the experts' failure to visit Khan Sheikhoun, which Mulet said was for security reasons.
Safronkov derided the JIM for not pinpointing specific responsibility, asking: Is "an entire state is responsible?" He also complained that "while some continue to try to find this mythical or invented chemical weapons in Damascus, the region is seeing an increasing threat of chemical terrorism" that isn't being addressed.
Deputy British Ambassador Jonathan Allen said Russia has advanced multiple theories about the Khan Sheikhoun attack, and when one gets debunked Moscow goes with something else.
"It's one of the great tragedies that Russia is a country with hugely respected and impressive scientists, but also a country of great fiction writers," he told several reporters. "And unfortunately the scientists of Russia are being ignored and the fiction writers are being indulged."
Allen called Russia's draft resolution to renew the JIM mandate "a cynical ploy to discredit a professional, independent and impartial body."
"Russia is trying to shoot the messenger to cover up for the crimes of the Syrian regime," he said.
Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar Ja'afari, the last speaker, told the council the JIM report "is not neutral, nor is it professional."
Its "wrongful" accusation against Syria is based on "the fabrication of evidence and the manipulation of information," he said.
Ja'afari said Syria abides by the Chemical Weapons Convention and "considers the use of chemical weapons an immoral act that must be condemned."
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.
Hollywood wracked by chaos in aftermath of sex scandals
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:22
Los Angeles (AFP) - Projects are shelved, film releases cancelled, sets shuttered, studios threatened, the Oscars rattled -- this is the chaos confronting Hollywood following sex scandals that have brought down power players like Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Brett Ratner.
In the month since The New Yorker and The New York Times published allegations of serial predatory behavior by producer Weinstein -- some 100 women have now accused him of misconduct ranging from harassment to rape -- people who said they had been victimized have felt emboldened to voice allegations against men who had been seen as untouchable.
Spacey, a two-time Oscar winner, and Ratner, a blockbuster director, have also been accused of sexual transgressions, while other actors, managers and agents are in the hot seat as well.
"Who's next?" the Los Angeles Times asked on Sunday.
"There's been scandals in Hollywood since the silent movie age but it was one person or one incident," said Tim Gray, an editor at the entertainment trade magazine Variety.
"I've been at Variety for 30 years, I've never seen something like this," he said.
- Toxic -
Every project linked to The Weinstein Company, co-founded by Harvey Weinstein and his brother Bob, is now toxic, whereas a few months ago such a relationship was a mark of prestige.
Famed director Oliver Stone, who initially defended Weinstein, has withdrawn from the "Guantanamo" television series that they had been collaborating on.
The first Weinstein Company film to come out following the scandal, "Amityville: The Awakening," brought in a measly $742 in its one-day theatrical release, according to Box Office Mojo.
Weinstein's company, already weakened by a series of flops, is on the verge of bankruptcy.
Other powerful studios find themselves in turmoil, such the entertainment arm of internet giant Amazon, whose chairman Roy Price resigned last month after he was suspended following an accusation of sexual harassment.
Price's ouster contributed to the collapse of an untitled David O. Russell drama series, set to star Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Julianne Moore, which had been a co-production with The Weinstein Company.
"(With) the Weinstein debacle and another issue at Amazon, everyone kind of walked away and torpedoed it," Moore said in an interview.
A screenwriter who had been working for months on a serial for Amazon told AFP the project has lost momentum.
- 'Everyone is replaceable' -
Streaming giant Netflix is also in crisis. Kevin Spacey, the star of its flagship series "House of Cards," faces spiraling accusations including that he attempted to rape a 15-year-old boy in New York.
The actor has been booted from the show and production of the last and final season, which had been due to air in 2018, has been suspended.
Netflix also scuttled the release of "Gore," a biopic about American writer Gore Vidal, a film co-produced by and starring Spacey.
At Warner Bros., the scandal surrounding filmmaker Ratner ("Rush Hour," "The Revenant," "Horrible Bosses,") has threatened a co-financing deal between the studio and Ratner's RatPac Entertainment worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The studio has also removed Ratner from the producer role of a much-anticipated adaption of Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Goldfinch."
"This is kind of a lesson for everyone in Hollywood. You know what? Everybody is replaceable," Gray said.
The Oscar race has also been shaken up. Sony Pictures was betting on Spacey as its awards season candidate for his role in Ridley Scott's "All the Money in the World," but has since scratched that plan.
With four months to go before the Academy Awards, "who knows what we're gonna find about other people in the race," Gray said.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expelled Weinstein from its ranks, but has kept a low profile as the number of its members and honorees facing troubling accusations grows.
People in behind-the-scenes roles in entertainment haven't avoided scrutiny either. Agent Tyler Grasham of APA has been fired from his job, while manager David Guillod from Primary Wave Entertainment was forced to resign, both following sexual assault allegations. Meanwhile actor Danny Masterson is under fire after four women said he had raped them.
"This says there's something wrong with this industry" that wants to be moral and progressive, Gray said.
Hollywood has struggled with diversity and accusations of discrimination against racial minorities and women, "but this is taking it a step further. It's not we're ignoring people, it's we're abusing people."
Gray can't imagine Weinstein, Spacey or Ratner ever working again in entertainment.
"Hollywood loves a comeback story, loves to forgive... (but) this is not something you can forgive."
CNN, others spread honest-to-goodness fake news about Trump's Japan visit
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:14
Anti-Trump fervor in the press has birthed many instances of sloppy, shoddy and downright dishonest journalism, but a story this week alleging the president behaved boorishly during a ceremony in Japan is so far the most egregious example of intentionally deceptive reporting since the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Trump and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met this weekend in Tokyo to discuss trade and the growing threat of a nuclear-capable North Korea.
On Monday, the two visited the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, where they were both given boxes of fish food for the traditional feeding of the palace's koi fish. The president and the prime minister both spooned in their feed a little at a time. Abe then dumped the rest of his box into the pond. Trump followed suit, spooning in just a little at first, and then dumping out the remnants of his box.
