Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the iPhone 11 models with upgraded, ultra-wide cameras at the company's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., on Tuesday. (Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)As Apple debuted its newest iPhones on Tuesday, a striking new feature took center stage: a three-lens setup that puts a near-professional camera in the hands of anyone who can afford the $999 to $1099 devices. Three lenses are a lot better than two '-- unless they send you reeling in disgust.
That's the unexpected reaction thousands of Apple fans shared on social media as images spread of the back of the new phone, where the trio of lenses are crowded into a small square near the top left corner.
''The new iPhone is creeping me ... out with the 3 little cameras,'' one Twitter user wrote.
The backlash comes from people who say they suffer from an obscure and perplexing condition called ''trypophobia'' ' '-- a fear of clusters of small holes like those found in shoe treads, honeycombs and lotus seed pods. University of Essex Professor Geoff Cole, a self-diagnosed trypophobe and researcher in Britain who studies the condition calls it ''the most common phobia you have never heard of.''
The phobia isn't recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which psychologists and psychiatrists use to diagnose patients. But self-described sufferers and some researchers claim the images can evoke a strong emotional response and induce itching, goose bumps, and even nausea and vomiting.
Trypophobia was only named in 2005 after the word began appearing on Reddit and in other online forums, like in a post by an Irish woman named Louise who belonged to an online community of self-described ''weirdoes who have an irrational fear of HOLES.''
Over the next decade, though, thousands of people have reported suffering from trypophobia. Support groups have popped up on social media. In 2016, Kendall Jenner raised the condition's profile when she wrote a blog post saying the images give her ''the worst anxiety.''
''Things that could set me off are pancakes, honeycomb, or lotus heads (the worst!)," she wrote. ''It sounds ridiculous but so many people actually have it!''
But why would these images of harmless stuff possibly bother people? Some scientists are trying to figure out why people cringe at close-up photos of objects as innocuous as a frothy latte.
They have found that even those who don't feel repulsed by such images often feel uncomfortable looking at a bunch of small holes clustered together. Just as stripes can cause headaches and flashing lights can induce seizures, clusters of holes might have a physiological effect on the brain.
Researcher Arnold Wilkins, a professor emeritus at the University of Essex, theorizes that the mathematical principles hidden in the patterns require the brain to use more oxygen and energy, which can be distressing.
''The images have the same statistical properties and are intrinsically difficult for the brain to process, partly because we've evolved to look at images in nature,'' Wilkins said in an interview with The Washington Post. ''We know the images are difficult to process computationally by the neurons of the brain. They use more brain energy.''
Photos of honeycombs and strawberries '-- common sources of the creeps, or worse, for people with trypophobia '-- also share those mathematical qualities with more sinister sights like mold and skin lesions.
Other research suggests the discomfort might come from an innate drive to avoid infectious diseases and contaminated food. Some have also hypothesized the fear could stem from an evolutionary response to dangerous animals like poisonous frogs and insects, which often display patterns similar to those seen in trypophobic photos.
What can you do if you feel like retching every time you see the new iPhone?
Your best bet is to buy a black iPhone 11 Pro or 11 Pro Max so that the camera lenses blend in with the rest of the phone, Wilkins said. Or try covering one eye when you see the phones, he added, which helps reduce activity in the brain and has been shown to prevent seizures caused by flashing lights.
Some sufferers have also responded to gradual exposure therapy. A 2018 case study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry by researchers at Universidad de Valparaso in Chile found one girl who feared photos of small holes felt better after viewing numerous images over a period of time.
The researchers found that approach only went so far, though. The girl whose fear diminished still reported feeling grossed out by photos of tiny holes.
Mozilla, Creative Commons want to create an ad-free internet
Funding online content with small consumer payments rather than intrusive and privacy-compromising ads has for years been a goal for many internet theorists and publishers.
''We're at a point where it's clear there's kinds of negative side effects for people and even for democracy of the data-driven ad economy that funds the internet,'' says Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation.
[Image: courtesy of Grant for the Web]Now, Mozilla, Creative Commons, and a new micropayment startup have announced a $100 million grant program to finally bring that dream to fruition. The program, called Grant for the Web, will give roughly $20 million per year for five years to content sites, open source infrastructure developers, and others building around Web Monetization, a proposed browser standard for micropayments.
''When we started Coil, Coil was essentially the first Web Monetization provider,'' says founder and CEO Stefan Thomas. Coil users pay a fixed monthly fee that's distributed among sites they visit that have Web Monetization enabled, such as the web development site CSS-Tricks, based on how long they visit the sites. The underlying technology supports other providers routing user funding as well.
The organizations behind Grant for the Web are setting up an advisory council to determine exactly how the grant money should be paid out. Surman says he's hopeful the project can help create a web economy with more room for smaller players and publishers.
''That's one of the big dreams that we have with the other partners around the Grant for the Web, [that] we can get back to a place where the small guy really has a chance to make it on the web,'' he says.
Funding for the grants comes chiefly from a grant Coil itself received from Ripple, the cryptocurrency and money transfer company, says Thomas, who was previously Ripple's CTO.
''This is actually where we got very, very fortunate,'' he says. ''Most of the time when you're promoting an open standard, you don't get to reward people or you don't get to fund it in that way.''
They aim to give at least 50% of the funds to organizations using open licenses like Creative Commons licenses, Thomas says.
''The business models of the web are broken and toxic, and we need to identify new ways to support creators and to reward creativity,'' says Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons, in a statement. ''Creative Commons is unlikely to invent these solutions on its own, but we can partner with good community actors who want to build things that are in line with our values. Creators have told us through our own user research that gratitude is a core element of why they choose to share their work, and micropayments may be an excellent way to display that gratitude.''
The Startup That Runs Background Checks on Uber and Lyft Drivers Is Now Worth $2.2 Billion
Checkr runs background checks and counts Uber and Lyft as key clients.
ASSOCIATED PRESSAs Uber and Lyft have grown, their rise has helped buoy another business: Checkr , a startup that runs background checks on gig economy workers. Ride-sharing helped its business take off, but the company is now processing background checks for retailers like Hot Topic to staffing agencies such as Adecco for a total of 42 million reviews and counting.
''It's really driven by the changing workforce. A lot of the workforce is changing to a much higher frequency of people changing jobs, people having multiple jobs,'' says CEO Daniel Yanisse . ''That's really the driver for our business.''
On Thursday, Checkr announced it has raised an additional $160 million in venture funding from T. Rowe Price and other investors including Mary Meeker's Bond Capital and Coatue Management . The new round more than doubles the former Forbes Next Billion-Dollar startup's valuation to $2.2 billion and brings its total funding to $310 million.
The cash infusion will go toward helping Checkr expand internationally, past the U.S. and Canada where it got its start in 2014. Yanisse and his cofounder , Jonathon Perichon , two Forbes 30 Under 30 list alums, launched Checkr five years ago after seeing how bad background check technology was while working at delivery startup Deliv . The pair developed an easy way to more quickly automate the background check process, and companies from Uber to DoorDash to Instacart signed on.
They brought business, but also controversy. Ride-hailing drivers are often in the headlines for kidnapping, raping or assaulting passengers. Most recently, a restaurant owner in Las Vegas sued DoorDash after he claims he was attacked by a DoorDash delivery worker who allegedly had a criminal history. News reports say that the delivery worker had reportedly passed his background check because it only goes back seven years''the period of time when the driver was in prison, according to reports. (Checkr declined to comment on specific cases.)
''I think our product is the best available product in the country for safety and for background checks, but the background check is not a silver bullet,'' Yanisse says. ''It cannot predict the future.''
The company has responded to criticism by rolling out ''Continuous Check'', a product launched in 2018 that does ongoing checks into individuals rather than once before they start working. (Uber is now using the continuous checking system.*) Checkr, No. 56 on the Cloud 100, also has an identity verification system to help counter people stealing identities to get a clean background check.
''It's a very hard problem. Fraudsters and criminals are always going to find new ways to hack through the system, and like a security company, we always have to keep adding different technologies and solutions to keep improving,'' Yanisse says.
While many companies still pay per background check, Checkr's new products have also helped it develop monthly subscription revenue'--something both private and public investors tend to like. Yanisse declined to comment on the company's financials, but said it was close to profitability, while an IPO was a few years off. Instead, he's focused on Checkr expanding to the rest of the globe in 2020 and putting the new $160 million to use.
''It's not an achievement on its own,'' he says of doubling the company's valuation. ''It's a validation of the strength of our position, having been able to grow beyond just technology companies.''
*Correction: A previous version of this story said Lyft was using the continuous checking system. It is not currently a customer.
Home Depot And Lowe's Accused Of Scanning Millions Of Customers Faces
Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe's have become partners in Big Brother's ever expanding public surveillance program.
Home Depot's "You Can Do It. We Can Help" slogan should really say, "We Can Do It. We Can Help Big Brother." And Lowe's "Do It Right For Less. Start At Lowe's" slogan should say, "Doing It Right And Identifying Every Customer, Starts At Lowe's."
According to the Cook County Record, two recent class action lawsuits accuse Home Depot and Lowe's of secretly using facial recognition to identify customers as soon as they enter their stores.
On Sept. 4, 2019, a group of plaintiffs simultaneously filed virtually identical class action complaints in Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago against Lowe's and in federal court in Atlanta against Home Depot, accusing the retailers of violating the Illinois state law by ''surreptitiously'' scanning customers' faces as they moved about the chains' stores in Illinois.
According to the Lowe's lawsuit, home improvement stores are secretly using facial recognition to identify everyone.
''Lowe's has augmented its in-store security cameras with software that tracks individuals' movements throughout the store using a unique scan of face geometry. Put simply, Defendants surreptitiously attempt to collect the faceprint of every person who appears in front of one of their facial-recognition cameras.''To find out more about the Home Depot facial recognition, click here.
The Home Depot and the Lowe's case claim that they have failed to inform customers that their biometric data is being collected, and did not obtain written consent for doing so. Home Depot and Lowe's have also neglected to post a publicly available retention schedule detailing when the data will be destroyed.
According to the Lowe's class action, "defendants actively conceal their faceprinting practices from the public."
The class action also claims that Lowe's has been secretly using facial recognition for over 11 years. There is no mention of how long Home Depot has been using facial recognition.
Have private corporations secretly turned America into China? Since when did it become OK for private corporations to secretly surveil the public?
But that is not the end of this privacy nightmare. Things get worse, and I mean a lot worse.
Home Depot and Lowe's scanned millions of customers faces
Can you imagine two competing corporations sharing millions of facial recognition photos and descriptions of customers?
Well imagine no more, because it is happening right now.
The class action claims that Home Depot and Lowe's have shared facial recognition pictures of its customers with other stores.
"Framed as a loss-prevention measure, these systems allow stores to follow customers, to identify particular individuals when they enter the store and, in some cases, to track shoppers across multiple stores and identify ''suspicious'' shopping activity."
Welcome to China, sorry I meant America: where everyone is treated like a potential criminal.
The plaintiffs seek to expand the case to include an additional class of perhaps ''hundreds of thousands, if not millions'' of additional plaintiffs; potentially including everyone who entered a Home Depot or Lowe's store with the facial recognition surveillance program in place.
Think about what this means: both Home Depot and Lowe's have secretly collected millions of customers faces and are sharing them with other stores, regardless of whether or not they have committed a crime.Corporations and Big Brother do not care about our privacy, in fact the opposite is true. Corporations want to monetize our privacy and Big Brother wants to use it to track everyone.
By everyone, I mean your kids, family, friends, co-workers, and even your pets are all affected by facial recognition.
Stopping facial recognition should be everyone's goal unless you like being treated like a potential criminal everywhere you go.
Against the Law: Countering Lawful Abuses of Digital Surveillance · The Journal of Open Engineering
As a class, investigative journalists face a heightened risk of retaliation for their work. Conservative figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists show at least 1,240 journalists killed for their work since 1992; this figure includes only deaths where the motive could be confirmed. Unfortunately, recent advances in technology are giving rise to a circumstance where journalists are being betrayed by their own tools: their smartphones can be transformed into tracking devices. Governments and powerful political institutions are actively exploiting the unwitting emissions of phones, leaving journalists, activists, and rights workers in a new position of constant vulnerability. This work aims to give journalists a tool for observing when their smart phones are creating emissions, even when the devices are supposed to be in airplane mode. We propose to accomplish this via direct introspection of signals controlling the phone's radio hardware. The Introspection Engine will be an open source, user-inspectable and field-verifiable module attached to an existing smart phone that makes no assumptions about the trustworthiness of the phone's operating system.
Today, journalists, activists, and rights workers occupy a position of vulnerability. A great portion of this vulnerability originates from the opacity of modern devices: there are simply no tools available through which one can determine what is happening beneath the glass and icons, preventing the development of a natural understanding of dangerous device states. We cannot secure what we cannot inspect.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists' figures, reporters covering politics are more likely to be killed for their work than any others, even those covering war. Given the power and resources at the disposal of the politicians being investigated, these journalists can face unusually sophisticated threats. A new ''digital arms'' industry has risen to develop hardware and software transforming the omnipresent smartphones of citizens into ideal tracking devices, and this industry has few qualms about selling such technology to those seeking to violate human rights . This is a grave development facing those who speak truth to power, as the relationship between people and their phones is far more intimate than with traditional computers. Carried in pockets and purses, smartphones and their increasingly-robust sensor arrays bear witness day and night to a modern user's life. By contrast, modern laptops typically lack even a basic GPS module and struggle to maintain powered for more than half a day. As serious as the hacking of a business or personal laptop can be, such hardware limitations create natural restrictions on the extent of a compromise.
Even without hacking, mobile phones invisibly transmit dangerously rich records about their owners' private activities. Recounting the full scope of this threat to confidentiality '' colloquially described as the ''metadata problem'' '' is beyond the scope of our paper, but those with a specific interest may find it addressed at book length in Bruce Schneier's recent Data and Goliath . It is sufficient for our purposes to acknowledge merely carrying a phone connected to the cellular network delivers a comprehensive record of one's movements and call activity to tower operators and service providers, and these records may be retained for decades .
Compounding these technical risks, the United States has promoted a notoriously lax regulatory regime in which such records enjoy little meaningful legal protection by narrowing citizens' ''reasonable expectation of privacy'' . This doctrine has spread to other countries through a kind of legal contagion, establishing a harmful global norm in which alarmingly comprehensive records of the private activities of individuals are routinely available to agents of government, even in circumstances where this is undesirable and socially dangerous. While there is little doubt such capabilities are abused in places like Syria, China, Russia, and the like, this is not a problem exclusive to authoritarian states. Indeed, some of the most prominent abuses related to the targeting of journalists' smartphones and related records in recent years have occurred in Australia  and Canada . Admitting to precisely the problematic access of a journalist's records with which this work is concerned, Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin sought to downplay the severity of the breach, stating, ''we use metadata on nearly all of our investigations. It is a very common tool we use.'' 
The value of such clandestine access to targets' records and smartphones is perhaps most presciently illustrated by the US National Security Agency in a Top Secret document, as summarized in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Top Secret slides extracted from the Snowden Archive illustrating one intelligence agency's perspective on metadata and location services offered by a major US brand  Reporter Marie Colvin's 2012 death is a tragic reminder of how real this vulnerability can be. A lawsuit against the Syrian government filed in 2016 alleges she was deliberately targeted and killed by Syrian government artillery fire. The lawsuit describes how her location was discovered in part through the use of intercept devices that monitored satellite-dish and cellphone communications.
As groups like the University of Toronto's Citizen Lab uncover sophisticated hacking campaigns explicitly targeting the phones of journalists , we have a moral obligation to consider what can be done. Currently, they are asked to trust their safety to nothing more reliable than the presence or absence of icons and other settings purporting to represent whether the device is in ''airplane mode.'' But airplane mode is no defense; for example, on iPhones since iOS 8.2, GPS is active in airplane mode. Furthermore, airplane mode is a ''soft switch''''the graphics on the screen have no essential correlation with the hardware state. Malware packages, such as were observed being planted on journalists' phones by Citizen Lab, can be designed to activate radios without any indication from the user interface; trusting a phone that has been hacked to go into airplane mode is like trusting a drunk person to judge if they are sober enough to drive.
This work aims to give journalists the tools to understand and, eventually, control when their smart phones are tracking or disclosing their location via radio frequency emissions. We propose to accomplish this via direct introspection of signals controlling the phone's radio hardware. The Introspection Engine will be an open source, user-inspectable and field-verifiable module attached to an existing smart phone that makes no assumptions about the trustworthiness of the phone's operating system.
Numerous researchers and extensive corporate resources have been dedicated to the task of building a more secure smart phone. However, smartphones are extremely complex and present a large, porous attack surface. Furthermore, even a perfectly secure phone will not save a reporter from ''victim-operated'' exploits such as spearphishing. Eliminating this vector is complicated by the fact that effective reporters must communicate with a diverse array of sources who may intentionally or unintentionally convey a malware payload to the reporter.
As a result, this work starts with the assumption that a phone can and will be compromised. In such a situation, a reporter cannot take the UI status at face value. Instead, we aim to provide field-ready tools that enable a reporter to observe and investigate the status of the phone's radios directly and independently of the phone's native hardware. We call this direct introspection, a term we derive from techniques pioneered by the space and supercomputing industries to improve fault-tolerance and to detect erroneous operation of hardware.
Our work proposes to monitor radio activity using a measurement tool contained in a phone-mounted battery case. We call this tool an Introspection Engine. The Introspection Engine has the capability to alert a reporter of a dangerous situation in real-time. The core principle is simple: if the reporter expects radios to be off, alert the user when they are turned on.
Our introspection engine is designed with the following goals in mind:
Completely open source and user-inspectable (''You don't have to trust us'')
Introspection operations are performed by an execution domain completely separated from the phone's CPU (''don't rely on those with impaired judgment to fairly judge their state'')
Proper operation of introspection system can be field-verified (guard against ''evil maid'' attacks and hardware failures)
Difficult to trigger a false positive (users ignore or disable security alerts when there are too many positives)
Difficult to induce a false negative, even with signed firmware updates (''don't trust the system vendor'' '' state-level adversaries with full cooperation of system vendors should not be able to craft signed firmware updates that spoof or bypass the introspection engine)
As much as possible, the introspection system should be passive and difficult to detect by the phone's operating system (prevent black-listing/targeting of users based on introspection engine signatures)
Simple, intuitive user interface requiring no specialized knowledge to interpret or operate (avoid user error leading to false negatives; ''journalists shouldn't have to be cryptographers to be safe'')
Final solution should be usable on a daily basis, with minimal impact on workflow (avoid forcing field reporters into the choice between their personal security and being an effective journalist)
This work is not just an academic exercise; ultimately we must provide a field-ready introspection solution to protect reporters at work. Although the general principles underlying this work can be applied to any phone, reducing these principles to practice requires a significant amount of reverse engineering, as there are no broadly supported open source phone solutions on the market. Thus we focus on a single phone model, the 4.7'' iPhone 6 by Apple Inc., as the subject for field deployment. The choice of model is driven primarily by what we understand to be the current preferences and tastes of reporters. It has little to do with the relative security of any platform, as we assume any platform, be it iOS or Android, can and will be compromised by state-level adversaries.
Faraday Cages Alone are Not an OptionA Faraday cage is an electromagnetic shield constructed from a metal mesh or foil. When constructed and used properly, it is an extremely effective surveillance countermeasure. The United States government has long relied upon them as part of the TEMPEST standard, which regulates protection levels for classified information processing spaces. Although conceptually simple, their efficacy hinges upon proper construction and routine maintenance. Even small holes and gaps can lead to exploitable emissions. These holes and gaps develop at seams where two surfaces connect, or where conduit (bearing power or communications lines) must penetrate the cage due to the natural degradation of cage materials from environmental factors. They must be detected and patched (typically with copper tape) to prevent unintentional emissions. Even the ''gold-plated'' room- and trailer-scale implementations in real-world field use by the government at covert sites must be subjected to complex annual certification and accreditation procedures. Since detecting anything smaller than a catastrophic leak can be quite difficult, these procedures require a few hours of specialist work with sensitive signal generation and detection equipment.
While there is a robust commercial market in bag-style Faraday cages for phones, we could identify no public data confirming their reliability over time under real-world field-use conditions. Yet even if the fragility of Faraday cages '' evidenced so clearly by the painstaking maintenance required of climate-controlled government facilities '' was somehow not a factor despite the abuse journalistic equipment is subjected to in field environments, there's a more fundamental problem: a phone confined to a magic bag is as useful as an expensive brick.
While Faraday cages are simple in concept, any slot or hole in the cage, intentional or unintentional, will leak radiation. For example, creating an aperture for photography and control of the camera function would irreparably compromise the efficacy of the Faraday cage. Thus, any effective Faraday cage would run counter to the basic requirement that the phone be usable as a journalistic tool. The purpose of direct introspection is to enable journalists to carry a single, compact tool that can take photographs, shoot video, record audio, and serve as a word processor without betraying their position in the field. Forcing a reporter to choose between their safety '' that is, keeping their phone in a Faraday cage '' and taking photographs in the field violates goal number 8. Furthermore, asking reporters deep in war zones to carry a separate camera, audio recorder, and word processor to avoid surveillance is also not a practical option.
Finally, part-time use of a Faraday cage without any additional countermeasures can be problematic for reporters. Faraday cages only isolate the phone from electromagnetic radiation, so malware can still log unaffected sensors such as the microphone. More significantly, even brief removal of the phone from the Faraday cage can provide sufficient connectivity to determine position and even transmit partial logs. Thus, part-time use of a Faraday cage can create a false sense of security, which can lead to risky behavior that can eventually compromise the reporter's position or their contacts.
Instead, a reporter may be well-advised to use a Faraday cage in conjunction with the novel methods presented here that detect the presence of threats. A Faraday cage would mitigate any failure of direct introspection, while our introspection methods can alert journalists to the presence of attempted malware transmissions, and in some cases actively mitigate or prevent damage.
The first step toward executing this work was to visit the Hua Qiang electronics markets of Shenzhen to collect samples and documentation for evaluation. These markets are used for the trade and practice of iPhone repair; as such, it is a rich source of spare parts and repair manuals. The repair manuals frequently contain detailed blueprints of the iPhone 6, which were used to assist the reverse engineering effort.
Based on the phone model selection and available documentation, we can enumerate the radio interfaces available:
Cellular modem '' 2G/3G/4G
Wifi / BT
NFC (Apple Pay)
Although our work can be extended to input systems such as the IMU (inertial measurement unit), barometer, microphone and camera, to focus the effort we restrict our exploration to only RF interfaces that can directly betray a user's location. Note that a camera can be defeated by obscuring the lens; as such the final physical design of our Introspection Engine will likely include a feature to selectively obscure the rear camera lens.
Methods that Do Not Meet our CriteriaNumerous semi-intrusive countermeasures were considered along the way to our current solution, including but not limited to RF spectrum monitoring, active jamming, and the selective physical isolation or termination of antennae. Semi-intrusive countermeasures would require minimal modification to the phone itself, which is desirable as it simplifies field deployment and could even enable reporters to perform the modifications without any special tools. Unfortunately, all of these methods were deemed to be inadequate, as discussed in the following paragraphs.
RF spectrum monitoring consists of building an external radio receiver that can detect transmissions emanating from the phone's radios. In some cases, it was hypothesized that the receiver could be as trivial as an RF power monitor within the anticipated radio bands. A simple example of such monitoring already exists in the form of novelty lights that flash based on parasitic power extracted from the GSM antennae. The problems with this approach are that 1) only active transmissions from the radio can be reliably detected, and 2) malware that passively records the user's position and delivers it as a deferred payload when the radios are intentionally activated cannot be detected. Furthermore, this approach is subject to spoofing; false positives can be triggered by the presence of nearby base stations. Such false alarms can confuse the user and eventually lead the user to be conditioned to ignore real alerts in hazardous situations.
Active jamming consists of building an external radio transmitter that attempts to inject false signals into the radios. Thus, even if malware were to activate the radios and listen for position-revealing signals, it would, in theory, report largely bogus position information. This is particularly effective against GPS, where GPS signals are very weak and thus even a weak local transmitter should be able to overpower the GPS satellites. However, active jamming was ruled out for several reasons. The jammer's emissions could create a signal that can be traced to locate the reporter; the jammer will require substantial battery power, and the user is left vulnerable once the jammer's power is exhausted. Furthermore, nearby base stations may still be detected by the receivers, as modern radio protocols have sophisticated designs to protect against unintentional jamming.
Selective physical isolation or termination of the antennae consists of inserting an electronic switch between the connectors of the logic board and the antenna. The switch, when activated, would shunt the antenna to a matched resistive load, which would greatly reduce the transmission power and receive sensitivity of the radios. However, experimental verification on the WiFi subsystem indicated that removing the antenna connection and permanently terminating with a shunt resistor still leaked sufficient RF into the receivers for local base stations to be detected (e.g. within the same room), which could be sufficient information to betray a reporter's location.
Methods that Do Meet our CriteriaUpon determining that semi-intrusive countermeasures were inadequate, we investigated options that involve measuring signals on the phone's logic board, typically via test points designed in by the manufacturer. It is no surprise that complex systems such as the Apple iPhone 6 would have test points baked into the circuit board design to assist with debugging. These are an essential part of yield and customer experience improvement; defective units from the factory and the field are sent back to the headquarters, and engineers rely on these testpoints to determine the root cause of the device's failure.
Using repair manual documentation acquired from the Hua Qiang electronics market, we cataloged a set of internal test points that were:
Accessible with low probability of damage to the logic board by a trained operator
Could provide meaningful data on the radio status
Would be difficult or impossible to disable or spoof (e.g., future-proof against adversaries aware of our research).
For the accessibility criteria (1), test points were considered viable even if they required desoldering an RF shield or the SIM card connector, and manual removal of the soldermask. In our experience, a trained technician can perform these tasks with low probability of irreparable damage to the motherboard. These operations are not recommended for entry-level novices. However, our experiences in Shenzhen indicate that any technician with modest soldering skills can be trained to perform these operations reliably in about 1-2 days of practice on scrap motherboards. Thus, technicians could be trained to perform the modifications in any locale with sufficient demand for modified iPhones.
Table 1 summarizes the test points we have accessed and have found to provide introspection data that potentially meet criteria (2) and (3), and Figures 2-5 illustrate the location of the test points.
Table 1: Internal signal candidates for introspection. Figure 2. The FE1, FE2 bus probe experiment. Test points from the back side of the PCB are wired to the top side for easy probing. Figure 3. The backside of the FE1, FE2 probe experiment. The test points are located adjacent to the NAND Flash, underneath an RF shield which was removed for this experiment. The test points were covered with soldermask, which was removed through mechanical abrasion. Figure 4. The UART and GPS sync probing experiment. The majority of the test points are located underneath the SIM card connector, which was removed for this experiment. Figure 5. The back side of the UART and GPS sync probing experiment. A pair of wires are run to break out WLAN_PERST and power-related signals for monitoring. Cellular Modem IntrospectionThe FE1 and FE2 serial buses run at 20MHz, with a 1.8V swing (Figure 6). This bus is used primarily to configure the cellular modem radios. When the radios are on, there is constant traffic on these buses. When in airplane mode, the traffic completely ceases. The serial buses appear to adhere to a protocol known as MIPI SPMISM (System Power Management Interface).
Figure 6. Example of bus traffic on the FE1 bus.Cellular radios operate in a complex environment, and require constant adaptation of the antennae, power amplifiers, and band selection for proper operation. It is hypothesized that an attempt to even passively scan for base stations without transmitting will require traffic on this bus; at the very least, the antenna switches must be powered on and configured to receive. Therefore, cellular modem introspection may be as easy as noting if there is any activity on the FE buses during airplane mode.
We note for the sake of completeness that it may be possible for an attacker to statically configure the antenna, channel, and power amplifier settings and convert the device into a radio beacon that blasts out a signal that is inconsistent with the cellular modem standard but detectable through other means. In this mode, one would observe no traffic on the FE buses, but one could, in theory, triangulate the location of the transmitter with modified base stations or specially deployed receivers. This scenario can be mitigated by doing deep packet inspection and noting the addresses that should be accessed to power down the cellular modem systems. If any of the power-down addresses are skipped during the power-off sequence, that would be flagged as a potentially hazardous condition.
However, this scenario would require modifications to the cellular modem transport specifications, and as such one would need to deploy modified base stations across the territory to gain adequate surveillance coverage. This would likely require extensive cooperation of both the baseband radio vendors and cellular providers to craft and effectively deploy such an exploit. Because of the difficulty, we imagine such an exploit would be available only to well-organized government-level adversaries.
Finally, the phone's vendor, Apple, could volunteer (or be coerced) to push a signed update that sends random ''NOP'' packets over the FE buses during airplane mode to force false positives and make this technique less effective. Again, in such a case, deep packet inspection could help to discard noise from signal. Although future hardware versions could encrypt this bus to foil observation, we believe it is not possible to introduce bus encryption with a software-only change: the peripheral devices on this bus lack loadable firmware. Thus, at least for current phone models, deep packet inspection should be robust.
WiFi & Bluetooth IntrospectionThe WiFi subsystem interfaces to the CPU through multiple buses, namely, PCI-express and a UART. The Bluetooth subsystem interfaces to the CPU through a UART, with a separate UART channel for coexistence. Because of the Bluetooth subsystem's relatively simple interface, it should be possible to robustly detect Bluetooth activity by simply monitoring the BT UART signals.
The WLAN UART signals seem to carry configuration and status information regarding WiFi configuration, as evidenced by the UART trace in Figure 7.
Figure 7. Example data on the Wifi UART as decoded by a Tek MDO4014B.Further exploration of the data contained within the signals is necessary to determine if it is possible for an adversary to perform access point scans, which is an effective means of geolocation, without invoking the UART. Unfortunately, the WiFi power remains on even in airplane mode, so monitoring WiFi voltage levels has no correlation with radio activity.
Significantly, WLAN, BT, and GPS risks can be mitigated by forcing the WLAN PCI bus into reset. By holding WLAN_PERST low prior to power-on and throughout boot, WiFi will fail to enumerate on the PCI bus. iOS will continue to boot and is fully usable, but in the Settings panel, WiFi will appear to be off and cannot be switched on. Attempts to switch on Bluetooth fail, and GPS, although active, cannot access its antenna because the antenna for GPS is shared with WiFi. Note that forcing WLAN_PERST low during normal operation forces a phone reboot, so disabling WiFi using this technique effectively necessitates a reboot.
This is a simple but effective method to force several critical subsystems to be off, with no chance for an updated firmware to bypass a WiFi hardware reset. However, the failure of Bluetooth and GPS subsystems to activate may be due to firmware-only dependencies. It is hypothesized that these systems rely on WiFi to initialize before activating the respective antenna switches for these subsystems, since they all share a common antenna port. Thus it may be possible for an exploit to be developed to force Bluetooth and GPS to be on even if WiFi is in reset. Furthermore, it may be possible for malware to fingerprint systems where the WiFi has failed to initialize, and flag these users for further monitoring.
Thus, depending on the user's threat model, the WLAN_PERST defeat may be a simple but effective method to defeat several radios with a single signal, but it may also give away information to advanced adversaries on the presence of an Introspection Engine. Because of the effectiveness of the WLAN_PERST trick, we would present users with the option to activate this, but not require it.
Significantly, repair manuals indicate that the WiFi/Bluetooth module includes a hardware ''RFKILL'' pin. Apple leaves this pin unconnected and very difficult to access through mods, but if phone vendors wanted to support efforts like this, future revisions of phones could break such pins out to offer a more graceful defeat that doesn't require rebooting the phone or leave a measurable signature while disabling these radios.
GPS IntrospectionTo date, we have identified three possible methods for detecting GPS activation. One is to look for activity on the BB UART bus. When GPS is active, coordinate data seems to be transmitted over the BB UART bus. A second is to look at the GPS_SYNC signal. When GPS is active, the GPS_SYNC signal pings the base band at a rate of about once per second, with a pulse width inversely proportional to the quality of the GPS lock. A very wide pulse indicates a high degree of uncertainty in the GPS signal. Finally, the GPS has an independent power regulator which is turned off when the GPS is not active, to save power.
NFC Introspection/DefeatFor NFC, we decided that the risk/reward of selectively enabling and monitoring Apple Pay is not worth it. In other words, we do not expect journalists operating in conflict zones to be relying on Apple Pay to get their work done. Therefore, to simplify the effort, we opt to fully disable Apple Pay by disconnecting the RF front end from its antenna.
Fortunately, the NFC's antenna is connected to the main logic board via a single screw. By removing this screw and separating the antenna from the main logic board, we hope to substantially and selectively reduce the sensitivity of the NFC radio. Further testing is required to determine if this is sufficient to guard against attacks by adversaries using high-power amplifiers to query the Apple Pay NFC feature. If found inadequate, further countermeasures, including but not limited to permanently removing the Apple Pay NFC RF front end chip from the mainboard, are options to prevent exploitation of the radio without leaving a clear signature that can be detected by an adversary.
Figure 8. Location of the Apple Pay antenna connection, highlighted in pink. Original image courtesy iFixit, CC-BY-NC-SA licensed. Long-Term Viability of PCB-Level IntrospectionOne criticism of direct introspection is that as mobile phone chipsets become increasingly integrated, PCB-level introspection will become difficult, if not impossible. There are already examples of this level of integration happening in low-end mobile phone chipsets, such as the MT6260 single-chip 2G AP+Baseband solution by MediaTek. From the outside, the chip appears as a regular BGA component, but X-ray imaging reveals it is in fact composed of several discrete pieces of silicon. In Figure 9, the thin, gracefully arcing darker lines in the X-ray are bond wires. Although the outline of the silicon chips is difficult to resolve in an X-ray, one can infer their perimeters by the pattern of bond wires that typically cluster along the edges of the chips. One can observe that the bond wires not only arc from the chips to the PCB, but also between chips. In such a design, one could imagine running control busses directly between chips over bond wires, making direct introspection very difficult.
Figure 9. An X-ray of the MT6260, a single-chip 2G AP+Baseband solution by MediaTek. Image courtesy Nadya Peek, with permission.Despite this extremely high level of integration, the RF power amplifier and LNA are still in a separate package and wired to the MT6260 with board-level control signals. A separate project, Fernvale, endeavored to reverse engineer the MT6260 hardware, so we know that, for example, the antenna TX/RX control switch, power amplifier enable signal, and band select control signals are laid bare for introspection.
