Sometime in June 2003, Mel Karmazin, the president of Viacom, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, walked into the Google offices in Mountain View, California. Google was a hip, young tech company that made money '' actual money! '' off the internet. Karmazin was there to find out how.
Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, Google's founder and its CEO respectively, were already seated in the conference room when co-founder Sergey Brin came in, out of breath. He was wearing shorts. And roller skates.
The Google guys told Karmazin that the search engine's earnings came from selling advertisements. Companies could buy paid links to websites that would appear at the top of users' search results. And Google worked as a middleman, connecting websites with ad space to advertisers eager to get their banners seen.
Schmidt continued: "Our business is highly measurable. We know that if you spend X dollars on ads, you'll get Y dollars in revenues." At Google, Schmidt maintained, you pay only for what works.
Karmazin was horrified. He was an old fashioned advertising man, and where he came from, a Super Bowl ad cost three million dollars. Why? Because that's how much it cost. What does it yield? Who knows.
"I'm selling $25bn of advertising a year," Karmazin said. "Why would I want anyone to know what works and what doesn't?"
Leaning on the table, hands folded, he gazed at his hosts and told them: "You're fucking with the magic."
Is Google hacking your brain?For more than a century, advertising was an art, not a science. Hard data didn't exist. An advertising guru of the Don Draper type proclaimed: "What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons" '' and advertisers could only hope it was true. You put your commercials on the air, you put your brand in the paper, and you started praying. Would anyone see the ad? Would anyone act on it? Nobody knew.
In the early 1990s, the internet sounded the death knell for that era of advertising. Today, we no longer live in the age of Mad Men, but of Math Men.
Looking for customers, clicks, conversions? Google and Facebook know where to find them. With unprecedented precision, these data giants will get the right message delivered to the right people at the right time. Unassuming internet users are lured into online shops, undecided voters are informed about the evils of US presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, and cars zip by on the screens of potential buyers '' a test drive is only a click away.
But is any of it real? What do we really know about the effectiveness of digital advertising? Are advertising platforms any good at manipulating us?
You'd be forgiven for thinking the answer to that last question is: yes, extremely good. After all, the market is huge. The amount of money spent on internet ads goes up each year. In 2018, more than $273bn dollars was spent on digital ads globally, according to research firm eMarketer. Most of those ads were purchased from two companies: Google ($116bn in 2018) and Facebook ($54.5bn in 2018).
Newspapers are teeming with treatises about these tech giants' saturnine activities. An essay by best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari on "the end of free will" exemplifies the genre: according to the Israeli thinker, it's only a matter of time before big data systems ''understand humans much better than we understand ourselves."
In a highly acclaimed new book, Harvard professor Shoshana Zuboff predicts a ''seventh extinction wave'', where human beings lose ''the will to will''. Cunning marketers can predict and manipulate our behaviour. Facebook knows your soul. Google is hacking your brain.
'The best minds of our generation'I too used to believe that these tech giants were all-knowing entities. But while writing this story, I have come to realise that this belief is as wrong as it is popular.
A former Facebook engineer once said (and he's been quoted a thousand times over): "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click on ads." I spoke to some of those best minds: economists employed and formerly employed by the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley: Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft, eBay, Facebook, Netflix, Pandora and Amazon.
This story is about organisations and why they are so hard to change. And it's about us, and how easy we are to manipulate.They weren't always easy to get hold of. I'd send an email in late October, and perhaps they would have an hour in January, at some ungodly hour in Europe. And then there was the language barrier. These guys did not speak English, but fluent Economese. My Economese is not all bad, but two hours of Hausman tests, incremental bidding, and exogenous variation is too much, even for an enthusiast such as myself.
Still, mixed in with the jargon, there were enough anecdotes to make your head spin. They would utter one line in plain English that I'd end up mulling over the rest of the day.
The story that emerged from these conversations is about much more than just online advertising. It's about a market of a quarter of a trillion dollars governed by irrationality. It's about knowables, about how even the biggest data sets don't always provide insight. It's about organisations and why they are so hard to change. And it's about us, and how easy we are to manipulate.
One thing was gradually becoming clear: these guys are fucking with the magic. And nobody knows it. Or as Garrett Johnson, who used to work for Yahoo!, told me: "I don't have anybody pounding down my door telling me I'm fucking with their magic, because '... well, they don't even know who I am."
Steve Tadelis was the most accessible of the bunch. He instantly replied to my email: "I would be delighted to talk."
Tadelis told me about his work for eBay, a broad grin lining his face.
It all started with a surrealistic phone call to a data consultant. Tadelis was a professor of economics at the University of California, Berkeley when he went and spent a year at eBay in August 2011.
During one of his first conversations with eBay's marketing team, they invited him to sit down with their consultants. The consultants could tell him how profitable each of eBay's ad campaigns had been. And since Tadelis was an economist, maybe he'd like to quiz them about their methods.
"Proprietary transformation functions," one of the consultants had said on the phone when Tadelis reached out. They used proprietary transformation functions, had 25 years of experience, and a long list of prominent clients.
When Tadelis pressed them he realised that ''proprietary transformation functions'' was only a clever disguise for your garden-variety statistics. You take the weekly expenditure on ads, combine it with the weekly sales, and voila! Fold the mixture into a scatter plot and see what happens. Easy as that!
"This is garbage," Tadelis thought.
Correlation, as any Statistics 101 class will inform you, is not causation. What do these impressive numbers mean if the people who see your ad are the exact same people who were going to use eBay anyway? eBay is no small fry. Surely lots of people looking for shoes end up on the online auction site all by themselves, whether they see an ad or not?
Picture this. Luigi's Pizzeria hires three teenagers to hand out coupons to passersby. After a few weeks of flyering, one of the three turns out to be a marketing genius. Customers keep showing up with coupons distributed by this particular kid. The other two can't make any sense of it: how does he do it? When they ask him, he explains: "I stand in the waiting area of the pizzeria."
It's plain to see that junior's no marketing whiz. Pizzerias do not attract more customers by giving coupons to people already planning to order a quattro stagioni five minutes from now.
I can get my head around a cynical advertising world, but a naive one?Economists refer to this as a "selection effect." It is crucial for advertisers to distinguish such a selection effect (people see your ad, but were already going to click, buy, register, or download) from the advertising effect (people see your ad, and that's why they start clicking, buying, registering, downloading). Tadelis asked how exactly the consultants made this distinction.
"We use Lagrange multipliers," one of them said. And for a second, Tadelis was astounded. What? Lagrange multipliers? But Lagrange multipliers don't have anything to do with ..."Then it hit me," Tadelis recalled. "This guy is trying to out-jargon me!"
"I resisted the temptation to say: 'I'm sorry, you're fucked, I actually teach this stuff.'" Instead, Tadelis decided to continue the conversation in Economese.
"Lagrange multipliers, that's fascinating," he replied. "So now I know you have a constrained optimisation model, and as we all know the Lagrange multipliers are the shadow values of the constraints in the objective function. We all know this, right?"
The line went silent.
"So what is your objective function, and what are your constraints?"
"Steve, are you on a cell phone? Because you're breaking up and I can't hear you."
A not-so-brilliant advertising campaignTwo weeks later, Tadelis met the marketing consultants in the flesh. The advisers had put together a slick presentation demonstrating how eBay was raking in piles of cash with its brilliant ad campaigns. Tadelis recalled: "I looked around the room, and all I saw were people nodding their heads."
Brand keyword advertising, the presentation informed him, was eBay's most successful advertising method. Somebody googles "eBay" and for a fee, Google places a link to eBay at the top of the search results. Lots of people, apparently, click on this paid link. So many people, according to the consultants, that the auction website earns at least $12.28 for every dollar it spends on brand keyword advertising '' a hefty profit!
Tadelis didn't buy it. "I thought it was fantastic, and I don't mean extraordinarily good or attractive. I mean imaginative, fanciful, remote from reality." His rationale? People really do click on the paid-link to eBay.com an awful lot. But if that link weren't there, presumably they would click on the link just below it: the free link to eBay.com. The data consultants were basing their profit calculations on clicks they would be getting anyway.
Tadelis suggested an experiment: stop advertising for a while, and let's see whether brand keyword advertising really works. The consultants grumbled.
When, a few weeks later, Tadelis contacted the consultants about a follow-up meeting, he was told the follow-up had come and gone. He hadn't been invited.
A few months after the awkward presentation, though, Tadelis got the chance to conduct his experiment after all. There was a clash going on between the marketing department at eBay and the MSN network (Bing and Yahoo!). Ebay wanted to negotiate lower prices, and to get leverage decided to stop ads for the keyword 'eBay'.
Tadelis got right down to business. Together with his team, he carefully analysed the effects of the ad stop. Three months later, the results were clear: all the traffic that had previously come from paid links was now coming in through ordinary links. Tadelis had been right all along. Annually, eBay was burning a good $20m on ads targeting the keyword 'eBay'.
When Tadelis presented his findings to the company, eBay's financial department finally woke up.
The economist was given a free hand: he was permitted to halt all of eBay's ads on Google for three months throughout a third of the United States. Not just those for the brand's own name, but also those targeted to match simple keywords like "shoes", "shirts" and "glassware".
The marketing department anticipated a disaster: sales, they thought, were certain to drop at least 5%.
Week 1: All quiet.
Week 2: Still quiet.
Week 3: Zip, zero, zilch.
The experiment continued for another eight weeks. What was the effect of pulling the ads? Almost none. For every dollar eBay spent on search advertising, they lost roughly 63 cents, according to Tadelis's calculations.
The experiment ended up showing that, for years, eBay had been spending millions of dollars on fruitless online advertising excess, and that the joke had been entirely on the company.
To the marketing department everything had been going brilliantly. The high-paid consultants had believed that the campaigns that incurred the biggest losses were the most profitable: they saw brand keyword advertising not as a $20m expense, but a $245.6m return.
For Tadelis, it was an eye-opener. "I kind of had the belief that most economists have: businesses are advertising, so it must be good. Because otherwise why would they do it?" He added: "But after my experience at eBay that's all out of the window."
I felt just as surprised as Tadelis had been. A cynical advertising world is something I can get my head around, but a naive one? But the more I talked to these economists, the more I realised that eBay was not alone in making this mistake.
We spoke to Randall Lewis, who used to work for Yahoo!, Google and Netflix, and is currently head of research for the ad platform Nanigans. For the type, Lewis was something of an unparalleled virtuoso. (Johnson, who worked with Lewis at Google, later confessed to me: "One of the strengths that I bring to the table is that I'm good at translating Randall's genius into something the rest of us can understand.")
The benchmarks that advertising companies use are fundamentally misleading.Lewis had been part of a small group of economists at Yahoo! who had done lots of experiments with advertising. This meant that he had more than eight years of experience disappointing advertisers. "It's always awkward," he told me. "They think everything is rosy. But when you're running these experiments '... well, when things look too good to be true, they usually are."
Lewis explained that the whole thing is pear-shaped because for the most part, the industry is in the sway of the same wrong-headed statistical line of thought. The online marketing world has the same strategy as Luigi's Pizzeria and the flyer-handling teens. That's where eBay had gone wrong with search advertising. But the same thing happens with banner advertising, Instagram videos and Facebook ads.
The benchmarks that advertising companies use '' intended to measure the number of clicks, sales and downloads that occur after an ad is viewed '' are fundamentally misleading. None of these benchmarks distinguish between the selection effect (clicks, purchases and downloads that are happening anyway) and the advertising effect (clicks, purchases and downloads that would not have happened without ads).
It gets worse: the brightest minds of this generation are creating algorithms which only increase the effects of selection.
Consider the following: if Amazon buys clicks from Facebook and Google, the advertising platforms' algorithms will seek out Amazon clickers. And who is most likely to click on Amazon? Presumably Amazon's regular customers. In that case the algorithms are generating clicks, but not necessarily extra clicks.
Advertising platforms are not the only ones susceptible to this flawed way of thinking. Advertisers make the same error. They're targeting personalised ads at an audience that is already very likely to buy their product. You watch a Renault commercial, and then your screen is taken over by Twingos. You put a dress in an online shopping basket, then it's stalking you across the internet. You liked World of Warcraft , and now your timeline is full of Larp events (''OrcFest 2019: bring your battle axe!'').
But who knows, maybe you really would have bought that dress anyway, maybe you've had your eye on a Twingo for months, and perhaps you've just ordered a battle axe.
The majority of advertising companies feed their complex algorithms silos full of data even though the practice never delivers the desired result.I had never really thought about this. Algorithmic targeting may be technologically ingenious, but if you're targeting the wrong thing then it's of no use to advertisers. Most advertising platforms can't tell clients whether their algorithms are just putting fully-automated teenagers in the waiting area (increasing the selection effect) or whether they're bringing in people who wouldn't have come in otherwise (increasing the advertising effect).
"We are setting ourselves up for failure," Lewis explained, "because we are optimising for the wrong thing."
We currently assume that advertising companies always benefit from more data. And certainly, live-gaming is more likely to appeal to gamers. But the majority of advertising companies feed their complex algorithms silos full of data even though the practice never delivers the desired result. In the worst case, all that invasion of privacy can even lead to targeting the wrong group of people.
This insight is conspicuously absent from the debate about online privacy. At the moment, we don't even know whether all this privacy violation works as advertised.
Run an experiment!Luckily there is a way to measure the unadulterated effect of ads: do an experiment. Divide the target group into two random cohorts in advance: one group sees the ad, the other does not. Designing the experiment thus excludes the effects of selection.
Economists at Facebook conducted 15 experiments that showed the enormous impact of selection effects. A large retailer launched a Facebook campaign. Initially it was assumed that the retailer's ad would only have to be shown 1,490 times before one person actually bought something. But the experiment revealed that many of those people would have shopped there anyway; only one in 14,300 found the webshop because of the ad. In other words, the selection effects were almost 10 times stronger than the advertising effect alone!
And this was no exception. Selection effects substantially outweighed advertising effects in most of these Facebook experiments. At its strongest, the selection bias was even 50 (!) times more influential.
In seven of the 15 Facebook experiments, advertising effects without selection effects were so small as to be statistically indistinguishable from zero.
