End of Show Mixes: - UKPMX - Gx2 -Oh My Bosh - Danny Loos-Secret Agent Paul-Stepford Wives-PlaceBoing- Dave Courbanou - Able Kirby - Jungle Jones - Chris Wilson - Tom Starkweather - Conan Salada - Future Trash - Phantomville Billy Bon3s
Reports that the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) had been shut down permanently were apparently a bit premature. According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the facility is only temporarily off the air while operating contractors are changed. So why does anyone care? Despite being associated with various natural disasters over the past two decades by the conspiracy fringe, HAARP is in reality a facility for studying the ionosphere. Let's take a look at the goings on at HAARP '' past, present, and future.
HAARP was established in 1993 by the US Air Force, the US Navy, DARPA, and the University of Alaska. Located outside of Gakona, Alaska, the facility houses a high frequency (HF) transmitter together with a phased-array antenna to focus and direct the radiated RF power. The transmitter is roughly as powerful as the largest military radars, generating up to 3.6 MW of RF power in the 2.8 to 10 MHz band. HAARP is restricted to operations only at specified frequencies in this band.
The power isn't what makes HAARP different. Rather, the credit for that goes to HAARP's phased array antenna. Consisting of 180 individual dipole antennas placed in a field roughly 13 hectares (33 acres) in size, this antenna array acts as a highly directional antenna, with a beamwidth of about five degrees. By the time the RF energy reaches the ionosphere (say, at an altitude of 200 km /124 mi just for this example), the size of the radiated spot is about 18 km (11 mi) in diameter, and the power density is roughly 14 mW/sq m. As the ionosphere is opaque in HAARP's frequency band, it absorbs nearly all of the incident power.
A tricky point, the misunderstanding of which has led to various HAARP conspiracy theories, is the difference between radiated power and effective radiated power. HAARP's radiated power, the amount of actual RF power it can emit, is 3.6 MW. However, because HAARP's antenna focuses the radiated power on a small portion of the ionosphere, the power density on that spot is much larger than would result if HAARP's antenna were non-directional so that its RF power were directed uniformly in all directions.
A fictional "effective radiated power" can be calculated, which is the power that would have to be sent through a non-directional antenna to provide HAARP's power density to the entire sky. This value is about 5.8 GW. The value is much larger than HAARP's actual RF power, as only 0.06 percent of the sky is illuminated by HAARP's antenna. But the effective radiated power appears in many conspiracy theories simply as a scary large number.
How big is the actual power density in HAARP's ionospheric spot? The total irradiance of the Sun's electromagnetic radiation (everything from x-rays to extremely low frequency (ELF) radio signals) is 1,360 W/sq m, measured by satellite outside the bulk of the Earth's atmosphere. HAARP's power density is about 0.001 percent of the Sun's irradiance '' a nearly negligible quantity. Further, while local heating of the ionosphere is caused by HAARP (indeed, that is HAARP's purpose), the overall effect is rather like focusing the Sun's light using a magnifying glass '' impressive if one is an ant, but not very significant on larger size scales.
HAARP is designed to test the response of a patch of the ionosphere at varying altitudes to the application of a few mW/sq m excitation in the high frequency (HF) radio band. One known effect is the generation of extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves through modulated heating. By turning the HAARP array off and on (or more simply, by wiggling the focal point around in a repetitive pattern, a procedure known as geometric modulation), the local ionospheric temperature rises and falls, changing the conductivity in that portion of the ionosphere at whatever frequency corresponds to the pattern. The frequencies are typically in the vicinity of a few to a few hundred Hertz.
HAARP is located where large natural electrical currents flow through the atmosphere. This auroral electrojet flows from the position of the Sun at noon to the position of the Sun at midnight in the north and south polar regions of the ionosphere. The flowing currents circle the poles, rather than passing over them, and may be thought of as sheets of current with a typical current density of 1-2 amperes per meter.
Given HAARP's spot size of about 18 km, the heated region has passing through it a current of about 30 kA, depending on geomagnetic conditions. When the ionospheric conductivity changes from HAARP's transmissions, the current in and around the spot also changes its distribution. That makes the region near the spot an antenna that radiates ELF radio waves from the ionosphere. HAARP is not, however, an efficient source of ELF radiation '' starting with 3.6 MW, the yield of ELF radio waves is less then 10 W.
What can you do with 10 W of ELF radio waves? Well, a typical ELF submarine communication system uses several megawatts of ELF RF power with a frequency of 70-90 Hz. This is directed into the surface of the Earth at points separated by about 50 km (31 mi) in order to use a large area of the Earth's crust as a transmitting antenna. Despite the huge power and massive antennas, the actual transmitted power of such a system is only a few watts. So one reason for HAARP's development was to prototype a (relatively) small ELF transmitter.
Magnetospheric wave injectionAnother phenomenon studied by HAARP is called magnetospheric wave injection. While most of the ELF waves generated in the ionosphere by HAARP are directed down toward the Earth's surface, a small fraction leaks into the surrounding magnetosphere. In the inner magnetosphere, wave interactions are dominated by the Earth's static magnetic field.
Most study has been directed to a whistler-mode instability. Imagine you have a PA system with the volume turned up just short of the point when spontaneous feedback will occur. If you whisper into the microphone, you will hear your amplified whisper. However, immediately on speaking loudly into the microphone, your voice will be drowned out by feedback at the characteristic frequency of the PA system. The potential power output of the PA was always available, but requires a small push to tilt the system into runaway feedback. This behavior is rather like that of a whistler-mode instability.
Non-linear magnetospheric amplification of such waves can be caused by resonant interactions with energetic electrons. This being a non-linear interaction, one of the signatures is a change of the frequency of oscillation. The one-hop (Alaska to the South Pacific) and two-hop waves (back to Alaska) detected at the surface both show non-linear smearing of the wave frequency as well as amplification from the whistler-mode instability. It appears that the magnitude of the amplification has not been firmly established, but it is not enormous.
Ionospheric and magnetospheric structures and effects are the subject of ongoing study at HAARP, with a number of experiments being scheduled for later this year. Hints of interesting behavior have emerged, such as the possibility of generating ELF radio waves at times when the auroral electrojet has very little current, suggesting that interesting physics is yet to be discovered and understood.
Mind control and earthquakesGetting back to the conspiracy theories for a moment, these come in a plethora of bizarre and unfounded varieties. To name just a few, HAARP is accused of triggering earthquakes by lifting the ionosphere over a tectonically active region, then letting it fall so that the pressure wave will trigger the earthquake. There are two problems with this. First, HAARP is pretty well limited to heating the ionosphere directly over its physical location. Second, a falling object can at best deliver the energy that went into lifting it. As we know that energy was delivered via a 3.6 MW RF beam, it seems incredibly unlikely that an earthquake could be triggered by turning off HAARP.
Mind control is also supposed to be within HAARP's capabilities. This would be accomplished by altering the 7.8 Hz Schumann resonance, which is the Earth's lowest frequency electromagnetic resonance. After stating as fact a totally evidence-free relationship between life itself and the Schumann resonance, one conspiracy theorist says that "1,700 billion watts" will apparently drive HAARP's mind-altering effect. That is a rather remarkable claim, as HAARP's maximum power is about one-five-hundred-thousandth of that amount. And don't forget the claim that HAARP caused Hurricane Sandy, triggered massive tornado activity, and brought down the Twin Towers on 9/11. Personally, I don't intend to lose much sleep over the dark side of HAARP.
According to HAARP program manager James Keeney, the "Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is expected on site as a client to finish up some research in fall 2013 and winter 2014." The temporary shutdown was described as being due to "a contractor regime change." The Alaska Native corporation Ahtna, Incorporated is reportedly in talks to take over the facility administration contract from Marsh Creek, LLC. I am sure that the new operators will continue to keep us in touch with what really happens at HAARP.
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Animal Farm turned into film for Netflix generation | News | The Times
George Orwell in 1943ALAMYGeorge Orwell's classic satire on communism, Animal Farm, is to be updated for a new Netflix film.
The adaptation will be directed by Andy Serkis, the actor and director who appeared as a computer-animated Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films.
The Imaginarium, his company, acquired the rights to the book from the George Orwell Estate in 2012. The Imaginarium specialises in ''performance capture'' and ''motion capture'' technology, which use footage of actors as the basis for digital animations. This allows producers to make characters based on animals or fantastical creatures walk, talk and move their faces in a lifelike way.
Animal Farm was published in 1945 as a satire on the 1917 Russian Revolution, showing how communist principles can be corrupted to justify'...
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CNN political analyst April Ryan believes CNN reporter Jim Acosta's life was in danger at President Donald Trump's Tuesday rally in Tampa, Florida.Acosta, who was heckled with ''CNN sucks!'' chants before Trump appeared on stage, has said he did not feel like he was in America and expressed that he is ''very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt.''
''That's a serious moment and a serious place. And Jim Acosta's life, in my opinion, was in jeopardy that night,'' Ryan told CNN host Don Lemon on Wednesday evening. ''There was a safety issue.''
Others at CNN, like media reporter Brian Stelter, have accused Trump of leading a ''hate movement'' against the mainstream press. And CNN's David Gergen even said that blood will be on Trump's hands if there is violence committed against mainstream media journalists.
Ryan also said reporters like herself need security like the secret service detail White House Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders received after a left-wing Virginia restaurant owner kicked her out of his establishment. The restaurant owner than promptly followed the White House press security to her next destination and harassed and organized protests against her family.
Ryan, though, said Trump ''has stoked the flames for reporters to feel like they are in jeopardy.''
''Their lives, their safety is in jeopardy. Their lives are in jeopardy at these rallies,'' Ryan insisted. ''And something has got to stop.''
When Lemon said ''many journalists'' need security now because of Trump's rhetoric, Ryan replied: ''I am raising my hand. I am one of those.''
Highlights'Trigger warnings increase peoples' perceived emotional vulnerability to trauma.
'Trigger warnings increase peoples' belief that trauma survivors are vulnerable.
'Trigger warnings increase anxiety to written material perceived as harmful.
AbstractBackground and objectivesTrigger warnings notify people of the distress that written, audiovisual, or other material may evoke, and were initially used to provide for the needs of those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since their inception, trigger warnings have become more widely applied throughout contemporary culture, sparking intense controversy in academia and beyond. Some argue that they empower vulnerable individuals by allowing them to psychologically prepare for or avoid disturbing content, whereas others argue that such warnings undermine resilience to stress and increase vulnerability to psychopathology while constraining academic freedom. The objective of our experiment was to investigate the psychological effects of issuing trigger warnings.
MethodsWe randomly assigned online participants to receive (n'¯='¯133) or not receive (n'¯='¯137) trigger warnings prior to reading literary passages that varied in potentially disturbing content.
ResultsParticipants in the trigger warning group believed themselves and people in general to be more emotionally vulnerable if they were to experience trauma. Participants receiving warnings reported greater anxiety in response to reading potentially distressing passages, but only if they believed that words can cause harm. Warnings did not affect participants' implicit self-identification as vulnerable, or subsequent anxiety response to less distressing content.
LimitationsThe sample included only non-traumatized participants; the observed effects may differ for a traumatized population.
ConclusionsTrigger warnings may inadvertently undermine some aspects of emotional resilience. Further research is needed on the generalizability of our findings, especially to collegiate populations and to those with trauma histories.
Keywords Trigger warning
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Harvard study finds trigger warnings increase anxiety
A recently published study by three Harvard University researchers claims that trigger warnings ''increase peoples' perceived emotional vulnerability'' and ''increase anxiety.''
The study, ''Trigger warning: Empirical evidence ahead,'' published last week in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, concludes that trigger warnings may not be beneficial.
"Trigger warnings may inadvertently undermine some aspects of emotional resilience."
[RELATED: University scraps 'trigger warnings' for pro-life displays]
''Trigger warnings notify people of the distress that written, audiovisual, or other material may evoke, and were initially used to provide for the needs of those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),'' the study's abstract explains. ''Since their inception, trigger warnings have become more widely applied throughout contemporary culture, sparking intense controversy in academia and beyond.''
''Some argue that [trigger warnings] empower vulnerable individuals by allowing them to psychologically prepare for or avoid disturbing content, whereas others argue that such warnings undermine resilience to stress and increase vulnerability to psychopathology while constraining academic freedom,'' the abstract notes.
The authors note that they wanted to ''investigate the psychological effects of issuing trigger warnings,'' and so presented a group of ''non-traumatized'' people with reading materials that ''varied in potentially disturbing content.''
Some participants were randomly assigned to receive trigger warnings prior to the reading, while others were not, and both groups were then asked to answer questions designed to evaluate their anxiety levels.
[RELATED: University posts trigger warning outside free speech zone]
According to the researchers, participants who were given trigger warnings prior to reading the material had a higher ''perceived vulnerability to trauma,'' were more likely to believe that trauma survivors are vulnerable, and experienced greater anxiety from the material.
The researchers found that ''trigger warnings may inadvertently undermine some aspects of emotional resilience,'' and that ''further research is needed on the generalizability of our findings, especially to collegiate populations and to those with trauma histories.''
However, the study's significance has been questioned by some academics, including a postdoctoral fellow on Twitter who included the ''p-values'' of the study in an edited screenshot of the abstract's ''highlights'' section.
P-values represent the probability of an incident occurring and are not traditionally viewed to be significant unless they exceed 0.05. If the p-value is less, the significance of the hypothesis is deemed ''null'' and insignificant.
The tweet calculates p-values of less than 0.05 for each of the study's main conclusions, but the author pointed out later in the exchange that this does not necessarily discredit the findings, which could be substantiated with further research.
''Effect sizes were indeed small, as we discuss in the paper,'' Payton Jones, one of the study's authors, responded on Twitter. ''We are currently planning two replications: one with college students and one with individuals with trauma histories.''
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Grace_Gotcha
Sarah Jeong is a warning sign of something wrong with the left
The more I think about it, the less I care about Sarah Jeong. I don't think I'd ever read anything she'd written before this week and having now read a few things I don't think I was missing all that much. That's not meant as a slam on her ability because I think she's actually a good writer. But the subject she writes about isn't that interesting to me. She styles herself an expert on technology, which doesn't mean she can rebuild a V-8 engine or repair a circuit board. In media parlance, it means she has opinions about social media. So'...whatever.
I don't even care very much about her racist tweets, per se, or even her lame excuse for making them. What does bother me is the way in which the left collectively responded to her tweets with a big shrug. Ed wrote earlier about the Washington Post piece which wonders aloud whether Jeong did anything wrong. I read the same piece this morning and this is the paragraph that stood out:
Without evidence that they had any bearing on Jeong's extensive body of work, which includes a book she wrote about online harassment, these statements could have perhaps been unceremoniously dismissed as insignificant. But after conservative media seized on the story Thursday, they ignited a firestorm of debate.
That really sums up what bothers me about this whole story. It's the assumption that a public comment like ''White men are bullshit'' would get a shrug if not for conservatives seizing on it. It's an admission from the Post that there is almost nothing you can say about white men that anyone on the left would deem problematic (to borrow a popular SJW term of art).
The reason why Jeong's tweets didn't really matter to anyone on the left is that they've nearly all accepted the idea that racism doesn't mean what most people think it means. Andrew Sullivan points out how the left has redefined it:
The alternative view '-- that of today's political left '-- is that Jeong definitionally cannot be racist, because she's both a woman and a racial minority. Racism against whites, in this neo-Marxist view, just ''isn't a thing'' '-- just as misandry literally cannot exist at all. And this is because, in this paradigm, racism has nothing to do with a person's willingness to pre-judge people by the color of their skin, or to make broad, ugly generalizations about whole groups of people, based on hoary stereotypes. Rather, racism is entirely institutional and systemic, a function of power, and therefore it can only be expressed by the powerful '-- i.e., primarily white, straight men. For a nonwhite female, like Sarah Jeong, it is simply impossible. In the religion of social constructionism, Jeong, by virtue of being an Asian woman, is one of the elect, incapable of the sin of racism or group prejudice.
Jeong was just exploring the space of this privileged position, secure that she could say just about anything without fear of blowback. Indeed, she had many defenders who refused to even acknowledge the possibility of another point of view about what she'd said. When you start from the premise that one group of people can't be offended, you naturally wind up at the conclusion that anyone who says otherwise is being dishonest.
The editors of the Verge, where Jeong still works, described any assertion of racism in Jeong's tweets as ''dishonest and outrageous,'' a function of bad faith and an attack on journalism itself. Scroll through left-Twitter and you find utter incredulity that demonizing white people could in any way be offensive. That's the extent to which loathing of and contempt for ''white people'' is now background noise on the left'...
Yes, we all live on campus now. The neo-Marxist analysis of society, in which we are all mere appendages of various groups of oppressors and oppressed, and in which the oppressed definitionally cannot be at fault, is now the governing philosophy of almost all liberal media. That's how the Washington Post can provide a platform for raw misandry, and the New York Times can hire and defend someone who expresses racial hatred. The great thing about being in the social justice movement is how liberating it can feel to give voice to incendiary, satisfying bigotry '-- and know that you're still on the right side of history.
That's what really bothers me about this. It's that one form of blatant bigotry gets a pass on the grounds that it won't really hurt anyone. If the left thinks that's true, I think they're not paying attention. Sarah Jeong isn't all that significant but what this affair says about the left's mindset does matter.
In the free speech context, a heckler's veto is either of two situations in which a person who disagrees with a speaker's message is able to unilaterally trigger events that result in the speaker being silenced.
In the strict legal sense, a heckler's veto occurs when the speaker's right is curtailed or restricted by the government in order to prevent a reacting party's behavior. The common example is the termination of a speech or demonstration in the interest of maintaining the public peace based on the anticipated negative reaction of someone opposed to that speech or demonstration. The term was coined by University of Chicago professor of law Harry Kalven.[citation needed ]
In common parlance, the term is used to describe situations where hecklers or demonstrators silence a speaker without intervention of the law.
Law Edit In the United States, case law regarding the heckler's veto is mixed.  Most findings say that the acting party's actions cannot be pre-emptively stopped due to fear of heckling by the reacting party, but in the immediate face of violence, authorities can force the acting party to cease their action in order to satisfy the hecklers.
The best known case involving the heckler's veto is probably Feiner v. New York, handed down by the Supreme Court in 1951. Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson, writing for the majority, held that police officers acted within their power in arresting a speaker if the arrest was "motivated solely by a proper concern for the preservation of order and protection of the general welfare". 340 U.S. 315.
In Gregory v. Chicago (1969), Justice Hugo Black, in a concurring opinion, argued that arresting demonstrators as a consequence of unruly behavior of by-standers would amount to a heckler's veto.
It was rejected in Hill v. Colorado (2000), where the Supreme Court rejected the "Heckler's Veto," finding "governmental grants of power to private actors" to be "constitutionally problematic" in cases where "the regulations allowed a single, private actor to unilaterally silence a speaker".
Other uses of the phrase Edit Heckler's veto is often used outside a strict legal context. One example is an article by Nat Hentoff in which he claims that "First Amendment law is clear that everyone has the right to picket a speaker, and to go inside the hall and heckle him or her'--but not to drown out the speaker, let alone rush the stage and stop the speech before it starts. That's called the 'heckler's veto'."
In Hentoff's formulation, the heckler him or herself is the party which directly carries out the "veto" and suppresses speech. This runs counter to the legal meaning of the phrase. Note that, to a lawyer familiar with the First Amendment law, the phrase "heckler's veto" means something different from what the plain English interpretation of the words suggests. In First Amendment law, a heckler's veto is the suppression of speech by the government, because of [the possibility of] a violent reaction by hecklers. It is the government that vetoes the speech, because of the reaction of the heckler. Under the First Amendment, this kind of heckler's veto is unconstitutional.'
University of California, Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky has invoked the concept in an editorial following an incident on February 8, 2010, in which heckling by individual students disrupted a speech by the Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. Chemerinsky explained that broad freedom exists to invite speakers and hold demonstrations, but that once a speaker has begun an invited lecture, ''You have the right'--if you disagree with me'--to go outside and perform your protest. But you don't get the right to come in when I'm talking and shout me down. Otherwise people can always silence a speaker by heckler's veto, and Babel results''.
Michigan State University professor of political science William B. Allen has used the phrase "verbal terrorism" to refer to the same phenomenon, defining it as "calculated assault characterized by loud side-conversations, shouted interruptions, jabbered false facts, threats and personal insults".
Conservative writer and commentator Ben Shapiro cited the term during a 2017 testimony to Congress in reference to suppression of right-wing speakers on College Campuses.
See also Edit References Edit ^ Hamlin, David (1980). The Nazi/Skokie Conflict: A Civil Liberties Battle. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 57. ISBN 0-8070-3230-1. ^ McGaffey, Ruth (1973). "The Heckler's Veto". Marquette Law Review. 57: 39''64. ^ "The Heckler's Veto: A Reexamination". marquette.edu. ^ a b Hill v. Colorado, 530 U.S. 703, 735 (SCOTUS 2000). ^ http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0645,hentoff,74928,2.html ^ Standler, Dr. Ronald B. "Heckler's Veto". www.rbs2.com. ^ Lumb, David (Feb 15, 2010). "Israel: Interrupted in Irvine". New University. ^ Allen, Carol M. (2008). Ending racial preferences: the Michigan story. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 56. ISBN 978-0-7391-2433-8. ^ THE LIBERTY DAILY (27 July 2017). "Ben Shapiro Crushes Anti-Free Speech College Snowflakes Before Congress" '' via YouTube. External links Edit
Cory Booker Backtracks After Being Photographed Holding Pro-Palestinian, Anti-Israeli-Wall Sign | The Daily Caller
Senator Cory Booker was photographed holding a sign bearing a pro-Palestinian movement slogan. The image appeared on the Twitter feed of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, a self-described ''coalition of 330+ groups'' working ''for a US policy toward Palestine/Israel based on freedom, justice, and equality.''
''From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go,'' the sign read.
Excited to be here at Netroots Nation talking with progressives like Sen. Cory Booker about our shared commitment to freedom, justice, and equality for all people. #NN18 pic.twitter.com/ljswLmv32w
'-- Palestinian Rights (@US_Campaign) August 3, 2018
Booker, however, claims he wasn't aware that the sign called for an end to the border wall between Israel and the Palestinian territory, but rather only a U.S. border wall with Mexico.
''Just before delivering a speech in New Orleans, Senator Booker was approached by dozens of people for photos,'' Booker's spokesman, Jeff Giertz, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency via email.
''In one instance, amid the rush, he was posing for a photo and was passed a sign to hold '' he didn't have time to read the sign, and from his cursory glance he thought it was talking about Mexico and didn't realize it had anything to do with Israel,'' said Giertz said. ''He hopes for a day when there will be no need for security barriers in the State of Israel, but while active terrorist organizations threaten the safety of the people living in Israel, security barriers are unfortunate but necessary to protect human lives.''
Booker reportedly posed with Leah Muskin-Pierret, who is the government affairs associate for the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. The organization ''endorses the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel,'' according to JTA.
Meanwhile, conservative actor James Woods called out Booker for his hypocrisy via Twitter:
Well then, @CoryBooker, be sure to unlock your doors tonight. Walk it like you talk it. #OpenBorders #OpenDoors pic.twitter.com/R9bJEqV695
'-- James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) August 3, 2018
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Tags : border wall cory booker israel palestine conflict
Sarah Jeong and the N.Y. Times: When Racism Is Fit to Print
/ interesting times August 3, 2018 08/03/2018 10:38 am By Andrew Sullivan Is the newest member of the New York Times editorial board, Sarah Jeong, a racist?
From one perspective '-- that commonly held by people outside the confines of the political left '-- she obviously is. A series of tweets from 2013 to 2015 reveal a vicious hatred of an entire group of people based only on their skin color. If that sounds harsh, let's review a few, shall we? ''White men are bullshit,'' is one. A succinct vent, at least. But notice she's not in any way attacking specific white men for some particular failing, just all white men for, well, existing. Or this series of ruminations: ''have you ever tried to figure out all the things that white people are allowed to do that aren't cultural appropriation. there's literally nothing. like skiing, maybe, and also golf. white people aren't even allowed to have polo. did you know that. like don't you just feel bad? why can't we give white people a break. lacrosse isn't for white people either. it must be so boring to be white.'' Or this: ''basically i'm just imagining waking up white every morning with a terrible existential dread that i have no culture.'' I can't say I'm offended by this '-- it's even mildly amusing, if a little bonkers. (Has she read, say, any Shakespeare or Emily Dickinson?) But it does reveal a worldview in which white people '-- all of them '-- are cultural parasites and contemptibly dull.
