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President Donald Trump held a wide-ranging Friday press conference in which he reiterated that if ''you don't have a border, you don't have a country,'' defending his invocation of the National Emergencies Act to help fund the building of The Wall. The president said he aims to stop illegal immigration, the influx of drugs and criminal into America. He cited past emergency declarations, including one by President Barack Obama, that Trump said targeted cartels.
As it turns out, back in 2011 then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order ''blocking property of transnational criminal organizations organizations.'' Obama cited his authority as granted through the Constitution to invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, 50 U.S.C. 1701, and the National Emergencies Act, 50 U.S.C. 1601. The latter is the same legislation that Trump is citing to get funding for the wall to achieve his immigration reform goals. That executive order targeted a number of criminal organizations, including the Mexican Los Zetas cartel, an ally of the MS-13 gang President Trump has regularly called out as a danger to Americans.
''Drugs, gangs and people '-- an invasion,'' Trump said on Friday. ''We have an invasion coming into this country.''
Trump all but thanked his predecessor on Friday.
''We may be using one of the national emergencies that [Obama] signed having to do with criminal cartels'... it's a very good national emergency'... we're going to be using parts of it,'' he said.
In 2011, Obama said that the organizations The Brothers' Circle (''a criminal group composed of leaders and senior members of several Eurasian criminal groups that are largely based in countries of the former Soviet Union, but also operate in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America''), the Italian crime syndicate known as Camorra, the more recognizable Yakuza, and the aforementioned Los Zetas.
''Such organizations are becoming increasingly sophisticated and dangerous to the United States; they are increasingly entrenched in the operations of foreign governments and the international financial system, thereby weakening democratic institutions, degrading the rule of law, and undermining economic markets. These organizations facilitate and aggravate violent civil conflicts and increasingly facilitate the activities of other dangerous persons,'' Obama said. ''I therefore determine that significant transnational criminal organizations constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States, and hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.''
It remains to be seen how all of this will shake out, but as Law&Crime noted before, Democrats may attempt to force the Senate to vote on whether to block the president's executive action. Even if that occurs, you can bet that Trump will take this matter to the Supreme Court.
In his speech on Friday, he alluded to a prior loss in the Ninth Circuit on the issue of the travel ban and a subsequent win at the highest level.
[Image via Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images]
President Donald J. Trump's Border Security Victory | The White House
Quote I will never waver from my sacred duty to defend this Nation and its people. We will get the job done.
President Donald J. Trump
SECURING OUR BORDER: President Donald J. Trump is following through on his promise to secure the border with legislation and Executive action.
President Trump was elected partly on his promise to secure the Southern Border with a barrier and, since his first day in office, he has been following through on that promise.As the President has said, sections of the border wall are already being built, and legislation and Executive actions are building on that progress.Executive action being taken by the President makes available additional funding to secure our border that is essential to our national security.LEGISLATIVE WINS: President Trump secured a number of significant legislative victories in the Homeland Security appropriations bill that further his effort to secure the Southern Border and protect our country.
The funding bill contains robust resources and additional provisions to secure the border and strengthen immigration enforcement.The bill provides $1.375 billion for approximately 55 miles of border barrier in highly dangerous and drug smuggling areas in the Rio Grande Valley, where it is desperately needed.More than 40 percent of all border apprehensions occurred in the Rio Grande Valley sector in fiscal year (FY) 2018.The Rio Grande Valley was the border sector with the most known deaths of illegal border crossers in FY 2018.$415 million will go toward addressing the humanitarian crisis at the border by providing medical care, transportation, processing centers, and consumables.President Trump successfully rejected efforts by some to undercut Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) ability to uphold our laws and detain illegal aliens, including criminals.ICE funding supports nearly 5,000 additional beds to detain illegal aliens and keep criminals off our streets.Customs and Border Protection will receive funding for 600 additional officers.This bill will help keep deadly drugs out of our communities by increasing drug detection at ports of entry, including opioid detection staffing, labs, and equipment.A PROMISE TO ACT: President Trump is taking Executive action to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.
President Trump is using his legal authority to take Executive action to secure additional resources, just as he promised. In part, he is declaring a national emergency that makes available additional troops and funding for military construction.Including funding in Homeland Security appropriations, the Administration has so far identified up to $8.1 billion that will be available to build the border wall once a national emergency is declared and additional funds have been reprogrammed, including:About $601 million from the Treasury Forfeiture FundUp to $2.5 billion under the Department of Defense funds transferred for Support for Counterdrug Activities (Title 10 United States Code, section 284)Up to $3.6 billion reallocated from Department of Defense military construction projects under the President's declaration of a national emergency (Title 10 United States Code, section 2808)These funding sources will be used sequentially and as needed.The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and the Army Corps of Engineers are working to create a prioritized list of segments and a work plan for the remainder of FY 2019 and beyond.New projects could include: new levee wall, new and replacement primary pedestrian barrier, new vehicle-to-pedestrian barrier, and new secondary barrier.NATIONAL EMERGENCY ON OUR BORDER: The President is using his clear authority to declare a national emergency as allowed under the National Emergencies Act.
Since 1976, presidents have declared nearly 60 national emergencies.Most of the previously declared national emergencies have been continually renewed and are still in effect, after being continually renewed.Multiple Governors have declared states of emergency along the border in the past.Former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, who became President Obama's DHS Secretary, declared a state of emergency along the border in 2005.Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson also declared a state of emergency at the border in 2005.Former President George W. Bush and former President Obama both directed the use of the military to assist DHS in securing and managing the Southern Border.Former President Bush declared a national emergency in 2001, which invoked reprogramming authority granted by Title 10 United States Code, section 2808, and both he and former President Obama used that authority a total of 18 times to fund projects between 2001 and 2014.ADDRESSING THE CRISIS AT HAND: President Trump is taking the necessary steps to address the crisis at our Southern Border and stop crime and drugs from flooding into our Nation.
Cartels, traffickers, and gangs, like the vile MS-13 gang, have taken advantage of our weak borders for their own gain.Immigration officers have made 266,000 arrests of criminal aliens in the last two fiscal years.This includes aliens charged or convicted of approximately 100,000 assaults, 30,000 sex crimes, and 4,000 killings.Tons of deadly drugs have flooded across the border and into our communities, taking countless American lives.Methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, and fentanyl all flow across our Southern Border and destroy our communities.More than 70,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2017 alone.Human traffickers exploit our borders to traffic young girls and women into our country and sell them into prostitution and slavery.Massive caravans of migrants view our unsecure border as a way to gain illegal entry into our country and take advantage of our nonsensical immigration loopholes.
The Daily 202: Trump shows fresh disdain for the rule of law with national emergency declaration - The Washington Post
THE BIG IDEA: The Justice Department warned the White House that the courts will probably block President Trump from declaring a national emergency to build a border wall that Congress will not fund.
The White House Counsel's Office explained that disregarding the legislative branch's power of the purse creates ''high litigation risk.''
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) privately advised him two weeks ago that doing so would divide the GOP and could lead to a formal resolution of disapproval.
Nevertheless, Trump persisted.
''White House lawyers have told Trump he could reprogram money without calling an emergency,'' Fred Barbash, Ellen Nakashima and Josh Dawsey report. ''But Trump '... has been determined to declare an emergency, partially for fear of looking weak.''
This is just the latest, and possibly starkest, illustration of Trump's disdain for the rule of law, as well as the premium he places on political expediency over constitutional norms and legal guardrails.
That's why the president's looming announcement of an ''emergency'' in the Rose Garden this morning should be viewed in conjunction with Andy McCabe's new book about the events that transpired when Trump fired McCabe's boss, Jim Comey, as FBI director in 2017. McCabe says he opened a formal investigation into the president's ties to Russia because he was ''very concerned'' that the probe would be shut down if he was quickly removed as acting director. Jeff Sessions later fired McCabe the day before he would have qualified for a full pension after Trump pilloried him on Twitter and attacked his wife over her unsuccessful Virginia state Senate campaign.
''Between the world of chaos and the world of order stands the rule of law. Yet now the rule of law is under attack, including from the president himself,'' McCabe writes in ''The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,'' which comes out Tuesday. ''People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standards of presidential accountability. Today we have a president who is willing not only to comment prejudicially on criminal prosecutions but to comment on ones that potentially affect him. He does both of these things almost daily. He is not just sounding a dog whistle. He is lobbying for a result. The president has stepped over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he has encountered them.''
-- It was overshadowed yesterday because Washington was so consumed with whether Trump would sign the bipartisan spending bill to avert another shutdown, but there was another story that also highlighted the Trump administration's willingness to flout the rules: A Trump appointee in the Department of Homeland Security has declined to cooperate with an inspector general's investigation into allegations that career government staffers faced political retaliation, yet she's faced no discipline for stonewalling.
''Christine Ciccone, a former senior official at the State Department and now an assistant secretary of legislative affairs at DHS, has failed to agree to an interview with investigators 'despite repeated requests made to both her and her attorney over many months,' DHS Acting Inspector General John Kelly wrote to Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen,'' per NBC's Dan de Luce. ''That office is looking into allegations of retribution against career State Department employees, and has tried to speak with Ciccone as a 'key witness' in that inquiry since September, Kelly wrote in a memo released by three Democratic lawmakers. '... The appointee's response 'sets a dangerous precedent contrary to the fundamental tenants' of the law establishing government inspector generals, and carries 'the potential to undermine our critical oversight function,' he wrote.
-- The biggest story of the day by far, however, is Trump's planned emergency declaration. House Democrats say they plan to move in the coming days or possibly weeks to pass a resolution formally disapproving of the president's gambit. They will do it in a way that forces McConnell to take up the measure, despite his resistance to doing so, within 18 days. Republicans have a 53-to-47 majority in the Senate, but all the resolution needs to pass is a simple majority, and several GOP lawmakers have suggested that they'd be amenable to voting for it. If that happened, Trump would then be forced to veto the resolution. It would be the first veto of his presidency. An override would be unlikely; it's hard to imagine 20 GOP senators crossing over to break with the president. But the debate over the resolution ensures several news cycles of high political drama.
''If their resolution fails to pass the Senate or is vetoed by Trump, the House would probably sue,'' per Rachael Bade, Seung Min Kim, Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane. ''Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.), a House Judiciary Committee member, said his discussions with House lawyers had centered around a 1952 Supreme Court ruling, Youngstown Sheet and Tube v. Sawyer, in which the court rejected President Harry Truman's attempt to seize and operate the nation's steel mills to avert a strike. 'They're about to make the steel seizure decision the most famous Supreme Court case in Washington for the next couple months,' Raskin said about House lawyers. 'The Supreme Court said a red light from Congress is a red light from Congress, and you can't run a red.'''
-- The spending deal almost fell apart, and McConnell had to talk with Trump by phone at least three times yesterday. To get his sign-off, the majority leader agreed to offer public support for the emergency declaration, despite his misgivings. ''We thought he was good to go all morning, and then suddenly it's like everything is off the rails,'' said one senior Republican aide.
That staffer was one of more than two dozen key players who were interviewed for a ticktock by Robert Costa, Bade, Dawsey and Kim on how the last few weeks went down: ''Privately, Trump complained vociferously about the final deal and said he felt Republican negotiators had failed him '... But Trump did not have the stomach for another shutdown and told aides it had generated nonstop negative coverage. '... Still, Trump can be combustible and sometimes acts rashly when he feels cornered, so some Republican senators spent recent days on the phone, soothing him and trying to persuade him to hold his fire. '... Democrats decided in the final days they needed to be careful with their language, worried they could provoke Trump into another shutdown. '... One conferee summarized the instructions from Democratic leaders: 'Don't poke the bear.'''
-- ''While the move means the country will avoid another protracted shutdown, legal specialists warned that the long-term costs to American democracy could be steep,'' Charlie Savage reports in the New York Times:
''It sets a precedent that a president can, without regard to an actual existence of an emergency, use this tool to evade the normal democratic process and fund projects on his own,'' said Syracuse University law professor William Banks, who co-authored the book ''National Security Law and the Power of the Purse.'' ''This is a real institutional threat to the separation of powers to use emergency powers to enable the president to bypass Congress to build a wall on his own initiative that our elected representatives have chosen not to fund.''
''Every time this president does something that would have been unthinkable under a previous administration, and every time he acts in a way we're used to seeing in an authoritarian regime, a little piece of our democracy dies, and this is a pretty big piece,'' said Elizabeth Goitein, who oversaw a study of presidential emergency powers for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. ''I know what the potential is for these laws to be abused once that seal is broken.''
-- ''There will be lawsuits. Lots of them,'' Fred, Ellen and Josh report. ''From California to Congress, the litigants will multiply. They will file suit in numerous jurisdictions '-- certainly within the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on the West Coast, in U.S. District Court in Washington and maybe even in New York. That's been the pattern in the hundreds of lawsuits, many of them successful, brought against the Trump administration, the idea being that some judge somewhere will block the wall. '...
''Anyone who claims certainty about the ultimate legal outcome, which will most likely come from the Supreme Court, is playing in their own field of dreams. '... In 1976, thinking it was cracking down on presidentially declared states of emergency, Congress passed a law, the National Emergencies Act, that actually enabled them. 'When you and I think of an emergency, we think of the U.S. under attack.' said Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston. 'But the statute doesn't have that sort of definition.' Indeed, it has no definition.''
-- The Post's Editorial Board explains that the president's decision treats ''the will of Congress, and the Constitution, with cavalier contempt'': ''His fulminations about a border wall having failed to convince the legislative branch, which forged a deal that yielded less than a quarter of the funds the president demanded, he has decided by his planned emergency declaration simply to render the legislative branch irrelevant. That's a tried-and-true technique for autocrats the world over; it's not what the framers had in mind when they granted Congress the power of the purse. By his declaration, Mr. Trump will inaugurate a new, imperial phase of his presidency.''
-- Hypocrisy watch: Trump said on ''Fox & Friends'' in 2014 that Barack Obama could be impeached for taking executive action on immigration. Obama turned to what he liked to call his pen and his phone after House Republicans blocked an overhaul of the immigration system that had passed the Senate with bipartisan support. Months after expressing doubt about his legal authority to do so, Obama signed an executive order to protect the undocumented parents of children who were born in the United States, and thus American citizens, from being deported. ''This is a very, very dangerous thing that should be overwritten easily by the Supreme Court,'' Trump said at the time. ''I think certainly he could be impeached ...''
Around that time, Trump also ripped Obama for using an executive order to shield ''dreamers'' from deportation. It's become a cliche, but there really is a tweet for everything:
Repubs must not allow Pres Obama to subvert the Constitution of the US for his own benefit & because he is unable to negotiate w/ Congress.
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 20, 2014 Ted Cruz watches President Trump speak last month near the Rio Grande in McAllen, Tex. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
-- The last two years have offered a series of tests to reveal which Republican lawmakers were genuine when they criticized Obama for executive overreach. It has been especially fascinating to watch the divergent paths that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, two of Trump's main rivals for the GOP nomination, have taken since 2016. Both are Cuban Americans whose world views were deeply shaped by their fathers' anti-communist opposition to Fidel Castro. Both are young and clearly hope to run for president again in 2024 or down the road.
Cruz was maybe the most outspoken Republican in the Senate when it came to attacking Obama for using executive power during the second term. He routinely threw around words like ''king'' and ''emperor'' to describe Obama. Before Obama issued that order to protect the dreamers, Cruz took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to read from the speech that Cicero delivered on the floor of the Roman Senate in 63 B.C. warning that Catiline was out to violently destroy their republic. Cruz replaced all the references to ''Catiline'' with ''Obama'' as he quoted Cicero: ''When, President Obama, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end to that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?''
That year, Cruz said at the Conservative Political Action Conference: ''This president of the United States is the first president we've ever had who thinks he can choose which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore.'' (PolitiFact rated this claim as false.)
In 2015, when Obama moved to rename Mount McKinley, Cruz called it ''the latest manifestation of the megalomaniacal, imperial presidency that we have seen for six and a half years. This administration has been the most lawless administration we have ever seen. And this president routinely disregards the law, disregards the Constitution [and] disregards the Congress.''
Last night, though, Cruz defended Trump's move: ''Democrats' intransigence has left the president with no other choice but to take executive action.'' He added that he'll wait to see where Trump takes the money from, giving him an opening to oppose the move if funds for Texas disaster relief are cannibalized.
On the other side, Rubio decried Trump's decision to go the emergency route. ''We have a crisis at our southern border, but no crisis justifies violating the Constitution,'' the Florida Republican said in a statement. ''Today's national emergency is border security. But a future president may use this exact same tactic to impose the Green New Deal.''
-- A parade of conservative intellectuals also lamented Trump's move and warned the president's supporters on the right that Republicans will come to rue this day. Here are six takes in that vein:
National Review's Jonah Goldberg: ''We'll Regret This.'' The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board calls it a ''political emergency'' that creates ''an unfortunate precedent'' and will almost certainly be tied up ''for years'' in the courts. The Bulwark's Tim Miller: ''The President Is Hallucinating and I Think We Should Be Concerned. Trump is declaring a fictional emergency to complete a wall he hasn't started in response to an incursion that doesn't exist. It's Wayne Hays in the White House.'' The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein: ''Trump declaring a national emergency to build border wall with McConnell's support will come back to haunt conservatives.'' The Post's Henry Olsen, a fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center: ''It will surely delight his base, but risks reinforcing negative views of him among the voters he needs to win reelection. '... You can't claim to want bipartisan negotiation if you act alone '-- and on dubious legal authority '-- if you don't like the best deal you can get. You can't persuade people that you want to govern on behalf of all people if you contemptuously disregard the elected representatives that half the country put into office.'' Matt Latimer, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, writes for Politico Magazine: ''Trump's National Emergency Is Great News for Future President Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The president's latest decision will backfire on conservatives.'' MORE ON THE SPENDING DEAL:
-- The $333 billion package, which keeps the government open through the end of September, passed 83 to 16 in the Senate and 300 to 128 in the House. Mike DeBonis breaks down key items in the 1,169-page legislation:
The administration will be able to hire as many as 1,200 new Border Patrol officers.
The bill provides $100 million in technology funds for ports of entry and $112 million for aircraft and sensor systems.
The administration secured $564 million to beef up scanning capability at these ports, where most drug smuggling and human trafficking happens.
Democrats got a ''soft cap'' on the number of immigrants detained at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facilities. The bill lowers the detainee cap from 49,000 to 40,000. But Republicans believe ICE will have the flexibility it needs to do its job.
The Census Bureau will receive a $1 billion increase in funding, which was a Democratic demand.
-- The legislation does not offer back pay to low-wage federal contractors who lost a month's worth of wages because of the last shutdown, but it does provide a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, applying retroactively to Jan. 6. Eric Yoder reports: ''Under the bill, senior political appointees would see their first raise since 2010, although not the large jump they otherwise would have received under the complex federal pay law. '... The raise is further to be divided: 1.4 percent across the board and the remainder paid in amounts varying by city area, based on pay comparisons reported last fall by an advisory council. The Washington-Baltimore metro zone is among the areas where federal pay is deemed to be the furthest behind, meaning it would receive one of the larger raises.''
MORE ON MCCABE'S BOOK:
-- Andy McCabe portrays Jeff Sessions in an especially negative light in his memoir. Greg Miller reports: ''The attorney general's views on race and religion are described as reprehensible. '... The FBI was better off when 'you all only hired Irishmen,' Sessions said in one diatribe about the bureau's workforce. 'They were drunks but they could be trusted. Not like all those new people with nose rings and tattoos '-- who knows what they're doing?' '... Sessions 'believed that Islam '-- inherently '-- advocated extremism' and ceaselessly sought to draw connections between crime and immigration. 'Where's he from?' was his first question about a suspect. The next: 'Where are his parents from?' '...
''Inevitably, the book includes disturbing new detail about Trump's subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin. During an Oval Office briefing in July 2017, Trump refused to believe U.S. intelligence reports that North Korea had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile '-- a test that Kim Jong Un had called a Fourth of July 'gift' to 'the arrogant Americans.' Trump dismissed the missile launch as a 'hoax,' McCabe writes. 'He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles. He said he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so.'''
-- CBS's Scott Pelley, who interviewed McCabe for a "60 Minutes'' segment to air Sunday, says he described conversations that officials had about using the 25th Amendment to oust the president. Matt Zapotosky and John Wagner report: Pelley ''described the discussions of the 25th Amendment as 'counting noses' '-- or speculating on where various Cabinet members might stand on the question. Pelley said McCabe disputes the assertion, advanced by defenders of [Rod] Rosenstein, that the deputy attorney general was not serious about wearing a wire. Pelley said McCabe took the idea to FBI lawyers for a discussion afterward. ... About two hours after the clip aired, Trump blasted McCabe on Twitter, calling him 'a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our Country.' The Justice Department also disputed some of what McCabe contended.''
William Weld speaks this morning during a breakfast in Bedford, N.H. Charles Krupa/AP)
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld told an audience in New Hampshire this morning that he will try to take on Trump in the 2020 Republican presidential primary. Annie Linskey and Dave Weigel report: ''Weld, 73, said he would seek to determine over the coming months if he can raise enough money to continue his challenge of the president. He said he would run on a traditional Republican agenda of fiscal responsibility and provide a stylistic contrast to Trump. 'It is time for all people of good will '-- and our country is filled with people of good will '-- to take a stand and plant a flag,' Weld said during a speech Friday at a Politics & Eggs breakfast in Bedford, N.H. '... Weld opened his remarks in the first primary state with an unflinching denunciation of the president '-- 'he acts like a schoolyard bully' '-- and Republicans in Washington who 'exhibit all the symptoms of Stockholm syndrome.'''
GET SMART FAST:''
A massive car bomb killed at least 33 paramilitary police officers in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The violence marked the region's deadliest attack on security forces in 30 years and will almost certainly inflame tensions between India and Pakistan, which both claim Kashmir. (Joanna Slater, Niha Masih and Ishfaq Naseem) An armed man who hijacked a UPS truck and held its driver hostage was killed overnight in San Jose. The man was shot following a car chase. A female suspect was taken into custody. (CBS) NASA intends to partner with the private sector to send a U.S. spacecraft to the moon as early as this year. Jim Bridenstine, the space agency's administrator, said the U.S. is trying to get there ''as fast as possible'' because India and China are planning their own moon missions. (Christian Davenport) The FTC is negotiating a multibillion-dollar fine with Facebook over its privacy practices. The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not agreed on an exact amount. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would probably be a bruising legal fight. (Tony Romm) Amazon scrapped plans to build a second headquarters in New York City following local protests. Opponents of the proposal, which would have brought 25,000 high-paying jobs to Queens, said it would cause housing prices to rise and worsen congestion. Amazon has said it will not restart a search for another headquarters location at this time. (Robert McCartney and Jonathan O'Connell) Illinois prosecutors are reportedly expected to indict R. Kelly after receiving a videotape allegedly showing the rapper sexually assaulting an underage girl. Lawyer Michael Avenatti said that he is representing ''multiple clients'' who have accused Kelly of sexual assault and provided a videotape to the Cook County state's attorney. (New Yorker) The National Weather Service will soon launch a new weather prediction model that has been heavily criticized by meteorologists as unreliable. The Weather Service says the new system is tentatively set to become the primary U.S. forecasting model on March 20, but experts note that this model has incorrectly predicted heavy snowfall in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast multiple times this year. (Jason Samenow) Cancer disparities between African Americans and whites have narrowed significantly. African Americans have historically had a much higher cancer death rate, but that number is sharply falling because of decreases in lung, prostate and colorectal cancers among black Americans. (Laurie McGinley) The American Heart Association wants women after menopause to consider downing fewer diet drinks. Consuming more than one artificially sweetened drink a day increases the chances of a stroke, a heart attack and an early death in women over 50, according to a new study. (USA Today) William Barr, now the attorney general, testifies during his confirmation hearing last month. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Bill Barr was confirmed by the Senate and quickly sworn in as the next attorney general. Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian report: ''Senators voted 54 to 45, mostly along party lines, to confirm Barr, who will now supervise [Mueller's probe]. Among Barr's first major decisions will be what to tell the public about the results of that investigation. ... People familiar with the matter said Barr has all but settled on a new second-in-command, with Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mueller, expected to leave soon. Barr has not disclosed any names publicly.''
-- What does he know? Matt Schlapp, chairman of the organization that hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference, and whose wife, Mercedes, works in the White House as a strategic communications adviser, tweeted after Barr was confirmed that Mueller will be gone soon. ''Tomorrow will be the first day that President Trump will have a fully operational confirmed Attorney General,'' Schlapp wrote. ''Let that sink in. Mueller will be gone soon.'' Politico reports that the White House didn't respond to a request for comment. (Politico)
-- Trump is using a charm offensive to coax Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to retire. The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin reports: ''Trump has shown unusual solicitude for Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, a hard-right political activist. The President and the First Lady had the Thomases to dinner, and then Trump welcomed Ginni and some of her movement colleagues to the White House for an hour-long discussion. '... Trump rarely engages in this kind of cultivation, and it's reasonable to speculate that he's trying to persuade the Justice that his seat would be in good hands if he decided to leave. '... There seems little doubt, however, about what would happen if either [Thomas or Ruth Bader Ginsburg] leaves in the next year or two. The President would likely nominate as a replacement Amy Coney Barrett, a forty-seven-year-old judge on the Seventh Circuit. A former professor at Notre Dame Law School, Barrett was nominated to the appeals court by Trump, in 2017, and she has already been considered for a Supreme Court seat'--the one that went to [Brett] Kavanaugh.''
-- The Trump Organization gave up on its plan to roll out two new hotel lines in dozens of cities across the country. Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold report: ''The president's eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who took over the company when Trump entered the White House, cited political attacks and negative media coverage in announcing the decision. The brothers announced plans for the two lower-cost chains in a reception at Trump Tower shortly after Trump took office. Since then, the company has come under near-constant scrutiny from ethics officials and congressional Democrats over its business practices. After initially saying the company had dozens of deals in the works, no hotels, under the chain names of Scion and American Idea, have opened.''
-- ''After gaining four pounds over the past year, Trump is officially considered obese,'' Toluse Olorunnipa and Carolyn Y. Johnson report. He ''remains in 'good health' ... according to a memorandum signed by his doctor and released Thursday by the White House. Sean P. Conley, the physician to the president, said in the memorandum that 'there were no findings of significance or changes to report' after Trump underwent a four-hour physical exam that included 11 specialists last week. The White House released the memorandum, which included basic details about Trump's health, including his heart rate (70 beats per minute) and his blood pressure (118/80 mmHg). ... Trump, 72, stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 243 pounds, according to the memorandum.''
-- Fishing expedition: A U.S. attorney appointed by Trump demanded millions of North Carolina voter records from the state for an investigation into noncitizen voting. But state elections officials refused to comply with his subpoenas and will provide fewer than 800 voter files. Amy Gardner reports: ''The board filed motions in federal court last month seeking to block the subpoenas. '... The subpoenas issued last summer sought all North Carolina voter registration records for eight years and actual ballots cast for five years in counties in the eastern half of the state. A separate subpoena to the state's Division of Motor Vehicles demanded voter registration applications submitted by those born outside the United States. '... State officials objected strenuously '... [calling] the subpoenas a fishing expedition primarily targeting those born in other countries and accused Higdon of wasting resources in search of a type of election fraud that is exceedingly rare.''
-- Putting a bull in a china shop: Trump's nominee to lead the World Bank once said that it should be ''thrown away and started over,'' along with similar institutions. CNN's Andrew Kaczynski reports: ''David Malpass made the comments while speaking to a local Republican gathering in Albertson, New York, in May 2011. '... Although Malpass has been an outspoken critic of the World Bank, his 2011 comments feature his sharpest attacks on the organization and its mission. 'For 25 years, literally, I've been an opponent of the IMF and the World Bank and of the global '-- the system of trying to globalize US foreign policy and defer to foreign authorities in setting our policy,' Malpass said in his 2011 remarks.''
-- At least 33 former Trump administration officials have found ways around an ethics pledge requiring them to avoid ''lobbying activities'' for five years after leaving their government jobs. ProPublica's Derek Kravitz reports: ''Among the 33 former officials, at least 18 have recently registered as lobbyists. The rest work at firms in jobs that closely resemble federal lobbying. Almost all work on issues they oversaw or helped shape when they were in government. '... Some former officials are tiptoeing around the rules by engaging in 'shadow lobbying,' which typically entails functions such as 'strategic consulting' that don't require registering as a lobbyist. Others obtained special waivers allowing them to go back to lobbying. In a few cases, they avoided signing the pledge altogether.''
-- Defying the president's request, the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority voted to close down two aging coal plants, one of which buys most of its coal from a major Trump donor. Steven Mufson reports: ''The TVA directors voted overwhelmingly to close the Paradise 3 plant in Kentucky and the Bull Run plant in Tennessee. Three of the four people appointed by Trump to the TVA board joined the 6-1 majority voting to close down the Paradise coal unit and all four joined the unanimous vote to retire Bull Run. ... Trump, who vowed during his campaign to help the coal industry, set up a clash with the TVA with his call to keep open the Paradise 3 unit, which buys much of its coal from a mining company chaired by Robert E. Murray, one of the president's major donors and supporters. ... The board decided that it would be too costly to sustain the 49-year-old plant.''
-- White House communications director Bill Shine's wife continues to peddle false anti-vaccination conspiracy theories, saying diseases such as measles "keep you healthy & fight cancer.'' In tweets, Darla Shine said she was sorry her children were vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella, adding that baby boomers are ''alive today'' because they suffered through measles in their childhoods. (CNN)
Presidential hopeful Howard Schultz said he'll drop out of the race if Democrats nominate a centrist. (Joshua Lott/Getty Images)
-- The DNC announced qualification requirements for the presidential debates that include metrics related to grass-roots support. Michael Scherer reports: ''The expansive new qualification requirements are designed to allow a historically large group of candidates to make the stage at events that are likely to be split over two consecutive nights to accommodate the crowded field. Candidates can qualify either by attracting campaign donations from at least 65,000 people, including at least 200 people from at least 20 states, or by registering at least 1 percent in three state or national polls from a list of surveys approved by the party. The only way to qualify for early Democratic debates in 2015 was to register at least 1 percent in three national polls. '... The first set of debates will be broadcast in June by NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, followed by CNN-sponsored debates in July.''
-- Howard Schultz said he will drop his independent campaign if Democrats nominate a centrist. Michael Scherer and Tracy Jan report: The former Starbucks chief executive ''has premised his exploration of a presidential campaign on the assumption that Democrats are likely to nominate a candidate that embraces what he calls 'far-left' ideas that will turn off enough moderate voters to open space for an independent candidate '... A more moderate Democratic nominee, such as former vice president Joe Biden or former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, could complicate Schultz's perceived path to victory.''-- Schultz's presidential bid is already angering some Democrats, brewing some trouble for Starbucks. From Bloomberg News's John McCormick and Leslie Patton: ''Almost 7 of 10 Starbucks stores are in the roughly 500 counties Democrat Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential election, a Bloomberg analysis of data from location intelligence firm Esri shows. The potential for Starbucks to get hit by protests or an organized boycott has triggered some investors to boost bets against the company in recent weeks.''
-- A unanimously passed Senate bill to make lynching a federal hate crime was co-sponsored by two 2020 rivals, Sens. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.). Elise Viebeck and Donna Cassata report: ''The legislation, approved on a voice vote, would ensure that lynching triggers an enhanced sentence under federal law, like other hate crimes. The measure was sponsored by the Senate's three African American members: [Harris], [Booker] and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). [Harris and Booker] spoke graciously about their joint effort Thursday morning on the Senate floor. Booker had introduced the bill with Harris and Scott after what Harris described as 200 previous attempts by Congress to pass similar legislation. Proponents of the measure expect the Democratic-led House to pass the legislation and send it to [Trump] for his signature.''
-- In a snub of Elizabeth Warren, former Massachusetts attorney general Martha Coakley is hosting a fundraiser for Harris in Boston. The Boston Globe's Matt Stout and Victoria McGrane say it's ''a sign that Warren cannot count on home state loyalty to bring prominent Massachusetts players to her side.'' Warren, though, is holding a fundraiser Monday night in Los Angeles, in Harris's state. In case you forgot, Coakley is the Democrat who blew what should have been an easily winnable 2011 special election to Scott Brown for Ted Kennedy's seat. Warren won the seat back for Democrats the next year.
-- Trump's reelection campaign has started compiling opposition research on Harris, Booker and Warren. Politico's Alex Isenstadt reports: ''Trump has told allies he sees [Joe] Biden, who remains undecided on a 2020 bid, as the most formidable potential general election rival. The president has said privately that Biden would appeal to a wider swath of voters than other Democratic hopefuls. Yet among the president's inner circle, there's widespread doubt that Biden could survive a primary, after a three-decade political career and positions on issues such as the Iraq war and crime that are anathema to liberals. Many are convinced that whoever emerges from the Democratic primary will be an out-of-the-mainstream liberal '-- someone who either hails from that wing of the party or has taken pains to align themselves with it.''
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) offered his support to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) amid accusations of anti-Semitism. Omar's office confirmed that Sanders, who is Jewish, made an off-the-record call to the congresswoman. The senator later said he stands by ''our Muslim brothers and sisters.'' (Daily Beast)
-- Texas Republicans are requesting more assistance from the national party for 2020 after several House incumbents lost or had closer-than-expected reelection races. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Andrea Drusch reports: ''The 2018 cycle scared many Republicans, who lost two congressional seats, and offered the first real evidence that the state might move from red to purple. '... So acute is that concern, that members of the Texas delegation sat down last week with leaders from the House GOP campaign arm '-- which typically assists with polling, opposition research and negative advertising '-- to request more help with their races. '... This cycle, Democrats are targeting six more seats representing Texas suburbs '-- the districts held by Reps. McCaul, Chip Roy, Pete Olson, Will Hurd, Kenny Marchant and John Carter.''
-- Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Democratic primary victory over former congressman Joe Crowley appears to be inspiring other primary challenges in New York. The New York Times's Shane Goldmacher reports: ''Party insurgents are plotting and preparing to battle with the entrenched establishment '-- targeting as many as a half-dozen Congress members in and around New York City '-- over what it means to be a Democrat and a progressive in the age of [Trump]. '... In Manhattan, Jerrold Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, could be challenged '... And in the Bronx and Westchester, some progressives are pushing to unseat Eliot L. Engel, a white congressman who represents a diversifying district where white residents are now in the minority '-- just like where Ms. Ocasio-Cortez won.'' (Jeff Stein profiles Ocasio-Cortez's staffers on Capitol Hill.)
-- Beto O'Rourke is visiting Wisconsin and Illinois with his 2020 decision pending. O'Rourke is stopping by the University of Wisconsin at Madison before heading to Chicago, where he will speak at a conference held by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute. (Politico)-- Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg won't make a 2020 decision until at least March. Bloomberg's advisers have told him it's best to put some distance between his and his potential opponents' announcements. (CNN)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin talks today with Chinese President Xi Jinping, as U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He look on, before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (Andy Wong/AFP/Getty Images)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump might be asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to do the unthinkable by making a sweeping overhaul of China's economy a key condition to ending trade hostilities. Anna Fifield and David J. Lynch report: ''Securing Xi's assent to abandon the economic model that lifted China from Maoist impoverishment to become the world's fastest-growing major economy would crown Trump's confrontational diplomacy with success. '... But few analysts anticipate such an outcome. '... Policies of the kind that Xi envisaged in 2013 '-- and that Trump wants now '-- are hard for the party to push through as the economy slows. Growth decelerated to 6.4 percent last year, and a state-run paper this week warned it could sink to 6 percent in 2019.''
-- Meanwhile, two competing proposals from Congress would curb the president's authority over trade policy, and Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is considering both of them. Wall Street Journal's Joshua Jamerson reports: The proposals ''would increase congressional oversight on executive-branch actions under Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act. '... Grassley told reporters he had instructed his staff to seek measures that could gain broad bipartisan support rather than pursue any one proposal. '... Free-trade proponents in Congress have long felt uneasy about President Trump's steel tariffs '... But a House of Representatives under Democratic control'--and Mr. Grassley's ascent on the Finance Committee'--is breathing new life into GOP-led efforts to check Mr. Trump and future presidents.''
A bill by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) "would require the Defense Department, rather than the Commerce Department, to justify the national-security basis for new tariffs '... The bill, which is co-sponsored by four other Republicans and three Democrats, would also expand the situations in which Congress could scuttle an administration's plans for new tariffs.'' A bill by Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) "would require Congress to pass a resolution of approval before future Section 232 tariffs could take effect. That goes a step further than Mr. Portman's bill, which would let tariffs take effect if Congress couldn't pass a resolution of disapproval. Mr. Toomey's bill would also require congressional signoff on any Section 232 measures implemented in the past four years'--which would include the metals tariffs.'' -- The U.S. commander leading the war against the Islamic State warned that the terrorist group is far from being defeated and said he disagrees with Trump's decision to pull troops out of Syria. From CNN's Barbara Starr: ''Joseph Votel, the top American general in the Middle East, also said that the US-backed forces on the ground in Syria were not ready to handle the threat of ISIS on their own. '... 'It would not have been my military advice at that particular time ... I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,' Votel said of the troop withdrawal. '(The caliphate) still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network.' Votel '... revealed he would only have declared that ISIS had been defeated, as Trump did in December, if he was sure they no longer posed a threat.''
-- Venezuelan leader Nicols Maduro revealed secret meetings between a Venezuelan government official and U.S. envoy Elliott Abrams. From the AP's Ian Phillips and Joshua Goodman: ''Maduro said that while in New York, his foreign minister invited the Washington, D.C.-based envoy, Elliott Abrams, to come to Venezuela 'privately, publicly or secretly.' 'If he wants to meet, just tell me when, where and how and I'll be there,' Maduro said without providing more details. He said both New York meetings lasted several hours. A senior administration official in Washington who was not authorized to speak publicly said U.S. officials were willing to meet with 'former Venezuela officials, including Maduro himself, to discuss their exit plans.'''
-- Acting defense secretary Pat Shanahan pledged that any U.S. troop reductions in Afghanistan would occur in coordination with regional allies. The AP's Lorne Cook and Robert Burns report: ''Shanahan made clear that if U.S. troop cuts are made, either in connection with peace negotiations with the Taliban or in other circumstances, Washington will consult with NATO to ensure coordination.''
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit plan suffered another parliamentary defeat. Karla Adam reports: ''The House of Commons voted 303 to 258 to reject a motion that would have endorsed May's Brexit strategy. Many of the hard-line Brexiteers in May's own Conservative Party didn't back the government. '... The hard-line Brexiteers [were] concerned that the motion, in effect, would mean endorsing the view that Parliament was against leaving without a deal, which they think should be an option. The defeat is symbolic, but it raises the question about what kind of deal '-- if any '-- could command the support of the House of Commons as Britain hurtles toward its departure from the E.U.''
-- Cardinal Sen O'Malley of Boston, a chief adviser to Pope Francis, warned him that reducing the punishments of clergy members found guilty of abusing minors would cause a scandal. Wall Street Journal's Francis X. Rocca reports: ''Cardinal O'Malley used his role in the new pontificate to push for stronger Vatican leadership on sex abuse. He persuaded the pope to create an advisory panel on child protection, led by himself, tasked with proposing changes to church policies and procedures. In 2015, the panel recommended a special tribunal to try bishops who ignore or cover up abuse. At a Council of Cardinals meeting, Cardinal O'Malley won the pope's agreement. The following year, the pope changed his mind.''
-- Russian leader Vladimir Putin showed off his judo moves with his country's Olympic team. Putin is a black belt. (Euronews)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump recognized the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting and mourned all victims of ''school violence.'' The original White House statement used the phrase ''gun violence,'' Colby Itkowitz notes.
One year ago today, a horrific act of violence took the lives of 14 students and 3 educators in Parkland, Florida. On this somber anniversary, we honor their memory and recommit to ensuring the safety of all Americans, especially our Nation's children... https://t.co/MDnSX1BFeW pic.twitter.com/EVAeSwA8oV
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2019 A Parkland father remembered his daughter on the anniversary of her death:
Exactly one year ago, to the minute at around 7am, I sent two kids to school. Only my son Jesse came home. Jaime was murdered in school. I am forever haunted by my memory of that morning, rushing my kids out the door rather than getting one last minute. Did I say I love you? pic.twitter.com/s2IQHvDIcU
'-- Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) February 14, 2019 The 2020 Democratic presidential candidates decried Trump's move:
Declaring a national emergency over this President's vanity project is ridiculous. We don't need a wall. Instead, we should address the actual emergencies facing our country '-- everything from gun violence to the opioid crisis.
