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
Yeah, pop that pussy like you ain't pop that pussy in a while
Pop that pussy like poppin' pussy is goin' out of style
Pop that pussy while you work, pop that pussy up in church
Pop that pussy on the pole, pop that pussy on the stove
Make that pussy slip and slide like you from the 305
Put your tongue out in the mirror, pop that pussy while you drive
Spread them asscheeks open, make that pussy crack a smile
Lock your legs 'round that nigga, make him give your ass a child (woo)
Gimme some neck, gimme a check
Pussy so good, make a nigga invest
Gimme a little spit, I'm gettin' it wet
I'll get it back up, just give me a sec'
Give him some vag', I'm gettin' a bag
Give him some ass, I'm gettin' some Raf
When I'm done I make him cum
But then he comin' off that cash
all about the Benjamins baby ð¶ on Twitter: "Kamala Harris claims to have smoked pot in college while listening to Tupac and Snoop. Tupac's first album came out in 1991. Snoop's first album came out in 1993. Kamala Harris graduated college in 1986. ð¤--
Sen. Amy Klobuchar's Senate office has cycled through staff at a higher rate than most others. | Alex Wong/Getty Images
The senator is positioning herself as a Midwestern antidote to Trump in 2020, but her treatment of staff has become an obstacle.
MINNEAPOLIS '-- Sen. Amy Klobuchar is pitching herself for the White House as the commonsense Midwestern answer to President Donald Trump '-- while former staffers portray her as a brutal boss who mistreated them.
The run-up to Klobuchar's expected presidential campaign launch on Sunday was sidetracked by former aides, speaking anonymously for fear of retribution, who described a toxic office environment including demeaning emails, thrown office supplies and requests for staff to perform personal chores for the senator. It's a sharp departure from the public brand that Klobuchar has built to get to this moment: a pragmatic, aw-shucks Minnesotan who gets things done and wins her state by landslide margins.
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Klobuchar defenders, including some former staffers, have gone on the record to push back against the reports, suggesting that the critique is grounded in sexism against a woman who demands excellence from her employees. Klobuchar's campaign released statements saying she ''loves her staff,'' citing aides who have ''been with her for years.''
But Klobuchar's campaign has not denied any of the specific allegations detailed in recent news stories, and Democrats in the first caucus state of Iowa '-- where Klobuchar hopes to make a splash in a crowded 2020 field '-- have said the senator's treatment of staff has the potential to sideswipe her campaign.
''It's a very unfortunate way to start a presidential campaign,'' Jerry Crawford, a longtime Democratic operative in Iowa, said. ''It was well-known at the insider level, but now it's becoming well-known to the general public at the time she's announcing, which is problematic for her politically.''
Bryce Smith, the Democratic Party chairman in Dallas County, Iowa, said, ''I don't see being a hard-ass as a boss as a bad thing.'' But ''having to take time away from stumping on why you would be the best candidate and playing defense on what happened in her past'' could be a problem for Klobuchar, he said. ''A few candidates have to do that right now."
''I doubt it will [affect voters] much,'' one national Democratic consultant, granted anonymity to discuss the issue candidly, said. ''But does it mar her rollout and her getting support from important people, like donors and elected officials? Yes. And in the long run, that's a problem with getting voters.''
Klobuchar isn't alone in answering tough questions as the 2020 presidential field takes shape. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has apologized multiple times for having once claimed Native American ancestry, while California Sen. Kamala Harris has addressed criticism from the left about her prosecutorial record.
Klobuchar's Senate office has cycled through staff at a higher rate than most others. LegiStorm, a database service tracking the congressional workforce, found Klobuchar had the highest staff turnover rate in the Senate from 2001 to 2016. In 2017, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) surpassed Klobuchar on the list.
Those are not the numbers Klobuchar wants to bring into focus.
The Minnesota Democrat has won her three Senate campaigns by an average of 26 percentage points, even as her state has become more competitive over the last decade. In 2018, she won 42 of the counties President Donald Trump carried in Minnesota two years earlier, when he lost the state by just 1.5 percentage points.
It's perhaps the most compelling electoral record of any presidential contender, and electability is at the top of many Democrats' minds as they seek to defeat Trump in 2020, polls show.
In advance of her campaign launch, Klobuchar's record in the heartland has won attention in Washington, Minnesota and Iowa, where one Republican-turned-independent state senator pledged to bring 700,000 other no-party Iowans to caucus for Klobuchar after he heard her speak in December.
''She's Midwestern, she's grounded,'' said David Johnson, who switched his party affiliation during the 2016 campaign and retired in 2018. ''She's not one of those bombastic politicians.''
In the months leading up to her 2020 decision, Klobuchar talked about the voters ''left behind'' in 2016, echoing a playbook for Democrats focused on defeating the president in the Midwestern states that he flipped into the Republican column in 2016. Klobuchar's biography '-- she's the granddaughter of an Iron Range miner '-- could also speak to some of the white working-class voters who Democrats hope to regain from Trump.
That message and story could carry her far in Iowa in competition with a Democratic field dominated by the East and West coasts.
''The people of Iowa are very similar to the people of Minnesota. They're salt of the Earth people,'' Mike Erlandson, the former chairman of the Democratic Farmers-Laborers Party in Minnesota, said. ''She's got a real opportunity to win the first state and then bounce off that momentum.''
Klobuchar, who has campaigned in the state for down-ballot candidates, is a familiar face amongst Iowa caucus-goers. A December poll, conducted by Democratic pollster David Binder, found that Klobuchar pulled in 10 percent support, leapfrogging ahead of fellow female senators and running just behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke. Vice President Joe Biden pulled in 30 percent of the vote.
But Klobuchar's path out of a primary '-- dominated by flashier candidates and a left-leaning electorate '-- is far from clear.
She lags behind four of her Senate colleagues in campaign cash, and she's unlikely to be the only 2020 candidate running as a solutions-oriented Midwest whisperer. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who won reelection in a Trump state in 2018, is considering a White House campaign, and he traveled to Iowa on his ''Dignity of Work'' tour last week. Biden, if he jumps in to the race, would also appeal to moderate Democrats and independents.
That throng of options in every lane of the Democratic primary is what could make Klobuchar's staff issues so challenging. It ''steps on the story she is trying to tell,'' Doug Thornell, a national Democratic strategist, said.
HuffPost reported that three staffers withdrew from consideration to lead Klobuchar's campaign, in part because of her work history with staff.
''The big danger with a story like this is that it festers and potentially undermines one of her core strengths '-- that she can bring people together and that she's got a good temperament, 'Minnesota nice' thing,'' Thornell said. ''If she picks up steam in Iowa over the next few months, that'll help her change the narrative.''
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CEO Victoria Nuland to Depart CNAS | Center for a New American Security
Washington, February 1 '' The Center for a New American Security announced today that CEO Victoria Nuland is stepping down to pursue other opportunities, effective immediately. CNAS President Richard Fontaine has been named acting CEO while the Board begins a search for Nuland's replacement.
''Toria's distinguished career in public service and at CNAS has been marked by extraordinary leadership and vision," said CNAS Board Chairman Kurt M. Campbell. "She ably led CNAS through a period of dynamic change and we are grateful for the energy, ideas, and warmth that she brought to her tenure at the Center."
Message from Victoria Nuland:
"After a productive year, I will be stepping down today as CEO of the Center for a New American Security to pursue other projects.
"I am proud of the work that my CNAS colleagues and I have done during my tenure to:
Transform the research agenda to address the most pressing challenges to American military, political, economic and technological leadership;Attract top-flight talent;Broaden work with Congress;Advance bipartisanship and gender balance; andMaintain strong, diverse financial support for the Center."CNAS plays a vital role in national security thought leadership, crafting bipartisan solutions to our nation's toughest challenges, and fostering the next generation of American talent.
"I wish my CNAS colleagues and friends all success in the years ahead as they continue to chart a bold, innovative and bipartisan course."
# # #
Press Inquiries: No further comment will be provided beyond this announcement.
DNC chair: Qualifications for first debates coming this week
WASHINGTON (AP) '-- Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez says he'll announce details of the first two presidential primary debates by the end of the week.
Perez says he plans to include a grassroots fundraising metric as part of the qualifying threshold.
He wants that to make the debate more inclusive than just using polling.
The first two debates are slated for June and July. They'll be the first two of six debates in 2019, with at least six more to follow in 2020.
Perez reaffirmed Wednesday that he'd ''draw lots'' to assign candidates to the two stages rather than separate perceived leaders from a second tier as Republicans did in their large primary field during their 2016 nominating fight.
This story has been corrected to show that Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez did not definitively say that debates would have two stages with a total of 16 spots but rather offered that as a speculative example.
Michael Bloomberg's $500 million anti-Trump moonshot - POLITICO
Michael Bloomberg's team knows the former New York City mayor would need every penny to make his case to a Democratic electorate. | Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Bloomberg Philanthropies
The sum represents a floor, not a ceiling, on the billionaire's potential spending to defeat the president in 2020.
Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket to deny President Donald Trump a second term, according to Democratic operatives briefed on his plans.
Bloomberg has not yet announced whether he will run in the Democratic primary. If he runs, he will use that half-billion-dollar stake '-- roughly $175 million more than the Trump campaign spent over the course of the entire 2016 election cycle '-- to fuel his campaign through the 2020 primary season, with the expectation that the sum represents a floor, not a ceiling, on his potential spending.
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If Bloomberg declines to seek the presidency, his intention is to run an unprecedented data-heavy campaign designed to operate as a shadow political party for the eventual Democratic nominee.
''That'll get us through the first few months,'' Kevin Sheekey, a top adviser to the former New York mayor, told POLITICO when asked about the $500 million plan, which is just 1 percent of Bloomberg's estimated net worth.
''Mike spent $100 million in his last New York City election. And you can do the math as you think more broadly but New York City is 3 percent of the national population,'' Sheekey said. ''I'm not suggesting it's straight math. But I'm suggesting that when Mike Bloomberg is committed to making a difference and seeing something though, generally speaking he's pretty unabashed in doing so.''
To that end, Bloomberg has assembled a political team that, since late November, has been meeting at least once weekly in the Manhattan headquarters of Bloomberg Philanthropies to consider what some aides have called ''Plan A'' and ''Plan B.''
Plan A is straightforward: Bloomberg runs for president as a Democrat, not as an independent candidate as he had mused privately in the past. According to Plan B, Bloomberg uses all the data '-- ranging from meticulously researched profiles of voters to polling data on the top issues that move the electorate '-- and field staff to help the otherwise-outgunned Democratic Party nominee to end Trump's presidency.
Bloomberg said Friday at an event in Orlando, Fla., that he'll make a decision in ''three more weeks.''
He also made clear that he's not waiting on former Vice President Joe Biden, who's also mulling a bid for president and who, Bloomberg advisers acknowledge, could draw from the same pool of moderate primary voters.
"My decision doesn't depend on what other people are going to do," Bloomberg told The Associated Press. "My decision depends on whether or not I think I can make a difference."
Still, the subject of Biden has come up in discussions with those who have discussed Bloomberg's options with his team.
In those conversations, Democratic operatives say, Bloomberg's team members have indicated that they're polling and conducting focus groups, and are familiar with the primary election calendar and the complicated politics of wringing delegates from various states. They're also under no illusions about the difficulties of a Democratic Party newcomer running as a centrist in a progressive primary.
But Bloomberg's aides are operating under the assumption that while the billionaire can't buy the nomination, hundreds of millions of dollars can put him in contention.
''Five hundred million is just an obscene amount of money. It's crazy, enough to buy up all the TV ad inventory in the seven or eight states that really matter in a primary,'' said a Democratic consultant familiar with the plans who privately shared information from a conversation with a top Bloomberg adviser.
The consultant said it was unclear what Bloomberg would ultimately decide. But the mission would be similar either way.
''They're going to do the infrastructure and logistical work to fill in the gaps for the state and national parties so that whoever the nominee is would inherit a state-of-the-art, fully functioning infrastructure,'' the consultant said. ''It's being done with a clear and specific purpose: stopping Donald Trump.''
Bloomberg's team knows the former mayor would need every penny to make his case to a Democratic electorate that's shifting ever-leftward and that's increasingly suspicious of billionaires and older white males.
Progressives also doubt his Democratic bona fides for having backed Republican candidates in the past, supporting the stop-and-frisk New York City policing policies that disproportionately targeted African-Americans and supporting gas and oil pipelines that leave some Democrats doubting his commitment to fight climate change '-- despite his commitment of $218 million to help cities reduce their carbon footprint while also financing the Sierra Club's unprecedented Beyond Coal campaign that has shuttered 282 coal-fired electricity plants.
Though raised a Democrat, Bloomberg, 76, was elected to the first of his three New York mayoral terms as a Republican, became an independent in 2007 before he left office in 2013 and registered last year as a Democrat.
But if Bloomberg runs, his polling would likely show there's a path for a centrist in a field of progressives, who presumably would cannibalize the progressive base. Surveys from Bloomberg's longtime pollster, Doug Schoen, shows that 80 percent of Democratic primary voters respond positively to Bloomberg's biography.
''When people learn about his involvement in climate change activism and gun safety, and when they learn that he's not just a billionaire '-- but he came from a middle-class background and his dad never earned more than $6,000 a year, and you talk about the work he's done on the ground and his philanthropy '-- Dem primary voters view him favorably,'' said one Democrat familiar with the polling.
With a net worth of $50 billion, Bloomberg contributed so much last year to charity '-- $767 million '-- that he was the nation's second-biggest philanthropist behind Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Bloomberg's charitable causes also overlap top issues for the Democratic electorate, such as climate change and gun control.
His giving provides a ripe area for contrast: the Bloomberg Philanthropies' compared with the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Bloomberg's charity has given away and pledged at least $8.2 billion to actual charities. Trump's foundation agreed last year to dissolve amid an investigation from New York's attorney general, who said it was ''functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump's business and political interests [and engaged in] a shocking pattern of illegality.''
In a primary, Bloomberg's deep pockets would enable an extended run with adequate resources, said Sheekey, a longtime political adviser.
''The pressure for most people is two things: the need to raise money and the need to find the best and most-competitive staff,'' he said. ''Obviously, the first is not a problem for Mike and since we started this process, we've put together a core staff that we're very happy with that is committed to staying with Mike as long as he wants, partly because Mike has talked about, if he doesn't run, going down a separate path and having the kind of impact on a larger scale than he did in the last midterm.''
Sheekey, who makes the case for Bloomberg for president better than Bloomberg himself, runs the weekly data-and-strategy meetings with Howard Wolfson, who oversaw Bloomberg's political operation last year '-- when the former mayor contributed $110 million to 24 Democratic congressional candidates, 21 of whom won.
His top adviser at City Hall and the executive director of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Patti Harris, rounds out the inner circle's troika.
A data-driven effort like the one the Bloomberg operation envisions, as first reported by the Atlantic, hearkens back to the roots of the billionaire's wealth. A self-made man, he parlayed a small Wall Street fortune into a mammoth financial data and information services firm that branched out into a fully functioning media empire.
Yet Bloomberg has had what appears to be paralysis by analysis. He had planned to announce his decision on whether to run at the beginning of the month. But he needed more time and more numbers to decide by March '-- a date that's still not set in stone.
''The data,'' Sheekey said, ''is a little more complicated than what he initially envisioned. And I think he also realized he's not under any pressure to decide.''
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Boston University boots on the ground-AOC's Alma Mater
My name is Kristine & I am Boots On The Ground at Boston University (BU)
where I attend evening classes. Based on both your & John's precise
and consistent analysis in regards to the liberal madness within universities,
as an Independent, I walk through the university doors, silently, with my
invisible "No Agenda" hat on and observe. I feel as if I have
to bite my tongue, sit in silence, and avoid heavy sighs & eye-rolling when
it comes to inconsistent Trump-bashing.
started 3 weeks ago. This particular class is Psychology for Personality,
taught by a 58-year old South Korean Native man. First class, he was
dropping "F" bombs left and right - with my "No Agenda" hat
on, I pinpointed him as a liberal professor based on the constant "F"
bomb analysis. It wasn't before long he was going off on Trump temper
tantrum, and I quote:
mental issues and is ruining our country. He had two fucking years to get
this wall done. Guess who's paying for it? You.
like how I did when I was 7 years old. He's 72 and running a fucking
It was after this class I KNEW I had to
record a session, exclusively for No Agenda (also because it's illegal to
record someone without their consent).
past Thursday, I attended class (skipped the 2nd week) and recorded this gem
(attached). Once he starts getting into it, you will hear his voice
raise... I cropped the two hour session into a 52 second clip.
Dr. David Shim was going on about his personal life experiences as a therapist
and how he was seeing a 7 year old child in Boston selling marijuana and a 14
year old girl with 3 kids... going into this outburst and how we should be
GRATEFUL that all we have to worry about as citizen's is a "fucking
parking ticket" and also how Trump is similar to a Nazi...
end, he asks a peer if she's okay, she nods her head and he states "I
know, it's pretty intense stuff."
ABOUT THE CHILDREN? I am turning 27 this year and this is the kind of shit
that is brainwashing the youth of America, not just the media, but the liberal
colleges that feel the need to state their political opinion and embed it into
young, developmental minds.
know what you think!
Sell invisible No Agenda hats for donations
Woody Allen sues Amazon for $68m for dropping A Rainy Day in New York - BBC News
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption 2017's Wonder Wheel was one of two Allen films released by Amazon Studios Woody Allen has launched legal action against Amazon Studios, accusing it of breaching their contract by refusing to distribute his latest film.
The 83-year-old is seeking more than $68m (£52m) in damages, alleging the company backed out of a multi-picture deal without cause.
Amazon released two of Allen's films and also distributed his TV series, Crisis in Six Scenes.
But it dropped his most recent movie, A Rainy Day in New York.
The BBC contacted Amazon Studios for comment, but did not receive an immediate reply.
According to a lawsuit filed on Thursday in New York, Allen claims Amazon backed out of the deal in June 2018 because of an old accusation that the director had molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992.
The legal action said Amazon knew about "a 25-year old, baseless" allegation when it entered into deals with the director and that it "does not provide a basis for Amazon to terminate the contract".
A Rainy Day in New York was shot in 2017 with a cast including Jude Law, Rebecca Hall, Selena Gomez and Timoth(C)e Chalamet.
A number of its cast members have since distanced themselves from the project, with Chalamet announcing in 2018 he would give his salary to charity.
Last year Law told Vanity Fair it was "a terrible shame" the film had been shelved and that he would "have to consider carefully" before ever working with Allen again.
Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email firstname.lastname@example.org .
State Sen. Tommy Norment, another Virginia politician, caught up in blackface scandal
February 7, 2019 | 3:12pm | Updated February 7, 2019 | 4:20pm
Modal Trigger Images from the Virginia Military Institute 1968 yearbook Virginia Military Institute
The Republican majority leader of Virginia's state Senate was the managing editor of a college yearbook featuring photos of people in blackface alongside other racist snapshots and slurs, according to a new report.
An image from the Virginia Military Institute 1968 yearbookThe revelation comes as the state's Democratic leadership is in crisis, with Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring both facing calls to resign after they admitted to wearing blackface while they were college students in the 1980s.
State Sen. Tommy Norment oversaw the Virginia Military Institute's ''The Bomb'' yearbook in 1968 '-- the same year the college first allowed black students to enroll, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
The yearbook includes several photos of people in blackface '-- including one at a costume party, and another of two men in the racist makeup while holding a football '-- as well as the N-word and a student from Thailand who is referred to as a ''Chink,'' the paper reports.
A photo of one man is captioned: ''He was known as the 'Barracks Jew' having his fingers in the finances of the entire Corps.''
Norment refused to talk about the yearbook when queried by reporters Thursday, saying he would only discuss the state budget, according to the Pilot.
On Saturday, he demanded Northam resign after it was revealed that the governor's page in the 1984 Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook featured a photo of a man wearing blackface next to a man in KKK garb, while his own 1981 VMI yearbook listed his nickname as ''Coonman.''
Northam claimed he was not in that photo and doesn't know why his friends gave him that moniker '-- but also admitted he did wear blackface while dressing as Michael Jackson for a dance contest that year.
On Wednesday, Herring '-- who had also called on Northam to resign '-- admitted he too wore blackface while trying to dress up like a rapper at a party in 1980 when he was at the University of Virginia.
Herring is the second in line for Northam's job. The first in line, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, is facing his own scandal this week after a woman accused him of sexual assault.
State Sen. Tommy Norment AP
''Motown 60'' TV Special: Smokey, Stevie, Diana, But Nary a Mention of Michael Jackson or the Jackson 5 Plus Lionel Richie Drops Out | Showbiz411
Home Music ''Motown 60'' TV Special: Smokey, Stevie, Diana, But Nary a Mention of... When they edit together the three hour ''Motown 60'' for CBS (to air in April) it will have some brilliant moments and some headscratchers.
Mary Wilson, still Supreme
Just about completely missing from the show is anything about the Jackson 5 or Michael Jackson. I found it stunning that there was no nod to Michael's Moonwalk from the 1983 ''Motown 25'' show. It felt like the producers of tonight's show'' taped at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles'' missed a poignant opportunity to feature the Jacksons (Jermaine, Marlon, Jackie, Tito) as adults. One can only surmise that with the current Michael documentary airing soon on HBO, CBS wanted nothing to do with him. At least Michael's face was shown in the In Memoriam section.
There were many other glaringly weird things going on at the show, but let's concentrate on the good stuff. Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson demonstrated why they are premiere artists. The whole show could have been about them and it would be fine. Diana Ross was in fine voice but they will have to cut her fawning over Berry Gordy, which was surreal.
A surprise blast from the past was Thelma Houston, who kind of stole the show singing her massive 1977 hit ''Don't Leave Me This Way.'' You will want to see that.
There are also two excellent filmed segments'' one with the Motown writers Valerie Simpson, Eddie Holland-Lamont Dozier-Brian Holland, and Mickey Stevenson, along with Smokey. It's the one time the show feels real. There's also a very good filmed piece on the racism Motown groups encountered when they toured the South.
There are some things that would be best left on the cutting room floor including pieces with Cedric the Entertainer, and an audience karaoke segment that I thought was a waste of time'' considering that many legacy Motown performers were in the audience, didn't sing, and weren't introduced including Mary Wilson of the Supremes and Otis Williams of the Temptations.
Again, when it's all put together, ''Motown 60'' will look seamless, I'm sure. But where was Lionel Richie? I'm told he dropped out at the last minute. Gladys Knight is also not mentioned despite a run of massive hits like ''Neither one of Us'' and ''I Heard it Through the Grapevine.'' Well, you can't have everything.
Despite the politics and scandals, one thing is true. Berry Gordy stamped his label ''Motown'' and invented a signal term for a kind of popular music. No one ever says 'let's put some on Columbia or RCA or Capitol Records.' They say let's hear some Motown. Six decades later, that's quite a legacy.
Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar accused of sending 'anti-Semitic' tweets
Freshman Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota '-- one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress last fall '-- is accused of sending a string of "anti-Semitic" tweets regarding the Israeli lobby in the U.S.
Omar, a proponent of the BDS '-- Boycott, Divest and Sanctions '-- movement aimed at putting economic and political pressure on Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, first tweeted Sunday night that money was driving U.S. politicians to defend Israel.
More from NBC News:Adam Schiff steps into Trump's line of fire Mulvaney won't rule out possibility of another shutdownRep. Walter Jones, N.C. Republican who sharply opposed Iraq war, dies at 76Ilhan Omar tweetShe then tweeted that AIPAC '-- The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee '-- was paying politicians to support Israel.
Ilhan Omar tweetOmar, a Somalian refugee, came under fire from some Democrats.
Max Rose tweet Rep. John Gottheimer tweetAIPAC, a non-profit that does not donate directly to candidates but works to promote a staunchly pro-Israel message in Washington, D.C., responded to Omar,
tweeting that it is "proud that we are engaged in the democratic process to strengthen the US-Israel relationship."
"Our bipartisan efforts are reflective of American values and interests," the group's tweet continued. "We will not be deterred in any way by ill-informed and illegitimate attacks on this important work."
Chelsea Clinton, the daughter of former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, tweeted that she would reach out to Omar's office on Monday to discuss "anti-Semitic tropes." Omar tweeted that she would be happy to chat with Clinton.
Chelsea Clinton tweet Chelsea Clinton tweetOmar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was originally responding in her earliest tweet to criticism from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy over her prior comments regarding Israel. McCarthy and other Republicans have called on Democratic leadership to "take action" regarding Omar and fellow Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, another recently elected Muslim woman, over their criticism of Israel. McCarthy compared it to Republicans having taken action regarding the racist remarks made by Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa.
Speaking on CNN's "New Day" Monday, Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee of Michigan said he did not view the tweets as anti-Semitic.
"We ought to be careful not to construe that in anything other than a concern about the fact that money has undue influence on political decision-making," he said.
Millennial Producer's question
Hey Adam 18 year old millennial here asking for some advice on an
otg phone. It's been about 2 months since deleting all social media and I think
I'm ready to take the full leap. I would still like to be able to do basic
business things as you do.
- I've been listening to the show for years with my parents and
have many observations to share from receiving a regular dose of noagenda at a
young age. I've been a douchebag for a long time but money coming soon!
a good one,
OTG no check mark angst
Google Maps now rolling out AR navigation to selected users - Android Community
Months after they announced its existence, Google Maps is now rolling out its Augmented Reality navigation feature, but only for selected users. They're still in testing mode and it would need more feedback from a larger set of users, in this case Local Guides, before they can release it to everyone else. This feature will help you navigate better in the ''real world'' and can help GPS pin your location more accurately. However, it is something not meant to be used the entire time as it might become dangerous for yourself and others.
The walking feature was introduced at the Google I/O Conference last year and lets you navigate through Google Maps but with an AR overlay that only you can see on your phone of course. When you start using the AR mode, it will scan your surroundings. GPS still plays a role as it will tell the app an estimate of where you are and then the app will match it with what it is seeing on your camera through Street View data.
Your camera will show 3D arrows when you need to turn or when you need the exact direction you should be going to. There are also rectangular blue signs that will tell you how many feet it will be until your next turn. When you finally reach your destination, you'll see a huge red pin confirming that you're exactly where you're supposed to be. The look of the arrows and signs may not yet be the final one as they're still testing it out with more users.
But of course, it's not meant to be used all the time or else we'd all be bumping into each other and getting into accidents. When you lower your phone, the app will go back to the regular view instead of the AR view. If your phone detects that you're using the AR view too long, it will send you a reminder to put your phone down and it will eventually turn the interface gray.
Aside from safety issues, using AR navigation will also drain your battery faster. So if you're one of the lucky ones that has it already, use it sparingly or when you know you can charge your device eventually. There's no specific date yet as to when they will be rolling out to the rest of the Google Maps users but don't hold your breath.
VIA: Wall Street Journal
Temperature Control Systems in Hospitals & Affected with a Security Flaw
Researchers uncovered a major security flaw in the temperature control systems that leads an attackers to gain access to the system remotely.
Most of these affected control systems are implemented in thousands of hospitals and supermarket chains all over the world including UK, Australia, Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Malaysia, Iceland, and many other countries.
