DENVER '' The 18-year-old suspect in Tuesday's shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, and the student killed days before his senior year was set to end was identified by his parents.
Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock, 18th Judicial District Attorney George Brauchler and Gov. Jared Polis hosted the news conference early Wednesday, flanked by their school and law enforcement partners, and told the northeast Colorado community reeling from another mass shooting to come together for the victims.
''This does not define us. It won't today and it won't tomorrow,'' Brauchler said, calling the latest shooting an ''aberrant'' act and urging the community to mourn, to support one another, and to continue to send their children to school.
''Our hearts are hurting for them,'' Polis said of the school community, adding that he felt ''frankly sick'' about the latest Colorado shooting.
MORE | How these hero students stopped the suspected Highlands Ranch school shooter
MORE | How you can help the victims
The adult suspect in the shooting, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, appeared in court Wednesday with hair partially dyed pink. He hung his head throughout the hearing, and spoke to the court only once to respond, "No," to a question.
Erickson was booked on 30 counts after his first court appearance, according to Colorado court records. Those include one count of first-degree murder after deliberation and 29 counts of attempted first-degree murder. He will be held without bond pending his next court appearance.
The judge in the case set the date of the return of his formal charges hearing for Friday at 1:30 p.m. The judge also granted a protection order and Erickson's attorney's request to allow defense team investigators to see the scene of the crime before it is released back to the school district by investigators.
The judge agreed to suppress the affidavit or probable cause statement in the case until investigators get beyond the early stages of the investigation. But Brauchler said he would ask the court to release the documents publicly once investigators are further along.
On Wednesday morning, the parents of the 18-year-old who was killed in the shooting was identified by his parents in an interview with ABC News.
Kendrick Castillo, 18, is the student killed in Tuesday's shooting, his parents said . John Castillo said his son was on the school's robotics team and shared photos of Kendrick attending prom with his friends in recent weeks. Castillo was one of nine people who were shot at the school.
''I want people to know about him,'' John Castillo said through tears.
The Douglas County coroner confirmed later Wednesday morning that Castillo was the student who was killed.
Authorities said Tuesday all of the victims were age 15 or over. There were three students still hospitalized to start the day Wednesday, but the lone patient still at Sky Ridge Medical Center was released on Wednesday afternoon, the hospital said.
Littleton Adventist Hospital said it still had two patients, but one had been upgraded to fair condition from serious condition and the other had been upgraded to good condition from fair condition.
Spurlock adjusted what he said Tuesday and said the juvenile suspect in the shooting, whose name and age has not been released, was a female. He originally said the suspect was male on Tuesday, but said Wednesday that officials originally thought the suspect was male by their ''appearance.''
Sources told Denver7 late Tuesday that the juvenile suspect is in the process of transitioning from female to male.
Brauchler said he was unsure if the juvenile would face their first advisement Wednesday and said it was too early to say whether his office would pursue adult charges.
He also urged people to focus on the victims of the shooting rather than the alleged shooters and to remember that the suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise.
Spurlock said that there were ''very heroic things that took place'' at the school Tuesday and said at least one student encountered the suspects and worked to stop them. He said he had also reviewed video from inside the school showing other heroic acts involving Douglas County deputies and staffers and students at the school.
He described the incident between the student and the alleged shooters as an ''encounter'' but said he could not elaborate further.
Spurlock said that there were no shots exchanged between officers who responded to the shooting and the alleged shooters and said both suspects were taken into custody. He said he believed one of the suspects had already been restrained by the school's armed private security officer when deputies got to them. He said the two suspects were not taken into custody at the same location inside the school. The school does not have school resource officers but does employ private, armed security.
Spurlock confirmed that at least two handguns were used in the shooting. High-ranking sources told Denver7 Tuesday night that three handguns and a rifle were recovered but said the rifle was not used in the shooting.
Spurlock said officials were working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to determine how the suspects were able to obtain the guns. He said he could not comment on whether the suspects were talking with law enforcement.
Sources told Denver7 Tuesday that the motive of the alleged shooters went beyond bullying and involved revenge and anger towards others at the school and that at least one of the suspects was involved in legal and illegal drug use and had been in therapy. But Spurlock said Wednesday the incident was ''too new'' to establish a motive. Tuesday's shooting is the first since Columbine in which two shooters were involved.
Spurlock said he could not discuss a possible motive at Wednesday's news conference but said authorities were ''deep'' in social media searches and analysis of the suspects' phones and computers. They are also continuing to interview witnesses, which Spurlock said would still take some time because around 600 of the 1,800 students at the K-12 school were directly affected by the shooting.
The sheriff's office is asking for anyone with information about the shooting or suspects to call its tip line at 303-660-7579.
Spurlock confirmed that a car seen taken from the home of Erickson on Tuesday night, which had graffiti spray-painted onto it that read, ''F--- society,'' was being analyzed as evidence but said he had no specific information on the graffiti.
Police were called to the school in Highlands Ranch just before 2 p.m. Tuesday . Spurlock said that deputies were at the school two minutes after the initial call, and praised the work of first responders to the scene.
STEM School Highlands Ranch will be closed for at least the rest of the week, the district said Tuesday night. Other Douglas County schools are open Wednesday but have extra security on-site. There are grief counselors available for the STEM community at the school, and there will be a crisis support center available to all STEM School students and families at the St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch starting at 8 a.m.
The district is asking for new or gently used blankets to be donated for STEM students, staff and families to give out at the crisis support center. Anyone who wishes to donate can drop the blankets off at the school district's building, located at 620 Wilcox Street in Castle Rock, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Friday was set to be the last day of school for the STEM seniors, which included Castillo, who had his life taken Tuesday, as well as the 18-year-old man accused of forever disrupting the lives of so many others.
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Green New Deal
A Botched Job in Germany - Der Spiegel - Google Docs
''The Energiewende '-- the biggest political project since reunification '-- threatens to fail,'' reports Germany's largest news magazine.
Der Spiegel Over the last decade, journalists have held up Germany's renewables energy transition, the Energiewende , as an environmental model for the world.
''Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset,'' thanks to the Energiewende , wrote a New York Times reporter in 2014.
With Germany as inspiration, the United Nations and World Bank poured billions into renewables like wind, solar, and hydro in developing nations like Kenya .
But then, last year, Germany was forced to acknowledge that it had to delay its phase-out of coal, and would not meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction commitments. It announced plans to bulldoze an ancient church and forest in order to get at the coal underneath it.
After renewables investors and advocates, including Al Gore and Greenpeace, criticized Germany, journalists came to the country's defense. ''Germany has fallen short of its emission targets in part because its targets were so ambitious,'' one of them argued last summer.
''If the rest of the world made just half Germany's effort, the future for our planet would look less bleak,'' she wrote. ''So Germany, don't give up. And also: Thank you.''
But Germany didn't just fall short of its climate targets. Its emissions have flat-lined since 2009.
Now comes a major article in the country's largest newsweekly magazine, Der Spiegel , titled, ''A Botched Job in Germany'' ("Murks in Germany"). The magazine's cover shows broken wind turbines and incomplete electrical transmission towers against a dark silhouette of Berlin.
''The Energiewende '-- the biggest political project since reunification '-- threatens to fail,'' write Der Spiegel's Frank Dohmen, Alexander Jung, Stefan Schultz, Gerald Traufetter in their a 5,700-word investigative story (the article can be read in English here ).
Over the past five years alone, the Energiewende has cost Germany '¬32 billion ($36 billion) annually, and opposition to renewables is growing in the German countryside.
''The politicians fear citizen resistance'' Der Spiegel reports. ''There is hardly a wind energy project that is not fought.''
In response, politicians sometimes order ''electrical lines be buried underground but that is many times more expensive and takes years longer.''
As a result, the deployment of renewables and related transmission lines is slowing rapidly. Less than half as many wind turbines (743) were installed in 2018 as were installed in 2017, and just 30 kilometers of new transmission were added in 2017.
Solar and wind advocates say cheaper solar panels and wind turbines will make the future growth in renewables cheaper than past growth but there are reasons to believe the opposite will be the case.
It will cost Germany $3-$4 trillion to increase renewables as share of electricity from today's 35% to 100% between 2025-2050
AG Energiebinlanzen Der Spiegel cites a recent estimate that it would cost Germany '''¬3.4 trillion ($3.8 trillion),'' or seven times more than it spent from 2000 to 2025, to increase solar and wind three to five-fold by 2050.
Between 2000 and 2019, Germany grew renewables from 7% to 35% of its electricity. And as much of Germany's renewable electricity comes from biomass, which scientists view as polluting and environmentally degrading, as from solar.
Of the 7,700 new kilometers of transmission lines needed, only 8% have been built, while large-scale electricity storage remains inefficient and expensive. ''A large part of the energy used is lost,'' the reporters note of a much-hyped hydrogen gas project, ''and the efficiency is below 40%... No viable business model can be developed from this.''
Meanwhile, the 20-year subsidies granted to wind, solar, and biogas since 2000 will start coming to an end next year. ''The wind power boom is over,'' Der Spiegel concludes.
All of which raises a question: if renewables can't cheaply power Germany, one of the richest and most technologically advanced countries in the world, how could a developing nation like Kenya ever expect them to allow it to ''leapfrog'' fossil fuels?
The Question of Technology
The earliest and most sophisticated 20th Century case for renewables came from a German who is widely considered the most influential philosopher of the 20th Century, Martin Heidegger.
In his 1954 essay , ''The Question Concerning of Technology,'' Heidegger condemned the view of nature as a mere resource for human consumption.
The use of ''modern technology,'' he wrote, ''puts to nature the unreasonable demand that it supply energy which can be extracted and stored as such'... Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium'...to yield atomic energy.''
The solution, Heidegger argued, was to yoke human society and its economy to unreliable energy flows. He even condemned hydro-electric dams, for dominating the natural environment, and praised windmills because they ''do not unlock energy in order to store it.''
These weren't just aesthetic preferences. Windmills have traditionally been useful to farmers whereas large dams have allowed poor agrarian societies to industrialize.
In the US, Heidegger's views were picked up by renewable energy advocates. Barry Commoner in 1969 argued that a transition to renewables was needed to bring modern civilization "into harmony with the ecosphere."
The goal of renewables was to turn modern industrial societies back into agrarian ones, argued Murray Bookchin in his 1962 book, Our Synthetic Environment .
Bookchin admitted his proposal "conjures up an image of cultural isolation and social stagnation, of a journey backward in history to the agrarian societies of the medieval and ancient worlds."
But then, starting around the year 2000, renewables started to gain a high-tech luster. Governments and private investors poured $2 trillion into solar and wind and related infrastructure, creating the impression that renewables were profitable aside from subsidies.
Entrepreneurs like Elon Musk proclaimed that a rich, high-energy civilization could be powered by cheap solar panels and electric cars.
Journalists reported breathlessly on the cost declines in batteries, imagining a tipping point at which conventional electricity utilities would be ''disrupted.''
But no amount of marketing could change the poor physics of resource-intensive and land-intensive renewables. Solar farms take 450 times more land than nuclear plants, and wind farms take 700 times more land than natural gas wells, to produce the same amount of energy.
Efforts to export the Energiewende to developing nations may prove even more devastating.
The new wind farm in Kenya, inspired and financed by Germany and other well-meaning Western nations, is located on a major flight path of migratory birds. Scientists say it will kill hundreds of endangered eagles.
''It's one of the three worst sites for a wind farm that I've seen in Africa in terms of its potential to kill threatened birds,'' a biologist explained .
In response, the wind farm's developers have done what Europeans have long done in Africa, which is to hire the organizations, which ostensibly represent the doomed eagles and communities, to collaborate rather than fight the project.
Kenya won't be able to ''leapfrog'' fossil fuels with its wind farm. On the contrary, all of that unreliable wind energy is likely to increase the price of electricity and make Kenya's slow climb out of poverty even slower.
Heidegger, like much of the conservation movement, would have hated what the Energiewende has become: an excuse for the destruction of natural landscapes and local communities.
Opposition to renewables comes from the country peoples that Heidegger idolized as more authentic and ''grounded'' than urbane cosmopolitan elites who fetishize their solar roofs and Teslas as signs of virtue.
Germans, who will have spent $580 billion on renewables and related infrastructure by 2025, express great pride in the Energiewende . ''It's our gift to the world,'' a renewables advocate told The Times .
Tragically, many Germans appear to have believed that the billions they spent on renewables would redeem them. ''Germans would then at last feel that they have gone from being world-destroyers in the 20th century to world-saviors in the 21st,'' noted a reporter .
Many Germans will, like Der Spiegel, claim the renewables transition was merely ''botched,'' but it wasn't. The transition to renewables was doomed because modern industrial people, no matter how Romantic they are, do not want to return to pre-modern life.
The reason renewables can't power modern civilization is because they were never meant to. One interesting question is why anybody ever thought they could.
ESO Control Room on Twitter: "On Tuesday #gas produced 56.9% of British electricity followed by nuclear 20.5%, imports 6.6%, solar 5.3%, wind 5.3%, biomass 4.1%, hydro 1.2%, other 0.2%, coal 0.0% *excl. non-renewable distributed generation'... https://t.co
Greta Thunberg in front of the Swedish parliament in Stockholm, August 2018 '' image: WikipediaAt first, I thought this had to be a joke. Then I thought it must be some sort of misinterpretation. Sadly, no.
From the website Afrinik, quoting the book ''Scener ur hj¤rtat by Malena Ernman, Svante Thunberg
According to her mother Malena Ernman (48), 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg can see CO2 with the naked eye. She writes that in the book 'Scenes from the heart. Our life for the climate', which she wrote with her family.
Greta was diagnosed as a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder and Asperger's syndrome, just like her younger sister Beata. The activist also has a photographic memory. She knows all the capitals by heart and can list all the chemical elements of the periodic table within one minute. In addition, she has another gift according to her mother.
''Greta is able to see what other people cannot see,'' writes Malena Ernman in the book.
''She can see carbon dioxide with the naked eye. She sees how it flows out of chimneys and changes the atmosphere in a landfill.''
Of course, with a ~ 410 parts per million concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, we know that is a physical impossibility. Carbon Dioxide is a colorless and odorless gas:https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/carbon_dioxide#section=ICSC-Number
It also does not reflect or absorb any light within the light spectrum that humans can see. Even if Greta had some special ability to see into the near infrared, the absorption spectrum of CO2 is far removed from the human range of color sensitivity.
Source: http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/module-2/how-greenhouse-effect-works.phpBut, this claim underscores how bizarre her activism has become, and people seem to want to look the other way instead of questioning her abilities and cognitive understanding of the information she professes to know.
It Sounds Crazy, But Fukushima, Chernobyl, And Three Mile Island Show Why Nuclear Is Inherently Safe
Fukushima was a public health catastrophe, just not one caused by radiation.
Shutterstock After a tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan eight years ago today, triggering the meltdowns of three reactors, many believed it would result in a public health catastrophe.
''By now close to one million people have died of causes linked to the Chernobyl disaster,'' wrote Helen Caldicott, an Australian medical doctor, in The New York Times. Fukushima could ''far exceed Chernobyl in terms of the effects on public health.''
Many pro-nuclear people came to believe that the accident was proof that the dominant form of nuclear reactor, which is cooled by water, is fatally flawed. They called for radically different kinds of reactors to make the technology ''inherently safe.''
But now, eight years after Fukushima, the best-available science clearly shows that Caldicott's estimate of the number of people killed by nuclear accidents was off by one million. Radiation from Chernobyl will kill, at most, 200 people, while the radiation from Fukushima and Three Mile Island will kill zero people.
In other words, the main lesson that should be drawn from the worst nuclear accidents is that nuclear energy has always been inherently safe.
The Shocking Truth
The truth about nuclear power's safety is so shocking that it's worth taking a closer look at the worst accidents, starting with the worst of the worst: Chernobyl.
The nuclear plant is in Ukraine which, in 1986, the year of the accident, was a Soviet Republic. Operators lost control of an unauthorized experiment that resulted in the reactor catching fire.
There was no containment dome, and the fire spewed out radioactive particulate matter, which went all over the world, leading many to conclude that Chernobyl is not just the worst nuclear accident in history but is also the worst nuclear accident possible.
Twenty-eight firefighters died after putting out the Chernobyl fire. While the death of any firefighter is tragic, it's worth putting that number in perspective. Eighty-six firefighters died in the U.S. in 2018, and 343 firefighters died during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Since the Chernobyl accident, 19 first responders have died, according to the United Nations , for ''various reasons'' including tuberculosis, cirrhosis of the liver, heart attacks, and trauma. The U.N. concluded that ''the assignment of radiation as the cause of death has become less clear.''
What about cancer? By 2065 there may be 16,000 thyroid cancers; to date there have been 6,000 . Since thyroid cancer has a mortality rate of just one percent '-- it is an easy cancer to treat '-- expected deaths may be 160.
The World Health Organization claims on its web site that Chernobyl could result in the premature deaths of 4,000 people, but according to Dr. Geraldine Thomas, who started and runs the Chernobyl Tissue Bank, that number is based on a disproven methodology.
''That WHO number is based on LNT,'' she explained, using the acronym for the ''linear no-threshold'' method of extrapolating deaths from radiation.
LNT assumes that there is no threshold below which radiation is safe, but that assumption has been discredited over recent decades by multiple sources of data.
Support for the idea that radiation is harmless at low levels comes from the fact that people who live in places with higher background radiation, like Colorado, do not suffer elevated rates of cancer.
In fact, residents of Colorado, where radiation is higher because of high concentrations of uranium in the ground, enjoy some of the lowest cancer rates in the U.S.
Even relatively high doses of radiation cause far less harm than most people think. Careful, large, and long-term studies of survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki offer compelling demonstration.
Cancer rates were just 10 percent higher among atomic blast survivors, most of whom never got cancer. Even those who received a dose 1,000 times higher than today's safety limit saw their lives cut short by an average of 16 months.
But didn't the Japanese government recently award a financial settlement to the family of a Fukushima worker who claimed his cancer was from the accident?
It did, but for reasons that were clearly political, and having to do with the Japanese government's consensus-based, conflict-averse style, as well as lingering guilt felt by elite policymakers toward Fukushima workers and residents, who felt doubly aggrieved by the tsunami and meltdowns.
The worker's cancer was highly unlikely to have come from Fukushima because, once again, the level of radiation workers received was far lower than the ones received by the Hiroshima/Nagasaki cohort that saw (modestly) higher cancer rates.
What about Three Mile Island? After the accident in 1979, Time Magazine ran a cover story that superimposed a glowing headline, ''Nuclear Nightmare,'' over an image of the plant. Nightmare ? More like a dream. What other major industrial technology can suffer a catastrophic failure and not kill anyone?
Remember when the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig caught on fire and killed 11 people? Four months later, a Pacific Gas & Electric natural gas pipeline exploded just south of San Francisco and killed eight people sleeping in their beds. And that was just one year, 2010.
The worst energy accident of all time was the 1975 collapse of the Banqiao hydroelectric dam in China. It collapsed and killed between 170,000 and 230,000 people .
Nuclear's worst accidents show that the technology has always been safe for the same, inherent reason that it has always had such a small environmental impact: the high energy density of its fuel.
Splitting atoms to create heat, rather than than splitting chemical bonds through fire, requires tiny amounts of fuel. A single Coke can of uranium can provide enough energy for an entire high-energy life.
When the worst occurs, and the fuel melts, the amount of particulate matter that escapes from the plant is insignificant in contrast to both the fiery explosions of fossil fuels and the daily emission of particulate matter from fossil- and biomass-burning homes, cars, and power plants, which kill seven million people a year.
It's not that nuclear energy never kills. It's that nuclear's death toll is vanishingly small. Consider nuclear's global death toll in context. These are just annual deaths.
- walking: 270,000
- driving: 1,350,000
- working: 2,300,000
- air pollution: 4,200,000
By contrast, nuclear's death total is likely to be around 200.
And thanks to its inherent safety, the best-available science shows that nuclear has saved at least two million lives to date by preventing the burning of biomass and fossil fuels. Replacing, or not building, nuclear plants, thus results in more death.
In that sense, Fukushima did result in a public health catastrophe. Only it wasn't one created by the tiny amounts of radiation that escaped from the plant.
Anxiety Displacement and Panic
The Japanese government, in the view of Chernobyl expert Geraldine Thomas and other radiation experts, contributed to the widespread view of radiation as a super-potent toxin by failing to return residents to the Fukushima province after the accident, and for reducing radiation in soil and water to unnecessarily low levels.
The problem started with an over-evacuation. Sixty-thousand people were evacuated but only 30,000 have returned. While some amount of temporary evacuation might have been justified, there was simply never any reason for such a large, and long-term, evacuation.
About 2,000 people died from the evacuation, while others who were displaced suffered from loneliness, depression, suicide, bullying at school, and anxiety.
''With hindsight, we can say the evacuation was a mistake,'' said Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at the University of Bristol and leader of a recent research project on nuclear accidents. ''We would have recommended that nobody be evacuated.''
Beyond the evacuation was the government's massively exaggerated clean-up of the soil. To give you a sense of how exaggerated the clean-up was, consider that the Colorado plateau was and is more (naturally) radioactive than most of Fukushima after the accident.
"There are areas of the world that are more radioactive than Colorado and the inhabitants there do not show increased rates of cancer," notes Dr. Thomas. And whereas radiation levels at Fukushima decline rapidly, "those areas stay high over a lifetime as the radiation is not the result of contamination but of natural background radiation."
Even residents living in the areas with the highest levels of soil contamination were unaffected by the radiation, according to a major study of nearly 8,000 residents in the two to three years since the accident.
In 2017, while visiting Fukushima for the second time, I lost my cool over this issue. Jet-lagged and hungry, and witnessing the ridiculous and expensive bull-dozing of the region's fertile topsoil into green plastic bags, I started grilling a scientist with the ministry of the environment.
Why were they destroying Fukushima's precious topsoil in order to reduce radiation levels that were already at levels far lower than posed a danger? Why was the government spending billions trying to do the same thing with water near the plant itself? Was nobody in Japan familiar with mainstream radiation health science?
At first the government scientist responded by simply repeating the official line '-- they were remediating the top soil to remove the radiation from the accident.
I decided to force the issue. I repeated my question. My translator told me that the expert didn't understand my question. I started arguing with my translator.
Then, at that moment, the government scientist started talking again. I could tell by the tone of his voice that he was saying something different.
''Every scientist and radiation expert in the world who comes here says the same thing,'' he said. ''We know we don't need to reduce radiation levels for public health. We're doing it because the people want us to.''
The truth of the matter had been acknowledged, and the tension that had hung between us had finally broken. '' Arigato gozaimasu !'' I said, genuinely grateful for the man's honesty.
The man's face was sad when he explained the situation, but he was also calmer. The mania behind his insistence that the ''contaminated'' topsoil had required ''cleaning'' had evaporated.
And I wasn't mad anymore either, just relieved. I understood his dilemma. He had only been the repeating official dogma because his job, and the larger culture and politics, required him to.
Such has been the treatment of radiation fears by scientists and government officials, not just in Japan, for over 60 years.
There is no evidence that low levels of radiation hurt people, but rather than be blunt about that, scientists have, in the past, shaded the truth often out of a misguided sense of erring on the side of caution, but thereby allowing widespread misunderstanding of radiation to persist.
We also now know that when societies don't use nuclear, they mostly use fossil fuels, not renewables. After Fukushima, Japan closed its nuclear plants and saw deadly air pollution skyrocket.
The biggest losers, as per usual, are the most vulnerable: those with respiratory diseases, such as emphysema and asthma, children, the elderly, the sick, and the poor, who tend to live in the most polluted areas of cities.
It's also clear that people displace anxieties about other things onto nuclear accidents. We know from in-depth qualitative research conducted in the 1970s that young people in the early part of that decade were displacing fears of nuclear bombs onto nuclear plants.
Nuclear plants are viewed as little bombs and nuclear accidents are viewed as little atomic explosions, complete with fall-out and the dread of contamination.
It is impossible to view the Japanese public's panicked overreaction to Fukushima and not see it as partly motivated by the horror of having seen 15,897 citizens instantly killed, and another 2,533 gone missing, after a tsunami hammered the region.
The sociologist Kyle Cleveland argues persuasively that Fukushima was a ''moral panic,'' in that the panic was motivated by a desire by the Japanese news media and public for revenge against an industrial and technical elite viewed as uncaring, arrogant, and corrupt.
Seeing Opportunity In Fear
After Fukushima, investors poured millions into so-called ''advanced nuclear'' start-up companies proposing to use chemicals, metals, or gases instead of water for cooling the uranium or thorium fuels in nuclear plants.
Often, they inadvertently reinforced the worst of the public's fears. It's one thing when anti-nuclear activists fear-monger about Fukushima, it's quite another when supposedly pro-nuclear advocates do so.
Worse, the notion that one could look at the design of a nuclear plant and declare it safer than existing nuclear plants is transcience at best, pseudoscience at worst.
To compare the relative safety of different kinds of nuclear reactors one would need decades of operational data, which don't exist for non-existent designs. And even then, one would likely need a lot more accidents and deaths to tease out any kind of correlation.
When pressed as to supposed safety advantages, advocates of radical innovation in nuclear often slip into claiming that this or that design will be far cheaper than today's designs.
But the cheapest nuclear is the kind that humans have the most experience building, operating, and regulating. Slow, conservative, and incremental innovation is what has made nuclear plants cheaper, while radical innovation has made it more expensive.
Was anything better for the U.S. nuclear industry than Three Mile Island? Not a single nuclear industry executive would have said so at the time. But in the decades since, many of them came to believe precisely that.
In response to Three Mile Island, the nuclear industry stepped up training, checklists, and better oversight. The result was that nuclear plants in the U.S. went from operating at 55 percent to over 90 percent of the time.
Anti-nuclear activists have long claimed that there is a trade-off between nuclear safety and economics when it comes to the operation of plants, when in reality the opposite is the case. With improved performance came far higher income from electricity sales.
