994: Scromit

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 3m
December 28th, 2017
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Executive Producers: AJ van Steenbergen-Sir Joseph Baron of Southern California, Simon Bruce-Cassidy-Sir Snoldus of the Dudes Named Ben, Kevin Thomas-Sir Kevlar Knight of the Button Pressers, Sir Francis of SRQ (Viscount of SW Florida), Vladislav Dubov

Associate Executive Producers: Anonymous, Calin Nistor, David Boda, Anonymous, Roderick Veelo, Helen Trejo

Cover Artist: Marcus Couch


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Digital Advertising Is Facing Its Ultimate Moment of Truth, and Billions of Dollars Are at Stake '' Adweek
Thu, 28 Dec 2017 01:31
What would you do with a $2.4 billion marketing budget?
You could buy 1.2 trillion online ads. Or you could take over 600 Times Square billboards for an entire year. You could even create 34,285 new marketing jobs, each with an annual salary of $70,000.
Those figures explain why it is that every agency, platform and digital media player has been on high alert since Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, who holds the strings to the conglomerate's $2.4 billion annual U.S. advertising purse, threatened to yank his company's spend if they fail to address the growing mess of issues in digital advertising like fraud, brand safety and transparency.
This past January, Pritchard raised more than a few eyebrows when he laid out an elaborate, five-point mandate during a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual leadership meeting in Hollywood, Fla., essentially giving all of P&G's digital advertising partners'--namely, the duopoly of Google and Facebook and agencies'--a one-year ultimatum stipulating that they clean up their practices and play by the megabrand's rules or risk losing lucrative 2018 money from the country's largest advertiser.
''Frankly, there's, we believe, at least 20 to 30 percent of waste in the media supply chain because of lack of viewability, nontransparent contracts, nontransparent measurement of inputs, fraud and now even your ads showing up in unsafe places,'' Pritchard says.
Next week, Pritchard will take his message to Cologne, Germany, where he plans to deliver a keynote speech at Dmexco, one of Europe's premier ad-tech venues. According to sources familiar with Facebook's plans, it will unveil several new tools and policies for advertisers that address brand safety'--a clear sign that the biggest digital players in the world are paying close attention to Pritchard's message.
Jeremy Kramer for Adweek
One new specification details how Facebook users can make money off of their content, mimicking similar controls that YouTube put into place in the weeks following the backlash when advertisers pulled ads that ran adjacent to racist and terrorist videos. YouTube now requires that channels amass 10,000 views to prove that they are legitimate before they can begin making money off of uploaded clips.
Such developments only move a few steps toward addressing Pritchard's major beefs, which include shady agency transparency tactics like media rebates, a lack of standard digital measurement metrics, brand safety and fraud. In short, he says, it's high time that the industry collectively ''grows up and adheres to some common standard.''
He isn't alone in his opinion among brand execs. As concerns about transparency and clear measurement standards from platforms swell, CMOs from a handful of the world's biggest advertisers, including Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Chase and Bank of America, are using their collective billions of dollars to take control of where and how they spend digital budgets.
Going into the fourth quarter'--mere months from when Pritchard has threatened to pull the rug out from under major players including Facebook, Google, Twitter, agencies and more'--the mandate is 50 to 60 percent complete, he says. More granularly, P&G's goal of agency transparency is 80 percent complete, eradicating fraud is halfway there and getting platforms to open up measurement reporting to include third-party viewability is roughly 60 percent finished in Pritchard's mind.(Third-party viewability charges advertisers when 50 percent of a display ad is in view for one second and two seconds for video ads, per industry watchdog Media Rating Council.)
At the same time, the maker of household names like Tide, Pampers and Gillette is slashing marketing budgets to offset sluggish sales of packaged goods. During its last earnings, the company said it cut more than $100 million in digital ads that were largely ineffective. P&G reported net sales of $16.08 billion for the quarter, down from $16.10 billion in 2016, but beat analysts' expectations of $16.02 billion.
''What we're trying to do is about driving growth and the best way to drive growth is, of course, to get more users and consumers buying things,'' Pritchard says. ''The best way to drive that is through great and better advertising and innovation.''
The conversation around brand safety reached a boiling point in March when hundreds of marketers either froze or pulled YouTube campaigns after their ads ran next to objectionable content on the video platform.
At the same time, concerns about ads appearing on controversial websites like Breitbart through ad networks powered by Facebook and other big programmatic-advertising companies made matters worse. ''Brand safety is the one that still needs a lot of work,'' Pritchard says.
In its efforts to address those problems, Facebook deserves credit for logging plenty of overtime. In June, the company began testing a program that provides advertisers with information about which publishers' sites their ads may appear on through Facebook Audience Network (FAN), Facebook's ad network that places ads on websites and apps outside of the social network. From there, advertisers can create lists of publishers that they wish to exclude. That program will officially roll out to all media buyers at Dmexco, according to sources.
People familiar with the matter also noted that Facebook plans to unveil two new tools at the conference in Germany. One of them, a post-campaign reporting tool, will show FAN advertisers which specific websites their ads actually appeared on. As a result, brands will be able to see whether their ads did indeed run on a controversial website like Breitbart instead of having to make an educated guess. The post-campaign tool will also reportedly plug into Instant Articles (Facebook's fast-loading pages) and in-stream videos that users post to the social network.
In addition, Facebook will unveil new requirements detailing which content creators can make money off of Instant Articles and in-stream videos and will outline what types of content are suitable for monetization, although it remains unclear what, specifically, those requirements will entail.
While Facebook declined to comment on both the new requirements for content creators and the post-campaign reporting tool, Facebook vp of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson says the social network remains steadfast in its commitment to brand safety. ''There is nothing more important than marketers trusting and believing that the advertising ecosystem is transparent, accountable and safe,'' she says. ''At Facebook, that trust is critical to our business, and we're committed to building products and partnerships that ensure advertisers see strong results in a safe environment.''
Platform debateAs advertisers demand greater insight into Facebook and Google's so-called walled gardens that limit the amount of data they are privy to when comparing how ads perform on other platforms, both companies are undergoing audits with the MRC to analyze and vet how the data used to measure stats like viewability is collected and reported. The ongoing debate about third-party viewability speaks to a larger issue: marketers' lingering concerns about Facebook and Google's dominance in digital advertising. While platforms often tout first-party data, Pritchard argues that third-party validation is essential for brands to have before they commit to invest.
''There's a conflict of interest when you measure yourself and then transact on that basis,'' he argues. ''Measurement is one step [and] then the hard part starts. Then we get the transparent data and can see how effective and efficient it is. Then we start making choices on where we're going to spend money and whether it's worth investing.''
In another move to open up ad transparency, P&G's programmatic partner The Trade Desk partnered with bots-detection company White Ops last week to eliminate ad fraud'--before buyers are charged'--from inventory offered by supply-side platforms.
Analyzing reach and frequency are paramount to Pritchard's future investments. ''We want to get the ability to reach a large audience but with precision and without waste,'' he adds.
Creative cutsOne area in which P&G has made significant progress is the creation of transparent contracts that address media rebates while scaling back on the number of agencies it works with. Rebates that occur at the holding-company level, for example, are passed back to P&G.
Clear contracts are only part of the global conglomerate's frugally minded efforts, as it has shed more than 50 percent of its various agencies while consolidating shops over the past three years. ''We have very few agencies that really do '... the vast majority of our work,'' Pritchard says. ''There's still some room for a collection of agencies out there'--we're trying to find that right balance'--so it's not too complex.''
Under pressureSales of CPG items at brick-and-mortar stores decreased by $2.9 billion during the first quarter of 2017 compared to 2016, according to Nielsen. Moreover, total CPG unit purchases in the U.S. decreased by 2.5 percent during the same time. Within the category, the 20 biggest brands reported flat sales while smaller brands grew 2.4 percent.
Faced with these trends, P&G's packaged-goods rival Unilever, which spent $818 million in the U.S. last year, per Kantar, also is scaling back across digital, agencies and production costs. In April, the company announced plans to cut its global roster of agencies in half from 3,000 to 1,500 shops and crank out 30 percent fewer ads. During the first half of 2017, it dropped agency spend by 17 percent.
''Brand safety, ad fraud, ad blocking, the three V's'--viewability, verification and value'--are all important issues in their own right, but it concerns me that as an industry we seem to see them each with tunnel vision, jumping from one to the next, rather than seeing them as connected and part of a holistic digital landscape,'' says Unilever CMO Keith Weed. ''Ultimately, it is about seeing one consumer and one budget, not different budgets for different parts of consumers' [online] and offline lives.''
Viewability is at the core of Unilever's misgivings. In 2014, it pioneered WPP-owned GroupM's stringent metric requiring that 100 percent of a digital ad be in view for it to be deemed billable as opposed to the MRC's definition requiring that only 50 percent be in view. And now Unilever is testing a new viewability metric for social and newsfeed video ads that allows publishers to charge advertisers only when 100 percent of the ad is in view, regardless of whether it auto-plays, if users have to click a button or if the video features sound. The same rules apply to native and outstream videos placed on publishers' sites but tack on one additional requirement: 50 percent of a video must be watched before an advertiser can be charged. (GroupM is also running studies to determine how completion rates should be factored into viewability standards for social and newsfeed videos.)
''When you eat an apple or a piece of cake, you know how many calories is in each,'' Weed says. ''In the same way, we need one clear ratings view and measurement system across the global digital industry that allows us to better examine how we're spending our total media investment.''
Safe spacesWhile not as black-and-white as viewability and fraud, digital brand safety has become a massive headache for marketers in recent months due to complexities in programmatic advertising as well as marketers' concerns that their ads may appear next to questionable content. Almost all of the CMOs interviewed for this story say that they have assembled internal teams to handle tough decisions about what digital properties get the stamp of approval instead of relying on agencies to handle the heavy lifting.
''It's ultimately owned by the in-house team,'' explains Alison Lewis, Johnson & Johnson's CMO. ''I often think that companies don't spend enough time owning the media supply chain within their own four walls.''
Working with J&J's media agencies, the company spends ''a lot of time understanding the media supply chain, really building in the checks and balances against that supply chain and ensuring that we were best in class in terms of some of the challenges,'' Lewis says.
Twice a year, global execs from J&J meet with Facebook and Google to talk shop about what is and isn't working for brands on the platform as well as measurement and insights. ''What's changed over the last six months is the agenda item that's been added around brand safety and brand measurement,'' Lewis says. ''I'd say measurement was always there. Safety was not.''
Earlier this year, J&J'--which spent $871 million on U.S. advertising in 2016, according to Kantar'--was one of the largest and most notable marketers to halt its YouTube spend when brand safety issues began popping up. Within 10 days, the CPG giant changed its stance and ads were back up and running because of ''five actions that were taken by Google that we felt very good about,'' Lewis says. During YouTube's Brandcast in May, J&J got a shout-out as one of the first brands to sponsor the video platform's original series content.
Marc Pritchard
Jeremy Kramer for Adweek
''With tighter advertising policies and added controls in place to give brands more choice over where their ads appear, we're committed to working with both advertisers and creators to get things right,'' notes Tara Walpart Levy, vp of agency and media solutions at YouTube.
But the decision to jump back on YouTube isn't easy for every brand. Up until two weeks ago, Bank of America, for example, limited its YouTube inventory to channels from Vice and Cond(C) Nast. With new safeguards in place, the brand's ads are now running in full force across the platform.
Issues like fraud and viewability are ''at the forefront of my agenda,'' says Bank of America CMO Meredith Verdone. While Verdone declined to provide specific figures, her team has tripled its investment in ad verification over the past two years.
In addition to assembling a group within Bank of America that specializes in understanding issues in digital media, Verdone created a tiered system with three tech vendors (Moat, White Ops and DoubleVerify) to collectively tackle viewability, fraud and brand safety.
''Through three independent parties doing their traditional verification, we created a strategic partnership across them to ensure that we had a scoring system across the different areas to help us and really build a very stringent oversight of our digital buys,'' Verdone explains.
For JPMorgan Chase marketing chief Kristin Lemkau, the onus for cleaning up digital media is even more concentrated within an internal team. In one example, the brand has experimented with comparing reach and frequency as goals with Facebook ads and relaying that information to its agencies. According to Lemkau, there should be a few common standards by which her team and agencies agree to always measure campaigns, but the brand also should be able to customize measurement for specific programs.
''It's absolutely incumbent on the marketer to tell [the agency] what to measure for,'' Lemkau said.
In March, Chase, which handles its own programmatic buying in-house, began a time-consuming project in which an intern manually vetted 400,000 websites where the company's ads were running in order to determine which ones were legitimate. Just 5,000 sites were eventually deemed safe, and Chase is working to whittle down the list even more.
Physically screening hundreds of thousands of websites for potentially offensive content may seem counterintuitive to programmatic advertising's long-held promise to offer marketers unprecedented reach, but Chase's actions speak to how adamant brands are about taking control of what has become a muddled, machine-driven digital industry in recent years.
''For a while, marketers got so caught up in low CPMs that we just lost quality,'' Lemkau notes. ''I think you're going to see a flight back to quality, even if it means your costs go up. I've got to measure for quality, my brand and for safety.''
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That's Racist
Progressive Group Ousts Cenk Uygur Over Past Sexist Writing
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 13:17
The Justice Democrats ousted Cenk Uygur, one of its founding board members and a creator of progressive online network The Young Turks, following the Thursday revelation that Uygur had authored sexist blogposts in the early 2000s.
The left-leaning political organization, which Uygur and others established this year to support progressive primary challenges against Democratic incumbents in Congress, made the announcement Friday. The group also severed ties with David Koller, who co-founded The Young Turks with Uygur and served as Justice Democrats' treasurer. A 2004 blogpost in which Koller used degrading language about women he and Uygur met on a road-trip surfaced this week as well.
''The words and conduct in Mr. Uygur and Mr. Koller's posts degrade what it means to be a Justice Democrat,'' Justice Democrats executive director Saikat Chakrabarti said in a Friday evening statement announcing the board's decision to demand Uygur and Koller's resignations. ''We do not feel that Mr. Uygur is fit to lead or participate in an organization that truly believes women's issues and the issues of black and brown people are all of our issues.''
The Justice Democrats board reached its decision to call for their departures after hearing Uygur's ''side of the story'' and consulting with the political candidates the group has endorsed, Chakrabarti said.
The Young Turks did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the past writings.
This week, The Wrap unearthed archived blogposts from Uygur's early days as a pundit and writer in which he repeatedly used objectifying language to describe women.
''Obviously, the genes of women are flawed,'' Uygur wrote in a 1999 post lamenting the inadequate amount of sex he was having while living in Miami, Florida. ''They are poorly designed creatures who do not want to have sex nearly as often as needed for the human race to get along peaceably and fruitfully.''
In a 2002 entry in which Uygur described the ''rules of dating,'' he specified that ''there must be orgasm by the fifth date.'' And in a 2003 column, he described drunken revelry at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he ''kissed over 23 different women, saw and felt countless breasts.''
In addition, a 2004 post by Koller described teenage girls that he and Uygur met near a gas station in Pennsylvania as ''whores in training, literally looking for boys to pick them up.''
Uygur apologized profusely for his past writing, telling The Wrap in an interview that his comments were ''really insensitive and ignorant.''
''If you read that today, what I wrote 18 years ago, and you're offended by it, you're 100 percent right,'' the progressive pundit said. ''And anyone who is subjected to that material, I apologize to. And I deeply regret having written that stuff when I was a different guy.''
Uygur also noted that at the time, he ''was still a conservative who thought that stuff was politically incorrect and edgy.
''When you read it now, it looks really, honestly, ugly. And it's very uncomfortable to read,'' he added.
Koller declined to comment when reached by The Wrap, but Uygur insisted that what Koller wrote had been ''over-the-top satire'' and that they ''did not proposition underage women.''
Uygur's explicit comments about the physique of women in Miami continued through at least 2013, however, when he marveled on Twitter about the city's ''improbable breasts'' and ''improbable butts.'' He also declared Miami women ''outrageously, almost unacceptably, hot,'' but clarified in a subsequent tweet that the women were ''unacceptably hot,'' because he was married and they were therefore off-limits to him.
Although Uygur and Koller were ousted for their words, rather than their actions, their swift departure from Justice Democrats occurs amid a wave of reckoning with sexual misconduct in the media and politics worlds that has not spared prominent figures on the progressive left.
The Young Turks fired reporter Jordan Chariton in November after Chariton was accused of sexual assault by a former employee of his group Truth Against The Machine. Chariton maintains that the sexual encounter was consensual and is suing HuffPost, where an unpaid contributor first lodged the accusation, for $23.5 million. (HuffPost had removed the post after Chariton's public complaints.)
Uygur explained the decision to fire Chariton during a November broadcast on The Young Turks, where he is a co-host of the channel's live evening show.
''Here's why we did it: to protect the people that work here and to make sure we have professional employment in place,'' he said.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
Amazon and Microsoft employees caught up in sex trafficking sting
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 17:49
Some of the emails were collected during a 2015 sting operation that targeted sex worker review boards and resulted in the arrest of 18 individuals, including high-level Amazon and Microsoft directors. Two opted for a trial, which is currently set to begin in March.
Seattle's sex industry has grown right alongside its tech industry and the city's authorities have said that some men spend up to $50,000 per year on sex workers. Brothels are even known to advertise how close they are to tech offices. Alex Trouteaud, director of policy and research at the anti-trafficking organization Demand Abolition, told Newsweek that the tech industry is a "culture that has readily embraced trafficking."
In a statement sent to Newsweek, Microsoft said, "Microsoft has a long history of cooperating with law enforcement and other agencies on combating sex trafficking and related topics, and we have employees who volunteer their time and money specifically to combat this issue as well. The personal conduct of a tiny fraction of our 125,000 employees does not in any way represent our culture. No organization is immune to the unfortunate situation when employees act unethically or illegally. When that happens, we look into the conduct and take appropriate action. Microsoft makes it clear to our employees they have a responsibility to act with integrity and conduct themselves in a legal and ethical manner at all times. If they don't, they risk losing their jobs."
Amazon told Newsweek it's investigating the matter and said, "Amazon's Owner's Manual clearly states that, 'It is against Amazon's policy for any employee or Contingent Worker to engage in any sex buying activities of any kind in Amazon's workplace or in any work-related setting outside of the workplace, such as during business trips, business meetings or business-related social events.' When Amazon suspects that an employee has used company funds or resources to engage in criminal conduct, the company will immediately investigate and take appropriate action up to and including termination. The company may also refer the matter to law enforcement."
Agenda 2030
Gov't Website Claims Santa Will Move To The South Pole To Escape Global Warming - The Daily Caller
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 02:58
December 23rd, 2017
A Canadian government website claims Santa Claus signed an international agreement to relocate his workshop to the South Pole to escape the effects of man-made global warming in the Arctic.
The website for Policy Horizons Canada, a government website, notes that due to ''rapidly melting Arctic ice and growing human operations in the North, Santa Claus has signed an agreement with the International community to relocate his village next year to operate in an exclusive zone in the South Pole.''