Why did MediaTek stop short of integrating the RF electronics into the BGA package? The answer to this question is not as clear, but it is likely due to both physics and economics. From the physics perspective, thermal load, signal integrity, and crosstalk all argue against integration. Cellular power amplifiers may generate several watts of RF signal, which greatly increases the thermal burden of an integrated package. Furthermore, RF frequencies favor QFN-style packages, where the chips are mounted directly onto metal leadframes that serve dual roles as a heat sink and as a solid RF ground reference. This conflicts with the objectives achieved by a BGA package, namely high signal density and lower cost per pin. Furthermore, cellular receivers may have sensitivities better than -110dBm (~10 femtowatts), while GPS receivers need to be better than -125dBm (~300 attowatts), so package-level isolation of sensitive receivers from noisy digital circuits is desirable. From the economic perspective, the design of RF receivers and power amplifiers is still a specialty, and it may simply be uneconomical for MediaTek to negotiate the purchase of bare die from third-party vendors for package-level integration into their chipsets. Instead, it seems MediaTek had intentionally dis-integrated the RF front end and ensured the presence of multiple vendors to create a competitive market for such chips.
All this points to the likelihood that for some time, direct introspection will remain a viable technique, as its targets are buses that connect between the discrete RF front ends and the highly integrated chipsets driving them.
Guarding Against the Evil MaidAlthough the details of techniques for making tamper-resistant or tamper-evident hardware are beyond the scope of this paper and well-documented elsewhere , for the sake of completeness it is useful to have a brief discussion about the ''Evil Maid'' threat scenarios facing the Introspection Engine and possible methods of mitigation.
As the name implies, ''Evil Maid'' threats refer to a class of attacks on hardware where an adversary gains direct access to the hardware and tampers with it '' perhaps reflashing the firmware, replacing circuit boards, or modifying the existing circuits. In the case of the Introspection Engine, the Evil Maid may manifest as anything from a literal maid who tampers with the phone while cleaning the premises, to a border inspection where the phone is examined in private within a state-operated facility, perhaps for an extended period of time.
Simple threats, such as JTAG reflashing of the MCU, can be guarded against by blowing the fuses on the MCU that prevent firmware upgrades or mass erasure; the MCU chosen for the Introspection Engine proof of concept implementation supports both options. Significantly, the Introspection Engine is explicitly not to be field-upgraded: field units should not support any simple firmware upgrade option to guard against trivial Evil Maid attacks.
The Introspection Engine is also designed for easy self-test, in the sense that one can verify that introspection is working by simply bringing the phone out of airplane mode and observing that all the monitored signals go live. If a monitored signal fails to report out of airplane mode, one can directly conclude that perhaps the Intropsection Engine is faulty or has been tampered with. Of course, such a test should be conducted only in safety, perhaps in advance of entering a danger zone.
The worst case scenario is a well-prepared, well-funded state-level adversary which prepares a custom version of the Introspection Engine's MCU. This is within the capability of the US National Security Agency. For example, the MAESTRO-II at 0.515'' almost fits within the footprint of the ICE40-FPGA used in the current Introspection Engine prototype. Also, based on textual description, the JUNIORMINT would likely fit within the footprint of the smaller MCU package. These implants could be overmolded within a QFP (quad flat pack) leadframe and laser-etched with markings rendering them indistinguishable from genuine components, at least to the untrained eye. Finally, the relatively high power signature of such an implant could be masked by including a genuine MCU in the same package, and allowing the genuine MCU to run mock UI code thus conserving power until a trigger is detected which powers up the implant and executes the desired attack.
Such exploits could be mitigated by porting the Introspection Engine design from using easy-to-assemble QFP packages to using WLCSP (wafer level chip scale package) devices. QFP devices were chosen to enable technicians of moderate skill with simple tools to build an Introspection Engine from scratch. Although WLCSP devices are more challenging for hand assembly, they are cheap and accessible thanks to their popularity in mobile phones. The advantage of WLCSP parts with respect to Evil Maid attacks is that they have no package '' they are essentially naked pieces of silicon. Thus spoofing these would require fabricating custom silicon. Silicon fabrication is of course possible, but more difficult than overmolding an off''the-shelf implant module.
Most traditional static defenses in common use today such as locks, alarms, and tamper-evident seals can be overcome by a sophisticated and dedicated adversary given enough uninterrupted time-on-target. Based on the senior author's experience, even the US Central Intelligence Agency's covert field sites calculate the value of defensive measures not on whether they can be defeated, but rather how long those defeats are predicted to require of a skilled attacker. Still, those with a deeper interest in increasing such costs to mitigate the risk of covert entry threats are invited to review the Freedom of the Press Foundation & Guardian Project's Phoneypot research effort .
Similarly, we refer readers to discussions of PUFs '' physically unclonable functions '' to create tamper-evident seals and to mark circuit boards and key components. A well-executed PUF can greatly complicated an attack even by a well-prepared adversary, creating a time barrier. Given that the Introspection Engine is meant to always be kept within field of view, defeating the tamper-evident seals can take several minutes, if not hours, for a well-trained adversary to bypass
The bottom line is that in reality, as a small-footprint security-critical device, the Introspection Engine is not meant to be left unattended. The general rule is if an adversary has unescorted physical access to the journalist's possessions, then the adversary wins; inserting a tracking beacon into the Introspection Engine is not the path of least resistance. For example, it would be easier to shim something into a shoe or a suitcase.
Tapping the Test PointsSo far, we have discussed the discovery and mapping of test points on the iPhone6 motherboard. Unfortunately, test points are scattered around the motherboard, and are difficult to identify through casual inspection. In order to facilitate harnessing a phone with test points, we have developed a technique for creating a wrap-around flexible printed circuit (FPC) with tapping lands that coincide with the test point locations. We call this FPC the ''tap board''.
Once the tap board is tacked in place using a set of easy-to-locate physical guides, the tapping lands within the tap board will tend to lay over their intended test points, easing the process of harnessing the phone while simultaneously providing a method for managing and routing the signals to a single FPC connector. Another advantage of the tap board is it modularizes the phone-specific tapping process, thus allowing the mix-and-match of various tap boards with various signal analysis modules.
There are three major challenges to address when creating the tap board:
Accuracy: Test points can be as small as 0.3mm on a grid as fine as 0.8mm, over distances approaching 100mm. This means measurements of test point locations must be accurate to 1 part in 1000.
Double-sided: The same accuracy has to be maintained while wrapping around to the opposing side of the motherboard.
Resilience: The tap board's structure must be able to absorb macro-scale offsets due to expected process variations and manufacturing tolerances, without disrupting the relative accuracy of test points.
The first step in creating the FPC is to create a high-resolution, scale-accurate scan of the motherboard. As modern CMOS flatbed scanners have a very shallow depth of field, one may need to first remove any tall components from the motherboard. This means that creating a tap board design will require the sacrifice of a phone. Fortunately, for the iPhone 6, there is a liquid market for scrap material at all stages of production, and we were able to easily secure a blank motherboard which was scrapped very early in production due to subtle internal defects within the PCB (Figure 10).
Figure 10. A scan of a blank iPhone6 motherboard panel. This panel contains four copies of the motherboard.In our case, we captured a scan of the motherboard at 1200ppi using a CanoScan D660U. Once captured, the rotational accuracy of the panel was corrected to the pixel level, and the X and Y scales independently confirmed using a digital caliper to an accuracy of 0.02mm. Due to the imaging mechanism of flatbed scanners, is important to correct for the X and Y scales independently, as they are not mechanically linked.
Once captured and corrected, the images were laid into a vector drawing program, such as Adobe Illustrator. Rough guide lines are drawn around the edge of the PCB, mounting holes located, and test points circled (Figure 11). While not strictly necessary, drawing in edges and mounting holes help serve as a sanity check on scale and alignment.
Figure 11A. Top side of the iPhone6 motherboard, rotation and scale-adjusted, cropped, and annotated with test points. Figure 11B. Zoomed in view of the SIM card region, showing detail of the vector art annotation.Once annotated, the Illustrator file was exported to a DXF format, and subsequently imported into Altium Designer (Figure 12). These imported outlines form the basis for creating the layout of a scale-accurate tap board.
Figure 12. Initial import of basic outlines and test points into Altium Designer.The outlines are then rotated, flipped and spaced, so that front and back side are facing the same surface of the FPC design. The spacing between the front and back side reflects the anticipated ''Z'' height that must be spanned by the tap board FPC.
Up to this point, we have addressed challenges 1 and 2 of creating the tap board, namely, scale accuracy and maintaining this accuracy over a double-sided layout. The final challenge, resilience, is addressed during the routing of the test signals within the FPC. Long runs of signals are routed along a serpentine pattern, allowing the FPC to stretch and absorb large-scale tolerance issues induced by variations in component heights and manufacturing tolerances. These techniques can be seen in the final layout of the tap board in Figure 13.
Figure 13. Final layout of the tap board FPC in Altium Designer. Figure 14. Tap board as fabricated.Once fabricated (Figure 14), the tap board must be installed within the iPhone6. To do this, one must first remove two components from the iPhone6 motherboard: 1) the SIM card slot and 2) the RF shield covering the lower bottom portion of the PCB. Removal of both of these items requires access to a hot air soldering station, and is considered a routine operation for phone repair technicians. These components must be removed because they obstruct access to key test points. The RF shield is not necessary for the phone to function and can be left off after harnessing. The SIM card slot is restored by routing the SIM signals on the tap board connector to a pair of card slots located on the prototype Introspection Engine signal analysis module.
Attaching the tap board requires scraping back the soldermask covering the test points, laying the tap board over the test point, and blobbing solder onto the assembly. The tap board has via holes strategically located over the test points so that the solder can flow through the tap board and directly heat up the test points, easing the harnessing operation while reducing chances of accidental short circuits. Figures 15 and 16 illustrate the tap board installation, both on the naked motherboard and in the context of the entire phone.
Figure 15. Tap board as installed on an iPhone6 motherboard. (Upper) Front view. (Lower) Back view. Figure 16. Views of the installed tap board within the greater context of an iPhone6. (Upper) Open iPhone. (Lower) Closed iPhone. Signal Analysis ModuleAs alluded to previously, the Introspection Engine is broken into two major parts: the tap board and the signal analysis module. By breaking out mission-critical introspection signals with a tap board to a common 0.5mm pitch FPC connector format, users can mix-and-match phones and analysis modules. Being able to swap out analysis modules means we can avoid building a complex, one-size-fits all analysis module which inevitably leads to challenges in validation, may necessitate firmware updates, and present an overall inflated attack surface. Instead, we can build targeted, minimum viable modules which are easier to inspect, maintain, and secure, with each module customized for a given set of threat scenarios.
For this proof of concept research, we developed a simple signal analysis module which is capable of counting events on the critical introspection buses: SPMI, UART, and GPS. Event counting is analogous to counting network packets: one knows traffic has happened, but nothing about the nature of the traffic. Event counting was chosen under the theory that in airplane mode, no packets should be sent at all, therefore a near-binary indicator of traffic is sufficient. One could chose to implement a signal analysis module which can log and inspect the radio bus traffic using more sophisticated filters, but it would require substantially more capable hardware to keep up with the relatively high bitrates present on these buses (20 Mbps for 2x SPMI and 3 Mbps for 3x UARTs).
Figure 17. Block diagram of the proof of concept signal analysis module.Thus, the design goals for the proof of concept signal analysis module are as follows:
Ability to count and log packet events on the relevant buses
Simple hardware design using the most open and inspectable components available at the time of design
Relatively simple code base, allowing for easy audit and verification
The block diagram in Figure 17 outlines the basic architecture of the Introspection Engine's proof of concept signal analysis module. The schematic and layout implementation of the proof of concept module is openly available .
SPMI is not an interface commonly available on low-end microcontrollers; therefore, we opted to use a simple FPGA to assist with packet counting and logging. We chose to use the ICE40 FPGA from Lattice in part because it is one of the few FPGAs that has a 100% open source toolchain: Yosys for synthesis, Arachne for place and route, and IceStorm for bitstream manipulation and timing extraction . A simple SPMI-to-SPI packet converter with FIFO was implemented in Verilog .
UI functions are controlled by a Kinetis K22F-series (MK22FN128VLH10) microcontroller. The chosen part contains a 100MHz Cortex-M4 CPU, 128K of FLASH, 24k of RAM, sufficient SPI, I2C, and UART resources to simultaneously present a UI as well as perform basic monitoring of the UART and GPS introspection taps. The K22F runs ChibiOS, an open-source real time operating system which is extremely compact and easy to analyze, despite offering features such as a HAL, multi-threading, and synchronization primitives .
In addition to the analysis functions, the signal analysis module includes two SIM card slots, which are connected to the single native slot on the iPhone6 via an analog multiplexer; the SIM card detection signal is controlled via the K22F to simulate a card unplug/plug event when swapping between SIM cards.
Finally, the analysis module contains an integral lithium-ion battery and corresponding charger/gas gauge circuit, along with a ''dead man's switch''. The purpose of the dead man's switch is to force the iPhone6 into a safe state when the battery dies on the Introspection Engine. We accomplish this by using a depletion mode FET across the reset line to the iPhone6. A depletion mode FET is normally conducting in its unbiased state, so if the battery is removed or is exhausted, the bias circuit fails, and the iPhone6 is forced into reset. Although conceptually simple, such a circuit is difficult to execute because by definition it needs to operate under a wide range of marginal conditions. The proof of concept circuit here works for simple cases but still needs improvement. For example, reset of the iPhone was meant to be tripped when the low voltage monitor built into the K22F trips the system reset. Although the documentation of the K22F claims this feature exists, lab tests show it is unreliable. Thus, a separate, discrete low voltage monitor circuit should be added to ensure reliable reset of the iPhone. Note that the depletion mode FET is still necessary despite the low voltage monitor, because the low voltage monitor circuit still requires a non-zero voltage to operate properly.
To finalize the proof of concept, we fabricated both the tap board and the signal analysis module, and installed them on target devices. The tap board was installed on two phones, once by the author, and once by an experienced technician who had no specific prior briefing on how to install the tap board, in order to validate that the tap board does in fact simplify the harnessing process. The technician was able to install the board successfully in about an hour of effort on the first try.
The signal analysis module was fabricated and installed in an off-the-shelf battery case for the iPhone6  that was gutted and lightly modified to fit the signal analysis module electronics. The resulting assembly can be seen in Figure 18 and in Figure 19.
Figure 18. Signal analysis module implementation and mounting in a modified off-the-shelf battery case. Figure 19. iPhone 6 mated with the Introspection Engine prototype.A simple user interface was crafted to track and manage stream of data coming into the Introspection Engine. In this proof of concept, users are presented with a graph over time of activity on the four monitored radio buses (Figure 20). Users can optionally set audible alarms and notifications based upon observed transitions in and out of airplane mode, as well as select the active SIM card.
Figure 20. Example of the UI on the Introspection Engine, showing a graph of historical event frequencies on various radios.Preliminary results using the Introspection Engine are encouraging. It successfully monitors and determines when radios are active. However, there are some confounding factors. For example, when the device is put into airplane mode, we occasionally see small amounts of traffic on WiFi and GPS '' perhaps once every five minutes or so, some kind of communication occurs with the WiFi module. Furthermore, whenever a user first transitions a phone out of standby mode into a screen-on mode, for example by hitting the home button, there is often a short burst of activity, accompanied by a glitch on the GPS signal which we interpret to be caused by the GPS unit transitioning power states. These confounding factors are a violation of principle #4 '' namely, avoiding false positives that can condition a user to ignore or turn off alarms.
There may be completely benign explanations for these '' perhaps some routine houskeeping functions are taking place, or perhaps the phone is occasionally waking up and scanning WiFi, even in airplane mode, to accelerate AP discovery and re-association when taken into a connected mode. However, the current event-counting implementation doesn't provide enough data to analyze the WiFi UART traffic.
Thus, one possible future direction would be to modify the firmware to provide detailed logs of the WiFi UART traffic so one can attempt a deeper analysis of the traffic and thus differentiate between routine housekeeping traffic and more nefarious traffic.
Another possible direction could be to include a discrimination threshold, so the extremely sporadic ''normal'' traffic patterns seen in airplane mode don't trip the alarm, but are reported with a confidence level indicating how risky these events may be. While this resolves the conflict with principle #4, it does open up the possibility that an attacker could mask nefarious traffic patterns to look like housekeeping traffic in airplane mode. However, the update rate would be limited to only a couple events every few minutes, which would severely limit the rate of data leakage. The phone might be able to slowly scan and accumulate sufficient data to determine an accurate position overnight, but any attempt to relay this data to a remote adversary would probably be detected.
We have prototyped and verified the Introspection Engine's ability to tap and monitor critical radio signals within an iPhone6. Using the Introspection Engine, we were able to derive hardware-level information previously unavailable about a device's radio state. The generalized technique of identifying radio control buses and observing them in real time is a potent analytical tool for those concerned with detecting surveillance malware.
In this scenario, the mission of protecting journalists would be better served by a ''Silent Phone'' '' a phone or iPod-style device which has its wifi, GPS, bluetooth and baseband radios permanently or selectively disabled through a hardware defeat. Such a phone would then be convincingly air-gapped, having taken the hardware equivalent of a reliable vow of silence, and upon access to a safe location the reporter can plug in a wired Ethernet adapter via the charging/data connector built into the phone. Such a Silent Phone would give reporters the necessary tool they need in the field to get journalistic work done, while ensuring their safety by only allowing communications to occur only after taking the conscious step of physically connecting additional, single-purpose hardware.
Fortunately, in the course of developing and testing the Introspection Engine, we serendipitously discovered that iOS boots gracefully even when the baseband and the wifi/bluetooth/GPS subsystems are disabled via hardware resets. This property means that one can turn a regular iPhone into a ''Silent Phone'' by hitting just two test points, instead of the nearly dozen test points required for direct introspection. Furthermore, we believe the Silent Phone configuration would be extremely robust against any attempt to access the radios, since the respective chips would be held in hardware reset and unable to boot or initialize.
If the Introspection Engine were the equivalent of connecting a patient to a medical device that sounds an alarm at the outbreak of an infection at the site of an open wound, the Silent Phone would be the equivalent of amputating the limb on which that wound sat: certainly effective, but also drastic. However, thanks to the ability to plug in an Ethernet adapter, we can provide the user with a serviceable prosthetic for connectivity when it is required. Just as any medical system requires extensive clinical testing before administration in a life-critical situation, the Introspection Engine requires significantly more validation before one would use it in true a life-or-death situation. However, a Silent Phone approach, like an amputation, doesn't require FDA approval '' and it is a treatment that can be performed with relatively crude tools.
We note that it may be possible to route the WiFi and baseband reset signals on to a physical toggle switch, which when flipped could selectively enable or disable the radios after a reboot. This might be desirable for users who are in less threatening situations where an accidental flip of the switch does not enable the targeting of artillery shells. However, for the journalists' use case, we felt that a reliably silent phone would have greater mission value than a phone which could accidentally pocket-dial adversaries.
Significantly, we had attempted to replicate our findings on a Nexus 5X device. While the Nexus 5X booted successfully with the wifi subsystem powered down, it was unable to boot with the baseband modem powered down. This type of behavior is less surprising, given the amount of system-critical functions typically delegated to the baseband subsystems, and it hints that creating a Silent Phone out of a Nexus device could be much more difficult. We suspect iOS may be an outlier for being able to boot using stock firmware despite the hardware failure of multiple modems, but additional research would be required to confirm this finding.
We hypothesize that a Silent Phone communicating via Ethernet adapter to a single-board computer, such as a Raspberry Pi, configured to function as a router and strict firewall permitting only communications via a Tor bridge  over obfuscated communications protocols  could provide a user reliable access to the modern app ecosystem on a smartphone without the hardware ever becoming aware of its location. Additional research is required to confirm the hypothesis, but we believe that as long as the journalist herself does not intentionally supply the phone with information about its location (such as in files or chats stored on the phone regarding her future plans and intentions), in this configuration geodata is simply not available to be stolen. This property also creates interesting opportunities for denial and deception against those seeking to inappropriately access the journalist's phone. For example, files containing misleading but convincing location data could be stored on the phone as a sort of honeypot, to be discovered by an abuse of so-called ''lawful hacking'' by authorities. Such plausible-but-false information would cause actions such as raids to occur at a false address, thus alerting the journalist that their device has been compromised and is being actively targeted for retaliation.
Given the relative simplicity, robustness, and elegance of the Silent Phone solution, we intend to pivot our efforts from validating the Introspection Engine to creating a set of Silent Phones and associated wired connectivity accessories for field use by journalists.
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 Tor Project. (June 2017) Tor: Pluggable Transports. Retrieved from https://www.torproject.org/docs/pluggable-transports.html.en.
Twitter Rolls Out New 'Hide Replies' Feature to Users in U.S. and Japan - MacRumors
Twitter today rolled out its new "Hide Replies" feature in the U.S. and Japan, providing Twitter users with more control over the replies that are visible following a tweet.
The idea behind the feature is to give people more control over the conversations they start on the social media platform, so they can hide replies that are offensive and the hidden reply won't show up to others as a response to the original tweet.
The company has been experimenting the Hide Replies feature since June, and says it saw "a lot of positive trends" during its initial test in Canada.
According to Twitter, people with access to the feature mostly hide replies that they think are irrelevant, abusive or unintelligible. It also found that people were more likely to reconsider their interactions when their tweet was hidden.
To mitigate concerns that hiding someone's reply could be misunderstood and potentially lead to confusion or frustration, Twitter says it will ask the user if they want to also block that account.
As TechCrunch pointed out back in April, Hide Replies has the potential to be controversial because the original person who tweets will be able to control which replies are visible in a conversation thread. However, Twitter is more interested its potential for good, as noted in its blog post:
These are positive and heartening results: the feature helped people have better conversations, and was a useful tool against replies that deterred from the person's original intent.We're interested to see if these trends continue, and if new ones emerge, as we expand our test to Japan and the US. People in these markets use Twitter in many unique ways, and we're excited to see how they might use this new tool.
The news follows several other features that have recently been trialed or rolled out on the social media platform, all with the aim of handing over more control to users and creating a "healthier service" by cutting down on abuse and harassment.
Facebook to Launch "Independent Supreme Court" Body to Monitor Its Content
THE STORY: On September 17th 2019, Facebook released a charter for a new Oversight Board to moderate its content, known colloquially by some as the Facebook Independent Supreme Court.THE IMPLICATIONS: How independent will this board really be? What are Facebook's true motivations for setting up this board? Given the past history of fact checking and censorship, will this Independent Supreme Court become just another censoring authority?What's behind the Facebook Independent Supreme Court?Facebook has announced the formation of a new Oversight Board which will be in charge of content moderation on the social media giant's platform. The new body was known previously and colloquially as the Facebook Independent Supreme Court. This nickname is apt for many reasons. Facebook is not a private company but a quasi-governmental organization, and I use the word 'quasi' very generously in this context. Facebook has a background of accepting Military Intelligence seed money. Its suspicious inception date suggests it is a continuation of DARPA's LifeLog surveillance program. Like many big companies in the corporatocracy, FB has a revolving door at the top, accepting many former government officials (like Nick Clegg quoted below) into senior management positions. Then, there is its cozy relationship with the Atlantic Council, which is in turn funded by the US Government and is connected to NATO. Facebook unveiled the plan for the board which includes giving it the power to moderate all content '' including presumably the ability to demote, censor and ban. But how independent will this board be? What does this mean for free speech and censorship?
The Composition of the Facebook Independent Supreme CourtThis Oversight Board will be funded by another body (the Facebook Trust). Initially, Facebook will be doing everything: funding the Trust, choosing the trustees of the Trust and placing all the initial 11 members on the Oversight Board. Independent, you may ask? RT reports:
Facebook insists it is ''committed to selecting a diverse and qualified group'' '' no current or former Facebook employees or spouses thereof, current government officials or lobbyists (former ones are apparently OK), high-ranking officials within political parties (low-ranking is apparently cool), or significant shareholders of Facebook need apply. A law firm will be employed to vet candidates for conflicts of interest, but given Facebook's apparent inability to recognize the conflict of interest inherent in paying ''independent'' board members to make binding content decisions, it's hard to tell what would qualify as a conflict.
Setting an Industry Standard for Content Moderation, i.e. CensorshipFacebook has been under scrutiny and pressure for years now, especially for its disregard and invasion of privacy, as well as its perceived violation of anti-trust law. CEO Zuckerberg even called for Congress to regulate FB. This move is likely an attempt to self-regulate in the hopes that it avoids heavy-handed governmental regulation. Former British politician and now VP Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, wrote that the ''Oversight Board will make Facebook more accountable and improve our decision-making '... This charter is a critical step towards what we hope will become a model for our industry.'' Is this Facebook Independent Supreme Court yet another attempt (alongside organizations like the Soros-linked International Fact Checking Network, and the Neocon and Atlantic Council-linked NewsGuard) to set up some kind of authoritative body who decides what is true and false, right and wrong, allowed and disallowed for every single online user? Will they begin to 'rule by precedent' in banning certain kinds of speech? How much chance will a small average user have to appeal? Here is RT again:
''For now,'' only Facebook-initiated cases will be heard by the board '' Facebook users will be able to launch their own appeals by mid-2020 '... Decisions will not only be binding, but also applicable to other cases not being heard, if they're deemed similar enough '' potentially opening a Pandora's box of far-reaching censorship.
All the Big Tech giants are trying new ad transparency measures; however, it may mostly be for show, as the article Facebook's New 'Supreme Court' Could Revolutionize Online Speech highlights:
Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all recently unveiled ad transparency measures; meanwhile the proposed Honest Ads Act, which would compel these sorts of disclosures, has made little progress in Congress. This is despite extensive reporting about weaknesses in Facebook's ad transparency tools.
Facebook privacy. A contradiction in terms. Rather than making you read the whole guide, I'll sum it up in 3 words: YOU HAVE NONE.
Trying to Shift the Censorship BuckIt would be a PR victory for Facebook if it could blame censorship (or in Orwellian language 'difficult content moderation decisions') on an outside and supposedly independent board. The same article describes Facebook's motivations here:
There is also the user-relations dimension. When Zuckerberg first floated the idea in April, I analogized Zuckerberg's desire for restraint to the voluntarily segregated hotels and restaurants that counterintuitively supported anti-discrimination legislation during the Civil Rights Movement. They did so because they would earn more profits if they provided their services to everyone, but would pay a social cost in their white communities if they decided to voluntarily stop discriminating. Content moderation decisions on Facebook are hard and any call is likely to upset a proportion of Facebook users. By outsourcing the decision and blame, Facebook can try to wash its hands of controversial decisions.
Final ThoughtsFacebook has become the data mining and surveillance arm of the New World Order. Zuckerberg called the people 'dumb fucks' who handed over their personal information to Facebook early on. Earlier this year, Facebook's lawyers argued that Facebook users have no ''reasonable expectation of privacy.'' At one point, Facebook promoted the idea of an internet driver's license and wanted to be the one to supply unique internet IDs '' just to ensure the tracking and tracing of society went even further. There was the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal where that company harvested the personal and psychographic data from millions of peoples' FB profiles without their consent to used it for political advertising. Just recently, smart TVs were caught sending sensitive user data to Facebook. The scandals truly never end for this privacy-destroying, free-speech squashing, military-intelligence-government-linked company. A Facebook Independent Supreme Court? Don't expect it to be anything other than another tool of censorship and control.
Makia Freeman is the editor of alternative media / independent news site The Freedom Articles and senior researcher at ToolsForFreedom.com. Makia is on Steemit and FB.
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Makia Freeman is the editor of The Freedom Articles, a long-time truth researcher and a promoter of freedom. He provides insightful, non-partisan, unique and cutting-edge analysis on who's running the world, how they're doing it and what the deeper agenda is '' as well as solutions for restoring peace and freedom to the world. He writes articles exposing propaganda and the numerous aspects of the worldwide conspiracy, in addition to geopolitics, sovereignty, health and higher consciousness. His articles are regularly syndicated and featured on sites such as David Icke, Wake Up World, Activist Post, Waking Times, Global Research, The Sleuth Journal and many more.
This article was sourced from The Freedom Articles.
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Police respond to apparent suicide at Facebook headquarters
The Facebook logo is displayed during the F8 Facebook Developers conference on April 30, 2019 in San Jose, California.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images
The Menlo Park Police Department on Thursday said it responded to an apparent suicide at Facebook's headquarters. Facebook confirmed the employee death on Thursday afternoon.
A man jumped off of the fourth floor of a building at Facebook's campus, the police said. He was pronounced dead on the scene, Menlo Park Police Department said.
"Menlo Park Police Officers and Menlo Park Fire Protection District personnel responded, and when they arrived, found the victim unresponsive," Menlo Park Police Department said on Thursday. "Firefighters and paramedics administered medical aid but were unable to revive the victim."
A preliminary investigation indicated there was no foul play involved in the apparent suicide, the police said.
"We were saddened to learn that one of our employees passed away at our Menlo Park headquarters earlier today," a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement. "We're cooperating with police in their investigation and providing support to employees. While the family is being notified, we have no information to share. We hope to provide an update when we learn additional information from law enforcement.">>
BBC experiments with negative news filters on its homepage to help readers with anxieties | AMP Media News
This is the question that Alicia Grandjean, software engineer at BBC and Tim Cowlishaw, senior software engineer at BBC R&D, wanted the audience to answer.
The developers got this idea when a colleague organised an office mental health day to make the team think about the impact technology has on well-being.
"We knew from other research that many young people are turning away from news because it was affecting their mental health," said Grandjean.
So the duo came up with a simple-sounding idea - if specific words, such as 'knife crime' or 'murder' trigger anxiety in readers, they can use a filter that would blur out sensitive content on the BBC homepage. A trigger warning would then inform the reader that the article contains keywords they marked out as sensitive.
The team decided to blur out the headline, text and any pictures rather than removing the article altogether with an experimental algorithm that is not yet available to public.
"It's not about removing news that people don't want to see,'' said Cowlishaw. ''It is about putting control in users' hands so they can decide for themselves."
The web browser extension can remember all trigger words added by a user and blurs out sensitive content every time they visit the homepage. They have the option to unmute it and read the article at any time.
The developers see the limitations of such approach. For example, editorial judgement is needed to see how a topic is reported on.
Constructive and solutions-focused journalism can improve news audiences' mental health. An article detailing a significant fall in knife crime in this style, for example, could potentially help readers with tackling anxiety around that topic.
As for images, humans enter words to describe any visual that needs to be blurred out.
Grandjean also tested a 'mood filter' that would help readers sort out articles that do not match their mood on that particular day because they are, for example, difficult or negative.
To do this, she first needed to gauge whether an article is negative, mid-negative, positive. To do that, she singled out words, such as killing, assault etc. to mark them as negative and went on to value other words accordingly.
Human journalists can help the algorithm by entering metadata directly to the article to account for language similarities, too.
For example, if a potential trigger word simply turns out to be someone's surname, or the article would mention, say, killer whales as opposed to murderers, authors themselves would have the opportunity to add a layer of clarity.
"We try not to add to much cleverness in the system," said Cowlishaw. ''Content is everything and a lot depends on how language is used. We try not to change journalistic process or impose anything on reporters."
Both prototypes were used for testing only and are not going to be added on BBC News website anytime soon.
"We use it to understand the relationship between news and people's perception of stories," he added.
The developers tested the tool with young students who were already avid news readers, but did not want to see potentially triggering stories. This is one of the key limitations of the experiment.
"We were very unsure about the idea," said Cowlishaw.
"We have a strong hunch against too much personalisation and this was a bit of a provocation to test our hypothesis.
"It is not a finished product. We wanted to create a tool that will allow us to start a conversation about news and anxiety and it's working very well."
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Developer takes down Ruby library after he finds out ICE was using it | ZDNet
A software engineer pulled a personal project down after he found out that one of the companies using it had recently signed a contract with the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The engineer, Seth Vargo, cited the ICE's "inhumane treatment, denial of basic human rights, and detaining children in cages," as the reason for taking down his library.
The project was called Chef Sugar, a Ruby library for simplifying work with Chef, a platform for configuration management. Varga developed and open-sourced the library while he worked at Chef, and the library was later integrated into Chef's source code.
Code's yank results in some Chef downtimeEarlier this week, a Twitter user discovered that Chef was selling $95,000-worth of licenses through a government contractor to the ICE.
The news didn't go well with Vargo, who, yesterday, September 19, took down the Chef Sugar library from both GitHub and RubyGems, the main Ruby package repository, in a sign of protest.
"I have a moral and ethical obligation to prevent my source from being used for evil," Vargo wrote on the now-empty Chef Sugar GitHub repository.
Vargo's actions didn't go unnoticed, and in a blog post published later in the day, Chef Software CEO Barry Crist said the incident impacted "production systems for a number of our customers."
The Chef team fixed the issue by scouring some of the older Chef Sugar source code and re-uploading it on their own GitHub account.
Vargo's actions praisedHowever, things didn't stop here. Vargo's unique method of protesting the ICE's treatment of children went viral on social media.
Many developers stood by his decision, even if they, too, had to find replacements for the Chef Sugar library in their own projects [there's one here].
props to the Google Engineer who yanked code from Chef for working with ICE. You've made my job harder today, but I really don't mind.
'-- marea rosa (@smrt_fasizmu) September 19, 2019 I'm so proud of @sethvargo today, who removed his code from the Chef ecosystem after they entered into a contract with ICE."I have a moral and ethical obligation to prevent my source from being used for evil."https://t.co/CfAxbqXOym
'-- Ian Coldwater ' (@IanColdwater) September 20, 2019 If I were a @chef client, I would be FURIOUS right now.You think you're working with a great, high-quality company that cares about your needs, and then it turns out they'll get into bed with WHITE SUPREMACISTS WHO TORTURE CHILDREN.
How absolutely despicable. I would leave.
'-- ellen wondra won't build tech for ICE (@ln1draw) September 17, 2019Over the course of the past day, Chef engineers and leadership have been bombarded with requests to drop out of the ICE contract and criticism for signing it in the first place.
Chef plans to continue working with the ICEThe pressure didn't come only from the outside, but also from within Chef. The company's CEO responded with an email sent to all employees, later also published on the company's blog.
Crist said Chef had been a long-time ICE collaborator for years, since the previous administration, long before the ICE become the hated agency it is today.