A little more disturbing is what you might call ''eliminationist'' rhetoric '-- language that wishes an entire race could be wiped off the face of the earth: ''#cancelwhitepeople.'' Or: ''White people have stopped breeding. you'll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along.'' One simple rule I have about describing groups of human beings is that I try not to use a term that equates them with animals. Jeong apparently has no problem doing so. Speaking of animals, here's another gem: ''Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants.'' Or you could describe an entire race as subhuman: ''Are white people genetically disposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.'' And then there's this simple expression of the pleasure that comes with hatred: ''oh man it's kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.'' I love that completely meretricious ''old'' to demean them still further. And that actual feeling: joy at cruelty!
Another indicator that these statements might be racist comes from replacing the word ''white'' with any other racial group. #cancelblackpeople probably wouldn't fly at the New York Times, would it? Or imagine someone tweeting that Jews were only ''fit to live underground like groveling goblins'' or that she enjoyed ''being cruel to old Latina women,'' and then being welcomed and celebrated by a liberal newsroom. Not exactly in the cards.
But the alternative view '-- that of today's political left '-- is that Jeong definitionally cannot be racist, because she's both a woman and a racial minority. Racism against whites, in this neo-Marxist view, just ''isn't a thing'' '-- just as misandry literally cannot exist at all. And this is because, in this paradigm, racism has nothing to do with a person's willingness to pre-judge people by the color of their skin, or to make broad, ugly generalizations about whole groups of people, based on hoary stereotypes. Rather, racism is entirely institutional and systemic, a function of power, and therefore it can only be expressed by the powerful '-- i.e., primarily white, straight men. For a nonwhite female, like Sarah Jeong, it is simply impossible. In the religion of social constructionism, Jeong, by virtue of being an Asian woman, is one of the elect, incapable of the sin of racism or group prejudice. All she is doing is resisting whiteness and maleness, which indeed require resistance every second of the day.
That's why Jeong hasn't apologized to the white people she denigrated or conceded that her tweets were racist. Nor has she taken responsibility for them. Her statement actually blames her ugly tweets on trolls whose online harassment of her prompted her to respond in turn. She was merely ''counter-trolling.'' She says her tweets, which were not responses to any individual, were also ''not aimed at a general audience,'' and now understands that these tweets were ''hurtful'' and won't do them again. The New York Times also buys this argument: ''her journalism and the fact that she is a young Asian woman have made her a subject of frequent online harassment. For a period of time, she responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.''
Let me explain why I think this is the purest of bullshit. If you want to respond to trolls by trolling them, you respond to them directly. You don't post slurs about an entire race of people (the overwhelming majority of whom are not trolls) on an open-forum website like Twitter. And these racist tweets were not just a function of one sudden exasperated vent at a harasser; they continued for two years. Another tweet from 2016 has her exclaiming: ''fuck white women lol.''
None of this excuses the behavior of the online hordes that are seeking her head. When media companies give in to those mobs, they are just feeding a voracious beast. It's worth noting, however, that Jeong has a long record of cheering online mobs when they target people she dislikes. ''Is there anything more tedious than media navel-gazing over 'outrage mobs'?'' she tweeted earlier this year.
And I don't think the New York Times should fire her '-- in part because they largely share her views on race, gender, and oppression. Their entire hiring and editorial process is based on them. In their mind, Jeong was merely caught defending herself. As Vox writer Zack Beauchamp put it: ''A lot of people on the internet today [are] confusing the expressive way antiracists and minorities talk about 'white people' with actual race-based hatred, for some unfathomable reason.'' I have to say that word ''expressive'' made me chuckle out loud. (But would Beauchamp, I wonder, feel the same way if anti-racists talked about Jews in the same manner Jeong talks about whites? Aren't Jews included in the category of whites?)
The editors of the Verge, where Jeong still works, described any assertion of racism in Jeong's tweets as ''dishonest and outrageous,'' a function of bad faith and an attack on journalism itself. Scroll through left-Twitter and you find utter incredulity that demonizing white people could in any way be offensive. That's the extent to which loathing of and contempt for ''white people'' is now background noise on the left. What many don't seem to understand is that their view of racism isn't shared by the public at large, and that the defense of it by institutions like the New York Times will only serve to deepen the kind of resentment that gave us Trump. Last night, for instance, Fox News made the most of the Times' excuses for race-baiting.
Yes, we all live on campus now. The neo-Marxist analysis of society, in which we are all mere appendages of various groups of oppressors and oppressed, and in which the oppressed definitionally cannot be at fault, is now the governing philosophy of almost all liberal media. That's how the Washington Post can provide a platform for raw misandry, and the New York Times can hire and defend someone who expresses racial hatred. The great thing about being in the social justice movement is how liberating it can feel to give voice to incendiary, satisfying bigotry '-- and know that you're still on the right side of history.
The Left's Border Conflict
I loved this little nugget from an interview Vox's Ezra Klein had with Bernie Sanders in 2015, which has been recirculating recently on Twitter. Money quote:
Ezra Klein: You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing '...
Bernie Sanders: Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.
Ezra Klein: Really?
Bernie Sanders: Of course. That's a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. '...
Ezra Klein: But it would make '...
Bernie Sanders: Excuse me '...
Ezra Klein: It would make a lot of global poor richer, wouldn't it?
Bernie Sanders: It would make everybody in America poorer '-- you're doing away with the concept of a nation state, and I don't think there's any country in the world that believes in that.
Good for Bernie! But you can almost hear Ezra's sudden realization that he's talking to a reactionary old fool! What you have here, I think, is a perfect encapsulation of the old and the new left. Sanders has never had a problem with the nation-state; it is, after all, the foundation for any functioning democracy, and a democratic politician will always put the citizens of his country first. His ideal left-liberal countries '-- the Nordic ones '-- are strong nation-states with, until very recently, homogeneous populations. But Ezra really does seem to have an issue '-- philosophically and morally '-- with the nation-state. Social justice doesn't end at the border, after all. And if the goal of the left is universal equality, on what grounds does it not extend to everyone on the planet? Which is to say: why do we have borders at all? Why do we draw any distinction between the citizen and the noncitizen?
This, it seems to me, is what impedes the Democrats from taking a strong line on illegal immigration. Many of them don't have the slightest problem with it, and some even believe it is a moral necessity. A wealthy country cannot ethically keep its wealth to itself, they believe. And this is even truer when such a country is largely white and those outside it overwhelmingly nonwhite. Borders, in this worldview, are inherently racist. So how exactly does a good liberal favor enforcing them? He doesn't. He just pretends to.
Never Underestimate the Lure of Cruelty
The first chapter in Judith Shklar's 1984 book, Ordinary Vices, has an arresting title: ''Putting Cruelty First.'' What Shklar was exploring was whether a liberal society, properly understood, can coexist with institutional and personal cruelty, or whether it truly is a corrosive acid to a democratic society. I don't mean individual acts of cruelty. They, alas, will always be with us. I mean a culture increasingly comfortable with it, and a government capable of enabling it. I picked the book up again the other day after reading about the continuing horror of the migrant children being separated from their parents in the asylum process. Hundreds are still cut off from their families. Some may never see their parents again. We now know something else:
A Trump administration official said Tuesday he warned for months about the potential for harm to migrant children if they were separated from their parents before the administration launched its ''zero tolerance'' border policy earlier this year.
''There is no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child,'' Commander Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official who led the agency's family reunification efforts, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
So this was a premeditated, conscious attempt to hurt vulnerable children in order to deter future would-be asylum seekers who might bring their kids with them. It was an instrumental cruelty in which children were not seen as subjective beings to be protected but as objects to be used. It wasn't a policy designed to be hidden, but to be broadcast. Yes, you can see how the previous system perversely incentivized the smuggling of children, and we needed to do something. But when a solution to that problem is the institutionalizing of cruelty against the helpless, a liberal society simply has to say no.
Many evils and vices exist, some arguably worse than cruelty. It is not included in the deadly sins, for example. But it is a vice particularly dangerous for any sort of liberal democracy. Its incompatibility with the liberal idea is rooted, quite simply, in the immense inequality that cruelty invariably entails '-- between, say, an armed adult agent of the law and a helpless, alien, exhausted child. It's the vast imbalance that turns mere force into unforgivable vice, which is why we tend to associate cruelty with tyranny. Cruelty also violates any sense of human dignity and empathy. It tears at our connective, human tissue. And it is almost always imposed out of cowardice rooted in some kind of fear. Shklar puts it this way: ''No child can deserve brutality. Punishment is justifiably inflicted in the service of retribution, education or public security; but if it goes away from, or beyond, these ends, we call it 'cruel and unusual' and forbid its use.''
Except, of course, we haven't. America was founded in cruelty. Slavery was inextricable from it '-- not just because of the violence and humiliation, but because of the continuing psychological torment of being treated as captive subhuman, to be nakedly subject to brute power and violence. All forms of torture likewise represent a cruelty of the most unbalanced and cowardly type, because of the vast power differential between the torturer and his victim. Mistreatment of animals fits into the same category, something that Montaigne, in his famous essay on the subject, found particularly intolerable. He insisted, way ahead of his time, that ''there is, nevertheless, a certain respect, a general duty of humanity, not only to beasts that have life and sense, but even to trees and plants.'' Cruelty, in this view, is abuse of power at its most extreme. Which is why, in so many ways, our wanton destruction of this planet's ecosystem and the subsequent suffering of so many other species may be the cruelest act of humankind in our time.
Wherever this dark strain in us comes from, it should not, it seems to me, be underestimated, or allowed to slide. We have progressed immensely over the centuries on this question, but it is always a temptation. Small cruelties easily lead to larger ones. And larger ones require, for most people, the dehumanization of the victims, which makes cruelty more tolerable and therefore more likely. It spreads, this stuff, which is why we have slowly constructed a liberal civilization over the last few centuries in which this most ordinary and yet most pernicious of the vices has been kept under control. Letting it slip, allowing it to fester, becoming numb to it: this is the danger we face in this authoritarian moment. We simply cannot let these children down. We simply cannot look away until everyone is accounted for.
In 1984, a Russian (C)migr(C) named David Bogatin went shopping for apartments in New York City. The 38-year-old had arrived in America seven years before, with just $3 in his pocket. But for a former pilot in the Soviet Army'--his specialty had been shooting down Americans over North Vietnam'--he had clearly done quite well for himself. Bogatin wasn't hunting for a place in Brighton Beach, the Brooklyn enclave known as ''Little Odessa'' for its large population of immigrants from the Soviet Union. Instead, he was fixated on the glitziest apartment building on Fifth Avenue, a gaudy, 58-story edifice with gold-plated fixtures and a pink-marble atrium: Trump Tower.
A monument to celebrity and conspicuous consumption, the tower was home to the likes of Johnny Carson, Steven Spielberg, and Sophia Loren. Its brash, 38-year-old developer was something of a tabloid celebrity himself. Donald Trump was just coming into his own as a serious player in Manhattan real estate, and Trump Tower was the crown jewel of his growing empire. From the day it opened, the building was a hit'--all but a few dozen of its 263 units had sold in the first few months. But Bogatin wasn't deterred by the limited availability or the sky-high prices. The Russian plunked down $6 million to buy not one or two, but five luxury condos. The big check apparently caught the attention of the owner. According to Wayne Barrett, who investigated the deal for the Village Voice, Trump personally attended the closing, along with Bogatin.
If the transaction seemed suspicious'--multiple apartments for a single buyer who appeared to have no legitimate way to put his hands on that much money'--there may have been a reason. At the time, Russian mobsters were beginning to invest in high-end real estate, which offered an ideal vehicle to launder money from their criminal enterprises. ''During the '80s and '90s, we in the U.S. government repeatedly saw a pattern by which criminals would use condos and high-rises to launder money,'' says Jonathan Winer, a deputy assistant secretary of state for international law enforcement in the Clinton administration. ''It didn't matter that you paid too much, because the real estate values would rise, and it was a way of turning dirty money into clean money. It was done very systematically, and it explained why there are so many high-rises where the units were sold but no one is living in them.'' When Trump Tower was built, as David Cay Johnston reports in The Making of Donald Trump, it was only the second high-rise in New York that accepted anonymous buyers.
In 1987, just three years after he attended the closing with Trump, Bogatin pleaded guilty to taking part in a massive gasoline-bootlegging scheme with Russian mobsters. After he fled the country, the government seized his five condos at Trump Tower, saying that he had purchased them to ''launder money, to shelter and hide assets.'' A Senate investigation into organized crime later revealed that Bogatin was a leading figure in the Russian mob in New York. His family ties, in fact, led straight to the top: His brother ran a $150 million stock scam with none other than Semion Mogilevich, whom the FBI considers the ''boss of bosses'' of the Russian mafia. At the time, Mogilevich'--feared even by his fellow gangsters as ''the most powerful mobster in the world'''--was expanding his multibillion-dollar international criminal syndicate into America.
In 1987, on his first trip to Russia, Trump visited the Winter Palace with Ivana. The Soviets flew him to Moscow'--all expenses paid'--to discuss building a luxury hotel across from the Kremlin. Maxim Blokhin/TASSSince Trump's election as president, his ties to Russia have become the focus of intense scrutiny, most of which has centered on whether his inner circle colluded with Russia to subvert the U.S. election. A growing chorus in Congress is also asking pointed questions about how the president built his business empire. Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a deeper inquiry into ''Russian investment in Trump's businesses and properties.''
The very nature of Trump's businesses'--all of which are privately held, with few reporting requirements'--makes it difficult to root out the truth about his financial deals. And the world of Russian oligarchs and organized crime, by design, is shadowy and labyrinthine. For the past three decades, state and federal investigators, as well as some of America's best investigative journalists, have sifted through mountains of real estate records, tax filings, civil lawsuits, criminal cases, and FBI and Interpol reports, unearthing ties between Trump and Russian mobsters like Mogilevich. To date, no one has documented that Trump was even aware of any suspicious entanglements in his far-flung businesses, let alone that he was directly compromised by the Russian mafia or the corrupt oligarchs who are closely allied with the Kremlin. So far, when it comes to Trump's ties to Russia, there is no smoking gun.
But even without an investigation by Congress or a special prosecutor, there is much we already know about the president's debt to Russia. A review of the public record reveals a clear and disturbing pattern: Trump owes much of his business success, and by extension his presidency, to a flow of highly suspicious money from Russia. Over the past three decades, at least 13 people with known or alleged links to Russian mobsters or oligarchs have owned, lived in, and even run criminal activities out of Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Many used his apartments and casinos to launder untold millions in dirty money. Some ran a worldwide high-stakes gambling ring out of Trump Tower'--in a unit directly below one owned by Trump. Others provided Trump with lucrative branding deals that required no investment on his part. Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics. ''They saved his bacon,'' says Kenneth McCallion, a former assistant U.S. attorney in the Reagan administration who investigated ties between organized crime and Trump's developments in the 1980s.
It's entirely possible that Trump was never more than a convenient patsy for Russian oligarchs and mobsters, with his casinos and condos providing easy pass-throughs for their illicit riches. At the very least, with his constant need for new infusions of cash and his well-documented troubles with creditors, Trump made an easy ''mark'' for anyone looking to launder money. But whatever his knowledge about the source of his wealth, the public record makes clear that Trump built his business empire in no small part with a lot of dirty money from a lot of dirty Russians'--including the dirtiest and most feared of them all.
Trump made his first trip to Russia in 1987, only a few years before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Invited by Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin, Trump was flown to Moscow and Leningrad'--all expenses paid'--to talk business with high-ups in the Soviet command. In The Art of the Deal, Trump recounted the lunch meeting with Dubinin that led to the trip. ''One thing led to another,'' he wrote, ''and now I'm talking about building a large luxury hotel, across the street from the Kremlin, in partnership with the Soviet government.''
Over the years, Trump and his sons would try and fail five times to build a new Trump Tower in Moscow. But for Trump, what mattered most were the lucrative connections he had begun to make with the Kremlin'--and with the wealthy Russians who would buy so many of his properties in the years to come. ''Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets,'' Donald Trump Jr. boasted at a real estate conference in 2008. ''We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.''
The money, illicit and otherwise, began to rain in earnest after the Soviet Union fell in 1991. President Boris Yeltsin's shift to a market economy was so abrupt that cash-rich gangsters and corrupt government officials were able to privatize and loot state-held assets in oil, coal, minerals, and banking. Yeltsin himself, in fact, would later describe Russia as ''the biggest mafia state in the world.'' After Vladimir Putin succeeded Yeltsin as president, Russian intelligence effectively joined forces with the country's mobsters and oligarchs, allowing them to operate freely as long as they strengthen Putin's power and serve his personal financial interests. According to James Henry, a former chief economist at McKinsey & Company who consulted on the Panama Papers, some $1.3 trillion in illicit capital has poured out of Russia since the 1990s.
Semion Mogilevich.At the top of the sprawling criminal enterprise was Semion Mogilevich. Beginning in the early 1980s, according to the FBI, the short, squat Ukrainian was the key money-laundering contact for the Solntsevskaya Bratva, or Brotherhood, one of the richest criminal syndicates in the world. Before long, he was running a multibillion-dollar worldwide racket of his own. Mogilevich wasn't feared because he was the most violent gangster, but because he was reputedly the smartest. The FBI has credited the ''brainy don,'' who holds a degree in economics from Lviv University, with a staggering range of crimes. He ran drug trafficking and prostitution rings on an international scale; in one characteristic deal, he bought a bankrupt airline to ship heroin from Southeast Asia into Europe. He used a jewelry business in Moscow and Budapest as a front for art that Russian gangsters stole from museums, churches, and synagogues all over Europe. He has also been accused of selling some $20 million in stolen weapons, including ground-to-air missiles and armored troop carriers, to Iran. ''He uses this wealth and power to not only further his criminal enterprises,'' the FBI says, ''but to influence governments and their economies.''
In Russia, Mogilevich's influence reportedly reaches all the way to the top. In 2005, Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian intelligence agent who defected to London, recorded an interview with investigators detailing his inside knowledge of the Kremlin's ties to organized crime. ''Mogilevich,'' he said in broken English, ''have good relationship with Putin since 1994 or 1993.'' A year later Litvinenko was dead, apparently poisoned by agents of the Kremlin.
Vyachelsav Ivankov. Sergey Ponomarev/APMogilevich's greatest talent, the one that places him at the top of the Russian mob, is finding creative ways to cleanse dirty cash. According to the FBI, he has laundered money through more than 100 front companies around the world, and held bank accounts in at least 27 countries. And in 1991, he made a move that led directly to Trump Tower. That year, the FBI says, Mogilevich paid a Russian judge to spring a fellow mob boss, Vyachelsav Kirillovich Ivankov, from a Siberian gulag. If Mogilevich was the brains, Ivankov was the enforcer'--a vor v zakone, or ''made man,'' infamous for torturing his victims and boasting about the murders he had arranged. Sprung by Mogilevich, Ivankov made the most of his freedom. In 1992, a year after he was released from prison, he headed to New York on an illegal business visa and proceeded to set up shop in Brighton Beach.
In Red Mafiya, his book about the rise of the Russian mob in America, investigative reporter Robert I. Friedman documented how Ivankov organized a lurid and violent underworld of tattooed gangsters. When Ivankov touched down at JFK, Friedman reported, he was met by a fellow vor, who handed him a suitcase with $1.5 million in cash. Over the next three years, Ivankov oversaw the mob's growth from a local extortion racket to a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise. According to the FBI, he recruited two ''combat brigades'' of Special Forces veterans from the Soviet war in Afghanistan to run the mafia's protection racket and kill his enemies.
Like Mogilevich, Ivankov had a lot of dirty money he needed to clean up. He bought a Rolls-Royce dealership that was used, according to The New York Times, ''as a front to launder criminal proceeds.'' The FBI concluded that one of Ivankov's partners in the operation was Felix Komarov, an upscale art dealer who lived in Trump Plaza on Third Avenue. Komarov, who was not charged in the case, called the allegations baseless. He acknowledged that he had frequent phone conversations with Ivankov, but insisted the exchanges were innocent. ''I had no reason not to call him,'' Komarov told a reporter.
Trump Taj Mahal paid the largest fine ever levied against a casino for having ''willfully violated'' anti-money-laundering rules.
The feds wanted to arrest Ivankov, but he kept vanishing. ''He was like a ghost to the FBI,'' one agent recalls. Agents spotted him meeting with other Russian crime figures in Miami, Los Angeles, Boston, and Toronto. They also found he made frequent visits to Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, which mobsters routinely used to launder huge sums of money. In 2015, the Taj Mahal was fined $10 million'--the highest penalty ever levied by the feds against a casino'--and admitted to having ''willfully violated'' anti-money-laundering regulations for years.
The FBI also struggled to figure out where Ivankov lived. ''We were looking around, looking around, looking around,'' James Moody, chief of the bureau's organized crime section, told Friedman. ''We had to go out and really beat the bushes. And then we found out that he was living in a luxury condo in Trump Tower.''
There is no evidence that Trump knew Ivankov personally, even if they were neighbors. But the fact that a top Russian mafia boss lived and worked in Trump's own building indicates just how much high-level Russian mobsters came to view the future president's properties as a home away from home. In 2009, after being extradited to Russia to face murder charges, Ivankov was gunned down in a sniper attack on the streets of Moscow. According to The Moscow Times, his funeral was a media spectacle in Russia, attracting ''1,000 people wearing black leather jackets, sunglasses, and gold chains,'' along with dozens of giant wreaths from the various brotherhoods.
Throughout the 1990s, untold millions from the former Soviet Union flowed into Trump's luxury developments and Atlantic City casinos. But all the money wasn't enough to save Trump from his own failings as a businessman. He owed $4 billion to more than 70 banks, with a mind-boggling $800 million of it personally guaranteed. He spent much of the decade mired in litigation, filing for multiple bankruptcies and scrambling to survive. For most developers, the situation would have spelled financial ruin. But fortunately for Trump, his own economic crisis coincided with one in Russia.
In 1998, Russia defaulted on $40 billion in debt, causing the ruble to plummet and Russian banks to close. The ensuing financial panic sent the country's oligarchs and mobsters scrambling to find a safe place to put their money. That October, just two months after the Russian economy went into a tailspin, Trump broke ground on his biggest project yet. Rising to 72 stories in midtown Manhattan, Trump World Tower would be the tallest residential building on the planet. Construction got underway in 1999'--just as Trump was preparing his first run for the presidency on the Reform Party ticket'-- and concluded in 2001. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported earlier this year, it wasn't long before one-third of the units on the tower's priciest floors had been snatched up'--either by individual buyers from the former Soviet Union, or by limited liability companies connected to Russia. ''We had big buyers from Russia and Ukraine and Kazakhstan,'' sales agent Debra Stotts told Bloomberg.
Sunny Isles, Florida, became known as ''Little Moscow,'' thanks to Trump's high-rises. Rhona Wise/AFP/GettyAmong the new tenants was Eduard Nektalov, a diamond dealer from Uzbekistan. Nektalov, who was being investigated by a Treasury Department task force for mob-connected money laundering, bought a condo on the seventy-ninth floor, directly below Trump's future campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. A month later he sold his unit for a $500,000 profit. The following year, after rumors circulated that Nektalov was cooperating with federal investigators, he was shot down on Sixth Avenue.
Trump had found his market. After Trump World Tower opened, Sotheby's International Realty teamed up with a Russian real estate company to make a big sales push for the property in Russia. The ''tower full of oligarchs,'' as Bloomberg called it, became a model for Trump's projects going forward. All he needed to do, it seemed, was slap the Trump name on a big building, and high-dollar customers from Russia and the former Soviet republics were guaranteed to come rushing in. Dolly Lenz, a New York real estate broker, told USA Today that she sold some 65 units in Trump World Tower to Russians. ''I had contacts in Moscow looking to invest in the United States,'' Lenz said. ''They all wanted to meet Donald.''
