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|Happy Fathers Day:|
at 15:57 17 Jun 2018
How Trump Came to Enforce a Practice of Separating Migrant Families
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Michael D. Shear
NYT, June 16, 2018
WASHINGTON — Almost immediately after President Trump took office, his administration began weighing what for years had been regarded as the nuclear option in the effort to discourage immigrants from unlawfully entering the United States.
Children would be separated from their parents if the families had been apprehended entering the country illegally, John F. Kelly, then the homeland security secretary, said in March 2017, “in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network.”
For more than a decade, even as illegal immigration levels fell overall, seasonal spikes in unauthorized border crossings had bedeviled American presidents in both political parties, prompting them to cast about for increasingly aggressive ways to discourage migrants from making the trek.
Yet for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the idea of crying children torn from their parents’ arms was simply too inhumane — and too politically perilous — to embrace as policy, and Mr. Trump, though he had made an immigration crackdown one of the central issues of his campaign, succumbed to the same reality, publicly dropping the idea after Mr. Kelly’s comments touched off a swift backlash.
But advocates inside the administration, most prominently Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser, never gave up on the idea. Last month, facing a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings, Mr. Trump ordered a new effort to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border unlawfully — with few exceptions for parents traveling with their minor children.
And now Mr. Trump faces the consequences. With thousands of children detained in makeshift shelters, his spokesmen this past week had to deny accusations that the administration was acting like Nazis. Even evangelical supporters like Franklin Graham said its policy was “disgraceful.”
Among those who have professed objections to the policy is the president himself, who despite his tough rhetoric on immigration and his clear directive to show no mercy in enforcing the law, has searched publicly for someone else to blame for dividing families. He has falsely claimed that Democrats are responsible for the practice. But the kind of pictures so feared by Mr. Trump’s predecessors could end up defining a major domestic policy issue of his term.
Inside the Trump administration, current and former officials say, there is considerable unease about the policy, which is regarded by some charged with carrying it out as unfeasible in practice and questionable morally. Kirstjen Nielsen, the current homeland security secretary, has clashed privately with Mr. Trump over the practice, sometimes inviting furious lectures from the president that have pushed her to the brink of resignation.
But Mr. Miller has expressed none of the president’s misgivings. “No nation can have the policy that whole classes of people are immune from immigration law or enforcement,” he said during an interview in his West Wing office this past week. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry, period. The message is that no one is exempt from immigration law.”
The administration’s critics are not buying that explanation. “This is not a zero tolerance policy, this is a zero humanity policy, and we can’t let it go on,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon.
“Ripping children out of their parents’ arms to inflict harm on the child to influence the parents,” he added, “is unacceptable.”
Beyond those moral objections, Jeh C. Johnson, who as secretary of homeland security was the point man for the Obama administration’s own struggles with illegal immigration, argued that deterrence, in and of itself, is neither practical nor a long-term solution to the problem.
“I’ve seen this movie before, and I feel like what we are doing now, with the zero tolerance policy and separating parents and children for the purpose of deterrence, is banging our heads against the wall,” he said. “Whether it’s family detention, messaging about dangers of the journey, or messaging about separating families and zero tolerance, it’s always going to have at best a short-term reaction.”
And that view was based on hard experience.
When Central American migrants, including many unaccompanied children, began surging across the border in early 2014, Mr. Obama, the antithesis of his impulsive successor, had his own characteristic reaction: He formed a multiagency team at the White House to figure out what should be done.
“This was the bane of my existence for three years,” Mr. Johnson said. “No matter what you did, somebody was going to be very angry at you.”
The officials met in the office of Denis R. McDonough, the White House chief of staff, and convened a series of meetings in the Situation Room to go through their options. Migrants were increasingly exploiting existing immigration laws and court rulings, and using children as a way to get adults into the country, on the theory that families were being treated differently from single people.
“The agencies were surfacing every possible idea,” Cecilia Muñoz, Mr. Obama’s top domestic policy adviser, recalled, including whether to separate parents from their children. “I do remember looking at each other like, ‘We’re not going to do this, are we?’ We spent five minutes thinking it through and concluded that it was a bad idea. The morality of it was clear — that’s not who we are.”
They did, however, decide to vastly expand the detention of immigrant families, opening new facilities along the border where women and young children were held for long periods while they awaited a chance to have their cases processed.
Mr. Johnson wrote an open letter to appear in Spanish-language news outlets warning parents that their children would be deported if they entered the United States illegally. He traveled to Guatemala to deliver the message in person.
Opening a large family immigration detention facility in Dilley, Tex., he held a news conference to showcase what he called an “effective deterrent.”
The steps led to just the kind of brutal images that Mr. Obama’s advisers feared: hundreds of young children, many dirty and some in tears, who were being held with their families in makeshift detention facilities.
Immigrant advocacy groups denounced the policy, berating senior administration officials — some of whom were reduced to rueful apologies for a policy they said they could not justify — and telling Mr. Obama to his face during a meeting at the White House in late 2014 that he was turning his back on the most vulnerable people seeking refuge in the United States.
“I was pissed, and still am,” said Ben Johnson, the executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. “I thought that he had a shocking disregard for due process.”
Before long, the Obama administration would face legal challenges, and be forced to stop detaining families indefinitely. A federal judge in Washington ordered the administration in 2015 to stop detaining asylum-seeking Central American mothers and children in order to deter others from their region from coming into the United States.
Under a 1997 consent decree known as the Flores settlement, unaccompanied children could be held in immigration detention for only a short period of time; in 2016, a federal judge ruled that the settlement applied to families as well, effectively requiring that they be released within 20 days. Many were released — some with GPS ankle bracelets to track their movements — and asked to return for a court date sometime in the future.
It was Mr. Bush, who had firsthand experience with the border as governor of Texas and ran for president as a “compassionate conservative,” who initiated the “zero tolerance” approach for illegal immigration on which Mr. Trump’s policy is modeled.
In 2005, he launched Operation Streamline, a program along a stretch of the border in Texas that referred all unlawful entrants for criminal prosecution, imprisoning them and expediting assembly-line-style trials geared toward quickly deporting them. The initiative yielded results and was soon expanded to more border sectors. Back then, however, exceptions were generally made for adults who were traveling with minor children, as well as juveniles and people who were ill.
Mr. Obama’s administration employed the program at the height of the migration crisis as well, although it generally did not treat first-time border crossers as priorities for prosecution, and it detained families together in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody — administrative, rather than criminal, detention.
Discussions began almost immediately after Mr. Trump took office about vastly expanding Operation Streamline, with almost none of those limitations. Even after Mr. Kelly stopped talking publicly about family separation, the Department of Homeland Security quietly tested the approach last summer in certain areas in Texas.
Privately, Mr. Miller argued that bringing back “zero tolerance” would be a potent tool in a severely limited arsenal of strategies for stopping migrants from flooding across the border.
The idea was to end a practice referred to by its detractors as “catch and release,” in which illegal immigrants apprehended at the border are released into the interior of the United States to await the processing of their cases. Mr. Miller argued that the policy provided a perverse incentive for migrants, essentially ensuring that if they could make it to the United States border and claim a “credible fear” of returning home, they would be given a chance to stay under asylum laws, at least temporarily.
A lengthy backlog of asylum claims made it likely that it would be years before they would have to appear before a judge to back up that plea — and many never returned to do so.
The situation was even more complicated when children were involved. A 2008 law meant to combat the trafficking of minors places strict requirements on how unaccompanied migrant children from Central America are to be treated.
Minors from Mexico or Canada — countries contiguous with the United States — can be quickly sent back to their home countries unless it is deemed dangerous to do so. But those from other nations cannot be quickly returned; they must be transferred within 72 hours to the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services, and placed in the least restrictive setting possible. And the Flores ruling meant that children and families could not be held for more than 20 days.
