995: Missile by Nike

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

3h 11m
December 31st, 2017
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Executive Producers: Baronet Sir Nils of the Hinterland, Adam Dill, Sir Onymous of Dogpatch and Lower Slobbovia, Jeffrey Ries, John Gainer, ALEXANDER VAN DER HENGST

Associate Executive Producers: Dame Astrid Klein Duchess of Japan and all the surrounding islands, Baroness Dame Monica Lansing

Cover Artist: Arch Duke Nussbaum

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Did Michael Jacksons Death Kill Iranian's Revolution? - CNN iReport
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 13:02
I remember that month like it was yesterday. It amazed me how a country like Iran with all of its strict rules about broadcasting and state run media, was it able to kick start a revolutionary movement that became global.
June of 2009 was an important month in Iran. General elections were held between the current president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and an up and coming star, Mir-Hossein Mousavi . While Ahmadinejad seemed to be favored in the election, Mousavi in the recent months gains large support from Iranians young voters. On June 13th election results shocked the world as it claimed Ahmadinejad had won by 62% while his opponent only received 34% of the vote. Mousavi supporters poured on to streets claiming fraud. Crowds began to grow into massive demonstrations. Protests spurred around the country. Protestors soon grabbed the world's attention and many foreign leaders' demands answers. Iran soon block foreign journalist from entering the country in hopes that in doing so it would suppress the protests. However Iranian's found a new media outlet to turn too. Major social media sites were transformed into news outlets as hundreds of stories poured into twitter, myspace, facebook, youtube, and others. News agencies around the world would use the stories posted on line and report them to the world. Iran's plan to restrict media coverage back fired as the protest of the election now became global.
The new movement depended heavily on other countries such as the United States, in order to broadcast its message around the world. It seemed that a full out revolution was gearing up in Tehran and nothing would be able to stop it. What came next was in my opinion a major blow to the Iranians, Michael Jackson's sudden death. This breaking news sends shock waves all over the world pushing the Iranian's movement out of the spot light. The once vibrant protest seen every day on CNN, ABC, and CNBC was replaced with Michael Jackson tributes. People around the world shifted their attention out of Iran and focus on the tragic news on Michael's death. Soon Iran was a distant memory as the protest faded out and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was sworn in for a new term.
FOK.nl / Nieuws / Volksopstand in Iran
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:59
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How Trump could kill the Iran nuclear deal in January - POLITICO
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 05:09
President Donald Trump allowed the Iran nuclear deal to survive through 2017, but the new year will offer him another chance to blow up the agreement '-- and critics and supporters alike believe he may take it.
By mid-January, the president will face new legal deadlines to choose whether to slap U.S. sanctions back on Tehran. Senior lawmakers and some of Trump's top national security officials are trying to preserve the agreement. But the deal's backers fear Trump has grown more willing to reject the counsel of his foreign policy team, as he did with his recent decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Story Continued Below
The decision represents an opportunity for Trump to deliver on a campaign promise to rip up the Iran deal, one he has repeatedly deferred at the urging of senior officials.
When Trump last publicly addressed the status of the Iran agreement, in mid-October, he indicated his patience had worn thin with what he has called ''the worst deal ever,'' and demanded that Congress and European countries take action to address what he considers the deal's weakness.
''[I]n the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,'' Trump said in an Oct. 13 speech.
The three months since then have shown little progress toward such a solution.
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In an effort to save the deal, members of Congress are discussing legislation that would give Trump political cover to extend the deal. But it's not clear whether Republicans and Democrats can agree on even a symbolic measure in time.
''It's entirely possible that Trump tells Congress and the Europeans, 'I gave you 90 days to get your act together and you didn't '-- and I'm done,''' said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a hawkish Washington think tank with close ties to the Trump White House.
The deal was negotiated in 2015 by the Obama administration, along with five other nations. It lifted U.S. and European sanctions on Iran in exchange for strict limits on Tehran's nuclear program. The deal's supporters say military action was the only realistic alternative to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Critics say the deal allowed Iran to retain too much nuclear capability and that the sanctions should have been given more time to bite.
The deadlines for Trump begin on Jan. 11, when the agreement requires him '-- as it does every 90 days '-- to certify whether Tehran is meeting its obligations under the deal. International inspectors who visit the country's nuclear facilities have repeatedly said Iran is doing so. But Trump refused to certify Iranian compliance in mid-October, citing in part Iranian aggression throughout the Middle East.
Trump's refusal to certify had no immediate practical effect on the deal, though under the law it triggered a 60-day window for Congress to restore the sanctions by a simple majority, without the possibility of a Senate filibuster. While expectations were high for some congressional action that Trump could point to as a response to his complaints, Congress became consumed by tax reform and took no action. One hard-line measure that attracted attention this fall, devised by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), went nowhere after Democrats made clear they would strongly oppose it.
Even more consequential are upcoming deadlines for Trump to continue the temporary waiver of U.S. sanctions on Iran, which the deal dictates will not be permanently repealed for several more years. The president must renew the waivers every 120 days. Sources familiar with the law said multiple waiver deadlines arrive between Jan. 12 and Jan. 17, forcing Trump to reassess the deal.
If Trump rejects the waivers and restores biting sanctions, Tehran is certain to claim the U.S. has breached the agreement and '-- supporters of the deal say '-- may restart its nuclear program. That could court a military confrontation with the U.S. and Israel. At a minimum, the U.S would find itself isolated abroad given that every other party to the deal '-- France, the U.K., Germany, China and Russia '-- all strongly oppose a U.S. withdrawal from the agreement.
Top Trump administration officials, including national security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, all hope to avoid that outcome, telling others that while they may not love the nuclear deal, the potential fallout from a unilateral U.S. withdrawal would be too great to risk.
McMaster has met with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and the committee's ranking Democrat, Ben Cardin of Maryland, to discuss potential legislation that might appease Trump. As the year wound down, Cardin and Corker continued discussions about what such legislation could look like.
Congressional sources said the goal is to find language that would take a hard line on Iran '-- but on non-nuclear issues, so as not to violate the deal's terms, which prohibit the imposition of new conditions on Iran's nuclear program after the deal was concluded.
A legislative fix might also end the requirement that Trump certify the deal every 90 days, removing a recurring political thorn in the president's side.
A congressional measure ''may convince Trump to somehow say he has changed the conversation and he may not take any precipitous action in the near term,'' said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit Washington group that strongly supports the nuclear agreement.
Shortly before Congress adjourned for the holidays, Corker expressed optimism on the subject: ''I'm actually feeling like we might get someplace,'' he told POLITICO.
But Corker and Cardin will have little time after Congress reconvenes to craft language before the certification and sanctions waiver deadlines arrive. ''There's a chance they can at least get it agreed to, but I can't see a final bill getting to the president's desk for a signature,'' Dubowitz said.
Trump administration officials have also appealed to the French, British and Germans to come up with proposals that might serve as supplements to the nuclear deal, but the Europeans have shown minimal interest.
That has left supporters of the deal alarmed that Trump may finally shrug off appeals from top officials and, in effect, tear up the deal as he has long threatened to do. A National Security Council spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
The decision on Iran comes as the Trump administration reviews its strategy in the region. The national security adviser, McMaster, plans to roll out results of a review of U.S. Syria policy in January, according to two sources who have consulted with the White House on Middle East issues. The new strategy is expected to focus on checking Iranian influence in the country as Syria's nearly seven-year civil war winds down.
Kimball said Trump's Jerusalem decision '-- against the advice of senior national security officials '-- signaled the president may be willing to follow other advisers' voices for major foreign policy decisions.
''Donald Trump has shown with the Jerusalem and other decisions that he does not have the wisdom to listen to even his closest advisers,'' Kimball said.
''The usual logic that guides U.S. national security policy may be chucked out the window because the president is trying to fulfill a reckless campaign promise,'' he added.
Elana Schor contributed to this report.
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MoA - Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 23:14
December 29, 2017
Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic ProtestsYesterday and today saw some small protests in Iran. They are probably the first stage of a large "regime change" operation run by the U.S. and Israel with the help of Iranian terrorist group.
Earlier this month the White House and the Zionist prepared for a new assault on Iran:
A delegation led by Israel's National Security Adviser met with senior American officials in the White House earlier this month for a joint discussion on strategy to counter Iran's aggression in the Middle East, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Haaretz.
Another report about the meeting quotes Israeli officials on the result:
"[T]he U.S. and Israel see eye to eye the different developments in the region and especially those that are connected to Iran. We reached at understandings regarding the strategy and the policy needed to counter Iran. Our understandings deal with the overall strategy but also with concrete goals, way of action and the means which need to be used to get obtain those goals."
This is probably a result of the above meeting:
Hundreds took to the streets of Iran's second largest city of Mashad on Thursday to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.
Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators in Mashad in northwest Iran, one of the holiest places in Shia Islam, chanting ''death to (President Hassan) Rouhani'' and ''death to the dictator''.
The semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reported demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.
A video of that protest in Mashad showed some 50 people chanting slogans with more bystander just milling around.
Protests against the (neo-)liberal economic policies of the Rohani government in Iran are justified. Official unemployment in Iran is above 12% and there is hardly any economic growth. The people in the streets are not the only ones who are dissatisfied with this:
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticized the government's economic record, said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with ''high prices, inflation and recession'', and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.
On Thursday and today the slogans of some protesters turned the call for economic relief into a call for regime change.
My hunch is that the usual suspects are behind these protests. Note that these started in several cities at the same time. This was not some spontaneous local uproar in one city but had some form of coordination.
Then there is this:
Carl Bildt' @carlbildt - 9:38 PM - 28 Dec 2017 from Rome, Lazio
Reports of signals of international satellite TV networks jammed in large cities of Iran. Would be sign of regime fear of today's protests spreading.
A search in various languages finds exactly zero such "reports". Carl Bildt is a former Swedish prime minister. He was recruited in 1973 as a CIA informant and has since grown into a full blown U.S. asset. He was involved in the Ukraine coup and tried to personally profit from it.
The only response to Bildt's tweet was from one Riyad Swed' - @SwedRiyad who posted several videos of protests with one of them showing burning police cars.
I am not sure the video is genuine. The account has some unusual attributes (active since September 2016, 655 tweets but only 32 followers?).
Just yesterday one lecture at the CCC "hacker" congress was about the British GHCQ Secret Service and its sock-puppet accounts on Twitter and Facebook. These are used for acquiring human intelligence and for running "regime change" operations. Page 14-18 of the slides (11:20 min) cite from obtained GCHQ papers which lists Iran as one of the targets. The speaker specifically notes a GCHQ account "@2009Iranfree" which was used in generating the protests in Iran after the reelection of then President Ahmedinejad.
Today, Friday and the weekly day off in Iran, several more protest took place in other cities. A Reuters report from today:
About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars called a ''call by the anti-revolution'' and shouted ''Political prisoners should be freed'' and ''Freedom or death'', while destroying some public property. Fars did not name any opposition groups.
...
Footage, which could not be verified, showed protests in other cities including Sari and Rasht in the north, Qom south of Tehran, and Hamadan in the west.
Mohsen Nasj Hamadani, deputy security chief in Tehran province, said about 50 people had rallied in a Tehran square and most left after being asked by police, but a few who refused were ''temporarily detained'', the ILNA news agency reported.
Some of these protests have genuine economic reasons but get hijacked by other interests:
In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back wages.
''The slogans quickly changed from the economy to those against (President Hassan) Rouhani and the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),'' the resident said by telephone.
...
Purely political protests are rare in Iran [...] but demonstrations are often held by workers over layoffs or non-payment of salaries and people who hold deposits in non-regulated, bankrupt financial institutions.
...
Alamolhoda, the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of Thursday's protests against rising prices to chant slogans against Iran's role in regional conflicts.
...
''Some people had came to express their demands, but suddenly, in a crowd of hundreds, a small group that did not exceed 50 shouted deviant and horrendous slogans such as 'Let go of Palestine', 'Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I'd give my life (only) for Iran','' Alamolhoda said.
Twovideos posted by BBC Persian and others I have seen show only small active protest groups with a dozen or so people while many more are just standing by or film the people who are chanting slogans.
Videos published by the terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq [MEK], 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, also show mostly small protests despite the MEK's claim of Tens of thousands of people chant ''death to dictator". The MEK, or its "civilian" organization National Council of Resistance of Iran , seem to be most involved in the current protests. Its website is currently filled with the protest issue with a total of ten reports and its head figure issued a supportive statement:
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, saluted the heroic people of Kermanshah and other cities who rose up today chanting ''death or freedom'', ''death to Rouhani'', ''death to the dictator'', and ''political prisoners must be freed'', and protested against high prices, poverty and corruption.
She said, ''Yesterday Mashhad, today Kermanshah, and tomorrow throughout Iran; this uprising has tolled the death knell for the overthrow of the totally corrupt dictatorship of the mullahs, and is the rise of democracy, justice and popular sovereignty.
This very early engagement of the MEK -its first report was published yesterday at 10:26 am- is extremely suspicious.
In 2012 it was reported that Israel had used the MEK terrorist organization to assassinate nuclear scientists in Iran:
On Thursday, U.S. officials speaking to NBC news claimed that Mossad agents were training members of the dissident terror group People's Mujahedin of Iran in order assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, adding that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama was aware of the operation, but had no direct link to them.
The U.S. officials reportedly confirmed the link between Israel and the People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), with one official saying: "All your inclinations are correct.''
In October a CATO Institute paper analyzed (and rejected) several options for U.S. handling Iran. Under Option Three: ''Regime Change from Within'' it noted:
In this approach, the United States would pressure the Iranian regime and simultaneously back groups that oppose it-whether the exiled extremist National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), pro-democracy Green Revolution factions, or ethnic minorities within Iran-a strategy advocates often compare to Reagan's support for civil society groups in the Soviet Union.
...
[A] proponent of ''coerced democratization,'' the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Mark Dubowitz, urged President Trump to ''go on the offensive against the Iranian regime'' by ''weakening the Iranian regime's finances'' through ''massive economic sanctions,'' while also ''undermin[ing] Iran's rulers by strengthening pro-democracy forces'' inside Iran. This option appears to be gaining traction in the Trump administration's ongoing Iran policy review and has received public support from Tillerson. CIA Director Mike Pompeo also favored such an approach during his time in Congress.
The MEK/NCRI noted that Senator Tom Cotton, who will likely replace CIA chief Pompeo when Pompeo moves to the State Department, issued a supportive statement for the protests.
The White House and the Netanyahoo regime agreed on a strategy towards Iran. Major members of the Trump administration are in favor of "regime change" by "pro-democracy forces" in Iran. A few weeks after an agreement was found, coordinated economic protests start in Iran which are soon hijacked by small groups of very active regime changers. A group of Iranian exile terrorists, well known for deadly collaboration with Israeli spies as well as for having operation cells in Iran, is highly engaged in the protest from very early on.
If this the "regime change" operation I presume, the protests will soon get bigger. When the people need money a few thousand dollars are enough to create a large crowd. Small groups will riot while hiding within the larger protests of maybe genuinely concerned people. The "western" media will engage with their usual pseudo liberal humanism and concern trolling. When the police in Iran tries to arrest those rioters who are raising havoc the media will scream "brutality". Some "martyr" will be created and iconified. Rumors of censorship and suppression will be raised (see Carl Bildt above), fake news will come from everywhere and hundreds of sock puppet Twitter and Facebook accounts will suddenly be "Iranian" and breathlessly report "from the scene" of their Langley offices.
For the Iranian politicians and police the issue is tricky. Economic protests are clearly justified with even Khameni voicing support for the issue. But rioting in the streets must be suppressed before it further escalates and becomes uncontrollable. Weapons on the protesters site firing in all directions may soon become a problem. The Mossad and the MEK are not shy of killing random people.
But the Islamic Republic in Iran has genuine support in large parts of the society. There are big civil organizations that support the government - not on every issue but in its general framework. Most Iranian's are proud nationalists and will be difficult to divide. If this is indeed the "regime change" attempt I suspect, I predict that it will fail.
Posted by b on December 29, 2017 at 02:45 PM | Permalink
Thanks for the Iran analysis b
I saw the reports of unrest in Iran and know that the pot is being stirred externally.
Trump needs his war to be a real US president, Netanyahoo needs cover for his crimes and SA needs cover for its war crimes.
The carousel keeps spinning faster and faster. How many will die when it crashes? Sad.....and hard to watch
Posted by: psychohistorian | Dec 29, 2017 2:56:15 PM | 1
thanks for this b... i agree with your 3rd to last paragraph and the line in the 2nd to last one "Mossad and the MEK are not shy of killing random people." it seems these paid stooges - carl bildt and etc, are quite happy to try another regime change/ green revolution on iran.. everything has been headed in this direction for some time.. usa/israel saber rattling towards iran 24/7, financial sanctions and etc. etc. it never stops.. these neo-con regime change artists get extremely tiring and predictable..
Posted by: james | Dec 29, 2017 3:19:45 PM | 2
Aggressive war on Iran via Regime Change has as much chance of success as the same being done to Russia or China, although I'm not saying it won't be tried. The Saker has a thought-provoking article about the chances of war occurring in 2018 and where; regarding Iran, reneging the nuclear deal remains a Trump priority, but that would likely further isolate the Outlaw US Empire from its EU vassals. As for Iran's economy, it will soon begin feeling the effects of its ties to the BRI; and after the decades of sanctions, it's mostly removed from the Empire controlled financial architecture. Plus, numerous Iranian construction companies will benefit from the rebuilding required in Syria and Iraq which will begin to ramp-up now that most of the Empire's proxies are defeated.
And it's the events in Syria and Iraq that will doom any attempt at Regime Change in Iran to failure as the Iranian people are too savvy to be duped as they've seen that strategy tried against everyone of its presidential administrations since 1979.
Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 29, 2017 3:52:21 PM | 4
It appears the initial attempt was to be made in Jordan:
"King of #Jordan dismisses his 3 brothers; Faisal, Ali and Talal from Jordanian army command after evidence of them contacting #Saudi leaders Mohammad bin Salman and Mohammad bin Zayed to formulate a coup against him. All 3 brothers are now under house arrest." [A correction says Talal is a cousin; so, 2 brothers and cousin arrested.]
MbS must have been a Keystone Kop in a previous life.
Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 29, 2017 4:20:10 PM | 5
There was some mention of Soros's twitter account not being active the last month.
Maybe now we know what he's been up to.
Posted by: NotBob | Dec 29, 2017 4:58:22 PM | 8
Has anyone seen the Nuland woman lately?
Posted by: Bart Hansen | Dec 29, 2017 5:12:09 PM | 9
Iran, Syria and NK - the last countries without a Rothschild central fraud bank.
Posted by: Boyo | Dec 29, 2017 5:23:14 PM | 10
b, while I was much interested by the analysis in your piece, a factor I think you ignore is the class aspect of conflict in Iran. The current Iranian religious regime can be described as 'populist', in that it appeals to the lower classes, the poorer classes, in order to stay in power. The old Iranian upper class have an enormous sense of entitlement, entitlement to power, which goes back to Sasanian times (226-637AD), when the lords didn't pay taxes, only the serfs did. Islam was the first popular revolution, but the elite wormed its way back into power as administrators for the Turkish and Mongol Sultans. They had their success with the Shah's regime, but were of course outed with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and most went into exile. The 2009 movement was an attempt to put the upper classes back into power, which failed of course because they are not popularly the majority.
Today, if I understand correctly, most of that class who remain in Iran have havered, and adapted to the new reality, the revolution being 38 years ago now. Things have moved on, but the exiles haven't. No doubt the Iranian advisors to Washington want to restore the Shah's regime.
The question will be: are the new demonstrations genuinely a manifestation of popular revolt? or a repeat of 2009, where the minority rebelled?
Posted by: Laguerre | Dec 29, 2017 5:28:18 PM | 11
Twitter is basically swamped with MEK accounts talking up regime change. Here's my personal favorite exchange:
@vida_861 - 3 hours ago, Replying to @A_Tabatabai
It's indeed the beginning of a revolutionary movement!!! it's the smell of a change which the oppressed people of #Iran were fighting for so long''Œ¸We the iranian comunity we don't this regime #No2Rouhani #FreeIran
@GeromanAT - 3 hours ago
who should lead Iran then? Is there a special new leader you have in mind?
@vida_861 - 3 hours ago
The only alternative to this regime are the MEK, they are the only existing opposition group in and outside of #Iran
Posted by: Guest77 | Dec 29, 2017 5:48:44 PM | 13
It was funny to see the chants "Long live Reza Shah" and "Death to Rouhani" in the stories I caught on my cellphone today. I knew these had to be isolated incidents before the basij, police, or Guard kick in.
I was 10 when we lived there in the early 70s. The Shah/SAVAK had the power and it was an interesting learning experience. My barber's was moreso as he was there as a boy in the early 50s during the overthrow. He has a pic of his father with the Shah (who is in a uniform) and others at some kind of club. His father had an Iranian passport and uniform so definitely CIA or something related. My father once claimed to be CIA (to his last spouse) but he was more of a tech supporting the communications set up that relayed info from the listening posts on the border with Russia.
b. Good point about sock-puppet twitter and facebook accounts being used to push a non-Arabic spring. Obama's recent negative comments about social media leave out the fact that they like to use it like they did in Egypt. It's a hypocrisy like using Stuxnet against Iran but squealing about similar used against the US.
Posted by: Curtis | Dec 29, 2017 5:49:51 PM | 14
Looks like the focus has shifted from China/North Korea to Iran now. I agree that fostering division inside Iran will be next to impossible, especially now. Iranians are a smart bunch of people, and have prepared themselves for the coming attacks from the AAZ Empire.
Posted by: Ian | Dec 29, 2017 5:54:48 PM | 15
US occupied sections of Iraq and Syria seem likely to be part prepostioning for the Trump admin assault on Iran. Social unrest, terrorist attacks ect, and perhaps a US airstrike or two.
Gives free movement of jihadists through north east Syria and Iraq to the Iran border. Any attack on US bases or personnel in Syria will be blamed on Iran and used as an excuse to ramp things up, airstrikes, drum up a 'coalition' or whatever.
Posted by: Peter AU 1 | Dec 29, 2017 5:56:43 PM | 16
Trump has repeated the meme, on numerous occasions, 'Iran was on the brink of collapse because of sanctions when Obama through them a lifeline'. BTW I think he actually believes this.
So here is a thought, perhaps the protests are being done by MEK, the Saudis, Israel, etc, but without U.S. involvement to convince Trump that now is the time to kill the JCPOA and go for Iran's juggler. I know that this makes the U.S. sound stupid and easy to play but that is just because we are stupid and easy to play.
Posted by: Christian Chuba | Dec 29, 2017 5:57:33 PM | 17
No one in Iran cares about Paul Ryan, Cotton, few even about Trump. These protests are mostly legitimate and almost no one involved wants Iran to be a US puppet state.
Posted by: purple | Dec 29, 2017 6:05:28 PM | 18
@purple, fair enough. A better way for me to phrase it would be the 'perception management' of the protests.
For example, the 2009 election protests were legitimate but in the U.S. a myth developed that the Iranian 'regime' was on the verge of dissolution and had Obama merely supported the protesters Iran would have become a totally different country. I would not discount the possibility of operatives being in Iran but quite frankly that would be a dangerous occupation given Iran's penchant for arrests and liberal use of the death penalty.
Posted by: Christian Chuba | Dec 29, 2017 6:13:59 PM | 19
CC @20--
The "myth" was yet another Big Lie meant for domestic consumption. Sure did dupe the dotard and many of his ilk. MEK and kin represent an existential threat to Iran and will be treated as such.
Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 29, 2017 6:30:03 PM | 20
You'll notice massive "media" coverage of the non-events occurring in Iran while totally ignoring the very real Days of Rage protests happening in the West Bank, with the former getting coated by Western government diarrhea while mute on latter.
Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 29, 2017 6:52:37 PM | 21
These are the four points the US and Israel agreed on at recent meetings...
1/ Covert and diplomatic action to block Iran's path to nuclear weapons '' according to the U.S. official this working group will deal with diplomatic steps that can be taken as part of the Iran nuclear deal to further monitor and verify that Iran is not violating the deal. It also includes diplomatic steps outside of the nuclear deal to put more pressure on Iran. The working group will deal with possible covert steps against the Iranian nuclear program.
2/ Countering Iranian activity in the region, especially the Iranian entrenchment efforts in Syria and the Iranian support for Hezbollah and other terror groups. This working group will also deal with drafting U.S.-Israeli policy regarding the ''day after'' in the Syrian civil war.
3/ Countering Iranian ballistic missiles development and the Iranian ''precision project'' aimed at manufacturing precision guided missiles in Syria and Lebanon for Hezbollah to be used against Israel in a future war.
4/ Joint U.S.-Israeli preparation for different escalation scenarios in the region concerning Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.
In my opinion number 3 is what Israel is concerned with, 100,000 Hezbollah missiles [which they claim to have] with precision guidance could reduce Tel Aviv to rubble, 5,000 could do the job.
Posted by: harrylaw | Dec 29, 2017 6:59:51 PM | 22
The US state dept have just called on other nations to protest the arrest pf peaceful demonstrators in Iran. A minor detail here, in the UK.. "By law you must tell the police in writing 6 days before a public march if you're the organiser. Tell the police the: date and time of the march; route; the names and addresses of the organisers. Otherwise the protests are unlawful.
Posted by: harrylaw | Dec 29, 2017 7:17:21 PM | 23
b, your analysis has an important missing element.
The orchestrated protests were planned and initiated by some of the hardliner political factions who lost the last presidential election to the centrist Rouhani, who is an extremely capable conservative+liberal politician, has the support of the highly popular reformists & significant parts of the powerful conservatives, therefore has a potential to become the next supreme leader. These protests were supposed to be used as a leverage to "burn" Rouhani and also further close-down the socio-political arena for the reformists and centrists.
But, these planned protests backfired, because (1) they turned into genuine protests and (3) were hijacked by the US-EU backed Iranian opposition groups.
Note:
"Hardliners had plans to organize massive protests against Rouhani on Saturday. They tested it earlier in some cities, but it was hijacked by Pahlavists backed by VOA, Manoto, and some Telegram channels. Now same hardliners have to defend state against Pahlavists."
https://twitter.com/h0d3r_fa/status/946881431841792000
Posted by: bamdadi | Dec 29, 2017 7:23:29 PM | 24
It remains to be see if "popular protests" were hijacked by anti-government groups (government = hardliners + "softliners"), or it was the activity of smallish groups joining at the periphery that could make some so-so videos but with small lasting impact. After all, smallish groups can be mopped up, and "genuine demands" can be addressed, in short term at least, by throwing a bit of cash -- e.g. some big foundation can take over a bankrupt factory.
A good example of that was in Armenia, where "electric springs" consisted of protest against a rise in electricity prices (Russian power company) plus some violence by nationalist extremists (a hostage crisis), Russian company rolled back the increase, extremists were eventually arrested, and Armenia got some arms contract with Russia with very good credit terms (Armenia actually has a serious need for arms and allies, and the West can provide none of them). Iran is a big country, so problems cannot be patched as easily, but it is also not as easy to shake the government.
Posted by: Piotr Berman | Dec 29, 2017 8:00:19 PM | 25
Re: Laguerre | Dec 29, 2017 5:28:18 PM | 11
It seems that wherever you look, it is the oligarchs that keep humanity submerged in endless warfare, which misdirects the resources that could be used to eliminate human suffering. The compradors are always available to work against social justice, as long as they are allowed to keep their fortunes and power.
Posted by: Perimetr | Dec 29, 2017 8:06:53 PM | 26
It doesn't take much to hijack protests. A small number of agent provocateurs will do either in the crowd or amongst the police. Thus every protest is suspect.
Posted by: Alaric | Dec 29, 2017 8:29:37 PM | 27
The more moronic US politicians talk the greater the chance these protests fizzle. Too bad, because Iran needs nationalist Left politicians. It does make one realize how delusional the Paul Ryans of the world are, which bodes ill for the North Korean stand off. The US ruling class might be so delusional to think they can win a ground war in Asia. My god.
Posted by: purple | Dec 29, 2017 9:44:07 PM | 28
Carl Bildt is a nasty man who played a key roll in moving Sweden into the neoliberal NATO/Atlanticist orbit. He is a fully bought and paid for evangelist for the global (neo)liberal establishment. If he is promoting these "spontaneous" protests on Twitter there is a good chance his involvement goes deeper than that.
When Iraq attacked Iran in 1980 even Iranians who had no love for Ayatollah Khomeini and his government put aside their differences with the theocratic regime and stood as one with all Iranians to defend their nation from foreign aggressors. If the US, Israel and the sycophant chumps who support them think Iranian dissatisfaction with their government means they are on side with a foreign attack or invasion...they have another thing coming.
Posted by: Temporarily Sane | Dec 29, 2017 9:57:53 PM | 29
Same script different country.In an economy that is deficient, sow the seeds of discontent with a little cash, and hire some assassins, bingo, regime change down the road. Time will tell whether or not the usual suspects succeed.
Posted by: ben | Dec 29, 2017 10:02:38 PM | 30
Oh well that explains why the detestable englander pol Boris Johnson fucked off for a few days in Iran just before Xmas. He needed to pretend he cared now before the Zaghari traitor is convicted and sentenced for all her crimes.
The englander public have been fed a load of tosh about what Iranian quisling Nazanin Zaghari(-Ratcliffe) was locked up for.
This has enabled propaganda outlet the BBC to push the current beat up of riots in the streets of Iran with a straight face.
You see and Nazanin Zaghari has been charged with offences she committed during while an employee of the BBC 'Persian' service.
Some may remember that well known proponent of democracy and liberty, Hillary Clinton (we came we saw - he died tee hee hee) was amerikan secretary of state back then and she as many readers will recall got Congress to allocate $20 million to support so called, way back then 'new tech' initiatives to aid the Iranian opposition.
Setting aside the reality that whatever opposition there was was an entirely amerikan construct and that for the space of several weeks the two submarine and one landline which connected Iran to the rest of the world were mysteriously hit with accidents (a trawler dragging up the cable etc) which would have eaten up a good deal of the 20 mill, enough dosh was left over to fund a little known adjunct of the BBC, the BBC World Service Trust international charitable project. According to wikipedia Zaghari provided training courses to Iranian journalists, some of whom were convicted for participating in the 2008 foreign training course much later, in 2014.
Some of those rotten traitors 'sang' once arrested (what else would you expect from middle class 'its all about me' types - honour?), and confronted by the depth of their betrayal, they provided sufficient evidence against Zaghari who, it should be known was entirely Iranian in 2009 at the time she turned against her homeland, betraying her compatriots at the behest of their enemies. In fact Zaghari was fresh outta grad school, the tab for which had been picked up by the nation she so readily betrayed. After all, girl has a right to get ahead.
I agree with Laguerre that bourgeoisie and associated comprador opportunists have totally penetrated the Iranian political structure and that a purge is badly needed.
I can understand why the clerics favoured these types over the far more realistic and well grounded Ahmadinejad, since the crooked, duplicitous amerikan empire would never have cut a deal with Ahmadinejad - he wouldn't have gone along with the current 'loopholes' in the sanctions deal/nuclear agreement which keep eurocorps rich while preventing ordinary Iranians from eating, but now the deal has been done the Rouhani crew need be shown the door - fast.
Perhaps that is what this current round of useful idiot provoked by bourgeois opportunists, 10 person 'protests' are about.
It is simply an attempt to create some type of confrontation which can be deemed a 'warcrime' by agent orange in the event of a more people oriented government taking control of Iran.
Posted by: Debsisdead | Dec 29, 2017 10:04:19 PM | 31
One reason that the current protests in Mashhad and other cities around Iran are likely to fail as a tactic is that constant repetition over several countries can only work so much. Tehran will only be too aware of how the de facto US war against Syria began and the Iranians may well have followed how the so-called Electric Revolution started and sputtered out in Yerevan in 2015. Ukraine is not all that far away either. A number of Central Asian countries also experienced "color revolutions". So wherever Iran looks around its neighbourhood, it sees the same patterns and tactics of regime change occurring over and over again.
The one possible weak link is the snipers who take over the initial protests and use them to fire on both protesters and police, and to burn cars and buildings, as was done in Dar'aa (Syria) in 2011 and in Kiev in 2014. These snipers are likely to be foreign mercenaries/jihadis. Iran needs to monitor who is coming through its borders at the present time and to keep a close eye on any armaments coming in as well.
Posted by: Jen | Dec 29, 2017 10:11:17 PM | 32
Somehow I doubt we'll be seeing many Iranian based websites or even Iranian sourced twits as Zaghari's chief task last time was teaching known anti Iranian government old school print journos how to build websites and the best ways to make tweets go 'viral' by using compliant amerikan tech firms.
The trouble is it seems she didn't bother to tell her marks that everything on the net is traceable. It took Iran longer than it would take the 'every bit shall be stored' NSA to track down the culprits, but they did find them all eventually which natch enough makes finding new marks somewhat 'problematic' for the empire.
So it will be rather distracting to discern how the troublemakers intend to resolve that issue this time around.
Posted by: Debsisdead | Dec 29, 2017 10:47:18 PM | 33
This sounds extremely theatrical.
If the US/Israel meeting took place AFTER Dec 6, when Trump declared Jerusalem to be the capital of the Shitty Little Country, then its sole purpose was to get the Palestinian Holocaust out of the headlines.
They only replaced it with the "Iran!" threat because they've got no imagination and believe too much of their own bullshit. No-one is going to attack Iran, especially not the gutless AmeriKKKan racist-supremacists or their suffering/simpering "Israeli" counterparts.
Bibi is sufficiently stupid to believe that Trump did "Israel" a favour by pretending he had the Authority to unilaterally 'recognise' Jerusalem.
Fortunately, the meeting came too late and now twice as many people know the facts behind the "Piece" Process than were previously aware of it.
"Israel" is so-o f****d.
Where will the next Jewish social-engineering experiment be located?
Will it be called Israel?
Posted by: Hoarsewhisperer | Dec 29, 2017 11:00:48 PM | 34
It was recently announced Iran woukd be joining the Eurasian Economic Union . Last country that planned to do so was Ukraine in 2014 and shortly after the US led coup took care of that. History repeats. Only question is will they succeed as they did in Ukraine or need to take futher measures
Posted by: Pft | Dec 29, 2017 11:30:53 PM | 35
I think the goal is to give Russia an excuse to turn on Iran
Posted by: paul | Dec 30, 2017 12:40:00 AM | 36
Pft | Dec 29, 2017 11:30:53 PM | 38
Actually the EEU didn't exist in 2014; it came into force on January 1, 2015 and Ukraine had nothing to do with it.
The coup was to ensure Ukraine didn't have a trade deal with Russia; just the EU.
Iran is a natural/logical member of the EAEU and far too strong for the U.S. to stop it's induction into that trade group/union.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Economic_Union
Posted by: V. Arnold | Dec 30, 2017 12:54:22 AM | 37
paul | Dec 30, 2017 12:40:00 AM | 39
Sorry, that's ridiculous; kindly do your homework.
Posted by: V. Arnold | Dec 30, 2017 12:56:05 AM | 38
@6 Aggressive war on Iran via Regime Change not likely to succeed. @ 16 chaos inside Iran unlikely . @14 Twitter swamped with regime change champs @11 Iranian advisors to Washington want to restore the Shah's regime. @22 massive "media" coverage of the non-events occurring in Iran while totally ignoring the very real Days of Rage protests happening in the West Bank, @26 extremely revealing note "Hardliners planed to organize massive protests against Rouhani on Saturday... but was hijacked by Pahlavists backed by VOA, Manoto, and some Telegram channels. Now same hardliners have to defend state against Pahlavists. https://twitter.com/h0d3r_fa/status/946881431841792000''
then we have
@18 MEK, Saudis, Israel, etc, turmoil designed to force Trump to kill the JCPOA and go for Iran's juggler. . @23.. US/Israel counter Iran objectives: block Iran path to nuclear weapons, ballistic and precision guided missiles and social entrenchment in regions generally under Saudi-Israeli control,
Next is the confusion over explaining the two Brothers and cousin of the King of Jordan recently disposed seeming from an attempt to over throw the King.. could this be another a part of this Kushner, MBS, Netyanyohu/SISI/ plan? Apparently Hariri would not go along and neither would Saleh in Yemen (i think assassinated last week)
@24 unlicensed demonstrations in US found in
D. C. Riot Statute: he who ''willfully associates'' with some other person [''assemblage''] that ends up threatening to cause tumult or some how gets involved in violence, is a rioter , and can therefore be criminally prosecuted (see US v. Mathews). Guilty if you ''merely agree'' '†that's all it takes--> to be incarcerated for 50 years. USSC ruling, I reported elsewhere, distinguishes riot from legitimate protest. https://theintercept.com/2017/12/17/j20-inauguration-protest-trump-riot-first-amendment/ but has effect of criminalizing association if defendant identified to a group or person that engages or merely threatens tumult or violence). Judge not interested to hear 1st amendment pleas, seeks only facts that associate>? IANAL
@30 The US ruling class might be so delusional to think they can win a ground war in Asia. There is no US ruling class it the Wall street licensed Corporate establishment..
@33 ''Ahmadinejad - he wouldn't have gone along with the current 'loopholes' in the sanctions deal/nuclear agreement which keep eurocorps rich while preventing ordinary Iranians from eating, but now the deal has been done the Rouhani crew need be shown the door '' fast.''
CAN YOU PLEASE ELABORATE ON THIS . and how did that keep the corporations rich.. I have been wondering why the EU continues to support the agreement.
@? its sole purpose was to get the Palestinian Holocaust out of the headlines.
I DONT THINK SO, IT PURPOSE Seems to be in the SANCTUARY PROGROM.. invented by Whitehouse, Netanyohu, MBS , Sisi Move the Palestinians out of Israel into the Sinai to a Jordan controlled new nation state where all Palestinian Towns and villages can be surrounded by Israeli Settlements..''
Posted by: smellyoilandgas.com | Dec 30, 2017 1:23:37 AM | 39
@bambdadi @24
I had read the claim that conservatives started these protests. I have seen ZERO evidence for it. None of the slogans I the videos points to that nor anything else.
Posted by: b | Dec 30, 2017 1:59:16 AM | 40
@Laguerre @10 - In 2009 the northern part of Tehran protested. Rich kids mostly. This seems very different. Young people most of them but from the look of them way more working class than 2009. Also protest in may cities but not (yet)in Tehran.
I am wondering why this was started in Mashad. It is near the Afghan border. How relevant is that?
Posted by: b | Dec 30, 2017 2:03:12 AM | 41
karlof1 @ 5
On the ground, the dismissal of the 3 princes is not a big deal. 2 of the 3 no longer had any military duties at all. Not even figuratively. Only in the case of the 3rd one does it appear to be an attempt at cleaning house on a number of levels.
Locally it is thought that the overarching rationale is that they were removed to make way for career soldiers who could not be promoted higher than the princes' ranks.
Overall, no big deal and no talk of coup
Posted by: guidoamm | Dec 30, 2017 3:30:40 AM | 42
DW Deutche Welle has a story on it, undramatic and quite unbiased. They report it mainly as the result of rising prices, youth unemployment, ect. Could have been Greece....
Posted by: Den Lille Abe | Dec 30, 2017 4:18:43 AM | 43
Posted by: karlof1 | Dec 29, 2017 3:52:21 PM | 4
And it's the events in Syria and Iraq that will doom any attempt at Regime Change in Iran to failure as the Iranian people are too savvy to be duped as they've seen that strategy tried against everyone of its presidential administrations since 1979.
Agree. And let us not forget the chaos in Libya, where it all also began with "protests". And of course Ukraine, which is today an impoverished hell-hole.
So, how many "color revolutions" which end up with destroyed countries does Langley think it can get away with before the people in the next targeted countries perk up and turn against the protesters ?
Posted by: Lea | Dec 30, 2017 5:41:28 AM | 44
Posted by: smellyoilandgas.com | Dec 30, 2017 1:23:37 AM | 39
There is nothing arcane about what has happened to Iran since the deal. European petrocorps are buying natural gas most of the returns for which are 'sticking' to the Iranian corporate and technocrats, at the same time there has been a massive influx of inexpensive manufacturing goods - chiefly sourced from China.
What has happened is exactly the same as what many other welfare state economies suffered once neolibs took control. There was probably one factory in Iran which made toilet brushes for example - maybe it wasn't as 'efficient' as any of the 57 different brands of a la mode style toilet brushes now available at a quarter the price, but it worked plus more importantly making their own toilet brushes provided employment for Iranians.
Now all the manufactured goods which Iran had previously manufactured for themselves have to compete with slave labour/robotic mega mass produced alternatives, so the Iranian manufacturing sector is laying off workers while the 'new economy' offers few if any employment alternatives. Sound familiar?
Ahmadinejad who came from the humanist faction of islamic political thought, garnered most of his support from urban working people and small scale rural workers.
Rouhani is very much a neoliberal which means he didn't baulk at the structural deficiencies in the 'nuclear' agreement which at its heart was just another dodgy 'free' trade agreement.
Ahmadinejad wouldn't have signed the deal without protections for Iranian working people. Ordinary Iranians unfortunately got sucked into the headlines without studying the fine print - a common feature of neoliberal 'deals' everywhere.
amerika (apart from the apartheid state who bought amerikan politicians) is the only nation who doesn't support the deal wholeheartedly. Outside amerikan mind control most ordinary people are happy that an alleged nuclear threat has been halted and most nations' corporate sectors are pleased that another market has been made available.
In fact if you consider the amerikan debate you will find it was really only the energy sector which came out against the deal because they were concerned about their ability to replace russian energy in europe should russian sanctions properly bite, if Iran was going to be allowed to enter the euro market. Other amerikan corporations, particularly the tech sector welcomed the lifting of sanctions.
Posted by: Debsisdead | Dec 30, 2017 6:17:38 AM | 45
@40
b, this point (that the origin of these protests were orchestrated by parts of conservative political groups, rival to Rouhani) is all over the place in "Persian" official, semi-official, and social-media. In addition, many political figures here and there have openly spoken about it. The situation is complex, because the establishment cannot openly reject/approve the protests. So, what we see is lot of confused responses.
Here, the VP (Mr. Jahangiri) have spoken about this:
http://www.eghtesadnews.com/%D8%A8%D8%AE%D8%B4-%D8%B3%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1-%D8%B1%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%87-%D9%87%D8%A7-61/195958-%D9%87%D8%B4%D8%AF%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D8%AC%D9%87%D8%A7%D9%86%DA%AF%DB%8C%D8%B1%DB%8C-%D9%86%D9%87-%D9%85%D9%84%DB%8C-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D9%81%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AE%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%87%D8%A7%DB%8C-%D9%85%D8%B4%DA%A9%D9%88%DA%A9
There are many many more. This is just an example.
And about the slogans.
Again, this can be due to some kind of limited or selective reporting. There are many videos shared among millions of Iranian (on Telegram) that shows slogans against Rouhani. These are mainly related to the original plan which as I said were supposed to use poor economic conditions as a weapon against Rouhani. But the slogans quickly widened and went beyond the original intention (against Rouhani's government). This was partly due to participation of ordinary people, but also to a large part due to foreign influence.
This video is one of the "early" demonstrations in Tehran. The slogan says: "down with Rouhani".
https://twitter.com/ARahaei/status/946678788766818305
This one is from Mashhad. Here you can also hear "down with Rouhani".
https://twitter.com/ShMadadzadeh/status/946311781638660096
The political spectrum in Iran can be very complex, diffused, and opaque. The lines are not clear at all, and people who compete in one arena, can be very aligned or organically linked on other arena. Therefore, I recommend a bit "humbler" approach in analyzing it.
Posted by: bamdadi | Dec 30, 2017 6:40:14 AM | 46
I have not time right now to analyze this issue in deep, nor have read all the comments so far, but take into account that Mashhad, as a Holy City for Shi´a Islam is a kinda "open-city" pemanently crowded by foreigners, especially coming from the neighbor UAE....That´s what I witnessed during my two days visit just some few years ago ( when I decided to visit the country after increasing claims by Israel to attack it, so that be able to watch its marvels before all is reduced to ashes, as happened in Syria, another ME jewel I could visit before IS thugs arrived and where people seemed to have a lively and prosperous way of life...). So not difficult for all those Israeli agents with Arab or Persian appearance and impecable Arab or Farsi accent to travel there with fake passports to start uprising, the same way they infiltrate the lines of Palestinians protesters until they take out their pistols and reagroup to detain the Palestinian activists....
Add to this that Mashhad, located in the NorthEast Iranian border with Afghanistan ( and also bordering Turkmenistn ), could well be a prefect point for infiltrating takfiri jihadists recently moved to Afghanistn by US led coalition....
My impression during my visit, was that there was a quiet and good environment for working, studying and making business, not without the presence of obvioulsy well off people in the main cities, being the most poor those crowding the sanctuaries. Overall, I found a highly educated, open and polite country where a not despicable sector of the youth population seemed to have university education, speak foreign languages, especially English, and walk over there with their IT devices, very similar to what happens in the West , except for the mandatory scarves, which, in spite of being an annoyance ( at least for me in the heatest of the Iranian summer ) women wear there in very different styles, sometimes only in a very ingenious way insinuating a slight coverage of the back side of the hair while leaving almost all the hairdo in sight...These were the most modern I could see...
