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Timber Sycamore was a classified weapons supply and training program run by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and supported by various Arab intelligence services, most notably that of Saudi Arabia. Launched in 2012 or 2013, it supplied money, weaponry and training to rebel forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War. According to U.S. officials, the program has trained thousands of rebels. President Barack Obama secretly authorized the CIA to begin arming Syria's embattled rebels in 2013. However, the CIA had been facilitating the flow of arms from Libya to Syria "for more than a year" beforehand in collaboration with "the UK (United Kingdom), Saudi Arabia and Qatar."
The program's existence was suspected after the U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website publicly solicited contract bids to ship tons of weaponry from Eastern Europe to TaÅucu, Turkey and Aqaba, Jordan. One unintended consequence of the program has been to flood the Middle East's black market with weapons including assault rifles, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The U.S. delivered weapons via Ramstein - supposedly in breach of German laws.
In July 2017, U.S. officials stated that Timber Sycamore would be phased out, with funds possibly redirected to fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or to offering rebel forces defensive capabilities.
Creation [ edit ] CIA director David Petraeus first proposed a covert program of arming and training rebels in the summer of 2012. Initially President Obama rejected the proposal, but later agreed, partially due to lobbying by foreign leaders, including from King Abdullah II of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Timber Sycamore began in late 2012 or early 2013, and is similar to other Pentagon or CIA-run weapons routing and training programs that were established in previous decades to support foreign rebel forces. Greg Miller and Adam Entous of The Washington Post stated that "The operation has served as the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside." The program's principal backers are the United States and Saudi Arabia, but it is also supported by other regional Arab governments, and by the United Kingdom. While Saudi Arabia provides more money and weaponry, the United States leads training in military equipment. The program is based in Jordan, due to that country's proximity to the battlefields in Syria.
According to The New York Times, the program initially allowed U.S. forces to train Syrian rebels in use of military equipment, but not to directly provide the equipment itself. A few months after its creation, it was amended to allow the CIA to both train and equip rebel forces.Salon.com reports that Saudi Arabia has provided billions of dollars in military equipment, and covert financing of rebel forces has also been provided by Qatar, Turkey and Jordan.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the CIA smuggled thousands of weapons and millions of ammunition rounds to Syrian rebels in 2012 before the program's launch. A classified U.S. State Department cable signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reported that Saudi donors were a major support for Sunni militant forces globally, and some American officials worried that rebels being supported had ties to Al Qaeda.
The existence of Timber Sycamore was revealed by The New York Times and Al Jazeera shortly after Jane's Defence Weekly reported, in late 2015, that the US Federal Business Opportunities website was soliciting contracts to ship thousands of tons of weapons from Eastern Europe to TaÅucu, Turkey and Aqaba, Jordan.
Scope [ edit ] Timber Sycamore is run by the Military Operations Command (MOC) in Amman and provides Kalashnikov assault rifles, mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank guided missiles, night vision goggles, pickup trucks, and other weapons to prospective Syrian rebel forces. Many of the weapons are purchased in the Balkans or other locations in Eastern Europe, and then routed to Syrian rebel forces and training camps by Jordanian security services. CIA paramilitary operatives then train Syrian rebels in use of the weaponry. According to The Daily Beast there are approximately 50 vetted rebel groups fighting in Syria that have received weapons or training through the program since late 2012, though the exact number is not known.
According to American officials, the program has been highly effective, training and equipping thousands of U.S.-backed fighters to make substantial battlefield gains. American officials state that the program began to lose effectiveness after Russia intervened militarily in the Syrian Civil War.David Ignatius, writing in The Washington Post, remarked that while the CIA program ultimately failed in its objective of removing Assad from power, it was hardly "bootless": "The program pumped many hundreds of millions of dollars to many dozens of militia groups. One knowledgeable official estimates that the CIA-backed fighters may have killed or wounded 100,000 Syrian soldiers and their allies over the past four years."
Timber Sycamore is distinct from another, discontinued Pentagon program established to train Syrian rebel forces to fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
U.S.-backed rebels often fought alongside al-Qaeda's al-Nusra Front, and some of the U.S. supplied weapons ended up in the hands of the al-Nusra Front, which had been a major concern of the Obama administration when the program was first proposed.
The program remains classified, and many details about the program remain unknown, including the total amount of support, the range of weapons transferred, the depth of training provided, the types of U.S. trainers involved, and the exact rebel groups being supported. However, The Canberra Times reported that two thousand tons of Soviet era weapons were delivered to Aqaba as recently as April 2016.
Black market [ edit ] The port in Aqaba, Jordan is an important route for Timber Sycamore weaponry entering Syria.
Jordanian intelligence arms sales [ edit ] According to American and Jordanian officials, weapons shipped into Jordan by the CIA and Saudi Arabia were routinely stolen by Jordanian intelligence officials in the General Intelligence Directorate (Jordan) and sold on the black market. The magnitude of the theft amounted to millions of dollars, and FBI officials state that some of the stolen weapons were later used to kill two American contractors, two Jordanians and one South African at a police training station in Jordan. Arms received via Timber Sycamore have flooded Middle Eastern black markets with heavy weaponry.
Jordanian officials state that Jordanian intelligence officers who stole the program's weapons used the profits to purchase luxury items, with knowledge of superior officers. The thefts were halted after months of complaints by the American and Saudi governments, the program's main backers. According to Jordanian officials, several intelligence officers were fired, but their profits were not confiscated. (In Jordan, the General Intelligence Directorate is second only to the monarchy in power and prestige.) Jordan's minister for state and media affairs Mohammad Al-Momani stated that the allegations were incorrect.
Regional trafficking and ISIL [ edit ] Prior to the Syrian Civil War, southern Syria and northern Jordan were a conduit for other smuggling operations. The advent of the war transformed the region into a center for smuggling weapons, and the more formal support provided by Timber Sycamore only intensified the scale of smuggling operations on the border. Major smuggling centers include bazaars established at Ma'an in southern Jordan, Sabah near Amman, and in the Jordan River Valley.
An investigation by journalists Phil Sands and Suha Maayeh revealed that rebels supplied with weapons from the Amman MOC sold a portion of them to local arms dealers, often to raise cash to pay additional fighters. Some MOC-supplied weapons were sold to Bedouin traders referred to locally as "The Birds" in Lejat, a volcanic plain northeast of Daraa, Syria. According to rebel forces, the Bedouins would then trade the weapons to ISIL, who would place orders using the encrypted WhatsApp messaging service. Two rebel commanders, and a United Kingdom weapons monitoring organization, maintain that MOC-supplied weapons have made their way to ISIL forces.
A 2017 study by Conflict Armament Research found that external support for anti-Assad Syrian rebels "significantly augmented the quantity and quality of weapons available to [ISIL] forces," including "anti-tank weapons purchased by the United States that ended up in possession of the Islamic State within two months of leaving the factory." However, the study found no instance in which U.S. arms supplied to the Kurdish'' and Arab''led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to fight ISIL ended up in ISIL's arsenal.
Phasing out [ edit ] In July 2017, anonymous officials stated that President Donald Trump, in consultation with National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, had decided to phase out support for anti-Assad Syrian rebel forces, possibly redirecting resources to fighting ISIL, to offering rebel forces defensive capabilities, or to other operations in the region.
The officials said that the decision was made prior to Trump's participation in the G-20 summit and July 7 meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Several officials characterized the decision as a "major concession" to Russia, with one remarking: "Putin won in Syria." However, another official stated that ending the program was not a major concession due to Assad's recent victories in the Syrian Civil War, but rather "a signal to Putin that the administration wants to improve ties to Russia." Some members of the Obama administration reportedly had wished to scrap the program because some rebels armed and trained by the program had joined ISIL and related groups.
A related U.S. military program to arm, train, and support the SDF fighting ISIL with airstrikes will continue.
[ edit ] Press [ edit ] According to Rachel Marsden writing for The Baltimore Sun, the CIA and Saudi Arabia intended for Timber Sycamore to allow independent military forces to drive out Assad, install a Syrian leader friendly to U.S., Saudi and Qatari interests, and weaken Russia's influence in the Middle East.
Reporter Paul Malone wrote that weapons delivered by Timber Sycamore might be acquired by al-Qaeda in Syria, comparing the program to CIA support for the Afghan mujahideen, or American weaponry being seized by ISIL in 2014 in Mosul, Iraq.
The International Business Times of Italy has written that corrupt Jordanian intelligence officials facilitated weapons trafficking that supported the Iraqi insurgency after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion of Iraq. For this reason, according to the paper, the Obama administration was reluctant to approve Timber Sycamore and debated a year before doing so.
In Il Giornale, Fausto Biloslavo has reported that despite the program's secrecy, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was photographed at the center of Zarqa in March 2015.
Politicians [ edit ] US Senator Ron Wyden's office has questioned the program, releasing a statement that "the US is trying to build up the battlefield capabilities of the anti-Assad opposition, but they haven't provided the public with details about how this is being done, which US agencies are involved, or which foreign partners those agencies are working with."
Analysts [ edit ] Former CIA analyst and Brookings Institution fellow Bruce Riedel has stated that Saudi support for the program has given Saudi Arabia greater say over American policy in the Syrian Civil War.
Robert Baer, a former CIA officer and CNN contributor, strongly criticized the Trump administration's cancellation of the program, calling it "a strategic mistake" and "a gift to Vladimir Putin ... it's crazy, frankly, I've never seen anything like it." Baer commented that "the optics of this couldn't be worse" due to multiple investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections and possible collusion with Trump's campaign: "The context of this is, at the meeting in Hamburg, Trump let Putin go on the hacking. He's not addressed the hacking and rather than taking some sort of retaliation against Putin for the hacking, he gave him a gift." By contrast, Thomas Joscelyn of The Weekly Standard defended Trump's decision, arguing "there is no evidence that any truly moderate force is effectively fighting Assad." In December 2017, Max Abrams and John Glaser observed in the Los Angeles Times that "[ISIL] imploded right after external support for the 'moderate' rebels dried up," which is consistent with studies demonstrating "that external support for the opposition tends to exacerbate and extend civil wars, which usually peter out not through power-sharing agreements among fighting equals, but when one side'--typically, the incumbent'--achieves dominance."