Policy Horizons was created to advise government officials on emerging public policy issues. The group put out a series of Christmas-themed blog posts that tie into emerging liberal policy concerns.
Horizons also put out blog posts on Santa relying on a self-flying sleigh, investing in Bitcoin and even using 3D printing technology to make toys. The latest blog post, however, is meant to focus on climate refugees.
''Santa's relocation agreement marks the first time that the international community agrees on a common legal definition of climate change that includes refugees as corporations, as well as individuals,'' reads the Horizons website.
''This deal is expected to lead to the deployment of a global climate change refugee visa system that in the near future could help to more easily relocate individuals and corporations facing the impacts of climate change,'' the website continues.
Politicians and environmentalists have been claiming for years that man-made global warming will increase the number of peoples displaced by extreme weather events and violent conflicts.
A recent study even claimed temperature changes drove increased applications for asylum in Europe. A June study predicted 2 billion ''climate change refugees'' by the end of the century if nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Most famously, the United Nations Environment Program predicted there would be 50 million ''climate refugees'' by 2010. When that didn't come to pass, the UN quietly removed a web page containing the information, and pushed the prediction to 2020.
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Michael BastaschContributor
The Growing Movement to Take Polluters to Court Over Climate Change | New Republic
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 17:46
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty
There's a vast conspiracy afoot to decimate American manufacturing. Wealthy environmentalists and greedy attorneys are trying to stuff their already-fat pockets by suing defenseless companies over their contributions to global warming. They allege that energy manufacturers create a ''public nuisance'' by emitting greenhouse gases and are liable for the damages this causes. Worse, they disguise themselves as do-gooders: They represent plaintiffs like Alaska Native American tribes who are losing their frozen land to warming temperatures, and communities impacted by sea-level rise. But these con artists aren't really trying to save the planet. They're trying to put American companies out of business.
That's the core message of a new trade group quietly formed last month by the National Association of Manufacturers, the largest industry trade group of its kind and a powerful lobbying force in Washington.
The Manufacturers' Accountability Project was formed to ''highlight the concerted, coordinated efforts made by trial lawyers, public officials, deep-pocketed foundations and other activists'' to undermine manufacturing'--but with a specific focus on lawsuits that seek to hold corporations financially responsible for their role in the climate crisis. No other trade association has ever undertaken such an effort. ''We are the first group out there,'' a spokesperson told the Washington Examiner.
MAP is a novel effort because climate liability cases are, too. In the last year, an increasing number of plaintiffs and attorneys general have attempted to use the courts to punish big polluters, seeking punitive damages or other penalties against companies that contribute to climate change. And we know who those companies are: Earlier this year, a peer-reviewed study a sserted that just 90 companies were responsible for as much as 50 percent of the increase in global temperature and 32 percent of sea level rise since 1880. The study also said i nvestor-owned companies like BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil have caused 16 percent of the global average temperature increases and 11 percent of global sea level rise.
But are climate liability lawsuits and investigations an effective strategy for fighting climate change? That's up for debate, since few cases have been successful. But the fact that the National Association of Manufacturers is taking up arms against this strategy suggests that they see a legitimate threat. With multiple cases pending, 2018 may be the year that corporate polluters are finally held responsible for what they've done to the planet.
Climate-related court cases have skyrocketed in the last three years. A May study by the United Nations and Columbia University found that the number of lawsuits filed across the world has tripled since 2014; out of nearly 900 cases, 654 were filed in the United States. Most of these suits seek to punish governments, not corporations, for not taking sufficient action to fight climate change'--usually by arguing that public officials have denied citizens' rights to a clean and healthy environment.
Some of these lawsuits have succeeded in other countries. In 2015, the Dutch government was forced to lower the country's greenhouse gas emissions in response to a class action lawsuit from its citizens. A judge in Ireland recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to a safe climate and environment. And last month, a climate liability lawsuit against Germany's largest power company was allowed to move forward. ''Judicial decisions around the world show that many courts have the authority, and the willingness, to hold governments to account for climate change,'' said Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia's Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He cited a 2007 lawsuit that forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. ''Similar litigation all over the world will continue to push governments and corporations to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our times.''
The success of Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency keeps corporate attorneys up at night. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases are an air pollutant that cause harm, a legal precedent that is ''being used as the support for climate-change-related lawsuits against companies,'' reads a recent report from the corporate law firm Anderson Kill. That report warns of a ''coming flood'' of tort lawsuits that allege corporations are liable for climate change''related damages, as well as shareholder lawsuits that allege public companies aren't doing enough to warn investors about the financial risks of climate change and climate lawsuits. ''Although we have yet to see any significant number of governmental actions or shareholder suits against corporations or their [executives] in relation to climate-change-related disclosure failures,'' the report reads, ''the seeds for the future growth of such actions are being sown.''
The Manufacturers' Accountability Project recognizes this, and focuses on the cases that have the biggest chance of succeeding in 2018. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is investigating whether Exxon Mobil intentionally misled shareholders about the impact of climate change on company profits, thereby committing securities fraud. Court filings from Schneiderman's office in June stated that ''evidence suggests not only that Exxon's public statements about its risk management practices were false and misleading, but also that Exxon may still be in the midst of perpetrating an ongoing fraudulent scheme on investors and the public.'' MAP's website calls the investigation ''politically motivated'' and alleges, without evidence, a ''web of collaboration'' between Schneiderman and ''anti-manufacturing advocates.'' ( Exxon has sued to block the Schneiderman's investigation, though without success thus far, and still no charges have been filed.)
MAP's site also sharply criticizes Matt Pawa, an attorney who, according to a 2010 profile by InsideClimate News, has been ''working tirelessly to establish global warming as a 'public nuisance' under tort law, holding corporations accountable for their greenhouse gas pollution and forcing them to face their victims in court.'' (MAP also targets InsideClimate over its Pulitzer Prize-nominated investigation into Exxon.) Pawa's most recent cases are in California, where he's representing the cities of San Francisco and Oakland in suits against ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. The lawsuits are trying to make the oil giants pay for seawalls and other structures ''to protect about $49 billion in public and private property sitting within six feet of the current sea level,'' according to Climate Liability News. Both cities are extremely at risk from sea level rise.
MAP attacks Pawa for partnering ''with wealthy donors, activists and other profit-seeking plaintiffs lawyers to attack the energy industry,'' adding, ''He knows he will be handsomely compensated at many points on his legal marathon.'' Reached by phone, Pawa laughed for approximately 30 seconds, then declined to comment on the accusations. He did, however, speculate why his cases were targeted by the group. ''Maybe it's a sign that these lawsuits are considered to have merit,'' he said. ''And so they're concerned.''
Cases like Pawa's have many hurdles. For instance, as a MAP spokesperson rightly pointed out to the Washington Examiner, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in 2011 that corporations can't be sued for greenhouse gas emissions under federal law because the EPA already has rules to regulate those emissions. But Pawa's California cases, for example, are based on state law instead of federal law, and use a legal strategy that's already been successful in one California case against a lead paint manufacturer: arguing that the companies create a ''public nuisance,'' a centuries-old legal doctrine that is broader in California than in most other states.
There are also limitations to how impactful these lawsuits can be. As Ketan Jha argues at Slate, litigation ''is typically an inefficient method of achieving policy reform.'' The lead paint case that Pawa is replicating is still in court 17 years after it was brought, because of appeals. And while punishing companies for damage they've already done to the planet may feel satisfying, it does little to reverse the problem. But climate lawsuits and investigations don't have to save the world to be worthwhile. In fact, they don't even necessarily have to end in victory to make an impact. The world's polluters see what's happening to Exxon, and they just might clean up their act to avoid the same fate.
Emily Atkin is a staff writer at the New Republic.
@ emorwee
Deep State
Will the FBI Snap Under Trump's Pressure?
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:50
President Trump escalated his war against the FBI over the weekend, again accusing the agency of bias and sarcastically commenting on the departure of its deputy director.
Trump's tweets are part of a broader Republican effort to impugn the law-enforcement agency '-- not traditionally known as a hotbed of liberal sentiment '-- over accusations of bias against the president. In doing so, Trump and his GOP allies in government and media also hope to undermine the investigation into Russian electoral interference by special counsel Robert Mueller, the former head of the FBI. The overarching strategy of sowing doubt could obviate the need for Trump to fire Mueller altogether, which would set off a firestorm.
Trump's unceasing broadsides against the FBI serve as valuable data for one of the big open questions observers asked when he took office: Are American institutions sturdy enough to withstand an all-out assault from a president who would rather be an authoritarian than the leader of a republic?
For the agency, the answer is getting a little less clear. It has hardly been purged of everyone suspected of harboring #resistance sympathies. But on Thursday, FBI director Christopher Wray announced that top FBI lawyer James Baker, an ally of former director James Comey and a target of GOP attacks, had been reassigned, much to Comey's chagrin. Then, on Saturday, FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, whom Trump has been criticizing for more than a year, announced that he would retire when he became eligible for his pension next year.
Wray had been expected to appoint his own top staff when he became director in May, and McCabe's departure was not unexpected. But the timing of Baker's reassignment struck many as a sign that the agency might be beginning to crack under Republican pressure.
''If I were Wray and I meant to replace my general counsel, the antics of the last two weeks would have convinced me not to do it under fire to make sure no one thinks I am giving the administration a scalp,'' national-security-law expert (and Twitter celebrity) Benjamin Wittes told Business Insider.
McCabe, who is widely respected within the agency, originally drew Trump's wrath because he helped oversee the investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email server, which ultimately ended without charges. Weeks before the 2016 election, The Wall StreetJournalreported that his wife, Jill McCabe, received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from political groups related to Governor Terry McAuliffe '-- a close friend of Hillary and Bill Clinton's '-- during an unsuccessful run for state Senate in 2015. This extremely thin connective tissue was all Trump needed to go on the attack. When the president fired James Comey from the FBI in May, he was temporarily replaced by McCabe, and Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire him, too, a plea that went unanswered.
McCabe reentered the spotlight last month when the New York Timesreported that Mueller had removed FBI agent Peter Strozk from his investigation after learning that Strozk had sent anti-Trump text messages during the 2016 campaign. The evidence of widespread bias within Mueller's team was weak, especially considering the FBI's noted rightward tilt in the run-up to the 2016 election. (''Trumpland,'' anyone?) But part of the conservative case against Strozk consisted of a cryptic message he sent that also seemed to implicate McCabe. It read: ''I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy's office '-- that there's no way he gets elected '-- but I'm afraid we can't take that risk. It's like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you're 40.''
It turned out the ''insurance policy'' simply referred to going forward with an investigation of Trump's ties to Russia on the off chance he won the election. But that explanation wasn't enough for congressional Republicans, who questioned McCabe for many hours this week. ''He oughta be replaced. And I've said that before and I've said it to people who can do it,'' Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters.
Now that Baker and McCabe are indeed on the way out, Wray can chart his own course forward at the FBI. But which way will he steer? The director is an unenviable position; the Timesreported on Friday that, because of the supercharged partisan atmosphere, ''Senior agents have expressed fear that if their names appear in the news media, they will be singled out for attack by politicians.'' Republicans are unlikely to be satisfied with a few minor shuffles at the agency; they're out for blood.
Trump and his allies may claim they want a nonpartisan FBI, but of course what they really long for is a loyal one. President Trump infamously demanded loyalty from James Comey (as McCabe attested to this week), and when he didn't get it, fired him.
In testimony before Congress earlier this month, Wray forcefully defended his agency from presidential attack. ''The FBI I see,'' he said, ''is tens of thousands of brave men and women who are working as hard as they can to keep people that they will never know safe from harm.''
That all sounds well and good. But to maintain the integrity of his institution, Wray will have to do more than pay lip service to his agents; he'll likely need to shield some of them from what is likely to be a sustained attack on their reputations. The next few months will show if he's up to the task.
The president and his enablers are going hard after the agency '-- and it appears to be paying off.
For once, the president is honest about something.
Stunning but not surprising comments from our bigot-in-chief.
But, ultimately, the Supreme Court will decide whether the law stays or goes.
Yes, Republicans have some institutional advantages in their efforts to hang onto the House. But they only help so much in a wave election.
California's ''Top Two'' election is just months away, and while Republicans are struggling to survive, Tom Steyer could be formidable if he runs.
Nobody could have possibly seen this coming, except almost every expert.
The GOP's massive giveaway for the wealthy is officially law.
Congress has kicked multiple cans down the road to January, but they won't be able to stall any longer.
More than 700 EPA employees, 200 of whom are scientists, have left the agency since Trump took office.
How successful has the Kremlin's investment in shaping America's governance been?
The president is said to be tracking the GOP's challenges closely. But will he do anything to help?
What the new Emoluments Clause ruling tells us.
She's not an ideological combatant like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning. She's much more like you or me.
The suit argued that he has violated the Constitution's emoluments clause.
The death toll from the storm in Puerto Rico is threatening to eclipse Katrina's.
The proposed policy change is intended to discourage families from trying to enter the U.S. via the Mexican border.
It didn't get much attention, but the GOP tax bill gave a generous break to producers of beer, wine, and distilled spirits.
The continuing resolution keeps the government running until mid-January, while leaving DACA, Obamacare, and Defense spending unaddressed.
The delegate in Virginia's 94th district will be decided by a random drawing, and that's hardly the weirdest part.
Wife Of Fusion GPS Founder Admits Her Husband Was Behind Fake "RussiaGate" Story | Zero Hedge
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 17:11
Authored by Alex Christoforou via The Duran,
The Russiagate story concocted by Hillary Clinton and the DNC, who coincidently funded Fusion GPS (the firm behind the 'Trump dossier' that the entire Russia election meddling is based upon), is unraveling at record speed.
Mary Jacoby, the wife of Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson, who is the man in the middle of the entire Russiagate scandal, boasted on Facebook about how 'Russiagate,' would not exist if it weren't for her husband.
Tablet Magazine reports'...
A Tablet investigation using public sources to trace the evolution of the now-famous dossier suggests that central elements of the Russiagate scandal emerged not from the British ex-spy Christopher Steele's top-secret ''sources'' in the Russian government'--which are unlikely to exist separate from Russian government control'--but from a series of stories that Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson and his wife Mary Jacoby co-wrote for TheWall Street Journal well before Fusion GPS existed, and Donald Trump was simply another loud-mouthed Manhattan real estate millionaire. Understanding the origins of the ''Steele dossier'' is especially important because of what it tells us about the nature and the workings of what its supporters would hopefully describe as an ongoing campaign to remove the elected president of the United States.
In a Facebook post from June 24, 2017, that Tablet has seen in screenshots, Jacoby claimed that her husband deserves the lion's share of credit for Russiagate. (She has not replied to repeated requests for comment.)
''It's come to my attention that some people still don't realize what Glenn's role was in exposing Putin's control of Donald Trump,'' Jacoby wrote. ''Let's be clear. Glenn conducted the investigation. Glenn hired Chris Steele. Chris Steele worked for Glenn.''
This assertion is hardly a simple assertion of family pride; it goes directly to the nature of what became known as the ''Steele dossier,'' on which the Russiagate narrative is founded.
The Gateway Pundit reports that the news of the Facebook post comes amid heightened scrutiny for the opposition research firm.
According to Fox News reporter Jake Gibson, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called on a senior Justice Department attorney to look into appointing a special counsel to investigate recently demoted official Bruce Ohr's contacts with Fusion GPS.
''Sessions on calls for a special counsel to look into Sr DOJ Official Bruce Ohr, and wife Nellie's contacts with Fusion GPS during the summer and fall of 2016: I've put a Senior Attorney, with the resources he may need, to review cases in our office and make a recommendation to me, if things aren't being pursued that need to be pursued, if cases may need more resources to complete in a proper manner, and to recommend to me if the standards for a special counsel are met, and the recommended one should be established,'' tweeted Fox News reporter Jake Gibson on Tuesday.
Fox News' James Rosen and Jake Gibson recently reported the wife of Justice Department official Bruce G. Ohr worked for the opposition research firm during the 2016 presidential election.
Fox News reports'...
Contacted by Fox News, investigators for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) confirmed that Nellie H. Ohr, wife of the demoted official, Bruce G. Ohr, worked for the opposition research firm last year. The precise nature of Mrs. Ohr's duties '' including whether she worked on the dossier '' remains unclear but a review of her published works available online reveals Mrs. Ohr has written extensively on Russia-related subjects. HPSCI staff confirmed to Fox News that she was paid by Fusion GPS through the summer and fall of 2016.
In a statement to Fox News, a Justice Department spokesperson noted that'...
''It is unusual for anyone to wear two hats as he has done recently. This person is going to go back to a single focus - director of our organized crime and drug enforcement unit. As you know, combatting transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking is a top priority for the Attorney General.''
Japan's Largest Bank Is Preparing For A Bitcoin Exchange Collapse
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:01
The February 2014 collapse of Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox was, for more than 24,000 investors around the world, a traumatic event. It also ushered in a two-year crypto bear market that saw the price of a single bitcoin plunge from a peak of $1,200 to a low of around $200 before the torrid bull market of the present day began. And as the bankruptcy and legal issues surrounding the collapse continue to wend through the Japanese legal system, none of these investors have received a single crypto cent of remuneration '' despite the ballooning valuation of the exchange's remaining assets.
Many market observers believe that one of the biggest risks to the current rally would be a similar incident unfolding across another major exchange like Bitfinex or CoinBase's GDAX.
So in a move that could go a long way toward legitimizing the burgeoning crypto market, Japanese banking behemoth Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group which is Japan's largest financial group and the world's second largest bank holding company '' through its trust and banking unit '' is preparing to launch a service that will allow individual investors to secure their bitcoins in the event an exchange should failagain, according to Nikkei Asia Review.
MUFG isn't the only major global bank seeking to build up its cryptocurrency franchise: Goldman Sachs is reportedly in the process of launching a crypto trading desk. Of course, as observed recerntly, Japan is one of bitcoin's biggest markets, and its largest exchange, Bitflyer, accounts for nearly 40% of global exchange-based trading.
MFUG's new trust service would help mitigate what has, in the past, proven to be one of the biggest threats to the crypto market. It will also help Japanese regulators cement their position at the vanguard of crypto's integration with traditional markets.
Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking is preparing a scheme for protecting holders of cryptocurrencies if the exchanges they use fail - a risk that veteran fans here know all too well.
This highlights how Japan's finance industry seeks to make the most of the opportunities associated with virtual currencies, which the country has taken to in a big way, accounting for around 40% of global bitcoin trading.
Japan was also the epicenter of one of the digital currency's biggest shocks -- the 2014 collapse of Mt. Gox, the largest bitcoin exchange at the time.
Mitsubishi UFJ Trust will offer a way to keep exchange customers' cryptocurrency holdings separate from the entrusting exchange's assets. This will make it the first trust arrangement of its kind in the world, according to the Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group member, which recently applied for patent protection.
Per Nikkei, the service could launch as early as April, when Japan's Financial Services Agency is expected to recognize cryptocurrencies as an asset that can be placed in trust, like real estate or securities.