Might Japanese nuclear leaders look back on Fukushima the same way one day? That depends on what they do now.
To date, Japanese leaders have tried to make amends to the public for the Fukushima accident, but they've done so in ways that have reinforced the view of radiation as a super-potent toxin, and without building any greater trust in the technology.
For decades, nuclear leaders in Japan and the U.S. reinforced the notion that nuclear is an inherently dangerous technology, but one that they could control. When it became clear that they couldn't control it, the public understandably assumed that they had been put in danger.
The truth is, in part, more reassuring. The radiant particulate matter that escapes from the worst nuclear accidents isn't all that dangerous because there isn't all that much of it.
But another lesson is that humans are never in absolute control of our technologies. If we were, then nobody would die from exploding natural gas pipelines, plane crashes, or collapsed hydroelectric dams.
The question is not how humans can gain absolute mastery, since that's impossible, but rather which machines, on balance, deliver the most good with the least harm. On that metric, nuclear power has always been, inherently, the safest way to power civilization.
Children Change Their Parents' Minds about Climate Change - Scientific American
Study of students schooled on the issue showed them going on to shift their elders' attitudes
Swedish environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg addresses politicians, media and guests with the British Houses of Parliament on April 23, 2019 in London, England. Her visit coincides with the ongoing "Extinction Rebellion" protests across London, which have seen days of disruption to roads and transport systems, in a bid to highlight the dangers of climate change. Credit: Leon Neal Getty ImagesSwedish teenager Greta Thunberg became famous this spring for launching a student movement to compel adults to take action on climate change. Instead of going to school, Greta has been spending her Fridays in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign reading: ''School Strike for Climate.'' Students in more than 70 countries have since followed her lead. But before she started trying to convince the world to take action, Thunberg worked on her parents. She showered them with facts and showed them documentaries. ''After a while, they started listening to what I actually said,'' Thunberg told the Guardian newspaper. ''That's when I realized I could make a difference.''
Thunberg is not alone. Other young people can be equally convincing, according to a paper published May 6 in Nature Climate Change. The team of social scientists and ecologists from North Carolina State University who authored the report found that children can increase their parents' level of concern about climate change because, unlike adults, their views on the issue do not generally reflect any entrenched political ideology. Parents also really do care what their children think, even on socially charged issues like climate change or sexual orientation.
Postulating that pupils might be ideal influencers, the researchers decided to test how 10-to-14''year-olds' exposure to climate change coursework might affect, not only the youngsters' views, but those of their parents. The proposed pass-through effect turned out to be true: teaching a child about the warming climate often raised concerns among parents about the issue. Fathers and conservative parents showed the biggest change in attitudes, and daughters were more effective than sons in shifting their parents' views. The results suggest that conversations between generations may be an effective starting point in combating the effects of a warming environment. ''This model of intergenerational learning provides a dual benefit,'' says graduate student Danielle Lawson, the paper's lead author. ''[It prepares] kids for the future since they're going to deal with the brunt of climate change's impact. And it empowers them to help make a difference on the issue now by providing them a structure to have conversations with older generations to bring us together to work on climate change.''
Scientists in the field find the study heartening. ''These encouraging results suggest that not only are children increasingly engaged in advocating for their future, they are also effective advocates to their parents,'' says climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University. She was not involved in the research but works to bridge the gap between scientists and stakeholders on the issue. ''As a woman myself and someone who frequently engages with conservative Christian communities,'' she says, ''I love that it's the daughters who were found to be most effective at changing their hard-nosed dads' minds.''
The intergenerational model is ''a promising avenue for those of us in climate change education,'' says Nicole Holthuis, a researcher in science education at Stanford University, who was not a researcher on the study. Too often, Holthuis says, scientists and educators believe that delivering the facts of global warming will be enough to change minds. ''With this study,'' she says, ''they're addressing a critical need to acknowledge that the sociopolitical aspects of climate change make it very difficult for people to take [the facts] in. Maybe we can leverage these intergenerational relationships in ways that can be very productive.'' As a next step, Holthuis would like to see if increasing levels of concern from this curriculum translate into actual changes in behavior. Child-focused lessons on a similar issue did alter parents' actions. A 2016 study of Girl Scout troops found that an educational program on energy consumption resulted in reduced energy use by their families.
In the North Carolina study, the curriculum consisted of four classroom activities and a field-based service-learning project. Of 238 families in that study, 92 served as controls; those children's teachers did not use the new curriculum. Parents were invited to view outdoor projects and were interviewed by their children. Instead of addressing climate change directly, children asked adults about local changes they might have noticed. Parents, says Lawson, responded to a series of questions from their children: ''How have you seen the weather change? Have you ever seen the sea-level rise? We wanted to take climate change out of it just to make it more ideologically neutral.'' At the beginning and end of the study, parents were surveyed on demographic characteristics such as age and political ideology as well as their views on climate change.
Concern about the issue was measured on a 17-point scale from least concerned (''8) to most concerned (+8). Over two years, levels of concern increased among all parents, including those in the control group. But those who engaged in the curriculum with their children showed larger increases and parents who identified as male or conservative more than doubled their level of concern about climate change from relatively unconcerned (''2) to relatively concerned (+2).
Lawson believes that conversations about climate change were easier because of the level of trust between parents and their children. ''That doesn't necessarily exist between two adults talking to each other,'' she says. The authors do not know why girls were more effective than boys but suggest that girls may have been more concerned to begin with or are better communicators in this age group than boys. While this paper doesn't measure behavioral change, it does provide hope, says Lawson, ''that if we can promote this community-building and conversation-building on climate change, we can come together and work together on a solution.''
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)Lydia DenworthLydia Denworth is a Brooklyn-based science writer and author of I Can Hear You Whisper: An Intimate Journey through the Science of Sound and Language (Dutton, 2014). She is working on a book about the science of friendship.
Credit: Nick Higgins
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Who can convince those who reject climate science? Maybe their kids | Ars Technica
Listen up, Dad '-- Experiment showed middle-schoolers got their parents thinking. Scott K. Johnson - May 8, 2019 7:23 pm UTC
Enlarge / Give kids something to talk about, and they'll take it home with them.
There are significant generational differences when it comes to opinions on climate change in the US. Students are more open to learning about this scientific issue without getting snagged on the culture wars that have divided American opinions along political and cultural lines, which probably explains why younger people are less likely than their grandparents to claim that climate science is ''a hoax.'' But can kids help us with that problem now, or will they have to wait decades for their turn behind the levers of power?
A team of researchers led by North Carolina State University's Danielle Lawson set out to test how kids affect their parents' opinions by bringing what they learn home. The researchers recruited middle school teachers in coastal North Carolina, assigning some to try out a specific climate change lesson plan and using the rest as a control group for comparison. In total, about 200 families went through the experimental curriculum, with about 100 kids in the control group taking unchanged classes.
The experimental curriculum consisted of four class activities teaching students about the difference between weather and climate and how climate change impacts the species around them. They then participated in a relevant local community project. This experience was designed to fulfill education standards but also to be similar to other lesson plans in which novel experiences have been shown to get kids talking at home, resulting in parental attitude changes. To that end, the kids were also given an assignment to interview their parents about their perceptions of changes in the local weather.
All of the students and parents filled out surveys assessing their opinions on climate change and whether their family had discussed the topic. The results showed that, unsurprisingly, the experience increased the students' concern about climate change. But it also had an effect on their parents. There were significant increases in parental concern about the topic'--particularly among the demographics that started out least concerned.
Enlarge / Changes in parents' concern about climate change measured in the control group (top) and the families of kids who tried a new lesson plan (bottom).
While male and female parents of all political stripes showed an increase, conservative parents changed much more than the rest, and fathers increased a bit more than mothers. The survey asked about their level of concern on a five-point scale from ''not at all worried'' to ''extremely worried.'' The average increase for conservative parents was one point up on the scale'--changing from ''a little worried'' to ''moderately worried,'' for example.
Curiously, conservative parents in the control group also showed a slight increase in concern over time, so part of the change in answers may be simply down to answering the survey multiple times'--or maybe even because Hurricane Matthew hit the area during the experiment.
The survey results also show a link between changes in concern and an increase in family discussion, supporting the hypothesis behind the experiment. And daughters seemed to have a larger effect on their parents than sons did. The researchers mentioned a few possible explanations for this. Girls actually ended up with a higher level of concern about climate change than boys, which could be part of it. They also note that adolescent girls may be a little better at communicating with their parents than boys. But at the same time, parents of girls answered the survey with lower concern at the start (and both before and after in the control group), which could be the result of a little gender bias, taking science assignments less seriously for girls.
Overall, the experiment can be seen as encouraging. Adults who have shut their ears to discussions of climate change because they associate it with political battle lines can still listen if their kids care about it. The researchers mention former Republican Congressman Bob Inglis (whom Ars once interviewed about this topic) as an anecdotal example. While representing South Carolina, Inglis changed his position on climate change in part because of heartfelt conversations with his children.
As someone who just finished teaching a university "intro to climate change" course, I joked a few times about some piece of information being particularly useful around the Thanksgiving dinner table. This study provides some evidence that this isn't just a matter of self-defense against the rants of conspiracy-minded uncles. Students' family members may actually hear them out.
@glaad @donlemon Don Lemon is gay? I didn't know and it never occurred to me.I'd like to see a world in which being gay is just a normal trait some people have, like having dark hair vs. light is nothing special to point out ... or celebrate.GLAAD? An award for people who happen to be gay?
Will Meghan Markle and Prince Harry raise their baby to be black? - Los Angeles Times
Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, arrive at the annual Endeavour Fund Awards in London on Feb. 7. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / Associated Press)
So, Meghan Markle, the American biracial wife of Prince Harry, did it. She managed to have their baby (a boy) on her own terms. Which is to say, at an undisclosed location '-- although we all know the young British royal couple has been holed up at their Windsor home with the fairy tale name of Frogmore Cottage, we don't know where she actually gave birth '-- and on an undisclosed timetable. We all found out about the birth when Harry and Meghan announced it on Instagram. (Buckingham Palace announced it too.)
Nor did Meghan submit to the postpartum photo call. There will be no pictures of her making a red carpet departure from a hospital, looking preternaturally polished in full makeup and hair while wearing a dress and high heels and carrying a newborn (as her sister-in-law Kate Middleton, the wife of Prince William, did with all three of her children's births), but who could blame her for nixing such a ridiculous ritual just hours after a grueling delivery? Instead, she dispatched her giddily happy husband to meet the press outside Windsor Castle '-- a stable with horses in the back '-- to gush, appropriately, about how incredible his son and wife are.
There is no one 'black experience' '-- except, perhaps, a cop stopping you because you look like a suspect.
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But will the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, whose very marriage was a break from royal traditions, break with the tradition of British royal family life and raise their boy their way? He'll learn plenty about his royal background, being seventh in line to the throne. What will he know about his American family? He'll know he's royal when photographers incessantly snap his picture at events. But I'm guessing that one of his first questions to his parents will be: Am I black? The answer: Yes, you are. And if he didn't guess it from looking at his light-skinned mother, then he need only look at his maternal grandmother, Doria Ragland, who lives in Los Angeles.
Baby Sussex, as he's called for the moment, will have an extraordinarily privileged life. We can only hope that he will live, eventually, in a post-racial world. Still, he needs to know about what it means to be a black person in the world today. Of course, it means dozens of things. His life will largely be his to make. There is no one ''black experience'' '-- except, perhaps, a cop stopping you because you look like a suspect. I highly doubt that's going to happen to the young Sussex. Speaking of post-racial, the Obamas tweeted their congrats.
Wait '-- do I need to catch anyone up here? You all know that Harry and his older brother, William, are the sons of Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, who died tragically in the Paris car crash in 1997? OK, that's what I thought.
Let's face it, this baby's delivery, somewhere in the vicinity of his family's castle, may be the first and last moments of real private life he has. He can check with his royal cousins for the drill. Soon he will learn to wave at the press or do something else incredibly adorable or cheeky. (See Princess Charlotte, then 3 years old, walking in to the christening of her baby brother, Louis, staring down the assembled press outside and announcing tartly, ''You're not coming.'')
How public will his life be? If the Sussexes plan to spend substantial time in Africa (as has been rumored), that will give him a little bit of time away from the British stage, but there's no continent he can go to where he will be out of the spotlight.
But, first, there's the matter of his name. People are beside themselves trying to figure it out. No, they're not going to name him Runnymede (as an Anglophile colleague of mine has proposed). Nor are they going to name him something as American chic as Joshua.
I predict: Alexander. Harry says they'll announce it in a couple of days. Let's see.
California set to change sex education guidance for teachers
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SACRAMENTO '-- California is close to overhauling its guidance for teaching sex education in public schools, offering teachers a framework for talking to kindergarteners about gender identity, discussing masturbation with middle-schoolers and recommending books that teach healthy practices for LGBT high schoolers.
The proposal the California State Board of Education is scheduled to consider Wednesday offers advice on teaching health topics including nutrition, injury prevention and alcohol and tobacco use. But it's the part about sex that has angered some parents and conservative groups and is expected to bring a large crowd to the meeting.
"This stuff should be taught at home," said Stephanie Yates, a mother of three who started a Facebook group to protest the changes. "It's not the birds and the bees. It's not biological anymore. It's not sex ed. It's sexuality education."
But that's exactly why many parents support the changes, according to Samuel Garret-Pate, communications director for Equality California.
"Too often LGBTQ students in particular don't receive information during sex education that teaches them about healthy practices," he said. "There is nothing obscene about providing accurate and comprehensive information to students at an age-appropriate level about how to have safe sex."
California's education standards tell school districts what students should know about a particular subject at the end of every grade level. The state's curriculum framework gives teachers ideas on how to do that. The state updated its health education standards in 2008. But because of a budget crisis, state officials never gave schools a framework for how to teach them.
That could change Wednesday when the California State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on a major revision to its health education curriculum framework.
The more-than-700-page document compiled over three years does not require schools to teach anything, but it is designed to expose teachers to current research about health education and give guidance about how to teach it. It's also influenced by a 2015 state law that made California one of the first states to address LGBT issues as part of sex education.
The framework tells teachers that students in kindergarten can identify as transgender and offers tips for how to talk about that, adding "the goal is not to cause confusion about the gender of the child but to develop an awareness that other expressions exist."
"I think that people hear the word 'transgender' or 'gender identity' in guidance for kindergarten through grade three and they think the worst," said Stephanie Gregson, director of the Curriculum Frameworks and Instructional Resources Division at the California Department of Education. "It's really about civil rights issues, understanding that each and every one of our students have rights and our students come in all different shapes, sizes and unique personalities and characteristics and we need to value and respect every one of those differences."
The framework gives tips for discussing masturbation with middle-schoolers, including telling them it is not physically harmful, and for discussing puberty with transgender teens that creates "an environment that is inclusive and challenges binary concepts about gender."
Much of the pushback has focused not on the framework itself, but on the books it recommends students read. One suggested book for high schoolers is "S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties." It includes descriptions of anal sex, bondage and other sexual activity '-- depictions California Family Council President Jonathan Keller described as "obscene."
"The state of California is really forcing parents to choose between what the state says is the universal right to free public education and their children's innocence," Keller said.
Gregson said state officials recommended the book because "it's an award-winning book that speaks to all of the different types of relationships that our students are engaging in."
"We have gay and lesbian and transgender high school students that are in relationships," she said. "Resources help them navigate those types of relationships."
Man chopped off his penis and testicles to become a 'nullo' | Daily Mail Online
A man sliced off his own penis and testicles using an ultra-sharp ceramic knife so he could become a genitalia-free 'nullo' - and then kept his severed organ in the freezer until his mother threw it out.
Trent Gates, a 23-year-old from Washington DC, removed his testicles in a DIY surgical procedure performed in his own apartment in April 2016, before chopping off his penis in a North Carolina motel room eight months later.
Gates, who says he sanitized the blade for safety and took only painkillers in preparation, was inspired to perform the radical procedure after seeing another famous 'nullo' called Gelding at the age of 15.
Trent Gates, a 23-year-old from Washington DC, removed his testicles in a DIY surgical procedure performed in his own apartment in April 2016, before chopping off his penis in a North Carolina motel room eight months later
A 'nullo', also known as a 'smoothie', is someone who has undergone extreme body modification by having their genitals, and sometimes nipples, surgically removed.
The subculture does not necessarily relate to the person's sexuality, though many consider themselves eunuchs. Gates identifies as a non-binary person who is sexually attracted to men.
'I used a ceramic (knife) because its sharper than the steel, less ripping and tearing,' the IT worker told the Metro Online, adding that he took 'every precaution' before surgery and went to the hospital immediately afterwards.
'I honestly didn't have a problem with the pain. I used a little bit of a numbing agent, a little bit of lidocaine on it, and i took to five milligrams of oxycodene that they prescribed me when I did my balls to take the edge off,' Gates said.
The same surgeon stitched him up on both occasions.
He told Metro: 'They made sure I got psychiatric treatment just to make sure I was sane and that it was a good decision. 'The therapists and the psychiatric staff said ''Yeah, yeah, he's good, he's sane'...miraculously''.
To help him recover from the procedure, Gates inserted a catheter for several weeks to ensure there was a hole through which he could urinate.
When he removed his testicles it took around a month for the wound to heal, while the area where his penis once was took three weeks.
Explaining why he felt compelled to do the surgery, Gates said he always felt somewhere between man and woman - 'an androgynous in-between'.
A 'nullo', also known as a 'smoothie', is someone who has undergone extreme body modification by having their genitals, and sometimes nipples, surgically removed
'I have no desire to be a woman,' he said. 'It's kind of a middle ground in-between the two, an androgynous in-between.'
So he followed in the footsteps of a man called 'Gelding', considered the godfather of the community, who removed his testicles in 2000 and his penis in 2011.
What is a 'nullo'? A 'nullo', also known as a 'smoothie', is someone who has undergone extreme body modification by having their genitals, and sometimes nipples, surgically removed.
The subculture does not relate to the person's sexuality, nor are they necessarily transgender - although many consider themselves eunuchs.
Though the procedure is mostly done by men, there are women who also voluntarily have their vagina stitched closed and clitoris removed.
'He's kind of like the grandfather of the community,' he said of 'Gelding.'
Gates described the surgery as not being 'that painful' and boasted of his improved sexual performance afterwards, admitting the first time he had sex following the surgery he 'almost passed out' from the intensity - and was shaking for hours after.
'It was that intense of an orgasm,' he said. 'It's kind of weird.'
He also explained that he can still ejaculate, but that it is the bodily fluid produced from his prostate, minus the semen once produced from his testicles.
The IT worker said his boyfriend accepts his modified genitalia, although he admits he did not tell his parents about his plans until after the surgeries were complete.
He added that both his parents and grandparents were immediately accepting of his life choice - although his mother drew the line at having his penis stored in the family freezer and threw it out.
Gates was inspired to perform the radical procedure after seeing another famous 'nullo' called Gelding (pictured) at the age of 15
Despite the radical procedure, Gates said he has no regrets about becoming a 'nullo' and added that it had helped him overcome the crippling depression that saw him attempt suicide several times while he was at school.
He said: 'I feel happier. I feel more me. I feel, I guess, freer in a sense. It's kind of hard to describe it.
'More how I'm meant to be, at heart. I feel more like the me I've always felt I was.'
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Erik Prince - the founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater and a prominent supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump - has been pushing a plan to deploy a private army to help topple Venezuela's socialist president, Nicolas Maduro, four sources with knowledge of the effort told Reuters.
FILE PHOTO: Erik Prince, founder of the Blackwater security firm, testifies before a committee of the U.S. Congress about security contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 2, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing/File Photo
Over the last several months, the sources said, Prince has sought investment and political support for such an operation from influential Trump supporters and wealthy Venezuelan exiles. In private meetings in the United States and Europe, Prince sketched out a plan to field up to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire on behalf of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, according to two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's pitch.
One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April.
White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration's thinking said the White House would not support such a plan.
Venezuela opposition officials have not discussed security operations with Prince, said Guaido spokesman Edward Rodriguez, who did not answer additional questions from Reuters. The Maduro government did not respond to a request for comment.
Some U.S. and Venezuelan security experts, told of the plan by Reuters, called it politically far-fetched and potentially dangerous because it could set off a civil war. A Venezuelan exile close to the opposition agreed but said private contractors might prove useful, in the event Maduro's government collapses, by providing security for a new administration in the aftermath.
A spokesman for Prince, Marc Cohen, said this month that Prince ''has no plans to operate or implement an operation in Venezuela'' and declined to answer further questions.
Lital Leshem - the director of investor relations at Prince's private equity firm, Frontier Resource Group - earlier confirmed Prince's interest in Venezuela security operations.
''He does have a solution for Venezuela, just as he has a solution for many other places,'' she said, declining to elaborate on his proposal.
The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's pitch said it calls for starting with intelligence operations and later deploying 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers-for-hire from Colombia and other Latin American nations to conduct combat and stabilization operations.
'DYNAMIC EVENT' For Prince, the unlikely gambit represents the latest effort in a long campaign to privatize warfare. The wealthy son of an auto-parts tycoon has fielded private security contractors in conflict zones from Central Asia to Africa to the Middle East.
One of Prince's key arguments, one source said, is that Venezuela needs what Prince calls a ''dynamic event'' to break the stalemate that has existed since January, when Guaido - the head of Venezuela's National Assembly - declared Maduro's 2018 re-election illegitimate and invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency.
Maduro has denounced Guaido, who has been backed by most western nations, as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup. Key government institutions '' including the military '' have not shifted their loyalty to Guaido despite increasing international pressure from sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.
Guaido has stressed that he wants a peaceful resolution, and Latin American governments recognizing his authority have urged against outside military action. Senior U.S. officials, without ruling out armed intervention, have also emphasized economic and diplomatic measures to pressure Maduro.
CLOSE TIES TO TRUMP Prince was a pioneer in private military contracting during the Iraq war, when the U.S. government hired Blackwater primarily to provide security for State Department operations there.
In 2007, Blackwater employees shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square in Baghdad, sparking international outrage. One of the Blackwater employees involved was convicted of murder in December and three others have been convicted of manslaughter.
Prince renamed the Blackwater security company and sold it in 2010, but he recently opened a company called Blackwater USA, which sells ammunition, silencers and knives. Over the past two years, he has led an unsuccessful campaign to convince the Trump administration to replace U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan with security contractors.
Since 2014, Prince has run the Hong Kong-based Frontier Services Group, which has close ties to the state-owned Chinese investment company CITIC and helps Chinese firms operating in Africa with security, aviation and logistics services.
Prince donated $100,000 to a political action committee that supported Trump's election. His sister, Betsy DeVos, is the administration's education secretary.
Prince's role in Trump's campaign was highlighted in the report by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, released this month, on alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
The report outlined how Prince financed an effort to authenticate purported Hillary Clinton emails and how in 2016 he met in the Seychelles islands, off east Africa, with a wealthy Russian financial official on behalf of Trump's presidential transition team.
Prince spokesman Cohen declined to comment on the Mueller report.
TARGETING FROZEN ASSETS The two sources with direct knowledge of Prince's Venezuela plan said he is seeking $40 million from private investors. He also aims to get funding from the billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets that have been seized by governments around the world imposing sanctions on the OPEC nation, a major oil exporter.
Slideshow (2 Images) It's unclear, however, how the Venezuelan opposition could legally access those assets. Prince told people in pitch meetings, the sources said, that he believes that Guaido has the authority to form his own military force because he has been recognized internationally as Venezuela's rightful leader.
Prince envisions a force made up of ''Peruvians, Ecuadoreans, Colombians, Spanish speakers,'' one of the sources said, adding that Prince argued that such soldiers would be more politically palatable than American contractors.
(This story has been refiled to fix typo in the first paragraph.)
Reporting By Aram Roston and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Kieran Murray and Brian Thevenot
Planting the Seeds of Regime Change: How GMO Seeds and Monsanto/Bayer's ''RoundUp'' are Driving US Policy in Venezuela
C ARACAS, VENEZUELA '-- As the political crisis in Venezuela has unfolded, much has been said about the Trump administration's clear interest in the privatization and exploitation of Venezuela's oil reserves, the largest in the world, by American oil giants like Chevron and ExxonMobil.
Yet the influence of another notorious American company, Monsanto '-- now a subsidiary of Bayer '-- has gone largely unmentioned.
While numerous other Latin American nations have become a ''free for all'' for the biotech company and its affiliates, Venezuela has been one of the few countries to fight Monsanto and other international agrochemical giants and win. However, since that victory '-- which was won under Chavista rule '-- the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition has been working to undo it.
Now, with Juan Guaid"'s parallel government attempting to take power with the backing of the U.S., it is telling that the top political donors of those in the U.S. most fervently pushing regime change in Venezuela have close ties to Monsanto and major financial stakes in Bayer.
In recent months, Monsanto's most controversial and notorious product '-- the pesticide glyphosate, branded as Roundup, and linked to cancer in recent U.S. court rulings '-- has threatened Bayer's financial future as never before, with a litany of new court cases barking at Bayer's door. It appears that many of the forces in the U.S. now seeking to overthrow the Venezuelan government are hoping that a new Guaid"-led government will provide Bayer with a fresh, much-needed market for its agrochemicals and transgenic seeds, particularly those products that now face bans in countries all over the world, including once-defoliated and still-poisoned Vietnam .
U.S.-Backed Venezuelan opposition seeks to reverse Chavista seed law and GMO ban In 2004, then-president of Venezuela, Hugo Chvez, surprised many when he announced the cancellation of Monsanto's plans to plant 500,000 acres of Venezuelan agricultural land in genetically modified (GM) soybeans. The cancellation of Monsanto's Venezuela contract led to what became an ad hoc ban on all GM seeds in the entire country, a move that was praised by local farmer groups and environmental activists. In contrast to anti-GM movements that have sprung up in other countries, Venezuela's resistance to GM crops was based more on concerns about the country's food sovereignty and protecting the livelihoods of farmers.