See also [ edit ] Operation Cyclone, 1979-1989 CIA program to arm and finance Islamist insurgents fighting the Soviet-sponsored government of Afghanistan. Iran''Contra affair, U.S. arms sales to Iran to support Contras. United States support for Iraq during the Iran''Iraq war. Safari Club,anti-communist Middle East clandestine operations group during the Cold War. Allegations of United States support for the Khmer Rouge during the Cambodian''Vietnamese War. References [ edit ] ^ a b c d e f g h i Mazzetti, Mark; Younes, Ali (26 June 2016). "C.I.A. Arms for Syrian Rebels Supplied Black Market, Officials Say". New York Times . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ a b c d Barrile, Andrea (28 June 2016). "Che fine fanno le armi USA ai ribelli siriani?". International Business Times Italy. ^ a b c d e Mazzetti, Mark; Apuzzo, Matt (23 January 2016). "U.S. Relies Heavily on Saudi Money to Support Syrian Rebels". The New York Times . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ Hersh, Seymour (2016-01-07). "Military to Military". London Review of Books . Retrieved 2017-07-20 . ^ a b Jeremy Binnie, Neil Gibson (8 April 2016). "US arms shipment to Syrian rebels detailed". Jane's Defence Weekly. IHS. Archived from the original on 5 December 2016. ^ http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/us-waffenlieferungen-heikle-fracht-aus-ramstein-1.3663289 ^ a b c d Jaffe, Greg; Entous, Adam (19 July 2017). "Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria, a move sought by Moscow". The Washington Post . Retrieved 20 July 2017 . ^ a b c Ignatius, David (2017-07-20). "What the demise of the CIA's anti-Assad program means". The Washington Post . Retrieved 2017-07-23 . ^ Ali Watkins (21 July 2017). "Top general confirms end to secret U.S. program in Syria". Politico . Retrieved 20 July 2017 . ^ a b c d Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt (2 August 2017). "Behind the Sudden Death of a Billion Secret C.I.A. War in Syria". New York Times . Retrieved 28 August 2017 . ^ a b Lister, Charles (7 June 2016). "Al Qaeda Reaps Rewards of U.S. Policy Failures on Syria". The Daily Beast . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ Miller, Greg; Entous, Adam (2016-10-23). "Plans to send heavier weapons to CIA-backed rebels in Syria stall amid White House skepticism". The Washington Post . Retrieved 2017-07-21 . ^ a b c d e f g h Sands, Phil; Maayeh, Suha (7 August 2016). "Death of a Syrian arms salesman". The National . Retrieved 21 September 2016 . ^ a b c Norton, Ben (28 June 2016). "CIA and Saudi weapons for Syrian rebels fueled black market arms trafficking, report says". Salon.com . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . See also the original source https://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/06/27/world/middleeast/cia-arms-for-syrian-rebels-supplied-black-market-officials-say.html?referer=http://www.salon.com/2016/06/28/cia_and_saudi_weapons_for_syrian_rebels_fueled_black_market_arms_trafficking_report_says/ ^ Chivers, C. J.; Schmitt, Eric (25 February 2013). "Saudis Step Up Help for Rebels in Syria With Croatian Arms". The New York Times . Retrieved 18 December 2016 . ^ a b c Malone, Paul (10 July 2016). "Save us from the Dr Strangeloves". Canberra Times . Retrieved 21 September 2016 . ^ a b Mackler, Jeff (8 June 2016). "US Threatens Syrian War Escalation". Counterpunch.org . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ a b Cordesman, Anthony (1 February 2016). "Creeping Incrementalism: U.S. Forces and Strategy in Iraq and Syria from 2011 to 2016: An Update". Center for Strategic and International Studies . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ a b "Jordanian officials sold CIA-supplied weapons to arms dealers: report". Pakistan Today. 27 June 2016. ^ Shear, Michael; Cooper, Helene; Schmitt, Eric (9 October 2015). "Obama Administration Ends Effort to Train Syrians to Combat ISIS". The New York Times . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ a b c Arutz Sheva Staff (28 June 2016). "Report: CIA weapons for Syrian rebels sold to arms dealers". Arutz Sheva. ^ a b c d Zero Hedge (28 June 2016). "Jordanian Intelligence Has Been Stealing US Arms Intended For Syrian Rebels". Phil's Stock World . Retrieved 22 September 2016 . ^ a b c d Biloslavo, Fausto (28 March 2016). "Finite sul mercato nero le armi che la Cia ha dato ai ribelli siriani". Il Giornale . Retrieved 22 September 2016 . ^ Michaels, Jim (2017-12-14). "The U.S. bought weapons for Syrian rebels '-- and some wound up in the hands of ISIS terrorists". USA Today . Retrieved 2017-12-14 . ^ a b Walcott, John (19 July 2017). "Trump ends CIA arms support for anti-Assad Syria rebels: U.S. officials". Reuters. Reuters . Retrieved 20 July 2017 . ^ Marsden, Rachel (18 April 2016). "Russia and America should unite against Saudi-China alliance". The Baltimore Sun . Retrieved 20 September 2016 . ^ McKirdy, Euan; Smith''Spark, Laura (2017-07-20). "CIA no longer arming anti-Assad rebels, Washington Post reports". CNN . Retrieved 2017-07-21 . ^ Joscelyn, Thomas (2017-08-07). "Trump Got This One Right". The Weekly Standard . Retrieved 2017-07-31 . ^ Abrams, Max; Glaser, John (2017-12-10). "The pundits were wrong about Assad and the Islamic State. As usual, they're not willing to admit it". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 2017-12-11 . ^ Haas 1991, pp. 17, 28''29.
Russia, US tensions prompts American Air to reroute some Asia flights
Three Asia-bound American Airlines flights that normally fly over Russia have been rerouted, as the airline assesses growing geopolitical tensions, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC on Saturday.
In an internal memorandum sent to pilots on Saturday that was seen by CNBC, the airline warned that some flights into Asia could be rerouted, as relations between Moscow and Washington appear to worsen because of the U.S.-led military intervention in Syria.
"The team at American regularly monitors global geopolitical issues and makes changes to aircraft routings when warranted," said the note to pilots.
The measure could cause delays. American Airlines, which operates more than 6,000 flights a day, said three flights separate flights were affected: Dallas to Hong Kong, Dallas to Beijing, and Chicago to Beijing, according to the document.
Three were sent instead through Los Angeles. Because of range limits on planes, pilots often cannot simply take a longer route without additional fuel. Crews may also "time out," meaning the daily hours their union contract says they can work may run out if the routing is changed.
The airline said that it is engaging "with the U.S. government in order to resolve any issues," according to the note.
American is working "on our contingency plans in case certain areas are restricted," said the note to pilots, adding that while the measure isn't a "long term solution, we are doing everything possible to minimize the disruption for our customers and team members."
An agreement that allows U.S. and Russian aircraft to use each other's airspace is set to expire next week, logistics industry publication The Loadstar reported earlier this month. The issue comes as tensions are rising with Russia, which harshly condemned U.S., British and French strikes on Syria which were launched late Friday.
The US secret plan on Damascus foiled: the Russian role before and after the US/UK/France attack revealed '' Elijah J. Magnier
Donald Trump has climbed down from the tree he climbed up a few days ago when he gathered a large military force and firepower similar to ''operation desert storm'' (but without ground forces). ''Plan A'' consisted of a destructive attack on Syria to destroy its army, presidential palace, command and control bases, elite force, strategic military and ammunition warehouses, radar, defence systems and political leadership institutions.
Prior to the triple attack on Syria by the US '' UK '' France, intensive contacts were carried out by Russia and President Vladimir Putin himself '' at around 04:00 am'' to reduce the attack and go to a softer, less significant ''Plan B''.
Russia, in its contact with several heads of state, rejected any hit that could cripple the Syrian Army and instructed the leadership in Damascus that the West would now think very carefully before radically changing the balance of power in the Levant.
But what is the real reason behind the US '' UK '' France's attack? Is it the claim of the ''chemical attack'' on Duma? The Organisation for the prohibition of the chemical weapons is already in Damascus and its members visit Duma this Saturday to inspect the location where the claimed use of a chemical attack was alleged to have taken place. Why not wait for the results?
Sources in Damascus explain that the Syrian Army and its allies, supported by Russia, were carrying out a large attack on rural Idlib and had reached Abu al-Duhur airport when, all of a sudden, the military operation stopped. The entire spearhead force was moved to Ghouta. What happened?
Russia had informed the Syrian leadership of a large gathering of forces at Al-Tanf US-occupied military base on the Syrian-Iraqi borders, where tens of thousands of US proxies have received continuous military training. The Russians identified unusual military movements and understood that the US was preparing to push Syrian proxy forces to reach eastern Ghouta, linking itself with around 30,000 jihadists in Ghouta itself. This attack was planned to take place simultaneously with a diversion from Daraa, southern Syria, attacking south of Damascus so as to deceive the Syrian army and its allies into leaving smaller forces around the capital.
Syrian Research centre bombed by US/UK/FranceThe US plan '' said the sources '' consisted in supporting its proxies and the Ghouta jihadists to reach Damascus and take full control of it. But the shifting of the military operation from rural Idlib to Ghouta spoiled the US plan to impose on Russia an enforced stay in Lattakia and Tartous confined to a limited place, and to finally change the Syrian regime. This ''genius's plan'' would have spoiled all Russia's efforts deployed through almost three years of heavy involvement in the war in Syria, and would have given the US the upper hand , just at the moment when Moscow and the Syrian Army were about to end the war, with only few more pockets left to liberate.
Russia's hit in Ghouta broke the US plan into pieces, and imposed the withdrawal of tens of thousands of militants from Ghouta along with their families, to the north of Syria. The capital is now much safer, with the remaining area south of Damascus occupied by Al-Qaeda and the ''Islamic State'' group (ISIS) in Yarmouk camp and al-Hajar al-Aswad.
Today Russia rendered the US '' UK '' France strike meaningless, both in respect of its content and its objectives. Russia was able to impose that US '' UK '' France carry out only a ''limited attack'' of little value, and with not much chance of altering the reality on the ground in Syria.
When Russia vowed to shoot down missiles fired at Syria, Trump answered: ''Get ready Russia because they will be coming, nice, new and smart''. Russia, after the hit, replied: ''We have used the old Soviet anti-Air defence system against these smart, new and very expensive missiles fired by the Americans''. Not only that, the US-UK air strikes hit objectives which Israel bombards almost on a regular basis. By showing the capability to stop two thirds '' as declared by Russia '' of the incoming missiles, Syria is taking it as a kind of ''training with live ammunition against any future Israeli attack on Syrian territory''. Israel is very disappointed and seems not at all pleased with this end result.
Showing restrain and control, the US Secretary of Defence James Mattis '' he who said ''the Pentagon still has no independent evidence to confirm that there was a chemical weapons attack in Syria last week''-contested any wide scale attack on Syria that could have triggered a direct Russian involvement and deadly return of fire against US objectives. Mattis accepted ''an honourable strike'' to save his boss's inexperienced face. In point of fact, the trio's strike on Syria seems have boosted the Syrian Bashar al-Assad's reputation: the population celebrated in the streets of Damascus, and mocked the western attack on their country!
The trio avoided at all times direct provocation of Russia, circumvented Russian bases and operational theatres instead of overflying. Russia imposed its presence and provoked the US and French navy by carrying out a simulated air attack, to show its willingness to hit back. The Russian navy was positioned opposite the Lebanese coast to cover that angle and avoid blind spots.
Moscow managed to avoid a direct confrontation with Washington outside its territory: US military bases surround Syria (Israel, Jordan, al-Tanf, al-Hasaka, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrein, Iraq, Turkey). Russia remembers how Leonid Brezhnev fell into the CIA's trap in 1979, supporting the Mujahedeen six months prior to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan- trap. Zbigniew Brzezinski said the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was deliberately provoked by the US: ''It was an excellent idea. It drew the Soviets into the Afghan war and we gave them Vietnam''. Putin has avoided the same US trap almost 40 years later.
What is the next step?
All eyes are directed on the northern city of Idlib controlled by al-Qaeda now that the fate of Damascus is secured. But why Idlib?
The situation in Yarmouk camp, south of Damascus, seems directly linked to that of Fua and Kfarya. During the Zabadani negotiation, it was agreed between al-Qaeda and Damascus's allies to keep away from al-Yarmouk, in exchange for the two besieged cities in the north of Syria. However, Damascus is now pushing to clean the capital completely, attempting to persuade its allies to bypass previous commitments.
As far as Daraa and Quneitra in the south are concerned, it seems no one in Syria seems willing to provoke the US and Israel at this tense moment; this will maybe be left to the end. In al-Badiyah, the Syrian steppes, ISIS is totally surrounded and can only wait to be exterminated in the coming months.
Idlib remains despite the Turkish-Russian-Iranian economical and financial agreement. There is no doubt about the existence of strong differences of an economic nature between partners over Syria.
Turkish President Erdogan expressed his support and later satisfaction with the US strikes on Syria. Russia answered by asking him to deliver the city of Afrin to the Syrian government. Iran's special envoy for Syrian affairs Ali Akbar Velayati overtly stated that the next objective is Idlib. Therefore, it is now feasible for Turkey to pull out of its dozen observation bases around Idlib, even as Russia pulled out of Afrin prior to the Turkish attack. And Russia expects Erdogan to cancel the previously agreed sale of the S-400 missiles any day.