"While I understand that many of you and many of our community members would prefer we had no business relationship with DHS-ICE, I have made a principled decision, with the support of the Chef executive team, to work with the institutions of our government, regardless of whether or not we personally agree with their various policies," Crist said.
"I want to be clear that this decision is not about contract value - it is about maintaining a consistent and fair business approach in these volatile times. I do not believe that it is appropriate, practical, or within our mission to examine specific government projects with the purpose of selecting which U.S. agencies we should or should not do business," Crist added.
The Chef CEO did add that he didn't agree with the ICE's practices of separating families and detaining children, but that "Chef as a company that transcends numerous U.S. presidential administrations."
I get that the whole Chef - ICE thing is legitimately causing issues for some people in regards to moral and ethical decisions. I'm glad.But how far do you take that? No doubt ICE is deeply invested in AWS, Microsoft, etc. They probably buy cars, use gas, etc
Where's the line?
'-- David Meacock (@meacod) September 20, 2019
Transgender boy wins girls' state wrestling title for second time
Mack Beggs (left) after defending his Class 6A girls 110-pound title during the UIL State Wrestling Championships in Texas AP
CYPRESS, Texas '-- For the second year in a row, a transgender wrestler has won the Texas girls' Class 6A 110-pound division.
Mack Beggs, an 18-year-old senior from Euless Trinity High School near Dallas, entered the tournament in Cypress outside Houston with an undefeated record. He beat Chelsea Sanchez '-- whom he beat for the title in 2017 '-- in the final match Saturday.
Video posted online showed a mix of cheers and boos from the crowd following Beggs' win.
Beggs is in the process of transitioning from female to male and taking a low dose of testosterone.
It was his steroid therapy treatments while wrestling girls that stirred a fierce debate about competitive fairness and transgender rights last season. It's been a lot quieter since last year, when his march to a state championship was dogged by a last-minute lawsuit that tried to stop him.
Beggs had asked to wrestle in the boys' division, but the rules for Texas public high schools require athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate.
Beggs entered the state tournament with a 32-0 record, beating three female wrestlers on his way to the championship.
''He has so much respect for all the girls he wrestles,'' said Beggs' mother, Angela McNew. ''People think Mack has been beating up on girls '... The girls he wrestles with, they are tough. It has more to do with skill and discipline than strength.''
McNew would not make Beggs available for interviews ahead of the state meet. The solitude allowed him to concentrate on the task ahead and perhaps shield him from attacks on social media and occasional insults from the stands '-- or even other wrestling mats '-- during meets.
Beggs' road to the championship last season included two forfeits in the regional tournament by wrestlers who feared injury. Beggs faced only one forfeit this season. The opposing coach and teammates had insisted the girl wrestle Beggs, but she refused, McNew said.
Beggs' family has repeatedly said he wants to wrestle boys. The birth certificate rule was approved in 2016 by the University Interscholastic League, the governing body for Texas high school sports. It was done to help schools determine competition, said Jamie Harrison, the UIL's deputy director.
AOC fighting to block massive 'Walmart of Liquor' from her Queens district
September 19, 2019 | 9:54am | Updated September 19, 2019 | 4:52pm
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is fighting to block a massive booze retail store that critics call the ''Walmart of Liquor'' from opening on her turf in College Point, Queens.
The firebrand freshman congresswoman, whose opposition helped scare Amazon away from opening a new campus headquarters in Long Island City, urged state Liquor Authority Chairman Vincent Bradley to deny Total Wine & More a license to open because its rock-bottom prices would undercut smaller neighborhood liquor merchants.
''My district enjoys many of the benefits of a vibrant small business economy: job creation for and by community members, socio-economic mobility for immigrants and new Americans, and long-lasting relationships between proprietors and their customers,'' Ocasio-Cortez said in the Sept. 17 letter to Bradley obtained by The Post.
''I am deeply concerned about the potential impacts that MCT Fine Wine & Spirits would have on the local small business community. As a large retailer with ties to a billion dollar nationwide chain, Total Wines has access to resources and economies of scale with which smaller retailers could not compete,'' she said.
Boston Globe via Getty Images
''Total Wines has a history of loss leader pricing '-- selling alcohol at or below cost in order to sell high-end products at a generous margin. Our small businesses would not be able to compete with such practices and it would be devastating to the largely immigrant community that is currently employed at many of these stores.''
Ocasio-Cortez closed her letter saying, ''In order to support our small businesses, I humbly state my opposition to MCT Fine Wine & Spirit's application to operate a retail liquor establishment in Collegepoint, NY.''
Total Wine opened a Long Island store in Westbury in 2017 but state liquor regulators denied applications in Stony Brook and Westchester following a firestorm of opposition from local liquor merchants and the New York State Retailers Alliance.
New York state law prohibits giant liquor store chains from applying for a state license to operate alcohol branches here, which helps protect neighborhood merchants. But it does allow entrepreneurs affiliated with national firms to apply for a sole license for an individual store under a different corporate name.
The Total Wine applicant told elected officials and business leaders their liquor warehouse would create about 100 local jobs. That figure is quoted frequently in letters of support for the proposal, including from the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
David Trone Getty ImagesMichelle Trone, the applicant for the liquor box store at the site of the former Toys 'R' Us at 30-02 Whitestone Expressway, is the daughter of Maryland Rep. David Trone, who co-owns the Total Wine chain. She filed for the application for the Total Wine store in AOC's district under the name MCT Fine Wine & Spirit.
New York regulators closely monitor whether individual liquor store owners get illegal financial help from giant firms. Last year, the liquor authority fined the Wegmans supermarket chain for illegally controlling five liquor stores that were individually run by family members.
Neighborhood liquor merchants applauded AOC for going to the mat for them after appealing to her office for help.
''We're very pleased the congresswoman is getting involved. She's got a big voice and she's standing up for small family businesses,'' said Bobby Battipaglia, owner of Grand Wine & Liquor in Astoria.
Battipaglia said he met with a top AOC staffer to plead his case and urged the congresswoman to write the letter.
The Post last week reported that other Queens officials flipped and turned against the liquor store giant after getting besieged by mom-and-pop merchants.
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Robert Bruce "Bob" Avakian (born March 7, 1943) is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP), leading the organization since 1979. Avakian developed the RCP's official ideology, a theoretical framework rooted in Maoism, called the "New Synthesis" or the "New Communism." Coming out of the New Left, Avakian has written several books over four decades, including an autobiography.
Early life [ edit ] Avakian was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Berkeley, California. His father, Spurgeon Avakian, was an Armenian American lawyer, civil rights activist, and judge on the Alameda County, California superior court.
Political activities [ edit ] As a young man, Avakian became involved with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at Berkeley, the Free Speech Movement and the Black Panther Party. In 1968, he wrote articles for the Peace and Freedom Party's publications and in July 1969, he spoke at the Black Panther conference in Oakland, California. By the time that SDS split into three factions in summer 1969, Avakian was a leading member of the Revolutionary Youth Movement II faction, and was their candidate for National Secretary. Although defeated for the top position by Mark Rudd of the faction soon known as Weatherman, Avakian was elected to the National Interim Committee. During that period, Avakian was a leading member of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union.
In the early 1970s, Avakian served a prison sentence for desecrating the American flag during a demonstration. He was charged with assaulting a police officer in January 1979 at a demonstration in Washington, D.C. to protest Deng Xiaoping's meeting with Jimmy Carter. After receiving an arrest warrant, Avakian "jumped bail" and fled to France. In 1980, he gave a speech to 200 protestors in downtown Oakland and his police assault charges were dropped a few years later.
In 2005, Avakian published an autobiography called From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. Avakian has been the Revolutionary Communist Party's central committee chairman and national leader since 1979. In 2016, the Revolutionary Communist Party USA and others helped form the organization Refuse Fascism, which opposes the presidency of Donald Trump.
You can help by adding to it. ( September 2015 )Legacy [ edit ] Avakian is considered a controversial figure, who the RCP acknowledges is both "loved and hated." Avakian is viewed by supporters as a revolutionary leader whose body of work has advanced communist theory and represents a "pathway to human emancipation" from the capitalist system. Avakian is also criticized by detractors for an alleged "cult of personality" around him by the RCP, statements which the party has denied as "lies and slander."
In popular culture [ edit ] Avakian is portrayed in the 1995 film Panther directed by Mario Van Peebles.
Selected bibliography [ edit ] Books
The Loss in China and the Revolutionary Legacy of Mao Tse-tung (1979)Mao Tse-tung's Immortal Contributions (1979)For a Harvest of Dragons (1983)A Horrible End, or an End to the Horror? (1984)Bullets: From the Writings, Speeches, and Interviews of Bob Avakian (1985)Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? (1986)Phony Communism is Dead'--Long Live Real Communism (1992)Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones: We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality (1999)Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy (2005)From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist: A Memoir (2005)Away with All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World (2008)Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy (2008)BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian (2011)What Humanity Needs: Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism (2012)Constitution, Law, and Rights in Capitalist Society and in the Future Socialist Society (2015)The New Communism: The Science, the Strategy, the Leadership for an Actual Revolution, and a Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation (2016)Breakthroughs: The Historic Breakthrough by Marx, and the Further Breakthrough with the New Communism (2019)Films
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About (2003)Revolution'--Nothing Less! (2012)Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian (2015)The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible (2017)Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution (2018)Notes [ edit ] ^ a b c d e Avakian, Bob (2005). From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. Insight Press. ISBN 9780976023623. ^ "A more in-depth introduction to BA's new synthesis of communism". revcom.us . Retrieved December 27, 2017 . ^ a b c d Oppenheimer, Mark (January 27, 2008). "Free Bob Avakian!". Boston Globe. ^ a b c d Baum, Richard (2010). China Watcher: Confessions of a Peking Tom (1st ed.). University of Washington Press. p. 241. ISBN 9780295800219. ^ DelVecchio, Rick (February 2, 2002). " ' Sparky' Avakian -- racism-fighting judge". San Francisco Chronicle. ^ Werkmen, Dirk (March 10, 1968). "Freedom: The Birth of a Party, 1968". Independent Star News. p. 5. ^ Benson, George S. (March 28, 1972). "Looking Ahead". The Evening Independent. p. 11. ^ Sale, Kirkpatrick (1974). SDS. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 412, 521, 566, 576, 592. ISBN 0394719654. ^ Baker, Ross S. (November 22, 1970). "A History of The Weathermen". Express and News. ^ Avakian, "Bob Avakian Speaks on the Mao Tsetung Defendants' Railroad and the Historic Battles Ahead", Introduction and pp. 18--21. ^ Athan G. Theoharis, "FBI Surveillance: Past and Present", Cornell Law Review, Vol. 69 (April 1984); and Peter Erlinder with Doug Cassel, ''Bazooka Justice: The Case of the Mao Tse Tung Defendants '' Overreaction Or Foreshadowing?'', Public Eye, Vol. II, No. 3&4 (1980), pp. 40--43. ^ a b "Scores arrested, Injured In May Day Violence". Logansport Pharos-Tribune. UPI. May 2, 1980. ^ Jacobs, Ron (February 2005). "A Life of Revolution in a Country of Reaction". CounterPunch. Archived from the original on February 10, 2005. ^ DelVecchio, Rick (April 29, 2005). "Berkeley: Memoir follows author's road to communism". San Francisco Chronicle. ^ Unknown (December 6, 1979). "Communists get year sentence for disruption". The Daily Tar Heel. Chapel Hill, North Carolina. p. 2. ^ Montgomery, Blake (September 7, 2017). "Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Antifa Network That's Trying To Solidify A Nazi-Punching Movement". BuzzFeed . Retrieved September 8, 2017 . ^ DelVecchio, Rick (April 29, 2005). "Berkeley: Memoir follows author's road to communism". SFGate . Retrieved April 17, 2019 . ^ "Praise and Reviews". Insight-press.com . Retrieved April 17, 2019 . ^ "REVCOM Archives" . Retrieved April 17, 2019 . ^ Weir (2007). "Maoism". In Weir, Robert (ed.). Class in America: H-P. Greenwood. p. 492. ISBN 978-0313337192 . Retrieved March 6, 2018 . ^ "Stop the Lies and Slanders: Bob Avakian and the RCP Are the Exact Opposite of a "Cult"!". Revcom.us . Retrieved April 17, 2019 . External links [ edit ] Official website
Six Resolutions of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA - January 1, 2016
Resolution 1: The new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian, on the basis of 40 years of revolutionary work, represents a qualitative advance in the scientific approach to making revolution and emancipating humanity. It provides the foundation and point of departure for a new stage of communist revolution that is urgently needed in the world today.
Where there is oppression, there will be resistance'--the masses of people will continually rise up against their conditions of oppression and those who enforce this oppression. But, without the necessary scientific theory and leadership, the struggle of the oppressed will be contained, and remain confined, within the system which is the source of oppression, and the horrors to which the masses are subjected will go on, and on. The new synthesis and the leadership of Bob Avakian represents and embodies the scientific understanding and approach the masses of the oppressed need to make the revolution they need'--a revolution whose ultimate goal is a communist world'--to emancipate themselves and ultimately humanity as a whole.
As Bob Avakian himself has emphasized, the new synthesis:
represents and embodies a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this.
What is most fundamental and essential in the new synthesis is the further development and synthesis of communism as a scientific method and approach, and the more consistent application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular the revolutionary struggle to overturn and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world. This method and approach underlies and informs all the core elements and essential components of this new synthesis.
As with all scientific approaches to understanding and transforming reality, communism must continue to develop, and it has undergone a qualitative development with the new synthesis, which is a leap beyond, and in some important ways a rupture with, what has gone before. Recognizing this is the essential dividing line today between genuine revolutionary communists and those who may profess to be for communism and revolution, but who in fact are not. Just as, in 1975, being a communist meant being a follower of Mao and the path that he had forged, so today being a communist means following Bob Avakian and the new path that he has forged.
Resolution 2:As a leader, Bob Avakian embodies a rare combination: someone who has been able to develop scientific theory on a world-class level, while at the same time having a deep understanding of and visceral connection with the most oppressed, and a highly developed ability to ''break down'' complex theory and make it accessible to the masses of people.
BA provides strategic and tactical leadership, in an ongoing way, for the revolutionary struggle, in all its crucial dimensions, and he has greatly developed the science and art of communist leadership.
As BA himself has put it:
Leadership'--and in particular communist leadership'--is, as I have been speaking to, concentrated in line. This does not simply mean line as theoretical abstractions, although such abstractions, especially insofar as they do correctly reflect reality and its motion and development, are extremely important. But in an all-around sense, it is a matter of leadership as expressed in the ability to continually make essentially correct theoretical abstractions; to formulate, to wield, and to lead others to take up and act on'--and to themselves take initiative in wielding'--the outlook and method, and the strategy, program, and policies, necessary to radically transform the world through revolution toward the final aim of communism, and through this process to continually enable others one is leading to themselves increasingly develop their ability to do all this. This is the essence of communist leadership.
The methods and approach of BA's new synthesis of communism make possible the kind of leadership which, far from stifling the initiative of others, can and does unleash people's initiative and creativity on a broad scale and in unprecedented ways.
All those who strive for a world free of slavery, in any form, should become followers of BA and take up the new synthesis of communism, and on that basis become leaders themselves in the revolutionary struggle to emancipate humanity.
Resolution 3: The fact that there is, in the world today, a revolutionary leader of the caliber of Bob Avakian, and that there is now a new synthesis of communism, is a tremendous thing for the masses of oppressed people and for the cause of human emancipation.
Bringing the content and role of BA's leadership to millions, making it a point of reference and an increasingly powerful pole of attraction in society, is essential to the whole revolutionary process. As a concentrated expression of the strategic approach to building a movement for revolution, with the Party as its leading core, our Party has brought forward the slogans: ''Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution'' and ''Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard'--get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.'' This means exposing the oppressive and exploitative nature of the capitalist-imperialist system and the fact that its underlying and defining contradictions, which are the basis of this exploitation and oppression, can only be resolved through revolution; it means mobilizing people to take on the most egregious abuses of the system, while bringing out the need for revolution to finally put an end to these abuses; accumulating forces for revolution all along the way; it means seizing on moments when the contradictions of this system find expression in sharp crisis, in order to make crucial breakthroughs to hasten the emergence of a revolutionary situation'--a situation in which there is a deep crisis in the whole system and millions of people are oriented, organized, and determined to put everything on the line to bring about the overthrow of this system and its replacement with a radically different system.
In this overall process, the most important thing we need to be doing, everywhere we go and in everything we do, is promoting and popularizing the leadership of BA and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward. This is the first mainstay of our Party's work, which provides the framework and context for the Party's work as a whole. It is the leading edge of the entire ensemble of revolutionary work and struggle undertaken by our Party.
Resolution 4: The main vehicle through which the Party leads the ongoing ideological and political work of preparing for revolution is its website, REVCOM.US'--the ''second mainstay'' of our Party's work.
The website provides ongoing orientation and leadership, both long-range and ''in the moment.'' It encompasses the key works of Bob Avakian, as well as the newspaper of the Party, REVOLUTION. It analyzes world events and brings out the underlying dynamics and contradictions in those events, how they are grounded in the fundamental nature and dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system and how they relate to the struggle to overthrow and move beyond this system; it includes reports on the Party's work in mass struggles around major social contradictions, key Party documents and articles on the importance of building the Party as the leading core of the revolution that is needed. Within this website, the newspaper plays a particular role.
As BA has put it:
WWW.REVCOM.US/REVOLUTION NEWSPAPER brings alive a scientific analysis of major events in society and the world'--why they are happening, how different events and developments relate to each other, how all this relates to the system we live under, where people's interests lie in relation to all this, how revolution is in fact the solution to all this and what the goals of that revolution are, how different viewpoints and programs relate, positively or negatively, to the revolution that is needed, and how people can move, and are moving, to build toward that revolution. Revcom.us/Revolution is the guide, the pivot, the crucial tool in drawing forward, orienting, training, and organizing thousands, and influencing millions'--fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution'--hastening and preparing for the time when we can go for the whole thing, with a real chance to win.
This website is already powerful'--but REVCOM.US must truly become a website that reaches and speaks to millions, providing guidance to them in understanding and moving to radically transform the world, as well as providing leadership to those already won to or drawn toward revolution.
Resolution 5:The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America is the concretization of the decades of work by BA, an inspiring application of the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward.
This Constitution, which was adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in 2010, is a blueprint for the new socialist society, beginning with Day One and stretching into the transition to a world without classes and class distinctions, a world without oppression and the destructive divisions and antagonisms between people.
This landmark work for the cause of human emancipation was written by'--and could only have been written by'--Bob Avakian. It is a simple fact that, in the world today, no other individual, or collective of people, would have been capable of producing such a comprehensive, visionary, and at the same time concrete, framework and guide for a radically new and emancipatory society. This is a powerful illustration of what is special and unique about BA and his leadership'--and the tremendous importance of this for the masses of people of the world.
Resolution 6: Bob Avakian is Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Like all Party members, he is subordinate to the collectivity of the Party overall, even as he has been elected by the Central Committee to lead the Party. At the same time, as the initiator and architect of a new synthesis of communism, he is also objectively ''greater than'' the Party. It is crucial that our Party be grounded in and proceed on the basis of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. This must be at the heart of the life and work of the RCP, USA, and it puts a special responsibility on Party members and supporters to deeply engage with and widely promote the new synthesis and BA himself, spreading this and fighting for it to take root, against all contending trends, in every corner of the globe; and to imbue in people very broadly a sense of responsibility to defend BA and ensure his ability to continue to make the fullest possible contributions to the cause of revolution and the emancipation of humanity.
As BA has said:
There is an urgent need for this new synthesis to be taken up, broadly, in this society and in the world as a whole: everywhere people are questioning why things are the way they are, and whether a different world is possible; everywhere people are talking about ''revolution'' but have no real understanding of what revolution means, no scientific approach to analyzing and dealing with what they are up against and what needs to be done; everywhere people are rising up in rebellion but are hemmed in, let down and left to the mercy of murderous oppressors, or misled onto paths which only reinforce, often with barbaric brutality, the enslaving chains of tradition; everywhere people need a way out of their desperate conditions, but do not see the source of their suffering and the path forward out of the darkness.
In sum, while he remains part of and subordinate to the overall collectivity of the Party, BA is greater than the Party, and this character of ''greater than'' is the principal aspect of the relationship. As we have emphasized, the leadership of BA and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward provides the theoretical framework, the scientific method and approach for a whole new stage of communist revolution, not just in this country but in the world as a whole.
Bob Avakian (BA)'--Official Biography'--Introduction
Introduction "If you don't have a poetic spirit'--or at least a poetic side'--it is very dangerous for you to lead a Marxist movement or be the leader of a socialist state." '' Bob Avakian
Bob Avakian (BA) is the architect of a whole new framework of human emancipation, the new synthesis of communism, which is popularly referred to as the "new communism." The goal of the new communism is a total revolution'--the most radical revolution in human history that aims at nothing less than overcoming all forms of oppression and exploitation all over the world, a society where humanity could truly flourish. The new synthesis is based on more than 40 years of revolutionary work that BA has done critically analyzing and drawing from past revolutionary experience and theory, and a broad range of human activity and thought. It is a continuation of, but also represents a qualitative leap beyond, and in some important ways a break with, communist theory as it had been previously developed. It provides the basis'--the science, the strategy, and the leadership'--for an actual revolution and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation.
Bob Avakian is the author of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, an inspiring application of the new synthesis of communism. This Constitution, which was adopted by the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, in 2010, is a blueprint for the new socialist society, beginning with Day One of a protracted transitional period leading to a world without classes and class distinctions, a world without oppression and the destructive divisions and antagonisms between people.
Ardea Skybreak, a scientist with professional training in ecology and evolutionary biology, and a follower of Bob Avakian (BA), captures the essence of BA's revolutionary work and leadership over the last 40 years:
The hallmark of Bob Avakian's work [has been] working on building a society that most human beings would want to live in. Bob Avakian has been spending his whole life, decades and decades, developing work that is deepening our understanding of why these problems are not just accidental, or periodic anomalies'--how they actually stem from, originate in, the deeper structures of the system, and why it's the system itself, the system of capitalism imperialism, that has to go, and be replaced with a completely different system, before we could really emancipate humanity.
Central to Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism is its thorough and consistent scientific method and approach. ''The new synthesis represents and embodies a qualitative resolution of a critical contradiction that has existed within communism in its development up to this point, between its fundamentally scientific method and approach, and aspects of communism which have run counter to this.'' [Six Resolutions of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, January 1, 2016.]
This qualitative advance in the scientific approach to making revolution and emancipating humanity provides the foundation and point of departure for a new stage of communist revolution that is urgently needed in the world today. The scientific method and approach of the new synthesis is key to its theoretical breakthroughs which include: deepening the understanding of internationalism; developing new insights into the strategic approach to revolution, which reveal the actual possibility of making revolution, even in a country like the U.S.; and re-envisioning how to go forward in the struggle to create a radically new'--and truly emancipatory'--society.
Bob Avakian is the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP), which he has led since its formation in 1975. He emerged as a major political figure throughout the upheavals and rebellions of the period of the '60s: awakening to political life in the period of the emerging discontent and ferment among students in the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley; joining and then becoming a leader of the resistance and protests against the Vietnam War; becoming an early and prominent supporter of the Black Liberation struggle where he was closely associated with the Black Panther Party; then playing a critical leading role in the political and ideological struggles of the New Left Movement of the 1960s, which ultimately led to the founding of the RCP. In the decades since the 1960s BA has given decisive leadership to the theoretical as well as strategic and practical dimensions of the revolution, both in the U.S. and internationally.
As a revolutionary leader, he embodies a rare combination: someone who has been able to develop scientific theory on a world-class level, while at the same time having a deep understanding of and visceral connection with the most oppressed, and a highly developed ability to ''break down'' complex theory and make it broadly accessible.
The scope and content of BA's leadership is reflected in his extensive body of work which includes more than a hundred articles, books, films and audio recordings. BA's collected works are available at www.revcom.us/avakian/ba-important-works-en.html and through The Bob Avakian Institute, www.thebobavakianinstitute.org.
Not only has the new synthesis of communism, especially its fundamental premise that communism is a science, been a point of controversy and contention, but BA himself is a ''contended question'': There are some, including defenders as well as functionaries and enforcers of the present oppressive order in the world, who hate and vilify BA fundamentally because of the revolutionary leadership that he represents and provides. But countless others, even those with political differences, have deep respect for BA and what he stands for'--a radical break with a world full of oppression and unnecessary suffering'--and for his lifelong dedication to advancing revolution and emancipating humanity.
Those who recognize the profound significance of the new synthesis of communism see BA as the Marx of this era: An exceptional and rare revolutionary leader whose theoretical contributions have qualitatively transformed and advanced the science of communism and have paved the way for a new wave of truly emancipating communist revolutions throughout the world.
The Amazon rainforest, the largest rainforest in the world, is burning'--causing deadly harm to what is known as the ''lungs of the planet.'' If this continues, the results would be horrific: extinction of tens of thousands of species and further acceleration of global climate change. Above: Jacund National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho, August 25, 2019 (Photo: AP)
Global warming is increasing the power and intensity of hurricanes, especially affecting island nations and coastal areas around the world. Above: Great Abaco, Bahamas, September 5, 2019 (Photo: AP)
''...we have two choices: either, live with all this'--and condemn future generations to the same, or worse, if they have a future at all'--or, make revolution!'' WWW.REVCOM.US/REVOLUTION NEWSPAPER brings alive a scientific analysis of major events in society and the world'--why they are happening, how different events and developments relate to each other, how all this relates to the system we live under, where people's interests lie in relation to all this, how revolution is in fact the solution to all this and what the goals of that revolution are, how different viewpoints and programs relate, positively or negatively, to the revolution that is needed, and how people can move, and are moving, to build toward that revolution. Revcom.us/Revolution is the guide, the pivot, the crucial tool in drawing forward, orienting, training, and organizing thousands, and influencing millions'--fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution'--hastening and preparing for the time when we can go for the whole thing, with a real chance to win.
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Every U.S. Grid Is Getting a Lot Greener, Except the One That Matters
(Bloomberg) '-- Every major U.S. electricity grid is getting significantly greener.
Except for the massive one serving 65 million Americans.
That's just as problematic as it sounds for the policymakers, power providers and climate activists looking to wean Americans off fossil fuels. While members of other systems move quickly to add solar and wind to their mixes and slash carbon emissions, the network that keeps the lights on from Chicago to Washington has effectively doubled down on natural gas.
In the past two years, it has boosted the amount of power generated with gas by 11,131 megawatts. And developers are planning 34,507 megawatts more. Meanwhile, solar and wind account for 1% of the grid's installed capacity.
''How do you manage the gas build-out with more states boosting renewables targets?'' asked Toby Shea, a New York-based analyst at Moody's Investors Service. ''There's already an overbuild of gas.''
It's not that there's no interest in the renewable trend in the 13 states connected to what's called the PJM Interconnection. In fact, it has been inundated with applications from renewable developers '-- 67,000 megawatts of wind and solar in total, from 684 projects.
But there's also this economic reality: PJM crisscrosses a section of the U.S. that's home to some of the world's most abundant natural gas reserves. As fast as the cost of wind and solar energy has been dropping, gas in some of these parts is cheaper.
The hundreds of cities, counties, states and utilities linked to PJM have different and often competing goals and interests. Some are keen on getting greener, and the continued gas build-out threatens those ambitions.
But the rush to make electricity without carbon emissions could put the gas plants in a bind. The potent brew of falling costs for emissions-free renewables could jeopardize facilities that are built to last for decades. They could end up as expensive bit players, filling in only during extreme weather or when the wind or sun aren't cooperating.
By 2035, it will be more expensive to run 90% of the gas plants being proposed in the U.S. than it will be to build new wind and solar farms equipped with storage systems, according to the Rocky Mountain Institute, a nonprofit supporter of cleaner energy. It will happen so quickly, the institute says, that plants will become uneconomical before their owners finish paying for them.
More than half of U.S. states '-- including New Jersey, which is in PJM '-- have required renewables in their electrical blends. This group includes California, which aims to get all of its electricity from emission-free sources by 2045. Even oil-mad Texas is favoring clean power, because wind and solar are so cheap in the Lone Star State.
There's little debate, though, that natural gas is still needed. A Texas heat wave that drove its grid to the brink of blackouts last month was a reminder of how essential the fuel remains. Even in California, gas continues to provide round-the-clock power.
''We just can't turn that gas off today,'' said Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. ''The infrastructure was built years ago. We have to build the infrastructure for wind.''
As a grid, PJM is most focused on providing reliability at the lowest cost, said Stu Bresler, its senior vice president of markets and planning. In other words, just because projects are in the queue '-- gas-fired, wind or solar '-- doesn't mean they'll come to fruition.
There is, however, a $70 billion offshore wind market forming off the Atlantic coast. And while renewable energy is still a fraction of PJM's grid today, Bresler said, ``It's still growing, and we're going to continue to see penetrations of solar and wind'' as some states work to meet their renewable energy goals. He also pointed out that renewable energy makes up a larger share of the actual power generated in PJM -- as much as 5%. It makes sense, considering solar and wind farms have essentially zero fuel costs and can produce cheaper than other resources.
Climate-Alarmist Parents Warned Not To Cause 'Eco-Anxiety' By Terrifying Children | Zero Hedge
Climate activist parents are freaking out their kids, according to a group of psychologists working with the University of Bath - who say they are receiving a growing number of cases in which children are 'terrified' of climate catastrophe and have "eco-anxiety."
According to The Telegraph, "Protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, the recent fires in the Amazon and apocalyptic warnings by the teenage activist Greta Thunberg have prompted a "tsunami" of young people seeking help.
A group of psychologists working with the University of Bath says it is receiving a growing volume of enquiries from teachers, doctors and therapists unable to cope.
The Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) told The Daily Telegraph some children complaining of eco-anxiety have even been given psychiatric drugs.
The body is campaigning for anxiety specifically caused by fear for the future of the planet to be recognised as a psychological phenomenon.
However, they do not want it classed as a mental illness because, unlike standard anxiety, the cause of the worry is ''rational''. -The Telegraph
"A lot of parents are coming into therapy asking for help with the children and it has escalated a lot this summer," said Bath teaching fellow and CPA executive Caroline Hickman.
The symptoms are the same [as clinical anxiety], the feelings are the same, but the cause is different," she added. "The fear is of environmental doom - that we're all going to die."
The report specifically cites 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who made headlines this year in her support for Extinction Rebellion - the group which aims to raise climate awareness through "die-ins" and mock funerals for the future of humanity.
"Thurnberg argues that the EU must cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2030 to avoid an existential crisis - double the target set by the Paris Accord - while Extinction Rebellion demands the UK achieve net-zero emissions by 2025," according to the Telegraph.
"Parents need to find some words to talk about it that is age-appropriate and not terrifying," said Hickman.
"You need to separate what is fact from what is unknown: tell them some species are going extinct and some humans are being harmed, but don't say we're all going to die, because that isn't true. What you don't want is that child to collapse in a well of depression saying "what's the point in going to university," or "what's the point of doing my exams", which I have heard children say."
CPA recommends parents use a four-stage approach to explain climate change to their children without causing "eco-anxiety."
Parents should first gradually introduce them to the known facts, then ask them how they feel, before acknowledging that the ultimate outcome is uncertain.
Finally, parents should agree practical steps to make a difference, such as by cutting down on non-recyclable waste and choosing food with a better climate footprint. -The Telegraph
Maybe you can ease childrens' eco-anxiety by telling them not to worry; everyone they know, or have ever known, or will ever know is going to die someday - including them.
Three Mile Island to shut down for good on Friday, after Pennsylvania said no to financial rescue
Exelon Generation says it will permanently shut down Three Mile Island Unit 1 at noon on Friday, closing the door on a nuclear power station that became infamous by association with the 1979 accident that crippled its neighboring twin reactor.
Exelon announced the closure of Unit 1 in May after Pennsylvania legislators balked at a proposed $500 million nuclear rescue. Exelon said that the power station, which began commercial operations 45 years ago, was losing money in competitive electricity markets dominated by low-cost natural gas.
The signature plumes of vapor from Unit 1'²s cooling towers will soon disappear as the reactor shuts down and its core temperature drops, joining the two empty concrete towers of the damaged Unit 2 as giant memorials.
The company will retain about 300 of TMI's 700 employees to conduct the first phase of decommissioning. Other employees have been reassigned within Exelon or decided to leave the company.
''Today we celebrate the proud legacy of TMI Unit 1 and the thousands of employees who shared our commitment to safety, operational excellence and environmental stewardship for nearly five decades,'' Bryan Hanson, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, said in a statement.
Exelon Generation, which is headquartered in Kennett Square, successfully engineered state rescues in Illinois, New York and New Jersey, but not in Pennsylvania, which hosts the nation's second-largest nuclear fleet behind Illinois.
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''At a time when our communities are demanded more clean energy to address climate change, it's regrettable that state law does not support the continued operation of this safe and reliable source of carbon-free power.''
The focus for nuclear power supporters is now likely to shift to Western Pennsylvania, where FirstEnergy Corp. plans to retire its two Beaver Valley reactors near Shippingport in 2021. Supporters plan to rally Friday at the Beaver County Courthouse to pressure legislators to revive a nuclear rescue that would keep the plants open.
The Ohio legislature and Gov. Mike DeWine in July approved a $1 billion bailout for FirstEnergy's reactors in the Buckeye State. FirstEnergy has asked the Ohio Supreme Court to block a referendum petition drive that would overturn the rescue.
FirstEnergy, through a subsidiary, also owns TMI Unit 2, which was destroyed in a 1979 accident only a few months after it began commercial operations. An energy services company that specializes in dismantling old nuclear reactors, EnergySolutions Inc., announced in July that it is negotiating to acquire the damaged reactor to dismantle it under an accelerated schedule.
Eric Epstein, chairman of Three Mile Island Alert, a Harrisburg nuclear watchdog group, said attention will now be aimed at pressuring Three Mile Island's two owners to accelerate decommissioning, rather than taking six decades to complete the task, as Exelon announced last month.
Exelon said the Unit 1 nuclear reactor decommissioning and shutdown will take $1.2 billion to complete.
Exelon's decommissioning schedule, which was spelled out in a plan released in April, calls for the immediate removal of Unit 1'²s nuclear fuel from the reactor after shutdown. The uranium fuel-rod assemblies would cool in spent fuel pools for three years until they are moved to above-ground sealed canisters in 2022.