In October, after Mr. Trump ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the Obama-era program that gave legal status to undocumented immigrants raised in the United States, Mr. Miller insisted that any legislative package to codify those protections contain changes to close what he called the loopholes encouraging illegal immigrants to come.
And in April, after the border numbers reached their zenith, Mr. Miller was instrumental in Mr. Trump’s decision to ratchet up the zero tolerance policy.
“A big name of the game is deterrence,” Mr. Kelly, now the chief of staff, told NPR in May. “The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever — but the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States, and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.”
Technically, there is no Trump administration policy stating that illegal border crossers must be separated from their children. But the “zero tolerance policy” results in unlawful immigrants being taken into federal criminal custody, at which point their children are considered unaccompanied alien minors and taken away.
Unlike Mr. Obama’s administration, Mr. Trump’s is treating all people who have crossed the border without authorization as subject to criminal prosecution, even if they tell the officer apprehending them that they are seeking asylum based on fear of returning to their home country, and whether or not they have their children in tow.
“Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech on Thursday in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government,” said Mr. Sessions, quoting Bible verse as he took exception to evangelical leaders who have called the practice abhorrent. “Because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
[Post edited 17 Jun 15:57]
|Trump Foundation Sued by New York Attorney Generral|
at 18:37 14 Jun 2018
Trump Foundation, Accused of Sweeping Violations, Is Sued by New York Attorney General
By Danny Hakim
NYT, June 14, 2018
The New York State attorney general’s office filed a scathingly worded lawsuit on Thursday taking aim at the Donald J. Trump Foundation, accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.
The lawsuit, which seeks to dissolve the foundation and bar President Trump and three of his children from serving on nonprofit organizations, was an extraordinary rebuke of a sitting president. The attorney general also sent referral letters to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission for possible further action, adding to Mr. Trump’s extensive legal challenges.
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, culminated a nearly two-year investigation of Mr. Trump’s charity, which became a subject of scrutiny during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. While such foundations are supposed to be devoted to charitable activities, the petition asserts that Mr. Trump’s was often used to settle legal claims against his various businesses, even spending $10,000 on a portrait of Mr. Trump that was hung at one of his golf clubs.
The foundation was also used to curry political favor, the lawsuit asserts. During the 2016 race, the foundation became a virtual arm of Mr. Trump’s campaign, email traffic showed, with his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski directing its expenditures, even though such foundations are explicitly prohibited from political activities.
Mr. Trump immediately attacked the lawsuit, characterizing it in a Twitter post as an attempt by the “sleazy New York Democrats” to damage him by suing the foundation, vowing not to settle the case.
The $10,000 portrait was one of several examples of the foundation being used in “at least five self-dealing transactions,” according to the attorney general’s office, violating tax regulations that prohibit using nonprofit charities for private interests.
In 2007, to settle a dispute between the City of Palm Beach and Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, the foundation paid $100,000 to the Fisher House Foundation, another charity.
In 2012, a man named Martin B. Greenberg sued the Trump National Golf Club after he made a hole-in-one at a fund-raising golf tournament that had promised to pay $1 million to golfers who aced the 13th hole, as he did. As part of a settlement, the charitable foundation paid $158,000 to a foundation run by Mr. Greenberg.
The foundation also paid $5,000 to one organization for “promotional space featuring Trump International Hotels,” and another $32,000 to satisfy a pledge made by a privately held entity controlled by Mr. Trump to a charitable land trust.
Full story: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/14/nyregion/trump-foundation-lawsuit-attorney-ge
|Trump Becoming a Cultish Thing |
at 18:16 13 Jun 2018
says Republican Senator. Too fcuking right, Bob.
This is a cult of personality and is exactly what Fascism looks like.
Corker: GOP becoming 'cult-like' on Trump
By Jordain Carney -
The Hill 06/13/18 11:21 AM EDT
GOP Sen. Bob Corker (Tenn.) warned on Wednesday that members of his party are becoming "cult-like" in their support of President Trump pointing to leadership's unwillingness to challenge the White House on tariffs.
"We are in a strange place. I mean, it’s almost, it’s becoming a cultish thing, isn’t it? And it’s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of — purportedly, of the same party," Corker told reporters.
Pressed on whether he feels Republicans are currently in a "cult-like situation," Corker acknowledged that there are some GOP lawmakers who stand up to Trump and it would be "unfair to try to say" that "about every member."
"[But] is leadership in general not wishing to poke the bear? Absolutely, because it's all about the next election, right?" said Corker, who is retiring after 2018.
Corker's comments come after he was blocked from getting a vote on his bill to rein in Trump on tariffs. His bill, which is backed by roughly a dozen senators, would require congressional approval if Trump wanted to impose tariffs in the name of national security.
Corker added on Wednesday that leadership is "wary" of upsetting the president and "there's a definite fear there."
"It's not a good place for us to be. You know, I think about the things that we, generally speaking, have stood for ... sort of where the Republican Party has been traditionally and were it is today is quite divergent," Corker told reporters.
Trump sparked a backlash from GOP lawmakers with his decision to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.
But GOP leadership, as well as many rank-and-file members, have shown little interest in legislation that would rein in Trump.
Such a move would set up a high-stakes showdown between the president and members of his own party months before a midterm election, and likely provoke Trump to lash out at individual members.
"There's no question that leadership in general is wary of doing anything that might upset the president. I mean, we're going to be here during recess, generally speaking, which is fine with me but, look, it's more about Trump being upset than it is about anything else," Corker said.
Corker's comments echo that of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough on Wednesday's "Morning Joe," with the former GOP congressman arguing that "primary voters in the Republican Party have devolved into a Trumpist cult."
"There is no more conservative person on protecting tax dollars, balancing the budget, paying down the debt," Scarborough said of GOP Rep. Mark Sanford (S.C.), who lost his primary on Tuesday night as his opponent labeled him a Trump critic. Trump also tweeted 11th-hour criticism of Sanford on Tuesday afternoon.
"But primary voters said no, we don’t care that he’s one of the most conservative people in Congress. He said one or two bad things about Trump," said Scarborough.
“Why don’t we just say it has devolved into a cult? Primary voters in the Republican Party have devolved into a Trumpist cult," the host added.
[Post edited 13 Jun 18:16]
|Trump's G7 Tantrum Explained:|
at 11:58 10 Jun 2018
Here's Trudeau presenting Trump with a picture of grandpappy's frontier brothel. Looks like something those cheeky Canadians just ran off on the secretary's laser printer then stuck in an Ikea frame.
Best. Trolling. Ever.
|Leave.EU 'downplayed Russian links'|
at 11:15 10 Jun 2018
Leave.EU 'downplayed Russian links'
BBC, 10 June 2018
The founder of Leave.EU, Arron Banks, has confirmed he will appear before MPs this week to answer new allegations about his links with Russia.
It has been reported that Mr Banks, who bankrolled the unofficial leave campaign, had more contact with Russian officials than he previously admitted.
The allegations come as MPs investigate accusations Russia attempted to influence the EU referendum.
Mr Banks has suggested he is the victim of "a political witch-hunt".'Boozy lunches'
Since Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016, questions have been raised about Leave.EU campaign and its chief backer Mr Banks, as well as the possible influence of Russia on the referendum result.
The Sunday Times reports Mr Banks had three meetings with the Russian ambassador to the UK. In his book, The Bad Boys of Brexit, Mr Banks had previously admitted to only one.
The millionaire Brexit backer told the paper: "I had two boozy lunches with the Russian ambassador and another cup of tea with him. Bite me.
Full story -- for now: https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/uk-politics-44428115?
|Swansea financial sweepstake|
at 09:57 5 Jun 2018
for fun and education!