Simple enough stuff. There's no way this gets reported incorrectly, right? Wrong. The simple act of feeding the palace's koi fish somehow became a fake news event in the U.S. this week, and we have CNN and a handful of others in the press to thank for that.
CNN published a headline Monday morning that read, ''Trump feeds fish, winds up pouring entire box of food into koi pond.''
That story included a tweet from CNN reporter Veronica Rocha, who wrote, ''President Trump feeds fish with PM Shinzo Abe in Japan, then pours the entire box of food into the koi pond.''
Her note included footage of the ceremony '-- except that the clip she shared was edited so that it showed only Trump dumping out his fish food. CNN's main Twitter account also circulated the edited video clip.
CNN was given an assist in getting this bogus story rolling by Bloomberg White House correspondent Justin Sink, who tweeted that Trump and Abe were ''spooning fish food into the pond'' when the U.S. president, ''decided to just dump the whole box in for the fish.''
Things took off from there, as newsrooms rushed to report that Trump had made a great fool of himself in front of the Japanese.
''President Trump was criticized for throwing an entire box of fish food into a koi pond during his visit to Japan,'' read a New York Daily News headline.
The Guardian did the most Guardian thing ever, publishing a story that warned overfeeding fish is extremely dangerous for their health.
''White House reporters, keen perhaps to pick up on a Trump gaffe, captured the moment when he upended his box on their smartphones and tweeted evidence of his questionable grasp of fish keeping,'' the story read. ''Some speculated that a poor palace employee would be dispatched to the scene to clean up the mess as soon as the two leaders disappeared inside.''
Journalist and pundit Twitter was, of course, on top of this moronic koi fabrication:
And so on.
Luckily, full video of the event eventually circulated online Monday morning, and the more honest reporters were quick to note that the original narrative spread by CNN and others was deeply misleading. Of course, we could've avoided this entire episode from the beginning if certain members of the press cared more about reporting the facts than dunking on an administration they don't like.
This stupid story is particularly rich considering certain CNN reporters talk a big game about being truth-tellers and guardians of fact over fiction. These same people also seem awfully upset whenever the president or anyone else in this administration refers to the cable network as "fake news."
Here's an idea: If you want to punch back on the president's preferred pejorative for the press, maybe don't spread actual fake news.
Becket AdamsShinzo AbeForeign PolicyMediaDonald TrumpJapanCNNWhite HouseOpinionBeltway Confidential
Jesse Jackson accused of sexual harassment by journalist | Fox News
Wed, 08 Nov 2017 00:09
A journalist at The Root says the Rev. Jesse Jackson sexually harassed her after a speech at a previous employer, claiming he grabbed her thigh before saying, ''I like all of that right there!''
Danielle Young, a writer-producer at The Root, detailed her experience with Jackson in a 2,000-word post published on Monday, alleging that Jackson touched her inappropriately while taking a photo with him after a keynote speech by the ''living legend'' at a ''very popular'' media company.
''I walked toward Jackson, smiling, and he smiled back at me,'' Young wrote. ''His eyes scanned my entire body. All of a sudden, I felt naked in my sweater and jeans. As I walked within arm's reach of him, Jackson reached out a hand and grabbed my thigh, saying, 'I like all of that right there!' and gave my thigh a tight squeeze.''
The unexpected touch, Young said, left her ''shocked, to say the least,'' and uncomfortable in a room full of colleagues. So, she started to laugh, she said.
''And I continued to giggle as he pulled me in closer, stared down at my body, smiled and told me he was only kidding,'' Young continued. ''The entire time, my co-worker snapped photos.''
Young's post included seven photos of herself with Jackson, including one in which Jackson's right arm is around her neck while his left arm embraces Young's arm across her body. Both Young and Jackson are smiling in five of the photos. In another, Young, who said she was ''visibly uncomfortable'' at the time, is pointing directly at the camera, ''asking [Jackson] if we can just take the picture,'' according to her post.
''When I was finally able to pull myself away from the Rev. Jackson's grip, I was deflated,'' Young said. ''I admired this man who marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a man who represented our ability to overcome, a man who is really '... just a man.''
After contacting a former colleague, Young said she realized her take on the situation was not unique.
''I remember him being inappropriate with all the women,'' Young said, recalling the co-worker's take. ''And I also remember you telling me that he did something more with you. And then we brushed the shit off and chalked it up to him just being a dirty old man.''
Young said she never wanted to come forward with her accusation of sexual harassment because it was ''just a thigh grab,'' barely even a ''blip on anyone's radar,'' including her own.
''Jackson's tight grip doesn't even measure up to what any of the victims of Harvey Weinstein and others have had to endure; however, I was uncomfortable and had to swallow the lump in my throat as I stood right beside the civil rights leader,'' Young wrote. '''... My silence gave Jackson permission to continue grabbing at the next pair of thick thighs he liked. I'm hoping that my voice does the opposite.''
Young also accused director John Singleton of being inappropriate toward her while at the American Black Film Festival in June. After interviewing Singleton and the cast of his new show, Young said the director best known for ''Boyz n the Hood'' grabbed her wrist and pulled her toward him while saying, ''Bring that juiciness over here.''
Singleton then leaned forward and kissed Young on the cheek, she said.
''I said, 'Oh, oh, OK,' and stood up, embarrassed because everyone was definitely still in the room,'' Young said. ''Mostly, no one reacted, aside from a few seconds of laughter. A few people asked Singleton for a photo, and I didn't. He noticed.''
Young then took a selfie with Singleton and posted it onto Instagram, complete with a caption of what Young said the ''legend'' uttered to her: ''Oooh, I'm gonna grab on tight to you.''
Another woman working at the festival then confirmed Young's suspicion regarding the unwanted sexual attention.