To capitalize on his new business model, Trump struck a deal with a Florida developer to attach his name to six high-rises in Sunny Isles, just outside Miami. Without having to put up a dime of his own money, Trump would receive a cut of the profits. ''Russians love the Trump brand,'' Gil Dezer, the Sunny Isles developer, told Bloomberg. A local broker told The Washington Post that one-third of the 500 apartments he'd sold went to ''Russian-speakers.'' So many bought the Trump-branded apartments, in fact, that the area became known as ''Little Moscow.''
''Russians love the Trump brand,'' said developer Gil Dezer, (left, with Trump). One Florida tenant, Anatoly Golubchik (right) was busted in a major money-laundering ring run out of Trump Tower. Billy Farrell/Patrick McMullan/Getty; John Marshall Mantel/ New York Times/ReduxMany of the units were sold by a native of Uzbekistan who had immigrated from the Soviet Union in the 1980s; her business was so brisk that she soon began bringing Russian tour groups to Sunny Isles to view the properties. According to a Reuters investigation in March, at least 63 buyers with Russian addresses or passports spent $98 million on Trump's properties in south Florida. What's more, another one-third of the units'--more than 700 in all'--were bought by shadowy shell companies that concealed the true owners.
Trump promoted and celebrated the properties. His organization continues to advertise the units; in 2011, when they first turned a profit, he attended a ceremonial mortgage-burning in Sunny Isles to toast their success. Last October, an investigation by the Miami Herald found that at least 13 buyers in the Florida complex have been the target of government investigations, either personally or through their companies, including ''members of a Russian-American organized crime group.'' Two buyers in Sunny Isles, Anatoly Golubchik and Michael Sall, were convicted for taking part in a massive international gambling and money-laundering syndicate that was run out of Trump Tower in New York. The ring, according to the FBI, was operating under the protection of the Russian mafia.
The influx of Russian money did more than save Trump's business from ruin'--it set the stage for the next phase of his career. By 2004, to the outside world, it appeared that Trump was back on top after his failures in Atlantic City. That January, flush with the appearance of success, Trump launched his newly burnished brand into another medium.
''My name's Donald Trump,'' he declared in his opening narration for The Apprentice, ''the largest real estate developer in New York. I own buildings all over the place. Model agencies. The Miss Universe pageant. Jetliners, golf courses, casinos, and private resorts like Mar-a-Lago, one of the most spectacular estates anywhere in the world.''
But it wouldn't be Trump without a better story than that. ''It wasn't always so easy,'' he confessed, over images of him cruising around New York in a stretch limo. ''About 13 years ago, I was seriously in trouble. I was billions of dollars in debt. But I fought back, and I won. Big league. I used my brain. I used my negotiating skills. And I worked it all out. Now my company's bigger than it ever was and stronger than it ever was.'... I've mastered the art of the deal.''
The show, which reportedly paid Trump up to $3 million per episode, instantly revived his career. ''The Apprentice turned Trump from a blowhard Richie Rich who had just gone through his most difficult decade into an unlikely symbol of straight talk, an evangelist for the American gospel of success, a decider who insisted on standards in a country that had somehow slipped into handing out trophies for just showing up,'' journalists Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher observe in their book Trump Revealed. ''Above all, Apprentice sold an image of the host-boss as supremely competent and confident, dispensing his authority and getting immediate results. The analogy to politics was palpable.''
Russians spent at least $98 million on Trump's properties in Florida'--and another third of the units were bought by shadowy shell companies.
But the story of Donald Trump, self-made business genius, left out any mention of the shady Russian investors who had done so much to make his comeback narrative possible. And Trump's business, despite the hype, was hardly ''stronger than it ever was'''--his credit was still lousy, and two more of his prized properties in Atlantic City would soon fall into bankruptcy, even as his ratings soared.
To further enhance his brand, Trump used his prime-time perch to unveil another big project. On the 2006 season finale of The Apprentice, as 11 million viewers waited to learn which of the two finalists was going to be fired, Trump prolonged the suspense by cutting to a promotional video for his latest venture. ''Located in the center of Manhattan's chic artist enclave, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in SoHo is the site of my latest development,'' he narrated over swooping helicopter footage of lower Manhattan. The new building, he added, would be nothing less than a ''$370 million work of art '... an awe-inspiring masterpiece.''
Trump SoHo was the brainchild of two development companies'--Bayrock Group LLC and the Sapir Organization'--run by a pair of wealthy (C)migr(C)s from the former Soviet Union who had done business with some of Russia's richest and most notorious oligarchs. Together, their firms made Trump an offer he couldn't refuse: The developers would finance and build Trump SoHo themselves. In return for lending his name to the project, Trump would get 18 percent of the profits'--without putting up any of his own money.
One of the developers, Tamir Sapir, had followed an unlikely path to riches. After emigrating from the Soviet Union in the 1970s, he had started out driving a cab in New York City and ended up a billionaire living in Trump Tower. His big break came when he co-founded a company that sold high-tech electronics. According to the FBI, Sapir's partner in the firm was a ''member or associate'' of Ivankov's mob in Brighton Beach. No charges were ever filed, and Sapir denied having any mob ties. ''It didn't happen,'' he told The New York Times. ''Everything was done in the most legitimate way.''
Trump, who described Sapir as a ''great friend,'' bought 200 televisions from his electronics company. In 2007, he hosted the wedding of Sapir's daughter at Mar-a-Lago, and later attended her infant son's bris.
In 2007, Trump celebrated the launch of Trump SoHo with partners Tevfik Arif (center) and Felix Sater (right). Arif was later acquitted on charges of running a prostitution ring. Mark Von Holden/WireImage/GettySapir also introduced Trump to Tevfik Arif, his partner in the Trump SoHo deal. On paper, at least, Arif was another heartwarming immigrant success story. He had graduated from the Moscow Institute of Trade and Economics and worked as a Soviet trade and commerce official for 17 years before moving to New York and founding Bayrock. Practically overnight, Arif became a wildly successful developer in Brooklyn. In 2002, after meeting Trump, he moved Bayrock's offices to Trump Tower, where he and his staff of Russian (C)migr(C)s set up shop on the twenty-fourth floor.
Trump worked closely with Bayrock on real estate ventures in Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. ''Bayrock knew the investors,'' he later testified. Arif ''brought the people up from Moscow to meet with me.'' He boasted about the deal he was getting: Arif was offering him a 20 to 25 percent cut on his overseas projects, he said, not to mention management fees. ''It was almost like mass production of a car,'' Trump testified.
But Bayrock and its deals quickly became mired in controversy. Forbes and other publications reported that the company was financed by a notoriously corrupt group of oligarchs known as The Trio. In 2010, Arif was arrested by Turkish prosecutors and charged with setting up a prostitution ring after he was found aboard a boat'--chartered by one of The Trio'--with nine young women, two of whom were 16 years old. The women reportedly refused to talk, and Arif was acquitted. According to a lawsuit filed that same year by two former Bayrock executives, Arif started the firm ''backed by oligarchs and money they stole from the Russian people.'' In addition, the suit alleges, Bayrock ''was substantially and covertly mob-owned and operated.'' The company's real purpose, the executives claim, was to develop hugely expensive properties bearing the Trump brand'--and then use the projects to launder money and evade taxes.
The lawsuit, which is ongoing, does not claim that Trump was complicit in the alleged scam. Bayrock dismissed the allegations as ''legal conclusions to which no response is required.'' But last year, after examining title deeds, bank records, and court documents, the Financial Times concluded that Trump SoHo had ''multiple ties to an alleged international money-laundering network.'' In one case, the paper reported, a former Kazakh energy minister is being sued in federal court for conspiring to ''systematically loot hundreds of millions of dollars of public assets'' and then purchasing three condos in Trump SoHo to launder his ''ill-gotten funds.''
Felix Sater had a Trump business card long after his criminal past came to light.During his collaboration with Bayrock, Trump also became close to the man who ran the firm's daily operations'--a twice-convicted felon with family ties to Semion Mogilevich. In 1974, when he was eight years old, Felix Sater and his family emigrated from Moscow to Brighton Beach. According to the FBI, his father'--who was convicted for extorting local restaurants, grocery stores, and a medical clinic'--was a Mogilevich boss. Sater tried making it as a stockbroker, but his career came to an abrupt end in 1991, after he stabbed a Wall Street foe in the face with a broken margarita glass during a bar fight, opening wounds that required 110 stitches. (Years later, in a deposition, Trump downplayed the incident, insisting that Sater ''got into a barroom fight, which a lot of people do.'') Sater lost his trading license over the attack, and served a year in prison.
In 1998, Sater pleaded guilty to racketeering'--operating a ''pump and dump'' stock fraud in partnership with alleged Russian mobsters that bilked investors of at least $40 million. To avoid prison time, Sater turned informer. But according to the lawsuit against Bayrock, he also resumed ''his old tricks.'' By 2003, the suit alleges, Sater controlled the majority of Bayrock's shares'--and proceeded to use the firm to launder hundreds of millions of dollars, while skimming and extorting millions more. The suit also claims that Sater committed fraud by concealing his racketeering conviction from banks that invested hundreds of millions in Bayrock, and that he threatened ''to kill anyone at the firm he thought knew of the crimes committed there and might report it.'' In court, Bayrock has denied the allegations, which Sater's attorney characterizes as ''false, fabricated, and pure garbage.''
By Sater's account, in sworn testimony, he was very tight with Trump. He flew to Colorado with him, accompanied Donald Jr. and Ivanka on a trip to Moscow at Trump's invitation, and met with Trump's inner circle ''constantly.'' In Trump Tower, he often dropped by Trump's office to pitch business ideas'--''just me and him.''
Trump seems unable to recall any of this. ''Felix Sater, boy, I have to even think about it,'' he told the Associated Press in 2015. Two years earlier, testifying in a video deposition, Trump took the same line. If Sater ''were sitting in the room right now,'' he swore under oath, ''I really wouldn't know what he looked like.'' He added: ''I don't know him very well, but I don't think he was connected to the mafia.''
Trump and his lawyers say that he was unaware of Sater's criminal past when he signed on to do business with Bayrock. That's plausible, since Sater's plea deal in the stock fraud was kept secret because of his role as an informant. But even after The New York Times revealed Sater's criminal record in 2007, he continued to use office space provided by the Trump Organization. In 2010, he was even given an official Trump Organization business card that read: FELIX H. SATER, SENIOR ADVISOR TO DONALD TRUMP.
In 2013, police burst into Unit 63A of Trump Tower and rounded up 29 suspects in a $100 million money-laundering scheme.
Sater apparently remains close to Trump's inner circle. Earlier this year, one week before National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired for failing to report meetings with Russian officials, Trump's personal attorney reportedly hand-delivered to Flynn's office a ''back-channel plan'' for lifting sanctions on Russia. The co-author of the plan, according to the Times: Felix Sater.
In the end, Trump's deals with Bayrock, like so much of his business empire, proved to be more glitter than gold. The international projects in Russia and Poland never materialized. A Trump tower being built in Fort Lauderdale ran out of money before it was completed, leaving behind a massive concrete shell. Trump SoHo ultimately had to be foreclosed and resold. But his Russian investors had left Trump with a high-profile property he could leverage. The new owners contracted with Trump to run the tower; as of April, the president and his daughter Ivanka were still listed as managers of the property. In 2015, according to the federal financial disclosure reports, Trump made $3 million from Trump SoHo.
In April 2013, a little more than two years before Trump rode the escalator to the ground floor of Trump Tower to kick off his presidential campaign, police burst into Unit 63A of the high-rise and rounded up 29 suspects in two gambling rings. The operation, which prosecutors called ''the world's largest sports book,'' was run out of condos in Trump Tower'--including the entire fifty-first floor of the building. In addition, unit 63A'--a condo directly below one owned by Trump'--served as the headquarters for a ''sophisticated money-laundering scheme'' that moved an estimated $100 million out of the former Soviet Union, through shell companies in Cyprus, and into investments in the United States. The entire operation, prosecutors say, was working under the protection of Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov, whom the FBI identified as a top Russian vor closely allied with Semion Mogilevich. In a single two-month stretch, according to the federal indictment, the money launderers paid Tokhtakhounov $10 million.
Tokhtakhounov, who had been indicted a decade earlier for conspiring to fix the ice-skating competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics, was the only suspect to elude arrest. For the next seven months, the Russian crime boss fell off the radar of Interpol, which had issued a red alert. Then, in November 2013, he suddenly appeared live on international television'--sitting in the audience at the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Tokhtakhounov was in the VIP section, just a few seats away from the pageant owner, Donald Trump.
Alimzhan Tokhtakhounov. Dmitry Korotayev/Epsilon/GettyAfter the pageant, Trump bragged about all the powerful Russians who had turned out that night, just to see him. ''Almost all of the oligarchs were in the room,'' he told Real Estate Weekly. Contacted by Mother Jones, Tokhtakhounov insisted that he had bought his own ticket and was not a VIP. He also denied being a mobster, telling The New York Times that he had been indicted in the gambling ring because FBI agents ''misinterpreted his Russian slang'' on their Trump Tower wiretaps, when he was merely placing $20,000 bets on soccer games.
Both the White House and the Trump Organization declined to respond to questions for this story. On the few occasions he has been questioned about his business entanglements with Russians, however, Trump has offered broad denials. ''I tweeted out that I have no dealings with Russia,'' he said at a press conference in January, when asked if Russia has any ''leverage'' over him, financial or otherwise. ''I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we've stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia. I have no loans with Russia at all.'' In May, when he was interviewed by NBC's Lester Holt, Trump seemed hard-pressed to think of a single connection he had with Russia. ''I have had dealings over the years where I sold a house to a very wealthy Russian many years ago,'' he said. ''I had the Miss Universe pageant'--which I owned for quite a while'--I had it in Moscow a long time ago. But other than that, I have nothing to do with Russia.''
But even if Trump has no memory of the many deals that he and his business made with Russian investors, he certainly did not ''stay away'' from Russia. For decades, he and his organization have aggressively promoted his business there, seeking to entice investors and buyers for some of his most high-profile developments. Whether Trump knew it or not, Russian mobsters and corrupt oligarchs used his properties not only to launder vast sums of money from extortion, drugs, gambling, and racketeering, but even as a base of operations for their criminal activities. In the process, they propped up Trump's business and enabled him to reinvent his image. Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.
Semion Mogilevich, the Russian mob's ''boss of bosses,'' also declined to respond to questions from the New Republic. ''My ideas are not important to anybody,'' Mogilevich said in a statement provided by his attorney. ''Whatever I know, I am a private person.'' Mogilevich, the attorney added, ''has nothing to do with President Trump. He doesn't believe that anybody associated with him lives in Trump Tower. He has no ties to America or American citizens.''
Back in 1999, the year before Trump staged his first run for president, Mogilevich gave a rare interview to the BBC. Living up to his reputation for cleverness, the mafia boss mostly joked and double-spoke his way around his criminal activities. (Q: ''Why did you set up companies in the Channel Islands?'' A: ''The problem was that I didn't know any other islands. When they taught us geography at school, I was sick that day.'') But when the exasperated interviewer asked, ''Do you believe there is any Russian organized crime?'' the ''brainy don'' turned half-serious.
''How can you say that there is a Russian mafia in America?'' he demanded. ''The word mafia, as far as I understand the word, means a criminal group that is connected with the political organs, the police and the administration. I don't know of a single Russian in the U.S. Senate, a single Russian in the U.S. Congress, a single Russian in the U.S. government. Where are the connections with the Russians? How can there be a Russian mafia in America? Where are their connections?''
Two decades later, we finally have an answer to Mogilevich's question.
Facebook Is The World's Biggest Right-Wing Media Company | Crooked Media
The conservative movement, led by President Trump, has been engaged in a months-long campaign to intimidate tech-media platforms like Facebook out of policing disinformation, and into maximizing the reach of right-wing content, by baselessly accusing the companies of harboring liberal bias.
They aren't even particularly subtle about it.
After Facebook changed its terms of service in late 2017, pro-Trump video-bloggers Diamond and Silk claimed, without any grounding at all, that Facebook was censoring them, and conservatives exclusively. Republicans on Capitol Hill eagerly parroted their baseless claims. When Mark Zuckerberg appeared before Congress to testify about Cambridge Analytica, Ted Cruz grilled him about it. They were rewarded for their nonsense with an invitation to headline a House Judiciary Committee hearing.
That much has been out in the open. What's less obvious is that their campaign has succeeded: It doesn't matter what Facebook intended to be. Facebook has become a media outlet'--and, through the manipulative efforts of conservative activists, a grossly irresponsible, right-wing media outlet. It's time to stop pretending otherwise.
Facebook's efforts to appease right-wing critics have distorted the outlet's political influence in many obvious ways. In response to the hearings on bias in Congress, Facebook hired conservative lobbyist Jon Kyl to lead a review. A six month study by Media Matters found that right-leaning pages continue to rack up more interactions on their posts than left-leaning or politically neutral pages, and conservative memes are by far the highest performing political content on the platform. But here's a data point that hits close to home:
In general, Facebook treats Pod Save America the same as it treats InfoWars'--the propaganda channel Alex Jones uses to spread conspiracy theories, and, more recently, to threaten violence against Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
Not even our most dishonest critics on the right make that comparison, because it's ludicrous. But if Facebook took any steps to distinguish between Pod Save America and InfoWars in their algorithms, those same critics would disingenuously accuse Facebook of being biased against conservatives.
I run social media for Crooked Media, and here's how I discovered this ingrained false equivalence: The other day, I received a push notification from Facebook saying that one of our videos had been flagged, and rated as ''18+.'' The video in question was a normal episode of Pod Save America in which our hosts analyzed the latest developments in Mueller's Russia investigation. Standard fare. They swore a couple of times. They didn't threaten anyone with violence. They didn't accuse anyone of being a child molester.
Confused, I looked up how Facebook's rating system works:
Videos that carry no rating can contain ''some suggestive dialogue, infrequent coarse language, some sexual situations, or moderate violence.''
Videos that receive a 14+ rating have ''intensely suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language, intense sexual situations, or intense violence.''
Videos that receive the 18+ rating they tagged us with contain ''crude, indecent language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence.''
Facebook has the capacity to distinguish between fact and falsehood, journalism and disinformation, reason and incitement, peace and violence, and turn down the volume on the latter. It can distinguish between people who use the word ''fuck,'' and people who engage in slander. It chooses not to because those distinctions'--those values'--would disfavor a right-wing media culture that embraces conspiracy theories and lies. The result is an output that places content creators who care about truth at a disadvantage, and makes Facebook a useful tool for propagandists.
'' We reached out to our Facebook rep to ask why our video received that rating, and got a corporate non-response in return. ''[T]hanks for flagging. Looking into this.''
But we didn't need a explanation or an excuse to see what was happening: Facebook treats our deliberately PG-13 content as if it were as offensive as ''explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence,'' and it suppresses us, to balance out its suppression of dangerous garbage like InfoWars.
In mid-July, Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would not ban InfoWars outright. It recently suspended Alex Jones from personally posting for 30 days after he ''violated community standards,'' but has more generally turned down the volume InfoWars content algorithmically. To quote Zuckerberg, ''You can put up that content on your page even if people might disagree with it or find it offensive, but that doesn't mean that we have a responsibility to make it widely distributed in News Feed.'' Yesterday, Facebook upheld the 18+ rating on our video.
The company's lip-service defense of free speech is in practice a choice to collapse the distinction between disinformation and news-analysis. The right-wing narrative of social-media censorship is dishonest, but it has also been incredibly effective in pressuring platforms into accepting lies as opinion.
Fuck that. Pod Save America will now natively include show notes and source citations on every longform video we post. Our shows are thoroughly researched, backed by reputable sources and meant to help spread information. Crooked Media has an obvious ideological lean, but we are more transparent about it than any other media company, and it in no way conflicts with our mission of making our audiences better informed. Facebook should reward that ethic, not penalize it. It should challenge other outlets to do the same. Or it should admit that, it has chosen, out of cowardice or its own volition, to adopt the values of its most dishonest critics.
Former CIA Counterterrorism Official: Thursday's Show of Force With Intel Officials Was a 'Stunt'
On Thursday, a group of national security officials stepped up to the White House briefing room podium to announce their coordinated effort to combat the Russians' election interference campaign. Some praised their show of force, but others, like former CIA Counterterrorism Official Phil Mudd, say it was all a "PR stunt."
Fmr. CIA Counterterrorism Official Phil Mudd says intelligence officials "got used" yesterday when they warned of ongoing interference: "That was a PR stunt" https://t.co/d9uFqT7rUu pic.twitter.com/n2ewT5wmmp
'-- New Day (@NewDay) August 3, 2018''That was not a security meeting,'' Mudd said. ''That was the White House using a bunch of people so for the next two months they can use a talking point that said, 'hey, anytime somebody raises Russia to Sarah Sanders, she's going to say look the president directed those guys and women at the podium to do something about it.''
CNN anchor David Gregory pushed back a bit, noting that "these are still responsible people," who even if they reacted out of pressure, "still came and briefed people about where they see the threat and what the government is doing about it."
Participating in Thursday's briefing were Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, national security adviser John Bolton, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and NSA director Gen. Paul Nakasone. They all seemed to be on the same page. Russia had absolutely interfered in our elections, they noted, before sharing what each of their agencies were doing about it.
The DHS is working with all 50 states to boost election infrastructure, the FBI is engaged in information and intelligence sharing and establishing strong relationships with the private sector to help technology companies monitor their platforms, the officials shared.
"Give me a break," Mudd said. "They got used."
Russia tasks Hollywood actor Seagal with improving U.S. ties | Article [AMP] | Reuters
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Saturday it had made U.S. actor Steven Seagal its special representative for Russian-U.S. humanitarian ties, a role it said was meant to deepen cultural, art and youth ties between the two countries.
President Vladimir Putin presented a Russian passport to U.S. actor Steven Seagal in 2016, saying he hoped it would serve as a symbol of how fractious ties between Moscow and Washington were starting to improve.
Since then, U.S.-Russia relations have only got worse however with U.S. intelligence agencies accusing Moscow of interfering in Donald Trump's White House run, an allegation Russia denies. The two countries are also at odds over Syria and Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry likened Seagal's new role to that of a U.N. goodwill ambassador and said that the actor, who is known for his martial arts prowess, would receive no salary.
"It's a case of people's diplomacy intersecting with traditional diplomacy," the ministry said.
Seagal, who sometimes appears on Russian state TV to talk about his views and career, was cited by Kremlin-backed TV station RT as welcoming the appointment.
"I've always had a very strong desire to do all I can to help improve Russian-American relations," RT cited Seagal as saying. "I have worked tirelessly in this direction for many years unofficially and I am now very grateful for the opportunity to do the same thing officially."
For more than a decade Seagal, who according to his own website is 66, has been a regular visitor to Russia. His movies, including such titles as "Under Siege" and "Sniper: Special Ops," are popular with Russian audiences.
President Putin is also a fan of the kind of martial arts that Seagal often practiced in his Hollywood action movies.
(Reporting by Maria Kiselyova; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
Justice Department Is Silent About Why It Has Failed To Preserve Comey Emails In FOIA Case | The Daily Caller
The Department of Justice is refusing to preserve work-related emails on former FBI Director James Comey's private account. The Justice Department Inspector General disclosed that Comey used a personal email account to conduct agency business. The Justice Department has refused to turn over government records on Comey's personal account, which The Daily Caller News Foundation and Judicial Watch requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The Department of Justice has refused to take any steps to preserve work-related emails former FBI Director James Comey had on a personal account that The Daily Caller News Foundation and Judicial Watch requested under the Freedom of Information Act, the conservative watchdog will file in court Friday.
''There is nothing but complete silence about why the FBI has failed to take steps to preserve records responsive to DCNF's request,'' Judicial Watch attorney Michael Bekesha will write in the filing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Judicial Watch and TheDCNF filed a joint lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act on April 25 seeking records, including emails, Comey produced regarding meetings and conversations he had with then-President Barack Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden and a variety of other political figures.