So I posted a chart in the long Potter thread that summarised the club's financial position, highlighting the relationship between the purchase of players and how they have been financed; overwhelmingly through the use of various forms of debt.
(Note: There's a typo on the 2017 total: should be £91.7m Not £97.1m)
What is interesting is to try to analyse where we stand today after the changes that have happened since the end of the last financial year 31 July 2017.
The asset side of that equation is relatively straight forward to forecast based on player ins and outs, and probably looks roughly as follows as of right now:
However, the player registrations component will obviously change before the end of the financial year due to transfers both in and out.
With that the financing needs also change. We are fairly certain that no new share capital will be provided by Kaplan & Co, but one way that the financing side will look better is by making profits such as on player sales that will boost shareholders' funds on the balance sheet. (the formula for that is last year's plus this year's profit after tax less any dividends paid).
As such the good news is that I estimate that as of right now profit on player sales is around £52 million for the current 2018 financial year to date.
The bad news is that despite this I still reckon the club will make a loss for the year:
However, the transfer season remains young, and estimates of the final 2018 tally for profit on player sales and any other metrics you want to take a stab at is now open until the close of business on 31st July.
|An Apology for the Internet-From the Architects Who Built It|
at 13:50 29 May 2018
The Internet Apologizes …
Even those who designed our digital world are aghast at what they created. A breakdown of what went wrong — from the architects who built it.
By Noah Kulwin
NY Magazine, 18 April 2018
Something has gone wrong with the internet. Even Mark Zuckerberg knows it. Testifying before Congress, the Facebook CEO ticked off a list of everything his platform has screwed up, from fake news and foreign meddling in the 2016 election to hate speech and data privacy. “We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility,” he confessed. Then he added the words that everyone was waiting for: “I’m sorry.”
There have always been outsiders who criticized the tech industry — even if their concerns have been drowned out by the oohs and aahs of consumers, investors, and journalists. But today, the most dire warnings are coming from the heart of Silicon Valley itself. The man who oversaw the creation of the original iPhone believes the device he helped build is too addictive. The inventor of the World Wide Web fears his creation is being “weaponized.” Even Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, has blasted social media as a dangerous form of psychological manipulation. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” he lamented recently.
To understand what went wrong — how the Silicon Valley dream of building a networked utopia turned into a globalized strip-mall casino overrun by pop-up ads and cyberbullies and Vladimir Putin — we spoke to more than a dozen architects of our digital present. If the tech industry likes to assume the trappings of a religion, complete with a quasi-messianic story of progress, the Church of Tech is now giving rise to a new sect of apostates, feverishly confessing their own sins. And the internet’s original sin, as these programmers and investors and CEOs make clear, was its business model.
To keep the internet free — while becoming richer, faster, than anyone in history — the technological elite needed something to attract billions of users to the ads they were selling. And that something, it turns out, was outrage. As Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality, points out, anger is the emotion most effective at driving “engagement” — which also makes it, in a market for attention, the most profitable one. By creating a self-perpetuating loop of shock and recrimination, social media further polarized what had already seemed, during the Obama years, an impossibly and irredeemably polarized country.
The advertising model of the internet was different from anything that came before. Whatever you might say about broadcast advertising, it drew you into a kind of community, even if it was a community of consumers. The culture of the social-media era, by contrast, doesn’t draw you anywhere. It meets you exactly where you are, with your preferences and prejudices — at least as best as an algorithm can intuit them. “Microtargeting” is nothing more than a fancy term for social atomization — a business logic that promises community while promoting its opposite.
Why, over the past year, has Silicon Valley begun to regret the foundational elements of its own success? The obvious answer is November 8, 2016. For all that he represented a contravention of its lofty ideals, Donald Trump was elected, in no small part, by the internet itself. Twitter served as his unprecedented direct-mail-style megaphone, Google helped pro-Trump forces target users most susceptible to crass Islamophobia, the digital clubhouses of Reddit and 4chan served as breeding grounds for the alt-right, and Facebook became the weapon of choice for Russian trolls and data-scrapers like Cambridge Analytica. Instead of producing a techno-utopia, the internet suddenly seemed as much a threat to its creator class as it had previously been their herald.
What we’re left with are increasingly divided populations of resentful users, now joined in their collective outrage by Silicon Valley visionaries no longer in control of the platforms they built. The unregulated, quasi-autonomous, imperial scale of the big tech companies multiplies any rational fears about them — and also makes it harder to figure out an effective remedy. Could a subscription model reorient the internet’s incentives, valuing user experience over ad-driven outrage? Could smart regulations provide greater data security? Or should we break up these new monopolies entirely in the hope that fostering more competition would give consumers more options?
Silicon Valley, it turns out, won’t save the world. But those who built the internet have provided us with a clear and disturbing account of why everything went so wrong — how the technology they created has been used to undermine the very aspects of a free society that made that technology possible in the first place.
Full story: http://nymag.com/selectall/2018/04/an-apology-for-the-internet-from-the-people-w
|Confirmed -- Goldman Sachs works for the devil:|
at 14:27 2 May 2018
Goldman Sachs to Pay $110 Million to Resolve Forex Probes
By Greg Farrell
Bloomberg Markets, May 1, 2018
- Settlements with Fed, New York state cover 2008-13 conduct
- Trader shared tips about order coming from ‘Satan,’ DFS says
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. has agreed to pay about $110 million to resolve allegations that its foreign exchange traders improperly shared information about client orders on an electronic chat room, putting clients at a disadvantage.
The firm will pay roughly $55 million each to New York’s Department of Financial Services and the Federal Reserve Board. As part of its settlement, Goldman Sachs Bank USA, the state-chartered unit overseen by the New York agency, will provide its regulators with a plan to improve its internal controls and compliance program.
The resolution comes years after a far bigger wave of penalties tied to foreign-exchange trading by other global banks. In a May 2015 action against six banks related to manipulation of foreign currencies, federal authorities extracted five guilty pleas and $5.8 billion in penalties. That same year, Goldman Sachs and eight other banks agreed to pay about $2 billion among them to settle a class-action suit in New York over currency manipulation.
A consent order filed with DFS covers activities in the forex unit from 2008 to 2013. One Goldman forex employee, referred to as “Trader 1,” frequented a chat room with traders from other banks, where he picked up tips on what certain large investors were doing in the forex markets, according to the order. On occasion, Goldman’s trader told others about a trade involving his clients, including an investor nicknamed “Satan.”
In an August 2008 electronic conversation, the Goldman trader wrote, “Satan sells 8 euros at 17.” The message indicated that the client was making an $8 million trade between Euros and U.S. dollars at a specific price.
The conduct continued even after a Goldman salesperson wrote to the trader in 2009, warning him not to share confidential client information with other forex traders. “Are they getting something from you by keeping you engaged?” the salesperson wrote. Despite the warning, the salesperson did not escalate his concerns to Goldman’s compliance team, according to DFS.
“DFS’s investigation revealed that certain Goldman traders exploited the company’s ineffective oversight of its foreign-exchange business by improperly sharing customer information,” said Maria Vullo, superintendent of the DFS.
The Federal Reserve, in a statement announcing the action, said Goldman “failed to detect and address its traders’ use of electronic chat rooms to communicate with competitors about trading positions, including around benchmark fixes, and failed to detect and address the disclosure of confidential client information.”
Goldman Sachs said in a statement that it was pleased to have resolved the reviews and that the Fed and DFS had recognized the bank has “already taken significant steps to enhance our policies and procedures.”
Goldman’s penalty was smaller than those the New York state regulator has levied for currency-trading conduct on other banks chartered in the state. Barclays Plc paid $485 million in 2015 to settle allegations of manipulating spot currency markets. The state regulator hit BNP Paribas SA last year with a $350 million penalty over its conduct on exchange markets.