''She said, 'Yeah, girl, I heard he likes big girls,''' Young said. '' '... The woman's admission was so pedestrian, I was convinced she was simply reacting the same way many women do to unwanted sexual attention '-- she ignored it. I tried to ignore it, but I felt weird.''
In a statement to The Root, Jackson said: ''Although Rev. Jackson does not recall the meeting three years ago, he profoundly and sincerely regrets any pain Ms. Young may have experienced.''
Singleton did not return requests for comment by The Root and The Post.
Young, meanwhile, said she's no longer blaming herself for the ''unwanted sexual attention'' that came her way.
''It's not my fault if a man wants to turn a professional environment into a playground of flirting, grabbing and sexual talk,'' Young wrote. ''I didn't ask for the attention just by existing.''
Apophenia - Wikipedia
Tue, 07 Nov 2017 12:43
"Apophany" redirects here. For the concept in linguistics, see Apophony.Apophenia () is the tendency to attribute meaning to perceived connections or patterns between seemingly unrelated things.Confirmation bias is a variation of apophenia.
The term (German: Apoph¤nie ) was coined by psychiatrist Klaus Conrad in his 1958 publication on the beginning stages of schizophrenia. He defined it as "unmotivated seeing of connections [accompanied by] a specific feeling of abnormal meaningfulness". He described the early stages of delusional thought as self-referential, over-interpretations of actual sensory perceptions, as opposed to hallucinations.
Apophenia has come to imply a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information, such as gambling.
This figure may be perceived as a face, despite having only a few of the features of a face.Pareidolia is a type of apophenia involving the perception of images or sounds in random stimuli.
A common example is the perception of a face within an inanimate object'--the headlights and grill of an automobile may appear to be "grinning". People around the world see the "Man in the Moon". People sometimes see the face of a religious figure in a piece of toast or in the grain of a piece of wood.
Pareidolia usually occurs as a result of the fusiform face area, which is the part of the human brain that is responsible in seeing faces, mistakenly interpreting an object, shape or configuration with some kind of perceived "face-like" features as being a face.
Overfitting Edit In statistics and machine learning, apophenia is an example of what is known as overfitting. Overfitting occurs when a statistical model fits the noise rather than the signal. The model overfits the particular data or observations rather than fitting a generalizable pattern in a general population.
Gambler's fallacy Edit Apophenia is well documented as a rationalization for gambling. Gamblers may imagine that they see patterns in the numbers that appear in lotteries, card games, or roulette wheels. One variation of this is known as the "gambler's fallacy".
Hidden meanings Edit Fortune-telling and divination often are based upon discerning patterns seen in what most people would consider to be meaningless chance events. The concept of a Freudian slip is based upon what had previously been dismissed as meaningless errors of speech or memory. Sigmund Freud believed that such "slips" held meaning for the unconscious mind (see The Interpretation of Dreams).
Confirmation bias Edit Confirmation bias is often seen as the direct influence of desire or beliefs. It is the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms a person's preconceptions or the hypothesis that they intend to put forth. This can often lead to people seeing clusters or patterns in data sometimes inadvertently to prove their ideas.
In contrast to an epiphany, an apophany (i.e., an instance of apophenia) does not provide insight into the nature of reality nor its interconnectedness, but is a "process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field". Such meanings are entirely self-referential, solipsistic, and paranoid'--"being observed, spoken about, the object of eavesdropping, followed by strangers". Thus the English term "apophenia" has a somewhat different meaning than that which Conrad defined when he coined the term "Apoph¤nie".
"Patternicity" Edit In 2008, Michael Shermer coined the word "patternicity", defining it as "the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise".
"Agenticity" Edit In The Believing Brain (2011), Shermer wrote that humans have "the tendency to infuse patterns with meaning, intention, and agency", which he called "agenticity".
"Randomania" Edit In 2011, parapsychologistDavid Luke proposed that apophenia is one end of a spectrum and that the opposite behaviour (attributing to chance what are apparently patterned or related data) should be called "randomania". He asserted that dream precognition is real, and that randomania is the reason why some people dismiss it.
"The Clustering Illusion" Edit The clustering illusion is a type of cognitive bias in which a person sees a pattern in a random sequence of numbers or events. Many theories have been disproven as a result of this bias being brought up.
In 1985, the study of the "hot hand fallacy" by Thomas Gilovich, Robert Vallon and Amos Tversky showed that the idea that basketball players who have the 'hot hand' i.e they shoot better in streaks was false, and much rather that the 'success of a previous throw very slightly predicted a subsequent miss rather another success.
In another case, during the early 2000s, the occurrence of breast cancer amongst the female employees at ABC Studios in Queensland. A study found that the incidence of breast cancer at the Studios was 6 times higher than the rate in the rest of Queensland. However, an examination found no correlation between the heightened incidence and any factors related to the site, genetic or lifestyle factors of the employees.
Apophenia is commonly referred to as an error in perception. Though there is no confirmed reason as to why it occurs, there are some respected theories.
Models of pattern recognition Edit Pattern recognition is a cognitive process that involves retrieving information either from long-term, short-term or working memory and matching it with information from stimuli. However, there are three different ways in which this may happen and go wrong, resulting in apophenia.
Template matching Edit The stimulus is compared to templates or copies in the long-term memory. These templates are often stored as a result of past learning or educational experiences.
E.g D d D d are all recognized as the letter D but not any other letter.
These detection routines, when applied on more complex data sets (such, for example, a painting or clusters of data) can result in the wrong template being matched. A false positive detection will result in apophenia.
Prototype matching Edit This is similar to template matching, except for the fact that you are not looking for an exact match. An example of this would be to look at an animal such as a Tiger and instead of recognizing that it was a Tiger (template matching) knowing that it was a cat (prototype matching) based on the information you know about the characteristics of a cat.
This type of pattern recognition can result in apophenia based on the fact that since your brain is not looking for exact matches, it can pick up some characteristics of a match and assume it fits. This is more common with pareidolia than data collection.