Although the ban has failed to keep GM products out of Venezuela '-- as Venezuela has long imported a majority of its food, much of it originating in countries that are among the world's largest producers of genetically modified foods '-- one clear effect has been preventing companies like Monsanto and other major agrochemical and seed companies from gaining any significant foothold in the Venezuelan market.
Hugo Chavez and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva visit a soy farm in El Tigre in Venezuela's Anzoategui state, Oct. 30, 2009. Ariana Cubillos | AP
In 2013, a new seed law was nearly passed that would have allowed GM seeds to be sold in Venezuela through a legal loophole. That law, which was authored by a member of the Chavista United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), was widely protested by farmers, indigenous activists, environmentalists, and eco-socialist groups, which led to the law's transformation into what has been nicknamed the ''People's Seed Law.'' That law, passed in 2015, went even farther than the original 2004 ban by banning not just GM seeds but several toxic agrochemicals, while also strengthening heirloom seed varieties through the creation of the National Seed Institute.
Soon after the new seed law was passed in 2015, the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition led by the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) '-- a group comprised of numerous U.S.-funded political parties, including Guaid"'s Popular Will '-- took control of the country's National Assembly. Until Venezuela's Supreme Court dissolved the assembly in 2017, the MUD-legislature attempted to repeal the seed law on several occasions. Those in favor of the repeal called the seed bill ''anti-scientific'' and damaging to the economy.
Despite the 2017 Supreme Court decision, the National Assembly has continued to meet, but the body holds no real power in the current Venezuelan government. However, if the current government is overthrown and Guaid" '-- the ''interim president'' who is also president of the dissolved National Assembly '-- comes to power, it seems almost certain that the ''People's Seed Law'' will be one of the first pieces of legislation on the chopping block.
The AEI axis Some of the key figures and loudest voices supporting the efforts of the Trump administration to overthrow the Venezuelan government in the United States are well-connected to one particular think-tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). For instance, John Bolton '-- now Trump's national security advisor and a major player in the administration's aggressive Venezuela policy '-- was a senior fellow at AEI until he became Trump's top national security official. As national security adviser, Bolton advises the president on foreign policy and issues of national security while also advising both the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense. As of late, he has been pushing for military action in Venezuela, according to media reports.
Another key figure in Trump's Venezuela policy '-- Elliott Abrams, the State Department's Special Representative for Venezuela '-- has been regularly featured at AEI summits and as a guest on its panels and podcasts. According to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Abrams' current role gives him the ''responsibility for all things related to our efforts to restore democracy'' in Venezuela. Other top figures in the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, were featured guests at the AEI's ''secretive'' gathering in early March. As MintPress and other outlets have reported, Guaid" declared himself ''interim president'' of Venezuela at Pence's behest. Pompeo is also intimately involved in directing Trump's Venezuela policy as the president's main adviser on foreign affairs.
Then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, Jan. 23, 2018. Susan Walsh | AP
Other connections to the Trump administration include Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who was previously on AEI's board of trustees .
AEI has long been a key part of the ''neoconservative'' establishment and employs well-known neoconservatives such as Fred Kagan '-- the architect of the Iraq ''troop surge'' '-- and Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the Iraq War. Its connections to the George W. Bush administration were particularly notable and controversial, as more than 20 AEI employees were given top positions under Bush. Several of them, such as Bolton, have enjoyed new prominence in Trump's administration.
Other key Bush officials joined the AEI soon after leaving their posts in the administration. One such was Roger Noriega, who was the U.S. representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) during the failed, U.S.-backed 2002 coup and went on to be assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs from 2003 to 2005, where he was extremely influential in the administration's policies towards Venezuela and Cuba.
Since leaving the Bush administration and promptly joining the AEI, Noriega has been instrumental in pushing claims that lack evidence but aim to paint Venezuela's current President Nicolas Maduro-led government as a national security threat, such as claiming that Venezuela is helping Iran acquire nuclear weapons and hosts soldiers from Lebanon's Hezbollah. He also lobbied Congress to support Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo L"pez, Guaid"'s political mentor and leader of his political party, Popular Will.
Not only that, but Noreiga teamed up with Martin Rodil , a Venezuelan exile formerly employed by the IMF, and Jos(C) Cardenas, who served in the Bush administration, to found Visi"n Am(C)ricas , a private risk-assessment and lobbying firm that was hired to ''support the efforts of the Honduran private sector to help consolidate the democratic transition in their country'' after the U.S.-backed Honduran coup in 2009. In recent months, Noriega and his associates have been very focused on Venezuela, with Cardenas offering Trump public advice about how ''to hasten Maduro's exit,'' while Rodil has publicly offered ''to get you a deal'' if you have dirt on Venezuela's government.
While the AEI is best known for its hawkishness, it is also a promoter of big agricultural interests. Since 2000, It has hosted several conferences on the promise of ''biotechnology'' and genetically modified seeds and has heavily promoted the work of former Monsanto lobbyist Jon Entine, who was an AEI visiting fellow for several years. The AEI also has long-time connections to Dow Chemical.
The most likely reason for the AEI's interest in promoting biotech, however, can be found in its links to Monsanto. In 2013, The Nation acquired a 2009 AEI document , obtained through a filing error and not intended for public disclosure, that revealed the think tank's top donors. The form, known as the ''schedule of contributors,'' revealed that the AEI's top two donors at the time were the Donors Capital Fund and billionaire Paul Singer.
The Donors Capital Fund, which remains a major contributor to the AEI, is linked to Monsanto interests through the vice chairman of its board, Kimberly O. Dennis, who is also currently a member of the AEI's National Council. According to AEI, the National Council is composed of '' business and community leaders from across the country who are committed to AEI's success and serve as ambassadors for AEI, providing us with advice, insight, and guidance.''
Dennis is the long-time executive chairwoman of the Searle Freedom Trust, which was founded in 1988 by Daniel Searle after he oversaw the sale of his family pharmaceutical company '-- G.D. Searle and Company '-- to Monsanto in 1985 for $2.7 billion. The money Searle had made from that merger was used to fund the trust that now funds the AEI and other right-wing think tanks. Searle was also close to Donald Rumsfeld, who led G.D. Searle and Co. for years and was Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford and George W. Bush. Searle was also a trustee of the Hudson Institute, which once employed Elliott Abrams .
After the family company '-- which gained notoriety for faking research about the safety of its sweetener, aspartame or NutraSweet '-- was sold to Monsanto, G.D. Searle executives close to Daniel Searle rose to prominence within the company. Robert Shapiro, who was G.D. Searle's long-time attorney and head of its NutraSweet division, would go on to become Monsanto's vice president, president and later CEO. Notably, Daniel Searle's grandson, D. Gideon Searle, was an AEI trustee until relatively recently.
Why is a top to Marco Rubio increasing his stake in Bayer while others flee? Yet, it is AEI's top individual donor noted in the accidental ''schedule of contributors'' disclosure who is most telling about the private biotech interests guiding the Trump administration's Venezuela policy. Paul Singer, the controversial billionaire hedge fund manager, has long been a major donor to neoconservative and Zionist causes '-- helping fund the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), the successor to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC); and the neoconservative and islamophobic Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), in addition to the AEI.
Singer is notably one of the top political donors to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and has been intimately involved in the recent chaos in Venezuela. He has been called one of the architects of the administration's current regime-change policy, and was the top donor to Rubio's presidential campaign, as well as a key figure behind the controversial ''dossier'' on Donald Trump that was compiled by Fusion GPS. Indeed, Singer had been the first person to hire Fusion GPS to do ''opposition research'' on Trump. However, Singer has largely since evaded much scrutiny for his role in the dossier's creation, likely because he became a key donor to Trump following his election win in 2016, giving $1 million to Trump's inauguration fund.
Hedge fund manager Paul Singer has raised millions for a pro-Marco Rubio super PAC. Moritz Hager | World Economic Forum
Singer has a storied history in South America, though he has been relatively quiet about Venezuela. However, a long-time manager of Singer's hedge fund, Jay Newman, recently told Bloomberg that a Guaid"-led government would recognize that foreign creditors ''aren't the enemy,'' and hinted that Newman himself was weighing whether to join a growing ''list of bond veterans [that have] already begun staking out positions, anticipating a $60 billion debt restructuring once the U.S.-backed Guaid" manages to oust President Nicolas Maduro and take control.'' In addition, the Washington Free Beacon , which is largely funded by Singer, has been a vocal advocate for the Trump administration's regime-change policy in Venezuela.
Beyond that, Singer's Elliott Management Corporation gave Roger Noriega, the former assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs under Bush, $60,000 in 2007 to lobby on the issue of sovereign debt and for ''federal advocacy on behalf of U.S. investors in Latin America.'' During the time Noriega was on Singer's payroll, he wrote articles linking Argentina and Venezuela to Iran's nonexistent nuclear program. At the time, Singer was aggressively pursuing the government of Argentina in an effort to obtain more money from the country's prior default on its sovereign debt.
While Singer has been mum himself on Venezuela, he has been making business decisions that have raised eyebrows, such as significantly increasing his stake in Bayer. This move seems at odds with Bayer's financial troubles, a direct result of the slew of court cases regarding the link between Monsanto's glyphosate and cancer. The first ruling that signaled trouble for Monsanto and its new parent company Bayer took place last August, but Singer increased his stake in the company starting last December , even though it was already clear by then that Bayer's financial troubles in relation to the glyphosate court cases were only beginning.
Since the year began, Bayer's problems with the Monsanto merger have only worsened, with Bayer's CEO recently stating that the lawsuits had ''massively affected'' the company's stock prices and financial performance.
Forcing open a new market for RoundUp Part of Singer's interest in Bayer may relate to Venezuela, given that Juan Guaido's ''Plan Pas'' to ''rescue'' the Venezuelan economy includes a focus on the country's agricultural sector. Notably, prior to and under Chavismo, agricultural productivity and investment in the agricultural sector took a backseat to oil production, resulting in under 25 percent of Venezuelan land being used for agricultural purposes despite the fact that the nation has a wealth of arable land. The result has been that Venezuela needs to import much of its food from abroad, most of which originate in Colombia or the United States.
Under Chvez and his successor, Maduro, there has been a renewed focus on small-scale farming, food sovereignty and organic agriculture. However, if Maduro is ousted and Guaid" moves to implement his ''Plan Pas,'' the opposition's coziness with foreign corporations, the interests of U.S. coup architects in Bayer/Monsanto, and the opposition's past efforts to overturn the GM seed ban all suggest that a new market for Bayer/Monsanto products '-- particularly glyphosate '-- will open up.
South America has long been a key market for Monsanto and '-- as the company's problems began to mount prior to the merger with Bayer '-- it became a lifeline for the company due to less stringent environmental and consumer regulations that many Western countries. In recent years, when South American governments have opened their countries to more ''market-friendly'' policies in their agricultural sectors, Monsanto has made millions.
For instance, when Brazil sought to expand biotechnology (i.e. GM seed) investment in 2012, Monsanto saw a 21% increase in its sales of GM corn seed alone, generating an additional $1 billion in profits for the company. A similar comeback scenario is needed more than every by Bayer/Monsanto, as Monsanto's legal troubles saw the company's profits plunge late last year.
With countries around the world now weighing glyphosate bans as a result of increased litigation over the chemical's links to cancer, Bayer needs a new market for the chemical to avoid financial ruin. As Singer now has a significant stake in the company, he '-- along with the politicians and think tanks he funds '-- may see promise in the end of the anti-GM seed ban that a Guaid"-led government would bring.
Furthermore, given that Guaid"'s top adviser wants the Trump administration to have a direct role in governing Venezuela if Maduro is ousted, it seems likely that Singer would leverage his connections to keep Bayer/Monsanto afloat amid the growing controversy surrounding glyphosate. Such behavior on the part of Singer would hardly be surprising in light of the fact that international financial media have characterized him as a ''ruthless opportunist'' and ''overly aggressive.''
Such an outcome would be in keeping with the increased profit margins for Monsanto and related companies that have followed its expansion into countries following U.S.-backed coups. For instance, after the U.S.-backed coup in Ukraine in 2014, the loans given to Ukraine by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank forced the country to open up and expand the use of ''biotechnology'' and GM crops in its agricultural sector, and Monsanto, in particular, made millions as the prior government's ban on GM seeds and their associated agrochemicals was reversed. If Maduro is ousted, a similar scenario is likely to play out in Venezuela, given that the Guaid"-led government made known its intention to borrow heavily from these institutions just days after Guaid" declared himself ''interim president.''
Feature photo | Luis Arrieta inspects a freshly planted coffee field that used to be a peach orchard in the coastal area of Carayaca on the outskirts of Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 10, 2018 . Fernando Llano | AP
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
Kieran Barr contributed to the research used in this report.
Fed up Canada tells U.S. to help with China crisis or forget about favors - Reuters
OTTAWA, May 5 (Reuters) - Canada is leaning on the United States to help settle a dispute with China, which has started to block imports of vital Canadian commodities amid a dispute over a detained Huawei executive.
In a sign of increasing frustration at what it sees as a lackluster U.S. response, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government is signaling it could withhold cooperation on major issues.
China has upped the pressure on Canada in recent weeks over the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, arrested last December on a U.S. warrant. It halted Canadian canola imports and last week suspended the permits of two major pork producers.
After Meng's Vancouver arrest, Chinese police also detained two Canadian citizens.
Beijing is refusing to allow a Canadian trade delegation to visit, forcing officials to use video conference calls as they try to negate a major threat to commodity exports.
With no cards to play against China without risking significant economic damage, Canada has launched a full-court press in Washington, which is negotiating its own trade deal with Beijing.
The results have been meager.
''It's a very challenging situation. When we raise it with the Americans they just say, 'Dealing with the Chinese is tough','' said a Canadian government source.
''It's also not clear who we should be targeting since you never know who is up and who is down in the administration at any given point,'' said the source, who requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the matter.
Among those the Canadians approached are Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Republican Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
The State Department said it was "concerned" by the canola ban. In March, the Foreign Relations Committee responded to Canada's concerns by passing a bipartisan resolution supporting the country. (Graphic: reut.rs/2Wnwki9)
Canada says the United States is obliged to help, given that the U.S. arrest warrant triggered the crisis with Beijing.
U.S. negotiators have rejected Chinese proposals to include the Huawei issue in their current trade deal discussions, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
Canada's U.S. ambassador David MacNaughton, who noted Canada has assisted the current U.S. administration on diplomatic efforts with Venezuela, Latvia and NATO, strongly suggested future requests for aid would not be met so positively unless Washington cooperated more.
''How do you go to canola farmers and relatives of the two (Canadian detainees) and say 'Well, actually, notwithstanding all of this, we're going to try and do whatever we can to help?''' he said.
''It makes it much more difficult in public opinion terms for the prime minister to have permission to do some of the things that would be in both countries' interests.''
MacNaughton, who has cabinet-level status in Trudeau's government, played a key role in negotiating a new North American trade deal last year.
Relations between Trump and Trudeau are formal at best. Officials in Ottawa have not forgotten that the president blew up last year's Group of Seven summit in Canada by describing Trudeau as very dishonest and weak.
''At the political level, this administration doesn't like us very much,'' said a second well-placed source.
Intertwined with the China crisis is a second problem: the tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum that Trump imposed last year on national security grounds.
Meng, who is under house arrest at her Vancouver mansion, next appears in court on May 8 ahead of an extradition hearing, in a process that could take years.
MacNaughton said part of Canada's frustration also stems from a lack of information on U.S. intentions toward Meng. Trump has previously suggested the charges against her could be dropped if that would help the trade talks.
''What we've said is, 'We'd like to have a little better sense of what your plans are in terms of dealing with her. Are you engaged in negotiations over a plea deal?','' he said. ''We're completely in the dark.''
Additional reporting by Chris Prentice and David Brunnstrom inWashington;Editing by Amran Abocar and Lisa Shumaker
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Uber Shares Ride Data to Get Law Enforcement on Its Side - Bloomberg
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A few questions about the F.B.I.'s don't-call-it-spying on the Trump campaign.
May 4, 2019 Image E. Howard Hunt in Washington in June 1974. Credit Credit Bettmann Archive/Getty Images Back in the golden age of presidential conduct, before Donald Trump wrecked every norm and smashed every guardrail, someone '-- either in Lyndon Johnson's White House or in Langley, accounts differ '-- decided to have the C.I.A. spy on Barry Goldwater's presidential campaign.
The agent assigned to lead that illegal operation, in one of history's winks, was E. Howard Hunt, who would later conduct campaign spying in a private capacity for Richard Nixon's re-election. Hunt had subordinates volunteer for the Goldwater campaign and obtain advance copies of speeches and position papers, which were dutifully passed to the Johnson White House, which relied on them to pre-empt and befuddle Goldwater.
Hunt and others would later suggest that Johnson welcomed the intel because he needed a blowout win in 1964 to establish his own legitimacy. This is entirely plausible, but it's also reasonable to connect the spycraft to the larger climate of the '64 election, in which the entire political establishment treated Goldwater as a unique threat to the norms of postwar politics, a dangerous man likely to bring fascism to America or to lead the United States into thermonuclear war. It's a lot easier to justify the abuse of counterintelligence powers when you're convinced that the abnormal nature of a presidential candidacy demands it.
[Listen to ''The Argument'' podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]
Now, 55 years later, we have an abnormal presidential candidate who actually won, and an F.B.I. that definitely ran a secret investigation into his highly-unusual campaign. We can wrangle over whether to use the term ''spying'' to describe sending informants to meet with a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, under false pretenses and subjecting another aide, Carter Page, to wiretapping. But having the law-enforcement arm of the executive branch surveil a presidential nominee from the opposing party is still the kind of case where, in a non-Trump context, anyone suspicious of our security state would smell a rat.
Of course we are not in a non-Trump context, and as someone who shared the establishment's fears about his candidacy, I've long assumed the combination of the Russian hacking and the shadiness of Trump's campaign associates created a reasonable predicate for investigation '-- especially since, unlike with L.B.J., there is no evidence that it was used for partisan advantage during the campaign itself.
But now that the Mueller investigation has concluded that whatever the F.B.I. thought they saw happening was probably not, in fact, the kind of complex conspiracy suggested by Christopher Steele's infamous dossier and other maximally alarmist theories, it's reasonable to ask some more questions about the don't-call-it-spying carried out against the Trump campaign.
Here are two of mine. First: Were any other entrapping approaches made to Trump campaign officials, and by whom? Throughout this controversy, running in parallel to the Steele/MSNBC theory of Trump-Putin conspiracy, there has been another conspiratorial reading of events, which alleges a pattern of outreach to the Trump campaign by intelligence-community and Clintonworld affiliates masquerading as Russian envoys. ''Taken together,'' wrote Lee Smith last summer, ''these efforts could be interpreted not as an investigation but a sting operation intended to dirty a presidential campaign.''
I'm generally as skeptical of this counterconspiracy theory as of the maximalist collusion case. But it would be helpful to know more about some of the ambiguous characters involved. For instance, was Stefan Halper, the Cambridge academic used by the F.B.I. as a confidential informant, doing any outreach to Trumpworld before the F.B.I. investigation formally began, as the counter-conspiracists suggest? And what actually became of Joseph Mifsud, the mysterious Maltese professor whose meetings with Papadopoulos, in which Mifsud claimed to have high-level contacts in Russia, set in motion events leading to the F.B.I. opening its case? The counter-conspiracists suspect Mifsud of being connected to Western intelligence rather than the Kremlin, but nobody can ask him because he has simply disappeared.
Maybe more information on these points would just put the counter-conspiracy to bed. But if so that would be as welcome, and worth having, as Mueller's ''no proof of conspiracy'' conclusion.
Then equally welcome would be an answer to my second major question: Was any of the Steele dossier's bad intel deliberately crafted by the Russians?
Yes, the dossier did not itself touch off the F.B.I. investigation, as Trump and his allies sometimes claim. But it played a role in the wiretapping of Carter Page, it presumably influenced the F.B.I.'s post-election decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into Trump himself, and the sequence that gave us the Comey firing and the Mueller investigation might have played out differently without the circulation of the dossier's more pungent allegations.
If, as seems possible, some of those pungent parts were actually invented in Moscow, then the F.B.I. took unprecedented steps with uncertain constitutional implications while under the influence of bogus information.
You can think the worst of Trump and still find that a troubling conclusion, and one that echoes the lessons of 1964: The fear of abnormality reliably produces abnormality in response.
Another view on the investigation of Donald Trump's campaign
Ross Douthat has been an Opinion columnist for The Times since 2009. He is the author of several books, most recently, ''To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism.''
You can follow him on Twitter: @ DouthatNYT
Does a 'Leaked' British Intelligence Document Prove Trump Wiretapping Claims? - Truth or Fiction?
In April 2019, in the days and weeks following the release of a heavily anticipated (and heavily redacted) Special Counsel's report on interference into the 2016 United States presidential elections, rumors and speculation reinvigorated a March 2017 conspiracy theory that British intelligence spied on the Trump campaign for the Obama administration:
President Trump provoked a rare public dispute with America's closest ally on Friday after his White House aired an explosive and unsubstantiated claim that Britain's spy agency had secretly eavesdropped on him at the behest of President Barack Obama during last year's campaign.
Livid British officials adamantly denied the allegation and secured promises from senior White House officials never to repeat it. But a defiant Mr. Trump refused to back down, making clear that the White House had nothing to retract or apologize for because his spokesman had simply repeated an assertion made by a Fox News commentator. Fox itself later disavowed the report.
That prompted the re-emergence of a document that was presented as proof of those claims:
If you are just glancing at this document and are unfamiliar with the countless fake-document generators that exist all over the internet, you might be taken in. It looks like an official scan of a page that was folded and scuffed several times, it bears a GCHQ logo, and even has a convincing signature.
The letter reads:
Date: 17 November 2016GCHQ References: A / 7238 / 6547 /12
Rt Hon Boris Johnson MPSecretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs
ISA-94: APPLICATION FOR RENEWAL OF WARRANT CSO/142263 TO SURVEIL 725 5TH AVE. NEW YORK, NY, USA, 5TH & 26TH FLOORS
On 28 August 2016, GCHQ/CSO filed for permission to execute Project FULSOME at the request of the US President, seeking intelligence gathering into the Trump Organization and Donald J. Trump for President, Inc., both located at 725 5th Avenue, New York, NY, USA. Activities include foreign and US domestic signals collection, in regards to communications with Russian hostile actors.IOCCO approved FULSOME on 15 September 2016, allowing 90 days of initial SIGINT gathering, with the potential for renewal, should the situation allow. This memo's purpose is to request a 90 day renewal of FULSOME's original charter, with further potential for renewal, thereafter.Since FULSOME's start, a clear collection of actionable leads have accrued, both from the Trump campaign itself, from former MI5 agent Michael Steele, and from others (see fig. 1-7 in attachment).US National Security Adviser Rice has requested that we continue our surveillance, during the transition period, as internal US intelligence is potentially compromised by the incoming Trump administration.For these reasons, we are requesting that FULSOME's charter be renewed for another 90 days.Sincerely,
*This communication is deemed Top Secret STRAP3 and must not be discussed, copied, shared, or distributed,*
There is a glaring initial tell that this document might be a hoax: It's written in American English rather than its British counterpart. To be more specific, the language used in this letter sounds like an American interpretation of British cadence. It also has sentence fragments and misplaced punctuation that would not pass muster as an official document, even an internal one.
The details in this letter also collapse under the tiniest amount of scrutiny. For one thing, its author confuses former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele with Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who produced the document now known as the Steele dossier, which detailed information about and allegations against Donald Trump.
Further, Christopher (not Michael) Steele was a former MI6 agent, not MI5. This is significant not just because it is a basic and glaring error, but because MI5 deals with security issues and threats within Britain, whereas MI6 focuses on foreign rather than domestic concerns.
Finally, the header and signature have been lifted from a real document to give it a sheen of respectability '-- former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan's January 2017 resignation letter (note the seal at the bottom of the page and the comparative sloppiness in the faked document):
The signature on Hannigan's publicly available resignation letter is identical to that on the faked document:
The Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Research Lab was able to pin down the origin of this particular piece of disinformation, which turned out to be '-- as with so many other hoaxes '-- 4chan:
The forgery was not released into an information vacuum. Three months earlier, on March 16, 2017, Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano, a former judge, claimed:
Sources have told me that the British foreign surveillance service, the Government Communications Headquarters, known as GCHQ, most likely provided Obama with transcripts of Trump's calls'...by bypassing all American intelligence services.
The Trump White House took up the claim, which triggered a sharp response from both GCHQ and 10 Downing Street. Napolitano was reportedly suspended from Fox for two weeks for his comments.
The forgery appears aimed at reviving and bolstering Napolitano's story, and thus feeding the ongoing conspiracy theory that the Obama White House abused its power against Trump.
The forgery was exposed almost as soon as it was posted. According to an archive of the 4chan page, it was placed online at 20:54:49 on June 22, 2017. At 21:13:34, less than nineteen minutes later, another anonymous user replied that it was fake.
Despite the immediate debunking, this hoax has swirled around the internet since that initial appearance in June 2017 in attempts to prove or bolster Donald Trump's claim that his presidential predecessor Barack Obama ordered a tap on his phones just before the 2016 election. Trump made that claim via tweet in March 2017, citing no evidence then or ever:
Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my ''wires tapped'' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 4, 2017
The ensuing fallout enveloped the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation despite an immediate and unequivocal denial from the Obama administration:
No Obama administration official interfered in Justice Department investigations or ordered surveillance on any American, much less President Trump, a spokesman for former President Barack Obama said Saturday.
''A cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice,'' Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement.
''As part of that practice, neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any U.S. citizen,'' he added. ''Any suggestion otherwise is simply false.''
Unfortunately for the creators and defenders of the hoax, Trump admitted on April 25, 2019 during a rambling call to Fox News host and presidential adviser Sean Hannity that he had simply made it up to see what would happen '-- and that the international response proved him right:
''I don't know if you remember, a long time ago, very early on I used the word 'wiretap,' and I put in quotes, meaning surveillance, spying you can sort of say whatever you want,'' Trump said, saying it garnered attention ''like you've never seen.''