Following the Justice Department Inspector General's June 2018 report, which disclosed that Comey used a personal Gmail account for official FBI business, both groups sought a preservation order to assure no records related to their FOIA requests were lost or destroyed.
Both groups requested U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly order the Justice Department to preserve all of Comey's personal emails related to the two requests on July 27.
The same day, Kollar-Kotelly took the unusual step of demanding an expedited reply from the Justice Department, ordering that the agency respond to the court by Aug. 1 and to respond to Judicial Watch and TheDCNF by Aug. 3. (RELATED: Daily Caller News Foundation And Judicial Watch Seek To Preserve Comey's Private Emails)
In its reply to the court on Aug. 1, Justice Department U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu continued to refuse to send an order to Comey or share its communications with the former director seeking the preservation of all his personal emails related to the FOIA requests.
In its opposition to the preservation request, the Justice Department stated, '' even if they [sic] were a possibility of responsive records in Director Comey's personal email, Plaintiffs cannot meet their burden of showing that such records would be lost without a preservation order.''
Comey has been cagey about the number of times he met with and had conversations with Obama. An email Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, wrote and sent to herself on Inauguration Day noted for the record that Obama, Biden, then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and herself met with Comey.
Committee on the Judiciary members Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina discovered Rice's email. The email was at odds with his June 8, 2017, testimonybefore the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in which he suggested that his firsthand meetings with Obama were rare.
''As FBI director, I interacted with President Obama. I spoke only twice in three years,'' he said. ''I spoke alone with President Obama twice in person (and never on the phone) '-- once in 2015 to discuss law enforcement policy issues and a second time, briefly, for him to say goodbye in late 2016,'' Comey's opening statement to the Intelligence Committee read.
Bekesha wrote that the FBI's assistant section chief for record dissemination ''does not state that the FBI formally requested Comey preserve any agency records or potential agency records responsive to DCNF's FOIA request. Nor does he state that the FBI asked Comey to return any such records to the FBI.''
Judicial Watch, in its May 22 FOIA, asked for any documents or memoranda written or ordered written by Comey summarizing his conversations with any of the following individuals: Obama, Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona
TheDCNF requested records that identify and describe all meetings between Comey and Obama on Feb. 16.
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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Tags : barack obama james comey judicial watch
Mark on Twitter: "So now followers of the Q movement seem to think that the returned remains of the soldiers are actually secret North Korean tech servers that implicate Hillary and co.? This desecrates the fallen TWICE. How much further will this mad
@ voidzorro So now followers of the Q movement seem to think that the returned remains of the soldiers are actually secret North Korean tech servers that implicate Hillary and co.? This desecrates the fallen TWICE. How much further will this mad "movement" go before you say 'enough?'
Kids in Cages
L.A. Production of 'The Diary of Anne Frank' Replaces Nazis with ICE Agents Hunting for 'LatinX' Illegals
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty ImagesA modernized theatrical production of The Diary of Anne Frank in Los Angeles will re-imagine the Jewish Frank family hiding from Nazis with Latino immigrants hiding from Immigration, Customs, and Enforcement (ICE) officials, its directors have revealed.The production, directed by former Roseanne writer Stan Zimmerman and scheduled to run throughout September, ''was inspired by the true story of a Jewish woman in Los Angeles who created a 'Safe House' for a Latina mother and her two daughters after her husband was deported by ICE.'' The play's characters in the attic will be played by a LatinX cast, according to a promotional website.''Director Stan Zimmerman has cast his production of the classic play The Diary of Anne Frank, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and newly adapted by Wendy Kesselman,'' the play's promotional content reads.
''The cast includes Keith Coogan (''Adventures in Babysitting''), Tasha Dixon (Miss Arizona USA), David Gurrola (''Insecure''), Heather Olt (''The Middle''), Raquenel (''My Life is a Telenovela''), Robert C. Raicch (''Are We There Yet?''), Teddi Shaffer (''The Open Book''), Raymond Abel Tomas, Emiliano Torres (''Shooter'') and introducing Genesis Ochoa as Anne Frank,'' it continues.
In the original version of the true story, 13-year-old Anne Frank details her life in her diary after her family is forced to hide in an attic in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After more than two years of hiding, the Frank family is discovered by the Gestapo and sent to a Holocaust extermination camp, where only Anne's father Otto survives.
The controversial play comes amid growing comparisons by major Hollywood figures and the left-wing commentariat between the Holocaust and the immigration enforcement policies of President Donald Trump's administration. In March, CNN compared ICE agents to Nazis on a news article on the Jewish woman on which the upcoming production is based.
''A Jewish woman heard an undocumented immigrant and her two daughters were on the run from ICE,'' the network wrote on Twitter. ''Driven by thoughts of the Holocaust, she risked her own comfort to offer them shelter.''
Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at email@example.com.
Details Surface About Chinese Spy Who Worked For Sen. Feinstein '' CBS San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) '' New details emerged Wednesday about how a mole for the government of communist China managed to stay by Senator Dianne Feinstein's side for nearly 20 years.
It happened five years ago, but additional information is just surfacing about how the Bay Area senator's office was infiltrated by a Chinese spy.
The Bay Area is a hotbed for Russian and Chinese espionage. Late last year, the feds shut down the Russian consulate in San Francisco.
You may remember the thick black smoke that billowing from building before Russian diplomats turned it over to authorities, presumably produced by burning documents.
Now, all eyes are on Chinese intelligence in the Bay Area after the website Politico reported last week that a staffer for Senator Feinstein turned out to be a Chinese spy who reported back to the government officials about local politics.
On Wednesday, the San Francisco Chronicle uncovered additional details in a column written by reporters Phil Matier and Andy Ross.
The column revealed that the Chinese spy was Feinstein's driver who also served as a gofer in her Bay Area office and was a liaison to the Asian-American community.
He even attended Chinese consulate functions for the senator.
Feinstein '-- who was Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time '-- was reportedly mortified when the FBI told her she'd be infiltrated.
Investigators reportedly concluded the driver hadn't leaked anything of substance and Feinstein forced him to retire.
Former FBI agent and KPIX 5 security analyst Jeff Harp said he was not surprised.
''Think about Diane Feinstein and what she had access to,'' said Harp. ''One, she had access to the Chinese community here in San Francisco; great amount of political influence. Two, correct me if I'm wrong, Dianne Feinstein still has very close ties to the intelligence committees there in Washington, D.C.''
Harp ran counter espionage for the FBI in the Bay Area. He said in addition to traditional political intel and diplomatic secrets, Bay Area spies are often focused on things like R&D, technology and trade secrets.
''They also have an interest in the economy here. How to get political influence here,'' said Harp. ''What's being developed in Silicon Valley that has dual-use technology. All of that is tied to the Bay Area.''
And he says, like in many areas, when it comes to counter intelligence and espionage, the Bay Area is a trend setter.
''As the Bay Area goes, so does the nation when it comes to technology,'' said Harp. ''So why not when it comes to spying?''
Harp pointed out politicians with access to classified information are generally trained on what not to say and when not to say it. But he also noted when you have a driver behind the wheel day in and day out for 20 years, there are more opportunities to slip up.
Feinstein's office would not comment on the story, saying they do not address personnel matters or investigations, but they added that none of their California offices staffers had ever had security clearance.
The FBI declined to comment on the story.
Seattle housing market is under pressure as Chinese buying 'dries up'
Seattle has been arguably one of the hottest housing markets in America, with home prices rising annually by double digits fueled by scorching demand. There is, however, one outside force that is starting to throw cold water on all that heat: new weakness from once-intense Chinese buyers.
The Pacific Northwest city has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of the recent wave of Chinese buyers of U.S. real estate. Both Chinese investors and families hoping to send their kids to American universities have fueled demand for housing in Seattle, which has long enjoyed a strong Asian culture.
In just the last two years, that demand increased dramatically. In 2016, nearby Canadian city Vancouver slapped a 25 percent tax on international homebuyers in an effort to cool its own overheated housing market. Chinese investors, who had been strong in that market, simply moved south of the border to escape the tax.
"Chinese buyers are flooding into Seattle," said Jonathan Woloshin of UBS in a 2016 interview.
But the Chinese yuan's recent fall in value against the U.S. dollar has made housing more expensive for Chinese buyers. Now, Woloshin said, Seattle could see the opposite of the buying frenzy it had two years ago.
"I'm not telling you there is going to be a crash in prices, but do I think there is going to be a drop in the rate of increase? yes," said Woloshin.
In the Seattle metropolitan area, home prices skyrocketed 45 percent between August 2016 and now, according to Woloshin. On a currency-adjusted basis, for Chinese buyers, they are up 54 percent.
"The Chinese have a very long time horizon, so if they are buying that home as a second or third home or they're going to buy it for their child, that's fair, but the huge run-up in prices, the depreciation in the yuan is going to have an impact," he added.
Seattle housing is already cooling. The number of homes for sale in King County (where Seattle resides), shot up 47 percent in May compared with a year ago, according to the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. Pending home sales, which represent signed contracts, dropped nearly 9 percent.
Stephen Saunders is a managing broker with Coldwell Banker Seattle and works with Chinese investors in the Seattle market. "It's drying up," he said. "I just don't see the same kind of volume. The downtown Seattle condo market has come to a grinding halt, and that's where Chinese buyers were."
Most of his clients are looking for properties in the $1 million to $3 million range, but he said the slowdown in buying is not all about the yuan.
"It's not necessarily the decline in the currency, it is the increasing restrictions on getting money out. It's just getting tighter and tighter," he said, adding that the trade war between the U.S. and China is hitting the finances of some of his investor clients. As for Chinese families looking to buy homes for their children in the area, in just the past six to 10 months, "that's dried up substantially," he said.
Despite the increase in the supply of Seattle homes for sale, inventory is still incredibly low at barely two months' worth, based on the level of sales. This is the same trend throughout the West, where overheated home prices have caused buyers to pull back.
"Although signs of an inventory turnaround are encouraging, whether they mean good news for buyers remains to be seen," wrote Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com, in a release. "But high prices and fast-selling homes are causing some buyer hesitation which is reflected in fewer home sales."
The Seattle housing market has benefited enormously from the region's largest employer, Amazon. While there was concern earlier this year that a local "head tax" on employers would cause a hiring slowdown, that tax was quickly repealed after enormous pressure from Amazon.
The e-commerce giant, however, did report its first decline in its number of employees since 2009.
After strong hiring throughout the first half of 2017, job postings for open positions at Amazon headquarters dropped sharply last December, according to a report from The Seattle Times. Amazon is also planning to open a second headquarters, commonly called HQ2, although it has yet to announce the location. It currently employs more than 40,000 workers at its Seattle headquarters, according to quarterly filings.
Hiring shifts in Amazon's home market would certainly affect local housing. The Seattle area, however, is also home to Microsoft and other tech companies.
"I think it will slow down," said Skylar Olsen, chief economist at Seattle-based Zillow. "Amazon is certainly a huge player, but they were a catalyst that started a lot of growth in tech. It wasn't just Amazon that was booming local neighborhoods, it was other start-up players."
On the other hand, Olsen said she actually thinks the devaluation of the yuan could spur homebuying in Seattle.
"If they're investment buyers in the first place, then really you just move down in your price point, but you're still really interested in the rate of return. If you expect the yuan to continue to drop, then you have every reason to buy an asset that's not valued in yuan," she added.
MP Damian Collins demands a police inquiry to uncover Russian meddling in UK | News | The Times
Damian Collins says Britain needs its own version of Robert Mueller, the US investigator looking into Kremlin interference in AmericaTIMES PHOTOGRAPHER RICHARD POHLEBritain needs a criminal inquiry like the Mueller investigation in the United States to establish the extent of Russian efforts to meddle in democracy in this country, a Tory MP has said.
Only a police investigation with the power to seize documents could get to the bottom of any Kremlin plot to sway the EU referendum and ensure that future elections were protected from attack, Damian Collins said.
Last week a parliamentary inquiry into fake news led by Mr Collins, chairman of the digital, culture, media and sport committee, said that Russian disinformation campaigns were an active threat to democracy, and highlighted links between Moscow and Arron Banks, the founder of Leave.EU.
Russia's attempts to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election are being investigated'...
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When he was trying to sell the CBS fall lineup to advertisers back in 2005, boss Leslie Moonves starred in a promotional video based on the boxing movie ''Million Dollar Baby.'' He was seen punching out NBC's then-leading draw, a certain Donald Trump, star of ''The Apprentice.''
No hard feelings. Ten years later Mr. Moonves couldn't say whether he liked Mr. Trump for president, but he certainly liked what his campaign was doing for ad sales and viewership. ''The money's rolling in and this is fun,'' he said.
An axiom applies as much to business as to politics: Personnel is policy. Unfortunately, a corollary also applies: There can be no policy until personnel disputes are settled. The sexual misconduct allegations that threaten pre-emptively to take the otherwise excellent Mr. Moonves out of the picture arrive at a convenient moment for CBS shareholders.
Mr. Moonves has been a great executive, but then Kevin Spacey was a great actor, Charlie Rose was a great interviewer, Matt Lauer was a great morning-show host. The world has hardly stopped turning because of their absence.
We've seen it enough times: In companies, things happen that wouldn't happen under any likely alternative CEO. Mr. Moonves might be a tad more indispensable now, however, if the sexual allegations against him had not landed in the New Yorker magazine last week just as he was engaged in a power struggle with his controlling shareholder, Shari Redstone.
This apparently culminating showdown began after Ms. Redstone urged a merger between CBS and its former partner, Viacom , of which Ms. Redstone is also the controlling shareholder. The idea is not a terrible one for two companies otherwise left out of the panicked reshuffling of TV assets as the industry adapts to streaming. But in the nature of things, and unrelated to any rumors about Mr. Moonves's alleged misdeeds that were then already circulating, such a deal could not be suggested without triggering the neuralgic issue of Ms. Redstone's voting control, inherited from her incapacitated mogul father, Sumner Redstone.
Whatever you think of voting-rights lockups, Ms. Redstone's is written into both companies' bylaws, and Mr. Moonves took the job knowing the lay of the land. A court seems likely to find improper his attempt to use Ms. Redstone's supposedly conflicted backing of a Viacom merger, plus his own threat to quit as CEO, to pressure his board into a maneuver to strip Ms. Redstone of her special rights. That effort has been blocked, pending further litigation, and probably will not end well for Mr. Moonves, in which case it would likely have required a heroic effort to patch things up and preserve him in his job anyway.
All this comes amid great uncertainty about how fast the traditional ad- and cable-supported model of linear TV will fade, and how quickly the streaming alternative will develop. How many subscription streaming services will consumers be willing to sustain? Will ad-supported be a model that consumers prefer for some kinds of fare? Will stand-alone streaming (i.e., Netflix ) remain predominant given the apparent appetite in the marketplace to use video as a sweetener to support other businesses, such as Amazon's retail empire, or AT&T 's wireless empire, or Google's ad business, or Apple 's device business?
CBS probably is not sellable to Comcast or Disney , both of which already own broadcast networks, with their lingering, antediluvian significance in the minds of politicians and regulators. Though Facebook could use some non-Facebook content properties on which to serve ads to Facebook users, Mark Zuckerberg is in the doghouse with investors right now. He probably would find it an inopportune moment to give the impression that he's extending his hand into a new industry.
None of these objections apply to Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and we can think of reasons CBS-Viacom might be useful to Amazon. Viacom owns the original ''Star Trek'' episodes. Analysts also speculate that Amazon wants marquee sports rights for its Prime streaming business. If so, it would still need help from a conventional distributor to deliver big-time, live sports events to a much larger natural audiences than streaming can satisfy at this stage.
Mr. Bezos is running not only Amazon, but Whole Foods, the Washington Post and his space company, Blue Origin. Plus it's unclear just how deep Amazon wants to get into video production, or what it intends for its nascent advertising business, which CBS and Viacom could potentially be useful for. We wouldn't bet on him being a buyer. Of course, there are telecom carriers like Charter and Verizon that might eye CBS in a belated, me-too attempt at a content strategy. Yet all these deals would be more likely to happen once a CBS-Viacom reunion is sorted out.
Which is all the more reason for Mr. Moonves to get out of the picture quickly if that's the best way for the companies to make sure their assets live long and prosper in the digital age.
Weinstein Gets Approval to Release Rape Accuser's Emails '' Variety
A bankruptcy judge gave permission on Thursday for Harvey Weinstein's attorneys to include 40 emails from an anonymous rape accuser in a motion to dismiss his criminal case.
Judge Mary Walrath allowed Weinstein's lawyers to use the emails, provided that the alleged victim's name and initials are not used in the motion. Weinstein's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, argued that the emails would show that Weinstein had a friendly, long-term relationship with the woman, lasting for four years after the alleged rape occurred in 2013.
''They are endearing, intimate, pleasant, flattering, friendly emails between her and Mr. Weinstein,'' Brafman said. ''If the grand jury had these emails, they would not have indicted.''
The woman has not been identified in court. Brafman asked permission to refer to her by her initials, which he repeatedly stated are ''J.M.'' James Stang, a lawyer for the committee of unsecured creditors, objected to using the woman's initials, saying that would make it easier to discover her identity.
Brafman said he intended to accuse the Manhattan District Attorney's office of prosecutorial misconduct for not sharing the emails with the grand jury. He intends to file a motion to dismiss the indictment on Friday morning. He has repeatedly stated that Weinstein had a 10-year consensual affair with the victim.
The woman is one of three whose allegations underpin the criminal case against Weinstein. Weinstein faces up to life in prison if convicted.
Hate Trumps Love
IT BEGINS: Dan Rather Calls Trump "Racist" For Simply Responding To LeBron James
It didn't take long for liberals to play the race card after President Trump dared to criticize LeBron James and CNN's Don Lemon who interviewed the NBA superstar last week when he accused Trump of using sports to divide America.
On Friday, Trump dropped a Twiter anvil on the Los Angeles Laker loudmouth's head and then for good measure, took a poke at the race-obsessed Lemon who he mocked as the ''dumbest man on television'' which is hard to argue with.
Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do. I like Mike!
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2018
He also poked James in the eye by bringing up Michael Jordan who has six rings and always carried himself with class, unlike the crude, inarticulate boob who fancies himself as a civil rights figure.
The walking corpse of what used to be CBS's celebrity anchorman was one of the first to attack Trump as 86-year-old Dan Rather took to his own Twitter account to accuse the president of being a racist which in leftist lexicon happens to be anyone who criticizes a black politician or celebrity for making moronic statements.
We saw this tactic utilized with great success against conservatives who disagreed with Barack Obama's failed policies and if anything, it has become overused to the point of being a joke but it's still the bread and butter of the political left.
This is apparently what the President of the United States feels the need to share with the world at what should be long past his bedtime? It's a disgrace. It's racist. And it's the product of petty but dangerous hatreds. I repeat this is the PRESIDENT??!? https://t.co/MA8nZUxFc7
'-- Dan Rather (@DanRather) August 4, 2018
Via The Hill, ''Dan Rather blasts Trump for 'racist' criticism of LeBron James, Don Lemon'':
Veteran journalist Dan Rather tore into President Trump for his late-night tweet attacking NBA star LeBron James and CNN host Don Lemon.
In a tweet sent shortly after the president's, the longtime CBS News anchor called Trump's comments ''racist'' and ''dangerous.''
''This is apparently what the President of the United States feels the need to share with the world at what should be long past his bedtime?'' Rather tweeted. ''It's a disgrace. It's racist. And it's the product of petty but dangerous hatreds. I repeat this is the PRESIDENT??!?''
According to Democrats like Mr. Rather, President Trump does not have a right to free speech which is exactly what he was expressing when he called out King James and dumb Don Lemon.
It's hard to imagine that at one time that this guy was seriously referred to as a respectable newsman. Rather's long career went up in flames after his sloppy reporting on documents critical of former President George W. Bush's Air National Guard service embarrassed his network back in 2004.
He was clearly abusing his position in the media to discredit Bush and swing the presidential election to Democrat John Kerry but a failure to do his due diligence led to CBS having to retract Rather's big scoop much to the dismay of his liberal allies.
Bush went on to win reelection and the disgraced Rather was soon out at CBS before retreating into exile to lick his wounds. However, his name is still solid gold to the left and other low-information suckers and he has since emerged as a floater who appears regularly on the anti-Trump hatefests that pass for cable news.
It was only a week ago when he appeared with Lemon to accuse Trump of using ''Orwellian'' language which is an appropriate term for those invoking race to stymie criticism of James. Just like Dan Rather just did with his tweet.
It's hard to tell which one is more pathetic, Rather or Watergate ghoul Carl Bernstein, another crazy old fool who has discovered the fountain of youth in Trump Derangement Syndrome.
After investigating Clinton White House and Vincent Foster's death, Brett Kavanaugh had a change of heart - The Washington Post
In early 1995, Brett Kavanaugh, a rising star in conservative legal circles, wrestled with one of the most inflammatory questions of the Clinton presidency: How did White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster die?
It was an early career challenge for the man now nominated by President Trump to the Supreme Court. And it spurred him to advocate for an aggressive investigation related to the president, something he now cautions against.
Kavanaugh's revised thinking, as reflected in a 2009 law journal article, is that civil and criminal investigations ''take the President's focus away from his or her responsibilities to the people.'' His argument has been cited as a factor that appealed to President Trump as he faced a Supreme Court vacancy while dealing with an ongoing special counsel's investigation into Russian election interference.
In early 1995, however, Kavanaugh offered his boss, independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, the legal rationale for expanding his investigation of the Arkansas financial dealings of President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, to include the Foster death, according to a memo he wrote on March 24, 1995.
Kavanaugh, then 30, argued that unsupported allegations that Foster may have been murdered gave Starr the right to probe the matter more deeply. Foster's death had already been the focus of two investigations, both concluding that Foster committed suicide.
''We are currently investigating Vincent Foster's death to determine, among other things, whether he was murdered in violation of federal criminal law,'' Kavanaugh wrote to Starr and six other officials in a memo offering legal justification for the probe. ''[I]t necessarily follows that we must have the authority to fully investigate Foster's death.''
The four-page memo, obtained by The Washington Post from the Library of Congress, sheds light on how Kavanaugh's thinking evolved on the legal rights of sitting presidents.
His handling of Starr's Foster probe helped elevate Kavanaugh's career, but the lengthy inquiry enabled conspiracy theories to flourish and add to the tumult of the Clinton presidency. Once the Foster matter was closed, Starr's office continued to investigate the Clintons and eventually veered into the president's relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Kavanaugh pursued the Foster inquiry at Starr's request, even though he and others in the office soon came to believe that Foster killed himself, according to two people who worked with him at the time. Ultimately, Kavanaugh's report in October 1997 affirmed earlier findings of suicide. The Foster component of Starr's investigation cost about $2 million and lasted three years.
Foster's family expressed outrage that the Starr investigation enabled conspiracy theorists to ''allow the American people to entertain any thought that the president of the United States somehow had complicity in Vince's death,'' Sheila Foster Anthony, Foster's sister, said the day the findings were released. She did not respond to a request for comment.
Kavanaugh told CNN in a 1999 appearance that Starr's office probed ''a lot conspiracy theories, a lot of controversy. He took the time and made the effort to turn over every stone, to find the truth.'' Kavanaugh declined to comment for this story.
Starr told The Post in an interview he felt strongly that his office had a responsibility to resolve the Foster matter once and for all. The office was under intense pressure by conservative writers and members of Congress who wanted an independent body to explore the murder possibility. There was also debate within Starr's team about apparent oversights in the prior investigations.
''We cannot have '-- especially since I was charged with the investigation '-- an unsettled set of conspiracy theories that go unaddressed,'' Starr said. ''I viewed it as a matter of accountability, and also just for the good of the country.''
Kavanaugh's inquiry did not put the matter to rest, however. Questions about Foster's death continue to circulate today.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump himself called Foster's death ''very fishy'' during an interview with The Washington Post. ''I will say there are people who continue to bring it up because they think it was absolutely a murder,'' the candidate said.
Gunshot in Fort Marcy Park
Vincent Foster and Bill Clinton were childhood friends in Hope, Ark. Foster also became a friend and confidant of Hillary Clinton when they worked together at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm.