Now we arrive at perhaps the most fundamental question: what, in the end, is there really to know in advertising? Can advertisers ever know exactly what their ad brings in?
Google CEO Eric Schmidt told his TV colleague Mel Karmazin that when it comes to online advertising, that question was easy to answer. Lewis went on to work for Schmidt, but research he conducted for Yahoo! in 2011 puts the lie to that claim. The title of his paper: On the near impossibility of measuring the returns to advertising.
Disappointment had been the study's driving force. At Yahoo!, Lewis had run 25 gigantic ad-experiments. And still, he was left with a lot of uncertainty about the actual effects of advertising.
"People thought that after a one-million-person experiment, we could walk away, and know exactly how advertising works," Johnson recalled. He added, "if you've got a million you should be able to count angels dancing on pins."
So what went wrong? If you want to measure something small, you have to go big. Let's say I want to know how many people have the rare disease cystic fibrosis. Cystic fibrosis affects one in 3,400 people (0.03%). But let's say I don't know that.
So I open the phone book and I call 10,000 people. Plus another 10,000. And another 10,000. Then another 10,000.
So you see, the results of my poll are all over the place. 10,000 is simply too small a sample to get reliable estimates. We'd better call a million people. And another million. And another million. Now we're getting somewhere.
Imagine, then, that I had wanted to know how many people had contracted the flu last year (one in 20). Ten thousand calls would have been enough to get reliable estimates. More people get the flu, so a flu study can have smaller test groups.
The point is, advertising is like cystic fibrosis, not the flu. And even that's extremely unfair to cystic fibrosis, since people buying things because they saw an ad is even rarer than cystic fibrosis.
Johnson sighs: "It's very hard to change behaviour by showing people pictures and movies that they don't want to look at."
To illustrate, consider Steve Tadelis's eBay research. Ebay lost 63 cents on every dollar they put into Google search advertising, but that's actually an imprecise estimate. If the experiment were to be replicated infinitely (and another ad stop, and another ad stop, and another ad stop...), in 95% of all ad stops the loss would fall in the range of negative $1.24 and negative $0.03. This is what statisticians call the confidence interval. In advertising research, the confidence interval tends to be huge.
EBay's performance was so shoddy that the only logical conclusion would have been: stop buying search ads! But if eBay's marketing had been just a tiny bit more effective '' say they only lost 10 cents on every dollar they invested '' then their experiment would have shown that the marketing department had delivered something between a 70 cent loss and a 50 cent profit.
Advertising does far less than most advertisers believeWhat good is information like this? Such experiments tend to have an either-or conclusion: the campaign was either profitable or it wasn't. This may give you a sense of direction, but it cannot provide certainty. "Simply rejecting that a campaign was a total waste of money is not an ambitious goal," Randall Lewis wrote in his study. Still, in practice, that proved 'nearly impossible'.
Advertising rationally, the way it's described in economic textbooks, is unattainable. Then how do advertisers know what they ought to pay for ads?
"Yeah, basically they don't know," Lewis said in one of those throw-away clauses that kept running through my head for days after.
Keep that in mind the next time you read one of those calamity stories about Google, Facebook or Cambridge Analytica. If people were easier to manipulate with images and videos they don't really want to see, economists would have a much easier task. Realistically, advertising does something, but only a small something '' and at any rate it does far less than most advertisers believe.
"What frustrates me is there's a bit of magical thinking here," Johnson says. "As if Cambridge Analytica has hacked our brains so that we're going to be like lemmings and jump off cliffs. As if we are powerless.''
So we arrive at our final question: who wants to know the truth?
It's a question that has long fascinated the economist Justin Rao (who's worked for Yahoo!, Microsoft and others). Before he worked on advertising, he did field research with a cult that predicted the end of days on 21 May 2011. Rao awarded prizes to cult members. Those willing to accept their prize after Judgement Day '' when the world would be annihilated and the faithful would ascend to heaven '' were promised more money. Their belief in the apocalypse proved uncompromising. Even an extra 500 dollars couldn't seduce the cultists.
"Beliefs formed on insufficient evidence seem tough to move," Rao wrote.
When Rao joined Microsoft, the eBay studies by Steve Tadelis had just been published and were all over the media: the Harvard Business Review, The Economist, The Atlantic and the BBC all covered the story. Marketing blogs couldn't stop talking about it.
According to Rao, "Probably even Steve's mother e-mailed him."
But did it matter? At Microsoft, Rao had a search engine at his disposal: Bing. Following the news about the millions of dollars eBay had wasted, brand keyword advertising only declined by 10%. The vast majority of businesses proved hell-bent on throwing away their money.
The fact that the eBay news did not even encourage advertisers to experiment more was perhaps the most striking.
Rao did observe the occasional ad stop at Bing. Rao was able to use ad stops like these, just as Tadelis had at eBay, to assess the effects on search traffic.
When these experiments showed that ads were utterly pointless, advertisers were not bothered in the slightest. They charged gaily ahead, buying ad after ad. Even when they knew, or could have known, that their ad campaigns were not very profitable, it had no impact on how they behaved.
"Beliefs formed on insufficient evidence seem tough to move."
#FitGirl analyticsSteve Tadelis saw this first-hand too. The financial director of eBay asked Tadelis to look into the second item on the list of so-called success campaigns: affiliate marketing. An example of this type of advertising could be eBay paying some influencer #fitgirl to embed a link to a particular brand of yoga pants in an Instagram post.
The affiliate marketing boss was okay with Tadelis experimenting, but he did issue a caveat. "Let me tell you something Steve," he had said. "If we run this experiment, and the results look like what you showed us with search advertising, I'm not going to believe you."
"It was clear to me that he meant it," Tadelis recalled. "So I told him: 'Well, if this is about religion, I can't help you. I have nothing against religion, I just don't think it has a place in marketing analytics.'''
It might sound crazy, but companies are not equipped to assess whether their ad spending actually makes money. It is in the best interest of a firm like eBay to know whether its campaigns are profitable, but not so for eBay's marketing department.
Its own interest is in securing the largest possible budget, which is much easier if you can demonstrate that what you do actually works. Within the marketing department, TV, print and digital compete with each other to show who's more important, a dynamic that hardly promotes honest reporting.
The fact that management often has no idea how to interpret the numbers is not helpful either. The highest numbers win.
Randall Lewis told me about a meeting with the man responsible for evaluating Yahoo's marketing strategy. The man had apparently done everything Lewis had advised against '' and worse. He graciously admitted that he either added or omitted data to his model if it led to the 'wrong' results. Lewis: "I was like: oh man. All of that is bad scientific practice, but it's actually great job preservation practice."
"Bad methodology makes everyone happy,'' said David Reiley, who used to head Yahoo's economics team and is now working for streaming service Pandora. "It will make the publisher happy. It will make the person who bought the media happy. It will make the boss of the person who bought the media happy. It will make the ad agency happy. Everybody can brag that they had a very successful campaign."
Marketers are often most successful at marketing their own marketing.
Is online advertising working? We simply don't knowPerhaps what's driving this phenomenon is something much more profound. Something that applies not just to advertising. "There is a fear that saying 'I don't know' amounts to an admission of incompetence," Tadelis observed. "But ignorance is not incompetence, curiosity is not incompetence."
We want certainty. We used to find it in the Don Drapers of the world, the ones with the best one-liners up their sleeves. Today we look for certainty from data analysts who are supposed to just show us the numbers.
Lewis admitted that it's not all bad. Decisions have to be made, somebody has to lay out a strategy, doubt must stop at some point. For that reason, companies hire overconfident people who act like they know what they cannot possibly know.
Lewis could never do the sort of work they do. "I would feel like it's a random coin toss for most decisions," he said. But somebody has to toss the coin. And a company full of Randalls only leads to analysis paralysis. Nothing happens.
Randall Lewis had left Google and was working for Netflix when he attended the Datalead Conference in Paris in November 2015.
His time at Yahoo! and Google had taught him how difficult it is to advertise better. But Lewis wasn't out to blind with science, he didn't want to burn it all down and turn his back. He wanted to make the near impossible just a little bit more possible. And let's be honest: advertising a bit better is actually quite a lot compared to stumbling about in the dark. It can prevent blunders of the eBay sort.
"Marketeers actually believe that their marketing works, even if it doesn't."Lewis had come to Paris to present one of his improvements. At Google, he had built a platform that gives advertisers a cheap and simple way to experiment with banner ads. "I think this is a revolution in advertising," he said proudly. Buyers could finally optimise for the right thing.
About a quarter of the way through his presentation, an audience member stood up and asked: do advertising companies actually want to know this? Aren't they primarily interested in research that reassures?
"That's actually endemic to the entire industry," Lewis replied. He started on one of his brilliantly inaccessible Lewisian responses. "The moral hazard problem is a series of cognitive dissonance biases '..."
Halfway through his impenetrable answer, another audience member interruption. This time it came from Steve Tadelis. "What Randall is trying to say," the former eBay economist interjected, "is that marketeers actually believe that their marketing works, even if it doesn't. Just like we believe our research is important, even if it isn't."
Lewis laughed. "Thank you, Steve."
Jesse and Maurits worked together on this piece, but the story is told by Jesse. This article was first published in Dutch on De Correspondent. It was translated by Alana Gillespie.
Today, Cyberscoop reported a major security vulnerability in Amazon's Ring doorbell app. Amazon's Ring doorbells, which have already raised significant privacy and civil liberties concerns, have now been shown to be deeply insecure, exposing users Wi-Fi passwords to hackers.
With this Wi-Fi information, hackers can access customers' personal home networks. It only gets scarier from there as hackers could use customer's webcams to spy on them and their children, gain access to their bank accounts, and retrieve personal information necessary for identity theft.
''This is a classic example of how more surveillance does not mean more safety,'' said Evan Greer, Deputy Director of Fight for the Future. ''Amazon has consistently shown reckless disregard for privacy and civil liberties, but this is terrifying on a whole other level. Putting insecure cameras and listening devices around your home puts your family in danger. Congress should immediately investigate the threat posed by Amazon's rapidly spreading, for-profit surveillance dragnet.''
Amazon's surveillance network doesn't only threaten our privacy and civil liberties, but our security as well. Meanwhile, millions of Americans continue to buy Ring products unaware of the dangers the technology and surveillance partnerships with police pose.
With over 550 partnerships across the country and millions of Americans potentially impacted, we need Congress to intervene. More than 10,000 people have already written their lawmakers calling on them to investigate Amazon's surveillance empire and their troubling partnerships with law enforcement.
The Great Streaming Battle Is Here. No One Is Safe. - WSJ
A new era is dawning in the entertainment world and you're about to get a whole lot more choices'--for better or worse. The streaming wars are here.
Titans of media and technology are wagering billions that consumers will pay them a monthly fee to stream TV and movies over the internet. Walt Disney Co. is launching a $6.99-a-month service next week, following Apple Inc.'s entry earlier this month. AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. 's NBCUniversal next year will mount their own challenges to streaming juggernaut Netflix Inc.
The combatants are fighting on the same battlefield, all seeking to lure in subscribers, but they have radically different motivations'--and some have far more at stake than others.
Legacy giants like Disney and AT&T's WarnerMedia are racing to reinvent their core media business, which is under assault as consumers turn away from traditional broadcast and cable TV. For them, selling streaming subscriptions to consumers has to work'--and has to be profitable. For Apple, while streaming can advance its business, failure is an option.
Consumers will have choices to make as new entrants join the fray: Americans are willing to spend an average of $44 monthly on streaming video and subscribe to an average of 3.6 services, according to a survey of over 2,000 people in recent days by The Wall Street Journal and the Harris Poll. That is up roughly $14 from what most people pay now.
But with so many existing players already in the market'--Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access and ESPN+, among others'--not everyone can emerge victorious. ''This market is going to have to shake out -- it doesn't feel like all these players can continue to play this game forever,'' said David Wertheimer, a former president of digital products at Fox Networks Group who is now a media and tech investor.
Netflix is in an enviable position with a big head start, but may be in for some turbulence. Nearly one in three Netflix subscribers said they would likely cancel the service in the next three months to make room for a new entrant, according to the Journal-Harris Poll survey. Some 43% of parents with kids under 18 said they were likely to cancel, as did 44% of men ages 18 to 34.
Their stated intentions may not translate into an actual cancellation. There are currently 158 million Netflix subscribers globally.
Netflix, like any subscription business, has regular customer turnover, and some of those who cancel eventually return. ''Like the competition, polls come and go,'' a Netflix spokesman said. ''But years of experience have taught us that consumers want control over when and how they watch'--and a wide choice of quality stories across every genre. And that's what we've always focused on providing.''
Shots have already been fired, with Apple and Disney setting ultracompetitive prices and lavish spending by all parties to stock their services with the hottest programming, whether that is originals from a coveted producer or reruns of a 20-year-old TV classic. The explosion of options risks confusing consumers. Which service has the ''The Office,'' which has ''Seinfeld'' and which has ''Friends''? How do you sign up?
''The next 18 months are going to be the most interesting in the history of the entertainment business'--the grounds are shifting,'' said Hollywood veteran Steve Mosko, chief executive of the production company Village Roadshow Entertainment, which is developing projects for multiple streaming outlets.
Franchises and OldiesDisney surprised the media world with a low price for its Disney+ streaming service that is nearly half of Netflix's most popular $12.99 monthly plan: Some 47% of survey respondents were likely to subscribe to Disney+. Many were especially enthusiastic about its big franchises'--Star Wars and Marvel, for example'--as well as its large catalog of children's classics, from ''Cinderella'' to ''Aladdin'' to ''Moana.'' Disney acquired 21st Century Fox entertainment assets last year for $71.3 billion.
Disney is making a land grab for users now and worrying about profits later on'--it expects to break even on the service in 2024. ''They were brilliant thinking through the pricing. This is about aggregating consumers,'' said analyst Michael Nathanson.
Disney's direct contact with its customer base has come mostly through theme parks, Mr. Nathanson said, and the streaming service will allow ''a deeper set of connections.'' Disney could market its consumer products, cruises or theme parks to streaming customers, some media executives said.