Thus, the compass points to Idlib, Rastan, Jisr al-Shoughour and the Syrian Army forces gathering in rural Lattakia, ready to divide Idlib after liberating the many villages around it.
This will bring the world to the next ''chemical attack'' appointment in the next operational theatre of the Syrian army and its allies. Would the US stand by al-Qaeda? Why not? It has never really been a question of the use of chemical weapons, since the US holds the largest stockpile of chemical weapons worldwide: the real issue is the defeat of the US faced with the dominance of Russia over the Levant.
Proof read by : Maurice Brasher
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How Hate Speech AI works
Along with all the other random info I've sent, I am working
on a masters in AI/Machine learning (don't hate, industry pay is like
$350k/yr). What Facebook/Twitter/etc are using to identify hate speech (along
with everything else theyve identified that you're interested in) is
called a classifier. The "researchers" feed it positive example
tweets, Facebook posts, etc of hate speech (or unallowed content) along with
negative examples. And the AI (which is nothing more than multidimensional
linear regression) outputs a binary "yup, hate speech" or
"democrat" for each feature you're trying to classify someone as.
Concretely, you like certain things on Facebook and it spits out a probability
that you're a cat lover. Above a certain threshold and it's a positive.
Austin is piloting blockchain to improve homeless services | TechCrunch
While the vagaries of the cryptocurrency markets are keeping crypto traders glued to their CoinDesk graphs, the real potential of blockchain is its capability to solve real human challenges in a decentralized, private, and secure way. Government officials have increasingly investigated how blockchain might solve critical problems, but now one city intends to move forward with an actual implementation.
The city of Austin is piloting a new blockchain platform to improve identity services for its homeless population, as part of a competitive grant awarded by the Mayor's Challenge program sponsored by Bloomberg Philanthropies. Austin was one of 35 cities to be awarded pilot grants, and the top city from that group will ultimately be awarded $5 million.
Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin since 2015, explained to TechCrunch that ''at a high level, [the pilot] is trying to figure out how to solve one of the challenges we have in our community related to the homeless population, which is how to keep all the information of that individual with that individual.''
Identity is among the thorniest challenges for governments to solve, particularly for marginal populations like the homeless or refugees. As Sly Majid, Chief Services Officer for Austin, said, ''If you have your backpack stolen or if your social security card gets wet and falls apart, or if you are camping and the city cleans up the site and takes your possessions, you have to start all over from the beginning again.'' That is devastating for marginal populations, because it means that the cycle of poverty persists. ''It really prevents you from going about and doing the sort of activities that allow you to transition out of homelessness,'' he continued.
Austin has been on an economic tear, becoming one of the top startup hubs in the United States and increasingly drawing talent from major cities like San Francisco. But, ''For everything that is going right, we have some challenges that are shared by a lot of large cities,'' Adler said. That dizzying growth has raised housing prices, making it more difficult to improve the city's homelessness rate. Some 2,000 individuals are homeless in the city according to a census taken earlier this year, with several thousand more at various states of transition.
The city wanted to improve the ability of its patchwork of government and private homeless service providers to offer integrated and comprehensive aid. There are a number of separate challenges here: verifying the identity of a person seeking help, knowing what care that individual has previously received, and empowering the individual to ''own'' their own records, and ultimately, their destiny.
The goal of the city's blockchain pilot program is to consolidate the identity and vital records of each homeless person in a safe and confidential way while providing a means for service providers to access that information. Adler explained that ''there are all kinds of confidentiality issues that arise when you try to do that, so the thought was that blockchain would allow us to bridge that need.''
By using blockchain, the hope is that the city could replace paper records, which are hard to manage, with electronic encrypted records that would be more reliable and secure. In addition, the blockchain platform could create a decentralized authentication mechanism to verify a particular person's identity. For instance, a homeless services worker operating in the field could potentially use their mobile device to verify a person live, without having to bring someone back to an office for processing.
More importantly, vital records on the blockchain could build over time, so different providers would know what services a person had used previously. Majid provided the example of health care, where it is crucially important to know the history of an individual. The idea is that, when a homeless person walks into a clinic, the blockchain would provide the entire patient history of that individual to the provider. ''Here was your medical records from your last clinic visits, and we can build off the care that you were given last time,'' he said. Austin is partnering with the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas to work out how best to implement the blockchain for medical professionals.
Identity is a popular area for investors interested in blockchain and decentralization more generally. As I wrote about earlier this week, Element, a New York City-based startup co-founded by famed deep learning researcher Yann LeCun, hopes to provide decentralized identity to people in developing countries like Indonesia and the Philippines. Austin is exploring partnering with decentralized startups like BanQu to implement the details of the service for the city.
Majid noted that ''It's an iterative process for us, '... and we need to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.'' Adler believes that the program is an example of the power of fusing government and private industry. Austin ''tries to work with new industries, and new technologies, and new economies and tries to find the proper intersection of government innovation and responsibility,'' he said. If blockchain can improve homelessness here, that solution could carry throughout the world.
Austin, TX : 2018 Champion City Using Blockchain to Vouch for Identities of the Homeless 947,890Population Steve AdlerMayor Directly Elected MayorType of Government 4 yearsLength of Term The Problem For the more than 7,000 people who experience homelessness in Austin, lack of ID can mean barriers to, or delays in, their access to housing, employment, and other services critical to dignity, support, and recovery.
The Idea The City of Austin will use blockchain technology to provide homeless residents with a unique identifier that allows them to access their personal records at any time, enabling access to critical services.
Skywire Miner: Hardware for the Next Internet | Blog
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How can we create a truly free and open internet? To answer this question, we developed Skywire, the new alternative internet. Skywire is a groundbreaking, novel technology that takes control from large internet service providers (ISPs) and gives it back to the users. Its peer-to-peer model promotes net neutrality and sharing of content without blocking, slowdowns, or censorship. Skywire's open-access network preserves privacy and encourages free speech. Our mission in creating Skywire is to shape the internet's future for the better.
Skywire's revolutionary new networking protocol is already changing the internet as we know it. The protocol is based on Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). Benefits of MPLS include speed, quality of service, reliability, and security. Skywire goes beyond these standards to deliver an even faster, better network. It's designed for high performance and maximum privacy, allowing users to bypass ISPs and take control of their experience, essentially becoming their very own ISP.
Skycoin is the currency of Skywire, giving it a practical application beyond just a digital currency. When the user forwards traffic or provide network resources, he or she receives Skycoin. Likewise, when the user consumes network resources or media, he or she spends Skycoin. Users can maximize their coins in two ways: having high bandwidth in high-traffic areas, or having highly sought-after content.
The Skywire ''miner'' is meticulously designed and configured to provide a backbone for the new internet. Its custom-built hardware exceeds technical specifications to deliver maximum power and performance. Skywire functions as a ''miner'' for Skycoins. It acts as a specialized VPN, using the following hardware configuration:
8 CPU boards 2 GB of RAM per board 4 CPU cores per board 64 GB of storage per board 64-bit Linux (Alpine Linux) Gigabit ethernet, 8+1 port switch Each board features an ARM processor, 2 GB of RAM, and anywhere from 32 to 256 GB flash storage. The hardware is segmented in such a way that even if one service is compromised, the other services on the same machine can't be. An OpenWRT router with strict packet forwarding rules and access control increases security. The setup can be further customized to consist of 4, 8, 16, or 32 boards.
Users can deploy nodes manually, but automatic deployment is just around the corner. Sky-Messenger will provide a chatbot that allows users to peer clusters by public key. Once metering and settlement is implemented, Skywire will generate coins for operating the network.
Plans are already in place for second-generation hardware, which will include an OLED screen that displays RAM/CPU/Bandwidth and Skycoins per hour, an OpenWRT router, SATA ports on the board for at least 4 CPU boards, and 32 and 64 board models. The network runs on its own internal internet with dedicated hardware. In the future, the above hardware configuration will be extended to support physical wireless mesh networks.
Skywire distributes content faster and more anonymously than other alternatives. It does this by combining two powerful components: Aether and Skywire. Aether is a peer-to-peer replicated object system that powers the distribution of anonymous and immutable web content. Traditional internet apps for video streaming, messaging, and other services can all be run on Aether. Skywire, the second component, forms the backbone of the distributed networking system. It's a source-routed, public MPLS network built in a unique namespace and on a new networking stack. Skywire users essentially function as their own ISPs.
With Skywire, a local cache holds resources without connecting to the external internet. File downloads are copied directly into the local cache. Peers who are looking for that file can get it from you and pass it along the network. By leveraging peer-to-peer technology in an innovative and unique way, Skywire provides a viable internet alternative that's secure, fast, and sustainable.
The internet's future is balanced between large ISPs that restrict content for profit and cutting-edge network technology that brings the internet to you, the user. Skywire is at the vanguard of this revolution. The truth is, we don't need to rely on ISPs to explore the internet. With Skywire's networking protocol, we're creating a free, global, decentralized internet experience that's unlimited by the current market. Our vision for Skywire goes beyond transformation. As we continue to develop this trailblazing technology, one thing becomes clear: Skywire won't just change the internet. It will reinvent it.
Details We want the Skywire miner released in the next 6 months. Ideally it would be released within the next 3 months, but testing alone could take a few months. We also need to work out the logistics of assembly and shipping.
The 6 months target is still a soft date. Until the hardware and software is entering the full testing phase, we do not want to promise any date. We will not be collecting orders until we are confident about when the miners can be delivered.
Join the Skycoin Telegram for discussion of the Skywire miner and network.
There will be 300 units available for purchase. When we are ready to take orders, a form on the website will allow you to register for one.
The price will be 1 BTC for 1 unit. Purchasers will receive:
Skywire miner An amount of Skycoin equal to 1 BTC minus the hardware cost (estimated to be around $600), based on market rates at the time of purchase. Nodes operating on the Skywire network will be receiving a network incentive reward to help build out the network, in addition to traffic forwarding payments. For the Skywire miners, we'd like to increase this network incentive reward. However, we're still working out a mechanism for distinguishing the Skywire miners from other nodes, which could be any machine on the network.
The value and structure of the general network incentive reward is not yet specified. More information on this will be in a future release.
Errata More pictures of the Skywire miner Skywire Github Sky-Messenger Github Translation bounty for Ð ÑÑÑÐºÐ¸Ð¹, í'êµì´, æ¥æ'¬èª, ä¸æ: 2 SKY
Phones are such a big deal because of one absolute human need: constant finger fidgeting.
March 7, 2018 11:36AM EST March 7, 2018 PCMag reviews products
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The smartphone is under intense scrutiny as a disruptive device that causes depression in teens and has resulted in a noteworthy increase in pedestrian deaths. People walk into poles because they are looking at the screen or get into car accidents because they are texting while driving. It's ridiculous.
I've been ridiculed for recommending (on national TV) that Apple stop developing and marketing the iPhone. In hindsight, I was right, but not about Apple'--just about the smartphone in general. It's a genuine plague. That said, it's too late now to do anything about it.
I'd love to see the painting, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hieronymus Bosch, a masterpiece done around the year 1500, updated to a modern scene with everyone holding a phone in one of the two positions'--talking or texting. In fact, look at any painting done before 2007 and add the reality of the smartphone. Take any photo from the turn of the century where every male in the crowd is wearing a straw at and add the smartphone.
Why do we, all of a sudden, need to feel so plugged in and connected that we need this phone in our pocket or by our bedsides at night?
I've always related this connectivity to the heyday of the pager in the years between 1970-2000. These devices were first used by doctors on call and drug dealers. Generally referred to as beepers, to me they were the ultimate ball and chain. I was always stunned when people who didn't need them had them anyway. I'd ask, "What do you need a pager for?" and always get some bogus answer that translated to "So I can feel important and needed."
This got out of controlwith the BlackBerry, the pager on steroids, nicknamed the CrackBerry. People would constantly be checking their email for an important, life-changing message.