Goldman also won’t have to hire an outside monitor, a condition sometimes imposed on banks fined for compliance violations. DFS’s $135 million foreign-exchange settlement last year with Credit Suisse SA, for example, required the bank to hire an outside consultant to review its practices.
The DFS’s look into forex-rigging dates back more than four years. In early 2014, then-DFS chief Benjamin Lawsky asked more than a dozen banks, including Goldman Sachs, for documents relating to their currency trading practices.
Federal authorities are continuing to pursue charges against individual traders from some of the global banks that reached big federal settlements. Ex-JPMorgan Chase & Co. trader Richard Usher, former Citigroup Inc. trader Rohan Ramchandani and ex-Barclays Plc trader Chris Ashton were charged in January with conspiring to rig foreign-exchange markets, using an electronic chat room known as “The Cartel” to share information.
The three British traders are arguing for the dismissal of charges in federal court in New York.
|Background to Trump NuclearTest Halt Negotiating Coup:|
at 21:03 26 Apr 2018
North Korea’s nuclear test site has collapsed ... and that may be why Kim Jong-un suspended tests
The mountain’s collapse after five blasts may be reason behind North Korean leader’s declaration that he would freeze tests and shut down the site
By Stephen Chen
South China Morning Post, 25th April 2018
North Korea’s mountain nuclear test site has collapsed, putting China and other nearby nations at unprecedented risk of radioactive exposure, two separate groups of Chinese scientists studying the issue have confirmed.
The collapse after five nuclear blasts may be why North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared last Friday that he would freeze the hermit state’s nuclear and missile tests and shut down the site, one researcher said.
Full story: http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/2143171/north-koreas-nuclear-test-site-has
|Have the Russians hacked your router?|
at 18:11 16 Apr 2018
UK And US Accuse Russia Of Hacking Home Routers In Global Cyberattacks
By Thomas Fox-Brewster , Forbes Staff
Forbes, Apr 16, 2018
A little warning from the BApr 16, 2018 ritish and American governments today: Kremlin-funded spies might have found a way into your home office.
The U.K. and U.S. blamed Russian hackers for a campaign aimed at taking control of routers inside government, critical infrastructure and internet service providers, but also within small and home offices. The warning came in a joint announcement from British intelligence, the National Security Council (NSC), the DHS and the FBI on Monday. In a media briefing ahead of the announcement, Rob Joyce, special assistant to the president and cybersecurity coordinator at the National Security Council, said there was "high confidence" Russia was behind the attacks. The hacks were being tracked by British intelligence from a year ago, said Ciaran Martin, director of U.K.'s National Cyber Security Center, run out of intelligence agency GCHQ.
The joint technical alert said Russian state-sponsored hackers had attempted to breach network routers, switches, firewalls and network intrusion detection systems across the world. Those routers were compromised to carry out so-called "man-in-the-middle" attacks where data going between computers and internet servers is intercepted, the NCSC said. That was being done "to support espionage, extract intellectual property, maintain persistent access to victim networks and potentially lay a foundation for future offensive operations," according to a statement from the NCSC.
Martin said the sustained targeting had continued for months and could have been used for espionage, the theft of intellectual property, or for "use in times of tension." He said millions of machines were being targeted and many had been seized by hackers to get access to ISP customers, to spy on organizations and their connections. That included the U.K. government, he added.
Joyce said "we can't rule out Russia may attempt to use this [hacked] infrastructure for further attacks." Advice will be handed out to potentially affected entities today, marking the first time the U.K. and the U.S. has pushed out such recommendations together. "The actions you're seeing today is one in a series of steps against this unacceptable activity," Joyce added.
Jeanette Manfra, chief cybersecurity official for the DHS, said that amongst its techniques, the Russians had scanned for devices running vulnerable Cisco Smart Install software designed to make it easy to set up network equipment from the massive networking manufacturer. Cisco itself recently warned about attacks aimed at the product, warning they could put critical infrastructure at risk.
Whilst the agencies weren't forthcoming with names of victims, they were open in pointing fingers at the Kremlin. Both the U.K. and U.S. governments have blamed Russia for other recent cyberattacks, including the NotPetya ransomware, which first spread in Ukraine before taking down global businesses, including shipping giants Maersk and FedEx. Just last week, in his first public speech as GCHQ director, Jeremy Fleming warned of "reckless" Russian activities in the real world after the poisoning of a former spy living in the U.K. and the nation's "unacceptable" online behavior.
The U.S. had previously claimed Russia was responsible for the cyberattack on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and for attempting to influence the 2016 election via digital means. The Kremlin has denied all the above allegations levelled at its government.
Increasing cyber tensions
As for what Russia could do with all those hacked routers, Professor Alan Woodward, a cybersecurity expert from the University of Surrey, raised concerns about the potential for "a significant attack infrastructure from which onward attacks could be mounted."
"Imagine, for example, a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack where the source of the attack was home routers - who would you blame? Now imagine a situation where you have already said we know certain routers have been compromised and could be at the behest of the Russians and then there was such an attack... plausible deniability become less plausible," Woodward said.
Joyce said he hoped the efforts of all the governments involved in today's announcement would be able to prevent such a future attack happening. In response to a question from Forbes, Joyce said that when a hacker controls a router and has access to parts of the internet backbone, "we worry about what they can be used for," whether that's a DDoS or other offensive cyberattacks.
|TV rights value outlook|
at 13:11 8 Apr 2018
I posted the following earlier referencing the Swans article in the FT, but not only does it really deserve its own tread, but the usual trolls were also in the process of overrunning it.
. . . As for the TV money outlook Kaplan is certainly bullish, and maybe he is right in the long term.
But the more I look at this the more medium term optimism is completely misplaced.
On the domestic front, did you see the second tranche of rights was pulled because the reserve was not met?
Not doubt this is because various potential steaming providers like Amazon/Google/(YouTube)/Facebook/failed to show up.
Ooops. That's seriously bad news, and almost certainly means domestic rights will generate lower total revenue for the first time since the deal beginning '04/05 kicked in. Despite myriad new broadcast options continuously being offered. It is classic product life-cycle maturity.
And as I read it, much of the optimism regarding foreign rights was based on excitement about the supposed entry of the aforementioned streamers who failed to show up a the last UK auction.
For each of the last two 3year frame agreements growth in domestic rights revenue has outpaced growth in foreign rights by an average of 40%.
Assuming a continuation of that pattern and the continued absence of those streamers the outlook for foreign rights is objectively nowhere near as bullish as has been widely touted.
I'd be very interested to know when exactly those Kaplan comments were made; that's certainly relevant to his propensity to bullshit as the deterioration in the fundamentals for TV rights revenue has only become apparent in the last few months.
|Huge Pissgate News: Guccifer 2.0 identified as GRU officer|
at 12:14 23 Mar 2018
‘Lone DNC Hacker’ Revealed as Russian Intelligence Officer
By Spencer Ackerman, Kevin Poulsen
Daily Beast, 03.22.18 7:00 PM ET
Guccifer 2.0, the “lone hacker” who took credit for providing WikiLeaks with stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee, was in fact an officer of Russia’s military intelligence directorate (GRU), The Daily Beast has learned. It’s an attribution that resulted from a fleeting but critical slip-up in GRU tradecraft.
That forensic determination has substantial implications for the criminal probe into potential collusion between President Donald Trump and Russia. The Daily Beast has learned that the special counsel in that investigation, Robert Mueller, has taken over the probe into Guccifer and brought the FBI agents who worked to track the persona onto his team.