With Bill Clinton's 1992 election, the couple persuaded Foster to take the job of White House deputy counsel. Foster quickly became disillusioned by Washington's partisan warfare and immersed in White House controversies, such as the firing of the travel office staff.
On July 20, 1993, on what appeared to be a routine day, Foster left the White House and drove to Fort Marcy Park in Fairfax County, neatly folding his coat on the passenger seat of his family Honda. He walked to a spot near a historic cannon, put the barrel of a .38-caliber revolver in his mouth and pulled the trigger, according to multiple investigations.
Foster's death sparked intrigue. He had left no suicide note, but days after his death, a White House official found a torn-up piece of paper in which Foster listed things that were troubling him. ''Here ruining people is considered sport,'' he wrote.
U.S. Park Police officers were blocked when they went to the White House to retrieve his papers, one of the events that later spurred calls for a independent counsel.
Law enforcement authorities soon concluded that Foster died by his own hand. To them, the evidence was clear: He was depressed. He held an old revolver in his hand, which was covered in gunshot residue. On Aug. 10, 1993, the Department of Justice, FBI and Park Police jointly announced their conclusion that the death was a suicide.
Conservative talk show hosts and online activists branded the findings a sham. A theory surfaced that Foster knew too much about the Clintons' financial affairs, including a land deal in Arkansas known as Whitewater.
Attorney General Janet Reno appointed Robert Fiske in January 1994 to independently examine Foster's death and other questions. His inquiry took five months, concluding that ''Mr. Foster committed suicide at Fort Marcy Park.''
On the Senate floor, then-Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.) expressed relief that the matter was resolved. ''I wonder what it would be like, Mr. President, had we kept on believing what some of the people on radio and television and in the news have stated,'' he said.
But the investigation into the single gunshot wound was far from over.
An immersive investigation
After graduating from Yale Law School and serving as a clerk for two federal judges, Kavanaugh took a fellowship at the Office of the Solicitor General of the United States, then held by Kenneth Starr. Later, Starr recruited Kavanaugh to his law firm, Kirkland & Ellis.
But before Kavanaugh made a decision, Starr was named independent counsel and asked Kavanaugh to join him as associate counsel.
Kavanaugh and his colleagues thought Starr's work would be over in a year or less, and Starr assigned him to the Foster matter.
Mark Touhey, a prominent Washington lawyer who served as Starr's deputy, said Kavanaugh had all ''the right credentials'' and showed great promise, though he had much to learn about conducting an investigation. ''Brett from the very beginning was somebody I could rely on, we could rely on, to dig in, get your hands dirty,'' he said.
Touhey and a later Starr deputy, John Bates, now a U.S. District Court judge, both said Kavanaugh worked exhaustively, although he and some others in the office believed Foster had killed himself.
''The conclusion was that Vince Foster had died from his own hand,'' Bates said. ''There were a lot of outside forces, if you will, who were doubting it was a suicide, and the view was that we needed to do an extraordinary investigation .'.'. It took longer than it should have, probably.''
Starr told The Post that he urged Kavanaugh to pursue every lead and leave ''no stone unturned.''
The office was also under pressure from the Clinton White House and its allies to stop investigating. They questioned Starr's jurisdiction to investigate Foster, saying the effort was only a ploy to dig more deeply into the Clintons.
Kavanaugh's 1995 memo to Starr and others offered detailed reasoning for a fresh examination of Foster's death. Among the recipients was Samuel Dash, formerly the chief counsel to the Senate Watergate Committee, who was advising Starr's office. The Post located Kavanaugh's memo in Dash's papers.
Kavanaugh argued that while Starr's appointment did not mention Foster, ''we have received allegations that Mr. Foster's death [was] related to President and Mrs. Clinton's involvement'' with financial investments Starr was tasked to investigate.
He cited two theories '-- the allegation that Foster was murdered or killed himself because he knew too much about the Clintons' finances. Kavanaugh's memo said the claims justified continuing an investigation to ''determine whether his death is in fact related to the subject matter of the appointment.''
Kavanaugh immersed himself in Foster's final days. He viewed photographs of the body, went with federal investigators to interview witnesses and walked the park grounds with a forensic expert. The bullet that ended Foster's life was never found.
Among those pressing Starr's office was Christopher Ruddy, a journalist who wrote for conservative publications. Ruddy urged Starr's staff to label the Foster examination a ''homicide investigation,'' according to files at the National Archives.
In the fall of 1997, Ruddy claimed a coverup in his book, ''The Strange Death of Vincent Foster.'' He criticized almost everyone involved, including Starr's office, claiming it never resolved the case.
''With the 'investigations' of the Park Police, the FBI, Fiske, and Starr, this tiny square of land may yet become the symbol of a coverup conducted by people who have, with the help of the press, placed themselves above the law,'' Ruddy wrote.
Ruddy, now the CEO of Newsmax and an informal adviser to Trump, declined to comment.
'Dogged at getting at the truth'
Starr issued the report on Foster's death on Oct. 10, 1997, more than four years later. Its conclusion: Foster put a gun in his mouth and killed himself.
A suicide expert quoted in the report said he had ''100 percent degree of medical certainty'' that the death was a suicide.
Kavanaugh soon resigned from Starr's office and joined Kirkland & Ellis. But at Starr's request, he returned to the independent counsel's office to support an effort in the Supreme Court to obtain notes that Foster's lawyer made of a conversation with him just days before Foster's death.
In his only Supreme Court appearance, Kavanaugh argued that the attorney-client privilege disappeared after Foster's death. The court disagreed, voting 6-to-3 against Kavanaugh and Starr.
Kavanaugh stayed on to help Starr's investigation into Clinton's relationship with Lewinsky, which came to light in part because of Clinton's testimony in a civil suit brought by Paula Jones, who accused Clinton of harassment.
Kavanaugh wrote a section of Starr's report dealing with the grounds for impeaching Clinton.
After leaving Starr's office and serving in the George W. Bush White House, Kavanaugh was nominated by Bush for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit. In his 2006 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, he was asked by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to reflect on Starr's investigation.
Kavanaugh testified that in retrospect, ''it was probably a mistake'' for Starr to take on additional lines of inquiry beyond his original mandate to look into the Clintons' Whitewater land deal and a small Arkansas savings and loan. He did not specifically mention the Foster matter.
Kavanaugh went further in a 2009 article in the Minnesota Law Review. He said that Starr operated under a ''badly flawed'' law, ''particularly to the extent to which it allowed civil suits against presidents to proceed while the President is in office.''
Kavanaugh, who served as Bush's associate counsel and staff secretary, said he came to believe that presidents are too busy to deal with civil lawsuits and criminal investigations, suggesting such matters be deferred until they leave office. He stressed that a malevolent president could still be impeached.
Kavanaugh was proud of his work on the Foster case. ''What's important in these investigations, however, is that the American people, at the end of the day, have confidence that the person was dogged at getting at the truth; that the person was not restricted by a narrow mandate .'.'. but the person really went after it hard. And that's what Judge Starr did in his investigation,'' he said on CNN in 1999.
Starr said he is ultimately responsible for the length of the investigation.
''That point has to be laid at my feet, not at Brett Kavanaugh's feet,'' Starr said.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.
San Francisco Supervisors Want to Take Away Tech's Free Lunch | Forum | Forum | KQED
A sign is posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarters on April 26, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Two San Francisco supervisors want to ban the construction of new employee cafeterias in office buildings. The proposal is similar in spirit to a rule in Mountain View that forbids Facebook from providing free meals to employees at its new campus. Supporters of the measures see them as key to breaking down the insular nature of tech companies and reinvigorating local restaurant economies. Critics say the rules are a government overreach and the economic effects will be nominal. What do you think about banning free lunches or workplace cafeterias?
Nellie Bowles, tech reporter, New York Times
Jim Lazarus, senior vice president, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
Ahsha Safai, District 11 supervisor, San Francisco Board of Supervisors
As Google Maps Renames Neighborhoods, Residents Fume - The New York Times
A district south of downtown San Francisco was long known as Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was renamed on Google Maps as the East Cut, a name that has spilled into the physical world. Credit Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times SAN FRANCISCO '-- For decades, the district south of downtown and alongside San Francisco Bay here was known as either Rincon Hill, South Beach or South of Market. This spring, it was suddenly rebranded on Google Maps to a name few had heard: the East Cut.
The peculiar moniker immediately spread digitally, from hotel sites to dating apps to Uber, which all use Google's map data. The name soon spilled over into the physical world, too. Real-estate listings beckoned prospective tenants to the East Cut. And news organizations referred to the vicinity by that term.
''It's degrading to the reputation of our area,'' said Tad Bogdan, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years. In a survey of 271 neighbors that he organized recently, he said, 90 percent disliked the name.
The swift rebranding of the roughly 170-year-old district is just one example of how Google Maps has now become the primary arbiter of place names. With decisions made by a few Google cartographers, the identity of a city, town or neighborhood can be reshaped, illustrating the outsize influence that Silicon Valley increasingly has in the real world.
The Detroit neighborhood now regularly called Fishkorn (pronounced FISH-korn), but previously known as Fiskhorn (pronounced FISK-horn)? That was because of Google Maps. Midtown South Central in Manhattan? That was also given life by Google Maps.
Image Some Detroit residents have been baffled by Google's map of their city, which includes the neighborhood called Fishkorn (pronounced FISH-korn). The area was previously known as Fiskhorn (pronounced FISK-horn).Yet how Google arrives at its names in maps is often mysterious. The company declined to detail how some place names came about, though some appear to have resulted from mistakes by researchers, rebrandings by real estate agents '-- or just outright fiction.
In Los Angeles, Jeffrey Schneider, a longtime architect in the Silver Lake area, said he recently began calling the hill he lived on Silver Lake Heights in ads for his rental apartment downstairs, partly as a joke. Last year, Silver Lake Heights also appeared on Google Maps.
''Now for every real-estate listing in this neighborhood, they refer to it,'' he said. ''You see a name like that on a map and you believe it.''
Before the internet era, neighborhood names developed via word of mouth, newspaper articles and physical maps that were released periodically. But Google Maps, which debuted in 2005, is updated continuously and delivered to more than one billion people on their devices. Google also feeds map data to thousands of websites and apps, magnifying its influence.
In May, more than 63 percent of people who accessed a map on a smartphone or tablet used Google Maps, versus 19.4 percent for the Chinese internet giant Alibaba's maps and 5.5 percent for Apple Maps, according to comScore, which tracks web traffic.
Google said it created its maps from third-party data, public sources, satellites and, often most important, users. People can submit changes, which are reviewed by Google employees. A Google spokeswoman declined further comment.
Yet some submissions are ruled upon by people with little local knowledge of a place, such as contractors in India, said one former Google Maps employee, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Other users with a history of accurate changes said their updates to maps take effect instantly.
Many of Google's decisions have far-reaching consequences, with the maps driving increased traffic to quiet neighborhoods and once almost provoking an international incident in 2010 after it misrepresented the boundary between Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
The service has also disseminated place names that are just plain puzzling. In New York, Vinegar Hill Heights, Midtown South Central (now NoMad), BoCoCa (for the area between Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens), and Rambo (Right Around the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) have appeared on and off in Google Maps.
Matthew Hyland, co-owner of New York's Emily and Emmy Squared pizzerias, who polices Google Maps in his spare time, said he considered those all made-up names, some of which he deleted from the map. Other obscure neighborhood names gain traction because of Google's endorsement, he said. Someone once told him they lived in Stuyvesant Heights, ''and then I looked at Google Maps and it was there. And I was like, 'What? No. Come on,''' he said.
Image The East Cut name originated from a neighborhood nonprofit group in San Francisco that residents voted to create in 2015 to clean and secure the area. The nonprofit paid $68,000 to a ''brand experience design company'' to rebrand the district.In Detroit, some residents have been baffled by Google's map of their city, which is blanketed with neighborhood monikers like NW Goldberg, Fishkorn and the Eye. Those names have been on Google Maps since at least 2012.
Timothy Boscarino, a Detroit city planner, traced Google's use of those names to a map posted online around 2002 by a few locals. Google almost identically copied that map's neighborhoods and boundaries, he said '-- down to its typos. One result was that Google transposed the k and h for the district known as Fiskhorn, making it Fishkorn.
A former Detroit city planner, Arthur Mullen, said he created the 2002 map as a side project and was surprised his typos were now distributed widely. He said he used old books and his local knowledge to make the map, approximating boundaries at times and inserting names with tenuous connections to neighborhoods, hoping to draw feedback.
''I shouldn't be making a mistake and 20 years later people are having to live with it,'' Mr. Mullen said.
He admitted some of his names were questionable, such as the Eye, a 60-block patch next to a cemetery on Detroit's outskirts. He said he thought he spotted the name in a document, but was unsure which one. ''Do I have my research materials from doing this 18 years ago? No,'' he said.
Image After choosing the East Cut name, a nonprofit neighborhood group paid for streetlight banners and outfitted street cleaners with East Cut apparel. Credit Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times Now, local real-estate listings, food-delivery sites and locksmith ads use Fishkorn and the Eye. Erik Belcarz, an optometrist from nearby Novi, Mich., named his new publishing start-up Fishkorn this year after seeing the name on Google Maps.
''It rolls off the tongue,'' he said.
Detroit officials recently canvassed the community to make an official map of neighborhoods. That exercise fixed some errors, like Fiskhorn (though Fishkorn remains on Google Maps). But for many districts where residents were unsure of the history, authorities relied largely on Google. The Eye and others are now part of that official map.
In San Francisco, the East Cut name originated from a neighborhood nonprofit group that residents voted to create in 2015 to clean and secure the area. The nonprofit paid $68,000 to a ''brand experience design company'' to rebrand the district.
Andrew Robinson, executive director of the nonprofit, now called the East Cut Community Benefit District (and previously the Greater Rincon Hill Community Benefit District), said the group's board rejected names like Grand Narrows and Central Hub. Instead they chose the East Cut, partly because it referenced an 1869 construction project to cut through nearby Rincon Hill. The nonprofit then paid for streetlight banners and outfitted street cleaners with East Cut apparel.
But it wasn't until Google Maps adopted the name this spring that it got attention '-- and mockery.
''The East Cut sounds like a 17 dollar sandwich,'' Menotti Minutillo, an Uber engineer who works on the neighborhood's border, said on Twitter in May.
Mr. Robinson said his team asked Google to add the East Cut to its maps. A Google spokeswoman said employees manually inserted the name after verifying it through public sources. The company's San Francisco offices are in the neighborhood (as is The New York Times bureau), and one of the East Cut nonprofit's board members is a Google employee.
Google Maps has also validated other little-known San Francisco neighborhoods. Balboa Hollow, a roughly 50-block district north of Golden Gate Park, trumpets on its website that it is a distinct neighborhood. Its proof? Google Maps.
''Don't believe us?'' its website asks. ''Well, we're on the internet; so we must be real.''
Follow Jack Nicas on Twitter: @jacknicas.
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Music Modernization Act: SESAC and Songwriters Compromise '' Variety
The compromise paves the way for the legislation's passage.Following tension over the Music Modernization Act, performance rights organization SESAC and songwriter groups have reached a compromise that will allow for the legislation's passage.
On August 2, the performing rights organization in a joint press release with Nashville Songwriters Association International, the National Music Publishers Association, and Songwriters Of North America, stated: ''At the encouragement of Senators closely involved in this legislation, all parties came together to agree on outstanding items related to the MMA including the reform of the Section 115 compulsory license and other important related matters. We share a collective responsibility to help ensure that the MMA benefits all stakeholders in the industry and look forward to the Senate's consideration of the bill.''
Before SESAC's July 17 proposal, it had been smooth sailing for the MMA, which in June was approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee following its passage, also by unanimous vote, in the House of Representatives in May. The legislation aims to improve royalty payments to songwriters, artists and creatives in the digital era. Its next and final step before heading to President Trump for signature is a full Senate vote to consider the act.
At the heart of the issue for SESAC parent company Blackstone was the nearly 100-year-old Harry Fox Agency (HFA), the rights management and collection entity which was bought by SESAC in 2015 for a reported $20 million. The HFA has acted as a hub for administrating and distributing mechanical license fees on behalf of music publishers
The MMA in establishing its proposed Mechanical Licensing Collective (MLC), to be overseen by a Board of publishers which includes four self-published songwriters, agreed that the MLC will only collect and administer mechanical royalty income from the DSPs and not public performance royalties by PROs ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and GMR.
Says Dina LaPolt, attorney advisor to SONA, in a statement to Variety: ''I have been telling everyone for decades that it all starts with a song! See what happens when the creators mobilize with one voice? They made it happen. Songwriters and music creators can change the world when they mobilize.''
The compromise paves the way to passage of sweeping reforms and aims to better earnings for untold numbers of working songwriters and rights holders.
Nashville group says SESAC proposal endangers Music Modernization Act
SESAC is building a new headquarters building on Music Row. (Photo: LOGO)
An 11th-hour proposal by the music licensing company SESAC to change the Music Modernization Act could torpedo the landmark copyright legislation that is on the brink of becoming law, supporters of the legislation warn.
Songwriters and publishers have been hunting for new digital music licensing laws for years, and in 2018 momentum has been on their side. Stakeholders representing every corner of the music industry, including digital music companies such as Spotify and Apple, record labels, artists and the largest performance rights organizations all back the legislation.
Senator Lamar Alexander played a few tunes written by Senator Orrin Hatch while they discuss the Music Modernization Act Courtesy Lamar Alexander office
The Music Modernization Act has already cleared the House and a crucial Senate committee without a single opposition vote.
If enacted, the bill would:
Improve digital royalty payouts to songwritersBegin paying artists and labels a digital royalty for songs recorded prior to 1972Create a new licensing collective to oversee digital mechanical licensing for songwriters and music publishers.It's the last component of the MMA that has irked SESAC, the Nashville-based for-profit licensing agency owned by the private equity firm Blackstone, to propose changes to the legislation.
SESAC's pitch to change the MMA stems from the company's concern that creating a new licensing collective would make companies that administer such licenses obsolete. SESAC owns the licensing firm the Harry Fox Agency, which it purchased in 2015 from the National Music Publishers Association with eyes on expanding the services it could offer member songwriters.
The Harry Fox Agency employs about 100 people and administers over $150 million in royalties annually.
The proposal to change the bill has sparked a flurry of criticism, with supporters of the current legislation saying the changes could derail the measure. Bart Herbison, the executive director of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, said Congress must move urgently to approve legislation that songwriters have pushed for several years.
Herbison accused SESAC of trying to kill the bill with the late proposal and said those who crafted the legislation would rather no bill pass than the amended version that SESAC has pitched to Senate offices in Washington D.C.
Lawmakers could simply choose to ignore the proposal, though Blackstone, which had $360 billion in assets when they purchased SESAC in 2017, wields significant clout in Washington.
"Blackstone/SESAC waits until July 18 to introduce a proposal that fundamentally would change the way this works," Herbison said. "It adds expense, layers of redundancy. It is so troubling and they've altered it so dramatically that none of the stakeholders '-- the songwriters, the music publishers, the record labels, the digital services and others '-- can now support the legislation."
In an emailed statement on Monday, Blackstone reiterated its commitment to modernizing music copyright laws.
''Blackstone strongly supports music modernization, and we are confident legislation will be signed into law this year as long as all parties continue working in the same cooperative spirit that has characterized the process so far," a company spokeswoman said.
According to a draft proposal obtained by The Tennessean, SESAC is proposing to allow certified licensing companies such as Harry Fox to handle the licensing and administration of digital mechanical licensing. Under the legislation as constructed, that job would fall to the new music licensing collective, and the digital music companies would actually pay for the cost of administering the licenses.
SESAC's proposal calls for the new licensing collective to maintain a new comprehensive copyright database, serve as the single place for filing a licensing notice and resolve conflicting copyright claims.
In the draft document, SESAC blasted the MMA as creating a government-mandated monopoly. Although the legislation cleared the Senate Judiciary committee earlier this month with a voice vote, conservative Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn did express some reservations about this point, seemingly sympathizing with private companies that currently administer digital licenses.
More: Private equity firm Blackstone to buy SESAC
More: Music Modernization Act: US Senate panel approves landmark music industry bill
More: Goodlatte to unveil sweeping music copyright reform package next month
"As currently drafted, the MMA vests exclusive administrative rights in a single, government-mandated entity," the SESAC document calling for changes to the MMA says. "Competition in the musical composition licensing marketplace is vital to ensure 1. low-cost, innovative solutions to distributing royalties to hard-to-find copyright owners, 2. improved accuracy in musical composition metadata and 3. improved and more streamlined dissemination of accurate metadata.
"Suggestions that creating a monopoly reduces costs and improves efficiencies are contrary to two centuries of economic experience in the United States, which counsel that competition drive efficiency and keep costs down."
But Herbison scoffed at the notion that the proposed licensing company would be government-mandated. He said the current licensing system is outdated and that the proposed licensing collective would be a private organization managed by publishers and songwriters.
Buy Photo Bart Herbison (Photo: Sam Simpkins // The Tennessean)
Herbison attributed the SESAC proposal to "corporate greed" and accused the company of supporting the broken status quo. Herbison said that if this late effort by SESAC ultimately undoes the legislation, he would spend "all my time as executive director of NSAI making sure everyone knows who is to blame for this bill's failure."
In addition to being a U.S. Senator, former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander is apparently also a songwriter, making $110 last year for his part in the creation of country singer Lee Brice's song 'Falling Apart Together.'
Music copyright reform bills have advanced in the past, only to be undone by their final hurdles. Although the legislation seems to have the backing of the vast majority of Senators, as evidenced by its unanimous passage in committee, just a few lawmakers could sideline the entire bill.
"This is bad faith," Herbison said. "It's certainly bad faith on behalf of Blackstone/SESAC/Harry Fox. In what appears to be a troubling play for corporate greed '-- either way if the bill passes or fails '-- to ensure business for Harry Fox.
"We are calling on SESAC to drop this proposal and support the MMA as written with the caveat that we are willing to listen to them (on selecting of vendors that would contract with the new licensing collective). We are out of time. This was more complicated than negotiating the Paris Peace Treaty. It just was. It took years and years."
Despite the back-and-forth earlier in the day on Monday, a SESAC spokeswoman released a statement expressing optimism that the bill could still pass this year.
''We expect that as the Senate continues to work through these issues with input from concerned and well-meaning stakeholders, an appropriate resolution will be reached and the MMA will be passed before the end of the year," the SESAC spokeswoman said.''
The proposed licensing collective is viewed as the linchpin to the legislation, because expensive lawsuits have been filed in recent years against streaming companies for using songs without the proper license. Those lawsuits triggered expensive settlements and brought Spotify and Apple to the negotiating table on the MMA.
In exchange for eliminating the legal liability that the streaming companies currently experience, the onus for identifying songwriters and paying them the royalties they are owed would fall to the new licensing collective.
It's similar to how the nonprofit group SoundExchange handles digital royalty payouts for artists and record labels.
Reach Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @tnnaterau.
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How drug companies are beating Trump at his own game - POLITICO
A July tweet from President Donald Trump sent panic through the C-suites of some of the world's biggest drug companies, prompting Pfizer and nine other companies to roll back or freeze prices.
But there's less to those announcements than meets the eye. The gestures turned out to be largely symbolic '-- efforts to beat Trump at his own game by giving him headlines he wants without making substantive changes in how they do business.
Story Continued Below
The token concessions are ''a calculated risk,'' said one drug lobbyist. ''Take these nothing-burger steps and give the administration things they can take credit for.''
Of the few companies that actually cut prices, for instance, most targeted old products that no longer produce much revenue '-- such as Merck's 60 percent discount to a hepatitis C medicine that had no U.S. revenues in the first quarter.
Others volunteered to halt price increases for six months '-- in some cases, just weeks after announcing what is normally their last price hike for the year.
''A lot of this shit is meaningless to satisfy Trump,'' said another drug lobbyist.
The industry's deft response to Trump's tweet shaming has also become a test of whether his administration is serious about following up with an aggressive crackdown on the companies or will simply declare victory based on token measures and move on.