But the reactor's cooling towers and other large components would remain standing until 2074, according to Exelon's Post-Shutdown Decommissioning Activities Report. All radioactive material would be safely stored or removed from the site by 2078.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission would supervise the decommissioning.
America's great climate exodus is starting in the Florida Keys
Mass migration begins as coastal homes are bulldozed in the state facing the biggest threat from climate-driven inundation.
Lori Rittel is stuck in her Florida Keys home, living in the wreckage left by Hurricane Irma two years ago, unable to rebuild or repair. Now her best hope for escape is to sell the little white bungalow to the government to knock down.
Her bedroom is still a no-go zone so she sleeps in the living room with her cat and three dogs. She just installed a sink in the bathroom, which is missing a wall, so she can wash her dishes inside the house now. Weather reports make her nervous. ''I just want to sell this piece of junk and get the hell out,'' she said. ''I don't want to start over. But this will happen again.''
The Great Climate Retreat is beginning with tiny steps, like taxpayer buyouts for homeowners in flood-prone areas from Staten Island, New York, to Houston and New Orleans '-- and now Rittel's Marathon Key. Florida, the state with the most people and real estate at risk, is just starting to buy homes, wrecked or not, and bulldoze them to clear a path for swelling seas before whole neighborhoods get wiped off the map.
By the end of the century, 13 million Americans will need to move just because of rising sea levels, at a cost of $1 million each, according to Florida State University demographer Mathew Haeur, who studies climate migration. Even in a ''managed retreat,'' coordinated and funded at the federal level, the economic disruption could resemble the housing crash of 2008.
The U.S. government's philosophy has been that local officials are in the best position to decide what needs to be done. Consequently, the effort has so far been ad hoc, with local and state governments using federal grants from the last disaster to pay for buyouts designed to reduce the damage from the next one.
''The scale of this is almost unfathomable,'' said Billy Fleming, a landscape architecture professor at the University of Pennsylvania. ''If we take any of the climate science seriously, we're down to the last 10 to 12 years to mobilize the full force of the government and move on managed retreat. If we don't, it won't matter, because much of America will be underwater or on fire.''
If not for the $174,000 that Rittel, 60, owes on her mortgage, the Montana transplant would have left long ago. Insurance money is insufficient to rebuild, so she applied for one of the buyouts, administered by the state with $75 million of Irma-relief cash from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as long as it lasts.
Florida accounts for 40% of the riskiest coastal land in the U.S., according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, but it's done little so far to pull people back from the coasts and lags behind states such as New Jersey, North Carolina and Texas. Across the country, the effort is still more theory than practice, even as a consensus among planners grows that ''managed retreat'' may be the best of bad options.
Related video: Studying climate change under the sea (provided by CBS News)
This year, HUD made available $16 billion for climate resilience, its first dedicated fund to fortify for future storms. Nine states, plus Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, will decide how to use it, whether to build sea walls, put houses on stilts or move people out of the way. The money is a fraction of what's needed, and the process is moving at the speed of government.
A study by the Natural Resources Defense Council this month found that buyouts by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which responds to disasters, take five years on average to be completed. By that time, many homeowners have rebuilt or moved. Similar data isn't available on the grants from HUD, which also provides money to demolish homes.
''It's a slow-motion emergency,'' said Rob Moore, director of NRDC's water and climate team. ''But it's happening right now. These last three hurricane seasons show us what it kind of looks like.''
A FEMA spokesman said the agency supports the voluntary acquisition of flood-prone structures and provides the grant funding, but the prioritization of projects happens at the local level first and then by the state acting as the recipient. The agency believes each county floodplain manager and local official knows the needs of their communities best and are responsible for land usage and permitting.
About 6 million Floridians will need to move inland by century's end to avoid inundation, according to Hauer, the demographer, in a 2016 paper. By then, about 80% of the nearby Keys, the archipelago that includes the tourist mecca of Key West, will be underwater. About 3.5 million people would be flooded in South Florida's Miami-Dade and Broward, the two counties with America's biggest exposed populations.
''Florida's doing it at a really small scale,'' said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware who studies climate adaptation. ''Compared with the new housing units going up in South Florida, I don't know if that would even cancel out.''
(C) Bloomberg But Florida runs on tourism and real estate revenue, and managed retreat is a phrase that makes real estate listing agents nervous. But there's another Florida housing bubble waiting to pop. The Union of Concerned Scientists warns of a coming housing crash '-- from Miami to San Mateo, California '-- on a scale worse than last decade's foreclosure crisis, caused by climate change '-- from flooding to heat waves and wildfires.
Cities are only starting to grapple with where to resettle residents, and how to transport communities and hometown identities. And homes on higher ground will also demand higher prices, worsening an affordability crisis.
Fifteen years after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is trying to relocate the Native American settlement of about 100 people on the Isle de Jean Charles, a narrow island that lost 98% of its land over the past six decades to climate change. It's working with a $48 million grant from HUD for buyouts and to help them start anew on a 500-acre sugar cane field 40 miles north that the government will populate with homes and businesses. Importantly, it will be 9 feet above sea level. All but three of about 40 households have signed on.
``They're starting to scale this up,'' said Jesse Keenan, a social scientist at Harvard University who also specializes in climate adaptation. ``This is about building up institutional knowledge on how to do this.''
'''''''New Jersey has a $300 million fund for buyouts and has purchased hundreds of houses since Superstorm Sandy in 2012, though like Florida, even more homes have been built on the coast in the meantime. Harris County, Texas '-- which includes Houston, ravaged by a series of storms including 2017's Harvey '-- has done more than 3,000 FEMA buyouts, more than any other county in the U.S., according to NRDC.
In Monroe County, Florida, where Rittel lives, the planning is just beginning. The county has applied for $5 million of the HUD money '-- the state maximum. Already, about 60 local homeowners have applied, so it will require triage. Senior citizens, families and residents in the riskiest flood zone would get priority, said Assistant County Administrator Christine Hurley.
Rittel isn't sure how long she can hang on.
Her insurance payout of about $100,000 would cover repairs to the 640-square-foot house. But the county requires that when more than 50% of a home is damaged, that it be completely rebuilt to meet modern storm-resiliency codes and '-- in her flood zone '-- on stilts. That would cost at least $200,000, money she doesn't have.
She dreams of resettling in Key West or Homestead, a safer spot on the Florida mainland.
''I'd like to take the money and run,'' Rittel said. ''But I'll have to buy something on stilts. I'm not buying anything on the ground down here ever ever again.''
This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of more than 220 news outlets to highlight climate change.
Insider on Nicotine Salts
thing I didn't mention was that in the last round of buying, one of the big
tobacco companies (don't remember which one) bought up a couple of random
companies that on surface seem to have no value, however these companies were
the only ones left that had registered nic salt pod products before the August
8th deadline. Meaning that product could now be changed (or replaced) and the
pre August listing would simply be amended to show the product changes. Whereas
no product containing nicotine salt (or without for that matter) can be
introduced to market legally unless it’s jumps through hoops not yet set out
(although IQOS has now received FDA approval) which is the first approves
product under new rules... and it contains tobacco!
big tobacco have played it very smart. They’ve realised nic salt is both the
to their prayers. It’s the reason Juul
to gain so much market share so quick. It’s also the dangerous Element that
when abused or used incorrectly becomes dangerous enough to cause deaths.
bought Juul. I presume the other giants bought up the companies with
August 8th registered nic salt products so they can effectively come to market
themselves once the playing field gets massacred.
almost every nic salt product on market wasn’t registered pre August 8th and
are illegal. They almost all contain flavours as well, so as soon as this new
law is enforced basically every nic salt product on market will disappear
except juul and the other pre August 8th Big tobacco owned products.
as these deaths started off as ‘eliwuod flavours and THC carts being investigated’
to ‘just THC carts likely to blame’ in that time they’ve passed the flavour
banning law, and everyone is too panicked to notice that flavours are no longer
a culprit, they’re just scared about any vape Product now.
had a 21 year old girl round 2 days ago who justified why she smoked by the
fact there’s not long term evidence, and proof now that it’s not safe.
think the next we will hear is more links to Vit-e in eliquid flavours, or
possibly another new compound that may be dangerous found in flavours. This
will help them implement flavour ban leaving market with 5% of the current
product offering. Of which less than 10% is actually registered pre August
will then start targeting all companies selling non flavoured products that
aren’t registered pre-8th, and song from rooftops that 99% of the vape products
has actually been illegal and unregistered for last 3 years.
when there is only the pre August 8th products left on market, of which only a
handful are nicotine salt. No one else can enter market and those that do vape
only have 2/3 options that offer nic salt (all with big tobacco shareholders)
this point it will be safe for them to tell the world that nic salts are
dangerous. They will
implement restrictions, likely bringing the maximum dose down by enough to look
responsible, whilst counteracting the drop in hit by improving their fda
approved device everyone vapes with. They can simply have a nic salt and non
nic salt version of their products. And the consumer can decide if they want
the 95% safer option or the 70% safer nic salt option.
''What is nicotine salt?'' you may ask yourself after experiencing an (increasingly common) situation such as this:
You're hanging out puffing your JUUL and awaiting the arrival of your buddy for a late night study sesh.
As he arrives, you notice an unfamiliar little device in his hand.
''JUUL wasn't doing it for ya?'' you ask, intrigued.
''I like the JUUL, but pods are just so expensive!'' he responds. ''This thing has refillable pods, so you can buy e-juice for way cheaper.''
''Oh yeah?'' you reply. ''What kind of juice you rockin'?''
''Kiwi-watermelon. It uses 'salt nicotine', same as the JUUL. It's way better than normal e-juice! You can even refill JUUL Pods with this stuff!''
You have also been pained by the strain JUUL has put on your wallet. Intrigued, you decide to do a little research on these ''nicotine salts''.
And now you find yourself here. Welcome. You shall have the answers you desire'...
What Are You Looking For?This is a LOOONG post, and I don't expect everyone to read the entire thing. For your convenience, I've included this table of contents to make finding the answer to your specific question easier:Brief History of Nicotine SaltsWhat is Nicotine Salt? (Scientific Explanation)What is Nicotine Salt? (Simple Explanation)Health RisksSide by side comparisonNicotine UsageA Brief History of Nicotine SaltsNicotine salt is the form nicotine naturally takes in the tobacco plant.
For years, this was how people got their nicotine when smoking. However, the nicotine salts in cigarettes do not absorb into the lungs very well on their own.
Phillip Morris USA (the parent company of Marlboro, and many other cigarette brands) wanted to increase the nicotine absorption rate of cigarettes, thus increasing consumer addiction. (higher nicotine absorption = stronger nicotine addiction = a lot more money for Phillip Morris USA, NOT COOL BIG TOBACCO)
To this end, they began research in the 1960s and discovered that adding ammonia (a toxic gas) to cigarettes created a much more bio-available version of nicotine when burned.
''Free-Base Nicotine'' was born.
This became the common source of nicotine for all nicotine products. This includes most modern e-juices, as well as smoking cessation aids such as Nicorette gum and patches.
In 2015 the JUUL was released. In an attempt to mimic traditional cigarettes they decided to give nicotine salts another chance.
Since then, nicotine salts have exploded in popularity and many more third-party e-juice companies are creating nicotine salt e-juice to match consumer demand.
How does this make sense? If nicotine salt is LESS absorbable by our lungs, then how did JUUL create such a satisfying and cigarette-like experience by using them?
WELL, the key is that JUUL added a secret ingredient to their e-juice that solved all the issues regular nicotine salts suffered from.
The next couple of sections of this post will be a scientific explanation that digs deep into chemistry, followed by a simpler explanation for those who get nauseous at even the thought of molecular science.If you fall into the second group, click here to skip right to the simple explanation.
For everyone else, get ready. We're about to get real brainy.
What is Nicotine Salt? (Scientific)Disclaimer: I LOVE science and generally have an above average understanding of scientific concepts. However I AM NOT a professional chemist, and there's bound to be at least one mistake, and probably some missing info.
So to all my REAL scientists out there reading this, I encourage you to correct me in the comments below the post, but please have mercy on my ignorance.
The Molecular PlaygroundNicotine SaltsAs mentioned, nicotine salt is the form of nicotine naturally found in tobacco plants.
It consists of a negatively charged nicotine ion, ionically bonded to positively charged organic acid ions.
The temperature produced in cigarette combustion is high enough to separate these ions within the smoke inhaled, resulting in less bioavailability. (Bioavailability: the amount of a consumed substance absorbed into the bloodstream)
Now, let's identify the traits that make nicotine salt difficult to work with in vape juices:
Many higher powered, popular vaporizers would overheat the salts, resulting in combustion and separation of ions, lowering bioavailability.The nicotine anions released by the combustion of nicotine salts are negatively charged. Compounds that have a positive or negative charge do not pass through biological semipermeable membranes, such as cell walls, as easily as neutrally charged compounds, resulting in the lower bioavailability of combusted nicotine salts.Free-Base NicotineFree-base nicotine is a neutrally charged version of the anion above. It is created by reacting ammonium salts with nicotine salts to produce a neutrally charged form of nicotine, thus increasing bioavailability.
This was achieved for cigarettes by adding ammonium salts to cigarettes containing natural nicotine salts, which creates free-base nicotine in the combustion reaction of smoking.
The ammonium salt is combusted into its constituents: positively charged ammonia cations and its negatively charged anions.
Simultaneously, nicotine salts are combusted into nicotine anions and their organic acid cations.
The nicotine anions and ammonia cations then bond within the cigarettes smoke, producing neutrally charged (and much more bioavailable) free-base nicotine.
Negatives of using free-base nicotine in e-juice:
Free-base nicotine ions (in liquid form) react with and affect flavoring agents, often for the worse. Nicotine salts, being more stable, do not affect flavoring agents.Increasing the amount of free-base nicotine in e-juice increases the e-juice's pH level. This higher (more basic) pH results in a harsh vapor that is unpleasant to inhale. To maximize the amount of free-base nicotine while maintaining a pleasant experience, the levels should be at about 1.8% or 18mg/ml. This often lower than that which is desired by smokers trying to quit.JUUL's GoalsWhen the creators of Juul set out, they wanted to solve a few specific problems related to the issues above to produce a more satisfying and cigarette-like vaping experience.
These goals were:
Increasing the amount of nicotine available in e-juice to satisfy cravings.Achieve higher nicotine percentage while maintaining a smooth and pleasant inhalation experience.Create e-juice that can be effectively vaporized at much lower temperatures, allowing the use of small, cheap, and efficient vaporizers.They solved all these problems through the addition of one substance: Benzoic Acid.
JUUL found that adding benzoic acid (a harmless substance often used in food preservation) to free-base nicotine creates the nicotine salt called: benzoic nicotine salt.
Adding benzoic acid decreases free-base nicotine's pH, resulting in a much smoother vapor and allowing for higher concentrations of nicotine within e-juice while maintaining a smooth hit.
It also allows the nicotine to be vaporized at much lower temperatures than other nicotine salts, and the new substance nearly matches the bioavailability found in free-base nicotine, as illustrated by JUUL's graph below:
So why is benzoic nicotine salt more bioavailable than the natural nicotine salts found in cigarettes?
The lower vaporization temperature of the JUUL results in the vaporization of benzoic nicotine salt without separating its ions as is seen in cigarette combustion. This means that the salts stay intact (and neutrally charged) within the vapor, allowing them to more easily pass through biological membranes.
Whew! After hours of research and conflicting reports of how nicotine salts REALLY work, I hope I'm at least close to accurate here.
Truth is, there's a lot of misinformation out there about these complex chemical reactions, and I don't want to just add to the confusion, however, I'm sure I've made mistakes SOMEWHERE.
Even on the professional science end of things, much more research needs to be done about this still-very-new method of nicotine delivery. There's much to learn.
Click here to skip the simple explanation and jump right to the Health Risks section of this article.
What is Nicotine Salt? (Simple)Nicotine salt is the form of nicotine naturally found in tobacco plants. The temperatures produced when smoking cigarettes break down the nicotine salts into forms that are much less absorbable by our lungs.
Thus, free-base nicotine became the go-to for e-juice manufacturing due to its much higher absorption rate.
The problem is, free-base nicotine has a high pH level. Without getting too sciencey, basically the higher the pH the harsher and less pleasant the vaping experience.
Our friend here can tell you all about how vaping high strength free-base nicotine feels:
This capped the amount of nicotine added to e-juices at a percentage lower than that which smokers desired to satisfy their cravings.
After MUCH testing and experimentation, JUUL found that adding a specific substance (the SECRET ingredient!) to free-base nicotine created a nicotine salt that balanced out the pH of the e-juice.
This allowed for higher concentrations of nicotine to be added to the juice without increasing the harshness of the vapor!
The secret ingredient you ask? Benzoic Acid.
Benzoic acid is a harmless substance that is often used in food preservation. MUCH better than ammonia if you ask me.
This breakthrough permitted JUUL to create HIGHLY concentrated nicotine salt e-juices that could be vaporized comfortably using a simple low-wattage battery like the JUUL we've come to know and love.
The combination of their salt nicotine e-juice, conveniently small battery, and their pod-based system created the closest experience to an actual cigarette that smokers can get.It's no surprise that the JUUL became so popular, so quickly.
Nicotine Salt Health RisksNicotine Salt E-juiceNicotine Salt e-juice is no more dangerous than free-base nicotine is as far as we know.
The biggest logical risk we can draw is that using salt nic e-juice over free-base e-juice may increase your level of addiction to nicotine.
Salt nic juice's high concentration and absorption rate result in higher amounts of nicotine in the bloodstream in a shorter amount of time, creating a higher tolerance.
That being said, addiction to nicotine is still not completely understood by science. Some even claim that nicotine isn't addictive at all and rather its the sensation of smoking that is the main source of addiction.
This discrepancy is the result of poorly performed studies taken at face value by sources such as the FDA and the media.
It shows why having many reproductions of any scientific finding is so important!
Benzoic AcidBenzoic acid has been found to be almost completely harmless to humans and animals alike when exposed to it in a solid form. This is why it is very widely used as a food preservative.
However, there has been very little research on the effects of inhaling gaseous benzoic acid.
Although this sounds scary, it's pretty much the same story for every other chemical present in e-juice:
Much more research is required.
Although many recent studies looking into the effects of vaping have shown it to be 95% safer than smoking cigarettes, there are still many studies and tests that need to be performed to give us a fuller picture of the risk factors associated with vaping ANY substance.
Nicotine Salts VS. Free-Base NicotineHere is a basic side by side comparison for each type of nicotine when used in e-juice.
Higher maximum concentration of nicotine (up to 60 mg/ml)Produces smaller, discreet clouds of vaporUsed in simple, small, pod-based vaporizersSmoother VaporLonger shelf-life without flavor distortionRequires fewer puffs to reach the desired level of nicotine in the bodyClosest imitation of an actual cigaretteLower maximum concentration of nicotine (18-30 mg/ml)Can produce large BEASTS of cloudsCan be used in a wide variety of vaporizers, from small pod-based systems to large modsTends to produce harsher vapor at higher nicotine percents (18-30 mg/ml)Shorter shelf-life, due to flavor and color distortionRequires more puffs to reach the desired level of nicotine in the body (meaning you go through more e-juice, and spend more money)Many smokers do not get the same satisfaction they do when smoking or using nicotine salt e-juice.How do I use Nicotine Salts?The VapesNicotine salt e-juices are designed to be used in low wattage vaporizer systems like the JUUL.
Trying to uses nic salts in larger, more powerful sub-ohm systems will result in a VERY unpleasant experience and should be avoided entirely.
Most manufacturers will state what kind of e-juice their model is designed for but if they don't, always make sure you do your research so you don't waste money on an incompatible device.
Although most small pod-based vapes are designed with nic-salts in mind, some of them, like the Smok Novo, are starting to accommodate both salt and free-base e-juices.
For my opinion on THE BEST vaporizers for nicotine salts, click here. (COMING SOON)
The PeopleSo who are nicotine salts best suited for? I'll tell you in list form, because who doesn't like lists right?
Salt NicotineHeavy smokers (one or more packs a day) looking to quitThose looking for a more traditional smoking experienceThose who want smooth vapor containing large amounts of nicotineThose who want a stronger nicotine buzzPeople who want to vape more discreetly with small puffs of vaporThose who prefer a simple, hassle-free vape setupThose who don't want to break the bank with their initial setup Free-Base NicotineLight smokers (In my opinion NON-smokers SHOULD NOT start vaping)Those looking for a new, less traditional experienceThose who will sacrifice nicotine content to maintain smooth vaporPeople who want a more subtle nicotine buzzCLOUD CHASERS (those who love blowing massive clouds of vapor)People who like customization and experimentation, there are nearly endless combinations of batteries, tanks, and mods designed for free-base e-juice''Money isn't an issue, gimme that new flashy CloudBOX X3000, Atlantis Quad-wick double wall glass tank, and some extra batteries while you're at it.''Still Salty?Hopefully not, as I've done my absolute best to answer the question ''What is nicotine salt?''.
Covering every possible angle I could imagine, I think this just may be the most in-depth (unprofessional) article ever written on nicotine salts.
I made this post to help teach people about this new innovation to the vaping frontier, and to clear the air of some of the misunderstandings and errors people make when explaining nicotine salts.
This is also (sort of) a guide to those who are new to vaping, and may be feeling overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.
I know I felt that way when first delving into the wonderful world of vaping, so if I can shed even a little light on the complex topic, then that's a win to me.
Have a salty (or salt-free) day dear JUULers, we'll see you soon.
Did you read the ENTIRE article? if so I'm impressed. Do you have a better understanding of nicotine salts (and nicotine in general) now? Have you decided that nicotine salts are perfect for you? Or are you going to go for the latest box mod tech?
Let me know in the comments below!
FDA clears Philip Morris' iQOS, Altria prepares to sell the heated tobacco device in the US
Data also suggest non-smokers and kids won't be attracted to iQOS, the FDA said. Still, the agency is placing "stringent restrictions" on how iQOS is marketed, particularly online and on social media.
The company must notify FDA on its labeling, advertising, marketing plans and how it plans to restrict youth access, advertising and promotions. It won't be able to advertise iQOS on television and radio since the FDA said the product meets its definition of a cigarette and therefore must adhere to existing cigarette restrictions.
E-cigarettes are not subject to these rules.
"We fully support this objective," PMI CEO Andre Calantzopoulos said in a statement. "FDA has set a high standard and we look forward to working with them to implement the order so that iQOS is reaching the right audience '-- current adult smokers."
Altria will start selling iQOS in Atlanta this summer. Altria plans to open an iQOS store and numerous mobile stores. Heatsticks, Marlboro-branded tobacco sticks that are used with the iQOS device, will be available in about 500 retail stores, including Circle K, Murphy USA, QuikTrip, RaceTrac, Speedway and other retailers, Altria said.
"PM USA will act on market insights and expects to scale IQOS quickly and efficiently," Altria CEO Howard Willard said in a statement.
Last year, reduced-risk products generated $4.1 billion in sales, or about 14% of PMI's total $29.63 billion in revenue. The company wants to boost that statistic to between 38% and 42% by 2025.
Since first launching iQOS in Nagoya, Japan, and Milan, in 2014, Philip Morris has introduced it in more than 40 markets around the world. In some places, growth has surged. In the U.S., iQOS will enter a market where e-cigarette growth is surging, thanks in large part to Juul. Altria in December invested $12.8 billion for a 35% stake in Juul.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 34.3 million adults in the U.S. currently smoke cigarettes. Philip Morris says iQOS will appeal to adult smokers because it's a closer experience to traditional cigarettes yet one that's less harmful.
Anti-tobacco groups disagree. They say heat-not-burn products are just the latest ploy from Big Tobacco to hook people onto its products.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb had embraced the idea that nicotine alternatives can serve as an option for people who want to continue smoking. Under him, the FDA has adopted the belief that nicotine products exist on a continuum of risk where conventional cigarettes are the most deadly and others being possibly not as harmful.
Read the FDA's full statement below:
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it has authorized the marketing of new tobacco products manufactured by Philip Morris Products S.A. for the IQOS "Tobacco Heating System" '' an electronic device that heats tobacco-filled sticks wrapped in paper to generate a nicotine-containing aerosol. The FDA has placed stringent marketing restrictions on the products in an effort to prevent youth access and exposure.
Following a rigorous science-based review through the premarket tobacco product application (PMTA) pathway, the agency determined that authorizing these products for the U.S. market is appropriate for the protection of the public health because, among several key considerations, the products produce fewer or lower levels of some toxins than combustible cigarettes.
The products authorized for sale include the IQOS device, Marlboro Heatsticks, Marlboro Smooth Menthol Heatsticks and Marlboro Fresh Menthol Heatsticks.
While today's action permits the tobacco products to be sold in the U.S., it does not mean these products are safe or "FDA approved."
All tobacco products are potentially harmful and addictive and those who do not use tobacco products should continue not to. Additionally, today's action is not a decision on the separate modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) applications that the company also submitted for these products to market them with claims of reduced exposure or reduced risk.
"Ensuring new tobacco products undergo a robust premarket evaluation by the FDA is a critical part of our mission to protect the public, particularly youth, and to reduce tobacco-related disease and death. While the authorization of new tobacco products doesn't mean they are safe, the review process makes certain that the marketing of the products is appropriate for the protection of the public health, taking into account the risks and benefits to the population as a whole. This includes how the products may impact youth use of nicotine and tobacco, and the potential for the products to completely move adult smokers away from use of combustible cigarettes," said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products.
"Importantly, the FDA is putting in place postmarket requirements aimed at, among other things, monitoring market dynamics such as potential youth uptake.
We'll be keeping a close watch on the marketplace, including how the company is marketing these products, and will take action as necessary to ensure the continued sale of these products in the U.S. remains appropriate and make certain that the company complies with the agency's marketing restrictions to prevent youth access and exposure. As other manufacturers seek to market new tobacco products, the FDA remains committed to upholding the vital public health standards under the law and using all the tools at our disposal to ensure the efficient and appropriate oversight of tobacco products."
Under the PMTA pathway, manufacturers must demonstrate to the agency, among other things, that marketing of the new tobacco product would be appropriate for the protection of the public health. That standard requires the FDA to consider the risks and benefits to the population as a whole, including users and non-users of tobacco products. Importantly this includes youth. The agency's evaluation includes reviewing a tobacco product's components, ingredients, additives and health risks, as well as how the product is manufactured, packaged and labeled. The review for the IQOS products took into account the increased or decreased likelihood that existing tobacco product users will stop using tobacco products, and the increased or decreased likelihood that those who do not use tobacco products will start using them.
In particular, through the FDA's scientific evaluation of the company's applications, peer-reviewed published literature and other sources, the agency found that the aerosol produced by the IQOS Tobacco Heating System contains fewer toxic chemicals than cigarette smoke, and many of the toxins identified are present at lower levels than in cigarette smoke. For example, the carbon monoxide exposure from IQOS aerosol is comparable to environmental exposure, and levels of acrolein and formaldehyde are 89% to 95% and 66% to 91% lower than from combustible cigarettes, respectively.
Additionally, IQOS delivers nicotine in levels close to combustible cigarettes suggesting a likelihood that IQOS users may be able to completely transition away from combustible cigarettes and use IQOS exclusively. Available data, while limited, also indicate that few non-tobacco users would be likely to choose to start using IQOS, including youth.
While these non-combusted cigarettes may be referred to as "heat-not-burn" or "heated" tobacco products, they meet the definition of a cigarette in the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Therefore, these products must adhere to existing restrictions for cigarettes under FDA regulations, as well as other federal laws that, among other things, prohibit television and radio advertising. In addition, to further limit youth access to the products and exposure to their advertising and promotion, the FDA is placing stringent restrictions on how the products are marketed '' particularly via websites and through social media platforms '' by including requirements that advertising be targeted to adults. The company must also give notification to the FDA of, among other things, its labeling, advertising, marketing plans, including information about specific adult target audiences, and how it plans to restrict youth access and limit youth exposure to the products' labeling, advertising, marketing and promotion. The agency has issued a document providing its rationale for these postmarket requirements, which highlight important considerations for reviewing the company's applications as well any potential future PMTAs for other products.
The FDA also is requiring all package labels and advertisements for these products to include a warning about the addictiveness of nicotine, in addition to other warnings required for cigarettes, to prevent consumer misperceptions about the relative addiction risk of using IQOS compared to combusted cigarettes.
With the authorization of these products, the FDA will evaluate new available data regarding the products through postmarketing records and reports required in the marketing order. The company is required to report regularly to the FDA with information regarding the products on the market, including, but not limited to, ongoing and completed consumer research studies, advertising, marketing plans, sales data, information on current and new users, manufacturing changes and adverse experiences. The FDA may withdraw a marketing order if it, among other reasons, determines that the continued marketing of a product is no longer appropriate for the protection of the public health, such as if there is an uptake of the product by youth.
The FDA is continuing its substantive scientific review of the company's MRTP applications. The company would need to receive an MRTP order from the FDA before they could market a tobacco product with any implicit or explicit claims that, among other things, a product reduces exposure to certain chemicals or that use of the product is less harmful than another tobacco product or would reduce the risk of disease. If a company markets a tobacco product as an MRTP without authorization, the company would be in violation of the law and may face FDA advisory or enforcement actions.
Hoodies, watches and other camouflaged vaping devices confound parents, schools - Los Angeles Times
In yet another twist for worried parents: Meet the vaping hoodie.
This high school fashion mainstay '-- defined by a hood with drawstrings '-- is now available as a vaping device, ready to deliver a puff of nicotine (or marijuana) anywhere, anytime. Including in the classroom.
It marks an addition to the fleet of discreet '-- some would say camouflaged '-- vaping devices that have teachers and parents struggling to monitor the usage of a product that has surged in popularity among high school-aged kids in the past two years, despite laws in most states that allow sales only to people 18 and up. (In California, it's 21.)
A computer mouse. A phone case. Backpacks. USB jump drives. The vaping kit options colorfully advertised online are fashionable and many.
Juul, the San Francisco-based company that dominates the e-cigarette trade, and other manufacturers publicly tout their devices as tools for adults looking to get a nicotine fix without the toxins associated with burning tobacco. But the crowded market of devices and accessories that has sprung up around vaping is filled with products that seem tailored to teenagers who want to keep their use secret '-- and according to parents and teachers, are all but impossible to keep out of kids' hands.
Preliminary federal data released this month show more than one-quarter of the nation's high schoolers had reported vaping in the previous 30 days, up from 11.7 % in 2017. As the teen vaping scene has exploded, adults have had a hard time keeping up.
In 2018, the Truth Initiative, an anti-tobacco advocacy group, surveyed middle and high school teachers on vaping and found that fewer than half recognized a photo of a Juul, the most commonly used device. A palm-size stick that charges via USB, it's easily mistaken for a flash drive to the uninitiated.
Sven-Eric Jordt has seen the challenge in his kid's school. By day, Jordt is an associate professor at Duke University, studying the health effects of inhaling various chemicals. By night, he educates his children on the potential risks of vaping. Recently, one of his daughters told him about the ''Apple-like'' watch manufactured by Uwell that is quickly becoming one of the more popular devices at her high school. With a touch of the finger, the face offers the time. But when removed from the wristband, it is a vaping device.
''The teachers have learned to recognize Juul,'' Jordt said, ''but this just looks like a watch.''
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to investigate a spurt of vaping-related lung illnesses, mostly affecting young people. Authorities have reported 530 suspected cases nationwide, including 70 in California. Seven of the cases '-- including two in California '-- have resulted in death.
It's unclear whether a single device or agent is causing those illnesses. Most of the patients have reported vaping cannabis, according to the CDC, but some patients said they had vaped only nicotine or vaped both. In California and other states, at least some of the cases are linked to vaping unregulated cannabis products. The outbreak has focused new attention on what federal officials now characterize as an epidemic of youth vaping.
Two states '-- Michigan and New York '-- have moved to ban sales of most flavored e-cigarette products, which are popular among young people; and President Donald Trump this month said he would launch a similar effort at the federal level. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week that his administration would boost enforcement efforts against illicit and counterfeit vaping products and fund a $20-million public service campaign highlighting the dangers of vaping.
While research continues into the long-term prospects of e-cigarettes as a tool to help people quit smoking, experts say there is clear evidence that teens should not vape. Nicotine can cause changes in the developing brain that make lifelong addiction more likely. The liquids in vaping devices contain a range of chemicals that can harm the lungs.
Some schools have banned flash drives in an effort to keep vaping devices off campuses. But new stealth devices offer ways around these prohibitions.
Some of the devices likely aren't legal. A decade ago, when vaping devices first hit the market, it wasn't clear who had the authority to regulate them. Numerous court cases and regulatory shifts later, they fall under the Food and Drug Administration's purview and are considered a tobacco product.
Depending on when they became available for sale, devices generally fit into one of three regulatory buckets. Anything marketed before Feb. 15, 2007, is exempt from regulation. Products sold after that but before Aug. 8, 2016, have until May 2020 to submit applications to the FDA for market authorization and can be sold in the interim. Anything that was not marketed by Aug. 8, 2016, needs FDA approval to be sold in the U.S.
For example, the vape watch, which appears to have become available this July, seemingly would require authorization from the FDA to be sold in the U.S. California Healthline was able to purchase it online for $34.95.
The face of this ''Apple-like'' watch, when removed from its wrist band, becomes a vaping device. This product was purchased by California Healthline and is pictured on a model.
(Anna Maria Barry-Jester/California Healthline)
The FDA has sent warning letters to six companies about dozens of products being sold without the required approval, and less severe notices to a few others. All but a handful pertain to the liquids used in vaping devices. The FDA did not return a request for comment on how it determines which products are a priority for enforcement.
Representatives with Uwell, which manufactures the vaping watch, did not return a request for comment.
Enforcement of age restrictions varies, and the FDA has sent dozens of warning letters to companies for selling products to underage buyers. Websites take different approaches to age verification. California Healthline recently purchased several vaping devices, and the age verification process ranged from a single click where the buyer attests he or she is at least 21 to external software designed to check the name, address and age against other databases.
Until recently, Amazon sold the components of products that allowed people to build their own marijuana vapes. Some of these products have been linked to the current deadly outbreak. The online giant removed them after Minnesota Public Radio inquired about their sale.
In a statement, Tony Abboud, executive director of the Vapor Technology Assn., one of the industry's largest trade groups, blamed a few bad actors and illegal sales to ineligible customers, saying that the group ''does not approve of youth use of any nicotine products, including these accessories.''