Temperature control system are implemented in ICS environment to perform various sensitive operation such as combustion, chemical reaction, fermentation, drying, calcination, distillation, concentration, extrusion, crystallization, and air conditioning etc.
Uncovered security flaws in Poorly configured temperature control systems with a default username and ''1234'' as the default password which is occasionally changed by the system admins.
Most of the vulnerable systems designed by Resource Data Management, a Scotland-based remote monitoring solutions company.
Researchers from safetydetective discovered almost 7419 installations Shodan's search engine for internet-connected devices and it contain serious security flaws with unsecured HTTP protocol and the 9000 ports.
Spoke person from SafetyDetective said to GBHackers on Security via Email conversation ''There are thousands of facilities (including hospitals and known chains like Target and Marks and Spencer) with hundreds of thousands of machines accessible online as we speak.''
Also, the security flaw that exists in the control systems allows anyone can be accessed through any browser by simply having the right URL which is easy to find via simple Google search.
One of the analysed vulnerable machines left with an unsecured URL and it could be accessed by just click a button and enter the default username and password.
If any malicious hackers could gain control these vulnerable machine, they can change refrigerator and freezer settings through this system and also modify user settings, alarm settings, and more.
SafetyDetective revealed other potential victims include:
Menu Italiano, an Italian food manufacturer with locations in Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, and ChinaMuenstermann Kuelhaus am Grossmarket Dueseldorf, a cooling facility in GermanyCCM Duopharma Biotech Berhad, a pharmaceutical company from Selangor, Malaysia In the era of the Internet of Things, system administrators need to take special care to secure their remote systems, and never rely on a manufacturer's defaults. Researchers said.
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Facebook, Twitter Trackers Whitelisted by Brave Browser
The Brave Browser promotes itself on being built from the ground up to provide enhanced privacy to its users. Yet, users voiced concern today after finding a section of the browser's source code that shows tracking scripts for Facebook and Twitter are whitelisted so that they are not blocked by the browser.
According to the Brave Browser's feature list, unwanted trackers and ads will be blocked by the browser.
Brave Tracking Protection Feature DescriptionThis afternoon, users posted to Y Combinator's Hacker News that the protection in Brave browser does not block tracking scripts from hostnames associated with Facebook and Twitter
This is shown by the source code for the tracking_protection_service.h file that contains a comment informing that a tracking protection white_list variable was created as a "Temporary hack which matches both browser-laptop and Android code".
Whitelist variableThis whitelist variable is associated with code in the tracking_protection_service.cc file that adds various Facebook and Twitter hostnames to the whitelist variable so that they are not blocked by Brave's Tracking Protection feature.
Whitelisted hostnamesThe list of whitelisted hostnames are:
connect.facebook.netconnect.facebook.comstaticxx.facebook.comwww.facebook.comscontent.xx.fbcdn.netpbs.twimg.comscontent-sjc2-1.xx.fbcdn.netplatform.twitter.comsyndication.twitter.comcdn.syndication.twimg.com hostnames According to a Brave Browser issue that was opened on September 8th, 2018, the developers decided to whitelist tracking scripts from Facebook and Twitter because blocking them would affect the functionality of many sites. One of the Facebook features that would be broken includes Facebook logins.
Bug IssueThe code to whitelist Facebook's hostnames was added over 3 years ago according to this commit and currently only has a priority rating of P5 on Brave's list of open issues.
According to some users at Y Combinator, it is a strange tactic for a privacy-oriented browser to whitelist Facebook.com, which could be the most well known abuser of user's privacy and data, and not resolve it quicker.
Comment from Y Combinator's Hacker NewsBleepingComputer has reached out to Brave for comment, but had not heard back at the time of this publication. This article will be updated when a response is received.
Firefox does it differentlyFirefox also states that its tracking protection feature called Content Blocking can cause sites to break. For this reason, they provide different levels of tracking protection to allow users to decide how strict the browser should be when blockin tracking scripts.
Firefox Content BlockingIn Firefox, the default setting is Standard that allows trackers whose blocking would break their associated sites. For users who want stricter tracking protection and do not care if sites will break, they can select the Strict or Custom settings that offer more tracking protection.
New York City's new rideshare regs put Big Brother in backseat, give GPS tracking a whole new meaning / Boing Boing
Whether you love them or hate them, rideshares like Uber and Lyft have become a daily part of life for millions of New Yorkers. These app-based services make it easy to pay for your ride, but while the privacy cost isn't always as clear, it's about to get a lot larger. These apps have tracked our movements since they launched, but as of this month, the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) started tracking us too.
The TLC's new rules went into effect on February 1. Buried in them is a provision forcing rideshares to provide the location of every driver and passenger to TLC ''at an interval no less frequent than every sixty (60) seconds.'' The clause was not part of the original, proposed rule, but was added only at finalization with no public comment. As undemocratic as this rule-making process is, worse is the effect; the government knowing you're late for work, leaving a meeting, heading home from the bar, and more.
This sort of surveillance have seemed dystopian a few years ago, but it will now be reality. Historically, privacy advocates questioned how rideshares use location data, but it's a far more chilling when this data is extracted and analyzed by government agencies, and potentially made available to law enforcement. Yes, the rideshares complied with law enforcement subpoenas in the past, but it's different in kind, not degree, to have a sweeping, suspicionless collection of every single car's location, rather than a subpoena or warrant backed by probable cause of individual criminal wrongdoing. The TLC implemented similar requirements for yellow taxicabs in 2010, but the privacy impact on riders could be larger with rideshares, where passengers cannot pay anonymously with cash.
While the TLC will learn just about everything it can about our movements, there's a lot that we don't know about them. It's unclear how they will keep all this data safe or share it with other New York City agencies, like the NYPD. Most important, we have no idea how the TLC will prevent its own employees from using this treasure-trove to spy on friends, families, and others.
This isn't the first time that the TLC's data policies raised alarms. Back in 2017, privacy watchdogs and consumer advocates (including now-Attorney General Letitia James) hammered the commission for requiring information on rideshare drop-offs. At the time, the TLC conceded it would be too much to ask for precise locational data, so there was a compromise allowing rideshares to report the nearest intersection instead of the passengers' exact addresses.
Unfortunately, the new rule throws this 2017 compromise out the window, requiring more data than ever before. One needn't be a privacy activist to see how this poses a slippery slope.
Protecting privacy has become exponentially harder in recent years, with 2019 unlikely to buck that trend. If we are to stay an open society - both in New York and across the United States - it is vital that people have control over their data. This is difficult enough in private business relationships, but when nonstop surveillance becomes the business of the government we have a much bigger challenge. Overturning the TLC's latest rule won't solve this entire problem, but it's surely a start.
Albert Fox Cahn (@cahnlawny) is the Executive Director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a civil rights and police accountability organization.
(Image: Cryteria, CC-BY; Jason Lawrence, CC-BY)
Washington State sheriff used courtroom camera to zoom in on defense attorney and juror's private notesA San Juan county assault case has been thrown out after it was revealed that Sheriff Ron Krebs had used the courtroom's cameras to zoom in on the notes of the defense attorney and a juror.
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READ THE RESTWriter's block? These literate apps have got it hackedStorytelling can be a collaborative process, but here's one partner too few writers collaborate with: Their computer. And we're not just talking about a decent spell checker. Software has evolved to help more than just a writer's grammar, and you might just be surprised at the headaches the Storyteller's Essential Mac Bundle can save at ['...]
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Sixteen percent of US adults own a smartwatch | TechCrunch
The latest figures out of NPD show a continued uptick in smartwatch sales here in the States. The category has been a rare bright spot in an overall flagging wearable space, and the new numbers show gains pretty much across the board. In fact, the study puts smartwatch ownership at 16 percent among U.S. adults as of December '-- that figure is up from 12 percent a year prior.
Unsurprisingly, it's a younger demo driving that growth '-- specifically 18-34-year-olds, where smartwatch ownership is around 23 percent. Of course, Apple and the like have been looking to increase purchases with the older crowd, courtesy of more serious health features like last year's addition of an ECG meter.
Apple, Samsung and Fitbit continue to dominate the market, making up 88 percent of the nearly $5 billion in sales tallied for the year ending in November. But companies like Fossil and Garmin made some market-share gains. Google, naturally, will be looking to make a larger dent in the market, with its recent purchase of Fossil IP. Wear OS's growth has been pretty flat, but that could change in 2019 with the rumored arrival of the Pixel Watch.
Gmail is now blocking 100 million extra spam messages every day with AI - The Verge
Google has recruited its in-house machine learning framework, TensorFlow, to help train additional spam filters for Gmail users. With the new filters in place as of last month, the company claims Gmail is now blocking an extra 100 million spam messages every day.
In the context of Gmail's 1 billion-plus users, this isn't necessarily a huge gain '-- it works out as one extra blocked spam email per 10 users '-- but Google says Gmail already blocks 99.9 percent of spam, so working out what constitutes that last sliver of a percentage is hard.
''Getting the last bit of incremental spam is increasingly hard.''
''At the scale we're operating at, an additional 100 million is not easy to come by,'' Neil Kumaran, product manager of Counter Abuse Technology at Google, tells The Verge. ''Getting the last bit of incremental spam is increasingly hard, [but] TensorFlow has been great for closing that gap.''
Gmail has been using AI in addition to rule-based filters for years. While rule-based filters can block the most obvious spam, machine learning looks for new patterns that might suggest an email is not to be trusted. Algorithms trained in this way balance a huge number of metrics, everything from the formatting of an email to the time of day it's sent. TensorFlow, says Kumaran, makes managing this data at scale easier, while the open-source nature of framework means new research from the community can be quickly integrated.
TensorFlow was launched by Google in 2015, and it has become an incredibly important part of its AI business. It's a free machine learning framework that allows developers to create AI tools for a huge range of tasks. Fans praise its flexibility and capacity to scale, and, of course, it works seamlessly with Google's other AI services, encouraging users to buy computing power from Google as well as off-the-shelf vision and speech algorithms.
Google says integrating TensorFlow into Gmail will also allow it to better personalize spam filters. This process has been taking place for years, says Kumaran, with Gmail looking for certain signals from users about what they judge to be spam, but TensorFlow is ''turning those signals into better results.''
''There's no one definition of spam out there,'' he adds. But AI could help work out the best definition for you.
Apple And Google ALLOW "Women-Tracking" App For Saudi Arabian Men To Track Their Wives - Big League Politics
In another shocking example of Silicon Valley Sharia, Google and Apple have allowed for an app that lets Saudi Arabian men track their wives, to be featured and downloaded in the app store.
iTunes and Google Play stores are now hosting an app called Absher, which was initiated by the Saudi Arabian government to prevent women from leaving the country.
As an app, Absher allows men in Saudi Arabia the opportunity to track and control where women travel, as it is Saudi law that every single woman must have a male ''guardian'' i.e a husband, father, or brother when she travels or goes out in public. Women are not allowed to travel alone in Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries because in Islam, under Sharia Law, women are dictated to have less rights than men.
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Since its arrival in the iTunes and Google Play stores, Absher has been downloaded more than one million times!
Absher is not the only pro-Sharia law app to be supported by American big tech companies.
In November 2018, an Android app launched with the focus of allowing Muslims to report individuals who commit blasphemy, or insult Islam. The app, ''Smart Pakem'', which launched in Indonesia at the request of the Indonesian government, allows users and government officials to uphold Sharia law and target and report people who hold ''misguided'' beliefs in violation of Islamic law, which forbids insults of Islam, insults against the Prophet Mohammed, or the recognition of any other religion besides Islam.
The app is available in the Google app store. Since the app's launch in the Google app store, it has been flooded with one star reviews and criticisms by anti-Sharia and human rights advocates. Absher will only make life for women in Saudi Arabia more difficult. Currently, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to make major decisions without men. They are not allowed to wear clothing and makeup that emphasizes their beauty, interact with men who aren't relatives, swim in public, compete in sports, or try on clothing in a dressing room.
Along with Apple and Google, Twitter has also taken up the task of helping Muslim countries implement Sharia Law online.
In response to this new misogynistic app that endangers the lives of Saudi Arabian women who could be killed trying to flee their oppressive country, Rothna Begum a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch told The Insider ''Apple and Google have rules against apps that facilitate threats and harassment. Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women.''
Amnesty International, a human rights organization, has called on Apple and Google to not allow for the app which encourages the harassment and discrimination of women.
In December 2018, the ADL presented Tim Cook, Apple's CEO with the ''Courage Against Hate'' award. After accepting the award, Cook gave a speech in which he said, ''We've only had one message for those who seek to push hate, division and violence. You have no place on our platforms. You have no home here.''
On the ADL website, it says,
''ADL established the Courage Against Hate award to recognize courageous and visionary leaders from the private sector who are dedicated to fighting hate for good, boldly use their personal and professional brands to that end and inspire others to actively work to make the world a better place. Cook has shown that a company can speak out on social issues and be even more successful and profitable than in the past. Through his efforts, he has significantly advanced ADL's timeless mission to fight hate and secure justice and fair treatment to all. ''
Clearly the ADL and Cook have a partisan and distorted view of what ''hate'' is. If Cook truly believes in his own words about not giving a platform to those who wish to push hate, division, and violence, then why is he doing business with the Wahhabist Saudi Arabian government which operates according to Sharia law? What is Sharia Law you might ask? Here is a crash course in case you are unfamiliar with what Islamic law, otherwise known as Sharia law is:
Theft is punishable by amputation of the hands (Quran 5:38).' Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran is punishable by death.' Criticizing Muhammad or denying that he is a prophet is punishable by death.' Criticizing or denying Allah is punishable by death' A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death (See Compulsion).' A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.' A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.' A woman or girl who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).' Testimonies of 4 male witnesses are required to prove rape of a female (Quran 24:13).' A woman or girl who alleges rape without producing 4 male witnesses is guilty of adultery.' A woman or girl found guilty of adultery is punishable by death' A male convicted of rape can have his conviction dismissed by marrying his victim.' Muslim men have sexual rights to any woman/girl not wearing the hijab' A woman can have 1 husband, who can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad can have more.' A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.' Girls' clitoris should be cut (Muhammad's words, Book 41, Kitab Al-Adab, Hadith 5251 ).' A man can beat his wife for insubordination (see Quran 4:34 and Religion of Peace).' A man can unilaterally divorce his wife; a wife needs her husband's consent to divorce.' A divorced wife loses custody of all children over 6 years of age or when they exceed it.' A woman's testimony in court, allowed in property cases, carries ½ the weight of a man's.' A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits (see Mathematics in Quran).' A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.' Meat to eat must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah '' i.e., be ''Halal.''' Muslims should engage in Taqiyya and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.
Apple recently made the decision to ban Alex Jones's Infowars app from their app store, but they allow for Absher, a pro-Sharia app to be featured in the iTunes store. Asked why Alex Jones and Infowars were banned by Apple, an Apple spokeswoman said, Jones and Infowars were removed under company policies that prohibit apps from including content that is ''offensive, insensitive, upsetting, intended to disgust or in exceptionally poor taste.''
Is Tim Cook taking the position that a conservative pro-Donald Trump figure is more hateful, violent, offensive, insensitive, and upsetting, than Sharia Law which advocates for killing homosexuals, cutting off young girls's clitorises, and allows for men to beat their wives? Gee, I thought these progressives were all about destroying the ''oppressive patriarchy''? I guess their rules don't apply to Sharia law, the most oppressive patriarchy of all.
Progressive Big tech social media companies like Apple, Google, Twitter and Facebook have decided to sacrifice human rights and human dignity to promote the worst type of diversity possible, Sharia Law. How far will big tech let this go? As has already been well documented, these same social media companies have already made it their policy t ban anyone who criticizes Islam or opposes Sharia Law.
On November 29, 2018, investigative journalist Laura Loomer handcuffed herself to Twitter HQ in NYC after she was banned from Twitter for criticizing Sharia law. While handcuffed, Loomer argued ''Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Google, Instagram, they are essentially upholding Sharia. Silicon Valley is essentially upholding Sharia when they decide to ban me for posting facts about Islam, when they decide to ban me for posting facts about Sharia law and criticizing an anti-Jewish Muslim Congresswoman.''
Apple and Google declined to comment on their pro-Sharia app that facilitates continued human rights violations against women.
Read More about Silicon Valley Sharia here.
Laura Loomer is a conservative investigative journalist and activist. Originally from Arizona, Laura began her career working as an undercover journalist for Project Veritas from 2015-2017. She covers politics, anti-Semitism, immigration, terrorism, the Islamification of the West, and voter fraud. Loomer's investigations have been broadcasted on every major national mainstream media outlet in the United States, as well as many international publications. Support Laura Loomer's Independent Journalism here.
WATCH: Laura Loomer handcuffs herself to Twitter to protest Silicon Valley Sharia
Author's Notes: While writing this article, I came across what could be a much bigger possible issue than we had initially thought. What started with a curious string of events regarding controversial censorship decisions, lead us to something far more interesting. Please note as well that throughout this article, we discuss the banning of certain types of somewhat controversial''--'albeit legal (mostly importantly)''--'art.The discussion of this ban is not a reference to the morality or the authors' personal opinions or otherwise on the art in question. The basis for this discussion is presented as is, and solely the timing of this as it fits into the scope of the article.
Editor's Note from Nick Monroe: You'd be a fool to believe that China is in isolation from the rest of the world. In our interconnected social media age, China's influence from the other side of the globe is an important factor to consider for the West. While untangling the Discord dilemma I got in contact with ''Bonesy''. What he pointed out to me struck a nerve that's at the center of the censorship disaster going on these days. We have no idea why Discord's terms of service was authored like it was. Can something like a terms of service be influenced by investors? This piece by him is an exploration into answering questions like this. A thoughtful effort of trying to comprehend a system of influence. I'm glad to have helped him flesh his piece out, and the end product here is worth your consideration.
Image Source: http://knowledge.ckgsb.edu.cn/2015/01/19/finance-and-investment/is-there-a-chinese-silicon-valley/The Big IdeaRecently, a string of seemingly innocuous''--'yet random''--'account suspensions on Reddit started me and a few friends down what turned out to be an oddly profound spiral of research. Unlike most one night rabbit holes, this ended up with one of the most horrifyingly latent elucidations that we could have possibly stumbled upon.
Before I proceed, I'd like to say that I'm not claiming any of this is necessarily ''factual'' in the sense of being the sole, undeniable reality of things. I am not being accusatory, or necessarily pointing fingers with blame, at any companies or their staff. I do know the old saying ''correlation does not equal causation'' of course, so I want to add a disclaimer that the theories presented in this article are presented as is, based solely off of what conclusions can be drawn from the evidence at hand. There is a possibility we're looking too far into things, and we're off the mark; however, I'd like to think that when something happens with the sheer scope and repeated metronome as this, it's too entangled to simply be brushed off as a mere coincidence. That said, I'm not necessarily suggesting that there's a singular, wider conspiracy at play as much as I'm pointing out what could be a series of separate events, all connected by a singular, coincidentally overlapping subject, and the importance posed by these events individually. As they say after all, where there's smoke, there's fire. Now, to reiterate, I could be wrong about one case, I could be wrong about all of them; but the real issue here is that some of this''--'especially what we've found by accident as you'll see'-- is demonstrably true. Not every nuance needs to necessarily connect to a singular overarching web for this to be a big deal; and you'll see why. I admittedly do not have insider information, thus I can only make such assumptions from the outside, based on connecting the dots.
For background, I was stumbling through a subreddit dedicated to the sub-genre of video games called ''visual novels'', when I found a post called ''Anime Censorship hits Reddit''. The post pointed out the banning of a user who had posted an anime character in a swimsuit; something which has been a norm on subreddits such as r/anime, r/animemes, r/awwnime, and other communities based around the anime medium. It's suggestive admittedly, but certainly not against any actual policies or laws. Looking through the thread, I saw a number of other users who appear to have been banned on February 8th as well''--'apparently for no real discernible reason, yet overlapping in the same form of posting history.
Source: https://www.oneangrygamer.net/2019/02/reddit-bans-adult-loli-subs-new-game-anime-sub-for-featuring-suggestive-content-involving-minors/76652/Interestingly enough, this comes the same day as an announcement that Tencent''--'and possibly other Chinese firms''--'have lead an investment round into the social media company. As expected, this was not met with the warmest of welcomes on the front page of the website, with the following being pushed to r/popular (and similar content pushed tor/all) following the reports going public.
This all comes at an interesting time; recently, chat application, video game store, and Skype competitor Discord found itself embroiled in what's been dubbed ''The Discord Scandal''. To sum up the situation, which is quite complex (especially to those not as well versed with internet subcultures), Discord began allowing certain types of ''questionable'' adult content on its platform, while actively barring other types. The content in question? Well, that's where it gets complicated''--'the Discord ToS describes it as pictures which depict minors, or specifically, a sub-genre of Anime art which pertains to young looking characters. This, on its own, is obviously not really an issue, and would seem like a logical thing from the outside looking in on first glance.
From Discord's Terms of Service.So then what's the issue here exactly? To start, adouble standard was uncovered in the staff actively allowing art depicting minors, or rather, as long as the art in question was ''Furry''. I won't go too into the details of it (Freelance Journalist Nick Monroe has a comprehensive thread detailing it here), but this is very important to keep in mind contextually for the rest of this article.
In the overall, wider scheme of things, the allowance of (or lack thereof) adult content has been a hot button issue within the last year across the internet; Tumblr for example found itself banning ''all adult content'', while Steam supposedly began to open its floodgates''--'before finding itself embroiled in a similar standard of vague inconsistency, not too far off from say, Discord's. That said, what does all of this have to do with China, beyond the aforementioned investment of Tencent in Reddit and Discord? That's where things get supremely interesting.
Source: http://strategicstudyindia.blogspot.com/2019/02/what-is-xi-jinping-thought.htmlIn 2017, China officially endorsed the ''Xi Jinping Doctrine'' (also known as the ''Xi Jinping Thought'', depending on both translation and reporting source; this is similar to and intersects with, but not to be confused with the ''Confidence Doctrine''.), a political theory which does two things; first off, elevate Xi Jinping to a status similar to Mao, and secondly, bring Xi's political ideology not just into the mainstream of Chinese politics, but create an environment in which his policy/philosophy would be actively spread and promoted. Note that this does not just mean domestically; China has a long history of active foreign promotion of Chinese ideals and propaganda. What's more is that Xi Jinping himself has laid out a plan to make China a ''lead, global influence'' over the next few decades by encroaching on both the economic and cultural dependencies of the rest of the world.
In fact, back in 2008, it was thought that China maintained a literal army of 300,000 internet posters (for reference, the entire British Army has approximately 82,000 men), whose sole job was to improve China's standing online and spread narratives friendly to that of the beliefs of the Chinese government. Fast forward a few good years, and security researchers and academics believe that number to have grown to at least 2,000,000. That's 2 million paid agents whose job is to do nothing but monitor online activity, and astroturf social media to promote the ideals of a ''harmonious society'' according to the beliefs of the Chinese government. That's approximately ten times the size of the entire United States Marine Corps. Inside China, they've become so pervasive, they've gained the mocking nickname the ''50 Cent Army''''--'a reference to how much the government supposedly pays. I thought that this is of particular interest to note, as not everybody reading may be familiar with the exact ins and outs of the Chinese government's attempt to control information and sway foreign opinion. The sheer scale and size of their operations, will perhaps elucidate just the sheer lengths to which they'll entertain to achieve these objectives.
Source: http://gking.harvard.edu/files/gking/files/50c.pdfWhat's more interesting here? Look at the tactics used. Keep this in mind as well as you read over the rest of the article; especially in regards to what is being censored, and how.
Furthermore, because of China's pseudo-Communist style of government, all mega-corporations are essentially tools of the government; in order for a company of such immense size to remain in business, they need to not just be approved by associated government departments, but also pledge to both uphold and spread the same ideals of the government (which to reiterate would in this case, be the ''Xi Jinping Thought'') to retain favor. And as you'll see later, Beijing has taken a distinct emphasis to this principle in recent times. These ideals, which have been shown to the world throughout last year of course, meaning things such ''homoerotic fiction'' writers being imprisoned (with heavier sentences than rapists), cartoon artists being arrested, actors being forced into public shaming sessions, celebrities being ''disappeared'' (see below), and on and off blanket bans on entire mediums of media among other things.
Source: Financial Times.The irony in all of this? Most of this is barely being covered by western media, while as you'll see below, Chinese investment firms are slowly eating up the major players of Big Tech themselves. At the same time, we here in the US complain about the violations done to us by our own natively housed companies, who seem to have developed a sudden censorship-happy streak as well.
This is where we get into the true meat of things. Essentially, there's been an oddly increasing number of incidents related to so-called ''problematic content'' being stripped from or outright barred from a number of sites. However, when looking into it deeper, there seems to be a simple, central trait shared by all of these incidents; Chinese Investment, or entrance into the Chinese Market. All of this also corresponds to reports that cross-border investment from China is reaching new levels, as there is proof of China actively attempting to move their money overseas. What's terrifying about this revelation is, as you'll see, the issue with censorship does not come simply from Chinese companies buying out firms so they can censor them; it comes, sometimes, from companies simply wanting to expand into the Chinese market themselves, and be compliant in doing so.
Let's take a look into some of these examples, and how they tie into the greater scheme of things here.
SteamAs mentioned, Steam initially went headfirst into opening the floodgates, allowing content of all sorts onto the storefront. This happened around May-June or so of 2018, after a series of flippant decisions, going back and forth on their stance on adult content, before making what seemed to be a solid stance at the time; that they would allow allow ''everything'' on their store. However, their flip-flopping during that time seemed not just inconsistent and confusing outwardly'-- but also, on a primal level, deeply indecisive. The reasons for this confusion were never fully disclosed either, adding only further suspicion to the narrative, and leaving both developers and consumers to speculate.
What else was happening around the time of that indecisive back and forth and inconsistent content policy (which I will add, prior to the sudden controversy at the time, was not an issue at all, as long as games launched with an offsite patch, regardless of content)? That's right; Valve was already negotiating to enter (officially) Steam into the Chinese market. Notice the timing between these two; these articles are only a month apart for example.
So okay, this could just be a coincidence, right? Well, that's where things get more interesting. In November of 2018, Valve and Perfect World signed an agreement (with the Shanghai Government) to bring Steam to China officially. What else happened in Q4 of 2018, at the exact same time of signing? Valve reversed their stance on opening the ''floodgates''. This started with the banning of what?
Very similar to Tencent's Reddit and Discord censorship, it started initially with so-called ''young looking anime characters''. However, since the tail end of December into January, Steam's censorship has only gotten worse; an anonymous developer we've talked to has run into issues with Valve not even approving their store page prior to receiving game builds for ''content checks'', something which has never been an issue on the store prior for example. Meanwhile, the censorship ramped up on other types of games; more specifically, certain types of games with Asian-native, Japanese anime-mimicking art-styles.
What's weirder about this? If you look closely at where the non-sexual games with anime art-styles line up, a lot of the censored or purged ones come from Hong Kong, Taiwanese or Japanese-based developers. The games below have been banned for example, and do they look like ''children'', despite that being the cited reason?