To me, the phone fulfills the human need to constantly be fiddling with something. It's part of the human (and primate) condition. It's no coincidence that the decline in cigarette smoking marked the increase in smartphone usage to the point of it being dangerous. Cigarette smoking was an intensive ritual using the hands and fingers.
Humans have always needed to fiddle with something with their hands. Visit the mountain villages of the Andes and you'd find every old woman talking to her friends as she slowly hand-spins a huge ball of wool using her fingers. In Eastern Europe, you'd find people fingering rosary beads for no particular reason. Chimps and other primates spend a lot of time grooming each other and literally nit-picking. It's no coincidence that people do virtual nit-picking looking up wiki articles on the phone while in a discussion around the dinner table to clarify some fact. Nit-picking, same as a monkey.
People who are constantly knitting or those who crochet: I'd bet money that their smartphone use is decreased. Same goes for whittling or scrimshaw, basket-weaving, and painting. My thesis would indicate that taking up the guitar or the piano'--where the need to constantly use the fingers'--would take care of this need to fiddle around with something.
Those recent indicators that heavy smartphone use causes depression may have it backwards. The depression comes from lack of hand use, which is compensated for by heavy phone use. However, unlike the wool spinners or knitters, nothing comes of it. There is no fruit of any labor, just time wasting.
So my recommendation is obvious: get a piano or knitting needles or a paint-by-number kit. Get off the phone. You are not a doctor on call. Nothing is that important that it cannot wait.
Top Read More About the Author John C. Dvorak is a columnist for PCMag.com and the co-host of the twice weekly podcast, the No Agenda Show. His work is licensed around the world. Previously a columnist for Forbes, PC/Computing, Computer Shopper, MacUser, Barrons, the DEC Professional as well as other newspapers and magazines. Former editor and consulting editor for InfoWorld, he... See Full Bio
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Secret Recording - KTH Student Risk Suspension After Handing Out Flyer - YouTube
Image copyright Getty Images The head of the world's largest advertising agency, WPP, has stepped down after an internal investigation into his personal conduct.
Chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell ran WPP for 33 years, becoming the highest paid boss of a FTSE 100 company.
He said WPP had been a passion but it was in "the best interests of the business" for him to resign.
WPP said the investigation, over use of company money, was finished. Sir Martin has rejected claims of wrong-doing.
The chairman of WPP, Roberto Quarta, will oversee the agency until a new CEO is appointed.
Sir Martin once said he would "carry on until they carry me out of the glue factory". The 73-year-old was the longest serving chief executive of a FTSE 100 firm by far.
He will be treated as having retired, WPP said in a statement, so will receive any payments, bonuses and shares in line with his contract.
He was one of the best-paid chief executives, and in 2015 faced a shareholder revolt over a £70.4m remuneration package.
Earlier this month it was disclosed that he was under a misconduct investigation by WPP, but Sir Martin strongly rejected any claim of financial impropriety.
Analysis: Simon Jack, BBC business editor:Although Sir Martin is deemed to have "retired" this was not the outcome he wanted.
His legacy as one of the titans of the advertising industry is secure - he built a £20bn global business from scratch and amassed a personal fortune.
In the end, it was the trends in world business that wrong-footed the sprawling empire he created. The old advertising firms have been rendered less important by the sheer reach and analytics available by platforms like Google and Facebook.
By his own admission, WPP got "walloped" last year and the company has lost a third of its value. If it hadn't, it's possible he could have survived the recent investigation into his conduct involving amounts of company money.
But shareholders were getting restless, he had lost the unanimous backing of the board and at 73, he is no spring chicken.
He has enormous energy and you wouldn't put it past him to create a new media empire. But his life's work, WPP - a company he was often accused of treating as his own - will now be run by someone else.
Read Simon's blog.
In a statement, WPP, whose businesses include J Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather, said: "The previously announced investigation into an allegation of misconduct against Sir Martin has concluded. The allegation did not involve amounts that are material." It did not give further details of the claims.
Mr Quarta described Sir Martin as being the "driving force" behind WPP's growth and thanked him for his commitment to the business.
In a statement, Sir Martin said: "Obviously I am sad to leave WPP after 33 years.
"It has been a passion, focus and source of energy for so long. However, I believe it is in the best interests of the business if I step down now.
"I leave the company in very good hands, as the board knows."
Who is Sir Martin Sorrell?Formed WPP in 1985 after taking control of a shell company, Wire & Plastic Products, and established it as a marketing services group in 1986 Oversaw growth of company which now has 3,000 offices in 112 countries Born in London, he read economics at Christ's College, Cambridge University One of UK's top-paid executives. His pay package in 2015-16 was £70m - then the biggest in UK corporate history - which more than a third of investors refused to back A lack of succession planning for after the 73-year-old's retirement has caused some anxiety among investors WPP, originally called Wire and Plastic Products, was a UK manufacturer of wire baskets for the first 14 years of its life until 1985 when Sir Martin took a loan out against shares he owned in Saatchi & Saatchi and purchased a stake in the company.
His aim was to turn it into a marketing company. Within a couple of years, the renamed WPP Group embarked on a series of acquisitions - research business Taylor Nelson Sofres, the Ogilvy Group, and the Young & Rubicam Group - as the firm expanded its presence across the world.
Sir Martin was born in London and educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School before going on to read Economics at Christ's College, Cambridge.
An MBA from Harvard followed, and Sir Martin entered the world of work at Glendinning Associates before starting at Saatchi & Saatchi in 1975, becoming group finance director in 1977.
Prominent Lawyer in Fight for Gay Rights Dies After Setting Himself on Fire in Prospect Park - The New York Times
A lawyer nationally known for being a champion of gay rights died after setting himself on fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn early Saturday morning and leaving a note exhorting people to lead less selfish lives as a way to protect the planet, the police said.
The remains of the lawyer, David S. Buckel, 60, were found near Prospect Park West in a field near baseball diamonds and the main loop used by joggers and bikers.
Mr. Buckel left a note in a shopping cart not far from his body and also emailed it to several news media outlets, including The New York Times.
Mr. Buckel was the lead attorney in Brandon v. County of Richardson, in which a Nebraska county sheriff was found liable for failing to protect Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Falls City, Neb. Hilary Swank won an Academy Award for her portrayal of Mr. Teena in the 1999 movie ''Boys Don't Cry.''
While serving as marriage project director and senior counsel at Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for the civil rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, Mr. Buckel was the strategist behind important same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.
Friends said that after he left the organization, Mr. Buckel became involved in environmental causes, which he alluded to in his note as the reason he decided to end his life by self-immolation with fossil fuels.
''Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,'' he wrote in the email sent to The Times. ''Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result '-- my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.''
In his note, which was received by The Times at 5:55 a.m., Mr. Buckel discussed the difficulty of improving the world even for those who make vigorous efforts to do so.
Privilege, he said, was derived from the suffering of others.
''Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,'' Mr. Buckel wrote, adding that donating to organizations was not enough.
Noting that he was privileged with ''good health to the final moment,'' Mr. Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action. ''Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,'' he wrote.
The police said Mr. Buckel was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. in what they said was a suicide.
Susan Sommer, a former attorney for Lambda Legal who is now the general counsel for the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, said Mr. Buckel was ''one of the architects of the freedom to marry and marriage equality movement.''
''He deserves tremendous thanks for recognizing this was in many ways at the heart of what it meant to be gay for many Americans and making it a priority,'' she said. ''I learned so much from him about the emotional center of what it means for a gay person not to be able to have all the protections for the person they love and that it's worth fighting for.''
The scene of the fire in Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Credit Christopher Lee for The New York Times Lambda Legal credited Mr. Buckel for focusing the organization on the rights of lesbian, gay and transgender youth. One of the cases Mr. Buckel spearheaded, Nabozny v. Podlesny, was the first time a federal court ruled that schools have an obligation to prevent the bullying of gay students, said Camilla Taylor, acting legal director at Lambda Legal.
Mr. Buckel also guided Lambda Legal's national work to allow gay people to marry. In another case he led, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples and their children were harmed because they were excluded from the rights granted via marriage. When Mr. Buckel suggested filing a lawsuit for gay marriage in Iowa in 2005, it was legal only in Massachusetts.
''It was considered a crazy thing to do because of the notion that Iowa would get to marriage equality before places like New York and New Jersey,'' Ms. Taylor said.
Catherine Varous, a neighbor of Mr. Buckel's, said he was very active in gardening, and together they worked on the Greenest Block in Brooklyn competition.
She said she often saw Mr. Buckel and his partner at the Park Slope Food Co-op and a farmer's market. ''He was the quieter of the two,'' she said, referring to Mr. Buckel. ''He was definitely more serious.''
Amy Orr, a kindergarten teacher who lives in the neighborhood, was out for her regular weekend jog at about 6:25 a.m. when she saw police officers standing over something that was smoldering.
She said she first ''thought it was a pile of garbage because of the shopping cart'' but then she saw the outline of a human body.
Runners and bicyclists continued to pass. But as more police officers and firefighters gathered, they all looked ''dumbfounded,'' Ms. Orr said. ''Nobody could believe it.''
By 11 a.m., the authorities had removed Mr. Buckel's body, leaving a blackened patch and a circular indentation around which parks officials placed two orange cones.
The grim scene stood in stark contrast to the rest of the park, which brimmed with activity. Several youth baseball games continued nearby and participants in PurpleStride, a walk dedicated to ending pancreatic cancer, strode along the bike path with runners and joggers.
The field where Mr. Buckel died would ordinarily be filled with activity, too. Warren Beishir, a graphic designer, said it was used for volleyball, soccer and barbecuing.
Mr. Beishir sat across from the field under a tree with his wife, Susan Stawicki, their 2-year-old daughter and their neighbors. They live across from the park and were awakened by sirens and flashing lights.
''How do you do that to yourself? It's a terrible way to go, and I don't want to think about it after today,'' Mr. Beishir said.
''I hope they are at peace,'' Ms. Stawicki said.
Follow Jeffery C. Mays on Twitter: @jeffcmays.
Zoe Greenberg, Rory Tolan and Alan Yuhas contributed reporting.
What are bacteriophages? Bacteriophages (or simply "phages") are bacterial viruses which attack bacteria, multiply within them, and then destroy them. They are "programmed" to destroy one or a few kinds of different strains of bacteria. Phages are widespread in nature and can appear naturally in food and in the human body (for example in the intestines). Phages can efficiently destroy bacteria which have acquired resistance to antibiotics and which are causes of life-threatening infections. It is this exceptional feature which determines whether to apply phages in treating bacterial infections.
What kinds of infections are treated at the Phage Therapy Unit? Only patients suffering from chronic bacterial infections caused by Acinetobacter, Burkholderia, Citrobacter, Enterobacter, Enterococcus, Escherichia, Klebsiella, Morganella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Shigella, Salmonella, Serratia, Staphylococcus, and/or Stenotrophomonas may be treated at the PTU. We do not treat other infections such as those caused by streptococci (Streptococcus), Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Propionibacterium acnes (bacteria that cause acne), Borrelia (bacteria that cause borreliosis), Helicobacter pylori, Haemophilus influenzae, or chlamydia. We treat for example: urinary infections, chronic bacterial prostatitis in men, vaginal infections, prosthetic joint infections, osteomyelitis, wound infections, leg ulcers, sinusitis, external and internal ear infections, skin infections, and upper and lower respiratory tract infections.
I have symptoms of bacterial infection but I do not know what bacteria cause it '' may I be admitted for experimental phage therapy? According to our protocol approved by the bioethics committee, we may admit for phage treatment only patients infected with identified bacteria. This means that the patient should have at least one result of bacterial culture to be treated for this infection. The exemption is infection with a multidrug-resistant bacterial strain. We do not provide differential diagnostics of the infections.