'-- Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) February 14, 2019 Gun violence is an emergency.Climate change is an emergency.Our country's opioid epidemic is an emergency.Donald Trump's ridiculous wall is not an emergency.
'-- Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) February 14, 2019 An outrageous abuse of power'--not to mention waste of taxpayer dollars'--if he goes through with this ludicrous idea. Drop the absurd wall and do your job. https://t.co/kEWdIXjNjr
'-- Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) February 14, 2019 Trump's inability to follow through on a campaign promise is not a national emergency.Let's not forget those still struggling to rebuild their lives after this administration failed to respond effectively to real emergencies in places like Puerto Rico. https://t.co/NMSRnvKJQF
'-- Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) February 14, 2019 Every time a president declares a "national emergency" in order to get his way on a particular issue, the closer we are to a dictatorship. Who needs Congress or the people if the president can make the decision on issues by himself? Very dangerous precedent.
'-- Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) February 14, 2019 A writer for ''The Daily Show'' joked about Amazon canceling plans for its New York headquarters:
I have never related more to Jeff Bezos now that he has flaked out on a promise to go to Queens
'-- Jason O. Gilbert (@gilbertjasono) February 14, 2019 A New York Times columnist cleared up a key detail in the New York-Amazon deal:
There is a financial literacy epidemic in America.Quick lesson: NYC wasn't handing cash to Amazon. It was an incentive program based on job creation, producing tax revenue.
There isn't a $3 billion pile of money that can now be spent on subways or education.
'-- Andrew Ross Sorkin (@andrewrsorkin) February 14, 2019 The Post's Beijing bureau chief made this observation:
U.S.-China trade talks: 17 dudes in a room. pic.twitter.com/uuS4Zls49g
'-- Anna Fifield (@annafifield) February 15, 2019 Ivanka Trump shared this photo from the Munich Security Conference:
The new governor of Michigan reacted to a report criticizing her wardrobe choice:
Boys have teased me about my curves since 5th grade. My mom said ''hold your head high and don't let it bother you.''That @Fox2News story was way out of line.
I'm tough, I can take it.
'-- Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@gretchenwhitmer) February 14, 2019 The governor of North Carolina celebrated this achievement:
For the first time in our state's history, an African American woman will serve as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/Cu2Lxya8HT
'-- Governor Roy Cooper (@NC_Governor) February 13, 2019 And the Pences celebrated Valentine's Day:
'-- Karen Pence (@SecondLady) February 14, 2019 GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Wall Street Journal, ''Pro-Israel Group Lobbies for U.S. Aid, Funds Congressional Trips,'' by Julie Bykowicz and Natalie Andrews: ''The American Israel Public Affairs Committee has drawn criticism from several progressive new lawmakers '... Aipac spends $3.5 million a year to lobby federal lawmakers, according to Senate and House lobbying records. It has advocated for billions in U.S. aid to Israel and opposed a deal between then-President Obama and U.S. allies to ease sanctions against Iran in exchange for stronger oversight of its nuclear activities. President Trump pulled out of the accord last May. '... Through its 'Congressional Club,' some of Aipac's 100,000 members commit to giving at least $2,500 a year to House or Senate candidates while ensuring the donations are made 'in a clearly pro-Israel context,' according to Aipac's website. Aipac spokesman Marshall Wittmann declined to disclose how many of its members are part of the Congressional Club.''
-- New York Times, ''A Locked Door, a Fire and 41 Girls Killed as Police Stood By,'' by Azam Ahmed: ''As fire swept through the classroom, the pleas from the 56 girls locked inside began to fade. Most were unconscious or worse by then, as an eerie silence replaced their panic-stricken shouts. '... Inside, dozens of girls placed in the care of the Guatemalan state lay sprawled on the blackened floor. Forty-one of them died. '... Now, nearly two years later, the trials against public officials accused of failing to prevent the deaths have all begun. But a review of more than two dozen case files of victims and survivors '-- along with interviews of family members, group home employees and public officials '-- reveals a pattern of physical, psychological and sexual abuse allegations at the facility stretching back for years.''
-- Wall Street Journal, ''In Need of Workers, the Midwest Recruits From Puerto Rico,'' by Erin Ailworth and Arian Campo-Flores: ''The Instagram pitch to job seekers in Puerto Rico was tempting. The details even more so: A factory in Sidney, Ohio, was offering full-time employment at $12 an hour, with benefits. When Wilmarys Andino Avila and Luis Vzquez Martnez got an official offer, they packed their bags. '... Tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans have fled the U.S. territory's struggling economy in recent years. While they mostly concentrate in traditional landing spots like New York and Florida, a number are venturing to the Midwest, where jobs in many places are more plentiful than people.''
-- Politico, ''The Most Important New Woman in Congress Is Not Who You Think,'' by Michael Kruse: ''The best-known new member of Congress is obviously the ubiquitous and magnetic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the unreserved used-to-be bartender and millennial social media savant who has parlayed her outer-borough seat into a vanguard position at the head of a surging left. But she is not the reason Democrats are wielding a reclaimed wedge of power in the nation's capital. [Mikie] Sherrill is. If there's a Venn diagram of how Democrats wrested control of the House from Republicans '--women, veterans, flipped districts in more affluent, more educated suburban terrain'--smack at the center is Rebecca Michelle Sherrill. '... 'Mikie,' not 'AOC,' is actually more materially the face of the Democrats' fresh capacity to push legislation and check the agenda of a newly vexed President Donald Trump.''
HOT ON THE LEFT:
''He stopped selling Nike products because of Colin Kaepernick. Now his store is closing,'' from Jacob Bogage : Stephen Martin, ''who owns a sports merchandise store in Colorado Springs called Prime Time Sports, couldn't wrap his head around players kneeling during the national anthem. So he threw himself into the debate. Three years ago, he canceled an autograph signing with Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall after Marshall joined the ranks of protesting players. '... And after Nike made quarterback Colin Kaepernick the face of a prominent ad campaign last year, Martin stopped selling the company's merchandise, a radical step for a sports store in a mall. Now Prime Time Sports is closing, Martin announced Monday, a victim of both the culture wars surrounding the Kaepernick debate and the broader pains afflicting brick-and-mortar retailers.''
HOT ON THE RIGHT ''Cuomo slams Ocasio-Cortez, others, as Amazon ditches New York,'' from Fox News : ''New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo lambasted politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others over Amazon's decision to leave New York City. Opponents of the deal with the tech giant had 'put their own narrow political interests above their community,' he said. '[A] small group [of] politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community -- which poll after poll showed overwhelmingly supported bringing Amazon to Long Island City -- the state's economic future and the best interests of the people of this state,' Cuomo said in the statement, which did not mention Ocasio-Cortez or other lawmakers by name. 'The New York State Senate has done tremendous damage. They should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity.'''
Trump will give a Rose Garden speech on border security and receive his intelligence briefing before flying to Mar-a-Lago.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
''Let's all pray that the president will have wisdom to sign the bill so government doesn't shut down.'' '-- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on the funding agreement. ( Colby Itkowitz )
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Enjoy the warmth today, because it may snow tomorrow. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: ''Get ready for a temperature roller coaster, and lots of grayness, plus some dampness. Clouds dominate this forecast, along with intermittent precipitation chances. Saturday's snow may be our only accumulating chance, and it's not that high, but stay tuned.''
-- The Capitals beat the Sharks 5-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) held a budget meeting in which he tried to convey his commitment to racial equality after his blackface controversy. Gregory S. Schneider reports: ''Over a breakfast of bacon, eggs, waffles and fruit in the Executive Mansion, Northam told a group of conferees from the House of Delegates and the state Senate that he wants them to add money to several programs aimed at helping minorities and the disadvantaged. Northam did not apologize or directly address the swirl of controversy in the executive branch, and the attendees were cordial and businesslike, according to two people familiar with the meeting.''
-- The FTA has threatened to withhold $1.6 billion from Metro if it restores late-night service. Faiz Siddiqui reports: ''The FTA said its federal funding for the region hinges on an approval process for the Metrorail Safety Commission, which must be federally certified by April 15. Metro's potential decision to revert to its old hours could hobble that process, FTA said, because its staff would need to review its budget allotments to Metro to ensure they properly align with the transit agency's safety needs under the new hours.''
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert thinks it ''would be insane'' for Trump to declare a national emergency:
Conservative Bill Kristol posted a minute-long clip of Vice President Pence attacking Obama for using executive power in 2014:
Mike Pence: The president usurping power and end-running Congress is "a profound mistake." pic.twitter.com/GjDbHDvh0u
'-- Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 15, 2019 Dorothy Butler Gilliam, the first black female reporter at The Post, spoke to Trevor Noah about her coverage of the civil rights movement:
Parkland students and families paused for a moment of silence for those who were killed a year ago:
Thousands of teenagers across Europe are skipping school to demand global action against climate change:
Hundreds descended upon Greenville, N.C., for Rep. Walter Jones's funeral.
Former president Bill Clinton eulogized Rep. John Dingell.
WATCH NOW: Former President Bill Clinton is speaking at the funeral of Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in U.S. history https://t.co/5WYX9fOUkN pic.twitter.com/EOgyGdNRhe
'-- CBS News (@CBSNews) February 14, 2019 The first lady visited a children's hospital for Valentine's Day:
And Beto O'Rourke had some strong words for the border wall:
Democrat Beto O'Rourke says he wants to knock down the existing border barriers on the southern borderMSNBC's Chris Hayes: "If you could, would you take the wall down now? Knock it down?"
O'Rourke: "Yes, absolutely. I would take the wall down." pic.twitter.com/0jYSc1kKh8
'-- Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 15, 2019
Text of a Letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate | The White House
Pursuant to section 201 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1621), I hereby report that I have exercised my authority to declare a national emergency in order to address the border security and humanitarian crisis that is threatening the United States. This declaration invokes section 12302 of title 10, United States Code, to allow the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of each relevant military department, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to order units or members of the Ready Reserve to active duty in order to assist and support the activities of the Secretary of Homeland Security at the southern border.
Further, I have invoked section 2808 of title 10, United States Code, and authorized the Secretary of Defense, and at his discretion, the Secretaries of the military departments, to exercise the authority under that section to engage in emergency construction as necessary to support the use of the Armed Forces and respond to the crisis at our southern border.
I am enclosing a copy of the Proclamation I have issued.
DONALD J. TRUMP
Presidential Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Southern Border of the United States | The White House
The current situation at the southern border presents a border security and humanitarian crisis that threatens core national security interests and constitutes a national emergency. The southern border is a major entry point for criminals, gang members, and illicit narcotics. The problem of large-scale unlawful migration through the southern border is long-standing, and despite the executive branch's exercise of existing statutory authorities, the situation has worsened in certain respects in recent years. In particular, recent years have seen sharp increases in the number of family units entering and seeking entry to the United States and an inability to provide detention space for many of these aliens while their removal proceedings are pending. If not detained, such aliens are often released into the country and are often difficult to remove from the United States because they fail to appear for hearings, do not comply with orders of removal, or are otherwise difficult to locate. In response to the directive in my April 4, 2018, memorandum and subsequent requests for support by the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense has provided support and resources to the Department of Homeland Security at the southern border. Because of the gravity of the current emergency situation, it is necessary for the Armed Forces to provide additional support to address the crisis.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 201 and 301 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.), hereby declare that a national emergency exists at the southern border of the United States, and that section 12302 of title 10, United States Code, is invoked and made available, according to its terms, to the Secretaries of the military departments concerned, subject to the direction of the Secretary of Defense in the case of the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. To provide additional authority to the Department of Defense to support the Federal Government's response to the emergency at the southern border, I hereby declare that this emergency requires use of the Armed Forces and, in accordance with section 301 of the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1631), that the construction authority provided in section 2808 of title 10, United States Code, is invoked and made available, according to its terms, to the Secretary of Defense and, at the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, to the Secretaries of the military departments. I hereby direct as follows:
Section 1. The Secretary of Defense, or the Secretary of each relevant military department, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, shall order as many units or members of the Ready Reserve to active duty as the Secretary concerned, in the Secretary's discretion, determines to be appropriate to assist and support the activities of the Secretary of Homeland Security at the southern border.
Sec. 2. The Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and, subject to the discretion of the Secretary of Defense, the Secretaries of the military departments, shall take all appropriate actions, consistent with applicable law, to use or support the use of the authorities herein invoked, including, if necessary, the transfer and acceptance of jurisdiction over border lands.
Sec. 3. This proclamation is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand nineteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.
DONALD J. TRUMP
National Emergencies Act: Which presidents have declared a national emergency and which are still in effect? - CBS News
President Trump declared a national emergency to free up funds to build a wall without congressional approval on Friday, adding that other presidents have called national emergencies on other topics "many times before." The National Emergencies Act of 1975 allows the president to declare a national emergency, but he must outline the specific emergency powers he is using under existing statutes.
According to the Brennan Center, there have been 58 national emergencies called by presidents since 1979. Thirty-one of those national emergencies are still in effect.
Here is a list of when national emergencies have been used, and what their purpose was:
President Jimmy CarterNov. 14, 1979 (still in effect): A national emergency in response to the Iran hostage crisis, which froze Iran's assets in the United States;April 17, 1980: Further Prohibitions on Transactions with Iran, never terminated or continued.President Ronald ReaganOct. 14, 1983: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 1983;March 30, 1984: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked in 1985;May 1, 1985: Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving Nicaragua, revoked in 1990;Sept. 9, 1985: Prohibiting Trade and Certain Other Transactions Involving South Africa (in response to apartheid), revoked 1991;Jan. 17, 1986: Prohibiting Trade and Certain Transactions Involving Libya, revoked 2004;April 8, 1988: Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Panama, revoked 1990.President George H.W. BushAugust 2, 1990: Blocking Iraqi Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Iraq, revoked 2004;Sept. 30, 1990: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked 1993;Nov. 16, 1990: Chemical and Biological Weapons Proliferation, revoked 1994;Oct. 4, 1991: Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Haiti, revoked 1994;May 30, 1992: Blocking "Yugoslav Government" Property and Property of the Governments of Serbia and Montenegro, revoked 2003.President Bill ClintonSept. 26, 1993: Prohibiting Certain Transactions Involving UNITA (a political party in Angola), revoked 2003;Sept. 30, 1993: Measures to Restrict the Participation by United States Persons in Weapons Proliferation Activities, revoked 1994;June 30, 1994: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked 1994;Aug. 19, 1994: Continuation of Export Control Regulations, revoked 2001;Sept. 29, 1994: Measures to Restrict the Participation by United States Persons in Weapons Proliferation Activities, revoked 1994;Oct. 25, 1994: Blocking Property and Additional Measures With Respect to the Bosnian Serb- Controlled Areas of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, revoked 2003;Nov. 14, 1994 (still in effect): Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, continued in November 2018;Jan. 23, 1995 (still in effect): Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process, continued in January 2018;March 15, 1995 (still in effect): Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to the Development of Iranian Petroleum Resources, continued in March 2018 and expanded in August 2018;Oct. 21, 1995 (still in effect): Blocking Assets and Prohibiting Transactions with Significant Narcotics Traffickers, continued in October 2018;March 1, 1996 (still in effect): Regulation of the Anchorage and Movement of Vessels with Respect to Cuba, modified by President Obama in 2016 and again by President Trump in February 2018;May 22, 1997: Prohibiting New Investment in Burma, terminated in October 2016;Nov. 3, 1997 (still in effect): Blocking Sudanese Government Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Sudan, continued in October 2018;June 9, 1998: Blocking Property of the Governments of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), the Republic of Serbia, and the Republic of Montenegro, and Prohibiting New Investment in the Republic of Serbia in Response to the Situation in Kosovo, revoked in 2003;July 4, 1999: Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with the Taliban, revoked in 2002;June 21, 2000: Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, expired 2012;Jan. 18, 2001: Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, revoked in 2004.President George W. BushJune 26, 2001 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Who Threaten International Stabilization Efforts in the Western Balkans, continued in June 2018;Aug. 17, 2001 (still in effect): Continuation of Export Control Regulations, continued August 2018;Sept. 14, 2001 (still in effect): Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks, continued in September 2018;Sept. 23, 2001 (still in effect): Blocking Property and Prohibiting Transactions with Persons who Commit, Threaten to Commit, or Support Terrorism, continued in September 2017;March 6, 2003 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Zimbabwe, continued in March 2018;May 22, 2003 (still in effect): Protecting the Development Fund for Iraq and Certain Other Property in Which Iraq has an Interest, continued in May 2018;May 11, 2004 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Export of Certain Goods to Syria, continued in May 2018;July 22, 2004: Blocking Property of Certain Persons and Prohibiting the Importation of Certain Goods from Liberia, revoked in November 2015;Feb. 7, 2006: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in C´te d'Ivoire, terminated in September 2016;June 16, 2006 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Undermining Democratic Processes or Institutions in Belarus, continued in June 2018;Oct. 27, 2006 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, continued in October 2018;Aug. 1, 2007 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Undermining the Sovereignty of Lebanon or Its Democratic Processes and Institutions, continued in July 2018;June 26, 2008 (still in effect): Continuing Certain Restrictions With Respect to North Korea and North Korean Nationals, continued in October 2018.President Barack ObamaOct. 23, 2009: Declaration of a National Emergency With Respect to the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Pandemic, was never terminated or continued;April 12, 2010 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in Somalia, continued in 2018;Feb. 25, 2011 (still in effect): Blocking Property and Prohibiting Certain Transactions Related to Libya, continued in February 2018;July 24, 2011 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Transnational Criminal Organizations, continued in July 2018;May 16, 2012 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen, continued in May 2012;June 25, 2012: Blocking Property of the Government of the Russian Federation Relating to the Disposition of Highly Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons, revoked in 2015;March 6, 2014 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine, continued in March 2018;April 3, 2014 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons With Respect to South Sudan, continued in March 2018;May 12, 2014 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Conflict in the Central African Republic, continued in May 2018;March 8, 2015 (still in effect): Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Venezuela, continued in March 2018;April 1, 2015 (still in effect): Blocking the Property of Certain Persons Engaging in Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities, continued in March 2018;Nov. 22, 2015 (still in effect): Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi, continued in November 2018.President Donald TrumpDec. 20, 2017: Blocking the Property of Persons Involved in Serious Human Rights Abuse or Corruption;Sept. 12, 2018: Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election;Nov. 27, 2018: Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Nicaragua.
I love Jamaica, its my favorite place to sit on the beach
and get waited on… BEING HONEST HERE…. There history of slavery and oppression
is just as long and bloody as the U.S. Then after the populace rose up
and claimed independence the people are kept down by leaders who are in bed
with the economic hitmen. Fuck Don Lemon, hardship is on the flag in Jamaica.
recalls the shining sun, black reflects hardships, and green represents the
land. The flag colors are gold green and black. The Rastafarian flag adds
red for the blood shed. This guy is such an ignorant asshole.
Sir Jonny B.
Kamala Harris' Political Blackface Routine | Frontpage Mag
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
If Senator Elizabeth Warren wins in 2020, the millionaire class warrior will break the glass ceiling as the first fake American Indian to become the President of the United States. But Senator Kamala Harris is outdoing Warren as the first 2020 fake black candidate who actually is black.
It's easy to fake being a member of a minority group that your DNA test says you can lay 1/1,024th claim to, but what's really challenging is being a fake member of a minority group you actually do belong to.
But Kamala Harris is making being fake look easy.
The other Senator from California decided to tout her racial cred by announcing her candidacy in Oakland on or around Martin Luther King Day. It all went according to plan except that photos showed a sea of white faces in the crowd. Behind her, you could see the sort of unwashed hipsters who haven't figured out how to shave or cut their hair, but attend every Democrat event anywhere in America.
Harris had been born in Oakland, but grew up in Berkeley and Montreal. And when the LA Times interviewed African-Americans in Oakland, it found few who thought of her as a native daughter.
At her rally, Harris waved, alongside her Jewish lawyer husband, Douglas Emhoff.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Kamala Devi Harris, who was raised by her Tamil Indian mother Dr. Shyamala Gopalan, and who spent her formative years in Canada, had attended a Hindu temple, and wore a flower garland around her neck at her wedding to represent Indian tradition (while the groom broke a glass), exemplifies diversity.
As did calling an aunt before an election, asking her, "Please pray for me, break coconuts at the temple."
But Kamala's insistence on fake racial pandering, from her Wakanda Forever video to her claims of listening to Snoop before it was possible, makes Hillary's hot sauce moment seem authentic.
Senator Harris began her series of racial gaffes by falsely claiming that "Two decades after Brown v. Board, I was only the second class to integrate at Berkeley public schools. Without that decision, I likely would not have become a lawyer and eventually be elected a Senator from California."
Harris attended school in Berkeley, California, not Savannah, Georgia. Berkeley schools were not segregated by race. Her mother was an internationally famous cancer researcher and the daughter of P.V. Gopalan, a high-ranking Indian diplomat from the Brahmin caste. Her father was a professor of economics at Stanford who served as an adviser to multiple Jamaican prime ministers.
As a Los Angeles Times article described her, she was the ''privileged child of foreign grad students''.
Kamala's mother taught at universities in France, Italy and Canada. She smugly told Modern Luxury magazine ''When Kamala was in first grade one of her teachers said to me, 'You know, your child has a great imagination. Every time we talk about someplace in the world she says, ''Oh, I've been there.''' So I told her, 'Well, she has been there!' India, England, the Caribbean, Africa'--she had been there.''
Modern Luxury also quoted ''one of Harris's Nob Hill friends'' as saying that ''her Brahmin background accounts for her ease around wealthy, powerful people.''
Everyone in the Gopalan family was expected to earn an advanced degree and usually did. Both sides of her family were upper class political figures in their respective countries with money and power.
Kamala Harris graduated from "Montreal's tony Westmount" (cole Secondaire) high school. Her mother had moved her to Canada when she was twelve years old and lived a privileged childhood there.
Senator Harris' pretense that she would never have become a lawyer if not for school busing to Thousand Oaks is transparently fake racial pandering that tries to paint a privileged upper-class woman, as the victim of racial discrimination in one of the most progressive cities in America.
In her latest gaffe, Senator Harris tried to desperately overcompensate by claiming that she used to get high while listening to ''Snoop'' and ''Tupac''. But as Nick Gillespie pointed out, Harris had graduated from school too early to be listening to either one while getting high or otherwise.
It was another unnecessary 'Hillaryism'. An attempt to demonstrate her authenticity that only backfired.
And it wasn't the first time that Harris had been caught awkwardly trying to fake music cred.
In an appearance on Colbert's CBS Democrat late night fest, she debuted her ''mood mix'' and declared that the song that most reminded her of attending Howard University, an African-American college, was by Salt-N-Pepa, while pronouncing it, ''Salt and Pepper''.
Senator Harris, who had previously opposed drug legalization, denied that she opposed marijuana legalization. ''Half my family's from Jamaica, are you kidding me,'' she retorted.
Her family is from Jamaica. But Senator Harris is cynically playing on stereotypes about drug use.
Donald Harris' Stanford bio describes him as an ''economic consultant to the Government of Jamaica and as economic adviser to successive Prime Ministers''. He had been a Fellow at Cambridge and a Fulbright Scholar in South America. He had even done consulting work for the UN and the World Bank.
The Harris family is descended from slave-owner Hamilton Brown. His grandfather, Joseph Alexander Harris, was a landowner. There are values in Harris' account of his family worth teaching.
Unfortunately, Senator Kamala Harris chose to use her ancestry as a drug stereotype punchline.
Harris didn't spend her college years getting high. Instead she got two degrees. Those are values that she picked up from both her parents. Instead of passing those values down, she's condescendingly pandering to racial stereotypes in order to demonstrate her inauthentic authenticity.
Blackface controversies have torn apart Virginia. But Kamala Harris is running her own kind of blackface routine, performing stereotypes about black people for mostly white audiences, in order to get ahead. And the awkward head movements, the phony cultural references and attempts at victimhood, is its own kind of political minstrel show reeking of contempt for both black and white people.
Both Warren and Harris, successful professional women, appropriated the cultural identities of oppressed people to get a leg up because much of identity politics is really performative social climbing by upper-class professionals trying to obtain special privileges by identifying with minorities.
The new political blackface routines, like the old minstrel shows, depend on insulting condescending stereotypes, like Warren's Pow Wow Chow and Harris' imaginary Jamaican pot smoking family. Minstrel shows dehumanized their targets and their participants. Political blackface does the same thing.
Senator Kamala Harris could run as a career prosecutor from two upper class families, who grew up traveling the world with her parents, who spent her formative years in Montreal, who counted Nancy Pelosi as a friend back in her Nob Hill days, who married at a Jewish-Indian wedding, and whose tastes in music, very obviously, don't include either Snoop Dogg or Salt-N-Pepa.
Instead she decided to run as a self-made blackface cartoon because her background is too diverse and too complicated. Identity politics claims to value diversity, but favors simple identities that appeal to chauvinistic racial and ethnic national movements. Kamala's diversity cuts across those neat lines, outraging racial and religious sensibilities, and necessitating a simpler story complete with blackface.
It's also much too upper class. In an election where everyone is trying to speak for the oppressed, her real background explains all too well how she tapped into elite political networks (not counting the affair with Willie Brown, the much older Mayor of San Francisco, who appointed her to positions she wasn't qualified for and bought her a BMW) and how those networks exclude the actual marginalized minorities whom they claim to represent. That's the explosive reality that Harris is smoothing over.
Identity politics can do a lot for someone like Senator Kamala Harris. Or even Senator Elizabeth Warren. It's going to do much less for a poor family from Oakland. That's the ugly truth about diversity.
And the ugly truth is being hidden with a whole lot of blackface.
* * *
Photo by Mobilus in Mobili
New AI fake text generator may be too dangerous to release, say creators | Technology | The Guardian
The creators of a revolutionary AI system that can write news stories and works of fiction '' dubbed ''deepfakes for text'' '' have taken the unusual step of not releasing their research publicly, for fear of potential misuse.
OpenAI, an nonprofit research company backed by Elon Musk, says its new AI model, called GPT2 is so good and the risk of malicious use so high that it is breaking from its normal practice of releasing the full research to the public in order to allow more time to discuss the ramifications of the technological breakthrough.
How OpenAI writes convincing news stories and works of fiction - videoAt its core, GPT2 is a text generator. The AI system is fed text, anything from a few words to a whole page, and asked to write the next few sentences based on its predictions of what should come next. The system is pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible, both in terms of the quality of the output, and the wide variety of potential uses.
When used to simply generate new text, GPT2 is capable of writing plausible passages that match what it is given in both style and subject. It rarely shows any of the quirks that mark out previous AI systems, such as forgetting what it is writing about midway through a paragraph, or mangling the syntax of long sentences.
Feed it the opening line of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four '' ''It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen'' '' and the system recognises the vaguely futuristic tone and the novelistic style, and continues with:
''I was in my car on my way to a new job in Seattle. I put the gas in, put the key in, and then I let it run. I just imagined what the day would be like. A hundred years from now. In 2045, I was a teacher in some school in a poor part of rural China. I started with Chinese history and history of science.''
Feed it the first few paragraphs of a Guardian story about Brexit, and its output is plausible newspaper prose, replete with ''quotes'' from Jeremy Corbyn, mentions of the Irish border, and answers from the prime minister's spokesman.
One such, completely artificial, paragraph reads: ''Asked to clarify the reports, a spokesman for May said: 'The PM has made it absolutely clear her intention is to leave the EU as quickly as is possible and that will be under her negotiating mandate as confirmed in the Queen's speech last week.'''
From a research standpoint, GPT2 is groundbreaking in two ways. One is its size, says Dario Amodei, OpenAI's research director. The models ''were 12 times bigger, and the dataset was 15 times bigger and much broader'' than the previous state-of-the-art AI model. It was trained on a dataset containing about 10m articles, selected by trawling the social news site Reddit for links with more than three votes. The vast collection of text weighed in at 40 GB, enough to store about 35,000 copies of Moby Dick.
The amount of data GPT2 was trained on directly affected its quality, giving it more knowledge of how to understand written text. It also led to the second breakthrough. GPT2 is far more general purpose than previous text models. By structuring the text that is input, it can perform tasks including translation and summarisation, and pass simple reading comprehension tests, often performing as well or better than other AIs that have been built specifically for those tasks.
That quality, however, has also led OpenAI to go against its remit of pushing AI forward and keep GPT2 behind closed doors for the immediate future while it assesses what malicious users might be able to do with it. ''We need to perform experimentation to find out what they can and can't do,'' said Jack Clark, the charity's head of policy. ''If you can't anticipate all the abilities of a model, you have to prod it to see what it can do. There are many more people than us who are better at thinking what it can do maliciously.''
To show what that means, OpenAI made one version of GPT2 with a few modest tweaks that can be used to generate infinite positive '' or negative '' reviews of products. Spam and fake news are two other obvious potential downsides, as is the AI's unfiltered nature . As it is trained on the internet, it is not hard to encourage it to generate bigoted text, conspiracy theories and so on.
Instead, the goal is to show what is possible to prepare the world for what will be mainstream in a year or two's time. ''I have a term for this. The escalator from hell,'' Clark said. ''It's always bringing the technology down in cost and down in price. The rules by which you can control technology have fundamentally changed.
''We're not saying we know the right thing to do here, we're not laying down the line and saying 'this is the way' '... We are trying to develop more rigorous thinking here. We're trying to build the road as we travel across it.''
The CFA franc (in French: franc CFA [fÊÉÌ seÉfÉ] , or colloquially franc) is the name of two currencies, the West African CFA franc, used in eight West African countries, and the Central African CFA franc, used in six Central African countries. Both currencies are guaranteed by the French treasury. Although separate, the two CFA franc currencies have always been at parity and are effectively interchangeable. The ISO currency codes are XAF for the Central African CFA franc and XOF for the West African CFA franc.
Both CFA francs have a fixed exchange rate to the euro: 100 CFA francs = 1 former French (nouveau) franc = 0.152449 euro; or 1 '¬ = 6.55957 FRF = 655.957 CFA francs exactly.
Usage [ edit ] CFA francs is used in fourteen countries: twelve nations formerly ruled by France in West and Central Africa (excluding Guinea and Mauritania, which withdrew), plus Guinea-Bissau (a former Portuguese colony), and Equatorial Guinea (a former Spanish colony). These fourteen countries have a combined population of 147.5 million people (as of 2013), and a combined GDP of US$166.6 billion (as of 2012). The ISO currency codes are XAF for the Central African CFA franc and XOF for the West African CFA franc.
Evaluation [ edit ] The currency has been criticized for making economic planning for the developing countries of French West Africa all but impossible since the CFA's value is pegged to the euro (whose monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank). Others disagree and argue that the CFA "helps stabilize the national currencies of Franc Zone member-countries and greatly facilitates the flow of exports and imports between France and the member-countries". The European Union's own assessment of the CFA's link to the euro, carried out in 2008, noted that "benefits from economic integration within each of the two monetary unions of the CFA franc zone, and even more so between them, remained remarkably low" but that "the peg to the French franc and, since 1999, to the euro as exchange rate anchor is usually found to have had favourable effects in the region in terms of macroeconomic stability".
Name [ edit ] Between 1945 and 1958, CFA stood for Colonies fran§aises d'Afrique ("French colonies of Africa"); then for Communaut(C) fran§aise d'Afrique ("French Community of Africa") between 1958 (establishment of the French Fifth Republic) and the independence of these African countries at the beginning of the 1960s. Since independence, CFA is taken to mean Communaut(C) Financi¨re Africaine (African Financial Community), but in actual use, the term can have two meanings (see Institutions below).Another school of thought believes the CFA means Currency Fixed Against the French Franc.
History [ edit ] Creation [ edit ] The CFA franc was created on 26 December 1945, along with the CFP franc. The reason for their creation was the weakness of the French franc immediately after World War II. When France ratified the Bretton Woods Agreement in December 1945, the French franc was devalued in order to set a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar. New currencies were created in the French colonies to spare them the strong devaluation, thereby facilitating imports from France.[citation needed ] French officials presented the decision as an act of generosity. Ren(C) Pleven, the French minister of finance, was quoted as saying:
In a show of her generosity and selflessness, metropolitan France, wishing not to impose on her far-away daughters the consequences of her own poverty, is setting different exchange rates for their currency.
Exchange rate [ edit ] The CFA franc was created with a fixed exchange rate versus the French franc. This exchange rate was changed only twice: in 1948 and in 1994.
26 December 1945 to 16 October 1948 '' 1 CFA franc = 1.70 FRF (FRF = French franc). This 0.70 FRF premium is the consequence of the creation of the CFA franc, which spared the French African colonies the devaluation of December 1945 (before December 1945, 1 local franc in these colonies was worth 1 French franc).17 October 1948 to 31 December 1959 '' 1 CFA franc = 2.00 FRF (the CFA franc had followed the French franc's devaluation versus the US dollar in January 1948, but on 18 October 1948, the French franc devalued again and this time the CFA franc was revalued against the French franc to offset almost all of this new devaluation of the French franc; after October 1948, the CFA was never revalued again versus the French franc and followed all the successive devaluations of the French franc)1 January 1960 to 11 January 1994 '' 1 CFA franc = 0.02 FRF (1 January 1960: the French franc redenominated, with 100 "old" francs becoming 1 "new" franc)12 January 1994 to 31 December 1998 '' 1 CFA franc = 0.01 FRF (sharp devaluation of the CFA franc to help African exports)1 January 1999 onwards '' 100 CFA franc = 0.152449 euro or 1 euro = 655.957 CFA franc. (1 January 1999: euro replaced FRF at the rate of 6.55957 FRF for 1 euro)The 1960 and 1999 events were merely changes in the currency in use in France: the relative value of the CFA franc versus the French franc/euro changed only in 1948 and 1994.
The value of the CFA franc has been widely criticized as being too high, which many economists believe favours the urban elite of the African countries, who can buy imported manufactured goods cheaply at the expense of farmers who cannot easily export agricultural products.[citation needed ] The devaluation of 1994 was an attempt to reduce these imbalances.
Changes in countries using the franc [ edit ] Over time, the number of countries and territories using the CFA franc has changed as some countries began introducing their own separate currencies. A couple of nations in West Africa have also chosen to adopt the CFA franc since its introduction, despite the fact that they were never French colonies.
1960: Guinea leaves and begins issuing Guinean francs1962: Mali leaves and begins issuing Malian francs1973: Madagascar leaves (in 1972, according to another source) and begins issuing its own francs, the Malagasy franc, which ran concurrently with the Malagasy ariary (1 ariary = 5 Malagasy francs)1973: Mauritania leaves, replacing the franc with the Mauritanian ouguiya (1 ouguiya = 5 CFA francs)1974: Saint-Pierre and Miquelon leaves for French franc1975: R(C)union leaves for French franc1976: Mayotte leaves for French franc1984: Mali rejoins (1 CFA franc = 2 Malian francs)1985: Equatorial Guinea joins (1 franc = 4 bipkwele)1997: Guinea-Bissau joins (1 franc = 65 pesos)European Monetary Union [ edit ] In 1998, in anticipation of Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, the Council of the European Union addressed the monetary agreements France had with the CFA Zone and Comoros and ruled that:
The agreements are unlikely to have any material effect on the monetary and exchange rate policy of the EurozoneIn their present forms and states of implementation, the agreements are unlikely to present any obstacle to a smooth functioning of economic and monetary unionNothing in the agreements can be construed as implying an obligation for the European Central Bank (ECB) or any national central bank to support the convertibility of the CFA and Comorian francsModifications to the existing agreements will not lead to any obligations for the European Central or any national central bankThe French Treasury will guarantee the free convertibility at a fixed parity between the euro and the CFA and Comorian francsThe competent French authorities shall keep the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Economic and Financial Committee informed about the implementation of the agreements and inform the Committee prior to changes of the parity between the euro and the CFA and Comorian francsAny change to the nature or scope of the agreements would require Council approval on the basis of a Commission recommendation and ECB consultationInstitutions [ edit ] There are two different currencies called the CFA franc: the West African CFA franc (ISO 4217 currency code XOF), and the Central Africa CFA franc (ISO 4217 currency code XAF). They are distinguished in French by the meaning of the abbreviation CFA. These two CFA francs have the same exchange rate with the euro (1 euro = 655.957 XOF = 655.957 XAF), and they are both guaranteed by the French treasury (Tr(C)sor public), but the West African CFA franc cannot be used in Central African countries, and the Central Africa CFA franc cannot be used in West African countries.
West African [ edit ] West African CFA franc coins
The West African CFA franc (XOF) is known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Communaut(C) financi¨re d'Afrique ("Financial Community of Africa") or Communaut(C) Financi¨re Africaine ("African Financial Community"). It is issued by the BCEAO (Banque Centrale des tats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest, i.e., "Central Bank of the West African States"), located in Dakar, Senegal, for the eight countries of the UEMOA (Union conomique et Mon(C)taire Ouest Africaine, i.e., "West African Economic and Monetary Union"):
These eight countries have a combined population of 102.5 million people (as of 2013), and a combined GDP of US$78.4 billion (as of 2012).
Central African [ edit ] Central African CFA franc coins
1000 Central African CFA francs
The Central Africa CFA franc (XAF) is known in French as the Franc CFA, where CFA stands for Coop(C)ration financi¨re en Afrique centrale ("Financial Cooperation in Central Africa"). It is issued by the BEAC (Banque des tats de l'Afrique Centrale, i.e., "Bank of the Central African States"), located in Yaound(C), Cameroon, for the six countries of the CEMAC (Communaut(C) conomique et Mon(C)taire de l'Afrique Centrale, i.e., "Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa"):
These six countries have a combined population of 45.0 million people (as of 2013), and a combined GDP of US$88.2 billion (as of 2012).
In 1975, Central African CFA banknotes were issued with an obverse unique to each participating country, and common reverse, in a fashion similar to euro coins.
Equatorial Guinea, the only former Spanish colony in the zone, adopted the CFA in 1984.
Gallery [ edit ] A 1 CFA franc coin.
500 West African CFA francs.
1000 Central African CFA francs.
See also [ edit ] Comorian francCurrencies related to the euroCFP francR(C)union francGeneral:
List of French possessions and coloniesFrench colonial empireEconomy of AfricaReferences [ edit ] ^ a b c Population Reference Bureau. "2013 World Population Data Sheet" (PDF) . Retrieved 2013-10-01 . ^ a b c World Bank. "Gross domestic product 2012" (PDF) . Retrieved 2013-10-01 . ^ "A strong currency like the CFA franc makes exports from the CFA-franc zone much more costly than they would ordinarily be and as a result economic growth suffers accordingly. Since most of the countries that use the currency are poor, mostly agricultural economies, this has put a stranglehold on their trade and made them overly dependent upon continuing, privileged access to French and, though them, European markets. That this effectively recreates a quasi-colonial trading relationship between France and its former African colonies that benefits France mightily has not been lost on observers. - See more at: http://afkinsider.com/41946/forex-africa-african-euro/#sthash.bAiuUVxB.dpuf", FOREX Africa: The CFA Franc aka The African Euro, By Jeffrey Cavanaugh AFKI Original Published: February 12, 2014, 02:11pm, http://afkinsider.com/41946/forex-africa-african-euro/#sthash.bAiuUVxB.dpuf ^ Economic Integration and Development in Africa, Henry Kyambalesa, Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, p. 88 ^ The role of Euro in Sub Saharan Africa, Economic papers 347, November 2008, http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/publications/publication13478_en.pdf ^ Encyclop...dia Britannica Online, Communaut(C) Financi¨re Africaine franc; accessed 2008.12.05. ^ IEDOM/Banque de France - History, Historique des billets Archived 3 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine ^ IEDOM/Banque de France Le mot du Directeur de l'agence de Mayotte ^ "Pr(C)sentation" (in French). Central Bank of West African States . Retrieved 20 July 2012 . External links [ edit ] Wikimedia Commons has media related to CFA franc.History of the CFA francFranc zone information at Banque de France (in English) Franc zone information at Banque de France (in French) (Translate to English: Google, Bing) (in French, but more extensive than the English version)Decision of the Council of Europe on 23 November 1998 regarding the CFA and Comorian francs"For better or worse: the euro and the CFA franc", Africa Recovery, Department of Public Information, United Nations (April 1999)Other [ edit ] Central Bank of Madagascar Pass(C) et Avenir du Franc C.F.A. (in French) (Translate to English: Google, Bing) The CFA franc zone and the EMU
CHINER INVESTMENTS-Alibaba takes an 8% stake in Tencent-backed anime streaming site Bilibili | TechCrunch
Ecommerce giant Alibaba is continuing its push into the world of youth culture after it scooped up an 8 percent stake in anime streaming and game publishing company Bilibili.