Source: https://www.oneangrygamer.net/2018/12/valve-bans-erotic-visual-novel-my-bullied-bride-from-steam/73552/Source: https://www.oneangrygamer.net/2019/01/food-girls-all-ages-steam-release-indefinitely-delayed-due-to-valve/74838/''--'Not banned but ''Delayed Indefinitely'' IMPORTANT NOTE: WHILE NOT A SEXUALLY EXPLICIT GAME, THE GAME'S DEVELOPER IS ACTUALLY BASED OUT OF TAIWANhttps://www.oneangrygamer.net/2019/01/victory-project-political-thriller-visual-novel-banned-from-steam/75718/''--'Banned, does not contain adult or R18 Content; IMPORTANT NOTE: WHILE NOT A SEXUAL GAME, THE GAME'S DEVELOPER IS ACTUALLY BASED OUT OF HONG KONGSteam is an interesting addition to this list, because Valve themselves are a privately owned company, so they haven't been in the same situation of being encroached upon by Chinese investment. However, what's interesting about this is echoed in the introduction; the Chinese government didn't actually need direct investment in order to levy censorship on the platform, they only needed the firm in question to move into the Chinese Market to bring it into the arms of Chinese standards and regulators''--'as informed by ''Xi Jinping Thought''. Beyond even simple timeline and policy theorizing, the South China Morning Post's recent article (below) reported on China's ability to pressure Steam into compliance. Note the implication here that the Chinese government is constantly monitoring Valve's behavior, the content being allowed on the store, and is in regular communication with Valve regarding these matters.
Source: https://www.scmp.com/tech/article/2169638/unlikely-winner-chinas-gaming-crackdown-us-platform-steam-least-nowInterestingly enough, this comes at a time when China themselves is doing their best to compete with, and thus enter, the sphere of Western gaming. Tencent for example, has a large stake in Epic Games (40%). Tencent has also been attempting to bring WeGame to the west since mid-2018 in addition. It should be interesting to note that the Epic Games store also bans adult content; apparently its sole content restriction. With such a rivalry brewing between Steam and Tencent, it's no wonder Steam is attempting to move into the Chinese market in an attempt to rival them; even though this move may have put them in an even rougher position.
Tumblr & AppleIn December of 2018, the internet was set aflame by widespread announcements that Tumblr would be banning ''all adult content''. Tumblr is owned by Yahoo and Verizon Media. Importantly, Verizon Media Group used to be called ''Oath'' before a name change. Note that both had working partnerships with Alibaba, as both owned stakes in the company''--'which is, of course, Chinese.
The actual history of their stock relation is pretty complex, but throughout 2018, the relationship between Altaba (Yahoo's consolidated investment firm group), essentially became a ''proxy for Alibaba'' because of the investment relationship between the two. Furthermore, Oath hired a former Alibaba Executive as President and COO earlier in 2018.
Tumblr's censorship focused on far more than just ''adult content'' as well; the filter, a machine algorithm, went crazy with images banning everything from ''Batman to Garfield to Big Bird to a Bowl of Fruit'' for being supposedly NSFW. Not only was the algorithm hastily implemented, but its effect on the site essentially splintered its user-base. News sites lambasted it as a ''commercial mistake'', and users themselves devolved into openly mocking the site's decision on other platforms.
I will say, however, that what does not lend credence between this and the rest listed here is that Tumblr uniquely was embroiled in a separate scandal at the time just a month before. One would have to interject though; this doesn't seem to make any sense. Why hasn't this happened to every other social media site? Facebook just removed 8.7 million sexual photos of minors in a 3 month span of 2018. Twitter took down half a million accounts for ''child sexual exploitation'' in half a year. So what exactly makes Tumblr unique enough to be de-listed from the app store and make these changes? Twitter explicitly allows adult and graphic content, which go against the app store's clearly stated rules.
Twitter Content Policy: https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/media-policyDoes Twitter not include literally all of this?''--'https://developer.apple.com/app-store/review/guidelines/#objectionable-contentSo here's where things get interesting; Tumblr's stake in the social media game was unique compared to other firms. Neither Facebook nor Twitter actually have anywhere near majority Chinese investment. Tumblr however? Due to their entanglement with Yahoo and Oath/VMG listed above (Note: Yahoo was acquired by Verizon in 2017, and thus Tumblr moved from Yahoo to Verizon as well), Tumblr can be seen as a remote proxy of Alibaba; their parent company is a major shareholder in the latter, but that influence works two ways, especially since Alibaba's shares were worth more than Yahoo itself prior to its sale, causing a consolidation into its own company. Note that additionally, Tumblr has a illegal presence in China thanks to firewall circumvention; in fact, the Chinese users of Tumblr even commented on the porn ban themselves.
So the only social media app that got singled out is the only one with an essentially direct Chinese relationship? This comes during the exact same quarter of the year that Apple's relationship with China deteriorated too; not only did they blame revenue loss for 2018 on Chinese censorship specifically, but also predicted Apple may altogether be pushed out of China due to ''heavy handed censorship''. Given the clear handle China seems to have on Apple, and the seeming coincidence of the app being pulled having a connection to China, is there something more insidious happening behind the scenes? It's food for thought.
Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/29/18202812/chinese-censorship-hurt-apples-bottom-lineSony / PlayStationPlayStation fell under similar fire to Steam in their pivot to censorship in Q4 of 2018. This began to be reported on as early as Late August into September of the year. What's interesting, however, us that just a month prior, Sony held a conference in China. I will note that at the Chinese Conference, Sony specifically discussed Chinese Censorship, among other things. When Sony responded to censorship concerns shortly after in the year, they responded with ''About the censorship, we tried to meet global standards'' (Quote specifically from Sony Japan/Asia President Morita).
What's more about this censorship? It seems to disproportionately be affecting anime games; not too far off from the censorship standards of Discord or Steam. Note that in this case however, this is not the censorship of anything actually explicit; it's the censorship of things that could be seen as suggestive, such as bathing suits, or ''fanservice''-oriented situations. The more scary thing here? It seems to overlap near perfectly with the same content under fire on other platforms being discussed in the same vein.
Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/685117/us-game-consoles-unit-sales/Note that in the past, Sony has struggled with sales in China due to censorship, and has actively been trying to rectify this as they bring themselves to the so-called ''global market''. The real question here is then, what exactly does a ''global market'' imply? Well, given the fact that in the United States the opening 5 years of the PS4 have rivaled the opening 5 years of the PS3 (estimated 3.866 million for PS3 vs 4.394 million for PS4), the real implication is not that they're ''cleansing themselves'' for further expansion into the US market; it's that they're cleaning their content for further expansion into the Chinese market.
Regarding censorship for Sony's regulations on games.To sum up the content of this video, a content policy began to circulate last fall which required tougher inspection for games, as well as edited content and censorship. Disproportionately affected games were those from, targeted to, or inspired by the Asian market. The implementation of this policy has been especially hard on developers, who in some cases have to either change plans completely when entering the platform, or even cancel plans for bringing games to the system altogether. This isn't too much of a far cry from the censorship happening on similar systems; for example what we discussed above with Steam, and the relatively similar timeline doesn't do many favors in easing worries.
But while the censorship of supposedly ''niche'' media and imagery may not be an immediately threatening jab at mainstream audiences, we now get into a far more insidious side of censorship; that being, of course, what's going on with Google.
Google & YoutubeSource: https://www.techspot.com/news/75762-google-working-china-censored-search-engine-known-project.htmlEverything echoed throughout this article leads us into a much larger dilemma; the influence of big tech firms is so widespread, that Chinese censorship may only contrast slightly with the modus operandi of these companies otherwise. Western media is centrally controlled by very few overarching firms. Let's say Google made the decisions noted below in this section independently, and it was not an infiltration of Chinese-oriented censorship to break into their market. The fact that the outcome of censorship points to the exact same ideological traits is horrifying either way.
On one hand essentially, tech firms are bending over to please the ideals of the Xi Jinping Doctrine, in hopes of courting favor with the party''--'leading to their eventual approval to begin operations within China.On the other hand, tech firms are pleasing the ideals of the Xi Jinping Doctrine''--'without being told to, simply because they already ideologically align.But the question remains regardless; so, is Beijing exerting a clandestine power over our tech corporations by using the influence of Chinese mega-conglomerates (who we'll remind you, again, are bound to upload the moral standards of the Chinese state under Xi Jinping Thought)? There's room for debate, but as you'll see, the way the timeline aligns is more than just a bit elucidating''--'and scary.
First off, as discussed above, Epic Games is another Tencent-acquired corporation . Tencent also has acquisitions in Supercell (Clash of Clans Developer) and PUBG. Video games, thus, have become a large portion of advertisement revenue; notice the increase in ads for these games specifically over the past few years? What other companies have recently run tons of ads on Youtube though? Musical.ly/TikTok (owned by Bytedance), whose origins are also of a Chinese company, for one. Tiktok has also seen a burgeoning increase in popularity in the West; so much so, that Snap is starting to see them as a threat to business'...even though Snap themselves have investments from Tencent as well.
Now, Tiktok bought out Musically during the fall of 2017, coordinating with both the ''adpocalypse'' (a slang term for mass demonetization spreading across Youtube) earlier in the year and the official declaration of the Xi Jinping Thought in China as well (which you'll see is relevant shortly). Following that, TikTok flooded Youtube's advertisement system with ads; which by then, obviously found their home on content already stripped down to appease to Chinese advertisers. This is where the timeline gets important, so let's backup to the spring of the same year''--'when this all began.
As mentioned above, I'd like to point out that the ''adpocalypse'' started the same year following the rise of the Xi Jinping Doctrine in China; and thus, the introduction of more Chinese ads (as described above) onto Youtube further corresponds not just to the overall toning down of say ''mature'' content in tandem, but also the demonetization of LGBT videos. What does all of this point to? First, advertising revenue actually went up between 2017 and 2018, despite western advertisers pulling out and the mass demonetization of videos and changes in acceptable advertising content policies.
Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/266249/advertising-revenue-of-google/Source: https://digitalinasia.com/2018/06/25/the-duopoly-in-apac-google-facebook-grow-ad-revenue-40-in-2018/ Note how Ad Revenue fell drastically from ''the rest'' but grew from Google and Facebook.Ad revenue has been growing in the Asian regions (namely China) since 2014 actually, but the growth in ad revenue between 2016 to 2018 grew exponentially more; between 2016 and 2017, the growth was only 0.66 billion, while the following year it was 1.03 billion. This aligns with the overall growth in advertiser revenue, despite advertisers supposedly having pulled out of YouTube. So as western advertisers said goodbye, they were very quickly replaced with an even more profitable source of revenue; Chinese advertisers. And what came with Chinese firms moving in to occupy this space? Content censorship.
Some might say: but Google wouldn't censor content on the whim of foreign governments, they've made it clear that they have their own strong political views. I (and others) would usually agree with this, however, this all also further aligns with the introduction of Google's Project Dragonfly, a search engine tailored to the censorship demands of the Chinese Government''--'including the censorship of human rights, democracy, and other so-called ''sensitive issues''.
Does the timeline match up to the adpocalypse though? Well, in spring of 2017, Project Dragonfly began development and gained traction.
Source: https://studybreaks.com/tvfilm/what-is-googles-project-dragonfly-and-why-is-it-so-concerning/When did the first cracks of the adpocalypse begin? The same time, in the spring of 2017.
Source: https://www.tubefilter.com/2017/05/04/how-youtube-adpocalypse-affected-top-creators/It doesn't help that the CEO of Google himself has emphasized publicly that Google has run experiments in order to find statistics for how well they can serve filtered Chinese search queries.
Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/27/read-google-employees-open-letter-protesting-project-dragonfly.htmlWhat else does Dragonfly and the avalanche of Youtube censorship align with? A Google Play crackdown on ''anything even slightly sexy''''--'which, to add fuel to the flame, seems to possibly be the work of an algorithm as well. Note that this is not without precedent either; Google has been actively known to be missing out on billions in china, and has actively been trying to regain their market position by doing what? That's right; bringing the Google Play store back to China ''to no avail'', and comply with regulations there.
Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/17/google-misses-out-on-billions-in-china.htmlSource: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/17/google-misses-out-on-billions-in-china.htmlWhile 2017 could have been a boilerplate year for expansion into China thanks to both Project Dragonfly and the refocusing of their content policies, 2018 became a year of them expanding more concretely into China. They started off the year by first establishing an actual office there. They partnered with Tencent in Q3 of 2018 as well, for ''data and cloud services''. What does all of this mirror?
Well, Google isn't the only company in Big Tech to have developed camaraderie with China. Facebook looked to China for growth as recently as last year. The point being, it didn't matter that Facebook, like Youtube or Google, were banned in China. What matters was that Chinese businesses were willing to pay them'--and influence them.
The Curious Case of Payment Processors, Part 1Payment processors, such as Paypal and Stripe, are an especially curious case. There's been a longstanding argument that the reason many payment processors don't accept ''adult content'' is because of the high risk associated and because of cultural reasons. This is definitely the case for many of them, especially due to a US Government initiative called ''Operation Choke Point'' in the past; processing adult content was labeled a ''high risk activity'' (see citation in section about this below). Whether or not Operation Choke Point is officially over with is a separate matter entirely, but here it's important to consider that the United States isn't the only capable entity for exerting such pressures. Following that line of thought, there's a certain correlation between the acceptance of Chinese payment methods and the allowance of adult content on platforms.
Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-alibaba-idUSKBN13O1HNIn 2016, Alibaba's Alipay (a Chinese payment platform similar to Paypal or Apple Pay) was hit with backlash''--'both from the government and from its wider audience''--'for essentially allowing sexual content to be paid for through its service. Coming back from the scandal, they cracked down heavily on this material. Going forward from 2016, the Chinese government ramped up its censorship campaign against ''immoral content'', ''pornography and violent video games''. It should be noted that Alipay's modern terms of service bans all ''pornographic materials'', without actual definition of what this qualifies.
Here's the greater issue; the banning of ''pornography'' isn't necessarily groundbreaking on its own per-se, but the idea of a government being able to influence and pressure the central economic units of a society so closely is more a scary thought. So that said, here's the thing, the US government has attempted to do this themselves in the past, more recently with something called Operation Choke Point. What started as an attempt to stop fraud by cracking down on ''high risk businesses'' became a morality panic, causing confusion and distress among payment gateways and economic pressure points like banks; it's summed up in a more succinct form in this thread here. While on its face Operation Choke Point was an Obama-era initiative meant to clamp down on predatory ''payday lending'' schemes, the ripple effects felt make it appear the effort branched out into the policing of political/adult content altogether. The US Government was able to pressure the central units of the economy in a way that it changed the economic and cultural landscape surrounding banks and payment transaction gateways.
Can you imagine what China's government could do in the same position? This is where things get especially scary.
AliBaba's influence across the world in ways you wouldn't even imagine. Beyond their stake in payment processing with AliPay, Alibaba's holding company owns and has partnerships with tons of overseas organizations. Alibaba owns South China Morning Post for example, a news organization; among other companies they have partnerships with Politico. This is just one example of how deeply intertwined, yet latent, their influence can be. Media investments in itself matter when you consider the fact that the Chinese Government has a ''massive stake'' in Alibaba, even beyond the actual approval and regulation of the company. State papers even show that Jack Ma (the CEO) is a member of the Communist Party; despite public assumptions that he was distanced from politics. A key quote from that piece I just linked:
Source: AboveThis bears repeating. This article says ''it comes amid a push by Beijing to bring the country's private enterprises more in line with Party values''. What does this mean when it comes to Chinese companies and their investments around the world? As you can see from the article, the dilemma faced in this article is in fact a reality. We need to ask ourselves what the implications of this are for us, the general public.
Looking further into AliPay, the following document seems to have been indexed by Google accidentally. We found it when searching for Alipay's terms. It seems to describe a business and merchant relationship between them and an SEO optimizer website based in Switzerland that includes Alipay integration in their array of services (Archived proof of search results here in case of removal). While usually a premise like this can appear sketchy at a glance, the person named in the contract appears to be real, with their LinkedIn showing the same connection to the business as the signee in the contract. Keep this in mind when thinking about the influence being exerted here on a foreign corporation; one that is in Europe, not in China or an adjacent economy.
Above is an excerpt from this Alipay Service Contract. WeChat, too, does not allow sexual content, and has fallen under fire similarly for housing it on their platform, even being told to clean up ''offending accounts''.
Let's compare the terms between something like Operation Choke Point and a binding document like AliPay's above (pg 17 and 19 are especially of interest).
Contrasting Operation Choke Point with AliPay's terms.If Operation Choke Point acted in a way that enforced the morality of the US Government onto financial groups, then AliPay's contract acts to enforce the morality of the Chinese Government onto financial groups. What America describes as ''Racist Materials,'' and what China describes as ''REACTIONISM,'' both have in common the quality of casting a wide subjective political net over possibly any viewpoints these companies disagree with.
Make of it what you will, but this is the closest understanding we have as of yet to the black box ''global payment network'' that banks function within.
Interlude: So Wait, What Was that Reactionism Clause?So when I was writing this, we came upon the Reactionism clause in the leaked merchant contract between Alipay. Now, this article was not supposed to be focused on politics, but upon finding that piece of evidence when writing this, we inevitably need to talk about this. While it's true that the interpretation of this would depend on the definition of ''Reactionism'' being used, I think there's one thing which is clear; given the fact that we've established AliPay and UnionPay inherently subscribe to the ideology of the Chinese government, ''Reactionism'' is being used in a way to align with the above definition as it pertains to well, not just the Chinese Government, but essentially to the Communism of the Xi Jinping Doctrine.
There's been a number of trends pertaining to right-wing people being banned (or de-platformed) from a number of social media and payment processing platforms. Now, in the case of Patreon (which as we've said, links to Stripe, which links to Alipay),there's a clear case of being directly related to this ''reactionism'' clause. To play devil's advocate, I will indeed admit, we do not have the actual agreement between Stripe & Alipay; however, we do have a merchant agreement, and merchant agreements, in this industry, do not tend to change between clients, no less ones written by foreign companies that would then have to be translated into English. So what's the implication of all of this? A terrifying one really.
I mean, it's not just Patreon that's gotten shutdown by Stripe; what other websites? There's the ''right-leaning'' Patreon-alternative SubscribeStar . There's Gab. Oh yeah, how about the fact that GoDaddy accepts Alipay; and also shutdown Gab. Even if we were to say that theoretically that GoDaddy let Gab go for ideological reasons that starts an even bigger crisis, the same we've described for Google; what would the difference actually be in practice?
We talked about the Xi Jinping doctrine; the spread of ideologically driven penetration into foreign markets to spread the values of the Chinese government. Given that AliPay is essentially derivative of the Chinese government as a business, it's not surprising that they're including this in their contract; however, with these contracts theoretically being distributed to foreign corporations, does this mean does that those partner corporations are actually being subjected to controls originating from the Chinese government? Is this why certain forms of speech''--'which are commonly antithetical to the ideals of Xi Jingping thought and Communism''--'have suddenly become at risk on these platforms?
The Curious Case of Payment Processors, Part 2So remember those articles about Patreon purging right-leaning figures? The same Patreon we've pointed relies on Stripe, which is partnered with Alipay? So now that we've begun to see this with Stripe; but what about say, Paypal? They may not accept Alipay, but they are indeed registered and available in China themselves.
But wait, Paypal and Braintree are sister companies. Braintree accepts UnionPay Banking options in certain countries. Under what terms do they accept UnionPay in these countries though?(Note: CUP Cards are ''Chinese UnionPay Cards'')
Source: https://www.braintreepayments.com/sg/legal/bank-agreement''--'Note: This is not the bank agreement for the US, since the US does not have native CUP cards. Regardless, it shows Braintree's acceptance of the Chinese government's terms.This is the actual agreement between merchants in order to use UnionPay and it runs parallel to the restrictions of AliPay. Overall solidifying the concern at hand that these companies will bend to the Chinese government's morality in order accept their approved payment sources. Furthermore, we can extrapolate this to apply UnionPay's terms onto other sites.
With that said, a now archived post listing payment processors lists a number of processors and their stances on adult content. When analyzing this list of instances, I focused on two specific elements; availability in China, or alternatively, partnerships with Chinese payment gateways/merchants, such as UnionPay or AliPay. What we found is essentially all payment processors involved have Chinese companies somewhere in their chain; even Amazon Payments for example, accepts UnionPay on the shoppers' ends.
Others with availability in China or with UnionPay or AliPay acceptance fall into the same trap.
To balance this out, let's take a look at so-called ''high risk payment processors'' and what payment types they accept. Notice the absence of UnionPay, AliPay, or similar in HostMerchantServices and PayKings for example?
https://www.hostmerchantservices.com/payment-gateways/https://www.paykings.com/international/What's more interesting, however, is the in-between of these two. There's certain companies that don't accept Chinese payment sources, and others that do, but how about those that changed their minds or adopted them over time?
Let's take this timeline for example; In, July of 2017, Stripe announces a partnership with Chinese Companies WeChat (Tencent) and AliPay. What happened less than a quarter of a year later? Well, Patreon (who as stated earlier relies on Stripe for processing), had their guidelines updated with further scrutiny paid to adult content, seemingly out of nowhere. As time went on, Patreon would be on and off with the adult content they allowed, eventually allowing it as long as the outward page being presented was not itself explicit. The NSFW community on the site was left in a cloud of doubt about what the official position was when it came to terms of service; much akin to what is currently happening on platforms like Steam. Are there any other examples of this, however? The archived list we used notes that Circle, which was at one point accepting of this content, apparently changed their mind it.
Note how their User Agreement was last updated in 2017. What else happened in 2017?
Circle bookended 2017 with entry, followed by a grab for controls. The same sort of dynamic is at play in cryptocurrency.
This leads us to Coinbase, which was also listed in the archived pagelinked above as being inconsistent with their policy. Since they accept cryptocurrency, they in theory shouldn't be affected by typical regulations right? Unfortunately, that's not the case, due to them operating in China. In fact, they too fell victim to regulation despite the idealistic decentralized approach of cryptocurrency.
https://cointelegraph.com/news/china-regulators-visit-coinbase-others-to-discuss-significant-crypto-issuesAdmittedly, with Cryptocurrency it's too soon to tell in absolutes what their ultimate fate will be. But what about the rest of this mess? It's definitely not too soon, but hopefully not too late either.
Reddit, Discord, And Tencent''--'Full CircleJust as we began with talking about Reddit, Discord, and Tencent, we'll close out by talking about them. In 2017''--'again the same year as the introduction of Xi Jinping Thought into Government policy officially'-- China's top cyber watchdog authority issued a number of notices to tech firms, telling them they must '' adhere to the correct political line and moral norms'', among other things. Among the firms targeted? Tencent, who also has chairmen who answer directly to the government. While starting in 2017, this has persisted in 2018, with Tencent stepping up censorship on Wechat and Weibo in November as well.
Source: Tencent WebsiteSource: Tencent WebsiteReddit similarly banned a number of subreddits related to the same subgenre of art as mentioned in the opening on February 8th'-- which is also banned on Discord. Curiously enough, what did they not ban on reddit? That's right, the Furry equivalent of these subreddits. Note that this comes the same day as this Tencent acquisition; which again, is the same company with a stake in Discord, whose ToS and supposed violations seem to overlap. This leaves us with two questions; one being why not the furry equivalent if this is the case? and two, why only this type of stuff, and not the rest of the media banned by China; say, stuff promoting violence or containing LGBT themes on certain sites.
For the first question, I think this is slightly obvious; there is no concern with this because this is solely a western sub-cultural idea. It hasn't come in the crosshairs of these conglomerates, because the prevalence of this (especially using the same lingo/term) simply does not exist in their equivalent on places like Weibo and WeChat; however, for these terms, it does.
So then question two''--'why allow the other type of supposedly offending content on their platform? This is where I think things are interesting. Psychologically, there's something called creeping normality; sometimes referred to as the ''death of a thousand cuts'', a reference to a form of torture originating in imperial China. Now, to be clear, I am not arguing that banning young looking anime characters (or anime altogether for that matter) is a slippery slope to banning Western values. That is not only a gross misunderstanding of this article, but also a firmly insulting detraction from the issues at hand. Remember that research article linked in the introduction about censorship as a distraction tactic though? I am, then however, arguing that they're clearly starting with the censorship of niche subcultures they are familiar with; especially if these things are ''sexual''. By starting with more agreeable things like this, it's easier to propagate the terms over time. Sure, I don't personally care about this stuff, but by banning it specifically, they've now towed the line of what is and isn't banned; for example, on Reddit, these user bans were not for pedophilic porn, what landed some users bans were anime characters in swimsuits, something innocuous given you can find tons of imagery similar on Netflix, Funimation, Crunchyroll, and Amazon, among other notable places.
Anime subreddits, such as r/Anime, are not small, but undoubtedly overlap with interests in certain spheres of similar Chinese sub-cultural trends, as previously mentioned. Note that Activision-Blizzard is also partially owned by Tencent, and had their own art change after their old art was apparently deemed too sexual. At what point will we just stop paying attention to censorship altogether, out of association that it's simply being done on things that are deemed worthy of being censored? There's definitely been an increase in censorship in the game and media industries as well for example; note that there has not actually been any change in the legality of anime or sexual media since 2008 after a back and forth debate with the government since the late 90s.
As tech and media companies grow into China, these same companies have to decide between appealing to smaller sects of American niche users, or ban these niches to bring them to wider audiences in China (what they would see as a captive market essentially). They're seemingly always going to do the latter, just because of the theoretical possibility of expanding their audience into a new market of over a billion people. Remember above, the academic paper that looked into the activities of the 50 Cent Army? In it, they also note that Beijing has realized outright censorship is despised, resisted and apparent, and the best influential techniques involve subverting public attention, and then slowly changing things in the background as the outrage is focused on a red herring. Here's where the idea of ''death by a thousand cuts'' comes to play; the preparation of platforms to accept the moral and social standards of Chinese users (as dictated by the Chinese Government), which is vastly different to those of western consumers, must be slow and gradual, beginning with things seen to be easily sacrificial.
As much as I'd like to argue that this is just related to anime or niche/sub-cultural hobbies being banned, given the willingness of Google to literally create a search engine devoid of literal core Western values, it's clear there's something far more insidious going on. After all, tech giants in the US praising China is not as strange or foreign as you'd think; Zuckerberg of Facebook has done photo-ops in China, recommended Xi Jinping's book to his employees, complemented their tech industry, and even asked Xi to name his daughter; a level of scary infatuation. Facebook, too, has infamously gotten more and more embroiled in censorship and data-related scandals over the last few years, ironically. As we reach a boiling point culturally, we seem to slide only further away from an actual solution. Will Big Tech embrace censorship? Or will they embrace the values that allowed them to exist?
Furthermore, how far does this stretch? Has the Chinese government realized it can use''--'ironically, of all things''--'capitalism to gain beachheads into organizations which hold immense power over what we can see and say? I can see how it'd be easy to say no, but this seems to be a lot more than a simple passing nothing. After all, Xi Jinping not too long ago called for a ideological rally to literally unify minds.