How are the phage preparations applied? Our phage formulations are prepared in a liquid form. They are applied orally, locally, and/or rectally. For oral application you will take a medication which neutralizes acid (up to 20 minutes before oral administration of the formulation), or a stomach acid inhibitor in order to limit the destruction of the phages by stomach acid. By local application, the formulation will be applied 1-2 times daily as a wet compress (moist dressing), sitz bath, nose or ear drops, aerosol, gargling, irrigation of vagina, fistulas, or abscess cavity. By the rectal route 10-20 ml instillations of the formulation will be applied 1-2 times daily.
What are the obligatory tests required for admission to the experimental phage therapy other than microbiological cultures and phage typing? These test include: general urine examination; erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR); peripheral blood morphology and blood smear; serum levels/activity of C-reactive protein (CRP '' wide range), glucose, total bilirubin, asparagine transaminase (AST), alanine transaminase (ALT), gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), alpha-amylase, creatinine, calcium, phosphate, total protein, D-dimer, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH); serum or urine level of beta-hCG (only in women of reproductive age); electrocardiogram (ECG); chest x-ray (postero-anterior view). They are ordered by the physician before beginning the treatment based on the current results presented by a patient.
Are there any other special tests required for admission for treatment of chronic bacterial prostatitis? Yes. In the case of patients with prostatitis suspected to be caused by bacterial infection we perform at our Unit in Wroclaw a ''four-glass test'' (together with microscopic analysis of prostatic fluid), which is a gold standard in diagnosis of chronic bacterial prostatitis. This test is accompanied by a general examination of the prostatic fluid, which shows e.g. whether any inflammatory cells are present. It is possible to send us a sample (urine, semen, or prostatic fluid) for isolation of bacteria infecting the urogenital tract and its initial phage typing to make it more likely that we will have active phages against the pathogen which is the actual causative agent of the infection, but this does not replace our obligatory four-glass test.
How can I register for consultation at the Phage Therapy Unit? You may obtain detailed information about the days and hours of consultations with our specialists and register by phone (+48 71 370 99 01 is available on working days between 8:15 am and 3:45 pm Warsaw time) or e-mail (email@example.com). We consult only previously registered patients. In some cases we may ask you to call and talk with our physician before registering.
Do I need to come to the Phage Therapy Unit personally to start the phage treatment? Yes. You should come personally to the PTU in Wroclaw, Cracow or Czestochowa. We do not send the phage preparations abroad. You should come for control visits (every 2-4 weeks depending on the decision of the physician) for continuation of the treatment.
What is the phage typing procedure? Phage typing is a procedure whose aim is to check the sensitivity of the given bacteria (strain) to the panel of phages from the collection of the Bacteriophage Laboratory of the IIET PAS. Based on its result the laboratory will choose or prepare the phage formulation for treatment.
Is it possible to perform the phage typing before visiting the Phage Therapy Unit? Yes. We prefer to obtain just the bacterial strain isolated in the local laboratory and sent to us on an agar transport plate by courier delivery (it should survive transport at room temperature). Alternatively it is possible to send us a sample taken from a patient (e.g. a swab) for isolation of bacteria. Bacteria should survive in this transport agar container even a few days at room temperature. We always advise sending us the samples in duplicate (only one of them will be sent for microbiological culture, and the other will be used in case of any problems with the first one). In such a case you should also send an equivalent sample to your local microbiological laboratory for parallel bacterial culture. To obtain detailed instructions please refer to our Information.
Are children admitted to the experimental phage therapy? Yes. We may admit for phage therapy not only adult patients but also children over 6 years old, at the moment.
What are the costs of the phage therapy at the Phage Therapy Unit? At present the estimated total cost of phage therapy (including qualification procedure, consultations, diagnostic tests including microbiological culture and phage typing, and cost of the phage preparations) is 2800-5700 PLN (usually the treatment lasts 6-8 weeks). The initial treatment (ca. 2 weeks) costs 1500-2800 PLN. It varies individually and depends on the nature of the infection, number of isolated pathogens, and of course on the duration of treatment.
Is it possible to pay with credit card or Euro at the Phage Therapy Unit and its branches? No. We accept only payments in cash in Polish zloty (PLN) for all procedures performed at the PTU (all payments are made to our institute's account at the cashier's office located in the institute's building). Payments for some procedures performed by the Bacteriophage Laboratory of the IIET PAS can be made in advance directly to our institute's account.
California Uber Alles
Breaking: Referendum to Split Calif. Into 3 States Will Be on Ballot
One of several proposals aiming to split California into multiple smaller states has reportedly reached an important new goal thanks in large part to the efforts of its billionaire champion.
According to a press release this week, the CAL 3 initiative surpassed the number of signatures needed to present the measure to voters in this year's election. If state officials determine the documents are genuine, it would then qualify as an initiative to be added this November.
Tim Draper, a venture capitalist whose idea would see the state's population roughly split into thirds to create a trio of new states, celebrated the feat that he says will allow Californians to weigh in directly at the ballot box.
''This is an unprecedented show of support on behalf of every corner of California to create three state governments that emphasize representation, responsiveness, reliability and regional identity,'' Draper said.
The CAL 3 chairman went on to call the receipt of more than 600,000 signatures an ''unprecedented milestone'' in the advancement of the plan.
As explained on its website, the initiative would separate the state according to a number of socioeconomic factors in an attempt to level out disparities that currently exist.
Under the proposal written by Draper, ''Cal'' would consist of a much smaller area of land comprising densely packed areas including Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey and San Benito counties.
With 12.3 million residents, it would have a population nearly as large as the much more expansive ''NorCal'' and ''SoCal'' and the highest median household income of the three.
Do you think California should split into three different states? The southern portion of the state, consisting of Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Fresno, Tulare, Madero and Mono counties, would be combined into a second state.
A third state would include the 40 counties remaining in Northern California.
If successful, the final names of the resulting states would be chosen by their residents following their formation.
Supporters of the plan say the new states would be able to build economies on industries unique to their geography and population.
In its press release, the initiative cited ''failing school systems that impact more than 6 million kids, highest-in-the-nation taxes, deteriorating infrastructure and strained government'' as issues plaguing the entire state that could be improved under the proposal.
RELATED: Trump's DOJ Demands Oakland Mayor Prove City Is Complying with Federal Law
''The unanimous support for CAL 3 from all 58 of California's counties to reach this unprecedented milestone in the legislative process is the signal that across California, we are united behind CAL 3 to create a brighter future for everyone,'' Draper said.
He is scheduled to share additional details about the recent achievement in a press conference Thursday afternoon from his office in San Mateo.
CAL 3 has competed with other plans for the division of the state or secession from the nation from Californians disaffected for a number of reasons.
Each of these proposals would require legislative approval even if supported by voters, and they all have their own set of vocal critics.
For CAL 3, Draper has encountered opposition from Democratic political consultant Steven Maviglio, among others.
Maviglio previously led the charge against another Draper-led plan to split the state and told reporters of the latest proposal that ''creating three new governments does nothing to solve our state's challenges other than tripling them.''
What do you think? Scroll down to comment below.
VIDEO - Alex Jones: 'Fuck Trump' for Blasting Syria
From Fox News host Laura Ingraham to the Infowars auteur, many of President Donald Trump's most vocal boosters turned on him over his decision to strike Syria.Infowars
Many of President Donald Trump's top media allies blasted him over the decision to launch strikes against Syria on Friday.
In one major conservative media ecosystem after another, the president met opposition, and concern about the financial cost of another foreign intervention, from many of the people who are normally his most vocal cheerleaders.
On Fox News, the strike was met with heavy skepticism by several of the show's primetime hosts. While close presidential ally Sean Hannity praised Trump's assertiveness, hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham both questioned the decision to strike.
Ingraham sparred with former Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, saying she'd learned from her support of the Iraq War that intervention can be incredibly costly.
''I guess it feels good because there are horrible things happening there,'' Ingraham said. ''But what do we really accomplish here tonight in Syria? This is not why Donald Trump got elected."
Among conservative radio personalities, the reception was equally frosty.
Ann Coulter spent the evening retweeting criticism of the strike, remarking on Twitter that former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe might beat Trump in 2020 ''if you promised no more 'stupid wars.'''
Michael Savage, a popular conservative radio talk show personality, livestreamed himself at dinner blasting the president, saying that America had become ''a nation of idiots'' in the wake of the attack.
''My opinion is that this is the greatest disaster of the Trump presidency,'' Savage said while pointing the camera at a plate of beans.
Many critics of the strikes noted Trump's skepticism about foreign wars in general, and the Iraq war in particular, during his presidential run (even as he also pledged to ''bomb the shit out of'' ISIS).
''This is clearly not something he ran on, and and it's inconsistent with a lot of things that he's said over the years,'' Carlson said on Fox News before Trump's announcement.
Trump found even greater hostility in the far-right alternative media ecosystem online, where many of his most bombastic supporters are also stauch anti-interventionists, and have previously condemned his foreign military actions.
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Infowars founder Alex Jones, a former libertarian Ron Paul supporter, launched into several conspiratorial rants about the nature of the strike, breaking down in tears and railing against Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
''Fuck Trump, and fuck these fucking people,'' Jones said.
We have the latest from the U.S. military about the airstrikes in Syria.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Today, we're following a reaction to the airstrikes on Syria last night. We're going to go to a live briefing at the Pentagon which - I'm looking around now to see if it's started. It's about to start. We are joined by NPR's Scott Horsley, White House correspondent. Scott, thanks very much for being with us.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: To point out the obvious, the President Trump who announced airstrikes last night is very different from the Donald Trump who ran for office, who said - who even taunted President Obama when he was contemplating some kind of military action in Syria and the president who said we're going to get our assets out of Syria as soon as possible. What changed his thinking?
HORSLEY: Yeah. Just 10 days ago, he was saying he wanted to bring the U.S. troops home. Obviously, what changed was this latest chemical weapons attack, presumably by Syria. Donald Trump has shown that for all of his isolationist tendencies and his America First policies, he is still someone who likes counterpunching and can be moved by grisly images on a TV screen.
SIMON: How important was it to the president and the administration and Defense Secretary Mattis that Britain and France be partners in the enterprise.
HORSLEY: It was certainly important to the secretary. And just this morning, the president is thanking France and the U.K. for joining in this effort. He's tweeting about the operation last night and calling it a perfectly executed strike and sending his thanks to France and the U.K. That's an important difference between the action last night and the similar but smaller action taken almost exactly a year ago under President Trump the first time he reacted to a chemical weapons strike in Syria.
SIMON: And can you tell from White House sources, Scott, is this what we might call a one-off? - because the president held open the possibility that there might be other strikes if the result wasn't achieved.
HORSLEY: Yeah. And it's an interesting sort of disconnect there between what the president said and the message we got from the Pentagon last night in their briefing - the Pentagon stressing that the operation was complete while the president said the U.S. is prepared to sustain this response militarily, economically and diplomatically if the attacks continue. I guess the wild card there is what Bashar al-Assad does and whether these attacks continue. This morning in his tweets - the president seems to be indicating more that this is a one-off if the chemical weapons halt now. He uses the phrase mission accomplished.
SIMON: Let's go to NPR's Ruth Sherlock who joins us from Beirut. Ruth, can you hear us?
RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: Hi. Hello. I can.
SIMON: And let me ask you about something that I think we all might notice this morning. It was my understanding that Syrian state media and, for that matter, Russia had announced that almost all of the missiles had been successfully intercepted. And yet today, Syrian state TV is showing images of places that were bombed.
SHERLOCK: Certainly, last night, they did say some of the missiles had been intercepted. And then they claim that missiles in other parts of the country had been completely intercepted. The truth of that, you know, remains to be seen. It's clearly - it's clear that some of these missiles did strike their targets. And, you know, we spoke to one military analyst who's from a pro-opposition research center but still said, from what he sees, he believes about 60 percent of the targeted infrastructure has been destroyed.
SIMON: Now, you have spoken with people who were in the political opposition and active in the field opposition in Syria who think these airstrikes are not going far enough for their assistance.