A Disney spokeswoman declined to comment.
Hulu, which is now controlled by Disney, will become the home to more adult and edgier fare. Disney announced earlier this week that its FX Networks would also produce original shows for Hulu.
Comcast is taking a different path from its peers, reflecting its identity as not just a content owner, but as the country's leading cable distributor. Peacock, the streaming service from its NBCUniversal unit, is set to launch next April, featuring a bevy of classics like ''The Office,'' ''Frasier'' and ''Cheers,'' plus originals from talent in NBC's stable. An ad-supported version will be free to people who subscribe to Comcast's cable TV or broadband services. If the company can reach deals with other cable providers, it could be free to their customers, too.
To some observers, that suggests Comcast wants to protect a traditional cable business that is still lucrative, even if cord-cutting is siphoning customers gradually. ''The streaming business puts them in a conflicted place,'' said Gary Newman, a former chairman of Fox's television group. ''It's hard to be in on streaming without being fully in on streaming.''
People close to Comcast said the company is deeply committed to the streaming business and is simply taking a different approach.
Comcast is debating various ways to sell Peacock to those who can't get it through a cable provider. One idea is to offer a limited, free version with ads meant to draw users in'--it might not have various hit shows or might limit the number of episodes available, people familiar with Comcast's deliberations said. A second tier would charge a modest subscription fee and would make all content available, with ads, while a third tier would charge a higher subscription fee with no ads, the people said.
NBC's prime-time broadcast shows now stream on Hulu. At launch, Peacock will be able to share much of that content, and in September 2022 NBCUniversal will be able to terminate the deal and have most NBC shows exclusively on Peacock, if it chooses, people familiar with the agreement said.
AT&T will be the last of the major entertainment companies to enter the fight, with its HBO Max service slotted for a May 2020 launch. Its biggest challenge: It will be at the top of the market at $14.99 a month.
HBO is in the name, and the service has its entire current and past lineup. But the goal is to have something much broader, for just about everyone'--cartoons, superhero movies from the DC franchise (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman), ''The Lord of the Rings'' movies, and one of the largest and most popular catalogs of re-watchable TV shows, notably ''Friends'' and ''The Big Bang Theory.''
Some 41% of survey respondents said they would be likely to subscribe. But brand and service confusion might be an issue. The company will encourage people to switch from HBO Now, a different service offering just HBO programming at the same cost, over to HBO Max.
What about people who get HBO on TV? AT&T hopes to get them onto HBO Max by cutting deals with cable and satellite TV providers. If HBO Max pulls in all existing U.S. HBO subscribers, it would have some 35 million subscribers'--and from there, would try to build on its base.
900 Million Reasons WhyApple's TV+ service, which launched Nov. 1, is part of a broader push into services'--including subscriptions and credit cards'--as it tries to offset declining sales of iPhones.
The tech powerhouse is charging $4.99 per month for TV+. Its biggest advantage is a base of over 900 million mobile phone users globally. Apple is building a TV ecosystem where it can sell you subscriptions to its own original programs on TV+, plus the ability to add on streaming services run by others'--Showtime, HBO and CBS All Access, for example.
The glaring challenge is that TV+ has just nine shows at launch, and no library of past hits, putting a lot of pressure on the company to find a successful show in the early crop.
Other streaming services including Amazon have found it hard to create a hit out of the gate. ''There is a lot of pressure on them because of the quality of Apple products,'' said Francis Lawrence, an executive producer of ''See,'' an Apple show about a world where a virus has left mankind blind.
In addition to the giants, startup Quibi next spring plans to launch its own streaming service, which will be tailored to mobile phones and feature short-form content from Hollywood talent.
Six in 10 consumers think the new streaming options are a good development, according to the Journal-Harris Poll survey. Still, those who cut the cable TV cord to save money may very well find themselves paying as much by signing up to multiple streaming services, said TV producer Mike Royce, whose credits include ''Everybody Loves Raymond.''
''It's going to be cable again in five years, except it will be streaming services,'' Mr. Royce said.
Newcomers APPLE TV+
Price: $4.99 per month
Launch: Nov. 1
Identity: Would you like some new TV shows with that iPhone?
Portfolio overview: Apple is offering a handful of shows at a low price (or free for a year to those who buy a new device) as well as access to other programming platforms such as HBO and Showtime.
Total programming: Launched with nine programs and plans to drop several more and some original movies in coming months.
Originals of note: ''The Morning Show,'' starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon; ''For All Mankind''
Classic movies: none
TV to rewatch: none
Biggest asset: access to 900 million potential customers (Apple device owners)
Biggest risk: Apple won't be able to lean on a library of past TV and movie hits. No pressure, Jen and Reese! Apple's new shows are getting mixed reviews.
Launch: Nov. 12
Identity: Darth Vader meets Elsa
Portfolio overview: TV and movie programming from across Disney's brands, Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars, including originals and a deep library of animated classics
Total programming: 7,500 TV episodes, 500 movies
Subscriber target: 60 to 90 million by September 2024
Originals of note: Star Wars's ''The Mandalorian,'' ''High School Musical,'' ''Lady and the Tramp'' remake
TV to rewatch: 30 seasons of ''The Simpsons''
Movie classics: ''The Little Mermaid,'' ''Aladdin,'' ''Frozen,'' ''Mary Poppins'' and more
Biggest asset: built-in fan base for popular franchises
Biggest risk: Original programming doesn't meet superfan expectations.
Price: Free for Comcast cable and broadband customers; subscription pricing not announced for non-cable customers.
Launch: April 2020
Identity: We are NOT the cable guy.
Portfolio overview: originals from NBC's best-known creators, plus a big library of classics
Total programming: over 15,000 hours
Subscriber target: None disclosed yet.
Originals of note: ''Battlestar Galactica'' reboot; ''Brave New World'' featuring Demi Moore; comedy from Jimmy Fallon
TV to rewatch: ''The Office,'' ''Parks and Recreation,'' ''Cheers,'' ''Everybody Loves Raymond,'' ''Brooklyn Nine-Nine''
Movie classics: ''ET,'' ''Jaws,'' ''Back to the Future''
Biggest asset: rich library of classic programming
Biggest risk: Being late to the game; motivating customers to drop Comcast's traditional cable service.
Launch: May 2020
Identity: It's not HBO. It's...HBO Max!
Portfolio overview: all HBO content; collection of programs and movies across Warner Bros. and cable networks including TNT, TBS and Cartoon Network
Total programming: 10,000 hours
Subscriber target: 75 to 90 million by end of 2025
Originals of note: ''College Girls,'' a comedy from creator Mindy Kaling; ''Strange Adventures,'' a DC superhero anthology from producer Greg Berlanti
TV to rewatch: ''Friends,'' ''The West Wing,'' ''The Big Bang Theory''
Movie classics: ''Casablanca,'' ''When Harry Met Sally''
Biggest asset: the HBO brand
Biggest risk: Consumers may find the price too steep; will shows like ''Big Bang Theory'' and ''Friends'' fit easily under the HBO brand?
Price: $12.99 for most popular tier
Launch: streaming since 2007
Identity: Catch me if you can.
Portfolio overview: With a vast library of TV shows and movies and a growing number of popular originals, Netflix doesn't want to replace one channel. It wants to replace them all.
Total programming: 1500 TV shows, 4000 movies
Subscribers: 158 million world-wide
Originals of note: ''Stranger Things,'' ''The Crown,'' ''The Irishman''
TV to rewatch: ''Breaking Bad,'' ''Mad Men'' and, coming soon, ''Seinfeld''
Classic movies: ''Rebel Without A Cause,'' ''Rocky''
Biggest asset: A giant head start
Biggest risk: Lower cost rivals eating into its subscription base; programming costs rising.
Price: $5.99 with limited ads; $11.99 with no ads; $44.99 for 60+ live channels as well as ad-supported Hulu
Subscribers: 28.5 million paid subscribers; majority owner Disney projects 40 million to 60 million subscribers by fiscal 2024.
Identity: Disney after dark
Portfolio overview: Primarily adult dramas and comedies that are too risqu(C) for family-friendly Disney+ or just aren't a good fit.
Total programming: more than 86,000 TV episodes and 2,000 movies
Originals of note: ''The Handmaid's Tale,'' ''Castle Rock,'' ''Shrill,'' ''The Act'' and ''Little Fires Everywhere''
TV to rewatch: ''This Is Us'' ''Lost,'' ''ER,'' ''Rick and Morty''
Movie classics: ''Hoosiers,'' ''Mrs. Doubtfire,'' ''Fatal Attraction''
Biggest asset: Only streaming service that offers live TV and on-demand all in one place.
Biggest risk: Its strategy gets muddled under Disney's control. It recently lost bidding wars to keep reruns of ''Seinfeld'' and ''South Park.''
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Price: $8.99/month, or included for those who pay $119/year for Amazon's Prime shipping service.
Launch: Streaming since 2011
Identity: Thank you for purchasing the book. Would you like to see the movie?
Portfolio overview: A growing slate of originals, plus a huge library of older shows and movies. The tech company's video offerings are like the rest of the site: labyrinthine.
Total programming: Amazon doesn't disclose this statistic. A Barclays 2016 report estimated Prime Video had over 18,000 movies and nearly 2000 episodes of TV shows.
Originals of note: ''The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,'' ''Jack Ryan''
Classic movies: ''True Grit,'' ''To Catch a Thief''
TV to rewatch: ''Family Ties,'' ''Roseanne''
Biggest asset: Amazon Prime has over 100 million members, a huge potential audience.
Biggest risk: Dabbling in entertainment when its competitors are going all out against each other.
CBS ALL ACCESS
Price: $5.99 (with limited commercials), $9.99 (commercial free); both include live stream of CBS network
Identity: This isn't your father's streaming service '... really!
Portfolio overview: a large library of current and older TV shows, a smattering of movies and a growing number of originals
Total programming: 12,000 TV episodes; currently 36 movies
Originals of note: ''The Good Fight,'' ''Star Trek: Voyager,'' ''The Twilight Zone''
Classic movies: ''An Officer and A Gentleman,'' The Graduate,'' ''Moonstruck''
TV to rewatch: ''The Brady Bunch,'' ''Cheers,'' ''Frasier,'' ''I Love Lucy.''
Biggest asset: experience, having been in the market for years
Biggest risk: Being able to keep pace with bigger competitors while also providing programming to Netflix and other streaming rivals.
Michael Bloomberg Is Expected to File for the Alabama 2020 Presidential Primary - The New York Times
Mr. Bloomberg is actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary and is expected to file paperwork this week designating himself as a candidate in at least one state.
Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, in Manhattan last month. Credit... Krista Schlueter for The New York Times Nov. 7, 2019Updated 6:13 p.m. ET
Michael R. Bloomberg is actively preparing to enter the Democratic presidential primary and is expected to file paperwork this week designating himself as a candidate in at least one state with an early filing deadline, people briefed on Mr. Bloomberg's plans said.
Mr. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and billionaire businessman, has been privately weighing a bid for the White House for weeks and has not yet made a final decision on whether to run, an adviser said. But in the first sign that he is seriously moving toward a campaign, Mr. Bloomberg has dispatched staffers to Alabama to gather signatures to qualify for the primary there. Though Alabama does not hold an early primary, it has a Friday deadline for candidates to formally enter the race.
Mr. Bloomberg called a number of prominent Democrats on Thursday to tell them he was seriously considering the race, including former Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the retired majority leader who remains a dominant power broker in the early caucus state.
Mr. Reid said in a brief interview that Mr. Bloomberg had not explicitly said he was running for president but that the implication of the call had been clear.
Should Mr. Bloomberg proceed with a campaign, it could represent a seismic disruption in the Democratic race. With his immense personal wealth, centrist views and close ties to the political establishment, he would present a grave and instantaneous threat to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been struggling to raise money and assemble a ideologically moderate coalition.
But Mr. Bloomberg, 77, would likely face a difficult path in a Democratic primary largely defined so far by debates about economic inequality. His presence in the race would offer fodder to the party's rising populist wing, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who contend that the extremely rich already wield far too much influence in politics. And his mayoral record, including his support for stop-and-frisk policing and his championing of charter schools, has the potential to alienate pillars of the Democratic Party's political base.
Faiz Shakir, Mr. Sanders's campaign manager, signaled the stiff resistance Mr. Bloomberg would face if he joined the race.
''More billionaires seeking more political power surely isn't the change America needs,'' Mr. Shakir said in an email.
Howard Wolfson, a close adviser to Mr. Bloomberg, said on Thursday that the former mayor viewed President Trump as an ''unprecedented threat to our nation,'' and noted Mr. Bloomberg's heavy spending in the 2018 midterm elections and this week's off-year races in Virginia. Mr. Bloomberg, he said, has grown uneasy about the existing trajectory of the Democratic primary.
''We now need to finish the job and ensure that Trump is defeated '-- but Mike is increasingly concerned that the current field of candidates is not well positioned to do that,'' Mr. Wolfson said. ''If Mike runs he would offer a new choice to Democrats built on a unique record running America's biggest city, building a business from scratch and taking on some of America's toughest challenges as a high-impact philanthropist.''
Advisers to Mr. Bloomberg said he would likely make up his mind about the race within days, rather than weeks.
He will have to move quickly if he is to compete in a serious way for the Democratic nomination. Beyond Alabama, several other states have filing deadlines in quick succession, including Arkansas and New Hampshire, with its crucial early primary. While he has maintained a cluster of high-powered advisers in New York, he would have to build a campaign from zero in the early primary and caucus states, and it may be difficult for him to qualify for the two remaining debates this year.
A Fox News poll found in late October that Mr. Bloomberg would face more opposition than enthusiasm at the outset of a primary campaign: Presented with Mr. Bloomberg as a hypothetical entrant into the primary, 6 percent of Democratic primary voters said they would definitely support him, while 32 percent said they would never vote for him.
In a Democratic race, Mr. Bloomberg would face a battery of complicated questions about his political ideology and governing record. He has been a vigorous advocate for core liberal causes, like gun control and battling climate change. But as mayor Mr. Bloomberg also championed police searches that targeted black and Latino men, and in an interview last fall, he defended his administration's stop-and-frisk policing strategy.