While the market value of major cryptocurrencies has ballooned to $300 billion, bitcoin and its peers have remained remain decentralized creations without an oversight body like a central bank '' a core component of their appeal. But as the usage and valuation of digital currencies grows, these exchanges, which are often overwhelmed and under-staffed by the flurry of new accounts, they're increasingly becoming targets for state-sponsored hackers like the North Korea linked Lazarus Group.
As Nikkei explains, Mitsubishi UFJ Trust will maintain the same records as its exchange clients. In the event that the exchange operator fails to safeguard its customers' assets, Mitsubishi UFJ will use these records to compensate investors for their losses.
Of course, this service won't protect customers from violent plunges in the valuation of bitcoin, like the selloff that occurred over the weekend during the runup to the Christmas holiday.
Using an arrangement like Mitsubishi UFJ Trust's would entail a fee that would be shouldered by individual investors. But "customers will feel peace of mind knowing that a trust bank is managing their assets," said CEO Noriyuki Hirosue of Tokyo-based exchange Bitbank. After all, the big banks have never violated their fiduciary duty to their clients '' therefore, they're implicitly more trustworthy than crypto startups with few resources and little to no track records.
To use the service, exchange customers will opt in when they start trading. Mitsubishi UFJ Trust will monitor the accounts of those who do for suspicious activity and examine pending transactions in detail as needed. A late-night sale of a huge amount of bitcoins, for instance, would get flagged for inspection instead of being processed immediately.
While regulators in the US have expressed skepticism about digital currencies, Japan established itself as a leader in building a regulatory framework when nearly two years ago, it passed a law clearing the way for financial institutions to become involved in the crypto market.
The Japanese recognize the adoption of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies as a competitive advantage, and they're right. The FSA began registering cryptocurrency exchanges in earnest this past autumn.
Offering this service will help establish one of Japan's largest financial institutions as a key player in an increasingly contested global market, which has seen a surge of institutional interest in the trading of cryptocurrencies in recent months.
Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:57
National Security
By Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Jaffe
December 25, 2017 at 2:14 PM
What is known as Building One of the Kremlin houses President Vladimir Putin's working office in downtown Moscow.What is known as Building One of the Kremlin houses President Vladimir Putin's working office in downtown Moscow. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)The first email arrived in the inbox of CounterPunch, a left-leaning American news and opinion website, at 3:26 a.m. '-- the middle of the day in Moscow.
"Hello, my name is Alice Donovan and I'm a beginner freelance journalist," read the Feb.'‰26, 2016, message.
The FBI was tracking Donovan as part of a months-long counterintelligence operation code-named "NorthernNight." Internal bureau reports described her as a pseudonymous foot soldier in an army of Kremlin-led trolls seeking to undermine America's democratic institutions.
Her first articles as a freelancer for CounterPunch and at least 10 other online publications weren't especially political. As the 2016 presidential election heated up, Donovan's message shifted. Increasingly, she seemed to be doing the Kremlin's bidding by stoking discontent toward Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and touting WikiLeaks, which U.S. officials say was a tool of Russia's broad influence operation to affect the presidential race.
"There's no denying the emails that Julian Assange has picked up from inside the Democratic Party are real," she wrote in August 2016 for a website called We Are Change. "The emails have exposed Hillary Clinton in a major way '-- and almost no one is reporting on it."
The events surrounding the FBI's NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin's ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn't appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.
One previously unreported order '-- a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyberthreats '-- prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat. But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said.
This account of the United States' piecemeal response to the Russian disinformation threat is based on interviews with dozens of current and former senior U.S. officials at the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and U.S. and European intelligence services, as well as NATO representatives and top European diplomats.
The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election trace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War, when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a "third-rate regional power" that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery.
Senior U.S. officials didn't think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States.
"I thought our ground was not as fertile," said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama's deputy secretary of state. "We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive."
Related: [Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault]
The sun sets at the White House on Dec. 19.The sun sets at the White House on Dec. 19. (Jabin Botsford/Washington, D.C.)With the 2018 elections fast approaching, the debate over how to deal with Russia continues. Many in the Trump White House, including the president, play down the effects of Russian interference and complain that the U.S. intelligence report on the 2016 election has been weaponized by Democrats seeking to undermine Trump.
"If it changed one electoral vote, you tell me," said a senior Trump administration official, who, like others, requested anonymity to speak frankly. "The Russians didn't tell Hillary Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin. Tell me how many votes the Russians changed in Macomb County [in Michigan]. The president is right. The Democrats are using the report to delegitimize the presidency."
Other senior officials in the White House, the intelligence community and the Pentagon have little doubt that the Russians remain focused on meddling in U.S. politics.
"We should have every expectation that what we witnessed last year is not a one-shot deal," said Douglas E. Lute, the former U.S. ambassador to NATO. "The Russians are onto something. They found a weakness, and they will be back in 2018 and 2020 with a more sophisticated and targeted approach."
Digital blitz
The United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an all-out information battle during the Cold War. But the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the Bill Clinton administration and Congress in 1999 shuttered America's preeminent global information agency.
"They thought it was all over and that we'd won the propaganda war," said Joseph D. Duffey, the last director of the U.S. Information Agency, which was charged with influencing foreign populations.
When President Vladimir Putin came to power, Russia began searching for ways to make up for its diminished military. Officials seized on influence campaigns and cyberwarfare as equalizers. Both were cheap, easy to deploy and hard for an open and networked society such as the United States to defend against.
Early warning signs of the growing Russian disinformation threat included the 2005 launch of RT, the Kremlin- ­ funded TV network, and the 2007 cyberattacks that overwhelmed Estonia's banks, government ministries and newspapers. A year later, the Kremlin launched a digital blitz that temporarily shut down Georgia's broadcasters and defaced the website of its president.
The Kremlin launched propaganda outfit RT in 2005, an early sign of its revamping the all-out information war.The Kremlin launched propaganda outfit RT in 2005, an early sign of its revamping the all-out information war. (NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images)Closer to home for Americans, Russian government trolls in 2012 went after a U.S. ambassador for the first time on social media, inundating his Twitter account with threats.
But for U.S. officials, the real wake-up call came in early 2014 when the Russians annexed Crimea and backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. An intercepted Russian military intelligence report dated February 2014 documented how Moscow created fake personas to spread disinformation on social media to buttress its broader military campaign.
The classified Russian intelligence report, obtained by The Washington Post, offered examples of the messages the fake personas spread. "Brigades of westerners are now on their way to rob and kill us," wrote one operative posing as a Russian-speaking Ukrainian. "Morals have been replaced by thirst for blood and hatred toward anything Russian."
Officials in the GRU, Russia's military intelligence branch, drafted the document as part of an effort to convince Kremlin higher-ups of the campaign's effectiveness. Officials boasted of creating a fake Facebook account they used to send death threats to 14 politicians in southeastern Ukraine.
Five days into the campaign, the GRU said, its fake accounts were garnering 200,000 views a day.
Mixing propaganda and fun
Watch more!
The Washington Post's national security reporters unveil the deep divisions inside the Obama White House over how to respond to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Whitney Leaming, Osman Malik/The Washington Post)The Ukraine operation offered the Americans their first glimpse of the power of Russia's post-Cold War playbook.
In March 2014, Obama paid a visit to NATO headquarters, where he listened as unnerved allies warned him of the growing Russia threat. Aides wanted to give the president options to push back.
President Barack Obama speaks in Brussels after meeting with NATO leaders in March 2014 about, among other things, the threat posed by Russia.President Barack Obama speaks in Brussels after meeting with NATO leaders in March 2014 about, among other things, the threat posed by Russia. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)In the White House Situation Room a few weeks later, they pitched him on creating several global channels '-- in Russian, Mandarin and other languages '-- that would compete with RT. The proposed American versions would mix entertainment with news programing and pro-Western propaganda.
The president brushed aside the idea as politically impractical.
In the Situation Room that day was Richard Stengel, the undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, who, like Obama, disliked the idea.
"There were all these guys in government who had never created one minute of TV content talking about creating a whole network," said Stengel, the former top editor at Time magazine. "I remember early on telling a friend of mine in TV that people don't like government content. And he said, 'No, they don't like bad content, and government content sucks.''‰"
Rick Stengel, former undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department.Rick Stengel, former undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department. (NBC NewsWire/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)So Stengel began to look for alternatives to counter the threat. Across Eastern Europe and Ukraine, Russian- ­ language channels mixing entertainment, news and propaganda were spreading the Kremlin's message. Stengel wanted to help pro-Western stations on Russia's periphery steal back audiences from the Russian stations by giving them popular American television shows and movies.
Shortly after Obama nixed the idea of American-funded networks, Stengel traveled to Los Angeles in the hope that a patriotic appeal to Hollywood executives might persuade them to give him some blockbusters free.
Stengel's best bet was Michael M. Lynton, then the chairman of Sony Pictures, who had grown up in the Netherlands and immediately understood what Stengel was trying to do. He recalled how in the 1970s one Dutch political party sponsored episodes of "M.A.S.H." to portray America as sympathetic to the antiwar movement. A rival party bought the rights to "All in the Family" to send the message that U.S. cities were filled with bigots like Archie Bunker.
But Sony's agreements with broadcasters in the region prevented Lynton from giving away programming. Other studios also turned Stengel away.
Back in Washington, Stengel got Voice of America to launch a round-the-clock Russian-language news broadcast and found a few million dollars to translate PBS documentaries on the Founding Fathers and the American Civil War into Russian for broadcast in eastern Ukraine. He had wanted programing such as "Game of Thrones" but would instead have to settle for the likes of Ken Burns.
"We brought a tiny, little Swiss Army knife to a gunfight," he said.
A counter-disinformation team
The task of countering what the Russians were doing fell to a few underfunded bureaucrats at the State Department who journeyed to the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon and the FBI searching for help and finding little.
U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of 9/11 prioritized counterterrorism. They worried about the legal peril of snooping on social media and inadvertently interfering with Americans' communications. The State Department created a small team to tweet messages about Ukraine, but they were vastly outnumbered by the Russian trolls.
Frustrated U.S. officials concluded that the best information on Russia's social media campaign in Ukraine wasn't coming from U.S. intelligence agencies, but from independent researchers. In April 2015, Lawrence Alexander, a 29-year-old self-taught programmer who lived with his parents in Brighton, Britain, received an unexpected Twitter message from a State Department official who reported to Stengel.
"Can you show what [the Russians] are swarming on in real time?" the official, Macon Phillips, asked. "Your work gave me an idea."
A few months later, Phillips requested an in-person meeting. Alexander, who suffers from a genetic disorder that often leaves him chronically fatigued, wasn't able to make the two-hour trek to the U.S. Embassy in London. So Phillips took the train to Brighton, where Alexander walked him through his research, which was spurred by his alarm over Putin's intervention in Ukraine and his crackdown on gays and journalists.
Phillips's ideas sprang from his work on Obama's first presidential campaign, which used social media analytics to target supporters. One proposal now was to identify "online influencers" who were active on social media spreading Kremlin messages. Phillips wanted to use analytics to target them with U.S. counterarguments.
State Department lawyers, citing the Privacy Act, demanded guarantees that data on Americans using social media wouldn't inadvertently be collected as part of the effort.
The pre-Internet law restricts the collection of data related to the ways Americans exercise their First Amendment rights. The lawyers concluded that it applied to tweets, leaving some State Department officials baffled.
"When you tweet, it's public," said Moira Whelan, a former deputy assistant secretary for digital strategy. "We weren't interested in Americans."
The lawyers' objections couldn't be overcome. The project, which Phillips worked on for more than a year, was dead.
Zapping servers
While Stengel and Phillips were struggling to make do with limited resources, the CIA, at the direction of Obama's top national security advisers, was secretly drafting proposals for covert action.
Russia hawks in the administration wanted far-reaching options that, they argued, would convince Putin that the price he would pay for continued meddling in the politics of neighboring democracies would be "certain and great," said a former official involved in the debate.
One of the covert options that officials discussed called for U.S. spy agencies to create fake websites and personas on social media to fight back against the Kremlin's trolls in Europe. Proponents wanted to spread anti-Kremlin messages, drawing on U.S. intelligence about Russian military activities and government corruption. But others doubted the effectiveness of using the CIA to conduct influence operations against an adversary that operated with far fewer constraints. Or they objected to the idea of U.S. spies even doing counterpropaganda.
James R. Clapper Jr., the top spy in the Obama administration, said in an interview that he didn't think the United States "should emulate the Russians."
Another potential line of attack involved using cyberweapons to take down Russian-controlled websites and zap servers used to control fake Russian personas '-- measures some officials thought would have little long-term effect or would prompt Russian retaliation.
The covert proposals, which were circulated in 2015 by David S. Cohen, then the CIA's deputy director, divided the administration and intelligence agencies and never reached the national security cabinet or the president for consideration. Cohen declined to comment.
Putin and Obama shake hands at the United Nations in September 2015.Putin and Obama shake hands at the United Nations in September 2015. (Andrew Harnik/AP)After top White House officials received intelligence in the summer of 2016 about Putin's efforts to help Trump, the deadlocked debate over covert options to counter the Kremlin was revived. Obama was loath to take any action that might prompt the Russians to disrupt voting. So he warned Putin to back off and then watched to see what the Russians would do.
After the election, Obama's advisers moved to finalize a package of retaliatory measures.
Officials briefly considered rushing out an overarching new order, known as a presidential finding, that for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union would authorize sweeping covert operations against Russia. But they opted against such a far-reaching approach. Instead, the White House decided on a targeted cyber-response that would make use of an existing presidential finding designed to combat cyberthreats around the world rather than from Russia specifically.
As a supplement to the cyber finding, Obama signed a separate, narrower order, known as a "Memorandum of Notification," which gave the CIA the authority to plan operations against Russia. Senior administration and intelligence officials discussed a half-dozen specific actions, some of which required implants in Russian networks that could be triggered remotely to attack computer systems.
Members of the Obama administration expected that the CIA would need a few weeks or, in some cases, months to finish planning for the proposed operations.
"Those actions were cooked," said a former official. "They had been vetted and agreed to in concept."
Obama left behind a road map. Trump would have to decide whether to implement it.
'This is what we live with'
Before Trump took office, a U.S. government delegation flew to NATO headquarters in Brussels to brief allies on what American intelligence agencies had learned about Russian tactics during the presidential election.
U.S. officials are normally reluctant to share sensitive intelligence with the alliance's main decision-making body. But an exception was made in this case to help "fireproof" all 28'‰allies in case Russia targeted them next, a senior U.S. official said.
The Obama administration had gone through an agonizing learning curve. The Russians, beginning in 2014, had hacked the State Department and the White House before targeting the Democratic National Committee and other political institutions. By the time U.S. officials came to grips with the threat, it was too late to act. Now they wanted to make sure NATO allies didn't repeat their mistakes.
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, gaveled the closed-door session to order, and the Americans ran through their 30-minute presentation. The Europeans had for years been journeying to Washington to warn senior U.S. officials about Russian meddling in their elections. The Americans had listened politely but didn't seem particularly alarmed by the threat, reflecting a widely held belief inside the U.S. government that its democratic institutions and society weren't nearly as vulnerable as those in Europe.
For the first time since the days after 9/11, the American officials in Brussels sounded overwhelmed and humbled, said a European ambassador in the room.
When the briefers finished, the allies made clear to the Americans that little in the presentation surprised them.
"This is what we've been telling you for some time," the Europeans said, according to Lute, the NATO ambassador. "This is what we live with. Welcome to our lives."
Mr. Preemption
After Trump took office, Russia's army of trolls began to shift their focus within the United States, according to U.S. intelligence reports. Instead of spreading messages to bolster Trump, they returned to their long-held objective of sowing discord in U.S. society and undermining American global influence. Trump's presidency and policies became a Russian disinformation target.
President Trump crosses the White House's South Lawn on Friday to leave for the holidays.President Trump crosses the White House's South Lawn on Friday to leave for the holidays. (Jabin Botsford/Washington, D.C.)Articles from Donovan and other Kremlin-backed personas slammed the Trump administration for, among other things, supporting "terrorists" and authorizing military strikes that killed children in Syria.
"They are all about disruption," said a former official briefed on the intelligence. "They want a distracted United States that can't counter Vladimir Putin's ambitions."
The dilemma facing the Trump White House was an old one: how to respond.
In the weeks before Trump's inauguration, Brett Holmgren, a top intelligence official in the Obama White House, briefed Ezra Cohen-Watnick, his Trump administration counterpart, on the actions Obama had taken. Holmgren and Cohen-Watnick declined to comment.
Once in the job, Cohen-Watnick sent out memos identifying counterintelligence threats, including Russia's, as his top priority, officials said.
He convened regular meetings in the White House Situation Room at which he pressed counterintelligence officials in other government agencies, including the CIA, to finalize plans for Russia, including those left behind by the Obama team, according to officials in attendance.
By spring, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, senior White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill and Cohen- ­ Watnick began advocating measures to counter Russian disinformation using covert influence and cyber-operations, according to officials.
But, just as in the Obama administration, the most far-reaching ideas ran into obstacles.
McMaster and Tom Bossert, Trump's homeland security adviser, both laid claim to controlling the cyber-portfolio and would sometimes issue conflicting instructions that left policymakers and intelligence officials confused about whose direction to follow.
Obama's 11th-hour actions had cleared the way for spy agencies to conduct cyber-operations to counter the Russian threat. But the CIA still had to finalize the plans, and the Trump White House wanted to review them.
Bossert was more cautious than McMaster about using cyber-tools offensively. His message to the National Security Council staff, a senior White House official said, was: "We have to do our homework. Everybody needs to slow down."
Directing the CIA to conduct covert influence operations was a similarly fraught process. Before the agency could proceed, intelligence officials informed the White House that it would need new authorities from the president.
To Trump officials, the CIA appeared to be more interested in other priorities, such as proposals to target WikiLeaks. The National Security Council and the CIA declined to comment on the covert options.
The policy debates were further complicated by the difficulty of even raising Russian meddling with a president who viewed the subject as an attack on his legitimacy.
Related: [Doubting the intelligence, Trump pursues Putin and leaves a Russian threat unchecked]
In an effort to bring Trump around, officials presented him with evidence of Putin's duplicity and continued interference in U.S. politics. But the president's recent public statements suggest that he continues to believe that he is making progress in building a good relationship with the Russian leader.
This month, Trump noted that Putin, in his end-of-year news conference, had praised Trump's stewardship of the U.S. economy.
"He said very nice things," Trump told reporters.
Putin and Trump meet at the G-20 Hamburg summit July 7.Putin and Trump meet at the G-20 Hamburg summit July 7. (Evan Vucci/AP)Putin later called Trump to praise the CIA for providing Russia with intelligence about a suspected terrorist plot in St. Petersburg.
"That's a great thing," Trump said after the second call with the Russian leader, "and the way it's supposed to work."
Even White House officials who take the Russia threat seriously fret that aggressive covert action will just provoke Putin to increase his assault on a vulnerable United States.
"One of the things I've learned over many, many years of looking at Russia and Putin is that he's Mr. Preemption. If he thinks that somebody else is capable of doing something to him, he gets out ahead of it," said a senior administration official. "We have to be extraordinarily careful."