''I think right now it's a lot of noise, not a lot of substantial impact to the companies,'' said Les Funtleyder, a health care portfolio manager at E Squared Asset Management, which owns shares in Pfizer. The prospect for meaningful change ''is out there ... but that will take motivation on the part of regulators and policymakers.''
Analysts are in broad agreement that the spate of recent concessions won't hurt bottom lines, or rein in drug prices beyond this six-month period, because many companies already increased prices this year '-- in some cases, just weeks before publicly pledging to freeze them for the rest of 2018.
''There's the glass-half-full and glass-half-empty interpretation,'' said Walid Gellad, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Policy and Prescribing at the University of Pittsburgh. ''Glass half full says we have never before seen pharma promise not to raise prices anymore. So this is a step forward '-- including for patients. Glass half empty is that these are token measures '-- either on drugs few people use, or drugs that just had their price raised, and that prices will just go up next year."
Either way, Gellad said, ''this is not the kind of structural change we want in the market so that prices go down.''
Drug prices are a fixation for Trump, who rants about them in conversations with aides and advisers, according to people close to the president. He sees the issue as a political winner, especially among his conservative '-- and largely older '-- base, which relies heavily on prescription drugs. And after facing huge hurdles moving his legislative priorities through Congress, he sees this as something he can win on by using his executive authority.
That has put huge pressure on Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, a former top official of Eli Lilly and Co.
''They talk three times a week, and they never have a conversation where drug pricing isn't a topic,'' said one person briefed on the conversations, adding that Trump has also interrupted Cabinet meetings to encourage Azar to brief the group on the latest developments.
But even as Azar implements his 44-page blueprint aimed at lowering prices, Trump has grown impatient with the glacial pace of rulemaking and arcane details of drug policy.
His outlet is Twitter, where he can marshal the rage of his millions of followers in an instant. White House aides say he sees his Pfizer tweet as a warning shot to other drug companies '-- part of a public ''shaming'' campaign designed to pressure companies to take voluntary steps to lower prices.
That strategy diverges sharply from what Azar is saying publicly '-- raising doubts about how serious the administration is about cracking down on drugmakers.
The HHS secretary's rhetoric often targets pharmacy benefits managers '-- the obscure middlemen who manage the drug side of patients' health insurance benefits '-- not drug companies. And targeting the middlemen is a play directly out of pharma's strategy book '-- drug companies have long sought to pin patients' frustration with rising costs on PBMs. HHS has also signaled it wants to overhaul a drug discount program for hospitals that could put money back in pharma's pocket.
Pfizer CEO Ian Read himself praised the president's blueprint on the company's recent second-quarter earnings call, just a few weeks after Trump's Pfizer tweet.
''I don't think the administration is gunning for [pharma],'' said Ronny Gal, a financial analyst at Sanford Bernstein. Everything they are doing right now is ''scratching around the problem,'' he said.
''You can tell by the way the stock has performed that investors aren't too concerned,'' Funtleyder said. ''They figure, 'OK, the pharma companies waved the white flag for now, so they're out of the cross hairs.'''
Meanwhile, HHS and drug industry officials have worked closely to show Trump they are getting results, administration and pharmaceutical industry sources tell POLITICO.
In private meetings with drug officials, HHS officials ask what steps they've taken that they might relay to Trump to keep the president satisfied, said drug company sources.
''They're also like, 'Hey, don't be stupid. If you're going to do something you feel like we can mutually take some credit for, let us know. '... If you can get a good tweet out of it, don't be an idiot. Let us know [ahead of time],''' said one person familiar with the conversations.
''They've said: 'What would it take for you to lower prices?''' said another top drug industry official.
''There is a real fear that Trump only understands things very simplistically,'' said a lobbyist for several drug companies. ''So they want to keep tossing treats for him or he will go after blunt instruments,'' like government drug price negotiations '-- steps neither the conservative leadership at HHS nor the drug industry want.
Observers both inside HHS and outside the administration see Azar's drug pricing team as a buffer for the drug industry.
''To be candid, the secretary is pro-patient, pro-innovation and pro-competition and, quite frankly, really standing in between the industry and some faster ways to lower prices that some would say are not pro-competition,'' said HHS' John O'Brien, a senior adviser to Azar, at a drug cost event one day after Trump's tweet attacking Pfizer.
Azar prefers the industry and HHS work to make change together, rather than it being adversarial, according to people familiar with HHS' strategy.
He publicly touts industry price freezes and reversals ''in part to show Trump they're making progress, but also to show the industry that you get recognized for playing ball,'' said a person familiar with the discussions.
The White House, meanwhile, was thrilled about the industry's recent price freezes, even as officials acknowledged the companies' announcements are only a first step '-- and promised what one official characterized as a ''deluge'' of drug price-related regulatory action in the coming months.
''Nothing about what they do or don't do is going to really turn the tide in a major, major way on a voluntary basis,'' the official said of the drug companies' actions, promising that the administration will take aggressive action.
In the meantime, the White House isn't ruling out more Twitter shaming.
''You'll see continuing of the tweeting and announcing different actors doing good or bad things in the market,'' the official said.
That will get particularly tricky for the industry come January, when drugmakers would typically take their biggest price increases of the coming year '-- and when their public concessions sunset.
''They can live with the changes that were made '-- but they can't live with not raising prices forever,'' Gal said. ''It's a noose they put their head into. In January, we will see what happens with that noose. Does it tighten or not?''
Adam Cancryn contributed to this report.
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The NYSE's Owner Wants to Bring Bitcoin to Your 401(k). Are Crypto Credit Cards Next?
Bitcoin could be on the verge of breaking through as a mainstream currency. At least that's the goal of a startup that is soon to be launched by one of the most powerful players on Wall Street, with backing from some of America's leading companies.
This morning the Intercontinental Exchange'--the trading colossus that owns the New York Stock Exchange and other global marketplaces'--announced that it is forming a new company called Bakkt. The new venture, which is expected to launch in November, will offer a federally regulated market for Bitcoin. With the creation of Bakkt, ICE aims to transform Bitcoin into a trusted global currency with broad usage.
To achieve that vision, ICE is partnering with heavyweights from the worlds of technology, consulting, and retail: Microsoft, Boston Consulting Group, and Starbucks. ICE did not immediately disclose the total investment of the investment partners, a group which also includes Fortress Investment Group, Eagle Seven, and Susquehanna International Group'--or the ownership stakes.
The founding imperative for Bakkt will be to make Bitcoin a sound and secure offering for key constituents that now mostly shun it'--the world's big financial institutions. The goal is to clear the way for major money managers to offer Bitcoin mutual funds, pension funds, and ETFs, as highly regulated, mainstream investments.
The next step after that could be using Bitcoin to replace your credit card.
''Bakkt is designed to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant, and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security, and utility,'' said Kelly Loeffler, ICE's head of digital assets, who will serve as CEO of Bakkt, in the press release announcing the launch. ''We are collaborating to build an open platform that helps unlock the transformative potential of digital assets across global markets and commerce.''
In an exclusive interview, Loeffler (pronounced ''Leffler'') told Fortune that ICE and its partners have been ''building the factory'' that will power Bakkt in the strictest secrecy for the past 14 months. The name of the company was only decided in the past two weeks. Loeffler explains that ''Bakkt'' is a play on ''backed,'' as in ''asset-backed securities,'' and it's meant to evoke a highly-trusted investment.
If the Bakkt blueprint works as planned, a panoply of new Bitcoin funds would tap the pent-up demand for the cryptocurrency, making it a safe and easy choice for everyday investors'--notably millennials getting their first 401(k)s. Wall Street could then tap Bitcoin's popularity as an alternative to stocks and bonds to generate giant trading volumes. And that flood of institutional buying and selling, in turn, would take the terror out of Bitcoin by smoothing its wild swings in price.
The volatility of the cryptocurrency has both attracted individual speculators and scared off institutional money. In the fall of 2017, the price of Bitcoin spiked from $6,400 to nearly $20,000; it has since fallen back to around $7,700.
Cracking the 401(k) and IRA market for cryptocurrency would be a huge win for Bakkt. But the startup's plans raise the prospect of an even more ambitious goal: Using Bitcoin to streamline and disrupt the world of retail payments by moving consumers from swiping credit cards to scanning their Bitcoin apps. The market opportunity is gigantic: Consumers worldwide are paying lofty credit card or online-shopping fees on $25 trillion a year in annual purchases.
Bakkt's founders tell Fortune that the institutional investor campaign is the first of two phases. They're a little coy about the second phase. But the presence of Starbucks and Microsoft strongly suggests that Bakkt will strive to revolutionize the way consumers pay at the mall and online. The coffee giant is already a leading player in encouraging customers to pay with the their smartphones rather than their credit cards. And Microsoft, through its Azure cloud business, serves a huge base of retailers, handling back-office tasks from invoice processing to e-commerce.
''As the flagship retailer, Starbucks will play a pivotal role in developing practical, trusted, and regulated applications for consumers to convert their digital assets into U.S. dollars for use at Starbucks,'' said Maria Smith, vice president, Partnerships and Payments for Starbucks, in the press release.
Bakkt is the brainchild of Jeff Sprecher, the founder, chairman, and CEO of ICE, and a disrupter par excellence. Sprecher (pronounced ''Sprecker'') stands alone as the leading force in modernizing the world's exchanges in recent years from open-outcry pits into super-efficient electronic marketplaces. Along the way, Sprecher built a flailing electricity exchange that he reportedly purchased for $1 into a global trading and data empire now worth $44 billion. ''In 25 years he's gone from nothing to the most powerful exchange entrepreneur in the world,'' says Larry Tabb, chief of consultancy the Tabb Group. ''He hasn't failed yet.''
People walk outside the Microsoft store on Fifth Avenue in New York City on April 26, 2018 in New York. - Kena Betancur'--VIEWpress/Corbis/Getty Images People walk outside the Microsoft store on Fifth Avenue in New York City on April 26, 2018 in New York. Kena Betancur'--VIEWpress/Corbis/Getty Images
Today ICE is the world's second largest owner of financial exchanges by revenue behind the CME, and one of the largest purveyors of market data. ICE's 2017 revenues of $4.6 billion divide pretty evenly between those two main franchises. ICE owns twelve exchanges, served by six clearing houses. And to the delight of shareholders, Sprecher has delivered profitability as much as growth. Since going public in 2006, ICE has delivered annual total returns of 24.1%. The company's towering 54% margin of net profits ranked fourth in the S&P 500 last year.
Even in the heavily-fragmented galaxy of stock and bond trading, ICE has established a Brobdingnagian footprint. The NYSE is by far world's largest stock market, trading 1.5 billion shares a day'--or nearly one-in-four of all equity transactions. ICE also owns NYSE American, the leading platform for mid-cap companies, as well as Arca, the world's largest marketplace for ETFs. ICE is the world leader in almost all categories of futures for ''soft'' agricultural commodities such as sugar, coffee, and cotton, chiefly through its 2007 acquisition of the New York Board of Trade. And ICE Futures Europe is the dominant global marketplace for the Brent crude, the global oil price benchmark.
Now Sprecher, the visionary who assembled this empire, is crusading to make Wall Street asset managers and Main Street consumers love Bitcoin.
Sprecher and his investment partners are putting this one-of-a-kind mission in the hands of a first-time CEO who's Sprecher's soulmate in both business and in life: Kelly Loeffler. The ICE executive has ridden shotgun alongside Sprecher since the company's fledgling days in 2002. In 2004, they married. Loeffler long ran marketing, investor relations, and communications for ICE. Now she's giving up her ICE roles to run Bakkt.
Over the past two months, Sprecher and Loeffler sat for several hours of exclusive interviews with Fortune. Above all, they emphasized how Bakkt, in part by exploiting ICE's trading infrastructure, could provide precisely the tools Bitcoin needs to achieve broad acceptance.
At a recent meeting with the couple in the plush Bond Room at the NYSE, Sprecher stressed that Loeffler has been a collaborator in charting ICE's next big move. ''Kelly and I brainstormed for five years to find a strategy for digital currencies,'' says Sprecher.
At first glance, the pair present an unusual twosome: At over six-feet in her high heels, Loeffler, 47, stands much taller than her 63-year old husband. But their bond is quickly apparent'--a passion for gig ideas that need lots of tinkering to succeed. ''I'm an engineer who likes to fix things that are broken,'' says Sprecher, who repairs his vintage Porsche racecars on weekends. ''And Bitcoin was the epitome of a broken model that if fixed, could change the world.''
Adds Loeffler, ''Jeff and I get excited about big things that for most people, seem to have no answer.''
If they succeed with Bakkt, it could be the biggest development in the churning, hazardous frontier of cryptocurrencies since a mysterious programmer (or programmers) under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto unveiled Bitcoin in 2009.
Sprecher's plan for bringing crypto to the masses runs contrary to what Bitcoin supporters typically champion. The purists favor Bitcoin's ''distributed'' architecture, and adamantly oppose putting a big exchange at the center of the both the Bitcoin investment and payments systems. ''A regulated exchange with a custodian in the middle contradicts the basic idea of Bitcoin,'' says Abhishek Punia, a crypto-currency analyst with venture capital firm Draper Associates. ''Bitcoin was designed to be decentralized, without intermediaries taking fees. A regulated exchange may be popular for a short period of time, but it's not the future. The future will be the original idea of a peer-to-peer network.''
Sprecher and Loeffler disagree, arguing that a strong central infrastructure is precisely what's needed, and that ICE and its partners are the ones to supply it. The challenge is getting the banks, asset managers, and endowments to embrace Bitcoin. ''Being from the exchange world, we looked at the problem differently,'' says Loeffler.
The big institutions are ICE's main customers, and Sprecher and Loeffler understood their thinking about crypto-currencies. They reckoned that Bitcoin could thrive as a mainstream investment because the big money managers recognize that ten of millions of their current and future investors want to own it''''if it can be packaged as mutual funds and ETFs. ''The institutions saw that Bitcoin had lots of appeal as a store of value like gold or silver,'' says Loeffler.
To study how digital currencies work, ICE in early 2015 took a minority stake in the largest U.S.-based marketplace for digital currencies, Coinbase. ''Coinbase has twice as many customers as Charles Schwab,'' says Loeffler. ''Many of the people who have opened accounts on Coinbase are millennials who use it to make small investments in crypto-currencies.''
Adds Sprecher: ''Millennials don't trust traditional financial institutions. To gain their trust, banks, brokerages, and asset managers can use a currency that millennials believe in, like Bitcoin. Using digital currencies brings a lot of sizzle.''
So far, cryptocurrencies have gained little traction with asset managers like Fidelity and Vanguard. The reason, says Sprecher, is that ''Bitcoin does not have a good market structure.'' For consumers, it's expensive to exchange dollars for Bitcoin, in part because trading is spread thinly across too many venues that individually do too little trading. He notes that more than 200 marketplaces trade over a dozen major digital currencies, from ether to Ripple to Litecoin. ''Even for Bitcoin, different markets are posting lots of different prices,'' says Sprecher. ''And you can pay an up to 6% spread to exchange dollars for Bitcoin, meaning Bitcoin needs to rise by as much 6% before you break even.''
Cryptocurrencies today serve primarily as a vehicle for speculation by daredevil traders, and by the hedge funds that own 80% of the roughly $300 billion in digital currencies worldwide. (Bitcoin is by far the biggest cryptocurrency for now, with a recent total value of around $134 billion.) The combination of rampant betting and relatively arid liquidity sent Bitcoin careening through four bear markets in the decade since its creation. ''The result is a crisis of confidence,'' says Loeffler.
In addition, the freewheeling Bitcoin ethos clashes with the ultra-cautious, post-financial crisis mindset on Wall Street that emphasizes safeguarding the investor at all costs. ''People at the big institutions have the view that cryptocurrencies can be unsavory actors procured by elicit means,'' says Loeffler.
Not to mention that some on Wall Street still view cryptocurrencies as being run by ''kids'' whose motivation can be summarized as, ''Let's screw the banks and do it all ourselves.''
But Sprecher and Loeffler concluded that fragmented marketplaces and alien culture weren't the real reasons the institutions avoided Bitcoin. In their view, a broad universe of fans wanted to invest in Bitcoin or other digital tokens, but couldn't find the right products. The solution: A new ecosystem that provided Bitcoin the same protections afforded the stocks, bonds, and commodities futures traded on ICE's exchanges. That would open an investor universe far beyond a relatively small group of retail customers and adventurous hedge funds.
So why aren't the Vanguards and Blackrocks taking a ''serve them and they shall come'' approach? For Sprecher and Loeffler, the reason is fundamental'--and fixable. ''Two things are missing,'' says Sprecher. ''Trading on an official exchange, and safe storage for digital currencies on an institutional scale.''
Put simply, Sprecher says, the big money managers won't create digital currency funds unless they can first buy the tokens on a federally regulated exchange, and, second, store the tokens for their investors in accounts rendered super-secure by the safeguards provided by those exchanges.
Today, the tokens for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether aren't traded at all on the major futures or securities exchanges. Official exchanges are overseen by the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for futures, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for securities. The venues where folks exchange dollars or Euros for digital currencies'--including the biggest ones such as Coinbase and Gemini'--are often called ''exchanges,'' but they're actually marketplaces that are licensed under state laws.
These platforms fall under three main regulatory regimes: First, Coinbase and many other marketplaces are licensed in the individual states as ''money transmitters.'' Second, Gemini, the platform founded by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, is licensed in its home state of New York as trust company, and that designation is its passport to operate in a number of other states. The third category are markets called SEFs; more on them in a bit.
Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, with his wife Kelly Loeffler, the chief communications and marketing officer of ICE, at the company's headquarters in Atlanta on July 27, 2018. - Gillian Laub for Fortune Jeffrey Sprecher, chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, with his wife Kelly Loeffler, the chief communications and marketing officer of ICE, at the company's headquarters in Atlanta on July 27, 2018. Gillian Laub for Fortune
The reason why these trading platforms aren't governed by either of the two federal watchdogs'--the SEC or the CFTC'--relates to how the two bodies classify cryptocurrencies. The SEC, which oversees stocks, bonds, and other securities, has said that the two biggest cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and Ether, are not securities. The SEC is taking a wait-and-see approach to the others. So far, none of the current marketplaces have secured the SEC imprimatur as regulated securities exchanges for digital tokens.
While Bitcoin isn't considered a security, it is deemed to be a commodity. It's the job of the CFTC to regulate commodity futures and options on those futures'--a vast portfolio comprising contracts for everything from crude oil to soybeans to gold. As it is a commodity, Bitcoin futures could only trade on a CFTC-regulated futures exchange, called a Designated Contract Market. (Similar to other currency trading marketplaces, a venue that simply exchanges dollars or Euros for Bitcoin on a ''spot'' basis do not need to be regulated by the CFTC.)
Today, the Chicago Board Options Exchange and Chicago Mercantile Exchange both trade futures contracts on Bitcoin. The contracts aren't settled by delivering the actual coins. They're settled in cash based on the movement of the price of Bitcoin. So in effect, they're a vehicle for betting on the future price of the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin's designation as a commodity opens a rich opportunity for ICE: It now operates the two of the largest commodities futures exchanges on the planet'--ICE Futures U.S., and ICE Futures Europe. For Sprecher and Loeffler, these venues provide exactly the type of protections needed to, as Loeffler puts it, ''get the institutional engine running.''
It's important to understand that the major exchanges regulated by the SEC or CFTC provide a broad package of three heavily-regulated services: trading, clearing, and either safe storage in the form of custody (for securities), or ''warehouses'' (for futures). On trades, the exchange ensures that the posted price the money manager clicks on is what they pay for a stock or futures contract. But the exchanges also set exacting rules for clearing and custody or warehousing. And those rules must be approved, and are overseen, by the SEC or CFTC
The federally-regulated exchanges require clearing services that effectively remove credit risk for both the buyer and seller. The clearing house guarantees that the seller will deliver the sugar, coffee, or gold as agreed under a futures contract, and that the buyer will make the full payment. If either fails to perform, it's the clearing house''''which is jointly funded by the trading firms that are members of the exchange and its owner, in this case ICE''''that makes good on the delivery or the cash. As for safe storage, it comes in two flavors: custody for stocks and bonds, and warehousing for futures. SEC-regulated exchanges like the NYSE require that a mutual fund or pension fund hold their stock or bond certificates in super-safe accounts at such independent custody houses as State Street or BNY Mellon.
For futures, ICE and the other CFTC-regulated exchanges mandate that the coffee, gold, or silver that a party has agreed to purchase be stored in a licensed warehouse or other storage facility when the contract expires and the commodity is due for delivery. In effect, the buyer, whether a money manager like Vanguard or a user such as Cargill, can ''pick up'' the gold bars or bales of cotton at the warehouse. If the items aren't there for pickup, or if the seller doesn't pay, once again, it's the clearing house that covers the losses.
Bakkt would provide the first fully-integrated package combining a major federally-regulated exchange, as well as the clearing and storage overseen by the exchange. ICE owns six clearing houses that are vertically-integrated with ICE Futures U.S. and its other exchanges. By utilizing a CFTC regulated futures exchange for cryptocurrencies, Bakkt would provide two main layers of security that money managers regard as absolutely essential. The first is purchasing a security or commodity'--in this case a digital token'--through a regulated broker-dealer that's a member of the ICE futures exchange.
The exchanges stipulate that depositors submit passports, articles of incorporation, and identify the source of funds used to purchase the assets. They also search for patterns of illegal activity. If one investor is, say, repeatedly losing money on oil trades to the same counter-party, those trades would raise a red flag, because the ''loser'' could be laundering money and getting kickbacks from the buyer.
Only broker-dealers and futures commission merchants (FCMs) that are fully vetted by the regulated exchanges are allowed to trade on those venues as ''members'' of the ICE Futures U.S. On SEC and CFTC regulated exchanges, the exchange-approved members are trading with one another, on behalf of money managers that they, in turn, have fully vetted. Granted the same protections, investors could be absolutely sure they're not buying Bitcoin from warlords who hacked a hedge fund to pilfer the tokens.
The second essential is furnishing regulated storage for digital currencies. ''A qualified warehouse is the difference between institutional investors' getting in or staying out,'' says Loeffler.
Bakkt's approach is furnishing what amounts to super-safe lockboxes resembling the vaults that hold gold bars for investors. The warehouses serving futures exchanges provide two main services. First, they ensure that assets can't be stolen. In Bitcoin's case, that would mean safeguarding the tokens in digital lock-boxes protected by multiple layers of cyber-security. Second, the policies and procedures followed by the exchanges verify the identities of the investors whose assets are held in the warehouses, guaranteeing that that the gold or oil stored for delivery wasn't obtained illegally.
Bakkt plans to offer a full package combining a major CFTC-regulated exchange with CFTC-regulated clearing and custody, pending the approval from the commission and other regulators. Bakkt will provide access to a new Bitcoin trading platform on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange. And it will also offer full warehousing services, a business that ICE doesn't have. ''Bakkt's revenue will come from two sources,'' says Loeffler, ''the trading fees on the ICE Futures U.S. exchange, and warehouse fees paid by the customers that buy Bitcoin and store with Bakkt.''
Bakkt will provide the biggest marketplace to date. But it won't be the first or only CFTC-regulated platform trading Bitcoin tokens. The Dodd-Frank legislation created marketplaces called Swap Execution Facilities, or SEFs, that are overseen by the CFTC. (This is the third category of markets we mentioned earlier.) LedgerX, for example, owns a SEF that uses swap contracts to trade fiat currencies for Bitcoin called ''Next Day Bitcoin''; it also provides custody services regulated by the CFTC. (Gemini and Coinbase also provide custody services.) The SEFs are far less established, and have far smaller base of institutional customers than the big exchanges such as ICE Futures U.S., but they are potential competitors in the years ahead.
Here's how Bakkt's exchange for trading Bitcoin tokens, if approved, would operate. It would trade Bitcoin using what are known as ''one-day futures,'' contracts that would take the same amount of time to settle as trades in the current cash market, meaning in a single day. The broker-dealer would click on a posted price at anytime during the trading day on behalf of a money manager client. By the market close, the ICE clearinghouse would have arranged to route the cash from the buyer's to the seller's bank account, and the Bitcoin tokens would be en route the to the Bakkt digital warehouse.