According to a securities filing on Thursday, Alibaba's Taobao marketplace has acquired about 24 million shares in Bilibili, the Shanghai-based firm that has captured 93 million monthly users from hosting licensed anime titles, video games and user-generated content.
The financial gesture is hot on the heels of a partnership announced in December that saw the pair working to monetize Bilibili's content assets. For one, Alibaba can help Bilibili creators sell merchandise like cosplay costumes and anime toys through Taobao's online bazaar. Bilibili itself owns an e-store, but Taobao's command of 700 million monthly users dwarfs its reach.
''The partnership is great news for ACG content creators,'' a Shanghai-based merchant that sells Lolita costumes on Taobao told TechCrunch, referring to the acrynom for ''anime, comic and games.'' The owner sells through both Taobao and Bilibili, though most sales have come from Taobao.
''We can now leverage Taobao's gigantic platform and seasoned ecommerce operating capabilities to further help our content creators realize and improve their commercial values, thereby building a more virtuous content community and commercialization-focused ecosystem,'' says Bilibili chief executive and chairman Chen Rui in a statement.
Screenshot: Taobao has a dedicated channel for anime, comic and gaming (ACG) items.
What Alibaba gets in return is access to China's Generation Z. Bilibili claims that 82 percent of its users were born between 1990 and 2009. In a savvy move, Alibaba hooked up its food delivery unit Ele.me with Bilibili in December to tap a demographic of anime-watching and game-playing young people reliant on delivered meals.
'' Over 1.6 million content creators, including anime, comic and games (ACG) experts, were actively supporting the Taobao app and helping brands on our platform engage with consumers,'' says Fan Jiang, vice president of Alibaba and president of Taobao. ''Through deep cooperation with intellectual property holders and content creators, Taobao has experienced the great potential of ACG.''
Investors' darling Tencent and Baidu's iQiyi have also spent big bucks to beef up their respective anime offering, but Bilibili's flourishing youth community gives it an edge over these deep-pocketed video-streaming heavyweights and to an extent makes it an investors' darling. The eight-year-old company is notable for being one of the rare companies that count both Alibaba and Tencent '-- which compete on multiple fronts spanning ecommerce to cloud computing '-- as their investors. Other companies that won backings from the duo include China's largest ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing.
Last October, social media and gaming juggernaut Tencent poured nearly $320 million into Bilibili in exchange for a 12.3 percent stake. While Alibaba helps drive revenues to Bilibili's community of creators and potentially boost their loyalty to the site, Tencent could help it save on licensing fees for games and animes.
''Tencent and Bilibili are two of the major players in the animation industry. By working with Tencent, this will intensively expand our content offering and effectively decrease our content investment in the animation copyright procurement,'' Chen of Bilibili said during the company's Q3 earnings call.
''The agreement will enable us to leverage Tencent's primary content, particularly in licensing, co-producing and investment in anime as well as publish Tencent's large portfolio of high-quality mobile games,'' Bilibili's chief financial officer Sam Fan added.
Internet pioneer Paul Vixie blasts Google over Chromecast - Business Insider
Internet pioneer Paul Vixie publicly ranted about Google this week after he bought a Chromecast device and tried to stream videos to his TV over his home network. The Chromecast was trying to do something Vixie hadn't allowed any device on his home network to do: blab about his network to an outside entity, in this case, to Google. It led to an ironic situation where the streaming stick was trying to circumvent some of the very internet technologies that Vixie helped to invent. Of course Vixie found a way to outsmart the Chromecast, for now, and he explained to Business Insider why he got so ticked off. "Google, this is bogus as hell," Paul Vixie ranted on Internet Engineering Task Force mail list this week. The IETF mail list is where the people who create the internet's technologies converse.
The post was noticed because Paul Vixie is an Internet Hall of Fame engineer known for his pioneering work on the modern Domain Name Service (DNS).
And it is how Google was using DNS in its Chromecast Ultra streaming device that ticked him off.
Read: AT&T signed an '8-digit' deal that isn't good news for VMware, Cisco, or Huawei '-- but could be great for Google Cloud
DNS turns the words you type into your browser, like businessinsider.com, in the numerical internet address that computers use to find webpages, videos or whatnot and deliver them to your device. Home networks typically use their ISP's DNS server, unless a network professional, like the guy who invented DNS, has told the network to use a different one. Google offers a free public DNS server to the world, too, at address 220.127.116.11.
Not only did Vixie help create the modern version of DNS, he's also known for making it secure. He co-created the first internet reputation system to blacklist bad actors, the Real-time Blackhole List (RBL). And then he went on to found the first anti-spam organization, MAPS (for "Mail Abuse Prevention System") as a nonprofit.
He's one of reasons we can safely use the internet today for everything from our banking to our jobs.
No way, Google Vixie wanted to enjoy the fruits of his internet-inventing labors in a perfectly ordinary manner: streaming YouTube to his TV.
So he bought a Google Chromecast. But when he went to set it up, he found it doing something no device in his network is allowed to do: It wouldn't use his own, private DNS server. It would only use Google's public server.
He was miffed. Chromecast was telling the father of DNS that he couldn't control the DNS it would use, so Chromecast would choose for itself.
Vixie wasn't going to have it.
"No, this device I've paid for, will NOT be allowed to send you any information, other than what I personally approve, which will never include DNS traffic. If you don't like that deal, buy it back from me and I'll find some other video appliance that doesn't twist my arm," Vixie wrote publicly to Google.
It's a "data leak" We reached out to Vixie and asked him why he was so ticked off. What's the big deal if Google Chromecast uses Google's own DNS?
This wasn't about fearing that Google would be able to spy on him. "They have no power to do [that] kind of rerouting or hijacking," he said.
But he was concerned that it was giving an outsider a peek at which devices he uses on his network, something he doesn't allow. In this case, the device is telling Google that he's got a Chromecast Ultra.
"It's a data leak '-- I don't allow application-level DNS queries to leave my network, because I don't want any outsider to know which device or application here asked which DNS question," he told us.
He's also sure that Google has very deliberately hardwired its own DNS server into the Chromecast device, not allowing anyone to change that setting.
Chromecast UltraGoogle To be fair to Google, there are valid, not-evil reasons why the company would do this.
For one, the typical homeowner isn't an internet genius. If their internet-provider's DNS server was having issues and Chromecast didnt work, people would blame the device and go to Google's support people.
And maybe there's a worry that cable-company internet providers don't want people streaming to their TVs. Cutting them out is one way to sidestep them. (This is what net neutrality is about and the current White House administration has given much power to the cable companies/ISPs in the area.)
"Their motives are not obvious," Vixie said of Google. "It's obviously their intent to ignore my DNS settings, not an oversight of any kind."
Since Vixie is an internet genius, he's been able to trick Chromecast into thinking it's using Google's DNS service. If that ever changes, he'll get rid of the streaming stick, he says.
"As I often said back in the late 1990's when running MAPS, the first anti-spam company, after co-inventing the RBL, the first distributed reputation system: 'My network, my rules,'" he told us.
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Get the latest Google stock price here.
More: Google Chromecast Computer Security Internet
FCC rules on 5G cellphone upgrade spark antenna fight - Washington Times
A turf war between federal regulators and local jurisdictions is brewing over the installation of hundreds of thousands of cellphone towers to upgrade to 5G.
The fifth generation of wireless internet would require more than 400,000 ''small-cell'' antennas to be placed fairly close together, a situation that officials in Portland, Oregon, have called an eyesore.
What's more, the Federal Communications Commission in September drastically cut how much municipalities can charge wireless carriers to install and maintain the antennas. The FCC also shortened the time frame for cities to approve installation permits.
More than 80 cities and counties have filed lawsuits challenging the new FCC rules, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco is expected to render a decision in the lead case in April.
The technology promises to deliver more data faster to mobile devices with fewer delays and interruptions. And FCC officials have framed 5G's years-long rollout as akin to a technological arms race with China, ordering expedited installation permits. The new rule allows municipalities 60 days to approve attaching small cells to existing structures and 90 days for raising new towers or poles.
But the bigger blow to cities is the agency limiting fees for installation to $100 per unit and maintenance to $270 per unit per year. Previously, jurisdictions had charged companies thousands of dollars per unit.
Cities and counties say they want the technological upgrade, but they cite the FCC's order as unconstitutional and illegal.
In an email to The Washington Times, Tom Cochran, executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, accused the agency of reinterpreting ''federal law as part of its efforts to 'nationalize' city and other local public property in its quest to grant special and unlawful rights to private enterprises that seek to occupy local rights-of-ways and public property for small cell deployment.''
''Instead of working with local governments to win the global race to 5G, the FCC is forcing cities to race to the courthouse to defend the most basic of local government rights '-- the authority to manage and seek fair compensation from private users that seek to employ public assets, owned and paid for by local taxpayers, for their personal profit without any obligation to serve all of the community whose assets are occupied,'' Mr. Cochran said.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities and the National Conference of State Legislatures have joined a growing list of jurisdictions, including six of the country's 10 largest cities '-- New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas and San Jose, California '-- in opposing the FCC order.
When asked for comment, the FCC referred The Washington Times to a speech Chairman Ajit Pai delivered in September during a White House summit on 5G intended to ''underscore the importance of this issue and of moving quickly.''
''Time is of the essence,'' Mr. Pai said. ''We are not alone in our pursuit of 5G. The U.S. is in the lead, thanks to our private sector as well as the work of the FCC, this administration and Congress. But China, South Korea and many other countries are eager to claim this mantle.''
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr also has raised concerns about the speed of the 5G rollout across America.
''Being first matters,'' Mr. Carr said in a statement in September. ''It determines whether capital will flow here, whether innovators will start their new businesses here, and whether the economy that benefits is the one here.''
'$2 billion in red tape'
AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have lauded the FCC's moves, calling them needed to justify their massive investments in 5G infrastructure.
According to the industry trade group CTIA, wireless providers eventually will invest as much as $275 billion in upgrading networks to 5G across the U.S.
In addition, a recent study by the consulting firm Accenture estimates that small-cell technology will create ''more than 20,000 jobs and attract $2 billion in capital investment, resulting in nearly $4 billion in economic growth over the next few years.''
The Accenture study also estimates that the 5G upgrade will require 769,000 small-cell antennas to be erected across the country from 2018 to 2026. At the end of 2017, about 320,000 4G cell sites were in service '-- meaning about 449,000 new antennas will be raised in the upgrade.
The 5G network will require more antennas that are placed closer together than its 4G predecessor to allow for uninterrupted, high-speed communications between mobile devices. The small-cell antennas, which can be as large as a refrigerator, must be dispersed roughly one site per city block. Many can be affixed to streetlights or utility poles.
Telecommunications experts say that 5G's data-dense technology will allow more users to access high-speed wireless networks at the same time, provide mobile devices with more information and create opportunities to expand the use of virtual and augmented reality. It could help self-driving cars ''talk'' to each other and traffic monitors, allow doctors to conduct medical procedures on patients thousands of miles away, and help businesses automate their workspaces.
The FCC's reduction in cities' antenna fees has cut ''$2 billion in red tape'' for America's largest wireless providers, the agency's Mr. Carr said.
Ted Wheeler, mayor of Portland, Oregon, was the first to legally challenge the new rules. Portland, which charges as much as $3,000 in annual fees on cell towers, is angry not only over lost potential revenue but also because he says the small cells will be eyesores, especially in historic neighborhoods.
Other cities have voiced similar concerns.
The National Conference of State Legislatures said it ''supports timely deployment of wireless technologies.''
But its officials also ''remain concerned about the role of the FCC in an area of traditionally state and local authority,'' Abbie Gruwell, the group's communications director, told The Times in an email.
''They [The FCC] are saying that a street corner at Lincoln Plaza in New York City is worth the same as a street corner in Lincoln, Nebraska, which is not the case,'' said Gerry Lederer, an attorney at Best Best & Krieger, which is providing counsel to the cities and counties involved in the lawsuits.
Verizon spokesman Paul Vasington recently described headlines about the FFC order as overblown, saying telecom carriers must gather ''input'' from cities and counties.
At least 20 states already have addressed streamlining processes for small-cell rights-of-way and permitting, according to NCSL, with more states aiming to tackle the issue this year.
Mr. Pai and his chief of staff, Matthew Berry, have argued that the FCC is on safe legal ground. At a telecommunications conference last week, Mr. Berry reiterated that the new rules ''respect local control.''
Still, resistance is brewing. Rep. Anna Eshoo, California Democrat, introduced a bill last month to roll back the FCC's 5G order.
And last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee began investigating the issue, with Chairman Frank Pallone, New Jersey Democrat, saying that the FCC may have improperly ''leveraged its power as a regulator'' to save wireless providers billions of dollars in 5G building costs.
Meanwhile, the 5G rollout is underway in many cities.
Mike Lynch, director of Boston's broadband and cable, recently said 80 percent of small-cell applications the city receives are decided upon in 10 days or less.
That turnaround time is within the FCC's new rules and means Boston has ''given the industry what they wanted'' '-- speed and certainty to build the 5G network, Mr. Lynch said.
'... This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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The Link between Iran and Venezuela: A Crisis in the Making? Global Financial Integrity
Robert M. MorgenthauRemarks by Mr. Robert M. Morgenthau
New York County District Attorney Event Hosted by Global Financial Integrity Brookings Institution Washington, DC
I would like to thank the Brookings Institute for inviting me to speak today. The issues I will discuss with all of you are the blossoming relationship between what might seem unlikely bedfellows'.... the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, whether we have a national security crisis looming on the horizon, and whether our national security and law enforcement communities are sufficiently focused on this threat.
Iran and Venezuela are beyond the courting phase. We know they are creating a cozy financial, political, and military partnership, and that both countries have strong ties to Hezbollah and Hamas. Now is the time for policies and actions in order to ensure that the partnership produces no poisonous fruit.
I. Iran and Venezuela In Bed TogetherThe diplomatic ties between Iran and Venezuela go back almost fifty years and until recently amounted to little more than the routine exchange of diplomats. With the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 the relationship dramatically changed. Today I believe it is fair to say they have created a flourishing partnership rooted in a shared anti-American rhetoric and policy.
As early as 2006, public signs of their alliance began to emerge. It was in this year that Venezuela joined Cuba and Syria as the only nations to vote against a U.N. Atomic Energy Agency resolution to report Iran to the Security Council over its failures to abide U.N. sanctions to curtail its nuclear program. In 2007, during a Chavez state-visit to Tehran, the two nations declared an ''axis of unity'' against the United States. Additionally in the diplomatic arena, Ahmadinejad has made recent visits to Latin America, and Chavez has personally helped initiate relationships between Iran and Nicaragua, Bolivia, and Ecuador.
In June, while protesters lined the streets of Tehran demonstrating for democracy and basic political rights following the substantial allegations of fraud in the re-election of Ahmadinejad, Chavez publicly offered him support. As the regime cracked down on political dissent, jailing, torturing and killing protesters, Venezuela stood with the Iranian hard-liners.
Iranian investments inside of Venezuela are on the rise and ambitions of nuclear cooperation between the States are no secret.
Scores of Memoranda of Understanding between the two Nations have been signed in recent years relating to:
joint technology developmentmilitary cooperationbanking and financecooperation with oil and gas exploration and refiningmineral explorationagricultural researchIn April 2008, Venezuela and Iran entered into a Memorandum of Understanding pledging full military support and cooperation. It has been reported that since 2006 Iranian military advisors have been embedded with Venezuelan troops. Asymmetric warfare, taught to members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Hezbollah and Hamas, has replaced U.S. Army field manuals as the standard Venezuelan military doctrine.
According to a report published in December 2008 by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Venezuela has an estimated 50,000 tons of un-mined uranium. In the area of mineral exploration there is speculation that Venezuela could be mining uranium for Iran.
On the financial front, in January 2008, the Iranians opened International Development Bank in Caracas under the Spanish name Banco Internacional de Desarrollo C.A. (BID), an independent subsidiary of Export Development Bank of Iran (EDBI). In October 2008, The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed economic sanctions against these two Iranian banks '' BID and EDBI '' for providing or attempting to provide financial services to Iran's Ministry of Defense and its Armed Forces Logistics, the two Iranian military entities tasked with advancing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
My office has learned that over the past three years, a number of Iranian-owned and controlled factories have sprung up in remote and undeveloped parts of Venezuela. These factories have emerged in small towns in interior Venezuela with a lack of basic infrastructure and simple amenities like restaurants and groceries. The lack of infrastructure is offset by what experts believe to be ideal geographic locations for the illicit production of weapons.
Evidence of the type of activity conducted inside the factories is limited. But given their location and secretive nature we should be concerned that illegal activity might be taking place. That is so, especially in light of an incident in December 2008, in which Turkish authorities detained an Iranian vessel bound for Venezuela after discovering lab equipment capable of producing explosives packed inside 22 containers marked ''tractor parts.'' The containers also allegedly contained barrels labeled with ''danger'' signs. I think it is safe to assume that this was a lucky catch and that most often shipments of this kind reach their destination in Venezuela.
And let there be no doubt that Hugo Chavez leads not only a corrupt government but one staffed by terrorist sympathizers. The government has strong ties to narco-trafficking and money laundering, and reportedly plays an active role in the transshipment of narcotics and the laundering of narcotics proceeds in exchange for payments to corrupt government officials.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published a study requested by Senator Richard Lugar examining the issue of illicit drugs transiting Venezuela. The study reported a high level of corruption within the government, military, and law enforcement that has enabled Venezuela to become a major transshipment route for trafficking cocaine out of Colombia. Intelligence gathered by my office strongly supports the conclusion that Hezbollah supporters in South America are engaged in the trafficking of narcotics. The GAO study also confirms allegations of Venezuelan support for FARC, the Colombian terrorist insurgency group which finances its operations through narcotics trafficking, extortion and kidnapping.
In July of this year, in a raid on a FARC training camp, Colombian military operatives recovered Swedish-made anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. Sweden believes the recovery demonstrates a violation of the end-user agreement by Venezuela, given that the Swedish manufacturer was never authorized to sell arms to Colombia. Venezuelan Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami, a Venezuelan of Syrian origin, lamely called the allegations a ''media show,'' that is '''...part of a campaign against our people, our government and our institutions.''
But Venezuela's link to terrorist organizations does not stop with FARC. Particularly alarming, within the ranks of Chavez's corrupt government lie supporters of Hezbollah.
In fact, Mr. El Aissami, who at one time headed Onidex, the Venezuelan passport and naturalization agency inside the interior ministry, is suspected of having issued passports to members of Hamas and Hezbollah. There are also allegations that El Aissami and others affiliated with Hezbollah are in charge of recruiting young Venezuelan Arabs who are then trained in Hezbollah camps in Southern Lebanon. Onidex is now headed by a very close friend of El Aissami; the two attended the same university and the friend is also reported to have ties to Hezbollah.
In June 2008, a Venezuelan national of Lebanese origin, Ghazi Nasr al Din, was added to the OFAC list of specially designated global terrorists and barred from accessing U.S. financial institutions and the U.S. banking system. He's a Venezuelan-based Hezbollah supporter who served in the Venezuelan Embassy in Syria, and was later appointed to the Venezuelan Embassy in Lebanon where we believe he currently serves as the Embassy's Director of Political Aspects.
The relationship we are discussing today was underscored over the past few days during Chavez's visit to the Middle East. This past weekend, after meeting with Ahmadinejad in Tehran, both leaders reiterated their pledge to stand up to imperialist nations. Ahmadinejad said, ''expansion of Tehran-Caracas relations is necessary given their common interests, friends and foes.'' Without providing details, Chavez was quoted as saying that with Iran's help he plans to build a ''nuclear village'' in Venezuela. Supporting Iran's claims that its nuclear ambitions are for peaceful purposes, Chavez stated, ''there is not a single proof that Iran is building a'... nuclear bomb.'' The matters I am about to discuss belie that claim.
II. Ties to Venezuela Make Iran More DangerousIn the past year my Office has publicly announced two investigations that highlight the efforts of Iran to procure weapons materials despite U.S. and international economic sanctions designed to prevent Iran from developing long-range missile capacity and nuclear technology for military purposes. Our efforts uncovered a pervasive system of deceitful and fraudulent practices employed by Iranian entities to move money all over the world without detection, including through banks located in the jurisdiction I am responsible for protecting '' Manhattan. Why did Iran go to these lengths? I believe the answer is simple: In order to pay for materials necessary to develop nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, and road-side bombs.
I believe the nature of Iran's relationship with Venezuela makes for a more dangerous Iran. The Iranians, calculating and clever in their diplomatic relations, have found the perfect ally in Venezuela. Venezuela has an established financial system that, with Chavez's help, can be exploited to avoid economic sanctions. As well, its geographic location is ideal for building and storing weapons of mass destruction far away from Middle Eastern states threatened by Iran's ambition and from the eyes of the international community.
To demonstrate the Iranian regime's commitment to advancing its nuclear ambitions and long-range missile capacity, I would like briefly to describe the cases brought by my office. The tactics used in these cases are instructive and should send signals to law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and military commands throughout the world about the style and level of deception the Iranian's employ to advance their interests. This is particularly important in examining the threats posed by the deepening ties between Ahmadinejad and Chavez.
In January of this year my office announced a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.K. bank, Lloyds TSB. From 2001 '' 2004, Lloyds, on behalf of Iranian banks and their customers, engaged in a practice known as ''stripping,'' in which the bank intentionally participated in a systematic process of altering wire transfer information to hide the identity of its clients. This process allowed the illegal transfer of more than $300 million of Iranian cash despite economic sanctions prohibiting Iranian access to the U.S. financial system. We currently have investigations into similar misconduct by other banks.
In April of this year we announced the indictment of company called Limmt, and its manager, Li Fang Wei, a rogue provider of metal alloys and minerals to the global market. Limmt's business included selling high strength metals and sophisticated military materials, many of which are banned from export to Iran under international agreements. Limmt was also banned by OFAC from engaging in transactions with or through the U.S. financial system for its role in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to Iran. Our investigation revealed that despite sanctions, Li Fang Wei and Limmt used aliases and shell companies to deceive banks into processing payments related to the shipment of banned missile, nuclear and so-called ''dual use'' materials to subsidiary organizations of the Iranian Defense Industries Organization. Please note the first version of this statement refers only to U.S. banks. In fact, banned materials were generally purchased in Euros and processed through European banks.
Based on information developed by my office, the Iranians with the help of Venezuela are now engaged in similar economic and proliferation sanctions-busting schemes.
For years I have stressed the importance of transparency in financial transactions. In the realm of preventing money laundering and terror financing, the concept of ''know your customer'' is the starting point in any scheme designed to detect suspicious transactions. For wire transfers denominated in U.S. dollars, the transactions almost always clear through correspondent accounts in the United States, and usually at banks based in Manhattan. Ideally, Manhattan banks have a clear picture of the sender and beneficiary of the funds, even in cross-border transactions.
Venezuela is not currently the subject of a U.S. or international economic sanctions program that places significant restrictions on the ability of Venezuelan banks to conduct business with the United States, including accessing U.S. banks to clear international U.S. dollar transactions. Presently, banks in the U.S. processing wire transfers from Venezuelan banks rely almost exclusively on the Venezuelan bank to ensure the funds are being transferred for legitimate purposes. I have little faith that this is effectively being done, and the Iranians, aware of this vulnerability, appear to be taking advantage of it.
The ostensible reason the Iranian-owned bank Banco Internacional de Desarrollo (BID) was opened in Caracas was to expand economic ties with Venezuela. Our sources and experiences lead me to suspect an ulterior motive. A foothold into the Venezuelan banking system is a perfect ''sanctions-busting'' method '' the main motivator for Iran in its banking relationship with Venezuela. Despite being designated by OFAC we believe that BID has several correspondent banking relationships with both Venezuelan banks and banks in Panama, a nation with a long-standing reputation as a money laundering safe-haven.
This scheme is known as ''nesting.'' Nested accounts occur when a foreign financial institution gains access to the U.S. financial system by operating through a U.S. correspondent account belonging to another foreign financial institution. For example, BID who is prohibited from establishing a relationship with a U.S. bank could instead establish a relationship with a Venezuelan or Panamanian bank that has a relationship with a U.S. bank. If the U.S. bank is unaware that its foreign correspondent financial institution customer is providing such access to a sanctioned third-party foreign financial institution, this third-party financial institution can effectively gain anonymous access to the U.S. financial system.
In Venezuela, Ahmadinejad and the hard-line Mullahs have found an ally who has stood by them as they crushed political freedoms and defied world consensus on its nuclear program. Both countries have pledged mutual scientific, technical and financial support. There is little reason to doubt Venezuela's support for Ahmadinejad's most important agenda, the development of a nuclear program and long-range missiles, and the destabilization of the region. For Iran, the lifeblood of their nuclear and weapons programs is the ability to use the international banking system to make payments for banned missile and nuclear materials. The opening of Venezuela's banks to the Iranians guarantees the continued development of nuclear technology and long-range missiles. The mysterious manufacturing plants, controlled by Iran, deep in the interior of Venezuela, give even greater concern.
III. With Iranian assistance Venezuela is bound to become a destabilizing force in Latin AmericaSo why is Chavez willing to open up his country to a foreign nation with little in shared history or culture? I believe it is because his regime is corrupt, hell-bent on becoming a regional power, and fanatical in its approach to dealing with the U.S. The diplomatic overture of President Obama in shaking Chavez's hand in April at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago is not a reason to assume a diminished threat from our neighbor to the south. In fact, with the groundwork laid years ago, we are entering a period where the fruits of the Iran-Venezuela bond will begin to ripen.
That means two of the world's most dangerous regimes, the self-described ''axis of unity,'' will be acting together in our backyard on the development of nuclear and missile technology. And it seems that for terrorist groups they have found the perfect operating ground for training and planning, and financing their activities through narco-trafficking.
Sound like the making of a story you've heard before? In 1962, President Kennedy stared down a nuclear threat to the United States when a leftist populist leader with a strong anti-American streak joined forces with the Soviet Union to bring nuclear weapons in close proximity to our borders. JFK ended the Cuban missile crisis through resolve and tough diplomacy. Although the same threat level does not yet exist in Venezuela, the United States needs to be focused on Iran's expansionism wherever it occurs.
ConclusionsThe Iranian nuclear and long-range missile threats and creeping Iranian influence in the Western Hemisphere cannot be overlooked. My office and other law enforcement agencies can play a small but important role in ensuring that money laundering, terror financing, and sanctions violations are not ignored, and that criminals and the banks that aid Iran will be discovered and prosecuted. We all know that stopping the flow of illicit funds has a direct correlation to curbing wrongful conduct. But certainly law enforcement in the U.S. alone is not enough to counter the threat effectively.
As for Venezuela, the world must no longer assume that Chavez is bluffing when he speaks. It is important that the public generally, and responsible government officials in particular, be aware of the growing presence of Iran in Latin America. And it is necessary to urge Venezuela's neighbors to understand the sinister implications of Iran's presence in the region. Brazil, whose constitution prohibits nuclear weapons, can play a significant role in influencing Chavez. Finally, the U.S. and the international community must strongly consider ways to monitor and sanction Venezuela's banking system. Failure to take action in this regard will leave open a window susceptible to money laundering use by the Iranian government, the narcotics organizations with ties to the Venezuelan government, and the terrorist organizations that Iran supports openly.
''Iran-Venezuela ties serve strategic aims,'' United Press International, August 14, 2009
''The dragon in the backyard,'' Economist, August 13, 2009
''Chavez to visit Iran next September,'' El Universal, Caracas, August 18, 2009
''Drug Control, U.S. Counternacotics Cooperation with Venezuela Has Declined,'' United States Government Accountability Office, July 2009
''Swedes quiz Venezuela on weapons,'' BBC News, July 27, 2009
''Iran Seen Through Venezuelan Eyes,'' Moises Naim, Foreign Policy, June 25, 2009
''Banking 101 with Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,'' Nicholas Hanlon, The Meges Apericas Report, May 7, 2009
''Venezuela's Chavez courts Iran as US shows concern,'' Associated Press, May 3, 2009
''Venezuela's Tarek El-Aissami,'' Nicole M. Ferrand, Middle East Analysis, March 4, 2009
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela rejected on Tuesday a U.S. government report that said it was not cooperating fully in the war on drug trafficking, saying such accusations had to stop if bilateral relations were to improve.
A report from the Government Accountability Office, the U.S. Congress' investigative agency, said drug corruption had reached the ministerial level in Venezuela and decried a ''permissive'' attitude to trafficking groups from Colombia.
Venezuela, whose allies include Cuba and Iran, rejected the report that it said lacked objectivity and was intended to promote Washington's ''interventionist pretension.''
''The normalization of political relations with the government of the United States is subject to the termination of this intolerable practice,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
President Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper and coup leader, has had better relations with U.S. President Barack Obama than with his predecessor, George W. Bush.
But the drugs report marked a renewed rise in tensions over the past several weeks, fueled by mutual accusations of the respective U.S. and Venezuelan roles in last month's coup d'etat in Honduras.
''There are people who got up their hopes that, with the election of a new president of the United States at the end of last year, the threat of the empire is over. No, it's not over,'' Chavez said at a graduation ceremony of university students in Caracas.
He often refers to the United States as the empire.
Despite Venezuelan purchases of radar and other anti-drug systems, the United States says 300 tonnes of cocaine passed through the country last year, up from 50 tonnes in 2004.
Venezuela said a national drug plan and an anti-drug fund that it launched recently would help it step up the fight against drug trafficking. It noted that Venezuela was used for smuggling between Colombia and the United States, the principal producer and consumer, respectively, of cocaine.
Interior Minister Tareck El Aissami in a speech to Venezuela's national assembly cited increases in drugs confiscated, traffickers detained, and drug-running aircraft intercepted as evidence of the government's efforts.
The United States itself was a paradise for drug dealers and gangs who got rich in the face of the ineptness and indifference of authorities, the Venezuelan government said.
Its foreign ministry also rejected allegations by a senior Israeli diplomat that Venezuela harbored cells of Hezbollah guerrillas.
Dorit Shavit, head of Latin America and Caribbean affairs at the Israeli foreign ministry, told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo that the presence of Hezbollah had increased in recent years in Venezuela's northwestern Guajira region and on the Caribbean island of Margarita.
Venezuela's foreign ministry called the statement absurd.
Caracas broke off diplomatic relations with Jerusalem over the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip in January and opened diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority in April.
Additional reporting by Fabian Andres Cambero; editing by Eric Walsh
Iran and its Proxy Hezbollah: Strategic Penetration in Latin America (WP) - Elcano
'Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad must love the tropics', commented ironically The Miami Herald. He has spent more time in Latin America than President Bush. Since his inauguration in 2005, Iran's foreign policy focus has shifted from Africa to Latin America in order to, as Ahmadinejad puts it, 'counter lasso' the US.
Iran's Goals in Latin America
Farideh Farhi argues that while Iran's increased attention to Latin America as a region is a relatively new development, its bilateral ties with some individual Latin American nations are of long standing and relatively robust. Iran has shared an ideological relationship with Cuba since the end of the Iran-Iraq War, and a political relationship with Venezuela since their co-founding of OPEC in the 1960s. The impetus behind these long-standing bilateral relationships is three-fold:
Iran's non-aligned position in foreign policy has compelled it to seek out countries with similar ideological outlooks.
US efforts to keep Iran in diplomatic and economic isolation have forced it to pursue an active foreign policy.
The election of a reformist President in 1997 made it possible for countries like Brazil to engage Iran with enough confidence to withstand pressures from the US.
The shift to the left in many important Latin American countries in the first decade of the new millennium has allowed Iran to be more successful in its attempt to improve relations with particular countries. From Ahmadinejad's point of view, 'rather than responding passively to the US attempt to isolate Iran politically and economically and become the dominant player in the Middle East region, Iran's backyard, Iran should move aggressively in the US's own backyard as a means to rattle it or at least make a point'.
What is Ahmadinejad Looking for in Latin America? First, he is seeking Latin American support to counter US and European pressures to stop Iran from developing nuclear capabilities. Venezuela and Cuba were, alongside Syria, the only three countries that supported Iran's nuclear programme in a February 2006 voteat the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency.
Secondly, Ahmadinejad wants to strike back at the US in its ownhemisphere and possibly destabilise US-friendly governments in order to negotiate with Washington from a position of greater strength.
Third, Ahmadinejad's popularity at home is falling, and he may want to show his people that he is being welcomed as a hero abroad.
Since Ahmadinejad's ascendancy to power, he has made three diplomatic tours to Latin America in search of an alliance of 'revolutionary countries'. He visited Venezuela in July 2006, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Ecuador in January 2007, and Venezuela and Bolivia in September 2007. Ahmadinejad had also hosted President Chvez of Venezuela, President Ortega of Nicaragua, PresidentMorales of Bolivia and President Correa of Ecuador and is expecting the visit of Brazil's President Lula da Silva in 2009.
The cornerstone of Ahmadinejad's Latin America policy is the formation of an anti-American axis with Venezuela. During a July 2006 visit to Tehran, Chvez told a Tehran University crowd, 'We have to save humankind and put an end to the US empire'. When Chvez again visited Tehran a year later Ahmadinejad and Chvez used the visit to declare an 'Axis of Unity' against the US. Ahmadinejad's efforts to further destabilise the neighbourhood suggest that he is seeking a permanent Iranian presence on the US doorstep.
Both leaders are using their mutual embrace to overcome international isolation and sanctions. Both Tehran and Caracas have used their petrodollar windfall to encourage states in Latin America to embark on confrontational policies towards the US.
Using billions of Iranian dollars in aid and assistance, and a US$2 billion Iran/Venezuela programme to fund social projects in LatinAmerica, Ahmadinejad has worked to create an anti-American bloc with Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Iran's Growing Presence in Latin America
During the International Conference on Latin America held in Tehran in February 2007, Iran's Foreign Minister, Mehdi Mostafavi, announced the opening of embassies in Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Uruguay and a representative office in Bolivia, and that a number of Latin American countries would open embassies in Iran.
Iran's political and economic penetration of the continent in a short period of two-three years is indeed impressive.
Venezuela According to Elodie Brun, both Venezuela and Iran are using oil as a political instrument to insert themselves internationally in a way that both characterise as revolutionary. The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chvez, and President Ahmadinejad embrace a rhetoric emphasising autonomy and independence from the great powers, primarily the US but also Europe, citing unity in the struggle against imperialism and capitalism. Hostility to the US, and particularly to the Bush Administration, is what most binds theforeign policies of the two countries.
'Here are two brother countries, united like a single fist', Hugo Chvez, the Venezuelan leader, was quoted as saying in Tehran. 'Iran is an example of struggle, resistance, dignity, revolution, strong faith', Chvez told al-Jazeera. 'We are two powerful countries. Iran is a power and Venezuela is becoming one. We want to create a bipolar world. We don't want a single power [that is, the US]...Despite the will of the world arrogance [of the US], we [Iran and Venezuela] will stand by the oppressed and deprived nations of the world', Ahmadinejad said. Th(C)r¨se Delpech, a French analyst, has noted that Ahmadinejad's 'flamboyant style' is similar to that of his Venezuelan colleague.
Some observers consider that Latin America's willingness to embrace Iran indicates how far US prestige has fallen in the region. Chvez has emerged as 'the godfather and relationship manager', striving to draw in this embrace other allies such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. He is providing Iran with an entry into Latin America, vowing to 'unite the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean' and recently gave Iran observer status in his leftist trade-pact group known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas.
Iran has become the second-largest investor in Venezuela, after the US. The first 'anti-imperialist cars' from a joint venture (Venirauto) have now reached Venezuela's roads, with the first batch earmarked for army officers. The 4,000 tractors produced annually in Ciudad Bolivar have a symbolic value as agents of revolutionary change. Most are given or leased at a discount in Venezuela to socialist cooperatives that have land, with the government's blessing. Universities are teaching Farsi.
Iran is to help build platforms in a US$4 billion development of Orinoco delta oil deposits in exchange for Venezuelan investments. An Iranian company is building thousands of apartments for Venezuela's poor. The most visible impact so far has been the arrival of Iranian businesses. The public housing project alone has brought more than 400 Iranian engineers and specialists to Venezuela, where many have learned basic Spanish.
Venezuela could also provide Iran with some breathing space as it tries to weather the financial pressure of UN and US sanctions on its nuclear programme. Venezuela could end up being an outlet for Iran to move money, obtain high-tech equipment and access the world financial system.
Venezuela has already become Iran's gateway for travel to the region. There is now a weekly flight between Caracas and Tehran, with a stopover in Damascus, operated by the Venezuelan state-controlled airline Conviasa and Iran's national carrier, Iran Air. Flights are packed with government officials and government-friendly business people. Venezuela's state airline bought an Airbus jet especially for the route.
Bolivia Bolivia might be a poor country, but it is strategically located and represents an important ally for Iran that can act as a catalyst inenhancing Iran's growing cooperation with other leftist or populist governments in Latin America.
On 27 September 2007 Ahmadinejad visited La Paz for the first time to meet President Morales. They took the opportunity to sign a programme of cooperation worth US$1.1 billion in Bolivia's underdeveloped oil and gas sector.
In August 2008 the government of Bolivia, with the support of Iran and Venezuela, created the Public National Strategic Company 'Cement of Bolivia' with an investment of US$230 million for the establishment of two plants in Potos and Oruro departments. In the same month, the Vice-president of Iran, Mojtama SamareHashemi, came to the country to express his support for Evo Morales and to promote economic agreements.
Iran decided to open two health clinics in Bolivia, as a base for future Red Crescent projects in South America. The agreement includes sending Iranian medical teams to Bolivia, and offering specialised education and training for Bolivian physicians. The Bolivian Health Minister said that the Iranian clinics would expand the medical aid already being provided by Cuba and Venezuela.
The Iranian state television agreed to provide Bolivian state television with Spanish-language programming, making it that mucheasier for every Bolivian to receive Iranian-produced news and documentary shows ''ie, propaganda''.
In September 2008 Morales went to Teheran and agreed with Ahmadinejad to accelerate the execution of joint projects to increase economic development and welfare for both nations. The two Presidents issued a statement to the effect that the interference of the United Nations Security Council in Iran's nuclear programme had no legal or technical justification. Morales' decision to set aside any hesitation and fully support Iran's position in the current nuclear stand-off has gone a long way to cementing Iranian-Bolivian friendship. According to the statement, the two sides have also pledged to continue their political struggle against imperialism.'Nothing and no country can harm our relations with the revolutionary country of Iran', Morales told reporters.
Following his return from Iran, President Evo Morales announced he was moving the country's sole Middle Eastern Embassy from Egyptto Iran, a clear sign of what his strategic priorities in the Middle East are.
Nicaragua According to Maradiaga and Mel(C)ndez, Nicaragua's foreign policy strongly correlates with Venezuela's, and any Latin American relationship with Iran is conducted through Caracas. President Ortega sees himself as a 'revolutionary' who supports Chvez's political-ideological anti-imperialist 'Socialism of the 21st century'. Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, a former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister, described Ortega'srelations with Iran as a 'policy of the heart'.
Iran promised Nicaragua US$1 billion in aid and investment to develop its energy and agricultural sectors, infrastructure and water purification facilities. The largest project was the construction of a deep water port on Nicaragua's eastern shore, requiring an investment of US$350 million. Nicaragua received a US$231 million loan from Iran in 2007 to build a hydroelectric dam. In August 2008, Nicaraguan-Iranian relations were further consolidated when President Ahmadinejad donated US$2 million for the construction of a hospital. Iran will also expand media cooperation with Nicaragua. Iran has stationed about 20 Iranian officials at its Embassy there, which has by now become one of the largest in the country.
However, Maradiaga and Mel(C)ndez claimed as late as mid-2008 that the proposed projects created the appearance of strong economic ties between the two nations but that there was little evidence that the aid and investment would materialise. They doubted that the relationship ''held together by the anti-Americanism espoused by the leaders of both countries'' would deepen beyond the ideological and political level. On the political level, Nicaragua is actually playing down US concerns about Iran's nuclear-weapon ambitions and President Ortega publicly supported Iran's right to 'nuclear energy for peaceful ends'.