What's real and not real
The Kremlin has given little indication that it intends to back off its disinformation campaign inside the United States. More than a year after the FBI first identified Alice Donovan as a probable Russian troll, she's still pitching stories to U.S. publications.
In the spring, Donovan's name appeared on articles criticizing Trump's conduct of the war in Syria and defending Russian-backed leader Bashar al- ­ Assad. "U.S.-led coalition airstrike on Assad's troops not accidental," the headline of a May'‰20 piece on CounterPunch read. Her last piece for CounterPunch, headlined "Civil War in Venezuela," was published Oct.'‰16.
Other pieces under her byline have been published in recent months at Veterans Today, where Gordon Duff, the site's editor, said he knew nothing about Donovan.
"I don't edit what people do," Duff said. "If it's original, I'll publish it. I don't decide what's real and not real."
At We Are Change, which has also recently published Donovan's work, Luke Rudkowski, one of the site's founders, wondered why the FBI didn't contact his publication with its suspicions.
"I wish we could get information from the FBI so we could understand what's really happening," he said. "I wish they had been more transparent."
The FBI, in keeping with its standard practice in counterintelligence investigations, has kept a close hold on information about Donovan and other suspected Russian personas peddling messages inside the United States.
The bureau does not have the authority to shut down the accounts of suspected trolls housed on U.S. social media companies' platforms.
"We're not the thought police," said one former senior law enforcement official.
The Russians are taking advantage of "seams between our policies, our laws and our bureaucracy," said Austin Branch, a former Defense Department official who specialized in information operations.
The FBI said in a statement that it has employed cyber, criminal and counterintelligence tools to deal with the disinformation threat.
"The FBI takes seriously any attempts to influence U.S. systems and processes," the statement said.
In late November, The Post informed Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch's editor, that the FBI suspects that Donovan is a Russian government persona. St. Clair said in an interview that Donovan's submissions didn't stand out among the 75 or so pitches he receives each day.
On Nov.'‰30, he sent her an email saying he wanted to discuss her work. When he got no response, St. Clair followed up with a direct message on Twitter, asking her to call him immediately.
On Dec.'‰5 Donovan finally replied by email: "I do not want to talk to anyone for security reasons."
St. Clair tapped out a new message, begging her to provide proof '-- a photograph of her driver's license or passport '-- that would show that she was the beginning freelance journalist she claimed to be in her introductory email from 2016.
"It shouldn't be that difficult to substantiate," he wrote.
He has yet to receive a response.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.
Adam Entous writes about national security, foreign policy and intelligence for The Post. He joined the newspaper in 2016 after more than 20 years with The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, where he covered the Pentagon, the CIA, the White House and Congress. He covered President George W. Bush for five years after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
Ellen Nakashima is a national security reporter for The Washington Post. She covers cybersecurity, surveillance, counterterrorism and intelligence issues.
Greg Jaffe is a national security reporter for The Washington Post, where he has been since March 2009. Previously, he covered the White House and the military for The Post.
Post Recommends
Russia is going to attack our next election. The Trump administration may not even try to stop it. - The Washington Post
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 16:53
Photo: Reuters/Jorge Silva
The Russians are coming for our elections '-- to disrupt them, to discredit them, and even to affect their outcome. They'll be coming in 2018, and in 2020. The trouble is that even if we figure out what they're up to, our own government may be unable or unwilling to stop it.
That's the conclusion one has to come to upon reading reports like this new one from Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Jaffe, which describes how powerless the federal government has been and continues to be in the face of an ongoing war that Vladimir Putin is waging against U.S. democracy. It was hard enough to resist when the executive branch wanted to resist it; who knows how hard it will become as President Trump feels more politically threatened by upcoming elections and Robert S. Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling in 2016.
This new report shows how the Russian effort last year included not only hacking into Democratic email systems and the use of an army of social media bots, but also the creation of articles pitched to left-leaning websites, which were used to attack Hillary Clinton and promote Wikileaks. While it was going on, the government was all but paralyzed:
The events surrounding the FBI's NorthernNight investigation follow a pattern that repeated for years as the Russian threat was building: U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies saw some warning signs of Russian meddling in Europe and later in the United States but never fully grasped the breadth of the Kremlin's ambitions. Top U.S. policymakers didn't appreciate the dangers, then scrambled to draw up options to fight back. In the end, big plans died of internal disagreement, a fear of making matters worse or a misguided belief in the resilience of American society and its democratic institutions.
President Trump weighed in on Russia and North Korea on Dec. 15. (The Washington Post)
One previously unreported order '-- a sweeping presidential finding to combat global cyberthreats '-- prompted U.S. spy agencies to plan a half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat. But one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act, intelligence officials said.
As former acting CIA director Michael Morell and former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers note in this op-ed, Russian cyberwarfare efforts didn't stop after 2016. Of late their covert social media strategies have involved attacking the FBI, going after Republican politicians who are critical of President Trump, and even urging a boycott of Keurig when it pulled its advertising from Sean Hannity's show.
But it's not as simple as promoting President Trump and the GOP. Most experts believe Vladimir Putin's motives are more complex than that, and involve sowing discord and confusion that destabilizes our system. The danger becomes particularly acute during election season.
There are three fundamental questions to ask about this threat: Do we know what they're doing? If we know what they're doing, do we know how to fight it? And if we know how to fight it, do we have the will to do so?
At various times the answer to all three has been no. But let's say that some time in 2018 '-- or even more likely, in 2020 '-- intelligence agencies and private analysts conclude that Russia is engaging in an effort to subvert our electoral process through hacking electoral systems, waging a covert propaganda war, or some other means we haven't even thought of yet. What then? We know that President Trump sees every new development in terms of himself, and that he views any and all questions about Russian meddling as nothing more than an effort to delegitimize his glorious 2016 victory. It seems unlikely that he'll react any differently to new reports of Russian meddling, particularly if it comes at a moment when he's faced with the possibility of defeat. Which means there's a very strong chance that this is what will happen:
When reports of new Russian efforts to attack our elections emerge, President Trump will insist it's all ''fake news,'' try to discredit the analysis and insist that it's just his political enemies seeking to delegitimize the victories he and his party win.Trump's assertion will immediately be echoed and amplified by his allies in conservative media, particularly on Fox News, talk radio, and websites like Breitbart, which will attack the analysts and agencies warning of the Russian efforts.Republican members of Congress will take up Trump's charge, perhaps even attempting to launch their own investigation of the investigation.That's what's happening right now. Trump's most loyal allies are lashing out at anyone who seems to threaten the president, even if it means dismissing the idea that a well-documented Russian assault against the United States is anything to be concerned about. They've even decided that the FBI, one of the most conservative agencies in the government, is a hotbed of leftist subversion and must be purged of anyone who ever expressed any skepticism about Donald Trump.
So when the next Russian attack on our electoral system comes, and it comes in a new form that we may not have been prepared for, how is the government going to react? When the FBI or the CIA rush to the president, explaining what's going on and asking for his approval to take action to protect the integrity of our democracy, is he going to tell them to back off? Trump already seems much more inclined to believe Vladimir Putin than his own intelligence agencies on these questions. What kind of pressure will Republicans in Congress and the conservative media put on those agencies to shut down any meaningful response? How vulnerable will that leave us, and what will the consequences be?
Right now we have no idea. But there isn't much reason to feel reassured.
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The Dodd Report
Bill Gates Tacitly Admits His Common Core Experiment Was A Failure
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 02:50
Bill and Melinda Gates run the world's richest nonprofit, with assets at $40 billion and annual giving around $4 billion. They have helped pioneer a mega-giving strategy called ''advocacy philanthropy,'' which aims to use private donations to shift how governments structure their activities and use taxpayer dollars.
Since 2009, the Gates Foundation's primary U.S. activity has focused on establishing and implementing Common Core, a set of centrally mandated curriculum rules and tests for what children are to learn in each K-12 grade, with the results linked to school and teacher ratings and punitive measures for low performers. The Gates Foundation has spent more than $400 million itself and influenced $4 trillion in U.S. taxpayer funds towards this goal. Eight years later, however, Bill Gates is admitting failure on that project, and a ''pivot'' to another that is not likely to go any better.
''Based on everything we have learned in the past 17 years, we are evolving our education strategy,'' Gates wrote on his blog as a preface to a speech he gave last week in Cleveland. He followed this by detailing how U.S. education has essentially made little improvement in the years since he and his foundation '-- working so closely with the Obama administration that federal officials regularly consulted foundation employees and waived ethics laws to hire several '-- began redirecting trillions of public dollars towards programs he now admits haven't accomplished much.
''If there is one thing I have learned,'' Gates says in concluding his speech, ''it is that no matter how enthusiastic we might be about one approach or another, the decision to go from pilot to wide-scale usage is ultimately and always something that has to be decided by you and others the field.'' If this statement encompasses his Common Core debacle, Gates could have at least the humility to recall that Common Core had no pilot before he took it national. There wasn't even a draft available to the public before the Obama administration hooked states into contracts, many of which were ghostwritten with Gates funds, pledging they'd buy that pig in a poke.
But it looks like this is as close to an apology or admission of failure as we're going to get, folks. Sorry about that $4 trillion and mangled years of education for American K-12 kids and teachers. Failing with your kids and money for eight years is slowly getting billionaire visionaries to ''evolve'' and pledge to respect the hoi polloi a little more, though, so be grateful.
Strategic Retreat, or Stealthy Persistence?While Gates will continue to dump money into curricula and teacher training based on Common Core, ''we will no longer invest directly in new initiatives based on teacher evaluations and ratings,'' he said. This is the portion of the Common Core initiative around which bipartisan grassroots opposition coalesced, since unions oppose accountability for teachers and parents oppose terrible ideas thrust upon their kids without their input. Gates' speech reinforces that Common Core supporters are scapegoating their initiative's poor quality and transgression against the American right to self-government upon its links to using poorly constructed, experimental tests to rate teachers and schools.
Agreed, that's a bad idea that failed miserably, both in PR and in teacher effectiveness terms, but it's one bad bite out of a rotten apple. Looks like Gates is just going to bite again from another angle. It's the old rationalization for communism: ''Great idea, terrible implementation.'' Yes, that sometimes happens, but what about considering whether the implementation trainwreck was caused by a bad idea?
In lieu of ramming his preferred, untested education theories through a mindhive of unelected bureaucrats elated to be showered with Gates money and attention, over the next five years the Gates Foundation will spend $1.7 billion on myriad smaller initiatives. ''We anticipate that about 60 percent of this will eventually support the development of new curricula and networks of schools that work together to identify local problems and solutions,'' Gates says.
This curricula, however, will be explicitly tied to Common Core and its cousin, the Next Generation Science Standards (which academic reviewers rate of even more obviously low quality). Similar experiments in New York and Louisiana, the latter of which Gates cites, have yielded uniformity but not uniformly good curriculaor proven improvements for student achievement.
''[H]igh-quality curricula can improve student learning more than many costlier solutions, and it has the greatest impact with students of novice and lower performing teachers. We also know it has the greatest impact when accompanied by professional learning and coaching,'' Gates says. This is entirely true. But who decides what is ''high-quality curricula''? Press releases and buzz or proven results?
The latter not only takes time to establish, but is directly threatened by the anti-learning environment inside which most curricula is created and teachers are trained, which typically dooms its effectiveness. Further, most measurements of curricular success use test score bumps, but there are major questions from the research about whether those benefit kids or society long-term. The metrics for success that make the most sense to Bill Gates do not actually ensure success for children. The prospects for his ''evolution'' are, then, foreboding. The most likely outcome is the historically most frequent outcome from big-bucks philanthropy in public education: sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Gates' Philanthropy Proves Money Can't Buy SuccessLook, I want Gates to succeed. He and Melinda obviously mean well and have means to do good. They are handicapping their own success at education philanthropy, however, by attempting to approach schools precisely opposite to the manner in which Gates innovated to earn his own professional mega-success. Gates made it big by creating things that solved people's problems and which they could choose whether to use. Millions of people individually initially chose (as opposed to later company actions after going big, in which Microsoft used its size to coerce people to use their products) to use Microsoft products because they personally saw value in exchanging their time and money for those products.
One of the key problems of public education that makes it of such poor quality and resistant to change is that it is built on the later Microsoft model of coercion rather than the early Bill Gates-the-whiz-programmer model of free exchange. Public schools get money and students whether families really want to dedicate those resources or not. Twice as many parents send their kids to public schools as really would like to, if they had the choice. Thus, teachers and schools are not rewarded in direct correlation with the needs and desires of their customers. This is a core reason public education persistently perpetuates bad curricula, bad teaching methods, and poor attention to kids' specific needs.
The Gates Foundation is so close, yet apparently so far away from realizing why the mountain of money they can shovel around has so far not been as effective for American kids as they earnestly desire. Last year's annual letter from foundation CEO Sue Desmond-Hellman, its first major admission of failure, prefaced Gates' own groping this week at why: ''Unfortunately, our foundation underestimated the level of resources and support required for our public education systems to be well-equipped to implement [Common Core]. We missed an early opportunity to sufficiently engage educators '' particularly teachers '' but also parents and communities so that the benefits of the standards could take flight from the beginning.''
Here's Gates this week, echoing that theme in announcing changes to his giving strategy: ''We believe this kind of approach '' where groups of schools have the flexibility to propose the set of approaches they want '' will lead to more impactful and durable systemic change that is attractive enough to be widely adopted by other schools'...we will leave it up to each network [of schools we fund] to decide what approaches they believe will work best to address their biggest challenges.'' This is good, but not good enough.
I have been hard on Gates over the years for Common Core because he has used his fabulous financial power irresponsibly. He's forced American citizens into an experimental and at best academically mediocre policy fantasy that has further eroded American government's legitimacy, which depends upon the consent of the governed. He and Melinda may mean well, but they haven't done well on this major initiative. It's going to take a lot more than passive-aggressive side references to their failure to make up for the years of classroom chaos their bad ideas inflicted on many U.S. teachers and kids without their consent. A direct apology and dedication to the ''first, do no harm'' principle would be a start.
War on Gamers
WHO considers adding 'gaming disorder' to ICD-11
Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:07
At what point does gaming become too much of a fun thing? Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters
The World Health Organization is considering adding "gaming disorder" to the list of mental health conditions in its next update of the International Classification of Diseases.Playing too many video games could become problematic if the behavior causes a person's relationships or performance at school or work to suffer.Although games can potentially become too compelling for some people, they also have some psychological benefits.There's a certain point at which a hobby can become too much.
The World Health Organization is considering adding "gaming disorder" to the list of mental health conditions in its next update of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), according to a beta draft of the document.
The 11th version of the ICD is not yet set, but the addition would be a recognition that a pastime can become problematic if it leads to a form of addictive behavior.
Specifically, the draft's language states that gaming behavior could be a disorder if it meets three characteristics: if a person loses control over their gaming habits, if they start to prioritize gaming over many other interests or activities, and if they continue playing despite clear negative consequences.
This would add gaming to a list of other behaviors that can become problematic if people lose control over them, including gambling and disorders related to the use of substances like alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, or nicotine.
Gaming covers any activity from playing Two Dots on your iPhone to sitting down in front of a custom-built gaming PC for hours. Putting that category of activities on the list would give doctors and mental health professionals a way to officially diagnose someone with the condition.
But to be clear, this doesn't mean that all gaming is addictive or could lead to a disorder. It's only if the behavior is severe enough "to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning," according to the draft. In other words, it has to be intense enough to harm personal relationships or interfere with school or work.
Reuters/Sam Mircovich
The psychology of gamesThe psychological community has been debating whether gaming is addictive enough to be described as a disorder for some time. So far, the American Psychiatric Association has declined to classify gaming addiction as a disorder but has said it merits further research.
Part of the problem is how to distinguish between simply spending a lot of time playing games and actual addictive behavior.
Scientists need to "establish a clear-cut distinction between someone who may use games excessively but non-problematically and someone who is experiencing significant impairment in their daily lives as a consequence of their excessive gaming," a group of researchers from Nottingham Trent University in the UK wrote in a paper published last summer in the Journal of Addictive Behavior.
There are plenty of stories about individuals whose gaming behavior has become problematic '-- people have gotten so caught up in online games that they've ruined relationships and lost jobs. Compulsive gaming and problematic substance use can also go hand in hand.
But problematic gaming may also serve as a dysfunctional coping mechanism for some, according to the Nottingham Trent researchers. Someone who is struggling with depression or anxiety may turn to gaming or abuse substances like alcohol as a way to relieve those symptoms.
Dave Smith/Business Insider
Benefits and harmsFiguring out the degree to which playing games is harmful (or helpful) is all about context, according to Bruce Lee, an associate professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Lee wrote in a column for Forbes that gaming habits can also be psychologically beneficial.
On the positive side, research has shown that game playing can relieve stress, improve problem-solving abilities, and enhance traits like eye-hand coordination. Technologies that we think of as for gaming, like virtual reality, can also be used in psychological therapy.
Yet people can struggle to find a healthy balance with gaming.
Researchers are still trying to understand the activity's risks and effects, since it has only recently become such a common pastime '-- 63% of US households contain at least one "frequent gamer," a trait that didn't exist a couple of generations ago.
Black Turnout in Alabama Complicates Debate on Voting Laws - The New York Times
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:49
A polling station in Brundidge, Ala. Research, particularly of Voter ID laws in Texas, Wisconsin and other states, offers an imprecise picture of how much ID laws have suppressed turnout. Credit Audra Melton for The New York Times MONTGOMERY, Ala. '-- Even before a defiant Roy S. Moore stood at a lectern this month and refused to concede the Alabama Senate race, one political reality was clear: An extraordinary turnout among black voters had helped push Doug Jones to a rare Democratic victory in this state.
That turnout, in which registered black voters appeared to cast ballots at a higher rate than white ones, has become the most recent reference point in the complicated picture about race and elections laws.
At issue, at a time when minorities are becoming an increasingly powerful slice of the electorate, is how much rules like Alabama's voter ID law serve as a brake on that happening. The turnout by black voters in Alabama raises a question: Did it come about because voting restrictions were not as powerful as critics claim or because voters showed up in spite of them?
Whether blacks and other minorities vote has become an evermore crucial element in the national political calculus. Minority voters, who lean overwhelmingly Democratic, were 29 percent of eligible voters in 2012 and 31 percent in 2016; by 2020, the figure is expected to rise to nearly 34 percent.
LaTosha Brown, an Alabama native and a founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, which backed voter-mobilization efforts in the Senate contest, said the impact of voter suppression in Alabama was real, but that the policies were sometimes a motivating factor.
''Historically and traditionally, there has been a strong voice of resistance to those that are undemocratic,'' she said. ''I don't think that this is new; I think that has always been the role that black voters, particularly in the Deep South, have played.''
A billboard near Midland City, Ala. The state has a history of voter suppression, but African-American residents made the difference in the recent Senate election. Credit Audra Melton for The New York Times But research, particularly of voter ID laws in Texas, Wisconsin and other states, provides an imprecise picture of how much similar laws suppress turnout. And Eitan Hersh, a Tufts University political scientist who contributed to the analysis of Texas' strict voter ID law, said research indicated that voter ID laws could alter very close elections but might not be as influential as some critics claim.