SHERLOCK: That's absolutely right. You know, they - for about seven years, the Syrian opposition has been calling for foreign intervention against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And in the early days of the war, there was a great kind of hope that the world would come running and would oust this regime, and then that didn't happen. And, of course - and slowly, they lost hope in that. And there's great bitterness. And they had almost given up. And, in fact, the Syrian opposition itself has been largely defeated in the wider civil war. But now, you're in a position - so now this was a sort of surprise, if you like, for a lot of people. But they are - you know, it's clear that for the moment this hasn't affected the facts on the ground for the civil war.
SIMON: Let's go back to our White House correspondent Scott Horsley. The president repeated in his remarks last night that this intervention - and I believe Prime Minister May said the same thing overnight - that the attacks were in no way meant to change the circumstances or - in the civil war that Bashar al-Assad seems to be on the verge of winning.
HORSLEY: That's right. Both the president and his military advisers have made it clear that - to the extent that the U.S. has an ongoing military mission in Syria, it is to mop up the remnants of ISIS. And the raids carried out last night were very specifically targeted at the Syrian regime's chemical weapons infrastructure. They are not an effort to tip the balance in Syria's civil war. And, in fact, the defense secretary in testimony on Capitol Hill this week was very cautious about not allowing U.S. forces to be somehow drawn inadvertently into that civil war. That was one of the big concerns here because of all the different players and the very complicated battlefield that exist in Syria, that in this strike on the chemical weapons facilities that the U.S. not somehow provoke a reaction by Russian allies of the regime or another one of the factions there and somehow get drawn into a conflict it wants no part of.
SIMON: We're going to go to a briefing at the Pentagon right now.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Any electronic devices - please turn them to mute. We have a website that we've got products uploaded to. If you have not received that, let me know. And we'll make sure you get it. But we did send that out to our media contact list. Are there any questions? OK. Well, we'll get started shortly. Yeah, I know, right? - a lot of (unintelligible) shortly.
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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: All right. We'll get started shortly.
SIMON: ...Briefing, of course, obviously, not under way. We are awaiting a live briefing from the Pentagon about U.S., British and French military action on targets last night in Syria. Of course, those strikes were launched in response to the suspected chemical attack. Last weekend, Defense Secretary Mattis calls last night's attacks precise and confined to chemical weapons-type targets. We have NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley with us and Ruth Sherlock in Beirut. Ruth, let me go back to you. The International Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons was going to begin to investigate the actual site in Douma, where chemical weapons attacks were - reportedly occurred. What's the status of that investigation? And do these strikes affect that mission?
SHERLOCK: Well, they issued a statement this morning saying that they were going to go ahead with the mission to find out exactly what happened with this chemical weapons attack - or reported chemical weapons attack. I should say that, for the moment, in terms of what's been independently confirmed, there's very, very little. There are still many questions around how many people even died in the attack and, you know, what chemical agent was used. Was it a nerve agent? Or was it chlorine, which has been weaponized frequently throughout the Syrian war but isn't - hasn't been banned because it's used in lots of kind of - for domestic uses as well. So they're going to be going into Douma to try to establish that.
It's a bit - much complicated by the fact that this area immediately after the chemical attack ultimately surrendered to the Syrian government. So Syrian rebels, their families, doctors from this area who'd been allegedly treating these - the victims of this attack got out of there. You know, they boarded buses, and they were taken to a rebel-held part of northern Syria. And so that area has changed hands. The Syrian government and Russia has gone in. They've already started - they've already claimed that there's been no findings of any kind of chemical weapons attack in that area. Of course, there's great political interests on both sides of this story. And the people that were reporting the chemical attacks to begin with had, you know, pro-opposition leanings. And now the people who control it are for the government.
SIMON: The Pentagon briefing has begun.
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DANA WHITE: I want to start by making one point clear - the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an inexcusable violation of international law. And the United States will not tolerate it. The Assad regime's attack...
SIMON: This is Pentagon spokesperson Dana White.
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WHITE: ...Innocent Syrians in Douma, Syria, on April 7 is horrifying and tragic. And it demanded an immediate response. Yesterday, United States forces, at the direction of President Trump, launched precision strikes against Assad regime targets associated with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. We launched these strikes to cripple Syria's ability to use chemical weapons in the future. We were joined by the United Kingdom and France, who demonstrated solidarity in addressing these atrocities. Americans are united in condemning Syria's inexcusable use of chemical weapons, which no civilized nation would tolerate. We are encouraged by the support we received from the senators and congressmen on both sides of the aisle. We are also extremely proud of the United States servicemembers who carried out this operation last night. They demonstrated unwavering courage and commitment in their defense of the American people and the values and ideals our nation represents.
This operation was carefully orchestrated and methodically planned to minimize potential, collateral damage. I can assure you we took every measure and precaution to strike only what we targeted and what we success - and we successfully hit every target. This operation does not represent a change in U.S. policy nor an attempt to depose the Syrian regime. These strikes were a justified, legitimate and proportionate response to the Syrian regime's continued use of chemical weapons on its own people. We do not seek conflict in Syria, but we cannot allow such grievous violations of international law.
Our goal in Syria remains defeating ISIS by, with and through the 70-nation coalition. But we will not stand by passively while Assad, backed by Russia and Iran, ignores international law. The Assad regime's actions in April 2017 and again on April 7, 2018, show they have abandoned their commitments to the international community and resorted to illegal tactics against the innocent Syrian people. We call upon Russia to honor its commitment to ensure the Assad regime dismantles its chemical weapons program and never uses chemical weapons again. We support our diplomats who are working to set the conditions for the United Nations-backed Geneva process to succeed. And we look forward to working with United Nations' envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura. In an effort to maintain transparency, General McKenzie will now provide a detailed overview of the actual operations. General McKenzie.
KENNETH MCKENZIE: Thanks. Thanks, Dana. Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I'm going to spend the first couple of minutes just talking about the military...
SIMON: This is Marine Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie.
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MCKENZIE: ...Details of the strikes that we executed last night. And could I get the first graphic up, please? As you've heard from the president of the United States and directly in this room from Secretary Mattis and Chairman Dunford, the United States, the United Kingdom and France, three of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, conducted a proportional, precision, coordinated strike in response to the Syrian regime's continued use of chemical weapons. This combined military strike was directed against three distinct Syrian chemical weapons program targets. And I'm going to show them to you in turn on the monitor behind me. And I think you have access to that information also. The three facilities are - or more appropriately now were fundamental components of the regime's chemical weapons warfare infrastructure. Let's go to the first slide, please - the Barzah Research and Development Center - next slide - pardon me - Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Facility and last - and the next slide please - the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Bunker Facility, which is located about seven kilometers from the previous Him Shinshar site. This strike aimed to deliver a clear and ambiguous message to the Syrian regime that their use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians is inexcusable and to deter any future use of chemical weapons. We selected these targets carefully to minimize the risk to innocent civilians. We're still conducting a more detailed damage assessment, but initial indications are that we accomplished our military objectives without material interference from Syria. I'd use three words to describe this operation - precise, overwhelming and effective. Let's go back to the first Barzah slide, please. I guess the first target, the Barzah Research and Development Center, which is located in the greater Damascus area...
SIMON: The general is showing slides of the before and after of what he says are chemical weapons sites that were hit in last night's attacks.
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MCKENZIE: ...We deployed 76 missiles. Fifty-seven of these were Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles and 19 were Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, or JASSM's. As you can see for yourself from the graphics, initial assessments are that this target was destroyed. This is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years. And you also note that we've successfully destroyed three buildings in metropolitan Damascus, one of the most heavily defended airspace areas in the world. Next slide, please. Against the second target, the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Facility, which is located in Syria just west of Homs, 22 weapons were employed - nine U.S. TLAM's, eight Storm Shadow Missiles, three naval cruise missiles and two scout land attack cruise missiles. So this target was attacked by all coalition forces.
Our Tomahawks, the British storm shadow and then the French missiles went against it as well. Against the third target in the next slide, the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Bunker Facility, we deployed seven scout missiles. Again, the initial assessment is that this bunker facility was successfully hit. Now, I'd just like to talk a bit about the specific platforms that were part of this strike. And let's go back to the first slide, please. The missiles that I've just described were delivered from British, French and U.S. air and naval platforms in the Red Sea, the Northern Arabian Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean. All weapons hit their targets at very close to the designated time on target of about 4 a.m. in Syria, which of course is 9 o'clock here on the East Coast.
I'm going to give you a little more details now about the platforms. First, in the Red Sea, the Ticonderoga class cruiser Monterey, fired 30 Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Laboon fired seven Tomahawks. In the North Arabian Gulf, the Burke-class destroyer Higgins fired 23 Tomahawks. In the eastern Mediterranean, the French frigate Languedoc fired three missiles of their naval version of the SKAT (ph) missile. Also in the Mediterranean, the Virginia-class submarine John Warner fired six Tomahawk missiles. In the air, two B-1 Lancer bombers fired 19 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff missiles. In addition, our British allies flew a combination of Tornados and Typhoons and launched eight Storm Shadow missiles. Our French allies flew a combination of Rafales and Mirages and launched nine Scout missiles.
Taken together, and as you can see from the graphic behind me, these attacks on multiple axes were able to overwhelm the Syrian air defense system. It's also important to note that we flew a variety of defensive counter air, tanker and electronic warfare aircraft in support of these operations. None of our aircraft or missiles involved in this operation were successfully engaged by Syrian air defenses. And we have no indication that Russian air defense systems were employed. We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets.
At the end of the strike mission, all our aircraft safely returned to their bases. We assess that over 40 surface-to-air missiles were employed by the Syrian regime. Most of these launches occurred after the last impact of our strike was over. It is likely that the regime shot many of these missiles on a ballistic trajectory...
SIMON: You're listening to NPR's live coverage of the Pentagon briefing from Marine Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie.
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MCKENZIE: ...Ineffective and clearly increased risk to their own people based on this indiscriminate response. When you shoot iron into the air with that guidance, it's going to come down somewhere. By contrast, the precise nature of our strike and the care which our allied team planned and executed significantly reduced the risk of collateral damage to civilians. In summary, in a powerful show of allied unity, we deployed 105 weapons against three targets that will significantly impact the Syrian regime's ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future. It's been said before, but I want to emphasize again that by comparison, this strike was double the size of the last strike in April 2017. And I'd also emphasize that this strike was a multinational effort. The precision strike was executed with France and the U.K., demonstrating our unquestionable resolve. I'd like to close by noting that since the strike, we have not seen any military response from actors within Syria. And we remain postured to protect our forces and those of the coalition should anything occur. Dana, back to you.
WHITE: So with that, I'll take your questions. Bob.
BOB: Thank you. General McKenzie, you said that you assess initially that the attack cumulatively set back the Syrian chemical weapons program for years. Can you be - can you elaborate on that? Miss White said that...
SIMON: We've been listening to the live Pentagon briefing for a Marine - forgive me - from Marine Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie talking about last night's airstrikes by Britain, France and the United States against chemical weapons targets in Syria. NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley is with us. Scott, thanks very much for being with us.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Scott.
SIMON: What did you notice in the briefing?
HORSLEY: Well, one of the questions we had after last night's briefing, a question that we couldn't really - the military couldn't really answer last night, was whether the Syrian defenses had been effective. And what we're hearing there from General McKenzie is that they were not very effective. They believe that all of the 105 missiles launched by the U.S. and its allies, the U.K. and France, hit their targets without, he said, material interference by the Syrian defenses. It sounds as if most of the Syrian defensive weapons were launched after the fact and didn't connect with any allied weapons. In fact, he said they probably posed more of a threat to the Syrian public because, in his colorful phrase, when you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it's going to come down somewhere. So that tells us something we didn't know from last night. Also significantly he said there was no indication that Russia employed any defenses of these targets.
SIMON: Yeah. At the same time, did General McKenzie sound as if there was going to be further military action? Or did he seem to believe that these raids had been so successful that wouldn't be necessary?