Additional Authorship Credits:
Author's note from Aoiichi: Almost everybody who is in touch with internet culture in the current year has been touched by a censorship controversy. Month after month, platform after platform, the dominoes have continued to fall until it seems like the last thing falling on our ability to express ourselves, will be a guillotine. But why does this keep happening? Many other writers or commentators have tried their hand to explain the situation, but come up short. While talking with my friend Bonesy regarding a string of curious incidents, it struck me: the missing link behind everything that everyone had missed so far quickly became apparent; the social, cultural and political turmoil of a faraway place that everybody had to have missed so far, simply because it's normally hidden from us. The piece that me and my co-writers have achieved here, is what we believe to be the first analysis to connect all the elements in this manner.
Disclaimer: The author of this article owns a game development and publishing corporation registered in the US, that uses some of the services talked about in this article. The article does, in no way, shape or form, reflect the opinions, policy, beliefs, or otherwise of the corporation, and only should be noted as being attributed to research done in his personal time as a hobby. Information is presented as is.
Considering what we've seen about the so-called ''50-cent army'' and their influence online in China, we fully expect this post to be targeted. Please keep this in mind, alongside a healthy dose of skepticism, when reading replies, comments, reactions, or otherwise to this article online.
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Amazon smear campaign circulates as cloud giants vie for JEDI contract - Business Insider
Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy Amazon Bloomberg reports that there's a dossier going around Washington, D.C. saying that Amazon and Pentagon officials engaged in activities that allowed Amazon to unfairly have an edge in the bidding for a $10 billion cloud contract with the Pentagon.That contract is for a project called Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI), which Amazon is widely expected to win.These allegations include how a Pentagon aide helped write the contract to unfairly favor Amazon, and that an Amazon Web Services executive engaged in an improper relationship.Microsoft, IBM and Oracle have protested the fact that only one company can win the JEDI contract, but there's no evidence that any of these companies are behind the dossier. There's a 33-page dossier circulating in Washington, D.C. smearing Amazon, right as the cloud giants battle for a $10 billion winner-take-all contract with the Pentagon, Bloomberg reports.
The dossier, Bloomberg reported, takes aim at Pentagon officials and company managers at Amazon. Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Amazon are all in the running the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract, where one company will be awarded billions to work with the Department of Defense to move its data onto the cloud.
Currently, Amazon Web Services is seen as the runaway favorite to win the race. While Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle have all at some point protested the fact that only one company can win the huge contract, there's no evidence that they are behind the smear campaign.
One version of the dossier suggests that Defense Department officials unfairly gave Amazon an edge in the competition and that Amazon is the only company with the technical capabilities required by the contract. Amazon is currently the only company that holds the highest security authorization to handle government data.
The dossier reportedly alleges that Sally Donnelly, former senior advisor to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, helped write the contract to favor AWS, and that the cloud giant was a client of a company previously owned by Donnelly. Furthermore, the dossier is said to imply that a portfolio company of venture capital firm C5 Capital bought Donnelly's previous company as a way to expedite Donnelly's employment at the Department of Defense so she could help AWS.
The dossier is also said to allege that an AWS executive engaged in an improper personal relationship with an executive at C5 Capital. However, the dossier reportedly did not provide substantial proof that this relationship had any impact on the JEDI race.
Donnelly's lawyer, Michael Levy, told Bloomberg that she had nothing to do with the contract. Amazon Web Services wrote in a blog post that neither C5 nor its subsidiaries were involved in its JEDI bid. C5 Capital published its own blog post in response, disavowing any involvement with JEDI whatsoever. A spokesperson for the Department of Defense said, "We do not comment on pending litigation."
The winner of the JEDI contract won't be announced until April 2019, but in the meantime, competition has been fierce. Google dropped out, citing both ethical concerns, and concerns over its ability to execute on the contract. Analysts have said Amazon likely moved HQ2 near D.C. at least in part because of JEDI.
Read more:As bidding closes, Amazon's cloud is the favorite to win a $10 billion defense deal. Here's why everybody else is so mad about it
Most recently, Oracle filed a protest on Dec. 6 in federal court after losing out in its Government Accountability Office protest. IBM had also officially filed a protest, but it was dismissed Dec. 11.
Read the full Bloomberg report here. Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.
Get the latest IBM stock price here.
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Naomi Nix (Bloomberg) -- The coalition of companies jockeying with Amazon.com Inc. for a lucrative Pentagon computing contract is far bigger than previously reported, signaling there's added heft behind efforts to keep the work from going exclusively to the world's largest cloud services provider.
SAP America, General Dynamics Corp.'s CSRA unit, Red Hat Inc. and VMware Inc. are among at least nine companies that have coordinated their opposition to the government awarding the contract to a single provider, according to emails obtained by Bloomberg News. Amazon, the market leader in cloud services, is widely perceived to be the front-runner.
The most active members of the coalition trying to fend off an Amazon win are Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., and International Business Machines Corp., according to two people familiar with the matter. Other companies involved include Dell Technologies Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co., Bloomberg has reported.
SAP and the others aren't considered top contenders for the contract, but the companies are banding together to fight the Pentagon's plans to award it to a single bidder out of concern it could disrupt their established business model for obtaining military contracts.
Paused ProcessThe Pentagon announced a winner-take-all competition for the multibillion-dollar cloud services contract in March. It has since paused the bidding process for the project, which would transition massive amounts of Defense Department data to a commercially operated cloud system. The government has said it still plans to award the contract by September.
Representatives for SAP, Red Hat, CSRA and VMware declined to comment.
The widespread interest among technology companies in pressing the Pentagon to change its procurement approach indicates how important the outcome of the lucrative contract is for cloud providers that are struggling to catch up to Amazon as well as firms that sell software and other technology to federal agencies.
Bidding ConversationsCompanies have begun conversations about jointly bidding for the contract known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, according to two other people familiar with the discussions.
The Pentagon has tapped Dana Deasy to be its new chief information officer and is putting him in charge of overseeing the contract, a move that has been welcomed by members of the coalition, according to two other people familiar with their thinking.
''Dana Deasy is a highly professional, seasoned, transformational CIO who will lead the DoD's technology efforts with distinction,'' Oracle's Senior Vice President Ken Glueck said in a statement.
Coalition members were pleased with Deasy's comments before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in May, the people said. While he didn't address the JEDI contract specifically, he talked about the importance of using multiple cloud providers.
Deasy previously worked as global chief information officer for JPMorgan Chase & Co. at a time when the company made major investments to transition to a public cloud. He held similar positions at the North American unit of General Motors Co., Tyco International and Siemens AG's North American operation.
''Under Deasy's leadership, the department will gradually consolidate its disparate networks, data centers and cloud efforts to manage them at the enterprise level,'' Pentagon spokeswoman Heather Babb said in a statement Monday.
Advance AgendaTo advance their agenda, the tech allies have been strategizing by email and phone, courting trade and mainstream media and lobbying lawmakers, defense officials and the White House, Bloomberg has reported.
The competitive cloud coalition has notched some wins. The House committee in charge of federal spending approved a Defense Department funding bill this month that would halt funding for the contract until the Pentagon submits a strategy to sustain competition and use multiple cloud-service providers, representing the third attempt by lawmakers to influence the process. The full House is scheduled to take up the spending measure this week.
Amazon's Bid on a $10 Billion Pentagon Contract Is Riddled With Conflicts of Interest '' Mother Jones
Amazon could score a $10 billion Pentagon contract. Ken Lambert/ Seattle Times via Zuma
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After a drawn-out battle over a $10 billion contract, the cloud-computing company Oracle filed a lawsuit earlier this month alleging that the Pentagon rigged a major contracting process in favor of Amazon. Earlier this month, a judge accepted a motion from Amazon Web Services, the company's cloud-computing subsidiary, to join as a co-defendant in the suit. Amazon's move to defend itself proactively against Oracle's claims represents an important escalation in a battle that could have major implications for the future of government contracting.
The lawsuit highlights Amazon's growing role in the defense industry at a time when some of its top competitors have shied away from controversial defense projects. Amazon's rivals warn that if the company wins the suit, it could pave the way for a future where Amazon unfairly dominates the market for increasingly lucrative government technology contracts.
Of the major revelations in the Oracle lawsuit, the most damning is evidence that the Defense Department allowed multiple department staffers with previous ties to Amazon Web Services to manipulate proposal requirements for the contract for a major new cloud-computing network, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known by the acronym JEDI. According to the lawsuit, the department put two staffers, Deap Ubhi and Anthony DeMartino, in key positions on the project despite their previous connections to the company. Oracle alleges that their access to technical information from competitors accrued during this process allowed them to shape the request for proposal so that only AWS fit the needs of the contract. Oracle has asked the court to intervene to stop the award process until these conflicts of interest can be more thoroughly investigated.
Ubhi worked for AWS prior to joining the US Defense Digital Service in the summer of 2016. Despite his recent employment at the company, Ubhi was ''hand-selected'' to work as the lead manager for the project in 2017. The suit alleges that an internal Defense Department audit failed to note Ubhi's work on the JEDI contract even after AWS had offered to acquire a cloud company that Ubhi had founded prior to his work at the Defense Department. (Oracle considers Ubhi's company a direct competitor to one of its products.) During this time, Ubhi continued to meet with AWS rivals, collecting detailed technical information on their services that would have been valuable to Amazon, which he rejoined later in 2017. The Defense Department says that his access to ''untold amounts of nonpublic and acquisition sensitive JEDI Cloud-related information'' was revoked in October 2017, just a month before he returned to Amazon.
Slack messages submitted to the court also show that during his time at the Pentagon, Ubhi was highly critical of anyone who advocated for splitting up the contract between multiple providers but provided little reasoning as to why. ''We've got some real dum dums in here, their names usually begin with J,'' Ubhi wrote in an October 2017 message after Jane Rathbun, then deputy director for defense business, expressed a preference for a Microsoft product.
The lawsuit highlights Amazon's growing role in the defense industry at a time when some of its top competitors have shied away from controversial defense projects.DeMartino, who had advised AWS on government contracting during his time as a consultant at SBD Advisors, took part in the JEDI drafting process in his role as chief of staff to the deputy secretary of defense. According to the Oracle suit, this involved ''participating substantially in'...meetings and briefings'' as well as ''editing official communications and other procurement-related documents.'' DeMartino was told by the Defense Department that he would not be able to work on contracts involving AWS without approval from department ethics officials. But he did so for over six months before seeking approval, at which point he was removed from the project. Oracle's lawyers argue that ''procurement damage from DeMartino's months of involvement already had occurred.'' Ubhi and DeMartino did not respond to requests for comment.
Oracle alleges that the two men's involvement resulted in a request for proposal that only AWS could meet, despite interest from dozens of companies. Critics in the defense industry have also pointed to the involvement of former Amazon lobbyist Sally Donnelly, who served as a top adviser to Defense Secretary James Mattis during the drafting process for the request for proposal. (Donnelly and DeMartino had worked together at SBD Advisors before joining the Defense Department, and after leaving the Pentagon, they started a new shop called Pallas Advisors.) Mattis himself met with Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos during a West Coast tour in August 2017, as the details of the proposal were being finalized.
''Despite what you have heard in the media, the contract is not a sole source contract,'' Mattis told Congress on April 26. ''The contract, which will have a two-year base period, will follow a fair and open competition.''
The Government Accountability Office, an independent body, ruled against both Oracle and IBM when they protested the process for awarding the contract. ''From the beginning, the enterprise cloud initiative has been open, transparent and full,'' Heather Babb, a Defense Department spokeswoman, said in a statement to Mother Jones.
The process has drawn condemnation from lawmakers, including Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who complained in an October letter to the department's inspector general office about contract provisions ''that seem to be tailored to one specific contractor.'' At the time, the office said it was looking into the letter. When contacted by Mother Jones, it would not confirm the existence of an investigation.
Amazon has actively embraced work with the Defense Department at the same time that employee pressure has caused companies like Microsoft and Google to take at least modest steps to distance themselves from controversial governmental contracts. Google has said it would limit sales of facial recognition technology. The company dropped out of bidding on JEDI after deciding not to renew an artificial intelligence drone project with the Pentagon, citing concerns about potential misuse of its technology. Microsoft has maintained its JEDI bid and continues to provide cloud services to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other technologies to the military, despite employee protests. But the company's president recently claimed it had turned down deals in which ''technology would be used in ways that would actually put people's rights at risk.''
In contrast, Bezos has leaned into defense partnerships. ''We are going to continue to support the DoD, and I think we should,'' he said at a conference this fall. While Amazon AI-driven facial recognition software has come under similar scrutiny from employees, lawmakers, and civil rights activists, the company hasn't made any guarantees regarding how it will contract the service to the government. In October, it was revealed that the company had pitched the product to ICE. (While JEDI does not explicitly address AI, defense officials have said they need to increase cloud-computing capacity for its AI plans.)
Amazon's federal lobbying expenditures doubled from nearly $5 million in 2014 to more than $11 million in 2016 and topped $13 million last year. AWS has reaped many benefits from the tech giant's DC push, and the JEDI contract would be its largest to date, dwarfing its current biggest government deal, a 2013 contract with the CIA worth $600 million. In the months since it staked its claim for JEDI, the company has continued to shore up its defense interests, lobbying on the fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations bill. As of late December, the company was hiring for more than a dozen jobs related to its work with the Defense Department, most involving AWS cloud software.
It's unclear when a judge will rule on Oracle's complaint. The Pentagon is set to award the JEDI contract in April 2019, but the new legal filing puts that date in doubt. Oracle and Amazon declined to comment for this story.
Could Microsoft win the Pentagon's one-winner JEDI contract over Amazon? Maybe, says Seeking Alpha OnMSFT.com OnMSFT.com
This April, the US Department of Defense is set to award a multi-year contract to a single cloud provider in what promises to be a massive win for either Microsoft or Amazon. The contract, said to be worth some $10 billion, which will be some 25% of the current cloud market. That's huge. Amazon is thought to be the leader in the clubhouse, almost a foregone conclusion, but the Pentagon delayed awarding the contract late last year, and Microsoft is pushing hard to stay in the running, even after Google dropped out of the race.
late last year, Microsoft came under criticism for its relationship with the US military, including from some of its own employees, but company president Brad Smith staunchly defended the relationship, saying that the company would continue to make sure the country has access to the best technology, including from Microsoft.
According to a new post on Seeking Alpha, over the next few years the Pentagon will move some 3.4 million users and 4 million devices off of private servers onto the cloud. While Amazon is thought to have the upper hand (so much so that Oracle and IBM, among others, have filed protests with the US GAO, saying the contract favors Amazon), but under Satya Nadella, Microsoft has been working hard to gain the favor of the Pentagon, promoting their security and IT chops, as well as Defense Department familiarity with Windows and Office. Early this year Microsoft expects to achieve ''Impact Level 6'' security, on par with Amazon, and Microsoft has been pushing hard to tighten their bonds with the US Government, according to the post:
There are many instances in the last four years where the DoD continued to choose Microsoft for software and operating systems. For instance, in May of 2018, the United States Intelligence Community extended its agreement to use MS products such as Azure Government, Office 365 for US Government, and Windows 10 in a joint licensing agreement with Dell. In this announcement, MS stated that over ''10 million government customers from every federal cabinet level, including the Department of Defense'' rely on MS's Cloud for Government.
In 2016, MS won a five-year contract to provide technical support to the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). In 2016, the original Windows 10 agreement that took effect in 2017 included 4 million laptops, desktops and mobile devices. More recently, in November of 2018, MS won a $480 million contract with the U.S. government to bring 100,000 augmented reality headsets into the military's arsenal. The two-year contract will help soldiers prepare for combat training.
Amazon holds the lead position in the race for this lucrative, one winner contract, but Microsoft continues to come on strong. An award to Amazon would come as no surprise, but if Microsoft were to pull off this major coup, it could be among the biggest stories of the year.
If you've ever expressed the least bit of skepticism about environmentalist calls for making the vast majority of fossil fuel use illegal, you've probably heard the smug response: ''97% of climate scientists agree with climate change'' '-- which always carries the implication: Who are you to challenge them?
The answer is: you are a thinking, independent individual--and you don't go by polls, let alone second-hand accounts of polls; you go by facts, logic and explanation.
Here are two questions to ask anyone who pulls the 97% trick.
1. What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
Usually, the person will have a very vague answer like "climate change is real."
Which raises the question: What is that supposed to mean? That climate changes? That we have some impact? That we have a large impact? That we have a catastrophically large impact? That we have such a catastrophic impact that we shouldn't use fossil fuels?
What you'll find is that people don't want to define what 97% agree on--because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use.
It's likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from.
If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause--that is, that we are over 50% responsible. The warming is a whopping 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years, a warming that has tapered off to essentially nothing in the last decade and a half.
Sources: Met Office Hadley Centre HadCRUT4 dataset; Etheridge et al. (1998); Keeling et al. (2001); MacFarling Meure et al. (2006); Merged Ice-Core Record Data, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Even if 97% of climate scientists agreed with this, and even if they were right, it in no way, shape, or form would imply that we should restrict fossil fuels--which are crucial to the livelihood of billions.
Sources: Boden, Marland, Andres (2010); Bolt and van Zanden (2013); World Bank, World Development Indicators (WDI) Online Data, April 2014
Because the actual 97% claim doesn't even remotely justify their policies, catastrophists like President Obama and John Kerry take what we could generously call creative liberties in repeating this claim.
On his Twitter account, President Obama tweets: ''Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.'' Not only does Obama sloppily equate ''scientists'' with ''climate scientists,'' but more importantly he added ''dangerous'' to the 97% claim, which is not there in the literature.
This is called the fallacy of equivocation: using the same term (''97 percent'') in two different ways to manipulate people.
John Kerry pulled the same stunt when trying to tell the underdeveloped world that it should use fewer fossil fuels:
And let there be no doubt in anybody's mind that the science is absolutely certain. . . 97 percent of climate scientists have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible. . . . . they agree that, if we continue to go down the same path that we are going down today, the world as we know it will change'--and it will change dramatically for the worse.
In Kerry's mind, 97% of climate scientists said whatever Kerry wants them to have said.
Bottom line: What the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree on is very mild and in no way justifies restricting the energy that billions need.
But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn't even say that.
Which brings us to the next question:
2. How do we know the 97% agree?
To elaborate, how was that proven?
Almost no one who refers to the 97% has any idea, but the basic way it works is that a researcher reviews a lot of scholarly papers and classifies them by how many agree with a certain position.
Unfortunately, in the case of 97% of climate scientists agreeing that human beings are the main cause of warming, the researchers have engaged in egregious misconduct.
One of the main papers behind the 97 percent claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the popular website SkepticalScience.com, a virtual encyclopedia of arguments trying to defend predictions of catastrophic climate change from all challenges.
Here is Cook's summary of his paper: ''Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.''
This is a fairly clear statement'--97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause'--main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent.
But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse ''the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.'' Cook calls this ''explicit endorsement with quantification'' (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming.
Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called ''explicit endorsement without quantification'''--that is, papers in which the author, by Cook's admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called ''implicit endorsement,'' for papers that imply (but don't say) that there is some man-made global warming and don't quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn't.
The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public'--and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested:
''Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.''
'--Dr. Richard Tol
''That is not an accurate representation of my paper . . .''
'--Dr. Craig Idso
''Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.''
'--Dr. Nir Shaviv
''Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument . . .''
'--Dr. Nicola Scafetta
Think about how many times you hear that 97 percent or some similar figure thrown around. It's based on crude manipulation propagated by people whose ideological agenda it serves. It is a license to intimidate.
It's time to revoke that license.
Alex Epstein is founder of the Center for Industrial Progress and author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels.
California Puts Another Nail in Fossil-Fuel's Coffin - Bloomberg
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Chinese and Russian Scientists Teamed Up to Manipulate the Earth's Atmosphere - Motherboard
China and Russia quietly conducted experiments this year aimed at manipulating the Earth's atmosphere.
In June, scientists from the two countries jointly performed five tests that some have speculated to be military related, and detailed their results in Earth and Planetary Physics last week.
The experiments involved heating the ionosphere, which is an upper, electrically charged layer of the planet's atmosphere. At Russia's Sura Ionospheric Heating Facility (SURA) in Vasilsursk, a powerful transmitter was used to pump radio energy into the ionized plasma that characterizes this layer, some 310 miles above the town.
Russia's SURA facility. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Once the ionosphere was stimulated, sensors aboard the China Seismo'Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES) Zhangheng-1 recorded observations from orbit.
''There's a lot of hype but we've done all of these things for years,'' Dennis Papadopoulos, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, told Motherboard.
''What was done is nothing exciting, except for sending the message that Russia and China are interested [in this space],'' Papadopoulos, who has conducted similar research in the US but was not part of these experiments, added.
Most of the tests did not cause plasma disturbances, the study notes.
However, one test on June 7 reportedly created an electric spike across 49,000 square miles, ''with 10 times more negatively charged subatomic particles than surrounding regions,'' according to the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.
The study claims another test increased the temperature of ionized gas in a select area by 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
The ionosphere sits roughly 50 to 400 miles above the ground'--where gases are stimulated by the sun's ultraviolet radiation to form electrically charged ions. Responsible for bouncing radio waves from the Earth's surface, the ionosphere is crucial to many modes of communication which can be hampered by things such as space weather. The ionosphere is also home to brilliant auroras, caused by charged particles interacting with the planet's magnetic field lines.
Scientists have long been interested in novel technologies made possible by tampering with the ionosphere, specifically in the military, space, and communications industries.
It's possible to block communications, for example, by increasing the density of plasma or by creating structures that scatter radio waves, Papadopoulos said. The Air Force even wanted to boost the range of radio signals by detonating ''plasma bombs'' from micro satellites.
Last year, scientists in the US semi-successfully tried to produce an artificial aurora for the purpose of studying the natural phenomenon.
And while early reports of China and Russia's collaboration have skewed alarmist, Papadopoulos warned against giving ''too much hype to the results.'' Adding that in 2014, US researchers were planning a joint study with Russian and Ukrainian scientists that ''fell through'' due to Russia-Ukraine relations.
Antenna grid at Alaska's HAARP. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Several countries have built specialized facilities for modifying the ionosphere'--a field of study with potential military and space applications.
Russia's SURA was commissioned in 1981 with funding from the Soviet Defense Department. It's currently operated by the Radiophysical Research Institute (NIRFI) based in Nizhny Novgorod.
In the US, the even more powerful High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) was established in 1993 by the Air Force, Navy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The 33 acre facility located near Fairbanks, Alaska maintains 180 radio antennas for inundating the ionosphere with high-frequency radio waves, and was transferred to the University of Alaska Fairbanks after the program was shut down in 2015. HAARP has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories ranging from weather and mind control'--pushing its operators to hold an open house in 2016 just to dispel false rumors.
Norway is also home to an ionospheric heater called EISCAT in Ramfjordmoen near Troms¸.
''We are not playing God,'' a scientist reportedly involved with the Chinese and Russian experiment told the Post anonymously on Monday. ''We are not the only country teaming up with the Russians. Other countries have done similar things.''
Build the Wall
The House Is Set To Vote On Trillion Dollar Spending Bill Tomorrow. No One Has Read It | The Daily Caller
5:31 PM 02/13/2019 | PoliticsMolly Prince | Politics Reporter
The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on a government appropriations bill Thursday evening and, with a day until the vote, lawmakers still have not received the text of the legislation.
''No one has seen the final wording of a long and complicated bill we will be expected to vote on tomorrow evening,'' Republican Maryland Rep. Andy Harris told The Daily Caller News Foundation. ''That's no way to run a legislature.''
Republican Study Chairman Mike Johnson also confirmed that ''as of lunch on Wednesday, members of the RSC, and to our knowledge, even members of the conference committee, had not seen the text.''
''It has been reported that [House Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer has said if the bill is dropped today we will consider it tomorrow. This is reminiscent of the, 'you must pass it to find out what is in it,' Obamacare debacle,'' Johnson said to TheDCNF. ''This bill is expected to be well over 1,000 pages, and we will potentially have less than 24 hours to digest it. This is absurd.''
The bicameral and bipartisan Homeland Security funding conference committee signaled last week that they are nearing a final border security deal that could be voted on prior to the Feb. 15 funding deadline. However, after hitting a snag over Democrats' demand to limit to how many criminals Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should be allowed to detain, Congress reportedly reached an ''agreement in principle'' late Monday.
The agreement includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of new bollard fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, far short of the $5.7 billion that President Donald Trump initially sought for 234 miles of steel or concrete walls.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Regardless, the legislation is expected to be finalized Wednesday night, giving members of Congress less than 24 hours to read what they are voting on. A senior House Republican source confirmed to TheDCNF that no Republican lawmakers have received a copy of the legislation or seen any text as of Wednesday afternoon. (RELATED: Democrats Wall Deal Seeks To Limit ICE's Ability To House Criminal Illegal Immigrants)
''When one bemoans the swamp, look no further than spending a trillion dollars and jamming through legislation when none of us have even seen it,'' Republican Texas Rep. Chip Roy told TheDCNF. ''We should be a no on such incompetence even if it weren't perpetuating drunken spending and failing to actually secure the border.''
''Pelosi and the Democrats promised a full 72 hours to review legislation,'' a senior conservative congressional aide told The Daily Caller News Foundation. ''But now we're voting on a massive, probably thousands-page long conference report tomorrow and we haven't even seen text the day before? This is worse than under Speaker Ryan.''
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Rats, Public Defecation And Open Drug Use: Our Major Western Cities Are Becoming Uninhabitable Hellholes '' End Of The American Dream
Almost everyone that goes out to visit one of our major cities on the west coast has a similar reaction. Those that must live among the escalating decay are often numb to it, but most of those that are just in town for a visit are absolutely shocked by all of the trash, human defecation, crime and public drug use that they encounter. Once upon a time, our beautiful western cities were the envy of the rest of the world, but now they serve as shining examples of America's accelerating decline. The worst parts of our major western cities literally look like post-apocalyptic wastelands, and the hordes of zombified homeless people that live in those areas are too drugged-out to care. The ironic thing is that these cities are not poor. In fact, San Francisco and Seattle are among the wealthiest cities in the entire nation. So if things are falling apart this dramatically now, how bad will things get when economic conditions really start to deteriorate?
Let's start our discussion by looking at the rat epidemic in Los Angeles. Thanks to extremely poor public sanitation, rats are breeding like mad, and at this point they have even conquered Los Angeles City Hall'...
Officials at Los Angeles' City Hall are considering ripping all of the building's carpets up, as rats and fleas are said to be running riot in its halls.
A motion was filed by Council President Herb Wesson on Wednesday to enact the much needed makeover amid a typhus outbreak in the downtown area.
Wesson said a city employee had contracted the deadly bacterial disease at work, and now he's urging officials to investigate the 'scope' of the long-running pest problem at the council building.
People from all over the world are drawn to Los Angeles because of what they have seen on television, but it is truly a filthy, filthy place. The number of homeless has been rising about 20 percent a year, public drug use is seemingly everywhere, and there are mountains of trash all over the place. Needless to say, rats thrive in such an environment, and the epic battle that one L.A. journalist is having with rats was recently featured in the L.A. Times'...
Eastside, Westside, north and south, they're everywhere. If you're a rat, the California housing crisis has not hit you yet and it never will.