''These laws are complicated to assess,'' Mr. Hersh said. ''Alabama was a place where there was a lot of campaigning, and when campaigns liven up, you have a lot of mobilization efforts'' that could offset the effect of an ID law on turnout.
Alabama, where a bloody history of battling for the right to vote gave birth to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and a lawsuit led to the 2013 Supreme Court case that dramatically weakened the law, is seldom described as a model for voting rules.
Like only 12 other states, Alabama does not permit early voting, which is disproportionately used by minorities and the poor. Its restrictions on voting by people with felony records were recently relaxed, but remain among the nation's toughest and likely curb black turnout. The state's voter ID law, which was challenged in federal court, threatened to disenfranchise at least 100,000 registered voters, many of them black or Hispanic, according to the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund. And a panel of federal judges ruled this year that 12 state legislative districts had been gerrymandered to dilute African-American voting power. The congressional map is also gerrymandered.
Since 2010, 23 states, mostly under Republican control, have enacted laws requiring voters to show identification before casting ballots, all in the name of curbing a voter-fraud threat that almost all experts and election officials say is largely mythical. Six states have reduced early voting days or hours, seven have stiffened requirements to register and three states have made it harder for people with felony convictions to regain the right to vote.
A lawsuit challenging aggressive purging of voter rolls in Ohio, where thousands of legitimate voters have been removed from the rolls, will next month go before the United States Supreme Court; the case could give similar plans a red or green light. The court is also considering arguments over the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering, which computer technology has turned into an evermore powerful tool.
On the other hand, in many states, most of them divided or Democratic leaning, access to the franchise continues to expand: Since 2015, nine states have passed laws to automatically register new voters when they interact with government agencies. Colorado, Oregon and Washington have moved almost entirely to mail-in ballots and turnout has bumped upward as a result. Nearly three-quarters of states allow early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, or both.
An election official checked a voter's photo identification at a polling site in Austin, Tex., in 2014. Credit Eric Gay/Associated Press In the Alabama vote, there were reports of scattered troubles, including technology problems, voter ID disputes, issues with voters improperly classified as inactive and long lines at many polling places.
But the gravest fears of Alabama's critics were not realized. Some of that reflected years of advocacy by voting rights groups, including the concerted pushback that led the state, in 2015, to back away from a plan to close 31 driver's license offices in rural areas, many of them predominantly black.
Alabama's secretary of state, John H. Merrill, said allegations of irregularities, from the left and right, in the Dec. 12 election were not borne out. ''It's just people making things up, and they think they can because of what they've observed that happened before or what our history has been,'' said Mr. Merrill, a Republican.
Still unclear is what role voting restrictions, including voter ID, are playing on turnout here and elsewhere. Exit polls are preliminary, but the ones available in Alabama suggest the share of blacks who cast ballots '-- roughly 41 percent of the African-Americans voters '-- exceeding the 35 or so percent of whites who turned out. The divide likely reflects a robust black turnout and modest participation from whites who were unenthusiastic about Mr. Moore, whose already-controversial candidacy was dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct.
One recent academic study concluded that the historic turnout gap between white and minority voters increased sharply '-- as much as fivefold '-- in states with the strictest voter ID laws, producing a ''clear partisan distortion'' favoring Republicans.
In Texas, where federal courts have invalidated parts of one of the nation's toughest ID laws, a detailed analysis concluded that 3.6 percent of white registered voters in Texas lacked any legally acceptable ID '-- and 5.7 percent of Hispanic voters, and 7.5 percent of African-Americans. But among more likely voters who cast ballots in the 2010 and 2012 elections, only 1.4 percent lacked a valid ID. An estimated 600,000 registered voters lacked a photo ID that qualified them to vote under the law.
Still other studies in Texas and Wisconsin concluded that confusion over voter ID laws meant that more people who actually had valid IDs but believed they did not stayed home on Election Day than did voters who actually lacked identification.
Tarsha Herelle took advantage of early voting in Madison, Wisc., in October 2016. Six states have reduced early voting days or hours. Credit Lauren Justice for The New York Times The Wisconsin study suggested it was mathematically possible '-- though far from certain '-- that the number of voters who stayed home in the 2016 general election exceeded Donald J. Trump's 22,748-vote margin of victory there. Some critics of voter restrictions took that as proof of the impact of such laws, but among scholars, caution is more the rule.
''It depends on where, and it depends on who,'' said Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles who also oversaw voting-rights issues in the Obama administration Justice Department. ''There are real, live instances where positions are taken to keep eligible people from showing up at the polls or to make it needlessly harder to vote. But it's not nationwide, and it's not all the time.''
Benard Simelton, the president of the Alabama branch of the N.A.A.C.P., said he believed that the voter ID law had led some people, many of them poor, to stop trying to participate in elections at all.
''As long as that's a requirement, what are people to do if they haven't been able to obtain the required voter ID?'' Mr. Simelton said. ''My gut tells me that people who don't have it have given up.''
Some voting rights advocates stress that the relevant measure should be whether people were unable to vote, not whether particular policies determined the outcome of the election.
''Voter suppression might not be attributable in every instance to changing an election outcome, but it's significant to people who have barriers in front of them at the ballot box,'' said Myrna P(C)rez, the deputy director of the democracy program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. She added: ''The country is going to be poorer if we only care about voter suppression when it affects the outcome.''
The outcome, however, is increasingly the standard by which voting-rights cases are decided. The Supreme Court's Shelby County v. Holder decision, which dramatically scaled back the Voting Rights Act, relieved scores of states and local governments with a history of bias from the need to prove that new election rules did not discriminate. Since 2013, the burden of proving discrimination '-- and the cost of detecting and litigating it '-- has been shifted to minority voters and the groups that represent them.
To many, that's a standard that rankles.
''I do think that very committed, focused people will find a way'' to cast ballots, said Ms. Brown, the co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund. ''But is that fair? If you put a rock on my foot and I beat you in the race, that still doesn't make it O.K. that you put a rock on my foot.''
Alan Blinder reported from Montgomery, and Michael Wines from Washington. Jess Bidgood contributed reporting from Dothan, Ala.
Shut Up Slave!
Should Parents Use Muzzles To Keep Their Babies Quiet In Public?
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:52
Silence is golden. But is it preventable? For young children '-- babies, especially '-- loud noises are part of their culture. In fact, unusual quietness in a baby can oftentimes be seen as sign of something being not quite right. Still, people can be stubborn. The world apparently revolves around their eardrums. And the prospect of donning toddlers' mouths with muzzles has entered the conversation. Should it be fine for parents to buffer their baby's blaring? Keep reading to find out why or why not masking babies for the sake of silence is or isn't a good idea.
Do you side with or against parents who quiet their babies with masks? Let us know in the comments!Noise pollution. The world is filled with so many kinds of noises. In a way, noise has become something of a pollutant, clogging up the airwaves, around every corner and oftentimes inescapable. And one major contributing factor to the noise is, as we all know, us. Especially the younger versions of us '-- the babies.
Should we shut 'em up? Crying babies have become tethered to situations like horrible airplane rides, annoying trips to the mall and disrupted movie theaters. But if there was a way to keep them quiet, should people get on board? Would muffling a baby's cry be the world-saving gift we all needed?
The Baby Muzzle. There's a Japanese product available called The Baby Muzzle which is designed primarily for newborns to 3-year-olds '-- specifically, newborns to 3-year-olds who won't stop crying. But is this product an easy fix or a bigger problem?
Muzzling the problem. The Baby Muzzle works similarly to the way noise-reducing headphones work. It cuts out noise frequencies and gives parents some volume vacation. No more need to shush the baby. There's a product that'll do it for you.
The baby mask. It might seem like an easy fix to eradicate a baby's cry, but crying is actually vital for a healthy baby. It's a significant part of communication, even when it seems like anything but. Enduring is actually important.
Hungry? Why wait? If you've ever seen the Snickers commercials where people literally transform into mean characters because they're hungry, and then transform back to themselves once they've eaten, then you'll understand the importance of getting food into the belly of the average human. We're cranky when we're hungry. And so are babies. More so, in fact. The thing is, though, they can't talk. Obviously. So a good cry can get them a good meal. Denying them that is denying them the sustenance they need to survive.
Tired cry. We oftentimes get irritated when we're tired. Especially when we're forced to stay up. This all stems from childhood. When babies want to ass out, they'll cue you with a cry because they simply don't know how else to make it known. Again, it's a form of communication. So why would you want to deny them that?
Defending the muzzle. The creators of the Baby Muzzle try to reassure parents that their product won't devour the sound completely. Parents will still hear their child, just not at the decibels which the crying of babies usually reach.
Breathe easy, parents. There is a definite fear of breathing issues when anything goes near a baby's mouth, let alone something that's meant to keep them quiet. Firstly, it doesn't cover their nose. So there's that. And there are holes poked into the fabric to allow air to freely enter and exit the baby's lungs.
Baby Batman villain. The product itself is comfortable '-- or at least that was the intent of its design. It wraps around the baby's face not unlike a ski mask '-- or even Bane's mask from "The Dark Knight Rises." So, if nothing else, it could double as a clever Halloween costume. It's pink, but still.
Shushing them up. Is it really a great idea to keep a baby quiet? And more to that point, is it really helping your child through its development by consciously telling it that vocalizing is frowned upon? Crying is a natural part of development. It's how babies find their voice. A simple "shush" is one thing '-- but completely muffling them is another story.
Colic. There is also such a thing as "colic." Have you heard of it? If your baby is crying for what seems to be for no reason at all, there's a chance that he or she may have colic. But here's the thing, excessive as it may be, this is by no means a reason to shut them up. If anything, this is a cue for the parent to call the local pediatrician.
Body alarm. Babies have internal alarms. And they're in their vocal chords. When they're gassy, when they've gone to the bathroom and even when they just want some cuddle-time, they're going to reach out to mom or pops with some tears and a few well-placed screams. It's really all they've got. So, really, they need to cry. And you need to be able to hear them.
Baby talk. A baby crying ought to be seen less as an annoyance and more as a natural part of life. But the next time you see a wild animal muffling their cub when they're howling for mama bear, then, by all means, consider the Baby Muzzle. Otherwise, listen to your gut.
Learn together. Instead of muffling your baby, learn from them. Bond with them and figure out ways to soothe them, how to calm them down. It's probably not a mask that your baby needs, but a parent's comforting touch.
Ministry of Truthiness
Spielberg's 'The Post' Provides Fitting End to Turbulent Year for the Media - The New York Times
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:48
Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, The Washington Post editor, and Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham, the newspaper's publisher, in Steven Spielberg's ''The Post.'' Credit Niko Tavernise/20th Century Fox After a year of high- and low-level attacks on the press and the First Amendment, there's plenty to appreciate in Steven Spielberg's new movie, ''The Post,'' which some people around here believe should be called ''The Times.''
With a focus on the as-yet-untested Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, ''The Post'' tells the story of how portions of a classified government study about the Vietnam War made their way into her newspaper.
The Post began to run stories based on the top-secret study '-- which provided evidence that the Nixon, Johnson and Kennedy administrations had lied to the public about the war effort and its chances for success '-- only after The New York Times published articles quoting from it in summer 1971.
The Nixon administration challenged The Times aggressively, accusing it of violating the Espionage Act and winning a temporary court order that blocked the newspaper from publishing more of what became known as the Pentagon Papers.
As it casts a journalism era of analog technology and smoky newsrooms in an idealistic light, the movie makes the point that leaking to the news media can be a principled act '-- a concept that is certainly in order at a time when President Trump and his anti-press supporters equate it with treason.
Daniel Ellsberg, a former Marine and military analyst, brought the Pentagon Papers to The Times, and later to The Post, motivated by an all-American notion that the nation's citizens had the right to know more about what was going on half a world away in a war financed by their tax dollars and fought by so many of their children.
Mr. Ellsberg saw it as his patriotic duty to take the documents, which he had painstakingly copied, to the press. As he has said, ''Taking an oath as a public servant does not mean keeping secrets or obeying the president '-- it's respecting the Constitution.''
''The Post'' is also a celebration of the keen judgment and courage of Ms. Graham. Her father granted control of the newspaper to her husband upon his death because ''in those days, the only possible heir would have been male,'' as she wrote in her Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, ''Personal History.''
But when Ms. Graham's husband died, control fell to her. And, she wrote, ''I did try '-- in some small ways, some larger '-- to do something about raising the visibility of women and increasing the sensitivity toward matters of particular concern to them.''
That work continues. The women who have bravely shared stories of harassment and abuse at the hands of powerful men this year '-- whether on film sets or in newsrooms; on factory floors or in congressional offices '-- stand on Ms. Graham's shoulders, as do the trailblazing female reporters who drew attention to their plight.
Although occasionally apocryphal, ''The Post'' captures Ms. Graham's transformation to towering from timid through her decision to publish the classified documents.
As she inserted herself and her newspaper into a national controversy, Ms. Graham was in the process of taking The Washington Post Company public. A standoff with the federal government could have proved devastating. And, her legal advisers warned, President Nixon could pressure the Federal Communications Commission to strip The Post of its television-station licenses '-- a dubious stratagem that he went on to attempt during Watergate.
The business dangers that The Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger faced were no less treacherous when he made the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers. Being first, he ''took on far more risk,'' the paper's in-house counsel at the time, James C. Goodale, now 84, wrote in The Daily Beast.
The cast of ''The Post'' in a scene from the film. Credit Rex Features, via Associated Press Images ''It's as though Hollywood had made a movie about the Times's triumphant role in Watergate,'' Mr. Goodale added.
It is an unfortunate irony that the makers of a film dedicated to the pursuit of truth took dramatic license with Mr. Sulzberger, who died in 2012, in their worthy elevation of Ms. Graham, who died in 2001.
In a line from the movie referring to Mr. Sulzberger's bold decision, the fictional stand-ins for the Times editor A. M. Rosenthal and his first wife, Ann Marie Burke, tell Ms. Graham that The Times's publisher took the risk only after his Washington bureau chief, James B. Reston, threatened to print the Pentagon Papers in the Vineyard Gazette, the small Martha's Vineyard paper he had bought a couple of years earlier. While Mr. Reston did make that remark, Mr. Goodale told me, ''I don't think anybody took him seriously.''
Mr. Sulzberger, who was known as Punch, published the secret study after reading all of its 7,000 pages. He gave the go-ahead despite his very real assessment that it might land him ''20 years to life,'' as he put it himself, and over his outside counsel's refusal to defend the paper if it proceeded.
''Punch was absolutely heroic in publishing the Pentagon Papers,'' The Times's lead reporter on the project, Neil Sheehan, 81, told me in a statement. ''He was all alone in making his decision. He had the backing of his senior editors like Abe Rosenthal, who was equally courageous. There was a precedent for Kay Graham. Punch had no precedent.''
The more important lesson is that, in both cases, family-led newspapers placed their journalistic missions ahead of business imperatives. And they did so under intense governmental pressure, a reminder of the important role that principled family leadership plays in the news business.
That has particular resonance in The New York Times Building as Arthur Gregg Sulzberger prepares to take the publisher's reins from his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., on New Year's Day, extending the Ochs-Sulzberger family's stewardship of the paper to a fifth generation.
The idea of steadfast news leadership should matter beyond The Times's offices, given Mr. Trump's threats against the tax status of Amazon, the company founded by Jeff Bezos, who bought The Post in 2013, and his denigration of the financial performance of The Times, whose subscriptions and stock price experienced double-digit growth in 2017.
Both media properties have the protection of their owners '-- a family, in the case of The Times; and a billionaire, in the case of The Post '-- who are bulwarks against the blind market forces that would have them turn into clickbait-only versions of themselves. The leadership of the Sulzberger family and Mr. Bezos also provides protection against an executive branch that seems all too willing to punish news outlets that don't adopt the standards of that Trump favorite, ''Fox & Friends.''
The president's other frequent media target, CNN, has no family or billionaire protector at a time when it is at the center of AT&T's proposed acquisition of its parent company, Time Warner, a deal that the Justice Department has moved to block even as Mr. Trump continues his attacks on the network.
Given all this, ''The Post'' strikes a fitting end note to a tumultuous year for journalism and democracy. Even the debate over whether the movie unfairly credits The Post for one of The Times's proudest achievements is fitting.
The competition between the two news organizations '-- each now much more than a newspaper '-- has spurred both of them along. It happened in the 1970s and it happened again in 2017, a golden year for investigative reporting.
In deciding in the favor of journalistic freedom in New York Times Co. v. United States, Justice Hugo L. Black wrote in 1971, ''Far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly.''
For good measure, he added, ''Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.''
Jaclyn Peiser contributed research.
New York's vanishing shops and storefronts: 'It's not Amazon, it's rent' | Business | The Guardian
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:52
Vacant retail space in the New York neighborhood of Chelsea. Thousands of small retailers have been replaced by national chains. Photograph: Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images
W alk down almost any major New York street '' say Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower, or Madison Avenue from midtown to the Upper East Side. Perhaps venture down Canal Street, or into the West Village around Bleecker, and some of the most expensive retail areas in the world are blitzed with vacant storefronts.
The famed Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on the Upper West Side announced earlier this week that it is closing next month. A blow to the city's cinephiles, certainly, but also a sign of the effects that rapid gentrification, coupled with technological innovation, are having on the city.
Over the past several years, thousands of small retailers have closed, replaced by national chains. When they, too, fail, the stores lie vacant, and landlords, often institutional investors, are unwilling to drop rents.
A recent survey by New York councilmember Helen Rosenthal found 12% of stores on one stretch of the Upper West Side is unoccupied and 'for lease'. The picture is repeated nationally. In October, the US surpassed the previous record for store closings, set after the 2008 financial crisis.
The common refrain is that the devastation is the product of a profound shift in consumption to online, with Amazon frequently identified as the leading culprit. But this is maybe an over-simplification.
''It's not Amazon, it's rent,'' says Jeremiah Moss, author of the website and book Vanishing New York. ''Over the decades, small businesses weathered the New York of the 70s with it near-bankruptcy and high crime. Businesses could survive the internet, but they need a reasonable rent to do that.''
Part of the problem is the changing make-up of New York landlords. Many are no longer mom-and-pop operations, but institutional investors and hedge funds that are unwilling to drop rents to match retail conditions. ''They are running small businesses out of the city and replacing them with chain stores and temporary luxury businesses,'' says Moss.
In addition, he says, banks will devalue a property if it's occupied by a small business, and increase it for a chain store. ''There's benefit to waiting for chain stores. If you are a hedge fund manager running a portfolio you leave it empty and take a write-off.''
New York is famously a city of what author EB White called ''tiny neighborhood units'' is his classic 1949 essay Here is New York. White observed ''that many a New Yorker spends a lifetime within the confines of an area smaller than a country village''.
In Vanishing New York, Moss writes of the toll the evisceration of distinct neighborhoods through real estate over-pricing has on the city. ''It's homogenizing and changing the character of the city,'' he says. Even where landlords are offering competitive leases, they are often for two or five years, not the customary 10.