For what I could witness, life was running in a peaceful and very familiar way, with great respect for traditions and historical and cultural heritage ( they love their poets, and their mausoleums are so crowded, if not more, than those of their religious saints... ). People used to meet in huge familiar groups at sunset in squares, gardens, or under the bridges, where they bring baskets with something to eat and drink, offering always an open and honest smile and a bit of conversation to the foreigner amazed by the spectacle...The only complains I heard were coming from the daughter of a former Shah´s member of the army who told me that "singing and dancing was forbbiden" and spoke the hell about Khomeini, adding that "in the sleeves of the clerics they are the British"......With respect to this point, the offer on TV was quite scarce, being possibly the origin of those street meetings by families, with religious talkings and chants as almost the unique plate at every Iranian channel ( at least during the scarce time I passed at my room, just central hours of midday and late at night ) although you had always at your disposition foreign channels like BBC and so on...But women can go out freely with friends and can drive, and you can find couples where the man do not mind travelling as copilot while his wife is at the wheel...
In summary, Iran seemed to me a very open country with a good environment for business and interchange, whenever you go there respecting Iranians´choice and way of life. We meet some Spanish people travelling there for business who were amazed by the excellent reception, the same we were ( they talked about "being received like ambassadors", and that was also my impression, especially at Imam Reza Mausoleum in Mashhad...being we only tourists...), in front of the really somber and scary expectatives coming from all their relatives and friends they had before travelling there. We meet some of these business people at a our really charming hotel in Yazd and then at the very modern Armenian neighborhood in Isfahan, at one of its charming cafes.....
My impression is that both, the US and Israel, want to waste the current lively environment for business in Iran, a crosspoint as well in the Chinese OBOR initiative, where they have no opportunity to particpate because of their warmongerism and extremism, and this way achieving wasting any opportunities for business for the EU there, in another effort by the US to mantain the EU always under its boots without opportunity to prosper, as a way to say "if we do not play, we break the toy"....The thing is that nobody has left them out of playing, but it has been their sttuborn fantastic claims against Iran as patron of terrorism in the ME on behalf of its client regime in Israel which mantain them out...
Posted by: elsi | Dec 30, 2017 8:18:03 AM | 48
41
Khorasan province is ethnically mixed including Kurds. I agree that there is a Western plan for regime change in Iran, Western reaction in support of demonstrators show it. They cannot do it by religion, so they would try ethnic.
BBC has an interesting map - and account - of the protests.
Notice the closed borders to Kurdistan that cause economic problems for the population there.
Inflation in Iran has shrunk overall since 2013. It is likely that protests have to do with subsidy cuts - ie Iran trying to switch from a war economy to a market economy.
46
That is like saying part of the Egyptian army supported the demonstrations against Mubarak to get rid of him. It is possible. Though not likely.
In the case of Egypt Western governments called for the Egyptian army to reinstate law and order. In the case of Iran Trump is siding with protesters.
The BBC Persian account in above link does not make sense
Many believe that money that should be used to improve their lives is being spent by Iran's leaders on conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq. Billions are also being spent on spreading religious propaganda and Shia Islam around the world.
But it seems that the hardliners opposed to President Rouhani may have triggered the unrest by holding a demonstration that quickly grew out of control and spread to cities and towns across the country.
Surely hardliners are in favor of "spreading religious propaganda"?
Posted by: somebody | Dec 30, 2017 8:21:49 AM | 49
@Bamdadi # 46
I think the Conservative fraction (Raisi) never fully accepted their defeat and voiced their opposition to Rohani by all means, including sporadic demonstrations and slogans. However, I see elements of green supporters taking advantage. Economic dissatisfaction is so deep, but it will not turn into something else that green supporters hoping.
Posted by: Loyal | Dec 30, 2017 8:27:48 AM | 50
Once again we see Trump is a moron on foreign topics and once again we see western MSM spreading the neocon propaganda to the western naive populations.
Posted by: Anon | Dec 30, 2017 9:30:21 AM | 51
A sort of remake, remix, co. W MSM, of the Green Iran 'color' movement which 'failed' as, had no impact, in 2009. So similar to -link- one wonders where is the creativity. The 2009 dull spectacular was also called the Twitter Revolution, ha ha. Bis repetita'...and the end result will be the same, i.e. nothing, zero.
Green btw is the color of Islam and not an emblem of recycling glass bottles in Europe or hugging Jill Stein.
As for protests re. work, jobs, salaries, taxes, economics generally, in Iran these will not, for now, have any positive result. (As they won't, would they ever arise, in KSA. For now.)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Iranian_presidential_election_protests
Posted by: Noirette | Dec 30, 2017 10:05:33 AM | 52
The elevation of Tom Cotton to any position higher than head dog catcher, does not speak well for Team Trump and his secret agenda to rescue the common man.
Put another check in the box marked - we've been had.
Posted by: fastfreddy | Dec 30, 2017 10:39:43 AM | 53
elsi 48
Thank you. The various travel and interview shows I've seen about Iran in recent years have said the same thing. Many there are somewhat westernized via education and are friendly to foreign/western visitors. There will be govt minders especially for filming in places like Tehran.
As to politics and the power in Tehran, there are factions as covered in some comments above. Moderates have some successes but the concentration of power is with the conservatives. This CaspianReport from last year sums up a lot of the struggle.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXnYi_kOoE4
The protests do not surprise me but they are not necessarily a revolution as much as US/Israel would love to foment. For now they are happy with unrest.
Posted by: Curtis | Dec 30, 2017 10:47:42 AM | 54
My guess is they are looking for any excuse to renege on the nuclear deal and when these protests fizzle out, they will condemn Iranian "repression" and use that to persuade the EU to rejoin the previous sanctions regime. That, I think, is the plan, anyway.
Posted by: lysander | Dec 30, 2017 11:27:04 AM | 55
All very well, but never forget the power of demographics. It's like the tide coming in - on any given moment not much seems to happen, but give it time and it can undermine anything...
There was a population explosion right around the time that the Ayatollahs came to power - encouraged of course by government policy. At that time, as with Syria, there was a massive drop in living standards and an increase in political instability. This happens a lot, though it gets little (or no) press.
Since that time the Iranian government has mostly backtracked on its pro-natalist policy (a binge-and purge operation that happens so often when governments decide that they know best how many children people should have...), and Iranian fertility rates have fallen sharply - but there is still the demographic momentum of the previous high fertility rates, and the average Iranian is being crushed economically. So you have all these angry young men with no good prospects, never a good thing for stability. I would think that the Iranian government needs conflict with the United States, to redirect all these frustrations onto an external enemy... No, I'm not saying that Iran is evil and the US is a saint, I am saying that the Iranian government may feel the need for an external conflict of some sort, and this should be considered.
Remember, it's not the population density so much as the rate of increase. In 1960 there population of Iran was 20 million, now it's 80 million and still climbing rapidly. Certainly modern technology can allow 80 million people to live comfortably in a country the size of Iran, but the capital investments needed to do that are massive... a rapidly growing population sucks up all resources into daily living even as it radically increases the need for capital investment. This is an equation that does not balance, which is why countries with sustained high fertility rates NEVER develop into anything other than an even bigger mess...
Posted by: TG | Dec 30, 2017 11:28:20 AM | 56
Oohhh... "Hundreds" of Browders protest in Iran. Like "Hundreds" of Browder-Navalny protesters in Russia. The U.S. just can't scare up the numbers any more. It's so sad. 'Come on everybody! Let's get out and we can be like the Ukraine too'.
Posted by: Robert McMaster | Dec 30, 2017 11:33:39 AM | 57
Large numbers of ISIS fighters air lifted out of Syria have been dumped in Afghanistan ready to enter Iran from the east. Call it a replay of Syria.
Posted by: Anonymous | Dec 30, 2017 11:52:09 AM | 59
debsisdead and elsi.. thanks for your posts..
@49 somebody - 2nd link.. thanks.. it seems to be a factor here..
regarding the proximity of afghan to iran and where the demonstrations supposedly started..it bears watching given us / isis involvement in afghanistan..
Posted by: james | Dec 30, 2017 12:07:06 PM | 60
Posted by: TG | Dec 30, 2017 11:28:20 AM | 56
I doubt your theory as there is no correlation between gdp per capita and population growth - it has increased despite of population growth.
The price of oil and sanctions presumably have more of an effect.
Posted by: somebody | Dec 30, 2017 12:16:24 PM | 61
For one, I was always under the impression that Iran resembled Libya in many ways. Both Nations were special in their respective immediate regions. Both had economic power from oil revenues that did not end up in the pockets of the few. Libya though was much more secular without the mandated religious rules of Iran. Having known members of both Nations, it was obvious that Iran had a well rooted establishment and that especially ex-pats in Bavaria (Shah's family's and followers loved Munich - the capitol of "the movement") were always quick to dismiss the revolution and subsequent from Islam derived socialism. They also praised the Shah with glossy eyes and stated that ultimately, they will get their country back.
It is therefore no surprise, that Iran never made it off the list of Nations that 'required' regime change - backed by horror stories about their respective leaders and 'living conditions' that we're generally free from the dog eat dog capitalist Western colonizers' systems.
Lastly, I would like to point to the incessant gas-lighting that emanates from corporate media outlets all over the West. Especially the National Billionaire's Radio is out doing itself in the character defamations of those leaders that are at the top of the list of Nations that are spinters in the Billionaires' eyes.
Shame on those working at NPR - nobody can nowadays excuse oneself with not knowing what truly happens all over the world. It is treason to spread misinformation.
I wish those who did not make others' people's lives miserable a healthy and prosperous new year.
Posted by: nottheonly1 | Dec 30, 2017 1:03:30 PM | 65
Iran has not been allowed to be the modern Persia for more than 7 decades. The intrinsic nation within the heart and mind of Iranians has been torn by Western decapitation and oppression, followed by religious oppression and misdirection.
Iran could have the rapid growth and development it needs if it swiftly turns to Russia and China and ceases to be what it cannot.
Iran needs a clean economic plan of development. Economics is not about defeating Israel. Economic development will defeat Israel. A rich, stable Iran terrifies Israel. But Teheran seems determined to play the Israeli game.
It really is elementary stuff. Grow the nation's potential, harness the talent of the young, invest in infrastructure, tie the future to Eurasia and don't succumb to EU and US illusions.
The more Persian Iran becomes and the less Shiite, the better.
Ideology is the shortcut to ruin. Religious ideology as the basis for government is the expressway to ruin.
What is this Islamic Republic suffering from? Corruption!
Who are corrupt? The religious leaders running the government.
This is fatal.
Posted by: Red Ryder | Dec 30, 2017 1:29:01 PM | 66
Sunni jihadists claim they blew up Iran oil pipeline - News are via UAE
Some people are so transparent :-))
The disturbances are likely to relieve Saudi Arabia and the US who have feared the nation was positioning itself to become a regional superpower.
Aaron David Miller, a former US Middle East adviser, had previously warned that Iran was likely to win in their fight for control over Saudi Arabia.
Mr Miller said: ''I don't believe the Saudis are going to come out winners.''
The protests also take place as pressure grows both at home and abroad to relax strict Islamic laws in the country, including rules surrounding women's dress.
For years women have been forced to cover their hair and wear long, loose clothing.
The conservative traditions placed the country at odds with Saudi Arabia as it seeks to modernise since Mohammed bin Salman became the country's Crown Prince.
Reforms already taking place in Saudi Arabia include the decision to let women drive and plans to create a new tourist hub similar to Dubai on the coast of the Red Sea.
Let me guess - Saudi has been bankrolling any existing or non existing Iranian opposition group and are paying per demonstration video
Posted by: somebody | Dec 30, 2017 2:12:49 PM | 68
So Israel and the US meet to plan on how to have regime change in Iran.And they complain about Russian meddling in US elections.Morons ,all of them.
Posted by: Guy | Dec 30, 2017 2:18:27 PM | 69
The plot thickens
Saeed Kamali Dehghan @SaeedKD ' Many Iranians - even those exiled - appear sceptical about the protests spreading across Iran. Many can't figure out why so many chants in support of monarchy/late Shah. They ask is this instigated? nostalgia? Is it contempt for clerics? Or middle class/working class difference?
I wonder, could this be the first Saudi prince initiative that will not backfire?
Posted by: somebody | Dec 30, 2017 2:29:41 PM | 71
Saudi boy King Salman is working the Pakistan angle '...
Nawaz Sharifs' dash to Saudi Arabia fuels suspicions | Dawn |
The Saudi's failed in meddling in Lebanon after house arrest of Saad Hariri in Riyadh.
Who got the better deal from apprentice president Trump? Russia's Putin or Israel's Netanyahu. Where do you think stems the collusion in the late election 2016, from Russian oligarchs or those linked to Israel? Fusion GPS oppo ''research'' was funded by Paul Singer and an Abu Dhabi sheikh. After Obama meddling in the Israel election of January 2016, was no one ready for a forceful revenge from Bibi? Washington DC has become a playground of foreign intrigue, propaganda and competing forces of intelligence. US Congress is an artists's impression for the background curtains of the kabuki theater.
Trump has all reason to be thankful and gifted Jerusalem to Israel '... generosity with Palestinian land, not his to give!
Posted by: Oui | Dec 30, 2017 2:47:54 PM | 72
Debs @ 45: If conditions in Iran are as you described, think you NAILED it!!!
Posted by: ben | Dec 30, 2017 3:07:27 PM | 74
@ elsi | Dec 30, 2017 3:29:02 PM | 75
Well, wrong information in my post above, I misunderstood what was published by that twitter account, sorry, it was not its position on the protests, but on the strategic approach of the new US administration published in a communiquee in October.
Anyway, I fear that the communists, despite being opposition, will not support any initiative they see as instigated by foreign actors...as gets clear in their comuniquee
Posted by: elsi | Dec 30, 2017 3:39:58 PM | 76
@ elsi | Dec 30, 2017 3:29:02 PM | 75
Wrong link to Tudeh Party´s site too. apologies..
Posted by: elsi | Dec 30, 2017 3:42:07 PM | 77
A question as I am not up to speed (at all) on Iran's political arena; is there any chance Ahmadinejad would run for office again?
Posted by: frances | Dec 30, 2017 3:51:31 PM | 78
Quoted from the Saving Private Ryan movie: Go easy, watch for snipers >>.
@64 Khorasan, Islamic eschatology says the Black Banner will come out of it..
Posted by: Lozion | Dec 30, 2017 4:15:54 PM | 79
Fellow Iranian here. This is the deliberate result of Rouhani's executive government, they intentionally spread some rumors about 50%+ price increases in key consumer products, such as eggs and fuel, and then decided not to follow up with it. They also threatened the rest of the government that if they are not given more power, they will stir this more.
Three sides to this nasty game, one is the Ayatollah and IRGC, which have been the winner of Syrian issue, and are a thorn in the side of US alliance. The other side is Rouhani's executive branch, which has openly opposed the IRGC/Ayatollah decisions for the last 5 years, and has been in somewhat of an open opposition with them. The third side is the power mafia in Iran, which had Rouhani as one of their key members, but now want to throw him under the bus so that they can continue their own game, and thus have strongly opposed Rouhani's government and blame it for everything.
People are really confused, and don't know which voice to trust.
Posted by: Bioox | Dec 30, 2017 4:36:50 PM | 80
80
Your scenario sounds unlikely as demonstrations seem to be AGAINST the Rouhani government. You sure the Rouhani government intentionally caused it? First people to be replaced by demonstrations would be the executive government - not the security forces.
The strange timing - just before demonstrations FOR the government that were planned a while ago?
People shouting MEK and monarchist slogans?
Posted by: somebody | Dec 30, 2017 5:00:54 PM | 81
Kurdish parties
Kurdish parties have welcomed the protests.
The Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and Komala issued a joint statement asking for international support for the demonstrations. ''The people of Kurdistan have always stood up against the Islamist regime and they support the people all over Iran in their struggle for freedom,'' the parties stated.
The protests have the ''potential to bring about fundamental changes'' and set the country on the path to democracy and freedom, said the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) in a statement.
Let me guess - they chose the strategy to protest simultaneously in the provinces as there small numbers look big - and they don't have the numbers nor the support in Teheran.
And someone managed to coordinate all the opposition outside of the Iranian system. Some of the slogans and the hatred come from here.
Posted by: somebody | Dec 30, 2017 5:41:30 PM | 82
Red Ryder for the win
Posted by: jezabeel | Dec 30, 2017 6:03:06 PM | 83
Iranians Protest Rising Food Prices
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:17
The prices of staples like eggs have risen by up to 40 percent in recent days, with farmers blaming the increases on higher prices for imported feed. Poultry is an important part of the diet of many of Iran's 80 million people; previous price increases have caused political problems for Iran's leaders.
So has inflation, which Iran's Central Bank says has returned to 10 percent. Youth unemployment also remains high.
Tempers rose further after Mr. Rouhani submitted to Parliament his 2018 budget, which increases departure taxes for those flying out of the country.
Saeed Leilaz, a Tehran-based analyst, said that Mr. Rouhani's political rivals may have played a role in organizing the protests, saying ''the hands of political groups could be seen in today's gathering in Mashhad.''
But he said the administration still faces a major challenge.
''There are more than three million jobless in Iran, and more than 35 percent of Iranians are under the poverty line,'' Mr. Leilaz said. ''These are Rouhani's problems, and could kill any government. I won't be shocked if inflation hits 12 percent.''
All this comes as Congress weighs President Trump's refusal to recertify the nuclear deal. Many Iranians now say they agree with assertions by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that the United States can't be trusted.
Mr. Khamenei has kept up his criticism of how Mr. Rouhani's administration has handled the economy, along with his opposition to allowing foreign companies to fully enter Iran. The Revolutionary Guard, a hard-line paramilitary organization, has major economic interests in the country.
The guard did not mobilize its Basij volunteer forces to counter the protests on Thursday. Some protesters criticized Iran's support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria in his country's civil war. The guard has played a major role in that war.
A version of this article appears in print on December 29, 2017, on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: High Inflation Spurs Protest By Iranians.
Continue reading the main story
Iran Protests & Economic Issues: Some Thoughts | National Review
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 05:19
There has been a second day of violent protests in Iran that have spread to at least 20 cities. The protests reportedly began over economic issues when Iranian officials raised food prices and the doubling of the price of eggs. Iran has huge economic problems with youth unemployment at 40 percent. There also is discontent over huge government spending on the military and the war in Syria. Over 60 percent of Iran's population of 80 million is under 30 years old. Despite censorship and the mullah's propaganda, Iranian youths yearn for the freedom and culture of the West.
There also is significant and growing opposition to the country's theocratic system, especially by young people. Incredibly, protesters reportedly have been chanting ''We don't want an Islamic Republic'' and ''Death to Rouhani.''
It is no accident that the Iranian government announced today that it will no longer arrest women who go outside without wearing head scarves.
So far these protests seem much smaller and not as serious as the massive Green Revolution protests that broke out in Iran after the fraudulent 2009 presidential election, which returned Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. However, Amir Taheri, a well-known Iran expert, said in the below tweet that Iranian security reportedly is reluctant to fire on protesters:
Most Iran experts believe there is huge discontent in Iran that the regime uses brutal oppression to keep under the surface. This particular set of protests might die out, but they are part of what Iran expert Michael Ledeen has long predicted: an irreversible trend moving toward the day when the Iranian people topples a regime it despises.
Nikki Haley: Missile wreckage proves Iran is violating rules on weapons transfers
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 04:57
President Trump's top United Nations envoy on Thursday accused Iran of violating Security Council bans on weapons transfers, as she stood next to the wreckage of Iranian rockets she said were taken from Saudia Arabia and other battlefields in the Middle East.
''We do not often declassify this type of military equipment recovered from these attacks, but today we are taking the extraordinary step of presenting it here in an open setting,'' said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. ''We did this for a single urgent purpose: because the Iranian regime cannot be allowed to engage in its lawless behavior any longer. International peace and security depends on us working together against the Iranian regime's hostile actions.''
Haley spoke to reporters from a hangar at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C., alongside a series of weapons systems that she sourced back to Iran. Most notably, she pointed to a ballistic missile Saudi Arabia salvaged from an attempt to strike King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. That missile was launched by the Houthis, according to American and Saudi officials, a rebel group in Yemen that is backed by Iran.
''The Iranians are not supposed to be exporting any missiles or any related material,'' Haley said. ''You will look at all of these weapons and there are markings all over it that show without a doubt these are Iranian-made, these are Iranian-sent, and these are Iranian-given.''
Haley emphasized that the U.N. Security Resolution banning such weapons transfers is the same one that authorized the international implementation of the nuclear deal negotiated during former President Barack Obama's tenure. She used that linkage to set the table for a pressure campaign against Iran '-- an implicit rebuttal of U.S. allies who see Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal itself as an argument against the Trump administration's aggressive posture.
''This is blatant violations of what they are not supposed to be doing,'' she said. ''And what we are saying is, everybody has tiptoed around Iran for fear of them getting out of the nuclear deal. And they are allowing missiles like this to be fired over [at] innocent civilians, and that is what has to stop.''
She suggested that Saudi Arabian clashes with the Houthis have prompted western allies to rethink their position on pressuring Iran.
"They all know that this could have hit anyone of their airports,'' Haley said. ''I think now they realize they can't look the other way any longer, they have to address this.''
Propaganda Aiming to Prove Iran Supplied Missiles Backfires '' Global Research
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 05:07
Featured image: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley supplies what she says is Iran's destabilizing influence in Yemen during a news conference at Joint Base Anacostia-Boling in Washington, D.C., Dec. 14. (Source: DoD photo by EJ Hersom)
On December 12, America's Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, gave a press conference on the grounds of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. The subject of this briefing: the threat posed by Iranian-supplied missiles employed by the Houthi rebels of Yemen in their ongoing fight against a Saudi Arabian-led coalition.
As a backdrop for this dramatic presentation, Haley had assembled various components and debris recovered from two previous missile attacks by the Houthi on Saudi Arabian targets.
''If we do nothing about the missiles fired at Saudi Arabia, we will not be able to stop the violence,'' Haley warned. ''There is clear evidence that the missiles that landed on Saudi Arabia come from Iran,'' she said, adding: ''The evidence is undeniable. The weapons might as well have had 'Made in Iran' stickers all over it.''
The facts of the matter, however, are quite different.
According to Haley, the weapons in question were Iranian-made Qiam-1 missiles, possessing a range of up to 800 kilometers. Haley was parroting the claims of the Saudi Arabian government, which had previously released a press statement about the Houthi missile attacks and their links to Iran. The Commanding General of U.S. Central Command, Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, backed up the Saudi claims, without providing any new evidence. Haley's press conference, with its dramatic show and tell, was the first time the Saudi Arabian claims had been backed up by anything remotely resembling proof. Moreover, Haley's comments were designed to set up a report by a panel of United Nations experts, who had travelled to Saudi Arabia to examine the missile parts in question and ascertain their origin. The findings of that report, scheduled to be released two days after Haley's press conference, were mixed. ''Design characteristics and dimensions of the components,'' it read ''inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian designed and manufactured Qiam-1 missile.'' However, the panel also noted that ''as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier.'' Haley's press conference was designed to eliminate any uncertainty on the matter.
A closer look, however, reveals the opposite. Rather than the Iranian-manufactured Qiam-1 missiles Haley and the Saudi Arabian government claimed, the debris presented by Haley were of a modified Soviet-manufactured SCUD-B missile; the airframe and engine are original Soviet-made components, and many of the smaller parts on display bear Cyrillic (i.e., Russian) markings. The transformation to the Burkhan 2-H design required the Houthi engineers to increase the size of the fuel and oxidizer tanks, and lengthen the airframe accordingly. This is done by cutting the airframe, and welding in place the appropriate segments (this also required that the fuel supply pipe, which passes through the oxidizer tank, be similarly lengthened.) The difference in quality between the factory welds and the new welds is readily discernable. The increased fuel supply permits a longer engine burn, which in turn increases the range of the missile. The Burkhan 2-H uses a smaller warhead than the SCUD B; as such, the guidance and control section had been reconfigured to a smaller diameter, and an inter-stage section added to connect the warhead/guidance section with the main airframe.
The warhead of the Burkhan 2-H, unlike the SCUD-B, is designed to separate from the main body of the missile during the final phase of its descent; this aids in accuracy and survivability, since most anti-missile radars (such as that used by the Patriot system used by Saudi Arabia) cannot readily distinguish between the smaller warhead and the larger mass of the airframe, sending the interceptors to the latter while the former falls unimpeded to its target. The bottle-nose shape produced by this smaller warhead, however, increases the missile's overall drag coefficient, which reduced its range. To compensate for this, the Burkhan 2-H eliminates the tail fins found on the SCUD-B missile. This, however, creates stability and trajectory control issues at launch, for which the Burkhan-2 adjusts for by incorporating a more sensitive and responsive guidance and control system, which in turn is linked to similarly responsive actuators controlling the SCUD-B style jet vanes that steer the missile via thrust vectoring.
The reality is that the Burkhan 2-H is neither a completely indigenously-produced Houthi missile, nor is it an Iranian-manufactured Qiam-1. Instead, the Burkhan 2-H is a Soviet SCUD-B that has been significantly modified using Iranian design concepts and critical components (the guidance and control and thrust vector actuators stand out.) The ability to carry out the necessary modifications is not beyond the technical capability of the Houthi, who have assimilated most of the Yemeni missile engineers under their control. While the design aspect of this modification program appears to be Iranian, the actual technical modifications are more akin to a similar missile modification effort undertaken by Iraq in the 1980's to 1990's, where SCUD-B missiles were modified to become the longer-range Al Hussein missile used during the Iran-Iraq War and the Gulf War. Iraq and Yemen had a significant program of cooperation before the Gulf War, where Iraqi missile experts collaborated with their Yemeni counterparts to modify Yemen's SCUD-B missiles to Al Hussein configuration. Iraq's defeat at the hands of a US-led coalition, followed by the UN-directed dismantling of its long-range missile program, aborted this effort before it could be consummated, but not before a considerable amount of coordination had taken place, including a survey of the specific engineering resources needed to carry out the necessary modifications.
The missile debris in question actually contradicts the finding of the UN panel, which held that the missiles launched against Saudi Arabia had been transferred to Yemen in pieces and assembled there by Houthi missile engineers; it is clear that the missiles in question had been in the possession of Yemen well before the Saudi Arabian-led intervention of 2015, and that their source was either Soviet or North Korean. The modification kits, on the other hand, appear to be of Iranian origin, and were transported to Yemen via Oman. The UN panel claims not to have any evidence of ''external missile specialists'' working alongside the Houthi; indeed, the simplicity of the Burkhan 2-H modification concept is such that anyone already familiar with the SCUD-B missile system would be able to implement the required processes without outside assistance.
The fact that what is being discussed is the modification of existing Yemeni missiles, and not the provision of a new missile system, means that the already tenuous claims made by the Saudi Arabian and American governments that the Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia represented a de facto violation of UN Security Council resolution 2231 (and, by extension, the Iran nuclear agreement) simply does not hold water. The entire Saudi-US effort in this regard was little more than a not-so-sophisticated propaganda exercise designed to bolster the Trump administration's efforts to cobble together some sort of international consensus on doing away with the Iranian nuclear agreement. To this end, the Saudis and their American co-conspirators seem to have had little success.
As bad as that result may have been, it paled in comparison to what this entire charade could not obviate'--that there has been little progress, if any, in the capability of nations armed with modern weaponry and advanced intelligence gathering systems to locate and interdict a mobile, relocatable ballistic missile force. The efforts of the Saudi Arabian-led coalition to neutralize the Houthi ballistic missile capability have been a dismal failure'--there is no evidence of a single Houthi-controlled mobile missile launcher having been destroyed by coalition forces, despite hundreds of air sorties having been flown for just that purpose. The Houthi have displayed the capability to launch missiles targeting the most sensitive of Saudi Arabia's political and economic infrastructure at will. Moreover, the unique characteristics of the Burkhan 2-H missile'--a small, separating warhead, combined with a reduced radar cross section (by eliminating the tail fins of the SCUD-B) and a more responsive guidance and control system'--have made it virtually impossible to intercept using the US-made Patriot anti-missile system. In many ways, the Saudi-led efforts against the Houthi mirrors the Great SCUD Hunt carried out by the United States during the Gulf War, where the Iraqis were able to continue launching missiles against Israel and Saudi Arabia up until the end of the war, without the loss of a single mobile missile launcher. Moreover, the inability of the Patriot missile to successfully intercept Iraqi-modified SCUD missiles seems to be the case today, with Saudi Patriot batteries impotent in the face of the Burkhan 2-H.
If a relatively unsophisticated foe such as the Houthi, using Iranian-modified Soviet and North Korean missiles derived from 40-year-old technology, can evade an enemy force using the most modern combat aircraft backed up by the most sophisticated intelligence gathering systems available, and successfully launch ballistic missiles that threaten the political and economic infrastructure of the targeted state, what does that say about the prospects of any U.S.-led coalition taking on the far more advanced mobile missile threats that exist in North Korea and Iran today? The fact of the matter is that no military anywhere has shown the ability to successfully interdict in any meaningful way a determined opponent armed with mobile ballistic missile capability. If the Saudi experience in Yemen is to teach us anything, it is that any military plan designed to confront nations such as North Korea, Iran and Russia that are armed with sophisticated mobile ballistic missiles had better count on those capabilities remaining intact throughout any anticipated period of hostility. No amount of chest-thumping and empty rhetoric by American political and/or military leaders can offset this harsh reality. This is the critical lesson of Yemen, and the United States would do well to heed it before it tries to foment a crisis based upon trumped-up charges.
Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West's Road to War (Clarity Press, 2017).
Here's A Primer On What Is Going On With The Protests In Iran - The Drive
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:13
Protests in Iran over a surge in the price of eggs have grown into broader political demonstrations, with some individuals even calling for an end to the Islamic Republic system of government. The rare outburst of public discontent will be an important test for U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration, which has made a particular point of taking a tough stance toward the regime in Tehran, as well as potentially having ramifications throughout the Middle East.
On Dec. 28, 2017, hundreds of individuals turned out in Mashhad, Iran's second most populous city, to protest the government and its apparent inability to control the rising price of basic goods. The cost of eggs in particular had risen up to 40 percent within a matter of days, with farmers in turn blaming their hikes on the increasing price of chicken feed. Public outcry over economic issues is not uncommon in Iran, but by Dec. 29, 2017, there were reports of new demonstrations across the country's Northern provinces from East to West that had grown to include demands for greater political freedoms, changes to Iranian foreign policy, and an end to clerical control of government.
''The nation is struggling in poverty; The leader is trying to act as God,'' protesters chanted in the Western city of Kermanshah, according to U.S. government-funded Radio Farda, with ''the leader'' being an apparent veiled reference to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. ''Political prisoners should be freed,'' they added reinforcing that at least some of the demonstrations had taken on a different and more political character.
There were reports of similar gatherings in major population centers, such as Rasht, Ghazvin, Qom, Esfahan, and Hamadan. Iranian state media said that police in the capital Tehran had arrested 40 individuals for holding an unsanctioned rally there, which is particularly notable given the country's well established internal security apparatus.
A screen cap of video from one of the protests in Iran.
It appears that the rapid spread of public outcry was something authorities had not expected to occur even after the initial protests in Mashhad and elsewhere in the East. There are various reports, though, that police and other organizations, such as the quasi-military Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Basij volunteer paramilitary militia, have swiftly moved out to crack down on demonstrators, potentially with lethal force.
The IRGC has also reportedly begun jamming or otherwise blocking access to international media outlets, many of which are covering the protests. The jammers could also cut off cellphone signals, which protesters might use to coordinate their demonstrations and spread their message.
''We consider protest to be the people's right,'' Hossein Heidari, head of the revolutionary court in Mashhad, said, according to the BBC. ''But if some people want to abuse these emotions and ride this wave, we won't wait and will confront them.''
Revolutionary courts in Iran exist largely to protect the state and deal almost exclusively in crimes pertaining to treasonous activities, espionage on behalf of foreign powers, and blasphemy, as well as narcotics trafficking and other smuggling. Originally established to purge loyalists to the previous regime of the Shah, these judicial entities are now linked to the suppression of broader internal dissent against the regime in Tehran.
As of yet, it remains difficult to gauge just how widespread the anti-government sentiment is among the protesters and how strong those feelings might be separate from the present economic situation. Not surprisingly, Iranian authorities have, without providing any evidence, been quick to accuse outside actors of sparking the unrest as part of a larger plot to undermine the country's government.
There have actually been rumors that the protests may have been a ploy by the country's hard line political factions to undermine reformist President Hassan Rouhani, who has also been a target of protesters' chants, which has now backfired. A moderate by the standards of Iranian politics, Rouhani has drawn criticism from the country's conservative elements over plans for relatively modest increases in social freedoms and plans to increase foreign economic ties. In May 2017, he still managed to win a second presidential term, securing nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Alexei Druzhinin/Sputnik via AP
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
''When a social and political movement is launched on the streets, those who started it will not necessarily be able to control it in the end,'' Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, a Rouhani ally, told state-run outlet IRNA, reportedly referring to the president's political opponents. ''Those who are behind such events will burn their own fingers. They think they will hurt the government by doing so.''
But whether initially staged or spontaneous, the protests do seem to be growing on their own now and could potentially draw the eye of foreign powers opposed to the Iranian regime. In particularly, U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration have made a taking a tough stance toward Iran a key part of America's foreign policy agenda, announcing a new strategy toward the country in October 2017 and reiterating those plans within a new National Security Strategy earlier in December 2017.
In addition, Trump has personally criticized his predecessor, President Barack Obama, in the past for failing to back a popular uprising in Iran in 2009. Known variously as the Green Movement, the Green Revolution, or the Persian Awakening, those protests erupted after a dispute over the Iranian presidential election that year.
Reformist candidate and former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi declared victory and accused allies for the incumbent hard line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had rigged the results to give him another term. Authorities subsequently arrested Mousavi, as well as another opposition political leader Mehdi Karoubi, and a number of protesters subsequently died in unrest that lasted in 2010.
Sipa via AP
Iranian protesters hold a banner with a picture of Mir-Hossein Mousavi during a demonstration in 2009.
More protests continued through 2011-2012. As of December 2017, both Mousavi and Karoubi remain under house arrest, despite pledges from Rouhani to release them. In August 2017, Karoubi went on hunger strike to demand a public trial, but stopped his protest after the government agreed to remove secret police agents from his home.
''If Obama would've backed the people of Iran two years ago when that county had a big, big problem'--and the protesters were making headway'--like he backed the protesters in the United States'--as they call themselves occupy '--we wouldn't have any problems in Iran,'' Trump said in 2011 video he posted on YouTube, but which is no longer available. ''That country would've been turned over so fast, instead he abandoned those people.''
In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney similarly accused Obama of being ''silent'' about the protests. Obama's administration did criticize the Iranians for their crackdown in 2009, but did not explicitly call for regime change or otherwise offer any direct, public support to enable a more serious revolt.
How Trump reacts to the situation in Iran and the government in Tehran, which he referred to as a ''murderous regime'' in his first ever speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2017, will be an important demonstration of his administration's stance toward the country. At the time or writing, the White House had not issued a formal statement regarding the protests. The president himself had yet to use his outlet of choice, Twitter, to make any comments, either.
''The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters,'' the State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement on Dec. 29, 2017, mirroring the sort of language the Obama administration used to criticize the response to the 2009 demonstrations. ''We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.''
Beyond just criticizing the Iranian government and Supreme Leader Khamenei, the Trump administration could decide to use the opportunity to take more direct overt or covert action, such as finding ways to help protesters avoid or evade government controls on communicating and access to independent media, providing other support to Iranian dissident groups in the United States and elsewhere, call for additional economic sanctions, or even something more direct, such as launching cyber attacks on government institutions that could limit their ability to respond to demonstrations.
There were reports that the Obama Administration had already developed plans for a wide ranging covert cyber warfare campaign against Iran in the event that negotiations over the county's controversial nuclear program collapsed. Some have argued that the underlying economic situation is in part due to long-standing sanctions finally having an visible impact.
On top of that, Iran has already been actively jockeying with its regional opponents, chiefly Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, throughout 2017. Any of these countries might see a similar opening to challenge the Iranian government's standing or influence.
Saudi Arabia, which is now in the midst of its own major political purge, has accused Iran of an ''act of war'' over allegedly supplying Houthi rebels in Yemen with ballistic missiles or the technology necessary to construct their own. That group has launched a number of these weapons at Saudi Arabia, including an attempted attack on King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud's palace in Riyadh earlier in December 2017.
That same month, the United States presented what it said was conclusive proof of the connection to members of the press. Some experts questioned the extent of the link based on the evidence available, but there is little dispute that Iran is sending a variety of arms, including aerial and maritime drones and the means to construct naval mines, and other support to the Houthis.
Qatar's connections with the Iranian government are also at the core of that country's on-going political dispute with the Saudis and its other Gulf Arab neighbors. For its part, Iran has accused Saudi Arabia of being behind a pair of ISIS terrorist attacks in Tehran in July 2017.
Iran's support for Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad, including through its proxy, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, has also steadily drawn more ire from Israel. Israeli officials have stressed their intent to prevent Iran from gaining a foothold near their borders and have launched a number of punitive attacks over the years aimed at both the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed forces.
Notably, Iran's activities in Syria have been another apparent issue for at least some of the protesters, as is its support for Palestinian groups against Israel. According to BBC Persian, which was one target of separate crackdown in August 2017, the average Iranian has become 15 percent poorer while the country's government has steadily increased spending on causes overseas in places such as the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
''Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran,'' some chanted in Mashhad, according to BBC. ''Leave Syria alone, think about us,'' was another slogan Radio Farda reported.
With so many different political agendas at play, inside and outside of Iran, along with the steadily evolving demands of the protestors, it's hard to imagine these demonstrations subsiding quickly. Whether the Iranian government emerges relatively unscathed, as it did after the protests in 2009 and 2010, and if the Trump Administration actually takes a more active stance, remains to be seen.
Contact the author:jtrevithickpr@gmail.com
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Here's What's Behind Iran's Biggest Protests In Seven Years
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:12
Thousands of Iranians took to the streets in anti-government protests across Iran on Friday in a rare and stunning show of public defiance that threatened to spill over into more unrest.
The widespread protests, likely organized through social media, began on Thursday with raucous demonstrations over the economic problems Iranians are currently facing. At least 50 people were arrested in the cities where protests took place.
But the themes of the protests on Thursday and Friday quickly shifted, with the protesters '-- overwhelmingly in their teens, twenties, and thirties '-- calling for freedom of political prisoners and even an end to the clerical regime. They chanted slogans drawn from the 2009 uprising that followed the disputed reelection of hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sometimes even calling out Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei by name.
''Seyed Ali (Khamenei), excuse us,'' they chanted in the central city of Isfahan, in one of the numerous videos taken by protesters and uploaded to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Telegram. ''Now we have to rise up.''
Media is tightly controlled in Iran, and it remained difficult to measure the depth, scope, and severity of the protests as night fell on Friday, but they suggested a layer of seething anger at both Khamenei, close to the hardliners, and the moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who has been unable to deliver on promises of economic and social reform. This week, police in Tehran announced they would ease up on arresting women for wearing immodest clothing, perhaps to cool tempers in anticipation of the protests.
''In general the frustration and anger that led to 2009 is still alive in society, and the crackdown has not made it disappear,'' Omid Memarian, an independent Iran analyst and journalist based in New York told BuzzFeed News. ''The causes of all that anger and frustration were never addressed by the government, by the state. They never addressed issues of equality, discrimination, lack of freedom and bad economic policies.''
Inflation and unemployment have hobbled prospects for Iran's youth, as well as the lower-middle class. One trigger for the protests appears to have been a spike in the price of eggs.
Rouhani had vowed that the 2015 nuclear deal with the West would improve the country's economy, but growth has fallen far short of expectations. Many of Iran's economic problems are rooted in the control corrupt and incompetent hardliners have over levers of the economy, everything from the travel industry to imports and the gigantic energy sector. Rouhani has been unable to roll back corruption or tweak the economy without taking on the entrenched positions of the hardliners.
Friday's protests were by far the worst political unrest Iran has experienced since the period after the 2009 vote, which triggered months of arrests and violence, extending far across Iran's geography. Video showed protesters, sometimes with children in tow, scuffling with police in the northern port city of Rasht and calling for the end of the regime in Qom, the city that educated most of the country's clerical leadership.
''Leave Syria alone,'' went one slogan used throughout the day, in reference to Iran's ambitious military intervention in the Syrian conflict, ''give a thought to us.''
There were also small reports of protests in the capital, Tehran, the epicenter of the 2009 uprising.
Tehran's deputy governor-general for security affairs told the Iranian Labour News Agency that ''a number of protesters'' have been arrested at a small protest in a square in the city.
Analysts speculated that hardliners had encouraged the original economic protest Thursday to undermine and embarrass Rouhani, a plan that appears to have backfired as people took to the streets for a wider set of grievances. Rouhani's First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri appeared to make a reference to such a scenario in a speech delivered Friday.
''The ones who trigger political moves in the streets may not be the ones who will put an end to it, since others may ride the wave they have started, and they must know that their action will backfire on them,'' he said at a medical conference, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.
But Rouhani himself may have contributed to the anger. For the first time ever, when he unveiled the new budget a month ago, he included previously undisclosed details about how much money went to unaccountable religious foundations, research centers, and other institutions close to the leadership.
''People learned how the religious class is basically swallowing the big chunk of the budget without any accountability while people's daily life is becoming harder,'' said Memarian.
Rouhani is a wily insider, and has in the past proven adept at using such dissatisfaction as a cudgel against the hardliners' control. But the protests could also further empower hardliners if perceived as part of a foreign intervention. Already Iranian news agencies were pointing to US Senator Tom Cotton, an Iran hawk, tweeting his support for the protesters. Fars, a news agency seen as close to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, denounced the protests as organized by ''counter-revolutionaries.''
President Trump on Friday night blamed the protests on Iranians' desire for a regime free of corruption and terrorism. He added a warning to the Iranian government should it violate its people's rights.
"The world is watching!"
War on Christmas
France allows Muslim street prayers but bans Christmas movie because it was ''too Christian''
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 03:53
France is a secular Republic, because it separates religion and state and it mostly sees religion as a private matter; restricted to the home and places of worship.
But for years, France has allowed Muslim street prayers and to heavily criticise them was simply not done. Sometimes even roads were blocked and cars were being redirected to make room for Muslim street prayers. It looks like when Islam is involved, France's secular principles have suddenly disappeared.
For Christianity in France it's a totally different story. According to the European Post, a Christmas movie in the French city of Langon was banned, because it was ''too Christian'', or ''not secular enough''. The European Post writes:
A Christmas movie was judged by teachers as ''not secular enough'' and was therefore banned from schools in the French city of Langon in the department of Gironde on 13 December.
83 students of a French school started to watch the movie ''The Star'', a computer animated adventure comedy based on the history of Jesus, a movie produced by Columbia Pictures.
But when the teachers realised the subject of the movie was the nativity of Jesus Christ, they immediately cancelled it because it was ''not secular enough''. All students were obliged to go back to school without watching the end of the movie.
Earlier France's ''one-sided secularism'' showed its ugly face as well: France's highest administrative court ordered in November to remove a cross from a Pope John Paul II statue in Plormel near Brittany. The same court ordered to remove a Nativity scene in the municipal hall of the town of B(C)ziers in the same month.
How Trump and the Nazis Stole Christmas To Promote White Nationalism
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:05
President Donald Trump wants Americans to think he reinvented Christmas.
''We can say 'merry Christmas' again,'' he has said on numerous occasions, both during his campaign for president and his presidency. ''Christmas is back, better and bigger than ever before,'' he told supporters months before the Christmas season.
''You can say again 'merry Christmas' because Donald Trump is now the president,'' said Corey Lewandowski, Trump's former campaign manager, after Trump won the election.
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Many of Trump's Christian supporters argue that the president is ending the so-called war on Christmas, which has been presented by evangelicals and Fox news anchors as a threat to America's Christian culture. Trump supporters say Americans have become too politically correct when they wish people happy holidays, a neutral term that can be used for people who celebrate Hanukkah, Eid al-Adha or any other religious holiday that takes place around the same time as Christmas.
Donald Trump has promised to bring back Christmas. Getty Images
But critics counter that Trump is promoting a version of the holidays that excludes members of other religions, and that his crusade to bring back Christmas is part of a larger attempt by the president to define America as a country for white Christians alone.
Wishing people ''merry Christmas'' instead of ''happy holidays'' is thus in line with Trump's decision to ban citizens of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, critics say. It fits neatly with his refusal to condemn white supremacists when they march against diversity, and with his condemnation of athletes who protest police brutality against black men.
With this in mind, the fight to end the war on Christmas is exclusionary politics at its most flagrant.
''I see such invocations of Christmas as a kind of cypher, what some would call a dog whistle. It does not appear to be intolerant or extreme, but to attentive audiences it speaks volumes about identity and belonging'--who and what are fully American,'' Richard King, a professor at Washington State University who studies how white supremacists exploit culture, told Newsweek.
''Much like 'Make America Great Again,' panics over the protests by NFL players and the defense of Confederate memory, Christmas is a way to talk about peril, to assert a soft or hard version of white nationalism,'' he said.