At our house, it sounded like the rats were having relay races in the ceiling, and they don't wear sneakers. Your eyes blink and your leg twitches as you drift off to sleep knowing that if the plague comes back, you are living at ground zero.
In our garden, they devoured entire heads of lettuce. They destroyed my squash just before it was ripe and ready to eat. They stole my tomatoes, cilantro and Anaheim chili peppers. Were they bottling their own salsa?
But let's not be too hard on Los Angeles, because the same things that are going on there are happening in major cities all over the western portion of the country.
For example, a massive rat infestation recently forced authorities to close a shockingly filthy homeless encampment under a bridge in Salem, Oregon'...
Amid the trash, human despair and anguish, one weeping woman prepared to leave the most recent place she knows as home without any real inkling of where she'll go next.
Terry Balow, an outreach worker with the Salvation Army, has been here for the darker moments of living life under a bridge '-- anger, mental illness, drug use and human frustration boiling over at times everywhere one looks.
Yet it was a rat infestation and concern about human health that prompted the city of Salem to move the campers out.
''It just grew and grew and got worse,'' Balow said. ''It's badder than people can imagine.''
Yes, there have always been homeless encampments in this country, but in modern times we have never faced anything on the scale that we are facing now.
More than half a million Americans are homeless right now, and that number continues to grow. And as it grows, communities will increasingly be forced to make some tough decisions.
I am quite eager to talk about San Francisco, but before we get to the City by the Bay, let's take note of something that just happened in Denver.
If you are into public defecation, you will be very happy to learn that Denver just made it legal'...
First, the obvious: The Denver City Council has voted unanimously to decriminalize a number of offenses, including defecating in public. Also, urinating in public. Camping on public or private land without permission. Panhandling. And lying across public rights-of-way, such as sidewalks.
Democrat Mayor Michael Hancock and city officials explained the new ordinances are designed to protect immigrants '-- legal and the other kind '-- from ''unintended consequences.'' These consequences were fines and longer jail terms, as has been customary in most places for violating the behavioral norms of civilized American society.
If only America's founders could see us now.
They would be so proud.
Speaking of public defecation, San Francisco has become world famous for the piles of human poop that constantly litter their streets. During one seven day stretch last summer, a total of 16,000 official complaints were submitted to the city about human feces.
Blessed with such beautiful natural surroundings and so much wealth, San Francisco should be a great place to visit, but that definitely is not the case.
When reporter John Stossel recently visited San Francisco, he was stunned by what he found'...
San Francisco is a pretty good place to ''hang out with a sign.'' People are rarely arrested for vagrancy, aggressive panhandling or going to the bathroom in front of people's homes. In 2015, there were 60,491 complaints to police, but only 125 people were arrested.
Public drug use is generally ignored. One woman told us, ''It's nasty seeing people shoot up '-- right in front of you. Police don't do anything about it! They'll get somebody for drinking a beer but walk right past people using needles.''
In San Francisco they actually give out free syringes to drug addicts, and it is being reported that they handed out a total of 5.8 million free syringes in 2018.
That is a lot of syringes.
They also try to get the syringes back in order to prevent the spread of disease, but that hasn't been too successful'...
There's just one problem '' well, more than one '' despite spending an extra $1.8 million last year in an effort to retrieve needles, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the department handed out about 2 million more syringes than it got back'... many of which are now washing around the streets of one of the richest cities in America (along with the feces of their users).
And with so much public drug use going on, it should be no surprise that crime is completely and totally out of control. Here is more from John Stossel'...
Each day in San Francisco, an average of 85 cars are broken into.
''Inside Edition'' ran a test to see how long stereo equipment would last in a parked car. Their test car was quickly broken into. Then the camera crew discovered that their own car had been busted into as well.
It has been said that ''as goes California, so goes the country'', and if this is where the rest of the nation is headed then we are in serious trouble.
When Bill Blain recently visited San Francisco, he was so horrified by what he encountered that he felt he must write about it'...
I hope my American hosts will forgive me for raising this, but the squalor we saw in The City was frightful. San Francisco has always been one of favourite US cities, but the degree of homelessness, mental illness and drug abuse we saw on this trip was truly shocking. Walking round SF on a Sunday Morning and we saw sights we couldn't believe. This must be one of the richest cities in the world '' home to 4 of the 10 richest people on the planet according to Wiki. I asked friends about it, and they shrugged it off.. ''The City has always attracted the homeless because of the mild weather,''.. ''It's a drug thing''.. ''its too difficult'''... ''you get used to it..''
Well, I didn't.
I found it quite shocking the number of folk sleeping rough on the sidewalks, the smell of weed and drug impedimenta everywhere, the filth, mental illness and degradation on view just a few meters from the financial centre driving Silicon Valley. It's a city where the destitute seem to have become invisible to the Uber hailing elites. We found ourselves hopping on one of the beautiful F-Route Trolley Buses to find nearly every seat occupied by someone lugging around their worldly possessions around in a plastic bag. It was desperately sad.
San Francisco has a new mayor, and they are going to spend millions upon millions of dollars to try to clean up the streets.
But it won't be easy to turn things around, because more drug users and homeless people are moving into the city every single day'...
And San Francisco is generous. It offers street people food stamps, free shelter, train tickets and $70 a month in cash.
''They're always offering resources,'' one man dressed as Santa told us. ''San Francisco's just a good place to hang out.''
So, every week, new people arrive.
We like to think that we are setting a positive example to the rest of the world, but the truth is that they are laughing at us.
America is in an advanced state of decay, and it is getting worse with each passing year.
If we keep doing the same things we will keep getting the same results, and right now there are no signs that the overall direction of this nation will change any time soon.
About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters. His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News. From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites. If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so. The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.
Brexit: Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn set to hold further talks - BBC News
Image copyright AFP Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look set to hold further talks over Brexit.
The prime minister struck a conciliatory tone in her response to a letter from Mr Corbyn, which set out his five demands for a Brexit deal.
She said she wanted the two parties to discuss "alternative arrangements" to the Irish backstop - a commitment to avoid a hard border.
But there remains a divide over the customs union, even though she did not reject any of his conditions outright.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox called Mr Corbyn's demand for a customs union with the EU a "dangerous delusion".
Image copyright 10 Downing Street No date has been set for the next meeting, but the letter concludes with Mrs May saying she looked forward to the two parties meeting "as soon as possible".
Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay and EU negotiator Michel Barnier will hold talks in Strasbourg later, as the EU and UK Brexit negotiating teams discuss proposed changes to the deal.
Writing her response to his letter of last Wednesday, Mrs May told the Labour leader: "It is good to see that we agree that the UK should leave the European Union with a deal and that the urgent task at hand is to find a deal that honours our commitments to the people of Northern Ireland, can command support in Parliament and can be negotiated with the EU - not to seek an election or second referendum."
This is despite Mr Corbyn repeatedly saying there should be a general election if Mrs May cannot get a deal through Parliament. He has also faced pressure from some of his MPs to push for another public vote on Brexit.
Labour MP David Lammy - who supports the "People's Vote" campaign for a new referendum - said Mrs May's letter "makes it clear there is no hope of her agreeing" with Mr Corbyn's demands and said his party should campaign now for a fresh vote.
The anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat's spokesman, Tom Brake, said it was "astonishing" the two leaders were starting "serious discussions about delivering disastrous Brexit together" 900 days after the vote to leave the EU.
He added: "It is time for Jeremy Corbyn to give up the letters and instead draw his attention to Labour Party policy and get behind the campaign for a People's Vote."
Does the letter give political cover?By Norman Smith, BBC assistant political editor
It could have been a very different sort of letter.
Mrs May could have just underscored her red lines: No to extending Article 50. No to another referendum. No to a customs union.
Instead, it's a much more conciliatory and consensual letter.
There's praise for Mr Corbyn in accepting the priority now should be on reaching a Brexit deal, rather than pressing for a general election.
Praise too for his acknowledgement that the backstop has got to be changed.
And there's some movement on employment rights and the promise of more cash for hard pressed communities.
Even on the customs union - their key dividing area - Mrs May's language is more nuanced, even though privately her aides insist there can be no question of accepting a permanent customs union.
It's unlikely to be anywhere near enough to win over Mr Corbyn.
But it may be enough for those labour MPs in leave supporting constituencies, who are looking for political cover to back or abstain on Mrs May's deal.
What has Labour asked for - and how has the PM responded?In his letter, Mr Corbyn asked for five changes to be made to the Brexit deal.
Image copyright PA The customs unionThe Labour leader called for a "permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union" with the EU to be introduced to the deal, with the same external tariff.
He said it would give the UK a say on any future trade deals that the EU may strike.
In her reply, Mrs May said the political declaration - the second part of her deal which is a non-legally binding statement on the future relationship between the UK and EU - "explicitly provides for the benefits of a customs union", with no tariffs, fees, charges and restrictions.
But, she said, it also allows for the UK to strike up its own trade deals elsewhere.
Mrs May wrote: "I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deals?"
But, she added her reassurance that securing frictionless trade with the EU was "one of our key negotiating objectives".
Speaking in Switzerland, where Mr Fox has just signed a deal to see the country trade with the UK on the same terms it does now, the minister said the idea was "not workable".
He added: "The idea that we can have a customs union with the EU and at the same time, as an outside country, have an effect on EU trade policy, is to not understand the EU treaties.
"It is very clear from the European Union that non-EU members do not have a say in EU trade policy so to pretend that you could do so is a dangerous delusion."
The Single Market Mr Corbyn also wanted the deal to include a promise for the UK to be closely aligned with the Single Market after it leaves the EU, "underpinned by shared institutions and obligations".
Mrs May quoted the EU as saying the current deal provides for the closest relationship possible outside the Single Market.
She added: "I am not sure what exactly you mean when you say 'shared institutions and obligations', but our teams can explore that."
The PM also repeated the EU's warning that completely frictionless trade is only possible if the UK stays in the Single Market.
"This would mean accepting free movement, which Labour's 2017 General Election manifesto made clear you do not support," she added.
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Your guide to Brexit jargonWorkers' rightsLabour has called for the UK to stay in step with the EU on rights and protections for workers, which was included in Mr Corbyn's letter.
On this point, Mrs May said the government had already made commitments on workers' rights, adding: "We are examining opportunities to provide further financial support to communities that feel left behind."
This could be referring to proposals that were said to have been discussed earlier this month from a group of Labour MPs in predominantly Leave-supporting constituencies, to allocate more funds to their communities for big infrastructure projects.
The PM also said that while she had "always been clear that Brexit should not be at the expense of workers' rights or environmental protections", she did not support automatically following EU rules in these areas.
"Given their importance, we believe these decisions should be taken in our Parliament by our elected representatives," she added.
But she tried to reassure Mr Corbyn that the government had made legally-binding commitments not to move back in these areas and they are prepared to consider legislating to give these commitments force in UK law.
EU agenciesThe Labour leader called for a promise to participate in EU agencies and funding programmes on the environment, education and industry regulation after Brexit.
The prime minister said the government supports participation in EU programmes in a number of areas, as set out in the political declaration - which includes areas such as science and innovation, youth, culture and education, and overseas development.
Mrs May also said the government wanted the closest possible relationship with EU agencies in "heavily regulated sectors", such as medicines and aviation, "subject to us being outside the single market".
Security Finally, Mr Corbyn demanded agreements with the EU on security, such as access to the European Arrest Warrant database.
Mrs May said the government "shares your ambition in relation to security arrangements".
She said the political declaration secured agreement on the exchange of Passenger Name Record, DNA, fingerprint and vehicle registration data and on arrangements "akin to the European Arrest Warrant to surrender suspected and convicted persons efficiently and expeditiously."
But, she added, there is a challenge that as a third country outside of the EU, there are restrictions on the UK's ability to participate in some EU tools and measures.
Mrs May said: "The government does not believe it would be in the interests of either the UK or the EU and its Member States to see a reduction in joint security capabilities.
"Labour's support for this position going into the next phase will, I hope, send a powerful signal that the EU should reconsider its stance."
Labour is yet to respond to the letter.
NHS stockpiling body bags to handle 'no-deal' Brexit - health minister '-- RT UK News
A health minister's letter aimed at reassuring people that the UK is all set for a no-deal Brexit, reveals that the NHS is stockpiling body bags. It's prompted Twitter to utilize some dark humor.
The morbid course of action was disclosed by ITV's Robert Peston, who released extracts from Health Minister Stephen Hammond's letter via social media, in which he insists ''the government is preparing for all exit scenarios.''
The health minister Stephen Hammond has written to a Tory MP to provide assurance to one of the MP's constituents that the NHS is stockpiling bodybags as insurance against a no-deal Brexit. This is not a joke. See attached exerts from letter. pic.twitter.com/XlfPVkU8eg
'-- Robert Peston (@Peston) February 11, 2019In his letter, Hammond singles out body bags as ''essential products'' that come to the UK from or through the EU, which are being stockpiled to mitigate against severe disruption to the NHS.
The Tory MP for Wimbledon also lists a number of medical products, consumables and equipment, including medicines, vaccines and blood products that are being amassed to cope with a no-deal Brexit scenario.
Social media users have reacted with some humorous takes on the macabre strategy for no-deal Brexit planning.
2016: ''I see no downside to Brexit, only a considerable upside.''''Sunlit uplands''2019:
''At least there will be bodybags to see us through the food riots" https://t.co/tQFnGMmVde
'-- David Schneider (@davidschneider) February 11, 2019Don't panic. Somebody in the ERG will know where you can get a good deal on body bags.
'-- Sadgeek (@sadgeek) February 11, 2019Good - will cross bodybag shortages off my list of Brexit worries.
'-- ðªðº ð¬ð§ Eagleowl Shipping Services(soz no ships) (@eagleowl123) February 12, 2019Responding to the letter, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson attempted to play down the government's strategy.
They told the Mirror: ''If everyone does what they should do, we are confident the supply of medicines and other medical supplies will be uninterrupted in the event of exiting the EU without a deal.''
Every month, 37 million packs of medicines are imported into the UK from the EU. The UK government and NHS bosses have set up a ''war room'' called the 'Operational Response Centre.' In addition, healthcare companies are creating six-week stockpiles of medicine.
Also on rt.com Human body parts among tonnes of waste piled up in NHS hospitals - criminal investigation launched Health Secretary Matthew Hancock has claimed he's now the biggest buyer of fridges in the world, after fitting out NHS facilities for storage of the critical drugs. NHS staff have been told to urge patients not to stockpile medicines personally to avert shortages being felt throughout the system.
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IT BEGINS: Rep. Adam Schiff is worried Robert Mueller isn't being tough enough on President Trump
Oh, so now you can criticize Special Counsel Robert Mueller? From the WaPost on Rep. Adama Schiff who is concerned that Mueller isn't being tough enough on the president:
House Intelligence chairman voices concern that Mueller's scrutiny of Trump's finances isn't adequate Via @gregpmiller https://t.co/dxERe0PlJZ
'-- Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) February 10, 2019
From the article:
Schiff voiced concern that Mueller has shied away from investigating Trump's ties to the German lender, saying that ''if the special counsel hasn't subpoenaed Deutsche Bank, he can't be doing much of a money laundering investigation.''
Schiff was referring to reports last year that Mueller's office had told Trump's lawyers it was not seeking Deutsche Bank records related to Trump's accounts or loans. Deutsche Bank became a critical lender to Trump in the late 1990s when major U.S. banks refused to do business with the New York real estate developer after repeated bankruptcies.
Over to you, journos. GO FIGHT THIS FIRE:
Suddenly journalists decide it's totes OK to criticize the special counsel's work '-- but only if you're criticizing from the tinfoil-hat realm of saying he's not targeting Trump *enough*. https://t.co/EGmuCasfTj
'-- Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 10, 2019
And it's not just conservatives noting this, we might add:
In anticipation of the less-than-devastating Mueller report he wanted, @RepAdamSchiff is now starting to attack Robert Mueller's investigation as inadequate, lax and negligent. Is it now permissible to impugn the former FBI Director & Special Counsel? https://t.co/YjYhZp1LyF
'-- Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) February 10, 2019
MIC DROP! Sharyl Attkisson points to THIS as proof Mueller investigation *is* leaking to the media and talk about a BOOM https://t.co/gGFGMcHPXE
'-- Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) February 9, 2019
Adam Schiff is NOT buying the AG's Mueller investigation status update (Includes bonus reality check buzzkill) https://t.co/iov5DWoCfA
'-- Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) January 29, 2019
The Left is already spinning acting AG Matt Whitaker's comment that the Mueller probe is 'close to being completed' https://t.co/mwoNoKwmtC pic.twitter.com/TX72xQV3Kg
'-- Twitchy Team (@TwitchyTeam) January 28, 2019
Robert Mueller may not say anything about Russia probe
Tracking the milestones in Robert Mueller's investigation can be tough, but if you've got three minutes, we've got a wrap-up of Michael Cohen for you. Hannah Gaber Saletan, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON '' Occasionally, his signature appears on court documents. But on the most consequential days of the nearly two-year investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election, the man leading it '' Robert Mueller '' has been conspicuously absent.
When President Donald Trump's senior aides and confidants paraded through federal courtrooms to face criminal charges his office had filed, the former FBI director was nowhere to be seen. When some of them came back to court to be convicted, he said nothing.
It's possible he never will.
Mueller's investigation has cast a shadow over nearly all of the first two years of Trump's presidency. Prosecutors working to determine whether Trump's campaign coordinated with Russian efforts to sway the election that put him in office have brought charges against some of his top aides and revealed extensive Moscow ties. As the inquiry grinds closer to its conclusion, there are signs that the public might never learn the full extent of what Mueller has '' or hasn't '' found.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Photo: AP)
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Justice Department rules require that Mueller submit a confidential report when his work is done. William Barr, the man likely to be confirmed as his next boss, cast doubt on whether he would permit that document to be revealed. Those who know him say Mueller, reluctant to speak publicly even when the circumstances seem to require it, is unlikely to do it on his own.
"A public narrative has built an expectation that the special counsel will explain his conclusions, but I think that expectation may be seriously misplaced," said John Pistole, Mueller's longtime top deputy at the FBI. "That's not what the rules provide, and I really don't see him straying from the mission. That's not who he is."
The Justice Department's special counsel rules don't call for Mueller to make any public statements about his work, let alone deliver a report of what he has found. Instead, his confidential report must explain why he filed the charges he did and why he might have declined to bring charges against others. It would be up to the attorney general to decide whether that becomes public.
Barr, who is likely to be confirmed this month as attorney general, told lawmakers he couldn't commit to releasing Mueller's report in full. Neither was he clear on whether he would permit Mueller to testify to Congress about his work. He said he wanted to be transparent about Mueller's findings but offered few details.
"Where judgments are to be made by me, I will make those judgments based solely on the law and department policy and will let no personal, political or other improper interests influence my decision," Barr said during his confirmation hearing in January.
Some lawmakers found the answer unsettling.
After Barr's testimony, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., introduced legislation that would require a special counsel to provide a report directly to Congress in addition to the attorney general.
People who know Mueller say that unless his bosses tried to derail his work, they would be surprised if the former FBI director did more than issue a brief statement indicating that a report had been submitted to the attorney general before quietly departing.
For any other major player in official Washington, where outsize egos routinely clash for political supremacy or simple adulation, such a scenario would be unthinkable. But Mueller's aversion to the spotlight has been consistent across a lifetime in public service, from the battlefields of Vietnam to the office that represents perhaps the most serious threat to the Trump presidency.
"I don't think that there is any chance that he strays from what the regulations say," said Chris Swecker, a former FBI assistant director who worked closely with Mueller. "So far, he has spoken through the indictments and other court documents his office has filed. You have to understand who he is. He will do what the law prescribes; he's not going to be running his own pass patterns.
''None of this has ever been about his ego,'' Swecker said. ''He relishes the work as much as he hates the fanfare. It's never been about him; it's always been about the work.''
Last SlideNext SlideMeticulous investigatorJust as the FBI, maligned in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, was transformed into his own image as a meticulous investigator, the Russia investigation has come to embody Mueller's unflagging, buttoned-up personality.
''He's not a warm and lovable guy,'' Swecker said. ''If you work for him, you are never going to feel appreciated. Things move too fast for that. He believes that you signed up to do a job. And it's your mission to get it done. He doesn't like drama.''
Mueller's team embraced that approach.
His prosecutors have brought charges against 34 people and three companies, including Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort; his first national security adviser, Mike Flynn; and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen. Outside of court filings, prosecutors have had nothing to say about any of them.
When the team won a jury verdict after a three-week trial against Manafort, prosecutors retreated to their offices rather than appear at a clutch of microphones outside the courthouse. Asked by email if they had any comment, Mueller's spokesman responded with a single word:
Pistole, who served for six years as Mueller's deputy at the FBI, describes his former boss as ''totally apolitical,'' with an unmatched work ethic.
''For him, it was about what is right for the country,'' Pistole said. ''Nothing else.''
'Most transformative director since Hoover'Mueller exited the FBI in 2013 as the longest-serving director since J. Edgar Hoover '' amassing a legacy best defined by a grind-it-out style that kept the FBI intact.
Michael Chertoff, a former secretary of Homeland Security, described Mueller in an interview with USA TODAY marking the FBI chief's departure as ''the most transformative director in the history of the FBI since Hoover.''
"And I mean that in a good way," Chertoff said.
Robert Mueller will oversee the Russia investigation. Here's a look at his background. USA TODAY
After the FBI, Mueller stayed on the public stage but seldom in the spotlight.
As a partner at the high-powered law firm of Wilmer Hale, Mueller had clients that included some of the most recognizable corporate brands, including the National Football League.
The NFL hired Mueller in 2015 to examine the league's handling of a domestic violence incident involving then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. When it was complete, the 96-page report, which cleared the NFL of any intentional improper conduct, was simply posted online. No news conference, no public appearance by Mueller to discuss the findings.
Mueller was among those Trump interviewed to replace his ousted successor at the FBI, James Comey. Instead, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller in May 2017 to head the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Since then, the public has had only occasional glimpses of Mueller. One photo captured him waiting for a plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, a few yards away from Donald Trump Jr. The photograph went viral, a measure not only of the chance passing of the two potential adversaries but the intense interest in the intensely private man leading perhaps the most widely watched criminal investigation in a generation.
It was months before Mueller's appointment as a Russia special counsel when Pistole last had an extended visit with his former boss. Pistole said he was surprised to encounter a "jovial" Mueller, a feature few have witnessed in such an outwardly serious character.
"He had been away from government for a while," Pistole said. "He was laughing and joking. I thought: 'Who is this guy? What have you done with my director?' I doubt he's had many moments since he took this job."
The case for saying nothingBarr suggested that if the Senate confirms him, the public is unlikely to hear from Mueller directly.
Barr, who was attorney general in the administration of George H.W. Bush, has made no secret of his allegiance to the chain of command. In the midst of the 2016 campaign, he objected to then-FBI Director Comey's decision not to recommend criminal charges against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server while secretary of state because he said the decision should have been left to the attorney general or the deputy attorney general, not the chief investigator.
Barr told lawmakers he would "provide as much transparency as I can, consistent with the law," about what Mueller's investigation concludes.
He expressed doubt about how much detail he would be able to reveal. Justice Department rules require only that he notify Congress about instances in which he had overruled Mueller's decisions about how the investigation should be handled. Some of the facts Mueller has gathered could be the result of grand jury proceedings, which are required by law to remain secret.
Barr pointed to a Justice Department policy to avoid publicizing "derogatory" information about people who aren't charged with a crime. Senate Democrats expressed concern that the policy, combined with the department's view that a president cannot be indicted, could lead Barr to keep confidential parts of the investigation that relate to Trump.
That could in turn set up a battle with congressional Democrats eager to know the details.
''If the attorney general doesn't issue a public report, they can expect it to be subpoenaed by Congress because of the high public value of Americans understanding just what the Russians did and who worked with them,'' said Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lead attorney, has said repeatedly that he fully expects Mueller to produce a final report, indicating that the president's legal team would issue a "counter-report."
Last month, acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker raised expectations when he said Mueller's work was "close to being completed."
"I hope we can get the report from Director Mueller as soon as possible," Whitaker said, only to suggest last week in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee that even he wasn't really sure of the timing and hadn't received a report.
''Bob Mueller is going to finish his investigation when he is going to finish his investigation,'' Whitaker told lawmakers.
Some doubt that a substantial final report from the special counsel is even in the offing.
"He's a federal prosecutor; they don't write public reports," said George Washington University law professor Randall Eliason, a former federal prosecutor. "Everybody is breathlessly waiting for the Mueller report, and I'm not sure that one is even coming."
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2019/02/11/special-counsel-robert-mueller-may-not-say-anything-russia-probe/1422892002/
StoriesIllustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Mueller is just the beginning. House Democrats plan a vast probe of President Trump and Russia '-- with a heavy focus on money laundering '-- that will include multiple committees and dramatic public hearings, and could last into 2020.
The state of play: The aggressive plans were outlined yesterday by a Democratic member of Congress at a roundtable for Washington reporters. The member said Congress plans interviews with new witnesses, and may go back to earlier witnesses who "stonewalled" under the Republican majority.
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Nederlandse partij GroenLinks wil 70-plussers niet meer automatisch medische behandeling geven | Buitenland | Nieuws | HLN
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U.S. charges former top Apple lawyer with insider trading | Reuters
(Reuters) - The former top corporate lawyer at Apple Inc was criminally charged by the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday with insider trading ahead of six of the iPhone maker's quarterly earnings announcements.
FILE PHOTO: An audience member takes a photo of the Apple logo before the start of the company's annual developer conference in San Jose, California, U.S. June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Authorities said Gene Levoff exploited his positions as corporate secretary, head of corporate law and co-chairman of a committee that reviewed draft copies of Apple's financial results to trade illegally between 2011 and 2016.
Prosecutors said Levoff, 45, of San Carlos, California, generated $604,000 in illegal gains, including realized profit and avoided losses, before Apple terminated his decade-long employment in September.
Levoff faces one count of securities fraud, carrying a maximum 20-year prison term and a $5 million fine.
He is expected to appear on Feb. 20 in a federal court in Newark, New Jersey.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed related civil charges in the case, one of the rare instances of a senior lawyer at a major U.S. company being implicated in a crime.
''Levoff's alleged exploitation of his access to Apple's financial information was particularly egregious given his responsibility for implementing the company's insider trading compliance policy,'' Antonia Chion, associate director of the SEC's enforcement division, said in a statement.
Kevin Marino, a lawyer for Levoff, said he was reviewing the allegations and looked forward to defending his client.
''Gene Levoff was a highly regarded Apple executive for many years, and has never before been accused of wrongdoing,'' Marino said in an email.
Apple said in a statement it had terminated Levoff after an internal probe, and that it trains employees about their legal obligations.
Authorities said Levoff reported to Apple's general counsel and has been a corporate officer of every major subsidiary of the Cupertino, California-based company.
As co-chairman of Apple's disclosure committee, Levoff helped Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook and his predecessor, Steve Jobs, ensure the timeliness, accuracy and proper oversight of company disclosures, including financial results, according to authorities.