While it’s unclear what Mueller plans to do with Guccifer, his last round of indictments charged 13 Russians tied to the Internet Research Agency troll farm with a conspiracy “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.” It was Mueller’s first move establishing Russian interference in the election within a criminal context, but it stopped short of directly implicating the Putin regime.
Mueller’s office declined to comment for this story. But the attribution of Guccifer 2.0 as an officer of Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency would cross the Kremlin threshold—and move the investigation closer to Trump himself.
Trump’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone admitted being in touch with Guccifer over Twitter’s direct messaging service. And in August 2016, Stone published an article on the pro-Trump-friendly Breitbart News calling on his political opponents to “Stop Blaming Russia” for the hack. “I have some news for Hillary and Democrats—I think I’ve got the real culprit,” he wrote. “It doesn’t seem to be the Russians that hacked the DNC, but instead a hacker who goes by the name of Guccifer 2.0.
”Five months later, in January 2017, the CIA, NSA, and FBI assessed “with high confidence” that “Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data.” But the assessment did not directly call Guccifer a Russian intelligence officer. Nor did it provide any evidence for its assertions.
It turns out there is a powerful reason to connect Guccifer to the GRU.
Guccifer 2.0 sprang into existence on June 15, 2016, hours after a report by a computer security firm forensically tied Russia to an intrusion at the Democratic National Committee. In a series of blog posts and tweets over the following seven months—conspicuously ending right as Trump took office and not resuming—the Guccifer persona published a smattering of the DNC documents while gamely projecting an image as an independent Romanian hacktivist who’d breached the DNC on a lark. As Stone’s Breitbart piece demonstrated, Guccifer provided Moscow with a counter-narrative for the election interference.
Guccifer famously pretended to be a “lone hacker” who perpetrated the digital DNC break-in. From the outset, few believed it. Motherboard conducted a devastating interview with Guccifer that exploded the account’s claims of being a native Romanian speaker. Based on forensic clues in some of Guccifer’s leaks, and other evidence, a consensus quickly formed among security experts that Guccifer was completely notional.
“Almost immediately various cyber security companies and individuals were skeptical of Guccifer 2.0 and the backstory that he had generated for himself,” said Kyle Ehmke, an intelligence researcher at the cyber security firm ThreatConnect. “We started seeing these inconsistencies that led back to the idea that he was created hastily… by the individual or individuals that affected the DNC compromise.
”Proving that link definitively was harder. Ehmke led an investigation at ThreatConnect that tried to track down Guccifer from the metadata in his emails. But the trail always ended at the same data center in France. Ehmke eventually uncovered that Guccifer was connecting through an anonymizing service called Elite VPN, a virtual private networking service that had an exit point in France but was headquartered in Russia.
But on one occasion, The Daily Beast has learned, Guccifer failed to activate the VPN client before logging on. As a result, he left a real, Moscow-based Internet Protocol address in the server logs of an American social media company, according to a source familiar with the government’s Guccifer investigation. Twitter and WordPress were Guccifer 2.0’s favored outlets. Neither company would comment for this story, and Guccifer did not respond to a direct message on Twitter.
Working off the IP address, U.S. investigators identified Guccifer 2.0 as a particular GRU officer working out of the agency’s headquarters on Grizodubovoy Street in Moscow. (The Daily Beast’s sources did not disclose which particular officer worked as Guccifer.)
Security firms and declassified U.S. intelligence findings previously identified the GRU as the agency running “Fancy Bear,” the ten-year-old hacking organization behind the DNC email theft, as well as breaches at NATO, Obama’s White House, a French television station, the World Anti-Doping Agency, and countless NGOs, and militaries and civilian agencies in Europe, Central Asia, and the Caucasus.
Timestamps in Guccifer 2.0’s first leaks show they were packaged for release over the course of a single day in June 2016, beginning just hours after the DNC intrusion and its attribution to Russia were made public. The moniker was an homage to Romanian hacker Marcel Lazăr Lehel, who as “Guccifer” achieved notoriety in 2013 for a string of hacks against celebrities and politicians.
In his inaugural blog post, Guccifer 2.0 disputed Russia’s involvement and claimed credit personally for the DNC breach, positioning himself as a one-time hacking operation working to expose “the Illuminati.” The post included the world’s first glimpse of the enormous cache of documents siphoned from the DNC’s network, including the Democrats’ opposition research report on Trump. Presaging the leaks that would roil the election, Guccifer 2.0 declared that he’d already sent the bulk of the stolen material to WikiLeaks—which has spent the time since obfuscating whether Guccifer was its source.
On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks began releasing its cache of approximately 19,000 emails and 8,000 attachments stolen in the hack. While Trump promoted the leak on Twitter and in rallies, his surrogate Roger Stone pushed back against the Kremlin attribution. In his August 2016 article for Breitbart, he argued that Guccifer 2.0 was the Romanian hacktivist he claimed to be. “Guccifer 2.0 is the real deal,” he wrote.
Last May, Stone admitted that he’d also exchanged direct messages with the Guccifer 2.0 persona, and he released what he claimed was a complete transcript of his communications with the account. The transcript is brief and banal, showing Stone congratulating Guccifer 2.0 on returning to Twitter after a brief suspension, and then mostly ignoring him. Then and since, Stone has consistently denied that Guccifer was connected to the Kremlin.
“I myself had no contacts or communications with the Russian State, Russian Intelligence or anyone fronting for them or acting as intermediaries for them,” he wrote.
Guccifer 2.0 maintained a sporadic online presence throughout the election, posting to his dedicated WordPress blog and on Twitter, and spilling more DNC documents, sometimes in private emails to journalists.
While the national election clearly interested him (“Democrats prepare new provocation against Trump,” he thundered in October 2016), Guccifer 2.0 reached down the ballot as well, posting documents from the Democrats’ national campaign committee on his WordPress blog. There, readers could find internal Democratic candidate assessments relevant to battleground states like Pennsylvania and Florida; internal assessments of key congressional districts, with granular analyses of their demographics; and campaign recruitment material.
The GRU officer was eager to share this trove, as well. A GOP political operative in Florida, Aaron Nevins, DM’d Guccifer 2.0 a request for “any Florida based information” and received 2.5 gigabytes’ worth, according to The Wall Street Journal. The data, he enthused to Guccifer 2.0, was “probably worth millions of dollars.” A consultant for a successful Florida Republican congressional candidate told the paper, “I did adjust some voting targets based on some data I saw from the leaks.”
Sometime after its hasty launch, the Guccifer persona was handed off to a more experienced GRU officer, according to a source familiar with the matter. The timing of that handoff is unclear, but Guccifer 2.0’s last blog post, from Jan. 12, 2017, evinced a far greater command of English that the persona’s earlier efforts.
“It’s obvious that the intelligence agencies are deliberately falsifying evidence,” the post read. “In my opinion, they’re playing into the hands of the Democrats who are trying to blame foreign actors for their failure.”
(Contrast that with the language from a June 2016 post: “I made some conclusions from the Marcel’s story and decided not to put all eggs in one basket. Moreover, other cases weren’t so successful and didn’t bring me the glory.”)
Today the most popular counter-narrative surrounding Guccifer 2.0 concedes that the account was a fake persona but posits that it was created by the DNC to support a false-flag operation implicating Russia. In this theory, advanced in two widely cited anonymous blogs, Guccifer 2.0 was the DNC posing as Russia posing as a Romanian hacker.
[Post edited 23 Mar 12:16]
|Welcome back psychoboy|
at 18:18 22 Mar 2018
See you've been busy doing what you do best.