''Now I understand why, because they thought two years ago when I said that just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe, it blew up because they thought maybe I was wise to them,'' Trump continued. ''Or they were caught. And that's why. If they weren't doing anything wrong it would've just gotten by, nobody would've cared about it.''
''It was pretty insignificant I thought when I said it, and it's pretty amazing,'' he added.
Facebook's Zuckerberg could also face jail time if Trump enforcesCNN's panel of totalitarian wannabes is setting the table for the ban of President Trump's social media presence.
And while CNN hides behind the Facebook is a private company so we can censor free speech regardless of the 1st Amendment excuse. Does that mean Facebook can violate any and all of its users Bill Of Rights?
And what about CNN? Who has systematically targeted the President over a false collusion narrative, targeted Trump supporting teenagers in DC, and openly targeted tax paying Americans by supporting Antifa. A communist leaning organization hell bent on the take down of the United States. Is there anything we can do to stop what is amounting to full blown treason occupying televisions across the United States?
Why, yes there is.
18 U.S. Code §'¯2385. Advocating overthrow of Government reads:
Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; orWhoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; orWhoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof'--Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.If two or more persons conspire to commit any offense named in this section, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.As used in this section, the terms ''organizes'' and ''organize'', with respect to any society, group, or assembly of persons, include the recruiting of new members, the forming of new units, and the regrouping or expansion of existing clubs, classes, and other units of such society, group, or assembly of persons.
William Barr Helped Build America's Surveillance State | American Civil Liberties Union
UPDATE: On Feb. 14, 2019, the Senate confirmed William Barr to be the next attorney general of the United States by a vote of 54-45.
William Barr, President Trump's nominee for attorney general, has a history of getting it wrong. From designing warrantless surveillance programs to justifying the president's power to disregard acts of Congress, Barr has advanced dubious legal theories that have been rejected by the courts, Congress, and the public.
As Barr begins the confirmation process, senators must question Barr on his record regarding the right to privacy and the Fourth Amendment '-- which raises serious concerns about his suitability to be attorney general. Barr has violated or supported violations of Americans constitutional rights, leaving a disastrous legacy of warrantless spying and government abuse.
Barr was the godfather of the NSA's bulk data collection programWhile serving in the George H.W. Bush administration, Barr helped develop what became a ''blueprint'' for the National Security Agency's mass phone surveillance program. In 1992, he and his then-deputy Robert Mueller authorized the Drug Enforcement Administration to begin amassing phone call data in bulk, ordering telephone companies to secretly hand over the records of all phone calls from the U.S. to countries '-- which eventually grew to be well over 100 nations '-- where the government believed drug traffickers were operating.
As USA Today reported when the DEA program came to light, it ''was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime.''
The DEA program ultimately became a model for the NSA's phone records collection program under the Patriot Act of 2001, which the agency used to collect the domestic call records of tens of millions of Americans. The NSA program, exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was found to be illegal by a federal appeals court, and in 2015 Congress voted on a bipartisan basis to partially reform it. Barr, unsurprisingly, was an ardent supporter of the Patriot Act when it was enacted. In fact, he said the law didn't go far enough.
Congress should question Barr about whether he will be a roadblock to still-needed surveillance reforms and whether he believes the government has the power to resurrect or expand warrantless spying programs.
Barr worked to make it easier for Verizon and other companies to hand over massive amounts of sensitive customer data to the governmentIn the George W. Bush era, during which Barr served as executive vice president and general counsel at Verizon, the telecom giant participated in a massive, warrantless surveillance program known as Stellar Wind. Under Barr's watch, Verizon allowed the NSA to intercept the contents of Americans' phone calls and emails and to vacuum up in bulk the metadata associated with Americans' phone calls and internet activities.
This surveillance was prohibited by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which Congress passed to regulate government surveillance practices and prevent abuses. The Justice Department eventually concluded in 2004 that portions of the program were illegal. Exact dates of Verizon's involvement are not known, though documents suggest they participated at least as early as 2007. Other portions proved to be a forerunner of the NSA's Upstream surveillance program, which the government continues to use today to unlawfully search Americans' emails and internet communications without a warrant.
As Verizon's general counsel, Barr later lobbied Congress to give telecom companies retroactive and future immunity from private lawsuits for participating in illegal surveillance programs, which would make sure that companies like Verizon would never be held accountable for helping the government violate Americans' privacy.
Barr himself has held the legal position that Americans do not have a Fourth Amendment-protected privacy interest in data held by third parties '-- a view that the Supreme Court declined to adopt in last year's pro-privacy ruling about cellphone location tracking by police.
Senators should question Barr on whether he still holds the position that individual's do not have a Fourth Amendment-protected interest in information held by third parties. In addition, they should question whether he will support actions that widen the surveillance dragnet, as his history at Verizon suggests that he will have few qualms about conscripting other private companies '-- including tech giants like Facebook and Google '-- into handing over private user information to the government.
Barr has defended the president's power to disregard laws passed by CongressBarr is also an advocate of sweeping executive authority, which would have major implications for oversight. In a 1989 memo, Barr, then serving as assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, raised doubts about the ability of Congress to limit the executive branch's powers, and he has even argued that the FISA law is too restrictive and that the president can disregard its limits under the guise of fighting terrorism.
As long as the president invokes national defense, Barr believes an administration could embark on virtually any endeavor. This philosophy helped lend credence to the radical theory that the executive branch has nearly unlimited counterterrorism powers that Congress cannot regulate, which is shared by the likes of John Yoo, who in the George W. Bush administration worked to justify the Stellar Wind program and torture.
This theory could be used as justification to flout laws passed by Congress addressing everything from foreign policy to immigration to domestic law enforcement.
The future of privacy rightsThe Trump administration, with help from Congress, has already done grave harm to our right to privacy. While Trump has raised concerns about perceived surveillance abuses, albeit often with false and misleading claims, he signed into law the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act, which arguably codified and expanded certain surveillance powers.
Barr's nomination is more evidence that the Trump administration will continue to pursue vast surveillance powers at the expense of our Fourth Amendment rights and will have little respect for Congress' power. Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee must seize their opportunity to question Barr thoroughly and determine whether he will protect Americans from government intrusions and expansive executive power if he's returned to run the Justice Department for a second time.
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Pam Anderson more than just friends with Assange? - WND
THE STAR TREATMENT Actress visits Julian in prison: 'He's an innocent person' Published: 2 hours ago (WASHINGTON POST) '-- Actress and model Pamela Anderson paid a visit to Julian Assange on Tuesday as the WikiLeaks founder was granted his first social call since being incarcerated in April for jumping bail in 2012.
After exiting the maximum-security prison in southeastern London, Anderson talked about Assange's innocence to reporters gathered outside.
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Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert may have helped elect Trump
When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show in 2015, he moved to New Jersey, grew a beard, and may have accidentally helped elect Donald Trump to office.
That's according to a wild new study called ''Did Jon Stewart Elect Donald Trump? Evidence From Television Ratings Data,'' which looked at the effects of political comedy on the 2016 presidential election, specifically The Daily Show.
According to research by Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Thomas J.Wood of Ohio State University, when Stewart left his job at The Daily Show, ratings for the program declined, and as fewer people watched, the researchers found a ''strong positive effect on Jon Stewart's departure and Trump's vote share.''
By their estimate, ''The transition at The Daily Show spurred a 1.1% increase in Trump's county-level vote share.'' The researchers believe the effect was not to due to Stewart's ability to change voters' opinions about subjects, but rather his ability to get out the vote and help people realize how important it is to exercise that right. According to the researchers, Stewart's departure had a noticeable impact on voter mobilization, which they believe ''wielded unique influence over voting behavior.''
As the report notes, the effect of Stewart's departure from the show was ''not large,'' but every vote mattered in the 2016 election, which was decided by less than 100,000 votes in three states.
While late-night comedy may feel like a laugh, it turns out it can have very real and meaningful effects on presidential elections. Perhaps Jon Stewart will come out of retirement before the 2020 presidential election.
Microsoft AI will help make your writing more politically correct
Microsoft will soon preview a version of Word that will use artificial intelligence to make your writing not just grammatically but politically correct.
Microsoft doesn't call it a ''political correctness check,'' but that's essentially what it is. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Actually Microsoft calls it ''Ideas in Word,'' which refers to a series of AI-driven features that help you format your document and write better.
For instance, Word will decode acronyms for you, and tell you how long it'll take to read a given document. It'll also underline words or phrases that sound insensitive, and suggest corrections.
Say you write, ''We need to get some fresh blood in here.'' The AI is likely to underline ''fresh blood'' and suggest ''new employees'' instead.
It might underline places where your writing exhibited gender bias. If you tend to say ''mailman'' or Congressman'' in the generic, it might suggest you use ''mailperson'' or ''Congressperson.'' If you use the term ''gentlemen's agreement,'' it may suggest you use ''unspoken agreement'' instead.
Ideas in Word. [Image: courtesy of Microsoft]If you describe someone as a ''disabled person'' the AI would suggest ''person with a disability.'' Person-first terminology is preferred because it portrays the person as more important than the disability.
The ''inclusiveness'' checks are part of a larger group of ''Refine My Writing'' tools that also include clarity, conciseness, punctuation, and ''sensitive geopolitical terms.'' For that last one, the AI's models look for phrases that may be hard to understand by, or that might be offensive to, someone in another country or culture, Microsoft says.
We're a long way from spell check here, folks.
A new kind of PC for MicrosoftSpelling and grammar checks check the user's words against a fairly agreed-upon set of spellings or usage rules. Correcting words for their ''correctness'' in the cultural or political sense seems like a more subjective and slippery exercise. Actually, Microsoft hasn't completely settled on the full list of correctness checks the AI will run on the text.
For the various new checks, Microsoft assembled a team of linguists and other experts to anticipate the poor word choices people might make, and assemble lists of terms that would work better, Office Intelligence product manager Malavika Rewari tells me. The AI's training data also includes Wikipedia pages, which are constantly being updated and corrected.
The good news is that just as you can ask Word not to give you grammar suggestions, you can go into the settings and tell it not to monitor the correctness or sensitivity of your words.
Personally, I don't think I would turn off the suggestions, at least not at first. I worry about unknowingly or accidentally inserting terms or references in my writing that convey value judgements that I don't really mean. Regardless of how I feel about political incorrectness, it must be better to at least know when I'm writing something that might offend. Whether I use the Microsoft AI's suggestion for improvement is my choice.
Microsoft says it will begin offering a preview of Ideas in Word in June. I'm eager to try it out. Maybe with Word's new AI superpowers, the review will write itself.
The oil route that could be at the center of a U.S. warning of 'unrelenting force' against Iran - GreenwichTime
Published 7:50 am EDT, Monday, May 6, 2019 National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Washington.
National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Washington.
Photo: Evan Vucci, AP National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Washington.
National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, Wednesday, May 1, 2019, in Washington.
Photo: Evan Vucci, AP After what national security adviser John Bolton called "a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings," the U.S. government said Sunday that it was deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) region.
Centcom's operational area includes the Middle East and Central Asia, but Bolton's statement indicated that U.S. attention was primarily focused on one country: Iran.
The move's intended message, Bolton said, was to send a "clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force."
It was not immediately clear what prompted concerns over an Iranian attack.
After withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear treaty, the Trump administration has put significantly more pressure on Iran in recent months by imposing sanctions on Iranian oil exports and by blacklisting Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
While Bolton's strongly worded statement to announce additional measures over the weekend was as unusual as those previous moves, the deployment of additional U.S. resources to the region amid heightening tensions has become a more regular occurrence: The reason is the narrow stretch of water at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the Strait of Hormuz.
Amid threats from abroad, Iran has often been quick to remind the world of its key location along one of the world's main oil tanker routes. It once again threatened to close that key transport route in recent weeks. When Bahrain, a Persian Gulf nation with a sizable U.S. troops presence, threatened that it would not allow Iran to proceed with such a move, an Iranian official responded: "Mind your small size and do not threaten someone bigger than yourself."
The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world's most crucial transport routes for oil. About a third of the world's oil tanker traffic passes through the strait, which is bordered by Iran and Oman. In 2016, 18.5 million barrels of petroleum were shipped through it every day, making it the world's single most important maritime route for many nations' oil supplies.
Theoretically, Iran could attempt to cut off the Strait of Hormuz - which connects the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman - by deploying its naval vessels or laying mines, which could take months to clear. At its narrowest point, the strait's shipping route is only two miles wide. But the U.S. military has extensive footholds in the region, including the headquarters for the Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
If theStrait of Hormuz were inaccessible, the world's supply in shipped daily global oil exports would suddenly drop by about 30 percent, experts predict. Overall oil supplies would drop by about 20 percent, according to numbers compiled before the recent U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil exports took effect.
Some of the oil may be rerouted via pipelines that have been expanded over fears of an Iranian-Western clash, but those are still limited in capacity and more expensive.
As a result, oil prices would immediately spike, as Arab oil suppliers would lose their market access either entirely or to a large extent. Given the global economic repercussions, the United States and other adversaries of Iran would likely take military action. The United States would not be the only nation interested in resolving a dispute as quickly as possible, however, as the vast majority of supplies are delivered to Asian markets, in particular to Japan, India and China.
Iran has made similar threats before, for instance, in 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2018.
Some of those threats were intended to be rhetorical, at least in the short run. Last July, for instance, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani implied that Iran had the power to severely disrupt the oil trade in the Persian Gulf, which would likely have meant an attempt to blockade the Strait of Hormuz. Rouhani later appeared to repeat his veiled threat and was quoted on his official website as saying: "Mr. Trump! We are the people of dignity and guarantor of security of the waterway of the region throughout the history. Don't play with the lion's tail; you will regret it."
Trump eventually responded on Twitter, writing that Iran "WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE," in case it threatened the United States.
But prior incidents have shown how serious both nations take the Strait of Hormuz, and how easily maneuvers could escalate. In 2016, Iranian naval vessels veered close to American warships in the strait, prompting a U.S. warning. "These are incidents that carry a risk of escalation, and we don't desire any kind of escalation," Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook warned Iran at the time.
With more U.S. military assets headed into the region, the likelihood of an escalation has once again inched up.
Duitsland gaat vaccineren tegen mazelen verplichten | De Volkskrant
Als het aan Spahn ligt, worden ouders per 1 maart volgend jaar verplicht hun kinderen in te enten, op straffe van een boete. Cr¨ches krijgen toestemming om niet-gevaccineerde kinderen te weigeren.
Net als in Nederland, rukt in Duitsland het aantal mensen op dat uit geloofsovertuiging of argwaan jegens de overheid zijn kinderen niet inent. Wanneer de vaccinatiegraad onder de 95 procent zakt, neemt de kans op verspreiding van bedreigende kinderziektes toe. In veel regio's van Duitsland wordt de 95 procent niet gehaald. De afgelopen jaren werden meerdere deelstaten getroffen door de uitbraak van een virusziekte. De ziekte mazelen kan dodelijk zijn, in Duitsland overlijdt een op de duizend patinten.
Minister Spahn lichtte zijn wetsvoorstel zondag toe in Bild am Sonntag. Mensen die volgend jaar alsnog hun kinderen weigeren in te enten, riskeren een boete van 2.500 euro. De ziekte mazelen zou volgend jaar uitgeroeid moeten zijn, maar in plaats daarvan neemt het aantal vaccinweigeraars en het aantal uitbraken toe, stelt Spahn. Het is tijd voor de overheid om in te grijpen, vindt hij. Het Duitse parlement stemt naar verwachting eind 2019 over zijn wet. Ook leraren en artsen en ziekenhuispersoneel worden verplicht zich in te enten. Cr¨ches kunnen kinderen dankzij de nieuwe wet gaan weigeren, maar scholen niet omdat de leerplicht zwaarder weegt dan de vaccinatieplicht.
In Nederland is vaccineren tegen kinderziektes niet verplicht. De Noord-Hollandse kinderopvangorganisatie Berend Botje besloot vorige week tot het weigeren van kinderen die niet zijn ingent tegen mazelen, rode hond en bof. De koepel vangt ruim drieduizend kinderen op op vijftig locaties. Aanleiding voor de stap waren de recente uitbraken van mazelen in New York en Londen. De organisatie hoopt te voorkomen dat ouders na een stedentrip in het buitenland een virus meenemen naar de cr¨che. 'De mazelen komen steeds dichterbij, en de overheid laat maar op zich wachten', stelde Berend Botje-directeur Alien Alberts.
Germany's health minister proposes a $2,790 anti-vaxxer charge | Ars Technica
Social responsibility '-- The country's health minister also suggests banning unvaccinated children from daycares. Beth Mole - May 6, 2019 3:20 pm UTC
Enlarge / German Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to fine parents for failing to vaccinate their children.
Germany, like the US, is facing a resurgence of measles. But the country's health minister isn't taking things lightly.
Health minister Jens Spahn is proposing a blanket fine for any parents of unvaccinated children. The fine run up to 2,500 euros ($2,790). He also suggests banning unvaccinated children from all kindergarten and daycare facilities to protect those who are too young to vaccinate and those with medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated.
In an interview published over the weekend, Spahn explained that immunization is a "social responsibility," adding that "measles vaccinations save human suffering. We protect ourselves and others."
Fining anti-vaccine and vaccine-hesitant parents isn't new. Officials in New York levied $1,000 fines on parents of some unvaccinated children amid ongoing measles outbreaks last month. However, the fines only applied to children in specific areas at the epicenter of the outbreak. Spahn's proposal, on the other hand, would see fines handed down regardless of an outbreak'--and the fine is even heftier.
Though Spahn's proposal may hit political opposition, some medical and public health experts are cheering the move. Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of the German Medical Association, called the proposal ''an important step at the right time,'' for instance.
Germany has confirmed double the number of measles cases so far this year compared with the start of last year'--203 in the first 10 weeks of 2019. The World Health Organization reported last month that the global measles case numbers at the start of 2019 were triple what they were in the start of 2018.
As in the US, German health officials blame the resurgence of the disease on misinformation and fear-mongering from anti-vaccine advocates.
Measles case in traveler to King County '' PUBLIC HEALTH INSIDER
Update (5.6.19): Latest locations/times are listed in the table below in bold.
A Canadian resident from British Columbia who traveled to the Seattle area in late April 2019 has been diagnosed with measles. The traveler, a man in his 40s, has since recovered from his illness.
Prior to arriving in King County, he spent time in Japan and New York during the period that he was infected, two places that currently have measles outbreaks. This case has no connection to the recently-ended measles outbreak based in Clark County, Washington state.
While he was infectious with measles, he spent time in the Seattle area at several locations, including popular tourist attractions and Sea-Tac Airport. Anyone who does not have immunity to measles through vaccination or from previously having measles is at risk for infection if they were at a location of measles exposure.
''This case is another reminder that measles isresurgent in many areas of the United States and the world, and that because weall travel, no community is safe from measles introductions,'' said Dr. JeffDuchin, Health Officer for Public Health '' Seattle & King County. ''Measlesvaccine is safe and effective '' all adults and children should be sure they areup to date with the recommended doses of the vaccine to protect themselves andtheir community.''
What to do if you were in a location of potential measles exposure
Most people in our areahave immunity to the measles through vaccination, so the risk to the generalpublic is low. However, anyone who was in the locations of potential exposureto measles around the times listed below should:
Find out if they have been vaccinated for measles or have had measles previously, and Call a health care provider promptly if they develop an illness with fever, or illness with an unexplained rash between April 27 and May 19, 2019. To avoid possibly spreading measles to other patients, do not go to a clinic or hospital without calling first to tell them you want to be evaluated for measles.Locationsof potential exposure to measles in King CountyThe infected individual wasin the following public locations; this list is not complete and will beupdated on the Public Health Insider blog as new locations are confirmed.
These times include the period when the person was at the location and two hours after. Measles virus can remain in the air for up to two hours after someone infectious with measles leaves the area. Anyone who was at the following locations during the times listed could have been exposed to measles (latest locations/times are listed in the table below in bold):
Date Time Location April 21, 2019 8 '' 10 p.m. Sea-Tac International Airport Gate A-5 to main terminal April 24- 28, 2019 Starting 10 p.m.4/24 to noon 4/28 Marriott Courtyard Hotel Pioneer Square (612 2nd Ave, Seattle 98104) April 25, 2019 11 a.m. '' 1 p.m. Storyville Coffee (1001 1st Ave, Seattle 98104) April 25, 2019 5 '' 7 p.m. Kenmore Air Lake Union(950 Westlake Avenue N. Seattle 98109) April 26, 2019 11 a.m. '' 2 p.m. Immediate Clinic Capitol Hill (1512 Broadway, Seattle 98122) April 26, 2019 12 p.m. '' 2 p.m. Monorail (Westlake Station to Seattle Center) April 26, 2019 2:30 '' 6 p.m. Seattle Space Needle (400 Broad St, Seattle 98109) April 27, 2019 10 a.m. '' 12:30 p.m. Slate Coffee Roasters (602 2nd Ave, Seattle 98104) April 27, 2019 11 a.m. '' 4 p.m. MoPOP '' Museum of Pop Culture (325 5th Ave, Seattle 98109) April 27, 2019 2:30 '' 4:30 p.m. Market Fresh (720 Olive Way, Seattle 98101) April 27, 2019 9 '' 11:30 p.m. Tasting Room (1924 Post Alley, Seattle 98101) April 27, 2019 9:30 p.m. '' 2 a.m. The Pink Door (1919 Post Alley, Seattle 98101) April 28, 2019 10 a.m. '' 12:30 p.m. Slate Coffee Roasters (602 2nd Ave, Seattle 98104) April 28, 2019 10:45 a.m. '' 1:30 p.m. Kenmore Air Lake Union, Flight M5 340 About measlesMeaslesis a highly contagious and potentially severe disease that causes fever, rash,cough, and red, watery eyes. It mainly spreads through the air after a personwith measles coughs or sneezes.
Measlessymptoms begin seven to 21 days after exposure. Measles is contagious fromapproximately four days before the rash appears through four days after therash appears. People can spread measles before they have the characteristicmeasles rash.
Measlescomplications can include ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, and rarely,encephalitis (brain inflammation).
Complicationsfrom measles can happen even in healthy people but those at highest riskinclude: infants and children under 5 years, adults over 20 years, pregnantwomen, and people with weakened immune systems from drugs or underlyingdisease.
Formore information about measles and measles vaccination: '¯kingcounty.gov/measles
Originally posted on May 4, 2019.
The Next Plague Is Coming. Is America Ready? - The Atlantic - Pocket
Workers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center's biocontainment unit practicing safe procedure on a mannequin. Photo by Jonno Rattman.
At 6 o'clock in the morning, shortly after the sun spills over the horizon, the city of Kikwit doesn't so much wake up as ignite. Loud music blares from car radios. Shops fly open along the main street. Dust-sprayed jeeps and motorcycles zoom eastward toward the town's bustling markets or westward toward Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital city. The air starts to heat up, its molecules vibrating with absorbed energy. So, too, the city.
By late morning, I am away from the bustle, on a quiet, exposed hilltop some five miles down a pothole-ridden road. As I walk, desiccated shrubs crunch underfoot and butterflies flit past. The only shade is cast by two lines of trees, which mark the edges of a site where more than 200 people are buried, their bodies piled into three mass graves, each about 15 feet wide and 70 feet long. Nearby, a large blue sign says in memory of the victims of the ebola epidemic in may 1995 . The sign is partly obscured by overgrown grass, just as the memory itself has been occluded by time. The ordeal that Kikwit suffered has been crowded out by the continual eruption of deadly diseases elsewhere in the Congo, and around the globe.
Emery Mikolo, a 55-year-old Congolese man with a wide, angular face, walks with me. Mikolo survived his own encounter with Ebola in 1995. As he looks at the resting place of those who didn't, his solemn demeanor cracks a bit. In the Congo, when people die, their bodies are meant to be cleaned by their families. They should be dressed, caressed, kissed, and embraced. These intense rituals of love and community were corrupted by Ebola, which harnessed them to spread through entire families. Eventually, of necessity, they were eliminated entirely. Until Ebola, ''no one had ever taken bodies and thrown them together like sacks of manioc,'' Mikolo tells me.
The Congo'--and the world'--first learned about Ebola in 1976, when a mystery illness emerged in the northern village of Yambuku. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, then the country's only virologist, collected blood samples from some of the first patients and carried them back to Kinshasa in delicate test tubes, which bounced on his lap as he trundled down undulating roads. From those samples, which were shipped to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, scientists identified the virus. It took the name Ebola from a river near Yambuku. And, having been discovered, it largely vanished for almost 20 years.
In 1995, it reemerged in Kikwit, about 500 miles to the southwest. The first victim was 35-year-old Gaspard Menga, who worked in the surrounding forest raising crops and making charcoal. In Kikongo, the predominant local dialect, his surname means ''blood.'' He checked into Kikwit General Hospital in January and died from what doctors took to be shigellosis'--a diarrheal disease caused by bacteria. It was only in May, after the simmering outbreak had flared into something disastrous, after wards had filled with screams and vomit, after graves had filled with bodies, after Muyembe had arrived on the scene and again sent samples abroad for testing, that everyone realized Ebola was back. By the time the epidemic abated, 317 people had been infected and 245 had died. The horrors of Kikwit, documented by foreign journalists, catapulted Ebola into international infamy. Since then, Ebola has returned to the Congo on six more occasions; the most recent outbreak, which began in Bikoro and then spread to Mbandaka, a provincial capital, is still ongoing at the time of this writing.
Unlike airborne viruses such as influenza, Ebola spreads only through contact with infected bodily fluids. Even so, it is capable of incredible devastation, as West Africa learned in 2014, when, in the largest outbreak to date, more than 28,000 people were infected and upwards of 11,000 died. Despite the relative difficulty of transmission, Ebola still shut down health systems, crushed economies, and fomented fear. With each outbreak, it reveals the vulnerabilities in our infrastructure and our psyches that a more contagious pathogen might one day exploit.