Feature analysis Edit The stimulus is broken down into its features and allowed to process the information. This model of pattern recognition comes from the result of 4 stages, which are: Detection, Pattern dissection, Feature comparison in memory & finally Recognition.
Evolution Edit One of the explanations put forth by evolutionary psychologists for apophenia is that it is not a flaw in the cognition of human brains but rather something that has come about through years of need. The study of this topic is referred to as "Error Management Theory". One of the most accredited studies in this field is Skinner's box and superstition.
Skinner's box and superstition was set up in that he would take a hungry pigeon, place it in a box and release a food pellet at random. The pigeon received a food pellet while performing some action, and thus rather than attributing the pellet falling to randomness, as was the case, the pigeon started doing whatever action it was that they did and continued to do so, till a pellet fell. And thus it was concluded that since the pigeon increased the number of times the action was performed it also increased the times it was 'rewarded' with a pellet, even though it was random.
Religion Edit In 2013 study, researchers at the University of Helsinki tested 47 people to see the chances of pareidolia, and though the incidence was small, the people who proclaimed themselves as religious saw faces in art shown to them 52% of the time, whereas non-religious people only saw faces 46% of the time. The same type of differentiation existed between paranormal believers and skeptics with 51% and 48% respectively.
^ ab Carroll, Robert T. "apophenia". The Skeptic's Dictionary. Retrieved 17 July 2017 . ^ Conrad, Klaus (1958). Die beginnende Schizophrenie. Versuch einer Gestaltanalyse des Wahns [The onset of schizophrenia: an attempt to form an analysis of delusion] (in German). Stuttgart: Georg Thieme Verlag. OCLC 14620263. ^ Mishara, Aaron (2010). "Klaus Conrad (1905''1961): Delusional Mood, Psychosis and Beginning Schizophrenia". Schizophr Bull. 36 (1): 9''13. doi:10.1093/schbul/sbp144. PMC 2800156'¯
. PMID 19965934. ^ ab Hubscher, Sandra L (4 November 2007). "Apophenia: Definition and Analysis". Digital Bits Skeptic. Digital Bits Network, LLC. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. ^ Brugger, Peter. "From Haunted Brain to Haunted Science: A Cognitive Neuroscience View of Paranormal and Pseudoscientific Thought", Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, edited by J. Houran and R. Lange (North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers, 2001) ^ Svoboda, Elizabeth (13 February 2007). "Facial Recognition '' Brain '' Faces, Faces Everywhere". New York Times. Retrieved 3 July 2010 . ^ "Apophenia". Medical-answers.org. Archived from the original on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2011-06-29 . ^ Vox (2015-08-05), Why you're seeing a face in this purse, retrieved 2017-05-23 ^ May 28, 2007 at 9:49 pm (2007-05-24). "Apophenia & Illusory Correlation Paul Xavier Waterstone". Waterstone.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2011-06-29 . ^ "Confirmation bias". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2017-05-23 . ^ Conrad, Klaus (1959). "Gestaltanalyse und Daseinsanalytik". Nervenarzt (30). pp. 405''410. ^ Shermer, Michael. "Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Patterns in Meaningless Noise". Scientificamerican.com. Retrieved 2011-06-29 . ^ GrrlScientist (29 September 2010). "Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2011-06-29 . ^ "Why Do We Need a Belief in God with Michael Shermer". 2011-08-19. ^ Luke, David. "Experiential reclamation and first person parapsychology". Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 185''199. ^ Gilovich, Thomas; Vallone, Robert; Tversky, Amos (1985-07-01). "The hot hand in basketball: On the misperception of random sequences". Cognitive Psychology. 17 (3): 295''314. doi:10.1016/0010-0285(85)90010-6. ^ "Pathologic and molecular investigations of the ABC breast cancer 'cluster' '' National Breast Cancer Foundation". National Breast Cancer Foundation. 2015-11-13. Retrieved 2017-05-23 . ^ abcd "Pattern Recognition and Your Brain | psychology24.org". psychology24.org. 2016-03-21. Retrieved 2017-05-23 . ^ "Pattern recognition (psychology)". Wikipedia. 2016-12-15. ^ Haselton, Martie (January 2000). "Error Management Theory". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ^ Inglis-Arkell, Esther. "How pigeons get to be superstitious". io9. Retrieved 2017-05-23 . ^ Riekki, Tapani (October 2012). "Paranormal and Religious Believers Are More Prone to Illusory Face Perception than Skeptics and Non-believers". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 27: 150''155.
Look up apophenia in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Belt & Road Initiative reaches the Arctic - Xinhua | English.news.cn
Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:14
Members of the Chinese scientific expedition team pose for photos onboard China's ice breaker Xuelong, July 31, 2017. The Xuelong icebreaker crossed the Arctic Circle and entered the Arctic Ocean on Monday. China's ice breaker, the Xuelong, which means "Snow Dragon," set sail on July 20 for the country's first circumnavigation of the Arctic rim. (Xinhua/Yu Qiongyuan)(File photo)
by Yang Dingdu
BEIJING, Nov. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Arctic has become a new area for the development of the Belt and Road Initiative as the "Silk Road on Ice" (SRI)becomes more feasible.
Being made possible as melting ice gives way to open sea, the SRI refers to a shortcut between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans through the Arctic. It is widely seen as the third arch of the Belt and Road Initiative, which is originally composed of one route spanning westward from China to Europe, and the other extending from the country's eastern coastline down to the Indian Ocean.
On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping told visiting Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev that China and Russia should cooperate in the development and utilization of the Arctic routes to jointly build the SRI.
This is not the first time the two leaders discussed cooperation in building the SRI. In his visit to Moscow on July 4, Xi agreed with Medvedev to jointly build a sea route through the Arctic Ocean into the SRI.