In absence of more aggressive federal efforts to keep these devices off the market, parents and teachers are left with the Sisyphean task of trying to keep them out of kids' hands.
Ira Sachnoff has been a youth tobacco educator in the San Francisco Bay Area for decades. He says the skyrocketing popularity of the Juul-era pod systems has made this new generation of nicotine products tough to combat. ''Schools are freaked out. They don't know what to do because they are busting kids like crazy with these devices,'' he said.
Some schools are installing vape detectors in bathrooms. Others are sending students caught vaping to counseling. The most important first step for parents and school staff, Sachnoff said, is to learn what the devices look like.
With a group at Stanford University, Sachnoff created the Tobacco Prevention Toolkit, a widely used collection of resources aimed at preventing middle and high school students from using nicotine products. One section includes links for parents and guardians to familiarize themselves with the devices and learn to talk with their kids about nicotine.
But with newer and smaller devices hitting the market, kids motivated to vape will have the upper hand. That's why Sachnoff and other tobacco educators train peer counselors, fellow students who can talk about the risks. They hope they can convince kids that, like cigarettes, which have fallen out of favor in recent years, vaping isn't cool and isn't worth the gamble.
''I've been doing this for a long time,'' Sachnoff said, ''and I'll be damned if after 25 years we're gonna let this happen again.''
Barry-Jester is a correspondent for Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent publication of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
September Government Report Shows $206 Million Paid so far in 2019 for Vaccine Injuries and Deaths
The federal government Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines (ACCV) under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just concluded their third meeting of 2019 on September 6th.
These quarterly meetings include a report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on cases settled for vaccine injuries and deaths as mandated by the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP). The September 2019 report can be found here.
The NVICP was started as a result of a law passed in 1986 that gave pharmaceutical companies legal immunity from being sued due to injuries and deaths resulting from vaccines.
So far in 2019 the NVICP has paid out $206,295,187.00 in damages due to vaccine injuries and deaths. (Source.)
This is public information, but it is not covered in the corporate ''mainstream'' media. As far as we know, Health Impact News is the only media source that publishes these DOJ reports on vaccine injuries and deaths each quarter. Past reports can be found here.
In fact, by publishing these government reports, we are accused of publishing ''fake news,'' even though all the facts we are publishing here come from government-funded reports. (See: Self-Appointed Internet Police Declare MedicalKidnap.com and DOJ Vaccine Court Reports Fake News.)
The only narrative that corporate ''mainstream'' media outlets are allowed to publish regarding vaccines, is that they are ''safe and effective,'' and that the ''science is settled.'' Only medical professionals who agree to this narrative are allowed a voice in these media outlets.
Where the true facts regarding the danger and risks caused by vaccines are hard to hide are in the courts, such as these quarterly DOJ reports, which are mandated by law to be published.
So outrageous are the efforts of the corporate media giants to suppress this information, that in the rare instances where an attorney may be interviewed by them, the attorney's credibility is attacked, usually by appealing to the authority of a doctor.
In other words, facts don't matter.
To see this on display yourself, view this recent interview on CNN with NYC attorney Robert Krakow, discussing a lawsuit brought by parents who were denied religious exemptions to the MMR vaccine due to a supposed ''measles outbreak.''
Robert Krakow is a vaccine injury attorney, who deals with vaccine injuries in the federal vaccine court. And yet, the CNN news host disclaims everything he has to say by personally attacking him for not being a medical doctor and therefore not qualified to speak about the safety of the MMR vaccine, and stating that their own TV doctor, Sanjay Gupta, has already assured everyone that the MMR vaccine is completely safe, and therefore Attorney Krakow must be wrong.
This is a rare moment in the corporate-sponsored ''mainstream'' media where it can be clearly seen that facts regarding vaccines don't matter, only their own hand-selected ''medical authorities'' are qualified to discuss this topic.
Attorney Krakow: ''We have medical experts too.''
The September 2019 DOJ report states that 307 petitions were filed during the 3-month time period between 5/16/19 '' 8/15/19, with 228 cases being adjudicated and 179 cases compensated.
The September, 2019 DOJ report only lists 87 of these settlements for vaccine injuries and deaths, and 65 of those were for damages caused by the flu vaccine (see below).
Full report here.
Vaccines Cause Injuries and Deaths: But How Many?Vaccines can cause injuries and death '' this is a public health fact in spite of the corporate media's attempts to censor these facts.
In the few instances where these facts are even mentioned, they are brushed aside with the belief that they are rare, and that the risk is worth it because more people die from the diseases being vaccinated against.
So the logic is that vaccines are necessary for the ''greater good.''
Leaving aside the claim that vaccines are actually effective in preventing these diseases, which the scientific evidence actually suggests is a ''belief'' and not a fact based on science, the claim that vaccine injuries and deaths are ''rare'' really is not backed up by any verifiable data.
In November of 2014, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued the first report on America's ''Vaccine Court,'' known as the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP), in almost 15 years.
Congress gave the pharmaceutical companies immunity against lawsuits for injuries or deaths resulting in vaccines in 1986. Prior to this time, there were so many lawsuits pending against pharmaceutical companies for injuries and deaths due to vaccines, that the pharmaceutical industry basically blackmailed congress and told them that if they did not grant them legal immunity against the liabilities of vaccines, that they would quit making them.
These vaccine products cannot survive in a free market, they are so bad.
The November 2014 GAO report criticized the government for not making the public more aware that the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program exists, and that there are funds available for vaccine injuries. Therefore, the settlements represented by vaccine injuries and deaths included in the DOJ report probably represent a small fraction of the actual vaccine injuries and deaths occurring in America today.
The U.S. government keeps a database of reports documenting vaccine injuries and deaths called The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The problem is that very few medical officials ever report vaccine injuries or deaths, either because they are not trained to recognize them, or due to pressure within their profession to not report them. To admit that vaccines do cause harm is professional suicide for most doctors and medical professionals.
Hence, the quarterly DOJ report on vaccine cases only represents a tiny fraction of the actual cases that exist.
U.S. Government being Sued for Lack of Vaccine SafetyWhen the 1986 National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVIC) was signed into law, it had certain provisions included to make sure vaccines were regularly tested for safety, since the pharmaceutical companies were being given legal immunity due to faulty vaccines.
The federal government Health and Human Services (HHS) department is tasked with this vaccine safety reporting, and a recent lawsuit has revealed that they have failed to conduct such vaccine safety studies since the law was implemented in 1986. See:
HHS Sued for Not Upholding Vaccine Safety Testing Mandated by LawSince these facts about vaccines are routinely censored by the pharma-financed ''mainstream'' media and in government hearings, most of the public is largely unaware of the 1986 NVIC, and that pharmaceutical companies cannot be sued, and that one has to sue the U.S. Government in a special vaccine court.
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Published on September 10, 2019
We're telling the stories of those who died homeless '' here's why | Cities | The Guardian
I t started with the tents. From 2010 onwards it seemed they were springing up everywhere'' in stations, shopping centres, tunnels, parks, wastelands. Blots on every landscape. Tents became a symbol of David Cameron and George Osborne's austerity politics '' or the Big Society, where statutory public services and benefits were slashed and replaced by the voluntary sector and well-meaning individuals with sandwich trolleys. In the blink of an eye, tents became normalised. Britain became a society in which those with nothing, and sometimes even those who worked for a wage, were housed in plastic.
Then we discovered that people weren't simply living in tents, they were dying in them too. Aimee Teese in Liverpool overdosed in her tent while Richard Kehoe was found dead in his after he stopped taking his diabetes medication '' both in Liverpool. It's a truism that society's most vulnerable have been hardest hit by austerity politics. And you don't get more vulnerable than the homeless. And of the homeless, you don't get more vulnerable than the street homeless. And the most vulnerable of them all? They don't get to live. They perish on the streets of Britain, or in hostels if they're lucky.
Last year it felt as if Britain had finally started to take notice of those dying homeless in Britain. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism undertook an important project to count and bear witness to Britain's homeless dead, and soon after the Office of National Statistics started to collate figures '' how they died, age, why, where, when. Shocking new data emerged. Last year Shelter estimated that 320,000 people were homeless in Britain '' from sofa surfers to those in temporary accommodation and hostels, and ultimately those sleeping rough on the streets. The government's own statistics, published in January 2018, show that street homelessness had increased by 169% since 2010. The average age of those dying on Britain's streets is 42 for women and 44 for men. It is estimated that 800 homeless people died in the 18 months before March 2019, but the figures may be far higher.
Horrific statistics. But in the end they are little more than that '' statistics. What we want to do is tell the stories of some of these people. Not so much the story of their death, but the story of their life '' what they were like as kids, what their dreams were, their hobbies, what people loved about them, what was infuriating. We also wanted to find out what went wrong with their lives, how it impacted on their loved ones, and if anything could have been done differently by statutory agencies or the voluntary sector to prevent their deaths.
All the people we are writing about had their demons. Many were victims of abuse; some were self-destructive or suffering from mental illness; all were addicted to drink or drugs. At the same time, in virtually every case we discovered a failing of those who are there to protect them that could have been the difference between them living or dying.
Over the next few months we will be recounting the lives of homeless people who have recently died in the UK. These stories will focus on a variety of issues, including addiction (the biggest killer of homeless people), suicide (the second biggest killer), care (a hugely disproportionate number of homeless people have been in the care system), , post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse, disability, prison. The individual stories we tell will be a tribute to those who have died on the streets '' an attempt to reclaim their lives '' but also a way in to discussing fundamental issues around homelessness.
We met politicians, mayors, outreach workers, charity executives who all talked about people falling through the network and a lack of joined-up thinking. At times these phrases felt abstract, divorced from reality. We wanted to discover what they actually meant in real terms; how did the lack of joined-up thinking contribute to the deaths of the people whose stories we were telling?
Of course, it's never quite as simple as that. And there are no definitive answers. But in most cases with more resources, compassion, efficiency, time, flexibility and luck these people could still be alive. Some of the failings happened early in life '' for example, the boy from care who was moved numerous times before he was four years old, and then moved yet again when he was finally settled. But many of the failings happened in the final days or day of their lives. We heard the stories of the east European who was turned away from a hostel a week before his death because he did not qualify for benefits and was thought to have no reasonable prospects of a job; the young mother released from prison without accommodation to go to or her addiction treated; the woman who, three days before her death, finally admitted she needed help but was told to come back three weeks later for a rehab place; the young man who, ill and delirious, told the ambulance service he didn't want to go to hospital and died later that day. None of this was malicious or deliberate. They are just examples of services stretched beyond breaking point, bogged down in bureaucracy, or not acting as wisely as they could.
Many issues arise from what we heard and saw: the lack of accountability of those housing vulnerable people in semi-independent accommodation; the coroners who let statutory and voluntary services off the hook by concluding the deceased had all the support they needed without really scrutinising the situation; the lack of formal reviews into those who have died homeless. As the series develops, we will invite politicians, charities and the organisations charged with helping the homeless to respond to the issues raised. We are also asking readers to offer their own stories and reflections on homelessness. We want the stories we tell to become the fulcrum of a debate about homelessness; to make a difference to a scourge that shames us all. It is time to stop just passing by.
But this series is about much more than pinpointing institutional and governmental failures. Ultimately it is a tribute to those who lived and died homeless, and the families and friends who did their best to keep them alive. It has been tough for people like Cathy Teese, who today tells the story of her niece Aimee, to open up to us. But they have done so for one reason only '' by telling the story of their loved ones, they hope to make it less likely that others will suffer such a terrible fate.
In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or email email@example.com. If you are worried about becoming homeless, contact the housing department of your local authority to fill in a homeless application. You can use the Gov.uk website to find your local council
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NO NEW CAMPING BAN: Austin council's effort to update homeless rules falls apart - News - Austin American-Statesman - Austin, TX
Philip Jankowski @PhilJankowski Friday Sep 20, 2019 at 12:43 PM Sep 20, 2019 at 7:40 PM
Austin City Council members walked in Friday morning poised to update homeless camping restrictions in the wake of their controversial decision to rescind bans in June.
By lunchtime, the effort had fallen apart.
Instead of a vote on any provision, the council punted action to Oct. 17 after confidence in the process to pass an ordinance put forward by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Greg Casar, Ann Kitchen and Kathie Tovo collapsed.
"This has been such a contentious issue and hard issue emotionally in a variety ways," Council Member Delia Garza said. "I can't see any of us walking out today feeling good in a tiny way."
The decision was a stunning anti-climax to the political rift that has grown since the council repealed and limited ordinances related to camping, sitting, lying down and panhandling on June 20. The increased visibility of Austin's most marginalized community in the streets has created a fervor of frustration from many who wish things would go back to the way they were.
"Some of us feel like (the council) pushed the homeless out into communities and used them as pawns," said Cleo Petricek, a leading organizer of the effort to bring back camping bans. "Now we got to wait till Oct. 17. That's extremely frustrating. And for me, it's never been about the eyesore or about a homeless person looking a certain way, it's about actual harassment threats."
For now, the tents will remain.
The delay came after the council spent hours listening to testimony this week from a community sharply divided over the situation with homeless camping. Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison likened the hearings to the council having "their teeth kicked in," as she pleaded for unity from the dais Friday.
Several proposals to update the homeless camping ordinance were on the table at the outset of Friday's meeting. They included possible camping bans on streets in West Campus and downtown as well as under overpasses and in creek beds.
Deliberations began with an ordinance cobbled together from two dueling proposals that council members made two weeks ago as they approved next year's city budget, which contains a record $62.7 million dedicated to measures to address homelessness.
Adler, Casar, Kitchen and Tovo '-- the four council members behind the proposed ordinance '-- had identified six main points of contention to discuss, including whether to allow camping on sidewalks, the extent "no camping" signs should be deployed and allowing camping in high fire risk areas. It appeared Adler intended to have each council member indicate where they might land in each point and then vote.
However, it quickly became clear that some council members were either fundamentally opposed to the whole exercise or had serious concerns outside of the six issues identified by the ordinance's four authors.
Council Member Jimmy Flannigan reiterated his preference that the council wait for the city's newly hired homelessness strategy officer to give input before it takes any action.
"A week and a half into her job and we are going to dictate to her how to do it?" Flannigan said. "We should not be doing this right now."
After Garza signaled her opposition to passing anything, Adler appeared to doom any action when he concurred with postponing a vote.
Kitchen then suggested that the council move forward with a resolution to direct city staffers to study how to address the city's two most notorious homeless encampments at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless and under Texas 71 near Packsaddle Pass.
Garza made a motion to pass a version of the homelessness ordinance put forward by Casar, which contained the loosest camping bans of all proposals. The move ultimately left the council with two choices: vote on Casar's ordinance or punt the decision to another day.
They punted. The vote was 9-1 with Flannigan against and Council Member Alison Alter off the dais.
On social media, calls for some council members to resign or be recalled emerged as news of the vote to postpone spread.
But at City Hall, the council continued to discuss some of the ins and outs of the issue.
One concern was with how Austin police would enforce any new laws. Police Chief of Staff Troy Gay said police have only issued three camping citations amid about 300 complaints since June 20, adding that he would like to see specific boundaries to camping bans so officers would not have to rely on judgment calls when issuing citations.
Under questioning from Alter, police leaders did dispel rumors that officers have not been able to enforce a host of other laws.
Trump's Ukraine Call: A Clear Impeachable Offense - The Atlantic
If this in itself is not impeachable, then the concept has no meaning. Trump's grubby commandeering of the presidency's fearsome and nearly uncheckable powers in foreign policy for his own ends is a gross abuse of power and an affront both to our constitutional order and to the integrity of our elections.
The story may even be worse than we know. If Trump tried to use military aid to Ukraine as leverage, as reporters are now investigating, then he held Ukrainian and American security hostage to his political vendettas. It means nothing to say that no such deal was reached; the important point is that Trump abused his position in the Oval Office.
In this matter, we need not rely on a newspaper account, nor even on the complaint, so far unseen, of a whistle-blower. Instead, we have a sweaty, panicked admission on national television by Trump's bizarre homunculus, Rudy Giuliani, that he did in fact seek such an investigation on Trump's behalf. Giuliani later again confirmed Trump's role, tweeting that a ''President telling a Pres-elect of a well known corrupt country he better investigate corruption that affects US is doing his job.''
Let us try, as we always find ourselves doing in the age of Trump, to think about how Americans might react if this happened in any other administration. Imagine, for example, if Bill Clinton had called his friend, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, in 1996, and asked him to investigate Bob Dole. Or if George W. Bush had called, say, President Vicente Fox of Mexico in 2004 and asked him'--indeed, asked him eight times, according to The Wall Street Journal'--to open a case against John Kerry. Clinton, of course, was eventually impeached for far less than that. Is there any doubt that either man would have been put on trial in the Senate, and likely chased from office?
The Republicans, predictably, have decided to choose their party over their country, and the damage control and lying have begun. Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, for one, has already floated the reliable ''deep-state attack'' nonsense that will play well on Fox and other conservative outlets. And while Giuliani did Trump no favors with his incoherent ranting on CNN, he did manage to hammer away at the idea that Biden, and not Trump, tried to shake down the Ukrainians while he was vice president.
The problem for Giuliani, the Republicans, and the president himself, however, is that Biden and his actions are now irrelevant to the offenses committed by Trump. The accusations against Biden are false, as we know from multiple fact checks and from the Ukrainians themselves (which is why I won't deign to repeat them here). But even to argue over this fable about Biden is to miss the point, because it changes nothing about Trump's attempts to enmesh Biden in a foreign investigation for Trump's own purposes.
Trump defends call with Ukrainian leader, calls for Biden investigation.
Well, well, well'... the media cannot say President Trump didn't try to warn them about throwing fake-news rakes in front of their narrative parade '' then wondering why they keep getting black-eyes. Here we go, the details begin to surface.
With more reporting by John Solomon, cited and attributed to on-the-record officials in the State Department and Ukraine, a much more clear picture emerges. In reality, and unfortunately as expected, the fulsome picture is 180° divergent from the media narrative.
The government of Ukraine under both Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and now President Volodymyr Zelensky, had been trying to deliver information about Obama officials and Democrat party officials (DNC on behalf of Hillary Clinton) requesting the government of Ukraine to interfere in the 2016 election.
Both Poroshenko and Zelensky administrations had tried, unsuccessfully, to get information to current U.S. officials. U.S. State Department officials in Ukraine were refusing to give visa's to Ukrainian emissaries because they did not want the damaging information sent to the President Trump administration.
Failing to get help from the U.S. State Department, the Ukranians tried a workaround, and hired a respected U.S. lawyer to hand deliver the documentary evidence directly to the U.S. Department of Justice. The contracted American lawyer hand-delivered the information to the U.S. Department of Justice in New York.
However, after delivering the information and not hearing back from the U.S. government, the Ukrainian government, now led by President Zelensky, interpreted the silence as the Trump administration and U.S. government (writ large) being upset about the Ukraine involvement overall. Out of concern for a serious diplomatic breakdown, the Zelensky administration made a personal request to the U.S. State Department for assistance.
The U.S. State Department then reached out to Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani; and asked him if he would meet with Zelensky's top lawyer, Andrei Yermak.
Rudy Giuliani agreed to act as a diplomatic intermediary and met with Yermak in Spain. After the meeting, Mr. Giuliani then contacted the State Department Officials in charge of Ukraine and Europe and debriefed them on the totality of the subject matter as relayed by Andrei Yermak.
All of this activity preceded the phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
President Trump and President Zelensky discussed the issues, and this phone call is the one now referenced by the concerned ''whistleblower''. The ''whistleblower'' obviously had no knowledge of the background and why the subject matter discussed in the phone call was framed as it was.
Apparently in the phone call, President Zelensky was explaining what action the Ukranian government had already taken to try and get the information about corrupt U.S. officials, including former VP Joe Biden, to the U.S. government.
It was from this clarification of information that President Trump is reported to have told Zelensky it was OK to proceed with any internal investigation of corruption in Ukraine that might also encompass former U.S. officials. Yes, that would include Joe Biden.
From this context we can see how the ''whistle-blower'', knowing only half of the information '' might incorrectly perceive the conversation. Additionally, there's a possibility the ''whistle-blower'' may be ideologically aligned with the same government entities that were trying to block the Ukrainian government from delivering the information in the first place.
Beyond the media, pundits and democrat politicians making fools of themselves, four very significant questions/issues become obvious:
(#1) who in the U.S. State Department Ukraine embassy was blocking the visas of Ukrainian officials, and why?(#2) Who was the official at the New York office of the DOJ who took custody of the records hand-delivered by the American lawyer working on behalf of Ukraine?'.... and(#3) why were those records never turned over to Main Justice?'.... Or(#4) if they were turned over to Main Justice, why didn't they inform the Trump administration they had received them?At the end of this fake news narrative parade, these will be the questions that remain.
Q Mr. President, do you want to address this whistleblower story, sir?
Q Will you be asking '-- will you be asking '--
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Wait a moment, please.
Q Do you want to address this whistleblower story?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: What story?
Q The whistleblower, whether it was (inaudible)?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's a ridiculous story. It's a partisan whistleblower. Shouldn't even have information. I've had conversations with many leaders. They're always appropriate. I think Scott can tell you that. Always appropriate. At the highest level, always appropriate. And anything I do, I fight for this country. I fight so strongly for this country. It's just another political hack job.
Q Mr. President, on that point, did you discuss Joe Biden, his son, or his family with the leader of Ukraine?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It doesn't matter what I discuss. But I will say this: Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement, because it was disgraceful, where he talked about billions of dollars that he's not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor is taken off the case.
So, somebody ought to look into that. And you wouldn't, because he's a Democrat. And the Fake News doesn't look into things like that. It's a disgrace.
But I had a great conversation with numerous people. I don't even know exactly who you're talking about, but I had a great conversation with numerous people '-- numerous leaders. And I always look for the conversation that's going to help the United States the most. That's very important.
Q Mr. President, do you know the identity of the whistleblower? Do you know the identity of the whistleblower?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't know the identity of the whistleblower. I just hear it's a partisan person, meaning it comes out from another party. But I don't have any idea. But I can say it was a totally appropriate conversation. It was actually a beautiful conversation.
And this is no different than '-- you know, the press has had a very bad week with Justice Kavanaugh and all of those ridiculous charges and all of the mistakes made at the New York Times and other places. You've had a very bad week. And this will be better than all of them. This is another one. So keep '-- so keep '-- so keep playing it up, because you're going to look really bad when it falls. You know, I guess I'm about '-- I guess I'm about 22 and 0, and I'll keep it that way.
Q Did you mention Joe Biden during the conversation though, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I don't want to talk about any conversation, other than to say '-- other than to say: great conversation, totally appropriate conversation, couldn't have been better. And keep asking questions and build it up as big as possible so you can have a bigger downfall.
Q Mr. President, on the whistleblower, have you read the complaint? Have you read the complaint of the '--
PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I haven't. It's '-- it's '--
Q Who in your White House has?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I just tell you, it is '-- everybody has read it and they laugh at it. And it's another '--
Q But you haven't read it?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It's another media disaster. The media has lost so much credibility in this country. Our media has become the laughingstock of the world.
When you look at what they did to Justice Kavanaugh and so many other things last week, I think this is one of the worst weeks in the history of the fake news media. You have been wrong on so many things and this one will be '-- I wouldn't say it will top the list, because I think you can't do worse than some of the stories you missed over the last week or two, but the media of our country is laughed at all over the world now. You're a joke.
Okay, what else?
Q Mr. President, (inaudible) clarify: When you talk about the conversation that you '--
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Which conservation?
Q Well, we're trying to figure out what conversation you're '--
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, figure it out. You're supposed to be the media. Figure it out.
Q July 25th? Was it July 25th?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: It was '-- which conversation?
Q Was it July 25th, with the President of Ukraine?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I really don't know. I don't know.
Q Should Congress see the complaint and the transcript of your call to clear any confusion?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: There is nothing. It's nothing.
Q Should Congress see it?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: There's nothing.
Sharyl Attkissonðµ¸''¸ on Twitter: "If you were an anti-Trump leaker in the Intel Community afraid that you are about to be exposed with an investigation, might you not seek protection by calling yourself a "whistleblower"? Asking for a friend."
T he scars on the sides of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden's face are the result of a facelift carried out before he launched his 2020 presidential campaign, according to leading cosmetic surgeons.
Up close, large vertical scars beginning at the top of the outside of his ear canal to roughly a half inch below the lobe can be seen on both sides of the former vice president's face. Separate horizontal scars stretch from behind his ear to his upper neck.
Those scars, according to cosmetic surgeons who reviewed photographs of Biden, are the consequence of a rhytidectomy '-- more commonly referred to as a facelift. In the procedure, the surgeons said, incisions were made next to Biden's ears and behind his skull, removing excess skin and creating a tightened complexion.
Joe Biden. (AP/Joe Simonson/Washington Examiner)
"Oh he's had a facelift, there's no question," said leading New York-based cosmetic surgeon Dr. Arthur Perry, who is also an associate adjunct professor at Columbia Medical School.
He described the size of Biden's incisions as "incredible" and "fairly recent." He said: "The scars come too far from his ear. This is very hard to correct."
Perry noted that hair was protruding from Biden's tragus, the piece of cartilage on the outside of the ear. Typically, the skin of the patient's face is pulled to the edge of the tragus. In Biden's surgery, however, he said the skin was pulled too far up.
"You can see the beard hair on his ear," Perry said. "You normally don't have to shave that part of your ear. Joe does." He added that Biden would have to have the procedure repeated to correct the blemishes.
Joe Biden's scar. (Joe Simonson/Washington Examiner)
"The problem with Biden's surgery is that it's obvious," said Dr. Cap Lesesne, a prominent New York cosmetic surgeon who has reportedly consulted with Hillary Clinton and news anchor Katie Couric.
"I've operated on several high-profile individuals, and I'd never let them look like that. Those are classic facelift scars. It's probably been over a year. I kind of feel bad for him. He should have had those scars removed. He's in trouble because he can't change it at this point and you expect him to look his best."
Lesesne described how public figures typically plan operations two to three years before they're expected to be in the full public glare so the doctor can assess what potential scars would look like under lighting. Men require different surgical techniques because they usually don't wear makeup except when on television.
Someone like Biden, Lesesne posited, would have several follow-up procedures to minimize the scarring. For whatever reason, it appears Biden neglected to do so.
For decades, it has been apparent that Biden has undergone other cosmetic procedures on his hair, teeth, and face. One leading cosmetic surgeon confirmed to the Washington Examiner that his practice had inserted hair plugs for Biden. As early as 1987, Biden was asked by a reporter whether he had undergone a hair transplant. He responded: "Guess. I've got to keep some mystery in my life."
Cosmetic surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Spiegel '-- who says he has celebrities fly in from around the world to his practice '-- gave a more generous assessment of Biden's facelift, although he said the scarring could "be improved" with more work.
"Given that he's been a politician for decades, there's nothing necessarily terrible. It could just be the way it healed," Spiegel said.
"More power to him. Anyone who thinks they can improve themselves through their appearance and go forward is great. Maybe he just doesn't feel as old as his appearance may look. This takes confidence, it's great. It's an outdated concept that only women get plastic surgery now. There's no stigma here."
The pinkness of the scarring, according to Spiegel, indicated that the procedure happened between six months and two years ago. He also noted that there was still excess skin, colloquially referred to as a "turkey neck," below Biden's chin, a fix usually made during a general facelift.
[ Also read: Dental malfunction? Concerns over Biden's teeth as he struggles to answer debate question]
Joe Biden. (AP)
Biden is not the first politician to have experienced scrutiny over whether cosmetic surgery had been performed. The Drudge Report website documented Clinton's apparently shifting appearance during the 2016 campaign with nudge-nudge headlines such as ''Fresh-Faced Hillary Glows at Lincoln Center.''
The anti-Clinton author Edward Klein wrote '-- though he provided no evidence '-- in his book Unlikeable, published in 2015, that a cosmetic surgeon had a ''mini operating room in her home with the latest medical equipment.''
John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic nominee, has long been accused of having Botox injections. In recent years, he has repeatedly been compared to a Muppet. During his 2003 California gubernatorial campaign, Arnold Schwarzenegger deflected rumors he had had a facelift, quipping that people were mixing him up with Cher.
Speculation has also been circulating for years about Biden's potential contender in the general election, President Trump, and whether his signature blonde hair is natural. During divorce proceedings in 1990, Ivana Trump testified under oath that her former husband was in agony over an alleged scalp reduction surgery performed the year before.
The evidence of Biden's latest surgical procedure raises the question of whether it will be disclosed in his medical records, which he recently pledged to release before the Iowa caucuses.
Previously-released health records of Biden's show a number of minor health blips. Beyond undergoing multiple emergency surgeries to remove aneurysms, Biden has been prescribed drugs for an enlarged prostate and to lower his cholesterol. In 1996, doctors removed a benign polyp in his colon, and in 2013, he had his gallbladder removed.
Gambling Site Has More Bets That This Non-Candidate Will Win Than Any Other Democrat Actually Running
One British bookmaker has more wagers on one candidate to win the Democratic presidential nomination '-- and the person isn't even officially running.
U.K. bookmaker Ladbrokes takes betters wager on the race, and according to Matthew Shaddick, head of their political betting division, Hillary Clinton is atop the pack, Newsweek reports.
''The site currently has Clinton's betting odds at 20 to 1, placing her alone in seventh place as far as best odds. That is ahead of most of the people actually running, including Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke.''
''We're baffled, to be honest,'' Matthew Shaddick, head of political betting at Ladbrokes, told Newsweek. ''We've taken more bets on her to be the Democratic candidate than any of the other runners.''
Leading the polls is former Vice President Joe Biden. But Biden is not the favorite in the Ladbrokes market for the Democrats' 2020 nominee. The favorite is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren at 6/4. Biden is currently the second favorite at 5/2.
In third place is independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, on 5/1.
''I've seen some speculation about what might happen if Biden had to drop out for some reason'--perhaps that would leave a space for her to occupy in the field?'' Shaddick said of Clinton. ''Doesn't really convince me as a good reason, though.''
Elizabeth Warren now 6/4 favourite to be 2020 Democratic nominee with *squints* Hillary Clinton moving up the field. pic.twitter.com/5b1DQ07DkO
'-- Ladbrokes Politics (@LadPolitics) September 18, 2019
Oddschecker.com, which gives its users all the odds by aggregating the prices of the leading legitimate oddsmakers, also has Warren now atop the pile, with most bookies putting her at 4/1 (bet $1, win $14). Former vice president Joe Biden comes in at about 6/1.
Meanwhile, blogger Matt Drudge has made his pick. ''It's Elizabeth Warren's nomination to lose'...'' he wrote Wednesday on Twitter.
It's Elizabeth Warren's nomination to lose'... pic.twitter.com/xfj2sQxOm3
'-- MATT DRUDGE (@DRUDGE) September 18, 2019
Check out this cool graphic here.
How ''information gerrymandering'' influences voters | MIT News
Many voters today seem to live in partisan bubbles, where they receive only partial information about how others feel regarding political issues. Now, an experiment developed in part by MIT researchers sheds light on how this phenomenon influences people when they vote.
The experiment, which placed participants in simulated elections, found not only that communication networks (such as social media) can distort voters' perceptions of how others plan to vote, but also that this distortion can increase the chance of electoral deadlock or bias overall election outcomes in favor of one party.
''The structure of information networks can really fundamentally influence the outcomes of elections,'' says David Rand, an associate professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a co-author of a new paper detailing the study. ''It can make a big difference and is an issue people should be taking seriously.''
More specifically, the study found that ''information gerrymandering'' can bias the outcome of a vote, such that one party wins up to 60 percent of the time in simulated elections of two-party situations where the opposing groups are equally popular. In a follow-up empirical study of the U.S. federal government and eight European legislative bodies, the researchers also identified actual information networks that show similar patterns, with structures that could skew over 10 percent of the vote in the study's experiments.
The paper, ''Information gerrymandering and undemocratic decisions,'' is being published today in Nature.
The authors are Alexander J. Stewart of the University of Houston; Mohsen Mosleh, a research scientist at MIT Sloan; Marina Diakonova of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University; Antonio Arechar, an associate research scientist at MIT Sloan and a researcher at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Aguascalientes, Mexico; Rand, who is also the principal investigator for MIT Sloan's Human Cooperation Lab; and Joshua B. Plotkin of the University of Pennsylvania. Stewart is the lead author.
While there is a burgeoning academic literature on media preferences, political ideology, and voter choices, the current study is an effort to create general models of the fundamental influence that information networks can have. Through abstract mathematical models and experiments, the researchers can analyze how strongly networks can influence voter behavior, even when long-established layers of voter identity and ideology are removed from the political arena.
''Part of the contribution here is to try to formalize how information about politics flows through social networks, and how that can influence voters' decisions,'' says Stewart.
The study used experiments involving 2,520 particpants, who played a ''voter game'' in one of a variety of conditions. (The participants were recruited via Amazon's Mechanical Turk platform and took part in the simulated elections via Breadboard, a platform generating multiplayer network interactions.) The players were divided into two teams, a ''yellow'' team and a ''purple'' team, usually with 24 people on each side, and were allowed to change their voting intentions in response to continuously updated polling data.
The participants also had incentives to try to produce certain vote outcomes reflective of what the authors call a ''compromise worldview.'' For instance, players would receive a (modest) payoff if their team received a super-majority vote share; a smaller payoff if the other team earned a super-majority; and zero payoff if neither team reached that threshold. The election games usually lasted four minutes, during which time each voter had to decide how to vote.
In general, voters almost always voted for their own party when the polling data showed it had a chance of reaching a super-majority share. They also voted for their own side when the polling data showed a deadlock was likely. But when the opposing party was likely to achieve a super-majority, half the players would vote for it, and half would continue to vote for their own side.
During a baseline series of election games where all the players had unbiased, random polling information, each side won roughly a quarter of the time, and a deadlock without a super-majority resulted about half the time. But the researchers also varied the game in multiple ways. In one iteration of the game, they added information gerrymandering to the polls, such that some members of one team were placed inside the other team's echo chamber. In another iteration, the research team deployed online bots, comprising about 20 percent of voters, to behave like ''zealots,'' as the scholars called them; the bots would strongly support one side only.
After months of iterations of the game, the researchers concluded that election outcomes could be heavily biased by the ways in which the polling information was distributed over the networks, and by the actions of the zealot bots. When members of one party were led to believe that most others were voting for the other party, they often switched their votes to avoid deadlock.