''We're seeing more stores front emptying, and we're seeing a lot of turnover where you see spaces fill temporarily and then empty. And it's continuing to get worse,'' he says.
Shoppers in the financial district in New York. Photograph: Kevin Clogstoun/Getty Images/Lonely Planet ImagesIn business terms, the crisis in commercial real estate has led to a wave of consolidations. Earlier this month, France's Unibail-Rodamco and Australia's Westfield agreed to merge in a deal worth $24.7bn to form the world's second-biggest owner of shopping malls, including Manhattan's Brookfield Place.
Vacant real estate is not the only effect of an over-priced market; the boom in WeWork, a work-space company valued at around $20bn, and store pop-ups could also be responsible.
But some believe the market could have reached a turning point. ''It's like Hunger Games,'' says New York retail property agent Robin Zendell. ''If you're smart and innovative you can survive this market. Landlords and retailers are having to listen to a new generation of shoppers.''
Like Moss, Zendell believes it's too simplistic to blame Amazon. The same signals of over-pricing are seen in every area of real estate, including housing. ''When you see [that] every corner has a bank or a pharmacy, and there is a gym on the second floor, there's a simple reason for that: people can't afford the rent.
''Why did restaurants go to Brooklyn? Because it's cool? No, because it was cheap, and [because] restaurateurs were sick of giving investors' money away so they could pay thir rent.''
In some areas, notably Bleecker Street, once lined with fashion boutiques including Ralph Lauren and Marc Jacobs, too many vacancies create their own problems. ''Rents have fallen but now there are so many empty stores there, nobody wants to be alone. So they've created more of a crisis.''
But there are glimmers of turn-around. Zendell has observed five deals in SoHo in the past month, indicating that landlords are becoming too nervous to sit around. ''They helped to create the bubble, but now it's our market.''
Renters insist landlords have an investment in the game, either through taking a performance-based interest in the tenant or some other mechanism. Retailers that signed 10-year leases at a high number per sq ft and then had to pay to get out of that lease are insisting on some participation.
''Any new deal is going to have a pre-nup, the location has to be right, and the landlord has to have some skin in the game,'' says Zendell.
Zendell also believes some retailers are beginning to find their way. She cites Everlane as an example of upcoming brand that is managing to harness the power of the internet to bricks-and-mortar retail. Online, she points out, is good for things you need, but less so for things you want.
''You still need people and interaction, but you need a different approach: the modern customer is very smart. Brick and mortar used to be only about sales, now it's about marketing, driving people to the internet and for helping people to understand your product.''
Flight from LA to Tokyo turns around after four hours due to 'unauthorised person' | US news | The Guardian
Wed, 27 Dec 2017 09:44
The ANA flight was in the air for a total od seven hours and 56 minutes. Photograph: Kimimasa Mayama/EPA
A Japanese airliner bound for Tokyo was forced to turn around over the Pacific Ocean and return to Los Angeles on Tuesday after the discovery of an ''unauthorised person'' among the 150 passengers on board.
The flight made an unscheduled U-turn four hours into the 11-and-a-half-hour journey.
There was no security or safety threat involved, however '' it appears that the rogue passenger, who has not been identified, managed to proceed from check-in all the way to the final boarding pass check at LAX and board the wrong plane.
The American model, Chrissy Teigen, who was on the All-Nippon Airways flight 175, live-tweeted the episode to her 9.2 million followers: ''A flying first for me: 4 hours into an 11 hour flight and we are turning around because we have a passenger who isn't supposed to be on this plane. Why...why do we all gotta go back, I do not know.''
Speculating that the passenger responsible must be ''mortified'', Teigen, who was with her husband, the singer John Legend, posted several tongue-in-cheek updates as they continued their ''flight to nowhere''.
''Why did we all get punished for this one person's mistake?'' she asked. ''Why not just land in Tokyo and send the other person back? How is this the better idea, you ask? We all have the same questions.''
Teigen said police had interviewed people sitting near the passenger.
Airport police at LAX said the about-turn was the result of a ''mix up and was straightened up'', adding that the plane was scheduled to depart on Wednesday morning local time.
A police spokesman told KTLA that the airline worked out that the incident was just a mix-up while it was still in the air, but decided to return to LAX nonetheless.
Mystery surrounds how the passenger had been allowed to board the wrong plane, with reports saying he or she had a ticket for a different airline.
''They keep saying the person had a United ticket. We are on ANA,'' Teigen tweeted. ''So basically the boarding pass scanner is just a beedoop machine that makes beedoop noises that register to nowhere.''
The ANA flight took off from LAX at 11:36am on Tuesday and landed at the same airport at 7:32pm '' a total flying time of seven hours and 56 minutes.
War on Ca$h
From Producer Bob
ITM Adam,
My daughter needed a quick loan of $200 this week. She went
into a Bank of America branch today to deposit $200 back into my checking
account using cash. She was told as of September 1, 2017 they will not accept
cash in this type of transaction. The war on cash is definitely upon us.
Best regards,
Bob Martin
Monthly Contributor
Nieuwe records pinbetalingen voor kerst - Binnenland - PAROOL
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:46
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Professor Ted
9th Grade Students Gain the Attention of Scientists After Their Experiment Reveals a Dark Truth About WiFi '' Awareness Act
Wed, 27 Dec 2017 10:01
We have long encouraged students to find ways to connect with their school work, making it interesting and personal, holding their attention longer and allowing them to see more success.
This was the case at a school in northern Jutland, where a group of 9th-grade students recently embarked on a biology experiment inspired by their own personal experiences with concentrating. Lea Nielsen, one of the students, explained: ''We all think we have experienced difficulty concentrating in school, if we had slept with the phone next to our head, and sometimes also experienced having difficulty sleeping.''
From left: Lea Nielsen, Mathilde Nielsen, Signe Nielsen, Sisse Coltau and Rikke Holm. Photo: Kim HorsevadSource: YourNewsWire.com
Curious about the shared experience, the group of girls designed an experiment to investigate the impact of wi-fi radiation on living cells. Specifically, they chose to use cress seeds. Taking 400 seeds, they separated them out across 12 different trays. Six of the trays were placed in each of 2 rooms. Both rooms were kept at the same temperature, and both sets of trays were given the same amount of water and access to sunlight throughout the experiment.
The one difference between the two rooms, creating the basis for their experiment, is that the trays in one room were placed next to two Wi-Fi routers. The Wi-Fi routers broadcast the same type of radiation that can be observed coming from our cellphones, allowing the students to recreate the impact of sleeping with your phone on your bedside table, next to your head.
The results? After 12 days it was shocking to see the difference between the two sets of trays. While the cress seeds in the first room were growing well, appearing healthy and flourishing in their environment, the same could not be said in the second room. The seeds that were placed next to the router showed no real growth at all. Some of the seeds could even be observed showing signs of mutation or dying off entirely.
Source: YourNewsWire.com
Source: YourNewsWire.com
The experiment was enough to open the students' eyes about their cellphone use and whether or not it is safe to bring their phones to bed at night. ''It is truly frightening that there is so much affect, so we were very shocked by the result,'' Nielsen stated. ''None of us sleep with the mobile next to the bed anymore. Either the phone is put far away, or it is put in another room. And the computer is always off.''
Not only was the experiment received well by the girls' school, but since the word got out they have started to receive international attention as biologists and radiation experts acknowledge the importance of their discovery.
One expert that has shown a great deal of interest in the experiment, even going as far as planning his own follow-up experiments, is Olle Johansson, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. He will begin his assessment into the girls' findings by repeating the experiment with his research colleague Professor Marie-Claire Cammaert at the Universite libre de Bruxelles.
Johansson was highly impressed by the girls' efforts. He praised them, saying: ''The girls stayed within the scope of their knowledge, skilfully implemented and developed a very elegant experiment. The wealth of detail and accuracy is exemplary, choosing cress was very intelligent and I could go on.''
What's next for the girls? Johansson made it clear that he wouldn't hesitate to work with these talented, intelligent students moving forward: ''I sincerely hope that they spend their future professional life in researching because I definitely think they have a natural aptitude for it. Personally, I would love to see these people in my team!''
Image via Shared
Talking Tubes
What Amazon's Alexa economy pays the people building its skills - CNET
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:00
The Alexa skills economy is still in its infancy.
Aaron Robinson/CNET On a lark, Joel Wilson started developing skills for Alexa, Amazon's voice assistant, this past January.
After a few weeks of coding, he launched two skills -- Amazon's term for voice-controlled apps -- called Question of the Day and Three Questions. Both quiz people on science, literature and pop culture trivia.
"I wasn't thinking in terms of revenue. I was just doing it for fun," said Wilson, 47, CEO of a small marketing analytics company in Washington, DC.
Joel Wilson has created skills such as Three Questions and Question of the Day.
Courtesy of Joel Wilson In May, he got an email from Amazon telling him to expect a check in the mail as part of a new program that pays cash to makers of popular skills. That first month, Amazon sent him $2,000. It got better from there. He's received checks for $9,000 over each of the past three months, he said.
Wilson unexpectedly joined a new Alexa economy, a small but fast-growing network of independent developers, marketing companies and Alexa tools makers. They're working to bring you voice-activated flash briefings, games and recipes through Amazon's Echo speaker, Alexa's primary home. By doing so, they hope to define the 3-year-old Alexa platform and make money from voice computing's surging popularity.
Two years ago, there wasn't nearly as much to do on Alexa and the market for making Alexa skills was worth a mere $500,000. Now, with more than 25,000 skills available, the market is expected to hit $50 million in 2018, according to analytics firm VoiceLabs. That's dwarfed by the mobile app economy, with global sales of over $50 billion, but Alexa is growing at a far faster rate.
The growing crowd of smart speakers is ready for your command
Customers rarely pay these developers and marketers directly, but they have a big stake in these workers' efforts. Their success, or failure, will determine the number and the quality of skills, such as more complex games, better smart-home controls and more services from companies like Lyft or Domino's Pizza.
Alexa is an increasingly important business for Amazon, which is expanding the assistant into millions of internet-connected gadgets and moving it into the workplace . Drawing in more developers will help the company sell more Alexa-powered devices and strengthen its top-dog status in voice. It's sold more than 20 million Echo speakers in the US, taking up 70 percent of the market and helping Alexa become the most active voice market for developers today.
"Every skill makes Alexa smarter or more useful," Rob Pulciani, director of Amazon Alexa, said in a statement to CNET. "We can't do that by ourselves and we want to enable indie developers to innovate and extend Alexa capabilities at a rapid pace. If our developer community succeeds, we succeed."
Early daysThe Alexa economy is just beginning to take shape, according to interviews with a dozen indie Alexa coders, marketing executives, industry watchers and Amazon itself.
Nearly all skills available today are free to consumers because Amazon doesn't let most developers charge consumers or serve ads. That means most indie developers '' many of them hobbyists with day jobs in a variety of fields -- see hardly any payouts even though they've produced the large majority of skills. Like Wilson, a lucky few get paid through Amazon's Alexa Developer Rewards program. But Amazon is creating more ways for developers to profit.
Now Playing: Watch this: Amazon's Echo Spot isn't a must-buy, even for Alexa fans
Meanwhile, most of the serious money is flowing to marketing companies, which make anywhere from $10,000 to $200,000 to create skills for major brands and groups like Purina, Nestle and AARP. While that higher end may sound like a lot, it pales in comparison to what companies typically spend in the more mature mobile-apps market. Plus, these big-money jobs don't come around often.
Amazon's success is far from assured. Developers can already decamp to rival voice helpers like Google Assistant or Microsoft's Cortana, and may find more options when Apple's Siri and Samsung's Bixby get in the mix. Plus, both Google and Apple might use their huge user bases and larger app stores to entice developers to work on their assistants instead, said Julie Ask, a Forrester analyst.
"I think we're just getting started here," she added.
The indiesWilson's story is a rare case. A more typical financial outcome is Darian Johnson's. He's 40, lives in Dallas and works as a managing director at Accenture.
Darian Johnson has built skills such as Chess Master and Black History Facts.
Courtesy of Darian Johnson Johnson caught the Alexa bug by entering hackathon contests to create skills. If you've ever played chess through Alexa using the Chess Master skill or used Black History Facts, you've used one of his seven available skills.
Beyond a $100 monthly credit that Amazon provides to cover his server costs, Johnson doesn't make money from his skills, and that's just fine with him. He's happy to get back to his developer roots -- something he doesn't get to do much at work -- and he's enjoyed recognition at Accenture for building up his Alexa expertise.
"It's been a great hobby to do. I love it," Johnson said, but added about payouts: "I think you have to go into it knowing the deal you're making."
For some developers interested in creating a business on Alexa, the situation isn't as positive.
Joseph "Jo" Jaquinta, 52, an IBM senior developer from Winchester, Massachusetts, said he's spent the past two years -- usually working two hours every night -- trying to turn his Alexa skills into moneymakers. He's frustrated it hasn't worked out that way.
If you can't make money off it, no one's going to seriously engage.Joseph "Jo" Jaquinta, indie developer
Jaquinta created over a dozen skills, including the Dungeons & Dragons-inspired game 6 Swords, the space-fantasy game Starlanes and sillier skills like Zombie News, where listeners can "hear inspirational groans."
Hoping to squeeze some money out of these skills, he's self-published two books, put up for sale Starlanes T-shirts, bought ads through Google AdWords to draw in users and tested ads through his skills, though ads are now strictly forbidden on Alexa.
Joseph "Jo" Jaquinta has created skills such as Starlanes and 6 Swords.
Courtesy of Joseph Jaquinta He received $5,000 through Amazon's rewards program one month, but that amount has shrunk by half in recent months despite customer use rising, he said. He's now planning to scale back his Alexa work.
"For there to be quality skills on Alexa, quality developers are going to need to spend quality time," Jaquinta said. "If you can't make money off it, no one's going to seriously engage."
Other developers also take issue with the lack of transparency and unpredictable payouts from the Alexa rewards program. After all, it's hard to build a business model when you don't know whether you're making $1,000 or $9,000 any given month.
"The challenge with the monetization program is there's no certainty. We don't know how it works," said one developer who requested anonymity.
Amazon's guiding handResponding to those concerns, Amazon's Pulciani said the company is "relentlessly exploring" ways for customers to get an enjoyable experience while helping developers "build a voice-first business." He added that the rewards payments weigh a number of factors, including "minutes of usage, new customers, recurring customers, customer ratings and more."
Since late October, Amazon has introduced two new ways to make money. It offers in-skill purchasing, allowing some developers to sell premium content or digital subscriptions in their skills. That means Sony, which made the Jeopardy skill, can sell a subscription to Double Jeopardy, which offers more clues. Amazon also added its Amazon Pay service to skills so, for example, TGI Friday's customers can pay for their food orders through Alexa. Both features still have limited availability, but Amazon said more developers will get access to them in 2018.
Amazon has been expanding its Echo lineup. Here are several Alexa-powered devices it unveiled in 2017.
CNET Amazon also said it's already paid millions of dollars to developers through its rewards program, which it's expanding to more countries in 2018.
Beyond those payment options, Amazon has cultivated developers by hosting hackathons and webinars, teaming up with educational groups like Codecademy, and creating the Alexa Champions program, which highlights indie developers like Johnson. It also runs challenges like the Alexa Prize, a college competition that pays $500,000 to the winner.
If our developer community succeeds, we succeed.Rob Pulciani, director of Amazon Alexa
"They are doing a tremendous amount to foster the ecosystem," said VoiceLabs CEO Adam Marchick. "They're doing a lot, and they're paying people."
One potentially lucrative route -- advertising -- isn't yet happening. VoiceLabs in May introduced an ad program that included spots from ESPN, Progressive and Wendy's. But it stopped the program after Amazon tightened its ads policies. Marchick said he had one customer on track to make $20,000 a month but added that Amazon was right to be cautious, so it could avoid annoying customers.
Asked about bringing ads to the platform, Pulciani said: "We don't comment on our future plans, but customers expect a delightful experience with Alexa, and it is our top priority to maintain that experience."
That Purina skill didn't come cheapLast year, Ahmed Bouzid took the leap into the Alexa economy. He was working on Amazon's Alexa team when he left to create a voice tech startup that partners with the e-commerce giant.
"All the signals were there that this was going to take off," he said, "and the sooner one would launch a startup, the better."
The Echo Show was introduced in 2017 and includes a built-in touchscreen.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET In February, he launched Witlingo in Washington, DC, and now has about 10 employees. His company designs and hosts voice apps for Cortana, Google Assistant and Alexa, with clients including AARP and Motley Fool. His company charges setup fees of $300 to $1,000 for simple skills built off templates, making money by charging $100 to $500 a month to operate the skills.
Other companies offer more complex, customized skills, but that costs more money. Few major brands shell out that kind of cash, but marketers see the situation changing soon as more companies learn about voice platforms.
"This industry, I'm confident, is going to explode like web development exploded," said Pat Higbie, CEO of XAPPmedia in Washington, DC, which charges $50,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars for skills. "It's going to happen next year."
Possible Mobile, a Seattle company owned by ad giant WPP, makes skills for $30,000 to $100,000 each, including the cost of design, engineering and quality assurance teams, said Danielle Reubenstein, the executive creative director. Alexa skills, though, are only about 5 percent of Possible Mobile's total business, and those projects are usually part of larger marketing campaigns for clients.
Mobiquity, a Boston agency that built skills for Purina and Nestle, also brings in just 5 percent to 10 percent of its revenue from voice apps -- amounting to a few million dollars -- but sees voice as a growth opportunity, said Andy Norman, the chief operating officer.
"I really, wholeheartedly believe voice is coming," Reubenstein said. "It's coming for all of us -- like winter."
Taking the leapAs the Amazon checks came in, Wilson in October focused most of his energy into building a new startup, called VoicePress.AI, which designs and hosts skills for companies, similar to what Witlingo or Possible Mobile do. He also spoke to some venture capitalists about potentially funding voice startups.
Now Playing: Watch this: The new, cheaper Amazon Echo is more tempting than ever
But two months later, he has decided to split his time between his Alexa work and his existing marketing analytics company, with its more predictable paychecks. Amazon didn't give him access to its new money-making programs, and he doubts they'd work for his skills anyway. He's hoping to be able to serve ads someday.
His hesitation to jump full force into Alexa work illustrates the risks of the young platform and perhaps the need for Amazon to do more to spread the wealth.
"It's a tricky situation," he said about the rewards checks, "because this Amazon program could go away at any time."
'Alexa, be more human': Inside Amazon's effort to make its voice assistant smarter, chattier and more like you.
The Smartest Stuff: Innovators are thinking up new ways to make you, and the things around you, smarter.
Vegas Massacre
The Las Vegas Massacre Statistics Do Not Match the Reality
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:11
As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.
Forget for a moment that the audio of the Las Vegas massacre being pinned alone on Stephen Paddock had distinct M 60 machine gun acoustics, instead focus on the current data which is being released from the Las Vegas coroner.