Ecuador Prior to 2007 ties were minimal and neither country had diplomatic or commercial offices in the other's capital. In 2000, 2006 and 2007, no Ecuadorean exports reached Iran,and in 2003, the year with the highest volume of trade, Ecuador's total exports to Iran were worth US$2.5 million.
Ahmadinejad's short and surprising visit to Rafael Correa's presidential inauguration in January 2007 spawned a new bilateral relationship between the two countries. Correa maintained that the relationship was not political but based solely on commercial interests. The visiting President said that 'deep cooperation between Iran and Ecuador in the international arena will help establish balance in the world equation'.
According to C(C)sar Montºfar there is little evidence of a growing commercial relationship between Quito and Tehran. The ties between Ecuador and Iran were established because of Ecuador's relationship with Venezuela. Montºfar argues that as Venezuela's influence in Ecuador is declining a similar decline in Iran's relations with Ecuador has ensued.
However, this evaluation was quickly contradicted by the facts. In the summer of 2008 the two countries opened commercial bureaus in their respective capitals. The Ecuadorean commercial bureau in Tehran was the only one to be opened by the government of Correa since he was elected. Iran and Ecuador signed an energy cooperation deal in September 2008, including a plan to build a refinery and a petrochemical unit in southern Ecuador.
President Correa visited Iran in November 2008 and signed 25 bilateral agreements in various fields, including the oil industry. Correa, who is the first Ecuadorean head of State to visit Iran, travelled accompanied by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Oil and Mining, Agriculture and Defence, among other officials and business people. In December 2008 Ecuador and Iran signed an agreement of cooperation in the field of energy with the participation of Iran in hydro-electrical projectsand in the tender for the construction of the important of Coca-Codo-Sinclair dam project.
In December 2008, Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Saeed Jalili visited Ecuador. During the meeting with Jalili, Correa said his country's relations with Iran were strategic and that he favoured the expansion of the military ties and customs cooperation between the two nations. 'Links between Quito and Teheran are beyond trade relations', Correa said. Finally, on 13 February 2009 Iran opened a brand new Embassy in Quito, an act coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran.
Paraguay Fernando Armindo Lugo M(C)ndez, a former Catholic bishop, was inaugurated as President of Paraguay on 15 August 2008 and headed thecountry's first left-leaning presidency.
Ahmadinejad was one of the first to congratulate Lugo on his victory. Iran's media praised Lugo by calling him 'a man of God and an enemy of the Great Satan'. The large Muslim population in Paraguay's tri-border region aided Lugo's campaign for the presidency through fund-raising drives that were supported by Iran and Venezuela.
Lugo designated Alejandro Hamed Franco, Paraguay's ambassador to Lebanon, as Foreign Minister. Hamed has publicly announced that he plans to strengthen ties with the Middle East. His appointment was sure to create tensions with the State Department due to his sympathies with anti-US developments in the Middle East and his acknowledged connections with US-banned groups. He was accused of providing Paraguayan passports to Lebanese citizens, although he claims they were only for those who were trying to escape Israeli attacks in 2006.
In February 2009 an Iranian government delegation visited Paraguay to seek import and investment opportunities. The Iranian delegation hoped to import soya and meat from Paraguay and showed an interest in bilateral cooperation in technology and agriculture and in investing in Paraguayan real estate.
Brazil During President Mohammad Khatami's February 2004 visit to Caracas to attend the summit of the non-aligned G-15 he met the newly elected President Lula da Silva of Brazil and talked about bilateral trade. Since then, Brazil's exports to Iran have doubled and it has been the latter's largest Latin American trade partner for several years, with a volume of exports to Iran as large as those ofneighbouring Turkey and India.
However, when in September 2007 Ahmadinejad expressed his intention of going to Brasilia on an official visit ''after speaking at the UN General Assembly and visiting Venezuela and Bolivia'', Brazilian diplomacy came out with the classic excuse: the impossibility of reconciling Lula and the Iranian President's schedules.
Still, Lula's reluctance to meet Ahmadinejad did not prevent him from publicly supporting Iran's nuclear energy programme and suggesting that Iran 'should not be punished just because of Western suspicions it wants to make an atomic bomb'.
During the visit in November 2008 of the Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim to Iran, his Iranian colleague Manouchehr Mottaki said that 'Iran affords South America major priority in its foreign policy and Brazil enjoys a special position in this respect' and that Tehran and Brasilia generally share the same interests in numerous global matters which can be used as a potential for bilateral consultations. Amorim, for his part, described the expansion of ties with Iran as a priority for Brazil's foreign policy. He also referred to his meeting with Mottaki as a 'turning point' in Brazil-Iran relations and expected that the visits by the two nations' Presidents would bring ties to a new level.
On this occasion, President Ahmadinejad said there are no barriers to the expansion of ties with Brazil. 'The (political) systems in the world are on the decline, and we should help each other and work for establishing a new (political) order'. Ahmadinejad expressed his hope that the visit to Iran of President Lula in the near future would further help build up the friendship between the two nations.
UruguayIn June 2008, the Uruguayan Vice-president Rodolfo Nin Novoa called for the further expansion of all-out ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran. He announced his readiness to pay a visit to Tehran to discuss the furthering of bilateral cooperation with the Iranian authorities and said that President Ahmadinejad had invited his Uruguayan counterpart to visit Tehran in the near future. He also announced Uruguay's nomination of a new ambassador to Tehran and the formation of the Iran-Uruguay Parliamentary Friendship Group. Then, in October 2008, Fernando Alberto Arroyo became Uruguay'sambassador to Tehran.
Argentina Argentina has an Embassy in Tehran and Iran has an Embassy in Buenos Aires. Since 1994 relations between the two countries have been marred by Iran's involvement in the AMIA bombing. Efforts to resolve the case were being made when much of the region was expanding its relations withIran, and several of Argentina's regional allies were pledging support for Ahmadinejad's government.
According to Iranian sources, during the 2004 G-15 summit meeting, despite Argentine President Nestor Kirchner's interest in discussing bilateral economic ties, Khatami refused to meet him until 'Buenos Aires formally apologised to Tehran for falsely charging Iranian diplomats with involvement in the bombing of the AMIA Jewish community centre in 1994'.
Although Argentina maintains friendly relations with Iran's allies, like Chvez, Ortega and Correa, Kirchner's domestic agenda is driving him in a different direction. For example, he cancelled plans to attend President Correa's inauguration ceremony after Ahmadinejad announced that he would attend. The continuing US conflict with Iran complicates matters further.
At the 2007 UN General Assembly, the Argentine President urged Iran to help with the probe on the terrorist attack. This was not well received by the Tehran government, which responded angrily. The case has also caused tension with Chvez, an ally of the then President Kirchner. The Venezuelan ambassador to Buenos Aires, Roger Capella, was replaced after he criticised the Argentine justice system for seeking the capture of Iranian officials, upsetting the Argentine government. But this was not enough to weaken the ties between Argentina and Venezuela.
In February 2007, the Iranian government organized the first International Conference on Latin America at the Institute of International Political Studies at the Foreign Ministry. The title of the conference was 'Development in Latin America: Its Role and Status in the Future International System'. According to press releases, the participants also included Argentine members of parliament.
The Subtle Ideological/Religious Penetration
Iran's religious and intellectual penetration of Latin America, its attempts to convert Christians and Sunni Muslims to Shia Islam and thus export the ideology and revolutionary beliefs of AyatollahKhomeini is similar to the trend seen today in the Middle East, although it clearly does not reach the same proportions.
For instance, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the Sunni International Union for Muslim Scholars and the Muslim Brotherhood's main religious authority, has made harsh anti-Shia and anti-Iran statements in the Egyptian and Saudi press. He warned against the danger posed by the spread of Shia Islam in Sunni countries, characterising it as part of Iran's campaign for regional hegemony.
In another typical example, an article on a Sudanese website accuses Iran of having 'turned its Embassy in Khartoum into a centre for spreading... Shia [Islam], aimed at prompting the Sudanese to forsake Sunni [Islam] and embrace Imami Shiism [instead]'. To ensure the success of this plan, various Iranian-funded facilities have been established around the capital, including cultural centres, libraries, institutions and schools. These establishments are actually missionary centres for spreading Shia Islam. '[Moreover], some of the recent converts to the Shia have begun to spread Shiite philosophy in the capital and around the country, among students and in the large universities'.
A superficial surf of the Internet shows that Latin America is not immune from this phenomenon. Professor ngel Horacio Molina (Hussain Ali), a researcher at the Centre of Oriental Studies of the National University at Rosario (Argentina), writes frequently for the Revista Biblioteca Islmica in El Salvador and moderates the Islamic blog oidislam.blogspot.com. The blog's home page presents itself as 'Islam Indoamericano, a space to develop a revolutionary and indoamerican Islam'. Molina is convinced of the importance of developing this revolutionary brand of Islam to enrich the Muslim umma (nation) worldwide. However, his space is also used to propagate opinions on 'the political reality' of the continent from an 'Islamic revolutionary perspective'.
Thus, the blog includes the speech by the Iranian ambassador to Mexico, Dr Mohammad Hassan Ghadiri, delivered on 11 February 2009 on occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Khomeinist revolution. Similarly, it has 10 articles in its chapter on 'Islam Indoamericano', 11 on 'Islamic Resistance' and 21 on 'Zionism Uncovered', all of which are anti-Israeli andanti-US. Among the recommended links are Hezbollah's website and several Iranian or pro-Iranian websites in Spanish.
The following is a non-comprehensive list of Spanish Iranian or pro-Iranian websites:
Fundaci"n Cultural Oreinte, http://www.islamoriente.com/.
Red Islam, http://www.redislam.com/.
Agencia de Noticias Cornicas de Irn, http://www.iqna.ir/es/.
Organizaci"n Cultural y de Relaciones Islmicas (OCRI), http://es.icro.ir/.
Shia Latinos, http://shialatinos.blogspot.com/.
Also, the pro-Iranian blog Imperialism and Resistance (http://almusawwir.org/resistance/), that combines leftist revolutionary rhetoric and messages with Islamist ideology, provides much Latin American news (almusawwir is one of the 99 names of Allah in the Quran: the Fashioner, the Bestower of Forms and the Shaper).
All these websites contain not only legitimate religious or cultural texts and explanations, but also radical political anti-American, anti-Israeli and anti-Western material. The Islam-Shia website, for instance, recommends reading two books on Israel and Zionism by the Argentine radical right-wing 'philosopher' and strategist Norberto Ceresole: The Falsification of Reality; Argentina in the Geopolitical Space of Jewish Terrorism and The Conquest of the American Empire: Jewish Power in the West and the East. Not only that, but it also recommends the French Holocaust denier and ex-communist Roger Garaudy's book The Fundamental Myths of the State of Israel and, to crown it all, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
On a broader strategic level, Iran planned to open a television station 'for all of Latin America' to be based in Bolivia. Morales made the announcement at a gathering of coca farmers from the Chapare. The station would be 'for all of Bolivia, for all of Latin America, recognising the great struggle of this peasant movement', Morales said. According to recent information, the Iranian government has renounced, for unknown reasons, financing the installation of the TV channel in Bolivia, although an Iranian TV team visited Bolivia to follow its 'political and cultural reality'.
Opposition to Iranian Penetration
Farhi argues that the new-found intensity of Iran's relations in Latin America is unsustainable. It is based on political opportunism, as a diplomatic thorn in America's side, rather than on a more long-term economic or military partnership. Already, the proposed deepwater seaport is facing resistance in Nicaragua by land-rights activists. Iran's real commitment to this project is also not clear and Tehran has so far refused to forgo Nicaragua's US$152 million debt, despite Ortega's specific request that it do so. Ultimately, Farhi predicts that while bilateral relations between Iran and individual Latin American countries will continue to gradually improve, based on economic give-and-take and a degree of shared commitment to non-alignment, the intensely vitriolic character of current relations is unlikely to continue beyond Ahmadinejad's term in office.
For instance, days after it was published that Iran had promised a loan to build a hydroelectric dam in Nicaragua, the opposition party Movimiento de Renovaci"n Sandinista (MRS) criticised the government, claiming that the interest rates asked by Iran were double those offered by the World Bank and the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo. Some have claimed that cooperation with Iran would permit President Ortega to renounce cooperation with the US and Europe, who require transparency and scrutiny. Similar criticism has been aimed at President Morales of Bolivia by Jorge Quiroga, the leader of the main opposition party, and by the Governor of Cochabamba, Manfred Reyes Villa.
It is interesting to note that in Iran itself a group of students has criticised Ali Larijani, the Chairman/Speaker of the Iranian parliament, and President Ahmadinejad for the support they give President Chvez of Venezuela. The anonymous writer of this information on a leftist blog notes that there are social and political sectors in Iran that are opposed to the strengthening of relations with Chvez, not with the Venezuelan people.
According to this analysis, the danger exists that the interesting and beneficial rapprochement of the last few years between Iran and Latin America could confront a grater danger: that relations will freeze at the level of the administrations and will not involve the peoples. The danger is that any change in political leadership, in Iran or in the Latin American countries, will actually result in a decrease in the present level of bilateral relations. Therefore, the big challenge will be to incorporate the social actors to bilateral cooperation. C(C)sar Montºfar has commented that it is surprising and incoherent that the Iranian president and his government, while deepening the country's ties with the leftist governments of Latin America, is implacably repressing its own leftist groups at home.
The Middle East's Strategic Bonanza for Iran
The expansion of economic and political relations and cooperation with Latin American countries is also intended to bring Iran strategic assets in the Middle Eastern arena, its home turf. As already noted, the support Iran received on the issue of its nuclear project from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and even Brazil, is extremely important for the Tehran regime, especially if the UNimposes harsher economic sanctions and more states accept them.
In the regional arena, Venezuela and Bolivia strongly supported Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War in July-August 2006. President Chvez was extremely vociferous during that period. But the real test came during the last war in Gaza, when Israel started 'Operation Cast Lead' to deter Hamas from bombing Israeli territory and staging continuous terrorist activities against its citizens. Presidents Chvez and Morales fully embraced Iran's position and complied with Ahmadinejad's demand to sever diplomatic relations with Israel. The decision was taken after the visiting Iranian Minister of Industry and Mines, Ali Akbar Mehrabin, delivered a letter from his President to the leaders of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.
Venezuela not only broke off its relations with Israel 'given the inhumane persecution of the Palestinian people', it also promised to request the prosecution of Israel's leaders at the International Court for crimes against humanity and not to rest until they are punished. The visiting Iranian Minister of Cooperation, Mohammad Abbasi, delivered a similar letter from his President to the leaders of Brazil and Ecuador, who did not follow the Venezuelan and Bolivian example.
According to Kaveh Afrasiabi, from Tehran's point of view, an indirect benefit of its special relations with Bolivia is that it impresses on Moscow the services that Tehran can render in strengthening Moscow's anti-unipolarist credo, which was spelled out by President Dmitry Medvedev in his major foreign policy speech in September 2008. Medvedev openly mentioned Russia's intention of seeking a 'sphere of influence' in politics and made a point of mentioning that it would be sought 'not only with neighbours'.
Russian experts, including some at the Russian Centre for Strategic Studies, have pointed out that in the aftermath of the Georgia crisis Russia is inclined to strengthen its ties with countries such as Iran and Venezuela. The growing rift between the US and Russia is an opportunity for Tehran both to neutralise the UN Security Council's efforts to impose tighter sanctions on account of its nuclear programme but also to explore further, and more meaningful, strategic cooperation with Russia and the Latin American leftist regimes vis- -vis the common threat of US unipolarism.
Ahmadinejad's foreign policy advisors are openly counting on Iran's new relations with Latin America as one of the net gains of his presidency. In fact, the new level of cooperation between Iran and Latin and Central American countries is a timely, further confirmation of the strategic vision and outlook that they have brought to the government compared to Mohammad Khatami's aim of reaching detente with the West almost to the exclusion of all else.
Iran and Terrorism in Latin America
Iran is still the world's 'most active state sponsor of terrorism', according to the US State Department in its most recent study on the subject. It is a label the Iranian regime has won, and worn proudly, since the US government began keeping track of terrorist trends more than a decade and a half ago.
The scope of this support is enormous. According to government officials, Iran 'has a nine-digit line item in its budget for support to terrorist organizations'. The figure is estimated to include US$10 million or more monthly for its principal terrorist proxy, Hezbollah, US$20-30 million annually for the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, US$2 million a year for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and ''at least until recently'' upwards of US$30 million a year for Iraqi insurgents.
In 2006, the Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon expressed his concern about the kind of relationship Chvez wants to have with Iran on the intelligence side. 'One of our broader concerns is what Iran is doing elsewhere in this hemisphere and what it could do if we were to find ourselves in some kind of confrontation with Iran', he said. In June 2008 Shannon declared that Iran 'has a history of terror in this hemisphere, and its linkages to the bombings in Buenos Aires are pretty well established'.
The 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires is arguably the first Islamist terrorist attack in the Western Hemisphere. Although the attack has yet to be officially solved, the bulk of the evidence points to Hezbollah. A car, driven by a suicide bomber and loaded with explosives, smashed into the front of the Embassy and killed 29 people and injured a further 242. On 18 July 1994, the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA) building was bombed, leaving 85 dead and 300 injured. This attack was the deadliest terrorist toll ever in Argentina's history, andresulted in the largest Jewish death toll from terrorism outside Israel since the Second World War.
The AMIA case has gone through many ups and downs, involving prosecution changes, witness tampering charges and several arrests that ended in release. On 25 October 2006, Dr Alberto Nisman, Argentina's Attorney General, and Marcelo Martnez Burgos presented the findings of the special team which investigated the terrorist attack that destroyed the AMIA building. The detailed report unequivocally showed that the decision to blow up the building was taken by the 'highest instances of the Iranian government',and that the Iranians had asked Hezbollah, which serves as a tool for its strategies, to carry out the attack.
The report did not ignore the fact that the attack was carried out for reasons connected to the conflict in the Middle East (including the abduction of Mustafa Dirani and the Israeli bombing of the Hezbollah training camp in the Beqa'a Valley). However, based on the evidence collected, it concluded that the fundamental reason was the Argentine 'government's unilateral decision toterminate the nuclear materials and technology supply agreements that had been concluded some years previously between Argentina and Iran'.
On 9 November 2006, Judge Corral adopted the Attorney General's recommendations and issued international arrest warrants for seven Iranians and one senior Hezbollah operative. The warrants were for the upper echelons of the former Iranian government, including the former President, Iranian diplomats posted to Buenos Aires and ImadMoughnieh, head of Hezbollah's External Security Service and Hassan Nasrallah's military deputy.
In March 2007, INTERPOL's Executive Committee, after considering written submissions and oral presentations from Argentina and Iran in connection with the 1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires decided to endorse and adopt the conclusions of the report prepared by INTERPOL's Office of Legal Affairs to the effect that Red Notices should be issued for the following six individuals: Imad Fayez Mughniyah, Ali Fallahijan, Mohsen Rabbani, Ahmad Reza Asghari, Ahmad Vahidi and Mohsen Rezai. The Executive Committee also endorsed the Office of Legal Affairs' conclusion that Red Notices should not be issued for the former President of Iran, Ali Rafsanjany, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati, or the former Ambassador to Buenos Aires, Hadi Soleimanpour. In November 2007, delegates at the 76th INTERPOL General Assembly upheld the unanimous decision made by the organisation's Executive Committee to publish six of nine Red Notices requested in connection with the 1994 bombing of the AMIA building in Buenos Aires.
It has been sufficiently demonstrated that in his capacity as head of Hezbollah's external security apparatus, Mughniyeh was the person who received instructions from the Iranian Ministry of the Interior (after the decision was made to carry out the attack) andthat he implemented these instructions by forming an operational group to carry it out.
It is interesting to analyse the Iranian reaction to Mughniyeh's assassination in February 2008 in Damascus. The honours bestowed upon the until then 'invisible' Mughniyeh were outstanding: the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailedMughniyeh as a 'great man'; Ahmadinejhad called him a 'source of pride for all believers'; heading a high-level Iranian delegation, Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki attended Mughniyeh's funeral in Beirut 'to commemorate the great hero' and expressed condolences 'on behalf of the Iranian government and people'. Mughniyeh was projected as an Iranian hero who fought against Iraq and took part in several daring operations behind Iraqi lines.
Iranian leaders uttered harsh statements against Israel, stronger even than Hezbollah's. The Iranian ambassador to Syria, Ahmad Moussavi, warned that the death of Mughniyeh 'will lead to an earthquake in the Zionist regime'. Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur, a cofounder of Hezbollah and current Secretary General of the International Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People, claimed Mughniyeh's assassination was a 'prelude' to 'very dangerous and major events in the next few months'.
Strangely, after the Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki met with senior Syrian officials in Damascus to discuss Mughniyeh's assassination and announced a joint probe into the assassination, a Syrian official dismissed the report as 'totally baseless' and said Damascus would conduct the investigation alone. The result has not yet been made public, as it is immensely embarrassing for theSyrian government to explain how this wanted terrorist was on its soil.
According to the investigation of Attorney General Alberto Nisman and District Attorney Marcelo Martnez Burgos, numerous pieces of evidence show that Argentina was infiltrated by Iran's intelligence service, which in the mid 1980s began establishing a vast spy network that then became a complete 'intelligence service' that basically comprised: the Iranian Embassy and its cultural attach(C) in Buenos Aires; extremist elements that were associated with the Shiite mosques At-Tauhd in Floresta, Al Iman in Ca±uelas and El Mrtir in San Miguel de Tucumn; the businesses referred to as 'fronts' ''GTC and Imanco''; and other radicalised members of the Islamic community who were in Argentina for the sole purpose of gathering the information and making the arrangements that paved the way for the attack on AMIA on the morning of 18 July 1994. The situation seems to repeat itself today in Venezuela and Bolivia, but this time with the active or passive support of their governments, which are well aware of past intelligence Iranian activity in the continent.
At the intelligence level, US officials say they are worried about the possibility of terrorists and Iranian intelligence agents arriving on the weekly flight between Caracas and Tehran. The State Department charged in an April terrorism report that 'passengers on these flights were not subject to immigration and customs controls'.
Bolivia's President Morales has ordered his Foreign Minister to lift visa restrictions on Iranian citizens. The problem of visa-free Iranian travel is the potential it affords for the creation of a terrorist base of operations in the US's backyard. If anyone with an Iranian passport can enter Bolivia without a visa or any further documentation, the country will soon be open to covert officers of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard ''which the State Department recently declared a terrorist organisation'' and the Quds Force, an Iranian military group whose mandate is to spread Islamic revolution around the world. A further danger is if other Latin American countries follow the Bolivian lead and lift visa restrictions. Iran has already proved what it can do in Latin America with visa restrictions.
Hezbollah's Presence in Latin America and the Threat of Terrorism
Hezbollah's presence and nefarious activity in South America is well documented. It was behind the two deadliest terrorist attacks in the continent's history: the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish community centre bombings in Buenos Aires, which took place in the early 1990s. Hezbollah also established a significant presence in the 'tri-border area' (TBA, where Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay converge) using local businesses, drug trafficking and contraband networks to launder funds for terrorist operations worldwide.
Since 9/11, under US pressure, local governments in the tri-border area and other countries, like Chile and Colombia, have monitored and discovered part of the wide Hezbollah network active in the continent. However, despite the arrest of important activists in Paraguay, Brazil and Chile, mainly for economic crimes or narcotics trafficking, this large Hezbollah network continues to be active on the continent.
Increased focus on the TBA after Hezbollah-linked bombings in Buenos Aires and again after the September 11 attacks in the US led to an increased understanding of Hezbollah's fundraising operations, but also led Hezbollah to shift them to other Latin American countries, making their location, nature and extent largely unknown.
Ecuador Evidence linking Hezbollah to the emergence of Islamic mosques in Ecuador, that promote radical religious views consistent with Hezbollah's ideology, indicates that it recognises the need to increase its ideological support base in Ecuador. Hezbollah's promotion of radical religious ideology in Ecuador is consistent with its organisational use of radical ideology to increase its legitimacy by mitigating any sources of opposition from members of its radical constituency in response to increased participation in the Lebanese political system. This relationship specifically identifies diasporas as strategically valuable to terrorist operations and results in several important policy implications for their treatment byhost-nations determined to combat terrorist operations.
In June 2005 Ecuadorean police broke up an international cocaine ring led by a Lebanese restaurant owner suspected of raising money for Hezbollah. The Lebanese ringleader, Rady Zaiter, had organised a large narco-terrorist infrastructure using his Arab food restaurant in northern Quito as a front. The Ecuadorean investigation led to related arrests of 19 people in Brazil and the US.
Colombia In 2001, the Colombian Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) arrested a Lebanese businessman, named Mohammed Ali Farhad, with ties to Hizbollah for managing a US$650 million cigarette smuggling and money laundering operation between Ipiales, Colombia, and ports in Ecuador. The Farhad investigation established a link with a Hezbollah-backed money-laundering operation run by Eric and Alexander Mansur, throughthe Mansur Free Zone Trading Company NV129.
On 21 October 2008 US and Colombian investigators dismantled an international cocaine smuggling and money laundering ring that allegedly used part of its profits to finance Hezbollah. The authorities arrested at least 36 suspects, including a Lebanese linchpin in Bogota, Chekry Harb, who used the alias 'Taliban'. The authorities accused Harb of being a 'world-class money launderer' whose ring washed hundreds of millions of dollars a year, from Panama to Hong Kong, while paying a percentage to Hezbollah. The suspects allegedly worked with a Colombian cartel and a paramilitary group to smuggle cocaine to the US, Europe and the Middle East. Harb travelled extensively to Lebanon, Syria and Egypt and was in phone contact with Hezbollah members.
Venezuela According to the Los Angeles Times, a credible intelligence source claimed that Hezbollah and the Revolutionary Guard of Iran have formed terrorist cells to kidnap Jews in South America and smuggle them to Lebanon. The source alleged that Venezuelans have been recruited at Caracas' airport to provide information aboutJewish travellers.
In June 2008 the US Treasury Department froze the assets of two Venezuelans after having designated them as Hezbollah supporters and accusing them of raising funds for the organisation. Ghazi Nasr al Din, a Venezuelan diplomat of Lebanese ancestry, is accused of using his position at embassies in the Middle East to raise funds for Hezbollah and of discussing 'operational issues with senior officials' of the militia. In late January 2006, Nasr al Din facilitated the travel of two Hezbollah representatives at the Lebanese Parliament to Caracas to solicit donations and to announce the opening of a Hezbollah-sponsored community centre and office in Venezuela. He is currently assigned to Venezuela's Embassy in Lebanon. The second Venezuelan noted by the Treasury Department is Fawzi Kanan, a Caracas-based travel agent. He is also alleged to have facilitated travel for Hezbollah members and to have discussed 'possible kidnappings and terrorist attacks' with senior Hezbollah officials in Lebanon. Instead of opening an investigation, Chvez said that the world was using the allegations to ' make a move' against him. The Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro lashed out at the US: 'If they want to search for terrorists, look for them in the White House'.
A Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Hezbollah was training young Venezuelans in military camps in south Lebanon to prepare them for attacking American targets. It was reported a few months later that the Venezuelan Minister of the Interior, Tarek El Aissami, was working directly with Ghazi Nasr al-Din to recruit young Venezuelans of Arab descent that were supportive of the Chvez regime to train in Lebanon with Hezbollah. Reportedly, the purpose was to prepare these youths for asymmetric warfare against the US in the event of a confrontation. According to this report, Hezbollah also established training camps inside Venezuela, complete with ammunition and explosives, courtesy of El Aissami.
Chvez, meanwhile, is perhaps the most open apologist for Hezbollah in the hemisphere. During the Israel-Hezbollah War of 2006, Chvez withdrew the Venezuelan ambassador to Israel. He later accused Israel of conducting its defensive war in 'the fascist manner of Hitler'. After making the comments on al-Jazeera television, Chvez returned home and continued to malign Israel on his weekly television broadcast, Al" Presidente.
It comes as no surprise that Hezbollah's director of international relations, Nawaf Musawi, attended an April 2008 ceremony at Venezuela's Embassy in Beirut commemorating the sixth anniversary of the defeat of the anti-Chvez uprising in Venezuela. As an invited speaker, Musawi praised the survival of President Chvez' Bolivarian Revolution while denouncing the US and 'other powers that try to defeat the sovereignty and free will of the combative peoples of the world'.
'Hezbollah Am(C)rica Latina'
Probably the most striking and worrying trend has been the appearance in 2006 of a strange group calling itself 'Hezbollah Am(C)rica Latina', claiming to be active in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico. Actually, the organisation's backbone seemed to be 'Hezbollah Venezuela', led by one Teodoro Rafael Darnott who pretended to lead the Latin American 'network'. They presented themselves also as a group of converted Wayuu Indians, Autonoma Islamica Wayuu, and issued a strategic statement titled 'The Jihad in America will Begin in 2007'. This 'organisation' has been analysed in detail by this author and the Spanish researcher Manuel Torres Soriano.
'Hezbollah Venezuela' Case Study: The True (?) Story On 23 October 2006, Jos(C) Miguel Rojas Espinoza, a 26-year-old student of the state-run Bolivarian University, was arrested after the Baruta Municipality police found two explosive devices near the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela. One of the bombs was found in a box containing leaflets making reference to the Lebanese Hezbollah, while the other device was found outside a school, near the diplomatic premises. According to the local police, the idea was apparently to create alarm and publicise a message by scattering the pamphlets. It is possible that the second device was intended to explode near theIsraeli Embassy but the suspect became nervous and dropped it near the US Embassy.
'Hezbollah Latin America' claimed responsibility for the attack on its website and promised it would stage other attacks, with the same goal of publicising the organisation. The website presented Rojas as 'the brother mujahedeen, the first example of dignity and struggle in the cause of Allah, the first prisoner of the revolutionary Islamic movement Hezbollah Venezuela'. Already on 18 August 2006 the organisation threatened to explode a non-lethal device against an ally of the US in a Latin American city in order to launch its propaganda campaign. 'Hezbollah Venezuela' would see this as the beginning of its war against imperialism andZionism and to show its solidarity with the Lebanese Hezbollah after the July war in Lebanon.
The leader of 'Hezbollah Venezuela', Teodoro Darnott, traces the origins of the organisation to a small Marxist faction called 'The Guaicaipuro Movement for National Liberation' (Proyecto Movimiento Guaicaipuro por la Liberaci"n Nacional, MGLN)'', which struggled against the oppression of the poor, indigenous peasants in the Valle de Caracas region. Darnott presented himself as Commander Teodoro, in a clear imitation of Subcomandante Marcos, the Mexican guerrilla leader in Chiapas. According to this account, the MGLN did not withstand the pressure of the security forces and was forced to retreat to Colombia. The group returned after five years to Venezuela to convert into Hezbollah, without a clear explanation for its metamorphosis. Darnott denied any link between 'Hezbollah Venezuela' and the LebaneseHezbollah. Indeed, the religious and ideological foundations of his documents are very poor and superficial.
In his article, Soriano emphasises the group's leftist revolutionary background and rhetoric. Soriano considers that the group has a significant synergy with the so-called Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. In one of its ideological editorials, the group expresses enormous respect and positive appreciation for the achievements of Hugo Chvez's regime: 'Hezbollah Am(C)rica Latina respects the Venezuelan revolutionary process, supports the policies of this process concerning the social benefices for the poor and the anti-Zionist and anti-American policy of this revolution'. However, the group does not accept a socialist ideology, not because it opposes it, but because Hezbollah's ideology is 'theocratic and obeys divine rules'. Therefore, for a new Venezuela to emerge, the revolution should aspire 'to the divine and the moral' and should firmly support Hezbollah 'political-military project'.
On 2 November 2006 'Hezbollah Venezuela' announced, 'out of respect for the revolution and its leader', that it would suspend its activities until after the elections of 3 December 2006, the day of the presidential elections in Venezuela, a show ofsolidarity with the regime and an attempt not to hamper it during the last days of the election campaign.
Several weeks later Teodoro Darnott was arrested in Maracaibo, and practically nothing was published by the Venezuelan authorities about his fate. Until recently this 'episode' in the short history of 'Hezbollah Latin America' had not allowed the drawing of any clear conclusions regarding the group's real characteristics and goals and its relationship with the Lebanese Hezbollah.
However, in December 2008 Teodoro Darnott and Jos(C) Miguel Rojas were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for their terrorist attack against the US Embassy, and here begins the surprise. In October 2008 Darnott opened a blog, apparently from prison, in which he described his religious and political beliefs and presented, apologetically, his past activity. He described himself as a mujahedeen 'criollo' (born in Latin America of European descent) with the new name of Teodoro Abdullah.
Darnott no longer presents himself as the leader of 'Hezbollah Venezuela', but as a theocratic political-religious leader, ambassador and precursor of theocracy for Latin America. His very simplistic, primitive ideas propose for the continent, and for Venezuela, a theocratic nation, society and way of life and a new culture and civilisation of the divine. For him, 'Hezbollah Venezuela' ''along with Osama bin Laden and other mujahedeen'' are not terrorists but jihadists fighting the USand the secular state of Israel, the defenders of the abhorred capitalist order and democracy.
It is not the intention here to analyse Darnott's religious 'world view' but mainly to discover the political and operational reality behind 'Hezbollah Venezuela' and 'Hezbollah Am(C)rica Latina' and the links between this project and the Lebanese Hezbollah. For the first time this endeavour is possible due to the publication by Darnott in his blog of a 100-page biography.
How Does it Work? A detailed analysis of Darnott's biography provides an insight into the process of radicalisation and cooption to the Hezbollah network in Latin America. However, the document requires a morethorough study to check and confront on the ground the large amount of information cited about people and organisations.
Darnott's first contact with Islam was in Maicao, Colombia, where he met a Lebanese Shia, Musa Rada, who taught him Islam. He began to visit the local mosque and read theological books and the journal Azakalain (sic). Rada proposed that he study Islam at the Kausar Islamic Institute in Cali, Colombia. The Shia Association in Maicao paid his travel expenses to Cali, where he was already expected. There he was awaited by one Rashi, a leader of theMuslim community of African descent. The Institute's Director was Abdul Karin, a university professor.
Darnott describes the studies there as informal and without discipline. He returned to Maicao with the intention of integratinghimself in the local Arab community. He continued his activities in the framework of MGLN.
He was also in contact, through his companion Gerardo Ortiz Palencia with the guerrilla organisation FARC-EP in the Cºcuta region,under the leadership of Comandante Rodrigo, active in the Norte de Santander department, in Pamplona, Pamplonita and Cºcuta.
After visits to poor Muslim communities in Santa Marta and Cartagena he decided to go to Bogot, where he met a surgeon, DrJuventino Martnez, who introduced him to Jos(C) Gabriel Jim(C)nez, known as Yahia (Juan).
According to Darnott, the Muslim community in Bogot is made up of various groups, including the Asociaci"n Islmica de Bogot, which includes Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab members. The second group is La Sociedad Islmica de Bogot, under the leadership of the Colombian Imam Dr Carlos Snchez and a Kuwaiti. According to 'clandestine sources' the restaurant and free meals at this organisation are financed by al-Qaeda, and therefore many Colombians fear visiting it. The thirdgroup is the Centro Cultural Islmico de Bogot, under the leadership of Dr Julin Zapata.
When Dr Julin Zapata went to study in the Middle East, Dr Juventino Martnez was appointed head of the Centro Cultural Islmico de Bogot, but soon the financial resources 'disappeared' and the Centre was on the verge of closing down.
As he found no interest in Bogot for his 'liberation struggle project' for the Wayuu people, Darnott travelled to Bucaramanga, Santander. There he was approached by the Roman Catholic Bishop, Alfredo Vesgas, who proposed that he become a priest in the Guajira diocese. He accepted, as this served as a cover for his clandestine activities. At the same time, under the influence of a 'revolutionary' priest, Padre Chucho, he finally foundthe 'one and true God', the God of liberation and salvation.
He continued his studies of Islam and theology at the local mosque in Maicao and through the Internet and developed an 'Islamo-Christian theology of liberation', a mixture of the theologies of Imam Khomeni and Gustavo Guti(C)rrez.
It was then, according to Darnott, that he really converted to Islam and the first thing he did was to change the symbols and messages of the MGLN, which became the Autonoma Islmica Wayuu (Wayuu Islamic Autonomy). Some accepted the changes while others left the community, but the move fostered closer links with other Islamic entities and many Muslims joined the movement, which called itself'revolutionary Islamic' and accepted the messages of ayatollah Khomeini.
One day, a certain Nik made contact with Darnott, and after a period of discussions and e-mail exchanges, the man disclosed that his realname was Mohamed Saleh, of Lebanese origin, who worked as a professor at the University of La Plata in Argentina.
Saleh told Darnott that he was working for the Iranian government, that he was an important member of Hezbollah in Argentina and at the same time the leader of Hizbul Islam for Latin America, an Islamic party present in Uruguay and Paraguay. According to Darnott, Hizbul Islam is actually Hezbollah. His Arab friends in Maicao confirmedthat Mohamed Saleh was a professor at the Universidad de la Plata and a member of Hezbollah.
Saleh informed Darnott that the leadership of Hizbul Islam had approved his nomination as its representative in Venezuela, but on condition that he renounced all his work on the Internet. FromDarnott's point of view this meant renouncing to four years of intensive professional revolutionary work on the web.
Mohamed Saleh frequently called Darnott to his Maicao phone number during the last six months of 2006. They exchanged e-mails and in one message Saleh proposed passing on weapons that Hezbollah had inParaguay: 400 Kalashnikovs, bazookas and ammunition. FARC-EP was supposed to help transfer the weapons to Colombia.
The agreement stipulated that the MGLN would be transformed into a Hezbollah cell into which Muslims would be recruited. The first meeting with Mohamed Saleh was planned for 2 October 2006, after which 'Hezbollah Venezuela' became an organised group under the orders of the organisation's council in Latin America. He did not provide Darnott with any further details butinformed him that the organisation was responsible for bombing the AMIA building in Argentina.
Darnott describes in great detail his organisational work in Guajira to form 'Hezbollah Venezuela', the persons involved, the rivalries and betrayals. He stresses the importance of the work on the Internet for recruiting and propaganda and the fact that the Second Lebanon War gave a lot of publicity to his 'organisation'. He candidly notes that the protests by Jewish organisations againsthis threats and the media attention it received helped enhance the group's visibility and outreach.
Finally, as regards the failed bombing at the US Embassy, Darnott claims that although he new about the planning he did not support it and accuses the perpetrators of lack of 'professionalism'. Actually, his declaration of jihad, his threat to attack US and Jewish targets and the bombing itself were intended to give publicity to his ideas, to serve as 'loud speakers' to divulge his ideas and organisation. In the end, however, he does not explain the Lebanese Hezbollah's role in the group's 'military'activity and what happened to their relationship after the failed terrorist attack.
What made 'Hezbollah Venezuela' worthy of attention was the timing of its activities. It became visible at a time when 'the strange liaison' between Hugo Chvez and the Iranian President Ahmadinejad had become an item of international interest. Moreover, despite the long detention of Darnott and Rojas and the information the Venezuelan security forces already had about the group, the government did not provide any details about who is really behind the network.
Teodoro Rafael Darnott, probably in jail, recently threatened the US saying that 'If the United States were to attack Iran, the only country ruled by God, we would counterattack in Latin America and even inside the United States itself. We have the means and we know how to go about it. We will sabotage the transportation of oil from Latin America to the US You have been warned'.
Hezbollah Argentina The current Argentine government is unsympathetic to radical organisations or regimes, but there are many active groups and movements of the radical right and left in the country which have often expressed anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli and anti-US views. The difficulties in the long investigation and prosecution of the terrorist bombings of the Israeli Embassy and AMIA building, which attimes involved the arrest and trial of rightist or corrupt people, bear witness to the tolerance of such radical activities.
A past analysis of 'Hezbollah Argentina' showed a strikingly different picture from that of 'Hezbollah Venezuela'. While the Venezuelan group is based on indigenous Wayuu Indians with a strong leftist background and revolutionary rhetoric, the Argentine group seems to include radical rightist mixed with leftist populist elements; the two trends have very close relations with the local Arab Shia community and the Iranian regime. The rightist influence is clear in the publication of some of the most anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli and anti-American texts of Norberto Ceresole, the same whose pamphlets were published in the Islam-Shia website. Ceresole made contact with the Iranian regime immediately after the bombing of the Jewish AMIA building in 1994 and visited Iran and Lebanon. Ceresole considered Iran, since the Khomeini revolution, to be 'the centre of resistance to Jewish aggression' and the only state that has supplanted 'the secular Arab resistance' in fighting the Jewish State.