White nationalism and pro-Confederate sentiment has been a hot issue over the past year since Donald Trump took office. Getty Images
Trump isn't the first political figure in history to co-opt Christmas. In fact, some see parallels between Trump's speeches in front of Christmas trees and attempts by authoritarian regimes like the Nazis to manipulate popular celebrations to promote a political ideology. But by weaponizing Christmas in this way, Trump is bringing a dangerous tradition of politicizing religious holidays into the United States, one expert says.
''Because Americans have enjoyed a relatively stable political system, Christmas in the U.S. has been relatively immune to the overt politicization of the holiday,'' Joe Perry told Newsweek. He is the author of the book Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History, which examines the way Nazis used Christmas to spread fascism.
''But not completely immune. The far right's engagement in the 'war on Christmas' explicitly posits that there is one single true or correct Christmas. The holiday's true nature is somehow under threat from outsiders and liberals who act as forces of degradation, multiculturalism and secularization,'' Perry continued.
In this context, Trump has been using the so-called war on Christmas to wage a culture war that pits multicultural liberals against Christian conservatives. He began doing this long before Christmas. Meanwhile, some members of the religious right support Trump's most nationalist, race-baiting form of political rhetoric, including his reclaiming of Christmas.
Men dressed as Santa Claus and a tin soldier give a Nazi salute during a white supremacist event. Getty Images
Likewise, Nazi Germany's propagandists rooted their idea of Christmas in visions of ethno-nationalism. They rewrote the lyrics of Christmas carols, promoted Nazified holiday traditions and launched numerous Christmas charity events for poor Germans. The ultimate goal was to draw a clear line between those who belonged and those who should be excluded and not benefit from the joys of Christmas.
Trump's rhetoric differs from that of Nazi Germany's, most notably because he has never advocated genocide. But Trump's talk about Christmas coexists with re-emerging white identity politics, Randy Blazak, a sociology professor who studies white nationalism, told Newsweek.
''Committed white nationalists love Trump's bring back Christmas campaign almost as much as evangelicals,'' he said. ''His followers see this as gospel and a rebuking of multiculturalism and political correctness, and the growing influence of Jews, Muslims, atheists and other non-WASPs.''
President Donald Trump, watched by Vice President Mike Pence, signs a proclamation in front of a Christmas tree. Getty Images
Perry said that Trump hasn't gone nearly as far as the Nazis in promoting his vision of the holidays, and he sees major flaws in describing Trump as a Nazi-like figure. But there are some clear parallels.
''Trump and the Nazis share aspects of race baiting and perhaps broader aspects of extreme conservatism'--many political ideologies do,'' Perry said.
''Frankly, I'm not sure how far Trump himself is willing to go to use the holiday to promote anti-Muslim or anti-minority visions of America, or if he even really understands what he is doing with his 'merry Christmas' tirades.''
War on Gamers
From Producer Daniel
Hey Adam,
The trashing of gamers has nothing to do with the lack of
advertising and I say that with all due respect. I know next to nothing about
this world but I am a hardcore gamer and I can comment on this topic with
confidence. The Trump movement's success could greatly be attributed to gamers
due to their online discussion of Gamergate and the influence of SJW's on video
games as well as their participation in the MGTOW online movement. These two
movements snowballed into a full on troll movement that pushed Donald Trump as
a direct response to the SJW bullshit currently infecting our video games.
TLDR: Gamers have been blamed for Trump's election and now
the media is trying to paint us as crazy.
Proof:
https://www.rollingstone.com/glixel/news/tracing-link-between-gamergate-trump-supporters-alt-right-w510618
https://www.cnet.com/news/gamergate-donald-trump-american-nazis-how-video-game-culture-blew-everything-up/
https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/bm5wd4/under-trump-gamergate-can-stop-pretending-it-was-about-games
http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2017/06/22/leftists-think-gamergate-caused-donald-trump-maybe-theyre-right/
Thank you for your time and keep making great programming!
Armageddon
Cardboard tents distributed to Brussels homeless - BBC News
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 12:39
Image copyright Belga Image caption Many people are uncomfortable with current levels of homelessness in Western cities A project in Brussels, Belgium is pioneering portable cardboard tents for homeless people to sleep in.
The cardboard tents, known as the ORIG-AMI project, can be transported by users on their backs as they seek shelter.
In Brussels, normal tents are forbidden, meaning that homeless people are often moved on by police.
Those behind the project hope that their tents will allow the homeless somewhere safe to sleep.
The tents will be tolerated by police, they said.
The cardboard tents were created by users of a provincial job rehabilitation centre, local news website BX1 reported.
The cardboard was donated by a cardboard factory and the finished product was assembled by a workshop at the Lantin prison, the website added.
Many shelters in the Belgian capital are already fully occupied by winter time and some homeless people do not want to go into shelters where they may be separated from their pets.
Xavier Van der Stappen, president of an NGO involved with the project, told the French language broadcaster RTBF that the fact that "2,600 people live on the streets in Brussels, in one of the most comfortable countries in the world is hard to accept".
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption Hugo Sugg: 'I've been homeless more than once'The tents were presented on Thursday at the Gare du Nord station. Twenty of them are to be distributed to homeless people in Brussels along with backpacks containing essentials from another NGO, l'Appel du Coeur.
Depending on feedback from the homeless users, a second production run could be made in 2019, the NGO said.
Ministry of Truthiness
Russia Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 04:00
'‹RFE/RL's Radio Svoboda is the leading international broadcaster in Russia. As Russia witnesses increasing control of the media by state authorities, Radio Svoboda has become a key forum for those who lack access to other means of free expression.
Read More
SJWBLMLGBBTQQIAAP
Millennial Dog Moms Now Need 'Pawternity Leave' to Care for Their Pets
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 13:21
LISTEN TO TLR'S LATEST PODCAST:A few years ago, some of my relatives got the quintessential present for Christmas: a roly-poly, purebred puppy.
The puppy was adorable and gained my relatives a lot of extra visitors that holiday season, including yours truly. But while my relatives enjoyed both the visitors and the puppy, they also took up a lot of time. What they really needed was an understanding workplace to give them ''pawternity leave'' to adjust to their household's new arrival.
Yes, you read that right. Pawternity leave is really a thing. The Wall Street Journalexplains:
''As Americans increasingly treat their pets like furry children, employers are responding by extending family benefits to pets. The trend is especially strong in New York City, where the closest many come to having a child is buying a schnauzer.
'We offer maternity and paternity leave, and a pet is another member of the family. We don't discriminate just because they aren't human,' says Laurel Peppino, head of talent acquisition at mParticle.''
Such a development is likely destined for a number of eye-rolls by mature, thinking individuals. But before we dismiss this scenario as another instance of society gone off its rocker, let's consider what's behind the idea of pawternity leave.
As has been duly noted, today's young adults are having a number of difficulties growing up. They get married later, have fewer children (sometimes none at all), and are slower to own a home. In fact, many of them appear more devoted to their careers and education than they are to human, relational ties and responsibilities.
And while careers and further education can be fulfilling, they don't necessarily fulfill a basic desire that's ingrained in humanity, namely, the desire to love and be loved. In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis explains that such a need is what's behind the increasing devotion to animals and the resulting ideas like pawternity leave:
''This terrible need to be needed often finds its outlet in pampering an animal. To learn that someone is 'fond of animals' tells us very little until we know in what way. '... If you need to be needed and if your family, very properly, decline to need you, a pet is the obvious substitute. You can keep it all its life in need of you. You can keep it permanently infantile, reduce it to permanent invalidism, cut it off from all genuine animal well-being, and compensate for this by creating needs for countless little indulgences which only you can grant.''
Unfortunately, such a scenario is obviously not good for the animal. But then, it's also not the healthiest for humans either, as Lewis goes on to imply:
''Those who say 'The more I see of men the better I like dogs' '' those who find in animals a relief from the demands of human companionship '' will be well advised to examine their real reasons.''
There's certainly nothing wrong with owning and loving pets, but have we gone too far? Does the prominence American society is giving to its pets a sign that we need to re-examine and revitalize our interactions with other humans?
[Image Credit: Max Pixel]
This post Millennial Dog Moms Now Need 'Pawternity Leave' to Care for Their Pets was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Annie Holmquist.
WATCH TLR'S LATEST VIDEO:About The Author
The Middle-Class Takeover of Bilingual Schools - The Atlantic
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:56
Stephanie Lugardo's second-grade classroom at Academia Antonia Alonso in Wilmington, Delaware, is bubbling. Students chatter with one another as they work, smiling and joking and wiggling in and out of their chairs. Sure'--it's an elementary-school classroom. It's expected to exude the earnest joy of children growing into themselves. But this one is different. Smiles break out on an array of faces, and the chatter spills out in English and Spanish.
This is an incarnation of a new American pluralism, one of the latest iterations of Walt Whitman's ''teeming nation of nations'' flowering in ''their curiosity and welcome of novelty.'' Downstairs, in a kindergarten class, an African American student exclaims to her friend, ''I know how to say that in Spanish!''
Jos(C) Aviles, the head of Academia Antonia Alonso, describes the school as a sort of multicultural nirvana. ''We tell parents, 'Your kid is going to be surrounded by Latino kids, white kids, African American kids'--we offer everyone the same education, the same quality, the same love,''' he told me.
Academia Antonia Alonso, which opened as a public charter school in 2014, was designed to meet the needs of a linguistically diverse population. School leaders took full advantage of the flexibility allowed to charters to launch what's known as a ''dual-immersion'' program: Children learn in both English and Spanish and, ideally, become fully bilingual in the process. The students switch languages each school day'--if a class runs in English on Tuesday, it switches to Spanish on Wednesday. (With some exceptions: For example, all the school's capoeira classes are usually in Spanish'--with a smattering of Portuguese.) The program also balances the linguistic makeup of each class of students through its enrollment process. About a third of the school's children are formally recognized as English learners (ELs), students who are still developing basic proficiency in that language. Nearly two-thirds of the school's students are Latino, while around half of those enrolled are native Spanish speakers; the other half are native English speakers.
Dual-immersion classrooms aren't just joyful to watch. They're also ever more important to understand as their approach grows in popularity across the country. But there are some indications that multilingual schools' increasing appeal is inadvertently undermining the original purpose for the model.
* * *
Dual-immersion programs seem like an answer to a range of difficult questions in education. For instance: How should U.S. schools educate their rapidly growing population of students who speak a language other than English at home? How can districts with shifting demographics simultaneously meet the needs of all of their students? How can schools prepare students for a complicated global economy (and convince families that they're doing so)?
Research suggests that linguistically integrated dual-immersion programs work best for ELs. These ''two-way'' programs enroll roughly equal numbers of native English speakers and native speakers of the other language. And, of course, immersion programs offer the perk of multilingualism to all students regardless of what languages they speak at home.
It's no wonder that new immersion programs are popping up faster than anyone can count (literally: there's no up-to-date tally of the number of programs in the United States). In the past decade, Utah's dual-immersion initiative covers around 200 schools. Delaware has a similar statewide program. Portland Public Schools in Oregon has doubled the size of its dual-immersion programs to more than 5,000 students in the past eight years, with those classrooms instructing in a combination of English and Spanish, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Russian, or Japanese. New York City recently launched dozens of new dual-immersion programs across a host of languages.
''We have an incredible wealth, a resource that comes into our country '... [this] linguistic and cultural wealth and capital,'' Michael Bacon, who oversees the dual-immersion programs in Portland, told me. ''If we really, truly are reflective about our history and our country, if we want to stop the systems of repression, if we want to uplift our people and uplift our country, then I think [dual-immersion] is one of the best investments that any community, that any school system, can make.''
* * *
This isn't a sui generis moment in U.S. language education. Multilingual instruction has a long history in American public schools. In the 19th and 20th centuries, immigrant communities speaking German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Dutch, or other languages pushed, at various times, for their children to continue learning their parents' native tongues even as they learn English.
English-speaking Americans' discomfort with multilingual schools has a similarly long history. Various political pressures'--anti-German sentiment during the World Wars, for example'--chipped away at these programs over the years. In the 1990s, English-only advocates enacted mandates that largely eliminated bilingual education in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, and in districts around the country. Most of these were Spanish-English programs, which came under scrutiny as part of broader American anxiety about the unity of the country's identity. Samuel P. Huntington, a political-science professor at Harvard, captured the mood in his 2004 book Who Are We? The Challenges to America's National Identity, warning, ''Spanish is joining the language of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelts, and Kennedys as the language of America. If this trend continues, the cultural division between Hispanics and Anglos will soon replace the racial division between blacks and whites as the most serious cleavage in American society.''
California, currently home to almost one-third of America's English-learner students, is a particularly instructive example for thinking about the politics surrounding multilingual instruction in U.S. schools. In an article analyzing the rise of California's English-only movement, Laurie Olsen, a researcher and EL advocate, argued that a ''worsening economy and the increasing ethnic and linguistic diversity of the state provided fertile ground for politicians to build their popularity by feeding on the fears of a shrinking White majority and focusing campaigns about the incorporation of immigrants on the terrain of public school policy.''
In the early 1990s, California's poverty rate spiked and housing values dropped by more than 20 percent. This at a time when the state's foreign-born population was growing quickly. Writing in 2007, the University of Southern California demographer Dowell Myers described the dynamic: ''Immigrants were a convenient set of outsiders who could be blamed for the unfortunate turn of events because they had arrived on the scene at about the time all the other misfortunes began.'' In one 1995 poll, more than 80 percent of Californians expressed concern about illegal immigration, with over 50 percent saying they were ''extremely concerned.''
These anxieties led to serious critiques of the effectiveness of California's bilingual-education programs in raising the achievement levels of participating students. They were ripe targets. Olsen noted that ''poorly implemented bilingual programs were resulting in poor educational outcomes for English learners in too many places.''
What's more, the programs largely operated out of regular view of the state's native English speakers. California's programs generally offered Spanish and English instruction to classes of native Spanish speakers until those students were fully proficient in English. As such, they often separated these EL students from their native English-speaking peers. This made it hard for native English-speaking families (and voters) to feel comfortable with'--let alone confident in'--the state's bilingual-education programs. How could they believe in a model they knew only as a distant abstraction serving kids who seemed so different from their own?
Against this backdrop, in 1998, 61 percent of Californians voted in favor of Proposition 227, which effectively eliminated bilingual education for English-learning students.
* * *
Two-way dual-immersion programs, which instruct native speakers of English and another language in both of those languages, speak directly to some of the old concerns about bilingual education. They customarily start in pre-k or kindergarten, when children's brains are still plastic, and have not yet learned to be monolingual. Research suggests that new language acquisition generally works best, fastest, and fullest when it begins early.
Two-way dual-immersion programs enroll approximately equal ratios of native English speakers and native speakers of the other language. Historically, reaching this level of linguistic integration has required schools to sell English-speaking families on the benefits of multilingualism, while also reassuring families that speak the other language at home that maintaining their native tongue won't damage their children's development of English proficiency.
Two-way dual-immersion programs help English learners continue to develop in their home languages. But some new research suggests that the presence of their native English-speaking classmates might also help them learn English and succeed academically. A recent study of San Francisco's dual-immersion programs found that these programs were especially beneficial for helping English-learning students succeed in math, literacy, and even in learning English.
Naturally, native English-speaking kids also benefit from regularly talking with peers who fluently speak the other language featured in a given immersion program. This is straightforward enough: If the only native Spanish (or Mandarin, or French, or Arabic) speaker in a multilingual classroom is the teacher, it makes it much harder for students to avoid relying on English. But if the class is full of native Spanish speakers, that should help all students learn to work'--and engage socially'--in both English and Spanish.
Furthermore, the linguistic integration of these programs can give native English-speaking families more comfort with and interest in multilingualism'--and, in turn, multiculturalism'--generally. While the old bilingual-education programs served English-learning children separately, in some other wing of their schools, dual-immersion programs bring English-learning students into schools' mainstream classrooms and convert their home languages into assets for the entire school community.
All of this is making dual-immersion programs easier to sell to a linguistically diverse range of families. In particular, interest from middle-class, English-dominant, cosmopolitan families is helping to drive these programs' expansion. Becky Reina is a white, native English-speaking mother of two children in one of Washington, D.C.'s dual-immersion programs. In an email, she told me that such models can help reduce the racial and socioeconomic segregation of schools in cities like Washington, whose public-education system still struggles with the aftermath of a white flight that began a half-century ago. Dual-immersion programs, she said, can attract affluent, white students into schools ''that have previously consisted of exclusively non-white and largely low socioeconomic-status students.''
Academia Antonia Alonso's Aviles is finding similar interest from the parents in his school: ''We thought that Latino communities were going to be more interested [in our school] because they understand the value of two languages, but we're finding that lots of English-speaking families also recognize the value of access to a second language.''
Catherine Brown, the vice president of education policy at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said that her son's Washington, D.C., dual-immersion school puts a high value on serving different linguistic, racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic communities. ''There's a lot of people who have really thought out this cool, global, culturally complicated learning environment.''
It's no surprise, then, that communities across the country are looking to start and expand dual-immersion programs. Multilingualism is hot, especially in gentrifying urban areas with shifting populations. Many white, English-dominant families are moving to economically dynamic cities for their promise of upward social mobility, and these cities' tight housing markets are bringing them into the same areas as linguistically diverse communities of immigrant families. The cities' school districts are using dual-immersion programs to encourage these new residents to send their children to schools in their own zip codes and to provide equitable educational opportunities for all kids. For instance, Portland, Oregon'--the country's fastest-gentrifying city'--says its dual-immersion programs exist to close ''the opportunity gap for historically underserved students.''
There's evidence that this strategy is living up to its promise. A recent study of Portland's dual-immersion programs found a wide array of benefits for students. By the sixth grade, English learners in these programs were more likely to be proficient in English than ELs in other language programs. Dual-immersion programs also significantly raised all students' literacy scores in English, and helped students reach an ''intermediate'' proficiency level in the programs' other languages (on average). Ongoing research has confirmed those findings.
Dual-immersion seems to be good at everything'--for everybody. It's popular with English-dominant families, it's good for ELs, it's effective at promoting integration and multilingualism.
But'--and here's the rub'--if a two-way dual-immersion program helps generate middle-class interest in multilingualism, that dynamic could also undermine the program's design and effectiveness. What happens when rising demand from privileged families starts pushing English learners out of these programs? Advocates for educational equity are already seeing this specific problem play out in their communities.
''Opportunity hoarding [is] happening everywhere,'' said Courtney Everts Mykytyn, the founder of Integrated Schools, an organization encouraging white parents to choose to integrate their area schools. She was referring to a phenomenon in which wealthy families wield their influence to secure access to educational resources in ways that crowd out traditionally underserved families. This has sparked the development of ''one-way'' dual-immersion programs, which also provide students with instruction in two languages but enroll mostly'--or entirely'--English-dominant children. When a two-way dual-immersion program gentrifies into a one-way program, Mykytyn said, ''we're not talking about integration, we're talking about what other special programs your white kid can get, your privileged kid can get.''
In other words, if integrated, two-way dual-immersion programs make multilingualism more appealing to English-speaking families, they can also shift these programs' focus away from educational equity for English learners. Left unchecked, demand from privileged, English-dominant families can push ELs and their families out of multilingual schools and convert two-way dual-immersion programs into one-way programs that exclusively serve English-speaking children. In some places, this ultimately results in a system in which English-dominant students get access to Spanish-English dual-immersion programs, while native Spanish-speaking students are consigned to English-only programs.
Mykytyn explained how that happens. ''When something tips to becoming 'the cool school,' the cool thing, the next thing you can get for your kid'--that's the problem,'' she said. ''So individual schools, in order to increase their enrollment in some places, will start a dual-language program with the best intentions. Pretty soon '... the privileged kids get more privileges.''
In many cases, this problem stems from cities' gentrifying real-estate patterns. Most U.S. elementary schools enroll students based on their home addresses. If you live in a school's surrounding neighborhood, you have purchased the ''right'' to send your children there. Trouble is, the real-estate market can very easily'--and very quickly'--put neighborhood public schools' programs out of financial reach for the families of EL children: Their child poverty rate is about 10 points higher than the poverty rate of English-dominant families. If a two-way dual-immersion program designed to serve equal numbers of ELs and native English-speaking students starts attracting attention amongst other privileged families, that increased demand for houses in the neighborhood can contribute to rising housing costs that push out ELs' families.
In Washington, D.C., dual-immersion programs are attracting significant demand from English-dominant families. One of the city's oldest immersion programs, Oyster-Adams Bilingual School, has seen its surrounding neighborhood become so English-dominant (and white and wealthy) that the school is running short on native Spanish-speaking students. Neighborhood students get guaranteed slots at kindergarten, and these are now taken almost exclusively by English-speaking children, so the school has taken to overweighting its pre-k enrollment toward native Spanish speakers, reserving 30 of the 36 available pre-k seats for Spanish-dominant kids. Just 15 percent of the school's students are classified as English learners. Not coincidentally, just 23 percent of students come from low-income families (across D.C. Public Schools, it's 77 percent).
Newer immersion programs around the city are also facing growing gentrification pressures. For instance, in the district's rapidly gentrifying Petworth neighborhood (where I live), the median 2015 price of a three-bedroom house that guarantees a seat at Powell Elementary's highly regarded dual-immersion programwas $649,900. By contrast, the average cost of a home whose location guarantees access to the nearby (English-only) Truesdell Elementary was $450,000.
Lotteries can help ameliorate this problem. When schools enroll students randomly, without considering families' places in the real-estate market, it makes it difficult for privileged parents to purchase guaranteed access to any particular educational program.
And yet, this is no guarantee that a dual-immersion school will remain insulated against real-estate pressures. The economic pressures pushing many English learners' families out of a city's gentrifying neighborhoods can also, eventually, drive them beyond the city limits. Once they're in the suburbs, in many cases, they're precluded from applying to enrollment lotteries for the city's dual-immersion schools.
What's more, the advantage of random lotteries'--they reduce schools' control over their enrollments'--can also be a problem. Lotteries can't guarantee that dual-immersion programs will enroll students with an even balance of language proficiencies in cities where English-dominant students account for a large (and often growing) percentage of the population. In other words, lotteries can partially stop real-estate privileges from shaping a dual-immersion program's enrollment, but any linguistic balance will be as accidental as it is unlikely.
* * *
What to do when an education model that thrives on integration becomes so popular that privileged families take it over and resegregate?
In theory, the tension here could be artificial. The ability to converse and learn in more than one language is good for all kids. The United States would be better if every student left high school with a multilingual seal on her diploma. The trouble is, at present, the growth of dual-immersion programs is limited by the country's shortage of teachers who speak a non-English language well enough to use it in class. There simply aren't enough bilingual teachers to simultaneously meet all ELs' needs and satisfy growing demand from privileged families. In many communities, demand far outstrips supply: After current students' younger siblings were offered seats, D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School had just 22 open pre-k slots available this year. There were 675 children left on the school's pre-k waitlist after the enrollment lottery.
This zero-sum situation means that education leaders who are adding or expanding dual-immersion programming have to make choices. If policymakers open one-way immersion programs to meet growing demand from English-speaking families, it makes it harder for them to open more of the linguistically diverse two-way programs that are maximally effective for English learners.
So: Policymakers could make the training and hiring of bilingual teachers a top priority. They could offer incentives to encourage bilingual college students to pursue teaching. They could develop programs to give bilingual teachers' assistants and paraprofessionals multiple, flexible paths to becoming fully licensed teachers. They could adjust the country's visiting-teacher visa program (the J-1) to provide more of these educators a path to long-term work permits and U.S. residency options (most currently have to leave after three years).
But in the meantime, leaders will be stuck with tough choices over where to open dual-immersion programs'--and for whom?
State policies can help ensure that ELs get equitable access to new'--and existing'--multilingual-education programs. To that end, some states have established bilingual-education mandates for districts serving significant numbers of English learners. In states where these programs are well established, like Texas and New York, districts are exploring ways of converting bilingual classrooms into dual-immersion programs. But policies like these are hardly the rule. Most states' policies for expanding dual immersion are indifferent to whether the programs are two-way and integrated or one-way. The large majority of Utah's new dual-immersion schools are one-way programs, for instance.
Related StoryThe Economic Imperative of Bilingual Education
When new dual-immersion programs are established, some local school leaders are setting enrollment policies that are directly aimed at creating a balance between native speakers of English with native speakers of the program's other language. This can mean establishing two lotteries for a dual-immersion program'--one for native speakers of each language. Alternatively, it can mean deciding to place new dual-immersion programs in neighborhoods with large numbers of ELs.
Linguistic integration may even lead to benefits beyond multilingualism and educational equity. At Academia Antonia Alonso, Spanish- and English-language abilities vary throughout the building. Some students use Spanish to talk to teachers and classmates. Others switch to Spanish only for answering their teachers. Still others listen and understand their teachers' questions in Spanish before answering in English.
School leaders say this balance builds an environment where all students are experts in something and developing in others. As students learn to rely upon the linguistic strengths of their peers, it can help them be more open-minded to other ways that classmates may have different backgrounds or needs. In one Antonia Alonso classroom, for instance, a student with special-developmental needs has organically developed into a teacher assistant, calling out Spanish directions in a foghorn voice and leading her peers in chants. Her behavior initially seems out of place'--but her classmates' enthusiastic responses make it clear that it works for their class.
The diversity of linguistic strengths also creates a special dynamic between students and their teachers. While students are learning'--and learning in'--both languages, not all of the staff are fully bilingual. This means that, for instance, English-dominant teachers are learning to recognize their Spanish-dominant English-learner students as experts. ''It's amazing,'' Aviles said. ''[The students] can see themselves in us, the teachers, learning with them.''
Profs: Farmers' markets cause 'environmental gentrification'
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:00
Two San Diego State University (SDSU) professors recently criticized farmers' markets for being ''white spaces'' that contribute to the oppression of minorities.
Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Fernando J Bosco, two geography professors at SDSU, criticized the ''whiteness of farmers' markets'' in a chapter for Just Green Enough, a new anthology published by Routledge in December.
"Farmers' markets are often white spaces where the food consumption habits of white people are normalized."
The anthology, which features contributions from a variety of professors, aims to highlight the harms of ''environmental gentrification,'' a process in which ''environmental improvements lead to'...the displacement of long-term residents.''
[RELATED: 'Environmental inequity' caused by 'colonialism,' course claims]
Farmers' markets are one such environmental improvement that can lead to gentrification, Bosco and Joassart-Marcelli argue, saying farmers' markets are ''exclusionary'' since locals may not be able to ''afford the food and/or feel excluded from these new spaces.''
This social exclusion is reinforced by the ''whiteness of farmers' markets'' and the ''white habitus'' that they can reinforce, the professors elaborate, describing farmers' markets as ''white spaces where the food consumption habits of white people are normalized.''
This is a paradoxical outcome, since farmers' markets are often established in the interest of fighting so-called ''food deserts'' in lower-income and minority communities. Since grocery stores in low-income communities often lack fresh quality produce, the professors say that in some cases, farmers' markets may be only source of quality and affordable produce for locals.
Citing research they conducted in San Diego, however, Bosco and Joassart-Marcelli claim that 44 percent of the city's farmers' markets are located in census tracts with a high rate of gentrification, leading them to conclude that farmers' markets ''attract households from higher socio-economic backgrounds, raising property values and displacing low-income residents and people of color.''
[RELATED: OPINION: Dreaming of a black Christmas]
''The most insidious part of this gentrification process is that alternative food initiatives work against the community activists and residents who first mobilized to fight environmental injustices and provide these amenities but have significantly less political and economic clout than developers and real estate professionals
The professors stop short of offering specific remedies, but do conclude that ''curbing gentrification is a vexing task'' that requires the involvement of both community members and local governments.
''Strong community involvement,'' they say, is necessary in order to ensure that ''the needs of the poorest...residents are prioritized,'' while local governments can enact ''equitable zoning policies, rent-control laws, and property tax reforms in favor of long-time homeowners'' to combat the trend toward gentrification.
''Ultimately,'' they conclude, countering gentrification ''requires slow and inclusive steps that balance new initiatives and neighborhood stability to make cities 'just green enough.'''
Campus Reform reached out to Bosco and Joassart-Marcelli for comment, but neither professor responded in time for publication.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen
EuroLand
Europa: parlementarirs lobbyen in ruil voor geld
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 16:27
De corruptieproblemen bij de Raad van Europa (RvE) blijken nog lang niet opgelost. Een eerder aangekondigd onderzoek naar corruptie onder leden van de Raad is verlengd, en een Brits lid van de Parlementaire Vergadering van de Raad van Europa wordt nu ook verdacht van corruptie.
De afgelopen jaren hebben het Tweede Kamerlid Pieter Omtzigt (CDA) en de Duitse sociaaldemocraat Frank Schwabe voor een grootschalig onderzoek gepleit. Sinds vorig jaar zijn tal van leden van de Raad opgestapt toen bleek dat ze zich schuldig hebben gemaakt aan corruptie.
De prestigieuze denktank European Stability Initiative sloeg deze week opnieuw alarm over corrupte leden, die ditmaal zouden zijn omgekocht door de voormalige regering van Macedoni. De Britse oud-parlementarir Robert Walter, tevens lid van de Parlementaire Vergadering, zou in ruil voor geld hebben gelobbyd voor de voormalige regering van Macedoni.
Volgens ESI 'verdedigt Walter autocratische landen' maar wat graag in de Raad van Europa. Hij zou al meerdere keren op de bres hebben gesprongen voor Azerbaijan. Van het Macedonische regime zou hij 7.000 euro per maand hebben ontvangen om het voor het land op te nemen in de Raad. Dat blijkt uit een contract tussen Walter en de voormalige regeringsleiders in Macedoni uit oktober 2016.
De afgelopen jaren werden diverse leden beticht van omkoping door het regime van Azerbaijan. Hoewel de Raad van Europa mensenrechten in Europa moet bewaken, is het Kaukasus-land nooit op de vingers getikt om mensenrechtenschendingen waarover hulporganisaties alarm sloegen. Diverse leden van de Raad zouden het land in bescherming hebben genomen in ruil voor diamanten en miljoenen euro's. Azerbaijan werd dan ook snel beschuldigd van 'kaviaardiplomatie'.
Ook in 2018 zegt CDA-Kamerlid Omtzigt zich te willen inzetten tegen omkoping in de Raad van Europa. In het politieke radioprogramma Haagse Lobby van Omroep WNL op 1 januari, vertelt Omtzigt meer over zijn werk als Kamerlid en zijn plannen voor 2018. Haagse Lobby is 's maandags tussen 20.30u en 21.30 te beluisteren op NPO Radio 1.
Annotaties:
Migrants
New Year's Eve party in Berlin to have 'safe zone' for women - BBC News
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:31
Image copyright EPA Image caption The shadow of the New Year's Eve sex attacks in Cologne still looms large in Germany Organisers of Berlin's New Year's Eve celebrations are to set up a "safe zone" for women for the first time.
The new security measures planned for the Brandenburg Gate party come amid concerns about sexual assaults.
A large number of assaults and robberies targeting women at Cologne's New Year's Eve celebrations two years ago horrified Germany.
Hundreds of women reported being attacked by gangs of men with migrant backgrounds.
The events in Cologne heightened tensions in the country over the large influx of refugees and migrants - 1.1m people arrived in Germany in 2015, some, but by no means all, fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.
Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the New Year's Eve party in Berlin on Sunday and security will be strict. Large bags, such as rucksacks, and alcoholic drinks will be banned at the Brandenburg Gate.
Women who have been assaulted or feel harassed will be able to get support at a special "safety zone", staffed by the German Red Cross, on Ebertstrasse.
Image copyright EPA Image caption Preparations are under way for the New Year Eve's party at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin The city's police have also issued advice to women, encouraging them to seek help if they feel threatened and to carry a small bag with no valuables.
Cologne officials set up a "security point", staffed by social workers and psychologists, at the city's 2016 carnival following the New Year's Eve attacks.
But the idea of a special safe zone for women at large public events has not been welcomed by everyone.
Critics say it does not tackle the perpetrators of sexual violence, while some others complain it is discriminatory.
F-Russia
Mueller interviewed Steele: Dossier on Trump comes into focus
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 11:08
U.S. President Donald Trump looks up while hosting a House and Senate leadership lunch at the White House in Washington Thomson Reuters
Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigative team interviewed the veteran British spy who compiled the explosive Trump-Russia dossier over the summer.The timeline of major, game-changing events that unfolded in the final months of the election coincided with several of the dossier's allegations of conspiracy and misconduct between several Trump associates and Russia.Questions remain about whether the events '-- such as a change in an amendemment to the GOP platform on Ukraine and the release of hacked DNC emails '-- were coordinated with the Russians to maximize the damaging effects on Hillary Clinton's campaign. Special counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed the veteran British spy who wrote a c ollection of explosive memos alleging ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia, CNN reported on Thursday.
The revelation came one day after the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, told reporters that the committee had been working "backwards" to examine the memos as part of its separate but parallel investigation into Russia's election meddling.
The memos were compiled into a dossier by veteran British spy Christopher Steele, who was hired by a Washington, DC-based opposition research firm in June 2016 to investigate the Trump campaign's ties to Russia. The firm, Fusion GPS, was first hired by unspecified anti-Trump Republicans in late 2015. Democrats took over funding for the firm's work after Trump won the GOP nomination.
Steele produced memos from June through December, at which point Fusion, with his permission, gave the dossier to Republican Sen. John McCain. McCain then gave it to the FBI director at the time, James Comey. Comey, along with the former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former CIA Director John Brennan, briefed both President Barack Obama and then-President elect Trump on the dossier's allegations in January.
Intelligence officials purposefully omitted the dossier from the public intelligence report they released in January about Russia's election interference because they didn't want to reveal which details they had corroborated, according to CNN.
Comparing events that unfolded during the campaign with the dossier's allegations yields some striking coincidences.
The document includes allegations of a quid-pro-quo in which Russia agreed to leak the hacked Democratic National Committee emails to WikiLeaks in exchange for the Trump campaign sidelining Russian aggression in Ukraine as a campaign issue. It also alleges that Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, managed the communication between Russia and the campaign.
We now know that, while he was campaign chairman, Manafort offered to give "private briefings" about the Trump campaign to a Russian oligarch and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin , according to emails reviewed last month by The Washington Post and The Atlantic. Manafort also asked a longtime Russian-Ukrainian employee in early April how he could use his media coverage and high-level campaign role to collect past debts.
At least five other Trump associates '-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, longtime confidant Roger Stone, former campaign adviser Carter Page, and campaign national security adviser JD Gordon '-- reportedly met with Russia's ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, in the latter half of 2016. The FBI reportedly obtained a FISA warrant to monitor Page's communications after he returned from a trip to Moscow last July. He and Flynn are named in the dossier as being complicit in the alleged collusion.
June-JulyManafort of Republican presidential nominee Trump's staff listens during a round table discussion on security at Trump Tower in the Manhattan borough of New York Thomson Reuters
Carter Page, an early foreign policy adviser to Trump, visits Moscow, the GOP platform is changed, top Trump surrogate then-Sen. Jeff Sessions meets Russia's US ambassador Sergey Kislyak, WikiLeaks publishes hacked DNC emails, and the FBI opens its investigation into Russia's interference.
Dossier allegations
June 20, 2016: The dossier alleges that Trump had been cultivated by Russian officials "for at least five years," that the Kremlin had compromising material related to "sexually perverted acts" Trump performed at a Moscow Ritz Carlton, and that Trump's inner circle was accepting a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin on Hillary Clinton.
The flow of intelligence is being facilitated by Paul Manafort, then Trump's campaign manager, who is using Carter Page as a "liaison" between the campaign and the Kremlin, the dossier says.
Actual events
June 9, 2016: Donald Trump Jr. hosts Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya and Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin at Trump Tower after being promised compromising information about Hillary Clinton. Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort attend the meeting. Manafort takes notes that reportedly reference donations and the Republican National Committee.
July 7, 2016: Page, who s erved as an adviser "on key transactions" for Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom, travels to Moscow to speak at the New Economic School. There, he gives a speech that is heavily critical of US foreign policy. He stays in Russia for approximately three days.
Dossier allegations
July 19, 2016: A Russian source close to Igor Sechin, the president of Russia's state-owned oil company Rosneft, "confided the details of a recent secret meeting" between Sechin and Trump campaign adviser Carter Page while Page was in Moscow in early July.
Sechin "raised with Page the issues of future bilateral energy cooperation and prospects for an associated move to lift Ukraine-related western sanctions against Russia."
Actual events
July 7, 2016: Manafort writes his longtime employee, Russian-Ukrainian operative Konstantin Kilimnik, asking him to offer "private briefings" about the campaign to a Russian oligarch and Putin ally.
July 11, 2016: GOP platform week kicks off, one week before the start of the Republican National Convention. An amendment to the Republican Party's draft policy on Ukraine proposing that the GOP commit to sending "lethal weapons" to the Ukrainian army to fend off Russian aggression is softened to "provide appropriate assistance."
July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes the first set of hacked DNC emails, one day before the Democratic National Convention kicks off in Philadelphia.
Dossier allegations
The Trump campaign "agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue" in return for Russia leaking the DNC emails to WikiLeaks. The reason for using WikiLeaks was "plausible deniability, and the operation had been done with the full knowledge and support of Trump and senior members of his campaign team."
Actual events
July 20, 2016: Then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, along with two Trump campaign advisers JD Gordon and Carter Page, meet Russia's ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak at the Global Partners in Diplomacy event staged by the Heritage Foundation. ''Much of the discussion focused on Russia's incursions into Ukraine and Georgia,'' according to delegate Victor Ashe.
July 27, 2016: Trump holds a press conference in which he asks Russian hackers to "find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.'' His campaign later said he was joking.
July 31, 2016: Sessions, who said in 2015 that the west has to "unify against Russia," goes on CNN and characterizes US relationship with Russia as a "cycle of hostility" that needs to be resolved.
Late July, 2016: The FBI opens its investigation into Russia's interference in the election, and the Trump campaign's possible role in it.
AugustRoger Stone. Hollis Johnson
Paul Manafort resigns amid negative press about his work in Ukraine, and Roger Stone '-- a top Trump confidant and early campaign adviser '-- predicts that Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, will "soon" be targeted.
Dossier allegations
July 31, 2016: Steele writes that the Kremlin has more intelligence on Clinton and her campaign but doesn't know when it will be released.
August 5, 2016: The chief of Putin's administration, Sergei Ivanov, expresses doubts about the "black PR" campaign being run by Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, in favor of Trump and against Clinton. Says it's been managed like "an elephant in a china shop" and advises Kremlin to now "sit tight and deny everything," but advises Putin that pro-Trump operation will ultimately be successful.
Actual events
August 5, 2016: Roger Stone writes in Breitbart that "a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0," and not the Russians, hacked into the DNC and fed the documents to WikiLeaks.
August 12, 2016: "Guccifer 2.0" releases files purportedly stolen in a cyberattack on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Guccifer 2.0's Twitter account is briefly suspended. When it is reinstated, Roger Stone begins a private Twitter conversation with the alleged hacker. E xperts soon link Guccifer 2.0 back to Russia and conclude the so-called hacker is the product of a Russian disinformation campaign .
August 14, 2016: The New York Times reports new details about Trump campaign manager Manafort's involvement with Ukraine. The paper reported that Ukraine leader Yanukovych's pro-Russia political party had earmarked $12.7 million for Manafort for his work between 2007-2012. Manafort has said he never collected the payments.
August 15, 2016: Sergei Ivanov, t he chief of Putin's administration who expressed doubts about how the Trump-Russia collaboration was being carried out, is unexpectedly fired by Putin.
Dossier allegations
August 10, 2016: Steele writes that a "Kremlin official involved in US relations" commented in early August that the Kremlin had been trying to build sympathy for Russia in the US by funding several political figures' trips to Moscow, including Michael Flynn and Carter Page. The trips were "successful in terms of perceived outcomes," the official said.
August 15, 2016: Ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014, tells Putin that he's been funneling "kickback payments" to Paul Manafort. Manafort, who had advised Yanukovych and his pro-Russia political party from 2007-2012, was Trump's campaign manager at the time.
Yanukovych "sought to reassure" Putin that "there was no documentary trail left behind which could provide clear evidence" of the payments. Putin and other Kremlin officials remained skeptical of Yanukovych's assurances and feared the payments "remained a point of potential political vulnerability."
Actual events
August 19, 2016: Manafort resigns as Trump's campaign manager after denying that he ever collected any payments that had been earmarked for him in Ukraine.
August 21, 2016: Roger Stone tweets a prediction about Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. ''Trust me, it will soon the [sic] Podesta's time in the barrel. #CrookedHillary''
SeptemberSergey Kislyak, Russian Ambassador to the United States Getty Mario Tama
Trump says he'll "take" Putin's "compliments," Sessions meets privately with Kislyak, and Carter Page takes a "leave of absence."
Dossier allegations
September 14, 2016: A Kremlin official "confirms from direct knowledge" that Russia's US ambassador Sergey Kislyak had been aware of the Kremlin's interference in the US election, and had "urged caution and the potential negative impact on Russia from the operation/s."
The official says the Kremlin has further kompromat on Clinton that it plans to release via "plausibly deniable" channels '-- aka WikiLeaks '-- after Russia's mid-September legislative elections. But a growing train of thought inside the Kremlin is that Russia could still make Clinton look "weak" and "stupid" without needing to release more of her emails. It's decided that Putin himself will have final say over whether further Clinton kompromat is disseminated.
Steele writes another dispatch dated September 14, 2016, detailing the relationship between Putin and Russian oligarchs who control Russia's Alfa Bank.
Actual events
September 7, 2016: NBC's Matt Lauer confronts Trump about his praise of Putin. Trump replies, " Well, I think when he calls me brilliant, I'll take the compliment, OK?"
September 8, 2016: Sessions and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak meet privately in Sessions' office. An administration official tells NBC in early March '-- when news of the meeting breaks '-- that "election-related news" was likely discussed.
September 26, 2016: Page takes a "leave of absence" from the Trump campaign after a Yahoo News report alleges that Igor Sechin offered him the brokerage of a 19% stake in Rosneft.
OctoberJohn Podesta speaks to the crowd at Hillary Clinton's election night rally in New York City on November 9, 2016. Carlos Barria/Reuters
Roger Stone's tweets foreshadow WikiLeaks' release of John Podesta emails, Obama publicly accuses Russia of hacking Democrats, and the FBI examines computer server activity between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.
Dossier allegations
October 12, 2016: Control over the anti-Clinton black PR had passed from the MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to the FSB (Federal Security Service, successor to KGB) then into the Presidential Administration (PA) as it gained momentum.
But "buyer's remorse set in" as Podesta's emails proved less damaging to the Clinton campaign than Russia had expected. Russians injected further anti-Clinton material into WikiLeaks pipeline "which will continue to surface, but best material already in the public domain."
Actual events
October 1, 2016: Roger Stone tweets that ''Wednesday @HillaryClinton is done."
October 3, 2016: Stone tweets that he has " total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon #LockHerUp."
October 5, 2016: Stone tweets ''Payload coming. #Lockthemup."
October 7, 2016: WikiLeaks publishes the first batch of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's inbox '-- one hour after a n Access Hollywood video surfaces of Trump making lewd remarks about women, threatening to derail his campaign.
October 7, 2016: The Obama administration officially, and publicly, accuses Russia of "directing the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations" to affect the US election.
October 12, 2016: Stone admits to having "back-channel communication with Assange" through a mutual friend who "travels back and forth from the United States and London."
August-October 2016: The FBI, as part of a counter-intelligence task force established by the CIA, investigates computer server activity between the Trump Organization and Alfa Bank.
November-JanuaryA Russian oligarch shows up in North Carolina while Trump is there campaigning, Trump wins the election, Rosneft signs a massive deal, Page travels to Moscow again, Obama issues new sanctions over Russian hacking, and Trump's lawyer entertains a back-channel peace plan for Ukraine.
Actual events
November 3, 2016: R ussian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev flies into Charlotte, North Carolina on his private plane. Trump's plane lands on the tarmac minutes later and parks next to Rybolovlev, whose plane stays in Charlotte for 22 hours afterward. Trump rallies in nearby Concord, NC.
November 8, 2016: Donald Trump wins a dramatic and unexpected victory in the presidential election.
President-elect Donald Trump Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Early December, 2016: Kushner meets with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak and floats the possibility of setting up a secure line of communication between the Trump transition team and Russia. A few weeks later, Kushner meets with the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank, Sergei Gorkov.
December 7, 2016: Rosneft s igns a deal to sell 19.5% of shares, or roughly $11 billion, to the multinational commodity trader Glencore Plc and Qatar's state-owned wealth fund.
December 8, 2016: Carter Page travels to Moscow to "meet with some of the top managers" of Rosneft, he told reporters at the time .
December 29, 2016: Obama i ssues new sanctions against Russia, calling Moscow's "malicious cyber-enabled activities" a "national emergency" aimed at undermining democratic processes. Thirty-five Russian diplomats are expelled from the US. Top Trump adviser and soon-to-be national security adviser Michael Flynn is recorded speaking with Kislyak about the new sanctions and reassures him that the Trump administration will re-evaluate them.