The clients entrusting their Bitcoin to Bakkt could be either institutions managing Bitcoin mutual funds, or companies making cross-border payments in Bitcoin. So how do those clients spend their Bitcoin? Control of ''private keys'' allow Bitcoin to be spent. Those keys are a randomly generated string of numbers and letters that resemble digital signatures. Most Bitcoin owners store their keys on PCs or servers, or in accounts at unregulated marketplaces. But private keys on those devices are vulnerable to hacking, and if the hacker steals the key, the hacker keeps the pilfered Bitcoin. Cyber-thieves have stolen more than $1.6 billion in cryptocurrencies by hacking investors' accounts since 2011, according to Autonomous Research.
Bakkt would solve that problem by storing the private keys ''offline'' in its heavily-guarded digital warehouse. When a fund manager or company wants take Bitcoin out of the warehouse, Bakkt would confirm the client's identity and release the Bitcoin using the private key. The warehouse will also hold a second key, called the public key, that opens the recipient's account to receive Bitcoin. The double-key security resembles how it takes a bank rep and the customer, both with their own keys, to open a safety deposit box.
How about trades that occur all inside the warehouse? Bakkt would be connected to the ICE Futures U.S. exchange, so that customers could seamlessly trade Bitcoin for dollars or Euros. Then, the Bitcoin would simply shift from the seller's lockbox in the ICE warehouse to the buyer's lockbox, as if a forklift were transferring gold bars from one storage locker to another.
To make Bitcoin mainstream, Bakkt must overcome the cryptocurrency's chief drawback: its extremely slow speed. Bitcoin runs on a system known as blockchain, operated by a network of millions of individual members who compete to package and verify transactions. Essentially, every time a Bitcoin owner on the network buys anything using his or her digital wallet, the transaction is ''broadcast'' to all the ''nodes,'' or computers in the network. The nodes battle to prove the transactions are legitimate, and the winner is rewarded with free Bitcoin. The rub is that since all transactions'--from purchasing a $1.50 cup of coffee to a $60,000 SUV'--must be individually broadcast to all the nodes.
As a result, the existing system can manage only around seven transactions per second. That's much too slow to ever work on the institutional scale that Sprecher and Loeffler envision.
Bakkt, however, would transform Bitcoin's architecture to run at high speed. Imagine that dozens of mutual funds, pension funds, and endowments hold Bitcoin in the Bakkt warehouse. If Asset Manager A buys $200 million in Bitcoin from Asset Manager B, the Bitcoin tokens simply move from B's account at Bakkt to A's account at Bakkt, via a trade on the ICE exchange. The total number of Bitcoins held at Bakkt doesn't change. Let's assume that millions of those transactions happen every day, all inside the Bakkt ecosystem. Bakkt simply keeps a ledger of those offsetting Bitcoin debit and credits. The individual purchases and sales don't need to be broadcast to the blockchain. What does need to be broadcast are any payments coming into or exiting Bakkt's warehouse.
Hence, so long as Bakkt controls a big share of the market, it would need to report only a tiny sliver of transactions to the blockchain, enabling its system to operate at warp speed.
''Our system would operate on a layer above the blockchain, and we'd keep our own omnibus ledger apart from the blockchain,'' explains Loeffler. The Bakkt design isn't revolutionary. It closely resembles a technology called ''the lightning network'' that's already in use. In the lightning network, the same two participants, say an appliance-maker and a parts supplier, engage in multiple Bitcoin transactions. As long as the parties are using a fixed number of Bitcoins to buy, sell from one another, and store for that purpose, the transactions aren't reported to the blockchain, and zap back and forth within the same ecosystem.
Once Wall Street gets the flywheel whirring, Bitcoin would gain the liquidity to become a bona fide currency. Sprecher and Loeffler predict that multinationals would then adopt Bitcoin for international payments. ''The banks control international payments, and the system is very expensive,'' notes Sprecher.
When an U.S. auto parts manufacturer buys components from Japan, for example, it can pay stiff fees to convert dollars to yen. The purchase, at a minimum, involves a broker-dealer that makes the trade, and the purchaser's and the seller's banks. It might take two days before the seller can collect the yen, costing the U.S. producer interest while the funds are in transit. By contrast, if both parties use Bitcoin the payments could bypass the brokers and banks, flowing via the ICE exchange from the buyer's to the seller's vault held at Bakkt, and reaping big savings.
''Bitcoin would greatly simplify the movement of global money,'' says Sprecher. ''It has the potential to become the first worldwide currency.''
Sprecher has demonstrated time and again the vision to transform global industries with technology. ICE's foray into data, for example, is a testament to Sprecher's agility. The company was a medium-sized player in data services until late 2015, when it purchased IDC, the leading provider of bond prices for institutional investors, for $5.2 billion.
Sprecher's timing was spot on: In two years, data has mushroomed into ICE's biggest revenue category. The business splits into two main channels'--exchange pricing, and analytics. For the former, ICE collects fees for dispensing different types of pricing from its exchanges, from such routine products as furnishing the ''tape'' to brokerage houses and TV networks to providing deep market data to high frequency traders. Most of ICE's data runs through a secure, proprietary system of fiber and wireless grid called the ICE Global Network, built as a super-secure backbone by the NYSE following the 9/11 attacks. The IGN is connected to virtually every major money manager around the globe.
Sprecher correctly predicted that money managers would need more and more data to create sharply-targeted mutual funds and ETFs. ICE supplies the data signaling when stocks should be added or dropped from, for example, a Japanese small cap value index fund. ICE doesn't manage money. But besides selling data to fund managers, it purchased the former Bank of America family of indexes, and licenses them to investment managers. The ICE BofAML funds now boast $1 trillion in assets.
Not surprisingly, Sprecher is aiming to disrupt the costly, old-fashioned bond trading universe, where most business is still conducted over the phone. When Sprecher bought IDC, the firm priced fixed income products once a day. Now, ICE sources real-time quotes on 2.7 million bonds and illiquid equities around the clock. That effort is part of his campaign to modernize bond trading by making the hidebound field fully electronic. To advance the project, ICE this year spent a total of $1.1 billion to purchase two digital fixed income platforms'--Virtu BondPoint, a leader in corporates, and TMC, the largest electronic trading site for municipal bonds.
Sprecher is a blend of an engineer and an adventurer. He grew up in Madison, Wisc., the son of a financial planner who sold insurance on the side. ''Our mother says that when he was six years old, he took apart a toaster and put it back together,'' says his sister Jill Sprecher, who with a second sister, Karen, forged a distinguished record making independent films. ''Then at sixteen he rebuilt a Toyota in the garage and traded it for an 'hugger orange' Camaro.''
Sprecher, in fact, longed to be a professional race car driver, attending the famous Road America driving school in Wisconsin. ''Mario Andretti said the best drivers aren't the bravest, but the smartest,'' says Sprecher. ''He was wrong. I was smart, but feared for my life. In tense situations, I took my foot off the gas, and hit the brake.''
He now indulges more in the nitty-gritty than the romance racing by lying on a mechanic's creeper, wrench in hand, to repair exhaust systems and rocker panels on his collection of a dozen decades-old Porsches that competed at Le Mans, heirlooms that he loans out for vintage rallies.
Jeffrey Sprecher, working on a 1973 Porsche 2.7RS in Viper Green at his home in Atlanta on July 27, 2018. - Gillian Laub for Fortune Jeffrey Sprecher, working on a 1973 Porsche 2.7RS in Viper Green at his home in Atlanta on July 27, 2018. Gillian Laub for Fortune
Following a dozen years building power plants in California, Sprecher in the late 1990s sought a way to sell his surplus electricity on a spot market. In those days, almost all electricity trading happened over the phone. Sprecher wanted to get multiple utilities bidding for his power on an electronic marketplace. He could only find one, a platform owned by an Atlanta power company that had signed 63 utilities to its exchange, but was doing minimal business''''and losing $1 million a month. In 1997, Sprecher bought it for that famous $1 sum. (Or it might have been $1,000; he says he can't recall anymore.)
The fledgling exchange stumbled for three years. ''We were selling old routing equipment on eBay to raise a few thousand dollars,'' says Chuck Vice, now ICE's vice-chairman in charge of technology.
Sprecher was about to lose his house to the bank when a trip to Manhattan in 2001 brought a reversal of fortune. At the time, Enron was pioneering energy trading, but it was the buyer or seller in every transaction. Only Sprecher was offering a major marketplace where utilities could trade directly with one another. On that trip to Manhattan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley told Sprecher they were wary of Enron's dominance, and loaned $15 million to his exchange, saving the enterprise and Sprecher's endangered residence. Then, in an astounding gambit, Sprecher handed 90% of his equity, basically for free, to thirteen banks, energy companies, and utilities, in exchange for their commitment to conduct a guaranteed volume of trades on his marketplace. In November of 2001, Enron collapsed. The next month, the volumes on Sprecher's exchange soared 180%.
Meanwhile, Kelly Loeffler''''who grew up weeding soybean fields on her parents' farm in Illinois''''had traded a stint as a retail analyst in Chicago for a private equity position in Texas. Loeffler had spent about a year at the new job when her boss, the current Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer, announced that he was joining a struggling power exchange in Atlanta. Loeffler had studied the natural gas market, and was convinced the time was ripe for electronic trading. So she told Spencer she wanted to go with him. ''I see a house that's burning down like old fashioned trading in natural gas, and I want to run in and fix it,'' says Loeffler. She joined ICE in 2002 when it still had fewer than 100 employees.
Around that time, Sprecher bought the International Petroleum Exchange in London, once again, an antiquated open-outcry marketplace choked with floor traders shouting orders. As usual, the traders fought his campaign to go electronic, so Sprecher closed the exchange in the afternoons so that clients had no choice but to trade on their terminals half the day. All the action shifted to the evening hours, and by 2005, the IPE, now ICE Futures Europe, went fully electronic. Two years later, ICE bought the floundering New York Board of Trade, and engineered another painful but highly profitable transition to computerized trading.
Late in 2008, Sprecher noted that the world's big banks had no vehicle for selling the trillions of dollars in credit default swaps that would repay part of their losses on derivatives suffered in the financial crisis. Sprecher established a special clearing house for CDS that by 2010 auctioned off an astounding $50 trillion in CDS, helping to surmount a towering hazard to the financial system.
Then, in 2013, Sprecher made his biggest and most prestigious acquisition to date by purchasing NYSE Euronext for $9.75 billion'--more on the NYSE shortly''''and in 2015, grabbed IDC in the deal that made ICE the a major player in market data. Why does ICE keep making these big deals? ''We're like a network that keeps adding hit shows,'' says Sprecher.
Sprecher isn't shy about telling anyone who'll listen that he's got the solution to their problem'--and not just in business. ''He's a know-it-all who really knows it all,'' says Jill Sprecher. Loeffler recalls that at a dinner with Robert Spano, conductor of the Atlanta Symphony, where Loeffler serves on the board, Sprecher began lecturing the maestro on what was really needed to promote the symphony. According to Loeffler, Sprecher kept saying, ''You need to get out of the building, get out of this shell. You need to do pop-ups at the mall to appeal to young people!'' ''I was mortified, but that's Jeff,'' says Loeffler. ''There was no stopping him.''
Two distinct currents distinguish his management style: His instinctive, improvisational approach to hiring key people, and his ability marry entrepreneurship with a steady performance that appeals to public shareholders. ''I've never regretted hiring anyone when I followed my instincts,'' he says. ''Only when I was swayed by their resume instead.''
In one of his signature stories, Sprecher relates that at a raucous board meeting for his condo association in Atlanta years ago, an argument erupted about a couple whose two dogs were regularly pooping in the elevator, sans cleanup by their owners. ''Then this guy gets up and volunteers for what nobody else wanted to do,'' says Sprecher. ''He says, 'I'll take care of the pooping dogs problem.' I was really impressed that he jumped right in.'' Sprecher was looking for a can-do manager to run the exchange's help desk, which was overwhelmed by customer complaints. So he hired the guy who tackled the canine problem'--Mark Wassersug, who is now ICE's chief operating officer.
Sprecher also trusted his gut in promoting Stacey Cunningham in June to be president of the NYSE'--the first woman to head the exchange in its 226-year history. Cunningham didn't have the fanciest of resumes. She'd served for eight years as a specialist broker at the Big Board, then left to pursue a culinary degree. After a stint at NASDAQ, she returned to the Big Board, rising to lead sales management. Sprecher then chose her to straighten out a small legacy NYSE business that provided listed companies advice on corporate governance.
''It was a nightmare,'' he says. ''The employees were always calling the whistleblower hotline with nothing to complain about. Stacey really straightened it out, and we were able to sell it.'' Sprecher had no doubt that Cunningham could perform brilliantly running his trophy business.
A Starbucks Reserve Roastery store in Shanghai, China. Starbucks wants to develop more digital payments options for its customers. - Qilai Shen '-- Bloomberg via Getty Images A Starbucks Reserve Roastery store in Shanghai, China. Starbucks wants to develop more digital payments options for its customers. Qilai Shen '-- Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sprecher's second trademark talent is keeping an artful balance between investing in breakthrough ideas, and producing consistent growth in earnings. Fred Salerno, ICE's lead independent director and a former top executive at Verizon, marvels at how Sprecher adjusted from nurturing a startup to guiding a huge public company. ''Most entrepreneurs don't recognize that it's not just all about the next idea,'' says Salerno. ''Once they're running a public company, they see no problem with taking margins down 3 or 4 points because they just made a big investment or acquisition.''
In Salerno's view, investors take a long-term outlook, but they also want to see a smooth ascent in profits. ''Jeff understood that as soon as you do a deal, you need to mine unnecessary expenses out of the business, so you can generate the savings to fund future projects. His culture isn't, 'We'll just promise something in the future.' You need to deliver performance at the same time. Jeff understands that, and most entrepreneurs don't.''
Sprecher revitalized the Big Board by deploying just that strategy''''radically paring bloated costs and channeling the savings into rebuilding one of the world's great brands. When ICE bought the NYSE in 2013, Sprecher quickly raised roughly $2 billion by spinning off its European exchanges as Euronext. Even so, the NYSE still had over 3,000 employees and around 1,000 consultants. It was running six divergent tech platforms to operate its three major exchanges'--NYSE, Arca, and American. It consistently lost trophy tech listings to the Nasdaq, then the darling of Silicon Valley. Its legendary building, the symbol of its iconic stature, was a wreck. The paint on its once grand, baroque Board Room was peeling, and the instead of opening what were once impressive meeting rooms on its sixth and seventh floors to its listed companies for fancy events, the NYSE had transformed those spaces into warrens of tiny offices.
Many Wall Street traditionalists fretted that Sprecher would kill the Big Board's allure by going all-electronic. But he did just the opposite, restoring the landmark at Wall and Broad Streets to its former splendor, and enhancing the legendary buzz on the trading floor. He found the money by radically improving the Big Board's efficiency. A bunch of brainiacs sequestered on the 21st floor created a single tech platform called Pillar that replaced the crazy-quilt of trading systems, a coup that helped lower the headcount to 900.
Sprecher stopped chasing small IPOs, and concentrated on the big fish, since newly-listed companies pay fees based on the number of shares outstanding. The NYSE established a streak of winning 38 straight IPOs that raised over $700 million. Surprising for an apostle of electronic trading, Sprecher recognized that a crucial part of the brand was the specialist traders who brought so much color to the Big Board's floor. ''Electronic trading went too far,'' he remarks. ''The specialists perform a service by smoothing out the spikes and valleys in prices by using their own capital.''
But it's also clear that the folks in the blue smocks are a visual symbol of the U.S. capital markets. ''There are 250 places to trade equities,'' says Sprecher. ''Of those, 249 are the same. Which one would you want to own? That's why we want the NYSE to be one of a kind.''
To restore its fading mystique, Sprecher cleared out the maze of offices and moved the employees to cubicles on the upper floors. Sprecher installed a spectacular staircase composed of backlit marble slabs to join the sixth and seventh floors. Those refurbished floors now house three giant reception halls and fifteen smaller conference rooms. ''The idea was to turn the NYSE into a clubhouse for the Fortune 500,'' says Sprecher. It's happened. On one two-day stretch in early June, for example, no fewer than 10 companies held events at the NYSE.
Retail payments is an industry that appears ripe for Sprecher-style disruption. Today, Americans charge $7 trillion in goods and services every year'--around 60% of GDP'--on credit and debit cards, and through digital portals such as PayPal. The stores and restaurants that accept those cards typically pay 2% to 3% to around six intermediaries, including ''merchant acquirers'' who sign up the merchants, credit card giants such as Visa and MasterCard, and the banks that issue the cards.
It's hard to overstate how drastically a shift to Bitcoin could crunch those lofty fees. Consumers could pay for groceries or detergent directly from the Bitcoin wallets on their iPhones or PCs, right from a scanner at Walmart or Starbucks, with no banks taking fees in the middle. If Bitcoin became the chief currency for retail, it's likely that credit cards would disappear.
So would ICE and Bakkt be antagonizing ICE's main customers, the major banks? Not necessarily. Despite the large fees, banks typically make little money processing purchases, since they mainly return those fees to provides services such as fraud monitoring, call centers, and providing rebates that go to such rewards as frequent flyer miles and rental car discounts. Where the banks make big money is on the interest charged on balances on credit cards. Changing the purchasing system wouldn't alter the amounts that folks borrow, just where they hold those balances.
According to payment industry experts, the banks might cooperate with Bakkt, because the new system could actually encourage different forms of borrowing. For example, a customer whose Bitcoin purchase is declined because of a low balance could get an immediate loan from his or her bank, right at the checkout counter, to cover the shortfall.
At the interview in the Bond Room, featuring walls festooned with framed bond certificates chronicling the great railroad and infrastructure financings that built America, Sprecher drew a parallel between the exchange famously born in 1792 under the buttonwood tree and the technology that could transform the way consumers and companies buy just about everything. ''Bitcoin can't survive as a rogue idea,'' he says. ''To evolve, the cryptocurrencies need to run on established infrastructure. They need the trust and rules that have been built into our financial system for many years. They need the kind of trust that the Big Board represents.''
Sprecher restored what may be the greatest icon in financial markets. We'll soon see if he can bring respectability to the token that he thinks can change the world.
A Drone Again
Venezuelan president Maduro targeted with explosive drones (VIDEO)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been targeted in an attempted attack during a televised public address, officials confirm. Several explosives-laden drones detonated as he was speaking at a military ceremony.
Venezuela's Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez has confirmed that an attack on Maduro took place at the event. Several drones rigged with explosives went off close to the presidential box during the address.
''All the investigations have indicated that (the explosions) were an attack on President Nicholas Maduro,'' Rodriguez told media
Maduro has been moved to safety and is carrying on with his duties, he said. Seven National Guard soldiers have been injured as a result of the failed assassination, according to Rodriguez. The extent of their injuries has not been revealed.
WATCH: VIDEOS show Maduro's speech cut midway by explosion, panic ensues
In the video from the scene, Maduro and the officials standing beside him could be seen looking up in the air seconds before the address was cut off. The feed then cuts to a wide shot of the gathered servicemen, who break formation and start scattering.
Providing details of the incident, Rodriguez specified that the explosions struck at 5:41 local time, and several flying devices loaded with explosives were shot down by the presidential guard.
Maduro was speaking at the event marking the 81st anniversary of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), a branch of the country's armed forces, when the incident took place.
Later in the day, unconfirmed media reports indicated that a splinter group called 'Flannel Soldiers' claimed credit for the attack. Spain's El Mundo newspaper cited a Twitter account under a similar name which alleged ''the operation was to fly drones loaded with C4,'' but said they were shot down by the presidential guard before reaching their target. The account also uploaded what it said were photos of the attack. There is no official confirmation that the claims are true.
According to Gregory Wilpert, co-founder of Venezuelanalysis website, those who orchestrated the plot hoped that ''the military would rise up against the president and would take it as an opportunity to organize a coup and overthrow the government.''
In a televised address delivered earlier on Sunday, Maduro pinned the blamed on the ''Venezuelan ultra-right,'' who collaborated with Colombian rightists. He also accused Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, of being behind the attack. Sponsors of the assassination attempt reside in Florida, according to Maduro. Colombia's ministry of foreign affairs has brushed off the allegations.
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won in New York. Now her allies are taking on the Midwest. - CNNPolitics
Gregory Krieg, CNN Video by Cassie Spodak and Jeff Simon, CNN
Updated 6:05 AM EDT, Thu August 02, 2018
DETROIT (CNN) Consider Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's travel schedule.
Over the past two weeks, the aggressive new voice of the progressive left has crisscrossed the Midwest, making a stop in Kansas to campaign alongside Bernie Sanders as well as solo trips to Missouri and Michigan to stump for insurgent candidates hoping to follow in her path.
That Ocasio-Cortez consistently finds herself hundreds of miles from the Bronx and Queens, where in June she stunned the political world by unseating the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, shows just how important the next several weeks are for the movement she has come to represent.
Beginning with contests in those three states on August 7, and continuing on for nearly five consecutive weeks after that, progressive outsiders will test their mettle against establishment Democrats in elections from Hawaii to Delaware and Massachusetts.
Success in any of these races has the potential to not only shape the 2018 field but embolden a future crop of progressives -- and signal a shift further to the left within the Democratic Party. On the flip-side, a shutout would stifle -- or at least put on hold -- any suggestion that the party's moderates are facing an existential threat from their left flank.
Campaigning for Michigan's Abdul El-Sayed, who is vying against the odds and conventional wisdom to become the country's first Muslim governor, Ocasio-Cortez explained the core electoral assumption underlying the movement.
"Our swing voter is not red-to-blue," she said at a stop in Flint. "Our swing voter is the voter to the non-voter, the non-voter to the voter."
In an interview later, she all but dismissed the existence of a persuadable center.
"I don't think that swing voters decide based on how much a candidate has run to the middle the most," Ocasio-Cortez said. "I know people who are swing voters, and when I think about how they decide, they don't say, 'Oh I'm voting for this person because they became the most Republican out of the whole race to earn my vote' ... Expanding the electorate is the path."
It's an argument that progressive candidates and operatives have been trying to make to skeptical Democratic Party leaders for the past few years.
Ocasio-Cortez, her team and allies are clear-eyed about the math and the narrative perils. Most of the candidates now riding her wave of national attention are considered long shots. But so was she.
Even then, losses do not always equal defeat, she argued, pointing to James Thompson in Kansas' 4th Congressional District to make her case. In 2016, Republican Mike Pompeo won the seat by 30 points. Thompson fell short, as expected, in 2017's special election but the result was a shock to the system -- he had come within 6 points of winning.
"He, as a progressive, alone turned that seat from an impossible race to a flippable district," Ocasio-Cortez said. "He lost that race last year, but does that mean that his work was pointless? Absolutely not, because now we're queued up in 2018 to potentially take the seat ... I'm hoping that even if a candidate doesn't win in this cycle, they will have created gains for 2020, for 2022."
Against the oddsAs recently as June, before Ocasio-Cortez struck her signature blow, the insurgency seemed destined to claim its successes further down the ballot, and mostly out of the national political conversation. But that changed when 10-term incumbent House Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley, offered his public concession.
Ocasio-Cortez immediately began telegraphing her next steps and indicated that growing her own lonely ranks was a priority.
"My hope is that I'm not the only one. My hope is that I won't be the sole standard-bearer and that's a big part of doing this whole tour," she said of her primary season itinerary. "I mean, I don't know if I'd call it a tour, but that's the whole point of supporting other progressive candidates because I shouldn't be the spokesperson. No one person should be the spokesperson for an entire movement because a movement by definition is a collective. And so I am just one perspective."
Hours after her own win, Ocasio-Cortez quoted Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley and called on supporters to "vote her in next." House candidate Cori Bush in Missouri and Florida's Chardo Richardson -- both of them, along with Pressley, challenging sitting Democratic House members -- also got a shout.
There were more, headlined by the 33-year-old doctor from Michigan: El-Sayed.
On July 2, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the state was "blessed to have @AbdulElSayed as a candidate for Governor, and I am proud to support him."
She could hardly be accused of glory-hunting. El-Sayed had consistently polled in third place behind the frontrunner, former state Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer. He also trailed the self-funding millionaire Shri Thanedar, a political wild card who was the first of the three to hit the airwaves.