These include forgetfulness. In the 23 years since 1995, new generations who have never experienced the horrors of Ebola have been born in Kikwit. Protective equipment to shield doctors and nurses from contaminated blood has vanished, even as the virus has continued to emerge in other corners of the country. The city's population has tripled. New neighborhoods have sprung up. In one of them, I walk through a market, gazing at delectable displays of peppers, eggplants, avocados, and goat meat. Pieces of salted fish sell for 300 Congolese francs'--about the equivalent of an American quarter. Juicy white grubs go for 1,000. And the biggest delicacy of all goes for 13,000'--a roasted monkey, its charred face preserved in a deathly grimace.
The monkey surprises me. Mikolo is surprised to see only one. Usually, he says, these stalls are heaving with monkeys, bats, and other bushmeat, but rains the night before must have stranded any hunters in the eastern forests. As I look around the market, I picture it as an ecological magnet, drawing in all the varied animals that dwell within the forest'--and all the viruses that dwell within them.
The Congo is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It was here that HIV bubbled into a pandemic, eventually detected half a world away, in California. It was here that monkeypox was first documented in people. The country has seen outbreaks of Marburg virus, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, chikungunya virus, yellow fever. These are all zoonotic diseases, which originate in animals and spill over into humans. Wherever people push into wildlife-rich habitats, the potential for such spillover is high. Sub-Saharan Africa's population will more than double during the next three decades, and urban centers will extend farther into wilderness, bringing large groups of immunologically naive people into contact with the pathogens that skulk in animal reservoirs'--Lassa fever from rats, monkeypox from primates and rodents, Ebola from God-knows-what in who-knows-where.
Survivors of the Kikwit Ebola epidemic (from left): Emilienne Luzolo, Shimene Mukungu, and Emery Mikolo in 1995. Mikolo, the first of the three to be infected, later donated his antibody-rich blood to Luzolo and Mukungu. (Emery Mikolo)
On average, in one corner of the world or another, a new infectious disease has emerged every year for the past 30 years: mers , Nipah, Hendra, and many more. Researchers estimate that birds and mammals harbor anywhere from 631,000 to 827,000 unknown viruses that could potentially leap into humans. Valiant efforts are under way to identify them all, and scan for them in places like poultry farms and bushmeat markets, where animals and people are most likely to encounter each other. Still, we likely won't ever be able to predict which will spill over next; even long-known viruses like Zika, which was discovered in 1947, can suddenly develop into unforeseen epidemics.
The Congo, ironically, has a good history of containing its diseases, partly because travel is so challenging. Most of the country is covered by thick forest, crisscrossed by just 1,700 miles of road. Large distances and poor travel infrastructure limited the spread of Ebola outbreaks in years past.
But that is changing. A 340-mile road, flanked by deep valleys, connects Kikwit to Kinshasa. In 1995, that road was so badly maintained that the journey took more than a week. ''You'd have to dig yourself out every couple of minutes,'' Mikolo says. Now the road is beautifully paved for most of its length, and can be traversed in just eight hours. Twelve million people live in Kinshasa'--three times the combined population of the capitals affected by the 2014 West African outbreak. About eight international flights depart daily from the city's airport.
If Ebola hit Kikwit today, ''it would arrive here easily,'' Muyembe tells me in his office at the National Institute for Biomedical Research, in Kinshasa. ''Patients will leave Kikwit to seek better treatment, and Kinshasa will be contaminated immediately. And then from here to Belgium? Or the U.S.?'' He laughs, morbidly.
''What can you do to stop that?,'' I ask.
One hundred years ago, in 1918, a strain of H1N1 flu swept the world. It might have originated in Haskell County, Kansas, or in France or China'--but soon it was everywhere. In two years, it killed as many as 100 million people'--5 percent of the world's population, and far more than the number who died in World War I. It killed not just the very young, old, and sick, but also the strong and fit, bringing them down through their own violent immune responses. It killed so quickly that hospitals ran out of beds, cities ran out of coffins, and coroners could not meet the demand for death certificates. It lowered Americans' life expectancy by more than a decade. ''The flu resculpted human populations more radically than anything since the Black Death,'' Laura Spinney wrote in Pale Rider, her 2017 book about the pandemic. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history'--a potent reminder of the threat posed by disease.
Humanity seems to need such reminders often. In 1948, shortly after the first flu vaccine was created and penicillin became the first mass-produced antibiotic, U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall reportedly claimed that the conquest of infectious disease was imminent. In 1962, after the second polio vaccine was formulated, the Nobel Prize''winning virologist Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet asserted, ''To write about infectious diseases is almost to write of something that has passed into history.''
Hindsight has not been kind to these proclamations. Despite advances in antibiotics and vaccines, and the successful eradication of smallpox, Homo sapiens is still locked in the same epic battle with viruses and other pathogens that we've been fighting since the beginning of our history. When cities first arose, diseases laid them low, a process repeated over and over for millennia. When Europeans colonized the Americas, smallpox followed. When soldiers fought in the first global war, influenza hitched a ride, and found new opportunities in the unprecedented scale of the conflict. Down through the centuries, diseases have always excelled at exploiting flux.
Humanity is now in the midst of its fastest-ever period of change. There were almost 2 billion people alive in 1918; there are now 7.6 billion, and they have migrated rapidly into cities, which since 2008 have been home to more than half of all human beings. In these dense throngs, pathogens can more easily spread and more quickly evolve resistance to drugs. Not coincidentally, the total number of outbreaks per decade has more than tripled since the 1980s.
Globalization compounds the risk: Airplanes now carry almost 10 times as many passengers around the world as they did four decades ago. In the '80s, HIV showed how potent new diseases can be, by launching a slow-moving pandemic that has since claimed about 35 million lives. In 2003, another newly discovered virus, sars , spread decidedly more quickly. A Chinese seafood seller hospitalized in Guangzhou passed it to dozens of doctors and nurses, one of whom traveled to Hong Kong for a wedding. In a single night, he infected at least 16 others, who then carried the virus to Canada, Singapore, and Vietnam. Within six months, sars had reached 29 countries and infected more than 8,000 people. This is a new epoch of disease, when geographic barriers disappear and threats that once would have been local go global.
Last year, with the centennial of the 1918 flu looming, I started looking into whether America is prepared for the next pandemic. I fully expected that the answer would be no. What I found, after talking with dozens of experts, was more complicated'--reassuring in some ways, but even more worrying than I'd imagined in others. Certainly, medicine has advanced considerably during the past century. The United States has nationwide vaccination programs, advanced hospitals, the latest diagnostic tests. In the National Institutes of Health, it has the world's largest biomedical research establishment, and in the CDC, arguably the world's strongest public-health agency. America is as ready to face down new diseases as any country in the world.
Yet even the U.S. is disturbingly vulnerable'--and in some respects is becoming quickly more so. It depends on a just-in-time medical economy, in which stockpiles are limited and even key items are made to order. Most of the intravenous bags used in the country are manufactured in Puerto Rico, so when Hurricane Maria devastated the island last September, the bags fell in short supply. Some hospitals were forced to inject saline with syringes'--and so syringe supplies started running low too. The most common lifesaving drugs all depend on long supply chains that include India and China'--chains that would likely break in a severe pandemic. ''Each year, the system gets leaner and leaner,'' says Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. ''It doesn't take much of a hiccup anymore to challenge it.''
Perhaps most important, the U.S. is prone to the same forgetfulness and shortsightedness that befall all nations, rich and poor'--and the myopia has worsened considerably in recent years. Public-health programs are low on money; hospitals are stretched perilously thin; crucial funding is being slashed. And while we tend to think of science when we think of pandemic response, the worse the situation, the more the defense depends on political leadership.
When Ebola flared in 2014, the science-minded President Barack Obama calmly and quickly took the reins. The White House is now home to a president who is neither calm nor science-minded. We should not underestimate what that may mean if risk becomes reality.
A containment vessel for infected patients. (Jonno Rattman) Bill Gates, whose foundation has studied pandemic risks closely, is not a man given to alarmism. But when I spoke with him upon my return from Kikwit, he described simulations showing that a severe flu pandemic, for instance, could kill more than 33 million people worldwide in just 250 days. That possibility, and the world's continued inability to adequately prepare for it, is one of the few things that shake Gates's trademark optimism and challenge his narrative of global progress. ''This is a rare case of me being the bearer of bad news,'' he told me. ''Boy, do we not have our act together.''
Preparing for a pandemic ultimately boils down to real people and tangible things: A busy doctor who raises an eyebrow when a patient presents with an unfamiliar fever. A nurse who takes a travel history. A hospital wing in which patients can be isolated. A warehouse where protective masks are stockpiled. A factory that churns out vaccines. A line on a budget. A vote in Congress. ''It's like a chain'--one weak link and the whole thing falls apart,'' says Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. ''You need no weak links.''
Among all known pandemic threats, influenza is widely regarded as the most dangerous. Its various strains are constantly changing, sometimes through subtle mutations in their genes, and sometimes through dramatic reshuffles. Even in nonpandemic years, when new viruses aren't sweeping the world, the more familiar strains kill up to 500,000 people around the globe. Their ever-changing nature explains why the flu vaccine needs to be updated annually. It's why a disease that is sometimes little worse than a bad cold can transform into a mass-murdering monster. And it's why flu is the disease the U.S. has invested the most in tracking. An expansive surveillance network constantly scans for new flu viruses, collating alerts raised by doctors and results from lab tests, and channeling it all to the CDC, the spider at the center of a thrumming worldwide web.
Yet just 10 years ago, the virus that the world is most prepared for caught almost everyone off guard. In the early 2000s, the CDC was focused mostly on Asia, where H5N1'--the type of flu deemed most likely to cause the next pandemic'--was running wild among poultry and waterfowl. But while experts fretted about H5N1 in birds in the East, new strains of H1N1 were evolving within pigs in the West. One of those swine strains jumped into humans in Mexico, launching outbreaks there and in the U.S. in early 2009. The surveillance web picked it up only in mid-April of that year, when the CDC tested samples from two California children who had recently fallen ill.
One of the most sophisticated disease-detecting networks in the world had been blindsided by a virus that had sprung up in its backyard, circulated for months, and snuck into the country unnoticed. ''We joked that the influenza virus is listening in on our conference calls,'' says Daniel Jernigan, who directs the CDC's Influenza Division. ''It tends to do whatever we're least expecting.''
The pandemic caused problems for vaccine manufacturers, too. Most flu vaccines are made by growing viruses in chicken eggs'--the same archaic method that's been used for 70 years. Every strain grows differently, so manufacturers must constantly adjust to each new peculiarity. Creating flu vaccines is an artisanal affair, more like cultivating a crop than making a pharmaceutical. The process works reasonably well for seasonal flu, which arrives on a predictable schedule. It fails miserably for pandemic strains, which do not.
In 2009, the vaccine for the new pandemic strain of H1N1 flu arrived slowly. (Then''CDC Director Tom Frieden told the press, ''Even if you yell at the eggs, it won't grow any faster.'') Once the pandemic was officially declared, it took four months before the doses even began to roll out in earnest. By then the disaster was already near its peak. Those doses prevented no more than 500 deaths'--the fewest of any flu season in the surrounding 10-year period. Some 12,500 Americans died.
The egg-based system depends on chickens, which are themselves vulnerable to flu. And since viruses can mutate within the eggs, the resulting vaccines don't always match the strains that are circulating. But vaccine makers have few incentives to use anything else. Switching to a different process would cost billions, and why bother? Flu vaccines are low-margin products, which only about 45 percent of Americans get in a normal year. So when demand soars during a pandemic, the supply is not set to cope.
American hospitals, which often operate unnervingly close to full capacity, likewise struggled with the surge of patients. Pediatric units were hit especially hard by H1N1, and staff became exhausted from continuously caring for sick children. Hospitals almost ran out of the life-support units that sustain people whose lungs and hearts start to fail. The health-care system didn't break, but it came too close for comfort'--especially for what turned out to be a training-wheels pandemic. The 2009 H1N1 strain killed merely 0.03 percent of those it infected; by contrast, the 1918 strain had killed 1 to 3 percent, and the H7N9 strain currently circulating in China has a fatality rate of 40 percent.
''A lot of people said that we dodged a bullet in 2009, but nature just shot us with a BB gun,'' says Richard Hatchett, the CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. Tom Inglesby, a biosecurity expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told me that if a 1918-style pandemic hit, his hospital ''would need in the realm of seven times as many critical-care beds and four times as many ventilators as we have on hand.''
That the U.S. could be so ill-prepared for flu, of all things, should be deeply concerning. The country has a dedicated surveillance web, antiviral drugs, and an infrastructure for making and deploying flu vaccines. None of that exists for the majority of other emerging infectious diseases.
As I walk down a seventh-floor hallway of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Kate Boulter, a nurse manager, points out that the carpet beneath my feet has disappeared, exposing bare floors that are more easily cleaned. In an otherwise unmarked corridor, this, she says, is the first sign that I am approaching the biocontainment unit'--a special facility designed to treat the victims of bioterror attacks, or patients with a deadly infectious disease such as Ebola or sars .
There is nothing obviously special about the 4,100 square feet, but every detail has been carefully designed to give patients maximal access to the best care, and viruses minimal access to anything. A supply room is stocked with scrubs, underwear, and socks, so that no piece of clothing staff members wear at work will make its way home. There are two large autoclaves'--pressure cookers that use steam to sterilize equipment'--so that soiled linens and clothes can be immediately decontaminated. The space is under negative air pressure: When doctors enter the hallway, or any of the five patient rooms, air flows in with them, preventing viruses from drifting out. This also dries the air. Working here, I'm told, is murder on the skin.
Mother and baby mannequins used for practicing treatment (Jonno Rattman) Almost everything in the unit is a barrier of some form. Floor seams are welded. Light and plumbing fixtures are sealed. The ventilation and air-conditioning systems are separate from those for the rest of the hospital, and rigorously filtered. Patients can be wheeled in on a tented gurney with built-in glove ports; it looks like a translucent caterpillar whose legs have been pushed inward. A separate storage room is stocked with full-body suits, tape for sealing the edges of gloves, and space-suit-like hoods with their own air filter. A videoconferencing system allows team members'--and family'--to monitor what happens in the patient rooms without having to suit up themselves. A roll of heavy-duty metallic wrapping paper can be used to seal the body of anyone who dies.
The unit is currently empty, as it has been for most of its existence. The beds are occupied only by four hyperrealistic mannequins, upon which nurses can practice medical procedures while wearing cumbersome protective layers. ''We've named all the mannequins,'' Boulter tells me. Pointing to the largest one: ''That one's Phil, after Dr. Smith.''
Phil Smith began pushing the hospital to build the biocontainment unit in 2003, back when he was a professor of infectious diseases. sars had emerged from nowhere, and monkeypox had broken out in the Midwest; Smith realized the U.S. had no facilities that could handle such diseases, beyond a few high-security research labs. With support from the state health department, he opened the unit in 2005.
And then, nothing happened.
For nine years, the facility was dormant, acting mostly as an overflow ward. ''We didn't know if it would be needed, but we planned and prepared as if it would,'' says Shelly Schwedhelm, the head of the hospital's emergency-preparedness program, who for years kept the unit afloat on a shoestring budget. Her efforts paid off in September 2014, when the State Department called, telling Schwedhelm and her team to prepare for possible Ebola patients. Over 10 weeks, the unit's 40 staff members took care of three infected Americans who had been evacuated from West Africa. They worked around the clock in teams of six, some staffers treating the patients directly, others helping their colleagues put on and take off their gear, and still others supervising from the nurses' station. Two of the patients'--Rick Sacra, a physician, and Ashoka Mukpo, a journalist'--were cured and discharged. The third'--a surgeon named Martin Salia'--was already suffering from organ failure by the time he arrived, and died two days later. A green-marble plaque now hangs in the unit to honor him.
A plaque memorializing Dr. Martin Salia, who died from Ebola at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2014. (Jonno Rattman) The University of Nebraska Medical Center is one of the best in the country at handling dangerous and unusual diseases, Ron Klain, who was in charge of the Obama administration's Ebola response, tells me. Only the NIH and Emory University Hospital have biocontainment units of a similar standard, he says, but both are smaller. Those three hospitals were the only ones ready to take patients when Ebola struck in 2014, but within two months, Klain's team had raised the number to 50 facilities. It was ''a lot of hard work,'' he says. ''But ultimately, we had 144 beds.'' A more contagious and widespread disease would have overwhelmed them all.
Preparing hospitals for new epidemics is challenging in the United States, Klain says, because health care is so decentralized: ''You and I could decide that every hospital should have three beds capable of isolating people with a dangerous disease, and Trump could agree with us, and there's no way of making that happen.'' Hospitals are independent entities; in this fractured environment, preparedness is less the result of governmental mandate and more the product of individual will. It comes from dedicated visionaries like Smith and skilled managers like Schwedhelm, who can keep things going when there's no immediate need.
The trio of Ebola patients in 2014 produced 3,700 pounds of contaminated linens, gloves, and other waste among them, all of which demanded careful handling. Treating them cost more than $1 million. That kind of care quickly reaches its limits as an epidemic spreads. In June 2015, the Samsung Medical Center, in Seoul'--one of the most advanced medical centers in the world'--was forced to suspend most of its services after a single man with mers arrived in its overcrowded emergency room. American hospitals wouldn't fare much better. But at the very least, they can plan for the worst.
Schwedhelm, with a 100-person team, has been creating plans for how every aspect of hospital operation would need to work during a pandemic. How much should hospitals stockpile? How would they provide psychological support during a weeks-long crisis? How could they feed people working longer-than-usual shifts? When would they cancel elective surgeries? Where could they get extra disinfectant, mop heads, and other cleaning supplies?
At a single meeting, I hear two dozen people discuss how they would care for the 400 or so patients on the hospital's organ-transplant list. How would they get such patients into the facility safely? At what point would it become too risky to pump them with immunosuppressants? If ICUs are full, where could they create clean spaces for post-transplant recovery? It matters that the hospital has considered these questions. It matters just as much that the people in charge have met, talked, and established a bond.
The members of the team running the biocontainment unit all work in different parts of the hospital, as pediatricians, critical-care specialists, obstetricians. But even during the unit's long dormancy, Schwedhelm would gather them for quarterly training sessions. That's why, when the moment came, they were ready. When they escorted the Ebola patients off their respective planes, the staff members recalled what they had learned during practice drills.
Shelly Schwedhelm, who directs Nebraska's emergency-preparedness program, and Phil Smith, who opened the hospital's biocontainment unit in 2005. (Jonno Rattman) ''We do a lot of team building,'' Boulter says, showing me a photo of the group at a ropes course.
''It was the scariest thing I've ever done,'' Schwedhelm says. They followed that up with something more sedate'--a movie night in the hospital auditorium. They watched Contagion.
Kikwit General Hospital has no biocontainment unit. Instead, it has Pavilion 3.
Emery Mikolo, who works at the hospital as a nurse supervisor, takes me into the blue-walled, open-windowed building that is now the pediatrics ward. In one room, mosquito nets are suspended hammocklike over 16 closely packed beds, on which mothers care for young children and newborn babies. This is a place of new life. But in 1995, it was the infamous ''death ward,'' where Ebola patients were treated. Exhausted doctors struggled to control the outbreak; outside the hospital, the military established a perimeter to turn back fleeing patients. The dead were laid in a row on the pavement.
We walk into another room, which is largely empty except for a poster of a cartoonish giraffe, a few worn mattresses, and some old bed frames. Mikolo touches one of them. It was his, he says. He looks around quietly and shakes his head. Many of the people who shared this room with him were his colleagues who had become infected while they cared for patients. Ebola's symptoms are sometimes mythologized: Organs don't liquefy; blood seldom pours from orifices. But the reality is no less gruesome. ''It was like a horror movie,'' he says. ''All these people I worked with'--my friends'--throwing up, screaming, dying, falling out of bed.'' At one point, delirious with fever, he too rolled off his mattress. ''There was vomit and piss and shit on the ground, but at least it was cool.''
Many of the people who worked at the hospital during the outbreak are still there. Jacqui, a nurse, worked in Pavilion 3 and returned there only three years ago. She was terrified at first, but she soon habituated. I ask whether she's worried that Ebola might return. ''I'm not afraid,'' she says. ''It's never coming back.''
If it does, is there any protective equipment at the hospital? ''No,'' she tells me.
Mikolo laughs. ''Article 15,'' he says.
Article 15 is something of a Congolese catchphrase, referring to a fictional but universally recognized 15th article of the country's constitution, ''D(C)brouillez-vous'''--''figure it out yourself.'' I hear it everywhere. It is simultaneously a testament to the Congolese love for droll humor, a weary acknowledgment of hardship, a screw-you to the establishment, and a motivational mantra. No one's going to fix your problems. You must make do with what you've got.
In a nearby room, dried blood dots the floor around an old operating table, where a sick lab technician once passed Ebola to five other medical staff members, starting a chain of transmission that eventually enveloped Mikolo and many of his friends. The phlebotomist who drew the blood samples that were used to confirm Ebola also still works at the hospital. I watch as he handles a rack of samples with his bare hands. ''Ask someone here, 'Where are the kits that protect you from Ebola?,'''' Donat Kuma-Kuma Kenge, the hospital's chief coordinator, tells me. ''There aren't any. I know exactly what I'm meant to do, but there are no materials'--here, in the place where there was Ebola.
''D(C)brouillez-vous,'' he adds.
The hospital's challenges are considerable, but as I walk around, I realize that they are familiar. Even though the United States is 500 times as wealthy as the Congo, the laments I heard from people in both countries were uncannily similar'--different in degree, but not in kind. Protective equipment is scarce in the Congo, but even America's stockpiles would quickly be depleted in a serious epidemic. Unfamiliarity with Ebola allowed the virus to spread among the staff of Kikwit's hospital, just as it did among nurses in Dallas, where an infected patient landed in September 2014. In Kikwit, a lack of running water makes hygiene a luxury, but even in the U.S., getting medical professionals to wash their hands or follow other best practices is surprisingly hard; every year, at least 70,000 Americans die after picking up infections in hospitals. And most of all, the people in both countries worry that brief spates of foresight and preparedness will always give way to negligence and entropy.
In the U.S., attention and money have crested and then crashed with each new crisis: anthrax in 2001, sars in 2003. Resources, hurriedly assembled, dwindle. Research into countermeasures fizzles. ''We fund this thing like Minnesota snow,'' Michael Osterholm says. ''There's a lot in January, but in July it's all melted.''
Take the Hospital Preparedness Program. It's a funding plan that was created in the wake of 9/11 to help hospitals ready themselves for disasters, run training drills, and build their surge capacity'--everything that Shelly Schwedhelm's team does so well in Nebraska. It transformed emergency planning from an after-hours avocation into an actual profession, carried out by skilled specialists. But since 2003, its $514 million budget has been halved.
Another fund'--the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program'--was created at the same time to help state and local health departments keep an eye on infectious diseases, improve their labs, and train epidemiologists. Its budget has been pruned to 70 percent of its $940 million peak. Small wonder, then, that in the past decade, local health departments have cut more than 55,000 jobs. That's 55,000 people who won't be there to answer the call when the next epidemic hits.
These sums of money are paltry compared with what another pandemic might cost the country. Diseases are exorbitantly expensive. In response to just 10 cases of Ebola in 2014, the U.S. spent $1.1 billion on domestic preparations, including $119 million on screening and quarantine. A severe 1918-style flu pandemic would drain an estimated $683 billion from American coffers, according to the nonprofit Trust for America's Health. The World Bank estimates that global output would fall by almost 5 percent'--totaling some $4 trillion.
The U.S. is not unfamiliar with the concept of preparedness. It currently spends roughly half a trillion dollars on its military'--the highest defense budget in the world, equal to the combined budgets of the next seven top countries. But against viruses'--more likely to kill millions than any rogue state is'--such consistent investments are nowhere to be found.
A worker sealing her gloves (Jonno Rattman)At a modern building in Holly Springs, on the outskirts of Raleigh, North Carolina, I walk down a wide corridor where the words it really is a matter of life and death have been stenciled on a yellow wall. The walkway leads to a refrigerator-cool warehouse, where several white containers sit on a blue pallet. The containers are full of flu vaccine, and each holds enough to immunize more than 1 million Americans. When their contents are ready to be used, they head toward a long, Rube Goldberg''esque machine that dispenses the vaccine into syringes'--more than 400,000 a day.
Instead of eggs, the facility grows flu viruses in lab-grown dog cells, which fill 5,000-liter steel vats one floor above. The cells are infected with flu viruses, which quickly propagate. The technique is faster than using eggs, and produces vaccines that are a closer match to circulating strains.
This facility is the result of a partnership between the pharmaceutical company Seqirus and a government agency called the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. Established in 2006, barda acts more or less as a venture-capital firm, funding the development of vaccines, drugs, and other epidemic countermeasures that would otherwise be unprofitable. In 2007, it entered into a $1 billion partnership to create the Holly Springs plant, which started making vaccines in 2011. ''No one would have taken the risk of disposing of egg manufacturing unless they could reach the scale we have here,'' says Marie Mazur, Seqirus's vice president of pandemic response.
The facility will soon be able to make 200 million doses of vaccine within the first six months of a new pandemic'--enough to immunize more than one in every three Americans. Six months is still a long time, though, and there are limits to how quick the process can be. To vaccinate people during that window, Seqirus also prepares vaccines against the flu strains that barda deems most likely to cause a pandemic. Those doses are stockpiled, and can be used to immunize health-care workers, government employees, and the military while the Holly Springs plant churns out more.
Yet even this strategy is imperfect. When H7N9 first appeared in China, in 2013, the plant did its job, creating a vaccine that was then stockpiled. Since then, H7N9 has mutated, and the hoarded doses may be ineffective against the current strains. ''We occasionally have to chase a pre-pandemic,'' says Anthony Fauci, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ( niaid ) director. ''We have to do it,'' but the strategy remains wasteful and reactive.