December 30, 2016: Putin announces, unexpectedly and out of character, that Russia will not retaliate against the US for the new sanctions. Says he will wait to see how US-Russian relations develop under the Trump administration before planning ''any further steps." Trump tweets ''Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"
How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt - The New York Times
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 23:12
George Papadopoulos was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign named him a foreign policy adviser in early March 2016. Credit via Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images WASHINGTON '-- During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians' role.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump's associates conspired.
If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.
While some of Mr. Trump's advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a ''coffee boy,'' interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.
The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?
It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America's closest intelligence allies.
Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.
The F.B.I. investigation, which was taken over seven months ago by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump's first year in office '-- even as he and his aides repeatedly played down the Russian efforts and falsely denied campaign contacts with Russians.
They have also insisted that Mr. Papadopoulos was a low-level figure. But spies frequently target peripheral players as a way to gain insight and leverage.
F.B.I. officials disagreed in 2016 about how aggressively and publicly to pursue the Russia inquiry before the election. But there was little debate about what seemed to be afoot. John O. Brennan, who retired this year after four years as C.I.A. director, told Congress in May that he had been concerned about multiple contacts between Russian officials and Trump advisers.
Russia, he said, had tried to ''suborn'' members of the Trump campaign.
'The Signal to Meet'Mr. Papadopoulos, then an ambitious 28-year-old from Chicago, was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign, desperate to create a foreign policy team, named him as an adviser in early March 2016. His political experience was limited to two months on Ben Carson's presidential campaign before it collapsed.
Mr. Papadopoulos had no experience on Russia issues. But during his job interview with Sam Clovis, a top early campaign aide, he saw an opening. He was told that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump's top foreign policy goals, according to court papers, an account Mr. Clovis has denied.
Traveling in Italy that March, Mr. Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a now-defunct London academy who had valuable contacts with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Mifsud showed little interest in Mr. Papadopoulos at first.
Sam Clovis, a former co-chairman of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign, denies that he told Mr. Papadopoulos that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump's top foreign policy goals during Mr. Papadopoulos's interview for a job with the campaign. Credit Win Mcnamee/Getty Images But when he found out he was a Trump campaign adviser, he latched onto him, according to court records and emails obtained by The New York Times. Their joint goal was to arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow, or between their respective aides.
In response to questions, Mr. Papadopoulos's lawyers declined to provide a statement.
Before the end of the month, Mr. Mifsud had arranged a meeting at a London cafe between Mr. Papadopoulos and Olga Polonskaya, a young woman from St. Petersburg whom he falsely described as Mr. Putin's niece. Although Ms. Polonskaya told The Times in a text message that her English skills are poor, her emails to Mr. Papadopoulos were largely fluent. ''We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,'' Ms. Polonskaya wrote in one message.
More important, Mr. Mifsud connected Mr. Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, a gathering of academics that meets annually with Mr. Putin. The two men corresponded for months about how to connect the Russian government and the campaign. Records suggest that Mr. Timofeev, who has been described by Mr. Mueller's team as an intermediary for the Russian Foreign Ministry, discussed the matter with the ministry's former leader, Igor S. Ivanov, who is widely viewed in the United States as one of Russia's elder statesmen.
When Mr. Trump's foreign policy team gathered for the first time at the end of March in Washington, Mr. Papadopoulos said he had the contacts to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump listened intently but apparently deferred to Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama and head of the campaign's foreign policy team, according to participants in the meeting.
Mr. Sessions, now the attorney general, initially did not reveal that discussion to Congress, because, he has said, he did not recall it. More recently, he said he pushed back against Mr. Papadopoulos's proposal, at least partly because he did not want someone so unqualified to represent the campaign on such a sensitive matter.
If the campaign wanted Mr. Papadopoulos to stand down, previously undisclosed emails obtained by The Times show that he either did not get the message or failed to heed it. He continued for months to try to arrange some kind of meeting with Russian representatives, keeping senior campaign advisers abreast of his efforts. Mr. Clovis ultimately encouraged him and another foreign policy adviser to travel to Moscow, but neither went because the campaign would not cover the cost.
Mr. Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr. Trump's first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in which the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr. Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr. Timofeev that it should be taken as ''the signal to meet.''
''That is a statesman speech,'' Mr. Mifsud agreed. Ms. Polonskaya wrote that she was pleased that Mr. Trump's ''position toward Russia is much softer'' than that of other candidates.
Stephen Miller, then a senior policy adviser to the campaign and now a top White House aide, was eager for Mr. Papadopoulos to serve as a surrogate, someone who could publicize Mr. Trump's foreign policy views without officially speaking for the campaign. But Mr. Papadopoulos's first public attempt to do so was a disaster.
In a May 4, 2016, interview with The Times of London, Mr. Papadopoulos called on Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize to Mr. Trump for criticizing his remarks on Muslims as ''stupid'' and divisive. ''Say sorry to Trump or risk special relationship, Cameron told,'' the headline read. Mr. Clovis, the national campaign co-chairman, severely reprimanded Mr. Papadopoulos for failing to clear his explosive comments with the campaign in advance.
From then on, Mr. Papadopoulos was more careful with the press '-- though he never regained the full trust of Mr. Clovis or several other campaign officials.
Mr. Mifsud proposed to Mr. Papadopoulos that he, too, serve as a campaign surrogate. He could write op-eds under the guise of a ''neutral'' observer, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email, and follow Mr. Trump to his rallies as an accredited journalist while receiving briefings from the inside the campaign.
In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had ''dirt'' on Mrs. Clinton in the form of ''thousands of emails,'' according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee's computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.
Whether Mr. Papadopoulos shared that information with anyone else in the campaign is one of many unanswered questions. He was mostly in contact with the campaign over emails. The day after Mr. Mifsud's revelation about the hacked emails, he told Mr. Miller in an email only that he had ''interesting messages coming in from Moscow'' about a possible trip. The emails obtained by The Times show no evidence that Mr. Papadopoulos discussed the stolen messages with the campaign.
Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.
It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.
''As a matter of principle and practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters relevant to active investigations,'' the statement said. The F.B.I. declined to comment.
A House Judiciary Committee session last month at which Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified. Mr. Sessions was head of the Trump campaign's foreign policy team. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times A Secretive InvestigationOnce the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.
Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.
With so many strands coming in '-- about Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Page, the hackers and more '-- F.B.I. agents debated how aggressively to investigate the campaign's Russia ties, according to current and former officials familiar with the debate. Issuing subpoenas or questioning people, for example, could cause the investigation to burst into public view in the final months of a presidential campaign.
It could also tip off the Russian government, which might try to cover its tracks. Some officials argued against taking such disruptive steps, especially since the F.B.I. would not be able to unravel the case before the election.
Others believed that the possibility of a compromised presidential campaign was so serious that it warranted the most thorough, aggressive tactics. Even if the odds against a Trump presidency were long, these agents argued, it was prudent to take every precaution.
That included questioning Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was compiling the dossier alleging a far-ranging Russian conspiracy to elect Mr. Trump. A team of F.B.I. agents traveled to Europe to interview Mr. Steele in early October 2016. Mr. Steele had shown some of his findings to an F.B.I. agent in Rome three months earlier, but that information was not part of the justification to start an counterintelligence inquiry, American officials said.
Ultimately, the F.B.I. and Justice Department decided to keep the investigation quiet, a decision that Democrats in particular have criticized. And agents did not interview Mr. Papadopoulos until late January.
Opening Doors, to the TopHe was hardly central to the daily running of the Trump campaign, yet Mr. Papadopoulos continuously found ways to make himself useful to senior Trump advisers. In September 2016, with the United Nations General Assembly approaching and stories circulating that Mrs. Clinton was going to meet with Mr. Sisi, the Egyptian president, Mr. Papadopoulos sent a message to Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign's chief executive, offering to broker a similar meeting for Mr. Trump.
After days of scheduling discussions, the meeting was set and Mr. Papadopoulos sent a list of talking points to Mr. Bannon, according to people familiar with those interactions. Asked about his contacts with Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Bannon declined to comment.
Mr. Trump's improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos's hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.
Mr. Millian has bragged of his ties to Mr. Trump '-- boasts that the president's advisers have said are overstated. He headed an obscure organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, some of whose board members and clients are difficult to confirm. Congress is investigating where he fits into the swirl of contacts with the Trump campaign, although he has said he is unfairly being scrutinized only because of his support for Mr. Trump.
Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires ''who are not under sanctions'' and would ''open all doors for us'' at ''any level all the way to the top.''
One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. ''I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,'' he wrote.
Nothing came of his proposals, partly because Mr. Papadopoulos was hoping that Michael T. Flynn, then Mr. Trump's pick to be national security adviser, might give him the energy portfolio at the National Security Council.
The pair exchanged New Year's greetings in the final hours of 2016. ''Happy New Year, sir,'' Mr. Papadopoulos wrote.
''Thank you and same to you, George. Happy New Year!'' Mr. Flynn responded, ahead of a year that seemed to hold great promise.
But 2017 did not unfold that way. Within months, Mr. Flynn was fired, and both men were charged with lying to the F.B.I. And both became important witnesses in the investigation Mr. Papadopoulos had played a critical role in starting.
Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Unlikely Source Propelled Russian Meddling Inquiry . Order Reprints | Today's Paper | Subscribe
How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt - The New York Times
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 11:59
George Papadopoulos was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign named him a foreign policy adviser in early March 2016. Credit via Agence France-Presse '-- Getty Images WASHINGTON '-- During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians' role.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump's associates conspired.
If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.
While some of Mr. Trump's advisers have derided him as an insignificant campaign volunteer or a ''coffee boy,'' interviews and new documents show that he stayed influential throughout the campaign. Two months before the election, for instance, he helped arrange a New York meeting between Mr. Trump and President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt.
The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?
It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America's closest intelligence allies.
Interviews and previously undisclosed documents show that Mr. Papadopoulos played a critical role in this drama and reveal a Russian operation that was more aggressive and widespread than previously known. They add to an emerging portrait, gradually filled in over the past year in revelations by federal investigators, journalists and lawmakers, of Russians with government contacts trying to establish secret channels at various levels of the Trump campaign.
The F.B.I. investigation, which was taken over seven months ago by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has cast a shadow over Mr. Trump's first year in office '-- even as he and his aides repeatedly played down the Russian efforts and falsely denied campaign contacts with Russians.
They have also insisted that Mr. Papadopoulos was a low-level figure. But spies frequently target peripheral players as a way to gain insight and leverage.
F.B.I. officials disagreed in 2016 about how aggressively and publicly to pursue the Russia inquiry before the election. But there was little debate about what seemed to be afoot. John O. Brennan, who retired this year after four years as C.I.A. director, told Congress in May that he had been concerned about multiple contacts between Russian officials and Trump advisers.
Russia, he said, had tried to ''suborn'' members of the Trump campaign.
'The Signal to Meet'Mr. Papadopoulos, then an ambitious 28-year-old from Chicago, was working as an energy consultant in London when the Trump campaign, desperate to create a foreign policy team, named him as an adviser in early March 2016. His political experience was limited to two months on Ben Carson's presidential campaign before it collapsed.
Mr. Papadopoulos had no experience on Russia issues. But during his job interview with Sam Clovis, a top early campaign aide, he saw an opening. He was told that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump's top foreign policy goals, according to court papers, an account Mr. Clovis has denied.
Traveling in Italy that March, Mr. Papadopoulos met Joseph Mifsud, a Maltese professor at a now-defunct London academy who had valuable contacts with the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Mifsud showed little interest in Mr. Papadopoulos at first.
Sam Clovis, a former co-chairman of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign, denies that he told Mr. Papadopoulos that improving relations with Russia was one of Mr. Trump's top foreign policy goals during Mr. Papadopoulos's interview for a job with the campaign. Credit Win Mcnamee/Getty Images But when he found out he was a Trump campaign adviser, he latched onto him, according to court records and emails obtained by The New York Times. Their joint goal was to arrange a meeting between Mr. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Moscow, or between their respective aides.
In response to questions, Mr. Papadopoulos's lawyers declined to provide a statement.
Before the end of the month, Mr. Mifsud had arranged a meeting at a London cafe between Mr. Papadopoulos and Olga Polonskaya, a young woman from St. Petersburg whom he falsely described as Mr. Putin's niece. Although Ms. Polonskaya told The Times in a text message that her English skills are poor, her emails to Mr. Papadopoulos were largely fluent. ''We are all very excited by the possibility of a good relationship with Mr. Trump,'' Ms. Polonskaya wrote in one message.
More important, Mr. Mifsud connected Mr. Papadopoulos to Ivan Timofeev, a program director for the prestigious Valdai Discussion Club, a gathering of academics that meets annually with Mr. Putin. The two men corresponded for months about how to connect the Russian government and the campaign. Records suggest that Mr. Timofeev, who has been described by Mr. Mueller's team as an intermediary for the Russian Foreign Ministry, discussed the matter with the ministry's former leader, Igor S. Ivanov, who is widely viewed in the United States as one of Russia's elder statesmen.
When Mr. Trump's foreign policy team gathered for the first time at the end of March in Washington, Mr. Papadopoulos said he had the contacts to set up a meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump listened intently but apparently deferred to Jeff Sessions, then a senator from Alabama and head of the campaign's foreign policy team, according to participants in the meeting.
Mr. Sessions, now the attorney general, initially did not reveal that discussion to Congress, because, he has said, he did not recall it. More recently, he said he pushed back against Mr. Papadopoulos's proposal, at least partly because he did not want someone so unqualified to represent the campaign on such a sensitive matter.
If the campaign wanted Mr. Papadopoulos to stand down, previously undisclosed emails obtained by The Times show that he either did not get the message or failed to heed it. He continued for months to try to arrange some kind of meeting with Russian representatives, keeping senior campaign advisers abreast of his efforts. Mr. Clovis ultimately encouraged him and another foreign policy adviser to travel to Moscow, but neither went because the campaign would not cover the cost.
Mr. Papadopoulos was trusted enough to edit the outline of Mr. Trump's first major foreign policy speech on April 27, an address in which the candidate said it was possible to improve relations with Russia. Mr. Papadopoulos flagged the speech to his newfound Russia contacts, telling Mr. Timofeev that it should be taken as ''the signal to meet.''
''That is a statesman speech,'' Mr. Mifsud agreed. Ms. Polonskaya wrote that she was pleased that Mr. Trump's ''position toward Russia is much softer'' than that of other candidates.
Stephen Miller, then a senior policy adviser to the campaign and now a top White House aide, was eager for Mr. Papadopoulos to serve as a surrogate, someone who could publicize Mr. Trump's foreign policy views without officially speaking for the campaign. But Mr. Papadopoulos's first public attempt to do so was a disaster.
In a May 4, 2016, interview with The Times of London, Mr. Papadopoulos called on Prime Minister David Cameron to apologize to Mr. Trump for criticizing his remarks on Muslims as ''stupid'' and divisive. ''Say sorry to Trump or risk special relationship, Cameron told,'' the headline read. Mr. Clovis, the national campaign co-chairman, severely reprimanded Mr. Papadopoulos for failing to clear his explosive comments with the campaign in advance.
From then on, Mr. Papadopoulos was more careful with the press '-- though he never regained the full trust of Mr. Clovis or several other campaign officials.
Mr. Mifsud proposed to Mr. Papadopoulos that he, too, serve as a campaign surrogate. He could write op-eds under the guise of a ''neutral'' observer, he wrote in a previously undisclosed email, and follow Mr. Trump to his rallies as an accredited journalist while receiving briefings from the inside the campaign.
In late April, at a London hotel, Mr. Mifsud told Mr. Papadopoulos that he had just learned from high-level Russian officials in Moscow that the Russians had ''dirt'' on Mrs. Clinton in the form of ''thousands of emails,'' according to court documents. Although Russian hackers had been mining data from the Democratic National Committee's computers for months, that information was not yet public. Even the committee itself did not know.
Whether Mr. Papadopoulos shared that information with anyone else in the campaign is one of many unanswered questions. He was mostly in contact with the campaign over emails. The day after Mr. Mifsud's revelation about the hacked emails, he told Mr. Miller in an email only that he had ''interesting messages coming in from Moscow'' about a possible trip. The emails obtained by The Times show no evidence that Mr. Papadopoulos discussed the stolen messages with the campaign.
Not long after, however, he opened up to Mr. Downer, the Australian diplomat, about his contacts with the Russians. It is unclear whether Mr. Downer was fishing for that information that night in May 2016. The meeting at the bar came about because of a series of connections, beginning with an Israeli Embassy official who introduced Mr. Papadopoulos to another Australian diplomat in London.
It is also not clear why, after getting the information in May, the Australian government waited two months to pass it to the F.B.I. In a statement, the Australian Embassy in Washington declined to provide details about the meeting or confirm that it occurred.
''As a matter of principle and practice, the Australian government does not comment on matters relevant to active investigations,'' the statement said. The F.B.I. declined to comment.
A House Judiciary Committee session last month at which Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified. Mr. Sessions was head of the Trump campaign's foreign policy team. Credit Al Drago for The New York Times A Secretive InvestigationOnce the information Mr. Papadopoulos had disclosed to the Australian diplomat reached the F.B.I., the bureau opened an investigation that became one of its most closely guarded secrets. Senior agents did not discuss it at the daily morning briefing, a classified setting where officials normally speak freely about highly sensitive operations.
Besides the information from the Australians, the investigation was also propelled by intelligence from other friendly governments, including the British and Dutch. A trip to Moscow by another adviser, Carter Page, also raised concerns at the F.B.I.
With so many strands coming in '-- about Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Page, the hackers and more '-- F.B.I. agents debated how aggressively to investigate the campaign's Russia ties, according to current and former officials familiar with the debate. Issuing subpoenas or questioning people, for example, could cause the investigation to burst into public view in the final months of a presidential campaign.
It could also tip off the Russian government, which might try to cover its tracks. Some officials argued against taking such disruptive steps, especially since the F.B.I. would not be able to unravel the case before the election.
Others believed that the possibility of a compromised presidential campaign was so serious that it warranted the most thorough, aggressive tactics. Even if the odds against a Trump presidency were long, these agents argued, it was prudent to take every precaution.
That included questioning Christopher Steele, the former British spy who was compiling the dossier alleging a far-ranging Russian conspiracy to elect Mr. Trump. A team of F.B.I. agents traveled to Europe to interview Mr. Steele in early October 2016. Mr. Steele had shown some of his findings to an F.B.I. agent in Rome three months earlier, but that information was not part of the justification to start an counterintelligence inquiry, American officials said.
Ultimately, the F.B.I. and Justice Department decided to keep the investigation quiet, a decision that Democrats in particular have criticized. And agents did not interview Mr. Papadopoulos until late January.
Opening Doors, to the TopHe was hardly central to the daily running of the Trump campaign, yet Mr. Papadopoulos continuously found ways to make himself useful to senior Trump advisers. In September 2016, with the United Nations General Assembly approaching and stories circulating that Mrs. Clinton was going to meet with Mr. Sisi, the Egyptian president, Mr. Papadopoulos sent a message to Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign's chief executive, offering to broker a similar meeting for Mr. Trump.
After days of scheduling discussions, the meeting was set and Mr. Papadopoulos sent a list of talking points to Mr. Bannon, according to people familiar with those interactions. Asked about his contacts with Mr. Papadopoulos, Mr. Bannon declined to comment.
Mr. Trump's improbable victory raised Mr. Papadopoulos's hopes that he might ascend to a top White House job. The election win also prompted a business proposal from Sergei Millian, a naturalized American citizen born in Belarus. After he had contacted Mr. Papadopoulos out of the blue over LinkedIn during the summer of 2016, the two met repeatedly in Manhattan.
Mr. Millian has bragged of his ties to Mr. Trump '-- boasts that the president's advisers have said are overstated. He headed an obscure organization called the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, some of whose board members and clients are difficult to confirm. Congress is investigating where he fits into the swirl of contacts with the Trump campaign, although he has said he is unfairly being scrutinized only because of his support for Mr. Trump.
Mr. Millian proposed that he and Mr. Papadopoulos form an energy-related business that would be financed by Russian billionaires ''who are not under sanctions'' and would ''open all doors for us'' at ''any level all the way to the top.''
One billionaire, he said, wanted to explore the idea of opening a Trump-branded hotel in Moscow. ''I know the president will distance himself from business, but his children might be interested,'' he wrote.
Nothing came of his proposals, partly because Mr. Papadopoulos was hoping that Michael T. Flynn, then Mr. Trump's pick to be national security adviser, might give him the energy portfolio at the National Security Council.
The pair exchanged New Year's greetings in the final hours of 2016. ''Happy New Year, sir,'' Mr. Papadopoulos wrote.
''Thank you and same to you, George. Happy New Year!'' Mr. Flynn responded, ahead of a year that seemed to hold great promise.
But 2017 did not unfold that way. Within months, Mr. Flynn was fired, and both men were charged with lying to the F.B.I. And both became important witnesses in the investigation Mr. Papadopoulos had played a critical role in starting.
Adam Goldman, Eileen Sullivan and Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Unlikely Source Propelled Russian Meddling Inquiry . Order Reprints | Today's Paper | Subscribe
Report: Papadopoulos Sparked Russia Investigation
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 11:55
A juicy New York Times report published Saturday reveals that George Papadopoulos, the Trump foreign-policy adviser who was indicted in October, inadvertently set off the FBI investigation into Russian electoral interference that has become an existential threat to the president.
It all began, as so many memorable tales do, with a night of ''heavy drinking at an upscale London bar.'' It was May of 2016, and Papadopoulos was knocking back some Pimm's cups (we can only imagine) with Australia's top diplomat in the U.K. when he decided to divulge some very interesting information: Russia was in possession of damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians' role.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump's associates conspired.
Together with more information about the Trump/Russia connection from the British and Dutch governments, plus a suspicious trip to Moscow by Trump adviser Carter Page, the FBI decided it had enough to open an investigation, which it kept quiet throughout the election '-- too quiet, Democrats charge. The probe eventually developed into the ongoing effort headed by special counsel Robert Mueller. Papadopoulos's indictment, for lying to the FBI, was seen as a particularly worrying sign for the Trump administration because of his direct involvement with Russians who had offered the campaign the dirt on Clinton in the form of hacked emails.
The timing of Papadopoulos's ill-fated remarks at the London bar are key. In an effort to discredit the Russia investigation, Republican commentators have been pushing the notion that the FBI began its inquiry on the basis of the now-infamous ''Steele Dossier,'' the document put together by ex''British spy Christopher Steele, which alleged that Russia interfered in the election and had possible ''kompromat'' on President Trump. Republicans claim that the dossier is full of misinformation, and that, since the Democratic National Committee paid the firm that employed Steele, the document '-- and thus Mueller's investigation '-- was tainted from the start
But the Times article makes it clear that it was Papadopoulos, not Steele, who drove the investigation, at least in the beginning. This blows up an important line of attack for Republicans looking to tar Mueller '-- though undoubtedly they'll find other ways to do it.
The Times article also provides more detail about the labryinthine path through which Papadopoulos attempted to set up a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. And it puts to bed the notion, advanced by the Trump team, that the previously inexperienced Papadopoulos was an inconsequential figure on the campaign, or a ''coffee boy,'' in the words of ex-adviser Michael Caputo. Papadopoulos was actually a mainstay among the ragtag group of advisers that helped propel Trump to the Republican nomination. And he helped edit Trump's first major foreign-policy speech, in April of 2016, in which the president expressed his wish for warmer relations with Russia.
And other momentous events you may have forgotten happened in 2017.
In an interview conducted before her passing, Erica Garner talks about her father and her fight against police brutality.
The scoop about Trump's so-called ''coffee boy'' demolishes a key GOP talking point.
She had become a major civil-rights advocate after the death of her father at the hands of police in 2014.
Widespread economic protests continued for a third day on Saturday.
And not a single Republican elected official seems to care.
The 81-year-old has cancer, but he's not dead yet.
Many suburbanites rushed to prepay their 2018 property taxes '-- only to learn that this wouldn't actually spare them from the harms of the tax bill.
The retail giant's stock price dipped after the criticism.
The apartment-building fire left 12 dead and 6 injured.
If the president means what he says, then there will be no DACA deal '-- and 800,000 Dreamers will become subject to deportation.
''It's going to stop traffic,'' he predicted.
It reportedly ended with the chancellor repeatedly explaining that Germany can't negotiate trade deals separately from the E.U.
It doesn't sound like Mueller's firing is imminent, but he declared, ''I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.''
She was written in as a candidate in Shelby County, Alabama.
Since resigning from office earlier this month.
A conversation with Brink Lindsey and Steven Teles, authors of The Captured Economy.
But Trump just might kill it anyway.
Doug Jones was certified as Alabama's next U.S. senator, but Moore won't concede defeat.
Immigration advocates are fighting to get a Clean Dream Act passed.
Report: Papadopoulos played "a critical role" in the Russia investigation - Axios
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 11:54
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What Russian Journalists Uncovered About Russian Election Meddling - The Atlantic
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 11:53
Much of 2017 was consumed with untangling the political mess that was 2016 and Russia's role in it. Much of what we learned came from American journalists, who brought us revelation after revelation about how the Kremlin meddled in the presidential election. Through these reporters' domestic sources'--in the White House, Congress, and the intelligence community'--we learned how Russians bought Facebook ads aimed at sowing division; how Russian government agencies hacked the Democratic National Committee and congressional races; how Russians loosely affiliated with the Kremlin reached out to the Trump campaign; and how the Kremlin turned the popular Kaspersky Labs anti-virus software into a spying tool.
Very little information came from the other side'--from Russian journalists. Arguably, we learned far more from their stories about Russian campaign interference than from American news stories. Yet you can count on one hand the stories about it published in Russian media.
Here's a rundown of what we learned from the Russian press this year:
In an updated edition of their book, The Red Web, Russian journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan'--veteran reporters on the Russian secret services'--revealed how and when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the attack on the American election. It happened, according to Soldatov and Borogan, at a meeting in April between Putin and a small inner circle of his national security advisors, most of them former KGB officers. Putin's decision was also reportedly an emotional, knee-jerk one, in retaliation to the release of the Panama Papers, which implicated him. Because of Putin's highly conspirological mindset, he apparently blamed Goldman Sachs and Hillary Clinton for the release of the embarrassing information, Soldatov and Borogan reported.An October report from the Russian business media outlet RBC explained in great detail how the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, also known as the ''troll factory,'' operated during the 2016 election. The report, authored by two Russian journalists, detailed the funding, budget, operating methods, and tactics, of the 100 trolls who spent 2016 populating American social media sites with divisive commentary and imitating civil rights groups. The report showed how the Agency was financed through its owner, Putin's court caterer Yevgeny Prigozhin. It also detailed the reach of various politically inflammatory posts. It showed, for example, how the Agency produced over 20 Facebook posts that gathered over a million unique views each.That same month, TVRain, Russia's last independent television network, interviewed ''Maxim,'' a man who had worked as a troll at this factory. He revealed that the factory was largely staffed by college students from the prestigious St. Petersburg State University, Russia's #2 university; their majors included international relations, linguistics, and journalism. They were, in other words, young, educated, worldly, and urban'--the very cohort Americans imagine would rise up against someone like Putin. Instead, they worked in the factory, making nearly double the average Russian's salary, sowing discord on Twitter, Facebook, and in the comments sections of various websites. They were instructed not to mention Russia, but instead to focus on issues that divided Americans, like guns and race. They learned their subject matter by reading Americans' social media posts and by watching House of Cards, effectively weaponizing American culture and openness.Last week, TVRain ran a written interview with Konstantin Kozlovsky, who is currently in a Russian prison for hacking into various Russian banks. He confessed to hacking the DNC and to creating the viruses Lurk and Wanna Cry, the latter of which is responsible for a ransomware attack that paralyzed computer networks across the world. Kozlovsky told the journalists how he had been entrapped and blackmailed into working for the FSB, the main Russian security agency, nearly a decade ago. He said that when he hacked into the servers of the DNC, he purposely left behind a calling card: a data file with the number of his visa to the Caribbean Island of St. Martin, as well as his passport number. Kozlovsky also said that he was arrested now because the FSB wanted ''to hide the digital traces'' of what he did. (It's worth noting that many of these claims are unverified.)Earlier this month, the Bell, a scrappy upstart website based outside of Russia, published a detailed expos(C) by the legendary Russian investigative journalist Svetlana Reiter about the four Russian men'--two of them high-ranking FSB cyber warriors'--arrested in Moscow last December in connection with the 2016 election hack. Reiter delved into the mystery of why the men were charged with, of all things, passing information to the CIA about the Russian cyber-attack. According to Reiter, they had been set up by a rival faction in Russian military intelligence, the GRU. The rivalry, which Soldatov and Borogan had also reported on, centered on securing both the prestige and budgetary funds that came with penetrating U.S. government cyber-defenses. This had previously been the exclusive domain of the FSB'--once run by Putin'--and the GRU was trying to muscle in on the FSB's territory and money. A side effect of this internal rivalry, Reiter concluded, was how the Americans discovered the hack.Why has there been so little reporting on Russian election interference coming out of the place that perpetrated it? For one thing, the Russian security services and the Kremlin do not leak, at least not nearly as much as their American counterparts, and they are suspicious of Western journalists, of whom there are fewer and fewer these days. Russian government officials also ''don't like talking to independent journalists, but they're still better to talk to than to American journalists,'' said Liza Osetinskaya, a legendary Russian editor who now runs The Bell.
The problem is that independent journalism in Russia has been decimated. Even if those on the inside are willing to talk to a local journalist, there are fewer and fewer of them around. After returning to the Kremlin for a third term, Putin cracked down on the independent press. The Kremlin put pressure on the businessmen who owned these media outlets, as well as on advertisers and cable and satellite networks to squeeze the space in which independent media had flourished during Dmitry Medvedev's presidency. Several outlets were shut down, and people like Osetinskaya were pushed out by business owners wary of Kremlin pressure, in favor of more loyal, and less enterprising, editorial teams.
Osetinskaya, who oversaw investigations of Putin's family's wealth, was pushed out of the more mainstream RBC, and now runs The Bell from the Bay Area with a skeleton crew of reporters and editors scattered all over the world. It's no coincidence that it was this outlet that produced such a detailed and explosive report. TVRain, which broke two of the stories summarized above, was nearly shuttered under Kremlin pressure in 2014. Instead, it was left for dead as an online-only channel. Its reach, along with its advertising revenue, and, consequently, its salaries, are a fraction of what they were just five years ago.
Facing this kind of political and economic pressure, many of Russia's journalists'--many of them among the country's best'--either left home or abandoned the profession altogether. This is apparently the case with the journalists who published the RBC report on the troll factory: After receiving threats, they left journalism. What we are witnessing ''is the last phase of the death of independent Russian media,'' Galina Timchenko said at last summer's Aspen Ideas Festival. She is another well-known Russian editor forced out under Kremlin pressure. She now runs the independent Meduza from Latvia. It has a fraction of the reach of the outlet she ran for a decade, Lenta.ru.
The squelching of press freedom and the shuttering of independent media abroad is, in other words, not an academic matter. As 2017 has shown, when these voices are silenced, we know far less than we need about vital national security interests. If the violation of an abstract principle doesn't bother you, its very concrete repercussions should.
NYT 'Russia Papadopoulos Bombshell' Completely Unravels Within Hours of Publication
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:32
If the dossier wasn't used in order to obtain a FISA warrant, then SHOW THE PUBLIC THE FISA APPS!
On Saturday The New York Times implied Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos set in motion the 'Russian collusion' investigation, not the Hillary-funded dossier.
Papadopoulos was already charged. He wasn't charged with 'Russian collusion'. Papadopoulos was charged with making a false statement to the FBI because talking to Russians is not illegal, yet he's what prompted the Russia investigation?
The fake news media is beyond pathetic.
WASHINGTON '-- During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.
About three weeks earlier, Mr. Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Mrs. Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign.
Exactly how much Mr. Papadopoulos said that night at the Kensington Wine Rooms with the Australian, Alexander Downer, is unclear. But two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, according to four current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of the Australians' role.
The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia's attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump's associates conspired.
If Mr. Papadopoulos, who pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. and is now a cooperating witness, was the improbable match that set off a blaze that has consumed the first year of the Trump administration, his saga is also a tale of the Trump campaign in miniature. He was brash, boastful and underqualified, yet he exceeded expectations. And, like the campaign itself, he proved to be a tantalizing target for a Russian influence operation.
The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigationinto the Trump campaign months before the presidential election?
It was not, as Mr. Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. Instead, it was firsthand information from one of America's closest intelligence allies.
Conservative Treehouse completely broke down their latest Russian conspiracy.
Rep Ron DeSantis has asked for Obama-Comey FISA apps to be declassified. As soon as we know what prompted the FISA warrant, we will begin to understand the origin of the 'Russian collusion' witch hunt. The reason why the Deep State is fighting the dossier so much is because we all know it is the fruit of the poison tree as Tom Fitton says.
Nice try, New York Times; certainly that 'report' took some of your precious time to produce, however; we will never stop demanding an investigation into the dossier.
The brilliant Byron York of the Washington Examiner asked some pertinent questions that further poked holes in the desperate New York Times article about Papadopoulos:
Note: Maggie Haberman did not author this NYT article. She is the NYT DC bureau. This fake news Papadopoulos article was compiled by SHARON LaFRANIERE , MARK MAZZETTI and MATT APUZZO
Media Literacy
Efforts grow to help students evaluate what they see online
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:01
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) '-- Alarmed by the proliferation of false content online, state lawmakers around the country are pushing schools to put more emphasis on teaching students how to tell fact from fiction.
Lawmakers in several states have introduced or passed bills calling on public school systems to do more to teach media literacy skills that they say are critical to democracy. The effort has been bipartisan but has received little attention despite successful legislation in Washington state, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Mexico.
Several more states are expected to consider such bills in the coming year, including Arizona, New York and Hawaii.
"I don't think it's a partisan issue to appreciate the importance of good information and the teaching of tools for navigating the information environment," said Hans Zeiger, a Republican state senator in Washington who co-sponsored a bill that passed in his state earlier this year. "There is such a thing as an objective source versus other kinds of sources, and that's an appropriate thing for schools to be teaching."
Advocates say the K-12 curriculum has not kept pace with rapid changes in technology. Studies show many children spend hours every day online but struggle to comprehend the content that comes at them.
For years, they have pushed schools to incorporate media literacy '-- including the ability to evaluate and analyze sources of information '-- into lesson plans in civics, language arts, science and other subjects.
Their efforts started getting traction after the 2016 presidential election, which highlighted how even many adults can be fooled by false and misleading content peddled by agenda-driven domestic and foreign sources.
"Five years ago, it was difficult to get people to understand what we were doing and what we wanted to see happen in education and the skills students needed to learn," said Michelle Ciulla Lipkin, executive director of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. "Now there is no question about the vitalness of this in classrooms."
A study published last year by Stanford University researchers also brought the issue into focus. It warned that students from middle school to college were "easily duped" and ill-equipped to use reason with online information.
The researchers warned that "democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish."
In June, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill establishing an advisory council to develop recommendations that will include instructing students on evaluating what they see and read online.
Jennifer Rocca, a high school librarian in Brookfield, Connecticut, was among several supporters who urged lawmakers to pass the legislation.
Her digital literacy course, a requirement for freshmen, challenges students to evaluate the credibility of online sources so they can spot falsehoods and biased information. She requires students to cite their sources when conducting research and explain why each would have the authority to be credible.
Without stronger statewide standards, Rocca said she worries that some school districts will not do enough to develop skills that are critical for students and society.
"You should be expected to navigate the internet and evaluate the information no matter where you go to school," she said.
Many of the state bills are based on model legislation backed by a coalition of groups, including Media Literacy Now and the Digital Citizenship Institute. Advocates say the laws are a good first step that must be paired with updates to teacher education programs, funding for professional development and other changes throughout the education system.
The efforts have run into concerns about school funding shortfalls, and supporters say they are mindful of adding mandates on districts and teachers. That's why the laws have so far stopped short of dictating changes and instead called for voluntary actions.
New Mexico Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, D-Albuquerque, said media literacy is an elective in the state's secondary schools curriculum '-- unlike financial literacy, which is required. He said he would like to see that changed in coming years and "intertwined throughout the entire curriculum regardless of what you are teaching."
Last summer, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed two bills calling on state education officials to work with media literacy organizations to consider incorporating the subject into the basic education program.
The new law in Washington requires the state school superintendent to create a website with links to successful media literacy practices. The office also must conduct a survey to understand how librarians, teachers, principals and technology directors are integrating those subjects into their curriculum.
Supporters are helping lawmakers in several states draft similar bills to be introduced in 2018.
"The combination of social media and misinformation really captured people's awareness and attention in the last year," said Erin McNeill, president of Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit based in Watertown, Massachusetts. "It took a long time to get media literacy into the public consciousness."
About | Lance Wallnau
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 13:38
USA Today reports that he is one of only three evangelical leaders to have accurately predicted Donald Trump's Presidency while running against 15 opponents. Dr. Wallnau's Best Selling book, ''Gods Chaos Candidate'' explains the global shift that accompanies Trumps unexpected electoral upset. God is working in new and unprecedented ways among the nations.
Dr. Wallnau has shared platforms with best-selling authors Ken Blanchard and John Maxwell, and lectured at universities from Harvard and M.I.T. to the London School of Theology. Merging a thirty-year background consulting in business and the non-profit sector, Lance inspires visions of tomorrow with the clarity of today'--connecting ideas to action. His students represent a tapestry spanning nations and spheres: from politicians, to CEO's, entertainers and entrepreneurs. He currently directs the Lance Learning Group, a strategic teaching and consulting company based in Dallas, Texas.
Dr. Wallnau's is a frequent television guest and conference keynote speaker. Thousands of leaders around the world attest to the lasting impact of their first encounter with Lance. If you've never heard him before you should join with thousands of others '' just check out his regular broadcasts on Periscope and Facebook Live, under Lance Wallnau.
Shut Up Slave!
In China, a Three-Digit Score Could Dictate Your Place in Society | WIRED
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:22
In 2015, when Lazarus Liu moved home to China after studying logistics in the United Kingdom for three years, he quickly noticed that something had changed: Everyone paid for everything with their phones. At McDonald's, the convenience store, even at mom-and-pop restaurants, his friends in Shanghai used mobile payments. Cash, Liu could see, had been largely replaced by two smartphone apps: Alipay and WeChat Pay. One day, at a vegetable market, he watched a woman his mother's age pull out her phone to pay for her groceries. He decided to sign up.
To get an Alipay ID, Liu had to enter his cell phone number and scan his national ID card. He did so reflexively. Alipay had built a reputation for reliability, and compared to going to a bank managed with slothlike indifference and zero attention to customer service, signing up for Alipay was almost fun. With just a few clicks he was in. Alipay's slogan summed up the experience: ''Trust makes it simple.''
Alipay turned out to be so convenient that Liu began using it multiple times a day, starting first thing in the morning, when he ordered breakfast through a food delivery app. He realized that he could pay for parking through Alipay's My Car feature, so he added his driver's license and license plate numbers, as well as the engine number of his Audi. He started making his car insurance payments with the app. He booked doctors' appointments there, skipping the chaotic lines for which Chinese hospitals are famous. He added friends in Alipay's built-in social network. When Liu went on vacation with his fianc(C)e (now his wife) to Thailand, they paid at restaurants and bought trinkets with Alipay. He stored whatever money was left over, which wasn't much once the vacation and car were paid for, in an Alipay money market account. He could have paid his electricity, gas, and internet bills in Alipay's City Service section. Like many young Chinese who had become enamored of the mobile payment services offered by Alipay and WeChat, Liu stopped bringing his wallet when he left the house.
If you live in the United States, you are by now accustomed to relinquishing your data to corporations. Credit card companies know when you run up bar tabs or buy sex toys. Facebook knows if you like Tasty cooking videos or Breitbart News. Uber knows where you go and how you behave en route. But Alipay knows all of these things about its users and more. Owned by Ant Financial, an affiliate of the massive Alibaba corporation, Alipay is sometimes called a super app. Its main competitor, WeChat, belongs to the social and gaming giant Tencent. Alipay and WeChat are less like individual apps than entire ecosystems. Whenever Liu opened Alipay on his phone, he saw a neat grid of icons that vaguely resembled the home screen on his Samsung. Some of the icons were themselves full-blown third-party apps. If he wanted to, he could access Airbnb, Uber, or Uber's Chinese rival Didi, entirely from inside Alipay. It was as if Amazon had swallowed eBay, Apple News, Groupon, American Express, Citibank, and YouTube'--and could siphon up data from all of them.
One day a new icon appeared on Liu's Alipay home screen. It was labeled Zhima Credit (or Sesame Credit). The name, like that of Alipay's parent company, evoked the story of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves, in which the words open sesame magically unseal a cave full of treasure. When Liu touched the icon, he was greeted by an image of the Earth. ''Zhima Credit is the embodiment of personal credit,'' the text underneath read. ''It uses big data to conduct an objective assessment. The higher the score, the better your credit.'' Further down was a button that read, in clean white characters, ''Start my credit journey.'' He tapped.
In 1956 an electrical engineer named Bill Fair and a mathematician named Earl Isaac started a small tech company out of a San Francisco apartment. They named it Fair, Isaac and Co., but the business eventually came to be known, for short, as FICO. Their chief innovation was using computer­-driven statistical ­analysis to translate people's personal details and financial history into a simple score, predicting how likely they were to pay back loans. Before FICO, credit bureaus relied in part on gossip culled from people's landlords, neighbors, and local grocers. Applicants' race could be counted against them, as could messiness, poor morals, and ''effeminate gestures.'' Algorithmic scoring, Fair and Isaac argued, was a more equitable, scientific alternative to this unfair reality. FICO's approach eventually caught on among the credit bureaus'--TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax'--and in 1989 FICO introduced the credit score we know today, enabling millions of Americans to take out mortgages and rack up credit card bills.
During the past 30 years, by contrast, China has grown to become the world's second largest economy without much of a functioning credit system at all. The People's Bank of China, the country's central banking regulator, maintains records on millions of consumers, but they often contain little or no information. Until recently, it was difficult to get a credit card with any bank other than your own. Consumers mainly used cash. As housing prices spiked, this became increasingly untenable. ''Now you need two suitcases to buy a house, not just one,'' says Zennon Kapron, who heads the financial tech consultancy Kapronasia. Still, efforts to establish a reliable credit system foundered because China lacked a third-party credit scoring entity. What it did have by the end of 2011 were 356 million smartphone users.
On the screen was a button that read, "Start my credit journey." Liu tapped.
That year, Ant Financial launched a version of Alipay with a built-in scanner for reading QR codes'--square, machine-readable labels that can hold over 100 times more information than a standard bar code. (WeChat Pay, which launched in 2013, has a similar built-in scanner.) Scanning a QR code can bring you to a website, or pull up an app, or connect you to a person's social media profile. Codes started showing up on graves (scan to learn more about the deceased) and the shirts of waiters (scan to tip). Beggars printed out QR codes and set them out on the street. The codes linked the online and offline realms on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world. That first year with the QR scanner, Alipay mobile payments reached nearly $70 billion.
In 2013, Ant Financial executives retreated to the mountains outside Hangzhou to discuss creating a slew of new products; one of them was Zhima Credit. The executives realized that they could use the data-collecting powers of Alipay to calculate a credit score based on an individual's activities. ''It was a very natural process,'' says You Xi, a Chinese business reporter who detailed this pivotal meeting in a recent book, Ant Financial. ''If you have payment data, you can assess the credit of a person.'' And so the tech company began the process of creating a score that would be ''credit for everything in your life,'' as You explains it.
Ant Financial wasn't the only entity keen on using data to measure people's worth. Coincidentally or not, in 2014 the Chinese government announced it was developing what it called a system of ''social credit.'' In 2014, the State Council, China's governing cabinet, publicly called for the establishment of a nationwide tracking system to rate the reputations of individuals, businesses, and even government officials. The aim is for every Chinese citizen to be trailed by a file compiling data from public and private sources by 2020, and for those files to be searchable by fingerprints and other biometric characteristics. The State Council calls it a ''credit system that covers the whole society.''
For the Chinese Communist Party, social credit is an attempt at a softer, more invisible authoritarianism. The goal is to nudge people toward behaviors ranging from energy conservation to obedience to the Party. Samantha Hoffman, a consultant with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London who is researching social credit, says that the government wants to preempt instability that might threaten the Party. ''That's why social credit ideally requires both coercive aspects and nicer aspects, like providing social services and solving real problems. It's all under the same Orwellian umbrella.''
In 2015 Ant Financial was one of eight tech companies granted approval from the People's Bank of China to develop their own private credit scoring platforms. Zhima Credit appeared in the Alipay app shortly after that. The service tracks your behavior on the app to arrive at a score between 350 and 950, and offers perks and rewards to those with good scores. Zhima Credit's algorithm considers not only whether you repay your bills but also what you buy, what degrees you hold, and the scores of your friends. Like Fair and Isaac decades earlier, Ant Financial executives talked publicly about how a data-driven approach would open up the financial system to people who had been locked out, like students and rural Chinese. For the more than 200 million Alipay users who have opted in to Zhima Credit, the sell is clear: Your data will magically open doors for you.