We still do not know officially how many rounds Stephen Paddock is supposed to have fired. This is crucial and there is a reason this information is not being released. All we know for certain is that 515 people were injured and 58 peopled were murdered and 515 people were injured.Officially no one was trampled to death, but we do not know officially if any people were injured or crippled by being trampled as no data is available on the 450 to 515 people reported as injured.
The coroner did not state angle of trajectory. The coroner did not state caliber. We do not even know how many shots were fired.
An analysis of audio from the shooting determined that gunman Stephen Paddock at one point fired approximately 280 rounds in 31 seconds.
What has been confirmed are lies, lies and more lies.
CBS posted this lie about a bump stock increases firepower, but decreases by 1000% the ability of the shooter to AIM and hit a target. A bump stock sprays bullets instead of targets them.
StephenPaddock use a bump fire stock to ... StephenPaddock used a "bump stock" to make his guns even deadlier. ... which fire multiple shots with ...The FBI which knows the details of the Las Vegas Massacre, is now refusing to make the details available for another year.
The FBI has revealed it will not release its report on Stephen Paddock's shooting onto a crowd of Las Vegas concert goers any time soon.
During an interview, the chief of the FBI's Las Vegas office revealed that the agency probably would not brief the public until the report is released sometime in October '-- a full year year after Paddock gunned down 58 people.
So we are forced to examine incomplete data, but that data in bits and pieces, exposes an immense problem to the narrative. Below are the official findings of the corner in Las Vegas. The details based on this data reveal that almost 20 out of almost 60 fatalities were head shots.
That means one out of three people were shot in the head in fatalities. As we do not know if all 515 injured were shot or trampled by each other, this translates that in a confined area, with people massed together, that Stephen Paddock had an atrocious statistical average.
22,000 concert goers. 515 injured, 58 dead, and not 20 head shots. That is a 2 percent chance of being injured, a .2 percent chance of being killed and a .09 percent chance of being shot in the head.
The Lame Cherry has taken the coroners reports of death, and color coded them. This is important as it reveals something which requires noting and explaining.
Put yourself in Stephen Paddock's Mandalay room, according to the fiction of the official story. You are firing a fully automatic firearm, at targets 1000 yards or a bit over a half mile. The targets are concentrated as the recoil bucks the shooter so that precise shooting is not possible and bullets are spraying like you throwing a hand full of pebbles at a gopher.
There are reported to have been hundreds of shots fired. When one examines the data below, there are very few multiple shots hitting the victims, which is not a statistical probability. The official data states that out of 22,000 people, 515 injured, 58 dead that only 5 fatalities had multiple gun shot wounds. That is a statistical improbability.
There is also a reality that the 90% and above injury rate, were shots to the head and back. There is only one fatality from a leg wound. What I am driving at, is that with all of those bullets flying around, one one person was shot in the neck and died and one person was shot in the leg and died. Statistically, there should have been an equal proportion of shattered limbs, ass shots, as to the other injuries, and none of these wounds appeared. This simply could not happen by random chance.
What the above indicates is that these were deliberate sniper shots, or targeted shots, from a single fired shot at specific choices of advantage in head or torso. This was not Stephen Paddock as he was said to be firing full auto and was missing everyone. That is what the coroners homicide report points to, in some one or some other parties were on scene deliberately shooting concert goers in the head, the back or the chest. There should have been random chance hits and deaths beyond one neck and one leg, as arteries are just as bleed out in shoulders or lower abdominal cavities.
There was not one death from a spinal shot, a bleed out from an arm blown off, nor one leg blown off. The odds are as Donald Trump pins medals on crippled Veterans without limbs, that Las Vegas would have like wounded.
Description: Cause and Manner of death for Las Vegas shooting victims on Oct. 1, 2017
1 October Fatalities
Cause and Manner of Death
Dec 21, 2017
Total cases: 58
Name Cause of Death Manner of Death
Ahlers, Hannah Lassette Penetrating gunshot wound of the head Homicide
Alvarado, Heather Lorraine Gunshot wound to the right side of the neck Homicide
Anderson, Dorene Gunshot wound of the left back Homicide
Barnette, Carrie Rae Gunshot wound to the right ches t Homicide
Beaton, Jack Reginald Gunshot wound to the head Homicide
Berger, Stephen Richard Gunshot wound of the right upper chest Homicide
Bowers, Candice Ryan Gunshot wound of the central upper back Homicide
Burditus, Denise Brenna Gunshot wound to the head Homicide
Casey, Sandra Lee Multiple gunshot wounds of the back Homicide
Castilla, Andrea Lee Anna Gunshot wound of the head Homicide
Cohen, Denise Marie Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Davis, Austin William Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Day, Jr., Thomas Allen Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Duarte, Christiana Mae Multiple gunshot wounds (Head and Left Leg)Homicide
Etcheber, Stacee Ann Gunshot wounds of the head and right forearm Homicide
Fraser, Brian Scott Gunshot wound of chest Homicide
Galvan, Keri Lynn Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Gardner, Dana Leann Gunshot wound of the right arm, right lateral chest Homicide
Gomez, Angela Christine Gunshot wound of the right upper chest Homicide
Guillen, Rocio Gunshot wound of leg Homicide
Hartfield, Charleston V. Gunshot wound of chest Homicide
Hazencomb, Christopher James Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Irvine, Jennifer Topaz Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Kimura, Teresa Nicol Gunshot wound to the left chest Homicide
Klymchuk, Jessica Lynn Gunshot wound of the chest Homicide
Kreibaum, Carly Anne Gunshot wounds of the chest and left forearm Homicide
LeRocque, Rhonda M. Gunshot wound of head Homicide
Link, Victor Loyd Gunshot wound of the head Homicide
McIldoon, Jordan Alan Gunshot wound of chest Homicide
Meadows, Kelsey Breanne Gunshot wound of the left back Homicide
Medig, Calla-Marie Gunshot wound of the back Homicide
Melton, James Sonny Gunshot wound to the left back Homicide
Mestas, Patricia Louis Multiple gunshot wounds (Chest and Right Forearm)Homicide
Meyer, Austin Cooper Gunshot wound of back Homicide
Murfitt, Adrian Allan Gunshot wound to the back of the neck Homicide
Parker, Rachael Kathleen Gunshot wound of back Homicide
Parks, Jennifer Marie Multiple gunshot wounds of head Homicide
Parsons, Carolyn Lee Gunshot wound of back Homicide
Patterson, Lisa Marie Gunshot wound of back Homicide
Phippen, John Joseph Gunshot wound of the left low back Homicide
Ramirez, Melissa Viridiana Gunshot wound of the right lateral chest Homicide
Rivera, Jordyn Nicole Gunshot wound of the back Homicide
Robbins, Quinton Joe Gunshot wound of chest Homicide
Robinson, Cameron Lee Gunshot wound to the right chest Homicide
Roe, Tara Ann Gunshot wound to the right back Homicide
Romero-Muniz, Lisa M. Gunshot wound of the central upper back . Homicide
Roybal, Christopher Louis Gunshot wound of chest Homicide
Schwanbeck, Brett Erin Gunshot wound of the head Homicide
1 of 2
There is absolutely not any way that Stephen Paddock, firing at 1000 yards, from an elevated angle, into concentrated groups, can statistically hit only head, chest and back in kill shots. This is not to state that these are not primary kill shots, but at 1000 yards Stephen Paddock was not hitting anything, and it points to others were hitting what they aimed at.The public needs to know the details of the bullet angle, position of body, in order to either confirm the official account or discredit it. The above data from the coroner's office, along with the FBI refusing to release information, points to an extension of the original cover up in which the official story changed several times.
Stephen Paddock's brain has now been found to reveal he suffered no medical reason to change his psychological patterns to engage in what he was engaged in. That only further indicates that Stephen Paddock was working for a federal agency in arms deals, and the FBI was most likely tracking Stephen Paddock when all of this Las Vegas situation erupted.
The statistics do not match random chance. That points to a different scenario than Stephen Paddock.
Nuff Said
Thu, 28 Dec 2017 13:48
VIDEO - "College is a MASSIVE Waste!!" Tucker's Eye-Opening Interview with Law Professor - YouTube
Thu, 28 Dec 2017 13:21
VIDEO - Obama warns on social media use in Prince Harry interview - CNNPolitics
Thu, 28 Dec 2017 02:14
In a BBC interview conducted by Britain's Prince Harry, Obama warned that the internet risked reinforcing people's prejudices and leading to a fractured society.
"All of us in leadership have to find ways in which we can recreate a common space on the internet," Obama said. "One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases," he said.
Obama did not mention US President Donald Trump by name during the interview, which he said was his first since leaving office.
However, Trump's campaign and presidency have been characterized by his outspoken use of Twitter.
Obama, who was interviewed for an edition of the BBC Radio 4 Today program guest edited by Prince Harry and broadcast Wednesday, said it was a challenge to make the most of the opportunities provided by social media.
"The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn't lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground," he said in the interview, which was taped in September during the Invictus Games in Toronto, Canada.Obama said it was important for people to get offline and meet others in their communities, "because the truth is that on the internet everything is simplified and when you meet people face to face it turns out they are complicated," he said.
"One of things we want to do I think is as we're working with young people to build up platforms for social change," he said. "Make sure that they don't think that just sending out a hashtag in and of itself is bringing about change. It can be a powerful way to raise awareness but then you have to get on the ground and actually do something."
Former US President Barack Obama and Prince Harry attend the Invictus Games 2017 in Toronto, Canada, in September.
'Work still undone'
Asked how he felt on the day he left office in January this year, Obama described mixed feelings.
"The sense that there was a completion, and that we had done the work in a way that preserved our integrity and left us whole and that we hadn't fundamentally changed, I think was a satisfying feeling," he said.
"That was mixed with all the work that was still undone and concerns about how the country moves forward. But overall there was a serenity there, more than I would have expected."
Obama also paid tribute to former First Lady Michelle Obama, describing her as a "spectacular, funny, warm person" who despite not being politically inclined herself had supported him throughout the process and been "as good of a First Lady as there has ever been."
Asked by Harry what was the biggest change for him after his eight years in office, Obama reflected on a slowed pace of life and the new freedom he had to decide how to focus his activities.
"The things that are important to me haven't changed, I still care about about making the United States and the world a place where kids get an education, where people who are willing to work hard are able to find a job that pays a living wage, that we are conserving the amazing resources of our planet so that future generations can enjoy the beauty of this place like we did," he said.
Obama said he now had to "rely more on persuasion than legislation" but that he enjoyed being able to focus his energies on the causes that mattered most to him.
Recounting what he missed about the presidency, Obama mentioned his team, the rewarding nature and intensity of the work they did -- and being able to travel without getting stuck in traffic.
Royal wedding invitation?
Questioned live on air after the pre-taped interview was broadcast, Prince Harry said the guest list has not yet been put together for his wedding to US actress Meghan Markle next May.
Asked if he got along well enough with the former President to invite him to the event, the Prince laughed off the question.
"Well, I don't know about that," he said. "We haven't put the invites or the guest list together yet so who knows whether he's going to be invited or not. I wouldn't want to ruin that surprise."
CNN's Amanda Coakley and Hilary McGann contributed to this report.
VIDEO - Goldie Lookin Chain - HRT - YouTube
Thu, 28 Dec 2017 01:40
VIDEO - Homelessness in Downtown LA exposed in dashcam footage
Thu, 28 Dec 2017 01:37
Three-minute LiveLeak clip shows the brutal reality of Christmas Day in the underbelly of Downtown LAShot on 5th Street, 6th Steet and San Pedro in the Skid Row district, it captures life in one of the city's most notorious homeless hotspotsRubbish bags litter the streets and tents have been erected to shelter residents - including women and childrenRising cost of living in California is also forcing middle class residents to live in their cars in affluent areasRubbish bags piled up by the pavements and littered across streets.
Tents erected in clusters where people have camped down for the night.
Dozens of directionless residents congregating by the roadside and wandering into the road.
This is what Christmas Day looked like for thousands of homeless people in the dark and dingy underbelly of Downtown Los Angeles this year.
The shocking footage - captured using a car dash camera - shows the brutal reality of life on the street for some 20,000 people in the notorious Skid Row district.
Shot on 5th Street, 6th Street and San Pedro Street, it is a stark glimpse into the day-to-day existence of some of the country's poorest citizens - including women and children.
This area of LA's central business zone is considered to be one of the most dangerous places to live in the city.
This is what Christmas Day looked like this year for thousands of homeless people in dark and dingy Skid Row - the underbelly of Downtown Los Angeles Dash camera footage captures the brutal reality of life on the street for some 20,000 people in the notorious Skid Row district of LA's central business zoneIn Skid Row - one of the notorious homeless hotspots in the area - nine toilets are shared by some 2,000 people, according to a June report titled 'No Place to Go'.
A lucky few will find food and somewhere warm to sleep at shelters and rescue missions.
But many are left to navigate the industrial sprawl and smoke alone.
The video shows rubbish bags piled up by the pavements and littered across streets, and tents erected in clusters where people have camped down for the night Dozens of directionless residents can be seen congregating by the roadside and wandering into the road in the three-minute clip published on LiveLeakThe three-minute clip was originally published on Instagram by LA street artist Plastic Jesus then on LiveLeak by Nick Stern in the 'Citizen Journalism' video category.
It had only been live for 10 hours when it was viewed nearly 40,000 times.
In one frame of the viral footage, a man can be seen pushing a wheelchair in the middle of the road.
Another wheelchair-bound man reclines listlessly on a street corner while women file their thin-looking children through the crowds.
Makeshift canopies - often simply sheets erected on poles - are packed in tightly beside one another in endless rows.
A notorious homeless hotspot, nine toilets are shared by some 2,000 people in Skid Row, according to a June report titled 'No Place to Go' Though ranked as one of the wealthiest nations , the US is home to some of the poorest communities in the worldThe rising cost of rent and housing in California is also forcing middle class residents into alternative accommodation.
Workers end up living in their cars by the roadside and hundreds of people - including nurses and chefs - sleep in parking lots in affluent areas like Santa Barbara.
For example, nursing assistant Marva Ericson has been sleeping in her Kia for the past three months.
She showers at her local YMCA then gets dressed in her hospital scrubs for work.
The problem is so widespread that a Safe Parking Program was introduced in the area 12 years ago.
It allows clients to stay overnight in the parking lots of churches, not-for-profits and government offices.
In Santa Barbara alone, there are 23 parking lots currently used for the program.
A homeless man stands forlornly by the roadside in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles with his possessions stuffed into a trolley and shabby white bin bagThough ranked as one of the wealthiest nations, the US is home to some of the poorest communities in the world.
The wealthiest one per cent of American households own 40 percent of the country's wealth, according to a November report by economist Edward N. Wolff.
That same one per cent of households own more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent combined, the Washington Post reported.
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VIDEO - Cable TV's Password-Sharing Crackdown Is Coming - Bloomberg
Wed, 27 Dec 2017 21:21
On Twitter, they are openly bartered, donated, even celebrated.
''Anyone have a Spectrum user ID & password I can trade for?'' one Twitter user wrote last month. Another thanked her friend ''for giving me his Spectrum username and password to watch the World Series Game 7.'' A third tweeted: ''Totally figured out my parents Spectrum password and can watch cable now through my Apple TV. I literally love my life.''
Tom Rutledge has had enough. The chief executive officer of Charter Communications Inc., which sells cable TV under the Spectrum name, is leading an industrywide effort to crack down on password sharing. It's a growing problem that could cost pay-TV companies millions of subscribers'--and billions of dollars in revenue'--when they can least afford it.
''There's lots of extra streams, there's lots of extra passwords, there's lots of people who could get free service,'' Rutledge said at an industry conference this month. The CEO has said that one unidentified channel owner had 30,000 simultaneous streams from a single account.
Charter, which operates in cities including New York and Los Angeles, isn't the only company tackling the issue. Researchers at Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN network recently asked a group of about 50 millennial sports fans how many of them shared passwords. Everyone raised their hand, said Justin Connolly, executive vice president for affiliate sales and marketing for ESPN and other Disney networks.
''It's piracy,'' Connolly said. ''It's people consuming something they haven't paid for. The more the practice is viewed with a shrug, the more it creates a dynamic where people believe it's acceptable. And it's not.''
Cable and satellite carriers in North America have lost 3 million customers this year alone. But the prevalence of password sharing suggests many of those customers, and possibly many more, are watching popular shows like ''The Walking Dead'' for free, robbing pay-TV providers and programmers of paying subscribers and advertising dollars.
Most pay-TV companies only require users to re-enter their passwords for each device once a year. During contract negotiations this fall, Charter urged Viacom Inc., home of Comedy Central and MTV, to help limit illicit password swapping. The cable company wants programmers to restrict the number of concurrent streams on their apps and force legitimate subscribers to log in more often, according to two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations.
ESPN, meanwhile, has reduced the number of simultaneous streams that it allows on its app to five from 10 and is considering cutting that to three, Connolly said. ESPN wants to work more closely with distributors to validate subscribers when there are high volumes of streaming on its app outside the cable company's territory.
The problem stems from an industry concept called TV Everywhere. Started in 2009, the idea was an attempt to appeal to young consumers by letting them access cable or satellite shows on any device. TV Everywhere was slow to catch on but is gaining popularity as more people get used to streaming on phones or tablets.
Sixteen percent of U.S. broadband households admit to either using someone else's credentials to stream cable TV or sharing their login info with someone outside their home, according to Parks Associates. The TV industry's losses from password sharing are expected to rise to $9.9 billion by 2021 from $3.5 billion this year, the research firm estimates. That lost revenue is especially important because the pay-TV industry is already losing subscribers to cheaper online rivals like Netflix Inc.
''It's become more of an issue, and it's being exacerbated by cord cutting,'' said Campbell Foster, director of product marketing at Adobe Systems Inc., which sells software that media companies use to monitor the location and number of people streaming their apps from each account.
Media executives have insisted for years that password sharing wasn't a big problem, viewing it as a way to market their content to the next generation. In fact, some companies still say they're not worried.
Password sharing ''is still relatively small and we are seeing no economic impact on our business,'' said Jeff Cusson, a spokesman for HBO.
Most credentials are being swapped among friends or relatives, Foster said. Parents, for instance, will often let their children at college stream from their accounts. The TV industry, for the most part, is fine with that but worried about those students sharing credentials with their friends. Some passwords are sold in dark corners of the internet, Foster said. Adobe sees an uptick in illicit streaming before major sporting events.
''You'll see legit owners of accounts who don't know their username and password is being shared with 50 people,'' he said.
But cracking down on password sharing can be risky. If logging in gets too cumbersome, cable subscribers could get frustrated and cancel. ESPN wants to make it easier by automatically recognizing subscribers who are on their home Wi-Fi or using their own device.
''You'll see legit owners of accounts who don't know their username and password is being shared with 50 people''
''I'd hate to see this go the other way and become a bad consumer experience and people wonder, 'Why can't my son access TV?''' said Himesh Bhise, CEO at Synacor Inc., which manages streaming service log-ins for HBO Go and other programmers and TV distributors such as Altice, Dish and PlayStation Vue.