In the same interview, Mr. Bloomberg also expressed skepticism about the #MeToo movement in general, as well as the specific allegations of sexual misconduct against Charlie Rose, the disgraced anchor who for many years broadcast his show from the offices of Mr. Bloomberg's media company.
A former Republican who repeatedly explored running for president as an independent, Mr. Bloomberg registered as a Democrat ahead of the midterm elections last year. In his past flirtations with the presidency, Mr. Bloomberg has never before taken the step of filing to put his name on a state ballot.
Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, S.C., said in an interview that he spoke with Mr. Bloomberg in late October, and the two discussed the unfolding presidential race. Mr. Benjamin, a Democrat who has not taken sides in the primary, predicted Mr. Bloomberg's background as a businessman and mayor, and his stances on climate and guns, would make him a formidable contender if he runs.
''I believe Mayor Bloomberg would be an incredibly strong candidate,'' Mr. Benjamin said. ''There's a lot of work to be done in gearing up for the first four primaries and caucuses, and certainly for Super Tuesday, but I would caution anybody not to underestimate Mike Bloomberg.''
Though Mr. Bloomberg could still opt against running, even his preliminary steps toward a campaign may come as a blow to Mr. Biden, who has been counting on strong support from centrist Democrats, traditional party donors and much of the business community to carry him forward in the race.
When Mr. Bloomberg previously announced in March that he would not run for president, advisers indicated the decision was shaped in part by Mr. Biden's strong popularity with Democratic primary voters. But Mr. Biden's position in the race is evidently no longer imposing enough to keep Mr. Bloomberg at bay.
As of late afternoon on Thursday, Mr. Bloomberg had not spoken with Mr. Biden about his updated plans, an adviser to Mr. Bloomberg said.
New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg will have to answer allegations of pregnancy bias at the company he owns while he seeks a third term. 72 current and former female employees who became pregnant while working at Bloomberg LP, the financial news service, claim the company discriminated against them by decreasing their pay, demoting them, and excluding them from other employment opportunities after they became pregnant.
One complaint alleges that a Bloomberg senior executive, upon learning that two of his female executives had become pregnant, remarked "I'm not having any pregnant b-tches working for me" and instructed another executive to terminate them.
Another complaint alleges that female employees at Bloomberg LP were subjected "to stereotypes regarding female caregivers" through comments such as "You are not committed" and "You do not want to be here" when they returned from maternity leave.
The suit began when three current and former female employees brought charges of discrimination to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claiming the company has a "systemic, top-down culture of discrimination" that was created by Mr. Bloomberg himself.
The EEOC then issued a determination saying their investigation showed that the women's careers "lost momentum" after they became pregnant and that they "were transferred, displaced, and /or demoted."
The EEOC filed suit against the company last year and reached out to around 500 female employees who took maternity leave between February 2002 and the present. 72 have joined the class and that number could rise.
"This case should send a message to other employers and employees that they should not make any stereotypical assumptions that employees who become pregnant or mothers are less committed to their jobs," said Kam Wong, lead counsel on the case for the EEOC. The EEOC's suit is before the Federal District court in Manhattan, where Bloomberg LP is based.
The three women who brought the initial charges to the EEOC have since joined the EEOC's case and their complaint references previous lawsuits that have been filed against Mr. Bloomberg himself by several female executives alleging a hostile work environment for women at his company.
Previous Lawsuits Against BloombergOne previous lawsuit alleged that when told by a female employee she was pregnant Mr. Bloomberg responded "kill it". Bloomberg reportedly settled that suit out of court for an undisclosed sum and admitted no wrongdoing.
The three women are seeking over $48 million in damages and lost wages.
"Our clients claim that they were victims of pregnancy discrimination, disparate treatment, and retaliation after they complained to Human Resources," said one of the attorneys for the women, William Dealy.
Though Mr. Bloomberg stepped down as chairman of Bloomberg LP during his run for mayor in 2001, he still owns 88 percent of the company. A call for comment from Mr. Bloomberg was not returned.
A spokesperson for Bloomberg LP said that the company could not comment on the details of the suit but added "we're confident that once all of the facts emerge, they will demonstrate that the claims are without merit."
Bloomberg LP was founded by Mr. Bloomberg in 1981 and currently has over 10,000 employees in over 126 offices around the world, according to the company's website.
The discovery process of the suit will proceed through June of next year and is expected to involve 150 to 200 depositions, including that of Mr. Bloomberg. While there is no date set for his deposition, it could occur as the popular mayor faces another legal hurdle, to amend the law to extend term limits to three terms.
Michael Bloomberg attempting to look like he empathizes with non-billionaires.Erica Payne
Michael Bloomberg looked at the most diverse, crowded primary field in American history, and decided that he, a dry and uncharismatic multi-billionaire from New York, is the only person who can save the Democratic Party.
Apparently, Mr. Bloomberg did not feel that his interests were being properly represented, and who could blame him? I mean, Howard Schultz ill-fated run was never going to work. He was worth less than $5 billion! Tom Steyer is making a run for it now, but he's only worth $1.6 billion. Barely a billionaire at all! John Delaney has spent his entire campaign defending corporate interests, but he's only worth a measly few hundred million. Pocket change!
If we're really going to make sure that absolutely nothing fundamentally changes in this country, we need the $51.5 billion net worth Michael Bloomberg to protect and defend the status quo.
For those of you not familiar with Very Rich Intelligent Man Bloomberg, let's take a trip down memory lane. Michael Bloomberg served as the Mayor of New York, where he was famous for doing things like defending racist stop and frisk policing (he still thinks it's a great idea apparently) and instituting a regressive ''Soda tax'' that disproportionately affected the poor while ignoring sugary coffee and juice drinks that are favored by more wealthy residents.
On top of his noble battle against the poor and people of color, his history suggests he will defend our country against the neverending onslaught of ''feminism'' as well. He has publicly mocked women's bodies and appearances, and has been sued by former employees for running a highly sexist company while ignoring sexual harassment and rape claims.
He has also insinuated that Charlie Rose, who was accused by dozens of women of groping them, exposing himself, and otherwise harassing them, might be innocent of any wrongdoing. A champion of the #MeToo era!
So. Mike Bloomberg, with his history of hostility towards women, people of color, and the poor, wants to run in the Democratic primary. Who exactly is his constituency?
Sit tight! The answer may shock you..
Fellow billionaires and Wall Street executives have already pledged support, including Leon Cooperman, an absurdly wealthy investor in student loan collection agency Navient, who has been publicly crying about Elizabeth Warren on TV.
These are the kind of people who think they know what America's biggest problem is. It's not the developed world's most expensive and inadequate healthcare system, or historical levels of income inequality, or poverty wages, or a generation drowning in college debt, or a housing crisis, or Medicaid, SNAP, and school lunch programs being slashed, or immigrant children being detained, kidnapped, and even killed in border camps.
No, the real problem is that there's a possibility billionaires might have to pay just a little bit more in taxes.
If Michael Bloomberg really wanted to help the country, there are plenty of ways for a person worth over $50 billion to do that. He could choose to focus on his admirable work around gun control (he funds Everytown for Gun Safety and their affiliate Moms Demand Action). He could dip into his pocket change and spread a few hundred million around helping build progressive benches in state legislatures. He could fund progressive media outlets that are rapidly being forced to close while the conservative Sinclair network buys up hundreds of local news networks. But why do any of that when you can be a stalwart defender of the most vulnerable constituency in America '-- our 600 billionaires?
So will Michael Bloomberg be cyberbullied out of the race like Howard Schultz? Or will his campaign be mired in scandal like Tom Steyer's? It's hard to say. One thing's for sure, we're all going to have to handle at least a few months of another billionaire defending their own self-interest like it's some noblesse oblige.
But don't worry, when he has dropped out after winning no delegates and wasting a whole lot of time and money, we're going to elect a great president and tax the living shit out of him.
Erica Payne is the Founder and President of the Agenda Project
China's Power Move - Scientific American Blog Network
Over the past decade, Beijing has undeniably dealt a blow to the United States in the clean energy technology market. China is now the world's dominant producer of solar panels, wind turbines and batteries as it continues to capture strategic, advanced technology markets. Looking to Pakistan, Beijing has its eye on power lines next.
In 2016, then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sought out international support to ease Pakistan's frequent blackouts. Although Islamabad received lower cost estimates from General Electric, it contracted its first high-voltage transmission line to China's State Grid Corporation, the largest utility in the world. Now, Chinese workers are building more than 500 miles of new high voltage, direct current (HVDC) power lines across Pakistan.
If the Trump administration intends to push back on Beijing's economic competition, the United States should not cede this sector. HVDC technology will help nations smoothly integrate massive amounts of renewable energy into the grid, an attractive product in an increasingly climate-conscious world. The U.S. should make its own infrastructure and technology investments to avoid two critical losses'--handing over a growing market abroad and missing out on the economic and societal benefits that advanced infrastructure would yield at home.
POWERING NEW ALLIANCES
The Chinese-built Matiari-Lahore power line is one of the inaugural projects of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a series of Beijing-led infrastructure projects meant to modernize Pakistan and bring it into China's sphere of influence. CPEC will provide $62 billion worth of infrastructure to Pakistan, of which roughly two thirds will be for energy projects to alleviate the country's chronic power shortages that shave 7 percent from its GDP annually.
China's investments might help Pakistan's economic development, but Beijing has a fundamentally geostrategic aim. CPEC itself is one element of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing's development strategy to economically and eventually, politically, link Asia, Africa, and Europe with China at the center.
Beijing champions BRI as an opportunity for ''win-win cooperation'' between China and participating nations, but its focus is on the domestic benefits that the initiative will bring, including an acquiescent market for the next generation of energy infrastructure.
CPEC is ramping up as the U.S.-Pakistan relationship becomes increasingly strained. Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced it would reduce security aid to Pakistan by $255 million.
Offering itself as an alternative to U.S. development aid, China already has similar transmission projects in strategically important countries like Egypt and Brazil, and is maneuvering to lay down HVDC lines to connect itself to Mongolia, Russia, South Korea and Japan.
State Grid, a Chinese state-owned enterprise, has a catalog of planned exports, signaling China's intent to repeat its near-monopolies in other clean-energy technology markets, most notably solar panels. By providing tens of billions in generous state funding, Beijing has crowded out U.S. solar manufacturers by dropping global panel prices to unprofitable levels for American firms. China's share of the global solar manufacturing market now conservatively stands at 60 percent, up from less than 26 percent a decade ago.
The Trump administration recently placed sweeping tariffs on solar panels, but China's market dominance will likely prevent solar firms from investing in U.S. manufacturing as it did when the Obama administration similarly enacted tariffs. America's woes in the solar industry should serve as a cautionary tale of what happens when Washington takes its eye off the ball.
HIGH VOLTAGE TECHNOLOGY
Most of the world's power lines transmit alternating current (AC) electricity, a legacy of the 20th century when it was the most effective means of sending electricity across long distances. But now direct current (DC), in its high voltage form, has caught up: it halves the amount of power lost to resistance as it travels through power lines.
For large grids, HVDC lines provide an undeniable boon: electricity surpluses in one area can provide power to a nation's farthest flung regions, reducing blackouts. HVDC can also balance out the intermittency of renewable energy. Wind and solar power are typically generated far from urban and industrial centers'--by offshore wind farms anchored in turbulent seas or solar panels arrayed in remote deserts. Efficient HVDC power lines eliminate the drawbacks of moving power across these long distances.
China has become the world's largest HVDC investor and plans to spend $250 billion on aggressively deploying HVDC lines to bridge the development gap between the nation's power-producing western provinces and the population-dense east. As a result of calculated domestic investment, Beijing now has the capability to export HVDC technology abroad through the Belt and Road.
Although the United States also has the geographic scale and technical capacity for HVDC, it has been slow to adopt the technology. Despite a growing number of HVDC transmission proposals from U.S. companies and pleas from a broad range of energy, manufacturing and construction companies and labor and environmental organizations'--groups that rarely agree on energy policy'--America has not had a new overhead HVDC line in 20 years. Now that the nation's plains, prairies and deserts can deliver significant wind and solar power, it would be valuable to create links across and between America's three separate coastal grids.
However, the U.S. suffers from a patchwork of federal, state, county, and even city jurisdictions that frustrate long-distance HVDC projects. There is no federal agency that holds siting authority over power transmission as there is for pipeline infrastructure. As a result, it can take years to simply secure permits for U.S. projects and many have stalled. In contrast, State Grid finished the 12,000-mile-long Xiangjiaba-Shanghai transmission project, which spans a distance nearly equal to that between Boston and Atlanta, in 2010 after just two years.
The economic losses that U.S. regulations create may be invisible, but they are real. Each dollar invested in domestic HVDC projects would save an estimated $2.50 in new power-generating capacity that would no longer be required. By investing in advanced transmission, the U.S. could form its own super-grid from which demand centers like New York and Los Angeles could always draw renewable energy from anywhere in the country where the wind is blowing or sun is shining.
As it stands, the U.S. will miss out on not only the domestic benefits that HVDC lines would provide, but also the opportunity to compete with Beijing in a growing global market. Without competition, China will also be able to set technical standards for 21st century transmission, as well as the networked technologies that come with it, such as transformers, potentially crowding out the U.S. along the entire supply chain.
It is important for all nations that the U.S. competes with China. Beijing portrays itself as an investor open to all nations regardless of their politics. However, this picture is incomplete; China has demonstrated its willingness to browbeat countries that cross its diplomatic agenda, and its potentially predatory financing agreements ensnares unsuspecting countries. When Sri Lanka could not pay back its debts, for example, China forced the island nation to turn over the port of Hambantota, creating a strategic foothold for Beijing.
Fortunately, the U.S. can remedy this issue. First, Congress should prioritize legislation that would provide funding for HVDC links crisscrossing the country, so U.S. firms can gain experience with the technology and achieve economies of scale before turning to the export market. For example, the National Infrastructure Development Bank Act, introduced in the House last year, would provide loans and loan guarantees for energy infrastructure projects. Congress can also offer matching funds to electric utilities that are now required by regulation to spend down their billion-dollar windfalls from the recent corporate tax cut.