''The network experiments are important, because they allow us to test the predictions of the mathematical models,'' says Mosleh, who led the experimental portion of the research ''When we added echo chambers, we saw that deadlock happened much more often '-- and, more importantly, we saw that information gerrymandering biased the election results in favor of one party over the other.''
The empirical case
As part of the larger project, the team also sought out some empirical information about similar scenarios among elected governments. There are many instances where elected officials might either support their first-choice legislation, settle for a cross-partisan compromise, or remain in deadlock. In those cases, having unbiased information about the voting intentions of other legislators would seem to be very important.
Looking at the co-sponsorship of bills in the U.S. Congress from 1973 to 2007, the researchers found that the Democratic Party had greater ''influence assortment'' '-- more exposure to the voting intentions of people in their own party '-- than the Republican Party of the same time. However, after Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994, their own influence assortment became equivalent to that of the Democrats, as part of a highly polarized pair of legislative influence networks. The researchers found similar levels of polarization in the influence networks of six out of the eight European parliaments they evaluated, generally during the last decade.
Rand says he hopes the current study will help generate additional research by other scholars who want to keep exploring these dynamics empirically.
''Our hope is that laying out this information gerrymandering theory, and introducing this voter game, we will spur new research around these topics to understand how these effects play out in real-world networks,'' Rand says.
Support for the research was provided by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Initiative of the Miami Foundation, the Templeton World Charity Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, the Army Research Office, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
Dems Cook 10,500 Steaks While Lecturing Americans About Eating Less Meat
Several Democratic presidential candidates will be attending an annual steak fry event, despite lecturing Americans about the need to eat less meat because of climate change.
The organizers of the Iowa Polk County Democratic Party's annual steak fry will be grilling 10,500 steaks and 1,000 vegan burgers on 10 grills, during Saturday's event. Some of the candidates will grill steaks themselves.
Democratic candidates recently participated in a CNN climate town hall, where multiple candidates discussed the importance of reducing meat intake. Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) called for the U.S. government to create incentives to eat less meat.
"As a nation, we actually have to have a real priority at the highest level of government around what we eat and in terms of healthy eating because we have a problem in America," Harris said. "But there has to be also what we do in terms of creating incentives that we will eat in a healthy way, that we will encourage moderation and that we will be educated about the effect of our eating habits on our environment."
Andrew Yang said he would "modify Americans' diets over time" by increasing the price of beef to the point where Americans would buy less meat. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg are also in favor of adding a meat tax in order to decrease consumption.
Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.), who is a vegan, said "this planet simply can't sustain" people eating meat.
Cameron Cawthorne is a Media Analyst for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2013. Prior to joining Free Beacon, Cameron was a Legislative Assistant in the Virginia General Assembly and a War Room Analyst at America Rising.
M.I.T. Media Lab, Already Rattled by the Epstein Scandal, Has a New Worry - The New York Times
Image The M.I.T. Media Lab building on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. Credit Credit Cody O'Loughlin for The New York Times Sept. 22, 2019, 5:00 a.m. ET The M.I.T. Media Lab, an unconventional research center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been under scrutiny since August, when its financial ties to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein became public. Now researchers who worked at the lab say that one of its high-profile scientific projects was promoted with misleading claims.
At the center of the project '-- the Open Agricultural Initiative, called OpenAg for short '-- is the development of a device known as a personal food computer, a high-tech, climate-controlled mini greenhouse meant to allow crops to thrive in thin air, without soil or sunlight.
The project is led by Caleb Harper, an architect listed as a principal research scientist on the Media Lab website. Advisers for OpenAg have included Nicholas Negroponte, a co-founder of the Media Lab, and Joichi Ito, who was the lab's director from 2011 until this month, when he resigned under pressure after the disclosure of his efforts to conceal his financial connections to Mr. Epstein, the financier who killed himself last month after being indicted on federal sex-trafficking charges.
Four researchers who worked on OpenAg said in interviews with The New York Times that Mr. Harper had made exaggerated or false claims about the project to its corporate sponsors, a group that included the retail giant Target, as well as in interviews with the news media.
Mr. Harper, the project's leader, came to prominence with a 2015 TED Talk in which he made the case for the food computer. That lecture has racked up more than 1.8 million views on YouTube. Recently, the text summary on YouTube describing the lecture was revised to include a statement from TED: ''This talk is under review by TED's editors.''
The M.I.T. Media lab is also looking into Mr. Harper's project. An executive committee of faculty and staff members formed to lead the lab after Mr. Ito's departure said in a statement on Thursday: ''We are aware of questions raised about certain research conducted by the Open Agriculture Initiative at the M.I.T. Media Lab. Research integrity at M.I.T. is paramount and we will take all appropriate steps to address any concerns raised.''
The complaints of former Media Lab researchers concerning OpenAg were previously reported by Business Insider and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Mr. Harper, who did not respond to requests for comment, has said that his innovation would help usher in a ''fourth agricultural revolution,'' with people using the climate-controlled devices to discover and track the optimal conditions for various crops. Farmers with food computers could then share the data '-- what OpenAg calls ''climate recipes'' '-- with fellow food producers around the world, who would be able to use that information to improve yields from their own food computers.
Image Caleb Harper of the M.I.T. Media Lab. Researchers who worked with him said he painted too rosy a portrait of his ''food computer.'' He defended himself in one media interview. Credit Andreas Gebert/Associated Press As the leader of an initiative at the Media Lab, which has more than 90 corporations as ''member companies,'' Mr. Harper has been personally responsible for raising funds. In addition to the backing from Target, which ended in 2017, OpenAg has received financial support from Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, and Welspun, a conglomerate based in Mumbai, India, according to copies of contracts reviewed by The Times.
The former OpenAg researchers said that the food computers did not work as well as Mr. Harper said they did, adding that he often presented speculative claims as scientific truths while raising funds. In a recent interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mr. Harper defended himself against that accusation, saying that he had not misled anyone and that his statements about the project were meant to describe his vision for its future.
Babak Babakinejad, a Ph.D. who was formerly the project's lead researcher, detailed his concerns about how OpenAg was presented in an email to Mr. Harper. He said he had sent the email, which he shared with The Times, after his contract with OpenAg was not renewed.
''You seem to think endlessly reiterating untrue claims will lend them credibility, but it won't,'' Dr. Babakinejad wrote to Mr. Harper. ''By persisting in this course of action, you have been putting M.I.T. and everyone associated with you at risk and I think it's time that you were made to face up to that and take responsibility for it.''
The four former researchers said that those who worked on the project were often told to make the food computers appear to work better than they did during promotional photo shoots or visits from the lab's sponsors or the news media.
Paula Cerqueira, a former special projects manager at OpenAg, said she had been told to buy a lavender plant from a store near the OpenAg facility before photos were taken. She brushed dirt off the plant, she said, and placed it inside a food computer before the shoot.
''When it comes to academic research, because you are seeking funding all the time, there is always a line between projecting vision and misleading people,'' Ms. Cerqueira said. ''I think that line was stepped over a number of times.''
The food computers, which researchers have envisioned selling to the public, are supposed to provide plants with just the right amount of light. But when the light function was not working, another member of the OpenAg team said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive events, an engineer manually rigged the device so that light would shine at the correct level during an important demonstration.
Image Paula Cerqueira, a former Media Lab researcher, said she had been told to use a store-bought plant in a promotional photo shoot of the food computer. Credit Cody O'Loughlin for The New York Times ''This sounds more subtle than taking dirt plants and washing them off, but it actually is more fundamental,'' the former member of the project said.
The Media Lab was created in 1985 to encourage flights of fancy. As a sign that it favors innovation above all else, the lab refers to itself as ''anti-disciplinary.'' During his tenure as its director, Mr. Ito greatly increased funding and said that lab projects should have some usefulness to the outside world '-- an approach he called, in a 2014 TED Talk, ''deploy or die.''
The OpenAg project received media attention, usually in the form of light feature stories, from the CBS News program ''60 Minutes,'' The Wall Street Journal and other outlets. A Boston Globe headline summed up the tone of the coverage: ''MIT Researchers Hacked Agriculture to Create What May Be the Tastiest Basil on Earth.''
The ''60 Minutes'' segment, a broad look at the Media Lab called ''The Future Factory,'' first aired in April 2018. It included an interview with Mr. Harper, who said that his devices would allow people to grow tomatoes equal to those in Italy, as well as grapes to rival the produce of vineyards in California and France.
''Tuscany in a box,'' he said. ''Napa in a box. Bordeaux in a box.''
After the ''60 Minutes'' broadcast showed cotton plants, which were grown in larger containers called food servers, Mr. Harper said, ''We're growing on average three to four times faster than they can grow in the field.''
In a statement to The Times, ''60 Minutes'' said that it was aware of the claims that Mr. Harper may have overstated the abilities of the food computers and that the show was ''reporting on it.''
Dr. Babakinejad, the former lead researcher, also had concerns about an academic paper written by Mr. Harper and five others that appeared in the peer-reviewed online journal PLoS One in April.
The paper, ''Flavor-cyber-agriculture: Optimization of plant metabolites in an open-source control environment through surrogate modeling,'' said that the OpenAg team used food computers, along with machine learning technology, to discover the ideal combination of light, nutrients, temperature and water to grow the most flavorful basil. Dr. Babakinejad said the paper exaggerated the precision of the devices' climate-control technology, and emails shared by Dr. Babakinejad show that OpenAg researchers questioned whether the data collected by the food computers met the standards of an academic paper.
Image Babak Babakinejad, formerly the lead researcher for the food computer project, wrote to Mr. Harper that he was concerned Mr. Harper had overstated the device's capabilities. Credit Cody O'Loughlin for The New York Times Thomas Bjorkman, a professor of plant science at Cornell University, said there were growing boxes that could do what the OpenAg paper claimed, but they are expensive to operate and require 24 kilowatts of power, the equivalent of 240 100-watt light bulbs glowing at the same time.
Commenting on the paper's scientific value, Mr. Bjorkman said, ''The state of the industry of controlled-environment agriculture is so much more advanced, it would have little influence on horticultural research or practice.''
In an email exchange with Mr. Ito, Dr. Babakinejad expressed his concern about what he said were Mr. Harper's false claims in a draft of the academic paper, the ''60 Minutes'' interview and lectures.
''Up to now,'' Dr. Babakinejad wrote, ''we have not been able to achieve a 'controlled environment' nor been able to create an atmosphere (Climate control) as he leads people to believe in his talks. His claims about developments such as implementations of image processing, microbiome dosing, creating different climates and collecting credible data from bots across the world are not true.''
Mr. Ito wrote in his reply: ''Can I say that you have concerns about whether the food computers have been able to create a controlled environment which would put into questions some of the claims we make about the data and outcomes?''
Dr. Babakinejad replied in the affirmative, and the exchange ended.
In addition to their complaints over how the project was presented to those outside the lab, the researchers had another concern: Mr. Harper's habit of repeating a seemingly tangential claim about supermarket apples.
''Eleven months '-- the average age of an apple in a grocery store in the United States,'' Mr. Harper said at the start of the 2015 TED Talk, explaining the need for more local food production. In a more recent lecture, he said the average age of a supermarket apple was 14 months.
No one from the lab could find the source of that number, the researchers said, adding that they had tried repeatedly to persuade Mr. Harper to stop citing the statistic, to no avail.
To find out if the statistic had a basis in fact, Dr. Babakinejad sent an email to an official at the United States Department of Agriculture who had expertise in the Pacific Northwest apple industry and received this brief reply: ''The statement is not accurate for the PNW apple industry.''
Pennsylvania State Sen Mike Folmer, Grandfather Of 7, Charged With Possession Of Child Pornography '' True Pundit
Pennsylvania Republican state Sen. Mike Folmer was charged with child sexual abuse, possession of child pornography and criminal use of a communication device Tuesday night, according to state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Folmer, a married grandfather of seven, was caught with alleged pornographic images of children on his cellphone after law enforcement received a tip that led to his home in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the Patriot-News reported Wednesday morning, citing an announcement from Shapiro.
''I will continue to say it '-- no one is above the law, no matter what position of power they hold. I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable,'' Shapiro said when he announced the charges against Folmer on Tuesday night.
This is a massive story. Senator Mike Folmer is one of the most tenured and respected senators in the Pa. Legislature. Now charged with child porn.
Tune into @fox43 news at 10. pic.twitter.com/B2XWE7o7DP
'-- Matt Maisel (@Matt_Maisel) September 18, 2019
Tumblr, a blogging platform, notified the state attorney general's office after the lawmaker allegedly received a pornographic image of a child to its platform, reported The Washington Post.
Folmer allegedly told police he used Tumblr to view child pornography, and that he was dealing with ''some personal problems,'' according to the Patriot-News.
Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called for Folmer's immediate resignation.
''We elect leaders to serve as a voice for those who do not have the ability to advocate for their own needs, demanding that they will protect our children, families, and communities,'' Wolf said in an official statement, according to the Patriot-News. ''The charges against Senator Folmer are disgusting and beyond comprehension, and show he has taken advantage of the trust and privilege afforded by the people of Pennsylvania. He should immediately resign.''
Folmer has served in the state Senate since 2006 and became known as ''Marijuana Mike'' after helping to lead a bipartisan effort to legalize medical marijuana in the state, according to WaPo.
Folmer's office declined to comment to the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact [email protected]
Saudi Arabia tells Japan's biggest refiner about possible shipment change: Nikkei
(Reuters) - Saudi state oil firm Aramco has told Japanese refiner JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy about a possible change in shipment, raising concern about the kingdom's ability to supply crude oil a week after attacks on its refineries, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.
Aramco did not specify a reason for the change in oil grade supplied to Japan's biggest refiner from light to heavy and medium starting October, Nikkei said, citing JXTG officials.
JXTG officials suspect that Aramco is taking more time than expected to fix its desulfurization facility, which is necessary to produce light-grade crude used in the production of gasoline and light gas oil, the newspaper said.
At least three supertankers that loaded crude in Saudi Arabia this week for China and India had their crude grades switched from light to heavy oil while more buyers in Asia have been asked to delay shipments and switch grades in September and October, Reuters reported, citing sources and data from Refinitiv and Kpler. [nL3N26B0WJ]
The Sept. 14 attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais plants, some of the kingdom's biggest, caused raging fires and significant damage that halved the crude output of the world's top oil exporter, by shutting down 5.7 million barrels per day of production.
Saudi Aramco has emerged from the attacks ''stronger than ever'', chief executive officer Amin Nasser had told employees in a message on Saturday.[nB2N24901C]
Yemen's Houthi group claimed responsibility for the attacks but a U.S. official said they originated from southwestern Iran.
Aramco and JXTG did not immediately respond to requests seeking comment on the report.
Reporting by Mekhla Raina in Bengaluru
Cuba's 'sonic weapon' may have been mosquito gas - BBC News
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Cuban health authorities and the army fumigate a street in Havana in 2016 Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016.
Some reports in the US suggested an "acoustic attack" caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.
But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause.
The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.
So-called "Havana syndrome" caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus.
It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated.
Cuba denied any suggestion of "attacks", and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations.
In July, a US academic study showed "brain abnormalities" in the diplomats. "It's not imagined, all I can say is that there is truth to be found," one of the authors said.
The Canadian team from the Brain Repair Centre in Halifax thinks it now has the answer.
What did the study find?Canadian diplomats were affected by similar reactions to US counterparts - though the study noted that the symptoms of the Canadians were more gradual than the "acute, directional... auditory stimulus" in some of the US cases.
The study notes that tests carried out on 28 participants - seven of whom were tested both before and after being posted to Havana - support a diagnosis of brain injury acquired by diplomats and their families while in Cuba.
The patterns of brain injury "all raise the hypothesis of recurrent, low-dose exposure to neurotoxins", the report said.
Specifically, the results were "highly suggestive" of something called cholinesterase inhibitor intoxication.
Cholinesterase is an important enzyme in the human nervous system, and blocking it through an inhibitor can lead to death. The chemical weapon, Sarin, is an example of a potent cholinesterase inhibitor, as is VX, which was used in the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader.
But the low, consistent doses the researchers believe were delivered are consistent with exposure to commercial pesticides, the study's authors said.
And fumigation in Cuba increased after the country "declared war" on the Zika virus in 2016, spraying gas around or even inside diplomats' homes.
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Diplomats stationed at the US embassy in Havana were among the victims Embassy records showed a significant increase in fumigation with weekly exposure to high doses of pesticides, the study said.
The Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes, affected 47 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that year, causing microcephaly in some newborn babies.
Has a sonic weapon been ruled out?The Canadian researchers said that proving the definitive cause was "difficult, if not impossible at this time" - but that their hypothesis offered "a plausible explanation".
But "other causes cannot be ruled out", they wrote.
The study focused purely on Canadians and did not cover any US diplomats, their families or Cuban residents of Havana.
Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption The US reopened its embassy in Havana in August 2015, more than 50 years after it was closed.John Babcock, a spokesman for Canada's foreign ministry, told reporters that "no definitive cause of the health incidents has been identified to date".
The Canadian government is exploring "all avenues", he said.
The US government has never officially spoken about what it thinks the cause of the unusual symptoms could be.
US media have quoted state department officials as referring to a "sonic attack", and a US medical study found brain abnormalities in US diplomats.
Bank Reserves: What Are They and Why a Shortage Is Roiling a Key Interest Rate - WSJ
Bank reserves are normally obscure, even to bankers and professional investors. But this week they have hit the news when a shortage of them caused a key measure of borrowing costs'--known as the overnight repo rate'--to spike. That's a worry, because typically these more wonky areas of finance only become interesting when something is going wrong.
The overnight repo rate, which is what banks and other financial players charge each other to lend cash in exchange for supersafe bonds, should be close to 2%, but it shot up almost as high as 10% on Tuesday. One of the underlying causes of this is a scarcity of reserves compared with the amount of Treasury bonds in the market. That has made banks less willing to lend to each other even in exchange for safe government bonds.
To settle markets down, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has dipped into this market, conducting three auctions this week where banks could swap Treasurys (or bonds from institutions like Fannie Mae ) for new reserves. It conducted a third auction on Thursday morning and offered $75 billion in repos.
Here's is a simplified rundown of what reserves are and how they've come to matter.
What are reserves?
Not many people realize this, but there are two basic types of money in the world. There is central bank money, which is known as reserves, and there is money that the rest of us use.
Central bank money can only be used by banks, governments and some government-linked institutions. They have this money in accounts at the central bank, where it is called ''reserves.'' The money that the rest of us use is private money that is created by ordinary banks.
There is also some special central bank money that everyone can use: The notes and coins in our wallets.
What are reserves for?
The main day-to-day function of reserves is for banks to make payments to each other that reflect transactions between the rest of us. When one person transfers money to another person, it looks like private money moves from one bank account to another.
But that's not what really happens. In fact, the first person's bank reduces the amount in the person's checking account, which is really just a record of money the bank owes to them. It then sends an equivalent amount of reserves to the second person's bank. That bank now owes the second person more money and so it increases the value of their deposit with private money.
The same is true when your employer pays you your wages (assuming you don't get them in notes and coins anyway), or when you pay for your groceries with a debit card.
Where do reserves come from?
One way reserves find their way into the banking system is when a government spends money. Whether it wants to pay government workers' wages or buy cruise missiles, it sends reserves from a government's central-bank account to the central-bank account of the ordinary bank used by the person or company who is getting the money. That bank then increases the value of the deposit in the accounts of workers or cruise missile suppliers.
The government can get some of those reserves back by selling a Treasury bond to investors, which is done via primary dealers, banks who have a special role acting as market makers for government bonds. The bond sale is paid for, or settled, using reserves from the banks that have the deposit accounts of those investors.
Where does QE come in?
The whole point of QE'--quantitative easing'--was to ease the pain of the financial crisis by flooding the financial system with money, which would make all kinds of borrowing significantly cheaper.
Central banks did this by creating trillions of dollars (or euros or Japanese yen) worth of reserves to buy back government bonds from investors via banks. This gave banks vast amounts of reserves. In turn, the banks gave those selling the bonds equally vast amounts of new private money. That private money could then be spent in the economy or used to buy riskier corporate bonds for example. The higher demand for other forms of debt would make that debt cheaper for borrowers.
And then the Federal Reserve started to reverse QE?
Yes, the Fed stopped buying Treasurys when it felt the economy was on solid footing. When the bonds that it owned matured, the government had to repay the Fed. The government did this by handing reserves back to the Fed which the Fed then destroyed, reversing the process when it bought the bonds in the first place.
Reserves also leave the banking system when the government sells new Treasurys to private investors or when it collects taxes. Tax payments are special because governments, unlike companies or private citizens, deal directly in reserves. That means a tax payment involves reserves being transferred from an ordinary bank to a government account at the central bank. An equivalent amount of private money in the taxpayer's bank account disappears.
The upshot: New sales of Treasury bonds and tax payments take reserves out of the banking system.
So why does this all suddenly matter now?
This is the trillion-dollar question. The answer, according to some analysts, is that the Fed isn't sure how much reserves banks need these days. New rules since the crisis and the stress tests that banks have to beat have together increased the amount of reserves they want to hold.
But reserves have been shrinking because of the reversal of QE, increased government borrowing in the Treasury market, and a recent wave of tax payments, among other things.
One key cause of the crunch in overnight lending markets is that there are more Treasurys around than banks want to own, but some banks are still being forced to buy them. These are the so-called primary dealers who buy Treasurys from the government and then sell them to investors.
If banks don't want to spend their own reserves to buy Treasury bonds they have to borrow those reserves from elsewhere. They can do that directly in specialist bank-only markets, or they can try to borrow private money in overnight lending markets, where rates spiked this week.
That is why the short-term fix has been for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to offer to take some of those Treasurys in exchange for new reserves. The longer-term solution could be a more permanent arrangement where the Fed conducts regular auctions. Unless that is, it turns out that the problem isn't just with banks, but that there is a real need for funding coming from somewhere else in the system that hasn't yet been identified.
Write to Paul J. Davies at firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE 1-Denmark's Jyske Bank lowers its negative rates on deposits - Reuters
COPENHAGEN, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Jyske Bank said on Friday people with more than $111,100 in their bank accounts will be charged more for their deposits as it seeks to pass on some of the costs of recent rate cuts by the European and Danish central bank.
Jyske Bank, Denmark's second-largest bank, said it would introduce a negative interest rate of 0.75% for all corporate deposits and for private clients depositing more than 750,000 Danish crowns ($111,100) from Dec 1.
A month ago, it said clients depositing more than 7.5 million crowns would be charged negative interest rates of 0.6%.
Last week, Denmark's central bank cut its key deposit rate to minus 0.75%, a record low among developed economies. Earlier the same day, the European Central Bank cut interest rates and resumed buying bonds.
The rate cuts mean that Jyske Bank now loses even more money, Chief Executive Anders Dam said in a video statement on the bank's web page.
''It is a lot of money and we have to pass on part of this bill to our customers,'' he said. ''I don't hope that we will have to go lower but I don't dare to promise it.''.
Denmark was among the first to introduce negative rates in 2012. In August, Jyske became the first to offer a negative rate on a home loan, in effect paying customers 0.5% to borrow money for 10 years.
Denmark's largest bank, Danske Bank has said it has no plans to introduce negative interest rates on deposits. Switzerland's UBS has said it will impose a negative rate of 0.75% on clients who deposit more than 2 million Swiss francs ($2 million). ($1 = 6.7559 Danish crowns) (Reporting by Stine Jacobsen, editing by Larry King)
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Ocasio-Cortez calls out Democrats for refusing to impeach Trump | TheHill
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Alexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez reveals new policies for campaign aides with children Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey The Memo: 'Whistleblower' furor gains steam MORE (D-N.Y.) called out Democrats late Saturday for what she called their "refusal'' to impeach President Trump Donald John TrumpAlaska Republican Party cancels 2020 primary Ukrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' MORE .
''At this point, the bigger national scandal isn't the president's lawbreaking behavior - it is the Democratic Party's refusal to impeach him for it,'' she tweeted.
At this point, the bigger national scandal isn't the president's lawbreaking behavior - it is the Democratic Party's refusal to impeach him for it.
'-- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 22, 2019The freshman Democrat's comments came after Sen. Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Ann WarrenWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren avoids attacks while building momentum Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (Mass.), a Democratic presidential candidate, made similar comments Friday evening, tweeting that ''Congress had a duty to begin impeachment'' against Trump after former special counsel Robert Mueller Robert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE 's Russia report and that Congress ''is complicit'' by having not already done so.
"After the Mueller report, Congress had a duty to begin impeachment," she tweeted. "By failing to act, Congress is complicit in Trump's latest attempt to solicit foreign interference to aid him in US elections. Do your constitutional duty and impeach the president."
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Nancy PelosiTimeline: The Trump whistleblower complaint DC statehood push faces long odds despite record support Ukraine could badly damage both Donald Trump and the Democrats MORE (D-Calif.) has declined to support calls for impeachment proceedings against the president, who last week came under increased scrutiny over a whistleblower complaint said to focus on a conversation between Trump and another world leader during a phone call. Trump reportedly pressured Ukraine's president to open an investigation into Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden Joe BidenUkrainian official denies Trump pressured president Trump goes after New York Times, Washington Post: 'They have gone totally CRAZY!!!!' Warren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll MORE in that call.
The intelligence community's inspector general declined last week to share details of the whistleblower's complaint during a closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee.
A number of people are putting pressure on Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, including George Conway, husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway Kellyanne Elizabeth ConwayGeorge Conway rips Trump: Ukraine allegations are 'over the top' Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump George Conway: If Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate Biden, he 'should be impeached and removed from office' MORE .
George Conway George Thomas ConwayGeorge Conway rips Trump: Ukraine allegations are 'over the top' Clarence Thomas, Joe Manchin, Rudy Giuliani among guests at second state visit under Trump George Conway: If Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate Biden, he 'should be impeached and removed from office' MORE , an outspoken critic of Trump, ripped the president over the recent allegation detailing the whistleblower complaint in an op-ed published by The Washington Post on Friday.
''Trump has already done more than enough to warrant impeachment and removal,'' Conway wrote Friday. ''The current whistleblowing allegations, however, are even worse.''
He went on to call on Congress to take action in response to the allegations in the op-ed, writing that ''constitutional procrastination has probably emboldened Trump'' but is it time for lawmakers to remove the ''cancer on the presidency '... before it's too late.''
VIDEO - New Zealand to Create National Gun Owner Registry, Tighten Firearms Laws
New Zealand government introduced legislation on Friday aimed at further tightening the country's gun laws. The bill, tabled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, will create a nationwide gun registry and criminalize certain firearm modifications, local newspapers report. If passed into law, it will require gun owners to register their weapons every five years.
The new law is in addition to the series of gun restrictions approved by the parliament following the Christchurch mosque shootings on March 15 that left 51 people dead. The country's ruling Labour Party and the mainstream media launched a campaign against the country's supposedly ''weak laws on firearms'' in the wake of the shootings. The government banned assault weapons such as the AR-15 and rolled out a buyback scheme, collecting more than 18,000 weapons.
''Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right,'' Prime Minister Ardern declared. The proposed Arms Legislation Bill will stop guns ''from reaching the hands of criminals,'' she added.
Her remark was meant to highlight the difference between the gun-rights laws in New Zealand and the United States, Germany's DW News noted: ''Introducing the new bill, Ardern once more made clear the difference in attitudes toward gun ownership between her country and the United States, where the possession of firearms is seen by many as a citizen's right as it is enshrined in the US Constitution.''
The New Zealand Herald reported the details of the proposed gun law:
[The Arms Legislation Bill] will hold the licence holder's full name, date of birth and address, along with details of their licence number and any endorsements; details of firearms, restricted weapons and prohibited magazines including identifying markings and information on storage; and record all transfers, sales, purchases, imports and exports of firearms and other items. Private sales will still be permitted. ('...)
It also introduces new offences and higher penalties and will see New Zealand accede to the United Nations (UN) Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition (the Firearms Protocol).
''We know that the majority of gun crime is committed by people without a licence, with firearms that have either been stolen or traded illegally,'' [Prime Minister Jacinda] Ardern said as she announced the new gun laws in Christchurch today, six months after the mosque shootings in the city.
''Owning a firearm is a privilege not a right; that means we need to do all we can to ensure that only honest, law-abiding citizens are able to obtain firearms licences and use firearms.''
The April gun reforms took action to remove military-style semi-automatics while the new steps are aimed at stopping guns from reaching the hands of criminals, the Prime Minister added.
''Our focus since March 15 has been on ensuring that our communities are as protected as they can be from the potential for another attack like the horrific one we witnessed in Christchurch,'' she said.
It is unclear how registering law-abiding gun owners will stop weapons from getting into the hands of the organized crime or how restricting firearms sales to ordinary citizens will prevent gun-related crime.
The bill also includes ''provisions to enable health practitioners to notify Police if they have concerns about a licence firearms owner's health or wellbeing,'' Radio New Zealand (RNZ) reported. ''If the person presented to the doctor with mental health issues, the doctor would be expected to pass that information on to the police,'' the broadcaster said.
The bill goes further than just addressing mental health issues and proposes ''a system of warning flags to show if a person might not be fit to hold a firearms licence,'' the RNZ added. ''Behavior that would raise flags included encouraging or promoting violence; hatred or extremism.''
According to the 2018 Small Arms Survey, New Zealand ranks 17th globally in terms of gun ownership, with an estimated 1.5 million firearms spread across a population of nearly 5 million. New Zealanders own an estimated 26 guns per hundred residents, compared to more than 120 in the United Stated or 19 in Germany, the survey claims.
>> [Cover image via YouTube]
VIDEO - (56) 5AM | Tucker Carlson Tonight 9/22/19 | URGENT!TRUMP BREAKING NEWS September 22, 2019 - YouTube
He terrorized her online. She sued. Then she met him
Climate change is affecting the food you eat. Here's how
Father and son die after falling off cliff
Multiple people killed after a tour bus crashes in Utah
'House Hunters' host dies at 56
Meet teen climate activist Greta Thunberg
Trump on anonymous whistleblower: It's another political hack job
Colt will stop making AR-15 rifles for consumers
CNN tours site of Saudi oil strike
The rise and fall of Jeffrey Epstein
Warren surges as Biden's lead fades in new Iowa CNN poll
Biden scolds reporter who asks about his son's business
Man drowns after underwater proposal
Patriots cut Brown amid sexual misconduct accusations
Petrol bombs, tear gas used in Hong Kong protests
Prince Andrew accuser says she was forced to perform sex acts at 17
2 killed in South Carolina sports bar shooting
He terrorized her online. She sued. Then she met him
Climate change is affecting the food you eat. Here's how
Father and son die after falling off cliff
Multiple people killed after a tour bus crashes in Utah
'House Hunters' host dies at 56
Meet teen climate activist Greta Thunberg
Trump on anonymous whistleblower: It's another political hack job
Colt will stop making AR-15 rifles for consumers
CNN tours site of Saudi oil strike
The rise and fall of Jeffrey Epstein
Warren surges as Biden's lead fades in new Iowa CNN poll
Biden scolds reporter who asks about his son's business
Man drowns after underwater proposal
Patriots cut Brown amid sexual misconduct accusations
Petrol bombs, tear gas used in Hong Kong protests
Prince Andrew accuser says she was forced to perform sex acts at 17
2 killed in South Carolina sports bar shooting
(CNN) '-- On August 19, Buckingham Palace put out a statement signed by Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, that was emphatic in distancing the British Royal from the late disgraced financier, Jeffrey Epstein. "His Royal Highness deplores the exploitation of any human being and the suggestion he would condone, participate in or encourage any such behavior is abhorrent,"
it said in part.
The statement came days after The Mail On Sunday published
grainy video footage that the British paper said showed the prince at the door of Epstein's Manhattan townhouse in 2010.
By then Epstein was a registered sex offender who had
avoided a federal trial at the time and'¯served only 13 months in jail for state prostitution charges over his involvement with underage girls. He was accused of paying hundreds of dollars in cash to girls as young as 14 to have sex with him at his Upper East Side home and his estate in Palm Beach, Florida, and paid some of his victims to recruit other girls for him to abuse.'¯
In 2015, one of Epstein's accusers, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, said in a federal court filing that she was forced to have sex with the prince while underage. Prince Andrew has "emphatically denied" any sexual contact with Virginia Roberts.
Noel Herron says:An excellent video Tony , humorous , enlightening and humiliating for the climate alarmists soviet. As for their day of action it was somewhat of failure , even with all the media hype , propangada, Luney left politians and Soros funded professional manipulators, the numbers were not that impressive for a so call world wide event. Sports events attract more attention. I suspect only a miniscule number of people in China or India have any awareness of that somewhat pathetic figure of Greta Thunberg and they were thinking how to extort funding from the west to aid their nonexsistent CO2 reduction programmes. However it is interesting the way they have focused in on innocent childern, Mao did the same thing , manipulating childern to denounce their teachers etc ,eventually leading to the red guards , and millions of deaths . In the end Even Mao recognised that it had gotten out of control and ordered a Chinese military crackdown . These people are very dangerous indeed , I wonder do the realise that many of the activist who started the Cultural revolution in China ended up being arrested and executed first. They act like a thoughtless ,emotional ,hysterical group of infants, pushed around by rather sinister shadowy background figures ( In theUN, The EU, USA deep state etc) , whose agenda they have no idea about. Dupes!
VIDEO - (56) Jim Keller: Moore's Law is Not Dead - YouTube
VIDEO - Mr. TamCð¨ð...ðð½ð®ð" on Twitter: "This is exactly what should happen to ''LIEBERALS'' when they try to pin the label of ''WHITE SUPREMACY'' to Conservatives #cdnpoli https://t.co/QQhRug810t" / Twitter
VIDEO '-- Lauren Cutshaw went viral last year when she said she was too pretty to go to jail after she was arrested for DUI. The judge in her case seems to agree as Cutshaw, 34, is being given a sweet deal, including no time behind bars. She even gets to keep her driver's license.
VIDEO - Peter Schweizer says Hunter Biden worked in Ukraine despite lacking credentials: 'What is he being paid for?' | Fox News
Peter Schweizer on Hunter Biden's Ukraine connectionsNew questions surround Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's son and his ties to the Ukraine; insight from investigative reporter Peter Schweizer, author of 'Secret Empires,' and Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett, author of 'Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American Political History.'