The interaction between Chinese and Russian leaders sent a strong signal that the Arctic has gained a place in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Earlier this year, the Chinese government released a plan for maritime cooperation under the initiative, envisioning an economic passage between China and Europe via the Arctic Ocean.
In the plan, China pledged to support efforts to improve transportation conditions on the Arctic Ocean and encourage Chinese enterprises to take part in the commercial use of the Arctic route.
The SRI will greatly enhance connectivity between China and the Europe and potentially the Americas, reshaping global trade flows, and consequently the world economy, Hu Angang, economics professor at Tsinghua University, told Xinhua.
ADVANTAGES OF ARCTIC PASSAGE
Compared to traditional routes, passages via the Arctic can be 30 to 50 percent shorter, cutting time, costs and fuel. They have great economic potential for the world, particularly trading powers such as China.
As world's largest trader, China trades goods worth some 4 trillion U.S. dollars a year, 90 percent of which are transported by sea. Saving even a fraction of the transport costs can mean quite a significant amount.
The Arctic routes will further drive global transport costs down by offering an alternative route to shipping companies, breaking the monopoly of some of the world's key waterways, such as the Malacca Straits and the Suez Canal.
In addition to saving costs, the Arctic economic passage can help stimulate trade growth, Hu said.
The Arctic routes link China with some of the world's most developed markets, including America, Canada and oil-rich states in northern Europe. Once the cost-efficient and time-saving routes became mature, they would spur China's exports of high value-added goods to these developed countries, he added.
In September, Chinese icebreaker Xuelong, or Snow Dragon, crossed the Arctic through the Northwest Passage, a short cut between Asia and North America, during its Arctic rim expedition. It is the first time any Chinese ship completed that route.
Meanwhile, China is building its second icebreaker the Snow Dragon 2. The domestically-built icebreaker is due to hit the ice in 2019.
China has long ventured into the Arctic Ocean. In 2013, China COSCO Shipping Corporation, one of world's largest maritime carriers, sent a ship coded Yongsheng from northeast China's Dalian port to Rotterdam through the Northeast Passage, also known as the Northern Sea Route, across the Arctic Ocean.
The voyage was completed in 30 days saving a third of the usual shipping time. Since then, COSCO has been sending multiple ships through the Arctic Ocean every year.
These voyages can help accumulate navigation experience, which is valuable in developing a specialized talent pool as well as ships and facilities for the Arctic Ocean.
At the moment, shipping through the Northeast Passage remains costly and challenging for lack of infrastructure. Maintenance is hard to find and extremely expensive for ships trying to edge through the icy waters.
China will work with countries bordering the Arctic Ocean to build infrastructure, such as harbors, roads, bridges and communication facilities in order to improve connectivity and commercial feasibility of the Arctic route, Hu said.
The Northeast Passage is the most commercially viable one of the three main routes that connect the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans via the Arctic. The other two are the Northwest Passage, and the Transpolar Sea Route.
The Northwest Passage goes along the northern Canadian and Alaskan coasts, the Northeast Passage follows the Russian and Norwegian coasts, and the Transpolar Sea Route crosses the Arctic through the North Pole.
At the moment, the Northeast Passage is the most feasible, allowing ships to pass for some 4 months. The passage, already in commercial use, is the one that China and Russia have vowed to jointly develop.
The Northwest Passage is much more challenging with thick ice and complex straits. It still takes time for the passage to be feasible for commercial use. China has published a guide with nautical charts and descriptions of ice conditions on the passage.
The Transpolar Sea Route, which crosses the North Pole, is theoretically the shortest route linking the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. However, passing through the coldest part of the Arctic, the route will not become feasible until the Arctic become ice free.
Scientists have made varied forecasts as to when the Arctic will be ice free. Most predictions point to a period between 2030 and 2050.
Turkey's leg of the Silk Road could be smoother - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East
Tue, 07 Nov 2017 05:08
Turkish politicians and the media tend to quote staggering numbers when discussing strategic equations, as they are doing now regarding the BTK railway project connecting Baku in Azerbaijan, Tblisi in Georgia and Kars in Turkey. The 527-mile leg contributes to China's work in progress, the Silk Road route to connect Europe and Asia.
The BTK, which has been in the works since 1993, was finally inaugurated Oct. 30 in the new Port of Baku at Alat, actually 55 miles from Baku. The presidents or prime ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Georgia attended the ceremony. No doubt, this is not a project to ignore. It may offer new economic opportunities to the countries using it.
But from the official bombast, one would think these trains, instead of rolling on rails, might be flying. Some of the claims include:
The BTK railway is the most important leg of the nearly 7,500-mile Silk Road project.
Thanks to the BTK, there will be a single-track railway from Beijing to London. Trains traveling from Beijing will reach Europe via Istanbul, bypassing Russia and the various sanctions usually associated with it.
This route for the Silk Road will cut land transit time to 15 days from two months.
The project will handle 1 million passengers and 6.5 million tons of cargo annually. By 2034, the capacity will increase to 3 million passengers and 17 million tons of cargo. China currently sends 240 million tons of cargo to Europe annually.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan repeated these figures in his speech at the ceremony to officially launch the project, saying it will provide not only economic benefits, but will contribute to peace, security and stability. ''We are hereby declaring the opening of an uninterrupted railroad track from London to China,'' he said.
What is the real situation of the "unbroken, uninterrupted" railroad from Asia to Europe? Can it really be an alternative to the Russian route?
There are still some difficulties on the BTK leg. Cargo departing from China faces the first interruption when it reaches the Caspian Sea via Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Here, trains are transferred to the Port of Baku at Alat via roll-on/roll-off ferries. Then by rail they pass through Georgia to reach Turkey. Trains halt at Istanbul's Pendik district before reaching Istanbul's city center.
There are also unsolved problems in the passage from Asia into Europe. Turkey's project to upgrade the Sirkeci-Halkali line on the European side has been dragging on for 13 years. There simply is no line operating yet on the 47-mile route. There are financing problems, and it appears nobody knows when it will be completed.