The more popular leftist trend is present in the group's cooperation with Quebracho, a small Argentine militant group. The Patriotic Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Patri"tico Revolucionario, MPR, or Quebracho) claims to be a political organisation fighting for 'a socially just, economically independent and politically sovereign country' for the 'National Antiimperialist Revolution'. Quebracho militants refuse to define themselves as leftist or rightist. Theyconsider themselves 'revolutionary patriots' in the framework of the Latin American liberation struggle.
The Islamic Association of Argentina mainly consists of converts to Shiism (while there are few Argentines who convert to Sunnism) and cooperates closely with the Iranian Embassy. The Association and its religious leader, Sheikh Abdala Madani, clearly identify themselveswith the Iranian regime. The link appeared on their website and Khomeini posters are carried at every anti-Israel demonstration.
Things have not changed much in Argentina. If one looks at information and photos in the media covering the July 2006 march in Buenos Aires in solidarity with the Palestinian people, just days before bigger pro-Hezbollah manifestations were staged during the Second Lebanon War, the same Iranian-sponsored and linked groups appear: Organizaci"n Islmica Argentina (OIA), Mezquita At-Tauhid, Asociaci"n Argentino Islmica (La Plata), Mezquita Ash-Shahid (Tucumn), Mezquita Al-Imam (Ca±uelas) and the leader of the Asociaci"n Argentino Islmica, Sheikh Abdala Madani. To be sure, Ayatollah Khomeini's portrait is ubiquitous.
Hezbollah and the Anti-globalisation Movement
On 17-19 September 2004 activists held an 'International Strategy Meeting' in Beirut under the title 'Where Next for the Global Anti-War and Anti-Globalisation Movements?'. The Beirut conference emerged from a process that began at a May 2003 antiwar conference in Jakarta and continued at an antiwar assembly at the Mumbai World Social Forum in January 2004. The main conveners included Focus on the Global South (Thailand), a 'key player in the global movement', and the Civilian Campaign for Protection of Palestinian People (France). The rest of the working group that organised the conference hailed from Argentina, South Africa, Japan, France, Nicaragua, India, the Philippines, Italy, Brazil, Greece, the UK and the US, reflecting the broadly international and south-weighted character of the initiative. Some 300 individuals from 50 countries participated in the conference, representing various antiwar coalitions, social movements, NGOs and other groups.
The Arab sponsors (the Lebanese Welcoming Committee) included 'progressives, seculars, and Islamists', such as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Communist Party and the Progressive Socialist Party of the Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Joining them were activists from Syria, Egypt, and Morocco and Palestinian areas as well as a delegation of Iraqis. The decision to hold the meeting in the MiddleEast was part of a conscious effort to build closer links with antiwar and anti-corporate globalisation activists in the region.
Hezbollah is not known for its antiwar or antiglobalisation stance and had never before participated in such a conference. It was invited because a group of radical Italian leftists insisted. Hezbollah was described at the conference as 'one of the leading welcoming organisations [and] an example of successful, targeted and organised resistance'. Ali Fayad, member of Hezbollah's Central Council and Chairman of the Academic Centre for Documentation, stressed that Islam's message is one of unity and collaboration, not division, and that the conference was held in Beirut because Lebanon's resistance 'defeated theReagan project for the Middle East in the 1980s... [and] liberated the land from occupation'.
It seems that Hezbollah decided to jump on the antiglobalisation bandwagon at a sensitive moment in the war on terror and thesituation in Iraq ''both fragile, explosive situations that could decide the course of future events in the Middle East''.
Four years after the first Beirut anti-globalisation conference, and during Israel's 'Cast Lead' operation against Hamas violence from Gaza, Hezbollah clearly took the lead and sponsored a similar gathering. Dr Ali Fayyad, the Director of the Consultative Centre for Studies and Documentation in Beirut, who hosted the Beirut Forum, laid out its goals: 'In this part of the world the resistance is Islamic. The resistance movement here must introduce themselves to other forces of resistance to imperialism around the world. The ideological differences must be postponed. The resistance must prevail... An important goal of the forum is how, despite the ideological contradictions, to find how to work together hand in hand to achieve unity against imperialism'.
The Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from 16 to 18 January 2009, assembled 400 delegates from all continents. The largest number of delegates came from the Arab world, including the Ba'ath and Communist Parties of Syria and Iran, but there were also many from Latin America, including 30 from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Guests from Venezuela comprised members of parliament, unionists and youth from both the United Socialist Party (PSUV) and the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV).
A prime organiser of the conference was Mohamed Kassem, a leader of the Lebanese teachers' union. 'For the first time, in Lebanon', he said, 'we have created a platform for struggling people all over the world, secular, nationalist, leftist and Islamic to speak their views and work together, against the wars in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, against the threats to Iran and the sanctions on Sudan, against the blockade of Cuba and the attempts to block the revolutionary direction in Venezuela, Bolivia and across Latin America... We are building mechanisms of international cooperation and South-South solidarity, and we plan to intensify those efforts in the future'. This Forum, where Latin America, Asia and the Near East were strongly represented, embodied the spirit of the Tri-continental.
The final declaration of the conference, besides the usual anti-Israeli and anti-American resolutions, related to specific Latin American issues. It saluted 'Venezuelan President Hugo Chvez as well as Bolivian President Evo Morales for their support for the peoples' resistance' and expressed 'total support with the struggle of these two leaders against any intervention of the United States in Latin America'. It called for the lifting of the blockade on Cuba and the release of Cuban prisoners held in US prisons and it condemned 'the alliance between the USA and the neofascist government of Colombia that for four decades has terrorized its own people and worked to destabilize the progressive governments of Latin America' and declared 'their support to the revolutionary movements in struggle against this regime'.
In the opening session Hezbollah's Deputy Secretary Sheik Naim Kassem 'captured the common spirit of the assembly: Today there are only two camps in the world. The one of US imperialism and its allies and the other one of the resistances; regardless of their ideological, cultural or religious affiliation. The resistances mustbe unified against its common enemy. This is only possible by respecting the diversity of the resistance movements'.
Although planned long ahead of the war in Gaza, the entire event was marked by a 'profound support of the Palestinian resistance struggle in Gaza'. Nobody, not even the forces present from non-Islamic countries, used Hamas' leadership of the resistance in Gaza as a pretext to reject support for the resistance, as had been common in the past. However, notes a radical leftist reporter, '[c]areful participants of the Beirut Forum could notice a certain wariness to lend the same support to the Iraqi and Afghan resistance as they do for Palestine. This wariness is due to the interests of Iran as a regional power; interests which do conflict with these resistances. Given Iran's record of support to the Iraqi regime installed by the US occupiers the message by the Iranian president to the forum rightly denouncing the Arab regimes which follow Israeli and US interest as traitors appears somewhat vapid'.
A representative of the Turkish conservative Islamist group Ozgur Der at the Beirut Forum asked the participants to reach and build bridges of understanding between opposition forces; to 'globalise activist networks from IT workers to European Muslim minorities, from Gaza to local activists of Vancouver, from suburbs of Somalia to poor people of Harlem, from oppressed Kurdish people of Turkey to mine workers of Nigeria, from EZLN of Mexico to MNLF of Philippines, from HAMAS to European left, from Venezuela to Iran'.
Again and again, the importance of the Venezuelan link to Iran and its 'revolutionary' global role was stressed during this multi-national radical forum. Although the reports spoke of 'many participants from Latin America', according to the list of 100 adherents to the event only Venezuela was represented, possibly by some 30 people from 'De Primera Mano Venezuela', 'Azequiel Zamora Venezuela' and 'APORREAR Venezuela' groups.
According to an official report of the Venezuelan Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information, the Grupo Parlamentario Venezolano del Parlamento Latinoamericano (Parlatino, GPVPL) 'actively participated' in the Beirut Forum. Deputies of the GPVPL, such as Vctor Chirinos, Carolus Winmer, Vctor Hugo Morales, Yul Jabour and Vidal Cisneros, participated in the 'event of solidarity to the Palestinian people and against the genocide committed by the Israeli army'.
Carolus Wimmer, Vice-president of the GPVPL and Secretary for International Relations of the Partido Comunista de Venezuela (PCV), hailed the support given at the conference to President Chvez for his 'courageous' decision to sever diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Israel, asked all the 'progressive' governments around the world to follow Venezuela's and Bolivia's example in this and asked for an oil embargo against Israel and the expulsion of the Jewish state from the United Nations.
This long paper gives a glimpse of the extensive Iranian and Hezbollah presence and activity in Latin America. The problem with this presence and activity is that it goes beyond the normal political, economic, social and cultural levels and creeps into the dangerous area of terrorism and subversion, threatening not onlyoutside actors and interests but possibly the very stability of the host countries.
It is evident that Iran's political and strategic standing in Latin America strengthens the Tehran regime and diminishes the possibility of UN-backed international diplomatic and economic pressure to convince it to renounce its nuclear project. Thus, indirectly at least, it enhances the threat of Iran's nuclear hegemonic projection vis- -vis the moderate Arab states, with all that this means for the stability of the Middle East, the stability of oil prices and nuclear proliferation to other states inthe region. The Bolivian decision to move its Embassy from Cairo to Tehran is one small move in this direction.
The proved Iranian and Hezbollah involvement in the worst terrorist attacks on the continent, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a bad omen for the future. In the event of Iran's vital interests ''such as the survival of its nuclear project'' being threatened by the international community, by the US alone or by Israel, Latin Americawould be a preferred ground for retaliation, directly or with Hezbollah's support.
The Hezbollah leadership could decide, based on its practical immunity in the past, that to avenge the death of the arch-terrorist Imad Mughniyeh or some serious incident on the border with Israel would be easy in Latin America. Recently it became known that suchattempts have been foiled in Azerbaijan and in an unnamed European country.
In the longer term, exporting radical Shiite ideological and religious teaching could serve to influence large sectors of society, especially the poorest and most deprived, and thus add another element of instability and radicalisation in a continent already plagued by socio-economic hardship. Growing anti-Semitism, aswitnessed lately in Venezuela, could add to the existing sectarian turmoil in some countries.
And what if Iran were to decide to deploy its long-range missiles in Venezuela at the request of President Chvez, if he were to feel threatened? Given Chvez's invitation to theRussian Navy to visit his country, such a nightmarish scenario might be possible.
Ely KarmonSenior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) and The Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) at The Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzlyia, Israel
Sent: Thursday, February 14
Subject: Proposed New HEMP Course Survey (UNCLASSIFIED)
High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) is a growing threat to the U.S.
defense structure and civilian infrastructure. Created by a nuclear
weapon detonated in the atmosphere, the resulting electromagnetic pulse can
Technology | As Uber Prepares for I.P.O., Its Losses Pile Up Image Uber's coming public offering will set the bar for other well-known tech companies like Slack and Lyft. Credit Credit Mike Segar/Reuters SAN FRANCISCO '-- Technology companies rarely make money before they go public. Twitter was unprofitable when it listed on the stock market. So were Snap, Spotify and SurveyMonkey.
For Uber, the question as the ride-hailing giant prepares for a public offering is even bigger than whether it can make money. That's because the company, the most prominent tech start-up of its generation, will set the bar for other well-known tech companies like Slack and Lyft as they also stampede toward the stock market this year.
So far, Uber is not doing itself any favors on profits.
The company reported on Friday that it had narrowed its net loss in the fourth quarter of 2018 from a year earlier. But excluding certain one-time items, including the sale of some of its businesses, Uber's losses for the quarter rose 88 percent from the previous year, to $842 million.
The losses were a result of Uber's increasing its spending as it tries to outmuscle competitors, many of which have intensified their efforts to add riders and drivers. Uber has responded by offering bigger incentives and more promotions to fend off rivals like DoorDash, Lyft and other ride-hailing and food-delivery services.
Uber made its financial disclosure as it hurtles toward what is set to be one of the biggest-ever public offerings by a tech company. A transportation colossus, Uber was privately valued at more than $70 billion last year, and proposals from investment bankers suggest that it could be worth as much as $120 billion after going public. The share sale will create enormous windfalls for Uber's many investors, and for its founders and early employees.
As a private company, Uber is not required to disclose financial results. But it has regularly done so over the past two years to inform investors about its business, and perhaps to keep the depth of its losses from coming as a surprise later.
The latest set of figures, probably Uber's last as a private company, will be closely scrutinized. Many investors initially give young and fast-growing tech start-ups a pass for losing money, but questions about whether such companies can ultimately be profitable eventually catch up with them. Investors criticized Twitter for racking up losses before it finally began to make money last year, and they have pushed down Snap's share price since its public offering, partly because the company is still deeply unprofitable.
In a statement, Uber's chief financial officer, Nelson Chai, did not address the company's losses. He said Uber had ''maintained category leadership'' in its ride-hailing business, and he noted other bright spots, including the company's freight-management business and nascent e-bike and scooter program.
Uber has a long history of spending large sums of money. Ride-hailing is inherently an expensive business that requires companies to expand into new markets for growth, pay to recruit drivers and lower prices to grab business away from competitors.
Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's chief executive, has been under pressure to pare its losses, and the company has pulled out of money-losing markets like Russia and Southeast Asia.
Some of the company's losses have been overshadowed by its explosive growth. In 2018, Uber increased its total bookings '-- what it charges customers for rides and food delivery '-- to $50 billion, up 45 percent from 2017. Net revenue was $11.3 billion, a 43 percent increase.
The company's net revenue for last year's fourth quarter was $3 billion, a 25 percent increase from a year earlier, and its gross bookings jumped 37 percent, to $14.2 billion. The company has $6.4 billion in cash, and its net loss was $865 million.
But Uber's profit margins have declined as it cut prices to match competitors and spent money on expanding its food-delivery business, Uber Eats. The margins are also smaller on Uber Eats orders because the company pays commissions to restaurants as well as delivery drivers.
Uber's self-driving car program, which will probably not yield revenue for years, continues to burn cash. The company returned its autonomous vehicles to public roads in December after a 10-month hiatus, which was prompted when one of its vehicles fatally struck a pedestrian in Arizona.
Follow Mike Isaac and Kate Conger on Twitter: @mikeisaac and @kateconger.
Delivery Startups Are Using Tips To Fulfill Pay Promises, And Customers Are Mad
tech Instacart customers are quitting the service because the company is using customers' predelivery tips to fulfill the base pay minimum it guarantees delivery workers.
By Caroline O'Donovan
Posted on February 5, 2019, at 6:04 p.m. ET
Instacart customers who feel tricked by the grocery delivery company's tipping policy are threatening to stop using the service.
Last week, customers were surprised to learn that Instacart uses customer tips to cover its guaranteed $10 per delivery minimum payment to drivers, which means that in some cases, the more a customer tips, the less the company has to pay.
@spaulsandhu @dhh @Instacart @Instacart I'd also like an answer. I've used the app recently and really enjoyed the experience, but need to know if this is how you're operating. People assume a tip will be on top of a base pay - and you know that. Please confirm. (Canadian customer)
02:50 AM - 30 Jan 2019 Instacart confirmed that when its payment algorithm determines a driver should be paid below that guaranteed $10, the company uses the customer's predelivery, ''up front'' tip to cover the difference. The ''up front'' tip is automatically set to 5% on the Instacart app; if the customer removes the tip, and the payout would be below $10, Instacart itself covers the cost. The company said the number of orders where the algorithmically determined payment comes out to under $10 is low, but declined to specify a percentage.
When Instacart rolled out this payment system nationally at the end of last year, drivers complained that it lowered their incomes. But it wasn't until the Washington state''based labor group Working Washington published a viral blog post about Instacart's practices that customers realized how their tips were being used.
''I always assumed a tip was ON TOP of the base wage, not 'a part of,''' Paul Sandhu, an Instacart premium customer who said he uses the service around three times a week, told BuzzFeed News. ''Consumers are basically subsidizing a promised minimum payment, and it's extremely deceptive.'' Sandhu said he plans to tip his delivery drivers in cash from now on.
''I assumed that tips were just that '-- not wage replacement."
Brian Clark, a Seattle-based Instacart customer, said Instacart doesn't explain to customers that in some cases their decision to leave an ''up front'' tip prior to delivery could lower Instacart's contribution to the guaranteed $10 per job minimum.
''I assumed that tips were just that '-- not wage replacement,'' Clark told BuzzFeed News. ''[Instacart] certainly [doesn't] message it that way when you are selecting a tip amount at checkout.'' In a tweet, Clark said he would stop using Instacart because of their tip policy.
@dhh @Instacart hey if this is true you just lost my family as customers for good. Unethical and immoral. I'll be sure to let all my neighbors know too. ð
06:01 AM - 30 Jan 2019 DoorDash, a startup that delivers food from local restaurants, has also attracted scrutiny for its tipping policy, which is similar to Instacart's, but uses a sliding scale for its minimum base pay instead of a flat amount. As with Instacart, DoorDash guarantees a minimum payout, but uses the customer's tip to cover that guarantee when possible. DoorDash said this policy is made clear on its website, but not all customers seem familiar '-- or comfortable '-- with the arrangement.
Michael McAllister is a regular DoorDash customer who mostly orders food online because he uses a wheelchair. But because of DoorDash's tipping policy, he doesn't want to continue using the service.
"Base pay should be covered by the service [employer]. Tips should be extra," McAllister told BuzzFeed News. "Having talked to some drivers, I hear that Grubhub, which I also use, does not steal tips. If more restaurants were available on GH, I would prefer to use them as I find their policy to be more ethical." Grubhub did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its tipping policy.
Instacart's main competitors in the grocery delivery space are Shipt and Amazon Fresh. Like Instacart, those companies guarantee that 100% of the customer's tip goes to the worker. It's not clear whether those companies adjust their payout to workers based on the size of the customer's tip, but neither has been the subject of a campaign organized by workers in the way Instacart has. An Amazon spokesperson said via email that it guarantees its delivery contractors $18 an hour, but didn't respond to questions about whether customer tips subsidize that guaranteed rate. Shipt did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Postmates, a direct competitor with DoorDash, said in instances where a minimum base pay is in effect, it does not include customer tips in that figure, but instead adds them on top.
''The consumer is misled and deceived.''
Paying employees below minimum wage and using customer tips to account for the rest is a common practice in the restaurant industry. Eight states, however, currently require employers to pay a minimum wage whether the worker is tipped or not, and new legislation to that effect is being debated in statehouses around the country. But because the delivery drivers who work for Instacart and DoorDash are independent contractors, not employees, minimum wage laws and other labor protections don't apply to them.
''The only way [this] would be legal is if these workers are independent contractors and not employees under the prevailing wage laws of the state,'' said University of California Hastings legal professor Veena Dubal via email. ''If they are in fact independent contractors '... then Instacart can pay them as little as they want.''
Delivery workers seeking employee status have sued both Instacart and DoorDash; Instacart paid out a $4.6 million settlement to workers in a class action suit in 2017, and DoorDash paid $5 million. But the workers' independent contractor classification didn't change.
Industry observers, labor advocates, and academics have argued on social media that what Instacart is doing '-- promising a $10 per-gig wage, but paying out a smaller amount by using customer tips '-- feels like a form of wage theft. But because the workers are contractors, and because Instacart is technically keeping its promises (all the tip money goes to the worker, who earns the guaranteed rate), the company's policy on tipping is legal.
While Instacart may be following labor laws, Tim Greaney, also a law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law, said customers are justified in feeling duped. ''You can make the argument that [these are] deceptive and misleading tactics and practices on the part of Instacart because '... the consumer thinks he or she is making a gift, or a tip, to the worker. '... but it's for work,'' Greaney told BuzzFeed News. ''The consumer is misled and deceived.''
Instacart didn't provide a comment regarding its customers who feel misled by the ''up front'' tip, but said in an email statement that it ''provide[s] shoppers with an estimate of what they can expect to earn from all orders they accept, which includes tips,'' which it said is ''consistent with the practices of other on-demand delivery companies.''
''As a team, we're deeply committed to fair compensation and welcome the feedback from our dedicated community to create the best possible shopper experience,'' the company said.
"As someone who uses Instacart I believe it is a deceptive business practice that should end.'' '--US Rep. Ro Khanna
Angry customers and Instacart workers have been leveraging social media in an attempt to bring the tipping issue to the attention of progressive politicians, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Rep. Ro Khanna, a Silicon Valley Democrat, is critical of Instacart's tipping policy. ''Instacart advertises that 100% of tips earned go directly to their workers. But they apparently don't tell consumers that their tips are subsidizing what Instacart should have already paid to the driver," he told BuzzFeed News. "As someone who uses Instacart I believe it is a deceptive business practice that should end.''
Instacart's practices also drew the attention of a member of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's policy team:
It's like every tech company ''disruption'' is a new way to skirt labor laws. This is wage theft. https://t.co/ZtW1brupLa
12:34 PM - 02 Feb 2019 McAllister, the DoorDash customer who uses a wheelchair, said "because drivers are technically independent contractors, these gig economy services can circumvent basic worker protections," but he hopes "that these newly elected legislators can push a legislative agenda that will adequately address these issues."
Instacart and DoorDash workers say the short-term solution to this problem is to tip them in cash, rather than via the app. But for Brian O'Neill, previously a weekly user of Instacart, the best solution to what he called Instacart's ''deceptive practice'' is to stop ordering altogether.
''The whole gig economy is already rough enough on people trying to make a living, being extra shady about it is just wrong,'' O'Neill told BuzzFeed News. ''They have officially lost a customer.''
Ministry of Truthiness
Ensuring the financial sustainability of quality journalism - Newsroom
The Council of Europe has called on its 47 member states to ensure the financial sustainability of quality journalism taking into account that it is a public good and plays an essential role for individuals to be able to form and express their opinions and make informed choices about government and society.
In a Declaration adopted today, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers encourages states to put in place a regulatory and policy framework that facilitates the operation of quality journalism, while not constraining media outlets' editorial and operational independence. Recommended measures include a beneficial tax regime, financial support schemes and the possibility of media outlets to operate as not-for-profit organisations and receive donations from philanthropic programmes.
The Declaration has been adopted due to the concern that the sustainability of quality journalism is at great risk. This situation '' witnessed across the continent '' is largely due to the digitisation of the media sector which has compromised the traditional business models based on advertising. The consequences range from reduced news coverage, job loses, and the deterioration of journalists´ working conditions, to greater concentration of media ownership.
Whilst highlighting that the digital environment provides new opportunities for free expression and diversity of opinions, the Declaration also stresses that it creates risks of manipulation, disinformation and spread of hate messages.
With regard to online platforms, the Committee of Ministers expresses concern about the lack of transparency in the way that they select and rank news and stresses the need to consider their responsibilities as main gateways for news dissemination, also by promoting credible and diverse information over disinformation and other malicious or blatantly false content.
Finally, the Declaration stresses the importance of ensuring a fair financial reward for the production of news and other media content. Where necessary, that may include redistribution of revenues from online platforms to news content providers.
What Will Win Best Picture? 20 Oscar Voters Spill Their Secrets - The New York Times
Image Numerous voters expressed admiration for ''Black Panther,'' starring Chadwick Boseman, foreground left, and Michael B. Jordan, though its association with Disney could be a complicating factor. Credit Credit Matt Kennedy/Marvel, Disney LOS ANGELES '-- Voting for the 91st Academy Awards ends on Tuesday, with roughly 8,200 movie industry insiders using a private website to mark their choices. Just what goes through their minds when they point and click?
In a perfect world, each voter would approach the task with solemnity, taking time to watch all of the nominated films and putting aside biases to consider the degree of artistry onscreen.
But Hollywood is no utopia.
To a large degree, Oscar voting is about personal prejudices and petty grievances. (Just read the anonymous voter columns The Hollywood Reporter has published in the past.) It is about who has the most pals in the voting pool, which remains 69 percent male and 84 percent white despite years of diversification efforts. It also involves Hollywood's changing business landscape '-- namely, whether Netflix should be embraced by the industry or kept out of the club for as long as possible, regardless of the quality of the films it serves up.
So, as an experiment, I called 20 academy members (none directly associated with any of this year's nominees) and asked for utter candor: How are you evaluating the eight candidates for best picture?
None would speak for attribution, but their answers said a lot about the Oscars in particular and Hollywood in general. (High school with much, much more money, indeed.) Below is an amalgamation of their comments.
'Black Panther'One vinegary older voter compared superhero films to ''the stuff that oozes out of dumpsters behind fast-food restaurants.'' Then he confessed that he hadn't yet seen ''Black Panther.''
But many of the people I called said they would place this comic-book blockbuster near the top of their ballots '-- citing its commanding performances, sumptuous production design and overall cultural importance. (The academy uses a complicated ''preferential'' voting system for best picture, in which nominees are ranked 1 through 8, and the second- and third-place positions can carry as much weight as first place.)
The problem, at least for a few voters: ''Black Panther'' was made by Marvel, which is owned by Disney, which has turned every other studio into a box office also-ran. It will be even worse when Disney completes its takeover of 20th Century Fox. ''And now we're also supposed to give Disney the Oscar for best picture?'' one voter from a rival studio told me.
'BlacKkKlansman' Image Voters praised Spike Lee's ''BlacKkKlansman,'' with Adam Driver, left, and John David Washington, but it did not seem to connect with them on an emotional level. Credit David Lee/Focus Features Directed by Spike Lee, ''BlacKkKlansman'' drew praise for its originality and intellectual heft. As one person put it, ''BlacKkKlansman'' is the kind of film that holds up in the history books. There will be no ''Did we really vote for this?'' regret in a couple of years. (See: ''Shakespeare in Love.'')
On the downside, movies that win best picture usually connect with voters on an emotional level. At least in my little sample, ''BlacKkKlansman'' fell more into the ''deeply admire but don't feel the need to watch it again'' zone.
Lee could be the ceremony's best hope for a viral moment, however. Some people relished the idea of his striding onto the Oscar stage and excoriating studios for sidelining minorities. (He's never been one to mince words.) ''Can you imagine?'' said a voter who is a member of the academy's writers branch. ''People would have to be hauled out on stretchers.'' (Lee is also nominated for best director for the first time in his singular career.)
'Bohemian Rhapsody'This Queen biopic, directed by Bryan Singer (at least until he was fired for erratic behavior), ranks as one of the more puzzling best picture contenders in memory. (And that's saying something, considering that the talking-pig movie ''Babe'' was a contender in 1996.) Voters used words like ''superficial'' and ''messy'' to describe the film, which received lukewarm reviews from critics and prompted an outcry for soft-pedaling gay plot points.
Almost everyone admitted that ''Bohemian Rhapsody'' was a guilty pleasure to watch, however, as Rami Malek turned in an Oscar-worthy performance as Freddie Mercury. (All 20 people I contacted said Malek had their vote for best actor.)
In a surprise '-- or not, given the way that Hollywood likes to sweep problems under the rug '-- most voters said they would not hold Singer's involvement against the film. The director has long been trailed by accusations of sexual misconduct and new claims about sex with underage boys that surfaced in The Atlantic the day after Oscar nominations were announced. Singer denied wrongdoing and labeled the article ''a homophobic smear piece.''
'The Favourite' Image The inability of ''The Favourite,'' starring Olivia Colman, to win at the pre-Oscar ceremonies could hurt its chances. Credit Atsushi Nishijima/Fox Searchlight Films, via Associated Press Voters like being on the winning team. And this dark comedy set in the court of Queen Anne (circa 1710), while widely admired for its performances, script and costumes, has mostly been a loser at the big pre-Oscar ceremonies. ''I love this nasty little movie, but I don't want to throw my vote away,'' one person told me, adding that she was waiting until the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards to make her decision. (''The Favourite'' won seven Baftas on Sunday, but lost the big prize to ''Roma.'')
Others seemed unsure whether ''The Favourite'' sent a positive message about women (Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz lead the cast) or ultimately reinforces a ''Mean Girls'' stereotype (they scheme, double-cross and manipulate).
'Green Book' Image ''Green Book,'' with Mahershala Ali, left, and Viggo Mortensen, tended to resonate with older members of the academy. Credit Universal Pictures, via Associated Press Nobody thought this period segregation comedy was perfect. Could we please have a touch of nuance? And that fried-chicken scene makes everyone cringe. But ''Green Book'' tugged hard on a lot of voter heartstrings. One producer in his late 60s said the movie's feel-good ending made him ''absolutely melt.''
Peter Farrelly, who directed ''Green Book'' and was one of its writers, has also proved to be an effective campaigner, a couple of voters noted, with his self-effacing speech at the Producers Guild Awards in January as Exhibit A. ''When you make 'Dumb and Dumber,' you never expect to get an award,'' Farrelly said, referring to one of his early films. ''I'm damn thankful.''
One voter, a studio executive in his 50s, admitted that his support for ''Green Book'' was rooted in rage. He said he was tired of being told what movies to like and not like. (Much of the public debate about ''Green Book'' has turned on its handling of racial issues, which some see as woefully retrograde and borderline bigoted.)
'Roma'Directed by Alfonso Cuar"n and distributed by Netflix, ''Roma'' seems to be prompting a crisis of conscience.
Do we vote for ''Roma'' because we think it's the best? Or do we withhold our support '-- regardless of the film's artistic merit '-- because we see Netflix as a threat to moviegoing? Although the company pushed ''Roma'' into about 250 independent theaters in the United States, on par with many foreign-language releases, the streaming giant mostly bypasses cinemas. There are voters in both camps. A couple of those in the anti-Netflix group told me that they would vote for Cuar"n for best director as a way to assuage their guilt.
The chief complaint about ''Roma'' involved its leisurely pace. One voter in the acting branch described the period black-and-white film as important but boring.
'A Star Is Born'It's a long, bumpy road to the Oscars. And this blockbuster remake '-- a front-runner for best picture late last year '-- went kerplop somewhere along the way.
Some voters said they lost their zeal for ''A Star Is Born'' after the film converted only one of its five Golden Globe nominations into a win (best song). Others faulted Lady Gaga, who plays the main role, for giving speeches on the awards trail (the Globes, National Board of Review) that struck them as cloying. A few older voters said they had gone back to watch the 1954 version of ''A Star Is Born,'' with Judy Garland, and come away with the belief that the current version wasn't as good, especially in its second hour.
''The new one is a masterpiece '-- for 40 minutes,'' one producer told me.
'Vice' Image Prospects for best picture look dim for ''Vice,'' starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams, but voters did praise the performances. Credit Matt Kennedy/Annapurna Pictures, via Associated Press Only one person said he would vote for ''Vice,'' a comedic biopic about Dick Cheney that was directed and written by Adam McKay. ''I'm pals with one of the producers, so I feel like I have to,'' the person explained in a less-than-ringing endorsement.
Others gushed about the performances in ''Vice'' (especially Christian Bale's in the title role and Amy Adams's as Lynne Cheney) but complained that Mr. McKay's film, as a whole, was a shade too impressed with its own cleverness and visual gimmicks.
The #OscarsSoWhite outcry from 2015 and 2016 also seems to loom over ''Vice.'' An organization filled with older white dudes gives best picture of the year to a movie about an old white dude? ''We'd get crucified,'' one voter said.
A version of this article appears in print on
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with the headline:
20 Voters Open Up On Rating Top Films
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The Unheard Female Voice: Women are more likely to be talked over and unheeded. But SLPs can help them speak up and be heard.: The ASHA Leader: Vol 24, No 2
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Green New Deal
IT'S ABOUT TIME! Top NASA Global Warming Scientist WALKS BACK Global Warming Claims! "I'm Not Sure that Climate Change Is An Immediate Threat To Human Existence"
IT'S ABOUT TIME! Top NASA Global Warming Scientist WALKS BACK Global Warming Claims! ''I'm Not Sure that Climate Change Is An Immediate Threat To Human Existence'' by Nan and Byron McKeeby February 14, 2019
Did one of NASA's top climate scientists just walk back global warming hysteria? Sure sounds like it!
NASA climatologist, Dr. Kate Marvel, dropped this little bomb while making an appearance on Alec Baldwin's podcast.
The No Agenda Show has the clip which you can listen to here. (transcribed below)
MARVEL: I mean like the Earth's a rock right? It's it's a really special rock but the earth doesn't care about climate change. It's still going to be here. And I actually I'm not sure that climate change is an immediate threat to human existence, but I know that it is an immediate threat to human happiness & human civilization and so a lot of times'...
BALDWIN: It's an immediate threat to the way we live now
MARVEL: For sure. 100%. And a lot of humans gonna be extinct are we doomed? And I kind of feel likeI mean we're probably not doomedbut like I have higher standards you know what I mean? Like if that's the best thing you can say after a day you're like I I didn't go extinct today then it wasn't a good day.
''I'm not sure that climate change is an immediate threat to human existence??''
''I mean we're probably not doomed???''
Is this a joke???
Doesn't this NASA scientist know that we're all going to die in 12 years??? Doesn't she know the science is settled and there's no more room for debate? How many people's careers have been ruined by people like her for saying exactly what she just said? Will she be labelled a denier now?
.@AOC on millennials and social media: "We're, like, the world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change" pic.twitter.com/HjhbVyfFN4
'-- Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) January 22, 2019
Listen to the No Agenda Show Sundays and Thursdays.
H/T Bright Start News
Oostenrijks meteorologisch instituut distantieert zich van klimaat'consensus' - Climategate
Op de website van het ZAMG (Zentralanstalt f¼r Meteorologie und Geodynamik in Wenen) verscheen een opvallend en kritisch bericht waarin vraagtekens worden geplaatst bij het veronderstelde verband tussen CO2 en de AGW ('Anthropogenic Global Warming'). Daarmee loopt het ZAMG als meteorologisch instituut voorop bij het in gang zetten van een meer open klimaatdiscussie en biedt daarmee een respectabel voorbeeld voor andere weerkundige en klimatologische instellingen elders in de wereld.
Natuurlijke klimaatbepalende factoren worden veronachtzaamd
Als de bijdrage van afzonderlijke klimaatbepalende factoren in klimaatmodellen verkeerd worden ingeschat, ook als die tot heden ogenschijnlijk een realistisch resultaat hebben opgeleverd, dan is iedere daaruit afgeleide prognose voor de nabije toekomst onjuist. Nog belangrijker is, dat er geen rekening wordt gehouden met andere dan de antropogene factoren '' en die zijn niet te voorspellen,
Een probleem bij de mondiale klimaatmodellering is dat deze zich richten op de weergave van de gemiddelde temperatuur, zoals die uit metingen is afgeleid. Hoewel die relatief goed kan worden gesimuleerd, is er twijfel of de gevoeligheid van de modellen voor de diverse klimaatbepalende factoren (activiteit van de zon, vulkanische aerosolen, broeikasgassen enz.) met de werkelijkheid overeenkomt. Daar komt nog bij, dat die factoren zelf, met hun opwarmende, dan wel afkoelende uitwerking, nog niet geheel begrepen worden. Zo is het dus mogelijk, dat een klimaatmodel de gemiddelde mondiale temperatuur goed simuleert, maar dat dit toch gebeurt op basis van een foute gevoeligheid van het model door de ingevoerde data.
Worden antropogene factoren overgewaardeerd?
In het vierde IPCC-rapport (Solomon et al., 2007) wordt vastgesteld dat de opwarming in de tweede helft van de vorige eeuw ''zeer waarschijnlijk'' door de oplopende concentratie van broeikasgassen is veroorzaakt. Deze uitspraak steunt op de simulaties van tal van mondiale klimaatmodellen. Critici menen dat die modellen een te grote gevoeligheid voor CO2 laten zien en bijvoorbeeld de invloed van de zon onderschatten.
Toekomstige uitwerking van klimaatfactoren niet voorspelbaar
De emissiescenario's leveren een aanschouwelijk schatting van de toekomstige uitstoot van broeikasgassen op. Omdat alle andere klimaatfactoren zoals de instraling van de zon of van de invloed van vulkanische aerosolen niet valt te voorspellen, rekenen klimaatmodellen alleen met het effect van broeikasgassen. In tegenstelling daarmee, omvatten simulaties van ontwikkelingen in het verleden zowel de natuurlijke en antropogene broeikasgassen, als ook de stralingsintensiteit van de zon en de concentraties van vulkanische en antropogene aerosolen in de atmosfeer.
De natuurlijk klimaatfactoren ontsnappen aan de voorspellingen, omdat er nog geen astrofysisch model bestaat dat de activiteit van de zon kan voorzien, en voorts omdat vulkaanuitbarstingen op langere termijn niet voorspelbaar zijn.
Het zal nog enige tijd duren om de juiste balans tussen alle klimaatfactoren in de klimaatmodellen te vinden. Fundamentele kritiek op de prestaties van klimaatmodellen staat welhaast gelijk aan het niet accepteren van de (ons voorgehouden) werkelijkheid. Bepalend blijft om duidelijk te onderkennen welke resultaten de klimaatmodellen met enige zekerheid kunnen leveren (vergelijk publicaties die op de sterke, dan wel op de zwakke punten ingaan)
Bader D.C., Covey C., Gutowski W.J., Held I.M., Kunkel K.E., Miller R.L., Tokmakian R.T., Zhang M.H. (2008): Climate models: An assessment of strengths and limitations. Washington: Department of Energy, Office of Biological and Environmental Research, 124 Seiten ( PDF-Datei; 4,64 MB )
Hegerl G.C., Zwiers F.W., Braconnot P., Gillett N.P., Luo Y., Marengo Orsini J.A., Nicholls N., Penner J.E., Stott P.A. (2007): Understanding and attributing climate change. In: Solomon S., Qin D., Manning M., Chen Z., Marquis M., Averyt K.B., Tignor M., Miller H.L. (Hg.): Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521705967 , 663''745
Randall D.A., Wood R.A., Bony S., Colman R., Fichefet T., Fyfe J., Kattsov V., Pitman A., Shukla J., Srinivasan J., Stouffer R.J., Sumi A., Taylor K.E. (2007): Climate models and their evaluation. In: Solomon S., Qin D., Manning M., Chen Z., Marquis M., Averyt K.B., Tignor M., Miller H.L. (Hg.): Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521705967 , 589''662
Solomon S., Qin D., Manning M., Chen Z., Marquis M., Averyt K.B., Tignor M., Miller H.L. (Hg.): Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 996 Seiten, ISBN 9780521705967
Je merkt dat Oostenrijk niet aan zee ligt: als voorbeelden van natuurlijke klimaatbepalende factoren worden alleen vulkanisme en de variabele activiteit van de zon genoemd. Ja, wij gaan nu echt een 'Grand Solar Minimum' tegemoet. Ik zou daarnaast zeker de overheersende rol van oceanen voor warmteopslag en -transport, en voor de CO2-huishouding, hebben vermeld. De invloed van de oceanische cycli, zoals El Ni±o en La Ni±a, is ook een uiterst belangrijke factor.
Vanuit geologisch gezichtspunt is de continue elastische respons van zowel de continentale als de oceanische korst tijdens glacialen en interglacialen een belangrijk thema. Het verklaart de Holocene herverdeling van water op aarde in de laatste 6.000 jaar. Zelf ben ik sterk gefascineerd door de mogelijke invloed van submarien vulkanisme en hydrothermale activiteit (black smokers) op de warmtehuishouding. Zo zijn er tal van andere invloedrijke factoren op te noemen. En dat maakt duidelijk hoe onzeker en ingewikkeld iedere klimaatprognose in feite is. Wij weten helaas nog veel te weinig.
Why it matters: The projected shifts in climate if greenhouse gas emissions are unmitigated show that the climate young people are growing up with today will be drastically different by the time they are older '-- and may even have "no modern equivalent."
By the numbers:
In the scenarios with unchecked emissions, all 540 cities showed an increase in the average annual temperature between the current city and its contemporary analog, with an average increase of 8.2°F.Annual precipitation was more mixed, with 218 cities experiencing less rain and 322 with more, for an average change of +3mm.On average, the contemporary analog city was 528 miles from its 2080 partner.With lower emissions, the average distance shrinks to 230 miles, average annual temperatures would increase by 4.6°F, and precipitation would increase by 22mm.How they did it: The study, led by Matt Fitzpatrick at the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Sciences, used 12 temperature and precipitation variables to create 27 climate projections for each city.
The projections are based on two underlying emissions scenarios, which were combined with Earth system models to generate 54 future climate scenarios. One of the emissions scenarios involves the world reining in greenhouse gas emissions, but not sufficiently to meet the Paris Climate Agreement's temperature goal. The other scenario, shown in the map, involves emissions continuing to increase unchecked.The researchers took the mean of the 2080's projections for the 540 cities they examined and matched it with the contemporary city with the most similar climate.