"They said I wouldn't be welcome here," Ocasio-Cortez said upon arriving in Grand Rapids on Saturday, a wink at the pundits -- some of them elected, like Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth -- who have suggested the region might be off-limits to her leftist politics.
An upset for a candidate like El-Sayed, with his detailed plan for statewide single-payer health care and open disdain for corporate campaign cash, won't end the conversation, but it would brush back the movement's critics while boosting its leaders.
In the meantime, El-Sayed insists to reporters and supporters that the bad poll numbers are simply the product of bad polling. The momentum, he says, is his. History, too. Sanders won here despite trailing heavily in the run-up to the 2016 presidential primary.
The Vermont senator, who endorsed El-Sayed last week, will rally with him on Sunday. But the buzz surrounding his events with Ocasio-Cortez required no spin. The Sanders coalition, especially with the New Yorker in town, seemed to be showing itself off again.
For the true-believers on the left, El-Sayed's case is a special one -- a necessary fight for a movement committed to distinguishing itself from the party's moderates, even if it ends with fat lips all around.
"(Sanders) inspired people to believe in his message because they knew he wasn't bought by corporations, because he wanted to actually solve the problems that they face," El-Sayed said in an interview somewhere between Grand Rapids and Flint. "He wasn't proposing halfway measures, and he was able to inspire them, and we're doing exactly the same thing."
He struck the note again hours later, telling supporters, "Every day I get somebody who comes up to me and says, 'I've never registered to vote, not even once, and I literally registered to vote for you: so don't let me down.' That says something about this electorate."
The frontrunner -- and an afternoon in churchWhile El-Sayed has struggled to squelch Thanedar, who despite a lack of bona fides has tried to claim the progressive mantle, Whitmer seems on pace to win the nomination -- and knock the progressive surge back on its heels.
Unlike her opponents, the former state legislator would not pursue a short-term move to single-payer health care. News that officers from the PAC run by the state's largest insurer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, promoted to employees a Whitmer fundraiser earlier this year led El-Sayed, who has forsworn corporate PAC money, to quip at a debate that he's "not bought off by the folks like Blue Cross Blue Shield."
"First of all, it's a phony attack," Whitmer said early Saturday evening, during a quick break from knocking doors in Detroit's Indian Village neighborhood. "And secondly, it's extremely sexist to say that a woman is beholden to her father's former employer ... 84% of the record-breaking money that we raised in this campaign is from Michigan. Eighty-two percent of it is $100 or less."
Her father, Richard Whitmer, was the president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan from 1988 to 2006. Though his name never came up during the weekend, the connection colors every mention of the insurer.
Susan Demas, a Democratic strategist and the former editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, attributes Whitmer's lead in the polls to the good faith she established with liberals during her time in the legislature, when she helped deliver the votes on a deal to increase Medicaid to 680,000 people and took a lead role in opposing the state GOP's "right-to-work" law. Years before the #MeToo movement took shape, Whitmer made headlines when she spoke out publicly about being sexually assaulted in college.
"One downside to Abdul really hitting the Blue Cross argument is that he keeps tying it back to (Whitmer's) father and that really offends a lot of progressive women," Demas said. "There's always a risk when you go strong with an argument and I think, although it's probably won him some of those progressive Bernie Sanders voters, it's not helped him pick up votes with traditional Democratic women."
In Ypsilanti on Sunday, inside the packed and sweltering Brown Chapel AME Church, that less traditional Democratic woman, Ocasio-Cortez, was greeted -- again -- with rapturous applause.
A call to volunteer, before El-Sayed and she spoke, had a revival feel to it -- stand up, be counted, pledge some time and be celebrated.
"The only way is to move forward," she said, after being introduced by El-Sayed. "We have to decide if we're going to change for the worse or change for the better. Because the status quo is not an option anymore."
VIDEO - April Ryan: Jim Acosta's life was in jeopardy at Florida rally - YouTube
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VIDEO - CNN's Acosta Blasts Sanders' 'Un-American' Anti-Press Rhetoric After Walking Out of Briefing: 'I'm Tired of This!' | Mediaite
CNN's Acosta Blasts Sanders' 'Un-American' Anti-Press Rhetoric After Walking Out of Briefing: 'I'm Tired of This!'On Thursday, CNN's Jim Acosta confronted White House press secretary Sarah Sanders and asked her if she would say that the press is not the enemy of the people. She did not.
In response, according to Acosta, he walked out of the room ''saddened by what just happened.''
I walked out of the end of that briefing because I am totally saddened by what just happened. Sarah Sanders was repeatedly given a chance to say the press is not the enemy and she wouldn't do it. Shameful.
'-- Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 2, 2018
He also spoke out on CNN. Filing his report in the back in the briefing room, Acosta said ''I'm tired of this!'' and noted it is not right to call the press the enemy of the people.
He then said this:
It is un-American to come out here and call the press the enemy of the people and Ivanka Trump knows that. I don't know why her father doesn't. And I don't know why this press secretary doesn't'...It would be nice if we all lowered the temperature a little bit but at the very least, I think we should all be able to agree on one thing, and that is the press is not the enemy of the people. Fellow Americans are not the enemy of fellow Americans. And, you know, forgive me for going on a rant. But I think they lost sight of that here at this White House.
Watch above, via CNN
[image via screengrab]
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VIDEO - Will Mueller/Putin Investigate Browder? - YouTube
Politics TVCNN Commentator: ICE Brought My Ancestors Here on a Slave Ship (VIDEO)After White House adviser Ivanka Trump opined on her father's immigration policy this week, a pair of CNN commentators debated whether her denunciation of family separation was sufficiently robust.
Though President Donald Trump's eldest daughter described the controversial border practice as a ''low point,'' she went on to defend the administration's broader hard-line approach to immigration.
Attorney and liberal commentator Angela Rye appeared with Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller on CNN's ''Cuomo Prime Time'' on Thursday to discuss the first daughter's response.
''This is not right,'' Rye said of the Trump administration policy. ''It is inhumane. And for Ivanka to say at first this is a low point and then to defend the policy means it was not a low enough point.''
She went on to say describe Ivanka Trump's comments as disingenuous, comparing those who enforce the current immigration law to those who commissioned the slave trade. '' READ MORE
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VIDEO - CNN Claims Acosta's Life Was Threatened, But New Rally Footage Tells A Different Story
By now the name Jim Acosta has become a household name for most of us. Whether you despise his feeble attempts at journalism that are laced with a fictional narrative or you actually enjoy watching him create a stir, one thing is for certain. Jimmy likes the spotlight.
Covering a recent Trump Rally in Tampa, Florida Jimmy was met with some vocal adversaries. They were peaceful, but very vocal.
While Acosta began a live broadcast a crowd led by the group ''Blacks for Trump'' can be seen and heard chanting CNN Su-k's. The video has since gone viral.
Blacks for Trump lead a ''CNN Sucks'' chant at Jim Acosta ahead of .@realDonaldTrump's Tampa, FL Rally.. pic.twitter.com/oHpddZLUEE
'-- Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) July 31, 2018
In a Tweet posted following the Rally, Acosta made another childish attempt to paint Trump supporters as some sort of violent gang members.
Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I'm very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.
Just a sample of the sad scene we faced at the Trump rally in Tampa. I'm very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy. pic.twitter.com/IhSRw5Ui3R
'-- Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 1, 2018
Some of Acosta's roadies seemed to jump on that same messaging. We will Focus on April Ryan's comments for a moment.
CNN political analyst April Ryan believes CNN reporter Jim Acosta's life was in danger at President Donald Trump's Tuesday rally in Tampa, Florida.
Acosta, who was heckled with ''CNN sucks!'' chants before Trump appeared on stage, has said he did not feel like he was in America and expressed that he is ''very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt.''
''That's a serious moment and a serious place. And Jim Acosta's life, in my opinion, was in jeopardy that night,'' Ryan told CNN host Don Lemon on Wednesday evening. ''There was a safety issue.''
This of course sparked outrage among other CNN journalists one of which called on secret service protection for Acosta and CNN staff.
Unbelievable.CNN's @AprilDRyan & @donlemon attack Sarah Sanders for having Secret ServiceLemon & Ryan say they both need taxpayer funded Secret Service, tooRyan attacks @PressSec for getting "run out of the hen house" [Red Hen] before saying that Sanders deserved the treatment pic.twitter.com/zwAx0MyKLX
'-- Benny (@bennyjohnson) August 3, 2018
The outraged continued however as new footage obtained from Jim Acosta's own twitter account shows a much Different scenario, proving once again'... Acosta is the KING of #FAKENEWS'...
Taking selfies with Trump supporters in Tampa. Really enjoyed talking to some of the folks at the rally and hearing their concerns. As I told many of them.. we can't do the news just for the Republicans and Trump supporters. We have to do the news for all Americans. pic.twitter.com/onOOM6q9l8
'-- Jim Acosta (@Acosta) August 4, 2018
The video contrasts Acosta's account so much, a sitting senaor has already weighed in.
But according to @AprilDRyan, his LIFE was threatened? ððð https://t.co/vyMWGckdKl
'-- Rep. Steven Smith ðºð¸ (@RepStevenSmith) August 4, 2018
Only time will tell if Acosta decides to keep up the antics, but one thing is for certain'... He's not doing it for ratings. Rating polls show CNN is still consistently being beaten by rerun's of Yogi Bear.
VIDEO - YouTube - Chicago anti-violence protesters want entire city to 'feel our pain'
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters, one of the most outspoken members of the anti-Trump 'resistance' in Congress, is facing fresh questions about a longstanding controversy regarding how her campaign raises money and how those funds have flowed to her daughter.
The California congresswoman has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars each election cycle from some of her state's biggest politicians paying to be listed on her slate mailers'--sample ballots traditionally mailed out to about 200,000 voters in Los Angeles highlighting whom she supports.
Since 2004, the campaign in turn reportedly has paid $750,000 to the congresswoman's daughter, Karen Waters, or her public relations firm Progressive Connections for help producing them.
A government watchdog in July filed the first of two complaints with the Federal Election Commission asking for a full audit of the Citizens for Waters campaign.
'Maxine Waters found an old provision and turned it into a cottage industry.'
- Tom Anderson, National Legal and Policy Center
The first complaint alleges Waters broke federal campaign finance law, and also names the California Democratic State Central Committee and Sen. Kamala Harris, a likely 2020 Democratic presidential contender.
The conservative National Legal and Policy Center is still drafting a second broader complaint focusing on the sources of money going to the Waters campaign and flowing to her daughter'--and the accuracy of campaign finance reports, said Tom Anderson, director of the group's government integrity project.
Rep. Waters, first elected in 1990, has been in the headlines lately for her calls to impeach President Trump and statements urging public confrontations with his Cabinet officials.
Well before her current political fame, though, she mastered this somewhat-rare form of fundraising in slate mailers. California's top politicians as well as local office-seekers have given far in excess of legal contribution limits to her campaign to be on her slate of endorsed candidates. The campaign then pays Karen Waters and other firms to produce, print and mail the sample ballots. The FEC approved the practice by Waters in 2004.
''Maxine Waters found an old provision and turned it into a cottage industry,'' Anderson told Fox News.
However, the FEC complaint filed on July 25 states that the California Democratic party paid $35,000 to the Waters campaign in 2016 to include the endorsement of Harris' Senate candidacy on the mailer. The FEC complaint, which cited an October campaign finance report, contends a third party is not legally allowed to pay for the mailer of a candidate without a reimbursement under the 2004 FEC advisory opinion.
A separate report shows that the Harris campaign paid $30,000 to the Waters campaign earlier in 2016 for a primary slate mailer, but no subsequent payments.
''The Democratic State Central Committee of California's $35,000 contribution to Citizens for Waters violated campaign finance limits,'' the complaint states.
WATCHDOG SAYS WATERS INCITING 'MOB VIOLENCE'
Neither Waters' congressional office nor her 2018 campaign responded to phone and email inquiries. Karen Waters also did not respond to phone messages. A California Democratic Party spokesman and Harris' Senate office did not respond to phone and email inquiries.
The mailers continue to be a lucrative source of funds.
For the 2018 election cycle, FEC data shows, as of July 28, that Democrat Gavin Newsom's gubernatorial campaign paid $27,000 to Waters' re-election campaign to be in the mailers.
The state Democratic Party snubbed Sen. Dianne Feinstein this year, but she paid $27,000 and has the Waters endorsement. Candidates for state assembly, sheriff and judges paid between $2,000 and $12,000 to Citizens for Waters to be included on the mailers.
FEC data also shows as of July 28, Citizens for Waters paid Karen Waters $54,000 so far for the 2018 election cycle, mostly for slate mailers but also for other campaign work. The congressional campaign paid her $72,000 in the 2016 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics.
In November, Waters is facing Republican Omar Navarro, 29, a small business owner. The 79-year-old incumbent beat Navarro in 2016 with 76 percent of the vote, and outpaced him again in the June ''jungle primary'' (in which both parties can run) with 72 percent of the vote.
''She is going to be re-elected no matter what,'' Anderson said. ''She comes knocking and other politicians in California to say, 'do you want my endorsement,' because she knows they don't want her opposing them.''
Her rising profile in opposing Trump likely gives her more clout, Anderson said.
''If you don't pay to be on her slate, then maybe you're one of Trump's people,'' Anderson said. ''A local politician, like a judge, does not want to be on her bad side.''
Legally, candidates are paying a reimbursement for the slate mailer, rather than buying an endorsement. But it's difficult to prove whether the Waters endorsement comes as a result of the payment or if already endorsed candidates are paying for their share, said Adav Noti, a former FEC assistant general counsel.
''Those payments are legitimate if it's approximate to the cost for the entity producing, printing and sending the mailers,'' Noti, now a senior director at the Campaign Legal Center, told Fox News. ''Without seeing the information on the cost of the mailers, it's difficult to say if there is anything inherently wrong with the math.''
Federal law technically limits individual campaign contributions to $2,700 to a candidate's committee and $5,000 to a political action committee.
''This certainly violates the spirit of campaign finance laws, but the FEC doesn't seem to think it violates the letter of the law,'' said John Wonderlich, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group that first reported on the practice by the Waters campaign in 2010 and the connection with her daughter.
''In this case, is it a question of enrichment for a family member?'' Wonderlich added. ''How much of the money passes through to cover postage and printing? It may be unsavory but not corrupt. Much of it hinges on the extent to which the money passes through.''
The 2004 FEC advisory opinion, signed by Democratic FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, described the slate mailers as follows: ''The brochure will feature a prominent picture or likeness of Representative Waters on the front page. It will be promoted as Representative Waters' 'official sample ballot' and will contain brief quotes, which convey her opinions and endorsements of the federal and non-federal candidates listed.''
The 2004 FEC opinion states that the payments from other candidates ''would not constitute support of, or in-kind contributions to, any federal candidate appearing in the brochure, so long as the authorized committee of that federal candidate reimburses the Waters Committee.''
Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Follow him @FredLucasWH.
VIDEO - "Whistleblower": Cardiologist exposes unnecessary heart surgeries - Videos - CBS News
VIDEO - Hollywood Director Rob Reiner Says America is in a ''Civil War''
Skip to contentLudicrously asserts media is supporting TrumpHollywood director Rob Reiner told MSNBC's Katie Tur that America is ''in the last stage of a civil war.''
Accusing Donald Trump of inciting anger and violence against the media and immigrants, Reiner chastised Trump's supporters, remarking, ''They're just angry, their people are angry, and he will feed them whatever they want to keep that anger going.''
''If you don't break through, we're gonna have, we're in right now, it might be the last stage of a civil war, the last battle is being fought,'' said Reiner. ''Hopefully it won't be fought physically, but we are more divided than we ever have been.''
The director went on to ludicrously assert that the media was supporting Trump's agenda despite innumerable studies showing that most mainstream networks are overwhelmingly negative towards Trump in their coverage.
''We've got a president who is backed up by media,'' Reiner claimed, adding that all presidents have pushed ''propaganda,'' but they've ''never'' been endorsed by a ''state-run media.''
While Reiner's insistence that America is in a ''civil war'' is predicated around his own hysterical bias against Donald Trump, he's not the first noted individual to raise the prospect in recent months.
Back in June, Republican Congressman Steve King warned that America is heading towards a second civil war as a result of the increasingly polarized political environment gripping the country.
In an op-ed for USA Today, Tennessee law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds said civil war in America had ''already begun''.
''Hollywood has basically turned its products, and its award shows, into showcases for ''the resistance.'' Americans are already sorting themselves into communities that are predominantly red or blue,'' Reynolds wrote.
A Rasmussen poll from June also found that 42% of Americans think a second civil war is either likely or very likely within the next 5 years.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor at large of Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com.
VIDEO - TODAY on Twitter: "''Make no mistake, these parents believe their daughter is alive.'' Mollie Tibbetts' parents offer a desperate plea and big reward for her daughter's safe return. https://t.co/2joBB9bgGV"
Washington (CNN) As far as spy craft goes, Maria Butina's skills didn't seem particularly impressive.
The alleged covert Russian agent liked to communicate via Twitter messages and WhatsApp. Her overly flirtatious approach left men wondering what she was truly after. She tended to brag about her ties to Russian intelligence when she was intoxicated, according to people familiar with the situation.
"She's like a Scud missile. There's no precision," said CIA veteran Robert Baer, a CNN intelligence and security analyst.
Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as a foreign agent in the US. Her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, told CNN Wednesday that she wouldn't take a deal from prosecutors if it meant admitting she was a spy.
"If you're not an agent for a foreign government, you can't lie and say you are in order to get rid of this," Driscoll said.
But intelligence experts say Butina's far-from-subtle approach to infiltrating Republican political circles in the US appears to be just one tactic in Moscow's arsenal as Russian President Vladimir Putin aimed to influence American politics and disrupt democracy ahead of the 2016 election. Those efforts are continuing, Trump administration officials say, in the run-up to the midterm elections.
Putin has numerous intelligence services at his disposal. Some excel in hacking. Others churn out seasoned operatives to gather intelligence and quietly recruit Americans. But there are also more informal missions, ones that are often directed by Putin himself with the help of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), the KGB's successor.
"It's much less structured," Alina Polyakova, a Russia expert and foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, said of Russia's influence operations. "There often is kind of a proxy lead actor, who is usually an oligarch close to the regime, that is given a project and he outsources portions of that project."
"I almost think of it as project management," Polyakova added.
It also helps shed light on why run-ins between a ragtag assortment of Russians and members of Donald Trump's orbit appeared so random.
In April 2016, a Maltese professor with Kremlin ties informed Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos that the Russians had thousands of damaging emails about Hillary Clinton, according to court records.
A month later, a Russian man who went by Henry Greenberg made a more overt offer to longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone: damaging information on Clinton in exchange for $2 million. Stone has said he believes the offer was part of a law enforcement setup directed at the Trump campaign.
That same month, May of 2016, Butina and her alleged handler, Kremlin-linked banker Alexander Torshin, snagged a brief meet-and-greet with Donald Trump Jr. on the sidelines of the National Rifle Association's annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky. That was only after her efforts with Torshin to establish back channel communications between candidate Trump and Putin fell short.
By June of 2016, a Russian lawyer met with Trump Jr. and other top Trump campaign officials for the now infamous Trump Tower meeting. The Trump officials believed the lawyer was there to offer dirt on Clinton. The offer was pushed by a Russian billionaire with ties to Putin.
"Everything is not necessarily a planned and highly disciplined intelligence operation," said Steven Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russia operations and a CNN national security analyst. "Sometimes there's these more freelance types of things that also go on."
Efforts to make inroads with the Trump campaign or other right-wing political groups go hand-in-hand with Moscow's more coordinated efforts to hack the Democrats, spread disinformation on social media, sow division and try to sway voters in favor of Trump, according to intelligence experts.
"It's still part of a large tapestry that Vladimir Putin is weaving," Hall said.
A not-so-secret agent?With distinctive red hair, a fiery personality and an affinity for social media, Butina operated at a higher decibel than one might expect from an alleged covert agent.
In her graduate-level classes at American University -- a cover for work on behalf of the Russian government, according to prosecutors -- Butina vociferously defended Putin. She also claimed, in class, to be a liaison between the Trump campaign and the Russians, according to a person familiar with the situation.
People who met her through school and through political events described her as a little too friendly. She was quick to start playing footsy under the table or sidle up to an older man at a political event and suddenly request that they become friends on Facebook, according to people who knew her.
On at least two separate occasions she got drunk and spoke openly about her contacts within the Russian government, even acknowledging that Russian intelligence services were involved with the gun rights group she ran in Moscow. Twice, classmates reported her actions to law enforcement because they found her comments so alarming, sources said.
In her final months at American University, the FBI raided her apartment. They arrested her in July.
By the time of her arrest, Butina had become the subject of a torrent of news coverage.
"You have upstaged Anna Chapman," Torshin wrote to Butina in March 2017, offering compliments for some of the initial media coverage she received and comparing her to a Russian intelligence official who was arrested in 2010 as part of a spy ring operating in the US. "She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones," the Russian official wrote, according to court documents.
"It's better to keep a low profile now," Butina wrote later in the conversation, according to court documents.
But the under-the-radar approach never seemed to suit Butina.
Before moving to the US for school, she was featured in a 2014 Russian GQ spread, wielding two handguns and sporting Dolce & Gabbana briefs, a leather trench and stilettos.
On a visit to the US in July 2015, she attended a political event in Las Vegas, identified herself as a visitor from Russia and asked then-candidate Trump whether he would pursue sanctions against her homeland.
Then, she documented the encounter on social media, a pattern she followed when she attended NRA events and met politicians including former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who all ran for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Santorum is now a CNN contributor.
There's little hint Butina had the same type of formal training as Chapman.
Chapman's colleagues used fake names and had carefully crafted fake identities. They used invisible ink, hid data in images that were posted on public websites and sent Morse-code style messages using radio transmitters to communicate, according to court documents.
Butina, meanwhile, ran a years-long influence operation that involved communicating regularly via email and Twitter messages, according to prosecutors.
"Most Russian spies don't communicate by Twitter direct messages which are unencrypted," Driscoll has said, while arguing his client's innocence.
But as Torshin's round of plaudits suggests, Butina's noisy way of doing business probably didn't make her any less valuable to the Russian government, intelligence experts said. In fact, her high-profile contacts probably caught the attention of the FSB and led them to believe her mission was more successful than they had initially hoped, experts said.
"I think that anyone who is Russian has to meet with the FSB when they go back and forth and frequently," Butina's lawyer said in a previous CNN interview. Russians are often asked "what they're doing in America, if they had any information for the FSB," Driscoll said. "I think those kind of things were discussed by her."
Traditional tradecraft focuses on stealing defense secrets. But understanding American culture and how to undermine it is increasingly valuable to countries like Russia and their efforts to disrupt US democracy.
"Access to human beings is hard to replicate," said Philip Mudd, a veteran of the CIA and the FBI and a CNN counterterrorism analyst. "Human beings can shortcut, 'What's their plan going into the next election. What do they talk about?'"
By the time she was arrested, Butina had leveraged her romantic relationship with a Republican operative from South Dakota, Paul Erickson, to build connections in GOP circles, according to prosecutors. Erickson hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing.
She and Torshin were regular attendees at exclusive events surrounding the NRA's annual meetings. She had attended two National Prayer Breakfasts and one Conservative Political Action Conference. She attended a post-Thanksgiving barbecue at South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford's family farm.
"Eventually Russians are going to need people on the ground here -- whether they're witting or unwitting Americans -- to help them with their propaganda operations," said Hall, the retired CIA chief of Russia. "There's probably a lot now and there's probably going to be a lot more."
When investigators executed searches on Butina and Erickson's homes, court documents reveal a note that investigators found in Erickson's handwriting: "how to respond to FSB offer of employment?"
It's unclear which of them it was for.
CNN's Shimon Prokupecz contributed to this report.
VIDEO - TicToc by Bloomberg on Twitter: "Trump's lawyers and Mueller are nearing the final stages of talks over whether the president will sit for questioning as the 2 sides determine the scope of a possible interview https://t.co/uiNsngyJuU #tictocnews h