And then there are questions about whether the 8-mile-long Marmaray Tunnel under the Bosporus will be able to handle heavy cargo trains. In the meantime, nobody is mentioning the infrastructure problems between Kars and Ankara in Turkey. Lots of upgrades and repairs are required on this single-track route. Of course, such connection and infrastructure issues can be overcome over time, but today a train from Beijing cannot reach London without interruptions.
Moreover, the claim that the BTK will be an alternative to the Russian route is exaggerated. Today, trains from Beijing can already reach London in 17-18 days via Russia. On the unbroken Russian route, trains are guaranteed a transit speed of 621 miles per day.
Although Turkey touted the BTK as the most important leg of the Silk Road, China did not participate in the inauguration, and nobody asked why. China was clearly signaling it was distancing itself from the BTK project. Although China contributes to financing of various segments of the Silk Road project, which it calls the "Belt and Road,'' it stayed away from BTK financing.
Some think China's reticence stems from its discomfort with Turkey's position involving the Uighur issue in East Turkestan (in China's Xinjiang province). Some think China finds the BTK route not feasible and economically inefficient. Turkey's persistence on routing the BTK via Georgia's capital of Tblisi instead of Armenia's Yerevan because of political tensions between the two countries also discouraged European financing sources. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank decided not to participate. Skirting Armenia made the route longer.
China is not without an alternative. The 7,456-mile London-Beijing connection became operational via Russia in April. This route follows Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France and completed its first trip in 17 days. The line splits in France, with one leg heading to Britain and the other to Spain. In other words, under current conditions, China is reaching Europe without interruptions anyway. Academic Muhdan Saglam told Al-Monitor that China uses sea, air and rail for its shipments, with the railway via Russia being the only current rail connection. China prefers to make progress on its own ''Belt and Road'' project. It is already building a port in Pakistan for its own use.
Saglam noted there are still some questions about the BTK leg after Turkey. ''For example, wheat from Kazakhstan reaches our Mersin port. How will it be trans-shipped to Europe? By road, by sea or railway?''
Regarding claims that the BTK is a challenge to Russia, she said, ''Yes, it may help countries such as Georgia and Azerbaijan that do not have warm relations with Russia. They may see this as a way to diminish their dependence on Moscow. Then there is that exaggerated claim that there is an alternative to Russia in the China-Europe trade. Russia is a key country in massive trade while also being an important market itself."
Saglam added, "Some claim that US-European sanctions against Russia bring restrictions on transport of Russian agricultural produce, thereby making the BTK the alternative route. But this is a premature analysis. For one thing, nobody knows how long these sanctions will remain in force. It is also important to know how much cheese China buys from France and how many apples from Poland. China may not be willing to bypass Russia, which is a strategic actor for Beijing. Finally, you should not overlook the national railroad capacities of the countries on the BTK route.''
The BTK railway no doubt will contribute to Turkey's commerce with the southern Caucasus region and central Asia. However, China can be expected to use the BTK not to reach Europe's markets, but Turkey's.
DNC Subpoenaed in 'Dossier' Lawsuit '' Foreign Policy
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 23:38
The logo of news website BuzzFeed is seen on a computer screen in Washington on March 25, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM
BuzzFeed has subpoenaed the Democratic National Committee for information related to the Democratic hack '-- its latest salvo in the media company's efforts to defend itself against an ongoing libel suit connected to its publication of the infamous Steele dossier. The subpoena, a copy of which was reviewed by Foreign Policy , was served on the DNC Friday.
Aleksej Gubarev, a Russian technology executive, has sued BuzzFeed for libel for its decision to publish a series of memos authored by the former British spy Christopher Steele. Those memos '-- part of a so-called ''dossier'' of information about President Donald Trump's alleged ties to Russia, include claims strongly denied by Gubarev that his companies were recruited by the Kremlin's security organs to break into Democratic Party computer systems ahead of the 2016 election.
BuzzFeed is trying to figure out if the allegations relating to its libel suit are true as part of its defense strategy that could end up revealing details of the dossier and the DNC hack that have not been made public.
''One prong of our strategy is to prove that the dossier was being acted on and circulated by officials at the highest levels of government; but we would be remiss if we didn't use every tool to determine the truth of what actually happened '-- and whether, as the dossier claims, Mr. Gubarev's servers were behind the DNC hack,'' Matt Mittenthal, a spokesperson for BuzzFeed News, told FP .
Gubarev denies that he or his companies that were named in the Steele dossier '-- XBT Holdings and Webzilla '-- played any role in the digital attack on the Democratic Party.
''BuzzFeed's subpoena doesn't amount to much,'' said Evan Fray-Witzer, a lawyer for Gubarev. ''It seeks irrelevant information because it's not asking the question that actually matters: Was Gubarev, XBT, or Webzilla responsible for the hack? The answer to that question is 'No.'''
According to a copy of the subpoena reviewed by FP , BuzzFeed is seeking ''technical information and data obtained during the investigation into the Democratic Hack, including all host-based and network-based artifacts.'' It is also seeking ''non-public'' analysis and reports into the DNC hack, and copies of the malware that was allegedly used in the attack.
The DNC did not immediately respond to FP' s questions about if it would comply or fight the subpoena.
BuzzFeed published the dossier in full without verifying its details, and as part of its efforts to defend itself in the lawsuit the company is attempting to uncover details about the dossier compiled by Steele and Fusion GPS and verify aspects of its allegations.
This subpoena is the latest filed by BuzzFeed in connection to its federal lawsuit in Florida.
In addition to the DNC, Buzzfeed has also subpoenaed the cybersecurity firm Crowdstrike, which investigated the breach at Democratic Party headquarters, for technical information related to Russian hacking attempts. FP reviewed a copy of the subpoena.
A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to questions about whether the company would comply with the request.