Participating in Zhima Credit is voluntary, and it's unclear whether or how signing up for it could affect an individual's rating in the government system. Ant Financial declined to let me interview anyone from the company, but did provide a statement from Hu Tao, the general manager of Zhima Credit. ''Zhima Credit is dedicated to creating trust in a commercial setting and independent of any government-initiated social credit system,'' the statement reads. ''Zhima Credit does not share user scores or underlying data with any third party including the government without the user's prior consent.''
The service "will ensure that the bad people in society don't have a place to go."
Ant Financial did state, however, in a 2015 press release that the company plans ''to help build a social integrity system.'' And the company has already cooperated with the Chinese government in one important way: It has integrated a blacklist of more than 6 million people who have defaulted on court fines into Zhima Credit's database. According to Xinhua, the state news agency, this union of big tech and big government has helped courts punish more than 1.21 million defaulters, who opened their Zhima Credit one day to find their scores plunging.
The State Council has signaled that under the national social credit system people will be penalized for the crime of spreading online rumors, among other offenses, and that those deemed ''seriously untrustworthy'' can expect to receive substandard services. Ant Financial appears to be aiming for a society divided along moral lines as well. As Lucy Peng, the company's chief executive, was quoted as saying in Ant Financial, Zhima Credit ''will ensure that the bad people in society don't have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.''
I lived in China for the better part of a decade but left in 2014, before mobile payments had fully taken hold. Today $5.5 trillion in mobile payments are made every year in China. (In contrast, the US mobile payments market in 2016 was worth roughly $112 billion.) When I returned for a visit in August, I was determined to be a part of the new cashless China. So I signed up for Alipay and Zhima Credit a few hours after emerging bleary-eyed from the plane. Because I lacked a transaction history, I immediately faced what felt like an embarrassing judgment: a score of 550.
On my first day in Shanghai, I opened Zhima Credit to scan a yellow bike that I found parked at an angle on the sidewalk. China's bike-sharing culture had, like mobile payments, emerged out of nowhere, and Shanghai's streets were littered with brightly colored bikes, deposited wherever the riders pleased. A scan of a bike's QR code revealed a four-digit number that unlocked the back wheel, and a ride across town cost roughly 15 cents. Because of my middling score, however, I had to pay a $30 deposit before I could scan my first bike. Nor could I get deposit-free hotel stays or GoPro rentals, or free umbrella rentals. I belonged to the digital underclass.
In China, anxiety about pianzi, or swindlers, runs deep. How do I know you're not a pianzi? is a question people often ask when salespeople call on the phone or repairmen show up at the door. While my score likely didn't put me in the ranks of pianzi, one promise of Zhima Credit was identifying those who were. Companies can buy risk assessments for users that detail whether they have paid their rent or utilities or appear on the court blacklist. For businesses, such products are billed as time-savers. On the site Tencent Video, I stumbled across an ad for Zhima Credit in which a businessman scrutinizes strangers as he rides the subway. ''Everybody looks like a pianzi,'' he despairs. His employees, trying to guard against shady customers, cover the office conference room walls with photos of lowlifes and criminals. But then'--tada!'--the boss discovers Zhima Credit, and all of their problems are solved. The staff celebrate by tearing the photos off the wall.
"If your friends are all high-score people, it's good for you. If you have some bad-credit people as friends, it's not nice."
For those with good behavior, Zhima Credit offers perks through cooperation agreements that Ant Financial has signed with hundreds of companies and institutions. Shenzhou Zuche, a car rental company, allows people with credit scores over 650 to rent a car without a deposit. In exchange for this vetting, Shenzhou Zuche shares data, so that if a Zhima Credit user crashes one of the rental company's cars and refuses to pay up, that detail is fed back into his or her credit score. For a while people with scores over 750 could even skip the security check line at Beijing Capital Airport.
Two years after signing up for Zhima Credit, Lazarus Liu was trending up to that number. I met Liu, who is 27 and works at a large corporation, one Saturday afternoon at a mall in central Shanghai, outside a Forever 21. He wore a black shirt, black sneakers, and black Air Jordan shorts, and his face was framed by a fresh fade, with a jolt of black hair that flopped to one side. We walked to a Starbucks filled with young people hunched over their phones, sipping peach iced teas and green tea Frappuccinos. Liu claimed the last open table.
Liu told me that he chose his English name, Lazarus, after converting to Catholicism three years ago, but that his religion was mostly a private affair. He saw his Zhima Credit score the same way; it revealed something about him, but he kept those insights mostly to himself. He rarely checked his score'--it just lurked in the background of the Alipay app on his Samsung'--and because it was good, he didn't have to. After starting at 600 out of a possible 950 points, he had reached 722, a score that entitled him to favorable terms on loans and apartment rentals, as well as showcasing on several dating apps should he and his wife ever split up. With a few dozen more points, he could get a streamlined visa to Luxembourg, not that he was planning such a trip.
As Liu amassed a favorable transaction and payment history on Alipay, his score naturally improved. But it could go down if he neglected to pay a traffic fine, for example. And the privileges that come with a high score might someday be revoked for behaviors that have nothing to do with consumer etiquette. In June 2015, as 9.4 million Chinese teenagers took the grueling national college entrance examination, Hu Tao, the Zhima Credit general manager, told reporters that Ant Financial hoped to obtain a list of students who cheated, so that the fraud could become a blight on their Zhima Credit records. ''There should be consequences for dishonest behavior,'' she avowed. The good were moving without obstruction. A threat hung over the rest.
Alipay knows that at 1 pm on the afternoon of August 26, I rented an Ofo brand bike outside Shanghai's former French Concession and rode north, parking it across from Jing'an Temple. It knows that at 1:24 pm I bought a snack in the mall next to the temple. It knows that afterward I got in a Didi car bound for a neighborhood to the northwest. It knows that at 3:11 pm I disembarked and entered a supermarket, and it knows (because Alibaba owns the supermarket, which accepts only Alipay at checkout) that at 3:36 pm I bought bananas, cheese, and crackers. It knows that I then got in a taxi, and that I arrived at my destination at 4:01 pm. It knows the identification number of the taxi that drove me there. It knows that at 4:19 pm I paid $8 for an Amazon delivery. For three sweet hours'--one of which I spent in the swimming pool'--it does not know my whereabouts. Then it knows that I rented another Ofo bike outside a hotel in central Shanghai, cycled 10 minutes, and at 7:11 pm parked it outside a popular restaurant. Because Ant Financial is a strategic investor in Ofo, Alipay might know the route I took.
The algorithm behind my Zhima Credit score is a corporate secret. Ant Financial officially lists five broad categories of information that feed into the score, but the company provides only the barest of details about how these ingredients are cooked together. Like any conventional credit scoring system, Zhima Credit monitors my spending history and whether I have repaid my loans. But elsewhere the algorithm veers into voodoo, or worse. A category called Connections considers the credit of my contacts in Alipay's social network. Characteristics takes into consideration what kind of car I drive, where I work, and where I went to school. A category called Behavior, meanwhile, scrutinizes the nuances of my consumer life, zeroing in on actions that purportedly correlate with good credit. Shortly after Zhima Credit's launch, the company's technology director, Li Yingyun, told the Chinese magazine Caixin that spending behavior like buying diapers, say, could boost one's score, while playing videogames for hours on end could lower it. Online speculation held that donating to charity, presumably through Alipay's built-in donation service, was good. But I'm not sure whether the $3 I gave for feeding brown bear cubs qualifies me as a philanthropist or a cheapskate.
I began to check my score obsessively, but because scores are only reevaluated monthly, the number didn't budge. Each time I opened the app, I encountered an alarming orange screen. In the foreground was a gauge in the shape of a half-circle, with a dial showing that I had reached only a quarter of my potential. An article on the portal Sohu.com explained that my score put me in the category of ''common folk.'' The page read: ''Cultural level is not high. Retired or nearly retired.'' In China, where many elderly lost out on years of education during the Cultural Revolution, this was not a compliment. According to Sohu, only 5 percent of the population had scores worse than mine.
To see if I could do anything to pull my score up, I took a taxi one morning to a chic open-air shopping center outside Shanghai's city center to meet with Chen Chen, a 30-year-old illustrator. Chen told a mutual friend on WeChat that she had an ''excellent'' rating on Zhima Credit, and I wanted to ask her counsel. We bought coffee and walked to an outdoor seating area. Chen wore a button-down shirt open over a white T-shirt and skinny jeans. Her hair was bleached to a straw yellow, and a line of sparkly eye shadow was swept under each eye. On Zhima Credit she clocked in at 710, and her background color was a calming sky blue.
She explained how to boost my score. ''They will check what kind of friends you have,'' she said. ''If your friends are all high-score people, it's good for you. If you have some bad-credit people as friends, it's not nice.'' After signing up for Alipay, I sent friend requests to all of my phone contacts. Only six people accepted. One of my new Alipay friends was a man I used to tutor in English and probably my wealthiest friend in Shanghai. He owned several businesses, a fleet of cars, and a spacious villa in a posh neighborhood. But another was my old tailor, who lived with her family in a single room in a dilapidated house, with piles of cloth obscuring the thin windows. Did the tailor's impact on my score cancel out the businessman's? And was I dragging both of them down?
Chen said she knew the scores of her close friends but not those of acquaintances or work colleagues. There are chat rooms where people with decent scores seek out other high scorers, presumably to boost their ratings. But in general, people simply make assumptions about which contacts have good credit and which are better left unfriended. Users like Chen hadn't yet taken the step of shutting low scorers like me out of their network, she assured me. Zhima Credit was still fairly new, and an acquaintance's low score might still be charitably explained, she said: ''Maybe they just haven't used it long enough.''
To understand the allure that social engineering holds for Chinese leaders, you have to go back decades, to long before apps and big data. In the years after the 1949 Communist Revolution, the government assigned everyone to local work units, which became the locus of surveillance and control. Individuals spied on their neighbors while also doing everything they could to avoid black marks on their own dang'an, or government files. But maintaining the system required massive state effort and oversight. As economic reforms in the 1980s led millions of people to leave their villages and migrate to cities, the work unit system fell apart. Migration also had a secondary effect: Cities filled up with strangers and pianzi.
It didn't take long for the central government to start thinking about gamifying good behavior. Leaders realized that ''if we are going to have a market system that is supposed to be self-guiding, we also need to have self-guiding credit systems,'' says Rogier Creemers, a scholar of Chinese law at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies in the Netherlands. In the late 1990s, a working group at a Chinese Academy of Sciences institute developed the basic concepts behind the social credit system. But the technology wasn't advanced enough to support the Communist Party's broader political designs.
Nearly a decade ago, I spent a few weeks in Suining, a mostly rural county in Jiangsu province, near Shanghai. Back then, local governance was not subtle. When officials decided to clamp down on people running red lights, they urged citizens to take pictures of offenders, whose images would later be featured on the local television channel.
Then, in 2010, Suining became one of the first areas in China to pilot a social credit system. Officials there began assessing residents on a range of criteria, including education level, online behavior, and how well they followed traffic laws. Each of Suining's 1.1 million citizens older than 14 started out with 1,000 points, and points were added or deducted based on behavior. Taking care of elderly family members earned you 50 points. Helping the poor merited 10 points. Helping the poor in a way that was reported by the media: 15. A drunk driving conviction meant the loss of 50 points, as did bribing an official. After the points were tallied up, citizens were assigned grades of A, B, C, or D. Grade A citizens would be given priority for school admissions and employment, while D citizens would be denied licenses, permits, and access to some social services.
The Suining system was rudimentary, and it briefly sparked a national debate over what criteria should be included in a social credit score. But it provided a testing ground for what could work nationally. And however crude the letter grades were, they were less crude than what they replaced. Social credit in Suining was accompanied by a shift to subtler government messaging.
Since the Suining pilot, dozens of cities have developed their own systems. The power of technology had caught up. Eventually, these systems will be integrated into the nationwide government social credit system, which entails a significant logistical headache. To aid in the task, the government has enlisted Baidu, a big tech company, to help develop the social credit database by the 2020 deadline.
The Chinese tech companies have, in their way, helped to shift the Party's attitude toward digital technologies. When the internet first came to China, bursting into people's lives in the form of blogs and chat rooms, the Party saw it as a threat. Here was a place where people might speak their minds, join together, dissent. Leaders responded to these impulses through censorship and other aggressive tactics. But companies like Ant Financial have shown just how useful digital technologies can be in gathering and deploying information. Instead of merely reacting to content by banning search terms or shutting down websites, the government now collaborates with the private sector on facial and voice recognition technologies, along with artificial intelligence research.
In 2015, a few months after Zhima Credit debuted, Alibaba founder Jack Ma and 14 other executives traveled to the US with President Xi ­Jinping for his first state visit. Ma, along with leaders at Tencent and Baidu, also sits on the board of the Internet Society of China, a quasi-­governmental organization under the direction of the Party.
This strategic nexus is a delicate one, though. In recent months Chinese regulators have taken steps to exert more control over tech companies. Last August, the People's Bank of China ordered mobile and online payment companies to connect to a central government clearinghouse, giving regulators access to transaction data. Two months later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese internet regulators were considering taking a 1 percent stake in the major tech companies.
The dial showed that I had reached only a quarter of my potential. My score put me in the category of "Common Folk."
One possible scenario for a social credit partnership is that the central bank will oversee the development of a broader metric, like a FICO score, while letting companies like Ant Financial collect data to feed into that score. Whatever its eventual structure, the larger social credit system ''will definitely be under the government's control,'' says You Xi, the reporter who wrote the book about Ant Financial. ''The government doesn't want this very important infrastructure of the people's credit in one big company's hands.''
Chinese people who have been branded untrustworthy are getting the first glimpse of what a unified system might mean. One day last May, Liu Hu, a 42-year-old journalist, opened a travel app to book a flight. But when he entered his name and national ID number, the app informed him that the transaction wouldn't go through because he was on the Supreme People's Court blacklist. This list'--literally, the List of Dishonest People'--is the same one that is integrated into Zhima Credit. In 2015 Liu had been sued for defamation by the subject of a story he'd written, and a court had ordered him to pay $1,350. He paid the fine, and even photographed the bank transfer slip and messaged the photo to the judge in the case. Perplexed as to why he was still on the list, he contacted the judge and learned that, while transferring his fine, he had entered the wrong account number. He hurried to transfer the money again, following up to make sure the court had received it. This time the judge did not reply.
Although Liu hadn't signed up for Zhima Credit, the blacklist caught up with him in other ways. He became, effectively, a second-class citizen. He was banned from most forms of travel; he could only book the lowest classes of seat on the slowest trains. He could not buy certain consumer goods or stay at luxury hotels, and he was ineligible for large bank loans. Worse still, the blacklist was public. Liu had already spent a year in jail once before on charges of ''fabricating and spreading rumors'' after reporting on the shady dealings of a vice-mayor of Chong­qing. The memory of imprisonment left him stoic about this new, more invisible punishment. At least he was still with his wife and daughter.
Still, Liu took to his blog to stir up sympathy and convince the judge to take him off the list. As of October he was still on it. ''There is almost no oversight of the court executors'' who maintain the blacklist, he told me. ''There are many mistakes in implementation that go uncorrected.'' If Liu had a Zhima Credit score, his troubles would have been compounded by other worries. The way Zhima Credit is designed, being blacklisted sends you on a rapid downward spiral. First your score drops. Then your friends hear you are on the blacklist and, fearful that their scores might be affected, quietly drop you as a contact. The algorithm notices, and your score plummets further.
Soon after I returned to the US from my visit to China, Equifax, the US credit­-reporting agency, announced that it had been hacked. The breach exposed the credit records of some 145 million people. Like many Americans, I got a quick and hard lesson. My credit card number had been stolen a few weeks earlier, but because I had been traveling overseas I hadn't bothered to freeze my credit. When I tried to do so after the hack, I found that an already difficult process had become nearly impossible. Equifax's site was only partly operational, and its phone lines were jammed. Desperate, I signed up for a credit-monitoring service called Credit Karma, which, in exchange for the very same information that I was trying to protect, showed me my score with two of the three major bureaus.
These numbers were communicated to me through a credit gauge similar to Zhima Credit's, down to the color coding of scores. I learned that my credit score had dipped by a few dozen points. There were four or five attempts to take out credit in my name that I didn't recognize.
Most Americans have dozens of scores, and most of them are held by companies that give us no chance to opt out.
Now I had two tracking systems scoring me, on opposite sides of the globe. But these were only the scores that I knew about. Most Americans have dozens of scores, many of them drawn from behavioral and demographic metrics similar to those used by Zhima Credit, and most of them held by companies that give us no chance to opt out. Others we enter into voluntarily. The US government can't legally compel me to participate in some massive data-driven social experiment, but I give up my data to private companies every day. I trust these corporations enough to participate in their vast scoring experiments. I post my thoughts and feelings on Facebook and leave long trails of purchases on Amazon and eBay. I rate others in Airbnb and Uber and care a little too much about how others rate me. There is not yet a great American super app, and the scores compiled by data brokers are mainly used to better target ads, not to exert social control. But through a process called identity resolution, data aggregators can use the clues I leave behind to merge my data from various sources.
Do you take antidepressants? Frequently return clothes to retailers? Write your name in all caps when filling out online forms? Data brokers collect all of this information and more. As in China, you may even be penalized for who your friends are. In 2012, Facebook patented a method of credit assessment that could consider the credit scores of people in your network. The patent describes a tool that arrives at an average credit score for your friends and rejects a loan application if that average is below a certain minimum. The company has since revised its platform policies to prohibit outside lenders from using Facebook data to determine credit eligibility. The company could still decide to get into the credit business itself, though. (''We often seek patents for technology we never implement, and patents should not be taken as an indication of future plans,'' a Facebook spokesperson said in response to questions about the credit patent.) ''You could imagine a future where people are watching to see if their friends' credit is dropping and then dropping their friends if that affects them,'' says Frank Pasquale, a big-data expert at University of Maryland Carey School of Law. ''That's terrifying.''
Often, data brokers are flat-out wrong. The data broker Acxiom, which provides some information about what it collects on a site called AboutTheData.com, has me pegged as a single woman with a high school education and a ''likely Las Vegas gambler,'' when in fact I'm married, have a master's degree, and have never even bought a lottery ticket. But it is impossible to challenge these assessments, since we're never told that they exist. I know more about Zhima Credit's algorithm than I do about how US data brokers rate me. This is, as Pasquale points out in his book The Black Box Society, essentially a ''one-way mirror.''
After I left China, I checked back in with Lazarus Liu on WeChat. He sent me a screenshot of his Zhima Credit score, which had increased by eight points since we met. His screen read ''Fantastic,'' and the font had shifted to soft italics.
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We talked about a new facial recognition feature called Smile to Pay that Ant Financial had introduced at a concept restaurant in Hangzhou owned by KFC. The walls of the restaurant were adorned with gigantic white phones. To order, you simply tapped a picture of what you wanted and then showed the phone your face, typing in your cell phone number to confirm payment. First smartphones had eliminated the need for a wallet; now Smile to Pay eliminated the need for a phone. All you needed was your face.
Liu wasn't eager to try Smile to Pay. The ''government affairs'' page on Zhima Credit's website suggests that Ant Financial partners with local governments throughout China to use its facial recognition capabilities, but that wasn't what made Liu uneasy. While studying abroad, he had played around with Android's Face Unlock feature. His roommate, who shared his square jaw, had been able to unlock his phone a few times. ''I feel that it could be unsafe,'' he messaged me. ''I would want to see that it's the real thing.'' He wrote real thing in English, for emphasis.
While chatting with Liu, I, too, had opened up Zhima Credit. My score had increased by four points. ''You still have room to improve,'' the app informed me delicately. But next to my new score, 554, was a small green arrow. I was on my way up.
Mara Hvistendahl(@marahvistendahl) is a national fellow at New America and a contributing correspondent at Science.
This article appears in the January issue. Subscribe now.
Styling by Nicole Schneider; On-set styling by Cristina Facund
Facebook Says it is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 16:19
In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli Government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constitute ''incitement.'' The meetings '' called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, its pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked '' came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.
The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders:
Shortly after news broke earlier this month of the agreement between the Israeli government and Facebook, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tel Aviv had submitted 158 requests to the social media giant over the previous four months asking it to remove content it deemed ''incitement''. She said Facebook had granted 95 percent of the requests.
She's right. The submission to Israeli dictates is hard to overstate: as the New York Times put it in December of last year: ''Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.''
What makes this censorship particularly consequential is that ''96 per cent of Palestinians said their primary use of Facebook was for following news.'' That means that Israeli officials have virtually unfettered control over a key communications forum of Palestinians.
In the weeks following those Facebook/Israel meetings, reported The Independent, ''the activist collective Palestinian Information Centre reported that at least 10 of their administrators' accounts for their Arabic and English Facebook pages '' followed by more than two million people '' have been suspended, seven of them permanently, which they say is a result of new measures put in place in the wake of Facebook's meeting with Israel.'' Last March, Facebook briefly shut down the Facebook page of the political party, Fatah, followed by millions, ''because of an old photo posted of former leader Yasser Arafat holding a rifle.''
A 2016 report from the Palestinian Center For Development and Media Freedoms detailed how extensive was the Facebook censorship:
Pages and personal accounts that were filtered and blocked: Palestinian Dialogue Network (PALDF.net) Gaza now, Jerusalem News Network, Shihab agency, Radio Bethlehem 2000, Orient Radio Network, page Mesh Heck, Ramallah news, journalist/ Huzaifa Jamous from Abu Dis activist Qassam Bedier, activist Mohammed Ghannam, journalist /Kamel Jbeil, administrative accounts for Al Quds Page, administrative accounts Shihab agency, activist Abdel-Qader al-Titi, youth activist Hussein shajaeih, Ramah Mubarak (account is activated), Ahmed Abdel Aal (account is activated), Mohammad Za'anin ( still deleted), Amer Abu Arafa (still deleted), Abdulrahman al-Kahlout (still deleted).
Needless to say, Israelis have virtually free reign to post whatever they want about Palestinians. Calls by Israelis for the killing of Palestinians are commonplace on Facebook, and largely remain undisturbed.
As Al Jazeera reported last year, ''Inflammatory speech posted in the Hebrew language . . . has attracted much less attention from the Israeli authorities and Facebook. One study found that '122,000 users directly called for violence with words like 'murder', 'kill', or 'burn.' Arabs were the No 1 recipients of hateful comments. Yet there appears to be little effort by Facebook to censor any of that.''
Though some of the most inflammatory and explicit calls for murder are sometimes removed, Facebook continues to allow the most extremist calls for incitement against Palestinians to flourish. Indeed, Israel's leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, has often used social media to post what is clearly incitement to violence against Palestinians generally. In contrast to their active suppression against Palestinians, the very idea that Facebook would ever use its censorship power against Netanyahu or other prominent Israelis calling for violence and inciting attacks is unthinkable. Indeed, as Al Jazeera concisely put it: ''Facebook hasn't met Palestinian leaders to discuss their concern.''
Facebook now seems to be explicitly admitting that it also intends to follow the censorship orders of the U.S. Government. Earlier this week, the company deleted the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov, the repressive, brutal and authoritarian leader of the Chechen Republic, who had a combined 4 million followers on those accounts. To put it mildly, Kadyrov '' who is given free rein to rule the province in exchange for ultimate loyalty to Moscow '' is the opposite of a sympathetic figure: he has been credibly accused of a wide range of horrific human rights violations, from the imprisonment and torture of LGBTs to the kidnapping and killing of dissidents.
But none of that dilutes how disturbing and dangerous is Facebook's rationale for its deletion of his accounts. A Facebook spokesperson told the New York Times that they deleted these accounts not because Kadyrov is a mass murderer and tyrant, but because ''Mr. Kadyrov's accounts were deactivated because he had just been added to a United States sanctions list and that the company was legally obligated to act.''
As the Times notes, this rationale appears dubious or at least inconsistently applied: others who are on the same sanctions list, such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, remain active on both Facebook and Instagram. But just consider the incredibly menacing implications of Facebook's claims.
What this means is obvious: that the U.S. Government '' meaning, at the moment, the Trump administration '' has the unilateral and unchecked power to force the removal of anyone it wants from Facebook and Instagram by simply including them on a sanctions list. Does anyone think this is a good outcome? Does anyone trust the Trump administration, or any other government, to compel social media platforms to delete and block anyone it wants to be silenced? As the ACLU's Jennifer Granick told the Times:
It's not a law that appears to be written or designed to deal with the special situations where it's lawful or appropriate to repress speech . . . This sanctions law is being used to suppress speech with little consideration of the free expression values and the special risks of blocking speech, as opposed to blocking commerce or funds as the sanctions was designed to do. That's really problematic.
Does Facebook's policy of blocking people from its platform who are sanctioned apply to all governments? Obviously not. It goes without saying that if, say, Iran decided to impose sanctions on Chuck Schumer for his support of Trump's policy of recognizing Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, Facebook would never delete the accounts of the Democratic Party Senate Minority Leader '' just as Facebook would never delete the accounts of Israeli officials who incite violence against Palestinians or who are sanctioned by Palestinian officials. Just last month, Russia announced retaliatory sanctions against various Canadian officials and executives, but needless to say Facebook took no action to censor them or block their accounts.
Similarly, would Facebook ever dare censor American politicians or journalists who use social media to call for violence against America's enemies? To ask the question is to answer it.
As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That's why declared enemies of the U.S. and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas U.S and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not:
All of this illustrates that the same severe dangers from state censorship are raised at least as much by the pleas for Silicon Valley giants to more actively censor ''bad speech.'' Calls for state censorship may often be well-intentioned '' a desire to protect marginalized groups from damaging ''hate speech'' '' yet, predictably, they are far more often used against marginalized groups: to censor them rather than protect them. One need merely look at how hate speech laws are used in Europe, or on U.S. college campuses, to see that the censorship victims are often critics of European wars, or activists against Israeli occupation, or advocates for minority rights.
One can create a fantasy world in one's head, if one wishes, in which Silicon Valley executives use their power to protect marginalized peoples around the world by censoring those who wish to harm that. But in the real world, that is nothing but a sad pipe dream. Just as governments will do, these companies will use their censorship power to serve, not to undermine, the world's most powerful factions.
Just as one might cheer the censorship of someone one dislikes without contemplating the long-term consequences of the principle being validated, one can cheer the disappearance from Facebook and Instagram of a Chechen monster. But Facebook is explicitly telling you that the reason for its actions is that it was obeying the decrees of the U.S. Government about who must be shunned.
It's hard to believe that anyone's ideal view of the internet entails vesting the power in the U.S. Government, the Israeli Government, and other world powers to decide who may be heard on it and who must be suppressed. But increasingly, in the name of pleading with internet companies to protect us, that's exactly what is now happening.
I have been blocked from logging onto Facebook as it claims that I have malware and must add a ESET program to scan all my files | Norton Community
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:42
I have been blocked from logging onto Facebook account unless I download their Malware scanning software ESET. I have so far refused to download this program and have 360 and no malware found with repeated up to date scans. I was able to briefly scan my FB page with 360-found nothing- before being blocked again and the 360 was automatically deactivated from watching my FB page.
Any ideas please??
Agenda 2030
A Mini Ice Age Could Happen Within The Next Few Decades, Might Affect Global Warming : SCIENCE : Tech Times
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:56
Ancient woolly mammoth skeleton sells for record price in France
Earth could enter a "mini ice age" within the next 30 years or so, according to scientists.
By 2030, temperatures could reach such low levels that the River Thames in England will freeze during winter, similar to what happened during the last little ice age, which spanned from the 13th to the 17th century.
Temperatures will start plummeting as soon as 2021, according to the scientists' predictions, basing them off a mathematical model of the sun's magnetic energy. Once this occurs, a phenomenon called the "Maunder minimum" will start and possibly lead to the next mini ice age on our dear Earth.
Professor Valentina Zharkova at Northumbria University led a team of scientists to predict the movements of two magnetic waves produced by the sun. They claim that the rapidly decreasing magnetic waves for three solar cycles will start in 2021 and will last for 33 years, and could thus start the plight of a mini ice age.
The possibility is terrifying. But there's one silver lining to it. The scientist say that suppose it does occur, the mini ice age may be able to reverse the effects of global warming and give humans time to reconsider their habits that are polluting the Earth.
"I hope global warming will be overridden by this effect, giving humankind and the Earth 30 years to sort out our pollution," Zharkova said.
Why A Mini Ice Age Might OccurThe sun in our solar system follows cycles of approximately 11 years, reaching a solar maximum and then a minimum. During a maximum, it gives off more heat. During a minimum it gives off less because of decreased magnetic waves. The sun is currently at a solar maximum, but it'll enter a solar minimum in 2021, the year scientists predict a mini ice age could start.
The next three cycles will have a massive decrease in magnetic waves, according to the scientists, and any point between that period a mini ice age could happen. Global warming could be halted during this time, but once the next solar maximum begins in 2050s, global warming will continue on, and perhaps even become worse than its previous state if humans don't intervene.
Zharkova said that by that time, people would have to be prepared for the impending solar activity.
30 Years Is Not Long EnoughWhile 30 years is a long time for people to come to their senses and act accordingly so as to alleviate the effects of global warming, it's not quite long enough in the grand scheme of things. Modern society would simply have to make significant and sweeping adjustments to lead a more sustainable life, especially if they want to preserve Earth for generations to come. A mini ice age may just be the change our planet needs.
(C) 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Hillary's Emails
Huma's Emails | thebradfordfile.com
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:55
How We Did ItWhen the FBI released the emails discovered on Anthony Weiner's laptop, they were released as Adobe PDF documents containing scanned images of printouts of the emails. This rendered the documents unsearchable.
thebradfordfile.com applied Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to the documents using pdftotext. This generated text documents from the images contained in the PDF documents which can be searched. OCR is not a perfect technology. Errors will be present in the documents, and their formatting is very basic. The date is parsed from the first line of text (if present) and used to help order document results.
The documents were then added to MongoDB with full-text search. Searches are performed without alteration, and result sets are paginated into sets of 20 documents each. The set is sorted by date as discovered from the documents themselves.
The goal is to provide a best-effort search of the documents. A link to each original PDF is provided at the top of each email message. For the original formatting as provided by the FBI, access the PDF document and make sure the language you discovered is factual and intact.
BTC
From Attorney ListServ
Good
Morning,
A
little off topic here, but not sure where to go with this one.
I’ve
a client who, a few years back, purchased some bitcoins. For those who
don’t follow it, bitcoin is cyber “currency” that has recently appreciated
greatly. He now wishes to sell. Problem is the “brokerage” house
which holds the bitcoins has repeatedly had “unexpected” and constant computer
issues which have prevented my client from transferring his coins in any
way. He can see in the account the existence of the coins, but he cannot
move them. He wishes to get out while the getting is good.
I
could write the “broker” putting them on notice that they will be held liable
for any damages caused by my client not being able to sell, but I fear by the
time it all shakes out the “broker” will have no assets left to get. Does
anyone have legal or practical solutions beyond that? Thank you all in
advance. Best,
R
Craig Oppel
Allbee
& Barclay, P.C.
'Gegijzelde bitcoinexpert vrijgekocht met bitcoins' | NOS
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 12:41
Een bitcoin-expert die dinsdag in Oekra¯ne was ontvoerd is weer vrijgelaten. Volgens persbureau Reuters is Pavel Lerner vrijgekocht met de munt waar hij zoveel van weet: de bitcoin.
Een adviseur van het Oekra¯ense ministerie van Binnenlandse Zaken zegt tegen het persbureau dat voor ruim 800.000 euro aan bitcoins is betaald voor de vrijlating van Lerner. Het is niet duidelijk door wie die betaling is gedaan.
EXMO Finance, de werkgever van Lerner, gaat niet in op de omstandigheden van zijn vrijlating. "Hij is nu veilig. Lichamelijk is hij in orde. Wel heeft hij last van de spanning", staat in een verklaring op de website van het bedrijf dat in bitcoins handelt.
De Rus Lerner, die een belangrijke analist is bij EXMO, werd dinsdag in Kiev ontvoerd door gemaskerde mannen.
25th for 45th
Donald Trump's New York Times interview is scary to read - Vox
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 16:36
The president of the United States is not well. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, but it is an even worse thing to ignore.
Consider the interview Trump gave to the New York Times on Thursday. It begins with a string of falsehoods that make it difficult to tell whether the leader of the free world is lying or delusional. Remember, these are President Donald Trump's words, after being told a recording device is on:
Virtually every Democrat has said there is no collusion. There is no collusion. And even these committees that have been set up. If you look at what's going on '-- and in fact, what it's done is, it's really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it's ever been. Great congressmen, in particular, some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is. So, I think it's been proven that there is no collusion.
It almost goes without saying that literally zero congressional Democrats have said that there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. Zero.
What key Democrats are actually saying is closer to the opposite. On December 20, for instance, Sen. Mark Warner, the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and thus the Senate Democrat leading the investigation into collusion, said, ''despite the initial denials of any Russian contacts during the election, this Committee's efforts have helped uncover numerous and troubling high-level engagements between the Trump campaign and Russian affiliates '-- many of which have only been revealed in recent months.''
Nor is Trump's base strengthening, or even holding steady. In a detailed analysis of Trump's poll numbers, FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten concluded that the president is losing the most ground in the reddest states:
In states where Trump won by at least 10 points, his net approval rating is down 18 percentage points, on average, compared to his margin last November. In states that were decided by 10 points or less in November, it's down only 13 points. And it's down 8 points in states Clinton carried by at least 10 points.
The fact that Trump has lost the greatest number of supporters in red states is perhaps the clearest indication yet that he is losing ground among some form of his base, if you think of his base as those who voted for him in November.
CNN took a different angle on the same question and also found slippage among Trump's base. It looked at the change in Trump's approval ratings from February to November among the demographic groups that formed the core of Trump's electoral coalition '-- in every group, there'd been substantial declines. Trump's numbers have fallen by 8 points among Republicans, by 9 points among voters over 50, by 10 points among whites with no college, by 17 points among white evangelicals. ''It has become increasingly clear that even his base is not immune to the downward pressure,'' CNN concluded.
CNN As for Trump's contention that ''it's been proven that there is no collusion,'' it's hard to even know how to begin responding to that. In recent months, Trump's former campaign manager and national security adviser have both been charged with crimes by Robert Mueller, and the investigation is not just ongoing but apparently widening in its scope and ferocity. Yet here is Trump's take:
I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She's the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they're so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it's turning out '-- I actually think it's turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion.
Sen. Feinstein has not said that she, or any of the ongoing investigations, has concluded that there was no collusion. What she has said is that investigators believe Trump may have obstructed justice in his efforts to derails inquiries into collusion:
The [Senate] Judiciary Committee has an investigation going as well and it involves obstruction of justice and I think what we're beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice.
It speaks to Trump's habits of mind, to the sycophantic sources from which he prefers to get his news, that he heard something Feinstein said and has come to believe she has absolved him '-- yet misses the actual thing she said that threatens him.
It would be comforting, on some level, to believe that Trump is simply lying, that he is trying to convince us of what he knows to be untrue. It is scarier to believe that Trump is delusional, that he has persuaded himself that Democrats have said things they've never said, that his base has strengthened when it has actually weakened, that it's really his opponents under investigation for collusion, that his campaign has been cleared of wrongdoing when the circumstantial case for collusion has only grown stronger.
But that is far from the end of the interview.
Trump: ''I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department''A few paragraphs later, for instance, Trump offers this chilling comment when asked about Hillary Clinton's emails (which, amazingly, we are somehow still talking about in December 2017):
NYT: You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?
TRUMP: What I've done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I'm going to be treated fairly, I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.
Read Trump's phrasing carefully: ''I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.'' It's a statement that speaks both to Trump's yearning for authoritarian power and his misunderstanding of the system in which he actually operates.
And it's followed by something yet scarier. ''For purposes of hopefully thinking I'm going to be treated fairly, I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter,'' he says.
Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images Here, Trump offers insight into his own thinking. He appears to believe that he is engaged in some explicit or implicit quid pro quo with the Department of Justice: He doesn't fire Jeff Sessions, or demand prosecution of his political enemies, or whatever it is he imagines doing with his ''absolute right to do what I want to do,'' so long as they treat him and his associates ''fairly,'' which likely means protecting him from Mueller's investigation.
Imagine reading this comment on transcripts from Richard Nixon's tapes. It would be the kind of comment that would leave us glad Nixon was forced from office, chilled that such a man ever occupied the presidency at all.
The interview, of course, is not done.
TRUMP: It's too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it's too bad he recused himself. I thought. '... Many people will tell you that something is [inaudible].
NYT: Do you think Holder was more loyal to '...
TRUMP: I don't want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I'll be honest, I have great respect for that.
Read that again. Trump's premise in this section appears to be that President Obama engaged in a wide array of criminal, undemocratic, and negligent behaviors but his attorney general protected him from justice. And Trump's conclusion is that Obama's attorney general did his job well. To Trump, the attorney general doesn't serve the country, or the Constitution, but the president.
Trump does not know what he doesn't know, and he overestimates what he does knowThe interview is not done.
I know more about the big bills. '... Than any president that's ever been in office. Whether it's health care and taxes. Especially taxes. And if I didn't, I couldn't have persuaded a hundred. '... You ask Mark Meadows [inaudible]. '... I couldn't have persuaded a hundred congressmen to go along with the bill. The first bill, you know, that was ultimately, shockingly rejected ... I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn't, I couldn't have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.
In psychology, there's an idea known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. It refers to research by David Dunning and Justin Kruger that found the least competent people often believe they are the most competent because they ''lack the very expertise needed to recognize how badly they're doing.'' This dynamic helps explain comments like the one Trump makes here.
Over the course of reporting on the Trump White House, I have spoken to people who brief Trump and people who have been briefed by him. I've talked to policy experts who have sat in the Oval Office explaining their ideas to the president and to members of Congress who have listened to the president sell his ideas to them. I've talked to both Democrats and Republicans who have occupied these roles. In all cases, their judgment of Trump is identical: He is not just notably uninformed but also notably difficult to inform '-- his attention span is thin, he hears what he wants to hear, he wanders off topic, he has trouble following complex arguments. Trump has trouble following his briefings or even correctly repeating what he has heard.
This is all perfectly evident if you listen to Trump discuss policy in public even momentarily. For instance, in this same New York Times interview, he tries to explain how he's changed Obamacare:
So now I have associations, I have private insurance companies coming and will sell private health care plans to people through associations. That's gonna be millions and millions of people. People have no idea how big that is. And by the way, and for that, we've ended across state lines. So we have competition. You know for that I'm allowed to [inaudible] state lines. So that's all done.
Now I've ended the individual mandate. And the other thing I wish you'd tell people. So when I do this, and we've got health care, you know, McCain did his vote.
... We've created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn't have insurance. Or didn't have health care. Millions of people. That's gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that's a big thing. And the individual mandate. So now you have associations, and people don't even talk about the associations. That could be half the people are going to be joining up. '... With private [inaudible]. So now you have associations and the individual mandate.
I can, with some effort, untangle what Trump might have been trying to say here, but it's incoherent, so suffused with half-related ideas and personal obsessions (why did Trump feel the need to bring up McCain's vote here?) that it's hard to say for sure.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images At best, Trump is saying something that is comprehensible but incorrect. He signed an executive order making it easier to form association health plans, which are health plans formed by groups of small businesses, and making it easier for those plans to skirt Obamacare's insurance regulations and to contain small businesses from multiple states.
As of now, and Trump doesn't seem to realize this, it's just an executive order '-- the rules defining and implementing it have not been written, so it is not yet happening, and we don't know how it will work in practice, much less how many people may eventually sign up. Nor does the order actually get rid of the prohibition on selling insurance across state lines for most people '-- it's only for this one kind of plan, which will only serve a tiny minority of the health insurance market.
Whatever Trump is saying, it does not reveal much familiarity with health policy, or even with the status and limits of his own actions. And yet Trump believes himself, on policy, to be the most informed president in American history. As the Dunning-Kruger effect suggests, he doesn't know how much he doesn't know, and that, combined with his natural tendency toward narcissism, has left him dangerously overconfident in his own knowledge base.
Speaking of narcissism:
We're going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we're being respected again. But another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they'll be loving me because they're saying, ''Please, please, don't lose Donald Trump.''
What is one even to say about this? Is it a joke? If so, why is Trump taking this opportunity to make it? Is it an attack on the media? Is it Trump finding another way to compliment himself, to give himself credit for the media's success?
Imagine how we would react to literally any other president speaking like this. Trump has bludgeoned us into becoming accustomed to these kinds of comments but that, too, is worrying.
This is the president of the United States speaking to the New York Times. His comments are, by turns, incoherent, incorrect, conspiratorial, delusional, self-aggrandizing, and underinformed. This is not a partisan judgment '-- indeed, the interview is rarely coherent or specific enough to classify the points Trump makes on a recognizable left-right spectrum. As has been true since he entered American politics, Trump is interested in Trump '-- over the course of the interview, he mentions his Electoral College strategy seven times, in each case using it to underscore his political savvy and to suggest that he could easily have won the popular vote if he had tried.
I am not a medical professional, and I will not pretend to know what is truly happening here. It's become a common conversation topic in Washington to muse on whether the president is suffering from some form of cognitive decline or psychological malady. I don't think those hypotheses are necessary or meaningful. Whatever the cause, it is plainly obvious from Trump's words that this is not a man fit to be president, that he is not well or capable in some fundamental way. That is an uncomfortable thing to say, and so many prefer not to say it, but Trump does not occupy a job where such deficiencies can be safely ignored.
Listen: Ezra Klein on the case for impeachment
Excerpts From Trump's Interview With The Times - The New York Times
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 04:08
And by the way, I didn't deal with Russia. I won because I was a better candidate by a lot. I won because I campaigned properly and she didn't. She campaigned for the popular vote. I campaigned for the Electoral College. And you know, it is a totally different thing, Mike. You know the Electoral College, it's like a track star. If you're going to run the 100-yard dash, you work out differently than if you're going to run the 1,000 meters or the mile.
And it's different. It's in golf. If you have a tournament and you have match play or stroke play, you prepare differently, believe it or not. It's different. Match play is very different than stroke play. And you prepare. So I went to Maine five times, I went to [inaudible], the genius of the Electoral College is that you go to places you might not go to.
And that's exactly what [inaudible]. Otherwise, I would have gone to New York, California, Texas and Florida.
SCHMIDT: You would have run completely differently.
TRUMP: It would have been a whole different thing. The genius is that the popular vote is a much different form of campaigning. Hillary never understood that.
SCHMIDT: What's your expectation on Mueller? When do you '--
TRUMP: I have no expectation. I can only tell you that there is absolutely no collusion. Everybody knows it. And you know who knows it better than anybody? The Democrats. They walk around blinking at each other.
SCHMIDT: But when do you think he'll be done in regards to you '--
TRUMP: I don't know.
SCHMIDT: But does that bother you?
TRUMP: No, it doesn't bother me because I hope that he's going to be fair. I think that he's going to be fair. And based on that [inaudible]. There's been no collusion. But I think he's going to be fair. And if he's fair '-- because everybody knows the answer already, Michael. I want you to treat me fairly. O.K.?
SCHMIDT: Believe me. This is '--
TRUMP: Everybody knows the answer already. There was no collusion. None whatsoever.
_________
TRUMP: Maybe I'll just say a little bit of a [inaudible]. I've always found Paul Manafort to be a very nice man. And I found him to be an honorable person. Paul only worked for me for a few months. Paul worked for Ronald Reagan. His firm worked for John McCain, worked for Bob Dole, worked for many Republicans for far longer than he worked for me. And you're talking about what Paul was many years ago before I ever heard of him. He worked for me for '-- what was it, three and a half months?
SCHMIDT: A very short period of time.
TRUMP: Three and a half months. [Inaudible] So, that's that. Let's just say '-- I think that Bob Mueller will be fair, and everybody knows that there was no collusion. I saw Dianne Feinstein the other day on television saying there is no collusion. She's the head of the committee. The Republicans, in terms of the House committees, they come out, they're so angry because there is no collusion. So, I actually think that it's turning out '-- I actually think it's turning to the Democrats because there was collusion on behalf of the Democrats. There was collusion with the Russians and the Democrats. A lot of collusion.
SCHMIDT: Dossier?
TRUMP: Starting with the dossier. But going into so many other elements. And Podesta's firm.
_________
SCHMIDT: That's true. But in terms of, the lawyers said it would be done by, your guys said, it would be done by Thanksgiving, it would be done by Christmas. What are they telling you now? What are they telling you?
TRUMP: [Inaudible.] There was tremendous collusion on behalf of the Russians and the Democrats. There was no collusion with respect to my campaign. I think I'll be treated fairly. Timingwise, I can't tell you. I just don't know. But I think we'll be treated fairly.
SCHMIDT: But you're not worked up about the timing?
TRUMP: Well, I think it's bad for the country. The only thing that bothers me about timing, I think it's a very bad thing for the country. Because it makes the country look bad, it makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position. So the sooner it's worked out, the better it is for the country.
But there is tremendous collusion with the Russians and with the Democratic Party. Including all of the stuff with the '-- and then whatever happened to the Pakistani guy, that had the two, you know, whatever happened to this Pakistani guy who worked with the D.N.C.?
Whatever happened to them? With the two servers that they broke up into a million pieces? Whatever happened to him? That was a big story. Now all of sudden [inaudible]. So I know The New York Times is going to '-- because those are real stories. Whatever happened to the Hillary Clinton deleted 33,000 emails after she got [inaudible] '-- which you guys wrote, but then you dropped '-- was that you?