Find your city in this interactive map.Earth's 5 warmest years on record have occurred since 2014.
California City Launches ''Goat Fund Me'' for Wildfire-Preventing Goats - Modern Farmer
They may not eat tin cans like in cartoons from the 19th century, but they are opportunistic grazers, eating all kinds of plants'--especially pesky and hardy weeds'--that are otherwise difficult to get rid of. One California town wants to make use of that for fire prevention.
Because goats will eat difficult-to-remove weeds and vines, like poison ivy, they're often called upon to devour invasive or annoying plants and vines. Brooklyn's Prospect Park has for a couple of years called in a pack of goats to help recover from hurricanes which enabled the growth of invasive weeds, a request that's common around the country.
The town of Nevada City, which despite its name is in California, wants to hire goats for a related reason. Nevada City lies northeast of Sacramento, and is perennially at risk of wildfire damage. Less than 50 miles from the town of Paradise, which was completely destroyed by wildfires last year, Nevada City has a robust fire department, but that isn't always enough. Residents of the city launched a GoFundMe they've called GoatFundMe : a request for goat help.
What they're looking for is money to hire goats for prescriptive eating. Prescriptive, or targeted, grazing is a method to reduce flammable material, like the dry, overgrown brush that's so common in inland California. Goats will eat that stuff right up, reducing options for fire to spread, and they do it efficiently: the cost per acre is significantly cheaper for goats than for humans, and at comparable speed. Other California communities have used goats for decades, though none have come up with a catchy crowdfunding name.
At the time of writing, the GoatFundMe has already raised half of its $30,000 goal.
Disorders of penis development are on the rise and we're not sure why - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
In prenatal ultrasounds or at delivery, many new parents look between their baby's legs: the presence of a penis is taken as a strong sign that it's a boy.
For humans and other animals, development of a penis was thought to be driven by "male hormones" (androgens) produced entirely by the testes of the male fetus as it grows in the uterus.
However, a new paper released today indicates this might not be the case.
Instead, some of the masculinising hormones that drive penis development may come from other sources in the developing fetus.
These include the liver, the adrenals (small glands found on the kidneys) and placenta.
For the first time, this work comprehensively looks at the possible sites of hormone production outside the testes and their role in regulating masculinisation '-- the process of gaining typical male characteristics.
This helps us see how we develop as embryos, and might feed into a bigger picture of why disorders of penis development are increasing.
Testosterone is not enoughThe penis develops from an embryonic structure called the genital tubercle, or GT.
The GT is present in both males and females, and develops into either a clitoris or penis, depending on its exposure to hormones secreted by the developing gonads (ovaries or testes).
Sign up to our Weekend Reads newsletter Subscribe to join Lisa Millar each Saturday morning for the best long reads, analysis and features from the ABC.In females, the developing ovaries do not produce early hormones and the GT becomes feminised, forming a clitoris.
In males, the developing testes produce testosterone. This circulates in the developing fetus and causes masculinisation of target tissues and induces penis development from the GT.
Testosterone itself is a relatively weak hormone. It is converted in the penis to another hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which has a much more potent masculinising effect.
It is the local conversion of testosterone to DHT within the tissue that is important for penis development and other changes.
There are several ways in which the fetus can make DHT. The most simple is via conversion from testicular testosterone (the so-called "canonical" pathway).
However, DHT can also be produced via other steroid hormone pathways active in many tissues, which is explored further in this new paper.
Photo Testosterone is primarily made in the testes, and creates many of the characteristics we see in adult men. Flickr: Alan Light Common birth defectsUnderstanding the pathways that control penis development is important.
Disorders affecting penis development are among the most common birth defects seen in humans, with hypospadias (a disorder affecting development of the urethra) currently affecting about one in every 115 live males born in Australia, and rates are on the rise.
In fact, the incidence of hypospadias has doubled over the past 40 years.
Such a rapid increase in incidence has been attributed to environmental factors, with endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) being proposed as a major cause.
EDCs are man-made chemicals used in many industries '-- for example, in the production of plastics, cosmetics, flame retardants and pesticides.
They can interfere with hormone and metabolic systems in our bodies.
Of the 1,484 EDCs currently identified, a large number are known to negatively affect male reproductive development.
Many studies have identified how EDCs negatively affect organs, such as the liver and adrenals, leading to diseases and disorders that damage the health of these organs and disturb male development.
Backdoor pathwayBy measuring hormones from blood samples and tissues during the second trimester of human fetal development, this new research helps us understand the pathways driving the production of DHT, and masculinisation of the penis.
It suggests that in addition to the canonical pathway (testosterone from the testis converted to DHT in the GT and driving penis development), male steroids are synthesised by other organs, such as the placenta, liver and adrenal gland via a process called the "backdoor" pathway to contribute to masculinisation.
Notably, the backdoor pathway was first discovered through research conducted here in Australia on marsupials.
The findings of this research suggest that EDCs might have effects in non-reproductive tissues, including the adrenals and liver, and then cause male reproductive diseases such as hypospadias.
Also, it indicates that placental defects, such as intrauterine growth restriction that results in babies being born small, might contribute to male reproductive diseases in humans.
Further research is now required to follow up on these interesting findings to explore possible new causal pathways of disorders that begin during pregnancy.
Mark Green is a senior lecturer in Reproductive Biology at the University of Melbourne and Andrew Pask is a professor at the University of Melbourne. This article originally appeared in The Conversation.
(Reuters) - Visa Inc and Mastercard Inc, the two biggest U.S. card networks, are preparing to raise certain fees levied on U.S. merchants for processing transactions from this April, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing people familiar with the matter.
FILE PHOTO: A Mastercard logo is seen on a credit card in this picture illustration August 30, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/File Photo
Some of the changes relate to so-called interchange fees, the report said. Interchange fees are what merchants pay to banks when consumers use a credit or a debit card to make a purchase from their store.
Fees that Mastercard and Visa charge financial institutions, such as banks, for processing card payments on behalf of merchants, are also set to go up, the report said.
A Visa spokesperson confirmed that the fee hikes would go into effect in April, 2019, but only for merchant banks, and not merchants.
Merchant banks are financial institutions that maintain accounts for sellers such as Amazon and Costco. JPMorgan, Citigroup and Bank of America are some of the top merchant banks in the country.
However, it is up to merchant banks if they want to pass on the fee hike to sellers, or absorb it themselves. Similarly, it is sellers' discretion to pass on the hike to consumers or not.
Up to 2.5 percent of prices for goods and services go to cover card fees, the WSJ said.
Card companies have said in the past that their credit and debit cards usually result in more sales for merchants, especially in countries like the United States. They also say that expenses for ramping up anti-fraud/theft security measures, to make payment processing safer, need to be covered.
Mastercard did not respond to Reuters' request for comment on the story.
Recently, the two companies along with several U.S. banks, had to pay over $6 billion to settle a lawsuit brought by merchants who accused the credit card companies of violating federal antitrust laws by forcing merchants to pay swipe fees and prohibiting them from directing consumers toward other methods of payment.
Reporting by Aparajita Saxena and Bharath Manjesh; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli
How to Destroy America for $450,000 '' Startup Muse '' Medium
Updated with my suggestions for the datacenter industry In my twenties I raised millions of dollars from George Soros to build a new kind of datacenter company''--'one that offered 'neutral colocation' (i.e. not controlled by a telecom carrier or internet service provider) on a nationwide basis. Today the company we built is owned by Equinix and the neutral colocation market that we helped start is estimated to be worth more than $30 billion growing to over $100 billion by 2026. That's the good news. The bad news is that the datacenter industry provides our nation's enemies with a very soft target''--'one that could potentially trigger the demise of western civilisation as we know it. I'm writing this article as a warning to the industry and law enforcement''--'we've got a huge problem and we need to take immediate steps to prevent an ''internet 911'' from occurring.
Datacenter Mantrap GraphicIf you've ever tried to get into a datacenter or colocation facility you may have been shocked by the extremely high level of scrutiny you were confronted with''--'security guards, mantraps, retina scanners, hand scanners, badges, non-disclosure agreements, ID checks, and armed escorts. Just the other day I was in a facility that required you to pass through five hand scanners before you reached the datacenter floor. In my opinion these measures are silly in the extreme and are merely designed to create the perception of security''--'not actual security. In reality this irrational level of scrutiny creates a false sense of security as the entire colocation market could be compromised very easily with very little imagination and even less capital.
In 2001 nineteen al Qaeda terrorists boarded three airplanes armed with $2 box cutters and killed 3000 people on American soil. The whole affair cost between $400,000 and $500,000 to execute but cost the United States more than $100 billion in property losses and more than $2 trillion in economic damages. For the same money one could easily paralyse global financial markets and cripple every industrialized nation by targeting as few as thirty-one datacenters here in the United States''--'reducing global GDP by $30 trillion in one fell swoop.
While it is a nightmare to get in the front door of a modern datacenter it is comparatively easy to get in the backdoor. Recently I was asked to work on a movie treatment that required me to research just how easy it would be to cripple global financial markets by destroying just a few datacenters. Based on my research it would be pretty damn easy. Without any trouble I was able to license one server rack in thirty one key data center facilities across the United States including:
4 Facilities in 111 8th Avenue (New York City)5 Facilities in 60 Hudson Street (New York City)5 Facilities in One Wilshire (Los Angeles)1 Facility in 36NE 2nd Street (Miami)2 Facilities in 50 NE 9th Street (Miami)3 Facilities in 2323 Bryan Street (Dallas)3 Facilities in the INFOMART (Dallas)3 Facilities in 2001 Sixth Avenue (Seattle)5 Facilities in Equinix (Ashburn)By targeting these facilities one could easily cripple ALL cellular communication (connections, servers, internet, text, voicemail, 911, SS7 signaling), stoplights, scores of IOT services, email from most major providers, most supply chains, credit cards and ATMs, the stock market, the FBI and CIA communication and data capabilities, and the underlying functions of the internet including DNS and SSL. The distribution of our nation's critical infrastructure in carrier neutral facilities IS the reason they are vulnerable.
In my treatment I explained how each of these facilities agreed to license me a rack and provide remote hands services to install my servers and connect them to the internet (without me ever leaving my home). These companies had no idea who I was or what business I was in. Their biggest concern was how much ping, power, and pipe I needed''--'and if I could pay. Little would they know that each my servers would contain high explosives simply waiting on a keystroke over the internet to detonate. I detailed how a standard 4U server could hold a significant amount of INFERNIT® 45 explosives made by Semtex (BTW the INFERNIT product does NOT include a marking substance for pre-explosive detection). Each rack can hold nine servers''--'basically enough to destroy 1620 cars or any modern datacenter. The total cost of assembling, shipping, and installing nine servers filled with explosives in thirty-one datacenters is approximately $450,000''--'appalling inexpensive. The scariest part of this plan is that it can be executed by a single person, i.e. a lonewolf with very basic technical skills.
I won't detail how to acquire the Semtex or how to connect the servers to the internet, but the world is filled with very smart people who could do both very easily. The truth is that the datacenter industry is focused on keeping bad actors from entering the front door when they should be more worried about bad actors from coming in from the back door. It didn't take me very long to come up with this simple plan to cripple the Internet and it is my worry that our enemies are significantly smarter than I am''--'moments later I came up with a second plan (I suspect together we could come up with scores of ways to cripple our nation). In that vein, perhaps even more important than the back door of data centers are the roads that lead to these facilities.
Inside of a typical NYC manhole filled with fiber optic cables. T he biggest and most important neutral datacenters are located in multi-tenant office buildings (think 60 Hudson, 1 Wilshire and the Westin Building) aka telecom hotels. Each of the datacenters in these buildings run on glass and that glass has to enter these buildings from public right of ways located just under the street outside the building. Most telecom hotels have two or more ''entrance'' facilities that allow telecom and internet providers to deliver their fiber optic cables inside''--'these manholes, by necessity are accessed by scores of telecom carriers with little or no oversight. Basically, anyone with a white van can park next to one, put out a few orange cones, and gain access to all of the fiber optic infrastructure serving these buildings and since these manholes are in the public right of way the building owner can't stop them.
Depending on the building, you'd need two or three teams to simultaneously drop incendiary devices (glass melts at 2600°F) into each manhole and each datacenter in the telecom hotel would go dark. If the teams worked in unison, at night, carefully replaced the manhole covers, and quietly drove away it could take hours for the providers inside to figure out where the problem was '--it is likely that much of the internet would be down for weeks (best case days). We spend so much time and effort screening shampoo and shoes we ignore the really big risks right in front of our noses. Our reliance on the internet cannot be overstated''--'we need to start thinking about protecting our critical infrastructure.
MY SUGGESTIONSDevelop standard procedures for the screening of colocation customers (much like banking regulations that require financial institutions to ''know your customer'').Develop standard procedures for inspecting equipment as it enters the building. Train datacenter staff on possible threats and arm them with technology to detect explosives and other risks.Develop standard procedures for access to entrance facilities. Require those parties who must access entrance facilities to receive background checks and obtain a permit to access manholes. Install alarms and cameras in and around each entrance facility and train building security to confront all parties attempting to access entrance facilities immediately.Get serious about protecting internet infrastructure''--'spend more time thinking about the risks and start implementing them before it is too late.The good news, as some of you have mentioned in comments on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, is that much of the internet has moved to the cloud (with Amazon being the largest cloud provider in the space). The bad news is that much of the cloud is actually located in carrier neutral datacenters''--'as many as 1,600 cloud providers aren't located in Amazon, choosing instead, to be located in neutral facilities throughout the United States:
Top Neutral Datacenter Operators
How Amazon Went From Picking Queens For HQ2 To Pulling Out: A Timeline - Digg
Today, Amazon announced that it is abandoning its plan to open a campus in Queens, New York. Queens was one of two locations selected by the e-commerce behemoth for its "HQ2" after an extensive search in which cities around the country offered the corporation tax breaks and incentives. In a statement, Amazon blamed "local politicians" who "oppose our presence" for their decision to pull out of Queens.
After much thought and deliberation, we've decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
What happened? Amazon was apparently unprepared for popular opposition to a backroom deal that would have given the company almost $3 billion in incentives and tax breaks, and the prospect of a clash between New York governor Andrew Cuomo and a state board with the power to veto the plan proved too much for Amazon to handle. Here's what went down.
The deal was initially announced on November 13 '-- after more than a week of speculation and reporting '-- at a rare joint press conference between Governor Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. Cuomo and de Blasio had secretly negotiated a deal to give Amazon about $1.5 billion in tax credits and construction grants from the state and about $1.3 billion in tax breaks from the city. The incentives amounted to about $48,000 for each of the 25,000 jobs that Amazon promised to create '-- significantly more than the $22,000 per job that Arlington, Virginia had negotiated with Amazon. Still, at the press conference officially announcing the deal, Cuomo said , "This is a big money-maker for us '-- costs us nothing, nada, niente. We make money doing this."
Other New Yorkers disagreed. The city council member representing the area where Amazon planned to build its campus, Jimmy Van Bramer, immediately opposed the deal. "To provide a billion dollars in taxpayer money at a time of scarce resources to one of the richest corporations in the world, that's run by literally the richest man in the world '-- it's obscene and it's wrong," he told the Guardian on the day the deal was announced.
In mid-December, the New York City Council '-- which did not have any standing to block the deal '-- held the first of two hearings in which council members grilled Amazon representatives about why they needed such enormous tax incentives:
"We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance and an escalating affordable crisis," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat. "Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3 billion in public money to the world's richest company, valued at $1 trillion?"
Meanwhile, average New Yorkers, and Queens residents in particular, had begun organizing to oppose the plan. In December, Dave Colon reported the definitive story on the grassroots activists who were fighting the Amazon deal.
"No deals are enough if we don't have a place to live," Mauricio Piratova of Queens Neighborhoods United told an anti-Amazon community forum at Astoria's Redeemer Episcopal Church last Monday...
The meeting was a culmination of the first wave of activism that had gripped New York since the Amazon announcement was made, and was an opportunity for speakers to blast everything from Amazon's interest in working with ICE to its labor practices and the warping effect the company could have on Queens real estate. Displacement and gentrification have been at the forefront of concerns for organizers and activists throughout the campaign against Amazon, one that's taken the form of a series of rallies, street protests, community board appearances and door knocking campaigns around the borough.
By early February, Democrats in the New York State Senate had found a path to blocking the Amazon deal by recommending Andrew Gianaris, the state senator who represents the district where the Amazon campus would be located, for an obscure state board with the power to veto the development plan.
The ability of a local legislator to block the deal to bring a major new Amazon campus to Long Island City was exactly what Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio had tried to avoid when they decided to use a state development process and to bypass more onerous city rules. Opposition, while vocal, seemed futile.
But now, with the insistence of Senate Democrats on appointing Mr. Gianaris to the little-known Public Authorities Control Board, those who want to stop Amazon from coming to Queens have gotten their most tangible boost yet. The board will have to decide on the development plan for Amazon, Mr. Cuomo has said, and could veto it.
[The New York Times]
On February 8, the Washington Post '-- which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos '-- reported that Amazon executives were starting to talk about abandoning the plan to move to Queens:
No specific plans to abandon New York have been made. And it is possible that Amazon would try to use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials.
But company executives have had internal discussions recently to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the company's perspective. The company has not leased or purchased office space for the project in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, making it easy to abandon its commitment.
[The Washington Post]
And today the company made it official, to the celebration of Gianaris, Van Bramer and other progressive politicians, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents a district that neighbors the would-be campus:
So what happens next? New York can't literally spend the $3 billion in planned Amazon subsidies on other projects, since the $3 billion incentive was structured mostly as tax breaks (with the exception of $505 million in "capital grants"). But it stands to reason that if New York was willing to forego that tax revenue, it could find room in its budget for more popular and urgent public projects.
New York City doesn't have an employment problem, it has a housing affordability problem. Yet the original language of the Amazon deal used tax breaks that might have gone to infrastructure or low-income housing investment in the Long Island City region. While it's hard to draw a direct line between corporate handouts and foregone public spending, the fact that states and cities cannot run persistent deficits or print their own currency, like the federal government can, implies that tax dollars lavished on corporations limit the amount of money available to other public projects. Meanwhile, the New York City subway is a disaster, and tuition is rising at the City University of New York system.
In response to Amazon's announcement, de Blasio blamed Amazon for not being able to withstand community criticism.
Meanwhile, Cuomo '-- who once said that he would change his name to "Amazon Cuomo" if it convinced Amazon to move to New York '-- blamed "a small group [of] politicians" who "put their own narrow political interests above their community" and said that those politicians "should be held accountable for this lost economic opportunity."
L.V. Anderson is Digg's managing editor.
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Hey, we're Digg. We collect the best and most interesting stories and videos on the internet in one place.
The writer-actress behind the wild, disorienting comedy of "Fleabag" and "Killing Eve" is bringing her sneak-attack humor to New York.
I wrote this before my brain turned to mush from listening to (almost) only boy bands for a week.
Firefighter Alen Hertl thought this would be just another routine blindfolded space search exercise. Little did he know his girlfriend, Petra MiheliÄ, who's also a firefighter, had other plans in mind.
What's better than getting faster internet? Getting 100% fiber-optic gigabit internet with Fios that includes a three-year price guarantee and a year of Netflix, plus a three-year router rental.
Understanding the Black women who seized a common pantry item '-- and, with it, power.
Ah, yes, what every woman wants to feel on Valentine's Day: deflated and hoodwinked.
King Vader has built his brand on parodies like "Hood Naruto" '-- and a commitment to avoid beefing.
It's OK, Will. We forgive you. Really.
Scotty McKinney saw this machine headed northbound on Interstate 95 in Massachusetts, took some photos, and posted them to Facebook last week with a caption that read, in part: "I have questions."
Facebook security monitors users who have made aggressive comments, as well as former employees, through a "be on lookout" or "BOLO" list.
It's the quintessential love story of the modern primate couple.
Amazon was apparently unprepared for popular opposition to a backroom deal that would have given the company almost $3 billion in incentives and tax breaks.
Healthy relationships are all about communication. Read receipts can make that easier, or agonizingly complicated.
Amazon HQ2: New York headquarters project may be in jeopardy after wave of opposition, 2 officials say - The Washington Post
Jonathan O'ConnellReporter covering economic development with a focus on commercial real estate and the Trump Organization
Patricia SullivanReporter covering government, politics and other regional issues in Arlington County and Alexandria
February 8Amazon.com is reconsidering its plan to bring 25,000 jobs to a new campus in New York City, according to two people familiar with the company's thinking, following a wave of political and community opposition.
Hailed as an economic triumph when it was announced by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), the project now faces withering criticism from some elected officials and advocacy groups appalled at the prospect of giving giant subsidies to the world's most valuable company, led by its richest man. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
In the past two weeks, the state Senate nominated an outspoken Amazon critic to a state board where he could potentially veto the deal, and City Council members for the second time aggressively challenged company executives at a hearing where activists booed and unfurled anti-Amazon banners. K ey officials, including freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), whose district borders the proposed Amazon site, have railed against the project.
No specific plans to abandon New York have been made. And it is possible that Amazon would try to use a threat to withdraw to put pressure on New York officials.
But company executives have had internal discussions recently to reassess the situation in New York and explore alternatives, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the company's perspective. The company has not leased or purchased office space for the project in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, making it easy to abandon its commitment.
Unlike in Virginia, where elected leaders quickly passed an incentive package for a separate headquarters campus, and Tennessee, which has embraced plans for a smaller facility, final approval from New York state is not expected until 2020.
''The question is whether it's worth it if the politicians in New York don't want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,'' said one person familiar with the company's thinking.
Asked to comment on the possibility that the New York deal might founder, Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth said: ''We're focused on engaging with our new neighbors. .'.'. Whether it's building a pipeline of local jobs through workforce training or funding computer science classes for thousands of New York City students, we are working hard to demonstrate what kind of neighbor we will be.''
A controversial appointment
Amazon has hired a lobbying firm and a public relations firm in New York and recently advertised for a ''senior community affairs manager'' to ''focus on developing a positive partnership with local stakeholders, community groups and nonprofits.''
Protesters hold signs outside New York City Hall. (Sangsuk Sylvia Kang/Bloomberg News)At the same time, the two people said company executives may be reaching an inflection point as they prepare for a third City Council hearing and a session of the state's Public Authorities Control Board, which typically would have to okay the project.
''I think now is the time for Amazon to make a decision because it has to start hiring,'' said one person. ''At some point, the project starts to fall behind.''
New York state and city officials have played down the chances that the deal will fall through. They point to opinion polls showing strong public support for the project and say Cuomo and de Blasio will fight hard for it.
[Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez uses social media clout to tackle bias in algorithms]
But officials are furious at the nomination of Sen. Michael N. Gianaris (D-Queens), who is deputy majority leader of the Senate and a strong opponent of the deal, to the Public Authorities Control Board, where he could effectively kill the project.
Cuomo, who has not said whether he will accept Gianaris's nomination, called the Senate action ''governmental malpractice.''
''It's a very small group of politicians who are pandering,'' Cuomo said Friday after The Washington Post reported Amazon was reassessing its plans. ''The problem is the state Senate has adopted that position, and that's what could stop Amazon. And if they do, I would not want to be a Democratic senator coming back to my district to explain why Amazon left.''
Gianaris described the possibility that Amazon would pull out of the deal '-- which totals up to $3 billion in state and city incentives '-- as akin to blackmail.
''Amazon has extorted New York from the start, and this seems to be their next effort to do just that,'' he said. ''If their view is, 'We won't come unless we get three billion of your dollars,' then they shouldn't come.''
[Amazon splits prize between Crystal City and New York]
The resistance in New York contrasts with the warm welcome Amazon has received in Virginia, where Gov. Ralph Northam (D) signed a law on Tuesday authorizing up to $750 million in state subsidies for the Arlington headquarters.
Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) and Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) have been engulfed in recent days by scandals involving past personal behavior. But the two people familiar with Amazon's plans said company leadership is not concerned those controversies will hamper their project.
It's unclear what Amazon might consider as a Plan B if the New York project falls through. It could forgo the incentive package and hire employees on a smaller scale, as competitors including Google are doing. Or Amazon could search for another jurisdiction to get some or all of the jobs.
''We always welcome more great jobs to the commonwealth,'' said Stephen Moret, chief executive of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership and the state's top Amazon negotiator.
[Second woman accuses Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual attack]
Resistance to Amazon in New York is well organized and energetic, based in unions and community groups. Canvassers have gone door-to-door to warn people in Queens of looming rent hikes and displacement, much as Seattle experienced during the company's explosive growth there.
In addition to Ocasio-Cortez and Gianaris, opponents include City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) and Deputy Leader of the City Council James G. Van Bramer (D-Queens).
Gianaris, Van Bramer and some others who previously supported bringing Amazon to the city have changed their position, partly because they were unhappy that the deal was structured to bypass City Council approval.
Critics portray the New York struggle as a national test for populist forces confronting big companies' influence, and for the contest within the Democratic Party between its grass-roots and business-friendly wings.
''We are dealing with an era of unprecedented corporate power in this country,'' Gianaris said. ''This Amazon deal represents a tipping point that is going to set the stage for what this country is going to be going forward.''
Amazon surprised the nation in November by announcing that it would split its much-publicized second headquarters between Arlington and Long Island City, with employees at each site earning an average of at least $150,000 a year. Initially, the company said it planned a single location with all 50,000 jobs.
[Amazon to benefit from more than $2.4 billion in incentives from Virginia, New York and Tennessee]
The divergent reactions in New York and Virginia arise from political and economic differences between the two, officials and analysts say. New York is a pro-labor city, whereas Virginia is a right-to-work state where employees cannot be obliged to join a union as a condition of employment. Amazon has opposed attempts to unionize its workforce and said it would do the same in New York.
''What Amazon is looking to do is come in and change the values of our city,'' said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
New York also is straining from the effects of rapid economic growth, while Arlington is eager to attract investment to Crystal City to offset the loss of thousands of federal government jobs over the past 14 years.
The community around Long Island City is home to legions of grass-roots organizations that were already unhappy about gentrification. Some also fault Amazon for selling facial-recognition technology to law enforcement agencies and partnering with companies that work with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The activists have occupied an Amazon store in Manhattan, marched in Albany and demonstrated at the office of Assemblywoman Catherine T. Nolan (D-Queens), who supports the deal.
[Here's how Virginia officials found out Arlington won half of Amazon HQ2]
''The geography in New York has brought together a lot of threads of activism who were really ready to react to this kind of announcement and were particularly outraged,'' said Deborah Axt, co-executive director of Make the Road, an organization of low-income immigrants and communities of color.
Northern Virginia, Axt said, does ''not have quite the pool of amazing champions ready to jump into the fray as we're fortunate to have here in New York.''
The clout to block the deal
In Virginia, almost all state and local leaders support Amazon's arrival, despite opposition by Tenants and Workers United, Our Revolution Arlington and some members of Indivisible Arlington, which have staged small protests at community meetings.
The Arlington County Board is putting final touches on a proposed $23 million local incentives package, which it is expected to approve in March or later.
''Most people think this is a great opportunity,'' Board Chair Christian Dorsey (D) said.
[Long Island City faces Amazon dilemma]
The board is pressuring Amazon to sign a project labor agreement that ensures a living wage, proper job classifications and safety standards for all those employed by construction contractors and subcontractors. ''They have emphatically not promised anything,'' said board member Erik Gutshall (D). ''But I didn't get the sense that any of those things was a non-starter.''
Residents of the neighborhoods around the Arlington site worry about rent increases, spiking property taxes and paralyzing traffic. But neither they nor the progressive groups lobbying against the company appear to have enough political clout to block the deal.
In New York, critics are hoping that Amazon will tire of devoting time and money to fighting a battle it didn't expect.
''The way these fights work, you push on each and every little thing,'' Van Bramer said.
That approach was sure to worry Amazon, whose vice president for policy, Brian Huseman, told the recent City Council hearing, ''We want to invest in a community that wants us.''
Bezos accuses Enquirer's parent company of 'extortion' over intimate photos
Shutdown cost Washington region more than $1.6 billion and damaged its image
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Amazon May Be Reconsidering Long Island City Headquarters, Report Says | WCBS Newsradio 880
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) '-- Amazon may be reconsidering its plan to set up shop in New York City, according to a Washington Post report.
The newspaper on Friday said that opposition from local politicians may have caused Amazon to reconsider its deal to bring a second headquarters to Long Island City.
But a report in the New York Times says Amazon has no plans to back out and Mayor Bill de Blasio's spokesman Eric Phillips said Friday, "the mayor fully expects Amazon to deliver on its promise to New Yorkers."
Reacting to the Washington Post report, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday accused the state Senate of "governmental malpractice."
"If they stop Amazon from coming to New York they're going to have the people of New York State to explain it to," Cuomo said. "It is irresponsible to allow political opposition to overcome sound government policy. You're not there to play politics, you're there to do what's right for the people of the State of New York and what they did here is wrong."
In November 2018, Amazon selected Queens and Arlington, Virginia, as the two sites for its second headquarters.
Under the current plan, which was negotiated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, the headquarters would bring in roughly 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs.
According to Amazon's press release, the company will also receive ''performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion'' for the creation of the jobs. This will include a refundable tax credit, through the state's Excelsior Program, of up to $1.2 billion over the next 10 years.
Though, unlike in Virginia, where elected officials passed the state's incentive package fairly quickly, approval from New York is not expected until 2020.
And not everyone has jumped to lay out the welcome mat.
In a statement just days after the deal was first announced, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and state Sen. Michael Gianaris said the deal gives massive corporate welfare from scarce state dollars to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world.
The two have been at the forefront of the Amazon opposition, and most recently, Sen. Gianaris was nominated to the Public Authorities Control Board, which has the power to veto the Amazon deal completely.
Van Bramer opposes the deal while admitting the projected 25,000 jobs are important. "But not if that means that we're crushing unions, not if that means that we're terrorizing immigrants," Van Bramer said. He notes Google is coming to the city without a massive incentive package.
In an effort to ease tension with the city, Amazon tried putting on a full court press to win over New Yorkers, promising jobs for residents in public housing and tech training for SUNY and CUNY students to get their foot in the door.
Though, protests have been a near constant over the four months since Amazon announced its move to Queens. Local union leaders have repeatedly claimed the online retail giant is "anti-worker" and "anti-union'' and called conditions in Amazon factories around the county ''deplorable.''
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez commented on the report via Twitter and said, "Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world's biggest corporations? Yes they can."
Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world's biggest corporations?Yes, they can.https://t.co/DqQoL7VH7O
'-- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 8, 2019Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said if the Amazon deal falls apart they will have nobody to blame but themselves.
"A major problem is the way the deal was put together shrouded in secrecy and ignoring what New Yorkers want and need," he said. "They arrogantly continue to refuse to meet with key stakeholders to address their concerns, despite requests from New York's top elected officials to do so."
Though, both the governor and the mayor continue to fully support the deal to bring the tech giant to New York City.
''If somebody says to any New Yorker, 'I'll give you $30 billion if you'll give me $3 billion back,' the answer is 'yes, of course,''' Gov. Cuomo recently said of the deal.
And while city lawmakers have spoken out against the deal, Mayor de Blasio doesn't believe they are completely opposed to the possibility of thousands of new jobs in the area.
''I don't think, in the end, there's a lot of public servants want to be responsible for losing 25,000 to 40,000 jobs,'' de Blasio said.
Amazon has not yet leased or purchased office space for the project, making it easy to withdraw its commitment.
Wait, WAAAT?! Blue-check journo chick blames 'horny Conservatives' for AOC being outed over shady situation with boyfriend '' twitchy.com
As Twitchy readers know, earlier today AOC was busted on Twitter for quietly hiring her boyfriend (which she claimed she did not BUUUUT yeah) which probably wouldn't have been all that big of a deal if she hadn't been complaining about lobbyists and the way evil people do 'business' in D.C.
Does she have a point on how dirty it is? Sure. Does allegedly hiring her boyfriend make her a giant hypocrite?
Oh Hell yeah it does.
He's not your spouse. Is he being paid? At what level? It says ''staff'' not spouse or boyfriend.
Furthermore he doesn't appear to be in any groups and the House doesn't use Google. Are you giving him access to your official calendar? Why does he have his own email address?
'-- Luke Thompson (@ltthompso) February 15, 2019
That's why Luke Thompson broke the story '... and then proceeded to get suspended because you know, it's super mean to share public information about a public employee on Twitter or something.
And if you think THAT'S stupid, the way people are defending her and attacking Luke is shameful.
Typical, but shameful.
Look at this hot mess.
i really love the "horny conservatives angry at AOC for having a boyfriend" genre https://t.co/G2kKaWFfUo
'-- libby watson (@libbycwatson) February 15, 2019
Huh? Nobody cares if she has a boyfriend, but if she's paying him as a staffer '...
You know what? We can't.
'-- Currently between fraudulent suspensions (@jtLOL) February 15, 2019
I really love the "complacent liberal media angry that anyone dare question their sacred cows and do their job for them" genre https://t.co/1kHKL3JSkR
'-- Ordy's Amish School of Coding (@OrdyPackard) February 15, 2019
Libby doesn't believe in capital letters, good Twitter dunks, or journalism. So, naturally, she's a journalist. https://t.co/CCzRNik5DL
'-- National E-Mo-gency (@molratty) February 15, 2019
Naturally. Oh, and she's got the pretty blue-check Twitter likes to grant to women who don't shave their armpits and who rage just enough against Trump.
'-- David Cole Grey (@greycole05) February 15, 2019
Sit DOWN! Sen. Chris Murphy learns gun owners don't scare EASY when threatened with his National Emergency 'fantasy'
Now THAT'S targeted harassment: AOC SNAPS at Chad Felix Greene in quote-tweet and her followers SWARM his account
OUCH: Former Obama economic adviser slams AOC for making 'the most economically ignorant statement he's ever read' and LOL
Cum-Ex trading scandal in Germany '' A huge challenge for financial institutions and the insurance industry
In Germany, following the financial crisis, scandals involving banks and financial institutions have almost become common place. However, the latest scandal to emerge, involving so-called ''Cum-Ex'' deals, is threatening to overshadow all previous controversies in terms of the sums involved and the number of banks implicated.
It is reported that up 100 banks are under investigation by the German authorities in relation to ''Cum-Ex'' deals. These deals involve illicit tax refunds which may have cost the German State up to '¬12 billion.
The German authorities are investigating allegedly tax-driven share transactions, which took place around the dividend record date, which were allegedly executed by banks between 2001 and 2011 trading on their own account or on behalf of third parties. ''Cum-Ex'' trades involved the acquisition of shares with (cum) dividends due on or just before the dividend record date and delivery of these shares after the dividend record date without (ex) dividends, which made it possible to obtain multiple returns of capital gains tax that had only been paid to the German tax authorities once. The authorities are also investigating ''Cum-Cum'' deals, which involved the short-term transfer / loan of shares owned by a foreign company or investors to a domestic German bank, which subsequently applied for a tax refund on the dividend, which would not have been available to the foreign company / investor.
''Cum-Ex'' trading was formally prohibited in Germany in 2012, but the German tax authorities are looking at the trades before this date to determine if the practices engaged in by the banks constituted tax evasion. The authorities are also examining the roles of various accountancy firms and law firms who were involved in the development of the tax-models which were used.
The investigation in Germany is politically charged with a number of state-owned banks involved in the investigations. The investigation is now also receiving significant publicity in Germany. A parliamentary enquiry committee of the German Bundestag has been established to investigate the scandal. The committee has interviewed a number of bank CEOs and also politicians about their roles in the scandal. In addition, public prosecution departments in Germany have recently acquired data storage devices with transaction data of a number of German banks. This has given fresh impetus to the ''Cum-Ex'' investigations and has resulted in numerous new preliminary investigations being commenced by the authorities.
As indicated above, approximately 100 banks (both German and international) have been the subject of the investigations. The institutes that were particularly in public focus last year were private banks Sarasin and Warburg, international banks UniCredit/HypoVereinsbank and Commerzbank, state-owned banks WestLB and HSH-Nordbank and also the European branch of Canadian Maple-Bank which was forced to file for bankruptcy as a consequence of the scandal. It is safe to say, however, that virtually all the major banks in Germany have been implicated in one way or another. The list of those involved reads like a ''Who's who'' of the banking sector.
The scandal is likely to have significant financial impact. As stated above, Maple Bank has already filed for bankruptcy as a result. On the basis that the authorities are treating the ''Cum-Ex'' trades as tax evasion, this potentially allows them to go back 10 years and seek financial recourse in respect of profits previously deemed secure and closed. The ongoing investigations are at various stages. Some banks (e.g. Commerzbank) are engaged with the tax authorities about repaying tax refunds. Others are, however, still in the process of carrying out internal investigations or are dealing with preliminary proceedings issued by public prosecutor's offices (e.g. WestLB). It is clear that the scandal will continue to rumble on for some considerable time.
Whilst the scandal has clear implications for the banks and financial institutions involved, there are also far reaching consequences for their D&O insurers. At the end of last year, UniCredit/HypoVereinsbank brought claims for damages amounting to '¬140m against three former board members for their role in shaping the bank's policy on ''Cum-Ex'' trading. It seems inevitable that similar claims by other banks and institutions will follow in due course as the investigations and scandal unfold further. This is therefore an issue which is likely to be the focus of attention for D&O insurers for some time to come.
The CumEx-Files is a tax fraud scheme discovered in 2017 by a collaboration between a number of European news media outlets. A network of banks, stock traders and top lawyers has obtained billions from the European treasuries through suspected fraud and speculation with dividend tax. The five hardest hit countries may have lost at least $62.9 billion.Germany is the hardest hit country, with around $36.2 billion withdrawn from the German treasury. Estimated losses for other countries include at least '¬17 billion for France, '¬4.5 billion in Italy, '¬1.7 billion in Denmark and '¬201 million for Belgium.
Method [ edit ] The network stole several billion Euros from the treasury, through what Correctiv calls a "cum-ex" trade:
The participants in the network would lend each other shares in large companies, so that to tax authorities there would appear to be two owners of the shares, when in reality there was only one. The bank that was used in stock trading would then issue a "confirmation" to the investor that tax on the dividend payment had been paid - without it actually being done. "It's a bit like parents claiming a child benefit for two '' or more '' children when there is only one child in the family." writes Correctiv. This practice was outlawed in 2012.
The name "cum-ex" is derived from Latin, meaning "with without", and refers to the disappearing nature of the fraudulent dividend payments.
Discovery [ edit ] State Commissioner August Sch¤fer first warned of the practice in 1992, after the testimony of five whistleblowers. However, they remained widespread until an administrative assistant in the central German tax office noticed abnormally large tax rebate claims from a US pension fund.
See also [ edit ] Macquarie GroupSanjay ShahHanno Berger (de)Dividend strippingTax evasionReferences [ edit ] External links [ edit ] Official website
The CumEx-Files '' How Europe's taxpayers have been swindled of '¬55 billion. A cross-border investigation | CORRECTIV
The vast so-called cum ex tax scandal which has rocked Germany in the past decade has already cost the country an estimated '¬30 billion. It was assumed that a change in the law in 2016 definitively outlawed such trades. But as a cross-border and undercover investigation now reveals, the trade is still flourishing and has targeted far more countries and has cost far more than was previously thought, affecting nearly all of the biggest economies in Europe. Is this the heist of the century?
They've turned the AC in the hotel suite down to 18áµ'C. Any hint of sweat on their foreheads would betray them. They can't appear nervous. That's how they want their guest to feel.
The air is heavy with the smell of orchids arranged in a crystal vase, a bottle of Veuve Clicquot stands cooling in an ice bucket on the low glass table.
The spectacular glass-wall vista on the 37th floor of the European Union's tallest building, the Shard, takes in many of London's most famous sights: the River Thames, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and to the east, Canary Wharf. The glass fronts of the City, London's financial district, reflect the sun's rays. A glance down to street level makes one's head spin. Without the telescope thoughtfully provided by the hotel, the people appear absolutely tiny, like an army of worker ants scurrying about their business. But the two men aren't here for the view.
Nor are they part of this world of the super-rich. They're here to understand how it feels to look down not only on London but an entire continent. They're here to figure out the methods and mentalities of the bankers, brokers, lawyers and investors who have plundered billions from the treasuries of Europe.