As part of its efforts to stave off the lawsuit, BuzzFeed has served subpoenas to several federal agencies attempting to depose officials at the CIA, FBI, and other agencies believed to be tied to the commissioning or review of the now-infamous dossier.
Jana Winter is an investigative reporter based in Washington, DC. She worked previously as a national security reporter at The Intercept and breaking news/investigative reporter for FoxNews.com.
Elias Groll is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering cyberspace, its conflicts, and controversies. @eliasgroll
France's Macron signs controversial anti-terror law
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 21:46
Paris (AFP) - French President Emmanuel Macron signed a controversial anti-terror law Monday that gives authorities permanent powers to search homes, shut places of worship and restrict the movements of suspected extremists.
The new law, which replaces the state of emergency imposed after the 2015 Paris attacks, sailed through France's parliament this month despite criticism from campaigners that it jeopardises civil liberties.
"This law will allow us to end the state of emergency from November 1 while fully ensuring the security of our citizens," Macron said as he signed the bill in front of the cameras.
He added that it could come into force as early as Tuesday, though his office said it would become law when the state of emergency finally expires at midnight Wednesday after being extended six times.
Macron noted there had been "sustained debate" over the bill and said it would be reassessed in two years' time.
The legislation, which sparked weeks of intense debate in parliament, makes permanent several of the measures enacted after the jihadist attacks in Paris which left 130 people dead in November 2015.
Without seeking permission from the courts, authorities will now be able to close religious sites that promote radical ideas and confine suspected jihadist sympathisers to their neighbourhoods.
Police will be allowed to carry out more on-the-spot identity checks in border areas, as well as around train stations, ports and airports.
Rights groups have voiced fears that such checks will be chiefly used against migrants and minorities, particularly Muslims.
France has been hit by a series of attacks since the start of 2015 by known or suspected Islamic extremists that have left 241 people dead.
There has been little public resistance to the new anti-terror law, reflecting a hardening of attitudes after nearly three years of periodic attacks.
A poll last month for the daily Le Figaro found 57 percent backed tougher laws, even if 62 percent feared this would come at the expense of basic freedoms.
The bill is the third major piece of legislation Macron has signed since he took power in May, following a law on public ethics and flagship reforms to France's complex labour code.
USA Military Force Projection: Semper Paratus? | New Eastern Outlook
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 06:52
Since the inauguration of US President D. J. Trump in January 2017, along with his contingent of generals, Washington has rattled its nuclear and other military sabers in most every direction, threatening to totally destroy North Korea, ramping up weapons deliveries to Syrian opposition groups, scaling up AFRICOM military actions, sending its naval fleets in every imaginable direction from the South China Sea to the Baltic, building up troops along the borders to Russia, threatening Iran'...
Behind all the bluster is a US military with morale at an all-time low, with preparedness in many cases abysmally inadequate, and using technologies that are costly to taxpayers and far behind the state of the art of other potential adversaries. All are symptoms of a failing former sole superpower whose military is being gravely abused and misused, far from the intent for defense of the nation.
US Navy Collisions
This August the USS John Sidney McCain, a guided-missile destroyer of the US Navy's Seventh Fleet collided with an oil tanker off Singapore, killing ten sailors. Two months earlier the Japan-based USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant ship killing seven sailors and causing an estimated half-a billion dollars in damage. A Naval intelligence investigation found zero evidence of cyber-attack. For once Washington did not try to blame Russia or China. The fault lies at home.
Incredible as it may seem, for the world's largest and most formidable Navy, a decision was made during the Bush-Cheney Administration when Don Rumsfeld was Secretary of Defense to ''save money'' by scrapping the traditional training of Navy officers. As naval electronics such as advanced radar, sonar, gun, missile, and data linkage systems became more complex during the 1960s, the Navy created what was called the Surface Warfare Division Officer School which gave future officers a rigorous 12-14 months of training before they boarded their first ship. In 2003, it was shut down ''to create efficiencies,'' and replaced by computer-based training (CBT). Instead of attending the earlier training, new naval officers were given a packet of computer training discs and the ship commander was told to be responsible for the competence of officers under their command.
Vice Admiral Timothy LaFleur, the one responsible for the decision, sharply criticized by many officers, insisted the elimination of serious training would, ''result in higher professional satisfaction, increase the return on investment during the first division officer tour, and free up more career time downstream.'' The training cuts saved a ludicrous $15 million a year. Moreover, over-reliance on ''fail-proof'' electronics such as automated radar systems and the automatic identification system (AIS) led to abandonment of human watch-standers actually looking out the bridge window of the ship for dangers. No one was watching on the USS Fitzgerald or the USS McCain.
The commanders of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS McCain were relieved of their commands, hardly a serious response to the deeper problem. The rot goes much deeper.
As any honest experienced military veteran of the 1960s Vietnam War can attest, there is a crucial difference if you come as a foreign soldier to a land and its people who are fighting for their independence from foreign military occupation or defending from foreign attack. Ho Chi Minh, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Vietnam, who spent years in the United States and France, led a vastly under-equipped army of peasants against the best-equipped armed force in the world and ultimately won.
The fact that the armed forces of the United States, since the end of the Cold War with the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 has not had a convincing ''evil'' adversary, has had a huge effect on morale. Going to Afghanistan in 2001 to destroy Osama bin Laden, then to Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein, then to Libya to destroy Muhammar Qaddafi, now to Syria to destroy Bashar al Assad'--none of these ''adversaries'' are morally convincing to most Americans.
Not surprisingly, in this context the US Armed Forces are having difficulty recruiting sufficient qualified, intelligent service personnel for the wars that Washington and its patrons in Wall Street seem to want to wage around the world.
This year to meet its quota of new recruits to fill its global missions, the US Army has had to accept recruits with lower qualifications, to take recruits who scored in the lower third of the tests, so called Category Four recruits, including those with records for drug use.