_________
SCHMIDT: You control the Justice Department. Should they reopen that email investigation?
TRUMP: What I've done is, I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I'm going to be treated fairly, I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter.
_________
TRUMP: For purposes of the Justice Department, I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, who by the way, says I, says this is a ridiculous '--
SCHMIDT: He's been very good to you.
TRUMP: He's been amazing. And he's a liberal Democrat. I don't know him. He's a liberal Democrat. I watched Alan Dershowitz the other day, he said, No. 1, there is no collusion, No. 2, collusion is not a crime, but even if it was a crime, there was no collusion. And he said that very strongly. He said there was no collusion. And he has studied this thing very closely. I've seen him a number of times. There is no collusion, and even if there was, it's not a crime. But there's no collusion. I don't even say [inaudible]. I don't even go that far.
_________
TRUMP: So for the purposes of what's going on with this phony Russian deal, which, by the way, you've heard me say it, is only an excuse for losing an election that they should have won, because it's very hard for a Republican to win the Electoral College. O.K.? You start off with New York, California and Illinois against you. That means you have to run the East Coast, which I did, and everything else. Which I did and then won Wisconsin and Michigan. [Inaudible.] So the Democrats. '... [Inaudible.] '... They thought there was no way for a Republican, not me, a Republican, to win the Electoral College. Well, they're [inaudible]. They made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election that in theory Democrats should always win with the Electoral College. The Electoral College is so much better suited to the Democrats [inaudible]. But it didn't work out that way. And I will tell you they cannot believe that this became a story.
SCHMIDT: So they had to do this to come after you, to undercut you?
TRUMP: No, no, they thought it would be a one-day story, an excuse, and it just kept going and going and going. It's too bad Jeff recused himself. I like Jeff, but it's too bad he recused himself. I thought. '... Many people will tell you that something is [inaudible].
SCHMIDT: Do you think Holder was more loyal to. '...
TRUMP: I don't want to get into loyalty, but I will tell you that, I will say this: Holder protected President Obama. Totally protected him. When you look at the I.R.S. scandal, when you look at the guns for whatever, when you look at all of the tremendous, ah, real problems they had, not made-up problems like Russian collusion, these were real problems. When you look at the things that they did, and Holder protected the president. And I have great respect for that, I'll be honest, I have great respect for that.
SCHMIDT: Tell me about what you were saying that the Democrats. '... [Inaudible.] '... Tell me about the Democrats on the tax bill, which you were telling me about. Explain that to me, I thought that was interesting.
TRUMP: So. '... We started taxes. And we don't hear from the Democrats. You know, we hear bullshit from the Democrats. Like Joe Manchin. Joe's a nice guy.
SCHMIDT: He is a very nice guy.
TRUMP: But he talks. But he doesn't do anything. He doesn't do. ''Hey, let's get together, let's do bipartisan.'' I say, ''Good, let's go.'' Then you don't hear from him again. I like Joe. You know, it's like he's the great centrist. But he's really not a centrist. And I think the people of West Virginia will see that. He not a centrist. '... I'm the one that saved coal. I'm the one that created jobs. You know West Virginia is doing fantastically now.
SCHMIDT: It's a big. '... It's a very popular place for you.
TRUMP: It's the biggest turnaround. West Virginia, their average, their G.D.P. is the biggest turnaround after Texas. Texas [inaudible]. '... The second percentage gain in G.D.P. [Inaudible.] And I won that state by 43 points against crooked Hillary Clinton. And I'll tell you, I think Joe, ah. '... I think there's a lot of talk. '... A lot of talk. I think we have four or five senators that [inaudible]. Just so you understand, Alabama. '... I wasn't for him. I was for Strange.
SCHMIDT: Do you think he should stop the recount? You know he said that they're. '... He was protesting the election today. Moore.
TRUMP: Well, I. '... Look. '... Let him do whatever he wants to do. I was for Strange, and I brought Strange up 20 points. Just so you understand. When I endorsed him, he was in fifth place. He went way up. Almost 20 points. But he fell a little short. But I knew what I was doing. Because I thought that. '... If you look at my rhetoric, I said the problem with Roy Moore is that he will lose the election. I called it. But as the head of the party, I have a choice: Do I endorse him or not? I don't know. Um. '...
SCHMIDT: Was it a mistake?
TRUMP: And by the way, when I endorsed him, he went up. It was a much closer race.
SCHMIDT: Was it a mistake to endorse him?
TRUMP: I feel that I have to endorse Republicans as the head of the party. So, I endorsed him. It became a much closer race because of my endorsement. People don't say that. They say, Oh, Donald Trump lost. I didn't lose, I brought him up a lot. He was not the candidate that I thought was going to win. If you look at my statements, you've seen them, I said, ''Look, I'm for Luther Strange because I like him, but I'm also for Luther Strange because he's going to win the election.'' There wouldn't have been an election. He would have won by 25 points.
SCHMIDT: He would have won big?
TRUMP: The problem with Roy Moore, and I said this, is that he's going to lose the election. I hope you can straighten that out. Luther Strange was brought way up after my endorsement and he almost won. But. '... Almost won. '... He lost by 7 points, 7 or 8 points. And he was way behind. Because of two things, you know, what happened. '... [Inaudible.] '... But I never thought Roy was going to win the election, but I felt. '... I never thought he was going to win the election, but I felt. '... And I said that very clearly. '... And I wish you would cover that, because frankly, I said, if Luther doesn't win, Roy is going to lose the election. I always felt Roy was going to lose the election. But I endorsed him because I feel it's my obligation as the head of the Republican Party to endorse him. And you see how tight it was even to get a popular. '... In Republican circles, to get a very popular tax cut approved, actually reform. Two votes. Now we have one vote, all right?
O.K., let's get onto your final question, your other question. Had the Democrats come through. '...
SCHMIDT: Tell me about that, yeah.
TRUMP: Had they asked, ''Let's do a bipartisan,'' Michael, I would have done bipartisan. I would absolutely have done bipartisan.
SCHMIDT: But they didn't. '... They didn't '...
TRUMP: And if I did bipartisan, I would have done something with SALT [the state and local tax deduction]. With that being said, you look back, Ronald Reagan wanted to take deductibility away from states. Ronald Reagan, years ago, and he couldn't do it. Because New York had a very powerful group of people. Which they don't have today. Today, they don't have the same representatives. You know, in those days they had Lew Rudin and me. '... I fought like hell for that. They had a lot of very good guys. Lew Rudin was very effective. He worked hard for New York. And we had some very good senators. '... You know, we had a lot of people who fought very hard against, let's call it SALT. Had they come to me and said, look, we'll do this, this, this, we'll do [inaudible]. I could have done something with SALT. Or made it less severe. But they were very ineffective. They were very, very ineffective. You understand what I mean. Had they come to me for a bipartisan tax bill, I would have gone to Mitch, and I would have gone to the other Republicans, and we could have worked something out bipartisan. And that could've been either a change to SALT or knockout of SALT.
But, just so you understand, Ronald Reagan wanted to take deductibility away and he was unable to do it. Ronald Reagan wanted to have ANWR approved 40 years ago and he was unable to do it. Think of that. And the individual mandate is the most unpopular thing in Obamacare, and I got rid of it. You know, we gained with the individual. '... You know the individual mandate, Michael, means you take money and you give it to the government for the privilege of not having to pay more money to have health insurance you don't want. There are people who had very good health insurance that now are paying not to have health insurance. That's what the individual mandate. '... They're not going to have to pay anymore. So when people think that will be unpopular. '... It's going to be very popular. It's going to be very popular.
Now, in my opinion, they should come to me on infrastructure. They should come to me, which they have come to me, on DACA. We are working. '... We're trying to something about it. And they should definitely come to me on health care. Because we can do bipartisan health care. We can do bipartisan infrastructure. And we can do bipartisan DACA.
SCHMIDT: What are you willing to do on infrastructure? How far are you willing to go? How much money?
TRUMP: I actually think we can get as many Democrat votes as we have Republican. Republicans want to see infrastructure. Michael, we have spent, as of about a month ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East. And the Middle East is worse than it was 17 years ago. '... [Inaudible.] $7 trillion. And if you want $12 to fix up a road or a highway, you can't get it. I want to do a trillion-dollar infrastructure bill, at least. We want to fix our roads, our highways, our bridges, which are in bad shape. And you know some of them are actually, they're x-ed out, they have, you know, possibilities of collapse under bad circumstances. And in 10 years they will collapse. So, I want a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan. I think it can be bipartisan. I believe we can do health care in a bipartisan way, because now we've essentially gutted and ended Obamacare.
[Cross talk.]
SCHMIDT: But what's the goal? What's the goal?
TRUMP: Wait, wait, let me just tell you. '... Also, beyond the individual mandate, but also [inaudible] associations. You understand what the associations are. '...
[Cross talk.]
TRUMP: So now I have associations, I have private insurance companies coming and will sell private health care plans to people through associations. That's gonna be millions and millions of people. People have no idea how big that is. And by the way, and for that, we've ended across state lines. So we have competition. You know for that I'm allowed to [inaudible] state lines. So that's all done.
Now I've ended the individual mandate. And the other thing I wish you'd tell people. So when I do this, and we've got health care, you know, McCain did his vote. '... But what we have. I had a hundred congressmen that said no and I was able to talk them into it. They're great people.
Two things: No. 1, I have unbelievably great relationships with 97 percent of the Republican congressmen and senators. I love them and they love me. That's No. 1. And No. 2, I know more about the big bills. '... [Inaudible.] '... Than any president that's ever been in office. Whether it's health care and taxes. Especially taxes. And if I didn't, I couldn't have persuaded a hundred. '... You ask Mark Meadows [inaudible]. '... I couldn't have persuaded a hundred congressmen to go along with the bill. The first bill, you know, that was ultimately, shockingly rejected.
I'll tell you something [inaudible]. '... Put me on the defense, I was a great student and all this stuff. Oh, he doesn't know the details, these are sick people.
So, the taxes. '... [Inaudible.] '... The tax cut will be, the tax bill, prediction, will be far bigger than anyone imagines. Expensing will be perhaps the greatest of all provisions. Where you can do something, you can buy something. '... Piece of equipment. '... You can do lots of different things, and you can write it off and expense it in one year. That will be one of the great stimuli in history. You watch. That'll be one of the big. '... People don't even talk about expensing, what's the word ''expensing.'' [Inaudible.] One year expensing. Watch the money coming back into the country, it'll be more money than people anticipate.
But Michael, I know the details of taxes better than anybody. Better than the greatest C.P.A. I know the details of health care better than most, better than most. And if I didn't, I couldn't have talked all these people into doing ultimately only to be rejected.
Now here's the good news. We've created associations, millions of people are joining associations. Millions. That were formerly in Obamacare or didn't have insurance. Or didn't have health care. Millions of people. That's gonna be a big bill, you watch. It could be as high as 50 percent of the people. You watch. So that's a big thing. And the individual mandate. So now you have associations, and people don't even talk about the associations. That could be half the people are going to be joining up. '... With private [inaudible]. So now you have associations and the individual mandate.
I believe that because of the individual mandate and the associations, the Democrats will and certainly should come to me and see if they can do a really great health care plan for the remaining people. [Inaudible.]
SCHMIDT: And you think you can do it?
TRUMP: Well, we're perfectly set up to do it. See, it was hard for them to do it as long as the individual mandate existed. But now that the individual mandate is officially killed, people have no idea how big a deal that was. It's the most unpopular part of Obamacare. But now, Obamacare is essentially. '... You know, you saw this. '... It's basically dead over a period of time.
SCHMIDT: Yeah.
TRUMP: But the Democrats should come to a bipartisan bill. And we can fix it. We can fix it. We can make a great health care plan. Not Obamacare, which was a bad plan. We can make a great health care plan through bipartisanship. We can do a great infrastructure plan through bipartisanship. And we can do on immigration, and DACA in particular, we can do something that's terrific through bipartisanship.
SCHMIDT: It sounds like you're tacking to the center in a way you didn't before.
TRUMP: No, I'm not being centered. I'm just being practical. No, I don't think I'm changing. Look, I wouldn't do a DACA plan without a wall. Because we need it. We see the drugs pouring into the country, we need the wall.
SCHMIDT: So you're not moving. You're saying I'm more likely to do deals, but I'm not moving.
TRUMP: I'm always moving. I'm moving in both directions. We have to get rid of chainlike immigration, we have to get rid of the chain. The chain is the last guy that killed. '... [Talking with guests.] '... The last guy that killed the eight people. '... [Inaudible.] '... So badly wounded people. '... Twenty-two people came in through chain migration. Chain migration and the lottery system. They have a lottery in these countries.
They take the worst people in the country, they put 'em into the lottery, then they have a handful of bad, worse ones, and they put them out. 'Oh, these are the people the United States. '...'' '... We're gonna get rid of the lottery, and by the way, the Democrats agree with me on that. On chain migration, they pretty much agree with me.
[Cross talk with guests.]
CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, the president and chief executive of Newsmax: Canada, U.K., Australia. '... All do best and brightest. '...
TRUMP: Yeah, they have a merit system, we'll eventually go to a merit-based system. When we bring people in. '... That No. 1, don't need our resources and No. 2, have great capabilities.
SCHMIDT: Do you think I'm wrong to think next year could be the year of you being a real deal maker, in a way you maybe weren't in the past year?
TRUMP: I was. I make deals with the Republicans. I had nobody to make a deal with the Democrats. The Democrats could have made a much better tax deal for Democrats if they came to see us, but they didn't come. They never thought I'd be able to get this over the line. And especially when McCain, when John McCain left and went to Arizona, they thought they had it made.
_________
SCHMIDT: Explain your North Korea tweet to me today.
TRUMP: Which one?
SCHMIDT: You said about the oil, that China. '...
[Cross talk.]
SCHMIDT: What's going on there. Tell me about that.
TRUMP: Yeah, China. '... China's been. '... I like very much President Xi. He treated me better than anybody's ever been treated in the history of China. You know that. The presentations. '... One of the great two days of anybody's life and memory having to do with China. He's a friend of mine, he likes me, I like him, we have a great chemistry together. He's [inaudible] of the United States. '...[Inaudible.] China's hurting us very badly on trade, but I have been soft on China because the only thing more important to me than trade is war. O.K.?
[Cross talk with guests.]
_________
SCHMIDT: Can you finish your thought on North Korea. What's going on with China?
TRUMP: I'm disappointed. You know that they found oil going into. '...
SCHMIDT: But how recently?
TRUMP: It was very recently. In fact, I hate to say, it was reported this morning, and it was reported on Fox. Oil is going into North Korea. That wasn't my deal!
SCHMIDT: What was the deal?
TRUMP: My deal was that, we've got to treat them rough. They're a nuclear menace so we have to be very tough.
RUDDY: Mr. President, was that a picture from recent or was that months ago? I don't know. '...
TRUMP: Oil is going into North Korea, I know. Oil is going into North Korea. So I'm not happy about it.
SCHMIDT: So what are you going to do?
TRUMP: We'll see. That I can't tell you, Michael. But we'll see. I can tell you one thing: This is a problem that should have been handled for the last 25 years. This is a problem, North Korea. That should have been handled for 25, 30 years, not by me. This should have been handled long before me. Long before this guy has whatever he has.
SCHMIDT: Do you think we've been too soft on China on North Korea?
TRUMP: No, look, I like China, and I like him a lot. But, as you know, when I campaigned, I was very tough on China in terms of trade. They made '-- last year, we had a trade deficit with China of $350 billion, minimum. That doesn't include the theft of intellectual property, O.K., which is another $300 billion. So, China '-- and you know, somebody said, oh, currency manipulation. If they're helping me with North Korea, I can look at trade a little bit differently, at least for a period of time. And that's what I've been doing. But when oil is going in, I'm not happy about that. I think I expressed that in probably [inaudible].
TRUMP, as aides walk by: And, by the way, it's not a tweet. It's social media, and it gets out in the world, and the reason I do well is that I can be treated unfairly and very dishonestly by CNN, and, you know, I have '-- what do have now, John, 158 million, including Facebook, including Twitter, including Instagram, including every form, I have a 158 million people. Reporting just this morning, they said 158 million. So if they a do a story that's false, I can do something '-- otherwise, Andy, otherwise you just sort of walk around saying what can I do? What, am I going to have a press conference every time somebody, every time Michael writes something wrong?
So, China on trade has ripped off this country more than any other element of the world in history has ripped off anything. But I can be different if they're helping us with North Korea. If they don't help us with North Korea, then I do what I've always said I want to do. China can help us much more, and they have to help us much more. And they have to help us much more. We have a nuclear menace out there, which is no good for China, and it's not good for Russia. It's no good for anybody. Does that make sense?
SCHMIDT: Yeah, yeah, it makes a lot of sense.
TRUMP: The only thing that supersedes trade to me '-- because I'm the big trade guy, I got elected to a certain extent on trade. You see, I'm renegotiating Nafta, or I'll terminate it. If I don't make the right deal, I'll terminate Nafta in two seconds. But we're doing pretty good. You know, it's easier to renegotiate it if we make it a fair deal because Nafta was a terrible deal for us. We lost $71 billion a year with Mexico, can you believe it? $17 billion with Canada '-- Canada says we broke even. But they don't include lumber and they don't include oil. Oh, that's not. '... [Inaudible,] '... My friend Justin he says, ''No, no, we break even.'' I said, 'Yeah, but you're not including oil, and you're not including lumber.'' When you do, you lose $17 billion, and with the other one, we're losing $71 billion. So the only thing that supersedes trade to me is war. If we can solve the North Korea problem. China cannot. '...
SCHMIDT: You still think there's a diplomatic solution?
TRUMP: China has a tremendous power over North Korea. Far greater than anyone knows.
SCHMIDT: Why haven't they stood up?
TRUMP: I hope they do, but as of this moment, they haven't. They could be much stronger.
SCHMIDT: But why not?
TRUMP: China can solve the North Korea problem, and they're helping us, and they're even helping us a lot, but they're not helping us enough.
_________
TRUMP: We're going to win another four years for a lot of reasons, most importantly because our country is starting to do well again and we're being respected again. But another reason that I'm going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I'm not there because without me, their ratings are going down the tubes. Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they'll be loving me because they're saying, ''Please, please, don't lose Donald Trump.'' O.K.
Continue reading the main story
With Trump Impeachment Petition Nearing 4 Million Signatures, Democratic Mega-Donor's "Digital Army" Gains Steam
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 10:37
A billboard in Times Square, funded by Philanthropist Tom Steyer, calls for the impeachment of President Trump on November 20, 2017, in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
Billionaire Democratic mega-donor and environmentalist Tom Steyer's "Impeach Trump" petition began as a marginal political operation that was greeted with contempt by Democratic leaders.
But as public support for impeachment has continued to skyrocket over the past several months, Steyer's once-obscure campaign has ballooned into a full-scale "digital army" that analysts say is surpassed in size only by Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) coveted email list.
"Campaign experts say Steyer's petition drive is breaking new ground in digital organizing in the nontraditional political terrain of the Trump era, though it's been anchored by a traditional media onslaught -- national television ads that have been running nonstop since Oct. 20," Politico's Carla Marinucci and David Siders reported on Wednesday.
Steyer's campaign spurred headlines in October when his petition -- which declares "we need to impeach this dangerous president" -- surpassed the one million signature mark, a milestone Steyer himself initially believed was the ceiling of his impeachment drive.
In just three months, however, the number of petition signatures has tripled, transforming an effort dismissed by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other high-ranking Democrats as quixotic and irrelevant into a political force that could become "the hottest trove of data in Democratic politics" heading into the 2018 midterm elections and beyond.
Steyer now has "at his fingertips a potentially powerful tool: an email list of millions of motivated activists who he can reach instantly for organizing and fundraising," Marinucci and Siders note.
In addition to prompting speculation about his own political ambitions, Steyer's impeachment campaign has played a part in revealing the tremendous and growing grassroots opposition to the president that has been reflected in both opinion polls and repudiations of Trump at the ballot box.
According to an Associated Press/NORC poll released this month, Trump -- who has labeled Steyer "wacky" and "totally unhinged" -- is the most unpopular first-year president in history. Another recent poll (pdf) -- conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News -- found that 41 percent of Americans want Congress to hold impeachment hearings for Trump. By contrast, only 36 percent of Americans say they would vote for Trump in 2020.
While some have warned that any focus on impeaching Trump -- an objective that, at least for now, runs up against insurmountable political obstacles -- is a distraction from more immediate and substantial issues, 58 Democrats nonetheless voted to move ahead with debate on Rep. Al Green's (D-Texas) articles of impeachment earlier this month.
"If some individual Democrats feel politically constrained from talking too directly about Trump's fitness to serve, that's understandable. But generally speaking, this moment is potentially too consequential for the party to retreat into squeamish message-tailoring," argued the Washington Post's Greg Sargent. "Tom Steyer's ads calling for impeachment have been derided as a big waste of money. But someone has to be staking out the outer boundaries of this conversation."
"Whatever is going to happen," Sargent concluded, "Democrats should rise to the occasion and treat it with the gravity and ambition it commands."
Hate Trumps Love
Trump unchained: staff leaves, hardline ideas rise - Axios
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 12:53
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Trump: Postal Service is 'dumber and poorer' for not charging Amazon more - POLITICO
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 12:59
''Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?" President Donald Trump tweeted. | Jose Luis Magana/AFP/Getty Images
President Donald Trump on Friday called on the United States Postal Service to charge Amazon and others ''much more'' for shipping, adding that the government agency is becoming ''dumber and poorer'' by not doing so.
''Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!'' the president wrote on Twitter.
Story Continued Below
Amazon announced Wednesday that the company had a record-setting holiday season, though it is unclear whether that is what prompted the president's critique.
Jeff Bezos, who is the CEO of Amazon and also owns The Washington Post, has been a target of Trump in the past.
The president '-- who has had an often-rocky relationship with the media '-- has also previously accused The Washington Post of fabricating facts and has called the paper a lobbyist for Amazon.
This article tagged under:Missing out on the latest scoops? Sign up for POLITICO Playbook and get the latest news, every morning '-- in your inbox.
Trump is ''definitely still involved'' in his hotel business, a new report says - Vox
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:17
President Donald Trump's isn't so separate from his businesses as he would like the public to think. Throughout his campaign and through his first few months as president, Trump has said he would distance himself from his Trump Organization and hand it over to his sons in lieu of divesting entirely, which ethics experts say he should. They fear that otherwise he will use the presidency for his own personal gain or that his policies will be influenced by his business interests.
As far as the president flagship hotel in Washington, DC goes, Trump is ''definitely still involved,'' according to an email sent by the hotel's director of revenue management first reported by the Daily Beast.
On Friday, that site published a September 12th email from Jeng Chi Hung, the director of revenue management for the Trump International Hotel in Washington. In it he wrote that he met with Trump, who asked specific questions about the hotel and his business. The message says:
The company is interesting to work for being under the Trump umbrella. DJT is supposed to be out of the business and passed on to his sons, but he's definitely still involved... so it's interesting and unique in that way. I had a brief meeting with him a few weeks ago, and he was asking about banquet revenues and demographics. And, he asked if his presidency hurt the businesses. So, he seems self aware about things, at least more than he lets on. I am far left leaning politically, so working here has been somewhat of a challenge for me. But, it's all business.
It's not clear when Hung met with Trump. Mickael Damelincourt, the hotel's managing director, told the Daily Beast that Hung made Trump's comments up ''in an effort to enhance his sense of importance to a former employer.''
Trump's refusal to completely separate himself from his vast business holdings has been a source of ethical consternation since his election. Shortly before his inauguration, Trump and one of his lawyers, Sheri Dillon, outlined a vague plan for the president-elect to distance himself from his company at Trump Tower in New York. They announced he would put his businesses in a trust managed by his two adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., and the Trump Organization's chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.
''I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks,'' Trump said. ''But I would be able to do that if I wanted to.''
Ethics experts have argued that Trump should divest '-- sell off '-- his assets entirely and put their value into a blind trust, an investment portfolio of which he would have no knowledge or control.
''The president is now entering a world of public service,'' Walter Shaub, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, the government agency that oversees executive branch policies related to conflict of interest, saidin a speech at the Brookings Institution at the start of the year. ''He's going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He's going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So no, I don't think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America.''
Shaub resigned in July to join the Campaign Legal Center, a group that works on campaign finance and ethics in government. ''In working with the current administration, it has become clear to me that we need improvements to the existing ethics program,'' he said in a press release at the time. It's perhaps telling that Shaub felt he couldn't reform the government from the inside.
Trump's Washington Hotel has been especially problematicSome of Trump's businesses havestruggled since his election '-- for example, a Trump-branded hotel in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood dropped the Trump name after a number of high-profile clients refused to stay there, and his golf clubs and hotels in more liberal-leaning areas appear to have declined in business and, in some instances, revenue.
But the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, which Trump opened while campaigning for the presidency, has flourished. According to the Wall Street Journal, the hotel brought in $18 million in revenue in the first four months of 2017, in part by hiking its room rates. It made a nearly $2 million profit during that time period, despite budgeting for a $2.1 million loss.
The hotel has become a sort of White House extension since the president took office. Foreign dignitaries, lobbyists and Republican lawmakers often visit the hotel in hopes of getting in Trump's good graces. The Washington Post in May sent reporters to the hotel every day, where they spotted a range of figures and organizations, including former Trump campaign adviser Corey Lewandowski, business groups promoting Turkish-American relations, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
''Jimmy Carter put his peanut farm into a blind trust that had the power to sell it,'' Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the bipartisan watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington, recently told Vox. ''It wasn't as though you had foreign powers or lobbyists trying to hang out at the peanut farm to try and influence the president. It didn't have that kind of mixing of business and the office.''
To a large extent, Trump's presidency marks the first time such an ethical conundrum has been seen in the White House; it's also shown that the rules governing presidential ethics and conflicts of interest are more guidelines or norms than enforceable laws.
CREW sued the president in January, claiming that Trump's business interests were causing conflicts of interest and violating the US Constitution '-- specifically, the foreign emoluments clause, which prohibits Trump from receiving anything of value from foreign governments. This month a federal judge dismissed the case, and the flow of foreign dignitaries, lawmakers and Trump allies through the Trump hotel lobby continues unabated.
''Our statement as released from Mickael Damelincourt is accurate and there is nothing more to add,'' said Trump International Hotel spokeswoman Patricia Tang in an email. ''There is no conflict of interest.''
DNA
Ancestry.com leaked data on 300,000 users - SlashGear
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 19:19
The ancestry and family tree website Ancestry.com revealed last week that data on 300,000 users, including email addresses, usernames, and passwords, was publicly exposed on one of its servers. Tony Blackham, the company's Chief Information Security Officer, issued a statement shortly before the Christmas holiday noting that the user data was in a file publicly exposed on a server for RootsWeb, Ancestry.com's community-driven genealogy site.
In a post discussing the leak, Blackham wrote that ''the vast majority of those were from free trial or currently unused accounts,'' however, the data from roughly 55,000 users was also used on other Ancestry sites. In the worst cases, around 7,000 leaked email/password combinations were found to have matched the credentials for active Ancestry customers.
As a service, RootsWeb is often used by members for sharing their family trees and conversing on the site's message boards. During the week, Ancestry.com admitted that it believes the user data had been exposed since November 2015, but that it was only stored on RootsWeb servers, and wasn't connected to any of the company's other sites. Similarly, RootsWeb never hosted credit card information or users' social security numbers.
The company didn't go into specifics on how or why the server wasn't secured, but it said that there had been no signs that a malicious third party had accessed the data. The RootsWeb site was taken offline during the week as part of an investigation, with the company noting that it would be sometime before its services were restored.
''We believe the intrusion was limited to the RootsWeb surname list, where someone was able to create the file of older RootsWeb usernames and passwords as a direct result of how part of this open community was set up, an issue we are working to rectify,'' said Blackham. ''This issue involves less than one percent of our users, so there is a very good chance your account wasn't involved.''
Along with notifying users by email, 55,000 of the affected accounts will locked, forcing those users to create a new password.
SOURCE Threat Post
Pheramor: New dating app matches users based on their DNA | The Independent
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:40
Dating apps can be tricky to navigate, particularly when you're trying to suss out someone's credibility.
How do you know that Ben from London is really 25-years-old? Is his profile picture recent? Does he really have a puppy? Is his name even Ben?
One thing you can't cheat is your genetics, which is why a new dating app is using DNA compatibility as a basis for its matchmaking algorithm.
Pheramor requires all users to submit a cheek swab using a specially-created kit from which a team of in-house scientists can sequence the specific genes associated with attraction and identify which users might be sexually compatible.
The process works by isolating the 11 genes that link to our pheromones, the chemical signals that are believed to trigger sexual attraction.
Combining this data with the personal information stated on users' profiles allows the app to make very specific matches.
''Pheramor uses both your biology and your social technology; we collect your genetic data through a q-tip-like cheek swab and acquire your like, dislikes, and interests from your social media profiles like Facebook, Twitter, etc,'' the app's website explains.
''All of this information will be used in our proprietary algorithm, which is designed to learn your preferences.''
The Houston-based app is already up and running but hopes to officially launch in February with 3,000 members.
''When we smell pheromones, what we're actually smelling is how diverse someone's immune system is compared to our own,'' explains co-founder Brittany Barreto, who has a PHD in genetics.
''Evolution is very strong. So we're smelling each other, trying to figure out who is the best person to mate with,'' she told the Houston Chronicle.
She added that Pheramor's advanced technology digs deeper than traditional dating apps by moving past the basic info listed on most profiles, making it almost impossible for people to cheat their way to a date,
Imposters might have trouble catfishing their way out of this one.
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2TTH
Erica Garner rips Clinton camp over emails on her father's death - NY Daily News
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:29
Erica Garner, the daughter of police chokehold victim Eric Garner, ripped the Hillary Clinton campaign in a series of tweets Thursday after new campaign emails released by WikiLeaks showed how the Democratic nominee's staffers discussed the death of her father.
''I'm troubled by the revelation that you and this campaign actually discussed 'using' Eric Garner '... Why would you want to 'use my dad?'' Garner tweeted along with a link to emails released by WikiLeaks. ''These people will co opt anything to push their agenda. Police violence is not the same as gun violence.
''I'm vey (sic) interested to know exactly what @CoreyCiorciari meant when he said 'I know we have an Erica Garner problem' in the #PodestaEmails19,'' added Garner.
Erica Garner, the daughter of Eric Garner, is seen speaking in Harlem in April.(Michael Schwartz/for New York Daily News) Garner also tweeted links to hacked emails from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta released this week by WikiLeaks that show internal communications among top Clinton staffers about how to best word an editorial piece on gun violence that was slated to run in the New York Daily News.
Eric Garner's daughter allegedly threatened mom of his love child
''I know we have Erica Garner issues but we don't want to mention Eric at all? I can see her coming after us for leaving him out of the piece,'' Clinton's traveling press secretary Nick Merrill wrote in a March 17 email.
The death of Eric Garner and the events that followed
Maya Harris, another Clinton aide replied, ''Eric Garner not included because not killed by gun violence.''
''I'm glad you had Maya on your team to explain why you won't be USING my dad in you f-----g gun violence piece... Black woman saved your a--,'' Garner added.
''In this #PodestaEmails leak @CoreyCiorciari n @NickMerrill plot to use police violence victims to push gun control,'' Garner tweeted.
DOJ faces uphill battle in Garner case
The editorial the Clinton staffers were discussing ran in the New York Daily News on March 27.
A spokesman for the Clinton campaign did not immediately respond to questions about Garner's latest tweets.
Erica Garner has used her Twitter account to criticize the Clinton campaign before.(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Garner's 43-year-old father died on July 17, 2014, after he resisted arrest for selling illegal loose cigarettes on Staten Island. Officer Daniel Pantaleo applied a chokehold to take Garner down, and he died a short time later. His death emerged as a flashpoint in police violence issues.
Erica Garner endorsed Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary and has, on multiple occasions, used her Twitter account to criticize the Clinton camp.
Here's what would come if cop is indicted in Eric Garner's death
Sign up for BREAKING NEWS EmailsTags:eric garnerhillary clintonjohn podesta2016 electionwikileaksbernie sandersSend a Letter to the EditorJoin the Conversation:facebookTweet
MK Ultra
L.S.D., Lies, and the C.I.A.: The Incredible True Story Behind Wormwood | Vanity Fair
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 04:28
In the early morning of November 28, 1953, 42-year-old Army scientist Frank Olson went out the window of a room in New York City's Statler Hotel. Was it an accident, or an assassination?
Wormwood, the new Netflix true-crime documentary re-enactment series from director Errol Morris, investigates just that: Olson's possible murder, and the conspiracy to cover up the death of a man who may have been ready to reveal government secrets. Among those possibly wishing to silence him: the C.I.A., President Gerald Ford's chief and deputy chief of staff'--Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, respectively'--plus a rogue's gallery of military men, a pseudo psychiatrist, and a magician.
''I sometimes describe Wormwood as a series of Russian nesting dolls'--stories inside stories, inside stories, inside stories,'' the Academy Award-winning documentarian says of his series, the title of which references both a line from Hamlet and a Bible passage. Two-plus years in the making, this innovative narrative from the director who pioneered many true-crime techniques'--including the use of re-enactments and music'--arrives December 15, just in time to satisfy our craving for an addictive nonfiction drama to binge during the shortest days of the year.
Morris's inquiry began with his interest in a secret 1950s-60s C.I.A. program called ''MK-Ultra,'' which employed drugs and deception tactics'--and most of whose records have been destroyed. ''What we know about it is limited, and as a result, it has become catnip for conspiracy theorists'''--though Morris is not one of them, he says.
Who Was Frank Olson?
Olson, a C.I.A. operative and bacteriologist played in Wormwood's re-creation scenes by Peter Sarsgaard, may have taken part in secret government L.S.D. experiments'--and could have been the subject of mind control. He may have also believed that the U.S used biological weapons during the Korean War, felt that he couldn't live with that knowledge, and been ready to tell all.
Morris says Sarsgaard was his first and only choice to play Olson: ''He jokes how I told him that what I liked most about his performances were his silences, and that is more or less true.'' Molly Parker plays Olson's tightly wound and devastated wife, Alice, whom we also see in archival footage. Having never known much about her husband's confidential work, she ultimately slides into alcoholism. ''My mother always said that the one thing she knew about my father's state of mind was that he was very upset about Korea,'' Olson's son Eric Olson says in the series, during his documentary interview.
The Obsessed Storyteller
Now a Harvard-trained clinical psychologist, Eric was an impressionable 9-year-old when Olson's boss and family friend, Lieutenant Colonel Vin Ruwet (played in re-creations by Scott Shepherd)'--who may or may not have been with Olson when he died'--came to the house early that November morning to inform the family of his death. Eric has been consumed with questions about what really happened to his father ever since. Morris underscores this by interviewing him sitting beneath a static analog clock, stopped precisely at the time his father died. ''For me, it was like a bomb just dropped on my head,'' Eric says in the series. ''I was strongly identified with him at the time. And he just disappeared.''
Everything changed for Eric again after a 1974 New York Times story by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh revealed that the C.I.A. had conducting a secret domestic surveillance program. A subsequent 1975 presidential review panel investigating the C.I.A.'s activities mentioned MK-Ultra'--and said that an unnamed and ''unwitting civilian'' Army scientist had been surreptitiously given L.S.D. at some point before plummeting to his death in 1953. ''What the ultimate goal is, is unclear,'' Morris says of the panel's findings. ''Most likely the ultimate goal is to save the C.I.A. from itself. You could argue that it's a kind of cover-up . . . and that's when our story starts all over again.''
Especially for Eric, who was a graduate student by the time Hersh's article was published. Shocked to learn there was more to his father's death, he spearheaded efforts to uncover the truth, which resulted in the family's unprecedented meeting with President Ford in the Oval Office. Ford apologized to the Olsons'--but didn't say for what. The family was urged not to sue, instead pushing government compensation, a course of action Morris believes Rumsfeld and Cheney orchestrated. (He says it's not clear whether Ford was a party to this or not.) A meeting with then-C.I.A. Director William Colby at Langley headquarters followed, during which Colby turned over documents supposedly detailing what happened to Olson. These documents are at the heart of Morris's examination: ''What really pleases me'--yes, this is the kind of thing that deeply pleases me'--is the documents might not be totally apocryphal, but part of them may be out-and-out fabrications and lies. . . I like the idea of dramatizing untruths as a way of thinking about what was true and was not.''
The Rogues' Gallery of Men Around Olson
Over the course of the six-part series, a variety of scripted scenarios involving Olson and the men who knew and worked with him show different versions of possible events surrounding his death. In these fictionalized scenarios, we see men from Fort Detrick and the C.I.A. attend an offsite meeting at Deep Creek Lodge, where experiments with L.S.D. may have taken place. After Olson tries to quit his job, he tells Alice his colleagues want him to see a ''psychiatrist'' in New York City. Lieutenant Colonel Ruwet and chemist Robert Lashbrook (played by Christian Camargo) may have also traveled there; Eric also says that Lashbrook was a liaison to the C.I.A.'s Robert Gottlieb (Tim Blake Nelson)'--who himself may have been involved in 1960s assassination plots, including those against Fidel Castro. The supposed shrink Olson sees, Dr. Harold Abramson (Bob Balaban), was an allergist who worked for the C.I.A., and was involved in the aerosolization of biological agents.
During the nine-day period they spent in New York City, Olson may have also been taken to see magician John Mulholland, who is said to have prepared a 50-page manual on deception and misdirection for the MK-Ultra project. ''Mulholland was part of the Colby documents,'' Morris explains. ''You can say they're all suspect. But it's what we have. So, for example, when you see Frank freaking out at a performance of the Rodgers & Hammerstein show Me and Juliet, that's in the documents.''
The Reporter Who May Have Been Played
Eric and Morris both agree that the story about Olson and L.S.D. was a red herring'--one which investigative reporter Hersh swallowed whole, so to speak. Morris, who didn't know Hersh, and had to ''nag'' him for more than a year and a half for him to get his participation in the documentary, says so plainly: ''Was he played by the C.I.A.? Eric would probably argue that he was.'' After Eric told Hersh as much in 2013, the journalist consulted a source; now he says he knows what happened to Olson, but can't report it for fear of outing the informant.
The series ends on a conclusive note, but Morris also envisions an eventual epilogue to the story. ''I believe that the assassination was ordered by the C.I.A., and I believe it came from the highest levels,'' he says. ''Examining the nature of the cover-up, and who was involved in the cover-up, is very much an ongoing investigation of mine. And I would say an ongoing investigation for Sy Hersh as well.''
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Full ScreenPhotos:1 / 5
The Versace: American Crime Story Cast and Their Real-Life Counterparts ‰dgar Ram­rez as Gianni VersaceThe Emmy nominee stars as the limited series's namesake, the flamboyant designer murdered in Miami at the peak of his career.
Photo: Left, by David Lees/The LIFE Images Collection; Right, by Rachel Murray, both from Getty Images.Pen(C)lope Cruz as Donatella VersaceThe Oscar-winning actress will go blonde to play Versace's sister, who took over the creative aspects of her brother's fashion empire after his murder.
Photo: Left, by Catherine McGann; Right, by Samir Hussein/WireImage, both from Getty Images.Darren Criss as Andrew CunananCriss has come a long way from his Glee days; he'll play serial killer Cunanan, who ended his cross-country murder spree by killing himself before the police could apprehend him.
Photo: Left, by Jamie Scott Lytle/Sygma; Right, by Mike Windle, both from Getty Images.Ricky Martin as Antonio D'AmicoThe Latin pop sensation will show off his acting chops as Versace's longtime partner, an Italian designer with a fraught relationship to the Versace family.
Photo: Left, by Alberto Roveri/Mondadori Portfolio; Right, by Venturelli/WireImage.Max Greenfield as Santo VersaceNew Girl star Greenfield will get serious as Versace's older brother, the business brains behind their fashion operation.
Photo: Left, by Pino Montisci/Mondadori Portfolio; Right, by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic.PreviousNext
‰dgar Ram­rez as Gianni VersaceThe Emmy nominee stars as the limited series's namesake, the flamboyant designer murdered in Miami at the peak of his career.
Left, by David Lees/The LIFE Images Collection; Right, by Rachel Murray, both from Getty Images.
Pen(C)lope Cruz as Donatella VersaceThe Oscar-winning actress will go blonde to play Versace's sister, who took over the creative aspects of her brother's fashion empire after his murder.
Left, by Catherine McGann; Right, by Samir Hussein/WireImage, both from Getty Images.
Darren Criss as Andrew CunananCriss has come a long way from his Glee days; he'll play serial killer Cunanan, who ended his cross-country murder spree by killing himself before the police could apprehend him.
Left, by Jamie Scott Lytle/Sygma; Right, by Mike Windle, both from Getty Images.
Ricky Martin as Antonio D'AmicoThe Latin pop sensation will show off his acting chops as Versace's longtime partner, an Italian designer with a fraught relationship to the Versace family.
Left, by Alberto Roveri/Mondadori Portfolio; Right, by Venturelli/WireImage.
Max Greenfield as Santo VersaceNew Girl star Greenfield will get serious as Versace's older brother, the business brains behind their fashion operation.
Left, by Pino Montisci/Mondadori Portfolio; Right, by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic.
#MeToo
Women over 50 see sexual harassment very differently than millennials
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 21:37
What's This?
Image: vicky leta / mashable
By Rachel Thompson 2017-12-01 15:54:26 UTC Somewhere between the main course and dessert at a dinner party, I became aware of a colossal chasm in the way my generation and my parents' generation perceive sexual harassment. It was during a recent trip to my parents' home in rural Warwickshire, England, that I found myself embroiled in conversations about sexual harassment and sexual correctness with women over the age of 50.
I learned that some women over the age of 50 feel that, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, we are in danger of entering an era of extreme sexual correctness, where men will feel under constant scrutiny when interacting with female counterparts. And, though I'd read'--and rolled my eyes'--at headlines about sexual harassment allegations going "too far", this was the first time I'd heard a view like this uttered aloud IRL. Needless to say, I did not share their views.
The crux of our differences seems to lie in what we consider constitutes sexual harassment. Recent research conducted by YouGov found that older British women viewed certain behaviours as acceptable, while younger women deemed them inappropriate. Wolf-whistling proved to be the most divisive behaviour, with 74 percent of 18-24 year olds, and 59 percent of 25-39 year olds considering it inappropriate. But, four in 10 women over 55 say wolf-whistling is acceptable, and 27 percent even said it was flattering.
Among the other behaviours'--including winking, comments on attractiveness, and lower-back touching'--older women were more likely to say they didn't have any strong feelings about those behaviours, while younger women were likelier to find them inappropriate.
Mashable spoke to women over the age of 50 to find out their thoughts on sexual harassment.
"If it's someone putting their hand on a knee 12 years ago, I just want to laugh."
Gillian, 65'--who prefers to use only her first name'--said she's worried that the recent stories about sexual harassment in the news will make men reluctant to make any form of contact with women at work. "It's sad if a guy can't smile at her when he's attracted to her," says Gillian. "Men are frightened. It's gone to an extreme." While Gillian feels it's a positive sign of progress that women can now come forward with their experiences, she's also worried that these stories will create a culture of sexual correctness, that she likens to political correctness.
"If you're not careful, it will be political correctness gone mad," she says. "If you start drawing lines, nobody will be able to make any contact at all."
She says she doesn't know where the line is between what's acceptable and what's not, but she does feel that some allegations have gone too far. "If it's someone putting their hand on a knee 12 years ago, I just want to laugh. It's ridiculous," she says. If they were groped or raped it's a different story."
"I actually feel sorry for men having to watch every word they say."
Rachel, 59'--who also prefers to go by her first name'--says "no woman should be harassed in any way at all" but she "feels sorry for men" who might feel under scrutiny for what they say to women. But, she also feels that some actions'--like wolf-whistling'--aren't offensive.
"What used to be normal like a wolf whistle for example, some women would be offended," says Rachel. "If a man said 'wow, you look lovely today,' it doesn't automatically mean he wants to get me in bed."
"I actually feel sorry for men having to watch every word they say," Rachel continues.
Not all women over 50 share these views, however. Deb Gale, 61, believes that the recent exposing of the predatory behaviour of powerful men has prompted a "big shift" in our perceptions of acceptable behaviour; something she views as positive and necessary. "Women have been ignored, silenced, disavowed, and dismissed for too long. They have suffered for it," says Gale.
Kimberly, 51, is not concerned about the implications for men in the workplace. "Guys in the work place might need to start treating women with respect, and actually acting like a man of integrity," she says. "I think the exposure of men's inexcusable behaviour, and companies holding men accountable for that behaviour is wonderful for women in the workplace," Kimberly continues.
Image: Shutterstock / StudioOneNine
So, why do the views of women over 50 differ so greatly to those of millennials and Gen Z women when it comes to harassment? Talking to women over 50, it is clear that attitudes towards sexual harassment were greatly different when they were in their twenties.
My mother, Nancy, 57, tells me that the workplace culture was very different during the 1980s, when she was in her twenties and just starting out in the world of work."You learnt to, as my mother told me, grow sharp elbows" when inappropriate behaviour took place.