Do you really not have anything better to do with your time?
|Cranks have turned the world upside down – it’s time to fight back|
at 08:17 18 Mar 2018
Cranks have turned the world upside down – it’s time to fight back
Conspiracy theories were once a fringe interest. In the era of populists, they’ve now gone mainstream
By Nick Cohen
Observer, Sat 17 Mar 2018 18.00 GMTLast modified on Sat 17 Mar 2018
Nothing makes the contented turn of the century feel further away than the indulgence with which the old world treated its cranks. Their prime purpose was to be entertaining freaks for the allegedly sane majority to laugh at. The BBC ran shows where Louis Theroux met religious zealots and white nationalists. As they watched, broadcasters and the audience had an unspoken pact that made sense 20 years ago but is meaningless today: however dangerous these people might be to those close to them, they could do no real harm.
The ironic documentaries of the 1990s now seem as remote as medieval frescoes. If producers wanted to commission a successor series, they would have to take their cameras to the White House, Kremlin, the office of the leader of the opposition in Westminster, the Sándor Palace in Budapest and Chancellery in Warsaw. They would have to ask how a Russia that has turned paranoid delusion into an instrument of foreign policy became the dominant power in the Middle East and a corrupting force in the west. They would have to acknowledge that conspiracy theorists rule nuclear-armed states and that the fake news and the loud-mouthed bombast of men once dismissed as clowns on Have I Got News for You pushed Britain out of the EU. It’s the clowns who are laughing now and the cranks who rule the world.
Beyond the well-explored reasons for the rise of demagogic movements lies an embarrassing failure. For once you have examined the effects of the crash, the stagnation of living standards, austerity, the mass movement of migrants, racism, globalisation, the influence of the web and Russian money, you still have to ask why mainstream society did not take demagogues seriously until it was too late.
Until the moment Trump was elected American politicians and journalists refused to believe that a man like him could possibly be their president. No senior conservative politician in office said the only way to preserve American democracy was for moderate Republicans to hold their noses and vote for Hillary Clinton. That they are cowards has been proved by their collusion since Trump came to power. But they seem as much fools as villains when you remember they thought he was doomed to lose. David Cameron called the Brexit vote with an unshakeable conviction that he would win and carry on in Downing Street. Centrist MPs turned Labour from a social democratic party into a playground for post-communist tyrannophiles when they put Corbyn on the ballot paper to “have a debate”, and then found they couldn’t debate him because they had never once tried to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the new far left.
All of us can mistake the familiar for the permanent and find change inexplicable. But there was a deeper fault. The comforting idea that conspiracy theorists didn’t matter was not confined to documentary-makers. When confronted with half-mad ideas that global warming was a lie or that the CIA destroyed the twin towers, intelligent people reassured themselves that these were delusions shared by a few people who needed the simple explanations global conspiracies gave them to make sense of life’s chaos.
Richard J Hofstadter’s classic essay of 1964, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, is still read today. But its conclusion was surprisingly optimistic. Although conspiracy theories were “a persistent psychic phenomenon”, they affected only a “modest minority of the population”. That Hofstadter could be so nonchalant when Nazi Germany was fresh in the memory and communists still ruled the Soviet Union and China shows that western parochialism is not a novel vice.
Grand historical objections aside, it is obvious to anyone who has argued with conspiracy theorists that their ideas are anything but simple. When you imagine global warming is a hoax you need hundreds of pieces of scaffolding to support your fantasy. You must believe that about 95% of climate scientists are lying and that none ever had or would ever have a crisis of conscience and confess “the truth”. The complexity of the delusion explains why conspiracy theory so often ends in fascism. For such a huge and devilish con to be pulled, true believers have to invoke a group with supernatural powers to arrange and conceal: the Jews or the “Zionists”, as they say today.
They also have to explain motive. This problem is haunting the Corbynite left and Faragist right as they struggle to explain why the attempted murder of a Russian double agent and his daughter is not the work of a Russian state which murders its critics as a matter of routine. They blame the Americans, the May administration, which doesn’t have the competence to conspire its way out of a paper bag and, inevitably, the Jews. Corbyn eggs them on by saying that “Russian mafia-like groups” may be behind it. But why would the mafia want to do it?
It’s easy to sink into despair now the cranks and creeps aren’t a “modest minority of the population”. When Hitler and Stalin controlled mainland Europe, Stefan Zweig looked back with nostalgia to a time 30 years before when “there was as little belief in the possibility of such barbaric declines as wars between the peoples of Europe as there was in witches and ghosts. Our fathers were comfortably saturated with confidence in the unfailing and binding power of tolerance and conciliation. They honestly believed that the divergences and boundaries between nations and sects would gradually melt away.”
Zweig committed suicide in 1942. The alternative to despair is to fight and find a pleasure in fighting. Many, myself included, are enjoying the grim satisfaction of engaging in arguments that have a significance the trivial pursuits of the millennium could never claim. No one can wake up now and say there are no good causes left. They need only look around to see dozens of deserving targets that demand to be hit.
|How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions|
at 17:59 17 Mar 2018
How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and CAROLE CADWALLADR
NY Times, MARCH 17, 2018
LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.
The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.
So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.
An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica’s drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”
“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”
Details of Cambridge’s acquisition and use of Facebook data have surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting off a furious debate about the merits of the firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques.
But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.
Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.
During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.
“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier on Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties,” Mr. Grewal said.
Alexander Nix, the chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, and other officials had repeatedly denied obtaining or using Facebook data, most recently during a parliamentary hearing last month. But in a statement to The Times, the company acknowledged that it had acquired the data, though it blamed Mr. Kogan for violating Facebook’s rules and said it had deleted the information as soon as it learned of the problem two years ago.
In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the “Brexit” campaign. The country has strict privacy laws, and its information commissioner announced on Saturday that she was looking into whether the Facebook data was “illegally acquired and used.”
In the United States, Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns, according to company documents and former employees.
Congressional investigators have questioned Mr. Nix about the company’s role in the Trump campaign. And the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has demanded the emails of Cambridge Analytica employees who worked for the Trump team as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the election.
While the substance of Mr. Mueller’s interest is a closely guarded secret, documents viewed by The Times indicate that the firm’s British affiliate claims to have worked in Russia and Ukraine. And the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, disclosed in October that Mr. Nix had reached out to him during the campaign in hopes of obtaining private emails belonging to Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
The documents also raise new questions about Facebook, which is already grappling with intense criticism over the spread of Russian propaganda and fake news. The data Cambridge collected from profiles, a portion of which was viewed by The Times, included details on users’ identities, friend networks and “likes.” Only a tiny fraction of the users had agreed to release their information to a third party.
“Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do,” Mr. Grewal said. “No systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked.”
Still, he added, “it’s a serious abuse of our rules.”
Reading Voters’ Minds
The Bordeaux flowed freely as Mr. Nix and several colleagues sat down for dinner at the Palace Hotel in Manhattan in late 2013, Mr. Wylie recalled in an interview. They had much to celebrate.
Mr. Nix, a brash salesman, led the small elections division at SCL Group, a political and defense contractor. He had spent much of the year trying to break into the lucrative new world of political data, recruiting Mr. Wylie, then a 24-year-old political operative with ties to veterans of President Obama’s campaigns. Mr. Wylie was interested in using inherent
psychological traits to affect voters’ behavior and had assembled a teamof psychologists and data scientists, some of them affiliated with Cambridge University.
The group experimented abroad, including in the Caribbean and Africa, where privacy rules were lax or nonexistent and politicians employing SCL were happy to provide government-held data, former employees said.
Then a chance meeting bought Mr. Nix into contact with Mr. Bannon, the Breitbart News firebrand who would later become a Trump campaign and White House adviser, and with Mr. Mercer, one of the richest men on earth.
Mr. Nix and his colleagues courted Mr. Mercer, who believed a sophisticated data company could make him a kingmaker in Republican politics, and his daughter Rebekah, who shared his conservative views. Mr. Bannon was intrigued by the possibility of using personality profiling to shift America’s culture and rewire its politics, recalled Mr. Wylie and other former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements. Through a spokeswoman, Mr. Bannon declined to comment.