And it is not only the lack of sufficient preparation of its Army personnel or of its naval officers.
Alarming pilot shortage
On October 23, the US Air Force revealed that it is preparing its fleet of B-52 nuclear-capable bombers for 24-hour alert status, something not done since the end of the Cold War, according to Defense One. Airmen at the Barksdale Air Force base are readying the planes ''in case the alert order is issued.'' The B-52s would be armed with nuclear bombs available to take off at a moment's notice something that was discontinued with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The mad new plan of Trump's generals however, has an added problem. The Air Force has a dramatic shortage of qualified pilots.
On October 21, President Trump signed an executive order allowing the Air Force to call back to service up to 1,000 retired pilots, by expanding a state of national emergency declared by George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001. The order is part of an attempt ''to mitigate the Air Force's acute shortage of pilots,'' according to a Pentagon spokesman.
For decades the US military''whose annual budget exceeds that of China, UK, France, Germany, and Russia combined''has waged wars against military opponents such as Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya where there was no contest.
This past June the US Army War College issued a study titled, At Our Own Peril: DoD Risk Assessment in a Post-Primacy World. In the study the authors conclude that the world order created after World War II, dominated by the US ''is under enormous stress.'' They add, ''The order and its constituent parts'... were transformed to a unipolar system with the collapse of the Soviet Union, and have by-and-large been dominated by the United States and its major Western and Asian allies since. Status quo forces collectively are comfortable with their dominant role in dictating the terms of international security outcomes and resist the emergence of rival centers of power and authority.''
The study adds that the US ''can no longer count on the unassailable position of dominance, supremacy, or pre-eminence it enjoyed for the 20-plus years after the fall of the Soviet Union.''
Now, with the emergence of China as a genuine great power, with the rapid emergence of Russia as a great power in cohesion with China's vision of an emerging Eurasia, the Trump Administration is warring around with everybody everywhere in what is clearly not either a healthy conduct of US foreign policy nor a serious manner for a mature nation to behave. Building up and restoring America's rotting domestic infrastructure, not building up the US military against concocted threats or nations who ask the right to own sovereignty, building the real American economy to rejoin the ranks as a leading industrial nation makes far more sense in my view.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine ''New Eastern Outlook.''
Citigroup, Twitter held by detained billionaire Alwaleed Bin Talal
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 05:27
Citigroup and Twitter shares could be unlikely casualties of a stunning power struggle unfolding in Saudi Arabia right now '-- at least temporarily.
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one of the world's richest men and a well-known investor who just appeared on CNBC last month, was one of the 11 princes detained in a supposed anti-corruption sweep over the weekend in Saudi Arabia. Alwaleed has not yet been charged, but is suspected of money laundering, according to the Wall Street Journal. His arrest may be less about corruption and more about Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman '-- the 32-year-old heir apparent to the throne '-- consolidating power.
Alwaleed runs Kingdom Holding Company, shares of which plunged in trading on the Saudi stock exchange Sunday as investors try to asses the future of the investment vehicle.
"I do think that certain positions that Prince Alwaleed may hold may be under pressure," said King Lip, chief strategist at Baker Avenue Asset Management. "I don't expect any long term effects coming from this. It really does appear that this is more about political consolidation of power by the crown prince than perhaps any corruption."
What typically happens on Wall Street when a hedge fund manager is arrested or charged by the SEC, is that the fund's large holdings will fall as traders look to get ahead of possible forced sales by the fund in order to meet redemptions.
This is a unique case not just because it involves Saudi Arabia, but also because Alwaleed's holdings are not exactly known. Much of the filings are old on KHC and the company likely masks some of its moves through the use of third parties. Theoretically, if it owned stakes above 5 percent in a stock, an SEC filing would say.
Alwaleed confirmed to CNBC on Oct. 23 that he still owned Twitter. Just how much, we do not know.
As of December 2016, Alwaleed owned 4.9 percent, according to InsiderScore.com. Ben Silverman, director of research at InsiderScore, said that stake would make Alwaleed the fifth biggest overall shareholder in the company at the end of the second quarter of this year.
"Our entry point was very reasonable so right now it's hovering around breakeven point," Awaleed said of Twitter last month in the much-publicized interview.
He said the U.S. social network was an integral part of Kingdom Holding's bet on the future of media and commerce.
Sutherland Springs Church Killer Was Kicked Out of Air Force for 'Bad Conduct'
Mon, 06 Nov 2017 04:31
Devin Patrick Kelley has been identified as the gunman who killed at least 26 people at a church in Texas, a U.S. official told The Daily Beast. A week before he committed the worst massacre at a place of worship in American history, Kelley posted a photo of a semiautomatic rifle to Facebook with the caption: ''She's a bad bitch.''
Kelley entered First Baptist Church at approximately 11:30 a.m., witnesses reported, and opened fire. Officials said Kelley wore a ballistic vest and dressed in all black. A law enforcement source close to the investigation said the rifle Kelley used is similar to the one pictured but could not confirm it is the same rifle.
When Kelley exited the church, he dropped his rifle, a law enforcement source told The Daily Beast. Kelley was pursued by a civilian with a shotgun, Sheriff Joe Tackett said on Sunday evening during a press conference, and died near the city of New Berlin. It is unclear if Kelley was killed or died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police told reporters that Kelley's victims range in age from 5 to 72, with approximately 20 wounded being treated at area hospitals.
Kelley, 26, was a resident of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio, according to public records. Kelley was married and his mother-in-law listed a P.O. box in Sutherland Springs as a mailing address. A LinkedIn account appearing to belong to Kelley said he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 2009 after graduating from high school.
Kelley was discharged from the Air Force in 2014, according to Defense Department records. Kelley was court-martialed in November 2012 for assaulting his wife and their child. A judge sentenced him with a bad-conduct discharge, 12 months confinement, and two reductions in rank to basic airman, according to an appeals court decision in 2013 that affirmed the decision against Kelley.