For now, the industry can't agree on a crucial question: How many people should stream from one account while also preventing widespread password swapping? The policies among pay-TV operators, programmers and streaming services vary.
Netflix allows four streams for its most expensive subscriptions and one at a time for its cheapest plans. HBO lets three people stream simultaneously from one account. DirecTV's satellite customers get five concurrent streams, while its online service, DirecTV Now, allows two.
The number of streams is important, Charter's Rutledge says, because about one-third of homes have just one person living in them. If those single homeowners share the extra streams with friends and relatives, Charter is losing out on potential customers, he said.
So who's to blame for the lost revenue from password sharing? Rutledge points the finger at channel owners for not doing enough to secure their apps.
''They devalued their own product in a dramatic way,'' Rutledge said.
But programmers say they need to work with cable operators like Charter to tackle the problem because distributors often have different approaches. For example, if a distributor allows 10 streams from its app and ESPN allows five from the ESPN app, that's potentially 15 people who could be streaming a sporting event from one account simultaneously.
''Programmers and distributors have to work in close collaboration to create any effective solution for this,'' said Disney's Connolly. ''This is not something we feel we can ignore.''
(Corrects portion of internet users who use other people's credentials in 11th paragraph. )
VIDEO - Rare And Mysterious Vomiting Illness Linked To Heavy Marijuana Use | KUNC
Wed, 27 Dec 2017 09:40
For 17 years, Chalfonte LeNee Queen suffered periodic episodes of violent retching and abdominal pain that would knock her off her feet for days, sometimes leaving her writhing on the floor in pain.
"I've screamed out for death," says Queen, 48, who lives in San Diego. "I've cried out for my mom, who's been dead for 20 years, mentally not realizing she can't come to me."
Queen lost a modeling job after being mistaken for an alcoholic. She racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and her nausea interrupted her sex life. Toward the end of her illness, the 5-foot-9-inch woman weighed just 109 pounds.
Throughout the nearly two decades of pain, vomiting and mental fog, Queen visited the hospital about three times a year, but doctors never got to the bottom of what was ailing her. By 2016, she thought she was dying, that she "must have some sort of cancer or something they can't detect," Queen recalls.
But she didn't have cancer. She had an obscure syndrome called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition only recently acknowledged by the medical community. It affects a small population '-- namely, a subset of marijuana users who smoke multiple times a day for months, years or even decades.
There's no hard data on the prevalence of the illness. But in California and Colorado, which have loosened marijuana laws in recent years, some emergency physicians say they're seeing it more often. One study in Colorado suggests there may be a link.
Dr. Aimee Moulin, an emergency room physician at UC-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, says she has seen a rise in the number of cases since California voters legalized recreational marijuana last November. She expects to see another increase after commercial sales are permitted starting in January.
Doctors say it's difficult to treat the condition. There is no cure other than to quit using marijuana, and many patients are skeptical that cannabis is making them sick, so they keep using it and their vomiting episodes continue.
Doctors can do little to relieve the symptoms, since traditional anti-nausea medications often don't work and there are no pills to prevent the onset of an episode. Patients may need intravenous hydration and hospital stays until the symptoms subside.
"That's really frustrating as an emergency physician," says Moulin. "I really like to make people feel better."
Diagnosing the syndrome can also be frustrating and expensive. There is no blood test to link the stomach ailment with marijuana use, so physicians often order pricey CT scans and lab tests to rule out other medical problems.
Cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome was first documented in Australia in 2004. Physicians have historically misdiagnosed it as the more generic cyclic vomiting syndrome, which has no identifiable cause or, as in Queen's case, acute intermittent porphyria (AIP).
"Five years ago, this wasn't something that [doctors] had on their radar," says Dr. Kennon Heard, an emergency physician at the University of Colorado in Aurora who co-authored the Colorado study showing a possible tie between the liberalization of marijuana and a surge of the vomiting illness. "We're at least making the diagnosis more now."
One surefire sign of the illness is when patients find relief in hot showers and baths. Queen said she would vomit repeatedly unless she was in a hot shower, so she'd stay in there for hours. Toxicologists say the heat may distract the brain from pain receptors in the abdomen but, like the syndrome itself, that phenomenon is not well understood.
The exact cause of the condition remains a mystery. Toxicologists say the chemical compounds in marijuana may throw off the normal function of the body's cannabinoid receptors, which help regulate the nervous system.
Some people may be genetically predisposed to the syndrome, or marijuana's potency or chemical makeup may have changed over time, says Dr. Craig Smollin, medical director of the San Francisco division of the California Poison Control System and an ER doctor at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
The vomiting link to cannabis is counterintuitive to many, because of its widely known reputation as an anti-nausea remedy for cancer patients.
"A lot of times, people just don't believe you," says Dr. John Coburn, an emergency physician at Kaiser Permanente in south Sacramento. Even after being told that quitting may help, some patients will visit the hospital multiple times before they stop smoking marijuana, Coburn says. "I can't really tell you why. I mean, why do people ride motorcycles without helmets on?"
Cameron Nicole Beard, 19, of East Moline, Ill., said she struggled to believe her doctors about the link between pot and severe vomiting.
"Who wants to be told you can't smoke marijuana, when you think marijuana can help?" says Beard, while recovering from a marijuana-related vomiting episode at a University of Iowa hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, last month. She said she had lost 20 pounds in 10 days.
Although there's still no magic cure for a patient's marijuana-related hyperemesis, Moulin and other doctors say they're getting better at treating the symptoms, using old anti-psychotic medications and cream for muscle aches.
Heard says the Colorado cases seem to have leveled off. But without hard data, and because the overall numbers are small, it's hard to say for sure. He doesn't believe cases of the pot syndrome increased after recreational use was legalized in 2012, because chronic users probably already had medical marijuana cards.
Queen is still struggling to completely quit marijuana, but her symptoms are down to a dull stomachache. She now smokes a couple of times a day, compared with her near-constant use in the past. She says it's the only thing that works for her depression and anxiety.
Queen is back to a healthy weight and hasn't been to the hospital in a year. She says she wouldn't want to discourage anybody from smoking weed; she just wants people to know heavy use can bring them some serious misery.
"Now, if I get sick, as sad as I'll be and as upset and disappointed with myself as I would be, at least it's a freaking choice," she says.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Find Pauline Bartolone on Twitter@pbartolone.
A small percentage of people who smoke marijuana find that long-term use makes them sick with this violent vomiting illness. And in California, pot will be fully legalized in July. So doctors there worry that they might see more cases of this mysterious syndrome. Reporter Pauline Bartolone has this story.
PAULINE BARTOLONE, BYLINE: Marijuana's been legal for medical use in California for longer than two decades. And as Chalfonte LeNee Queen points out about her neighbors at her San Diego apartment complex, smoking pot is a way of life here.
CHALFONTE LENEE QUEEN: Everybody here smokes. Smoke weed, smoke weed, smoke weed, smoke weed...
BARTOLONE: Queen's 48 years old and says she's been smoking pot since she was a teenager. She says it helps her deal with depression and anxiety. But after five years of smoking all day every day, Queen started to get very ill.
QUEEN: My first time that I was actually sick and couldn't stop vomiting and in a great deal of pain and hospitalized, I was there for, I think, three or four days.
BARTOLONE: That scenario played out over and over again for almost two decades.
QUEEN: You're out of your mind in pain. Like, I've screamed out for death. I've cried out for my mom, who's been dead for 20 years, mentally not realizing she can't come to me.
BARTOLONE: Queen and her health care providers never got to the bottom of what was causing her vomiting episodes. She dropped down to a frail 109 pounds and was dismissed from a job.
QUEEN: I'm literally thinking I'm dying. I must have some sort of cancer, something they can't detect.
BARTOLONE: Finally a year and a half ago, an emergency physician gave her something to read about a condition called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.
QUEEN: And that's when I googled it, and that's when I figured it out.
BARTOLONE: People who smoke cannabis may be doubtful that the drug is linked to this strange vomiting illness. Truth is the medical community has only recognized this syndrome for a little over a decade. A Colorado study found the number of people with the symptoms doubled when medical marijuana use surged.
AIMEE MOULIN: This is something that we've been seeing for many years but has really increased in frequency.
BARTOLONE: Dr. Aimee Moulin works in the emergency department at UC-Davis Medical Center. She estimates she sees this syndrome every other shift. She says it's frustrating because there's no one remedy.
MOULIN: I'd have someone who was very distressed, intractable vomiting and I would give them my usual cocktail of medications that almost always worked and it wouldn't work.
BARTOLONE: Doctors say these episodes are expensive. That's because to rule out other medical problems, they have to order CAT scans and lab tests. Moulin says even when she tells patients to lay off the marijuana, they come back.
MOULIN: A lot of times, they don't believe me. I think it's because it's an under-recognized syndrome. Marijuana is used for nausea, so it's difficult sometimes for people to make that leap of regular heavy use can actually cause vomiting.
BARTOLONE: Back in San Diego, Chalfonte LeNee Queen says she's relieved she finally got a diagnosis. She's back to a healthy weight and hasn't been back to the hospital in a year. She's cut down on her pot smoking but not given it up completely.
QUEEN: I don't want to discourage anybody from smoking weed or whatever at all. I just want people to just be aware that it exists. Now if I get sick, as sad as I'll be and as upset and disappointed with myself as I'll be, at least it's a freaking choice.
BARTOLONE: Queen and the medical community say as marijuana laws loosen, they want people to know about this syndrome so they have that choice too. I'm Pauline Bartolone in San Diego.
KING: Pauline Bartolone is with our partner Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
VIDEO - Man says he delivered poop to Mnuchin to protest new tax law
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:15
Man says he delivered poop to Mnuchin to protest new tax law | Reuters.comHTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently Server: CloudFront Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:15:33 GMT Content-Type: text/html Content-Length: 183 Connection: keep-alive Location: https://www.reuters.com/video/2017/12/26/man-says-he-delivered-poop-to-mnuchin-to?videoId=376409685&feedType=VideoRSS&feedName=LatestVideosUS&videoChannel=1003&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+reuters%2FUSVideoLatest+%28Video+%2F+US+%2F+Latest+Video%29 X-Cache: Redirect from cloudfront Via: 1.1 5b7194cd796490b3bb20e0ed10b59026.cloudfront.net (CloudFront) X-Amz-Cf-Id: K8XuWmiFyhzMOp9OhHg2StYhX4uo6szLS7UBHjAu42RlGyxW3CTRKw== HTTP/1.1 200 OK Content-Type: text/html;charset=UTF-8 Content-Length: 20656 Connection: keep-alive Access-Control-Allow-Headers: Access-Control-Allow-Origin,charset Access-Control-Allow-Origin: http://admin.reuters.com Content-Encoding: gzip Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:14:45 GMT Expires: Tue, 26 Dec 2017 15:21:07 GMT Server: nginx Vary: Accept-Encoding X-Cache: Miss from cloudfront Via: 1.1 c4ff8a7ab32ae47f65347ecd5f30a4e6.cloudfront.net (CloudFront) X-Amz-Cf-Id: CPhv1JlzJZbJK-xgvZ-6Jg4aAlJZpy6ZocMhgYz270-2VJrGlhzklg==
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VIDEO - Man calls Mnuchin's poop package a protest against new tax law
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 18:12
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VIDEO - Apple shares drop on report of weak iPhone demand
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 17:54
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VIDEO - Jake Tapper Gets Bernie Sanders To Admit The Middle-Class Tax Cuts In The GOP Bill Are 'A Good Thing' | Daily Wire
Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:43
On Sunday, CNN's ''State of the Union" host Jake Tapper put Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in an uncomfortable position, forcing him to acknowledge that the middle-class tax cuts in the GOP bill are a good thing:
TAPPER: Next year, 91% of middle-income Americans will receive a tax cut. Isn't that a good thing?
SANDERS: Yeah, it is a very good thing, and that's why we should have made the tax breaks for the middle class permanent. But what the Republicans did is make the tax breaks for corporations permanent, the tax cuts for the middle class temporary, and, according to the Tax Policy Center ... at the end of ten years, 83% of the benefits go to the top 1%, 60% of the benefits go to the top one tenth of 1%. Meanwhile, at the end of 10 years, well over 80 million Americans will be paying more in taxes.
Sanders made sure to note that the tax cuts for middle-class Americans will expire by 2025, while the corporate tax cut is permanent. This talking point has been repeated by nearly every prominent Democratic politician and pundit for weeks.
Progressives want Americas to believe that the GOP tax plan was structured to benefit the wealthy at the expense of the poor and middle class. However, key details that contextualize the bill are being deliberately left out of the conversation. If progressives succeed with this manipulation by omission, tax-reform-as-class-warfare can be used as a weapon in the 2018 midterm elections.
The GOP tax bill needed to address two things in its design '-- reconciliation, and the Byrd Rule.
Newsweek's Nicole Goodkind explains:
Each year Congress has the option of adding special rules to their budget, known as reconciliation instructions. This powerful tool allows Senators to pass legislation with just 50 votes instead of the usual 60-vote threshold '-- and also makes the bill not subject to filibuster. Spending and tax bills, including this one, are usually passed under the protection of reconciliation.
But the process is governed by the Byrd Rule, which limits the kind of legislative provisions allowed. Under the Byrd rule ... a provision is considered extraneous if it increases the deficit beyond a 10-year window, makes changes to Social Security or does not produce a change in revenues.
Due to the Party-line nature of the GOP tax plan, and the fact that Republicans only have 52 seats in the United States Senate, a simple majority vote was an absolute necessity. In order to comply with the Byrd Rule, Senate Republicans had to find ways of limiting the tax bill's addition to the deficit.
Scott A. Hodge of the Tax Foundation writes:
... the Finance Committee faced a choice: It could sunset all or some of the tax cuts at the end of ten years, in the same way that the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were designed to expire in 2011 and 2013, or offset those future tax cuts by raising other taxes or closing additional loopholes.
The GOP likely chose to sunset individual tax rates rather than corporate tax rates because, according to Hodge, corporate tax cuts do more for economic growth. However, as many Republican lawmakers have pointed out, it's highly unlikely that politicians from either Party would allow tax cuts for the middle class to expire in 2025. A more probable scenario is that the individual cuts in the GOP tax bill will be extended prior to their expiration.
The GOP tax plan is far from perfect, but progressives would have Americans believe that it's terrible and downright immoral. However, there is a method to the madness, and it requires a bit more than a 30-second talking point to uncover.
VIDEO - OPUS 36 Merry Christmas! - YouTube
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 17:45
VIDEO - Al Franken's Resignation and the Selective Force of #MeToo | The New Yorker
Mon, 25 Dec 2017 16:58
On what he called the worst day of his political life, Senator Al Franken articulated two points that are central to understanding what has become known as the #MeToo moment. In an eleven-minute speech, in which Franken announced his intention to resign from the Senate, he made this much clear: the force that is ending his political career is greater than the truth, and this force operates on only roughly half of this country's population'--those who voted for Hillary Clinton and who consume what we still refer to as mainstream media.
There was one notable absence in his speech: Franken did not apologize. In fact, he made it clear that he disagreed with his accusers. ''Some of the allegations against me are simply not true,'' he said. ''Others I remember very differently.'' Earlier, Franken had in fact apologized to his accusers, and he didn't take his apologies back now, but he made it plain that they had been issued in the hopes of facilitating a conversation and an investigation that would clear him. He had, it seems, been attempting to buy calm time to work while a Senate ethics committee looked into the accusations. But, by Thursday morning, thirty-two Democratic senators had called on Franken to resign. The force of the #MeToo moment leaves no room for due process, or, indeed, for Franken's own constituents to consider their choice.
Still, the force works selectively. ''I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party,'' Franken said, referring to Donald Trump and the Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Trump and Moore are immune because the blunt irresistible force works only on the other half of the country.
That half is cleaning its ranks in the face of'--and in clear reaction to'--genuine moral depravity on the other side. The Trump era is one of deep and open immorality in politics. Moore is merely one example. Consider Greg Gianforte, the Montana Republican, who won his congressional race earlier this year after not only being captured on tape shoving a newspaper reporter but then also lying to police about it. Consider the tax bill, which is stitched together from shameless greed and boldface lies. Consider the series of racist travel bans. Consider the withdrawal from a series of international agreements aimed at bettering the future of humanity, from migration to climate change to cultural preservation. These are men who proclaim their allegiance to the Christian faith while acting in openly hateful, duplicitous, and plainly murderous ways. In response to this unbearable spectacle, the roughly half of Americans who are actually deeply invested in thinking of themselves as good people are trying to claim a moral high ground. The urge to do so by policing sex is not surprising. As Susan Sontag pointed out more than half a century ago, Christianity has ''concentrated on sexual behavior as the root of virtue'' and, consequently, ''everything pertaining to sex has been a 'special case' in our culture.''
The case of Franken makes it all that much more clear that this conversation is, in fact, about sex, not about power, violence, or illegal acts. The accusations against him, which involve groping and forcible kissing, arguably fall into the emergent, undefined, and most likely undefinable category of ''sexual misconduct.'' Put more simply, Franken stands accused of acting repeatedly like a jerk, and he denies that he acted this way. The entire sequence of events, from the initial accusations to Franken's resignation, is based on the premise that Americans, as a society, or at least half of a society, should be policing non-criminal behavior related to sex.
While this half (roughly) of American society is morally superior and also just bigger than the other half (roughly), it is not the half that holds power in either of the houses of Congress or in the majority of the state houses, and not the half that is handing out lifetime appointments to federal courts at record-setting speed. And while the two halves of this divided country may disagree on the limits of acceptable sexual behavior, they increasingly agree on the underlying premise that sexual behavior must be policed. As I wrote in an earlier column, drawing on the work of the pioneering feminist scholar Gayle Rubin, we seem to be in a period of renegotiating sexual norms. Rubin has warned that such renegotiations tend to produce ever more restrictive regimes of closely regulating sexuality. While policing such unpleasant behavior as groping or wet kisses landed on an unwilling recipient may seem to fall outside the realm of sexuality, it is precisely this behavior's relationship to sex that makes it a ''special case'''--and lands us in the trap of policing sexuality.
Outside the #MeToo bubble, the renegotiation of the sexual regime is happening right now in the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the Court heard arguments in the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Justice Anthony Kennedy surprised many observers with his seeming sympathy for the baker's argument. ''Suppose he says, 'Look, I have nothing against gay people,' '' said Kennedy. '' 'But I just don't think they should have a marriage because that's contrary to my beliefs.' It's not their identity; it's what they're doing.'' It was an oddly refracted expression of the understanding that our behavior toward others may be based'--perhaps ought to be based'--on the way they conduct themselves in areas related to sex.
There are many differences between the case of the senator who lost his job and the same-sex couple who couldn't get a cake; undoubtedly, there is a difference between acting like a jerk and getting married (though the plaintiff in the cake case claims to have been offended by the gay couple's intention to get married). Oddly, though, these cases stem from a common root. If only Franken's heartbreakingly articulate expression of his loss were capable of focussing our attention on this root, and on the dangers of the drive to police sex.
VIDEO - The China Hustle - Official Trailer - YouTube
Sun, 24 Dec 2017 21:34
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