What society really needs, Fauci tells me, is a universal flu vaccine'--one that protects against every variant of the virus and provides long-term protection, just as the vaccines against measles and mumps do. One vaccine to bind them all: It's hard to overstate what a win that would be. No more worrying about strain mismatches or annual injections. ''It would be the epitome of preparedness,'' Fauci says, and he has committed his institute to developing one.
Anthony Fauci, who as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has, until now, helped every president starting with Ronald Reagan manage pandemic risk, says the responses of the presidents varied widely. He has yet to meet with Donald Trump. (Jonno Rattman) Flu viruses are studded with a molecule called hemagglutinin (the H in H1N1 and other such names), which looks like a stumpy Pez dispenser. Vaccines target the head, but that's the part that varies most among strains, and evolves most quickly. Targeting the stem, which is more uniform and stable, might yield better results. The stem, however, is usually ignored by the immune system. To draw attention to it, Fauci's team decapitates the molecule and sticks the stem onto a nanoparticle. The result looks like a flu virus, but encourages the immune system to go after the stable stem instead of the adaptable head. In a preliminary study, his team used this approach to build a vaccine using an H1 virus, which then protected ferrets against a very different H5N1 strain.
This type of work is promising, but flu is such an adaptive adversary that the quest for a universal vaccine might take years, even decades, to fulfill. Progress will be incremental, but each increment will have value in itself. A universal-ish vaccine that, say, protected against all H1N1 strains would have prevented the 2009 pandemic. And reducing flu's menace, even in some of its variants, would free up resources and intellectual capacity for dealing with other deadly diseases for which no vaccines exist at all.
Many of those diseases strike poor countries first and are'--for now'--rare. Creating vaccines for them is painstaking and often unprofitable, and therefore little gets done. Last year, to help change that, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations was created, and now has $630 million pledged by governments and nonprofits. It will focus first on Lassa fever, Nipah, and mers , and its ambition is to yank promising vaccines out of developmental purgatory, push them through trials, and stockpile them by the hundreds of thousands. (One goal is to avoid a repeat of 2014, when Ebola ravaged West Africa while an experimental vaccine that could potentially have stopped it was languishing in a freezer, where it had been for a decade.)
More important, the coalition is looking to fund so-called platform technologies that could create a vaccine against any new virus far more quickly than can be done today: within 16 weeks of its discovery. Most current vaccines work by presenting the immune system with dead, weakened, or fragmented microbes. Every microbe is unique, so every vaccine must be unique, which is one reason they're so time-consuming to create. But by loading key parts of a given microbe onto a standard molecular chassis, scientists could build plug-and-play vaccines that could be swiftly customized.
In the same way that movable type revolutionized printing by allowing people to rapidly set up new pages without carving bespoke woodblocks, such vaccines could greatly accelerate the defense against emerging infections. In 2016, a team of researchers used the concept to create a vaccine against Zika that is now being tested in clinical trials across the Americas. The process took four months'--the shortest development time in vaccinology's 222'year history.
The possibilities of vaccine science'--a universal flu vaccine, plug-and-play platforms'--are exciting. But they are only possibilities. No matter how brilliant and dedicated the people involved, they face a long and uncertain road. Missteps and failures are assured along the way; dogged effort and consistent support are essential to sustain the journey. These latter necessities, unavoidably, bring us to politics'--where they are, predictably, in short supply.
Anthony Fauci's office walls are plastered with certificates, magazine articles, and other mementos from his 34-year career as niaid director, including photos of him with various presidents. In one picture, he stands in the Oval Office with Bill Clinton and Al Gore, pointing to a photo of HIV latching onto a white blood cell. In another, George W. Bush fastens the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck. Fauci has counseled every president from Ronald Reagan through Barack Obama about the problem of epidemics, because each of them has needed that counsel. ''This transcends administrations,'' he tells me.
Reagan and the elder Bush had to face the emergence and proliferation of HIV. Clinton had to deal with the arrival of West Nile virus. Bush the younger had to contend with anthrax and sars . Barack Obama saw a flu pandemic in his third month in office, mers and Ebola at the start of his second term, and Zika at the dusk of his presidency. The responses of the presidents varied, Fauci told me: Clinton went on autopilot; the younger Bush made public health part of his legacy, funding an astonishingly successful anti-HIV program; Obama had the keenest intellectual interest in the subject.
And Donald Trump? ''I haven't had any interaction with him yet,'' Fauci says. ''But in fairness, there hasn't been a situation.''
There surely will be, though. At some point, a new virus will emerge to test Trump's mettle. What happens then? He has no background in science or health, and has surrounded himself with little such expertise. The President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, a group of leading scientists who consult on policy matters, is dormant. The Office of Science and Technology Policy, which has advised presidents on everything from epidemics to nuclear disasters since 1976, is diminished. The head of that office typically acts as the president's chief scientific consigliere, but to date no one has been appointed.
Other parts of Trump's administration that will prove crucial during an epidemic have operated like an Etch A Sketch. During the nine months I spent working on this story, Tom Price resigned as secretary of health and human services after using taxpayer money to fund charter flights (although his replacement, Alex Azar, is arguably better prepared, having dealt with anthrax, flu, and sars during the Bush years). Brenda Fitzgerald stepped down as CDC director after it became known that she had bought stock in tobacco companies; her replacement, Robert Redfield, has a long track record studying HIV, but relatively little public-health experience.
Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer, a veteran malaria fighter, was appointed to the National Security Council, in part to oversee the development of the White House's forthcoming biosecurity strategy. When I met Ziemer at the White House in February, he hadn't spoken with the president, but said pandemic preparedness was a priority for the administration. He left in May.
Organizing a federal response to an emerging pandemic is harder than one might think. The largely successful U.S. response to Ebola in 2014 benefited from the special appointment of an ''Ebola czar'''--Klain'--to help coordinate the many agencies that face unclear responsibilities. In 2016, when Obama asked for $1.9 billion to fight Zika, Congress devolved into partisan squabbling. Republicans wanted to keep the funds away from clinics that worked with Planned Parenthood, and Democrats opposed the restriction. It took more than seven months to appropriate $1.1 billion; by then, the CDC and NIH had been forced to divert funds meant to deal with flu, HIV, and the next Ebola.
Ron Klain was appointed the ''Ebola czar'' by President Obama in 2014 to provide speed and order to a federal response that required many agencies and was marked by unclear lines of responsibility. (Jonno Rattman) How will Trump manage such a situation? Back in 2014, he called Obama a ''psycho'' for not banning flights from Ebola-afflicted countries, even though no direct flights existed, and even though health experts noted that travel restrictions hadn't helped control sars or H1N1. Counterintuitively, flight bans increase the odds that outbreaks will spread by driving fearful patients underground, forcing them to seek alternative and even illegal transport routes. They also discourage health workers from helping to contain foreign outbreaks, for fear that they'll be denied reentry into their home country. Trump clearly felt that such Americans should be denied reentry. ''KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!'' he tweeted, before questioning the evidence that Ebola is not as contagious as is commonly believed.
Trump called Obama ''dumb'' for deploying the military to countries suffering from the Ebola outbreak, and he now commands that same military. His dislike of outsiders and disdain for diplomacy could lead him to spurn the cooperative, outward-facing strategies that work best to contain emergent pandemics.
Perhaps the two most important things a leader can personally provide in the midst of an epidemic are reliable information and a unifying spirit. In the absence of strong countermeasures, severe outbreaks tear communities apart, forcing people to fear their neighbors; the longest-lasting damage can be psychosocial. Trump's tendency to tweet rashly, delegitimize legitimate sources of information, and readily buy into conspiracy theories could be disastrous.
Emery Mikolo greets me warmly, with one outstretched hand. We shake, do a little ankle tap, and say, ''Nous sommes ensemble'''--''we are together.'' This is the greeting of the Kikwit Ebola Survivors' Association, of which Mikolo is a co-founder and the vice president. Fifteen of the 42 members file into the breakfast room of Hotel Kwilu, the men in simple shirts and the women in glorious kaleidoscopic dresses. The youngest are in their mid-30s, the oldest in their late 70s. They speak softly as they reconnect over plates of bread, cheese, and Nutella.
There is still no definitive treatment for Ebola. In 1995, like most of the survivors, Mikolo fought the virus off on his own, over three grueling weeks. After he recovered, he donated his blood'--and the virus-fighting antibodies within it'--to others, saving the lives of Shimene Mukungu and Emilienne Luzolo, who are also here today. Blood spreads Ebola. Sometimes, blood cures it.
The outbreak destroyed entire families. Afterward, some of the survivors found themselves the sole providers for several children. Others were orphans. Worst of all, they became pariahs. ''Here, for we who live in communities, it is solitude that kills us,'' Mikolo says. He rolls up his trouser leg and shows me the scars inflicted by fearful neighbors, who hurled stones at him when he tried to return home. Like others, he discovered that his house and belongings had been burned.
Emery Mikolo in March 2018 in Pavilion 3, which housed Kikwit's Ebola patients in 1995 and is now a pediatrics ward. (Ed Yong) The survivors banded together. ''We had to take care of ourselves,'' Norbert Mabanza, the association's president, tells me. ''Those with a little bit of strength could support those who were weaker. D(C)brouillez-vous.''
I listen to their stories in the company of Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist from UCLA. During her 16 years working in the Congo, Rimoin has shown that monkeypox is on the rise, helped discover a new virus, and worked to create the first truly accurate maps of the country, down to the most-isolated villages. The Congo is a second home for her. When Rimoin's father died shortly before her wedding, Muyembe, the virologist who first encountered Ebola, flew to Los Angeles to walk her down the aisle.
Rimoin emphasized to me the social rupture that disease outbreaks wreak on unprepared communities, and the difficulty of repair. She also said that until the Congo and other developing countries can control the diseases at their doorsteps, it is imperative for richer nations like the United States to help them. That was a truth acknowledged by every expert I spoke with: The best way to prevent pandemics is to contain outbreaks at their source. The U.S. cannot possibly consider itself protected if other nations are not.
America's prior investments in global health preparedness'--the largest of any nation's'--have already made a tangible difference. In 2010, the CDC helped Uganda set up a new surveillance system for viral hemorrhagic fevers like Ebola and Marburg. Health workers there are now trained to recognize these diseases, and have tools for collecting samples safely. Labs have diagnostic equipment. Response teams are ready to go. ''It's been incredible to watch,'' says Inger Damon, who oversaw the CDC's 2014 Ebola response. ''It used to take two weeks to respond to an outbreak. By the time you understood what was going on, you'd have 20 to 30 cases, and eventually hundreds. Now they can respond in two days.'' Sixteen outbreaks have been detected since 2010, but they were typically much smaller and shorter than before. Half of them involved just one case.
And in July 2014, in the midst of the West African Ebola outbreak, those investments very likely prevented a horrific catastrophe that might otherwise still be unfolding today. A Liberian American man brought the virus into Lagos, Nigeria, home to 21 million people and one of Africa's busiest airports. ''If it had gone out of control in Lagos, it would have gone all over Africa for years,'' Tom Frieden, the former CDC director, says. ''We were right on the edge of the abyss.''
But Nigeria responded quickly. For years, it had used investments from the U.S. and other countries to build infrastructure for eradicating polio. It had a command center and a crack team of CDC-trained epidemiologists. When Ebola hit Lagos, the team dropped its polio work. It found every person who'd contracted Ebola, and every person with whom those infected had had contact. In only three months, after just 19 cases and eight deaths, it brought Ebola to heel and stopped it from spreading to any other country.
With patience and money'--not even very much money compared with the vastness of rich-country spending'--this kind of victory could be commonplace. An international partnership called the Global Health Security Agenda has already laid out a road map for nations to plug their vulnerabilities against infectious threats. Back in 2014, the U.S. committed $1 billion to the effort over five years. With it came a clear, if implicit, statement: Pandemic threats should be a global priority. Nous sommes ensemble.
Given that sense of commitment, and with the related funding in hand, the CDC made a large bet: It began helping 49 countries improve their epidemic preparedness, on the assumption that demonstrating success would assure a continued flow of money. But that bet now looks uncertain. Trump's budget for 2019 would cut 67 percent from current annual spending.
If investments start receding, the CDC will have to wind down its activity in several countries, and its field officers will look for other jobs. Their local knowledge will disappear, and the relationships they have built will crumble. Trust is essential for controlling outbreaks; it is hard won, and not easily replaced. ''In an outbreak, there's so little time to learn things, make connections, learn how to not offend people,'' Rimoin tells me. ''We're here in the Congo all the time. People know us.''
Until Rimoin arrived in Kikwit last summer, the Ebola survivors had for decades refused to collaborate with outsiders. ''Others see us as people to study,'' Mikolo tells her. ''But you came to us with friendship and humanity. You haven't abandoned us.'' Indeed, while Rimoin is studying the blood of the survivors, she is also trying to set up a clinic where survivors, half of whom are medically trained, can provide primary care to one another and to their communities. She has used donations and some of her own money to help Mabanza, the association's president, get a master's degree in public health.
Rimoin and I take the same flight out of Kinshasa; she will likely be back in a few months. I think about her ties to the Congo as our plane soars over one of the most biodiverse rain forests in the world, on the first of three legs that will put me back within a stone's throw of the White House in 28 hours. Below my flight path, the sparks of a new Ebola outbreak are flickering, unbeknownst to me or any of the scientists with whom I'd spoken. (It would be discovered in the weeks that followed.)
I think about the survivors of Kikwit, and how our connectedness is both the source of our greatest vulnerability and the potential means of our salvation. I think about whether it is possible to break the old cycle of panic and neglect, to fully transition from D(C)brouillez-vous to Nous sommes ensemble. I think about this amid bouts of restless sleep, as the plane flies westward across the Atlantic, stuck in the shadow of the world, until finally, dawn catches up.
Ed Yong is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers science.
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Measles outbreak: Macquarie University student diagnosed with infectious disease
A law student at Macquarie University has been diagnosed with measles after unknowingly exposing university students and staff to the highly-contagious condition.
The female student in her 20s had been vaccinated, according to NSW Health. She is the 35th case of measles in the state since Christmas and spent time at the North Ryde campus while infectious on Wednesday April 3 and Thursday April 4.
A law student at Macquarie University is the 35th case of measles in NSW since Christmas. Credit: Virginia Star
NSW Health issued a fact sheet to students and faculty members who attended international law, marketing, property law and statistics tutorials and lectures on the Wednesday and Thursday.
Students and staff who were at the food court and library cafe were also potentially exposed.
Students were told to watch for symptoms until April 24. The first symptoms of measles are fever, a runny nose, sore runny eyes and a cough, followed a few days later by a rash that usually starts on the face.
NSW Health director of communicable disease Dr Vicky Sheppeard said: ''We cannot stress enough the need for holidaymakers to be vaccinated before travelling to south-east Asia because the majority of cases we are seeing are being brought home.
''NSW already has record immunisation rates but the community is not fully covered and measles is highly contagious and can stay in the air for up to 30 minutes after an infected person has left a room," Dr Sheppeard said.
Two doses of measles vaccine provides lifelong protection in 99 out of 100 people who are vaccinated.
While the risk of infection is low in fully-vaccinated people, health experts urge anyone who comes into contact with someone who has measles to watch out for symptoms.
While infectious, the student also spent time at a number of locations in Sydney, on public transport and in the Maitland area:
Wednesday April 3F45 Gym Haymarket, 7:15am - 8:45amThursday April 4Caffeine Project, Chippendale, 11am - 11:30amFriday April 5Central Station, Grand Concourse, including intercity platforms, 7am - 7:30amXPT service Central Station to Maitland, departing Central 7:08am, arriving Maitland 10:00amLavenders Riverside Caf(C), Maitland, 11am - 11:30amHunter Valley Grammar School, Ashtonfield, 3:15pm - 4:15pmTrain from Wyong to Central, departing Wyong at 5:12pmSaturday April 6Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb Office, 4:45am - 9:30amCentral Park Shopping Centre, Chippendale 10:30am - 11amMarcellin Park, Lorn, Maitland, 1:45pm - 3:00pmSunday April 7Seraphine Caf(C), Maitland, 9:30am - 11amThe Maitland Hospital Emergency Department, 10:40am and 12pmRutherford Homemakers Centre, 12pm - 1pmThe Maitland Hospital Emergency Department, 1pm - 3:40pmThe local public health unit is working with Maitland Hospital to contact patients who were there at the same time as the woman.
The high number of cases has prompted several parents to seek out the measles vaccination that can be given to nine-month-olds, ahead of the 12-month scheduled measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.
Children who receive a measles vaccination at nine months will still need the 12-month dose.
Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.
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Measles outbreak: Australia on alert after travel warning issued
Nearly 100 people have been diagnosed with measles this year, not far off the total diagnosed for all of 2018.
In just a few months 97 people have become infected in Australia, six off last year's total of 103.
The Department of Health is warning anyone who is not fully vaccinated against measles is at risk of the highly infectious disease when travelling overseas, after cases worldwide have increased ''substantially'' in recent years.
Several countries are currently experiencing ''severe and prolonged'' measles outbreaks, including the US where in New York City a public health emergency was declared.
Earlier this week an entire neighbourhood was ordered to get vaccinated against measles within 48 hours or pay a $1000 fine.
Measles can cause serious, sometimes fatal, complications including pneumonia and swelling of the brain.
In Australia, the majority of measles cases occur when people become infected while travelling.
The National Centre for Immunisation Research (NCIRS) has also warned that those born between 1966 and 1994 are at greater risk of contracting measles.
About a third of cases in Australia so far this year have been in New South Wales.
On Thursday the latest case to be diagnosed was in a man who had been travelling through southeast Asia.
The man, who is in his 20s and who believed he had been vaccinated as a child, brings the
state's total to 36 since last Christmas.
He was unknowingly infectious on April 2 and 3 where he was at a shared accommodation facility and the Bondi Bowling Club.
On April 8 he went to the Bondi Junction Medical and Dental Centre and Coles at Bondi Junction Eastgate between 3pm and 4pm.
People in those locations at the same time are being warned to look out for symptoms up to at least April 26.
His case came after a university student who travelled around a host of places in Sydney became the 35th case earlier this week.
NSW Health warned other students, train passengers and shoppers in Sydney and Maitland to watch out for symptoms too.
The university student in her 20s was unknowingly infectious while at the F45 gym in the inner Sydney suburb of Haymarket last Wednesday between 7.15am and 8.45am.
Her infection period continued until Sunday April 7 when she presented to the Maitland Hospital Emergency Department twice.
NSW Health's communicable diseases director Vicky Sheppeard said people should be alert for symptoms up to at least April 23.
''We cannot stress enough the need for holiday-makers to be vaccinated before travelling to South-East Asia because the majority of cases we are seeing are being brought home,'' Dr Sheppeard said.
''NSW already has record immunisation rates but the community is not fully covered and measles is highly contagious and can stay in the air for up to 30 minutes after an infected person has left a room.
''If you're not sure if you have had two doses of measles vaccine which provides lifelong protection in 99 out of 100 people, it is safe to get another jab, particularly if you're heading overseas.''
Symptoms include fever, sore eyes and a cough followed three or four days later by a red, spotty rash that spreads from the head to the rest of the body.
If infected, people should call ahead to their GP or hospital to ensure they don't expose people in the waiting room.
The local public health unit is working with Maitland Hospital to directly contact patients who were there at the same time as the woman.
NSW Health said none of the locations visited by the woman posed an ongoing risk.
Dr Sheppeard said preventive injections could also be given to highly-susceptible people up to six days after exposure to measles.
People can contact their local public health unit for advice on 1300 066 055.
RELATED: Why we need to start listening to vaccination warnings
Other locations the woman went were:
Wednesday, April 3
Macquarie University (various buildings), Balaclava Rd, Macquarie Park, 11am-6pm
Thursday, April 4
Caffeine Project, Shop RG11, 28 Broadway, Chippendale (Carlton Street side of Central Park Shopping Centre), 11-11.30am
Macquarie University, 1-6pm
Friday, April 5
Central Station, Grand Concourse, including intercity platforms, 7-7.30am
XPT service from Central Station to Maitland, departing Central 7.08am, arriving Maitland 10am
Lavenders Riverside Caf(C), 1/418 High Street, Maitland, 11-11.30am
Hunter Valley Grammar School, 42 Norfolk St, Ashtonfield, 3.15-4.15pm
Train from Wyong to Central, departing Wyong at 5.12pm
Saturday, April 6
Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb Office, 4.45am-9.30am
Central Park Shopping Centre, 28 Broadway, Chippendale 10.30am-11am
Marcellin Park, Lorn, Maitland, 1.45pm and 3pm
Sunday, April, 7
Seraphine Caf(C), 230 High Street Maitland, 9.30-11am
The Maitland Hospital Emergency Department, 10.40am and 12pm
Rutherford Homemakers Centre (including Early Settler, Eureka, Oz Design Furniture, Harvey Norman, Domayne, and Beacon Lighting) 12-1pm
The Maitland Hospital Emergency Department, 1pm-3.40pm.
Tyson Foods sees benefits as swine fever ravages Chinese hog farms - CBS News
Tyson CEO Noel White says African swine fever has taken 5 percent of the global pork supply out of the marketplace.That's 150 million to 200 million hogs in China, the No. 1 producer, alone.He made the comments on a conference call today to discuss the U.S. meat producer's earnings, which beat expectations.Springdale, Ark. - African swine fever -- a deadly disease for pigs but not harmful to people -- may be devastating hog producers in China, but Tyson Foods CEO said on Monday the U.S. food giant sees this plague as a plus for its protein business. China is the world's leading hog producer, but the disease is also striking hog farmers in other countries, including Vietnam and South Africa.
Tyson CEO Noel White noted during an earnings conference call how African swine fever is affecting pork prices and that Tyson expects to benefit as prices climb as pig stocks get culled. Investors took note of Tyson's expectation-beating quarterly results and White's comments about supply, and drove the company's stock price to its 2019 high.
"This is an unusual, perhaps unprecedented time for the protein industry," said White. "In my 39 years in the business, I've never seen an event that has the potential to change global protein production and consumption patterns as African swine fever does."
White added that he sees Tyson as "uniquely positioned" in its beef, pork and chicken businesses "because you don't have an incident like this, where there's some place in the vicinity of 150 million to 200 million hogs that have died in China, that there's not a significant impact."
5 percent of the global totalPut in perspective, White noted that this amounts to "about 10 million metric tons of product that has come out of the marketplace." He said "that's something in the area of 5 percent" of the global total.
That's set to not only push pork prices higher but lead many consumers to switch to beef and chicken. All those impacts would benefit Tyson, according to White.
For its fiscal second quarter, Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson reported net income of $426 million, for earnings per share of $1.17. After adjustments for costs related to mergers and acquisitions and restructuring, earnings were $1.20 per share.
The results beat expectations of $1.12 per share among Wall Street analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research. The meat producer posted revenue of $10.44 billion in the period, also beating Street forecasts of $10.23 billion, according to Zacks. Looking out to its full-year earnings, Tyson sees them in the range of $5.75 to $6.10 per share.
The company's shares have risen 41 percent since January, while the S&P 500 index has risen 18 percent. The stock has climbed 12 percent in the last 12 months and closed on Monday up 2.6 percent, or $1.96, at $77.05.
On the downside, White also noted that things could change if the disease were to spread to the U.S.: "The rate in which it has spread over the course of the last 12 months makes it very plausible that it could come to the United States."
White said Tyson's full-year forecasts don't factor in potential effects from African swine fever because "we do not have clarity on when the impact might occur or what the magnitude could be." He added that pork price increases are so far trailing higher hog costs. That's "leading us to believe any positive ASF impact would occur in late fiscal 2019 into fiscal 2020 and beyond."
--With reporting from The Associated Press.
Tyson Foods chief warns African swine fever could reach US | Financial Times
The head of meatpacking company Tyson Foods has warned the ''threat is real'' that African swine fever could enter the US for the first time, a nightmare scenario for pork exporters.
African swine fever, fatal to pigs but harmless to humans, was discovered in China last August and rapidly moved through the world's largest pig herd.
Deaths from the disease and culling are likely to cut China's inventory by more than 100m animals '-- more than the entire hog inventory in the US.
The looming scarcity in China is expected to reshape international trade in meats, with exporters in Europe, Brazil, Australia and the US, including Tyson, poised to benefit.
''This is an unusual, perhaps unprecedented, time for the protein industry,'' Noel White, Tyson's chief executive, said on a conference call while reporting results on Monday.
''In my 39 years in the business, I've never seen an event that has the potential to change global protein production and consumption patterns as African swine fever does.''
New York-listed Tyson is the largest meat packer in the US, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of cattle and pigs and tens of millions of chickens every week. Shares of Tyson and other meat suppliers such as JBS of Brazil have soared this year as the toll of African swine fever in eastern Asia became known.
For the quarter ended March 30, Tyson reported adjusted earnings of $1.20 per share, down 6 per cent from the same period last year, but 5 cents ahead of consensus estimates.
Management maintained an annual outlook for $43bn in sales and adjusted earnings of $5.75-$6.10 per share, projecting that new demand coming in response to the outbreak of African swine fever would arrive late this fiscal year or in the next one.
Mr White estimated about 150m-200m hogs have died in China because of the disease, reducing global protein supplies by about 5 per cent.
''It's going to benefit all three species: beef, pork and poultry,'' Mr White said of the impact on alternative meat sources. Tyson's shares closed up 2.6 per cent at $77.05, the highest level since January 2018.
However, he spoke in grave terms about the risk that the disease could spread to the 74.3m pigs on US farms, which would immediately shut off American pork exports.
''I think the threat is real. I do think there is a distinct possibility it could come to the United States,'' Mr White said.
The virus has no treatment or vaccine and can survive up to a year in blood, faeces and meat, making it difficult to suppress. North American authorities and farm groups have mobilised to prevent the disease from entering the country with stepped-up inspections at ports of entry and other measures.
US sales of pork to China have faced a 62 per cent tariff since last July, imposed by Beijing in retaliation for US duties. China has banned American chicken since a 2015 avian influenza outbreak in the US. Hopes for greater meat exports have risen this spring as negotiators seemed to edge closer to a trade deal.