Author Peter Schweizer on Friday night addressed the questions surrounding Hunter Biden's involvement with a Ukrainian natural gas company while his father, former Vice President Joe Biden, oversaw America's Ukraine policy.
"The underlying story here involves Hunter Biden going around the world really collecting large payments from foreign governments and foreign oligarchs in the case of Ukraine," Schweizer, the author of "Secret Empires," said on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle."
CONTROVERSY OVER TRUMP PHONE CALL CENTERS ON UKRAINE, AS PRESIDENT DECRIES 'PARTISAN' COMPLAINT
Joe Biden, now the Democratic presidential frontrunner for 2020, faced scrutiny for months over accusations that he pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor, who at that time was leading a corruption investigation into a natural gas company that had ties to Biden's son.
Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for President Trump, has suggested that Biden worked to protect the company from investigation while in office. Biden said Friday that the claim has no credibility.
The issue involving the Bidens resurfaced Friday after The Wall Street Journal reported that, in a July phone call, Trump repeatedly asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Giuliani on a probe into Hunter Biden's business activities in Ukraine.
Schweizer implied Hunter Biden's credentials didn't match with the position he held, and that the situation looked suspicious.
"He is supposed to be advising them on natural gas regulatory issues. He has no background in Ukraine. He has no background in energy or natural gas. So the question is, What is he being paid for? He's not being paid for his expertise, he has none," Schweizer said. "His father at this time is the point person on U.S. policy to Ukraine."
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The author said Trump was "right" to ask for an investigation and accused Hunter of lying.
"Donald Trump is right to ask the question and to ask that there be an investigation to see what Hunter Biden was being paid for. Joe Biden has offered no answers," Schweizer said. "Hunter Biden, when he's been asked about this, has lied repeatedly and they've been proven lies by ABC News and other outlets."
Fox News' Adam Shaw contributed to this report.
VIDEO - Alana Mastrangelo on Twitter: "Candace Owens calls out University of Chicago professor Kathleen Belew for suggesting that the words of a homicidal maniac are more meaningful than her testimony regarding policies that are actually hurting black Ame
When I was a young journalist decades ago, training to cover Washington, one of my mentors offered sage advice: When it comes to U.S. intelligence and diplomacy, things often aren't what they first seem.
Those words echo in my brain today, as much as they did that first day. And following the news recently, I realize they are just as relevant today with hysteria regarding presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani Rudy GiulianiGiuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it George Conway: If Trump pushed Ukraine to investigate Biden, he 'should be impeached and removed from office' MORE 's contacts with Ukraine's government.
The coverage suggests Giuliani reached out to new Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's team this summer solely because he wanted to get dirt on possible Trump 2020 challenger Joe Biden Joe BidenGiuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it Trump whistleblower complaint involves Ukraine: report MORE and his son Hunter's business dealings in that country.
Politics or law could have been part of Giuliani's motive, and neither would be illegal.
But there is a missing part of the story that the American public needs in order to assess what really happened: Giuliani's contact with Zelensky adviser and attorney Andrei Yermak this summer was encouraged and facilitated by the U.S. State Department.
Giuliani didn't initiate it. A senior U.S. diplomat contacted him in July and asked for permission to connect Yermak with him.
Then, Giuliani met in early August with Yermak on neutral ground '-- in Spain '-- before reporting back to State everything that occurred at the meeting.
That debriefing occurred Aug. 11 by phone with two senior U.S. diplomats, one with responsibility for Ukraine and the other with responsibility for the European Union, according to electronic communications records I reviewed and interviews I conducted.
When asked on Friday, Giuliani confirmed to me that the State Department asked him to take the Yermak meeting and that he did, in fact, apprise U.S. officials every step of the way.
''I didn't even know who he (Yermak) really was, but they vouched for him. They actually urged me to talk to him because they said he seemed like an honest broker,'' Giuliani told me. ''I reported back to them (the two State officials) what my conversations with Yermak were about. All of this was done at the request of the State Department.''
So, rather than just a political opposition research operation, Giuliani's contacts were part of a diplomatic effort by the State Department to grow trust with the new Ukrainian president, Zelensky, a former television comic making his first foray into politics and diplomacy.
Why would Ukraine want to talk to Giuliani, and why would the State Department be involved in facilitating it?
According to interviews with more than a dozen Ukrainian and U.S. officials, Ukraine's government under recently departed President Petro Poroshenko and, now, Zelensky has been trying since summer 2018 to hand over evidence about the conduct of Americans they believe might be involved in violations of U.S. law during the Obama years.
The Ukrainians say their efforts to get their allegations to U.S. authorities were thwarted first by the U.S. embassy in Kiev, which failed to issue timely visas allowing them to visit America.
Then the Ukrainians hired a former U.S. attorney '-- not Giuliani '-- to hand-deliver the evidence of wrongdoing to the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York, but the federal prosecutors never responded.
The U.S. attorney, a respected American, confirmed the Ukrainians' story to me. The allegations that Ukrainian officials wanted to pass on involved both efforts by the Democratic National Committee to pressure Ukraine to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election as well as Joe Biden's son's effort to make money in Ukraine while the former vice president managed U.S.-Ukraine relations, the retired U.S. attorney told me.
Eventually, Giuliani in November 2018 got wind of the Ukrainian allegations and started to investigate.
As President Trump Donald John TrumpMarine unit in Florida reportedly pushing to hold annual ball at Trump property Giuliani clashes with CNN's Cuomo, calls him a 'sellout' and the 'enemy' Giuliani says 'of course' he asked Ukraine to look into Biden seconds after denying it MORE 's highest-profile defense attorney, the former New York City mayor, often known simply as ''Rudy,'' believed the Ukrainian's evidence could assist in his defense against the Russia collusion investigation and special counsel Robert Mueller Robert (Bob) Swan MuellerLewandowski says Mueller report was 'very clear' in proving 'there was no obstruction,' despite having 'never' read it Fox's Cavuto roasts Trump over criticism of network Mueller report fades from political conversation MORE 's final report.
So Giuliani began to check things out in late 2018 and early 2019, but he never set foot in Ukraine. And when Ukrainian officials leaked word that he was considering visiting Ukraine to meet with senior officials to discuss the allegations '-- and it got politicized in America '-- Giuliani abruptly called off his trip. He stopped talking to the Ukrainian officials.
Since that time, my American and foreign sources tell me, Ukrainian officials worried that the slight of Giuliani might hurt their relations with his most famous client, Trump.
And Trump himself added to the dynamic by encouraging Ukraine's leaders to work with Giuliani to surface the evidence of alleged wrongdoing that has been floating around for more than two years, my sources said.
It is likely that the State Department's overture to Giuliani in July was designed to allay fears of a diplomatic slight and to assure the nascent Ukrainian administration that everything would be okay between the two allies.
The belief was that if Zelensky's top lawyer could talk to Trump's top lawyer, everything could be patched up, officials explained to me.
Ukrainian officials also are discussing privately the possibility of creating a parliamentary committee to assemble the evidence and formally send it to the U.S. Congress, after failed attempts to get the Department of Justice's attention, my sources say.
Such machinations are common when two countries are navigating diplomatic challenges and, often, extracurricular activities with private citizens are part of the strategy, even if they are not apparent to the American public.
So the media stories of Giuliani's alleged political opposition research in Ukraine, it turns out, are a bit different than first reported. It's exactly the sort of nuanced, complex news development that my mentor nearly 30 years ago warned about.
And it's too bad a shallow media effort has failed to capture the whole story and tell it to the American public in its entirety.
It's almost as though the lessons of the now debunked Russia-Trump collusion narrative never really sunk in for some reporters. And that is a loss for the American public. The continuing folly was evidenced when much attention was given Friday to Hillary Clinton's tweet suggesting Trump's contact with Zelensky amounted to an effort to solicit a foreign power to interfere in the next election.
That tweet may be provocative but it's unfair. The contacts were about resolving what happened in the last election '-- and the last administration.
And if anyone is to have high moral ground on foreign interference in elections, Clinton can't be first in line. Her campaign lawyers caused Christopher Steele, a British foreign national desperate to defeat to Trump, to be hired to solicit unverified allegations from Russians about Trump as part of an opposition research project and then went to the FBI to trump up an investigation on Trump. And her party leaders, the Democratic National Committee, asked the Ukraine embassy to also try to dig up dirt on Trump. That's not a record worthy of throwing the first punch on this story.
The truth is, getting to the bottom of the Ukraine allegations will benefit everyone. If the Bidens and Ukraine did nothing wrong, they should be absolved. If wrongdoing happened, then it should be dealt with.
The folly of the current coverage is preventing us from getting the answer we deserve.
John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists' misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He serves as an investigative columnist and executive vice president for video at The Hill. Follow him on Twitter @jsolomonReports.
VIDEO - Iran's Threat to Saudi Critical Infrastructure: The Implications of U.S.-Iranian Escalation | Center for Strategic and International Studies
THE ISSUETensions between Iran and the United States have heightened concerns about the threat to critical infrastructure in the Persian Gulf, including in Saudi Arabia. This report argues that while Saudi Arabia has vulnerabilities in its oil, desalination, electricity, SCADA, shipping, and other systems, Iran has thus far adopted a calibrated approach. Tehran has conducted irregular attacks to infrastructure using offensive cyber weapons, naval ships to impede oil tankers, and partners like the Houthis in Yemen. The United States should focus on deterring further Iranian escalation, refraining from actions that threaten the regime's survival, and providing a political ''off ramp'' for Iran to de-escalate.
INTRODUCTIONThere is growing concern about Iranian threats to Persian Gulf countries'--particularly Saudi Arabia'--as friction persists between Iran and the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Iran's missile program as ''out of control'' and a major threat to U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf.1 Senator Tom Cotton asked: ''Can there be any doubt, any doubt that our partners in the Gulf are facing a genuine emergency as they fend off Iran? Oil tankers flying the flags of our allies and partners are ablaze in the Gulf of Oman.''2 And Saudi oil minister Khalid Al Falih lamented, ''I am concerned though about the security of oil supplies from threats from state and non-state actors that we've seen. We've seen ships being attacked, we've seen pipelines being attacked, we've seen drones being launched from militias that are agents of Iran and that's putting the global energy supply at risk.''3In response, the United States recently agreed to send more than 500 soldiers to Prince Sultan Air Base, extended the deployment of roughly 600 troops from a Patriot missile battalion, deployed an Air Force fighter jet squadron and a B-52 bomber strike group, expedited the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group, and sent additional manned and unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to the Middle East to counter Iran. As a U.S. Central Command statement explained, ''this movement of forces provides an additional deterrent, and ensures our ability to defend our forces and interests in the region from emergent, credible threats.''4
This CSIS Brief assesses the Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia by answering several questions. What types of strategies, tactics, and capabilities could Iran use against Saudi Arabia? What are potential critical infrastructure vulnerabilities in Saudi Arabia, and how serious are they? And what can the United States do to defend against'-- and deter'--Iranian attacks against critical infrastructure?
The brief argues that Iran will likely rely on irregular means and actors, such as cyber operations and the use of partners like the Houthis in Yemen, to conduct attacks. If Iranian leaders feel further boxed in, however, they may take bolder actions. While there are significant vulnerabilities to Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure, it would be difficult for Iran to cause strategic damage to most of these systems without escalating the conflict into a broader war that risks Tehran's own critical infrastructure. Additionally, Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia's national petroleum and natural gas company, has made considerable progress in protecting its infrastructure. But the Iranian threat remains serious.
The United States should focus on deterring escalatory Iranian strikes against Saudi Arabia and other Gulf partners by continuing to harden possible Iranian targets, as well as threatening and'--if appropriate'--conducting proportionate offensive actions in response to Iranian aggression. U.S. policymakers should also proceed cautiously in ways that don't back Tehran into a corner, such as by threatening the survival of the regime, which might cause Iran to further escalate.
While Iran poses a threat to other Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates, this report focuses on Saudi Arabia for several reasons. First, Iran and Saudi Arabia are major competitors for regional influence, a status which has been heightened by the Arab Spring and the wars in countries like Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Second, Iran is more likely to target U.S. partners like Saudi Arabia than to attack the United States directly. Third, Saudi Arabia is a strategic target because of the Sunni-Shia rivalry and Saudi Arabia's geographic position on the Red Sea, historic willingness to play a leadership role in regional politics, and oil reserves. Saudi Arabia has the second- largest proven crude oil reserves in the world, behind only Venezuela, at 267 billion barrels and 22.4 percent of global reserves.5 Saudi Arabia is also the world's largest exporter of oil. Per day, it produces approximately 10.3 million barrels of crude oil and exports around 9.5 million barrels of both crude and refined oil products.6
The rest of this report is divided into three sections. The first examines Iran and its partners' missile, cyber, and other irregular capabilities. The second section analyzes Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. Lastly, the third section outlines U.S. options to help protect critical infrastructure and deter Iranian escalation.IRANIAN AND PARTNER CAPABILITIESIran possesses numerous capabilities that threaten Saudi Arabia's critical infrastructure and maritime assets.7 This section focuses on several of the most important ones: missiles, cyber tools, and maritime anti-access/area denial capabilities.
MISSILESAll of Saudi Arabia is threatened by Iranian missiles, and the number of Iranian missiles capable of reaching the country would overwhelm virtually any missile defense system. Iran maintains the largest ballistic and cruise missile force in the Middle East, capable of striking targets as far as 2,500 km from its borders.8 Iranian missiles continue to improve in terms of range, speed, flight profile, and destructiveness.9 In the event of military escalation, Iran could use its largely road-mobile missile force to target critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.10 Several of the sites highlighted in this brief'--such as the port of Ras Tanura, Ras Al-Khair power and desalination plant, and the Abqaiq processing and stabilization plant'--exist within range of Iran's land-based ballistic missile force. These sites are also vulnerable to ship-launched missiles. Targets further from Iran's border, such as the refinery at Yanbu, located along the Red Sea, are also within range of Iran's medium-range ballistic missiles.Figure 1: Map of Iran Missile Ranges
Iran's ballistic missile inventory has been aided by China, Russia, and North Korea. Iran possesses a family of liquid-fueled propellant missiles (the Shahab series) based on former Soviet Scud technology.11 The Shahab series, which can hit targets from 300 to 2,000 km away, constitutes the core of Iran's missile force. Examples include the Shahab-1/-2/-3 variants like the Qiam-1, Ghadr-1, and Emad, which feature improved navigation and guidance components, lethality, and range.Iran has also produced indigenously designed solid-propellant missiles (the Fateh series) with ranges of 200 to 2,000 km, based on Chinese technology.12 In addition, Iran possesses land-attack cruise missiles such as the Soumar and the Meshkat, with a range of approximately 2,500 km.13 Figure 1 illustrates the ranges of a sample of Iran's missile inventory, including the Fateh-110 (300 km range), Zolfaghar (700 km), Shahab-3/Emad/Ghadr (2,000 km), and Soumar (2,500 km). It shows that Iranian missiles can reach all critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to its own arsenal, Iran also relies on partners like the Houthis in Yemen. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, Iran's primary irregular force, has provided weapons, technology, training, and advisers to the Houthis (officially called Ansar Allah). The Houthis have targeted ships near the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and conducted attacks against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.14 The Bab el-Mandeb Strait, located at the southern end of the Red Sea between Yemen and Djibouti, is strategically important. Roughly 5 million barrels of oil pass through it every day, as does a substantial amount of global trade.15 Iran has provided the Houthis with weapons or technology for anti-tank guided missiles, sea mines, aerial drones (like the Qasef 2), 122-mm Katyusha rockets, Misagh-2 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS), RDX high explosives, ballistic missiles like the Borkan-2H, and unmanned explosive boats.16The Houthis have used these systems to strike targets in Saudi Arabia on numerous occasions. In May 2019, for example, Houthis used several drones to target two pumping stations on Saudi Arabia's East-West Pipeline, shutting it down for several days.17 The Houthis have also used Borkan-2H mobile, short-range ballistic missiles to strike Riyadh and other targets in Saudi Arabia.18 A United Nations panel of experts concluded that the missiles were ''a derived lighter version'' of Iran's Qiam-1 missile and that Iran provided key missile parts to the Houthis.19 Analysis from the wreckage of 10 Borkan-2H missiles indicates that they were likely smuggled into Yemen in parts and then assembled. Iranian components were also integrated into Yemeni SA-2 surface-to-air missiles to construct the Qaher series of surface-to-surface rockets.20 Iran has likely used a number of routes to transport the material to Yemen, including ship-to-shore transfers through the Yemeni ports of Nishtun and Al-Ghaydah in Al-Mahrah governorate.21
As Figure 2 highlights, we identified over 250 missile, unmanned aerial vehicle, and other attacks against critical infrastructure and other targets in Saudi Arabia over the past three years by the Iranian-linked Houthis. These numbers are likely low because there may be other attacks that are unreported in the press. Among the attacks we were able to confirm, the attacks have included direct fire, explosives (including from unmanned aerial vehicles), guided missiles, and indirect fire (including mortars, rockets, ballistic missiles, and unidentified projectiles). The vast majority of attacks were indirect fire (71 percent), and the most frequently targeted provinces in Saudi Arabia were Jazan (107 attacks), Najran (79 attacks), and Asir (39)'--all near the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border.
Figure 2: Houthi Attacks against Saudi Arabia, July 2016-July 201922 Iran has also helped Lebanese Hezbollah improve its missile and other capabilities. Although Hezbollah will likely prioritize its precision weaponry for conflict with Israel, the group's missile arsenal and other capabilities could be utilized to attack Saudi Arabia or other targets. With Iran's help, Hezbollah has amassed a range of weapons and systems, such as the Fateh-110/M-600 short-range ballistic missile, Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 short-range ballistic missiles, Karrar unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and Katyusha rocket launchers.23 Hezbollah's armed drone capabilities are likely the most advanced of any terrorist group in the world.24 Hezbollah has provided training and other assistance to the Houthis, including to their missile and drone programs.
CYBER CAPABILITIESThough missiles can directly target critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, Iran will likely continue to engage in irregular attacks before escalating to direct conflict. One option is cyberattacks. Cyber tools offer virtually unlimited range and low attribution. Low attribution is especially attractive for the Iranians because it allows them to conduct sabotage and other operations while maintaining plausible deniability.
Iran has significantly improved its offensive cyber capabilities over the past several years. At least four organizations play a role in Iran's offensive cyber operations: the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Basij, Iran's Passive Defense Organization, and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security.25 As the U.S. Director of National Intelligence recently concluded, Iran ''is capable of causing localized, temporary disruptive effects'--such as disrupting a large company's corporate networks for days to weeks'--similar to its data deletion attacks against dozens of Saudi governmental and private-sector networks in late 2016 and early 2017.''26
Iran is also improving its ability to conduct more destructive and lasting cyberattacks.27 For example, many of Saudi Aramco's critical processes'--such as drilling oil wells, pumping oil, and loading fuel onto tankers'--are managed and monitored electronically. These systems can be targeted, even though Aramco has improved its cyber security defenses.28 The destructive malware Shamoon, which has been linked to Iran through the state-sponsored hacking group APT33 (or Elfin), involves a wiper malware (Trojan.Filerase) that deletes files from an infected computer and then wipes the computer's master boot record, making it unusable. Shamoon has been used to target oil and gas infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.29
Moving forward, Iran will likely continue to use cyber operations as a major instrument against Saudi infrastructure in the Gulf, such as oil facilities. In the event of an escalation in hostilities, however, Iran also has the capability to target desalination facilities, the electrical grid, SCADA systems, and other critical infrastructure using offensive cyber operations.MARITIME ANTI-ACCESS/AREA DENIAL CAPABILITIESIran employs a range of other irregular weapons and tactics to threaten critical infrastructure transiting strategic waterways like the Strait of Hormuz and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. Tehran maintains a growing arsenal of mines, coastal defense cruise missiles, submarines, unmanned aerial vehicles, and fast-attack and patrol craft. For example, Iran possesses a large inventory of over 2,000 mines and has invested in new mines and mine-delivery vessels.30 Tehran has incorporated smaller vessels into its mine-laying strategy along with submarines and larger vessels.31
Iranian mobile coastal-defense cruise missile launchers can readily be deployed along the Iranian coast, on Iranian-claimed islands in the Persian Gulf, fand potentially even on oil platforms.32 Iran has expanded its inventory of coastal-defense cruise missiles from Chinese C802- and C700-series cruise missiles to domestically-produced variants, such as the Noor, Ghader, and Ghadir.33 The coastal-defense cruise missile threat is also extraterritorial. In 2006, Lebanese Hezbollah successfully used a C802 missile to target an Israeli naval vessel.34
Iran is the only Persian Gulf country that possesses submarines, and the anti-sub capacity of regional countries is extremely limited. Iran's submarine force consists of three kilo-class submarines capable of laying mines and launching torpedoes, as well as other imported and domestically- produced midget-class submarines.35
As part of its irregular naval doctrine, Iran employs smaller vessels that emphasize speed and mobility. Iran could employ these fast-attack vessels to fire on tankers, lay mines, or conduct swarming tactics to isolate and overwhelm targets.36 Iranian acquisition of the Houdong-class missile boats, C-14-class missile boats, and MK 13-class patrol craft (all from China) highlights Iran's focus on irregular capabilities and their ability to fire precision missiles from mobile maritime platforms.37 Iran also produces domestic variants, such as the Peykaap I-/II-class patrol craft and missile boats.38
In short, Iran's swarming tactics and irregular capabilities suggest that it will continue to threaten critical infrastructure targets transiting through strategic waterways like the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb Strait.VULNERABILITIES TO CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTUREThis section provides an overview of critical infrastructure vulnerabilities in Saudi Arabia that could be targeted in the event of escalating hostilities with Iran. While this section does not analyze specific conflict scenarios, it assumes that Iran would likely use missiles, drones, and cyberattacks in an attempt to neutralize command and control systems, air bases, and Saudi CSS-2 missile systems before attacks on infrastructure. In addition, this analysis is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather to highlight four systems that pose opportunities for Iranian aggression or retaliatory measures. These include oil production and export infrastructure, desalination plants, the electricity grid, and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems.OIL INFRASTRUCTURESaudi Aramco has devoted considerable resources to protecting its infrastructure from missile, cyber, and other attacks. Still, the threat to Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure remains significant.
Iran or one of its partners could attack the upstream components of Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, which includes exploration and production of its oil fields. Such an attack might temporarily impact global oil markets, but it would likely have little effect on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure. Saudi Arabia operates one of the world's largest onshore oil fields, Ghawar, and the largest offshore field, Safaniyah, which together hold approximately 110 billion barrels of proven oil reserves.39 Production on these and other Saudi fields involves numerous wells spread across vast areas of land, making target selection difficult and the likelihood of significant damage low. Ghawar, for example, covers 2,600 square miles.40
Oil is pumped from the fields to gas-oil separation plants (GOSPs) to remove non-oil elements before processing. There are more than 60 GOSPs across the country. Each has a relatively small capacity in proportion to Saudi Arabia's total production, which would make it difficult for Iran to cause significant damage.41
From GOSPs, however, the majority of Saudi oil is moved to stabilization plants, which offer a potentially more vulnerable target in the event of escalating hostilities. Saudi oil is mostly ''sour,'' which means that it contains significant amounts of hydrogen sulfide that must be removed prior to shipping.42 This process occurs at several stabilization facilities located across Saudi Arabia, including at Abqaiq, Jubail, Qatif, and Ras Tanura.43 Of these, Abqaiq is the most vulnerable. It is the world's largest oil processing facility and crude oil stabilization plant, with a capacity of more than 7 million barrels per day (bpd).44 Though the Abqaiq facility is large, the stabilization process is concentrated in specific areas highlighted in Figure 3'--including storage tanks and processing and compressor trains'--which greatly increases the likelihood of a strike successfully disrupting or destroying its operations.
Figure 3: Abqaiq Processing and Stabilization Plant Following stabilization, crude oil is either pumped to a port for exporting or to a refinery for processing into commercial products, including gasoline and diesel fuel. Saudi Arabia currently has nine refineries in operation, with the largest located in Ras Tanura, Jubail, Rabigh, and Yanbu.45 One additional refinery'--in Jazan, located in southwestern Saudi Arabia near its border with Yemen'--is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2019.46 Refined product exports help fuel Saudi Arabia's economy, though they are smaller in volume than crude oil exports. Of Saudi Arabia's exports, 7.4 million bpd are crude oil, while only around 1.9 million bpd are refined products.47
Saudi Arabia's export mechanisms are also potentially vulnerable, including its system of pipelines and its ports along the Persian Gulf and Red Sea. Its primary domestic pipeline is the 746-mile Petroline (also known as the East-West Pipeline), which connects processing facilities in eastern Saudi Arabia to export facilities along the Red Sea like Yanbu, thus allowing crude oil exports to bypass the Strait of Hormuz.48 The Petroline's capacity is currently 5 million bpd, but expansion is currently underway to significantly increase that capacity over the next several years.49 To move oil to Red Sea ports, which are located at a higher elevation than eastern processing facilities, the Petroline operates using a series of pumping stations. An attack on any of these pumping stations could halt the flow of oil in that direction. But Saudi Aramco has established safety measures to mitigate damage and rapidly restore pipeline function in the event of an attack. These measures include monitoring systems to quickly identify damage, shutoff valves within the pipeline to limit oil losses, and pre-positioned replacement parts around the country to expedite repairs.50
In addition, attacks on Saudi ports, especially those along the Gulf, could inflict significant damage. Ras Tanura, located on the Gulf, is both Saudi Arabia's primary port and the world's largest offshore oil exporting port. Its components, depicted in Figures 4 and 5, consist of a large storage facility; two attached loading terminals for use by small crude carriers, which are connected by above-water supply pipelines to the main storage facility; and an offshore loading terminal for use by Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs), which is connected to the storage facility by multiple buried pipelines. Ras Tanura has an average handling capacity of 3.4 million bpd and loads all Saudi crude oil grades. The port of Ras al-Juaymah, to the north, has an average handling capacity of 3 million bpd. Together, these two Gulf ports handle nearly 70 percent of Saudi Arabia's oil exports.51
Yanbu, located on the Red Sea, is Saudi Arabia's third-largest oil export facility. Its average handling capacity is 1.3 million bpd'--less than half the capacity of either Ras Tanura or Ras al-Juaymah'--and it currently only handles shipments of the Arab Light crude oil grade.52 However, up to 5 million bpd could be diverted to Yanbu and other smaller Red Sea terminals (such as Jeddah, Jazan, Rabigh, and the recently reopened Muajjiz) via the Petroline in the event of an attack, making Yanbu a potential secondary target.
DESALINATION FACILITIESNatural renewable water resources are scarce in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates. Limited rainfall and excessive consumption have depleted groundwater to unsustainable levels.53 As a result, water desalination is vital to acquiring potable water.54 Gulf Cooperation Council countries host 43 percent of the world's total desalination plants (7,500 of 17,500) and account for about 70 percent of the global total production capacity for desalinated water.55 In Saudi Arabia, desalination accounts for over 70 percent of the potable water used in cities, and desalinated water has replaced groundwater as the primary source of drinking water throughout the country.56
The world's largest desalination plant is Ras al-Khair, located on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia just north of Jubail. The plant was commissioned in 2014 and has a daily production capacity of 1.025 million cubic meters of desalinated water.57 The majority of the water produced (some 800 cubic meters per day) goes directly to Riyadh, while the other 200 cubic meters is distributed to neighboring regions. Ras al-Khair is a hybrid plant, which uses multistage flashing and reverse osmosis technologies to remove salt from the water pumped in from the Gulf. The eight multistage flashing units heat the seawater to produce steam, then condense the steam to form desalinated water, while the seventeen reverse osmosis units force seawater through semi-permeable membranes to remove the sodium and chloride.58 The multistage flashing units and other components of the desalination process are highlighted in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Ras al-Khair Desalination Plant
In 2009, leaked U.S. State Department diplomatic cables suggested that a hostile act against Saudi Arabia's desalination plant at Jubail would force Riyadh to evacuate ''within a week,'' as the plant at that time provided Riyadh with over 90 percent of its drinking water.59 Ras al-Khair is now Saudi Arabia's (and the world's) largest desalination plant and is also vulnerable to an Iranian attack. In one assessment, analysts noted that ''every desalination plant built is a hostage to fortune; they are easily sabotaged; they can be attacked from the air or by shelling from off-shore; and their intake ports have to be kept clear, giving another simple way of preventing their operation.''60 Cyberattacks also present a serious threat to Saudi desalination plants like Ras al-Khair. Beyond these types of attacks, Saudi Arabia and its neighbors need to worry about the water quality itself. An intentional (or even an unintentional) oil spillage near Ras al-Khair, for example, would render the water unusable for desalination, a concern which was realized during the Gulf War after Iraq deliberately opened the valves at a Kuwaiti oil terminal and created a massive oil slick in the Gulf.While facilities like Ras al-Khair are vulnerable to an attack, Iran has not significantly targeted desalination plants in the past. This may be because attacking a strategic desalination plant would be a hostile act of war and signify a major escalation in conflict. It might also be because it is a civilian'--rather than a military or commercial'--target with significant humanitarian ramifications. Still, it is possible that Iran or one of its partners like the Houthis could target a component of the desalination system'--such as water pipelines'--which causes limited damage but signals Iran's ability to escalate further.
ELECTRICAL GRIDSaudi Arabia's rapidly expanding population and industrial infrastructure has also increased its electricity demand, with domestic consumption rising at a rate of 7 percent through 2017.61 Its electrical supply has struggled to keep up with this demand, as many segments of its current grid'--including substations and transformers'--are outdated and inefficient. The combination of increased load and inefficient infrastructure has led to shortages, including brownouts and blackouts, in various parts of the country over the past several years.62Beyond the problems caused by the infrastructure itself, Saudi Arabia's electrical grid offers at least four potential vulnerabilities in the event of an Iranian attack. First, a successful attack on the oil and gas sector could also impact the electrical grid. Due to its significant oil reserves and heavily subsidized domestic oil prices, Saudi Arabia is largely dependent on hydrocarbons as fuel for the electricity sector. Crude oil is used as the input in nearly two-thirds of electricity generation, and natural gas serves as fuel for most of the remaining portion.63 Second, transformers serve as the link between generators and transmission stations, as well as between transmission and distribution systems, and are relatively easy to target using explosive attacks.64 Third, most electrical power systems are constantly monitored and adjusted by SCADA systems'--explored in more depth in the following section'--and can be disrupted by cyberattacks. Fourth, a coordinated attack on multiple transmission lines or substations could overload generators and create a cascading transmission failure, potentially leading to widespread blackouts. This last scenario is unlikely because of its low probability of success. Attackers would need to know which substations and transmission lines to attack'--and target them simultaneously. But the potential impact could be significant.65SCADA SYSTEMSIndustrial control systems (ICSs) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems also present a serious vulnerability. SCADA systems are the industrial control interfaces that help regulate large-scale infrastructure like gas pipelines, power transmission systems, transportation systems, and water distribution systems. They monitor inputs from automated processes and give operators the ability to observe and manipulate those processes in real time, either by creating an alert in instances of irregularity or by automatically adjusting the process to return to normal when an irregularity occurs.66
A SCADA network, such as those used in the systems mentioned above, consists of the following components:
Sensors (either digital or analog) and control relays, which directly interface with the managed system;Remote telemetry units (RTUs), which are generally small, hardened computerized units deployed in the field to serve as data collection points;Master units, which are larger computer consoles that serve as the central processor for the SCADA system and as the hub of human-machine interface; andA communications network, which connects the master unit to the RTUs in the field.67All of these components may be vulnerable to attack by direct human interference (such as the deployment of malware in the master unit) or by poor design or configuration, which opens up the system to remote cyber exploitation.68Broadly, a SCADA attack seeks to manipulate the functioning of the system in order to interrupt normal functioning or to damage the physical infrastructure of the system it attacks. Two examples highlight the possibility to create physical damage. The first was the U.S.-Israeli Stuxnet attack against Iran, or Operation Olympic Games, which targeted Siemens SCADA systems in order to sabotage centrifuges used for uranium enrichment. The second was a lesser-known attack in 2014 against a German steel mill, where hackers prevented the shutdown of a blast furnace and caused substantial damage.69
Since 2012, Saudi SCADA systems have been attacked on several occasions. On August 15, 2012, Saudi Aramco was hit by the Iranian-linked malware Shamoon, which stole'--and then overwrote'--data on over 30,000 Aramco computers, rendering them unusable.70 Shamoon may have been designed by Iran as a retaliation for a similar SCADA attack on its oil infrastructure that had been discovered months previously, as well as the Stuxnet attack in 2010.71 In November 2016, Iran-linked hackers launched Shamoon again, this time against Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation and at least five other agencies. Operations were brought to a halt for several days, and thousands of computers had critical data erased.72 In January 2017, computers at the National Industrialization Company and Sadara Chemical Company had their data wiped and hard drives destroyed. And in August 2017, a malware attack with a virus known as ''Triton'' or ''Trisis'' attempted to sabotage physical operations of a Saudi petrochemical plant, but a misconfiguration caused the affected machines to shut down instead of exploding.73 Previous cyber attacks on Aramco's information and computer systems caused back-ups at Ras Tanura in loading oil onto tankers, and forced operators to resort to faxing information on tanker loadings.
Cyberattacks against Saudi ICSs and SCADA systems present a significant threat, though Iranian attacks thus far have been limited in their scope and damage. In addition, Saudi Arabia's cyber defenses have improved in recent years.DETERRING IRANIAN ACTIONSDespite the increase in U.S.-Iranian tensions, Tehran has adopted a calibrated approach to targeting critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. It has focused on irregular strategies and tactics'--such as conducting cyber operations, harassing tankers, and supporting attacks from partner forces like the Houthis'-- rather than using significant direct force. Iran almost certainly wants to limit military escalation and prevent interstate war. Still, it is possible that Iran, the United States, or other countries could escalate the current conflict through miscalculation or even deliberate actions. Consequently, the United States should consider several steps to prevent escalation and protect critical infrastructure in countries like Saudi Arabia.
First, the U.S. government and private sector should continue to help Saudi Arabia and other regional countries harden their critical infrastructure from Iranian strikes. In response to Iranian or partner cyber operations, examples might include continuing to improve the integrity, resiliency, and redundancy of cyber networks. In response to Iranian or partner missile or drone strikes, the United States should continue to support the development of a complex network of bases and command centers that are hardened against possible strikes, well-dispersed, and situated beyond the range of Iran's most numerous attack systems. Military planners should also ensure that sufficient stocks of air-delivered munitions are stored in survivable ways in the region.