To aid this effort, Congress should also revive the American Clean Energy Leadership Act and strengthen it to grant the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission siting authority for transmission as it already has for gas pipelines. Washington should also encourage BRI target countries to participate in the Treasury Department's government debt and infrastructure finance (GDIF) program, which helps counterpart officials develop strong financial management skills needed to avoid predatory financing. U.S. embassies in BRI countries should connect government counterparts to Treasury officials, encouraging them to apply for the necessary training and technical assistance.
There is no way to tell if China's investments will pay off. But if Beijing does succeed, it will be in part because Washington did not put up a fight. The U.S. should support Beijing when it builds infrastructure that conforms to international standards, but it should also present itself as a competitive alternative when Chinese projects falter. If United States does not compete, it will already have lost the fight.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)Ashley FengAshley Feng is a research associate for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her work has appeared in NPR, World Politics Review, Fortune, and other publications.
Sagatom SahaSagatom Saha is an energy policy analyst and Fulbright researcher in Ukraine. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, Defense One, Fortune and other publications.
SECURITY: China and America's 400-ton electric albatross -- Thursday, April 25, 2019 -- www.eenews.net
SECURITY Blake Sobczak and Peter Behr, E&E News reporters Energywire: Thursday, April 25, 2019 Claudine Hellmuth/E&E News(illustration); Daderot/Wikipedia(flag); Federico Candoni/Flickr (transformer bushings); Library of Congress (diagram)
The White House has blacklisted the Chinese telecommunications companies that dominate the market for 5G wireless systems.
For months, Trump administration officials have hopscotched across Europe to warn governments that China's telecom giants are duplicitous and their real aim is to spy on the West.
But one layer under the high-profile U.S.-China telecom fight are concerns about other core technology that rolls off China's factory lots. In the U.S. energy sector, China's emergence as a maker of large power transformers has grabbed the attention of industry executives and U.S. officials. Transformers are the backbone of America's power grid.
"There have been over 200 Chinese transformers that have come into the U.S. energy sector in the last 10 years," said Charles Durant, deputy director of counterintelligence at the Department of Energy. "Before that, there were zero."
Karen Evans, DOE's assistant secretary for cybersecurity, energy security and emergency response, said her office is looking at the supply-chain threat posed by transformers. "We know the risk associated with that," she said.
Yet against the backdrop of a U.S.-China trade war, security experts rush to separate fact from fiction when scrutinizing a vital grid component often sourced outside U.S. borders.
In a global economy, Durant pointed out, any transformer manufacturer could be sourcing parts from China. "The rules say you have to go to the lowest bidder," he said. "Most transformers come from overseas."
Severe disruptionsElectricity flows out of step-up transformers at the high-voltage levels needed to move power over long-distance lines. Then transformers on the other end step down the voltage for delivery to homes and businesses.
They're the electrical equivalent of on- and off-ramps to major highways.
Security planning for the power grid has centered on threats to the approximately 2,000 extra high-voltage transformers that carry 345 kilovolts of power or more, since these units '-- often containing several hundred tons of steel, copper and aluminum '-- cannot easily be replaced.
"Without sufficient spares or timely access to replacements, the loss of large power transformers can result in severe disruptions for long periods of time," said Ken Collison, vice president of energy consulting at ICF.
About 85 percent of new utility transformer orders have come from abroad in the past decade. Since 2010, domestic production has increased, but DOE reported in 2017 that only one U.S. manufacturer produced the special-grade electrical steel required for transformer cores.
Chinese producers have stepped in to fill the gap.
In 2010, JiangSu HuaPeng Transformer Co. delivered a 345-kilovolt large power transformer to a utility in Oklahoma, according to company marketing materials, teeing up a boomlet in U.S.-bound large power transformers, or LPTs. Just two years later, the Changzhou-based manufacturer boasted that it supported 10 percent of New York City's electricity load.
German conglomerate Siemens and Swiss manufacturing giant ABB Group are among the largest foreign transformer manufacturers to invest in factories in China.
"The actual iron core and copper coils [inside the transformers], I don't think the origin of that is any real concern," said Craig Stiegemeier, an ABB product manager for transformers. "ABB builds those in more than 50 countries around the world. There is nothing that inherently comes on the transformer that's at risk."
Instead, he indicated that components added to transformers such as digital monitoring devices and remote sensors could open the door to hacking. Such devices could monitor power loads, equipment temperature, oil levels or other vital signs.
"Most manufacturers have some kind of smart devices in the transformer so you can understand the condition of the equipment. If those devices are tampered with, it could have a significant cyber impact," Stiegemeier said.
For instance, a false alarm signaling the need for maintenance or replacement of a "smart" transformer could pose a hazard. So could manipulating "tap changers" that set voltage levels, or the temperature gauges that trigger fans, he said. A hacker could, at least in theory, cause a digitized transformer to overheat.
"Utilities are taking this really seriously," he said. "They are looking to the traceability of every component, potentially down to the chip level, to make sure they know what the origin of the component is."
Huawei tug-and-pullMultiple sources in the utility industry confirmed the vetting process in place for multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment like high-voltage power transformers.
Power companies typically dispatch "expert witnesses" to manufacturing plants to monitor transformer production from the outset, and various parts of the transformer, from the tap changers to the stacked-pancake bushings, undergo rigorous testing before being installed in the grid.
"If that thing catches on fire, it'll require a foam truck or better to put it out," noted Patrick Miller, managing partner at Archer Energy Solutions. "The whole substation would likely burn. That creates a much bigger problem than just a bad transformer."
Unlike China's telecom giants Huawei and ZTE, where concerns over cyberespionage or "logic bombs" are paramount in U.S. national security circles, counterfeit or faulty parts are seen as the larger threat in power transformers.
"Transformer components are not typically sensitive; they do have sensors, pumps and fans that utilities use to monitor and maintain cooling," noted Chris Sistrunk, principal industrial control system consultant at cybersecurity firm FireEye. "If the transformer has manufacturing defects or is installed incorrectly and there is a failure, there's language in the contract to cover liability."
A deliberately faulty or booby-trapped component has yet to be uncovered in any Chinese equipment, whether in hardware or software. Still, U.S. national security officials say the potential for subversion is every bit as dangerous as more direct threats to supply chains.
Suspicion within the Trump administration and Congress about security risks tied to China's Huawei is a heavy burden for the company, said Paul Triolo, geotechnology practice leader at the Eurasia Group consultancy, during a recent podcast for the SupChina digital media site.
"Huawei is a global company, operating in 170 countries. If it became clear that Huawei was simply an arm of the Chinese government and was doing Beijing's bidding at every turn, then they wouldn't be able to operate as a global company," he said. "The problem here is that the company is forced to prove a negative; it's really difficult."
Chinese leaders are likely to make the case against trade protectionism and security concerns at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which kicks off this week in Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin, among other global leaders, is set to attend.
"All too often in this context, the security of a product or service, or the threat from a company that sells it, is debated as if the test is binary: whether there is proof, a 'smoking gun,' so to speak, that the company in question is currently breaking the law by, say, conducting illicit surveillance," said Adam Hickey, deputy assistant U.S. attorney general, at a recent telecom conference.
"But whether a company has a culture that promotes theft, dishonesty or obstruction of justice is just as relevant," he said. "It tells you how the company will behave when it suits its interests."
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Lame Cherry: The Cause of the California Wild Fires
\As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.I was listening to Robert Kerbeck from Malibu California the other night, due to being sick with a sinus headache, binging on ibuprofen and soda, the soda to keep me from puking, so I could not get to sleep, but Mr. Kerbeck was speaking about the California fires, which I like most people, know something is up there but as I have not had any rich people, whose homes now have burned down, and they can not get insurance as their homes are burning down......so anyway, being a poor sick orphan girl stuck taking care of a relative who is becoming more unpleasant, I simply do not have the time or energy to fix things in other people's lives or generate the energy to alleviate things in my existence......in other words, I have not inquired as to what the California Wild Fires are about, as those in power are lying about it all.According to Mr. Kerbeck, there is an old Boeing nuclear facility there that went Chernobyl a number of years ago, so all that radioactive toxins are still in that dirt, and just got pumped into the downwind atmosphere, meaning tens of thousands of people are going to go John Wayne in getting lung cancers first and spreading to other soft tissue before they reach their three score and ten.Odd how people in 750,000 dollar homes and people with lots of money, never can donate as they think their cash wad will save them. Then comes the reckoning and what could have saved them was a little girl in the brier patch, but what is the value of their life eh?Uncles life is worth 1 dollar an hour for taking care of him. Yes when the costs come due, they come due for screwing me over.Anyway, I got up this morning as I had to get up as Dan was coming to fill our feeders....again that is Uncle's fault in screwing us over on land, money and me being screwed over by the rich here in not having things set up, because the rich have donated themselves into hell, but I got up and started doing an inquiry into the California wildfires, as what the matrix was pointing to.It's really amazing when you know the answers as it is easy as the matrix knows all, if you know what to surf for. See some people thought it was Chicom satellites burning California up. Others thought terrorists...see I went through all this too as it was logical, as it just did not make sense, but it will soon all make sense.According to Mr. Kerbeck, some very large developments were almost incinerated. You will notice that numbers of these fires are starting in remote areas. Kerbeck mentioned perhaps the power grid has just run it's life cycle, but if that is the case, when why are the great plains after 100 years, of old things not going brown our or burning up too?We know that California has strong hot winds. These are not Santa Ana fires, but Santana or Satan fires, meaning hot as hell in Spanish. This is normal, but for some reason fires that used to burn things up naturally, are this year burning up everything and starting everywhere. I know the reason why and soon you will too, but you need to get your brains unfucked first, so you start thinking clearly.Ok remember now that the California power company has been shutting down entire grids, because they said the grid was starting fires in the high winds.Read that statement again, and THINK about this in what they are informing you.Now ask yourself, why would a power company shut down an electric line really? No not for Santana winds, but the winds are involved, as much as record rains previously, grew vegetation, now dry from drought, which is California, making it easy burning.Ok let me lead your brains, in asking you does electricity usually produce heat or cold? Is lightning hot or do you get frostbite? Ah yes, electricity is a warming agent, and it warms due to resistance. Resistance is found in wires, transformers, circuits and substations, which are essential to the grid, as are junction boxes to shut off power.The excuse of shutting down the grid to save power which was the original thesis is bogus, as it requires ten times as much electricity to get a grid up and running again, as heavy users in fridges, ac units and home entertainment centers produce a heavy load when starting up.So the matrix is telling a story in those waters, that the grid is heating up in California, where it is not heating up in other regions. So what could be resisting in the wires and equipment causing heat, fatiguing wires, and burning out circuits?Now you don't suppose that California, like most Wall Street cheap ass conglomerates who are screwing Americans out of money, like Donald Trump in buying inferior Chinese steel for buildings, started in developments and upgrades, told South Korea, Japan and United States manufacturers to pound sand, and instead began installing inferior Chicom power cables, substations, transformers and circuits?You don't suppose that these electronics like all things Chinese are shitty, that they do not last like America, Korean and Japanese hardware, because Chinese are all crooks, and you don't suppose that this shoddy shitty Chinese equipment, hidden in the grid, might function in Chinese temperatures ok, but that when it is exposed to 90 to 120 degree American summer temperatures, that they begin to burn up?You don't suppose that is why California power is shutting down the grid, is because their circuits when running heavy loads to cool off homes, are making space heaters out of transformers and power cables out of Peking, which are dripping hot oil on tinder dry brush or breaking cables that fall into tinder and start fires now do you?China Exports Transformer to US Market www.china.org.cn /english/2004/Mar/90191.htm The transformer, made by the Tebian Electric Shenyang Transformer Group, will be used for connecting the California power grid and the hydropower grid in Los Angeles.Mr. Kerbeck mentioned, that California power would rather fight lawsuits as it was cheaper than fixing the grid. There is evidence which is before everyone in there are lies about why the grid was shut down, and it has to do with record fires starting all over California. The matrix upon inquiry is pointing to shoddy Chicom infrastructure, knowingly installed on the cheap, which is burning down California, and the power companies will not admit what is going on, as this might start a revolution in California as for some reason people do not like being treated like rats and burned out of their homes.All I have is the above link, and what inquiry indicated from the matrix. China has been active in the California power market since 2004 AD in the year of our Lord. Something is definitely wrong with the grid, and it is not particle beams or terrorists this time.Coast to Coast is always harping about the US power grid being taken down by EMP. Others alarm about Chinese hackers. What if the problem is before us, in it is more of this shitty Chinese manufactured products, hidden away and what is manifesting are fires started all across California.What is taking place is being covered up by the real cartel in power. There are lies being told to cover up what is really happening, and the matrix pointing to this answer is the placed to investigate this and start.Once again, another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.We shall see how long this takes to be plagiarized by the all knowing experts of the internet.Nuff SaidagtG
Enlarge Image A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop over the Easy Fire in California. Getty Images
ISIS is urging its followers to spark wildfires across the US and Europe, according to reports.
ISIS allegedly released posters calling upon their followers to start fires in Europe and America. MEMRIAt least four propaganda posters have appeared on Quraysh, a pro-ISIS media outlet, urging followers to ''ignite fires'' in forests, The Washington Free Beacon says, citing The Middle East Media Research Institute.
''Ignite fires in the forests of America, France, Britain, and Germany, for they are painful to them,'' one poster reads, according to the site.
The disturbing call comes as wildfires have devastated California. There has been no suggestion yet any were started by terrorists.
The first threat appeared in April, according to the research institute, which monitors radical groups.
''Oh monotheists [followers of ISIS], ignite fires in the forests and fields, and we are addressing especially those who live in Europe and America, for they are painful to them,'' that first warning read, according to the report.
Rendering of Pawtucket soccer stadium ends up revealing USL scheme to exploit Trump opportunity zones for federal tax breaks | Field of Schemes
Journalism takes all forms in these days of vanishing budgets and vanishing newsrooms, and sometimes it's somebody spotting something on a website and going whuh?