Despite this, prosecutors said Levoff bought and sold more than $14 million of Apple stock, including $10 million in July 2015 alone, after being given draft earnings materials but before the results were made public.
Authorities said Levoff knew or should have known he was breaking the law, citing a February 2011 email where he warned employees not to trade on material nonpublic information.
The charges against Levoff were filed in New Jersey, where authorities said servers were located for firms that handled Levoff's illegal trades.
The cases are U.S. v. Levoff, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey, No. 19-mag-03507; and SEC v. Levoff in the same court, No. 19-05536.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Jeffrey Benkoe
Trains Good Planes Bad
California Governor Gavin Newsom Cancels High-speed Rail: 'Would Cost Too Much and Take Too Long' | Breitbart
California Governor Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday in his ''State of the State'' address at the California State Capitol in Sacramento that he would abandon the state's high-speed rail system because it was too expensive.The plan to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles by high-speed rail ''would cost too much and, respectfully, would take too long,'' he told legislators. He said the state would still build a portion of the system under construction in the rural Central Valley, denying that it would be a ''train to nowhere.'' He said the state would not send $3.5 billion back to the federal government to be spent by President Donald Trump.
But Newsom said the state could not afford the total cost '-- even with what he noted was a ''record-breaking surplus'' in the state's coffers, thanks to the ongoing economic recovery.
He also replaced the chair of the high-speed rail's governing body, saying there had been too little oversight and transparency.
Voters approved the first bond for the ''bullet train'' under the California High-Speed Rail Authority by referendum in Proposition 1A in 2008. Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, championed the project during his third and fourth terms in office, calling it central to the fight against climate change.
Yet over time, the project grew more and more expensive, rising from an initial estimate of $37 billion in 2008 to nearly $100 billion according to an estimate last year. In 2014, Breitbart News revealed that the ''high-speed'' train would not be so ''high-speed'' after all, running slower on tracks from San Jose to San Francisco, and from the San Fernando Valley into downtown Los Angeles. The earliest the project might have been completed was in 2033.
Still, Gov. Brown continued to defend the high-speed rail project.
Just last year, in his final ''State of the State'' address, Gov. Brown said:
I make no bones about it. I like trains and I like high-speed trains even better. So did the voters in 2008 when they approved the bond. Look, 11 other countries have high-speed trains. They are now taken for granted all over Europe, in Japan and in China. President Reagan himself said in Japan on November 11, 1983: ''The State of California is planning to build a rapid speed train that is adapted from your highly successful bullet train.'' Yes, we were, and now we are actually building it.
Like any big project, there are obstacles. '... Yes, it costs lots of money but it is still cheaper and more convenient than expanding airports and building new freeways to meet the growing demand. It will be fast, quiet and powered by renewable electricity and last for a hundred years.
Already, more than 1,500 construction workers are on the job at 17 sites and hundreds of California businesses are providing services, generating thousands of job years of employment. As the global economy puts more Americans out of work and lowers wages, infrastructure projects like this will be a key source of well-paid California jobs.
Difficulties challenge us but they can't discourage or stop us. Whether it's roads or trains or dams or renewable energy installations or zero-emission cars, California is setting the pace for America. Yes, there are critics, there are lawsuits and there are countless obstacles. But California was built on dreams and perseverance and the bolder path is still our way forward.
As Lieutenant Governor, Newsom opposed the high-speed project, but flip-flopped in 2016, backing the project and promising ''100 percent'' to seek public funding as governor.
However, upon taking office, Newsom appears to have had a change of heart '-- especially as he has prioritized providing health insurance to all California residents.
While he had ''nothing but respect for Governor Brown and Governor [Arnold] Schwarzenegger,'' Newsom said that the bullet train, as planned, could not be completed.
Newsroom's announcement came just days after Democrats '-- including California's own Sen. Kamala Harris '-- embraced the ''Green New Deal,'' a plan by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to move the entire country to 100% renewable energy in the next ten years. The plan calls for massive investment in high-speed rail across the country.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti cited the ''Green New Deal'' on Monday when he decided to cancel the building of three new natural gas plants to provide for the city's electricity needs, saying that the power would have to come from wind and solar energy '-- somehow.
But Newsom, considering budget constraints, took a different approach.
The new governor also devoted much of his speech to attacking President Trump over ''fear-mongering'' over a ''so-called border crisis,'' though he praised the president for trying to lower prescription drug prices.
He also accused Trump of ''xenophobia'' and ''nativism'' for his approach to illegal immigration.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.
Dutch fishermen try to avert EU ban on electric shocks
Dutch fishers and their families hold up banners during a protest outside parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, supporting electric pulse fishing. Dutch fisherman are lobbying lawmakers in a last-ditch attempt to avert a European Union ban on the practice of using electric shocks to stun fish before scooping them up in nets. Dutch fishers and their families hold up banners during a protest outside parliament in The Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019, supporting electric pulse fishing. Dutch fisherman are lobbying lawmakers in a last-ditch attempt to avert a European Union ban on the practice of using electric shocks to stun fish before scooping them up in nets. February 12, 2019The Dutch fishermen argue that the technique, known as electric pulse fishing, is environmentally friendly because it allows trawlers to use far less diesel and doesn't damage the seabed. Opponents call it industrial fishing that is wiping out fish stocks.
Dozens of pulse fishers and their families visited parliament to call for protection while acknowledging that talks this week between European parliamentarians and EU member states will very likely lead to a ban.
Jacob Bakker, who sails a pulse fishing trawler out of the small Dutch port of Urk, said he doesn't want to abandon pulse fishing because "it is proven that it is a more sustainable way of fishing." Dutch fishers say pulse trawlers use half as much diesel as their old fishing technique, which involved dragging chains along the seabed to dislodge fish.
Bakker called on Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to intervene. He "is the only one who can help us by talking to (French President Emmanuel) Macron" before the meeting in Strasbourg, Bakker said. The Dutch fishing industry has invested heavily in the practice, although it is only supposedly being carried out on an experimental basis under special EU exemptions. Going back to old techniques will cost the fleet millions, according to research commissioned by the Dutch fishing industry.
Nearly 80 of the Dutch fleet's 137 trawlers are equipped for pulse fishing. The pulse trawlers caught 75 percent of the total catch of sole in 2016, according to figures released by the country's fishing groups.
Environmentalists and fishers in France and Britain insist that the technique amounts to industrial fishing that could empty the seas of certain species. Environmentalists also warn that it could have damaging consequences for marine ecosystems and say more study is needed into the possible effects.
"There is much controversy about the environmental impact of the electric pulses which needs to be further assessed by independent scientific bodies," marine environmental group Seas At Risk said in a statement.
Jerry Percy, director of an association of small-scale fishers in Britain, said he had repeatedly heard from local fishermen that not only fish but even worms that live in the sands off the coast disappeared after pulse trawlers passed by.
"Commercial fishers were coming to me and saying, 'this is like fishing in a graveyard,'" Percy said. Carola Schouten, the Dutch minister for agriculture, nature and fisheries, said in Parliament that "it doesn't look good" for pulse fishers, but defended the method.
"It is sustainable. It is good for the seabed. It is good to counter overfishing and it generates fewer emissions. And the fishers can earn a good living," Schouten told lawmakers in parliament as the protesting fishers looked on from the public gallery.
European parliament votes to end electric pulse fishing | Environment | The Guardian
Campaigners hail movement towards prohibiting the controversial practice but warn other measures will leave European waters in a worse state
MEP Philippe Lamberts holds a placard to stop electric pulse fishing, next to German co-president of the Greens parliamentary group, Ska Keller, before a voting session at the European parliament in Strasbourg on 16 January.Photograph: Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty ImagesThe European Union's parliament has voted to prohibit the controversial practice of electrical pulse fishing within EU waters, to the approval of some groups of small-scale fishermen and green campaigners.
However, a series of other measures designed to prevent overfishing and preserve the marine environment were voted down. Campaigners say the rejection will have a damaging effect on Europe's fisheries for many years.
Tuesday's votes will still have to be discussed among member states, the European commission, and parliament before approval, so this decision is not yet final. However, the step is a landmark for activists who say pulse fishing is harmful.
Pulse fishing uses electrodes attached to nets to send electrical signals close to the surface of the seabed, driving some fish to move into the nets. Proponents say it is efficient and avoids the damage of bottom trawling, by which the seabed is effectively ploughed in order to catch fish living there. Opponents say it is cruel and could cause pain to fish and damage to their habitats.
The practice was banned in 1998, but in 2006 a derogation was allowed that has been exploited, especially by the Dutch fishing fleet. At least 84 Dutch vessels are licensed, along with a small number from other member states, including 12 in the UK.
If the parliament's vote is upheld without loopholes, all would have to cease.
However, in the UK, the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has not yet decided whether to support pulse fishing after Brexit. Chief executive Barry Deas, told the Guardian it was still under discussion.
Campaigners said other votes passed on Tuesday will leave European waters in a worse state.
MEPs voted against quantitative binding targets to reduce the catch of small young fish, which is essential to ensuring fish can reproduce. These decisions are also subject to further approval, so could be reversed, but given the vested fishing interests in many EU governments that may be unlikely.
Bj¶rn Stockhausen, fisheries policy officer at the Seas At Risk alliance, said: ''The European parliament has weakened the measures that have granted protection to European seas for decades. These new diminished rules will undermine the health of marine ecosystems and the stability of fish stocks.''
Stockhausen added: ''As a result [of the votes] the future of the ocean and the protection of ecosystems are at risk. Except for the electric fishing case, this regulation is unacceptable as it stands now. We are not convinced that the trilogue negotiations [among member states, the commission and the European parliament] will improve the situation at all.''
While Green MEPs backed the ban on pulse fishing, they voted against the full report on the conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems, saying they failed to establish common objectives at an EU level. Molly Scott Cato, the UK Green party MEP, said: ''MEPs have ill-advisedly signed off a set of conditions that provide no incentive to improve fishing techniques and could result in massive illegal discarding. If the commission proceed with their proposals the EU will be taking a major step backwards from the significant advances made in the reform of the common fisheries policy a few years ago.''
If the votes are confirmed, without targets on juvenile fish and the size of fish which can be caught, it will be up to regional groups of member states to determine and implement regional recommendations in order to achieve the reductions.
In the UK, it is unclear what the situation will be post-Brexit. The EU is insisting that during the transition period, likely to last two years after Brexit is formally triggered next March, the UK must stick to its fishing quotas under the EU's common fisheries policy.
After that, fishing groups want the UK to set an independent policy. However, given that many of the UK's key fishing grounds are shared with other nations, this may require complex negotiations with uncertain outcomes. Fishing groups were among the leading backers of Brexit.
If there's one thing I know about love, it's that people who don't find it have shorter life spans on average. Which means learning how the Tinder algorithm works is a matter of life and death, extrapolating slightly.
According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans now consider dating apps a good way to meet someone; the previous stigma is gone. But in February 2016, at the time of Pew's survey, only 15 percent of American adults had actually used a dating app, which means acceptance of the tech and willingness to use the tech are disparate issues. On top of that, only 5 percent of people in marriages or committed relationships said their relationships began in an app. Which raises the question: Globally, more than 57 million people use Tinder '-- the biggest dating app '-- but do they know what they're doing?
They do not have to answer, as we're all doing our best. But if some information about how the Tinder algorithm works and what anyone of us can do to find love within its confines is helpful to them, then so be it.
The first step is to understand that Tinder is ranking its users competitively, with a fairly simple algorithm that can't consider very many factors beyond appearance and location. The second step is to understand that this doesn't mean that you're doomed, as years of scientific research have confirmed attraction and romance as unchanging facts of human brain chemistry. The third is to take my advice, which is to listen to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher and never pursue more than nine dating app profiles at once. Here we go.
The Tinder algorithm basics A few years ago, Tinder let Fast Company reporter Austin Carr look at his ''secret internal Tinder rating,'' and vaguely explained to him how the system worked. Essentially, the app uses an Elo rating system, which is the same method used to calculate the skill levels of chess players: You rise in the ranks based on how many people swipe right on (''like'') you, but that's weighted based on who the swiper was. The more right swipes that person had, the more their right swipe on you means for your score.
Tinder will then serve people with similar scores to each other more often, assuming that people whom the crowd has similar opinions of will be in approximately the same tier of what they call ''desirability.'' (Tinder hasn't revealed the intricacies of its points system, but in chess, a newbie usually has a score of around 800 and a top-tier expert has anything from 2,400 up.) (Also, Tinder declined to comment for this story.)
Guests at Tinder's 2017 #BossLadyBrunch in Montauk, New York.Steven Henry/Getty Images It's hard to deny that a big part of ''desirability'' in this situation means ''appearance.'' The app is constantly updated to allow people to put more photos on their profile, and to make photos display larger in the interface, and there is no real incentive to add much personal information. Most users keep bios brief, and some take advantage of Spotify and Instagram integrations that let them add more context without actually putting in any additional information themselves.
The algorithm accounts for other factors '-- primarily location and age preferences, the only biographical information that's actually required for a Tinder profile. At this point, it can almost definitely pair people based on their past swiping, e.g., if I swiped right on a bunch of people who were all also swiped right on by some other group of women, maybe I would like a few of the other people that those women saw and liked. Still, appearance is a big piece.
As you get closer and closer to the end of the reasonable selection of individuals in any dating app, the algorithm will start to recycle people you didn't like the first time. It will also, I know from personal experience, recycle people you have matched with and then unmatched later, or even people you have exchanged phone numbers with and then unmatched after a handful of truly ''whatever'' dates. Nick Saretzky, director of product at OkCupid, told me and Ashley Carman about this practice on the Verge podcast Why'd You Push That Button in October 2017. He explained:
Hypothetically, if you were to swipe on enough thousands of people, you could go through everyone. [You're] going through people one at a time '... you're talking about a line of people and we put the best options up front. It actually means that every time you swipe, the next choice should be a little bit worse of an option.
So, the longer you're on an app, the worse the options get. You'll see Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, we all do recycling. If you've passed on someone, eventually, someone you've said ''no'' to is a much better option than someone who's 1,000 or 10,000 people down the line.
Maybe you really did swipe left by accident the first time, in which case profile recycling is just an example of an unfeeling corporation doing something good by accident, by granting you the rare chance at a do-over in this life.
''Every time you swipe, the next choice should be a little bit worse of an option''
Or maybe you have truly run out of options and this will be a sort of uncomfortable way to find out '-- particularly unnerving because the faces of Tinder tend to blur together, and your mind can easily play tricks on you. Have I seen this brown-haired Matt before? Do I recognize that beachside cliff pic?
Don't despair, even though it's tempting and would obviously make sense.
The secret rules of Super Likes and over-swiping One of the more controversial Tinder features is the Super Like. Instead of just swiping right to quietly like someone '-- which they'll only discover if they also swipe right on you '-- you swipe up to loudly like someone. When they see your profile, it will have a big blue star on it so they know you already like them and that if they swipe right, you'll immediately match.
You get one per day for free, which you're supposed to use on someone whose profile really stands out. Tinder Plus ($9.99 a month) and Tinder Gold ($14.99 a month) users get five per day, and you can also buy extra Super Likes la carte, for $1 each.
Tinder says that Super Likes triple your chances of getting a match, because they're flattering and express enthusiasm. There's no way to know if that's true. What we do know is that when you Super Like someone, Tinder has to set the algorithm aside for a minute. It's obligated to push your card closer to the top of the pile of the person you Super Liked '-- because you're not going to keep spending money on Super Likes if they never work '-- and guarantee that they see it. This doesn't mean that you'll get a match, but it does mean that a person who has a higher ''desirability'' score will be provided with the very basic information that you exist.
Tinder Boosts make you the most popular person in your area for a few minutes, but come with a price tag. Getty Images We can also guess that the algorithm rewards pickiness and disincentivizes people to swipe right too much. You're limited to 100 right swipes per day in Tinder, to make sure you're actually looking at profiles and not just spamming everyone to rack up random matches. Tinder obviously cares about making matches, but it cares more about the app feeling useful and the matches feeling real '-- as in, resulting in conversation and, eventually, dates. It tracks when users exchange phone numbers and can pretty much tell which accounts are being used to make real-life connections and which are used to boost the ego of an over-swiper. If you get too swipe-happy, you may notice your number of matches goes down, as Tinder serves your profile to fewer other users.
I don't think you can get in trouble for one of my favorite pastimes, which is lightly tricking my Tinder location to figure out which boys from my high school would date me now. But maybe! (Quick tip: If you visit your hometown, don't do any swiping while you're there, but log in when you're back to your normal location '-- whoever right-swiped you during your visit should show up. Left-swipers or non-swipers won't because the app's no longer pulling from that location.)
There are a lot of conspiracy theories about Tinder ''crippling'' the standard, free version of the app
There are a lot of conspiracy theories about Tinder ''crippling'' the standard, free version of the app and making it basically unusable unless you pay for a premium account or add-ons, like extra Super Likes and Boosts (the option to serve your profile to an increased number of people in your area for a limited amount of time). There is also, unfortunately, a subreddit specifically for discussing the challenges of Tinder, in which guys write things like, ''The trick: for every girl you like, reject 5 girls.'' And, ''I installed tinder 6 days ago, ZERO matches and trust me, im not ugly, im not fucking brad pitt but what the fuck?? anyways i installed a new account with a random guy from instagram, muscular and beautiful, still ZERO matches '...''
I can't speak to whether Tinder is actually stacking the deck against these men, but I will point out that some reports put the ratio at 62-38 men to women on the app. And that ratio changes based on geography '-- your match rate depends a lot on your local population dynamics.
How the other swiping apps and algorithms are different (even though Tinder's is the best)Of course, Tinder's not the only dating app, and others have their own mathematical systems for pairing people off.
Hinge '-- the ''relationship app'' with profiles more robust than Tinder's but far less detailed than something like OkCupid or eHarmony '-- claims to use a special type of machine learning to predict your taste and serve you a daily ''Most Compatible'' option. It supposedly uses the Gale-Shapley algorithm, which was created in 1962 by two economists who wanted to prove that any pool of people could be sifted into stable marriages. But Hinge mostly just looks for patterns in who its users have liked or rejected, then compares those patterns to the patterns of other users. Not so different from Tinder. Bumble, the swiping app that only lets women message first, is very close-lipped about its algorithm, possibly because it's also very similar to Tinder.
The League '-- an exclusive dating app that requires you to apply using your LinkedIn '-- shows profiles to more people depending on how well their profile fits the most popular preferences. The people who like you are arranged into a ''heart queue,'' in order of how likely the algorithm thinks it is that you will like them back. In that way, this algorithm is also similar to Tinder's. To jump to the front of the line, League users can make a Power Move, which is comparable to a Super Like.
Tinder may come off as a superficial hot-or-not app, but there's no proof that a more complicated matchmaking algorithm is a better one
None of the swiping apps purport to be as scientific as the original online dating services, like Match, eHarmony, or OkCupid, which require in-depth profiles and ask users to answer questions about religion, sex, politics, lifestyle choices, and other highly personal topics. This can make Tinder and its ilk read as insufficient hot-or-not-style apps, but it's useful to remember that there's no proof that a more complicated matchmaking algorithm is a better one. In fact, there's a lot of proof that it's not.
Sociologist Kevin Lewis told JStor in 2016, ''OkCupid prides itself on its algorithm, but the site basically has no clue whether a higher match percentage actually correlates with relationship success '... none of these sites really has any idea what they're doing '-- otherwise they'd have a monopoly on the market.''
In a (pre-Tinder) 2012 study, a team of researchers led by Northwestern University's Eli J. Finkel examined whether dating apps were living up to their core promises. First, they found that dating apps do fulfill their promise to give you access to more people than you would meet in your everyday life. Second, they found that dating apps in some way make it easier to communicate with those people. And third, they found that none of the dating apps could actually do a better job matching people than the randomness of the universe could. The paper is decidedly pro-dating app, and the authors write that online dating ''has enormous potential to ameliorate what is for many people a time-consuming and often frustrating activity.'' But algorithms? That's not the useful part.
This study, if I may say, is very beautiful. In arguing that no algorithm could ever predict the success of a relationship, the authors point out that the entire body of research on intimate relationships ''suggests that there are inherent limits to how well the success of a relationship between two individuals can be predicted in advance of their awareness of each other.'' That's because, they write, the strongest predictors of whether a relationship will last come from ''the way they respond to unpredictable and uncontrollable events that have not yet happened.'' The chaos of life! It bends us all in strange ways! Hopefully toward each other '-- to kiss! (Forever!)
The authors conclude: ''The best-established predictors of how a romantic relationship will develop can be known only after the relationship begins.'' Oh, my god, and happy Valentine's Day.
The chaos of life! It bends us all in strange ways! Hopefully toward each other '-- to kiss!
Later, in a 2015 opinion piece for the New York Times, Finkel argued that Tinder's superficiality actually made it better than all the other so-called matchmaking apps.
''Yes, Tinder is superficial,'' he writes. ''It doesn't let people browse profiles to find compatible partners, and it doesn't claim to possess an algorithm that can find your soul mate. But this approach is at least honest and avoids the errors committed by more traditional approaches to online dating.''
Superficiality, he argues, is the best thing about Tinder. It makes the process of matching and talking and meeting move along much faster, and is, in that way, a lot like a meet-cute in the post office or at a bar. It's not making promises it can't keep.
So what do you do about it? At a debate I attended last February, Helen Fisher '-- a senior research fellow in biological anthropology at the Kinsey Institute and the chief scientific adviser for Match.com, which is owned by the same parent company as Tinder '-- argued that dating apps can do nothing to change the basic brain chemistry of romance. It's pointless to argue whether an algorithm can make for better matches and relationships, she claimed.
''The biggest problem is cognitive overload,'' she said. ''The brain is not well built to choose between hundreds or thousands of alternatives.'' She recommended that anyone using a dating app should stop swiping as soon as they have nine matches '-- the highest number of choices our brain is equipped to deal with at one time.
Once you sift through those and winnow out the duds, you should be left with a few solid options. If not, go back to swiping but stop again at nine. Nine is the magic number! Do not forget about this! You will drive yourself batty if you, like a friend of mine who will go unnamed, allow yourself to rack up 622 Tinder matches.
To sum up: Don't over-swipe (only swipe if you're really interested), don't keep going once you have a reasonable number of options to start messaging, and don't worry too much about your ''desirability'' rating other than by doing the best you can to have a full, informative profile with lots of clear photos. Don't count too much on Super Likes, because they're mostly a moneymaking endeavor. Do take a lap and try out a different app if you start seeing recycled profiles. Please remember that there is no such thing as good relationship advice, and even though Tinder's algorithm literally understands love as a zero-sum game, science still says it's unpredictable.
DOD releases AI strategy By Lauren C. WilliamsFeb 12, 2019The Defense Department released its artificial intelligence strategy Feb. 12, thrusting the newly created Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) to the fore.
The 17-page summary with an accompanying fact sheet outlines DOD's plan to boost AI capabilities through rapid prototyping, increased research and development and targeted training and recruitment. It also calls for creating a "common foundation of shared data, reusable tools, frameworks and standards, and cloud and edge services" for the warfighter.
"The impact of artificial intelligence will extend across the entire department, spanning from operations and training to recruiting and healthcare,'' DOD CIO Dana Deasy said.
The strategy designates the JAIC, which sits under the CIO and is led by Lt. Gen. John "Jack" Shanahan, as the focal point and integrator of AI capabilities and policy. More specifically, JAIC is responsible for identifying, delivering and scaling prototypes across DOD, coordinating lessons learned and supporting components and the military services.
Additionally, JAIC will team with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is currently exploring how AI technology can explain its decision-making to humans as part of the AI Next campaign.
DOD is planning for stable and long-term research funding, but the strategy document doesn't mention the impending 2020 budget. According to the fact sheet, ''The department is identifying budget and resource impacts for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.''
The strategy is thin on specifics of how DOD plans to increase its AI workforce but emphasizes needed investments in R&D, training, recruiting as well as partnerships with academia and industry.
The strategy also attempts to quell job security fears, saying AI won't replace service members or DOD workers: ''The women and men in the U.S. armed forces remain our enduring source of strength; we will use AI-enabled information, tools, and systems to empower, not replace, those who serve.''
The DOD strategy comes a day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to invest in AI technologies through workforce training, current and future programs, development of technical standards and support of automation.
The White House directive, which created the American AI Initiative, also established dominance in the AI realm as an official policy position.
''The present moment is pivotal: we must act to protect our security and advance our competiveness,'' the DOD document states. ''But we must embrace change if we are to reap the benefits of continued security and prosperity for the future.''
About the Author
Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.
Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.
Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at email@example.com, or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.
Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.
TSP loan rules relaxed ahead of next shutdown deadline A rule change allows furloughed feds and those working without pay to take out loans against their retirement during shutdowns.
2019 Federal 100 Awards
Announcing the 2019 Fed 100 Congratulations to all the women and men being honored for their exceptional contributions to federal IT.
House votes for 2.6 percent federal pay raise In the first week back from the longest shutdown in American history, Congress is moving to challenge the administration's civilian pay freeze.
Statement On President Trump's Executive Order On Artificial Intelligence
Washington, DC '' Internet Association Director, Diversity and Inclusion and Policy and Counsel Sean Perryman issued the following statement on President Trump's executive order on artificial intelligence:
''The internet industry applauds the administration's effort to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI), which benefits society and every sector of the economy. The American Artificial Intelligence initiative will boost U.S. investment in AI at a crucial stage in the technology's development and enable companies to create more innovative and accurate technology.''
Van Leeuwen, an artisan ice cream shop, is one of the businesses in Brooklyn that refuses to accept cash. AP Photo/Michael Noble Jr.
The day before City Council is scheduled to discuss a bill that would prohibit cashless retail in New York City, a group of unbanked parents and their children plan to flood an Amazon bookstore, which does not accept cash.
As businesses in gentrifying areas around the city go cashless, including throughout parts of Brooklyn, Councilmember Ritchie Torres introduced a bill in November to prohibit cashless retail and restaurant transactions. Torres argues the cash-free policy is discriminatory toward low-income New Yorkers and those without documentation.
''The purpose of the bill is to educate people about the racism of a cashless business model,'' Torres said in a statement to the Brooklyn Eagle. ''It's deceptively benign. But what we have happening is the delegitimization of cash, and I worry about the ramifications of that.''
The legislation would impose penalties of no more than $250 on first violation and $500 for each after.
Before a Thursday hearing on the bill, Torres will join the Retail Action Project (RAP) on Wednesday alongside unbanked parents and children for a demonstration at an Amazon bookstore in Manhattan.
A child will attempt to buy a book about Martin Luther King Jr. with cash to see how the store responds, according to Chelsea Connor, a spokesperson for the project.
'' We're hoping to show that this is a real problem for real New Yorkers and that it does impact a large percentage of the population,'' Connor said. ''So in a bookstore, you're keeping knowledge away from a population that can use books like this to get ahead.''
Connor said the store will likely ask the child's parent to pay with a debit or credit card and then recommend buying an Amazon gift card from a Duane Reade nearby, based on experiences in the past.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the action and legislation.
Bank accounts with debit cards often come with fees or monthly minimums, making them more difficult for low-income residents to afford.