To detect and protect against Iranian and partner attacks, the United States should ensure that it keeps sufficient numbers and types of mine countermeasure vessels; land- based fighter aircraft; Patriot and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) surface-to-air missile batteries; high-end intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) orbits; and attack submarines.74 There have been numerous debates within the Trump administration (like the Obama administration) about shifting U.S. military resources away from the Middle East to Asia and Europe in order to balance against China and Russia. But based on the heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, it would be a mistake to decrease the current U.S. military posture in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia also needs additional missile capabilities and seeks systems like the Dongfeng 5 ballistic missile from China if the United States and its partners are unwilling to help.
Second, the United States and its partners should focus on deterring Iranian escalation through the threat'--and when appropriate'--the use of measured offensive actions. As Thomas Schelling argued in his influential study Arms and Influence, ''it is the threat of damage, or of more damage to come, that can make someone yield or comply. It is latent violence that can influence someone's choice'--violence that can still be withheld or inflicted, or that a victim believes can be withheld or inflicted.''75 The United States needs to continue to communicate to Iran that major attacks against Saudi and other critical infrastructure'--which do significant damage to oil and gas infrastructure, desalination facilities, electricity grids, SCADA systems, or other infrastructure'--will be met with a harsh response. Deterring Iran requires signaling the intent and capabilities to strike Iranian targets, including by continuing to have a robust U.S. second-strike capability.
The challenge, however, is that it will be difficult'--and perhaps impossible'--to deter Iran from some types of offensive cyber operations and irregular attacks from partners, such as the Houthis. This is the nature of irregular warfare. The U.S. diplomat George Kennan referred to this type of routine warfare as ''the perpetual rhythm of struggle'' between states.76 Consequently, the United States should focus on deterring escalatory missile and cyberattacks against oil, desalination, electricity, SCADA, and other infrastructure.
A proportionate U.S. response to Iranian aggression will depend on the specific scenario. But the United States should generally aim to respond in ways that don't escalate the conflict. In addition, the United States does not always need to respond directly to Iranian activity, but can operate by, with, and through partners in the region. Examples of actions in response to Iranian hostility might include targeting unmanned Iranian drones; seizing Iranian ships, including tankers; targeting Iranian partner forces in countries like Yemen and Syria; and conducting measured offensive cyber operations against Iranian air defense, military command and control, or critical infrastructure systems. Any U.S. or partner action should be accompanied by clear messages to Iran's leadership about further responses'--what Schelling referred to as the threat of latent violence'--if Iran continues to act aggressively.
Third, the United States should be careful not to threaten the survival of the Iranian regime, which would raise the prospects of escalation and interstate conflict. President Trump publicly noted that ''we're not looking for regime change'' in Iran, which is a helpful step. But it is less clear whether this sentiment is shared by other senior U.S. officials. Over the past two decades, the U.S. overthrow of regimes in Afghanistan (2001), Iraq (2003), and Libya (2011) triggered destabilizing wars and regional turbulence. Some U.S. policymakers may hope that economic sanctions will trigger a groundswell of resentment against the Iranian government that eventually leads to regime change. But regime change through sanctions is unlikely to occur, and there is little evidence that the Iranian government is in danger of collapsing.
One challenge with the current U.S. approach is that it is too reliant on economic sanctions, which may severely weaken Iran's economy but are unlikely to dissuade Iran from developing its missile program or aiding partner forces in countries like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. In fact, escalating sanctions'--without clear and achievable U.S. political objectives'--will likely increase Iran's efforts to strengthen these capabilities. The United States needs to clearly signal to Tehran a way out of the current conflict. Iran is unlikely to give up its missile program. But it may eventually agree to a nuclear deal in exchange for sanctions relief, which it already agreed to under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In addition, Tehran will not end its support to partner forces like Lebanese Hezbollah in the region, but it may be willing to help seek a political solution to the Yemen conflict and curb its support to the Houthis.
In the end, U.S. policymakers would be wise to heed Schelling's advice on latent violence. The best way to protect critical infrastructure in countries like Saudi Arabia may be to develop a robust deterrent strategy that credibly signals to Iran'--through words and actions'--that it will be punished if it moves up the escalatory ladder, as well as offers a political exit ramp to the current conflict.
Seth G. Jones is the Harold Brown Chair and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Danika Newlee is a program manager and research associate for the Transnational Threats Project at CSIS. Nicholas Harrington is a research assistant and program coordinator for the Transnational Threats Project and the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS. Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. is a senior fellow for Imagery Analysis at CSIS.The authors give special thanks to several anonymous reviewers for their comments on the document, as well as Alex Friedland for his assistance in collecting and analyzing data.This brief is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this brief. CSIS Briefs are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s). (C) 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.
1Michael R. Pompeo, ''Remarks at the United Nations Security Council Meeting on Iran,'' U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, December 12, 2018, https://vienna.usmission.gov/secretary-pompeo-on- iran-at-the-security-council/.2Tom Cotton, ''Cotton Warns Colleagues About Withholding Support for Saudi Arms Deals,'' Tom Cotton Senate website, June 20, 2019, https://www.cotton.senate.gov/?p=speech&id=1162.3Matt Egan, ''Saudi Oil Minister: Iran Is Threatening Global Energy Supply,'' CNN, July 2, 2019, https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/02/business/saudi-oil-minister-iran-security/index.html. The quote comes from a transcript of the interview.4U.S. Central Command, ''U.S. Central Command Statement on Movement of U.S. Personnel to Saudi Arabia,'' July 19, 2019, https://www.usarcent.army.mil/News/Article/1912942/us-central-command-statement-on-move- ment-of-us-personnel-to-saudi-arabia/.5Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), ''OPEC Share of World Crude Oil Reserves, 2018,'' OPEC website, 2019, https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/data_graphs/330.htm.6OPEC, ''Saudi Arabia Facts and Figures,'' OPEC website, https://www.opec.org/opec_web/en/about_us/169.htm; International Energy Agency, ''Oil 2019: Analysis and forecast to 2024,'' https://www.iea.org/oil2019/.7For a timeline on oil facility and tanker attacks in the Persian Gulf area and Red Sea, see, for example, Andrew Stanley and John Schaus, ''Oil Markets, Oil Attacks, and the Strategic Straits,'' CSIS, Commentary, July 19, 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/oil-markets-oil-attacks-and-strategic-straits.8Daniel R. Coats, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community (Washington, DC: Office of the Director of National Intelligence, January 2019), p. 30; Missile Defense Project, ''Missiles of Iran,'' Missile Threat, CSIS, June 14, 2018, last modified June 15, 2018, https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/ iran/.9Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies (Washington, DC: February 2017), https://www.oni.navy.mil/Portals/12/Intel%20agencies/iran/Iran%20022217SP.pdf.10Robert Einhorn and Vann H. Van Diepen, Constraining Iran's Missile Capabilities (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution, March 2019), 15, https://www.brookings.edu/research/constraining-irans-missile-capabilities/.11Ibid.12Missile Defense Project, ''Missiles of Iran,'' Missile Threat, CSIS, June 14, 2018, last modified June 15, 2018, https://missilethreat.csis.org/country/iran/.13See, for example, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee, June 2017), 34, https://www.nasic.af.mil/Portals/19/images/Fact%20Sheet%20Images/2017%20Ballistic%20and%20Cruise%20Missile%20Threat_Final_small.pdf?ver=2017-07-21-083234-34314Coats, World Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, 30.15See, for example, Keith Johnson, ''Iran's Yemeni Proxies Put Oil Shipments in Crosshairs,'' Foreign Policy, July 26, 2018, https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/07/26/irans-yemeni-proxies-put-oil-shipments-in-crosshairs-saudi-bab-el-mandeb-hormuz-houthi/.16''Letter Dated 26 January 2018 from the Panel of Experts on Yemen Man-dated by Security Council Resolution 2342 (2017) Addressed to the President of the Security Council,'' United Nations Security Council, S/2018/68, January 16, 2018, https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/ N1800513.pdf; Nader Uskowi, Temperature Rising: Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Wars in the Middle East (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2019), 118-119; International Crisis Group, Iran's Priorities in a Turbulent Middle East (Brussels: April 2018); Michael Knights, ''The Houthi War Machine: From Guerrilla War to State Capture,'' CTC Sentinel 11, no. 8 (September 2018): 15-23, https://ctc.usma.edu/houthi-war-machine-guerrilla-war-state-cap-ture/; Ali Soufan, ''Qassem Soleimani and Iran's Unique Regional Strategy,'' CTC Sentinel 11, no. 10 (November 2018): 1-12, https://ctc.usma.edu/qassem-soleimani-irans-unique-regional-strategy/.17See, for example, Caleb Weiss, ''Yemen's Houthis Target Saudi Airports,'' Long War Journal, June 14, 2019, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2019/06/yemens-houthis-target-saudi-airports.php.18Knights, ''The Houthi War Machine.''19United Nations Security Council, ''Letter Dated 26 January 2018,'' 29.20Knights, ''The Houthi War Machine.''21United Nations Security Council, ''Letter Dated 26 January 2018,'' 18.22Data from Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, https://ihsmarkit.com/products/janes-terrorism-insurgency-intelligence-centre.23CSIS Transnational Threats Project estimates; David Daoud, ''Hezbollah Is Preparing Syria as Second Battlefield against Israel,'' Long War Journal, March 16, 2017, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/03/hez-bollah-is-preparing-syria-as-second-battlefield-against-israel.php; Reuters Staff, ''Hezbollah Uses Drones against Islamic State in Syria: Hezbollah-run Media,'' Reuters, August 21, 2017, https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/ idCAKCN1B11H4-OCATP; Thomas Gibbons-Neff, ''Hezbollah Has U.S. Armored Personnel Carriers,'' Washington Post, November 16, 2016, https:// www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/11/16/hezbollah-has-u-s-armored-personnel-carriers-but-how-did-they-get-them/?noredi- rect=on&utm_term=.32c1d4f2924b.24See the alleged video footage of a Hezbollah drone strike in ''Hezbollah Uses Drones against Islamic State in Syria: Hezbollah-Run Media,'' Reuters, August 21, 2017, https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN- 1B11H4-OCATP.25James Andrew Lewis, ''Iran and Cyber Power,'' CSIS, Commentary, June 25, 2019, https://www.csis.org/analysis/iran-and-cyber-power; International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), The Military Balance: Middle East and North Africa 119, no. 1 (February 2019): 344.26Coats, Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, 6.27Lewis, ''Iran and Cyber Power.''28Stanley Reed, ''Saudi Oil Infrastructure at Risk as Small Attacks Raise Potential for Big Disruption,'' New York Times, May 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/17/world/middleeast/saudi-oil-risk.html.29"Shamoon: Destructive Threat Re-Emerges with New Sting In Its Tail,'' Symantec, December 14, 2018, https://www.symantec.com/blogs/threat-in-telligence/shamoon-destructive-threat-re-emerges-new-sting-its-tail.30ONI, Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies; ONI, Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy (Washington, DC: January 2009), 16, https://fas.org/irp/agency/oni/iran-navy.pdf.31ONI, Iranian Naval Forces: A Tale of Two Navies.32ONI, Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy.33U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, ''Threat Tactics Report: Iran,'' June 2016, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d7/Threat_Tactics_Report%2C_Iran_%28June_2016%29.pdf.34ONI, Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy.35IISS, The Military Balance: Middle East and North Africa, 342.36U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, ''Threat Tactics Report: Iran.''37ONI, Iran's Naval Forces: From Guerilla Warfare to a Modern Naval Strategy.38Ibid.39U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), ''Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia,'' EIA website, October 20, 2017, https://www.eia.gov/beta/international/analysis_includes/countries_long/Saudi_Arabia/saudi_arabia.pdf.40Joshua R. Itzokwitz Shifrinson and Miranda L. Priebe, ''A Crude Threat: The Limits of an Iranian Missile Campaign against Saudi Arabian Oil,'' International Security 36, no. 1 (Summer 2011): 167-201.41Ibid.42EIA, ''Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia.''43Shifrinson and Priebe, ''A Crude Threat''; Anthony H. Cordesman and Nawaf Obaid, National Security in Saudi Arabia: Threats, Responses, and Challenges (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2005).44EIA, ''Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia.''45Ibid.46Parag Deulgaonkar, ''Saudi Aramco to Begin Jazan Refinery Operations by 2019-End,'' Argaam, April 2, 2019, https://www.argaam.com/en/article/ articledetail/id/602330.47OPEC, ''Saudi Arabia Facts and Figures.''48EIA, ''Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia.''49Amy M. Jaffe, ''Free Flow of Oil, Strait of Hormuz, and Policing International Sea Lanes,'' Council on Foreign Relations, July 30, 2018, https://www.cfr.org/blog/free-flow-oil-strait-hormuz-and-policing-international-sea- lanes.50Shifrinson and Priebe, ''A Crude Threat.''51EIA, ''Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia.''52EIA, ''Country Analysis Brief: Saudi Arabia''; Reem Shamseddine and Rania El Gamal, ''Saudi Aramco to Boost Oil Loading Capacity with Re-opened Terminal,'' Reuters, May 1, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-oil-terminal/saudi-aramco-to-boost-oil-loading-capacity-with-re- opened-terminal-idUSKBN17X1AS.53Erica DeNicola et al., ''Climate Change and Water Scarcity: The Case of Saudi Arabia,'' Annals of Global Health 81, no. 3, (May-June 2015), https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214999615012217.54Takuto Ishimatsu et al., ''Desalination Network Model Driven Decision Support System: A Case Study of Saudi Arabia,'' Desalination 423 (December 2017), https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Takuto_Ishimatsu/publication/320173110_Desalination_network_model_driven_deci- sion_support_system_A_case_study_of_Saudi_Arabia/links/59d2ba3f- 0f7e9b4fd7fc96d6/Desalination-network-model-driven-decision-sup- port-system-A-case-study-of-Saudi-Arabia.pdf.55R. Al Hashemi et al., ''A Review of Desalination Trends in Gulf Cooperation Council Countries,'' International Interdisciplinary Journal of Scientific Research 1, no. 2 (January 2014), https://www.researchgate.net/publication/303907501_A_review_of_desalination_trends_in_Gulf_Cooperation_ Council_Countries.56DeNicola, ''Climate Change and Water Scarcity.''57Beatrice Thomas, ''Saudi Commissions World's Biggest Desalination Plant,'' Arabian Business, April 23, 2014, https://www.arabianbusiness.com/saudi-commissions-world-s-biggest-desalination-plant-547616.html.58''Ras Al Khair Desalination Plant,'' Water Technology, 2019, https://www.water-technology.net/projects/-ras-al-khair-desalination-plant/.59U.S. Department of State, Embassy Riyadh, ''Critical Infrastructure Protection in Saudi: Next Steps,'' Cable, August 11, 2008, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/08RIYADH1230_a.html.60John Bulloch and Adel Darwish, Water Wars: Coming Conflicts in the Middle East (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995).61International Trade Administration, ''Saudi Arabia '' Power,'' U.S. Department of Commerce, November 5, 2018, https://www.export.gov/article?id=-Saudi-Arabia-Power.62Arash Farnoosh, Frederic Lantza, and Jacques Percebois, ''Electricity Generation Analyses in an Oil-Exporting Country: Transition to Non-Fossil Fuel Based Power Units in Saudi Arabia,'' Energy, 69 (May 2014), https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0360544214002795.63Said Nachet and Marie-Claire Aoun, The Saudi Electricity Sector: Pressing Issues and Challenges (Paris: Institut fran§ais des relations internationals, March 30, 2015), https://www.ifri.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/note_arabie_saoudite_vf.pdf.64Ted G. Lewis, Critical Infrastructure Protection in Homeland Security: Defending a Networked Nation (New York John Wiley & Sons, 2014).65 Ibid .66See, for example, DPS Telecom, ''What is SCADA?'' https://www.dpstele.com/scada/what-is.php.67Ibid.68Scott A. Weed, ''US Policy Response to Cyber Attack on SCADA Systems Supporting Critical National Infrastructure,'' Air Force Research Institute, May 2017, https://www.hsdl.org/?abstract&did=803892.69Kim Zetter, ''A Cyberattack Has Caused Confirmed Physical Damage for the Second Time Ever,'' Wired, January 8, 2015, https://www.wired.com/2015/01/german-steel-mill-hack-destruction/.70Kevin E. Hemsley and Ronald E. Fisher, History of Industrial Control System Cyber Incidents (Idaho Falls, ID: Idaho National Laboratory, December 2018), https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1505628.71Nicole Perlroth, ''In Cyberattack on Saudi Firm, U.S. Sees Iran Firing Back.'' New York Times, October 23, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/24/business/global/cyberattack-on-saudi-oil-firm-disqui- ets-us.html.72Michael Riley, Glen Carey, and John Fraher, ''Destructive Hacks Strike Saudi Arabia, Posing Challenge to Trump,'' Bloomberg News, December 1, 2016, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-12-01/destructive-hacks-strike-saudi-arabia-posing-challenge-to-trump.73Chris Bing, ''Trisis Has the Security World Spooked, Stumped and Searching for Answers,'' Cyberscoop, January 16, 2018, https://www.cyberscoop.com/trisis-ics-malware-saudi-arabia/.74David Ochmanek, et al., U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World: Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Force Planning (Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2017), 72-75.75Thomas C. Schelling, Arms and Influence (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008), 3. The italicized words are in the original text.76George F. Kennan, ''Organizing Political Warfare,'' April 30, 1948, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, https://digitalarchive.wilsoncen- ter.org/document/114320.pdf?v=941dc9ee5c6e51333ea9ebbbc9104e8c.
VIDEO - Trump Whistleblower Drama Puts Biden In The Hot Seat Over Ukraine | Zero Hedge
For days we've been treated to MSM insinuations that President Trump may have betrayed the United States after a whistleblower lodged an 'urgent' complaint about something Trump promised another world leader - the details of which the White House has refused to share.
Then, we learned it was a phone call.
Then, we learned it was several phone calls.
Now, we learn it wasn't Russia or North Korea - it was Ukraine!
Here's the scandal; It appears that Trump, may have made promises to newly minted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky - very likely involving an effort to convince Ukraine to reopen its investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter, after Biden strongarmed Ukraine's prior government into firing its top prosecutor - something Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani have pursued for months. There are also unsupported rumors that Trump threatened to withhold $250 million in aid to help Ukraine fight Russian-backed separatists.
And while the MSM and Congressional Democrats are starting to focus on the sitting US president having a political opponent investigated, The New York Times admits that nothing Trump did would have been illegal, as "while Mr. Trump may have discussed intelligence activities with the foreign leader, he enjoys broad power as president to declassify intelligence secrets, order the intelligence community to act and otherwise direct the conduct of foreign policy as he sees fit."
Moreover, here's why Trump and Giuliani are going to dig their heels in; last year Biden openly bragged about threatening to hurl Ukraine into bankruptcy as Vice President if they didn't fire their top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin - who was leading a wide-ranging corruption investigation into a natural gas firm whose board Hunter Biden sat on.
In his own words, with video cameras rolling, Biden described how he threatened Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in March 2016 that the Obama administration would pull $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, sending the former Soviet republic toward insolvency, if it didn't immediately fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. -The Hill
"I said, 'You're not getting the billion.' I'm going to be leaving here in, I think it was about six hours. I looked at them and said: 'I'm leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you're not getting the money,'" bragged Biden, recalling the conversation with Poroshenko.
"Well, son of a bitch, he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time," Biden said at the Council on Foreign Relations event - while insisting that former president Obama was complicit in the threat.
In short, there's both smoke and fire here - and what's left of Biden's 2020 bid for president may be the largest casualty of the entire whistleblower scandal.
And by the transitive properties of the Obama administration 'vetting' Trump by sending spies into his campaign, Trump can simply say he was protecting America from someone who may have used his position of power to directly benefit his own family at the expense of justice.
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are acting as if they've found the holy grail of taking Trump down. On Thursday, the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) interviewed inspector general Michael Atkinson, with whom the whistleblower lodged their complaint - however despite three hours of testimony, he repeatedly declined to discuss the content of the complaint.
Following the session, Schiff gave an angry speech - demanding that acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire share the complaint, and calling the decision to withhold it "unprecedented."
"We cannot get an answer to the question about whether the White House is also involved in preventing this information from coming to Congress," said Schiff, adding "We're determined to do everything we can to determine what this urgent concern is to make sure that the national security is protected."
According to Schiff, someone "is trying to manipulate the system to keep information about an urgent matter from the Congress '... There certainly are a lot of indications that it was someone at a higher pay grade than the director of national intelligence," according to the Washington Post.
Just asked Schiff why IG couldn't talk today about substance of whistleblower complaint or WH involvement, and he said DNI and DOJ won't let the IG talk about it. "This shows someone is trying to manipulate the system to keep information about an urgent matter from the Congress." pic.twitter.com/q3cyg4zt36
'-- Manu Raju (@mkraju) September 19, 2019On thursday, Trump denied doing anything improper - tweeting "Virtually anytime I speak on the phone to a foreign leader, I understand that there may be many people listening from various U.S. agencies, not to mention those from the other country itself."
"Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially 'heavily populated' call."
....Knowing all of this, is anybody dumb enough to believe that I would say something inappropriate with a foreign leader while on such a potentially ''heavily populated'' call. I would only do what is right anyway, and only do good for the USA!
'-- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 19, 2019Giuliani, meanwhile, went on CNN with Chris Cuomo Thursday to defend his discussions with Ukraine about investigating alleged election interference in the 2016 election to the benefit of Hillary Clinton conducted by Ukraine's previous government. According to Giuliani, Biden's dealings in Ukraine were 'tangential' to the 2016 election interference question - in which a Ukrainian court ruled that government officials meddled for Hillary in 2016 by releasing details of Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's 'Black Book' to Clinton campaign staffer Alexandra Chalupa.
CNN's @ChrisCuomo: "Did you ask Ukraine to look into Joe Biden?"@RudyGiuliani: "Of course I did"President Trump's attorney says he had spoken with a Ukrainian official about Joe Biden's possible role in that government's dismissal of a prosecutor who investigated Biden's son. pic.twitter.com/hqmqtmx2VW
'-- Cuomo Prime Time (@CuomoPrimeTime) September 20, 2019And so - what the MSM doesn't appear to understand is that President Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden over something with legitimate underpinnings.
Which - of course, may lead to the Bidens' adventures in China, which Giuliani referred to in his CNN interview. And just like his Ukraine scandal, it involves actions which may have helped his son Hunter - who was making hand over fist in both countries.
Journalist Peter Schweizer, the author of Clinton Cash and now Secret Empires discovered that in 2013, then-Vice President Biden and his son Hunter flew together to China on Air Force Two - and two weeks later, Hunter's firm inked a private equity deal for $1 billion with a subsidiary of the Chinese government's Bank of China, which expanded to $1.5 billion
Meanwhile, speculation is rampant over what this hornet's nest means for all involved...
The latest intell hit on Trump tells me that the deep-state swamp rats are in a panic over the Ukrainian/Obama admin collusion about to be outed in the IG report. They're also freaked out over Biden's shady Ukrainian deals with his kid.
'-- Dan Bongino (@dbongino) September 20, 2019"As the 2020 election draws closer, President Trump and his personal attorney appear to have increased pressure on the Ukrainian government and its justice system in service of President Trump's reelection campaign, and the White House and the State Department may be abetting this scheme," wrote the chairman of the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight committees wrote in a letter, citing media reports over the alleged threat to withhold $250 million.
House Democrats are also looking into whether Giuliani flew to Ukraine to 'encourage' them to investigate Hunter Biden and his involvement with Burisma.
VIDEO - Elie Mystal Cross-Examines Ari Melber To Show Dems How It's Done | Crooks and Liars
Corey Lewandowski seemed to run the table on the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. He was stonewalling, pretending to not remember his own notes and conversations, getting in jabs about his alleged "good looks," plugs for his Senate run, and just getting away with grossly ethically deviant and defiant behavior. He and Brett Kavanaugh must be very fond of one another.
It was painful to watch even for the average layperson, but for legal eagles like Elie Mystal and Ari Melber, it was excruciating. Mystal joined Melber on "The Beat" on Wednesday to give a master class on the way to handle hostile, bratty, entitled, criminal douchebros like Lewandowski. He also gave the Democrats some pretty solid advice on how to move on with these proceedings.
MYSTAL: I was frustrated very much yesterday. If the Democrats want to move forward with this, if they want to truly put country over party, that has to start at home. They need to get over themselves and let the professionals handle this going forward. Nobody is is tuning into the hearings to see 17 Democratic Congresspeople waffle about on their poorly prepared questions that they got off of an episode of "Law and Order." This takes professional cross-examination to deal with the sneering hostility that the Trump people are giving them. They don't know how to do it. That's not a total slam on them. You have to be trained to do this. Pro tip, if you find yourself yelling at a witness, "That's a yes or no question!" Guess what? Your question was bad. Because if you asked a good question, there IS only two options, right?
Then Mystal demonstrated in a hilarious mini-cross-examination to drive the point even further home.
MYSTAL: Ari, do you like ties? That's not a yes or no question! Mr. Melber, are you wearing a tie today?
MYSTAL: Did you wear a tie yesterday?
MYSTAL: Here are 137 episodes of The Beat. Is this you in all the episodes? Are you wearing a tie in all these episodes? Mr. Melber! Do you want this committee to believe that you do not like ties?
'' Story continues below ''
THAT'S how you do it. It's an actual skill that the Democratic Congresspeople don't have. This whole hearing should have been designed to make Barry Berke the star. Because HE is the one who had the credentials and the experience to break Lewandowski down.
Melber harkened back to Watergate, and Senator Fred Thompson, who ended up on the show Mystal used as an example in his rant '-- "Law and Order." (Well-played, Ari, we see you...) But the point was Sen. Thompson was extremely skilled in cross-examination and THAT was the skill that was needed in that moment, like it is needed in this one. He reinforced Mystal's point that Dems on the Judiciary Committee who are anything short of BRILLIANT at cross-examination should cede the floor to people who are. All egos aside. And Mystal explained why.
MYSTAL: Everybody wants their little moment. But this is not what this should be. Democrats keep telling us that we are in unprecedented waters. With a uniquely criminal president. Well, they need to start acting like that. And the way you act like that is to have, again, these professional prosecutors, these professional attorneys really hammer down on these witnesses.
There's nothing -- there's a level of obstruction that the Trump administration is willing to go to. There's a level of disrespect that the Trump witnesses are willing to go to that these Congresspeople simply aren't used to dealing with. They are not ready to deal with that. And again, that's training. We have people who are specifically trained to deal with criminals and hostile witnesses and know how to illicit answers from them.
Then Melber asked Mystal a Yes or No question of his own...
MELBER: My last question for you, yes or no, is will you come back?
MYSTAL: I absolutely will come back. Because I don't lie when I'm here.
It was a great teaching moment for Dems, who cannot afford to miss ANY MORE learning opportunities like this. I hope they were watching. I hope they take his advice. Because if they don't, then it may turn out Nancy Pelosi's instinct for avoiding impeachment may be the the right one, but not for the reason everyone thinks. It might be because she knows what Mystal is saying is true - they aren't able to get out of their own way enough to do the job right.
I say that with all the love and faith in the Dems on that committee, but we need this and we cannot afford any missteps or missed opportunities like we had when Lewandowki was in front of them. DON'T f*ck it up. For the love of all that is holy, let the experts handle this.
VIDEO - Rep. Gaetz Grills Al Sharpton: Have You Ever Called Jews "White Interlopers Or Diamond Merchants?" | Video | RealClearPolitics
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) grilled Reverend Al Sharpton on his history of bigoted comments about ethnic and religious communities at a House Judiciary Committee hearing Thursday on policing practices. Rep. Gaetz cited comments made by Joe Scarborough from several years ago, before Scarborough and Sharpton became MSNBC colleagues.The exchange became heated and several democrats called for points of order throughout, C-SPAN reported.
Congressman Gaetz: Have you ever referred to members of the Jewish faith as ''white interlopers'' or ''diamond merchants''? Mr. Sharpton: No sir I referred to one in Harlem, an individual. Congressman Gaetz: Did you march next to a sign that said, ''the white man is the devil''? Mr. Sharpton: I have no recollection of that. Congressman Gaetz: Have you ever referred to African Americans that disagreed with you as ''cocktail-sip negros''? Mr. Sharpton: I have. Congressman Gaetz: Have you ever referred to African Americans who disagreed with you as ''yellow,'' and then the N-word? Mr. Sharpton: I don't know that I have'...I've referred to people as names.Congressman Gaetz: Have you ever referred to African Americans that disagreed with you as ''negro militants''?
Mr. Sharpton: I don't know, I don't recall.
VIDEO - U.N. Stuns World on Eve of Largest Climate Events Ever - YouTube
Europe's biggest economy, Germany, has promised to phase out coal by 2038 in order to meet climate change commitments. Yet it is expanding one of its biggest open cast mines, which is 48 square kilometres in size.
The expansion will demolish five villages in the process, but the coal company responsible says it is not destroying, merely re-settling.
But many local residents say their lives are about to be ruined and are refusing to move.
VIDEO - Uber officially pulls scooters, bikes from San Diego '' fox5sandiego.com
JUMP bikes sit parked on a street corner on April 12, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Uber announced this week that it has acquired bike share company JUMP for an undisclosed amount of money. JUMP currently has dockless, pedal assisted bikes in San Francisco and Washington DC. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO -- As of Thursday, Uber's dockless devices, which include ''jump'' bikes and scooters, have disappeared altogether from San Diego.
The company said San Diego's new regulations were too strict and didn't allow for their operations to be sustainable.
Some locals have appreciated the city's initiative.
"I think it's helped with congestion in certain areas especially downtown and out here along the boardwalk. You don't see them everywhere. You see them in one central location because of the corrals," said Michael Eroles.
In addition to mandating the bikes and scooters now be stores in a more organized fashion, the new rules mean slower speeds in busy areas like the boardwalk and Embarcadero.
With Uber leaving the city, it still leaves six other dockless device companies in operation.
"I wasn't currently aware of that many brands," said Travis Dutton.
Many people still feel like the dockless devices are a convenient and fun option.
"I think this opens up a new way for people to really see the sights and sounds of the city so I think it's huge to have this," said Riaz Rayek.
However others have seen the congestion this volume of companies can bring and think the city could do with even less.
"Slimming down the brands would be very helpful," said Eroles.
Last month the city announced it's plans to revoke Lime's permit. For now you can still spot Lime scooters throughout town, since a formal hearing has yet to be scheduled.
VIDEO - (46) U.N. Stuns World on Eve of Largest Climate Events Ever - YouTube
VIDEO - (4) Ryan Saavedra on Twitter: "''I have not come to offer prepared remarks at this hearing,'' far-left activist Greta Thunberg tells Congress as she reads from her prepared remarks. https://t.co/wTW6wPizVl" / Twitter
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VIDEO - (4) Axios on Twitter: "WATCH: Rudy Giuliani denies that he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, before admitting to Chris Cuomo seconds later: "Of course I did!" https://t.co/flcierpKGu" / Twitter
Democrat presidential candidate Marianne Williamson came out against using nuclear energy, which experts say should be used to combat climate change, on Thursday during a climate change town hall on MSNBC, urging students to not use "hard data" when thinking about nuclear energy.
Williamson made the remarks while answering a question from a college student who wanted to know why she thought that nuclear energy was problematic.
"Well I know Germany had said at one point 'we're just going no nuclear,' but then when they said no nuclear there was a problem because they had a hard time keeping up with the other standards they agreed to," Williamson said. "What is wrong with it? If something goes wrong with nuclear energy, I don't think people have really stopped to take in the horror."
"See we need an integrated politics, we need to go beyond hard data, we need to go beyond just thinking about the facts," Williamson continued. "I want you to think about this with your heart."
The International Atomic Energy Agency reports (IAEA): "Nuclear power makes a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide while fulfilling at the same time the increasing energy demands of a growing world population and supporting global sustainable development. Nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during their operation and only very low emission levels during their entire life cycle. As a result, the use of nuclear power avoids the emission of nearly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year '' the equivalent of taking over 400 million cars off the road per year."
The IAEA notes that the Paris Climate Accord "points to a continued increased role in the use of nuclear power in the longer term. Its advantages in terms of climate change mitigation, as well as energy security and non-climatic environmental and socio-economic benefits, are important reasons why many countries intend to introduce nuclear power in the coming decades, or to expand existing programs."
Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said earlier this month that if she is elected that she will eliminate the use of nuclear energy by 2035.
"In my administration, we won't be building new nuclear plants," Warren said during CNN's climate change town hall event. "We will start weaning ourselves off nuclear and replace it with renewables."
Climate expert Ryan Maue, who has a Ph.D. in Meteorology, slammed Warren over her plan, telling The Daily Wire: "Senator Warren's plan to eliminate nuclear energy would drastically increase carbon emissions and exacerbate the climate crisis she supposedly wants to fight."
As The Daily Wire reported at the time, even left-leaning publications slammed Warren over her comments on eliminating nuclear energy.
The Week attacked Warren for her position, saying that it is "a serious policy error," noting that "per unit of electricity generated, oil is 263 times more deadly than nuclear, ordinary coal 352 times deadlier, and lignite coal 467 times deadlier."
"But there is no credible argument for decommissioning existing plants. And if the crisis is as severe as Sanders, Warren, and the United Nations suggest, then there isn't really a credible argument against throwing at least some public capital at 'Hail Mary' advanced nuclear technologies like small-scale reactors that could '-- at least theoretically '-- deliver safe, affordable nuclear energy at scale," New York Magazine reported. "The technology is simply too promising to ignore, especially considering the current limitations of renewables. As science writer (and democratic socialist) Leigh Phillips notes, 'Nuclear power has an emissions intensity as low as that of onshore wind '... but unlike wind can power hospitals 24/7.'"
VIDEO - (41) Austin Skidrow on Twitter: "September 18, 2019 Special Austin City Council Open Camping Discussion Ok, so maybe we don't run Austin City Council member @JimmyFlannigan out of office? #austinhomeless https://t.co/Ya6nw6QacH" / Twitter
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VIDEO - (2) Andy Ngo on Twitter: "At a press conference in Winnipeg, Justin Trudeau connects his black/brown face scandal to Canada's issues with ''systemic racism.'' https://t.co/sx9XNambyK" / Twitter