That is, as the Valley Breeze notes, an image of a new soccer stadium and accompanying development on the Seekonk River in downtown Pawtucket. True, as the paper notes, this version of Pawtucket is ''missing some downtown features and shows mountains in the background,'' but clearly somebody at least went through the trouble of Photoshopping a soccer stadium onto some alternate-reality Pawtucket, which has to mean something.
And the Valley Breeze reporting staff (actually Valley Breeze managing editor Ethan Shorey, who in the absence of a masthead I'm guessing is the entire Valley Breeze reporting staff) went to the trouble of calling developers Fortuitous Partners and asking about the picture, and got confirmation that they're ''pursuing a $400 million project'' in Pawtucket. Fortuitous '-- whose founder Brett Johnson also owns the Phoenix Rising F.C. USL team '-- was previously reported to be interested in building a USL soccer stadium on the site previously rejected by the Pawtucket Red Sox for a new baseball stadium. And Johnson had more to say about the project:
He described United Soccer as the fastest-growing sports league in the world, saying the company is exploring more than 60 markets that all have the potential to bring soccer, and leveraging the opportunity zones in every case.
Now that's some news. Not the ''exploring more than 60 markets'' part '-- that doesn't mean we'll actually get 60 USL teams, though we're already getting close. No, the interesting bit is that USL apparently plans to pick its stadium sites by locating teams in ''opportunity zones,'' the new Trump-created districts that allow developers to defer or evade entirely paying capital gains taxes on projected in ''undercapitalized'' areas.
As Billionaire Boondoggle author Pat Garofalo has reported, 52 existing major-league stadiums and arenas are already in opportunity zones. But because the main benefit to an opportunity zone is placing assets in an ''opportunity fund'' and then letting them gain in value tax-free '-- the language is hideously complex and even the forms are incredibly confusing, but that's the best I've been able to figure out based on reading up on OZs and talking to tax experts '-- it seems like it would hold special appeal to investors looking to create a whole new entity, say a USL team, and then holding it within an opportunity fund so that the inevitable gains when USL teams turn out to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars despite everybody and their sister having one would be tax-free.
If you're hoping for a dollar figure or even a guesstimate on how much this would cost the federal treasury, we are way too early in the game for that, sorry. But it is an indicator of how obscure changes in tax policy can shift an entire industry's approach to its business model; sort of the way the 1986 Tax Reform Act's okaying of using tax-exempt bonds for sports facilities helped spark the torrent of new publicly funded sports venues that followed. Capitalist free markets obey rules, yes, but those rules are set down by government policy, and tweaking one or two can make a huge difference in who gets to earn money how '-- which is no doubt why billionaires stayed up all night phoning Congressional legislators to get OZs passed into law.
ABC Insider: Why I, alone, released the Amy Robach Epstein tape. '' Project Veritas
Editors Note: Project Veritas is publishing the writing below at the request of the ABC news insider who gave us the Amy Robach tape.
This was submitted to us in light of the actions taken against those wrongfully identified as involved in the leaking of the tape and the reactions of ABC news to their spiking of the story on Jeffrey Epstein.
To my fellow man:
I came forward with this information bearing no motives other than to have this information public. I did not and do not seek any personal gain from this information whether it be financial or otherwise and will always decline. When I became aware of this moment, I had the same reaction as many of you did. Anger, confusion and sadness. I care not about petty political quarrels and only hope for the best in all of us.
To my fellow ABC News employees:
I've walked the halls experiencing similar feelings we are all having right now. All of you regardless of your own personal differences in one form or another do an outstanding job. I sincerely enjoy working with each and every one of you and will continue to do so throughout our careers.
To those wrongfully accused:
It is terrible that you have been lashed out at by the company. I know some may put the burden of guilt on me, but my conscience is clear. The actions of the company towards you are the result of their own and not anyone else. The public outcry, from coast to coast, of all people, creeds, and political affiliations, is clear. I have not one doubt that there will always be support for you, and you will have prosperous careers. For neither you, nor I, have done anything wrong.
To Amy Robach:
You are the only person deserving of an apology. I am most certainly sorry. Not for my actions or for this to center around you, but for what is clear to have happened. When I first stumbled across this, my initial reaction was outrage. But this soon turned towards empathy. I can not imagine doing all the hard work to only have it shelved. If the past few years have taught us anything, it is the truth that some of us have endured many hardships in this industry. From the spiking of stories regarding prominent and powerful people in this world, and to yours. I believe you are an outstanding reporter and have done such tremendous work in the community as well.
To ABC News:
I sit right here with you all in complete shock. I, like many, are at a loss for words on how this has been handled. Instead of addressing this head-on like the company has in the past, it has spun into a mission of seek-and-destroy. Innocent people that have absolutely nothing to do with this are being hunted down as if we are all a sport. I challenge all of you to actually look inwards and remember why this company engages in journalism. We all hold the First Amendment at the foundation of this company, yet forget its history, its purpose, and its reasoning for even coming into existence to begin with. How lost we are'... yearning to be found. I went to Project Veritas for the sole reason that any other media outlet else would have probably shelved this as well. I thank all of them, and James, for seeking truth.
We are all human and mortal, creatures of mistakes and redemption.
The road to redemption favors no soul.
Governor Launches Camp, Backs 'Mega-Tent' for Austin's Homeless, Surprising Advocates
The governor has not released a cost estimate for the new camp. Gus BovaAfter a months-long campaign of smearing Austin's homeless as violent and disease-ridden, Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday he was designating 5 acres of state-owned land in southeast Austin as an authorized homeless encampment. The same day, with Abbott's support, the Austin Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders announced they were fundraising for a 300-bed ''mega-tent'' shelter to be built at an undetermined location. The decisions, which were made public three days after the state began clearing the homeless from the capital city's highway underpasses, were made with virtually no coordination with the city's existing homeless service providers.
''There's not been collaboration with the local homeless crisis response system, and that's counterproductive,'' said Eric Samuels, president of the Texas Homeless Network. He hopes such unilateral moves won't become a trend. ''It's not something that we want to see happening around the state in the future,'' he said.
Advocates aren't opposed to the camping site or the tent shelter per se, but they're wary of the governor and chamber's approach. Austin, like other cities around the country, has been trying to move toward a ''housing first'' model, which aims to move the homeless into permanent housing as fast as possible. The city passed a $250 million affordable housing bond last year, and more than 500 homeless Austinites have been housed since August, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO), the federally-designated lead agency addressing homelessness in the city.
''We believe that ending homelessness in Austin and Travis County is about permanent supportive housing, brick and mortar housing,'' said Matthew Mollica, the director of ECHO. Mollica said the governor's office never reached out about the new camp, and the chamber's coalition only reached out this week with a perfunctory heads-up. ''From our perspective what we really want [instead] is a coordinated response.''
The governor has not released a cost estimate for the new camp, which he says will have restrooms, hand-washing stations, and access to medical providers. The camp is meant to remain open until the chamber and its partners launch their tent shelter, potentially in early 2020. Under the banner ''ATX Helps,'' the chamber's coalition aims to raise $14 million for construction and operation costs (money Mollica said could be better spent on permanent supportive housing). The shelter, modeled after an approach San Diego has taken, would provide storage and services to help people exit homelessness, and residents may bring their pets and don't have to take drug tests. Though the governor supports the coalition and it's possible the shelter will be on state-owned land, a chamber spokesperson said the group began working on their proposal independently in April. A location has not been chosen, though the group aims to site it within a mile of downtown.
Abbott's encampment, open as of Thursday, is four miles from downtown Austin. Google Maps estimates a more than hour-long bus ride or more than two-hour walk to get to the city center, where many services are clustered. Still, I asked three residents of a camp near downtown whether they were willing to go to the new site, and they said yes. Raymond Thompson added that medical services and help finding work would be key.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler was cautiously optimistic about Thursday's announcements, saying the shelter and camp could be helpful as long as they help move people toward housing. ''The city will support such efforts with continued focus on permanent housing solutions and we could really use the state's help here, too,'' he noted. City staffers in August recommended against an authorized camping area, in favor of long-term housing.
In a statement, state Representative Eddie Rodriguez noted Abbott's camp will be in a poor Hispanic part of town, and said that community should be ''involved in the conversation.'' It remains to be seen whether there will be a NIMBY backlash like there was when the city recently approved a new shelter in South Austin.
On Thursday, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty issued a statement criticizing ATX Helps' plans. In it, they said that the ''mega-tent'' shelter will be insufficient to house all of Austin's unsheltered population, and that such shelters are inappropriate for many with disabilities. The shelter should not be used as a justification to criminalize camping elsewhere, the center warned.
At a Monday press conference, multiple speakers including the chamber's board chair, Brian Cassidy, said they wanted to move beyond the ''rhetoric and vitriol'' around Austin's homeless population. They failed, however, to note that the governor has been the chief promoter of said vitriol. The Downtown Austin Alliance, another coalition member, has come out in support of a court appeal that could overturn a Ninth Circuit ruling that said the homeless cannot be punished for camping when insufficient shelter beds exist. That ruling informed Austin's decision in June to relax a trio of ordinances that criminalized camping, sitting, lying, and begging in public'--the move that triggered Abbott and other Republicans' Twitter war against the city's unhoused.
On Monday, the state, at Abbott's behest, began clearing out homeless encampments under Austin's highways. Some homeless folks scattered to the city's wooded areas in response, but many have returned to camping in the same locations. Thus far, the state and city have not prevented their return.
Eric Tars, an attorney with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, said that any help should have been offered before the highway underpass cleanups. ''The mega-tent and even the legalized campground are sort of grand gestures that give the appearance of doing something,'' he said. ''If they were genuine offers of assistance they would have been offered before the evictions began.''
Tars said the state and business community should join in existing city government and nonprofit efforts to end homelessness in Austin. As for the current lack of coordination, ''there's no reason for it beyond politics,'' he said.
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Texas opening five acres to house Austin homeless | The Texas Tribune
Crystal Brimm said she was gone all of 20 minutes.
That's all the time it took for the Texas Department of Transportation to clean the encampment where she lives under U.S. Highway 290 and Ben White Boulevard on Wednesday, after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered homeless people to be removed from state overpasses in Austin. Abbott has spent months railing against Austin and its local leaders, accusing them of worsening what he calls a dangerous homelessness crisis by relaxing camping ordinances.
About 10 people returned to that area of the overpass, down from 30 before TxDOT arrived, Brimm said as she sat in a lawn chair Thursday outside the blue camping tent she shares with her husband.
Crystal Brimm lives under Ben White Boulevard and Lamar Avenue. Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune"Everybody else packed up and ran like cockroaches," she said.
As Brimm pondered her future living situation, Gov. Greg Abbott's office unveiled his plan to provide temporary living space for Austin's homeless '-- a five-acre plot of land off State Highway 183 near Montopolis Drive.
The soon-to-be campground is a large expanse of concrete surrounded by a manufactured home factory and forest. It's about five miles away from the Texas Capitol, in a clearing adjacent to the historically low-income Montopolis neighborhood, across from the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
On Thursday afternoon, TxDOT backhoes were leveling dirt in apparent preparation for the new temporary residents. Ten port-a-potties and five hand-washing stations were already in place.
The plot of land will include "portable restrooms, hand washing stations, and comes with commitments from local charities to deliver food multiple times a day," Abbott spokesman John Wittman said in a text message. He said the solution "will provide access to healthcare providers and homeless case workers to provide care for the homeless."
The Department of Public Safety will provide 24-hour security, Wittman said.
As state vehicles drove in and out of the property, Chuck Mitchell, a housing consultant at Palm Harbor Homes '-- next door to the planned site '-- said he hadn't heard of the governor's plans before Thursday afternoon.
Gov. Greg Abbott said the campsite will be on five acres of state-owned land near Montopolis Drive and State Highway 183. Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneAustin Mayor Steve Adler, Abbott's political foe, responded to Abbott's announcement by stressing the city would be focusing on permanent housing solutions.
"Shelters can be an important part of the range of housing we need and are most effective when associated with a housing exit strategy," Adler said. "The State's temporary camping area can be constructive when it provides people with a choice that has greater safety, services and support and a real prospect of a housing exit. The city will support such efforts with continued focus on permanent housing solutions and we could really use the State's help here, too."
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State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, a Democrat whose district includes the temporary camp, expressed concern that the encampment was being moved to a community that is ''primarily Hispanic and exists in one of the most historically underserved parts of Austin.''
He called for more permanent solutions to help Austin's homeless population.
''We must also ensure that there are adequate resources for the people who choose to take shelter in this location and strive to replace this stopgap measure with more permanent housing options as soon as possible,'' he said.
Wittman said camping is a short-term solution but will be available "as long as it takes" while the chamber of commerce, businesses and faith-based groups develop a long-term solution.
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Meanwhile, the Austin Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning unveiled a coalition made up of business leaders, nonprofits and faith-based organizations which hopes to raise $14 million to construct a 300-bed shelter in Austin. The coalition, dubbed ATX Helps, hopes to raise $2 million by the end of the year to fund the physical shelter. The remaining money will be used to fund storage, dining and sanitation services, as well as services to help people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse, for two years.
Dewitt Peart, president of the Downtown Austin Alliance, said a lack of emergency shelters is the "critical missing piece" in Austin's response to homelessness.
Peart did not specify where the planned shelter would be located, but noted the coalition hopes it will be within half a mile of Austin's central business district, near social service providers. He said the city of Austin has offered its support in "expediting" the process and hinted at the possibility of using state land.
"Obviously, if we had state land available to us, that makes things a lot easier," Peart said.
A homeless encampment under Ben White Boulevard and Lamar Avenue. Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas TribuneBack under Highway 290, people experiencing homelessness were mulling whether they'd move to the state's new designated area for camps.
Terrance, who asked only to be identified by his first name, said privacy and proximity to transit are his two most important concerns. Stops for Capital Metro's 217 and 350 bus routes are about one mile from the camp.
''If there was buses and stuff close, I would do it,'' he said. ''But other than that, I don't like to travel far when it comes to my needs as far as like going to my doctor's appointments or social security or something like that.''