Mr. Mercer agreed to help finance a $1.5 million pilot project to poll voters and test psychographic messaging in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November 2013, where the Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, ran against Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic fund-raiser. Though Mr. Cuccinelli lost, Mr. Mercer committed to moving forward.
The Mercers wanted results quickly, and more business beckoned. In early 2014, the investor Toby Neugebauer and other wealthy conservatives were preparing to put tens of millions of dollars behind a presidential campaign for Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, work that Mr. Nix was eager to win.
When Mr. Wylie’s colleagues failed to produce a memo explaining their work to Mr. Neugebauer, Mr. Nix castigated them over email.
“ITS 2 PAGES!! 4 hours work max (or an hour each). What have you all been doing??” he wrote.
Mr. Wylie’s team had a bigger problem. Building psychographic profiles on a national scale required data the company could not gather without huge expense. Traditional analytics firms used voting records and consumer purchase histories to try to predict political beliefs and voting behavior.
But those kinds of records were useless for figuring out whether a particular voter was, say, a neurotic introvert, a religious extrovert, a fair-minded liberal or a fan of the occult. Those were among the psychological traits the firm claimed would provide a uniquely powerful means of designing political messages.
Mr. Wylie found a solution at Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre. Researchers there had developed a technique to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook. The researchers paid users small sums to take a personality quiz and download an app, which would scrape some private information from their profiles and those of their friends, activity that Facebook permitted at the time. The approach, the scientists said, could reveal more about a person than their parents or romantic partners knew — a claim that has been disputed.
When the Psychometrics Centre declined to work with the firm, Mr. Wylie found someone who would: Dr. Kogan, who was then a psychology professor at the university and knew of the techniques. Dr. Kogan built his own app and in June 2014 began harvesting data for Cambridge Analytica. The business covered the costs — more than $800,000 — and allowed him to keep a copy for his own research, according to company emails and financial records.
All he divulged to Facebook, and to users in fine print, was that he was collecting information for academic purposes, the social network said. It did not verify his claim. Dr. Kogan declined to provide details of what happened, citing nondisclosure agreements with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, though he maintained that his program was “a very standard vanilla Facebook app.”
He ultimately provided over 50 million raw profiles to the firm, Mr. Wylie said, a number confirmed by a company email and a former colleague. Of those, roughly 30 million contained enough information, including places of residence, that the company could match users to other records and build psychographic profiles. Only about 270,000 users — those who participated in the survey — had consented to having their data harvested.
Mr. Wylie said the Facebook data was “the saving grace” that let his team deliver the models it had promised the Mercers.
“We wanted as much as we could get,” he acknowledged. “Where it came from, who said we could have it — we weren’t really asking.”
Mr. Nix tells a different story. Appearing before a parliamentary committee last month, he described Dr. Kogan’s contributions as “fruitless.”
An International Effort
Just as Dr. Kogan’s efforts were getting underway, Mr. Mercer agreed to invest $15 million in a joint venture with SCL’s elections division. The partners devised a convoluted corporate structure, forming a new American company, owned almost entirely by Mr. Mercer, with a license to the psychographics platform developed by Mr. Wylie’s team, according to company documents. Mr. Bannon, who became a board member and investor, chose the name: Cambridge Analytica.
The firm was effectively a shell. According to the documents and former employees, any contracts won by Cambridge, originally incorporated in Delaware, would be serviced by London-based SCL and overseen by Mr. Nix, a British citizen who held dual appointments at Cambridge Analytica and SCL. Most SCL employees and contractors were Canadian, like Mr. Wylie, or European.
But in July 2014, an American election lawyer advising the company, Laurence Levy, warned that the arrangement could violate laws limiting the involvement of foreign nationals in American elections.
In a memo to Mr. Bannon, Ms. Mercer and Mr. Nix, the lawyer, then at the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, warned that Mr. Nix would have to recuse himself “from substantive management” of any clients involved in United States elections. The data firm would also have to find American citizens or green card holders, Mr. Levy wrote, “to manage the work and decision making functions, relative to campaign messaging and expenditures.”
In summer and fall 2014, Cambridge Analytica dived into the American midterm elections, mobilizing SCL contractors and employees around the country. Few Americans were involved in the work, which included polling, focus groups and message development for the John Bolton Super PAC, conservative groups in Colorado and the campaign of Senator Thom Tillis, the North Carolina Republican.
Cambridge Analytica, in its statement to The Times, said that all “personnel in strategic roles were U.S. nationals or green card holders.” Mr. Nix “never had any strategic or operational role” in an American election campaign, the company said.
Whether the company’s American ventures violated election laws would depend on foreign employees’ roles in each campaign, and on whether their work counted as strategic advice under Federal Election Commission rules.
Cambridge Analytica appears to have exhibited a similar pattern in the 2016 election cycle, when the company worked for the campaigns of Mr. Cruz and then Mr. Trump. While Cambridge hired more Americans to work on the races that year, most of its data scientists were citizens of the United Kingdom or other European countries, according to two former employees.
Under the guidance of Brad Parscale, Mr. Trump’s digital director in 2016 and now the campaign manager for his 2020 re-election effort, Cambridge performed a variety of services, former campaign officials said. That included designing target audiences for digital ads and fund-raising appeals, modeling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Mr. Trump should travel to best drum up support.
Cambridge executives have offered conflicting accounts about the use of psychographic data on the campaign. Mr. Nix has said that the firm’s profiles helped shape Mr. Trump’s strategy — statements disputed by other campaign officials — but also that Cambridge did not have enough time to comprehensively model Trump voters.
In a BBC interview last December, Mr. Nix said that the Trump efforts drew on “legacy psychographics” built for the Cruz campaign.
After the Leak
By early 2015, Mr. Wylie and more than half his original team of about a dozen people had left the company. Most were liberal-leaning, and had grown disenchanted with working on behalf of the hard-right candidates the Mercer family favored.
Cambridge Analytica, in its statement, said that Mr. Wylie had left to start a rival firm, and that it later took legal action against him to enforce intellectual property claims. It characterized Mr. Wylie and other former “contractors” as engaging in “what is clearly a malicious attempt to hurt the company.”
Near the end of that year, a report in The Guardian revealed that Cambridge Analytica was using private Facebook data on the Cruz campaign, sending Facebook scrambling. In a statement at the time, Facebook promised that it was “carefully investigating this situation” and would require any company misusing its data to destroy it.
Facebook verified the leak and — without publicly acknowledging it — sought to secure the information, efforts that continued as recently as August 2016. That month, lawyers for the social network reached out to Cambridge Analytica contractors. “This data was obtained and used without permission,” said a letter that was obtained by the Times. “It cannot be used legitimately in the future and must be deleted immediately.”
Mr. Grewal, the Facebook deputy general counsel, said in a statement that both Dr. Kogan and “SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica certified to us that they destroyed the data in question.”
But copies of the data still remain beyond Facebook’s control. The Times viewed a set of raw data from the profiles Cambridge Analytica obtained.
While Mr. Nix has told lawmakers that the company does not have Facebook data, a former employee said that he had recently seen hundreds of gigabytes on Cambridge servers, and that the files were not encrypted.
Today, as Cambridge Analytica seeks to expand its business in the United States and overseas, Mr. Nix has mentioned some questionable practices. This January, in undercover footage filmed by Channel 4 News in Britain and viewed by The Times, he boasted of employing front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients around the world, and even suggested ways to entrap politicians in compromising situations.
All the scrutiny appears to have damaged Cambridge Analytica’s political business. No American campaigns or “super PACs” have yet reported paying the company for work in the 2018 midterms, and it is unclear whether Cambridge will be asked to join Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign.