Tyson in March received US government approval to export pork to China from two slaughterhouses in the towns of Perry and Storm Lake, Iowa, ''to make sure we're positioned to export pork to Chinese customers again,'' the company said.
The optimism over US meat exports was clouded by US President Donald Trump's new threat to raise tariffs on all Chinese goods to 25 per cent this week.
In response, lean hogs futures, which track a key input for Tyson, fell by the daily limit of 3 cents to 89.75 cents per lb Monday in Chicago.
Texas Cracks Down On 'Wild, Wild West' Of Motorized Scooters
If you've been to any major city recently, you've probably noticed people whirring by on motorized scooters to get from point a to be point b. At first what seemed like a convenient and affordable way to venture across a city has now become hazardous and annoying for pedestrians as more and more scooter rental companies pop up, leaving their riders all the more brazed in their travel on their rental transportation.
The Texas Senate just passed a bill "that would crack down on increasingly popular motorized scooters, including setting speed limits and banning the use of rented scooters on sidewalks."
''We are beginning to see more and more accidents that are occurring on the electrical scooters,'' State Sen. Royce D. West said. ''A lot of sidewalks and roadways were not designed for this particular purpose.''
"It's like the wild, Wild West out there, without rules,'' said Sen. Juan ''Chuy'' Hinojosa, D-McAllen echoed in a similar statement.
Even Texas Republicans believe the scooters need more oversight. ''I personally, here in Austin, almost have been hit three times '-- very close calls '-- by scooters, not because I wasn't paying attention ... but because someone came so unexpectedly, and at such a high rate of speed,'' Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.
The following regulations would be placed into law if the House passes the bill and if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs it into law.
You must be 16 or older to operate a rented motorized scooter. Only one person at a time could operate a scooter. Speeds may not exceed 15 miles per hour for a standing scooter, or 20 mph ''if the person is seated.'' A scooter operator must yield the right of way to pedestrians. A scooter could not be parked in a way that obstructs a sidewalk, path, road or any feature designed to help people with a disability.Rented scooters could not be driven on sidewalks, though privately owned scooters could under an amendment that was added Wednesday by Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills. Scooters could be driven on roads without a bike lane only if the speed limit is 35 mph or lower and the scooter is ridden ''as near as practicable'' to the curb.Violations could be punished by a fine of up to $200.
A Mystery Frequency Disrupted Car Fobs in an Ohio City, and Now Residents Know Why - The New York Times
U.S. | A Mystery Frequency Disrupted Car Fobs in an Ohio City, and Now Residents Know Why Image Virginia Avenue in North Olmsted, Ohio, where residents complained that their car key fobs and garage door openers had stopped working. Credit Credit Dustin Franz for The New York Times It sounded like something from an episode of ''The X-Files'': Starting a few weeks ago, in a suburban neighborhood a few miles from a NASA research center in Ohio, garage door openers and car key fobs mysteriously stopped working.
Garage door repair people, local ham radio enthusiasts and other volunteer investigators descended on the neighborhood with various meters. Everyone agreed that something powerful was interfering with the radio frequency that many fobs rely on, but no one could identify the source.
Officials of North Olmsted, a city just outside Cleveland, began receiving calls about the problems in late April, Donald Glauner, the safety and service director for North Olmsted, said on Saturday.
In the weeks that followed, more than a dozen residents reported intermittent issues getting their car fobs and garage door openers to work. Most lived within a few blocks of one another in North Olmsted though some were from the nearby city of Fairview Park.
Not every car fob failed to work, said Chris Branchick, whose parents live in North Olmsted. He said that whenever he visited his parents in his GMC vehicle, the fob would not unlock the car door; if he went in his fianc(C)e's Nissan, things were fine.
''We thought maybe it was a foreign versus domestic thing,'' he said.
Officials from the cable company and AT&T joined the search for answers, and on Thursday, the Illuminating Company, a local electric utility, dispatched inspectors to investigate.
''They began by shutting off the power in the places where they detected the strongest reading for interfering radio frequencies,'' said Chris Eck, a company spokesman. But even after shutting off power on an entire block, the overpowering frequency persisted.
Image Wanda Walker, right, holding the door as Anna Walker carries her daughter out of their car. For weeks the Walkers said the key fobs for their car would not work at home but would work outside of their neighborhood. Credit Dustin Franz for The New York Times ''It's like trying to talk to someone at a nightclub,'' said Adam Scott Wandt, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, in explaining how a strong frequency can derail a weak frequency.
Dan Dalessandro, a television repairman, was one of several ham radio aficionados who went to investigate. At first, he said, all he picked up were ''little blips'' on a signal detector, but on one block '-- and at one house in particular '-- the signal was extraordinarily powerful.
By Saturday afternoon, City Councilman Chris Glassburn announced that the mystery had been solved: The source of the problem was a homemade battery-operated device designed by a local resident to alert him if someone was upstairs when he was working in his basement. It did so by turning off a light.
''He has a fascination with electronics,'' Mr. Glassburn said, adding that the resident has special needs and would not be identified to protect his privacy.
The inventor and other residents of his home had no idea that the device was wreaking havoc on the neighborhood, he said, until Mr. Glassburn and a volunteer with expertise in radio frequencies knocked on the door.
''The way he designed it, it was persistently putting out a 315 megahertz signal,'' Mr. Glassburn said. That is the frequency many car fobs and garage door openers rely on.
''There was no malicious intent of the device,'' he said in a statement.
The battery on the device was removed and the signal stopped. ''It was a relief,'' Mr. Glassburn said.
More broadly, the case is a reminder of the power of radio frequencies, Professor Wandt said.
''They are not inherently dangerous to a human being,'' he said. ''But they could cause mass chaos in our technologically advanced society in ways we cannot predict.''
Mihir Zaveri contributed reporting.
FTC urged by child advocates to investigate Amazon's Alexa
Amazon met with skepticism from some privacy advocates and members of Congress last year when it introduced its first kid-oriented voice assistant , along with brightly colored models of its Echo Dot speaker designed for children.
Now those advocates say the kids' version of Amazon's Alexa won't forget what children tell it, even after parents try to delete the conversations. For that and other alleged privacy flaws they found while testing the service, they're now asking the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday to investigate whether it violates children's privacy laws.
''These are children talking in their own homes about anything and everything,'' said Josh Golin, who directs the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. ''Why is Amazon keeping these voice recordings?''
A coalition of groups led by Golin's organization and Georgetown University's Institute for Public Representation is filing a formal complaint with the FTC alleging that Amazon is violating the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, by holding onto a child's personal information longer than is reasonably necessary.
Amazon said in a statement that its Echo Dot Kids Edition is compliant with COPPA.
In one example the advocates captured on video, a child asks the device to remember some personal information, including her walnut allergy.
An adult later tries to delete all that information, which includes the voice recordings and written transcripts associated with them. But then, when the child asks what Alexa remembers, it still recalls that she's allergic to walnuts.
''This suggests that Amazon has designed the Echo Dot Kids Edition so that it can never forget what the child has said to it,'' the complaint says.
It also says that about 85% of the more than 2,000 games, quizzes and other Alexa ''skills'' aimed at kids did not have privacy policies posted. Such skills are generally produced by independent software developers or other third parties, not Amazon.
It's unclear whether the FTC will take up the complaint, since its investigations are rarely public. But the agency has been enforcing children's privacy rules more seriously in the past year, said Allison Fitzpatrick, a lawyer who helps companies comply with COPPA requirements and was not involved in the complaint.
That was the case earlier this week, when the agency issued a warning to a Ukrainian firm that its three dating apps appeared to violate COPPA because they were accessible to children, which led Google and Apple to pull them from their app stores. Earlier this year, the FTC imposed a $5.7 million fine on popular video-sharing app TikTok, the largest COPPA-related penalty since the law was enacted two decades ago.
For the FTC to take notice, however, Fitzpatrick said there usually needs to be evidence of ''real, actual harm,'' not just the theoretical harm she said advocacy groups often outline.
But Fitzpatrick said that, on their face, the new allegations against Amazon appear troubling. She said the FTC provides an exemption that enables a business to collect a child's voice recording without parental consent, but that's only for a temporary and specific purpose '-- such as to perform an online search or fulfill a verbal command.
AP Business Writer Joseph Pisani contributed to this report.
War on Guns
More than 1,000 weapons seized in ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood
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SUBSCRIBEMay 8, 2019, 10:47 PM UTC / Updated May 9, 2019, 4:09 AM UTC
By Alex Johnson and Andrew Blankstein
LOS ANGELES '-- A suspect was in custody Wednesday night after federal and local agents seized more than 1,000 weapons at a home in one of the richest neighborhoods in the country, authorities said.
The man, whose identity wasn't made public, was being held on suspicion of unlawful transportation and giving, lending or selling an assault weapon, said Lt. Chris Ramirez, a Los Angeles police spokesman. The man was expected to be booked Thursday morning, he said.
Police and agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives discovered the rifles and pistols while serving a search warrant at the residence in the Holmby Hills area of west Los Angeles.
Authorities investigate an enormous cache of weapons seized at a home in the expensive Holmby Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles on Wednesday. They said there was no threat to the public. KNBCThe weapons were taken from a home near the famous intersection of Beverly and Sunset boulevards in a joint ATF-police investigation. Real estate listings offered homes for sale at an average price of more than $17 million this week in the neighborhood, which is part of Los Angeles' Platinum Triangle.
"We recovered over a thousand weapons of various makes, models and calibers '-- rifles, shotguns, pistols," said Ramirez, who described the array as "basically a stash or pile."
"It's just beyond comprehension that somebody can have so many weapons in a residence like this in a neighborhood like this," Ramirez said.
Many famous performers and artists have made Holmby Hills their home, among them Michael Jackson, Neil Diamond, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper, Walt Disney and the power couple of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.
It's not the first time a veritable armory has been found at a tony home in westside Los Angeles. Four years ago, authorities discovered a private collection of tons of ammunition and a cache of guns at a condominium unit in the Pacific Palisades area.
Authorities valued the private collection at a $500,000 to $1 million.
Mystery of dead man and his 1,200 guns deepens - Los Angeles Times
The body went unnoticed for two weeks in the summer heat, decomposing inside a sport utility vehicle parked in the affluent neighborhood of Pacific Palisades.
Once Los Angeles police were called, they traced the dead man inside the vehicle to a town house down the street. There, investigators found roughly two tons of ammunition and more than 1,200 high-end pistols, shotguns and rifles.
The cache of firearms and ammunition was so large that it took police days to remove several truckloads from the canyon home.
On Tuesday, police were trying to piece together how the dead man ended up inside the abandoned vehicle and determine why he had so many weapons. The coroner's office had yet to formally identify him as of Tuesday, though law enforcement sources said detectives have a good idea of his name.
Several neighbors said the man was known only as "Bob" in the local area and described him as a gun fanatic who claimed to have worked covertly for either the FBI or the CIA. His fianc(C)e had lived in the town home on Palisades Drive for years, they said.
"He'll say crazy things to people like he does night missions swimming to Catalina," said one neighbor, who declined to give her name, saying she was afraid. "He would come '... and tell us he would show us self-defense moves."
An attorney representing the man's fianc(C)e said that he was the one who contacted police last week about the man's death and the weapons at the home.
But that's where the mystery began.
Harland Braun, a veteran criminal defense attorney who has represented celebrities and other high-profile clients, said the story the fianc(C)e told him about what occurred "sounds so bizarre." The dead man, he said, had told his fianc(C)e that he was an undercover operative for the government and was being watched by the unnamed agency he worked for.
"The problem is that the truth may be unbelievable," Braun said. "She'll talk to the LAPD, but will anybody believe it?"
The man's mysterious past is the reason why his fianc(C)e, Catherine Nebron, didn't immediately report his death to authorities, her attorney said. Braun said the dead man, whose name he said he couldn't remember, had been suffering from cancer.
On the Fourth of July, the man, Nebron and two friends were in the parking lot of Bristol Farms on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica when the man began feeling hot and sick, Braun said. They tried to cool him down with ice, but it didn't work and he died, Braun said.
The fianc(C)e wasn't sure what to do with the body, but figured the same unnamed agency watching him would know that he died and would come for him, Braun said. Nebron parked the vehicle on Palisades Drive and left it because she "assumed they were tracking him," the lawyer said.
The woman went on a trip to Oregon, Braun said, and returned to find the vehicle still parked in the same spot. Nebron, he said, is "sort of in a state of shock" over the death of a man she knew for 17 years. She had lived in one room of the house while the weapons were locked in another, the attorney said.
"One of the mysteries of this guy is who he really is," Braun said.
Coroner Deputy Chief Ed Winter said an autopsy was completed Tuesday but a cause of death has yet to be determined. The man's body was badly decomposed, he said, and the man's identity remains a mystery.
Los Angeles Police Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said detectives don't believe the death is the result of foul play. Albanese said the man was suffering from end-stage cancer and did not work for a government security agency, despite the man's claims about his past.
But questions remained about why the man had amassed so many weapons. On Tuesday, police were still performing background checks on the man's firearms.
"We don't think the weapons are illegal. We are taking them for public safety," said Sgt. David Craig of the LAPD's gang and narcotics division. He said investigators removed the weapons to ensure the ammunition and guns wouldn't be stolen from the home.
David Dwyer, president of the Palisades Homeowner Assn. #4, said no signs of hoarding, guns or ammunition were found during 2011 repairs in the town house.
"There were no guns or odd items that'd say we have a collector here," he said.
The man, who introduced himself as Bob Smith, was personable but private and didn't like to be bothered, Dwyer said.
The homeowner group, he said, never had a reason to question whether Bob Smith was his real name because Nebron owned the town house.
"There was no reason to suspect otherwise," Dwyer said.
Bitcoin's Lightning Comes to Apple Smartwatches With New App - CoinDesk
You can now receive bitcoin's experimental lightning payments with a few taps of an Apple smartwatch.
Launched Sunday by Bluewallet, one of the more popular lightning network wallets, their new app for Apple Watches allows users to receive bitcoin over its new, risky (but nonetheless promising) payment technology: lightning. Transactors can use the smartwatch app to generate a QR code '-- a square-shaped barcode '-- that someone else can then scan with their smartphone to send over a payment.
Bluewallet tweeted a sneak peek of the app weeks ago. But as of today, it's officially downloadable from the iTunes store.
Product and UX engineer Nuno Coelho framed the app as an experiment, telling CoinDesk:
''It's a small experiment we're doing to put wallets on the watch. The first releases will be simple, allowing you to receive lightning payments.''
Why might someone want to receive lightning transactions via a smart watch? you might ask. Smart watches aren't as popular as smartphones, but many use them for the convenience of tracking health and viewing phone notifications without actually pulling out the phone.
Bluewallet, to that end, is testing to see if users might like to use them for bitcoin payments as well.
''Sometimes the convenience of just [receiving bitcoin] with two taps from your wrist can be a relevant user experience, specially on the go or if you need to be fast,'' Coehlo said, adding it might be useful if you're buying bitcoin from someone, but ''don't feel comfortable'' taking out your phone, you could just use the watch instead.
But Coehlo stresses that this is an experiment, since lightning technology itself is still very experimental, and they're not sure how many users will actually want to use the app.
''If feedback is good, we'll spend more time on the project,'' he told CoinDesk. ''It's a very early stage industry so we're trying to figure out how to build this stuff properly.''
Bluewallet, helmed by a team of three developers, is also working on other features to expand the wallet. ''We would also like to move from being a third-party service, minimizing trust. That's our most important goal at the moment,'' Coehlo said.
Image via Bluewallet
Craig Wright Ordered To List 'Satoshi's' Bitcoins By Florida Court
A court in Florida has ordered self-proclaimed Satoshi Nakamoto, Craig Wright, to provide a list of owned Bitcoin addresses. The court was having none of Wright's previous assertion, that such a task would be unduly burdensome.
But Isn't Dr Wright The Plaintiff? This is a different court case. In this one, the estate of Dave Kleiman is suing him for allegedly stealing between 500,000 and 1 million bitcoin. Although, as Bitcoinist reported last February when the case was initially filed, supposedly neither party ever owned the disputed bitcoin.
Ironically, this case only really surfaced due to Wright first 'coming out' as Satoshi. The pair supposedly mined the coins in question after Kleiman purportedly helped Wright to develop Bitcoin. After much wriggling from Wright trying to avoid producing a list of his Bitcoin holdings as of Dec 31, 2013, the court has decided he now must.
In addition, he must give details of the 'blind trust' he claims to have moved all his bitcoin holdings to back in 2011. This was another avenue Wright pursued in an attempt to withhold information on the bitcoin in his control. However, the court documents point out that this information could simply be gained from the trustee.
Proof-of-clothes ordered for self proclaimed emperor. #CSW https://t.co/V7wwr8Lv7c
'-- Tuur Demeester (@TuurDemeester) May 4, 2019
Would Something Similar Be Useful In The Other Court Case? Well yes, but not necessarily for Wright. Although, one would imagine he would be keen to provide any information which backs up his claim. After all, one might suggest that suing people for saying that you aren't Satoshi Nakamoto, might require at least some form of proof that you are.
The fact remains that providing such a proof, one acceptable to the Bitcoin community should be incredibly easy'... for Satoshi Nakamoto. But rather than do that, Wright continues to provide as his 'evidence' forged documents that 'prove' he was working on Bitcoin at the time it was created.
There is, of course, the chance that Wright is trolling us. Perhaps, as the genuine Satoshi, he could provide cryptographic proof, but chooses not to. When he has accumulated enough Bitcoin SV at firesale prices, perhaps he will shock us all. But that doesn't particularly sit comfortably with the image of Satoshi as the inventor of Bitcoin.
What would be funnier, would be if Wright agrees to move some bitcoin from the genesis block, knowing full well he can't do it'... then the real Satoshi Nakamoto trolling us all by making it happen anyway.
That's what I'd do if I were Satoshi Nakamoto'... which I'm probably not.
Images via Shutterstock, Bitcoinist archives
War on Cash
Sweden, nation that pioneered living without cash, warns: Hoard your banknotes | Money | The Sunday Times
As Britain edges towards a cashless future, Sweden has urged its citizens to stockpile change in case of power cuts, a cyber-attack or war
May 5 2019, 12:01am, The Sunday Times
Half of Sweden's shops are expected to refuse notes and coins by 2025 and the Stockholm metro is already cashlessMURAT TANER/GETTY IMAGESEveryone in Sweden has been urged to stockpile coins and banknotes in case the country's move towards a cashless society leaves them without money in a cyber-crisis. In a move that will sound alarm bells in the UK, Sweden '-- one of the most advanced nations for digital payments '-- has warned that its people could be unable to buy anything if its computer networks were put out of action.
The Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, an arm of the government, has sent guidance to every home telling residents to squirrel away ''cash in small denominations'' in case of emergencies ranging from power cuts or technology glitches to terrorism, cyber-attacks by a rogue government or war.
In a separate warning last week, the country's central bank'...
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VIDEO - Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s own family calls his anti-vaccine crusade 'dangerous' and 'wrong'
Breaking News EmailsGet breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBEMay 8, 2019, 4:35 PM UTC
By Dareh Gregorian
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s outspoken stance against vaccinations "has helped to spread dangerous misinformation," several of his own family members said in an op-ed published Wednesday.
"We love Bobby. He is one of the great champions of the environment," sister Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, brother Joseph P. Kennedy II and niece Maeve Kennedy McKean wrote in the Politico article. "However, on vaccines he is wrong."
His sister, a former lieutenant governor, his brother, a former congressman, and his niece, executive director of Georgetown University's Global Health Initiatives, said Kennedy is "complicit in sowing distrust of the science behind vaccines," potentially endangering lives.
They said "his and others' work against vaccines is having heartbreaking consequences. The challenge for public health officials right now is that many people are more afraid of the vaccines than the diseases, because they've been lucky enough to have never seen the diseases and their devastating impact. But that's not luck; it's the result of concerted vaccination efforts over many years."
The United States is in the midst of the largest measles outbreak in 25 years. Officials on Monday said 764 cases have been reported so far.
Robert Kennedy Jr. has been outspoken against some vaccinations for years, and last month announced his support of litigation aimed at combating New York City's efforts to force residents to get vaccinated because of a measles outbreak. "We are confident that no American court will allow government bureaucrats to force American citizens to take risky pharmaceutical products against their will,'' Robert Kennedy Jr. said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, on Jan. 10, 2017. Shannon Stapleton / Reuters fileHe also testified in Washington state this year against a bill that would prevent families from claiming a personal or philosophical exemption to opt out out of getting their school-aged kids from getting the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.
His relatives say that science has proven the vaccine is safe '-- and what's dangerous is what Robert Kennedy Jr.'s been doing.
"Those who delay or refuse vaccinations, or encourage others to do so, put themselves and others, especially children, at risk," they wrote.
It's also against family tradition. The trio noted in Politico that Kennedy's uncle, President John F. Kennedy, "signed the Vaccination Assistance Act in 1962 to, in the words of a CDC report, "achieve as quickly as possible the protection of the population, especially of all preschool children ... through intensive immunization activity."
"Bobby is an outlier in the Kennedy family," they wrote.
Dareh Gregorian writes for NBC News.
VIDEO - Maduro's Government Would Lose An Election, Ex-State Department Official Says : NPR
Maduro's Government Would Lose An Election, Ex-State Department Official Says NPR's Steve Inskeep talks to Tom Shannon, retired undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, about Venezuela's future. He says the government is fractured, and those fissures can be exploited.
Maduro's Government Would Lose An Election, Ex-State Department Official Says Download Embed <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/721685169/721685170" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
NPR's Steve Inskeep talks to Tom Shannon, retired undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, about Venezuela's future. He says the government is fractured, and those fissures can be exploited.
VIDEO - Erik Prince, Frontier Resource Group: Investing in battery metals - YouTube
One week after troubled ex-Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned after a criminal probe over her children's book series, the entire Baltimore City computer network system was shut down after a ransomware attack, The Baltimore Sun reports. Across the city, multiple intergovernmental agencies sent employees home Tuesday after email servers and communications platforms went dark. And according to a press meeting on Wednesday morning, the city's communication system remains down.
Lester Davis, a spokesman for Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, said the 911 emergency system was not affected but provided details about how the ransomware paralyzed important communication servers.
City officials had isolated the ransomware to computers associated with severs tied to the city's communication network, Davis said by late Tuesday afternoon, but how the infection penetrated the city's firewalls and the scale of the problem still remains unknown, he said. Davis also had no timeline about when the affected systems would be back online.
Dave Fitz, a spokesman for the FBI Baltimore Field Office, told The Baltimore Sun that special agents from its cyber squad were on site investigating the serious incident.
Don Norris, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said the ransomware attack underlines how municipal governments struggle to protect their networks from hackers.
"You've got increasingly sophisticated and very persistent bad guys out there looking for any vulnerability they can find and local governments, including Baltimore, who either don't have the money or don't spend it to properly protect their assets," said Norris.
Ransomware is a type of malware designed to block operators from using computer systems or specific data until a ransom is paid.
The Baltimore Sun said the ransomware was identified as RobbinHood. The hackers demanded cryptocurrency as the preferred payment to unlock the files.
Davis said the malware attack in Baltimore City was similar to one that disabled computer systems in Greenville, North Carolina, last month. City Councilman Ryan Dorsey said City Hall employees were instructed on Tuesday afternoon to disconnect all devices from the network.
"Everybody has been instructed to unplug the Ethernet cable and turn off power to their computers, printers and such," Dorsey said. "It's apparently spreading computer to computer."
Hackers wrote in a note that 3 Bitcoins (equivalent to about $17,667 at current prices) will unlock each system, or approximately 13 Bitcoins (worth $76,557) to unlock the city's entire communication system. Apparently that amount is too much for Baltimore to afford.
The note also told city officials that if they contacted law enforcement that all communication would be cut off. It also emphasized that anti-virus software would damage the computers. The ransomware's procedures are completely automated.
''We won't talk more, all we know is MONEY!'' the note said. ''Hurry up! Tik Tak, Tik Tak, Tik Tak!''
The email outage has also taken down phone lines to Customer Support and Services, so for now we're unable to take calls to discuss water billing issues. Sorry for the inconvenience.
'-- BaltimoreDPW (@BaltimoreDPW) May 7, 2019Due to current network issues throughout the City, the Director of Public Works has suspended late water bill fees for City and County customers.
'-- BaltimoreDPW (@BaltimoreDPW) May 7, 2019Due to Network/email outage BCDOT's following services have been impacted:1. The impound lots at Pulaski Facility (Main) and Fallsway Facility2. The Right-of-Way Services DivisionWe apologize for the inconvenience.
'-- Baltimore City DOT (@BmoreCityDOT) May 7, 2019#BCRPALERT: BCRP is experiencing network and email outages. We apologize for the delay in all communications and are working to solve the problem. Please know our online payment, permit, program registration and service requests are currently effected. pic.twitter.com/vzXYnEqi7M
'-- Baltimore Rec & Parks (@RecNParks) May 7, 2019
VIDEO - IEC explains the absence of scanners during special votes - SABC News - Breaking news, special reports, world, business, sport coverage of all South African current events. Africa's news leader.
The ID scanning device, also called the zip-zip machine is used to confirm the registration status of a voter.
IEC national spokesperson Kate Baphela says it is not compulsory to use scanners during special votes.
This came up after some people noticed the absence of the barcode scanners usually used to check if a registered voter appears on the voters roll.
Baphela says during special votes they prefer doing a manual check of the voters roll. ''Your special voting is voting of very few South Africans, so therefore we don't necessarily need a scanner.''
She says that there were also no scanners at her local voting station.
The use of scanners on voting day
''Because of the low number of voters during special votes, we do not use the machine.''
She did stress that during voting day on Wednesday 8 May, they will have scanners available. ''In today's national election, all the voting stations will be having their scanners.''
In case of the scanners failing, as they have done in the past, Baphela says a backup machine will be available for use.
''In the event that there is a problem with the scanners, officials around the voting stations will make sure that if there is a problem with the scanner, they will bring a backup that is available within seconds.''