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Disclosure: Steve Adler is a former Texas Tribune board chairman. Adler and the Austin Parks and Recreation Department have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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Austin's homeless residents say Abbott's intervention is a short-term setback without a long-term solutionTenth Talks: Watch four experts predict the future of Texas citiesTexas getting ready to move homeless residents camping beneath Austin highways
AUSTIN (KXAN) '-- The property that Governor Greg Abbott's Office offered up for homeless people to camp is officially open.
Friday, KXAN crews met two people who made it over to the old vehicle storage facility near U.S. 183 and Montopolis Drive in east Austin.
State owned property in east Austin being used as a homeless campsite. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)''This camp is a good place to be, like a sanctuary,'' said Jose Javier Cruz. ''Just want to say thank you for this place, and hopefully it can benefit everyone.''
Cruz said he and his friend, Michael Johnson, biked over to the new designated campsite. It's about 4.5 miles from the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) downtown.
Johnson said, ''I think it's amazing. I think it's what's needed.''
Jose Javier Cruz and Michael Johnson. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)Earlier this week, before Governor Greg Abbott made the announcement about the campsite, the City of Austin and Austin Police cleared out homeless camps near the ARCH.
It was part of the Guided Path pilot program, which began in October.
The first phase, before the cleanups began, involved going out to those encampments to talk to every single person.
Ultimately, they ended up with a list of about 100 people.
''We know who all those individuals are, and we'll follow them hopefully into housing. That's our goal,'' said Greg McCormack, Executive Director of Front Steps, a nonprofit that operates the ARCH.
City officials said of those people who gave their names:
7 individuals have been housed2 individuals have been reunited with their families3 individuals accepted respite care76 individuals are enrolled or pending enrollment into appropriate programs that lead to permanent housing23 individuals are not yet matched with programs for enrollmentBut for those who refused to work with the providers, we asked if anyone knows where they are now.
''We don't,'' explained McCormack. ''We're still here, so we hope that they'll come back when they're ready, they know how to reach us, engage with us.''
Friday, some people were still hanging out in front of the ARCH, but the areas where camps used to be remained clear.
''They did something about it. I didn't know if could be cleaned up like this,'' said Reginald Fowler who has been coming to the ARCH for about a year now.
He said he had problems with alcohol. ''I think the ARCH saved my life,'' Fowler told KXAN.
He said he used to walk in the street to come to the ARCH because there were so many encampments on the sidewalks. He explained, ''You see people out here, they have tents. If you walk by there they ask you, are you looking for drugs. You're trying to get your mind off of that stuff, so I started taking different routes.''
Next month, Fowler will be one-year sober. With the cleared sidewalks, he said, ''Maybe, more people will start coming because they see a clean place.''
Texas Governor to Establish Campground for Homeless in Austin - WSJ
Republican has been feuding with liberal city leaders over who can better manage the issue
Updated Nov. 7, 2019 2:11 pm ETEscalating his feud with Austin city leaders over how to address the Texas capital's problem of homelessness, Gov. Greg Abbott is planning to begin housing homeless people on state land.
The announcement comes just days after state officials began clearing people out from underpasses Monday, a move taken in opposition to the policy the city council adopted this summer allowing camping in public, which raised the visibility of the city's homeless population.
Escalating his feud with Austin city leaders over how to address the Texas capital's problem of homelessness, Gov. Greg Abbott is planning to begin housing homeless people on state land.
The announcement comes just days after state officials began clearing people out from underpasses Monday, a move taken in opposition to the policy the city council adopted this summer allowing camping in public, which raised the visibility of the city's homeless population.
Mr. Abbott's office said Thursday that it will begin allowing people to camp on a 5-acre plot of state-owned land in southeastern Austin. The property will have portable restrooms, hand-washing stations and an agreement from local charities to service meals there, said John Wittman, a spokesman for the Republican.
''This is the governor following through on his commitment,'' Mr. Wittman said. ''He said he would clean up downtown.''
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he appreciated any assistance in responding to homelessness in Austin, but said the city's efforts will remain on finding permanent housing for people. City staff members over the summer recommended against putting resources toward designated camps, saying they often end up becoming permanent and taking effort away from permanent solutions.
''Ultimately, we don't want people camping anywhere,'' Mr. Adler said.
Before Monday's clearing out of the state-controlled underpasses, Mr. Abbott had for months threatened state intervention and encouraged constituents to tweet videos of homeless people behaving badly in Austin, signaling his displeasure with the city's policies. Austin council members and advocates for the homeless criticized him for pushing people with nowhere else to go into hiding.
The plan announced Thursday provides a new option, Mr. Wittman said, though he emphasized it is a short-term solution.
Austin Chamber of Commerce representatives, meanwhile, announced a longer-term effort Thursday to address homelessness. The chamber said it is forming a coalition with faith-based partners to try to raise $14 million to build and operate one or more shelters that can hold about 150 bunk beds.
Both new efforts could have political implications on an issue where Mr. Abbott and other Republican leaders have accused the liberal city government of failing in leadership. Conservative state leaders have in recent years railed against Texas' left-leaning major cities, focusing legislative efforts on overturning local ordinances.
On homelessness, Mr. Abbott has found increasing support from some city residents who say they are frustrated with the growing impact of homeless people.
Austin's debate mirrors others around the country. President Donald Trump has threatened federal action against California cities for their high homelessness numbers. In Las Vegas, an ordinance passed Wednesday evening to outlaw public camping'--the opposite of what Austin did'--drew opposition this week from Democratic presidential contenders including South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former San Antonio Mayor Julin Castro.
Editorial: ATX Helps deserves support for bold plan - Opinion - Austin American-Statesman
By American-Statesman Editorial BoardFriday Nov 8, 2019 at 4:24 PM Nov 8, 2019 at 4:50 PM
For the past five months, our city has been preoccupied with the question of whether to tolerate homeless encampments on sidewalks and highway underpasses. Officials have given too little attention to the more urgent question of how to get vulnerable people off the streets, and into proper shelter, as quickly as possible.
We hope that will change with a bold proposal to create a 300-bed, temporary homeless shelter in a massive, industrial-grade tent. The newly formed ATX Helps, a nonprofit coalition of business groups and charities, is trying to raise $14 million to set up the temporary shelter early next spring and staff it for two years, modeling its effort on a homeless shelter program in San Diego. ATX Helps is looking for a location in or near downtown.
The scale of the proposal is impressive: It would provide shelter for three times as many people as the city's brick-and-mortar shelter planned at Ben White Boulevard and Bannister Lane, which is expected to open sometime next year. Both would have on-site services to help homeless people replace important documents, such as ID cards; connect with mental health or substance abuse assistance; and work with specialists to obtain long-term housing.
Still, it's just one piece of the puzzle: A 300-bed ATX Helps shelter would house only about a quarter of the Austinites currently sleeping outside every night. And "temporary" could mean years. In San Diego, getting people off the streets hasn't led to the massive tents getting packed up, but to another tent opening to help even more people.
As always, the sticking point is the need for more affordable housing. San Diego initially aimed to provide permanent housing for two-thirds of the people coming to its tent shelters. However, in the first 16 months of operation, only 19% of the clients left the tent shelters for permanent or long-term housing; many others went to another shelter, a hotel, a jail cell or back to the streets.
Austin similarly has a shortage of affordable housing units, housing subsidies and other support services for those who are homeless. Roughly 3,000 homeless individuals and families are on a waiting list for housing in Austin. The city is pouring more money into adding units, but it's slow-going and people wait for months at homeless shelters instead of moving through them. The Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, the city-owned shelter downtown, is over capacity and has 200 people on a waiting list.
ATX Helps would get more people into shelter and off the streets. But the effort will need the support of City Hall, state agencies and other organizations '-- particularly in providing more permanent housing units to ensure shelter stays are short.
Instead, we saw a frustrating lack of coordination last week on homeless response efforts. Austin officials cleared out sidewalk encampments near the ARCH, and state workers threw away homeless residents' tents and other belongings at highway underpasses, all without a viable plan for where those people should go. We recognize the need to ensure these areas are clean and passable. But such cleanups need to be done in a way that does not create more upheaval and instability for people living on the margins.
Then Gov. Greg Abbott made a surprise announcement Thursday about a state-sanctioned homeless camp site in Montopolis without any coordination with the city, any advance planning with Capital Metro (which is now scrambling to figure out transit access to the site), any outreach to Austin Public Health or any involvement with the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, the local lead agency for homeless response. It's clear to us the asphalt-covered lot was picked because it was available, not because the location or amenities meet the needs of those expected to camp there.
Why does that matter? Government and nonprofit resources are limited and precious. We should make sure they're put to the best use, toward efforts most likely to improve the situation.
Unfortunately the politics around Austin's homeless response have become so polarized that the state won't work with the city; many residents have lost faith in the city; and community leaders felt the need to create ATX Helps, an admirable effort to move the ball forward.
The urgency and complexity of the homeless challenge should compel all these parties to set politics aside and work together. We can all agree that Austin should not be a place where people live in desperation on the streets. It will take all of us working together to make a difference.
Erdogan Hints at Readiness to Resolve Missile Row With Trump - Bloomberg
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New World Order at risk 30 years after Berlin Wall fell
East German border guards look through a hole in the Berlin wall after demonstrators pulled down one segment of the wall at Brandenburg gate Saturday, November 11, 1989.
Lionel Cironneau | AP
The most significant hopes and gains unlocked by the Berlin Wall's fall, which was 30 years ago Saturday, are all at risk.
They included a historic expansion of democracies and open markets, a wave of globalization that created the greatest prosperity and largest global middle class the world has ever seen, and the enlargement the European Union, to 28 from 12 members, and NATO, to 29 from 16 '' deepening ties among the world's leading democracies.
That all brought with it the hope of what then-President George H.W. Bush called in 1989 "A Europe Whole and Free," in which Russia could find its proper and peaceful place. Bush went even further in September 1990, after the UN Security Council had blessed the U.S.-led coalition's war to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion, envisioning a New World Order, "an era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony."
The idea had been hatched a month earlier by President Bush and General Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, while fishing near the president's vacation home at Kennebunkport, Maine. They came home with three bluefish and an audacious vision that the Cold War's end and the Persian Gulf Crisis presented a unique chance to build a global system against aggression "out of the collapse of the US-Soviet antagonisms," in the words of General Scowcroft.
Reflecting on those heady days, Scowcroft recently told me that he felt everything he had worked for in his life was now at risk. If U.S. and European leaders don't recover the common purpose they shared at that time '' and there is yet little sign they will '' this weekend's Berlin Wall anniversary is more a moment for concern than celebration.
"Look at what is happening in the world," French President Emmanuel Macron said in a freshly published interview in the Economist. "Things that were unthinkable five years ago. To be wearing ourselves out over Brexit, to have Europe finding it so difficult to move forward, to have an American ally turning its back on us so quickly on strategic issues; nobody would have believed this possible."
This weekend's 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event '' one of freedom's greatest historic triumphs '' has failed to deliver on its full potential. Understanding that, might unlock a better path forward.
1. China's authoritarian turnAnother thirtieth anniversary this year, the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989, might have had even more lasting consequences.
The regime's attack on the pro-democracy movement, at a time when the Communist Party could have chosen greater liberalization over repression, ensured that the most important rising power of this century would be increasingly authoritarian in nature.
The lesson Beijing took from the Cold War's end was that the Soviet Union had failed because it had liberalized its economy too little and its politics too much '' a fatal combination. Economic liberalization and a growing Chinese middle class failed to bring with it the Western-style democratic freedoms that some thought would follow.
That doesn't mean a New World Order can't still be built with Beijing, but it will take considerable vision and patience to knit the two most important countries of our times together simultaneously, as strategic competitors and collaborators.
2. Revanchist Russia and the 'Gray Zone Conflicts'There's a lot of finger pointing still about "who lost Russia" after the Cold War, whether it was Westerners who didn't offer enough of an embrace or Russians who missed the opportunity.
Wherever you stand in that debate, the U.S. and its European allies failed to appreciate the potential or staying power of Putin, who has made it his life's purpose to redress what he considered the biggest disaster of the 20th century, Soviet collapse.
At the same time, the enlargement of the European Union and NATO left behind a "gray zone" of 14 countries like Ukraine that were no longer in the Soviet bloc or Warsaw Pact but hadn't been integrated into Western institutions.
French leader Macron has argued that it would be a huge mistake not to work to find more common ground with Russia. The difficulty is how to do so without selling out the democratic, sovereign hopes of Russia's neighbors.
3. Europe's lost momentumBill Emmott argues in Project Syndicate this week that the European Union's biggest problem "is not Euroskepticism but indifference."
He's partially right: some 72% of French respondents in an opinion poll based on interviews with over 12,000 respondents across the 28 EU countries don't think they would miss the EU as well as 67% of Italians and 60% of Germans.
That said, the EU also suffers from not having addressed design flaws that hobble it even as it has grown to its current size of 28 member states with 513 million citizens and a GDP of $18.756 trillion.
They include a monetary union without a fiscal union, immigration policies that allowed free movement inside the so-called Schengen Zone but too-porous external borders, and a failure to envision a world where the U.S. is losing interest, Russia remains a problem, and China is remaking global politics and economics.
Europe is "on the edge of a precipice," Macron told the Economist. "If we don't wake up '... there's a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply," he stated.
4. The lack of US vision and strategyThe Berlin Wall's fall in 1989 '' taken together with Soviet collapse and the Cold War's end '' marked an inflection point of history for U.S. leadership globally that one can compare to 1919, the end of World War I, and 1945, the end of World War II, in its potential historic consequences.
U.S. and European leaders failed after 1919 to prevent the rise of European fascism, and then the Holocaust and World War II. The US got it more right than wrong in 1945 after World War II, creating the institutions and principles that paved the way for one of the world's most sustained periods of relative peace and prosperity.
In his 1989 "A Europe Whole and Free", President H.W. Bush underscored how "too many in the West, Americans and Europeans alike, seem[ed] to have forgotten the lessons of our common heritage and how the world we know came to be. And that should not be, and that cannot be."