In Brooklyn, 12.7 percent of the population is unbanked, with the highest concentration in North and Central Brooklyn, according to RAP statistics.
There are also typically fewer banks per capita in parts of the city that predominantly house people of color, Connor said.
Businesses in Brooklyn have increasingly been going cashless, including locations of Dos Toros, a Bluestone Lane location in DUMBO and Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. Chains argue the cash-free policy improves service by speeding up the money exchange.
A Washington, D.C., City Council member introduced a bill in July that would prohibit cashless restaurants as well, while New Jersey recently advanced a ban on cashless food and retail businesses to go before the Senate, according to a RAP statement.
If made law, Torres's bill would give retailers 120 days to comply.
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SF could ban brick-and-mortar businesses from going cashless - by j_sabatini - February 12, 2019 - The San Francisco Examiner
In an effort to address inequity, San Francisco officials on Tuesday moved to prohibit cashless businesses.
Legislation introduced by Supervisor Vallie Brown would require that brick-and-mortar businesses citywide accept cash, not just credit cards and increasingly popular mobile payments. Other states and cities including New York, Chicago and Philadelphia are also considering similar legislation, while Massachusetts has had a cashless business ban on the books since 1978.Supporters of the cashless trend argue it saves time and money while combating theft. But Brown views the issue as a matter of equity for low-income residents who do not have banking services.
''A lot of cities are seeing more of it,'' Brown told the San Francisco Examiner. ''There are places here that only accept credit cards. I just feel that it's really targeting people that are unbanked.''
She continued, ''It just makes it hard for people that want to pay cash, like if you want to buy a cup of coffee or food. We need to be inclusive.''
Brown said that while there are a handful of businesses in San Francisco now that are cashless, she believes the practice will only increase.
Customers wait for their food at cashless restaurant Organic Coup in the Financial District on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Josie Holpp, manager at the Kearny Street branch of the restaurant Organic Coup, one of the businesses in San Francisco operating on a cashless model, said there are several benefits. ''It's for our safety,'' she said. She said the store has been broken into twice and if anyone comes in to demand cash ''we have nothing to give them.''She also said it also eliminates discrepancies in overcharging or undercharging customers.
Asked about the impacts on customers without banking she said, ''If they don't have banking then there's nothing we can do for them. It hasn't been a problem.''
While it ''hasn't been a problem'' in San Francisco, Holpp said their store location in Oakland started taking cash after receiving complaints about being cashless.
Holpp described Brown's proposal as ''not bad, but it's not good either,'' but said if it passes, ''we will abide by the law.''
Brown's legislation says that ''for many city residents (for example, those who are denied access to credit, or who are unable to obtain bank accounts), the ability to purchase goods and services depends on the ability to pay for those goods and services in cash. This is especially true of the very poor.'' It also notes that cashless businesses may have ''significant detrimental impacts'' on youth, homeless and immigrant populations.
The legislation also points to privacy issues: ''Physical cash remains the most accessible anonymous medium of exchange in this country.''
Amanda Kahn Fried, a spokeswoman for Treasurer Jos(C) Cisneros, said that ''local data on unbanked populations reveals that persistently high percentages of individuals in low-income and communities of color remain without access to the financial mainstream.''
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in a 2017 survey found that 4.8 percent of households were unbanked in SF-Oakland-Hayward, while across California unbanked households made up 7.4 percent of the population. That percentage is much higher for African-American households in California, 20.4 percent of whom are unbanked, and Latino households at 14.6 percent.
Repeated violations would constitute a misdemeanor and come with a fine of up to $1,000.
The legislation has already picked up enough support to pass, with supervisors Aaron Peskin, Hillary Ronen, Ahsha Safai, Rafael Mandelman, Sandra Fewer and Shamann Walton all co-sponsoring.The legislation excludes such businesses as food trucks, ride hails, temporary pop-up businesses and Amazon Go, which doesn't have check-out lines.
''They don't have the employees to take the cash,'' Brown said of Amazon Go. ''I would love to see them have employees, but they don't.''
A woman walks into the Amazon Go store at California and Battery streets on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
The New Jersey State Assembly approved by majority a bill that rejects discrimination against consumers who can only pay in cash at the stores and will ban cashless stores. The legislation would apply to brick-and-mortar retailers, excluding transactions made online, by telephone, or by mail.
The bill, A-591 / S-2785, approved on January 31 by a vote of 39-0 in the Senate and 71-2 in the House, is now in the office of Governor Phil Murphy who has the option of sign it to become law or veto the measure.
The bill that would go into effect as soon as it is signedby the Governor of New Jersey, says it would be an unlawful practice for a retailthat sells goods or services to require a buyer to pay using credit card or to prohibitcash as payment in order to purchase the goods or services. Retails shallaccept legal tender when offered by the buyer as payment, according to the bill.
The cashless store ban would impose steep penalties onretailers that violate it. Business could be subject to a civil penalty of upto $2,500 for a first offense and up to $5,000 for a second violation. Subsequentoffenses would be considered unlawful practices under the consumer fraud act,which can levy penalties of up to $20,000.
The bill exempt some business from the cash requirement. The ban not apply to retailers inside airports, parking facilities, and car rental companies.
Related Article: Grocery prices will continue to rise: how to mitigate the increases?
An increasing number of retailers are promoting cashlesspayments due to the increased efficiency and safety of transactions, meaningthere is less chance of being robbed due to holding no physical cash.
However, consumer advocates support the bill by ensuringthat businesses who refuse to accept cash from customers to pay for theirpurchases are discriminating against both low-income people or older customerswho do not have credit or debit cards.
''A lot of people forget that access to banks and lines of credit are luxuries not everyone has and the costs associated can often put them out of reach for many low-income families,'' State Senator Nellie Pou told NJ.com. .
New Jersey would become the second state in the country tohave this type of legislation. In 1978, Massachusetts was the first state topass a law banning cashless stores.
Philadelphia and New York City are also considering bans oncashless stores.
President Trump installed a room-sized golf simulator at White House - The Washington Post
President Trump swings a golf club during the White House Sports and Fitness Day on the South Lawn in May 2018. (Andrew Harnik/AP)President Trump has installed a room-sized ''golf simulator'' game at the White House, which allows him to play virtual rounds at courses all over the world by hitting a ball into a large video screen, according to two people told about the system.
That system replaced an older, less sophisticated simulator that had been installed under President Barack Obama, according to two people with knowledge of the previous system.
Trump's system cost about $50,000, and was put in during the last few weeks in a room in his personal quarters, a White House official said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the president's private residence, said that Trump had paid for the new system and the installation personally.
President Trump has built his schedules around long blocks of executive time '-- unstructured periods in the day with no official meetings. He often spends this time watching TV, tweeting, holding impromptu meetings and making phone calls, aides have said.
The news outlet Axios examined three months of Trump's schedules, and found that ''Executive Time'' accounted for 60 percent of his scheduled hours. Axios said that Trump usually did not leave his residence for the Oval Office until about 11 a.m.
Trump has responded that he uses the time productively. ''When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing,'' he tweeted shortly after the Axios report was released.
The White House official said that Trump has not used his new golf simulator during executive time '-- or at all since it was put in.
President Trump plays a round of golf at Trump Turnberry, in Scotland, during his first official visit to the United Kingdom in July 2018. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)Trump has played golf '-- the traditional kind, on an outdoor course '-- about 139 times as president, largely at his own golf clubs, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. There is no way to have an exact count because he usually does not acknowledge having played.
But this winter, as Trump's demand for a border wall triggered a month-long partial government shutdown, Trump stayed off the golf course for about 69 days, the longest such period of his presidency. Trump broke the streak on Feb. 2, playing with golf legends Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus at Trump's course in Jupiter, Fla.
Trump complained to friends during the shutdown that he missed Mar-a-Lago and being at his Florida course.
The White House has a long history of changes made to suit presidential hobbies. President Dwight D. Eisenhower put in a putting green. President Richard M. Nixon added a bowling alley. Obama turned an existing tennis court into a full basketball court and added his own golf simulator. One former aide to Obama called it ''fairly unsophisticated'' on Tuesday, but did not provide more details.
Trump '-- then a businessman and conservative celebrity '-- repeatedly criticized Obama for spending too much of his presidency playing golf. ''Can you believe that, with all of the problems and difficulties facing the U.S., President Obama spent the day playing golf?'' Trump wrote on Twitter in October 2014.
As president, however, Trump has played golf more often than Obama did; Obama played about 38 rounds a year, vs. about 70 per year for Trump. That's just the outdoor kind of golf: The Post could not obtain statistics on Obama's virtual play.
Trump owns 16 golf courses. Three of them '-- in Jupiter, in Sterling, Va. and in Turnberry, Scotland '-- own simulators made by the Danish company TrackMan Golf, according to the TrackMan website.
Officials at TrackMan did not respond to multiple requests for comment asking if the firm provided the White House's new system.
The TrackMan website offers some description of how Trump's system might work: The system sold by the company includes a faux-grass mat, which serves as the tee box and fairway. It has a large flexible screens onto which a virtual golf course is projected.
That system offers choices. Players can play on a digital copy of the famous St. Andrews course in Scotland or on fictional courses made up just for the game. One offers the chance to play nine holes among ''temples, volcanoes and dinosaur skeletons'' in a South American jungle.
Players then hit a real ball into the screen and sensors track the speed, spin and path of the ball. Then, the computer takes over. It transforms that real shot into a virtual one and shows the ball soaring over fairways (or dinosaur skeletons) toward the hole.
When the digital ball rolls to a stop, the player resets with a real ball and smacks it into the screen again.
''Feel the excitement of playing real golf on beautiful courses year round,'' the TrackMan website says. The system also allows players to analyze their own shots and practice without playing on a virtual course.
It says that a full setup, including the turf, screen and sensors, starts at $49,995.
How much time does it take to play a virtual round of 18 holes? About an hour if you're playing alone, according to the websites of indoor-golf businesses that rent out their TrackMan systems to visiting players. But the games can go longer: In a video posted on TrackMan's website, one customer says it takes 3 to 3½ hours if he plays with three friends.
Mutts Canine Cantina, the Dallas-based dog park, restaurant, and bar, is looking to open three locations in Austin. Specifically, it's targeting four potential areas: Round Rock, West Lake, Leander and Cedar Park, and central/downtown Austin. These new parks/bars will open within the next three years.
The expansion makes sense, since most of Austin is already very dog-friendly. ''We knew the Austin area would really embrace the concept of an upscale dog park with a cool cantina attached,'' said the Austin franchisees Darrell Landers, Laura Landers, and Lisa Ladewig in a statement.
The way Mutts works: people sign up for one of three membership plans (daily, monthly, or annual), which will gain them access to Mutts. Once there, dogs can run around and play in Mutts' dog park overseen by staffers while people eat and drink at the restaurant and bar.
Food-wise, there are general American dishes, like chicken sandwiches, burgers, fries, breakfast tacos, and a grilled cheese with crispy pickles. For drinks, there are frozen drinks, boozy and non-boozy milkshakes, wines, and beer.
Dogs can partake in canine-friendly fare: small hot dogs and frozen popsicles made with beef broth, peanut butter, and an edible bone.
The first Mutts opened in 2013 in Dallas by FreeRange Concepts founders Kyle Noonan and Josh Sepkowitz. They expanded with a Fort Worth location in 2018. They're also eying expansions in Arizona and Nevada.
Austin's first proper dog park/restaurant/bar Yard Bar opened in August 2015 up in Allandale. Relatedly, there's dog park and food truck Dog House Drinkery in Leander.
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The Marietta City Council has taken a preemptive step and banned the use of e-scooters, becoming the most recent jurisdiction in metro Atlanta to address an alternative method of transportation that's soaring in popularity.
Council members at their Feb. 13 meeting unanimously voted to enact an ordinance prohibiting companies from setting up and offering the use of so-called dockless devices. The ban does not prevent citizens from using their personal scooters to get from point A to point B, however.
The City Council approved its ordinance on the consent agenda, meaning it did not discuss the item before taking a vote. No one spoke in favor or against the proposal at Wednesday's meeting.
Along with banning companies from offering the service in Marietta, the ordinance also prohibits anyone from using or abandoning a scooter in the public right-of-way or on public property. Devices found within the city will be removed and impounded, and operators would be subject to fines outlined in the city's ordinances.
Mayor Steve Tumlin, who said the city is a ''natural target'' for e-scooter companies looking to set up shop within its boundaries, said he didn't believe e-scooters are compatible with the pedestrian-friendly vibe in areas such as the Marietta Square.
''Marietta has a good ambiance, (and is) a good walking city,'' he said. ''We had strong hints that they were considering (us), so we decided to lay the parameters down.''
Tumlin added that the city's square has quite a number of restaurants that utilize outdoor seating on sidewalks and, when you combine that with residents who push children in strollers, use wheelchairs or walk their pets, the addition of scooters would cause more congestion.
Two companies that offer e-scooters in metro Atlanta, Bird and Lime, weighed in on Marietta's ban. A Bird spokesperson said it hoped the Cobb County seat would have joined its counterparts around the world ''who are embracing e-scooters as a transportation option for residents.''
Bird went on to say that it works closely with local communities to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions that plague cities around the world.
''Bird is good for the environment and the economy,'' the company said in a prepared statement. ''We are proud that our affordable service helps individuals opt out of the car and onto a more sustainable option, all while providing income opportunities in the communities where we operate."
Nima Daivari, community affairs manager with Lime, added that company also collaborates with cities and their leaders to come up with the best plan that suits residents in the areas they want to serve.
While it said it was ''disappointed'' in Marietta's decision, Daivari added Lime hopes the city would follow in the footsteps of Atlanta and other communities that have embraced e-scooters as a safe and economical method of transportation.
''We look forward to collaborating with Marietta's leaders, residents and other key city stakeholders to design a unique micromobility plan for all people,'' Daivari added.
Marietta is the latest example of cities cracking down on scooters. In January, the Atlanta City Council enacted new rules that require companies to abide by regulations addressing placement, and mandating them to obtain business licenses to operate the scooters.
Last week, an Atlanta mother of five spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and advised users to be aware of potential malfunctioning parts before they hop on scooters to get around their neighborhoods.
READ: How Atlanta's scooter laws stack up versus other cities'
Grover launches e-scooter subscription service | TechCrunch
Grover, the Berlin-based startup that offers ''pay-as-you-go'' subscriptions to the latest consumer tech as an alternative to owning products outright, is going all-in on e-scooters or so-called micro-mobility. The latest to jump in on the e-scooter craze, the company is launching an e-scooter monthly subscription service in Germany.
Dubbed GroverGo, customers can rent the Xiaomi e-Scooter Mijia M365 for '¬49.90 per month and have access to a rental scooter of their own for a fraction of the cost of buying.
The idea '-- and thinking behind Grover as a whole '-- is that instead of purchasing an e-scooter outright (or in this instance, relying on using the sprawling number of pay-per-ride services), GroverGo customers can enjoy unlimited e-scooter rides without the up front costs or commitment of owning an e-scooter. A GroverGo rolling monthly subscription can be canceled at any time and includes Grover Care damage coverage.
The Xiaomi scooter goes up to 25 km/h, and can ride up to 30 km without recharging. It is also foldable and fairly lightweight, which Grover says makes it easy to travel with. The company also reckons that GroverGo makes sense for anyone who would ride 10 or more times per week.
''The biggest advantage of GroverGo versus pay-per-ride e-scooter services is the guaranteed availability and efficient use, as each scooter stays with its renter rather than hundreds of them clogging the sidewalks waiting to be picked up and recharged,'' says Grover, taking a dig at the likes of Lime and Bird. ''GroverGo customers make their scooter their own for the time of their subscription and know that it's always charged and at their disposal. Even in the most remote neighbourhoods, the scooter can be folded and taken to the office or a bar and will be there for the ride home''.
The tech subscription service is also confident e-scooters will become more useful, as German authorities make changes to how the devices are regulated. ''Thanks to a recently issued ordinance by the federal government, it is expected that Germany may will change its regulations and allow e-scooters on public streets soon,'' says Grover.
Meanwhile, Michael Cassau, CEO and founder of Grover, tells me he believes micro-mobility services the ''future of cities'' and that the Product-as-a-Service model that Grover is based on is particularly suited to the space. ''I am confident that our approach with GroverGo is smart and efficient, and will convince many to switch to e-mobility without the barriers and commitment of buying and financing, and without the hassle of shared e-scooter services,'' he adds.
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Pulse Shooting: No Civilians Were Shot By Law Enforcement : NPR
The question of friendly fire had plagued law enforcement since the June 2016 shooting left 49 dead during Latin Night at the predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images The question of friendly fire had plagued law enforcement since the June 2016 shooting left 49 dead during Latin Night at the predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET
The Florida state attorney's office has ended a six-month investigation into the Pulse nightclub shooting, concluding no civilians were shot by law enforcement.
The question of friendly fire has plagued law enforcement since the June 2016 shooting left 49 dead during Latin Night at the predominantly gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. The state attorney used the FBI's ballistics report, as well as witness accounts, video evidence and 911 calls.
Law enforcement opened fire five separate times during the standoff, which lasted more than three hours. In total, 14 officers fired more than 180 shots '-- but hit no civilians.
"As our city grieves the senseless tragedy of the Pulse nightclub shooting, I hope sharing the results of this investigation help the survivors and loved ones find some closure," State Attorney Aramis Ayala said in a news release.
All 14 officers have received clearance letters from the state attorney that the shooting was reasonable and justified. Eleven of the officers were with the Orlando Police Department, and three were members of the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
"At this point, if there were something that were criminal we would proceed," Ayala told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. "There was absolutely nothing criminal on the conduct of anyone, so there is no criminal prosecution that will proceed. It is the end of the line for us."
Orange County Sheriff John Mina '-- formerly the Orlando Police Department's chief '-- said an announcement like this could bring back emotional trauma for first responders.
"Reviews of these incidents sometimes bring back those feelings," he said, offering services including an employee assistance program and the organization UCF Restores.
UCF Restores is a government-funded clinic for veterans and first responders with post-traumatic stress disorder. An investigation last year by WMFE and ProPublica found multiple first responders to the Pulse nightclub shooting struggling with PTSD years after the event. That includes several who were fired or forced to stop working because of PTSD.
As WMFE also reported, an earlier report from the Justice Department and the Police Foundation found that the Orlando Police Department followed appropriate protocols but there was a need for better communication. Many perimeter officers were caught off guard and unprepared to help survivors rescued by the SWAT team.
China on gold-buying spree amid global push to end US dollar dominance '-- RT Business News
Beijing has joined the global gold rush, increasing its gold reserves for two months in a row to 59.94 million ounces. China has long been silent on its holdings of gold as many countries are turning away from the greenback.
China's national gold reserves rose by 0.38 million ounces (nearly 12 tons) at the end of January from 59.56 million ounces at the end of December 2018, according to data released by the People's Bank of China on Monday. The value the country's holdings of the precious metal reached US$79.319 billion, increasing by more than $3 billion compared to the end of last year.
Before December, the Chinese central bank had not reported an increase in gold reserves for more than two years, and the official figures remained unchanged from October 2016 to November 2018, standing at 59.24 million ounces.
Also on rt.com Dump dollar for gold: Russia mulls eliminating gold tax to boost investment at greenback's expense Gold prices surged following the news, with futures climbing to $1,315.20 per ounce on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, China's foreign exchange reserves rose by $15.2 billion in January to $3.088 trillion. That is nearly $6 billion more than economists polled by Reuters expected. The surge came as the yuan hit its highest level against the US dollar in over six months, driven by hopes for progress in US-China trade talks.
The amount of gold added by global central banks to their coffers in 2018 hit the second highest annual amount on record, according to World Gold Council (WGC) estimates. Countries bought 651.5 metric tons last year, and now hold nearly 34,000 tons. Russia led the gold purchases as it seeks to reduce its reliance on the US dollar, followed by other big buyers like Turkey, Kazakhstan, India, Iraq, Poland, and Hungary.
Also on rt.com Russia leads global gold purchases to reduce reliance on US dollar China is also trying ''to diversify its reserves'' away from the greenback, according to Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at currency broker OANDA. The analyst told the South China Morning Post that the state of affairs in global politics, including a trade war with the US, are driving China's interest to buy gold as a ''safe haven hedge.''
In January, China dropped to sixth place among the world's largest holders of the yellow metal behind Russia. With its 67.6 million ounces of gold, Russia now stands in fifth place behind the US, Germany, France, and Italy.
For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section
Salvini Proposes Seizing Control Of Italy's Gold Reserves From Central Bank | Zero Hedge
Italy's populist de facto leader Matteo Salvini seems set on shaking Europe's financial establishment to the core.
One day after the Italian deputy prime minister and leader of the League party, called for the elimination of Italy's central bank and the country's financial regulator, Consob, saying the two institutions should be "reduced to zero, more than changing one or two people, reduced to zero", or in other words eliminated, and that ''fraudsters'' who inflicted losses on Italian savers should "end up in prison for a long time", Salvini prompted fresh shocked gasps in Brussels and Frankfurt when he raised the possibility of seizing Italy's massive gold reserves away from the country's central bank.
"The gold is the property of the Italian people, not of anyone else," Salvini said in comments to reporters on Monday, according to the FT.
The controversial comments, which were seen as threatening the "independence" of the Italian central bank, whose one-time head was none other than Mario Draghi, prompted Giovanni Tria, Italy's economy minister, to defend the independence of the central bank.
Earlier in the day, Italy's populists called on lawmakers to pass legislation stating that its gold holdings belong to the state, Bloomberg reported.
The gold ownership bill presented by euroskeptic lawmaker Claudio Borghi of the League adds to an already tense relationship between the Bank of Italy and the coalition government. It's also sparked criticism from opposition politicians, and some national media argue that it may allow the government to raid the gold reserves to fund spending promises.
Borghi has rejected the accusation and said he'll ensure Parliament has ultimate power. His concern is that ambiguity of ownership means that a victorious legal action against the central bank -- for inadequate supervision, for example -- leaves open the possibility of a claimant getting compensation in gold.
''My bill only aims at making clear that the gold belongs to the state, not to the government,'' he said in a telephone interview on Monday. ''If there are doubts on our intentions, we can also pass another law saying none of the gold reserves can be sold unless there is a majority of two thirds or more of both houses of Parliament.''
According to Bloomberg, Borghi's bill, being examined by the Lower House's Finance Committee, calls for an explicit interpretation of legislation that the institute ''holds and manages as deposits'' the gold, while the state has ownership.
* * *
So why is Salvini seeking to seize the gold and use it "on behalf of the Italian people"? While there was no clear cut answer, the Italian media reported that the coalition government of Salvini's anti-migration League and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, may be considering using part of the central bank's gold to fund their spending plans.
Salvini countered that while he had not studied the notion of selling Bank of Italy reserves to fund additional government spending in detail, he conceded that "it may be an interesting idea."
Meanwhile, the close economic adviser of Salvini and Eurosceptic League member of parliament, Claudio Borghi, has proposed a law to ensure that the Italian state was recognised as the ultimate owner of Italy's gold reserves rather than the Bank of Italy.
''Nobody wants to sell the ingots, in fact, quite the opposite, we want to prevent others from having their hands on it,'' Mr Borghi wrote on Twitter after Mr Salvini's comments according to the FT.
The idea to liquidate Italy's gold in order to fund higher state spending appears to have emerged from Beppe Grillo, the co-founder of Five Star, who last September wrote that "It would allow us to finally put an end to this annoying story about the fact that 'there is no money'", adding "why do citizens have to sell their necklaces and not the state?''
If Salvini is indeed serious to monetize its gold, it would bring in a healthy chunk of change for Italy's populist leadership: the Bank of Italy has the third-largest central bank holding of gold reserves in the world after the US and Germany, owning 2,452 tonnes according to the World Gold Council, which at today's prices would amount to just over $103 billion.
Of course, even that amount pales in comparison with Italy's total debt load of '¬2.35 trillion, which would suggest that if Salvini is indeed focused on tearing up the legacy constraints of his country with some financial establishment, the next step would be declaring the country's sovereign debt "odious" or null and void, followed ultimately by the Italeave, and the the return of the Italian lira.
Beginning in 2010, central banks around the world turned from being net sellers of gold to net buyers of gold. Last year they collectively added 483 tonnes'--the second largest annual total since the end of the gold standard'--with Russia and China accounting for most of the activity. The second half of 2015 saw the most robust purchasing on record, according to the World Gold Council (WGC).
Not every top bank is a net buyer. The Bank of Canada has liquidated close to all of its gold, mainly in coin sales, while Venezuela is in the process of doing the same to pay off its debts, but most of the world's central banks right now are accumulating, holding and/or repatriating the precious metal. As of this month, they reportedly owned 32,754 tonnes, or about 17.8 percent of the total amount of gold ever mined, according to the WGC.
It's worth noting that this global gold-buying spree coincides perfectly with the rise of unconventional monetary policies following the financial crisis'--massive bond-buying programs, rapid money-printing schemes and near-zero or, in some cases, negative interest rates. The jury's still out on whether these measures have been a success or not, but for now, it appears as if banks are hedging against their own policies. Investors would be wise to do the same. Confidence in central banks' ability to stem further economic deterioration continues to deflate.
Below are the top 10 countries with the largest gold holdings, beginning with India.
10. IndiaTonnes: 557.7
Percent of foreign reserves: 6.3 percent
It's no surprise that the Bank of India has one of the largest stores of gold in the world. The South Asian country, home to 1.25 billion people, is the number one or number two largest consumer of the precious metal, depending on who you ask, and is one of the most reliable drivers of global demand. India's festival and wedding season, which runs from October to December, has historically been a huge boon to gold's Love Trade.
9. NetherlandsTonnes: 612.5
Percent of foreign reserves: 61.2 percent
The Dutch Central Bank is currently seeking a suitable place to store its gold while it renovates its vaults. As many others have pointed out, this seems odd, given that the bank fairly recently repatriated a large amount of its gold from the U.S.
8. JapanTonnes: 765.2
Percent of foreign reserves: 2.4 percent
Japan, the world's third largest economy, is also the eighth largest hoarder of the yellow metal. Its central bank has been one of the most aggressive practitioners of quantitative easing'--in January, it lowered interest rates below zero'--which has helped fuel demand in gold around the world.
7. SwitzerlandTonnes: 1,040
Percent of foreign reserves: 6.7 percent
In seventh place is Switzerland, which actually has the world's largest reserves of gold per capita. During World War II, the neutral country became the center of the gold trade in Europe, making transactions with both the Allies and Axis powers. Today, much of its gold trading is done with Hong Kong and China. Just last quarter, the Swiss National Bank posted a $5.9 billion profit, largely a result of its sizable gold holdings.
6. RussiaTonnes: 1,460.4
Percent of foreign reserves: 15 percent
Russia has steadily been rebuilding its gold reserves in the last several years. In 2015, it was the top buyer, adding a record 206 tonnes in its effort to diversify away from the U.S. dollar, as its relationship with the West has grown chilly since the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in mid-2014. To raise the cash for these purchases, Russia sold a huge percentage of its U.S. Treasuries.