HORSLEY: He talked about, you know, these facilities being in the past tense and the degradation this has done to the Syrian regime's ability to wage chemical warfare in the future. But obviously, the White House has left open the possibility of further attacks if, in fact, the Assad regime tries using chemical weapons again. I'll just repeat what I said earlier, which is that in his tweet this morning, the president used the phrase, mission accomplished, which seems to suggest that, for now, at least, the U.S. feels its military strike has done what it wanted to do, and no further action's going to be necessary.
SIMON: In the tweet, I believe, he said the result couldn't have been better, right?
HORSLEY: That's right. And he thanked the U.K. and France for their cooperation in this effort. As General KcKenzie said, that was one of the differences between this attack and the one the U.S. carried out just about exactly a year ago on its own.
SIMON: NPR's White House correspondent Scott Horsley, thanks very much for being with us.
HORSLEY: You're welcome.
SIMON: When President Trump ordered the strikes on Syria last night, the decision came at a time of personal crisis, a special counsel investigation and a criminal investigation into his personal lawyer. These twin challenges have drawn comparisons to 1998 when President Clinton responded to al-Qaida attacks with an airstrike on Sudan on the same day Monica Lewinsky was to appear before a grand jury to give testimony about her affair with the president. William Cohen was secretary of defense at that time. He joins us from his home. Thanks very much for being with us.
WILLIAM COHEN: It's good to be with you. Thank you.
SIMON: Mr. Secretary, I want to note, as someone who was a reporter then, that there was a lot of skepticism about the timing of those attacks. They turned out to be justified. How do you feel about President Trump's decision last night?
COHEN: Well, I think it was justified. I did question both the means in which he communicated his intent and the message that went out to the Russians and the Syrians and the Iranians. Namely, it went out as a taunt. And I've tried to indicate some of my past appearances that, you know, the NFL banned taunting for a good reason. And I think at the presidential level, taunts are unwarranted because they can produce a backlash or reaction, which could be quite consequential to the United States.
So I don't like the method of announcing what we're going to do by tweet. And I think the attitude or the tone I should say with which it was delivered, I think, was not productive. Beyond that, I believe that it did warrant a component of a reaction to be a military component. But I had hoped it would go further, that we would also increase the sanctions against all three combined - the Iranians, the Syrians and the Russians - because I think they're complicit in this. It's not just the chemical weapons as horrific as they are. But they've been using barrel bombs on innocent civilians.
They have, in fact, militarized - weaponized, I should say - weaponized the refugees by driving millions up into European countries thereby destabilizing them. So this is a long war. And it's been fought unfairly to be sure by having Russians, Iranians and maybe even Lebanese join in the effort to defeat those who are trying to resist or rebel against Assad's regime. But nonetheless, I think the president was right to take action.
There's an expression in terms of, don't telegraph what you're going to do, and just do it. And I think in this particular case so, we should have been more careful in what we were going to say. The president made the statement and then had to walk it back because Secretary Mattis, I'm sure, gave him a very sober message in terms of number one, we need time to plan this - number two, we need allies. This is not a U.S. against Russia. Do not allow us to make a taunt against the Russians. We're coming - very smart, very fast. That could have complicated this mission a great deal - and say, let's make sure it's multilateral, multinational.
We're not going to the U.N. Security Council because the Russians will block it. But we are looking for a coalition of the willing here. And we've got to have our best allies who have joined in this. So it's not the U.S. against Russia. It is the civilized community against a country and leader who has used barbaric means of waging war.
SIMON: Mr. Cohen, I have to take another minute out of the time we have with our other correspondents to ask you one more question. You, earlier in your career, were on the House judiciary committee that voted to impeach President Richard Nixon over Watergate crimes.
SIMON: See any parallel with current events?
COHEN: Well, at this moment, they're still gathering the evidence. We were very careful in trying to define what constituted an impeachable offense - a high crime and misdemeanor. We have yet to see that produced by Mr. Mueller. But I think it's critical that the investigation go on and not be interfered with.
SIMON: Thanks very much, former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen. Thanks very much for being with us.
SIMON: Joined now by NPR's Ron Elving, Senior Editor and Correspondent. Ron, thank you very much for being with us today.
RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: Don't these airstrikes in Syria contradict everything Donald Trump has said in the past, when he essentially taunted President Obama not to order strikes? And wasn't it arguably one of the reasons he won the Republican nomination, because he called the war in Iraq stupid and said the U.S. shouldn't get involved overseas?
ELVING: Right. America first, that was the mantra and the president has indeed been attacked on just those grounds this morning by a number of bloggers and talk show hosts on the right. They were calling him Donald Bush and asking if Hillary Clinton had secretly taken over. And it doesn't help that the president himself this morning used the phrase, mission accomplished, a phrase made famous for its premature use by George W. Bush in the Iraq war. But Scott, let's not forget that there are also a lot of people this morning who are not happy because the president did not consult Congress on this mission and others who are asking whether these very limited strikes really accomplished anything of great value.
SIMON: Some lawmakers were apparently briefed by the administration, others weren't. Any idea who merited getting contacted?
ELVING: There is a designated group of leaders in both parties, in both chambers, who are to be notified and to be consulted in the sense of telling them that this is happening. But that's not the same thing as asking Congress for its approval, they do sometimes widen that group to include the chairs of some of the most relevant committees. But here again, the wider the group gets - the theoretically, the more criticism you might get. But it's already too late once the mission is already launched.
SIMON: Ron, you were one of the lucky few to get an early copy of James Comey book, which is coming out next week. Give us a snapshot please.
ELVING: James Comey, the former FBI director, says the president is unethical and untethered from truth, calls him a forest fire, says he's destroying much of what is great about the nation. He also compares him to the mafia dons that Comey had prosecuted earlier in his career. Suffice to say, we have never seen a president taken down to this degree by anyone who has held such high positions as Comey has held in multiple administrations in both parties. It's a scathing book.
SIMON: And all of that is fascinating and the vignettes that we have - I think a lot of us have heard about at this point are fascinating and fair game for a memoir. But does James Comey describe any actual criminal conduct by President Trump?
ELVING: He does address that question, so let me put this in his own words, he said, quoting Comey's book here, "I have one perspective on the behavior I saw, which while disturbing and violating basic norms of ethical leadership, may fall short of being illegal." So in other words, he is not actually attributing a specific crime that he saw or had evidence of to the president, but at the same time, he's not letting that change his tone of moral judgment about the president. And we should say that the president responded in a tweet Friday morning saying Comey was untruthful, calling him a slime ball and a proven liar and leaker and a terrible leader at the FBI, and saying virtually everyone in Washington had wanted him fired before the president actually fired him.
SIMON: Ron, what about reports overnight that there are people in the White House, perhaps even including the president, who now consider the investigation that's been going on in the southern district of New York to be perhaps more potentially hazardous for the president than even the Mueller investigation?
ELVING: Because that information is coming from the White House itself, I think we have to take it with something of a grain of salt that it may be intended, perhaps, to cast a certain amount of shadow on the Mueller investigation and the Russia connections. It's also possible, of course, that we do not know yet exactly what Michael Cohen's office may contain in terms of records, in terms of recordings, in terms of e-mails. And there may be things that no one has thought of yet or glimpsed or dreamt of that might have been involved in what prompted that extraordinary search warrant that got the FBI into Michael Cohen's office this last week.
SIMON: Ron Elving, NPR Senior Washington correspondent, thanks so much for being with us.
ELVING: Thank you, Scott.
SIMON: We're going to turn now to David Miliband who's president of the International Rescue Committee and, of course, former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom. He joins us from New York. Mr. Miliband, thanks so much for being with us.
DAVID MILIBAND: Good morning, Scott.
SIMON: You have not - ever seem to have any doubts that Bashar al-Assad has attacked his own citizens with chemical weapons and have been outspoken against its government and its foreign backers, to use your phrase. But are you concerned about some of the humanitarian consequences of expanded military action against the regime?
MILIBAND: Of course is the answer to that. The International Rescue Committee has a thousand staff inside Syria. We are concerned about them and for the many hundreds of thousands of Syrians who we serve. And really, there are two questions, I think, that arise from the limited strikes last night. One is whether they will deter further chemical weapons use. And if I heard the Pentagon briefing rightly, they talked about sarin and the R&D facilities. What's not clear is whether or not the use of chlorine, which has been reported as being used last weekend, is going to be deterred. Chlorine, obviously, is widely available. The second question is whether there is a broader game plan on the part of the coalition that struck last night - to use political, diplomatic, economic means to stop the slaughter of Syrian civilians that has cost 500,000 lives and driven five million refugees out of the country.
SIMON: How would you like to see the West aid Syria?
MILIBAND: I think that the diplomatic offensive that I'm talking about has a number of elements. First, start with the straightforward things. The neighboring states, like Jordan, which is the second closest ally of the U.S. in the Middle East - it's harboring 650,000 refugees - states like that need help. Secondly, more Syrians were killed in the chemical weapons attack last weekend than have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees in this fiscal year - since October the 1. The U.S. has a long, proud tradition of refugee resettlement which is being abandoned by the current administration, and that seems, to me, to be a severe setback. But obviously, the toughest questions are inside Syria. And my perspective about the drive for a political settlement is that the power that was deployed last night needs to be allied with real pain to those who are supporting the Assad regime to drive them to the negotiating table. And that pain can take economic and political form. I'm leading a humanitarian organization, so I'm not in a position to advocate or comment on particular military options. But it seems to me it's the lack of a political strategy that has bedeviled the West over the last seven years of the Syria conflict.
SIMON: You mean Russia and Iran to be blunt about it, don't you?
MILIBAND: Absolutely. The Russian and Iranian support for the Assad regime has been absolutely critical. And I do want to point out to your listeners that although the fight in eastern Ghouta seems to have been concluded, in northwest Syria - in Idlib province, there are about 2.6, 2.7 million people there now. They're awaiting their fate. In the southwest of the country, where the IRC supports medical aid to about 360,000 civilians around Daraa - which is obviously where the civilian - where the civil war started seven years ago - there's also opposition control, including some ISIS pockets. And so I fear very much that your opening question to me, which is whether or not the fate of Syrian civilians is now safer, is very much up in the air because both the Assad regime and its backers still believe they have work to do. And Syrian civilians are going to be on the receiving end of that.
SIMON: In the half a minute we have left, I've been struck by something you once wrote about Syria. You said history teaches that when there is a vacuum in international affairs, it's filled by malign actors. Is that's what's happened here?
MILIBAND: Yes. I think that what's happened is that in the first three years of the conflict, the fear of getting embroiled in a civil war led to the complete neglect of the rights of Syrian civilians. They were subjugated to appalling attack from their own government. And that is a vacuum that hasn't just been filled by the Assad regime and Russia. It's obviously been filled by ISIS and Daesh. And the breaching of the norms - in respect to human rights - over the last seven years have plumbed depths into the international system. And it's very hard to unplumb (ph) them. That's the job of diplomacy that, I think, is now imperative.
SIMON: David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, thanks so much for being with us.
MILIBAND: Thank you so much.
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A criminal investigation into the president's private lawyer was exposed this week, starting with an FBI raid. Law professor Alan Dershowitz tells NPR's Scott Simon why he worries about its legality.
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Of course, we've been talking about President Trump's actions overseas. Let's now move to the crisis he faces at home. There was a raid this week on the office of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in New York, and the revelation that Mr. Cohen's been the subject of a months-long criminal investigation.
President Trump was furious. He called the raid an attack on our country. Many legal analysts have disagreed. Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz disagrees with them and joins us now. Alan, thanks so much for being with us.
ALAN DERSHOWITZ: Thank you. You know, there's an important issue that hasn't been discussed this morning, and that is under the law of the 2nd Circuit, statements made by one's lawyer can sometimes be attributed to that person, and that puts Trump into an interesting dilemma.