Thirty years later, the jury is still out on what the post-Cold War period will bring, but none of the post-Cold War presidencies '' from President Bill Clinton to President Donald Trump '' have yet recognized the stakes or laid out a strategy commensurate to the risks.
Vaping Illnesses Are Linked to Vitamin E Acetate, C.D.C. Says - The New York Times
Samples of lung fluid from patients with the mysterious illness led to a breakthrough in finding a possible cause. More than 2,000 people have been sickened, many from illicit marijuana-based products.
THC-based vaping products that the New York State health department said in September contained vitamin E acetate. Credit... Mike Wren/New York State Department of Health, via Associated Press A form of vitamin E has been identified as a ''very strong culprit'' in lung injuries related to vaping THC, health officials reported on Friday, a major advance in a frightening outbreak that has killed 40 people and sickened 2,051.
Many patients with the mysterious illness have wound up hospitalized in intensive care units, needing ventilators or even more desperate measures to help them breathe. Most are young, male adults or even teenagers.
''For the first time, we have detected a potential toxin of concern, vitamin E acetate, from biological samples from patients,'' with lung damage linked to vaping, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a news briefing.
The new report, based on samples taken from the lungs of 29 patients, including two who died, she said, ''provided evidence of vitamin E acetate at the primary site of injury in the lungs.''
She added, ''These findings tell us what entered the lungs of some patients with these injuries.''
The patients came from 10 states scattered around the country, so the findings are considered broadly applicable and unlikely to have resulted from a single vaping product or supplier.
The results mesh with other research that found the vitamin compound in vaping products.
But Dr. Schuchat left open the possibility that other chemicals or toxins from vaping fluids or devices could also be causing the severe respiratory ailments.
The outbreak has revealed the existence of a vast, unregulated, shadowy marketplace of illicit or bootleg vaping products that are essentially a stew of unknown chemicals concocted, packed and sold by unknown manufacturers and sellers.
Hundreds of state and federal health investigators have been deployed to find out what has caused such extensive damage to patients' lungs, which researchers have likened to the chemical burns suffered by soldiers attacked with mustard gas in World War I.
Vitamin E acetate is sticky, like honey, and clings to lung tissue, the C.D.C. said. Researchers do not know exactly how it harms the lungs, but studies in animals are being considered to help explain that, Dr. Schuchat said.
It is commonly used as a vitamin supplement or an ingredient in skin lotions. Makers of illicit vaping fluids sometimes add it as a thickener or to dilute the THC, the high-inducing ingredient in marijuana, and increase their profits. But just because something is safe to swallow or rub on the skin does not mean it is safe to inhale. The digestive system has enzymes to break down what we ingest; the lungs do not.
Samples of lung fluid from the 29 patients were also tested for plant oils, petroleum distillates like mineral oil and other potentially harmful substances. None were found, the C.D.C. said. The findings were published in Friday's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
''C.D.C. scientists developed 12 targeted laboratory methods to identify specific substances of concern,'' Dr. Schuchat said. ''This kind of assay development takes time.''
About 70 percent of the people with the lung ailments are male, 79 percent are younger than 35 and 86 percent say that they have vaped THC.
Many of the products used by those who became ill were illicitly obtained, public health experts have said, by patients who bought them from friends or on the street. Vaping oils typically include other additives, solvents and flavor enhancers.
Health investigators have said since nearly the beginning of the outbreak in mid-August that some ingredients, including vitamin E acetate, could be responsible for some of the lung illness cases.
State health officials in New York had first identified vitamin E acetate from several samples of vaping products collected in August that were analyzed by the Wadsworth Center Lab.
Although most cases of the vaping illness have been linked to illicit THC, Dr. Schuchat said that did not mean other vaping products could be considered safe. She said there were anecdotal reports, not yet fully investigated, of patients who said they had bought THC from licensed dispensaries in states where marijuana is legal.
Nicotine has not been exonerated, either. Some patients say they vaped only nicotine, and state health officials consider some of those reports reliable, Dr. Schuchat said.
Hoping to identify risk factors for the vaping illness, health officials in Illinois conducted a survey of 4,631 adults 18 and older who vaped and were healthy, and compared them with those who got sick from vaping. Most of the healthy responders vaped nicotine, but 21 percent used THC.
The patients who became ill were more likely to vape only THC, and to use it frequently, more than five times a day. They were nine times as likely to buy THC from informal sources like dealers, friends or on the street, and eight times as likely to have used Dank Vapes, which the officials described as ''a class of largely counterfeit THC-containing products,'' from unknown sources.
It is possible to become addicted to THC, and health officials say some patients may need counseling and treatment for it.
The number of lung-injury cases increased in the last week, but not as much as in previous weeks.
''The trend in cases appears to be downward, but we understand that some states are still hard hit, and this continues to be a very active investigation,'' Dr. Schuchat said.
Additional fatal cases are being investigated, she added. The death count will probably go up.
Because there is still uncertainty about what is causing the illness, the C.D.C. is continuing to urge people to avoid vaping anything, including e-cigarettes.
Because of year-over-year spikes in the use of e-cigarettes among minors, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to soon announce measures that could involve banning most flavored e-cigarettes, including mint. Prohibiting menthol had been mentioned earlier, but the vaping and tobacco industries have intensively lobbied the White House and lawmakers against such a broad ban given that traditional menthol cigarettes remain on the market.
On Thursday, Juul Labs, the nation's largest seller of e-cigarettes, took a step ahead of the anticipated flavor ban and announced that it would discontinue sales of mint-flavored pods, after the latest national surveys showed that teenagers cited fruit and mint as their favorites.
But an aide to President Trump suggested earlier this week that vape shops might somehow be exempted from restrictions. And on Friday, he noted that the industry had created a lot of jobs.
Mr. Trump said an announcement to protect young people would be made next week and would include a proposal to raise the age limit for sales of e-cigarettes to ''21 or so.'' Federal law now sets a minimum age of 18 to buy both cigarettes and e-cigarettes, although about one-third of states have raised the age to 21. There is bipartisan support for such a move, which would require an act of Congress.
Sheila Kaplan contributed to this article.
Vaping illness breakthrough comes as flavor ban, age restriction nears
Federal officials announced Friday they discovered an oily derivative of vitamin E in the lungs of patients hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses, a finding the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called a "breakthrough."
The additive, vitamin E acetate, is sometimes used to dilute THC oil, particularly by street dealers. THC is the compound in marijuana that produces a ''high."
Of 29 lung tissue samples from 10 states tested for the additive, all contained vitamin E acetate.
"These new findings are significant because for the first time, we have detected a potential toxin of concern '' vitamin E acetate '' in biologic samples from patients with lung injuries associated with the use of e-cigarette or vaping products," Dr. Anne Schuchat of the CDC said.
She described it as a "breakthrough" that the additive was found "at the primary site of injury within the lung."
The CDC reported that as of Tuesday, the outbreak had sickened 2,051 people and resulted in 39 confirmed deaths. Schuchat noted the "trend in cases appears to be downward, but some states are still being hard hit."
The announcement of a possible cause of the lung injuries came soon after President Donald Trump said Friday morning that the administration would raise the legal age to purchase electronic cigarettes nationally, probably to 21. The move is tied to a much-anticipated rule on flavored vaping products Trump said would be announced next week.
Federal and state investigators previously found evidence of vitamin E acetate in samples of the substances vaped by hospitalized patients, but the new test results tie the ingredient directly to the injuries. Officials used a diagnostic tool to collect lung fluid samples and identify cells containing tiny oily droplets known as lipid-laden macrophages, which are a marker of the disease.
Dr. James Pirkle at the National Center for Environmental Health described the additive as sticky as honey. That helps explain why it was found in all the 29 lung samples, though THC was found in 23 of 28 samples tested for it. Pirkle said THC wouldn't necessarily remain in the lungs and urine tests might have been needed to confirm its presence.
Also Friday, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported the results of a study that found lung injury victims were more likely than noninjured vapers to exclusively use THC, buy those products from informal sources such as dealers, street sources or friends and to vape five or more times a day.
The survey found young men were more likely to vape THC products most often. One in four men ages 18 to 34 reported using THC-containing e-cigarette or vaping products five or more times each day, compared with 13% of similar-aged women.
The majority of lung illnesses were in people who vaped nicotine and THC or THC alone but came as teen nicotine vaping numbers soar, increasing pressure on regulators to act.
The legal age for vaping varies by state; many allow it at 18, and others increased it to 21. E-cigarette use among high school students more than doubled from 2017 to 2019 to 27.5%. About 5.3 million middle and high school students used e-cigarettes this year, up from 3.6 million in 2018.
On the White House lawn Friday, Trump said his administration, which has been lobbied heavily by the vaping industry, will come out with "a very important position on vaping" next week.
"We have to take care of our kids, most importantly, so we're going to have an age limit of 21 or so," Trump said. "We have a lot of people to look at, including jobs frankly, because you know it's become a pretty big industry."
A pro-vaping rally is planned for Saturday across from the White House.
Gregory Conley, president of the American Vaping Association, applauded raising the legal purchasing age.
"It appears President Trump is wisely preparing to enact smart regulations rather than embracing the losing politics of prohibition,'' Conley said. ''Raising the age to purchase tobacco and nicotine products to 21 puts the industry on a similar footing with other adult industries like alcohol and marijuana."
Contributing: John Fritze
VIDEO - (15) CDC finds link in vaping illnesses - YouTube
VIDEO - (17) BlackWomxnFor on Twitter: "@BlackWomxnFor presents 100 #BWFWarren - We write to endorse, enthusiastically and wholeheartedly, Senator @ewarren for President of the United States. Read our FULL STATEMENT: https://t.co/ISETTGiW9V https://t.co/M
VIDEO - Caleb Hull ð ð>>ð on Twitter: "MSNBC REPORTER: ''What [Trump] policies stand out to you?'' ALABAMA STUDENT: ''Just mainly the no nonsense policies and especially since Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.'' ððð https://t.co/LN
Police using DNA database in rape investigationAn Orlando judge has given Orlando police detectives access to over one million DNA profiles.
ORLANDO, Fla. - History has been made in Orange County.
''I absolutely understood why they're trying to do that. They're trying to protect their consumers, but everything that we do in law enforcement starts out free or easy and always evolves to subpoena or a search warrant,'' said Michael Fields, a homicide detective at the Orlando Police Department.
Det. Fields says he felt the site could be useful in a new case. His team wrote up the first-ever search warrant for a genealogy site.
''The judge took 24 hours to review it, and the judge eventually signed the search warrant,'' Fields said.
On July 14, 2019, Judge Patricia Strowbridge, of Florida's Ninth Judicial Circuit, approved it. Fields would not share how the database assisted the investigation but is content with the progress in the investigation.
''I am very pleased with where the case is going,'' Fields said.
The ruling is getting national attention because of a potential ripple effect.
''An attorney for law enforcement or a prosecutor who is trying to seek this information could say, 'Look at the reasoning used by this judge - Judge Strowbridge in the Ninth Judicial Circuit of Florida - in Orange County and we're asking you to apply the same reasoning in allowing us access to this information in our case,''' said Whitney Boan, attorney and legal expert.
But, Boan says the ruling does not set a binding precedent.
''It doesn't really have any precedential effect on any other courts," she said. "It doesn't require any judge anywhere to follow this judge's order."
Popular sites ancestry and 23andmMe are sounding off. Ancestry released a statement that reads, in part:
''Ancestry believes that GEDmatch could have done more to protect the privacy of its users by pushing back on the warrant or even challenging it in court. Their failure to do so is highly irresponsible and deeply concerning to all of us here at ancestry.''
23andMe released a statement that reads, in part, ''It certainly troubles us here at 23andMe. Perhaps just as disturbing is GEDmatch's apparent lack of scrutiny and challenge of the validity of the warrant issued.''
Both sites are vowing to do as much as possible to protect their customer's privacy. Case law on the issue is expected in the near future. Det. Fields is hoping law enforcement across the country can gain access to all databases.
''It would open up every criminal case and make the genealogy part extremely easy,'' Fields said. ''So many cases would be solved overnight.''
We reached out to GEDmatch for comment but did not hear back.
VIDEO - (8) DC Basement (*Buzzkill Disremembered Me*) on Twitter: "@adamcurry clip, AOC: ''Feels like I never want to love again'' ð¤ªð¤ https://t.co/WUqIYGLpcG" / Twitter
Former U.S. Attorney Joe DiGenova and former Deputy Attorney General Victoria Toensing discuss the highly anticipated FISA report in an interview with Lou Dobbs. On Wednesday night, Toensing said the report will be "worse than you can imagine." DiGenova said the careers of people in the senior levels of the Obama Justice Department will be ruined and others will be indicted.
LOU DOBBS, FOX BUSINESS: Let's turn to the inspector general's report. Are we ever going to see this report?VICTORIA TOENSING: You are going to see it, Lou. but I am not predicting so much from anonymous sources... But I can tell you this, we have darn good sources for this. It's going to be very bad for the people in the Obama administration. My source said to me, it's going to be worse than you can imagine. DOBBS: That's a heck of a tease, Victoria. I'm already chomping at the bit to get the thing. Joe, your thoughts on that Horowitz report. It doesn't sound like it's going to be a tepid matter. Explosive, would you would say? JOE DIGENOVA: I would say explosive and I would say for people at the highest levels of the FBI and at the highest levels at the Justice Department, more important the Justice Department, it's going to be devastating. It's going to ruin careers. It's going to make people have bar problems...Because what's clear now we know is that the senior levels of the Obama Justice Department were complicit in knowingly submitting materially false applications to the FISA court for an illegitimate counterintelligence purpose, not for a legitimate purpose but to spy on Americans for political purposes. It really will end up being the beginning of the greatest political scandal in history. And it's being held up partially because of John Durham's new grand jury which by the way exists for one reason and one reason only because people are going to be indicted.
VIDEO - (3) Michael Schack - ORDER [official video] - YouTube
VIDEO - DC Basement (*Buzzkill Disremembered Me*) on Twitter: "@adamcurry clip, do you think Chuck Todd is a little too excited? Smugly holding mug, body language very key at this moment, guests don't fully agree with his jerk-off moment, and... ''I th