5. ChinaTonnes: 1,797.5
Percent of foreign reserves: 2.2 percent
In the summer of 2015, the People's Bank of China began sharing its gold purchasing activity on a monthly basis for the first time since 2009. In December, the renminbi joined the dollar, euro, yen and pound as one of the International Monetary Fund's reserve currencies, an expected move that required the Asian country to beef up its gold holdings. (The precious metal represents only 2.2 percent of its foreign reserves, so it's probably safe to expect more heavy buying going forward.) And in April, China, the world's largest gold producer, introduced a new renminbi-denominated gold fix in its quest for greater pricing power.
4. FranceTonnes: 2,435.7
Percent of foreign reserves: 62.9 percent
France's central bank has sold little of its gold over the past several years, and there are calls to halt it altogether. Marine Le Pen, president of the country's far-right National Front party, has led the charge not only to put a freeze on selling the nation's gold but also to repatriate the entire amount from foreign vaults.
3. ItalyTonnes: 2,451.8
Percent of foreign reserves: 68 percent
Italy has likewise maintained the size of its reserves over the years, and it has support from European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi. The former Bank of Italy governor, when asked by a reporter in 2013 what role gold plays in a central banks portfolio, answered that the metal was "a reserve of safety," adding, it gives you a fairly good protection against fluctuations against the dollar.
2. GermanyTonnes: 3,381
Percent of foreign reserves: 68.9 percent
Like the Netherlands, Germany is in the process of repatriating its gold from foreign storage locations, including New York and Paris. Last year, the country's Bundesbank transferred 210 tonnes, and it plans to have the full 3,381 tonnes in-country by 2020.
1. United StatesTonnes: 8,133.5
Percent of foreign reserves: 74.9 percent
With the largest holding in the world, the U.S. lays claim to nearly as much gold as the next three countries combined. It also has one of the highest gold allocations as a percentage of its foreign reserves, second only to Tajikistan, where the metal accounts for more than 88 percent. Donald Trump made headlines recently, claiming ''we do not have the gold,'' but from what we know, the majority of U.S. gold is held at Fort Knox in Kentucky, with the remainder held at the Philadelphia Mint, Denver Mint, San Francisco Assay Office and West Point Bullion Depository.
VIDEO - Bill & Melinda Gates Talk Taxing The Wealthy - YouTube
Follow CBSPHILLY Facebook | TwitterPHILADELPHIA (CBS) '' As more and more people opt to pay with plastic, the use of cash as the standard payment option is shrinking. And, in turn, many businesses are going cashless. But, a recently introduced bill in Philadelphia could ban cashless stores in the city.
The council member who introduced this bill says it's all about being fair and in the poorest major city, multiple businesses do not accept cash.
But, if this proposed bill passes, businesses that do not accept cash will be hit with a $2,000 fine.
''Regular commercial establishments have to accept cash as a form of payment,'' said Bill Greenlee, Councilman At Large.
In a world full of technology, some Philadelphia businesses are no longer willing to accept cash '' like sweetgreen.
If you'd like a healthier option, you better have a bank account.
Something Councilman Bill Greenlee says isn't fair.
Philadelphians Respond To Best, Worst Super Bowl Commercials
''You don't have a credit card, well you can go to 7-Eleven,'' said Councilman Greenlee. ''With all due respect to 7-Eleven, that salad might have been sitting there for two days in a carton but that's OK for you because they'll accept cash, but we don't. If it's not discrimination, its elitism and government has a lace to get involved in it.''
Councilman Greenlee introduced a bill that would make it illegal for commercial businesses to not accept cash.
That bill will be considered by a Philadelphia City Council Committee on Tuesday morning.
Those who frequent businesses that do not accept cash weren't phased by the proposed bill.
''To me, I like the in and out fastness, so I prefer the app or a credit card,'' said Monica Didonato, a sweetgreen customer.
''One time I came with cash and didn't have a credit card and they gave me the salad for free so they were kind enough to let me know next time to just being my credit card,'' said Maggie Hammond, another customer.
Though most customers weren't phased, they agreed people should have the option.
''If that's how somebody wants to pay and they want to pay in cash, I think they should be able to,'' said Matt Troutman.
''I definitely understand why people would be upset that they can't come in and use cash,'' said Hammond. ''Most of the time I am a cash person but for things like this, quick and easy, in and out, I usually use the app or a credit card.''
Kimberly Davis Comments
VIDEO - Don Lemon and April Ryan argue over Kamala Harris "blackness" - YouTube
Washington (CNN) Rep. Ilhan Omar on Wednesday rejected President Donald Trump's call for her to resign after she suggested US support of Israel is motivated by money, charging that the President is hypocritical given his history of race-baiting statements.
"You have trafficked in hate your whole life'--against Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, immigrants, black people and more. I learned from people impacted by my words. When will you?" Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, wrote in a tweet.
Omar apologized on Monday after she ignited a firestorm with her tweets suggesting US support of Israel is motivated by money. The messages -- she suggested support of Israel is driven specifically by donations from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a prominent pro-Israel lobby group -- were condemned by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle as anti-Semitic.
On Tuesday, Trump called on her to resign, saying during a Cabinet meeting that "anti-Semitism has no place in the United States Congress."
"And Congressman Omar is terrible, what she said. And I think she should either resign from Congress or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee," he said.
Omar has been critical of the Israeli government over its treatment of Palestinians and has supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement -- a nonviolent activist campaign that aims to put economic and political pressure on Israel over its actions toward Palestinians, including calling for an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Critics -- both Democratic and Republican -- said Omar's tweets evoked anti-Semitic tropes. House Democratic leadership called on her to apologize, and the freshman congresswoman then released a statement where she "unequivocally" apologized.
Omar's statement reads, "Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole. We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me for my identity. This is why I unequivocally apologize."
"At the same time," Omar continued, "I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry. It's gone on too long and we must be willing to address it."
Trump said at the Cabinet meeting, "What (Omar) said is so deep seated in her heart that her lame apology -- and that's what it was, it was lame and she didn't mean a word of it -- was just not appropriate. I think she should resign from Congress, frankly. But at a minimum she shouldn't be on committees -- certainly that committee."
The criticism from the President comes weeks after he was noticeably silent on the controversy surrounding Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa, when King made comments to The New York Times that appeared sympathetic to white supremacists.
"White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization -- how did that language become offensive?" King asked the Times. Top Republicans sharply rebuked King, but the President did not, saying he hadn't been following the news surrounding King.
Trump himself has been accused of anti-Semitism more than once.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump tweeted an image critical of Hillary Clinton that critics said evoked anti-Semitic imagery -- featuring a six-pointed star, a pile of cash and the words "most corrupt candidate ever." The image had been posted to an anti-Semitic, white supremacist message board 10 days earlier. Trump rejected the Clinton campaign's accusations that his tweet was anti-Semitic and said the star represented a sheriff's badge.
He also faced criticism in December 2015 when he spoke to the Republican Jewish Coalition and repeatedly called the individuals in the room "negotiators" and said, "You're not gonna support me because I don't want your money. You want to control your politicians, that's fine. Five months ago I was with you. I do want your support but I don't want your money."
In 2017, Trump memorably blamed "both sides" after a woman was killed in Charlottesville, Virginia, demonstrating against a right-wing rally that included neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The President equated the white supremacists on one side with the "alt-left," as he described it, on the other side.
CNN's Sunlen Serfaty contributed to this report.
VIDEO - 'NO' MEANS 'YES': Ilhan Omar Gets Nasty With Former Reagan Official | Daily Wire
Anti-Semitic Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) exploded at former Reagan administration official Elliott Abrams during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday as she called him by the wrong name and refused to accept one of his answers.
"Abrams testified in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the U.S. response to the crisis in Venezuela, which has collapsed under far-left policies that have decimated its economy and caused hyperinflation, starvation and medical shortages," The Washington Free Beacon reported. "The Trump administration is supporting Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido and said authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro must step down and leave the country."
"Mr. Adams, in 1991 you pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress regarding your involvement in the Iran-contra affair for which you were later pardoned by President George HW Bush," Omar said. "I fail to understand why members of this committee or the American people should find any testimony that you give today to be truthful."
"If I can respond to that," Abrams responded.
"Ah, em, it wasn't a question," Omar fired back.
Abrams again tried to respond and Omar rudely cut him off.
"That was not that was not a question," Omar yelled. "That was, I, I reserve the right to my time."
"It is not right that members of the committee can attack a witness who is not permitted to reply," Abrams said.
"That was not a question, thank you for your participation," Omar arrogantly said.
Omar later asked Abrams if a foreign massacre was a "fabulous achievement" and refused to accept his answer.
"Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?" Omar asked.
"That is a ridiculous question," Abrams responded.
"Yes or no?" Omar yelled.
"No!" Abrams fired back.
"I will take that as a 'yes,'" Omar shockingly responded.
Omar, who has been so controversy-laden that President Donald Trump called on her to resign on Tuesday, was again widely condemned for her behavior during the hearing.
"In recent days, the world has witnessed the support the U.S. has offered the Venezuelan people with the ultimate goal of restoring democracy in their country," RNC director and spokesperson of Hispanic Media, Yali Nunez, said. "For Rep. Ilhan Omar to attack the character of U.S Special Envoy to Venezuela, Mr. Elliott Abrams, a public servant and patriot is just simply un-American. In less than a week, she has managed to offend both the Jewish and Hispanic communities in the U.S."
"This woman is an embarrassment to Africa and Islam," Africa and Middle East public policy and security expert Mr. Aye Dee tweeted. "It is a pity that the people of MN elected such a person to Congress..."
"I hate that I'm even commenting about this person but it's hard not to," Obianuju Ekeocha tweeted. "This girl is the worst version of Africa. The very worst of us. Rude, crude and a bully..."
I hate that I'm even commenting about this person but it's hard not to. This girl is the worst version of Africa. The very worst of us. Rude, crude and a bully... https://t.co/c0doSTtv7H
'-- Obianuju Ekeocha (@obianuju) February 13, 2019"Congratulations @EllisonCampaign and the 5th District of Minnesota!" President of American Islamic Forum for Democracy, M. Zuhdi Jasser, tweeted. "You have given birth to a corrupt Islamist pedestrian hack who can barely pronounce @OIC_OCI tyrannical pablum about an American patriot @Elliott_Abrams. Shame on every constituent that voted for @IlhanMN"
VIDEO - Feminist speaks out against trans movement - YouTube
VIDEO - Klara Sj¶berg on Twitter: "So, I just found a YouTube channel geared at teaching pre-school kids about privilege, activism, drag queens, queerness and.. for some reason, Islam too. I'm not kidding, here's a small sample.'... https://t.co/5SrEMblbA
VIDEO - BreakingBrown (Yvette Carnell) on Twitter: "'' Jamaica is not America'' '-- Don Lemon. And the IDEA that #ADOS are a specific group, with a specific justice claim, a claim that Kamala Harris cannot claim, caused April Ryan to come undone. She'
Reddit is blocked in China, but that isn't stopping one of the country's largest technology firms, Tencent from making a massive investment to help keep the ''Internet's front page,'' moving full speed ahead.
Reddit is said to be raising between $150 million and $300 million as part of a Series D fundraising round led by Tencent. The round is being raised at a pre-money valuation of $2.7 billion, and depending on how much Reddit raises, could push the company past a $3 billion valuation, according to TechCrunch, which first reported news of the fundraising round.
Reddit users were quick to point out the irony of Tencent and Reddit joining forces.
Meanwhile, others warned that all social media is one big ''surveillance engine.''
The money is pocket change for Tencent, which has a market value of $427 billion. While it may seem ironic that one of China's most beloved companies is investing in a site that is blocked in the country, it's not the first time Tencent has invested in American social media. The company also owns a stake in Snapchat, another service that is blocked by China's Great Firewall.
Reddit has 330 million monthly users and more than 150,000 active Subreddits, the areas where people gather to talk about niche topics, where people congregate around the good, the bad, and the ugly on the internet.
Reddit declined to comment on the fundraising round, however one user had a humble request for how the company might use a future windfall.
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Feb. 12, 2019, 3:21 PM GMT
By Ken Dilanian
WASHINGTON '-- After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
But investigators disagree along party lines when it comes to the implications of a pattern of contacts they have documented between Trump associates and Russians '-- contacts that occurred before, during and after Russian intelligence operatives were seeking to help Donald Trump by leaking hacked Democratic emails and attacking his opponent, Hillary Clinton, on social media.
"If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia," said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an interview with CBS News last week.
Burr was careful to note that more facts may yet be uncovered, but he also made clear that the investigation was nearing an end.
"We know we're getting to the bottom of the barrel because there're not new questions that we're searching for answers to," Burr said.
Democratic Senate investigators who spoke to NBC News on condition of anonymity did not dispute Burr's characterizations, but said they lacked context.
"We were never going to find a contract signed in blood saying, 'Hey Vlad, we're going to collude,'" one Democratic aide said.
The series of contacts between Trump's associates, his campaign officials, his children and various Russians suggest a campaign willing to accept help from a foreign adversary, the Democrats say.
By many counts, Trump and his associates had more than 100 contacts with Russians before the January 2017 presidential inauguration.
"Donald Trump Jr. made clear in his messages that he was willing to accept help from the Russians," one Democratic Senate investigator said. "Trump publicly urged the Russians to find Clinton's missing emails."
Those facts are beyond dispute. But they also have been known for some time '-- and have not seemed to change Trump's political standing.
Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.
House Republicans announced last year they had found no evidence of collusion, but their report came under immediate criticism as a highly partisan product that excluded Democrats. Now in power, House Democrats recently announced an expanded probe that will go beyond the 2016 election to examine whether any foreign government has undue financial influence on Trump or his family. And New York federal prosecutors are pursuing their own criminal inquiry related to hush-money payments to women. The investigations into Donald Trump, therefore, are far from over.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has been conducting the sole bipartisan inquiry, led by Burr and ranking Democrat Mark Warner of Virginia. The committee has sifted through some 300,000 documents, investigators tell NBC News, including classified intelligence shedding light on how the Russians communicated about their covert operation to interfere in the 2016 election.
U.S. intelligence agencies assess that the operation began as an effort to sow chaos and morphed into a plan to help Trump win. It included the hacking and leaking of embarrassing Democratic emails and the use of bots, trolls and fake accounts on social media to boost Trump, criticize Democrat Hillary Clinton and exacerbate political differences.
Predictably, Burr's comments led Trump to tweet that he had been fully vindicated, which is not the case.
"Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA!" Trump tweeted Sunday. "Is anybody really surprised by this?"
Democratic Senate investigators say it may take them six or seven months to write their final report once they are done with witness interviews. They say they have uncovered facts yet to be made public, and that they hope to make Americans more fully aware of the extent to which the Russians manipulated the U.S. presidential election with the help of some Trump officials, witting or unwitting.
Senator Richard Burr, The Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, just announced that after almost two years, more than two hundred interviews, and thousands of documents, they have found NO COLLUSION BETWEEN TRUMP AND RUSSIA! Is anybody really surprised by this?
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 10, 2019The report, Democrats say, will not be good for Trump.
But they also made clear they haven't found proof of their worst fear: That the president formed a corrupt pact with Russia to offer sanctions relief or other favorable treatment in return for Russian help in the election.
After it recently emerged in court documents that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort shared campaign polling data with a man the FBI says is linked to Russian intelligence, Warner called that the most persuasive evidence yet of coordination.
"This appears as the closest we've seen yet to real, live, actual collusion," he said on CNN.
No evidence has emerged, however, linking the transfer of polling data to Trump. Also unclear in court documents is Manafort's motive for sharing the information. Facing more than a decade in prison for bank and tax fraud, he has not been accused by Mueller of any crimes related to the 2016 election.
Burr, in the CBS interview, said the motivations behind the Trump campaign's interactions with Russians were in some cases impossible to discern.
"There's an awful lot of connections of all these people," he said. "They may not be connections that are tied to 2016 elections in the United States, but just the sheer fact that they have a relationship '-- it may be business. It may be Russian intelligence. It may be they're all on the payroll of Oleg Deripaska," he added, referring to a Russian oligarch tied to Putin who had business dealings with Manafort.
The final Senate report may not reach a conclusion on whether the contacts added up to collusion or coordination with Russia, Burr said.
Democrats told NBC News that's a distinct possibility.
"What I'm telling you is that I'm going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people," Burr told CBS. "And you'll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that's collusion."
Ken Dilanian Ken Dilanian is a national security reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
VIDEO - Ryan Saavedra on Twitter: "The Trump campaign played Trump's rally on the big screen behind Beto O'Rourke as O'Rourke gave his speech In this clip, you can see Trump coming out on stage to give his speech'... https://t.co/4IpAmQZPPA"
Cabot Phillips Media Director @cabot_phillips Today at 8:03 AM EDT Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has released the contents of her "Green New Deal."Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips traveled to the University of Miami to find out what students thought of it.Most students loved the Green New Deal...until finding out what's in it.Last week, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unveiled her long-awaited ''Green New Deal," a plan aimed at drastically reducing carbon emissions in the next ten years.
The plan has already received the endorsements of Democrat presidential candidates, like Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris but, for others, it has turned heads for its drastic approach to fighting climate change. Among the proposals initially listed in the plan were moving away completely from oil, coal, and natural gas within ten years, creating a high-speed rail system to help eliminate air travel, and renovating every home in America.
''sometimes you need to take extreme measures to save the environment, but I think this is too extreme."
But perhaps the most controversial point of all was a plan to provide ''economic security'' for those ''unwilling to work.''
[RELATED: 'Socialism is the largest threat facing the future of our country' (VIDEO)]
Ocasio-Cortez has since removed the document from her website that included such language as eliminating air travel or providing help to those "unwilling to work," but archived data shows the initial post did, in fact, make such a statement. Ocasio-Cortez's chief of staff said this was merely a draft and that it was published by accident.
Since its unveiling, the plan has garnered noticeable support from young Americans on social media.
Wanting to know if the same people who support the New Green Deal would still support it after hearing what was actually in it, Campus Reform's Cabot Phillips headed to the University of Miami to find out.
First, asking their original perception of the plan, students made clear that they were on board.
''I like that it's progressive, that it's gonna push the world forward,'' one student said, while another added, ''just from knowing who's endorsed it and some other little things, it sounds great.''
[RELATED: VIDEO: Venezuelan socialism victims send message to American socialists]
One student had a more serious view of the plan, saying, ''if we didn't do that, we're going to be killing ourselves.''
''I view it favorably,'' another said, while one more added, ''it's definitely a great idea.''
However, after walking through the contents of the Green New Deal, their tune quickly shifted.
''It doesn't sound like something I would be behind,'' one student admitted after hearing the details of the plan. Another added, ''sometimes you need to take extreme measures to save the environment, but I think this is too extreme."
''I think that's drastic...'' the next student conceded.
Want to see what else they had to say? Watch the full video:
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Cabot_Phillips
VIDEO - Dem Rep: Impeach Trump for Virginia blackface scandals - The American MirrorThe American Mirror
President Trump is to blame for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring wearing blackface in the 1980s, says one member of Congress.
Texas Congressman Al Green says the scandals that have engulfed the southern state are ''a symptom'' of Trumps' influence on the country.
When we allow bigotry to infect the body politic with impunity at the highest level, other levels will expect impunity for their bigotry. Gov. Northam's refusal to resign for his bigotry is a symptom. Failure to act on Pres. Trump's bigotry is the problem. #ImpeachmentIsNotDead
'-- Congressman Al Green (@RepAlGreen) February 7, 2019
''When we allow bigotry to infect the body politic with impunity at the highest level, other levels will expect impunity for their bigotry,'' Green tweeted this week.
''Gov. Northam's refusal to resign for his bigotry is a symptom. Failure to act on Pres. Trump's bigotry is the problem,'' he added, ending with the hashtag ''ImpeachmentIsNotDead.''
Green did not provide any evidence for his accusation of bigotry by Trump.
While some Democrats are waiting for the Mueller report before making an impeachment push, Green simply doesn't care.
During remarks on the House floor on Thursday, the Texas congressman said he was taking a stand against ''bigotry and hatred.''
.@RepAlGreen: "There will be a vote on impeachment regardless as to what the Mueller Commission says." pic.twitter.com/07Nk0YxTHZ
'-- CSPAN (@cspan) February 7, 2019
He said the ''refusal'' of Northam to resign is at ''the presidential level.''
Green said he understands ''why this level bigotry is going to be tolerated to a certain extent, because we don't want to take on the president.''
He said we need to ''impeach bigotry from policy emanating from the presidency.''
Green added, ''We have a moral imperative to do so.''
He bellowed that he's had enough after ''400 years'' of ''bigotry and hatred and slavery and all of these other uglinesses.''
''We've had 400 years to deal with it and we haven't,'' Green said, despite America existing for only 242 years.
Green went on to demand an impeachment vote, despite lacking any evidence of ''high crimes and misdemeanors'' called for in the Constitution.
''There will be a vote on impeachment regardless as to what the Mueller Commission says,'' he concluded, ''Bigotry in policy will not be tolerated.''
Green was then admonished by the Chair for ''engaging in personalities towards the President.''
Gizmodo's Kashmir Hill tried to disconnect from all Amazon products, including smart speakers, as part of a bigger experiment in living without the major tech players. Jeff Chiu/AP hide caption
toggle caption Jeff Chiu/AP Gizmodo's Kashmir Hill tried to disconnect from all Amazon products, including smart speakers, as part of a bigger experiment in living without the major tech players.
Jeff Chiu/AP Kashmir Hill wanted Amazon out of her life, completely.
It was the first week of a six-week experiment in living without tech giants. She had a virtual private network, or VPN, that would keep her devices walled off from any Amazon product. She would avoid Whole Foods and power down her Kindles.
But she had a problem. A small, chipper problem.
She couldn't connect her Amazon Echo to the VPN. But if she just unplugged the smart speaker, someone, like her husband, might forget and plug it back in.
Then a colleague suggested that she hide it. Say, in a drawer.
Hill was so used to Alexa's constant presence, the convenient timers and music on demand, that she hadn't even considered putting the device away.
"We've only had it for two years, and it already has the level of prominence where I couldn't have imagined just taking it off the counter," she told NPR's Weekend Edition. "I just can't believe that, especially since I'm a privacy reporter."
People will say, if you don't like the company, just stop using their products. I wanted to find out if that was possible.
Hill, a reporter and editor at Gizmodo, has tackled extreme tech experiments before, like living in a smart home and spending only Bitcoin for a week.
Last fall, she decided to try cutting off Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple '-- each for a week, and then all at once. She wrote about her attempt for Gizmodo.
The experiment was inspired, she said, by the condemnations of tech behemoths. Critics say the companies are monetizing our attention, mishandling our data and profiting from our children. They've concentrated too much economic power. They're shaping our society in ways we don't fully understand yet.
"People will say, if you don't like the company, just stop using their products," Hill said. "I wanted to find out if that was possible, and, spoiler, it's not possible."
Beyond a surface level boycott, like deleting her Facebook account, Hill tried to sever any ties that usually funnel her data, money and attention to the five companies. Each publishes a list of IP addresses they control, so technologist Dhruv Mehrotra built her a VPN that essentially blacklisted those addresses.
Armed with that VPN and unmitigated determination, Hill put Alexa in a drawer and started her Amazon week. And it was as though a vast tract of the web blinked out.
"When I started pulling stats about Amazon, I was shocked," she said. The company reportedly controls nearly half of all online commerce. But the company's most profitable business is Amazon Web Services, or AWS, its cloud-computing arm that hosts apps and websites.
"They basically control kind of the backbone of Internet infrastructure," she said. "They're not just shipping packages out all over America. They're also shipping a ton of data to people's computers."
Netflix, HBO Go and AirBnB are among the many websites hosted by AWS, and therefore were off-limits to Hill during her Amazon week (though she would have been free to browse NPR.org). Work tools were also forbidden: AWS hosts Gizmodo's website, as well as the messaging platform Slack. At one point, her daughter cried over the digital entertainment blockade.
I would grab my iPhone and just start scrolling. It's how I started the day, every day.
Other companies presented unexpected challenges. Blocking Google meant she couldn't use Lyft or Uber, which rely on Google Maps. Going into any given coffee shop put her at risk of coming into contact with Microsoft, if the shop used Windows to operate its payment system. Cutting off Facebook left her feeling strangely isolated, pining for connection even at the cost of pervasive data surveillance.
And there were slip-ups, like when she ordered an item off eBay instead of Amazon, only to have it show up at her door in an instantly recognizable package. The seller had used Amazon to fulfill the order.
"The big thing I learned is that it's not possible to navigate the modern world without coming into contact with these companies," she said. "It made me certainly sympathetic to some of the critics who are saying these companies are too dominant in their spaces."
The exception? Apple. Hill says when she gave up her iPhone and stepped out of Apple's "walled garden," she had no trouble staying away from the company '-- and it wasn't collecting data on her.
But giving up her iPhone posed another challenge when she tried to block all five companies at once in the experiment's final week.
"Google and Apple have a duopoly on the smartphone market," she said. "So when I went out trying to find a smartphone that was not made or touched by either tech giant, it wasn't possible."
After searching in vain, she settled on a "dumb phone." She chose the Nokia 3310, an orange brick with T9 texting that has spawned countless memes '-- and perhaps even ensured its own continued existence '-- by being essentially indestructible.
"I went back to the '90s!" Hill said, laughing. "This experiment was a time machine."
A time machine, and a lesson, too. Before the experiment, the first thing she would do every morning, before touching her husband or talking to her daughter, was stare at a screen.
"I would grab my iPhone and just start scrolling," she admitted. "It's how I started the day, every day."
There was nothing worth scrolling through on the Nokia 3310, so she didn't bother. The smartphone fast broke her habit. Now she turns her phone off each evening, and she doesn't turn it on in the morning until she needs it.
"I got out of some bad tech habits," she said. "And I'm just kind of looking at screens less. So, if nothing else, I'm glad I did this experiment in terms of becoming a healthier tech user."
Editor's Note: Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft are financial sponsors of NPR.
NPR's Emily Abshire contributed to this report.
VIDEO - The Young Turks' Hasan Piker: Redistribution of Wealth Is Coming, "By Policy Or By Pitchforks" | Video | RealClearPolitics
'The Young Turks' commentator Hasan Piker explains why 'billionaire' is a dirty word and warned that a more equitable redistribution of wealth is coming, "by policy or by pitchforks."
HASAN PIKER, THE YOUNG TURKS: Technological advances have rendered globalism an unstoppable force so we have to adapt to it. One immediate way of doing that is through drastic wealth redistribution and that starts with banning billionaires. Part of the point of having a society, of having government is to "promote the general welfare." Welfare -- it's literally right there in the preamble in the Constitution.Yet for some reason, we've been propagandized into believing that the purpose of the government is to clear the path for individuals to acquire and hoard ungodly amounts of wealth, regardless of the consequences to the rest of us or the health of the society as a whole. And now people all around the world are waking up. They are coming to the realization that this is no way to run a society and perhaps that's why 'billionaire' is becoming a bad word.
Look, this may scare you. But a more equitable distribution of wealth is coming, whether it is by policy or by pitchforks. So it's up to you guys. Which one is it going to be?