"If you went to HR, you would fall foul of the system, it would be a risk to your job and not his job," says Nancy. "The victim would be named and shamed and their career would be over. We don't want to go back to that, let's look at all that and say this cannot happen."
Colette, 67'--who prefers to use only her first name'--says men in workplaces were "flexing a large sexual thuggish muscle they were developing." "The men would egg each other on and build their status on being able to hit on a girl and other lads would admire them for it."
Gillian says that harassment in the workplace when she was in her twenties was "known about," but "no one put head above the parapet."
Though the women I spoke to have very different views to me and my peers about sexual harassment and correctness, we are all in agreement about one thing. That it is sign of progress and hope that women now feel they can come forward with their stories about harassment.
Topics: baby boomers, Culture, generations, Harvey Weinstein, millennials, Sexual Harassment, work/life
UC regent resigns amid criticism over offensive remark | Daily Mail Online
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:43
A University of California regent who was caught on tape last year asking an employee if he could hold her breasts has decided to resign amid growing calls that he step down.
Regent Norman J. Pattiz sent a letter dated Thursday to Regents Chair George Keiffer saying that after 16 years on the board he would retire in February.
His letter, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, did not mention the sexual harassment accusation.
Pattiz will resign from his position in February after being caught on tape making sexually suggestive remarks
Keiffer responded in a letter that thanked Pattiz for announcing his retirement, adding that 'after so many years you deserve a break.'
Pattiz is the founder of America's largest radio network, Westwood One, and CEO of Courtside Entertainment Group, which produces radio shows and podcasts.
The controversy became public in October 2016, when comedian Heather McDonald aired comments that Pattiz had made to her while taping a podcast commercial in May 2016 for a memory-foam bra.
She flubbed some of her lines, and Pattiz asked, 'Can I hold your breasts? Would that help?' and showed his hands, saying, 'These are memory foam.'
Pattiz subsequently apologized for the remarks and said they were meant as a joke.
Pattiz made remarks on tape about comedian Heather McDonald's (above) breasts during a podcast recording
The University of California promptly created new guidelines on sexual harassment for its governing board in response to outrage over Pattiz' behavior.
Under that policy, all regents are now required to take the university's training program in sexual harassment prevention, as do employees at UC's 10 campuses.
Students revived calls for his resignation in recent weeks as women across the country have spoken out about sexual misconduct by powerful men. Students protested at a November UC Regents meeting, demanding he be removed.
Earlier this month, several regents including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom raised questions about whether the Board of Regents had dealt too lightly with Pattiz.
Pattiz has held his position on the University of California Board of Regents for 16 years and is the founder of radio network Westwood One
War on Jews
France sets up tax dept to investigate Jews
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 23:23
Emmanuel Macron. (photo credit: REUTERS)
Tel Aviv (Tribune News Service) - In Paris's 12th arrondissement, on Bercy Street by the banks of the River Seine, on the 13th floor of the Ministry of Finance is France's tax authority headquarters. Something has been afoot there recently that is liable to upset French Jews and spook their relations with the country in which they live. Under the radar, a secret department has been created with the sole purpose of handling tax evasion by French Jews. "Globes" can reveal for the first time the details of the secret department that is targeting Jews in France and new immigrants from France in Israel.
Sources inform "Globes" that over the past year, the tax authority in the Fifth Republic founded a special department for dealing with French Jews. The department currently has 20 Hebrew-speaking employees, and is in the process of hiring five more. This extraordinary department is one of a kind. Tax authorities do not usually establish departments targeting a specific nationality or religion. The action is astonishing, especially when the country involved is France, which is constitutionally defined as a secular republic that refrains from "marking" people according to their religion. Tax authorities around the world do establish teams to deal with sectors whose tax reporting is questionable. They target a specific market when there is concern that it contains a large amount of unreported capital, such as the real estate market or the diamond market. Setting up a specific department dealing with a designated nationality or religion, however, is not an accepted practice.
The only "department" ostensibly close in character to this secret French department is a new department established in the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for dealing with cases of Israelis, American-Israelis, and Americans with assets and money in Israel. This US department, however, resulted from the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) signed by Israel and the US, in which huge amounts of information are transferred by the countries about their taxpayers, and someone has to handle that information. This was not the purpose for which the department was set up in the French tax authority.
The French department was established to handle French Jewish tax evaders, and hired employees with professional experience and a profound understanding of Israeli law in order to examine whether Jews were using these laws to evade tax in France. The aim of the department is to catch French tax evaders using Israel as a tax shelter.
Examining real estate deals An international lawyer specializing in taxation who is familiar with the secret department says, "It is very, very irregular to hire 20 Hebrew-speaking employees, or any other language, in a foreign tax authority. Most tax authorities have one or two Hebrew-speakers, and there are English or French-speaking employees in Israel for the purpose of signing conventions and conducting relations with the tax authorities of other countries. Every tax authority has employees that speak a foreign language, but hiring 20 or more Hebrew-speaking investigators is very irregular." The lawyer adds that he learned from his acquaintance with the department and its employees that some of the employees hired previously lived in Israel. "They hired Hebrew-speaking French people, some of whom previously lived in Israel and moved back to France," he told "Globes." According to information obtained by "Globes," as part of the department's activity, its employees take out Land Registry extracts in Israel for the purpose of examining deals contracted in Israel and reaching French residents who have acquired properties here. The investigators have mapped the main streets in various cities in Israel, including Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ra'anana, Netanya, and Jerusalem, in which many purchases by Jewish residents of France take place. They have obtained Land Registry extracts and examined the particulars of a deal in order to detect foreign passport numbers. The investigators cross-referenced the information with information in their databases and the reports by those French Jews about their assets and income. In cases in which it was found that the person did not report the properties he bought in Israel, he was also summoned for questioning.
Sources inform "Globes" that a French Jew recently went to the secret department for an "audit" without knowing exactly what was to be discussed. For safety's sake, he took his lawyer with him - a fact that proved extremely important for him. During the discussion about his declarations of his assets and funds, the questioners very quickly presented a Land Registry extract including all of the French Jewish client's housing units in Israel. The discussion took place, and at the end, the lawyer wondered in what framework the new investigation was taking place. A seemingly innocent casual conversation in the corridor with one of the investigators revealed the amazing fact that a special department for dealing with French Jews and their tax evasion was involved.
Targeting immigrants to Israel from France French Jewry boosts demand for Israeli homes Not because of anti-Semitism, but for love of Israel Through the special division, in addition to mapping the properties of French people in Israel, the tax authority in France has begun direct interrogations of Jewish residents of France who are in the midst of immigrating to Israel, and examining whether they possess money or assets that they did not previously declare, and whether this is the reason why they decided to immigrate to Israel.
According to figures from the Israel Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, immigration from France has increased dramatically in recent years. 1,211 new immigrants arrived in Israel from France in the first half of 2017. A study conducted at Bar-Ilan University showed that the economic benefit for the Israeli economy from the absorption of Jews from France would reach $65 billion. The study assumes that 100,000 immigrants will arrive from France by 2026.
These figures are surprising to no one. Massive purchases of properties in Israel by French people have been spoken of for years, some by immigrants and some not, and a number of international investigations were opened against French people on suspicion of tax offenses and evasion on an enormous scale in France and laundering money in Israel through real estate purchases. These developments apparently attracted the attention of the French tax authority, which decided to target French Jews.
The sources also told "Globes" that the French tax authority is one of the main tax authorities that contacts the Israel Tax Authority in order to obtain information about French residents with exceptionally large assets in Israel, compared with other countries, but many of the requests are rejected. "They call the Israel Tax Authority almost every day with requests for information about some person or other, but many of the requests are rejected, because they do not meet the conditions of the conventions on exchanges of information. They are just fishing," says a source involved in information exchanges between the two countries.
The French embassy in Israel said in response, "In the framework of the campaign against tax evasion, the authorities in France conduct investigations concerning individual cases, in accordance with the international agreements. The authorities in France deny the existence of a special department. It is extremely important to state that the things that were written are false.
"Taxes in France are calculated according to risk considerations. There is therefore no connection whatsoever to the national affiliation or ethnic origin of taxpayers. Next year, automatic exchanges of information are scheduled between OECD member countries."
(C)2017 the Globes (Tel Aviv, Israel) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.
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NA Tech News
A Message to Our Customers - Apple
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 10:33
Actualmente ests en el sitio de EE.UU. Elige otro pa­s o regi"n para ver contenido espec­fico segºn tu ubicaci"n.
M(C)xico
M(C)xico Estados Unidos Todos los pa­ses ContinuarWe've been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There's been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we're making.
First and foremost, we have never '-- and would never '-- do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.
How batteries ageAll rechargeable batteries are consumable components that become less effective as they chemically age and their ability to hold a charge diminishes. Time and the number of times a battery has been charged are not the only factors in this chemical aging process.
Device use also affects the performance of a battery over its lifespan. For example, leaving or charging a battery in a hot environment can cause a battery to age faster. These are characteristics of battery chemistry, common to lithium-ion batteries across the industry.
A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations.
To help customers learn more about iPhone's rechargeable battery and the factors affecting its performance, we've posted a new support article, iPhone Battery and Performance.
It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable. We don't want any of our users to lose a call, miss taking a picture or have any other part of their iPhone experience interrupted if we can avoid it.
Preventing unexpected shutdownsAbout a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.
Customer response to iOS 10.2.1 was positive, as it successfully reduced the occurrence of unexpected shutdowns. We recently extended the same support for iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus in iOS 11.2.
Of course, when a chemically aged battery is replaced with a new one, iPhone performance returns to normal when operated in standard conditions.
Recent user feedbackOver the course of this fall, we began to receive feedback from some users who were seeing slower performance in certain situations. Based on our experience, we initially thought this was due to a combination of two factors: a normal, temporary performance impact when upgrading the operating system as iPhone installs new software and updates apps, and minor bugs in the initial release which have since been fixed.
We now believe that another contributor to these user experiences is the continued chemical aging of the batteries in older iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices, many of which are still running on their original batteries.
Addressing customer concernsWe've always wanted our customers to be able to use their iPhones as long as possible. We're proud that Apple products are known for their durability, and for holding their value longer than our competitors' devices.
To address our customers' concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple's intentions, we've decided to take the following steps:
Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 '-- from $79 to $29 '-- for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone's battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.At Apple, our customers' trust means everything to us. We will never stop working to earn and maintain it. We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support '-- and we will never forget that or take it for granted.
Before Self-Driving Cars Become Real, They Face These Challenges
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:20
Volvo has rolled back its timeline for the Drive Me self-driving car program in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Oh, the untainted optimism of 2014. In the spring of that year, the good Swedes at Volvo introduced Drive Me, a program to get regular Josefs, Frejas, Joeys, and Fayes into autonomous vehicles. By 2017, Volvo executives promised, the company would distribute 100 self-driving SUVs to families in Gothenburg, Sweden. The cars would be able to ferry their passengers through at least 30 miles of local roads, in everyday driving conditions'--all on their own. ''The technology, which will be called Autopilot, enables the driver to hand over the driving to the vehicle, which takes care of all driving functions,'' said Erik Coelingh, a technical lead at Volvo.
Now, in the waning weeks of 2017, Volvo has pushed back its plans. By four years. Automotive News reports the company now plans to put 100 people in self-driving cars by 2021, and ''self-driving'' might be a stretch. The guinea pigs will start off testing the sort of semi-autonomous features available to anyone willing to pony up for a new Volvo (or Tesla, Cadillac, Nissan, or Mercedes).
''On the journey, some of the questions that we thought were really difficult to answer have been answered much faster than we expected,'' Marcus Rothoff, the carmaker's autonomous driving program director, told the publication. ''And in some areas, we are finding that there were more issues to dig into and solve than we expected.'' Namely, price. Rothoff said the company was loath to nail down the cost of its sensor set before it knew how it would work, so Volvo couldn't quite determine what people would pay for the privilege in riding in or owning one. CEO Hakan Samuelsson has said self-driving functionality could add about $10,000 to the sticker price.
Volvo's retreat is just the latest example of a company cooling on optimistic self-driving car predictions. In 2012, Google CEO Sergey Brin said even normies would have access to autonomous vehicles in fewer than five years'--nope. Those who shelled out an extra $3,000 for Tesla's Enhanced Autopilot are no doubt disappointed by its non-appearance, nearly six months after its due date. New Ford CEO Jim Hackett recently moderated expectations for the automaker's self-driving service, which his predecessor said in 2016 would be deployed at scale by 2021. ''We are going to be in the market with products in that time frame,'' he told the San Francisco Chronicle. ''But the nature of the romanticism by everybody in the media about how this robot works is overextended right now.''
The scale-backs haven't dampened the enthusiasm for money-throwing. Venture capital firm CB Insights estimates self-driving car startups'--ones building autonomous driving software, driver safety tools, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and stockpiling and crunching data while doing it'--have sucked in more than $3 billion in funding this year.
To track the evolution of any major technology, research firm Gartner's ''hype cycle'' methodology is a handy guide. You start with an ''innovation trigger,'' the breakthrough, and soon hit the ''peak of inflated expectations,'' when the money flows and headlines blare.
And then there's the trough of disillusionment, when things start failing, falling short of expectations, and hoovering up less money than before. This is where the practical challenges and hard realities separate the vaporware from the world-changers. Self-driving, it seems, is entering the trough. Welcome to the hard part.
Technical Difficulties''Autonomous technology is where computing was in the 60s, meaning that the technology is nascent, it's not modular, and it is yet to be determined how the different parts will fit together,'' says Shahin Farshchi, a partner at the venture capital firm Lux Capital, who once built hybrid electric vehicles for General Motors, and has invested in self-driving startup Zoox, as well as sensor-builder Aeva.)
Turns out building a self-driving car takes more than strapping sensors and software onto a set of wheels. In an almost startlingly frank Medium post, Bryan Salesky, who heads up Ford-backed autonomous vehicle outfit Argo AI, laid out the hurdles facing his team.
First, he says, came the sensor snags. Self-driving cars need at least three kinds to function'--lidar, which can see clearly in 3-D; cameras, for color and detail; and radar, with can detect objects and their velocities at long distances. Lidar, in particular, doesn't come cheap: A setup for one car can cost $75,000. Then the vehicles need to take the info from those pricey sensors and fuse it together, extracting what they need to operate in the world and discarding what they doesn't.
''Developing a system that can be manufactured and deployed at scale with cost-effective, maintainable hardware is'... challenging,'' Salesky writes. (Argo AI bought a lidar company called Princeton Lightwave in October.)
Salesky cites other problems, minor technological quandaries that could prove disastrous once these cars are actually moving through 3-D space. Vehicles need to be able to see, interpret, and predict the behavior of human drivers, human cyclists, and human pedestrians'--perhaps even communicate with them. The cars must understand when they're in another vehicle's blind spot and drive extra carefully. They have to know (and see, and hear) when a zooming ambulance needs more room.
''Those who think fully self-driving vehicles will be ubiquitous on city streets months from now or even in a few years are not well connected to the state of the art or committed to the safe deployment of the technology,'' Salesky writes.
He's not the only killjoy. ''Technology developers are coming to appreciate that the last 1 percent is harder than the first 99 percent,'' says Karl Iagnemma, CEO of Nutonomy, a Boston-based self-driving car company acquired by automotive supplier Delphi this fall. ''Compared to last 1 percent, the first 99 percent is a walk in the park.''
The smart companies, Iagnemma says, are coming up with comprehensive ways to deal with tricky edge cases, not patching them over with the software equivalent of tape and chewing gum. But that takes time.
Money WorriesIntel estimates self-driving cars could add $7 trillion to the economy by 2050, $2 trillion in the US alone'--and that's not counting the impact the tech could have on trucking or other fields. So it's curious that no one seems quite sure how to make money off this stuff yet. ''The emphasis has shifted as much to the product and the business model as pure technology development,'' says Iagnemma.
Those building the things have long insisted you'll first interact with a self-driving car through a taxi-like service. The tech is too expensive, and will at first be too dependent on weather conditions, topography, and high-quality mapping, to sell straight to consumers. But they haven't sorted out the user experience part of this equation. Waymo is set to launch a limited, actually driver-free service in Phoenix, Arizona, next year, and says it has come up with a way for passengers to communicate they want to pull over. But the company didn't let reporters test the functionality during a test drive at its test facility this fall, so you'll have to take its word for it.
Other questions loom: How do you find your vehicle? Ensure that you're in the right one? Tell it that you're having an emergency, or that you've had a little accident inside and need a cleanup ASAP? Bigger picture: How does a company even start to recoup its huge research and development budget? How much does it charge per ride? What happens when there's a crash? Who's liable, and how much do they have to pay in insurance?
One path forward, money-wise, seems to be shaking hands with enemies. Companies including Waymo, GM, Lyft, Uber, and Intel, and even seemingly extinction-bound players like the car rental firm Avis, have formed partnerships with potential rivals, sharing data and services in the quest to build a real autonomous vehicle, and the infrastructure that will support it.
Still, if you ask an autonomous car developer whether it should be going at it alone'--trying to build out sensors, mapping, perception, testing capabilities, plus the car itself'--expect a shrug. While a few big carmakers like General Motors clearly seem to think vertical integration is the path to a win (it bought the self-driving outfit Cruise Automation last year, and lidar company Strobe in October), startups providing la carte services continue to believe they are part of the future. ''There are plenty of people quietly making money supplying to automakers,'' says Forrest Iandola, the CEO of the perception company DeepScale, citing the success of more traditional automotive suppliers like Bridgestone.
Other companies seize upon niche markets in the self-driving space, betting specific demographics will help them make cash. The self-driving shuttle company Voyage has targeted retirement communities. Optimus Ride, an MIT spinoff, recently announced a pilot project in a new developed community just outside of Boston, and says it's focused on building software with riders with disabilities in mind.
''We think that kind off approach, providing mobility to those who are not able-bodied, is actually going to create a product that's much more robust in the end,'' says CEO Ryan Chin. Those companies are raising money. (Optimus Ride just came off an $18 million Series A funding round, bringing its cash pull to $23.25 million.) But are theirs viable strategies to survive in the increasingly crowded self-driving space?
The ClimbOK, so you won't get a fully autonomous car in your driveway anytime soon. Here's what you can expect, in the next decade or so: Self-driving cars probably won't operate where you live, unless you're the denizen of a very particular neighborhood in a big city like San Francisco, [New York[(https://www.wired.com/story/gm-cruise-self-driving-cars-nyc-manhattan/), or Phoenix. These cars will stick to specific, meticulously mapped areas. If, by luck, you stumble on an autonomous taxi, it will probably force you to meet it somewhere it can safely and legally pull over, instead of working to track you down and assuming hazard lights grant it immunity wherever it stops. You might share that ride with another person or three, la UberPool.
The cars will be impressive, but not infallible. They won't know how to deal with all road situations and weather conditions. And you might get some human help. Nissan, for example, is among the companies working on a stopgap called teleoperations, using remote human operators to guide AVs when they get stuck or stumped.
And if you're not lucky enough to catch a ride, you may well forget about self-driving cars for a few years. You might joke with your friends about how silly you were to believe the hype. But the work will go on quietly, in the background. The news will quiet down as developers dedicate themselves to precise problems, tackling the demons in the details.
The good news is that there seems to be enough momentum to carry this new industry out of the trough and onto what Gartner calls the plateau of productivity. Not everyone who started the journey will make the climb. But those who do, battered and a bit bloody, may just find the cash up there is green, the robots good, and the view stupendous.
Real Talk
CLIPS & DOCS
VIDEO - The end of 'MANkind'? UK army told to avoid gendered words - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:14
VIDEO - ISIS 2.0? US may regroup with former ISIS fighters '' Middle East analyst - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:10
VIDEO - CNN DON LEMON: Trump saying 'Merry Christmas' a 'dog whistle to base' - The American MirrorThe American Mirror
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:06
President Donald Trump wants Americans to feel free to say Merry Christmas again, but CNN's Don Lemon thinks that's a ''dog whistle to the base.''
Lemon hosted a discussion about President Trump's recent remarks on CNN Tonight with a lead-in that featured a montage of former President Obama saying Merry Christmas during his time in office.
Lemon also aired a clip from Trump pointing out that ''people are saying Merry Christmas again'' since he took office.
''This is a line that we've heard from Donald Trump many, many '... why does he continue '... this is a dog whistle to the base because no one has ever stopped saying Merry Christmas,'' Lemon said.
CNN Political Commentator Margaret Hoover blamed unnamed competitor cable networks that allegedly promote a nonexistent War on Christmas with ''hours and hours of programming.''
''It is intended to go directly toward the cultural base that feels that other people are taking their America away from them,'' she said. ''That was the dog whistle Make America Great Again. Great from what, right? The people who are taking Christmas away from you, the people who '... taking all of your teddy bears away from you, whatever it is.
''We're going to make it great and we're going to bring Christmas back,'' Hoover mocked.
Lemon and another CNN talking head, John Avlon, thought Hoover's comments were hilarious.
Trump has repeatedly asserted that the phrase Merry Christmas has become increasingly politically incorrect in recent years in an effort to be sensitive of folks who don't celebrate the Christian holiday.
''People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again,'' Trump tweeted Christmas Eve. ''I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!''
And despite the CNN panel's claim the left's War on Christmas is a conservative fairy tale, there's plenty of evidence in schools and elsewhere of the system forcing folks to hide their faith during the Christmas season.
Last year, a Pennsylvania school district canceled a student performance of ''A Christmas Carol,'' a Texas school district attempted to force an employee to remove her ''Charlie Brown Christmas'' decorations, and a North Carolina district banned its student choirs from performing in the annual Apex Christmas Nativity Celebration, an yearly tradition, EAGnews reports.
Also last year, in Oregon's Hillsboro School District, officials banned Santa and other ''religious-themed'' Christmas decorations to ensure schools remained ''inclusive'' for non-Christian students. Several other school districts, including Portland and Beaverton public schools adopted similar policies, KATU reported.
But Lemon isn't the only one claiming Trump's support for Christmas is a ''dog whistle'' to his supporters. Newsweek featured the recent article: ''How Trump and the Nazis Stole Christmas to Promote White Nationalism.''
It alleges Trump is ''weaponizing'' Christmas, much like Nazi Germany:
Trump's rhetoric differs from that of Nazi Germany's, most notably because he has never advocated for genocide. But Trump's talk about Christmas coexists with reemerging white identity politics, experts say.
''Committed white nationalists love Trump's bring back Christmas campaign almost as much as evangelicals,'' Dr. Randy Blazak, a sociology professor who studies white nationalism, told Newsweek. ''His followers see this as gospel and a rebuking of multiculturalism and political correctness, and the growing influence of Jews, Muslims, atheists and other non-WASPs.''
VIDEO - MSNBC's Ari Melber: Saying There's A 'War On Christmas' Is Anti-Semitic, May Lead to a Holocaust
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 15:03
MSNBC's Ari Melber said Tuesday on MSNBC that claims there's a "war on Christmas" are antisemitic and suggested use of the term may lead to another holocaust.
Melber said claims of a "war on Christmas" get "uglier the farther back you go because the first rumblings about a 'war on Christmas' stem back to the fringe John Birch Society and anti-Semitic pamphlets in the 1920s called 'The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem.'"
"The clich½ that we must know our history to avoid repeating it certainly applies here," Melber ominously warned. "The nicest thing you can hope for with today's 'war on Christmas' crowd is that they are ignorant of the dark road they have wandered down."
ARI MELBER: That was Donald Trump in 2015 doing what he does -- parroting someone else's slogan or grievance to just promote himself. Ronald Reagan's campaign slogan was "Make American Great Again." "Drain the swamp" dates back to the liberal Wisconsin politician Winfield Gaylord, who said socialists wanted to drain the swamp. And claims of a "war on Christmas" have been ricocheting around Fox News for many years, but Fox is just one more stop in a long chain of custody that gets uglier the farther back you go because the first rumblings about a "war on Christmas" stem back to the fringe John Birch Society in anti-Semitic pamphlets in the 1920s called "The International Jew: The World's Foremost Problem."
The clich½ that we must know our history to avoid repeating it certainly applies here. The nicest thing you can hope for with today's "war on Christmas" crowd is that they are ignorant of the dark road they have wandered down. President Trump, though, is now declaring this particular war over.
"People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again," he writes. "I'm proud to have led the charge against our cherished and beautiful phrase. Merry Christmas!" Fox News cheered this victory right on cue.
PAULA WHITE, TRUMP EVANGELICAL ADVISORY BOARD: Trump hasn't just put Christ back into Christmas, but he's also put prayer back into the White House. He's put justice back into -- and religious freedom back into our courts. He's done so much.
MELBER: That is Fox News basically thanking Trump for winning a long-running rhetorical war that, at best, is an ignorant misunderstanding and, to be clear, at worst, is a nod to decades of anti-Semitic hate.
(...)
MELBER: How does this whole thing work? And why won't it go away?
DAVID FRUM,: Well, look, I'm a double target in the war on Christmas because not only am I Jewish and not a Christian and not observing a Christmas holiday, but I grew up in Canada where people are as likely to say "Happy Christmas" as "Merry Christmas." So it's a two-front war.
(...)
JASON JOHNSON: I completely agree with you also, this idea of othering people because the whole idea that there was a war on Christmas suggests that there was somebody in America, large groups of people who aren't American enough, who somehow want to take something away. And I'll be honest with you, most people that I happen to know -- and you look at polls across the country and look at any Wal-Mart on a Friday night, Saturday night, lots of people celebrate Christmas whether or not they're religious or not. So the idea of that war was just something else the President created and promoted -- even though it was started at Fox News -- to divide the American people.
MELBER: Yeah, that's really -- to bring it full circle -- that goes to informing friends and neighbors and people -- and there may be people who have no idea that this seemingly overblown, quote, unquote, "war," hails from the roots of anti-Semitism in the United States. And then it's, hey, it's Christmas spirit, it's time to talk to each other, listen to each other, but share that so people know what they're quoting.
VIDEO - The best selfie camera - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:46
VIDEO - Erica Garner, activist daughter of Eric Garner, dies at 27 after coma - NBC News
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:21
Erica Garner, center, is surrounded by family of Eric Garner during a news conference on July 14, 2015, in New York. Mary Altaffer / AP
Garner gained national prominence after speaking out in the wake of her father's death in 2014 '-- an incident caught on cellphone video and
one of several high-profile police encounters involving unarmed black men.The NYPD tried to arrest Eric Garner, 43,
for allegedly peddling loose cigarettes. When he refused to be handcuffed, video showed him being taken down by an officer who put him in a chokehold. He was recorded repeating the phrase "I can't breathe" 11 times, and later died at the hospital.Related:
Why Erica Garner will not stop marchingA medical examiner
ruled his death a homicide. A grand jury declined to indict the officer involved, although the city of New York reached a $5.9 million settlement with the Garner family in 2015 for a wrongful-death lawsuit."Sometimes [people think] he had a heart attack ... It's a shame because I know what happened on that video," Garner
told NBCBLK in March 2015.Eric Garner's death drew condemnation from the Black Lives Matter movement and led New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to reexamine the department's use-of-force policy and neighborhood policing program.
Garner became on outspoken critic of de Blasio, as well as the Democratic establishment. Shortly after confirming her death, Garner's official Twitter account
lashed out at the mayor, demanding that he "explain how she died with no justice." It also asked that "out of respect to Erica please do not request comment if the journalist is not Black."De Blasio later offered his condolences to Garner's family, and called her death "a horrible tragedy."
"This city will miss her unshakable sense of justice and passion for humanity," he
tweeted.Erica Garner was also a
public supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election. Sanders on Saturday posted a series of tweets memorializing Garner and her fight for equality."I had the honor of getting to know Erica and I was inspired by the commitment she made working towards a more just world for her children and future generations," Sanders tweeted. "She was a fighter for justice and will not be forgotten."
Garner often marched in anti-police brutality and Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and set up a foundation in honor of her father. She also told NBCBLK that her goal was to continue fighting for justice for him and others caught in similar situations.
"People ask, 'When will you stop marching? What do you want from marching?' He was my father," Garner said. "I will always march."
VIDEO - CNN Triggered Over Truck Blocking Them From Stalking Trump In The Bushes - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 14:12
VIDEO - RWW News: Lance Wallnau Says Trump Will Have An Encounter With God & Start Quoting The Bible - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 13:38
VIDEO - Berlin to set up 'safety area' for women during New Year's Eve celebrations - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 13:30
VIDEO - VG exposed the largest child sexual abuse forum. It was run by the police.
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:30
January 24th, 2017
Brisbane '' Australia
Both men stiffen as VG confronts them.
'' Go ahead and publish what you know about us now, if you think it's true, but be prepared for the consequences, says Jon.
Next to him in a Brisbane hamburger pub sits Paul.
VG has just told them what we've uncovered: that they run the world's largest online forum for child sexual exploitation, ''Childs Play''.
Jon, the Australian, turns pale. Paul, who is British, flushes crimson.
It is January 2017. At this point the two have been running the Childs Play website for three months. Under their supervision, thousands of members have shared photos and videos of children being sexually abused. A Norwegian member boasted of abusing children in his own family. Some members got together in person to commit abuse, which they filmed and shared on the forum.
The dark web>>A part of the internet where traffic between you and the websites you visit is encrypted in such a way that it's very difficult for others to identify you. This makes it a popular technology for persons who wish to stay clear of law enforcement, either out of fear of being censored or jailed.
The Onion RouterThe most widely used dark web technology is The Onion Router '' Tor '' which has tens of thousands of web services. The network consists of an array of nodes>>, or computers, that are configured as mediators between users and sites.
Messages are encapsulatedAll communication within the network is encrypted. The Onion Router got its name because the encryption is layered, like an onion. When you want to send a message to another computer within the Tor network, this message is encapsulated a number of times.The package is sentOnce wrapped, the package is sent from you to a chain of nodes. Each node decrypts one layer of the onion, which grants the node information about where the package will go next. Each node knows nothing about the package it receives, beyond which node it was received from, and which node it's to be sent to next.The layers are decryptedThe encrypted message is being sent to another node, then another. At each node, another layers of the package is decrypted, until the innermost message reaches the final recipient.Message arrivesWhen the recipient gets the message, all layers of the package has been unwrapped. It's next to impossible to know, based on traffic analysis, who's sent the message '' or who visits a Tor service.Read More
It's understandable that Jon and Paul look shocked. Finding them was thought to be impossible. The website they operate is on the so-called ''dark web''. Encryption was supposed to keep the whereabouts of the server and the people behind it secret. VG has uncovered not only where but also from which computer the forum was run.
Jon and Paul's cover is blown. They are not criminals. They work for the Australian police's spearhead into the dark web: Task Force Argos. Jon Rouse heads the unit. Investigator Paul Griffiths has been in charge of numerous operations. VG can now reveal that Task Force Argos infiltrated the realm of child abusers inside the dark web for almost a year '' and that the police unit itself shared photos of children being sexually abused.
Jon Rouse, detective inspector, and investigator Paul Griffiths (on the left). Photo: Tore Kristiansen, VGHow far should the police go in the service of good? How many wrongs should investigators be permitted to commit in pursuit of justice? The undercover operation in Australia, Operation Artemis, was part of a wide-ranging international police investigation.
VG has known about the operation since January and followed it closely, partly by monitoring traffic on the dark web and partly by obtaining information from police, judicial authorities and other sources around the world. When VG's computer expert, Einar Otto Stangvik, began investigating the website and its Nordic members in the autumn of 2016, we had no idea he would uncover a secret police operation.
Only now can we tell the story of how Task Force Argos, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the police in Canada and Europe worked to unmask the leaders of the world's largest online community of child sexual abusers.
From the start, Operation Artemis had a clear objective: identifying victims and their abusers. But in doing so was it necessary for the police to run a child exploitation forum for nearly a year?
In the United States, a mother weeps when she hears that VG has found that pictures of her daughter being sexually abused were shared by members, while the police operated the site.
'' My daughter should not be used as a bait. If they are using her images, then she should be paid or compensated for their use. It is not right for the police to promote these images, says the mother.
Pictures of children from several other countries were also shared during the same period.
The police deny they are responsible for what was shared on Childs Play while they ran it.
'' We don't create these sites. We do not want them to exist. When we do find them, we infiltrate and get as high as possible in the networks administrative structure to destroy it. But we will never create a forum for child sex offenders, says Jon Rouse.
So who built the forum that he and Griffiths operated?
We must visit two other countries. And two young men.
1990 '' 2012
USA and Canada
The first young man , Benjamin Faulkner, grew up in North Bay, Ontario, a small Canadian city north of Lake Nipissing and the Great Lakes. His home was on the city's outskirts, with a garage almost as big as the main house and a trampoline and an inflatable pool in the back garden. He taught swimming in his spare time and played the trumpet in a band, but spent a lot of time online.
Patrick Falte, the other man, grew up outside the country music capital of Nashville in the U.S. state of Tennessee. He lived with his parents in a gated community near a busy motorway interchange. In college, according to his father, he dreamed of going to work for the FBI to fight hackers.
Patrick Falte. Photo: PrivateCourt documents VG has accessed, goes into how he, as a 12 year old, felt that he was different from his friends. His urges turned towards children, not other youths.
Years went by. The two studied what interested them most: IT security. The Canadian got a job in Toronto, the American in Nashville.
While the young Canadian unsuccessfully tried to find help to control the desires he felt, the American kept them shut inside. He was afraid any doctor, psychologist or counsellor he consulted would have to report him if he admitted being sexually attracted to children.
So he went online.
VG has discovered that both were active on the dark web in 2011, on the same website. Falte had become involved in the ''Pedo Support Community'' website, where he contributed technical programming.
On 30 October 2012, Faulkner visits that site and posts a message of introduction:
A little about myself to establish credibility here: My name is CuriousVendetta, and I work as a JR forensics consultant and penetration tester for an IT security firm. On the side, I do what I can to cause general mischief on the internet with a few friends of mine>>.
In later messages, he tells of his job as a swimming instructor:
At the pool is where I am free, and where I can generate my fantasies. I have more girls in my 'fan club' than I can even count>>.
North Bay is a small city. Some parents pick up on Faulkner's proclivities and tell him to stay away from their kids. But no police complaint is filed.
June 18th, 2013
North Bay '' Canada
Benjamin Faulkner. Photo: PrivateJune 18th, 2013 was a hot day in North Bay. This far north on the American continent it can be scorching when the sun is out, and cold when it isn't.
His siblings were in shorts. The young man who would later go by the name WarHead was wearing black jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. The family was celebrating. Everyone in the picture is smiling.
It seems Faulkner at that time was not active on Pedo Support or other paedophile sites.
But that would soon change.
During the fall of 2015 he visited a new website, Giftbox Exchange>>. While logged on he received a message from the administrator:
Hi, I haven't seen you for a while. I'm the boss around here.>>.
It was CrazyMonk, from Pedo Support - the American, Falte.
That's how their acquaintance began.
The Canadian Faulkner quickly became part of the Giftbox leadership team, but he wanted to be more than just a team member.
He wanted to lead '' alone.
April 15th, 2016
A place on the dark web
Photo: Krister S¸rb¸, VGOn Friday, 15 April 2016, the web site ''Childs Play'' saw the light of day on the dark web. A lone administrator was in charge of the site, with an entourage of moderators. The administrator called himself WarHead.
No one realized that it was Faulkner, known elsewhere on the web as CuriousVendetta.
With the security scares brought about recently [...] and the general lack of good forums anymore, I decided to bring Childs Play to the community. The goal of Childs Play is to provide a simple free access forum to the community, while simultaneously allowing a safe and secure place to talk and just be ourselves>>.
WarHead received an overwhelming response. Suggestions poured in with ways to make the website better and safer for members. One was to have a subsection featuring the torture of children.
The Canadian became an expert in living with multiple identities. In the physical world he was the lifeguard, band member, computer geek, big brother. Online, he was king of his tribe.
In January 2017, VG published its first report about Childs Play, a website that had quickly arisen to become one of the biggest online child abuse sites.
The largest child sexual abuse forumsThese are the largest child sexual abuse forums on the dark web, based on known number of total profiles registered. The numbers are likely to contain duplicates.
Authority: Argos, Australia
Closed: September 2017
Law enforcement operated for 11 months
Part of Operasjon Artemis
Authority: FBI, USA
Closed: February 2015
Law enforcement operated for two weeks
Authority: BKA, Tyskland
Closed: June 2017
Law enforcement had access a few days
Authority: European country
Closed: November 2016
Law enforcement operated roughly one month
Related to Operasjon Artemis
Authority: Argos, Australia
Closed: December 2014
Law enforcement operated for six months
There are presently at least three other large forums on the dark web, dedicated to the spreading of child abuse material
Authority: Argos, Australia
Closed: September 2017
Law enforcement operated for 11 months
Authority: BKA, Tyskland
Closed: June 2017
Law enforcement had access a few days
Authority: European country
Closed: November 2016
Law enforcement operated roughly one month
Authority: Argos, Australia
Closed: December 2014
Law enforcement operated for six months
Authority: FBI, USA
Closed: February 2015
Law enforcement operated for two weeks
There are presently at least three other large forums on the dark web, dedicated to the spreading of child abuse material
Childs Play
Authority: Argos, Australia
Closed: September 2017
Law enforcement operated for 11 months
Giftbox Exchange
Authority: European country
Closed: November 2016
Law enforcement operated roughly one month
Playpen
Authority: FBI, USA
Closed: February 2015
Law enforcement operated for two weeks
The Love Zone
Authority: Argos, Australia
Closed: December 2014
Law enforcement operated for six months
Elysium
Authority: BKA, Tyskland
Closed: June 2017
Law enforcement had access a few days
There are presently at least three other large forums on the dark web, dedicated to the spreading of child abuse material
Vis detaljer
In 2015 and 2016, under the guise of CrazyMonk and WarHead, Falte and Faulkner consolidated their leadership of the two largest networks for sexual predators and paedophiles.
At its peak, Giftbox had 45,000 users, while Childs Play at the end had surpassed 1,052,000 user registrations.
According to Task Force Argos, the number of actual people was far smaller, probably in the tens of thousands. Roughly 100 of them were known as ''producers'', sexual predators who film children being raped and share the videos in online forums.
All this caught the attention of investigators worldwide. In Brisbane, Paul Griffiths read everything the two men had written about themselves. He sighed: two computer security specialists.
We'll never figure out who these guys are,>> he told colleagues.
That didn't stop him, though.
WarHead and CrazyMonk knew their place atop the dark hierarchy of child abusers was vulnerable.
In private exchanges with other members of the forum, Faulkner wrote that he knew what fate awaited him. Much later, in an email to VG, he expresses similar stoicism.
'' You can't exist within these communities without knowing that you are under heavy scrutiny by law enforcement. The higher you get in the communities, the more you know that you are being watched. We took a great many steps to counteract these measures, which worked for the most part, he writes.
January 4th, 2017
Oslo '' Norge
Einar Otto Stangvik. Photo: Krister S¸rb¸, VGVG's computer expert, Einar Otto Stangvik, was also monitoring Faulkner's dark website. Using a computer system he programmed in the autumn of 2016, he was able to download, index and analyse all public messages posted on Childs Play.
As Christmas approached, Stangvik tried a variety of methods to see if it was possible to identify the men in the forum.
Indeed it was. Several members were identified: Norwegians, Swedes and a Dane.
But the website itself, and the two people behind it, seemed untraceable.
On the evening of 4 January 2017, Stangvik tried a new tactic. Instead of analysing the text on the forum itself, he peeked under the hood at the ''engine'' running the website '' its software.
He found weaknesses. If asked the right question, the server could reveal its own IP address.
The right question was asked, and the server replied. It was located in Sydney and owned by the Digital Pacific web-hosting company.
Such information may seem mundane, but it was a sensational discovery.
Few others had ever managed to track the location of a major hidden service on the dark web. It took Stangvik just a few hours to do the near impossible.
January 23rd, 2017
Sydney '' Australia
Andrew Koloadin. Photo: Tore Kristiansen, VGIt's Monday, January 23rd, and VG is in Sydney visiting the offices of web host Digital Pacific. The company's founder, Andrew Koloadin, listens carefully to what VG has to say. One of his servers is hosting Childs Play. VG wants to know who runs the website. We want to find the people behind it.
'' I'm as interested as you in clearing this up. We won't turn off the server and we won't do anything to compromise your work, Koloadin says.
As a provider of web-hosting services, he is not legally responsible for what is stored on the servers he leases out. That responsibility lies with the individual lessee. But Koloadin wants to do what he can to make the site disappear, and for WarHead to be caught.
A few keystrokes later, we have an answer: the server is leased by Task Force Argos in Brisbane.
Taken aback, Koloadin runs his hand through his hair.
'' Storing material like this on our servers completely violates our terms. I wish the police had talked with us about this, but I understand why they didn't. It's a secret operation.
'' How do you feel about police storing sexual abuse material on your servers?
'' The abusers are smart and know to set up different systems to avoid the police. So the police have to be just as smart, as they obviously are here. But I don't like them doing it behind our backs.
January 24th, 2017
Brisbane '' Australia
Brisbane. Photo: Tore Kristiansen, VGThe next day in Brisbane. We have contacted Task Force Argos. They have agreed to talk with us. They don't know about what yet. Ten minutes ago, the two investigators walked down the street from their headquarters, ties flapping in the wind.
'' We have a very good working relationship with the Norwegian and Swedish Police. Let's talk and eat at the same time. Today is really busy, says Jonathan Rouse, head of the unit.
Jon Rouse. Photo: Tore Kristiansen, VG'' We know you are the ones running the site. We know you've been running it for months, VG's journalist says, once inside.
Rouse goes rigid on his barstool and stares back.
'' So from the outset, I'm not going to tell you anything as this is an on-going operation.
The music continues to play, but the mood has changed.
'' We have one goal and that is to stop the sexual abuse of children. We will do whatever we can within our legislative authority to achieve that. So what is it that you want?
'' We want to know what you're doing, VG's journalist continues.
Rouse gives us a hard look:
'' I want to know what you know and I want to know how you found out, maybe we are the administrators of a server. But I will not talk.
'' I will not talk about ongoing operations. You are a journalist and will write a story. We are police officers and want to prevent children from being raped. So we have different goals with our work.
Rouse suggests that VG must have done something illegal to uncover the operation.
'' Under Australian law, what you've done is the same as hacking. The police are allowed to hack to reveal criminal activity, but not you. So you have to be aware that what you have done can potentially have consequences.
Later, the police officers will decide to answer questions from VG.
How Stangvik exposed Childs PlayIP addresses and physical server locations are inherently difficult to find on the Tor network. So how did VG's computer expert get the forum to disclose this information?
1. Profile picture uploadThe forum allowed users to upload a profile picture. This picture could also be fetched from a user-supplied URL.2. The leakThis is where the information leak occurs. Configured for optimal security, the forum's software and/or server would fetch the remote profile picture via Tor. Childs Play did not '' all traffic to external sites originated from the server's real IP.3. The IP address is exposedBy telling the forum to fetch a picture from a server Stangvik controlled, he could see in his server logs that the originating IP was with a hosting provider in Sydney '' Digital Pacific. Stangvik went on to confirm that outgoing DNS requests originated from the same provider, and that the forum's software also loaded images included in forum post previews from the same IP.4. A proxy, VPN or Tor Exit?The next question was whether the IP belonged to a Tor Exit Node, a VPN or a proxy server. An IP can hide just about anything. How could he confirm that this was the forum's location, rather than just a node in a chain of redirects? Stangvik applied three improvised techniques:5. Timing between the serversHe rented a virtual server with Digital Pacific '' the same place as where the suspected IP was located. He then updated the profile picture URL to point to this server. Upon receiving an incoming profile picture request, Stangvik's server would respond with a redirect to another URL on the same virtual server. Repeating this redirection process several time, Stangvik was able to isolate and measure the roundtrip-time between the two servers. The measurements yielded very low times, consistent with a forum server in close vicinity of his rented server.6. Measuring intermediate nodesStangvik also paid attention to so-called Time To Live>> values on the incoming data packets. These provide some insight into how many intermediate parties are involved from the sender to the recipient. In this case, the values indicated that there were at most one intermediate '' a typical result if the servers were located in the same room.7. Measuring packet sizeThe final test started to get advanced: Measuring MTU (Maximum Transmission Unit) and packet fragmentation.Each packet in a computer network has a maximum transmission size, based on which intermediates it passes through. Each encapsulating technology, such as VPNs, can result in the total packet size increasing beyond the maximum size, and local networks usually have larger maximum sizes than the ''tubes'' found on the internet. If the maximum size is surpassed, the packet will be broken into multiple fragments.
By crafting long profile picture URLs, and setting specific packet flags, in the redirects returned by his custom web server software, he could see that the MTU was consistent with that of high-speed local area network traffic, and also ruled out VPN configurations.
Read More
October 2016
The forum is moved
In October 2016, WarHead's abuse website was moved to the server in Sydney. That was six months after he set it up.
How did it happen?
In May 2016 Griffiths, the Australian police investigator, received a message from the police in a European country: they had arrested a person who turned out to be one of the moderators of the Giftbox Exchange '' the website that Falte, the American, operated. Would Task Force Argos be interested in taking over the European moderator's account and go undercover as him?
The task force was interested. It is one of the few police units in the world adept at imitating sexual predators on the dark web using false identities.