For the full interview, see video below:
VIDEO - WATCH: Cope MP details how to cheat voting system | eNCA
JOHANNESBURG - Political parties have raised concerns about voters' ability to hop from voting station to voting station on election day, and cast their vote several times.
Cope MP Deirdre Carter said it was possible to cheat the system.
READ: EFF disappointed in IEC after claims of double voting
She visited several polling stations in the Western Cape yesterday to test the system.
" Five, Six hours after voting, I went to the kitchen, grabbed the domestos '... and it (the mark on her finger) was gone. I went to the voting station where I voted, went to the presiding officer, said 'do you mind, can you scan my ID because I want to see if it is going to come through. Scanned it, no problem '' it's (her ID number) there."
Carter said she was given a slip and shown through to a room where she would be allowed to vote a second time.
"The second one (presiding officer) said yes, people can actually go to other voting stations and go and vote more than once."
Carter went to five polling stations and in each case, she would have been able to vote several times.
The IEC said it was investigating at least two instances of double voting.
"The Electoral Commission would like to assure voters and all stakeholders of the overall integrity of the electoral process," said the Commissioner, Mosotho Moepya.
"Fortunately the election process contains a number of checks and safeguards which together serve to protect the integrity of the process."
Late Night host Seth Meyers and The View host Meghan McCain got into a very tense conversation about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), with McCain at one point snapping at Meyers ''Are you her publicist?''
On Tuesday night's episode of Late Night with Seth Meyers, the host seemed determined to extract some sort of a walkback from McCain over her recent comments about Rep. Omar in the wake of the Poway synagogue shooting in California.
Over the course of three tense minutes, Meyers asked McCain if she should be as careful about the way she talks about Omar '-- whom he pointed out has received death threats '-- as McCain would like Omar to be in speaking about Israel. HE also repeatedly pointed out that Omar had apologized for her remarks well before the synagogue shooting.
''I stand by every single thing I've said, and if that makes me unpopular in this room, or in front of you, so be it,'' Ms. McCain told Meyers.
''See, that's a weird thing that you would take the position of trying to be unpopular, here I am trying to, you know, find the common ground on this,'' Meyers said.
''Were you bothered by her language about 9/11?'' McCain asked, in reference to a speech that Rep. Omar delivered in March.
Meyers said that he ''thought it was taken out of context,'' and when McCain asked if he'd extend the same benefit of the doubt to Trump, he replied ''I would say that Donald Trump is certainly in no position to criticize her language on 9/11, based on the things that he said about 9/11, right?''
Trump has made many insensitive remarks about 9/11, including on 9/11/2001.
Things didn't get any less tense as the conversation continued, and when McCain brought up Omar's controversial tweets again, Meyers scolded her, saying ''You do keep bringing up the two tweets that she's apologized for, and I think that's a little unfair to her, especially because we've established'...''
''Are you her publicist?'' McCain interrupted.
''What?'' Meyers asked.
''Are you her press person?'' McCain said.
''No,'' Meyers said, ''I'm just someone who cares about the fact that there's someone out there who is in a minority, who has had death threats against her, and I think that we should all use the same language that you're asking her to be careful about her language, and i would ask everybody else to be careful about theirs.''
''What would make you happy coming out of my mouth right now? I'm genuinely curious,'' McCain asked, to which Meyers replied that he was perfectly happy with what was coming out of her mouth, and ''I like that we spent this time together.''
Watch the clip above, via NBC.
Have a tip we should know? email@example.com
VIDEO - Mike on Twitter: "Dear NY Times, The Main Stream Media, and Liberals, There is a "scoop" in the NY Times, which showed Trump lost billions of dollars during the 80's and 90's. This isn't a scoop. Trump actually said it, during the intro to his TV
Georgia Gov. Kemp has signed into law the state's "fetal heartbeat bill," a piece of legislation that would prohibit abortion after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo . That is something that usually happens between five and six weeks into a women's pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.
Abortion rights advocates have called the bill an effective ban on abortion in the state.
"Georgia is a state that values life," Kemp said at the bill signing on Tuesday morning. "We protect the innocent, we champion the vulnerable, we stand up and speak for those that are unable to speak for themselves."
State Rep. Ed Setzler also spoke at the bill signing on Tuesday and called the legislation a "common sense issue," saying that a preschooler would call a six-week-old embryo a baby. He also said the legislation "tries to strike a balance" between "the interest of women who find themselves in difficult circumstances" and what he called "the right thing."
The bill appears to be a violation of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects a woman's right to an abortion up until when the fetus is viable, which typically happens between 24 and 25 weeks. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have promised to challenge the legislation long before it goes into effect in January 2020.
Georgia governor signs controversial heartbeat abortion bill into law"This law is bafflingly unconstitutional," said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in an email to CBS News on Tuesday morning. "Bans like this have always been blocked by courts. We will be suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate."
At the bill signing, Kemp recognized that the bill will likely be "challenged in the court of law" but said Georgia will "always continue to fight for life."
So-called "heartbeat bills" like Georgia's have become a popular tool among states looking to reduce abortion access. At least 15 states have introduced similar legislation this year and the governors of Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have signed theirs into law. None of those laws have been successfully enacted, according to the reproductive health research organization the Guttmacher Institute.
Emboldened by the addition of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, states have introduced and passed more anti-abortion access legislation than ever before, said Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues manager at Guttmacher.
"The surge in attempts to ban abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy underscores that the end goal of anti-abortion politicians and activists is to ban all abortion '-- at any point during pregnancy and for any reason," Nash said in an email to CBS News Monday.
This year alone, state lawmakers have introduced more than 250 bills restricting abortion access, according to a study conducted by Planned Parenthood and Guttmacher last month. And six-week abortion bans, like Georgia's, are up by 62 percent, according to the study.
Many of those restrictions have been blocked by federal judges, the first step in a long legal battle to get the legislation in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, said Nash. States can then appeal the decision, and if they're denied again they can submit another appeal to the Supreme Court, which can choose whether or not they want to take the case, according to Nash. For conservative lawmakers interested in overturning or eroding abortion access, this appellate path is the only way to substantively chip away at Roe v. Wade, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution.
Georgia's bill has been the target of intense scrutiny by Hollywood. A petition started by Alyssa Milano last month, who at the time was in Atlanta shooting for the Netflix show "Insatiable," was signed by more than 100 celebrities, including Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin and Judd Apatow. Milano wrote that if the bill passed, "we cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia."
The letter also noted that if members were to boycott filming in Georgia, "the cost would be most deeply felt by the residents of Georgia '-- including those who directly work in the film and television industry, and those who benefit from the many millions of dollars it pours into the local economy."
At an event in March, Kemp said the entertainment industry employs 200,000 Georgians and generated more than $60 billion of economic activity for the state.
Prior to Tuesday's legislation, Georgia politicians have already passed a host of anti-abortion access laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Women in Georgia are required to wait 24 hours between requesting and obtaining an abortion in the state and minors are required to notify their parents.
VIDEO - CNN Contributor: 'When woman is pregnant, that's not human being inside her' '' NewsWars
After her recent move to Washington D.C., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has allegedly discovered what a garbage disposal is, describing it as ''terrifying'' in a series of photos and videos she shared to her Instagram account.''This DC apartment is bougie and has things I've never seen before. Like what is a garbage disposal really for,'' Ocasio-Cortez asked in the video caption. ''Is it better or worse to than throwing something in the garbage? Most importantly why is it so loud and yelling at me?''
''OK everyone I need your help because I just moved into this apartment a few months ago and I just flipped a switch and it made that noise and it scared the daylights out of me,'' the 29-year-old freshman congresswoman said in the video.
AOC saying she's never seen a garbage disposal and then proceeding to ask if it's environmentally sound made me lose brain cells
'-- Ashley StClair ðºð¸ (@stclairashley) May 7, 2019
''I am told this is a garbage disposal,'' Ocasio-Cortez explained '' either publicly revealing her ignorance or engaging in supreme trolling. ''I've never seen a garbage disposal. I never had one in any place I've ever lived. It is terrifying. I don't know what to use it for, or what its purpose is.
At one point, Ocasio-Cortez asked, ''Is this environmentally sound?''
Ocasio-Cortez later noted: ''Is this what social mobility is? Using kitchen appliances you never saw growing up?''
As she ended the message of curiosity, Ocasio-Cortez said, ''All you people telling me to reach in and grab whatever's there are just Republicans trying to test my health insurance.''
''I'm onto you,'' she added.
Follow Kyle on Twitter @RealKyleMorris and Facebook.
VIDEO - 'I'd Call That Spying': CIA's Ex-Counterintel Chief Says FBI Conducted Espionage On Trump Campaign | Zero Hedge
The FBI's use of "confidential human informants" to obtain information from Trump campaign officials under false pretenses was straight up spying, according to the CIA's former head of counterintelligence, James Olson, a 30-year agency veteran who served under six presidents, and who once conducted an undercover overseas mission with his wife.
"It does sounds like spying," said Olson in response to a question from the Hill.Tv's Saagar Enjeti. "spying can take many different forms and the art of spying has evolved."
NEW: Former head of CIA counter-intelligence James Olson tells me of the FBI sending an investigator to interview @GeorgePapa19 under false pretenses in London in 2016: "Yeah I'd call that spying" https://t.co/KDb64M4ODx pic.twitter.com/6ENJ8K6Ix7
'-- Saagar Enjeti (@esaagar) May 6, 2019Olson spoke with Enjeti following a bombshell admission in the New York Times confirming that the FBI sent a government investigator to London in September 2016 to meet with Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos while posing as "Azra Turk" - assistant to another FBI spy, the well-paid Stefan Halper (who once oversaw a CIA operation to spy on Jimmy Carter on behalf of the Reagan campaign, under the direction of then-Vice-Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush).
Of note, Papadopoulos contends that "Azra Turk" is CIA, not FBI.
I agree with everything in this superb article except ''Azra Turk'' clearly was not FBI. She was CIA and affiliated with Turkish intel. She could hardly speak English and was tasked to meet me about my work in the energy sector offshore Israel/Cyprus which Turkey was competing with https://t.co/wbyBnvb6io
'-- George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) May 2, 2019Meanwhile, Trump called the Times piece "bigger than WATERGATE, but the reverse!"
Finally, Mainstream Media is getting involved - too ''hot'' to avoid. Pulitzer Prize anyone? The New York Times, on front page (finally), ''Details effort to spy on Trump Campaign.'' @foxandfriends This is bigger than WATERGATE, but the reverse!
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 3, 2019When asked about "Azra Turk," Olson said "I think that person did misrepresent the purpose and was looking for information," adding "Yeah, I'd call that spying."
Attorney General William Barr set off a firestorm of debate last month during congressional testimony after he referred to the FBI's activities against the 2016 Trump campaign as "spying," a phrase he later defended during testimony last week - saying "I'm not going to abjure the use of the word 'spying," adding "I think spying is a good English word that, in fact, doesn't have synonyms because it is the broadest word incorporating really all forms of covert intelligence collection."
"So I'm not going to back off the word 'spying.'"
Of Olson's time in the CIA, he told NBCDFW in 2017: "My career would really, I think, boil down to chasing Russians wherever there were Russians," Olson said. "They were our number-one Cold War adversary, and my job was to monitor their activities, but above all, to recruit them as spies for us and then to handle them as spies for us, which I did on the streets of Moscow among other places."
VIDEO - Pierre Poilievre on Twitter: "No small potatoes.'... "
Media caption Protests have erupted across Istanbul over the decision to re-run the electionIstanbul's mayoral election was affected by "organised crime and serious corruption", Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says.
Mr Erdogan was defending the decision to re-run the 31 March vote, which returned a slim win for the opposition.
Opposition candidate Ekrem Imamoglu, who has been stripped of his duties, described the move as "treacherous".
The European Parliament also said the decision would end the credibility of democratic elections in Turkey.
The decision to hold a new vote, which will be held on 23 June, sparked protests across the city on Monday. Hundreds of people gathered in several districts, banging pots and pans and shouting anti-government slogans.
The opposition sees the move by the electoral authorities as bowing to Mr Erdogan's pressure, says the BBC's correspondent Mark Lowen.
Istanbul's Governor Ali Yerlikaya has been assigned as the acting mayor of the city until the new vote.
What did the president say?Speaking at a parliamentary meeting of his AK Party, Mr Erdogan said that re-doing the vote was the "best step" for the country.
"We see this decision as the best step that will strengthen our will to solve problems within the framework of democracy and law," he said.
He insisted there was "illegality" in the vote and said a re-run would represent "an important step to strengthen our democracy".
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption President Erdogan said the re-run was the "best step" for Turkey The president, who first came to power in 2003, also said "thieves" had stolen the "national will" at the ballot box, adding that if they were not held to account "our people will demand an explanation from us".
Why is the vote being re-held?An AKP representative on the electoral board, Recep Ozel, said the re-run was called because some electoral officials were not civil servants and some result papers had not been signed.
But CHP deputy chair Onursal Adiguzel said the re-run showed it was "illegal to win against the AK Party".
Mr Adiguzel tweeted that the decision was "plain dictatorship".
"This system that overrules the will of the people and disregards the law is neither democratic, nor legitimate," he wrote.
And in a speech broadcast on social media, CHP's Ekrem Imamoglu, who was confirmed as Istanbul's mayor before being stripped of the title, condemned the electoral board and said they were influenced by the ruling party.
"We will never compromise on our principles," he told the crowd. "This country is filled with 82 million patriots who will fight... until the last moment for democracy."
A supporters' group for Mr Imamoglu urged restraint, saying: "Let's stand together, let's be calm... We will win, we will win again."
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Ekrem Imamoglu was confirmed as the mayor of Istanbul in April What has the international reaction been?The European Union called for Turkey's election body to explain its reasons for the re-run "without delay".
"Ensuring a free, fair and transparent election process is essential to any democracy and is at the heart of the European Union's relations with Turkey," the EU's diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement.
Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision was "not transparent, and incomprehensible to us".
The French government also said the Turkish authorities needed to show "respect for democratic principles, pluralism, fairness [and] transparency" in the new poll.
What is the background?Municipal elections took place across Turkey on 31 March and were seen as a referendum on Mr Erdogan's leadership amid a sharp economic downturn.
Although an AKP Party-led alliance won 51% of the vote nationwide, the secularist CHP claimed victory in the capital Ankara, Izmir, and in Istanbul - where Mr Erdogan had once been mayor.
In Istanbul, more than 8 million votes were cast and Mr Imamoglu was eventually declared the winner by a margin of less than 14,000.
The ruling party has since challenged the results in Ankara and Istanbul, which has prompted opposition accusations that they are trying to steal the election.
Erdogan determined to retake Istanbul President Erdogan was in typically conspiratorial form, slamming what he called "the dark circles, economic saboteurs and so-called elitists" who were attacking Turkey and collaborating to "rob the nation of its will".
He was never going to take the loss of Istanbul lying down. "Whoever wins Istanbul wins Turkey", he has often said. He is determined to win back the country's economic powerhouse.
But it's a strategy fraught with risk. The Turkish lira - which has lost more than 30% over the past year - has slumped again. An economy in recession can hardly cope with more uncertainty. After all, it was economic woes that lost Istanbul for Mr Erdogan in the first place.
What's more, Ekrem Imamoglu, who was formally appointed mayor last month, is gaining popularity, fast. He's reached out beyond his base and has settled into the role with ease. The re-run could widen his win - barring major irregularities against him, which many of his supporters fear.
And Mr Erdogan's own party is deeply split on the issue. His diehard loyalists believe victory was stolen. But other wings of the party accept they lost, and that rejecting the result is another nail in the coffin for what's left of Turkish democracy.
VIDEO - Powerpoint!--Andrew Yang's Seattle Rally, 5/2019 - YouTube
''China's words and actions raise doubts about its intentions,'' Pompeo said to a packed audience mostly made up of Arctic Council delegates at Rovaniemi's Lappi Areena.
''Beijing claims to be a near-Arctic state,'' Pompeo said refrencing China's 2018 white paper on the Arctic. ''Yet the shortest distance between China and the Arctic is 900 miles. There are Arctic states, and non-Arctic states. No third category exists. China claiming otherwise entitles them to exactly nothing.''
China has been an Arctic Council observer country since 2013 . But its Arctic ambitions garnered worldwide attention last year with its policy document that laid out the country's plans for massive investments and infrastructure projects in the North, establishing a so-called 'Polar Silk Road.'
Pompeo said the U.S. welcomes Chinese investment in the Arctic but that the U.S. needed to ''examine these activities closely,'' citing a U.S. Defense Department report on May 2 that said civilian research could support a strengthened Chinese military presence in the Arctic Ocean, which could include deploying submarines to the region as a deterrent against nuclear attack.''
Arctic Council members Russia, Canada also singled out Pompeo, along with the foreign ministers of the seven other Arctic nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Russia; are gathered in Rovaniemi this week for the eleventh Arctic Council ministerial meeting.
The intergovernmental forum is made up of the eight northern nations and six Arctic Indigenous groups, and its mandate is to discuss sustainable development and environmental protection in the North.The countries meet biennially to transfer the rotating chairmanship and sign a declaration that establishes their priorities for the next two years. On Tuesday, Finland hands the chairmanship to Iceland.
ADVERTISEMENTMilitary and security issues have been explicitly excluded from the Arctic Council since its founding, but Pompeo, after discussing China, also singled out Russia in his speech, citing the Ukraine crisis and Russia's reopening of military bases in the North, as activity increases along the Northern Sea Route.
''We're concerned about Russia's claim over the international waters of the Northern Sea Route, including its newly announced plans to connect it with China's Maritime Silk Road,'' he said.
Pompeo also took a swipe at Ottawa during his speech when discussing the Northwest Passage, a waterway Canada considers internal waters, and that the U.S. considers international waters.
''We recognize Russia is not the only country making illegitimate claims,'' he said referring to Canada.
Recasting the U.S as a team player? Pompeo's comments came at the same time he sought to recast the U.S. as a team player in circumpolar affairs despite weeks of lambasting by a procession of Arctic officials for the country's stonewalling on climate language in the Arctic Council's upcoming Rovaniemi Declaration.
In the weeks leading up to the Rovaniemi ministerial, everyone from Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, to officials from other Arctic states, have become increasingly vocal concerning U.S. efforts to remove mentions of climate change and the Paris climate agreement from the final declaration expected to be signed on Tuesday.
President Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate deal in 2017, a move blasted by other Arctic Council member states and something that continues to be sticking point in bilateral meetings with Arctic Council nations.
Pompeo didn't mention climate change in his speech but tried to burnish the U.S.'s environmental bonafides in the Arctic citing its involvement in everything from the signing the 2018 moratorium on fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean to its reduction of black carbon emissions by 16 percent since 2013, something Pompeo described as ''the best of any Arctic country'' done at the same time ''it isn't clear Russia is reducing emissions at all'' and that ''China's CO2 emissions tripled between 2000 and 2016.''
Arctic Council delegates stunned by speech ''I feel very bad,'' says Gao Feng, China's special representative for the Arctic and head of the Chinese delegation at the Arctic Council ministerial. ''Not only for myself, not only for the Russian Federation, I feel very bad for Rovaniemi. Because people will (associate) this speech with Rovaniemi and Finland.'' Photo: Eilis Quinn/Eye on the ArcticGao Feng, China's special representative for the Arctic and head of the Chinese delegation at the Arctic Council ministerial, said the speech left him floored.
''The business of the Arctic Council is cooperation, environmental protection, friendly consultation and the sharing and exchange of views. This is completely different now,'' he said shaking his head as he talked to reporters. ''And talking to the biggest Arctic Council nation, Russia, like that? I can't find a good word (in English) to describe it.
Lassi Heininen, Research Director at Finland's University of Helsinki, said the content and timing of the speech were unherd of at Arctic Council ministerial meetings, where traditionally, no one state or minister tries to ''steal the show.''
''What has happened that he has to act so aggressively towards China and Russia?,'' Heininen said. ''(Because) even when there are turbulence or uncertainties, the Arctic Council says 'let's keep this out' because we have certain common interests, to have some solid ground. Particularly, this is just the day before the ministerial where (typically) all the parties have respected having a good mood and spirit here because of common interests.
''Maybe this is the Trump administration's way to show their foreign policy? But is there a need for that? What is the need? What are you aiming to gain?
''I hope that this will not open a new kind of use of the Arctic Council, or mis-use of it, for other purposes.''
This story is posted on Independent Barents Observer as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller Robert (Bob) Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE 's report confirmed for him that President Trump Donald John TrumpPelosi says she worried Trump would have contested elections if House margin had been thin Anticipation builds for Mueller testimony Venezuela tests Trump-Bolton relationship MORE should be impeached, according to CNN.
"I think that this Mueller report, absolutely exhaustive, from one of the most trusted people in this country, now gives Americans, regardless of party, the information they need to make the best decision for this country," O'Rourke, a 2020 presidential contender, told reporters in Iowa on Sunday.
"And for me, that means that we decide that we are a nation of laws. That no man is above the law," he said. "Impeachment proceedings in the House ensure that more of these facts come to light, ensure that the Senate can make a very informed decision about the consequences for this president."
O'Rourke said he previously considered firing former FBI Director James Comey James Brien ComeySenate Democrats missed the point with their questions for William Barr The Hill's Morning Report - Barr stiff-arms House following Senate grilling CNN to host James Comey town hall on 2-year anniversary of Trump firing him MORE and pressuring then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions Jefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDurbin: Barr 'must recuse himself' from all Mueller-related investigations Timeline: Barr, Mueller and the Trump probe Roy Moore 'seriously considering' another Senate bid MORE to end Mueller's probe to be impeachable offenses.
Asked about comments by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi says she worried Trump would have contested elections if House margin had been thin Trump goes on tear, sharing tweets about Putin, North Korea's Kim and far-right YouTube star Bill Maher: Explaining the law to Trump like 'playing monopoly with a hyena' MORE (D-Calif.) that Democrats should focus on winning elections rather than impeachment, O'Rourke responded, "I mean, we're two different people. And I really respect the Speaker and what she's been able to do, but when asked my opinion, I've got to give my opinion and not anybody else's."
O'Rourke endorsed impeachment in his 2018 Senate campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz Rafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump laments social media 'getting worse' for conservatives, warns he'll 'monitor the censorship' Trump administration renews waivers for Iranian civil nuclear work The Hill's Morning Report '-- Dem ire at Barr intensifies MORE (R-Texas) before the report's release but voted against impeachment proceedings on two occasions during his time in the House.
O'Rourke also called for impeachment in an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Saturday but previously said that the 2020 presidential elections may be the best chance to remove Trump from office. "I think the American people are going to have a chance to decide this at the ballot box in November 2020, and perhaps that's the best way for us to resolve these outstanding questions," he said in March.
VIDEO - Sweden is going cashless: How Swedes are accommodating to life without bills or coins - CBS News
ABBA has been singing about "Money, Money, Money" for years, and making truckloads of it along the way. But now the pop group is in the vanguard of a new wave in Sweden, where there's no money, money, money. Just cards, cards, cards and phones, phones, phones.
Just ask Ove and Marita Mattsson, trying to have a quiet lunch in a caf(C) until CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips showed up. When he asked when was the last time they'd actually used cash, Ove replied, "Oh, I don't know. A month ago maybe, or something."
Which is typical. Last year only 13 percent of Swedes could remember using cash for a recent purchase. In the U.S., 70 percent use cash every week.
"You get used to it," said Marita. "From the beginning I didn't want it that way at all. But now you get used to it. I think it's a better way."
As more and more establishments in Sweden stop accepting cash, with transactions done via smartphones and devices, Swedes aren't missing having to use coins or bills. CBS News A better way that begins, like so many things in Sweden, with ABBA. One of the major tourist draws in Stockholm is the museum devoted to the group. The entrance fee is 250 Swedish krona, or about $25. But don't try paying with cash. The museum was one of the first places in Sweden to go entirely cash-free.
It was the idea of band member and museum planner Bj¶rn Ulvaeus '' and ABBA Corp CEO Mattias Tengblad says it's all part of keeping the brand current. "[Ulvaeus] really believed that cash is a sort of cause of very much evil on the planet, and he wanted to make this, like, a new modern place," Tengblad said.
"Mamma Mia," if you tried to buy a ticket to ABBA: The Museum with cash, you'd be told to "Move On." CBS News In a small, high-tech country like Sweden, where ABBA leads, people follow. They've been setting the cultural beat for 45 years '' why not the financial?
From one great Swedish cultural institution, to another: At the Ikea store, almost all their customers were paying with cards anyway, so they made it official '' no cash taken. Even, says customer service manager Patric Burstein, for the mandatory snack of Swedish meatballs.
Money changing hands, after a fashion, at an Ikea store. CBS News Phillips asked, "Does not having cash around the place just get rid of an entire problem of not having to worry about the security that cash requires?"
"Since we don't have any cash in the facility, we're a very boring target, I suppose!" Burstein replied. "But I think most of their problems are the small problems. I mean, you can lose cash, you make mistakes when you're counting it. And now we don't have them anymore, and our staff are very happy about this."
Not everybody is happy. A caf(C) run by a pensioners' society will still take cash. Some of the elderly don't just worry about the new technology; they worry about the cost of the smartphones they now need just to make transactions.
Christina Tallberg, a lobbyist for a seniors' rights group, said, "You must have the most modern telephone, where you have apps. You can't park your car without having an app. You can't go to a public toilet."
But everybody here has to move with the times, and the times have changed. Even 73-year-old Astrid Hasselrut, who never carries cash, knows that. She told Phillips, "I think the romantic side of [carrying money] is not interesting. I don't like to sniff it or something, no!"
Philadelphia is first city to ban cashless stores and restaurants After backlash, Sweetgreen restaurants to accept cash Cashless trend worries lawmakers: "If it's not discrimination, it's elitism" Critics say cashless retailers penalize the poor For more info:
ABBA: The Museum, Stockholmabbasite.comIkea Story produced by Mikaela Bufano.
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