There are five cameras in the set-up. One is concealed in a designer label shopping bag seemingly carelessly left on the table. Another is inside a hollowed out book on a shelf. Three more are strategically placed to record what is about to happen next. All pointed at the one empty place on the sofa.
The phone rings at 1:51pm, nine minutes early. Their assistant from Singapore says: ''He's here.''
The two men look at each other and smile. It's on.
One is Oliver Schr¶m, editor-in-chief of the German non-profit newsroom CORRECTIV, and the other Christian Salewski, a reporter from the German public sector broadcaster ARD TV's Panorama programme.
But today, they're brothers. Oliver is 'Otto', the elder of the two. Christian is 'Felix', his younger sibling. 'Otto' and 'Felix' are heirs to a German steel fortune worth billions, here to discuss a grey-area investment scheme running into the hundreds of millions of euros. Their supposed assistant, 'Munirah', dressed in a neat black dress, is actually the wife of one of their colleagues.
They let their guest sweat in the lobby for another 15 minutes.
The guest, let's call him 'Amal Ram', will have 45 minutes to sell his financial product to the 'billionaires'. That is 45 minutes for the two journalists to obtain proof for a suspicion they've been trying to validate for over a year now: that the biggest tax fraud of all time is not over yet.
If 'Amal Ram' is up to what they think he is, then the next phase of the cross-border mega-swindle is about to begin.
'Otto' retires to the suite's bedroom. The elder of the billionaire 'brothers' will enter the discussions only later on.
'Amal Ram' finally enters the hotel suite at 2:20pm.
'¬31.8 billion. This is how much a network of equity traders, tax advisors, bankers, lawyers, and investors has removed, many - including prosecutors - say stolen, from the German state's tax coffers, said a team of eight journalists from Panorama and newspaper Die Zeit after analysing data leaked to them on a USB drive.
Cum-ex '' this is the name German media have given to this scam. Internationally the different variants of these trades are known as dividend arbitrage.
Cum-ex and its variant cum-cum were highly complex share deals with no economic purpose other than to receive tax 'reimbursements' from the state '' but for tax that had never in fact been paid. This is how it went. The participants would lend each other shares of major corporations, creating the appearance for the tax authorities that there were two owners of the shares when in fact there was only one. The bank which settled the trades would then issue a 'confirmation' to the investor that tax on the dividend payment had been paid to the tax office '' when in fact it had not. With this confirmation in hand, the investors were then 'reimbursed' by the state. It's a bit like parents claiming a child benefit for two '' or more '' children when there is only one child in the family.
The federal German government only called a stop to the practice in 2012 by making adjustments to the tax code, then making another adjustment in 2016 after one variant of the trade had continued. Its response had been so slow that a parliamentary inquiry was set up. Some critics think the finance ministry was fully aware of cum-ex all along but hesitated to close it down as it was one of the few profitable business lines of banks after the 2008 financial crisis.
Either way, cum-ex has been one of Germany's biggest scandals in recent years, involving virtually the entire banking sector and many high-profile individuals and companies. But strangely it has gone largely unnoticed outside of Europe's biggest economy.
What drives the traders and bankers behind this scandal? So far none of them has broken their silence. Schr¶m and Salewski wanted to know how far they went '' and what they might be up to next.
Capital markets are global; trades cross borders in milliseconds. It is simply impossible for a single country's media to investigate what's happening. To overcome national barriers, CORRECTIV decided a year ago to coordinate a team of journalists from twelve European countries. 38 journalists have followed the traces that cum-ex, cum-cum and similar trades have left across Europe.
And that is why on 7 August 2018, Schr¶m and Salewski disguised themselves to try to discover the negotiations behind these trades and to understand the psychology of the people who created it. They've assumed false identities, helped by one of the trade's insiders. They have also found a former major player who has decided to talk. For the interview, which is broadcast on Panorama, they had to disguise him as well. He offered to tell the story, exclusively on camera for the first time, of how the traders create their own belief system and build the ''devil machines'', as he calls the trades. But only from behind a mask.
But first, back to the beginning.
Schr¶m and Salewski, both working as reporters at Panorama at that time, are about to publish an investigation into the cum-ex scam when they receive a second USB drive. It contains legal files and internal documents of banks, hedge funds and big international tax firms. But they can't exploit the material before their TV documentary-in-progress is broadcast.
A few days later, they discover an email on the drive, sent 7 January, 2007. It shares the result of commissioned research.
Tax experts, it says, have found out that these cum-ex structures can definitely be set up in Switzerland and Austria. It also appears possible that such structures can be replicated in Finland, Spain and France.
The email's sender is Hanno Berger, known in Germany as Mr. Cum-ex. The 67-year old is a highly specialized tax lawyer, running his own tax firm in Frankfurt. His clients include the rich and famous. He was the main character of last year's Panorama documentary. Berger wrote legal opinions arguing that it is legal to obtain reimbursement for tax that was never paid.
The email's recipient is a trader at the London office of Hypovereinsbank, a German bank then owned by Italy's biggest lender Unicredit. The trader was indicted alongside Berger in May and has been named as one of the early masterminds of the cum-ex trade.
But this is extraordinary. If Berger and the trader had known and quite possibly acted on their knowledge, why did the journalists fail to turn up any media reports on similar trades in Spain, France or Finland? Have the two never implemented their plans for these countries?
Or did they actually systematically swindle those countries too '' and their tax authorities are simply unaware of it? Are those trades still happening, long after the authorities in Germany definitively outlawed them?
It's not unthinkable. Tax data is confidential, which makes it difficult for the various tax authorities of European countries to exchange information. They can't simply alert their international counterparts when they come across information that suggests their neighbours have been defrauded. It's as if you witness an armed robbery being committed across a border but can not call their police.
The ARD TV Panorama team picks up another electrifying piece of information. Prosecutors in Cologne who have led efforts in Germany to bring the cum-ex perpetrators to justice have turned an insider who is now testifying against his former colleagues.
And he is not some minor player. The German national is the former right hand man of Mr. Cum-ex himself, Hanno Berger. Like Berger, he is a lawyer and we shall call him 'Benjamin Frey'.
Schr¶m remembers 'Frey' well. They met in 2014 in a lounge at Zurich international airport. Schr¶m had just published an article in Stern magazine about how a number of high-profile German investors had put money into cum-ex deals, later claiming they had been unaware that the returns were coming straight out of the German tax coffer.
'Frey' had tried to prevent Schr¶m from naming him in a subsequent story. He'd turned up in standard banking sector uniform: tailored suit, white shirt, red tie. His tone had been somewhere between confident and patronising. The meeting ended badly.
Cut to three years later. The man Schr¶m meets in the summer of 2017, this time in the Cologne airport, bears little resemblance to the arrogant lawyer he'd met three years earlier. There is no $2,000 woven silk tie; expensive trainers have replaced the leather shoes. He says he is working out more and has changed his diet. He has given up alcohol, showers in ice-cold water for 20 minutes every morning, and practices breathing exercises and meditation.
Frey also has switched camps. For six months he has been voluntarily assisting the German prosecutors with their inquiries, although whether out of conviction or calculation, it is not clear. ''I've pulled down my pants, right down to my ankles,'' he proclaims. Schr¶m remains sceptical.
''Something clicked inside my head,'' he insists. ''You have to believe me. That's really important to me.''
Frey's turnaround started years ago with an early morning wake-up call.
At 6am on 22 October, 2014, 'Frey' is showering in his lake-side Zurich villa. The doorbell rings. Outside the villa are eight police officers, flashing their IDs and a search warrant to his wife who opened the door, their baby child in her arms.
''That was the scariest day of my life'', Frey groans. Police searched his entire villa and took him to the police station for questioning, only allowing him to quickly grab a toothbrush. From then on, Frey lives in fear.
Frey hopes to strike a deal with prosecutors. Full cooperation in return for legal immunity, not just a reduction in sentence. He will not hold back, he says. Otherwise he risks spending at least seven years in jail, for complicity in tax evasion and fraud. He also promises to open up to the journalists. To let them enter the ''devil's machine'', his term for the cum-ex trades. His only condition: that his name not be disclosed. Anonymity in return for exclusivity. That's the deal.
In Denmark, journalists and the authorities are also investigating the cum-ex trades. Tax payers have lost up to '¬2 billion, that's nearly '¬350 for every Danish man, woman and child. Schr¶m and Salewski share the 2007 email written by Berger and their Danish colleagues exhale.
The email's recipient is known to them. They say that Sanjay Shah was his role model. While the German journalists had been following Berger and his partner, the Danish reporters had spent months investigating Dubai-based Shah.
Shah, they say, had defrauded to the tune of 1.3 billion euro '' through his hedge fund Solo Capital LLP he took '¬800 million alone '' at a time when German prosecutors were already investigating cum-ex trades. Shah, the German journalists now learn, is the linchpin of a multi-billion euro scheme. And now they're putting the pieces together.
Shah, the British-born son of Indian immigrants from Kenya, had copied the system used by the Unicredit trader and Berger. He then tweaked it to perfection by buying into a small German bank, which allowed him to control the entire cum-ex chain: a kind of 'one-stop shop'. But many of his accomplices are angry, as Shah started to gamble to an extent that threatened to bring down the entire business.
Just like Hanno Berger, Shah is staying firmly out of the reach of European prosecutors. He is currently living in Dubai's Palm Islands, a set of luxury villas built on reclaimed land in the Persian Gulf and shaped like a giant palm tree.
Together, the cross-border team of journalists now discover an excel spreadsheet. One column lists countries where Berger and his partner plan to test cum-ex trades: Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, and Finland. The next columns list the results of their trials: ''Works''.
The prospect of a Europe-wide fraud is taking shape. But a plan is not proof.
Journalists, however, can do what the tax secrecy laws prevent prosecutors from doing. They can talk to each other.
Investigative journalists tend to keep their information to themselves as well. Everyone is chasing his own exclusive scoop. But facing big data sets and cross-border stories, they are forced to collaborate more and more, sharing resources, contacts and knowledge.
Capital markets cross borders. So do journalists. Support us for more cross border investigations. The CumEx Files is a European media investigation coordinated by CORRECTIV. This cooperation connects Europe and investigates cross-border issues. Support more such European investigations by donating to us.
CORRECTIV is the first non-profit investigative newsroom in the German-speaking region. We conduct long-term investigations into injustice and abuses of power. We also initiate educational programs and promote media literacy. We finance our work through donations and contributions by citizens and foundations.
The German and Danish reporters realize that even if the two USB sticks contained written proof for a Europe-wide cum-ex operation, two teams of journalists are not enough to process the data. German and Danish journalists have zero knowledge of French or Italian tax law or any contacts in those countries' financial communities.
To find out whether Hanno Berger and his partners in capital markets have been operating across Europe, they need to build a broader network.
Fifteen journalists from across Europe have gathered at the Berlin newsroom of CORRECTIV. They work for Follow the Money in the Netherlands, El Confidencial in Spain, Addendum in Austria and Die Republik from Switzerland. The news wire Reuters, well-connected in London's financial centre, is also present.
The gathering is the kick-off meeting for the project named 'The CumEx-Files'. CORRECTIV's technical team has installed security software on everyone's laptops to allow surveillance-proof communication. They've also built a database which the journalists have access to.
''In Spain, nobody has ever heard the word cum-ex'', the reporter of El Confidencial says over pizza. ''Some colleagues asked me whether I now work in Latin,'' another one says.
The ''CumEx-Files'' consists of more than 180,000 pages, put together from a large number of sources. Internal studies done by banks, tax firms and auditors. Legal documents. It's a view into the cum-ex trades' engine room. Customer lists, sheets with equity trades, emails, bank account statements. Also interviews with whistleblowers and insiders.
But it's a view into the past.
Less than four weeks later, the present comes knocking.
There is something lurking in the inner pocket of the jacket of a middle-man. It's a written offer for a tax-driven share trade. Schr¶m has been tipped off by a Dubai-based source. The source is knee-deep in cum-ex trades and did not want to speak to the journalists personally. Too dangerous. But he sent a middle-man to Frankfurt airport.
Tax-driven share deals are still happening, with new variants of cum-ex and cum-cum trades and other similar deals, the middle-man says. Right now, at this moment.
''You don't believe me?'' the man asks and reaches into his pocket. He produces the papers. ''This offer is from last week. The supplier is looking for investors. They should invest between 150 to 200 million.''
He makes no move to hand over the market offer to Schr¶m and Salewski. Instead, he coughs up more details.
It's a low risk investment for between 100 to 150 days. And highly profitable. ''If you go in with 200 million you can earn a return of twelve percent, about as much as with cum-ex when it was still possible in Germany.''
''It seems the deals are even more profitable than before'', Salewski says.
The broker laughs. ''That's the irony of it. The returns are good precisely because demand has shrunk. No surprise here, prosecutors are trying to dry out this market. Prices are improving for those who are still active.''
''Can we have that offer?'' Salewski asks.
The middle-man shakes his head and returns the document to his pocket. ''It's easily traceable to its source. Something like this is only sent to a handpicked circle of potential buyers.''
''Do you know the trader?'' Schr¶m asks.
''But you do know the name?''
''Yes.'' He says a name. Its 'Amal Ram'.
At this point, the two journalists had never heard of 'Amal Ram', the man whom they will later meet at London's Shangri-La Hotel.
A make-up artist has worked all day on 'Benjamin Frey''s new face. Tubes were attached to his nose to allow him to breathe while she added layer after layer of liquid silicon to his face. She takes an imprint to which she adds a new face. A new nose, a new chin, a new pair of lips and new cheeks. Now a second skin made of silicon is attached to Frey's real skin. He blinks, takes a selfie with his phone and sends it to his wife. ''Have you ever met this guy?'' She says she hasn't. The mask has passed the test.
Frey has decided in advance what he is going to tell the journalists during two four-hour sessions in front of the cameras. ''I've stopped the party for a large number of people with a lot of power, a lot of influence and a lot of money,'' he says. ''That's why I'm wearing this mask. And that's why I'm afraid.''
Then he takes the journalists into his world. From the bottom and all the way up to the top and ''into the space ship,'' that's what he calls it.
Frey had grown up in modest circumstances in the provinces where you either become ''a worker, a farmer or unemployed''. But he was ambitious, wanted to leave all this behind and in 2001 graduated with a law degree. His grades were so good that he did not need to apply for a job. Companies came knocking at his door. Just like in the Tom Cruise film.
An international law firm had flown more than 2,000 lawyers to its annual gathering in London. Frey was one of them. He could barely afford his first suit.
The firm had rented out London's Victoria and Albert museum. Frey was gazing up at the main hall's dome; underneath, round tables were placed between suits of armor and paintings whose subjects were drawn from history and romance.
On one of the tables, there was a card with his name on it. Two of the firm's partners were seated to his left and right. Over dinner, they asked about his life, his goals, his attitudes, and money. He did not have any but wanted a lot of it. ''No door was opened and no ladder lowered from this spaceship. They just dragged me in. And then this ship launched.''
The convertThere are different rules in this new universe that Frey has entered, different from the world he grew up in. Cum-ex players such as Hanno Berger have always claimed that they have merely exploited all possibilities of the law. ''Whether that is morally reprehensible or not, is no criteria,'' Berger once said. Later, he will become Frey's boss, his godfather and mentor.
In a statement to CORRECTIV, Berger maintained his point of view that the cum-ex trade is legal. He denied having been involved in trades outside of Germany.
The trade replaces a moral code with its own, alternate belief system. In this system, the state does not represent the will of the people. The state is the enemy because it seeks to 'steal' from the people. Or rather from the 'clients'. It does not matter whether these clients already have more than enough. ''To these people, taxes are costs. And costs are there to be reduced, ideally to zero.''
The only guide whose authority is accepted, paradoxically, is the law written by the enemy. But Berger and his colleagues are contributing to the creation of the law. They commission legal opinions by renowned professors to interpret the law in their favour. Share traders and investment bankers in turn rely on these as if they were holy texts.
Frey once heard that a thick bound volume resided in the London trading room of a large US investment bank, a collection of tax opinions covering countries all over Europe and detailing the deals that could be done. The traders called it, predictably enough, 'The Bible'.
Investment bankers' first commandment, it could be said, is: 'Thou shalt increase money.' Tax advisors' first commandment says: 'Thou shall exploit all legal possibilities.' Nowhere does it say: Thou shalt not steal.
Berger, a priest's son, has defended the cum-ex trades with a passion that borders on fanaticism, of a kind that maybe only converts are capable of. Before Berger became Mr. Cum-Ex, he was a director at the Frankfurt tax department. Frankfurt was considered an elite tax office and Berger was ''Germany's most feared bank auditor,'' Frey says.
Berger did his job so diligently that banks, according to how the story is told in the industry, at some point gave up trying to out-manoeuvre him and decided to hire him instead. If you can't beat them, buy them.
Berger resisted their offers for quite some time. But when a law firm offered him a salary in the millions, Berger gave in. He quit the tax office in 1996 '' and reinvented himself as Germany's most famous tax villain.
The Quandt family, the owners of German car-maker BMW, companies like Adidas and retailer Karstadt were all Berger's clients. Frey says Berger also worked for German national team footballers and a German head of state.
Making the tax problems of the rich go away is normal business for a tax firm like Berger's. But with cum-ex and cum-cum share deals, tax was magicked from a cost into a source of immense profit.
There may be different stories of how exactly the cum-ex trade was invented. There is consensus though that it all started with a technical glitch.
The money machineAccording to Frey, an equity trader at a US investment bank came across the trade accidentally. He had bought shares that were delivered four days later. This interval covered the dividend payment day of the company whose shares he had purchased. This profit is taxed in the domicile of the company (say, Germany). German shareholders can ask for this tax to be reimbursed because they have already paid corporation tax.
The trader suddenly realised he had this tax payable in his book without actually owning the shares. The amount was £50 million. It was a very large trade.
The trader wanted to get rid of these funds that were not his. He approached the seller of the shares who had also been reimbursed his tax. The bank's legal department sought professional tax advice to find out how to return the money to the tax office. The answer came back: ''You can keep it.''
There is no law that prohibits a multiple tax payout, they said. And if something is not explicitly prohibited, it is legal, the tax advisors argued. The trader kept the money. And because the tax reimbursement happened automatically, the scheme could be repeated time and again.
All you needed was enough funds to trade the shares for a few days around the dividend payment date. Or you could even just borrow the shares.
''It was as if Fort Knox had been looted, but better. Why? Because the state was the source of the funds, and this source could not run dry. If there is perfect crime, it's this one,'' says Frey.
The scheme yielded annual returns of 60 percent with zero financial risk. Frey insists that it was not the work of a handful of brilliant crooks. He says an entire industry was involved, consisting of hundreds of bankers, investors, tax advisors and lawyers spread out over continents.
Investment bankers and hedge funds would structure the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs), and traders would then sell them to investors who put in '¬100 million on average. Banks provided loans, multiplying the trades' volume by up to 20 times. They also issued the tax credit documentation that investors could use to have tax paid on dividends reimbursed. Tax lawyers would write legal opinions confirming that everything was legal. All of them make money off the trade.
Frey calls it ''organized crime in bankers' suits''. It's cross-border and happens only on paper. There are no attach(C) cases stuffed full of used banknotes to be physically smuggled across borders, or mafia-style meetings in back rooms. Every cog in the machine knows what to do. Pre-paid phone are used to agree to deals. There are no witnesses to the deals and very little paper that could serve as evidence.
And the German state? It had not only been watching for years, it seems it had approved its own impoverishment.
In 2002, a full ten years after an official at the economy ministry in the state of Hesse, home to the Frankfurt financial district, first rang the warning bell about these trades, the German banking association alerted the German finance ministry to the risk of double tax reimbursements and proposed a solution.
In 2007, one year before the global financial crisis, the German government implemented the proposal written by the German banking lobby without any changes. The floodgates were opened. The cum-ex trades reached their high point by the year 2010, according to Frey.
Frey says that German tax law has grown so complex that those who have written the laws no longer understand it themselves. If changes need to be made, lawmakers rely on the tax advisory industry.
Frey offers another comparison: the State asks the fox how to fortify the henhouse to stop the fox from getting in.
GreedThe basic idea of greed is: it's never enough. ''During a long-distance flight you're allowed to fly first class and you think: I've made it! Then you leave the plane and find the trader you're meeting has arrived in a private jet.''
But greed was only the beginning, says Frey, because at some point money just turns into an abstract figure. From then on, it's no longer about the next million. It's about challenges, about the thrill. You could also say: arrogance and dreams of all-encompassing power have stepped next to greed.
Imagine you're in a skyscraper in Frankfurt. When you look down you see only tiny ant-like human beings. We were looking down from up there and thought, ''We're the smartest! We're geniuses! And all of you are stupid!''
Frey recalls meetings during where it was said: ''Anyone who takes issue with the fact that there'll be fewer Kindergartens in Germany because of the trade we do is in the wrong place.'' Nobody left the room.
Frey says that investors rarely had any qualms. ''I know hardly anyone who declined our offer.'' The few exceptions were those who feared reputational damage if their involvement in the trade got out. And Frey says the investors all knew where the money was coming from. ''The returns come from the State. And the State cannot go bankrupt,'' the bankers told investors.
And if you did have the feeling sometimes that the cum-ex trades were morally reproachable? ''If you allow this thought, you're removed from the team,'' 'Frey' says. ''You're kicked out of the spaceship.''
The defectionWhen Frey not only allowed this thought to take hold but even went so far as voicing it in Spring 2016, his then fellow participants called a meeting at Zurich airport. Or rather a tribunal.
With his lawyer by his side, everyone else tried to convince Frey not to jump ship. They tried to convince him that everything was legal. That the state is an enemy that needs to be fought. At that point Hanno Berger, Frey's mentor, had already filed a criminal complaint against prosecutors who were investigating the trade.
Then Frey's lawyer told the meeting: ''You know, we've already heard all of this. But we'll do everything different.''
By that he meant that Frey would cooperate with prosecutors. The room went quiet. Frey slid down his chair '' but the world didn't turn upside down. First there were beads of sweat on the faces around the table. Then panic spread through the room, at least according to how Frey tells it.
Over the following months, a number of cum-ex traders followed his example and crossed over to the enemy.
But not Hanno Berger, the cum-ex mastermind, who continues to wage his legal battle from his home in the Swiss Alps. He has also now filed criminal complaints against the journalist Schr¶m and his colleagues. He insults judges and the state in phone calls tapped by prosecutors.
One of his lawyers is Wolfgang Kubicki, a very influential man. He is the deputy chair of the German Free Liberals party (FDP) and the German parliament's vice president. He would have been the German finance minister had his party's coalition talks with Angela Merkel's CDU and the German Green Party not unexpectedly broken down after the last general election in autumn 2017.
The journalists have one last question for Frey: ''Now that cum-ex and cum-cum trades are no longer possible in Germany, are there any markets in Europe where it's still possible?''
The answer: ''How do you know it's no longer possible in Germany?''
The masterminds are currently out of reach, he says, but their knowledge has survived in the minds of their disciples. ''It will happen again. I'm certain that the new generation is already preparing the next assault.''
Could 'Amal Ram', the man with the market offer, be part of this new generation?
It only takes a few clicks to find him: 'Amal Ram', studied in London. He then embarked on a picture-perfect cum-ex career at banks and hedge funds that only leaves one conclusion: 'Ram' is a follower of Sanjay Shah, the man who is wanted by Denmark for pocketing '¬1.3 billion.
Shah is certainly the most colorful figure of the cum-ex world, which is generally inhabited by suits. Even Berger found him dodgy and, according to Frey, did no business with him. Frey calls Shah ''a cowboy'' and variations on the word ''crazy''. A lawyer for Shah declined to answer questions sent ahead of this publication.
Frey reckons Shah became a cum-ex billionaire in a very short period of time, possibly a multi-billionaire. And he liked spending it. During the Abu Dhabi Formula One, he lavishly entertained guests on his luxury yacht moored off the Emirate's coast. The yacht is called, perhaps you've already guessed: 'Cum-Ex'. The parties are as legendary as concerts of the late Prince and Lenny Kravitz among others that Shah arranged in London and the Dubai desert through his charity, Autism Rocks.
His office, as big as a school gym, was in one of the towers of Dubai's financial district. When Frey visited it once, it was already empty. Shah was under investigation and the employees there had left. But someone had forgotten to take with them the rare species of tropical fish, swimming in a giant aquarium in the centre of the atrium. Frey thinks it measured at least ten metres by five.
Why Denmark?In this trade, it's a mere risk calculation whether or not to go after Denmark. The country boasts few large listed corporations, meaning that high tax reimbursement claims stand out. It's also a direct challenge to the state, in particular when investigations are already on the case next door in Germany.
Frey remembers one trader telling him: ''Shah will bring all of us to our graves. He's overdoing it.'' All traders knew there were limits, Frey says. But not Shah.
Shah also was more resourceful than others. He not only worked out how to get his hands on the tax revenues of nation states but also how to circumvent the investment banks in the process. Banks finance the cum-ex trade, providing loans, sometimes in the billions. Crucially, they issue the tax credit documents that are used to 'recover' the corporation tax. For all of this, they get a share of the spoils. Shah simply bought a small bank in Hamburg.
In the trade, it's put this way: Shah purchased his own printer. Because that's all it took to print himself the tax credits. Shah turned the complex cum-ex trade into a closed circle. He could turnover the same shares 20 times. This highly refined cum-ex variant is called ''looping''.
Would 'Ram' really risk more than his dubious mentor? And does his market offer follow the logic of cum-ex or its cum-cum variant?
As a first step to discovery, Schr¶m and Salewski engineer an email to 'Ram', sent on 21 June, 2018. The sender is one Simon M. Keynes, representing an offshore company based in a European tax haven.
''Dear Ram, A contact in Dubai told me a few things about the financing opportunity. I believe that the family that I represent at a single family office is in principle interested in such deals. We have collected a lot of good experience over the last years in doing investments like this (e.g. at a bank in Hamburg).''
He stresses that the family is very sensitive about its reputation. Keynes suggests a phone call and asks to be sent additional documents.
The name 'Simon M. Keynes' is fake and so is the email address tied to the offshore company. The company itself, however, exists. It has been commercially registered for over ten years and belongs to a long-time source of Schr¶m who agreed to its use. It would have raised too many suspicions if they'd set up a brand new offshore company: why would a long-established billionaire family use a company only days old?
Ram responds the same day.
''Dear Simon, Noted and understood with respect to the sensitivities and reputational risks, the way we have structured the opportunity means that we are focused on a range of markets and its follows strict processes, procedures and guidelines in order to create longevity. Also please be reassured that any markets in the 'spot light' do not fall within scope of our opportunity. I will send across 2 power point presentations for you. I am more than happy to meet you in person as and when required. Kind Regards, Ram''
Ram has taken the bait. The next day he sends two presentations, 'Finance Proposal '' Participant' and 'Finance Proposal '' Term Loan'.
The first promises quick money without reputational risk. Investors can claim not to have known that their funds were used in trades that rely on taxpayer money to be profitable. The second proposal is more lucrative but involves investors directly in the trades and therefore they would receive the tax reimbursements in their own name.
The presentations contain few details but it's clear that Ram has found a new package for share trades similar to cum-ex and cum-cum: the state is the source of income.
During a weeks-long exchange of emails, Ram provides more documents. 'Keynes' hints that the investors will put in more than '¬100 million. But Ram is holding back and insists on meeting personally.
That is why the journalists become 'Otto' and 'Felix'. There's no need for Ram to learn their family names. It's common in these circles not to identify oneself fully. No business cards will be exchanged. It's enough for the right person to make introductions '' in this case Simon M. Keynes and his offshore company.
He suggests a meeting for 7 August.
The scene: a conference room in a villa belonging to public broadcaster NDR, which is part of the ARD network.
''Do you know what it means to be really rich?'' asks an asset manager who prefers to remain nameless. His clients include some of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Today he is coaching journalists, coaching them how to behave like billionaires.
''Of course'', says Schr¶m. ''Money doesn't matter. I can afford everything.''
''No. It means: no limits. You have the black credit card.''
Schr¶m is puzzled.
''You don't know the black credit card?''
The Black Card by American Express, their coach says, is granted only by invitation. It costs '¬5,000 a month. There's no limit. And there is a concierge service. If you want to go shopping at Harrod's in London on a public holiday it only takes one call and they open Harrod's for you.
''So, no limits. Understood.''
''And you're afraid.''
''Afraid? But I have the black credit card!''
''You're afraid your assets could shrink from 3 billion to 2.7 billion. You're afraid that everyone is after your money, you're afraid your kids could be kidnapped. An entire law firm makes sure there are no pictures of your kids on the internet.'' The coach is creating a cover for the two brothers 'Otto' and 'Felix'. It's a 'well-known' family from Germany. The grandfather made his money in the steel trade. A few years ago they sold the family business and moved to Switzerland, for tax reasons. Their investment vehicles are spread over Luxembourg, Lichtenstein, Malta, Dubai and the British Virgin Islands. They own a jet, and an island in the South Seas.
The two half-brothers run the investment portfolio, trying not to touch the capital. They've invested in cum-ex trades before. They would like to re-enter but are worried about their reputation. 'Otto', the elder, is cautious. 'Felix', much younger, is more reckless. He would like to prove to his elder sibling that he knows how to make money himself.
'Simon M. Keynes' proposes London as a meeting location. The two brothers will be in town for a two-day shopping trip. It's a rare chance to have 30 minutes with the pair of brothers in their hotel, Keynes proposes to Ram.
''What's your budget?'' the asset manager asks.
The journalists have learned their lesson: ''No limit!''
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The suite in the Shangri La Hotel on the 37th floor of London's Shard costs '¬2,500 a night. It's the minimum that seems appropriate.
The journalists buy clothes to simulate the shopping spree. They also buy a black dress, tight but not too sexy for their assistant. ''It's good to have an assistant,'' the asset manager says. ''But will she be up to her role?''
The assistant 'Munirah', the wife of another Panorama colleague is multilingual and speaks perfect business English. She's an ideal cast and the asset manager is happy. ''Just don't be too friendly to her.''
''Describe your professional background to us,'' Felix says.
''A pleasure to meet you both. My background, I originally started at Maple Bank.''
Maple, one of the main players in the cum-ex trade.
Ram recounts how he entered the trade at Maple's London subsidiary. Calls it his ''baptism of fire''. He mostly worked in closing trades, for five years. ''Then there was a dip for various reasons, as I am sure you are both aware.''
''Dip'' means: 285 German prosecutors and police officials are searching the bank's Frankfurt unit. They discover that Maple has taken '¬450 million.
''And then Maple kind of stepped back from that.''
That means: the German subsidiary of Maple went bust over its cum-ex trades. Maple had booked too few provisions to cover the funds that the tax authorities were demanding.
Ram moves on and joins a hedge fund. ''But through the experience of actually getting into the mix, you learn all the technicalities. You develop relationships. Those are the relationships that I continue to maintain,'' he says. After four years at the hedge fund he starts to work at the London office of the bank bought by Shah for cum-ex trades. Shah also used this bank to launder the proceeds from his Denmark heist.
The CV is damning '' or stellar, depending on your point of view.
''We invested in the Caerus Fund of your former employer in Hamburg,'' Felix says.
''I know this fund.''
Caerus was a cum-ex fund set up by the small Hamburg bank in 2010. This information confirms to 'Ram' that 'Otto' and 'Felix' have previously been involved in cum-ex. He can speak openly now.
Ram talks about his former boss Sanjay Shah without naming him.
''For some years it was going really well. But there were too many egos involved. That was the problem.''
Ram says he quit Solo Capital at the right time, six months before prosecutors began to target the hedge fund, leading to its break up. ''I have family. I don't want to look over my shoulder for the rest of my life.''
Ram explains how he set up new funds in London, bringing together bankers and traders.
''There's people in my team that I worked with before, people in the right places,'' he says.
Otto enters the conversation. Worried about his family's reputation, he would like to know whether anyone is part of Ram's team who's under investigation in Germany. ''Are these people with a certain past?''
''Oh, no! These are people with experience who have traded before. But none of those under the spotlight at the moment.''
Felix says that the family would like to enter the market again after it's become quiet again around cum-ex deals in Germany.
Ram smiles and says: ''We've got probably around seven markets. The top markets are still France and Italy.''
He rattles off a list of countries in which he has ''tax-driven'' share deals on offer. Spain is the main target market besides Italy and France. In addition, but to a lesser extent, Norway, Finland, Poland and the Czech Republic. And after a quiet period you could also target Germany again.
''The way things are in Germany, I would give it at least another year before I move in again. There are people trading Germany. Don't get me wrong, that's their right. But me personally, I would give it another year.''
The journalists are struggling for a moment not to betray their cover. Cum-ex has not been possible in Germany since 2012, and the cum-cum variant is supposed to have been rendered impossible when the law was changed in 2016.
Ram says this law could be circumvented, assuring: ''Yeah, it's cum-cum, it's less aggressive but the German authorities are still pulling up banks on it.''
Ram continues with his presentation. The main target markets -- France, Italy and Spain -- are listed as providing the best returns.
''It's still market neutral, isn't it? Felix asks.
''Everything is market neutral.''
That means there is no financial risk, no downside. It's the old game, the trades have no underlying economic logic. The returns are generated not from the share price but from the taxes.
''It's interesting. I like it,'' Felix says.
True to his role as the more cautious elder brother, Otto once more voices concern about the family's reputation. Ram says a good reputation is the key to his business, as well.
Otto brings up the high returns on the proposed trades. ''From our experience these are cum-ex levels, aren't they?''
''Not quite. You don't want to blow the market up but you want to be able to be aggressive enough, but also stay under the radar.''
''How do you call it now, if not cum-ex?''
''I'd call it 'event-driven,' '' he says. ''The way cum-ex was structured was too aggressive.'' The new products are less aggressive but still very profitable.
''Let's name it, the money is coming out of tax money.''
Ram grins. ''Yay.''
Newsletter The tax fraud has spread across Europe. We will keep you up to date with latest news from all over Europe '' all stories, behind the scenes material and updates on CORRECTIV.
Anne-Lise Bouyer (Technology), Frederik Richter, Christian Salewski, Oliver Schr¶m
Manuel Daubenberger, Karsten Polke-Majewski, Felix Rohrbeck, Christian Salewski, Oliver Schr¶m
Frederik Richter, Ruth Fend
Benjamin Schubert, Marta Orosz
Ivo Mayr, Willem Konrad, Greg Tockner
Simon W¶rpel, Steffen K¼hne, Lisa Quatmann (Contribution)
Alexandra Rojkov (Writing), Justus von Daniels, Madison Lang (Translation)
Luise Lange, Jonathan Sachse
25 for 45
Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution - Wikipedia
The Twenty-fifth Amendment (Amendment XXV) to the United States Constitution deals with issues related to presidential succession and disability. It clarifies that the Vice President becomes President (as opposed to Acting President) if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office; and establishes procedures for filling a vacancy in the office of the vice president and for responding to presidential disabilities. The Twenty-fifth Amendment was submitted to the states on July 6, 1965, by the 89th Congress and was adopted on February 10, 1967.
Text and effect [ edit ] Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution reads:
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President ...
This provision is ambiguous as to whether, in the enumerated circumstances, the vice president becomes the president, or merely assumes the "powers and duties" of the presidency. It also fails to define what constitutes inability, or how questions concerning inability are to be resolved.The Twenty-fifth Amendment addresses these deficiencies.
Section 1: Presidential succession [ edit ] Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
Section 1 clarifies that in the enumerated situations the vice president becomes president, instead of merely assuming the powers and duties of the presidency.
Section 2: Vice presidential vacancy [ edit ] Section 2. Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.
Section 2 addresses the Constitution's original failure to provide a mechanism for filling a vacancy in the office of vice president. The vice presidency had become vacant several times due to death, resignation, or succession to the presidency, and these vacancies had often lasted several years.
Section 3: Presidential declaration [ edit ] Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the
President pro tempore of the Senate and the
Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Section 3 allows the president to voluntarily transfer his authority to the vice president (for example, in anticipation of a medical procedure) by declaring in writing his inability to discharge his duties. The vice president then assumes the powers and duties of the presidency as acting president; the vice president does not become president and the president remains in office, although without authority. The president regains his powers and duties when he declares in writing that he is again ready to discharge them.
Section 4: Declaration by vice president and principal officers [ edit ] Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
Section 4 addresses the case of an incapacitated president who is unable or unwilling to execute the voluntary declaration contemplated in Section 3; it is the amendment's only section that has never been invoked. It allows the vice president, together with a "majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide," to declare the president "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office" in a written declaration. The transfer of authority to the vice president is immediate, and (as with Section 3) the vice president becomes acting president '' not president '' while the president remains in office, albeit divested of all authority.
The "principal officers of the executive departments" are the fifteen Cabinet members enumerated in the United States Code at 5 U.S.C 101:
A president declared unable to serve may issue a counter-declaration stating that he is indeed able. This marks the beginning of a four-day period during which the vice president remains acting president. If by the end of this period the vice president and a majority of the "principal officers of the executive departments" have not issued a second declaration of the president's incapacity, then the president resumes his powers and duties.
If a second declaration of incapacity is issued within the four-day period, then the vice president remains acting president while Congress considers the matter. If within 21 days the Senate and the House determine, each by a two-thirds vote, that the president is incapacitated, then the vice president continues as acting president. If either the Senate or the House holds a vote on the question which falls short of the two-thirds requirement, or the 21 days pass without both votes having taken place, then the president resumes his powers and duties.
Section 4's requirements for the vice president to remain acting president indefinitely '' a declaration by the vice president together with a majority of the principal officers or other body, then a two-thirds vote in the House and a two-thirds vote in the Senate '' contrasts with the Constitution's procedure for removal of the president from office for "high crimes and misdemeanors" '' a majority of the House (Article I, Section 2, Clause 5) followed by two-thirds of the Senate (Article I, Section 3, Clause 6).
Invocations [ edit ] Vice presidential vacancies and succession to the presidency [ edit ] 1973: Appointment of Gerald Ford as vice president [ edit ] On October 12, 1973, following Vice President Spiro Agnew's resignation two days earlier, President Richard Nixon nominated Representative Gerald Ford of Michigan to succeed Agnew as vice president.
The Senate voted 92''3 to confirm Ford on November 27 and, on December 6, the House of Representatives did the same by a vote of 387''35. Ford was sworn in later that day before a joint session of the United States Congress.
1974: Gerald Ford succeeds Richard Nixon as president [ edit ] Nixon's resignation letter, August 9, 1974
When President Richard Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974, Vice President Gerald Ford succeeded to the presidency. Ford is the only person ever to serve as both vice president and president without being elected to either office.
1974: Appointment of Nelson Rockefeller as vice president [ edit ] When Gerald Ford became President, the office of vice president became vacant. On August 20, 1974, after considering Melvin Laird and George H. W. Bush, Ford nominated former New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to be the new vice president.
On December 10, Rockefeller was confirmed 90''7 by the Senate. On December 19, he was confirmed 287''128 by the House and was sworn in to office later that day in the Senate chamber.
Acting Presidents [ edit ] 1985: George H. W. Bush [ edit ] On July 12, 1985, President Ronald Reagan underwent a colonoscopy, during which a precancerous lesion was discovered. He elected to have it removed immediatelyand consulted with White House counsel Fred Fielding about whether to invoke Section 3, and in particular about whether doing so would set an undesirable precedent. Fielding and White House Chief of Staff Donald Regan recommended that Reagan transfer power, and two letters were drafted: one specifically invoking Section 3, the other mentioning only that Reagan was mindful of its provisions. On July 13, Reagan signed the second letter, and Vice President George H. W. Bush was Acting President from 11:28 a.m. until 7:22 p.m., when Reagan transmitted a followup letter declaring himself able to resume his duties.
2002: Dick Cheney [ edit ] On June 29, 2002, President George W. Bush explicitly invoked Section 3 in temporarily transferring his powers to Vice President Dick Cheney before undergoing a colonoscopy, which began at 7:09 a.m. Bush awoke about forty minutes later but did not resume his presidential powers until 9:24 a.m.; his physician, Richard Tubb, recommended he wait to ensure the sedative had no aftereffects.
2007: Dick Cheney [ edit ] On July 21, 2007, Bush again invoked Section 3 before another colonoscopy. Cheney was acting president from 7:16 a.m. to 9:21 a.m.
Considered invocations [ edit ] There have been instances when a presidential administration has prepared for the possible invocation of Section 3 or 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. None of these instances resulted in the Twenty-fifth Amendment's being invoked or otherwise having presidential authority transferred.