Paul Griffiths. Photo: Tore Kristiansen, VGOperation Artemis begins. Griffiths and Task Force Argos had a clear goal: take over the site. Let it rot from within while task force members monitor all communication between participants. Identify perpetrators and victims. Make arrests.
'' Once you have control of the site, you can do whatever you want. Then you can move it wherever you want in the world. That's how the internet works, says Griffiths.
The man whose identity Task Force Argos had assumed was just a moderator. Unlike the owner, CrazyMonk, the moderator had no power to move or alter the website. So for now the task force could only observe.
In recent decades Task Force Argos has collaborated with a number of police entities to combat sexual abuse of children. Several times a year, investigators from a variety of countries meet to review operations and investigations. At other times they are a just a phone call away. They know they can trust each other and get assistance, often from the other side of the world.
When another country's investigators found the IP address of the Giftbox Exchange, they sent it to Argos.
The police contacted the hosting provider housing Giftbox. At that time, they could have seized control of the server and all its data on visitors. But that would have driven the top people underground, and that's who the police were after. They chose to do nothing other than monitor the site through a backdoor in the server.
While Argos was looking for a way to take over Giftbox, Childs Play appeared on the dark web. Evidence analysed by the police, including messages written by WarHead and CuriousVendetta, suggested that they were from the same country.
Maybe even the same person.
'' A great deal of solid intelligence indicated that one of the Giftbox leaders also ran Childs Play. We assumed there was a link between the two sites, says Griffiths.
Follow the money! For other criminal networks, following the money is a key to tracking down the leaders.
But in child abuse networks, there is much less money in circulation. The images themselves are the currency. All the same, it costs money to have a website hosted on a server. In this case, payment was rendered in Bitcoin, a virtual currency.
Homeland Security Investigations, an investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, began searching for whoever was behind the payment. It was easier than expected. In short, the person nicknamed CrazyMonk had registered that particular Bitcoin wallet to his personal email address.
The address pointed to a 27-year-old Tennessean who had lived all his life at home with his parents in a house half an hour from Nashville:
Patrick Falte.
CuriousVendetta was harder to find. Of Giftbox's two leaders, he was the technical expert. However, in the summer of 2016, he hits a snag with some program code. He tries to fix the code, but it doesn't work and he ends up seeking help online.
He takes a screenshot of the code, uploads it to a web forum for programmers and asks for advice.
It's a mistake that leads to his downfall.
On the open web, Google sees all. When a Homeland Security investigator saw that Giftbox had a technical problem, he thought: If I had this problem, I would ask for help online. Using search engines, investigators found what they believed was CuriousVendetta's question. The screenshot of the code '' a seemingly innocent image of text '' was stored on a Russian server used almost exclusively for sexual abuse pictures.
It had to be him.
The man who posted the question was in his mid-20s and from North Bay, Ontario:
Benjamin Faulkner.
The effort to close in on the two men began. How could police arrest them before they could destroy evidence? Quietly, the lives of the two men were examined. Would it be possible to install a camera in their homes or workplaces? Could the police break in and install keyloggers on the men's computers to monitor their every keystroke?
All ideas were rejected. If the men felt even a hint of suspicion, they could quickly delete the site and all its data about themselves and tens of thousands of members. The suspects had to be apprehended before they could alert others.
During the investigation, the police made a noteworthy find: Falte and Faulkner knew each other. Not just online. Also in real life.
'' We knew they had a habit of meeting up. We just didn't know why. WarHead had been in the United States four or five times earlier, and we assumed that he and CrazyMonk met all those times. They probably met for the first time in 2015, says Griffiths.
The investigators decided to watch and wait.
'' At some time or another, WarHead is going to cross the border into the United States. When they meet, we'll grab them, Griffiths recalls the investigators deciding.
That was in July 2016. August came and went. Faulkner and Falte travelled nowhere.
September ebbed out, and still nothing.
VG, too, decided to wait. In January 2017 we discovered that the server in Sydney concealed a major new operation led by Task Force Argos, in cooperation with several other countries.
Only now, more than nine months later, have we chosen to publish.
'' After the meeting with Griffiths and Rouse, we understood that the journalists had discovered an ongoing police operation. Although it was stunning news and obviously of public interest, we decided to hold off publishing what we knew. The situation was unclear. We needed more information before deciding what could be published. In a worst-case scenario, VG could have damaged the investigation and endangered innocent people, says VG Editor-in-Chief Gard Steiro.
September 30th, 2016
Alarms go off
On Friday, September 30th, 2016 , alerts went off in Boston, Toronto and Brisbane.
Faulkner had crossed the border from Canada into the United States.
Until the day before, he had been highly active on Childs Play. It was the last time the forum would hear from him for a long time. The clock on his computer read 11:46 p.m. when he logged in as WarHead and wrote a short thank-you note to a member who had posted a film showing an assault on a 10-year-old girl:
Thank you for her! I didn't realize you had more of her up, how did this go under my radar?!>>.
Then he left. He drove from the apartment at the edge of Toronto, across the national border into the state of New York, then south to northern Virginia.
As WarHead crossed the border into the United States, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection sent a report to Homeland Security Investigations. From there, word passed to Canada and Australia: Faulkner has crossed the border.
In Australia, Griffith got the message on Friday afternoon, local time. The next few days were critical. Would the operation succeed?
Homeland Security Investigations checked the location of CrazyMonk's car. Several weeks earlier, investigators had put a tracking device on it. Since then the car had barely left the Nashville area. Suddenly it was on the move.
CrazyMonk was 200 kilometres from home, heading north-east.
For months, Homeland Security Investigations, Argos and Toronto had been waiting for this.
The two men were going to meet.
October 1st, 2016
Manassas '' USA
Saturday. The men checked into a hotel in Virginia. In the evening, they went to a house and stayed late. Court documents reviewed by VG describe Homeland Security agents watching both cars at the house late Saturday night.
Sunday morning the two left the hotel, each carrying a bag, and stayed at another house.
At 6:30 a.m. on Monday they awoke as armed U.S. police broke down the entrance door.
Faulkner was far from home. Had he been captured in Canada, the punishment would be far milder. Now? Pressed into a corner by the agents ransacking the house, he was given a clear choice: Tell us everything and you might get out of prison before you die.
Within minutes, he spilled it all: usernames, passwords and encryption keys.
'' He could hardly wait to talk,'' says Griffiths. ''On the web, they sound tough and talk about how they're ready if the cops come, and about how they have taken every possible measure to keep us from accessing the material. But when a police officer kicked the door off its hinges, pointed a weapon at him and ordered him to lie on the floor, it became clear to this Canadian that he was a long way from home.
Griffiths gives a quick chuckle.
In Australia, the clock was ticking towards 9 p.m. Everything Homeland Security got out of Faulkner and Falte was sent straight to Argos, which immediately tested the passwords. Were they correct? Messages flew between the United States and Australia. Should the numbers be typed in as letters or digits? Had they cracked the website?
What happened next would have major consequences.
Amidst all the other information Faulkner coughed up while still sitting in bed during the police raid were the passwords for Childs Play.
In one swoop, Homeland Security had arrested the ringleaders and administrators of not just one but two of the biggest child exploitation sites on the dark web.
Everything the two men had with them was studied in detail: memory cards, computers, passwords, usernames, keys. The police knew time was short.
If WarHead and CrazyMonk were absent for too long from the sites they ran, paranoid members would flee and the police work would have been in vain.
Among the messages sent to Australia that morning, one was special. It said the agents had found images of a small child being abused.
The pictures had been taken Saturday evening.
Then came a follow-up: Did everyone get the previous message?>>.
Griffiths sat at home alone, working with the passwords, when he saw the message.
'' What could I say? There was no one to say it to. I just had to keep working, he says.
Police found 30 pictures and three videos. They showed a four-year-old girl and what she had been subjected to in the house that Faulkner and Falte visited. In one of the pictures, Faulkner's hand was identified.
The drive from Nashville takes more than 10 hours. That would have given Falte ample time to reflect on what he was heading to do.
He drove across the Smoky Mountains, through lush forests where the trees were aflame with autumn colours. He kept driving. Did he ever stop to consider whether it was right to rape a four-year-old girl? Regardless, he pressed on towards the house in Virginia.
As did Faulkner, all the way from Toronto.
On the dark web, they divided between them a kingdom of like-minded people who admired them and strove to curry their favour.
The supplicants included a man with access to the four-year-old girl. According to a police report, it was he who filmed the assaults. The pictures showed that at least one of the three men raped the girl that Saturday in September 2016.
September 9th, 2017
American prison
The phone line crackles as the man who provided the four-year-old girl to Faulkner and Falte talks to VG from the prison, where he has been for almost a year.
Imprisoned man.'' There isn't much privacy here in the prison, so there's not much I can say on the phone, he says, and continues:
'' I'm not going to lie. It was I who contacted CrazyMonk first.
VG has data showing that this man had visited several of the biggest child abuse websites. He had posted abuse pictures and asked other members for help in finding more.
For him, getting to talk to CrazyMonk, the head of the website, was a big deal. A famous man. To make contact, he showed Falte pictures of the child. That's how it started.
A few weeks later, Falte arrived at his home. Under questioning, according to court documents, Falte said that during his first visit in 2015 he raped the child ''until the minor complained''.
That was the first of a five visits to the small house in Virginia. Just after New Year's Falte came back, this time with Faulkner.
In interviews with VG , the police say they don't know why WarHead and CrazyMonk decided to meet, though they had a lot of information about the men.
After the police found the server where the site was stored, in July, they monitored all communications, including private messages between the administrators. The police kept tabs on where they travelled in Virginia, where they spent nights, and which houses they visited.
No one suspected a child was about to be raped.
'' But we definitely wondered why they wanted to meet. That question hung over our heads, says Rouse, in Australia.
'' Some of these men wanted so desperately something beyond just the confirmation they get online. They want to meet people like themselves, if only for a beer, says Griffiths.
'' Why weren't they arrested before the assault occurred?
'' We had no idea that was going to happen. They never mentioned anything about it in the messages we saw about meeting, says Griffiths.
The man who filmed the abuse of the child confirms that was the case. The plans to meet were made in an encrypted chat program, he tells VG.
Police had access to these chats only after obtaining all the passwords from CrazyMonk and WarHead.
Faulkner and Falte say the same in an email to VG from prison in the United States.
'' We made sure specifically not to talk about specifics anywhere other than Tox [encrypted chat], and burner phones with dummy burner phone numbers, they write.
They were surprised at how much the agents managed to find during the search.
'' I was completely confident that they had very little on both of us in terms of evidence that they could use in court, writes Faulkner.
'' Our machines were fully encrypted, we ran everything in Virtual Machines (VMs), all our removable media was free of anything implicating. They did not know anything about what was going on in Virginia.
In a purely investigative sense , the arrests were a success. Task Force Argos assumed control of all of Faulkner and Falte's usernames and passwords.
Task Force Argos became WarHead, but nobody outside the team knew.
Griffiths and his colleagues worked frenetically to learn all about Faulkner's online persona so as to assume his identity without anyone catching on.
That took longer than some Childs Play members liked. Previously, WarHead had been a frequent presence on the site, often posting messages several times a day. Now he was silent.
Did anybody hear from WarHead within the last 7 days? I'm waiting for a pm from him. Nothing happens.>>
, a nervous member wrote, using an abbreviation for ''personal message''.Strange, her disappearing and this forum going slower and slower......,>>, wrote another. Like most forum members, he used the pronoun ''she'', though the vast majority were men.
Something had to be done. If the forum did not hear from WarHead soon, members would sense he'd been arrested. They might then begin deleting their own tracks. That must not be allowed to happen.
Online crime has no borders. That's a problem, but in this case Argos and its partners turned it to their advantage.
It is VG's understanding that when WarHead surrendered access to Childs Play and Giftbox each forum was stored on servers in separate European countries. Police, lawyers and the suspects themselves refuse to say which.
Police in Australia and the European country saw obvious benefits to having the Australian police, rather than a European force, running the site.
Australian laws give the police unusually broad powers to monitor suspicious activities online.
'' During a so-called ''controlled operation'' we get permission from a judge to act in ways that normally would have been considered illegal. We are given the right to commit certain criminal actions and we are exempted from prosecution because we are investigating specific crimes, explains Griffiths.
At a meeting this spring in The Hague of the some of the world's leading investigators of internet-related abuse, Griffiths told of a case in which he hacked into someone's account on a web forum.
'' I looked around the room and knew that none of the other investigators had permission to do the same. Technically, it wasn't difficult. But legally they would not have been allowed, says Griffiths.
He thinks that's a problem.
'' It means they lose the opportunity to identify some of the worst offenders on the internet, he says.
'' If they had the options we have, I'm sure they would catch people they can't get today. But it must be done properly, within a given framework. For it to work you have to have certain abilities and controls in place. I feel we have that.
With permission from the European police partner, Task Force Argos logged on to the server, took over the ''Childs Play'' site, copied it and moved it to a server in Sydney, as VG discovered in January.
Experts consulted by VG say the transfer was comparable to the way the United States once flew terrorism suspects to countries with lax human rights records for questioning.
Jon Wessel-Aas Photo: Gorm Kallestad / NTB scanpix'' The logic seems to be the same in this case, says Jon Wessel-Aas, a Norwegian lawyer and specialist in privacy and human rights.
'' It is worrying if the police ''outsource'' investigations to a country where police have freer rein, at least if it's done intentionally and systematically. But the legal picture is unclear.
Cross-border investigations are demanding, both legally and ethically.
'' In the absence of sound regulations, the police in countries with the fewest legal protections can end up with responsibility for an investigation, Wessel-Aas says.
October 6th, 2016
Warhead>> is back
On Thursday, October 6th, 2016,
Four days after the arrest, ''WarHead'' was back on Childs Play:
Phew, what a month that was!. A month of my life that I won't get back. Although technically most of the really screwed up shit happened in October, not September, hence my late foray into this month>>
Then he reprimanded his subordinates: Sorry again about the late arrival but I did ask the Staff team to step in and cover for me in my enforced absences.>>
He, WarHead, was no longer Faulkner, but Paul Griffiths of Task Force Argos.
Thus began the undercover phase of Operation Artemis.
Within four days of the Canadian's arrest, Griffith had examined every message WarHead had written. He studied WarHead's writing style, including the typographical errors he was prone to. He knew the snippets of background history he had revealed online.
He did this during the day. Nights were spent in telephone conferences with colleagues in Europe and the United States.
It was inevitably 2 a.m. in Brisbane when everyone else was available to talk.
Going undercover online takes more than grammar and personal history. To write like WarHead, Griffiths had to be WarHead. It was a mental effort that he and his task force colleagues disliked.
'' When you're trying to be someone who has written a lot online, who a lot of people know and whose way of writing and expression they recognize, you can't just show up and use a completely different vocabulary. You have to study the punctuation he uses, as well as the smileys and other characters.
Not even that guarantees success.
'' You need to understand how he feels. It's destructive. Really difficult. I have been working in this field for 22 years. Seeing pictures has no effect on me anymore. But to sit online and talk like one of these guys ... Every time I've done it, I feel like I have to take a shower afterwards.
Paul Griffiths. Photo: Tore Kristiansen / VGGriffiths '' friends call him Griff>> '' is considered a leading expert on identifying victims and perpetrators based on images.
He has been identifying victims of abuse for 22 years. If one person has abused another, and it was filmed, he most probably has seen it.
'' My main motivation is to identify the children and get them out of their horrible situation. That's how I manage to work with it.
'' I also have a touch of Asperger's. At least, that's what my wife says. She says I have no empathy, says Griffiths with a short laugh.
'' That makes it easier to stay in the job.
It also helps that he has a photographic memory, remembering everything as pictures. Even when sifting through millions of pictures, he knows which ones he has seen before, including where and when.
'' We have good databases, but I generally find things faster than them.
Five years ago he saw a picture. It was a picture of a naked man. Griffiths knew immediately that he had identified one of the internet's most ruthless and notorious abusers: Falko.
The man in the photo had a feature that Griff recognized from child exploitation films that Falko had shared online. No one had managed to identify him or the victims, because he was careful never to show his face during the abuses he committed.
But ''Griff'' recognized a mark on the man's penis.
That led to Falko's arrest and lengthy prison term in Kazakhstan. Now he is on the run, after a spectacular escape that involved throwing himself out of a courtroom window and breaking both legs, then escaping from the hospital. But it was ''Griff'' who found him.
We are, I can assure you, as safe as we have always been, and I hope we will always continue to be so,>>
Griffiths wrote in the guise of WarHead.
Members believed him.
For nearly a year, Task Force Argos would harvest information about the members on the website.
Having complete control of the site meant they could see everything that went on there. By reading private messages, deleted messages and email addresses and passwords they could build a profile of the members. They could also add bits of code to the program that controlled the site, enabling them to find members' IP addresses. They tried a variety of techniques to identify Childs Play members, but decline to discuss them with VG.
'' If this was war, do you think the general would let you into central command? We do not want to tell these people how we work, and I really hope you don't either. You won't get our operating methods, says Rouse.
'' We're trying to do something that has never been done before. So in a way you write your own '' I won't say 'rules' '' but you write your own script. We use techniques that have never been applied before, and we don't always know how to prepare ourselves for the results, adds Griffiths.
As a sort of anthropologist of the dark, Griffiths learned the culture of this online community of exploiters: what should not be posted on the main site (torture videos); what could be shared in a small, trusted group (torture videos); who among the members were popular and in favour and who were not.
Accessing private messages between members turned up a surprise for Griffiths. Several of them knew the police were now running the site.
'' A substantial number knew exactly what had happened. They had exposed us as police and saw through the smokescreen we had put up around WarHead. They knew it was us, but didn't tell anyone. Those who exposed us talked to each other but didn't warn anyone else.
Griffiths tried to write as few posts as possible, but there was one that the Australian police could not escape: WarHead's monthly status update.
The understanding between WarHead and forum members was that a missing a status update would signal that the site had been taken over by others. That is why the messages were so important, and had to be written in the same style as always,
Under Faulkner's rules, each status update had to end with a sexual assault picture.
'' The assumption was the police couldn't share such images, making it impossible for us to run the site, says Griffiths, who is originally British.
'' In Britain, we couldn't have done this. But when you've worked in this field a long time it becomes obvious what needs to be done and why. Doing this gives us a chance to identify those who commit new assaults. Most of them have probably already seen the photos we share.
On January 3rd, 2017 , Task Force Argos published WarHead's monthly update. In it, they wrote about the work WarHead had been doing on the forum, ostensibly to make it more secure for members.
The message was concluded with:
I hope that some of you were able to give a special present to the little ones in your lives, and spend some time with them. It's a great time of year to snuggle up near a fire, and make some memories.>>
He ended the update message, as required, with two child abuse images.
'' Could this message be seen as encouraging sexual abuse? VG ask.
'' Well, there's no ... I mean, you know, says Griffiths.
'' Things can be read between the lines, but that doesn't necessarily mean we're encouraging anything. We may have talked about sexual abuse in a number of different forums and platforms, but we would never encourage abuse.
'' Sharing any such image is an abuse of that child. However, it is something we can justify as being for the greater good and to prevent ongoing abuse of children.
'' How do you think the children in the pictures feel about your sharing pictures of them?
He pauses for a second.
'' I hope they understand that we are trying to catch as many offenders as possible.
Carissa Byrne Hessick. Photo: Einar Otto Stangvik, VGCarissa Byrne Hessick, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina, questions Griffith's argument. She is one of the world's leading legal experts on investigating such abuse.
'' It sounds like the police tell one story about how damaging the images are when others share them, and another story when the police share them.
'' That's a kind of hypocrisy I really don't like. But this sheds light on the argument that any and all sharing of such an image is abuse. If the police say they're only sharing images that have been shared before, it means the police do not think all sharing is harmful, says Hessick.
She expresses concern upon learning that the police themselves did share child sexual abuse images.
'' I don't necessarily think it's wrong for them to commit criminal acts during undercover operations. My concern is not about them breaking the law. My concern is whether we get enough information about the balance in what they do.
'' If the site is used to facilitate the actual abuse of children and the police continue to run it, I question their ability to strike a balance, she adds.
Griffiths claims they do seek balance:
'' There is definitely a balance between what we want to achieve and how we go about it, he says.
'' Eventually we get to the point where it isn't worth running the forum any more. But as long as we're identifying victims, producers and abusers, we will keep running it.
He tells of a previous operation in which investigators ran ''The Love Zone'' website for just a few months. Griffiths claims they identified more than 80 children.
'' You can ask them if our running the forum was worth it, he says.
'' Isn't there a risk that people downloading such images will develop into abusers?
'' Abusers are abusers. People who have a desire to abuse children will abuse children no matter what, Rouse says.
September 1st, 2017
New York
On September 1st, VG makes contact with a woman in New York. Images of abuses against her daughter have been shared thousands of times '' and now on Childs Play as well, under administration by Task Force Argos.
She starts to cry, then pulls herself together.
'' They might argue in the long term it will be beneficial to my daughter because it will help them capture other pedophiles. But just sending her image to one offender can turn into it being in the hands of hundreds or thousands of others, hurting her more, not helping her, says the mother.
Her lawyer, James Marsh, takes a more positive view of the police using such images. He represents numerous children who feature in the most widely shared exploitation images.
'' Several of my clients would have welcomed police use of their images in the battle to track down abusers. They know how skilled these men are at hiding and understand what it takes to catch them, Marsh says.
He nevertheless understands the mother's reaction. The pictures of her daughter had been less extensively distributed than many others, so each new share carried more significance.
'' I agree with her that the police should compensate the victims, but not with money. If victims could be consulted along the way, it would give them a sense of control. Control is exactly what they were deprived of during the assaults, says Marsh.
Help us finance investigative journalism: VG+ subscriptionSeveral participants in Operation Artemis refused to be interviewed or identified, including the investigator who monitored the Scandinavian sub-forum as well as other European partners in the operation.
Homeland Security Investigations agents declined interviews as well, saying that the legal cases against WarHead and CrazyMonk were still in progress.
'' There is a lot we can't say about this operation, especially not what our partners did, says Rouse.
Some of his own Australian investigators disapproved of VG being given information.
'' Several of my international colleagues know you are here and talking with us today. They are not very happy about what your colleague did to expose us. We have done a lot of good work together and I want it to continue. So you can't use my name, says one of them.
He is, however, willing to talk about his work an undercover agent.
''Anyone who says they haven't cried in this job is lying. You give a part of yourself the job, and that part becomes a friend of those you're investigating. When we were done with one of our recent operations, it felt like I had locked up all my friends.
Apart from Griffiths, this was the agent who most often went undercover as WarHead. All the website's members followed every word he wrote. Successfully imitating an abuser online has its challenges.
'' It's as if you force yourself to have a split personality, and you download this other person into a part of your brain and hand over that part of your brain to him. It's hard.
Activity on Childs Play was high during the time the police ran it.
In January, when VG first wrote about Childs Play, the site had 427,000 registered accounts. Through September of this year, more than a million accounts had been registered.
On 25 October 2016, two weeks after Argos took over the site, an unidentified user created a discussion thread featuring images of an eight-year-old girl being raped.
By August of this year, the post had been viewed 770,617 times '' all while the police were running the website.
September 13th, 2017
Childs Play shuts down
Wednesday, September 13th: After running the site for 11 months, Task Force Argos finally shuts down Childs Play without fanfare.
In a few keystrokes, the forum vanishes from the dark web.
If you managed to find the old web address, you would simply be informed there is nothing there. Childs Play is gone.
Now the work of sending cases to police around the world is underway. A dozen countries are already involved in the investigation of the site's members. Griffiths has a list of between 60 and 90 people from around the world who are his main targets.
Another country's police are believed to have a list of nearly 900 people they think should be arrested. Some have been already, with more to come.
Canadian police say they have identified and saved ''a dozen'' children and referred some 100 cases to other countries. Task Force Argos The Argos Task Force itself declined to provide numbers to VG.
'' The media tends to use such figures as ''weapons'' against us and our colleagues around the world, and we don't want that, Griffiths tells VG.
Also uncertain is the total number of children identified and rescued.
Professor Hessick wonders about the missing numbers.
''If they conduct investigation without even checking if the people have been arrested, it's hard for Argos to argue that such police operations are necessary. I worry the police apparently think they don't need to justify an operation like this, she says.
The FBI ran a similar operation in 2015, and the numbers weren't released for two years. According to the FBI, 870 people were arrested or convicted as a result of the operation, and 259 children were rescued or identified.
In the pursuit of child abusers, the police seem to have found a highly effective method: don't leave the market to the predators. Run the sites themselves.
'' Our job is to make sure we play at the same level as the abusers. If we don't, they will always be one step ahead, says Jon Rouse.
September 15th, 2017
Richmond, Virginia
On Friday, September 15th, two 27-year-old men faced a judge in a Richmond, Virginia, courtroom. The prosecutor had demanded a sentence of 50 years in prison. The defendants' own lawyers said 30 years would be more appropriate.
The judge didn't agree with either side, and sentenced both 27-year-olds to life in prison.
Neither will ever be released. Not because they, as CrazyMonk and WarHead, had run the internet's largest abuse forums, but because as Benjamin Faulkner and Patrick Falte they had raped a four-year-old girl.
In Tennessee, prosecutors are preparing to try the men accused of running The GiftBox Exchange>>.
In an email to VG from prison, Falte and Faulkner say they will fight their case in court.
'' We would love to talk more about GBE, CPlay, and some other sites, but we cannot get into that until after the Tennessee trail. Saying all that, we may have been involved at every level, for years, starting from the basic user to moderating, administrating, owning and creating, several sites, chatrooms, and services, Falte and Faulkner write, using initials for Giftbox Exchange and Childs Play.
They later add that they will appeal the life sentence ruled in Virginia.
Their lawyers have not answered VG's inquiries.
There will probably never be a trial focused on Childs Play, the site that Task Force Argos ran for almost a year. Faulkner has been sentenced in any case to spend the rest of his life in prison.
VIDEO - How media literacy can help students discern fake news | PBS NewsHour
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 12:04
JUDY WOODRUFF:
But first: Helping children distinguish between false information and fact-based news, it's a distinction increasingly a problem for adults.
And, to be clear, we're referring to false information disguised as a legitimate news story, not reporting that people dislike for political reasons and label fake news.
In Washington state, educators and media literacy advocates have joined together with legislators to address the problem.
Special correspondent Kavitha Cardoza with our partner Education Week traveled there recently.
It's part of our weekly series Making the Grade.
VIDEO - Nikki Haley Displays Missile As Evidence Iran Is Violating UN Resolutions | NBC Nightly News - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 04:59
VIDEO - Millennials are killing restaurants like T.G.I.Fridays and Buffalo Wild Wings - YouTube
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:35
VIDEO - Iran protests: Several shot on Dorud, source says
Sun, 31 Dec 2017 00:09
One local source told CNN that during protests in Dorud, in the Lorestan province of western Iran, his family witnessed a mob storming the governor's office and setting it on fire. Protesters were fired upon and five people were shot, the source said.
The protests -- described as the largest public display of discontent since the 2009 Green Movement in Iran -- have emerged against a backdrop of rising food and gasoline prices.
In a rare display of public dissent, some protesters directed their ire at Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, according to some videos on social media. CNN has not independently verified the authenticity of the footage.
"We've seen pictures of (Khamenei) ripped from the billboards at the sides of streets. We've heard protesters call for his overthrow," said Nic Robertson, CNN's international diplomatic editor. "This is something different. This is something the regime is going to take very seriously."
One resident told CNN of witnessing a protester tearing down a poster of Khamenei near Tehran University on Saturday.
Protests in third day
The demonstrations began Thursday in the northeastern city of Mashhad before spreading to other cities. They included Tehran, Kermanshah, Arak, Qazvin, Khorramabad, Karaj and Sabzevar, according to First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, cited by official news agency IRNA.
Iranian media outlets reported a number of arrests.
The unrest has prompted verbal sparring between Iran and the United States, which on Friday urged Tehran to respect protesters' rights and warned that the "world is watching."
A still frame from a YouTube video published on Friday, December 29 purporting to show a protest in Mashhad, Iran. CNN cannot independently confirm its authenticity.
An Iranian vice president said on Saturday the government would work harder to resolve economic hardships, according to semi-official news agency FARS.
First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri made the remarks without acknowledging the protests, adding that some have used economic issues as a "pretext" to hurt the government, FARS reported.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli warned that any groups wishing to congregate must file an official request and be granted permission.
"The police and security forces have tried to manage conditions. We have received reports of calls to gather, cyber and social media based, and such calls and any gatherings resulting therefrom, are certainly illegal," he said.
Meanwhile, crowds of government supporters joined official demonstrations held across the country, state media reported.
Angry chants
Protesters have been heard on videos distributed on social media as chanting "Death to Rouhani," a reference to President Hassan Rouhani, who was re-elected earlier this year. CNN cannot independently verify the authenticity of the footage.
In one video circulating on Twitter, throngs of people could be seen gathering close to the university, chanting, "Dishonest! Dishonest!" as a substance that appears to be tear gas is launched through metal gates toward several protesters.Three students were arrested outside Tehran University on Saturday, an official with the Ministry of Science told semi-official Iran Labor News Agency, ILNA. Two have since been released, it said.
Iranians chant slogans as they march in support of the government in Tehran on Saturday.
Poorer Iranians have been involved in the new round of protests in a way that wasn't seen in the 2009 Green Movement, an eyewitness in Tehran noted. Iran currently sits 120th on the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index, demonstrating the difficult economic situation in the country. The high youth unemployment rate is of particular concern for Iranians.
The pro-government rallies held Saturday were organized in advance to commemorate mass demonstrations held in 2009 to challenge the pro-reform protests.
An eyewitness in Tehran said nearly 2,000 people had gathered peacefully for a pro-government rally. State-run Iranian broadcasters showed demonstrators waving the Iranian flag.
Meanwhile, coverage of the anti-government protests was very limited on state-run media, which referenced them only in passing.
US: 'The world is watching'
The White House voiced its support for anti-government protesters in a statement Friday.
"There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime's corruption and its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad," said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. "The Iranian government should respect their people's rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching."
President Donald Trump subsequently tweeted the same message.
The US State Department urged the international community to support the Iranian people's "demands for basic rights and an end to corruption."
"Iran's leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos," said spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran's own people.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi pushed back against the US comments a day later, saying the Iranian people gave no credence to such "opportunistic" remarks by Trump or his administration.
His statement on the Foreign Ministry website also described "Mr Trump's government" as the main source of ill will toward Iran.
"Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever," Trump wrote, quoting his speech. "And the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice."
"The world is watching!" he added.
Relations between Washington and Tehran are tense, with the Trump administration critical of what it sees as Iran's growing regional influence and alleged involvement in conflicts including Yemen and Syria.Rouhani won a landslide re-election in May after campaigning largely on social reform. His campaign touted the merits of the 2015 nuclear deal with the United States, the European Union and other partners which has been rejected by Trump.
A demonstration at the University of Tehran on Saturday.
Foreign intervention claim
Iranian officials have pointed to foreign intervention as being behind the anti-government protests.
"Unfortunately, most of the people who participate in these gatherings are unsophisticated individuals who are not aware that these calls for protest are made by anti-revolution elements," Mohsen Hamadani, Tehran deputy governor in charge of security affairs, was quoted as saying by the semi-official news agency ILNA.
"Most participants are not aware that anti-revolution elements are calling people to demonstrate against social issues such as inflation but chant untrue slogans."
Protests stem from 'economic difficulties'
The protests "show that frustration in the Iranian society right now is very extensive, particularly when it comes to the economic difficulties they have been facing," according to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council and author of the book "Losing an Enemy."While the economic situation is due in part to "mismanagement and corruption," Parsi said, it's also a result of the Rouhani government's policies and the process of getting sanctions on the country lifted.
"The nuclear deal is overwhelmingly supported by the Iranian public, but there was an expectation that much more economic development would come out of it," Parsi said. Iranians have not seen that turnaround.
Students protest Saturday at the University of Tehran.
Ultimately, the protests represent an internal dispute within Iran, but international policy is also playing a role, he said. And Trump's involvement is not necessarily beneficial to anti-government protesters.
"This is not about the United States, this is not about Trump," Parsi said. "And Trump stepping into this is not necessarily helpful because he doesn't carry any credibility in Iran."
Parsi pointed to several policy positions taken by the Trump administration this year, such as the administration's opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, his travel ban -- which targeted, in part, Iran -- and his "hugging Saudi Arabia."
"I think he's unaware of how illegitimate broad parts of the Iranian society view him," Parsi said.
While sanctions against Iran were eased under the 2015 deal in exchange for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program, US sanctions imposed over non-nuclear activities continue to have an impact.
CNN's Natalie Gall"n and Gul Tuysuz contributed to this report.
VIDEO - TEDxTucson George Land The Failure Of Success - YouTube
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 23:24
VIDEO - Trump lays out immigration deal demands - CNNPolitics
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 17:07
"The Democrats have been told, and fully understand, that there can be no DACA without the desperately needed WALL at the Southern Border and an END to the horrible Chain Migration & ridiculous Lottery System of Immigration etc," Trump tweeted. "We must protect our Country at all cost!"
Trump's declaration casts doubt over how Democrats and Republicans will come together to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) participants -- of which there are nearly 800,000 who were brought to the United States illegal as children -- from deportation because it is unlikely that Democrats will agree to substantial funding for Trump's border wall in exchange for DACA protections.
Drew Hammill, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's spokesman, responded to Trump's tweet by stating Democrats are "not going to negotiate through the press and look forward to a serious negotiation at Wednesday's meeting when we come back."
Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and White House chief of staff John Kelly will meet on Wednesday, according to two sources familiar with the meeting. The top discussion topic will be renewed government spending talks, the sources said.
Trump campaigned for president on a hardline immigration platform. Chants of "Build The Wall" became a trademark of his campaign and, as president, Trump has advocated ending so-called chain migration, guidelines that allow people in the United States to bring in family members from abroad, and the visa lottery system, a program that distributes around 50,000 visas to countries where there is a low rate of immigration to the US.
Trump's tweet is his clearest statement to date on his negotiating position with Democrats to achieve a deal on DACA, an Obama-era program that Trump ended in September. At the time, the President said he wanted Congress to step in to save the program.Democrats and Republicans were unable to come together before the end of the year to mint a deal on the immigration program, but members of both parties will return to Washington in 2018 with the DACA program as a focus.
Any agreement would be the second major deal between Trump and Schumer and Pelosi -- who Trump has taken to referring to as "Chuck and Nancy." The trio, much to the chagrin of conservatives, worked together earlier this year to strike a deal on the debt ceiling and government spending.
Trump has previously said that McConnell and Ryan are on board with a deal to make the DACA program permanent.
The details, however, are what matter in the deal and remain elusive.
Trump has demanded that funding for the border wall would need to be part of any deal, but it's unclear how far he would be willing to go to protect DACA recipients.
Trump said earlier this year that his administration was not looking at "citizenship" or "amnesty" but that they are "looking at allowing people to stay here."
He added: "If we don't have the wall, we are doing nothing," but later added that the wall could come later.
McConnell said earlier this month that the Senate will hold a vote on immigration legislation in January, but only if Republican and Democratic lawmakers can reach a deal.
"If negotiators reach an agreement on these matters by the end of January, I will bring it to the Senate floor for a free-standing vote," he said.
Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake had said earlier his month that he received a commitment for a vote on immigration after he voted to pass the Republican tax bill.
CNN's Tal Kopan contributed to this report.
VIDEO - All of Mueller - YouTube
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 14:57
VIDEO - Trump No DACA Without Wall | The Daily Caller
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 13:51
President Donald Trump will not sign a bill de-facto legalizing illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children unless it contains provisions for a wall on the southern border, he declared in a tweet Friday.
Trump ended the Obama-era executive action, otherwise known as DACA, in September telling Congress it had six months to codify the program into law before protections expired. Obama's DACA program issued work permits to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and granted them certain protections from deportation. There are approximately 700,000 DACA recipients in the U.S.
Democrats have been reluctant to give any concessions whatsoever on DACA, saying the program should be passed through both chambers without any concessions on Republican immigration priorities. Trump's tweet indicates he will not allow a ''clean DACA'' bill and will insist that provisions to fund his southern border wall and reform the legal immigration system must be included.
WATCH:
The president named chain migration and the visa lottery system as two particular immigration priorities he wants to see ended. Chain migration allows recent immigrants to legally sponsor visas for relatives to the U.S. while the lottery system allocates visas for immigrants from underrepresented countries.
Recent New York City terrorist attackers were found to have been beneficiaries of either chain migration or the diversity visa lottery program.
Follow Saagar Enjeti on Twitter
VIDEO - 34C3 - Science is broken - YouTube
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 12:26
VIDEO - Anonymous believes NASA is poised to announce discovery of aliens (VIDEO) '-- RT Viral
Sat, 30 Dec 2017 05:58
Published time: 24 Jun, 2017 18:19 Edited time: 4 Jul, 2017 07:30
Hacking collective Anonymous claims US space agency NASA is about to announce the discovery of intelligent alien life.
''NASA says aliens are coming!'' the group wrote on their website.
Anonymous' claim is based on a number of recent NASA discoveries coupled with comments made by one of the agency's spokesmen during a congressional hearing titled 'Advances in the Search for Life,' in April.
Professor Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, told the hearing that NASA's recent advances, such as the discovery of hydrogen in Saturn's moon Enceladus and the Hubble team's promising results from the oceans of Jupiter's moon, Europa, are signs that we're closer than ever to discovering evidence of alien life.
READ MORE: Europe's Space Agency approves alien-hunt project
''Taking into account all of the different activities and missions that are specifically searching for evidence of alien life, we are on the verge of making one of the most profound, unprecedented, discoveries in history,'' said Zurbuchen during the hearing of the committee on American Science, Space and Technology.
In their video on the issue, Anonymous go on to cite several other alien-friendly comments made by astronauts and space exploration enthusiasts in the past, as well as various alien and UFO 'sightings' as evidence that ''something is going on in the skies above''.
VIDEO - VIRAL PRANK Russia Invades Limpopo, Maxine Waters is on it! Russian Pranksters Fool US Congresswoman - YouTube
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 21:18
VIDEO - Morrissey's December Speech - 2017 - YouTube
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 11:18
VIDEO - Cohousing communities help prevent social isolation | PBS NewsHour
Fri, 29 Dec 2017 10:36
HealthFeb 12, 2017 01:22 PM EST By Saskia de Melker and Melanie Saltzman
SASKIA DE MELKER: This is the regular dinner scene at Saettedammen, a co-housing community 45 minutes outside Denmark's capital of Copenhagen.
Stig Brinck, an architect, and his wife, an artist, and the teenage daughters they've raised here, are responsible for tonight's meal'...for themselves and 20 neighbors in the common house.
STIG BRINCK: We eat together four times a week, for those who want to participate.
SASKIA DE MELKER: What's it like cooking for 25 people? How do you do that?
STIG BRINCK: First of all, we have a kitchen that's capable for it. So we have the tools to do it. That's very important.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Communal meals are a staple at Saettedammen, where 71 people live in 28 houses clustered around shared recreational and outdoor spaces '-- walkways, gardens, and parking '-- and a common house. Residents are expected to clean shared areas and take turns tending the grounds. Everyone shares resources like laundry facilities, outdoor tools, and play equipment. Small groups of families rotate leading monthly community meetings.
STIG BRINCK: You live in kind of a small, small village. You know everybody around you, and you share as much as possible. So you are very close neighbors, and you are kind of depending on each other, but you're not obligated to any strict rules.
SASKIA DE MELKER: The Saettedammen community is made up of a range of singles, couples, retirees, and families with children. Every family has privacy in a home with its own bedrooms, baths, and kitchen.
The land is cooperatively owned, but residents own their homes '-- a structure similar to a condominium association in the U-S. The cost of homes here is comparable to other homes in the area, but an average sized household pays about $3,500 dollars a year for communal resources.
Saettedammen started 46 years ago and is recognized as the first cohousing community in the world. Britta Bjerre and her husband, Arne, were among the first families to move in.
BRITTA BJERRE: We didn't want our family to spend our lives in an insular way in a house on a suburban street somewhere. And one day we saw a newspaper ad saying that some people had their eyes on a plot of land, and they were looking for twenty-five to thirty families to buy it and build houses as well as a communal house.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Lisa Berkman, a professor of public policy and epidemiology at Harvard University says that cohousing harkens back to the kinds of communities that used to naturally dominate our societies.
LISA BERKMAN: You know, when you think about the apartment buildings that were designed at the turn of the century, they were designed as two-family houses or three-family houses, each on a floor. And those enabled multi-generation households to live together and still have their own housing.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Berkman says that cohousing can reduce social isolation and the detrimental health effects associated with it.
LISA BERKMAN: Social isolation relates to the number of ties and the quality of relationships that you have: religious ties, community ties, work ties. People who are very isolated, who are disconnected, have a mortality rate that's about three times as high That is, they're about three times as likely to die over maybe a decade, as people who have many, many more ties.
SASKIA DE MELKER: 70-year-old Jytte Helle has lived in Saettedammen for 30 years.
JYTTE HELLE: It's important to me to be with a mixed group, not only with other older people, because then we would just talk about our diseases and aches and pains. Older people can't give the same energy as younger people can.
STIG BRINCK: So having neighbors and knowing their kids, I think that's // just like it's a benefit of having a big family.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Is this replacing the idea of the extended family?
STIG BRINCK: Indeed it is. I see it very much as the extended family.
ELLA POULSEN: It's like nice to have a friend nearby always that you can talk to.
SASKIA DE MELKER: 14-year old Ella Poulsen has lived in Saettedammen her whole life.
ELLA POULSEN: It's kind of like everyone's a parent, and everybody will take care of the kid if there's something wrong and the parents aren't there. I think it's just very safe.
SASKIA DE MELKER: It's estimated that at least 1 percent of the Danish population lives in cohousing arrangements. In the United States, the Cohousing Association of America estimates there are about 150 communities.
Rocky Hill Cohousing in Northampton, Massachusetts was established 12 years ago. It has 28 households with residents ranging from age 2 to 80. With a similar financial model to Saettedammen, Rocky Hill has a variety of common spaces, resources, activities, and shared chores.
CAROL RINEHART: I love knowing that somebody's out there plowing the path on a snowy morning. That's lovely, knowing that there are mixed ages of people who can help with keeping the place up, and we have our jobs divided.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Carol Rinehart is 72-years-old and just retired from her job as a hospice coordinator. She's lived at Rocky Hill since its formation.
CAROL RINEHART: You don't get up some day in the morning and say, "You know, I think this is the day I'm going to have a community." You know, you build a community.
SASKIA DE MELKER: The number of Americans 65 and older is expected to nearly double by 2050. According to the Pew Research Center, 61 percent say they would prefer to stay in their homes even when they can no longer take care of themselves.That's compared to 17 percent who would opt for an assisted living facility. Just 8 percent would prefer to move in with a family member.
Harvard Professor Lisa Berkman says cohousing allows people to age in their homes.
LISA BERKMAN: With the aging of the population and the increasing frailty that people will experience as they age, at some point everybody needs a little help. Americans are particularly vulnerable to social isolation in part because we value independence so much, and because we're so mobile. And we live in a very, very big country.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Berkman says that while older Americans are especially vulnerable to social isolation, young families often struggle to maintain social networks as they juggle work and family.
College professor Gary Felder lives at the Rocky Hill cohousing community with his wife and their two young children. He says their social life is built in, unlike other families who don't live in a cohousing arrangement.
GARY FELDER: You've got to arrange babysitting, you need to figure out the timing, and then you've got to rush back and so on. And that was just never a big deal for us. We would put our kids down, we would throw in a baby monitor and we would go spend an evening with our friends. Every week.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Cause you're right next door, to the common house?
GARY FELDER: Yeah, absolutely. And if one of our kids woke up, two minutes later we were in the bedroom.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Felder admits that this lifestyle isn't for everyone, and about one family a year decides to leave.
GARY FELDER: The biggest challenge is that you're making decisions with 27 other households. That is the definition of hell for some people.
SASKIA DE MELKER: But Felder says that for his family the benefits they get from an intergenerational community outweigh the difficulties.
GARY FELDER: The other thing which our kids get, which is even more rare in this society, is they have regular interactions with elders, with seniors. They're very aware of the whole process of people getting older and retiring and having physical problems and dying.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Rocky Hill residents are coming up with new guidelines to help aging community members, including ride sharing and connecting residents with financial and medical services.
CAROL RINEHART: Could we even make a space here in the common house for somebody who lives and is a licensed practical nurse and taking care of several different families who may be in that area of need.
SASKIA DE MELKER: At the Saettedammen community in Denmark, maintaining an intergenerational community is getting harder. More than half of the residents are now over 65. The community is encouraging younger families to move in when homes become available. Many long time residents, like Jytte Helle, don't want to leave their social support network.
JYTTE HELLE: We've been a part of creating this, and want to feel the benefits that come with getting old in a cohousing community like this.
SASKIA DE MELKER: Do you think there is something about this community, does it keep you younger?
JYTTE HELLE: Yes. Definitely. I'm convinced that If I lived exclusively with elderly people, I would degenerate. So the fact that I'm living with younger people is a gift on a daily basis.
Recently in Health (C) 1996 - 2017 NewsHour Productions LLC. All Rights Reserved. Support the kind of journalism done by the NewsHour,
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