If he denies that Cohen is his lawyer for these purposes, then he loses any claim of lawyer-client privilege. But if he acknowledges that he was his lawyer for these purposes, then statements attributed to Cohen regarding any case involving Trump could be attributed to Trump himself. So he's on the horns of a little bit of a dilemma here.
SIMON: Well, thank you. And, in fact, I had not taken that into my mind. You don't like this raid, right?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I think raids of lawyers' offices should be reserved for the most extreme cases. And I proposed new legislation, in fact, in an article on the Hill saying that when a raid of a lawyer's office occurs, the raid should be accompanied by a judicial officer - a judge or a magistrate - who can make a preliminary determination as to what material is - I'm not worried about the rights of the allegedly crooked lawyer or doctor or priest.
What I'm worried about is the rights of the innocent client, patient or patent that may be swept up in the raid. And the taint teams that review this consist of FBI agents and U.S. attorneys, and that seems to me like a core violation of the Fourth and Sixth amendments to have government officials reading through material that may turn out ultimately to be privileged and confidential. And just simply saying, oh, it's OK. We're not going to use it in a criminal case, but the risks of leaks are very, very high, and the very fact that government agents are reviewing your most confidential confessions to your priest or statements to your doctor or statements to your lawyer is very troubling.
SIMON: It was a lawful warrant, though, right?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, it was a lawful warrant to get material from Cohen. Question is did it also get material from Cohen's clients? And, you know, those of us who are civil libertarians have never been satisfied with the protections given by lawful warrants. They're very easy to get, and they often cover too much, so civil libertarians should be concerned. Now the ACLU came out in favor of the raid...
DERSHOWITZ: ...Not even neutral - just in favor of the raid, saying it was a good raid.
SIMON: I was going to point that out to you, yeah.
DERSHOWITZ: Right. It supported the rule of law. You know, I've been active in the ACLU for 55 years and was on its national board. I never remember a situation where the ACLU, without considering the implications for civil liberties of innocent people, came out and supported government action. It seems to me that the ACLU is now more interested in getting Trump than they are in protecting the rights of all Americans. It's a scandal, and it's a shame.
SIMON: Professor Dershowitz, another inquiry, which, I guess, might be part of the same ball of wax. We were able to interview Valerie Plame Wilson on the pardon of Scooter Libby, and she believes that the pardon of Scooter Libby had almost nothing to do with her case, or his case for that matter. But it was President Trump's idea to send a signal to Michael Cohen, to Paul Manafort, to perhaps others that they can walk away from this - that he's prepared to pardon them. You had dinner...
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I don't...
SIMON: ...With President Trump. You know him. What's your insight there?
DERSHOWITZ: Well, I don't know him. I've only met him on two - three occasions, and the dinner and my meeting at the White House were primarily about the Middle East and the ongoing effort in the Israel-Palestine conflict, so I'd be speculating. But I do know this - that the efforts to try to get a pardon for Scooter Libby have gone back months and months and months. I know I've been called about it because I worked with Scooter Libby on a couple of cases a long time ago. And so I know it was in the works for a long time.
I have no idea what was in the mind of the president when he issued the pardon, but I know that people have been pressuring him, from both parties, to pardon Scooter Libby. And they thought that President Bush had done an incomplete job simply - because he was the fall guy for a lot of the sins of the Bush administration.
SIMON: According to reports, the materials that they were looking for were - had to do with the "Access Hollywood" tape and the Karen McDougal matter.
SIMON: They're fair game?
DERSHOWITZ: No, no, no. Not good enough to get a search warrant of a lawyer's office. To get a search warrant of a lawyer's office, you should be looking for Mafia-type drug connections, major corporate crimes. To use that nuclear weapon, and it's used very, very rarely - a search of a lawyer's office - on what seem like rather technical criminal charges sounds like a lack of proportion.
SIMON: Thanks very much for being with us, Alan Dershowitz.
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VIDEO - US training Syria militants for false flag chemical attack as basis for airstrikes '' Russian MoD - YouTube
Columbia University professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, a writer of foreign policy textbooks and special adviser to the United Nations, issued a special plea to President Trump to stop the war in Syria now by ending the CIA's covert arming and funding of rebel forces.
"And so what I would plead to President Trump is: Get out, like your instinct told you... Get out. We've done enough damage in seven years," Sachs said to the president about the Syrian War on Friday's 'Morning Joe.'
Sachs explained: "This [Syrian civil war] happened because of [the United States]. These 600,000 [dead] are not just incidental. [The United States] started a war to overthrow a regime. It was covert. It was Operation: Timber Sycamore, people can look it up, the CIA operation. Together with Saudi Arabia, still shrouded in secrecy... A major war effort shrouded in secrecy, never debated by Congress, never explained to the American people. Signed by President Obama. Never explained."
President Barack Obama secretly authorized the CIA to begin arming rebel forces in Syria in 2013. However, the CIA had already been facilitating the flow of arms from Libya to Syria for more than a year before that, in collaboration with the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and Qatar.
"Seven years has been a disaster, under Obama and continued under Trump," Sachs also said. "This is what I would call the 'Permanent State.' This is the CIA, this is the Pentagon wanting to keep Iran and Russia out of Syria, but we have no way to do that. And so we have made a proxy war in Syria.
Former NATO supreme commander Admiral James Stavridis debates Sachs, warning America not to allow "Middle East fatigue" to convince us to abandon the U.S. role in the Syrian civil war.
"We need to not walk away, but go to the U.N. Security Council and agree with Russia on a strategy for ending the fight," Sachs said. "Ending the fight means we stop trying to overthrow the government [of Bashar al Assad]. That we stop trying to support rebels who are committed to overthrowing the government. That is where this war continues. Because we, to this day, back rebels that are trying to overthrow a government, contrary to international law, contrary to the U.N. charter, contrary to common sense."
JEFFREY SACHS: I think we need to step back and not put this in partisan terms. This is a U.S. mistake that started seven years ago. I remember the day on your show when President Obama said Assad must go, and I looked at you and Joe and said, 'Huh? How's he going to do that? Where's the policy for that?'
And we now know they sent in the CIA to overthrow Assad. The CIA and Saudi Arabia together in covert operations tried to overthrow Assad. It was a disaster. Eventually, it brought in both ISIS, as a splinter group to the Jihadists that went in. It also brought in Russia.
So we have been digging deeper and deeper. What we should do now is get out, and not continue to throw missiles. not have a confrontation with Russia. Seven years has been a disaster, under Obama and continued under Trump.
This is what I would call the "Permanent State."
This is the CIA, this is the Pentagon wanting to keep Iran and Russia out of Syria, but we have no way to do that. And so we have made a proxy war in Syria. It has killed 500,000 people, displaced ten million.
And I'll say predictably so, because I predicted it seven years ago, that there was no way to do this. And it would make a complete chaos.
And so what I would plead to President Trump is: Get out, like your instinct told you, by the way. That was his instinct.
But then all the establishment, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Pentagon said no, no that's irresponsible.
But his instinct is right: Get out. We've done enough damage in seven years. And now we really risk a confrontation with Russia that is extraordinarily dangerous and reckless...
ADM. JAMES STAVRIDIS: I think there are two problems with Professor Sachs's comments, although I certainly feel that sense of Middle East fatigue that we all have. Of course, it is not just Syria, it is Iraq, Afghanistan. There have been a whole series of things that have generated the kind of feeling that says let's pull out of the world and come back to the United States.
There are two fundamental problems with that: One is the use of chemical weapons, I think really does demand a response from the international community at a level of a military strike. I do support a strike here.
Secondly, I do think Professor Sachs is right to point out that this is a massive humanitarian disaster, I think the numbers are actually 600,000 dead and 14 million displaced. I am in complete agreement with him on the scale of this, but I would like to see the United States try and be part of the solution.
And here what I would do is look back to the Balkans in the 1990s, which looked somewhat like Syria of today. And there was eventually an international solution that included the United States and Russia working together. We've got a long way to go to get there, but if we just step away from it, as attractive as that feels to us, I don't think it is the right solution.
JEFFREY SACHS: We've got to remember how this happened. This happened because of us. These 600,000 are not just incidental. We started a war to overthrow a regime. It was covert. it was Timber Sycamore, people can look it up, the CIA operation.
Together with Saudi Arabia, still shrouded in secrecy, which is part of the problem in our country. A major war effort shrouded in secrecy, never debated by Congress, never explained to the American people. Signed by President Obama. Never explained.
And this created chaos. And so just throwing more missiles in right now is not a response. We need to, not walk away, but go to the U.N. Security Council and agree with Russia on a strategy for ending the fight.
Ending the fight means we stop trying to overthrow the government [of Bashar al Assad]. That we stop trying to support rebels who are committed to overthrowing the government. That is where this war continues. Because we, to this day, back rebels that are trying to overthrow a government, contrary to international law, contrary to the U.N. charter, contrary to common sense, contrary to practical path.
We cant do it. And it just creates an ongoing crisis, to the extent of facing an imminent confrontation with Russia.
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The guy telling everyone to be afraid of robots uses too many robots in his factory By Andrew J. Hawkins on April 13, 2018 1:41 pm Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla's critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3.
Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018.
''crazy, complex network of conveyor belts'' Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3's batteries at the company's Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS's Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla's over-reliance on robots in the production.
Photo by James Bareham / The Verge
Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a ''crazy, complex network of conveyor belts'' the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn't working.
It's a fairly stunning admission from the man who previously likened his company's massive factory to an ''alien dreadnought'' thanks to the complex assemblage of advanced robotic arms building its line of electric cars. In an earnings call with investors last year, Musk spoke about the production speeds facilitated by Tesla's robots. ''It's remarkable how much can be done by just beating up robots ... adding additional robots at choke points and just making lines go really, really fast,'' he said. ''Speed is the ultimate weapon.''
''Speed is the ultimate weapon'' Last year, Tesla acquired Perbix, a private machining firm that makes automated equipment for factories, allowing the carmaker to bring the production of more parts in-house. Tesla described the deal as a step further in its long-stated ambition to ''build the machine that makes the machine.''
In fact, Musk was so confident that Tesla had gotten right the mix of robots and humans that its giant Gigafactory would become the company's ultimate product. ''The competitive strength of Tesla long-term is not going to be the car, it's going to be the factory,'' he said last February. ''We're going to productize the factory.''
Musk is also one of the foremost voices urging caution in the development of robotics and artificial intelligence. He has called for governments to regulate AI to prevent the technology from threatening human existence, and has warned for a coming ''AI apocalypse.''
''We got complacent about some of the things we felt were our core technology'' Also in the interview, Musk said the Model 3's technical complexities were additionally to blame for the company's ongoing ''production hell.'' ''We got complacent about some of the things we felt were our core technology, we put too much new technology into the Model 3 all at once,'' Musk said.
A spokesperson for Tesla declined to clarify Musk's comments. While aesthetically more minimal than the Model S or X, the Model 3 uses 2170 lithium-ion battery cells, which are more complex than the industry-standard 18650 battery cells used in the Model S and X. Musk previously confirmed that Tesla's Gigafactory 1 in Nevada was the source for the production bottlenecks slowing Model 3 deliveries. Panasonic, Tesla's battery cell manufacturing partner at the factory, has also confirmed this.
To be sure, Musk has used the ''too much technology'' excuse before. In 2016, he owned up to the problems with production of the Model X, telling an audience of Tesla shareholders, ''This [Model X] program has been challenging. I particularly need to fault myself for a fair bit of hubris for putting too much technology all at once into a product.'' The Model 3, he said, would not have as much technology as the Model S and X.
Now Musk said he has taken over production of the Model 3, sleeping at Tesla's Fremont factory in an effort to keep tabs on the vehicle's rollout. In the interview, he shows King the conference room where he sleeps. A pillow and sleeping bag can be seen in the shot. King calls the couch ''not even [...] comfortable.''
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