Section 3 [ edit ] On December 22, 1978, President Jimmy Carter considered invoking Section 3 in advance of hemorrhoid surgery. Since then, Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama also considered invoking Section 3 at various times without doing so.
Section 4 [ edit ] 1981: Reagan assassination attempt [ edit ] Following the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981, Vice President George H. W. Bush did not assume the presidential powers and duties as Acting President. Reagan had been rushed into surgery with no opportunity to invoke Section 3; Bush did not invoke Section 4 because he was on a plane at the time of the shooting, and Reagan was out of surgery by the time Bush landed in Washington. In 1995, Birch Bayh, the primary sponsor of the amendment in the Senate, wrote that Section 4 should have been invoked.
1987: Reagan's alleged incapacity [ edit ] Upon becoming the White House Chief of Staff in 1987, Howard Baker was advised by staff to prepare for a possible invocation of Section 4 due to Reagan's perceived laziness and ineptitude.According to Reagan biographer Edmund Morris, Baker's staff intended to use their first meeting with Reagan to evaluate whether he was "losing his mental grip," but Reagan "came in stimulated by the press of all these new people and performed splendidly". Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1994, five years after leaving office.
2017: Donald Trump fires FBI director James Comey [ edit ] After President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017, Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe held high-level discussions within the Justice Department about approaching Vice President Michael Pence and the Cabinet about a possible invocation of Section 4. It is unclear whether any Cabinet members were in fact approached.
Historical background [ edit ] The ambiguities in Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution regarding death, removal, or disability of the president created difficulties several times:
In 1841, William Henry Harrison became the first US president to die in office. It had previously been suggested that the vice president would become Acting President upon the death of the president, but Vice President John Tyler asserted that he had succeeded to the presidency, instead of merely assuming its powers and duties; he also declined to acknowledge documents referring to him as acting president. Although Tyler felt his vice presidential oath obviated any need for the presidential oath, he was persuaded that being formally sworn in would resolve any doubts; after taking the oath he moved into the White House and assumed full presidential powers. Though Tyler was sometimes derided as "His Accidency", both houses of Congress adopted a resolution confirming that he was president. The "Tyler precedent" of succession was thus established.Following Woodrow Wilson's stroke in 1919, no one officially assumed his powers and duties, in part because his condition was kept secret by his wife, Edith Wilson, and White House physician Cary T. Grayson. By the time Wilson's condition became public knowledge, only a few months remained in his term and Congressional leaders were disinclined to press the issue.Prior to 1967, the office of vice president had become vacant sixteen times due to the death or resignation of the vice president or his succession to the presidency. The vacancy created when Andrew Johnson succeeded to the presidency upon Abraham Lincoln's assassination was one of several that encompassed nearly the entire four-year term. In 1868, Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives and came one vote short of being removed from office by the Senate. Had Johnson been removed, President pro tempore Benjamin Wade would have become acting president in accordance with the Presidential Succession Act of 1792.After several periods of incapacity due to severe health problems, President Dwight D. Eisenhower attempted to clarify procedures through a signed agreement with Vice President Richard Nixon, drafted by Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. However, this agreement did not have legal authority. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in September 1955 and intestinal problems requiring emergency surgery in July 1956. Each time, until Eisenhower was able to resume his duties, Nixon presided over Cabinet meetings and, along with Eisenhower aides, kept the executive branch functioning and assured the public that the situation was under control. However, Nixon never made any effort to formally assume the status of Acting President or President. Proposal, enactment, and ratification [ edit ] Keating''Kefauver proposal [ edit ] In 1963, Senator Kenneth Keating of New York proposed a Constitutional amendment which would have enabled Congress to enact legislation providing for how to determine when a President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the presidency, rather than, as the Twenty-fifth Amendment does, having the Constitution so provide.: 345 This proposal was based upon a recommendation of the American Bar Association in 1960.: 27
The text of the proposal read:: 350
In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the said office shall devolve on the Vice President. In case of the inability of the President to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the said powers and duties shall devolve on the Vice President, until the inability be removed. The Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death, resignation or inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what officer shall then be President, or, in case of inability, act as President, and such officer shall be or act as President accordingly, until a President shall be elected or, in case of inability, until the inability shall be earlier removed. The commencement and termination of any inability shall be determined by such method as Congress shall by law provide.
Senators raised concerns that the Congress could either abuse such authority: 30 or neglect to enact any such legislation after the adoption of this proposal.: 34''35 Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments, a long-time advocate for addressing the disability question, spearheaded the effort until he died in August 1963.: 28 Senator Keating was defeated in the 1964 election, but Senator Roman Hruska of Nebraska took up Keating's cause as a new member of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments.
Kennedy assassination [ edit ] By the 1960s, medical advances had made increasingly plausible the scenario of an injured or ill president living a long time while incapacitated. The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 demonstrated to policymakers of the need for a clear procedure for determining presidential disability, especially in the context of the Cold War. The new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, had once suffered a heart attack and '' with the office of vice president to remain vacant until the next term began on January 20, 1965 '' the next two people in the line of succession were the 71-year-old Speaker of the House John McCormack and the 86-year-old Senate President pro tempore Carl Hayden. Senator Birch Bayh succeeded Kefauver as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments and set about advocating for a detailed amendment dealing with presidential disability.
Bayh''Celler proposal [ edit ] On January 6, 1965, Senator Birch Bayh proposed S.J. Res. 1 in the Senate and Representative Emanuel Celler (Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee) proposed H.J. Res. 1 in the House of Representatives. Their proposal specified the process by which a President could be declared "unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office", thereby making the vice president an Acting President, and how the President could regain the powers of his office. Also, their proposal provided a way to fill a vacancy in the office of vice president before the next presidential election. This was as opposed to the Keating''Kefauver proposal, which neither provided for filling a vacancy in the office of vice president prior to the next presidential election nor provided a process for determining presidential disability. In 1964, the American Bar Association endorsed the type of proposal which Bayh and Celler advocated.: 348''350 On January 28, 1965, President Johnson endorsed S.J. Res. 1 in a statement to Congress. Their proposal received bipartisan support.
On February 19, the Senate passed the amendment, but the House passed a different version of the amendment on April 13. On April 22, it was returned to the Senate with revisions. There were four areas of disagreement between the House and Senate versions:
the Senate official who was to receive any written declaration under the amendmentthe period of time during which the vice president and principal officers of the executive departments must decide whether they disagree with the President's declaration that he is fit to resume his dutiesthe time before Congress meets to resolve the issuethe time limit for Congress to reach a decision.On July 6, after a conference committee ironed out differences between the versions, the final version of the amendment was passed by both Houses of the Congress and presented to the states for ratification.: 354''358
Ratification [ edit ] Nebraska was the first state to ratify, on July 12, 1965, and ratification became complete when Nevada became the 38th state to ratify, on February 10, 1967.[a]On February 23, 1967, at a White House ceremony certifying the ratification, President Johnson said:
It was 180 years ago, in the closing days of the Constitutional Convention, that the Founding Fathers debated the question of Presidential disability. John Dickinson of Delaware asked this question: "What is the extent of the term 'disability' and who is to be the judge of it?" No one replied.
It is hard to believe that until last week our Constitution provided no clear answer. Now, at last, the 25th amendment clarifies the crucial clause that provides for succession to the Presidency and for filling a Vice Presidential vacancy.
See also [ edit ] Presidential Succession ActUnited States presidential line of successionNotes [ edit ] ^ The states ratified as follows:Nebraska (July 12, 1965)Wisconsin (July 13, 1965)Oklahoma (July 16, 1965)Massachusetts (August 9, 1965)Pennsylvania (August 18, 1965)Kentucky (September 15, 1965)Arizona (September 22, 1965)Michigan (October 5, 1965)Indiana (October 20, 1965)California (October 21, 1965)Arkansas (November 4, 1965)New Jersey (November 29, 1965)Delaware (December 7, 1965)Utah (January 17, 1966)West Virginia (January 20, 1966)Maine (January 24, 1966)Rhode Island (January 28, 1966)Colorado (February 3, 1966)New Mexico (February 3, 1966)Kansas (February 8, 1966)Vermont (February 10, 1966)Alaska (February 18, 1966)Idaho (March 2, 1966)Hawaii (March 3, 1966)Virginia (March 8, 1966)Mississippi (March 10, 1966)New York (March 14, 1966)Maryland (March 23, 1966)Missouri (March 30, 1966)New Hampshire (June 13, 1966)Louisiana (July 5, 1966)Tennessee (January 12, 1967)Wyoming (January 25, 1967)Washington (January 26, 1967)Iowa (January 26, 1967)Oregon (February 2, 1967)Minnesota (February 10, 1967)Nevada (February 10, 1967, at which point ratification was complete).Connecticut (February 14, 1967)Montana (February 15, 1967)South Dakota (March 6, 1967)Ohio (March 7, 1967)Alabama (March 14, 1967)North Carolina (March 22, 1967)Illinois (March 22, 1967)Texas (April 25, 1967)Florida (May 25, 1967)As of 2018, the following states have not ratified:
GeorgiaNorth DakotaSouth Carolina References [ edit ] ^ a b Kalt, Brian C.; Pozen, David. "The Twenty-fifth Amendment". The Interactive Constitution. Philadelphia, PA: The National Constitution Center . Retrieved July 20, 2018 . ^ Mount, Steve. "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments". ussconstitution.net . Retrieved July 20, 2018 . ^ Feerick, John. "Essays on Article II: Presidential Succession". The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. The Heritage Foundation . Retrieved June 12, 2018 . ^ Feerick, John D. (2014). The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Applications. Fordham University Press. pp. 112''113. ISBN 978-0-8232-5201-5. ^ "Presidential Vacancy and Disability Twenty-Fifth Amendment" (PDF) . Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, Library of Congress. September 26, 2002 . Retrieved July 20, 2018 . ^ Bomboy, Scott (October 12, 2017). "Can the Cabinet "remove" a President using the 25th amendment?". The Constitution Center . Retrieved September 9, 2018 . ^ https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/olc/opinions/1985/06/31/op-olc-v009-p0065_0.pdf ^ "5 U.S. Code § 101 - Executive departments | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute". Law.cornell.edu . Retrieved 2018-09-16 . ^ Prokop, Andrew (2018-01-02). "The 25th Amendment, explained: how a president can be declared unfit to serve". Vox . Retrieved 2018-08-09 . ^ Feerick, John D. (2014). The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Application. Fordham University Press. pp. 118''119. ISBN 978-0-8232-5201-5. ^ a b Yale Law School Rule of Law Clinic (2018). The Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution: A Reader's Guide (PDF) . p. 38n137. ^ Kalt, Brian C. (2012). Constitutional cliffhangers: a legal guide for presidents and their enemies. New Haven, CN: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300123517. OCLC 842262440. ^ "The 25th Amendment: The Difficult Process to Remove a President". The New York Times. September 6, 2018. ^ Neale, Thomas H. (November 5, 2018). Presidential Disability Under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Constitutional Provisions and Perspectives for Congress (PDF) . Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service . Retrieved November 11, 2018 . ^ a b "Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum". ^ "Twenty-Fifth Amendment '' U.S. Constitution". FindLaw. ^ Memorial Services in the Congress of the United States and Tributes in Eulogy of Gerald R. Ford, Late a President of the United States. Government Printing Office. 2007. p. 35. ISBN 978-0160797620. ^ Altman, Lawrence (July 18, 1985). "Report that Early Test was Urged Stirs Debate on Reagan Treatment". The New York Times . Retrieved 2017-03-23 . ^ a b c Historical Invocations of the 25th Amendment Archived July 7, 2011, at the Wayback Machine ^ Lipshutz, Robert J. (December 22, 1978). "Documents from Carter's Contemplated Use of Section 3 (1978)". Fordham Law School . Retrieved August 3, 2018 . ^ Second Fordham University School of Law Clinic on Presidential Succession, Fifty Years After the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Recommendations for Improving the Presidential Succession System, 86 Fordham L. Rev. 917. Available at: http://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/flr/vol86/iss3/3, p. 927 ^ Baker, James (speaker)."Remembering the Assassination Attempt on Ronald Reagan". Larry King Live, March 30, 2001. ^ Bayh, Birch (April 8, 1995). "The White House Safety Net". The New York Times. ^ The White House Chief of Staff has no formal role in the Twenty-fifth Amendment being invoked. ^ a b "WGBH American Experience '' Reagan". ^ a b Linkins, Jason (February 10, 2017). "Happy 50th Birthday To The 25th Amendment To The Constitution". The Huffington Post . Retrieved February 18, 2017 . ^ Mayer, Jane (February 24, 2011). "Worrying About Reagan". The New Yorker . Retrieved January 15, 2018 . ^ Gordon, Michael R (November 6, 1994). "In Poignant Public Letter, Reagan Reveals That He Has Alzheimer's". The New York Times . Retrieved December 30, 2007 . ^ Devan Cole and Laura Jarrett (February 14, 2019). "McCabe confirms talks held at Justice Dept. about removing Trump". CNN . Retrieved February 14, 2019 . ^ Chitwood, Oliver. John Tyler: Champion of the Old South. American Political Biography Press, 1990, p. 206 ^ "John Tyler became the tenth President of the United States (1841''1845) when President William Henry Harrison died in April 1841. He was the first vice president to succeed to the Presidency after the death of his predecessor". The White House. White House Historical Association . Retrieved January 22, 2018 . ^ "John Tyler, Tenth Vice President (1841)". Senate.gov . Retrieved 2009-04-29 . ^ Schlimgen, Joan (January 23, 2012). "Woodrow Wilson '' Strokes and Denial". Arizona Health Sciences Library . Retrieved September 27, 2015 . ^ Amar, Akhil Reed; Amar, Vikram David (1995) [Stanford Law Review. 48 (1): 113''139]. "Is the Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?". Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 991. Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository . Retrieved July 20, 2018 . ^ a b c d e "25th Constitutional Amendment". The Great Society Congress. Association of Centers for the Study of Congress . Retrieved April 6, 2016 . ^ a b c d e f g h Bayh, Birch (1968). One Heartbeat Away. ISBN 978-0672511608. ^ a b c d How JFK's assassination led to a constitutional amendment, National Constitution Center, Accessed January 6, 2013 ^ What is the 25th Amendment and When Has It Been Invoked? History News Network, Accessed January 6, 2013 ^ a b Presidential Succession During the Johnson Administration Archived 2014-01-03 at the Wayback Machine LBJ Library, Accessed January 6, 2014 ^ "Presidential Disability: An Overview" (PDF) . Congressional Research Service. July 12, 1999. p. 6 . Retrieved January 27, 2017 . ^ "Presidential Inability and Vacancies in the Office of the Vice President" (PDF) . The Association of Centers for the Study of Congress. ^ "Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation" (PDF) . Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, Library of Congress. August 26, 2017. pp. 3''44 . Retrieved July 20, 2018 . ^ Chadwick, John (February 11, 1967). "With Ratification of Amendment Two Gaps In Constitution Plugged". The Florence Times . Retrieved July 20, 2018 '' via Google news. ^ Johnson, Lyndon B. (February 23, 1967). "Remarks at Ceremony Marking the Ratification of the Presidential Inability (25th) Amendment to the Constitution". Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley. Santa Barbara, CA: The American Presidency Project . Retrieved June 20, 2018 . Sources [ edit ] Constitution of the United States of AmericaBayh, Birch (1968). One Heartbeat Away. ISBN 978-0672511608. Gant, Scott (1999). "Presidential Inability and the Twenty-Fifth Amendment's Unexplored Removal Provisions". Michigan State Law Review: 791. Kilman, Johnny & Costello, George Costello (Eds) (2000). The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation' . Archived from the original on 2008-12-11. CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link) "Transcript of White House press briefing re G.W. Bush temporary transfer of power to VP Cheney". CNN. June 29, 2002 . Retrieved June 4, 2006 . CNN Story of White House statement regarding G.W. Bush temporary transfer of power to VP Cheney July 21, 2007.Presidential Inability and Subjective Meaning by Adam R.F. Gustafson, Yale Law & Policy Review, Vol. 27 (2009), p. 459.Presidential Succession and Inability: Before and After the Twenty-Fifth Amendment by John Feerick, Fordham Law Review, Vol. 79 (2011), p. 908.The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Applications, Third Edition by John Feerick (Fordham University Press, 2013).25th Constitutional Amendment The Great Society Congress, Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (URL accessed April 6, 2016).Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive Fordham Law Archive of Scholarship and History (URL accessed February 22, 2017).External links [ edit ] CRS Annotated Constitution: Twenty-fifth AmendmentAmendment25.comThe Great Society CongressTwenty-Fifth Amendment ArchivePresidential Disability Under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Constitutional Provisions and Perspectives for Congress - Congressional Research Service
All US Citizens Ordered Out Of Haiti Amidst Mass Unrest And Chaos | Zero Hedge
Haiti continues to be gripped by civil unrest and mass protests demanding that President Jovenal Moise step down over charges of corruption and and rampant inflation under his watch '-- yet unlike similar unrest happening hundreds of miles due south of the small Caribbean country in Venezuela, Washington has stood in support of the president. Starting Thursday the US State Department urged all American citizens out of the country and issued a no-not-travel advisory due to "crime and civil unrest".
And national security adviser John Bolton followed with a statement on Saturday for all sides in Haiti to "respect and protect their democracy" '-- a bit ironic considering he spent the rest of the day tweeting regime change related messages targeting Venezuela's Maduro. He revealed in the tweet that he met with Haitian Foreign Minister on Friday "to express the United States' enduring support for and friendship with Haiti." He further urged "all of Haiti's political actors to respect and protect their democracy, engage in dialogue, and put an end to the political violence."
Protests from days ago, via The Miami Herald/APIn its prior travel ban the State Dept. described a rapidly deteriorating situation of ''Protests, tire burning, and road blockages are frequent and unpredictable. Violent crime, such as armed robbery, is common,'' and said further that ''Emergency response, including ambulance service, is limited or non-existent.'' An update told all U.S. citizens who remained in Haiti ''to strongly consider departing as soon as they safely can do so'' and warned of encountering potential roadblocks or hazardous checkpoints.
''Travelers are sometimes targeted, followed and violently attacked and robbed shortly after leaving the Port-au-Prince international airport,'' the State Department said.
I met with Haitian Foreign Minister @BocchitEdmond yesterday to express the United States' enduring support for and friendship with Haiti. We urge all of Haiti's political actors to respect and protect their democracy, engage in dialogue, and put an end to the political violence.
'-- John Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) February 16, 2019According to CNN one group of 24 missionaries from Canada have become trapped in a town about 30 miles outside of the capital of Port-au-Prince, unable to navigate the blocked roads into the capital.
CNN also describes clashes that have left an unknown number of Hatians dead:
Several people have been killed in the clashes, according to local media reports. CNN has not been able independently to confirm the exact number of those killed.
In the Port-au-Prince neighborhoods of Nazon and Turgeau, scores of people stood in lines Saturday desperate for the basics of life: water, gas and food.
Crowds, about 100 strong in spots, dotted the roadways, waiting with 5-gallon plastic buckets, and gas stations were mobbed.
The evacuation orders amidst the unrest, which have been issued by other governments such as Canada, are sure to make things further difficult for the county's economic woes, as tourism makes up about 5% of GDP.
Protesters clashed with police over the past week. In some instances the police reportedly responded with live ammo. Image source: APMass protests paralyzed the Port-au-Prince region starting a little over a week ago, and are in some aspects actually related to the Venezuela crisis. For starters,
At work is a messy cocktail of political forces opposed to the Jovenel Mo¯se presidency. This is fueled in part by a judicial report issued in January that outlined massive embezzlement of Venezuela's discounted oil PetroCaribe program to Haiti. The report highlights individuals from no fewer than three successive Haitian presidencies, and follows a parliamentary report issued more than a year ago that covered many of the same allegations'--all left unanswered.
And amidst this Washington starting weeks ago put immense pressure on Port-au-Prince to break ties with the Maduro regime in Venezuela, in recognition of self-styled "Interim President" Juan Guaido.
HAITI is on complete lockdown - roadblocks, shootings, looting. Demands 4 president Moise to leave. Banks/roads closed. No food/diesel. US Embassy evacuated & there is NO WORD ABOUT THIS IN THE US press. https://t.co/KnookW8Nmc #Haiti
'-- RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) February 14, 2019These pressures were successful and the Haitian government caved earlier this month, fueling the rage of Hatians in the street, many of which were already angered over the impact that Washington's oil sanctions on nearby Venezuelea are having on Haiti.
"The police are afraid!"... Police forced to stand down by protesters in Carrefour, PAP, #Haiti this morning. It's becoming clear the reaction coming today if they open fire. What do you do when protesters are no longer afraid of death? pic.twitter.com/P1L1rAmCtB
'-- HaitiInfoProject ð' (@HaitiInfoProj) February 11, 2019The overlapping Haitian and Venezuelan situations are outlined as follows:
The first and most notable has been the pressure it has been under'--most notably from an increasingly irritated Washington'--to break ranks with Venezuela's Maduro regime, which it finally did early this month. The Maduro regime in effect tried to bribe Haiti by offering to reprogram some of the PetroCaribe funding but the Mo¯se government didn't back down.
What's at stake is described by Ariel Fornari of Haiti Analysis:
For more than a decade Venezuela has aided the governments of Haiti and the Dominican Republic through a preferential system known as Petrocaribe, which provided subsidized crude oil prices to meet the countries critical energy demands. The Petrocaribe oil agreement, allowed for governments to pay only 60 percent of the oil shipments they purchase from Venezuela. The remaining 40 percent could be financed over 25 years at 1 percent interest, as long as oil prices stayed above $40 per barrel. This allowed for tremendous savings, and money that (according to the agreement) was supposed to be used for socially beneficial purposes.
Countries such as Nicaragua, Jamaica, Cuba, and many islands in the eastern Caribbean have successfully utilized Petrocaribe funds and other Venezuelan support mechanisms, investing in vital infrastructure, education, healthcare, and have used the funding to avoid austerity deals with the IMF and other international financial institutions. Corrupt politicians in Hispaniola, though, whose regimes are closely aligned with Washington, have by contrast become well-known for robbing many of the funds meant for the social needs of their population.
Thus Port-au-Prince so easily succumbing to Washington against Maduro was the last straw for many in a politically complex scandal which has grown for years as a result of the Petrocaribe deal, which began in earnest when it was revealed in 2017 that almost $4bn in funds earmarked for social development went missing, widely assumed to be the result of corrupt officials still within the Moise government skimming on a mass scale.
Interestingly the Maduro government itself has been accused of stirring discontent in Haiti's streets through the Venezuelan embassy in the Haitian capital and its ambassador, who is reportedly still in residence. This is an accusation likely to grow coming from anti-Maduro leaders.
Meanwhile the value of the national currency (Gourde) keeps plummeting, and the future looks increasingly bleak, signified by an early February tragedy in which a boatload of Haitians drowned trying to reach the Bahamas '-- which observers see as a worrisome indicator of what's coming.
NASA heading back to Moon soon, and this time to stay
Jim Bridenstine, head of the US aerospace agency NASA, says he hopes to have austronauts back on the moon by 2028 (AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
Washington (AFP) - NASA is accelerating plans to return Americans to the Moon, and this time, the US space agency says it will be there to stay.
Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, told reporters Thursday that the agency plans to speed up plans backed by President Donald Trump to return to the moon, using private companies.
"It's important that we get back to the moon as fast as possible," said Bridenstine in a meeting at NASA's Washington headquarters, adding he hoped to have astronauts back there by 2028.
"This time, when we go to the Moon, we're actually going to stay. We're not going to leave flags and footprints and then come home to not go back for another 50 years" he said.
"We're doing it entirely different than every other country in the world. What we're doing is, we're making it sustainable so you can go back and forth regularly with humans."
The last person to walk on the Moon was Eugene Cernan in December 1972, during the Apollo 17 mission.
Before humans set foot on the lunar surface again, NASA aims to land an unmanned vehicle on the Moon by 2024, and is already inviting bids from the burgeoning private sector to build the probe.
The deadline for bids is March 25, with a first selection due in May, a tight timeline for an agency whose past projects have run years behind schedule and billions over budget.
"For us, if we had any wish, I would like to fly this calendar year. We want to go fast," said Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate.
However, he admitted that "we may not be able to."
NASA's accelerated plans flesh out the Space Policy Directive that Trump signed in December 2017, envisaging a return to the Moon before a manned mission to Mars, possibly in the 2030s.
NASA plans to build a small space station, dubbed Gateway, in the Moon's orbit by 2026. It will serve as a way-station for trips to and from the lunar surface, but will not be permanently crewed like the International Space Station (ISS), currently in Earth's orbit.
As with the ISS, NASA would seek the participation of other countries, who could provide some of the necessary needed, such as modules for the Moon station or vehicles to allow landings on the surface.
"We want numerous providers competing on cost and innovation," Bridenstine said.
Before this manned program, NASA is also pushing to send scientific instruments and other technological tools to the Moon in 2020 or even before the end of this year.
The agency is also calling for quick-turnaround bids to manufacture and launch such instruments, offering financial incentives to make it happen fast.
"We care about speed," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate. "We do not expect that every one of those launches or every one of those landings will be successful. We are taking risks."
More Than Two Years After The Games, Rio's Olympic Debt Keeps Rising
Photo: Ross Kinnaird (Getty)Just because the Olympics are long over doesn't mean that we're done with the fallout from the Rio de Janeiro Games. According to a report from Brazil, the debt incurred by the local organizing committee has dramatically increased to more than three times the original estimate. In December 2016, the debt was listed at $32 million USD; two years later, that figure has more than tripled to $113 million.
Both the Brazilian government and that destroyer of cities better known as the IOC have refused to help the local organizing committee dispatch its debts.
The fact that the Rio organizing committee is even still a thing, with a staff of seven full-time employees more than two years after the Games ended, is due to its ongoing legal troubles. Jornal Noroeste, the publication that reported the debt figure, says the committee is facing nearly 600 lawsuits stemming from its failure to pay suppliers and workers.
Meanwhile Tokyo, the Olympics' next victim, has already gone way over budget in its own preparations. Cities are refusing to host the Games and sports federation heads are giving interviews where they unabashedly admit to preferring working in dictatorships to hosting competitions.
Feels like we're in the end throes of the Olympics.
VIDEO - Woman booked for felony charge of animal abuse, accused of dragging dog behind scooter
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. '-- UPDATE (February 16, 2019 8 a.m.) As of 8 a.m., Rosa posted bail and is no longer in custody.
UPDATE (February 16, 2019 7:15 a.m.): Elaine Rosa has been booked for one felony charge of cruelty to an animal and one misdemeanor charge of failing to provide animal care.
Elaine Rosa, who was accused of dragging a dog behind a scooter has been charged with animal abuse and neglect.
Charges were filed on Friday, February 15 by the District Attorney's Office against Elaine Rosa for animal abuse and neglect. One felony charge and one misdemeanor charge have been filed.
Rosa faces 3 years jail time and a $20,000 fine.
Bo Koenig, Attorney for Rosa has released a statement.
''We were recently advised by law enforcement that official charges have been filed against my client. I've reached out to my client and we plan on cooperating with law enforcement 100 percent. She is in the process of turning herself over to the authorities this evening.''According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Rosa was a contracted psychologist at Kern Valley State Prison beginning on Jan. 3, 2018. Her contract was terminated on Jan. 7, 2019.
Bakersfield Police say that they have begun making efforts to take her into custody for her arrest warrant.
The viral video that showed Elaine Rosa dragging a small dog behind an electric scooter in January sparked an uproar on social media. Rosa was a former employee of the Kern Valley State Prison as a contracted psychologist. Her contract was terminated on January 7.
It is unknown if the video played into her termination.
According to Bakersfield Police, Rosa was not the owner of the dog . The dog has since been returned to its owner and received medical treatment.
District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer announced charges were filed today against Elaine Rosa for animal abuse and neglect. One felony charge of PC 597(b) and one misdemeanor charge of PC 597.1(a) have been filed. The felony carries a maximum term of 3 years jail and a $20,000 fine.
'-- Kern County District Attorney (@KernCountyDA) February 15, 2019
Copyright 2019 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
VIDEO - Menendez Attacks Trump For Classifying Drunk Driving Illegals As 'Criminal' | The Daily Caller
10:30 AM 02/12/2019 | PoliticsTim Pearce | Energy Reporter
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey attacked President Donald Trump Monday for treating illegal aliens that drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol as criminals.
Democratic lawmakers are attempting to limit the number of illegal aliens that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can detain at one time. The demands have slowed congressional negotiations on Trump's border wall. (RELATED: Democrats And Republicans Reach An 'Agreement In Principle' On Border Security)
The New Jersey senator appeared on CNN Monday night and blamed ICE's enforcement policies for detaining more illegal aliens than Congress allocated funding for.
''The reason that [ICE is] already 8,000 [beds] over their budgeted amount '' so they're violating the budget '' is because of the president's zero-tolerance policy that has turned everyone, regardless of their record, into a criminal,'' Menendez told CNN host Wolf Blitzer.
''If you cross the border undocumented, [Trump] has now made you a criminal,'' Menendez said. ''If a person has a driving while under the influence (DUI) violation, he is now making that, saying that's criminal.''
In previous administrations, ICE only detained and deported ''violent'' criminals, Menendez said.
''Because he tears children away from their mothers and puts them all in detention facilities, he has an over-demand as a result of his policy, so it's his policy that's driving this,'' Menendez continued.
Former President Barack Obama also criminalized illegal immigration and separated families at the U.S.-Mexico border, though at a lower rate than the Trump administration. The Obama administration prosecuted nearly 500,000 illegal immigrants between 2010 and 2016, according to Department of Homeland Security data.
''That's different than what we're talking about and what's driving this demand for beds. It's his demand to take everybody '-- look, I had a grandfather from New Jersey who's been here over 20 years. Works hard. Never had a criminal record. They wanted to deport him. They wanted to detain him. That's not the essence of brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, who otherwise have been law-abiding in every other respect. He wants to incarcerate them as well as he seeks to deport them. Far different than criminal aliens.''
Democrats say a bed cap would force ICE to prioritize detainment of the most dangerous criminals. ICE officials say the Democrat proposal would result in violent illegal aliens escaping into the U.S.
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VIDEO - Week In The News: National Emergency, Parkland, Amazon New York And More | On Point
President Trump to sign the border deal and declare a national emergency. The first anniversary of Parkland. Amazon cancels plans for a New York headquarters.
The roundtable unpacks the week that was.
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post columnist who covers national politics. (@ktumulty)
Franco Ordo±ez, White House correspondent for McClatchy covering immigration and foreign affairs. Host of the McClatchy podcast "Majority Minority." (@FrancoOrdonez)
Jack Beatty, On Point news analyst. (@JackBeattyNPR)
From The Reading List
CNBC: "Trump will sign spending bill, declare a national emergency and 'other executive action' to build wall" '-- "President Donald Trump will sign spending legislation to prevent a government shutdown while declaring a national emergency to try to build his proposed border wall, the White House confirmed Thursday.
"'President Trump will sign the government funding bill, and as he has stated before, he will also take other executive action '-- including a national emergency '-- to ensure we stop the national security and humanitarian crisis at the border,' White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. It came before the Senate passed a measure to keep the government open past a midnight Friday deadline.
"'The President is once again delivering on his promise to build the wall, protect the border, and secure our great country,' she added, as Trump prepared to approve legislation allocating about a quarter of the money he sought for barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border.
"If Trump follows through, lawmakers and the White House would dodge their second partial shutdown since December, sparing about 800,000 federal workers from more financial pain. But the emergency declaration could quickly spark lawsuits challenging the president's authority, creating yet another fight over his key campaign promise."
NPR: "Amazon Drops Plans For New York Headquarters" '-- "Amazon will no longer build new headquarters in New York City after weeks of local politicians, union leaders and community organizers protesting the financial incentives promised to one of the world's most valuable companies.
"The decision to abandon the planned New York HQ is a big reversal of its much-hyped decision to build a campus in Queens after a highly publicized nationwide search that lasted over a year.
"On Thursday, an Amazon spokeswoman told NPR that the company plans no further negotiations with city and state officials in New York, where the firm has faced scathing criticism in recent City Council hearings. One key issue was the almost $3 billion in state and city tax incentives Amazon was slated to receive in exchange for creating some 25,000 jobs."
New York Times: "McCabe Says Justice Dept. Officials Had Discussions About Pushing Trump Out" '-- "Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director, said in an interview aired on Thursday that top Justice Department officials became so alarmed by President Trump's decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau's director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office.
"The dire concerns about the president's actions also prompted Mr. McCabe to order the bureau's team investigating Russia's election interference to look into whether Mr. Trump had obstructed justice by firing Mr. Comey. The F.B.I. also began examining whether Mr. Trump had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.
"Mr. McCabe's explosive remarks were made in an interview with ''60 Minutes'' scheduled to air in full on Sunday. He was promoting his memoir, 'The Threat: How the F.B.I. Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump,' which will be released next week."
The Herald Sun: "Trump and Colombian president huddle on how to get aid to Venezuelans" '-- "President Donald Trump and his Colombian counterpart '-- the two Western Hemisphere leaders with the most at stake in ousting Nicols Maduro '-- huddled Wednesday at the White House to search for a way to get millions of dollars worth of humanitarian aid into Venezuela.
"According to a senior administration official and people familiar with the discussions, Trump and Ivn Duque talked about how to enlist regional leaders to break the military blockade stopping the aid and turn Maduro's loyal generals against him.
"They also discussed how the United States can continue supporting Colombia, which is Washington's most important ally in the fight and faces the brunt of the humanitarian crisis that is spilling out of Venezuela."
Tania Ralli produced this hour for broadcast.
This program aired on February 15, 2019.
VIDEO - Ryan Saavedra on Twitter: "A person at Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren's town hall event yelled at her: "Why'd you lie?" Warren responds: "Be easy! Be easy!" https://t.co/vUOJ6pvCwQ" / Twitter
Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in court filings Friday that former Trump adviser Roger Stone directly communicated with WikiLeaks and Russian hackers who stole thousands of emails from Democrats.
The filing is the first time prosecutors have claimed direct contact between Stone, WikiLeaks, and the Russian agents who leaked the stolen emails to the website.
In their investigation of the hacking of emails from Democratic National Committee servers only months before the November 2016 presidential election, the investigators said in their statement they obtained search warrants to probe online accounts use to disseminate and coordinate the release of the material.
Roger Stone, a longtime adviser to President Donald Trump, leaves the Prettyman United States Courthouse after pleading not guilty to charges from Special Counsel Robert Mueller that he lied to Congress and engaged in witness tampering January 29, 2019 in Washington, DC. Getty Images
"Several of those search warrants were executed on accounts that contained Stone's communications with Guccifer 2.0 and with Organization 1," which is WikiLeaks, said the prosecutors in the court filing.
Last year the Mueller probe charged 11 Russians working for military intelligence agency the GRU with hacking the emails. The Russians had posed behind the online persona Guccifer 2.0.
In an email to Reuters Friday, Stone said the information cited by the investigators was ''innocuous Twitter direct messages'' that have already been disclosed to the House Intelligence Committee and which he claimed prove nothing.
Also on Friday, a judge imposed a partial gagging order on Stone as well as Mueller's team to ensure the integrity of Stone's trial, following his arrest last the month on charges of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering.
He denies the charges.
Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered that "all interested participants in the matter ... must refrain, when they are entering or exiting the courthouse, or they are within the immediate vicinity of the courthouse, from making statements to the media or to the public that pose a substantial likelihood of material prejudice to this case or are intended to influence any juror, potential juror, judge, witness or court officer or interfere with the administration of justice."
After his arrest, outspoken provocateur Stone had held impromptu press conferences outside court houses.
Stone has previously admitted communications with Guccifer 2.0, who claimed to be a Romanian hacktivist before being exposed as a front for Russian intelligence.
Mueller's probe has in previous filings alleged that Stone had contact with two intermediaries with WikiLeaks in text messages, but has not previously alleged direct contact between Stone and the organisation.
Stone has said he had no prior knowledge of the release of the stolen emails.
The Mueller probe has previously claimed that the Russian agents released the stolen emails through its own online accounts and also sent them to WikiLeaks as part of a bid to damage the credibility of President Trump's rival for the White House, Hillary Clinton.
WikiLeaks has denied that it is an agent of the Russian state.
VIDEO - Pentagon Warns of Chinese Space Lasers | China News Headlines | China Uncensored - YouTube
February 15, 2019 2019-02-15T10:39:16-05:00 https://images.c-span.org/Files/544/20190215103958001_hd.jpg President Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.President Trump declared a national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.
*This transcript was compiled from uncorrected Closed Captioning.
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VIDEO - Part Of The Problem #409 - Savagery - YouTube
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) '' Anti-Amazon activists tried to spread the word in Queens Saturday that the e-commerce giant is bad for business in the borough.
Dozens of Queens residents opposed to Amazon becoming their neighbor went door-to-door at the Queensbridge NYCHA houses to hand out information on why the Amazon deal is bad.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris was among those canvassing. He's leading the charge in Albany against Amazon.
Collecting petition signatures from residents against #Scamazon pic.twitter.com/q13QPG9C0C
'-- Sen. Mike Gianaris (@SenGianaris) February 9, 2019Related: Is Amazon Reconsidering? Conflicting Reports Detail Fate Of LIC Deal
''Giving $3 billion to the richest man in the country is no way to do economic development policy,'' Gianaris said.
When asked about reports that Amazon is reconsidering the move, he told WCBS 880:
''It seems to me it was an attempt to threaten the people of New York '' to bend us to their will. And that's not going to happen,'' he said.
Out here in #Queensbridge talking to residents about why this #Amazon deal is bad for us all. The more people learn about Amazon's anti-worker and pro-ICE practices, the less they support it. Thanks to @MaketheRoadNY & all the groups who organized and went door to door. @RWDSU pic.twitter.com/obr6GRV6im
'-- Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) February 9, 2019Related: For Amazon, It's Business As Usual Despite CEO Drama
Gianaris says the $3 billion New York is handing over in subsidies to Amazon isn't worth it, and despite the 25,000 new jobs Amazon may bring, the state would come out the loser in the deal.
VIDEO - Andrew McCabe tells "60 Minutes" why he opened investigations involving Trump - YouTube
During today's Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee hearing on the future of 5G wireless technology and their impact on the American people and economy, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) raised concerns with the lack of any scientific research and data on the technology's potential health risks.
Blumenthal blasted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'--government agencies jointly-responsible for ensuring that cellphone technologies are safe to use'--for failing to conduct any research into the safety of 5G technology, and instead, engaging in bureaucratic finger-pointing and deferring to industry.
In December 2018, Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) sent a letter to FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr seeking answers regarding potential health risks posed by new 5G wireless technology. At today's hearing, Blumenthal criticized Carr for failing to provide answers, and instead, just echoing, ''the general statements of the FDA, which shares regulatory responsibility for cell phones with the FCC.'' Blumenthal also decried the FDA's statements as ''pretty unsatisfactory.'' A PDF of Carr's complete response is available here.
During an exchange with wireless industry representatives, Blumenthal asked them whether they have supported research on the safety of 5G technology and potential links between radiofrequency and cancer, and the industry representatives conceded they have not.
''If you go to the FDA website, there basically is a cursory and superficial citation to existing scientific data saying 'The FDA has urged the cell phone industry to take a number of steps, including support additional research on possible biological effects of radio frequency fields for the type of signals emitted by cell phones.' I believe that Americans deserve to know what the health effects are, not to pre-judge what scientific studies may show, and they also deserve a commitment to do the research on outstanding questions.''
''So my question for you: How much money has the industry committed to supporting additional independent research'--I stress independent'--research? Is that independent research ongoing? Has any been completed? Where can consumers look for it? And we're talking about research on the biological effects of this new technology.''
At the end of the exchange, Blumenthal concluded,
''So there really is no research ongoing. We're kind of flying blind here, as far as health and safety is concerned.''
In November 2018, the National Toxicology Program released the final results of the longest and most expensive study to date on cellphones and cancer. Those studies found ''some evidence'' of a link to cancer, at least in male rats. However, the study only focused on the risks associated with 2G and 3G cell phones.
The latest 5G wireless technology relies on the deployment of many more new antennas and transmitters that are clustered lower to the ground and closer to homes and schools. There has been even more limited research with respect to the health ramifications of 5G technology, and the FCC has thus far failed to adequately explain how they have determined 5G is safe.
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