In the meantime, Mr. Nix is seeking to take psychographics to the commercial advertising market. He has repositioned himself as a guru for the digital ad age — a “Math Man,” he puts it. In the United States last year, a former employee said, Cambridge pitched Mercedes-Benz, MetLife and the brewer AB InBev, but has not signed them on.
Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore and Carole Cadwalladr reported from London. Gabriel J.X. Dance contributed reporting from London, and Danny Hakim from New York.
[Post edited 17 Mar 17:59]
|Let them eat . . .Pizza|
at 10:03 15 Mar 2018
Best study ever claims pizza can make you more productive at work
NY Daily News · Mar 13, 2018 9:23 AM
A recent study claims that pizza is a bigger motivator than cash and can make people more productive at work when used as a stimulus. The discovery was made by psychologist Dan Ariely and detailed in his book Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations.
Ariely’s experiment offered four separate groups of employees at an Intel semiconductor factory in Israel rewards for increased productivity. One group was offered a bonus of about $30, another pizza, another a compliment from their boss, and the last group was offered nothing. Ariely found that pizza, as opposed to cash and compliments, was the biggest initial motivator. As reported by The Cut, the study stated that the promise of pizza increased productivity by 6.7 percent on the first day. That means that employees dreaming of gooey, saucy pizza worked 6.7 percent harder, all for some carbs. (Who can’t relate?)
Over the course of the weeklong study, the success of the pizza group dropped off and the most successful group ended up being the group that received compliments. As stated in his book, Ariely feels that pizza would have been the overall winner if he had been able to parcel out the reward via home delivery. “This way … we not only would give them a gift, but we would also make them heroes in the eyes of their families,” he wrote.
As if you needed more reasons to enjoy pizza (besides it being a great motivator and making you more productive at work): It’s also healthier than most breakfast cereals. Looking for the tastiest pie near you? Here’s a list of the 101 best pizzas in America.
|Other US News:|
at 18:33 7 Mar 2018
Gary Cohn Risked So Much for Trump. What Did He Gain?
By Jack Holmes
Esquire, Mar 7, 2018
There are few more potent symbols of the bankruptcy of Donald Trump's "populist" rhetoric than the appointment of various Goldman Sachs-Americans to top positions in his administration.
During the campaign, Trump's Man-of-the-People shtick involved telling crowds that Wall Street is "getting away with murder," and suggesting the rich should pay higher taxes. Trump's final campaign ad, CNN reminds us, "showed ominous photos of the New York Stock Exchange and the CEO of Goldman Sachs and proclaimed it was time to put an end to the political and business elites that have 'bled our country dry.'" Yet, when President Trump's cabinet was announced, it featured such Main Street everymen as Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross.
Now, however, the Trump administration will soon be down one Wall Street titan in Gary Cohn. The former president of Goldman Sachs announced he would depart his position as head of the National Economic Council after he lost an internal administration battle over whether to impose tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum. Cohn has apparently been locked in combat with Trump's nationalist and/or protectionist economic advisers, like Peter Navarro, from day one. That crew has advocated withdrawing from NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and a free trade agreement with South Korea. Of those, Cohn successfully blocked a U.S. exit from all but the TPP.
Cohn's departure has been met with despair on Wall Street. Taken with the tariff announcement, Cohn leaving seems to indicate a higher risk of Trump escalating a trade war with Europe and taking a hardline stance on China. Markets fell significantly on news of the tariffs, and they're expected to fall again. (They fell briefly when we learned Cohn was threatening to resign last week.) There's little evidence Cohn was fighting tirelessly for working-class Americans; his greatest achievement was the tax reform bill, which overwhelmingly benefits the rich over a ten-year period and will likely exacerbate already soaring levels of inequality. But signs are he was a sort of dam that stopped some of the worst ideas floating through the White House from escaping into the outside world as official U.S. policy.
The tariffs, for instance, are an objectively dreadful idea—and not just because the decision was made to implement them before their effects on the economy at large were completely reviewed, and before the relevant branches of the federal government, like Treasury, were even notified it was happening. Apparently, it was the result of a rage spasm from President Adult Man, who was upset at the Russia probe, the departure of Hope Hicks, and associated negative cable news coverage.
Former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers—who also held Cohn's role as head of the National Economic Council for the first part of Barack Obama's presidency—made a stunning case against the tariffs on CNN:
"There are 50 times as many people in the United States who work in steel-using industries as there in steel-producing industries," Summers told Christiane Amanpour. "50 times. And all of them are losing because the firms they work for are now going to have 25 percent more expensive inputs. That can't be rational policy."
Summers reminded viewers that the tariffs were justified on national security grounds, despite the fact they were opposed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, and that our biggest trade partners on steel are Canada and Europe. Essentially, it's a "national security" measure targeting some of our closest allies. The move was portrayed by its backers as hardline posturing towards China, but the U.S. constitutes about 2 percent of China's steel export market.
"This is even before you take account of what's going to happen when the rest of the world responds," Summers continued. "It is no accident that stocks lost $400 billion in the hour after this decision was announced. It is shooting our economy in the foot...This is really crazy, dumb protectionism, even if you accepted—which I don't—the idea that protectionism was a reasonable thing."
There's a real debate to be had over free trade and its effects on the American worker. There is little debate left over whether there are any true friends to working men and women in this administration. But like it or not, most of the people in this White House who have any idea what they're talking about on these issues are the Wall Street elites, who at least have an understanding of how trade policy impacts global financial markets. The president, we have thoroughly learned, knows nothing about anything and cares less. Cohn's tenure will have done little to help the single mother working at Walmart, even with the (temporary) tax break she got as part of the reform bill. But there's little indication his departure—which brings the turnover of top Trump administration officials to 43 percent—will help her, either. With the re-elevation of people like The Mooch, all that seems to beckon is chaos.
Certainly, Cohn running for the hills won't help the Dow or the S&P. When he made noises about doing the same in August, it "sent the financial markets tumbling" according to The New York Times. Of course, that time Cohn wasn't put off by a dispute over trade policy. The president had just suggested that "there were very fine people on both sides" after a group of Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, white supremacists, and others who think it's a good idea to rub shoulders with them marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. One in their number murdered a protester with his car in what Attorney General Jeff Sessions called an act of domestic terrorism.
Cohn, who is Jewish, was understandably appalled by the sight and sound of the President of the United States serving as an apologist for those who march in the night with torches, chanting, "Jews will not replace us." But it was not enough to drive him away from serving that president. Perhaps it was because the tax bill hadn't yet made it through Congress. Either way, the fact remains that Gary Cohn could stomach the president's sympathy for white supremacists, but not for aluminum tariffs. The same apparently goes for Speaker Paul Ryan. In the ultimate symbol of the American economic elite's divorce from the most onerous moral and practical consequences of Donald Trump's presidency, these men were more appalled by an assault on free trade than the rise of American Nazism.
As if to drive home that last reality, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney issued a statement on Cohn's departure that was meant as a cordial and appreciative missive. Yet one word in particular stood out:
Here's a White House official using the most popular anti-Semitic code word of the moment—"globalist"—in reference to a departing Jewish colleague. Maybe Mulvaney meant it all in good sport, and he does genuinely seem to appreciate the work of Cohn, one of the few administration officials who can consistently tie his own shoes. But the dark forces that Donald Trump awoke in this country, and that reared their heads in Charlottesville, are far too close to the Oval Office already. Cohn, were he not so deeply ensconced behind the wall of privilege offered by his money and his power, might have heeded that earlier. He will always have the money. But he has offered up his reputation, and perhaps the first line of his obituary, to the mad king. What did he get in return?
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