CURRENT NEWS and EVENTS, OPINION and FEATURES
We cover issues of the week from some of the most recognized sources, but always from a PURPLE perspective. And we invite discussion of the same sort.
On each murrayTALK episode, our host William (Bill) Murray will express his Opinion of some of the top issues of the week. There'll be no shortage of topics ..
We promise stimulating and thought-provoking presentations, and we'll seek additional ways for the audience to contribute .. perhaps via Facebook and Twitter if we can figure out how to do it.
For now we'll use the OPEN MIKE discussion forum and the panelists who call the show. Call in number: 516 / 531-9782
Stay tuned for more on this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The Los Angeles Times
PURPLE CANDIDATE OR JUST A PLAIN SPEAKER?
Pete Buttigieg outlasts the pundits by emerging as the alternative to Biden
By EVAN HALPER
LEBANON, N.H. — As other presidential candidates promise free healthcare, college debt relief and sweeping new taxes on the ultra-rich, Pete Buttigieg is drawing large crowds with a different angle.
“This will be a presidency where you can turn on the news, look at the White House and feel your blood pressure go down a little bit instead of up through the roof,” the South Bend, Ind., mayor told some 1,300 voters who came out to see him here Saturday.
With many Democrats growing anxious that an uncompromising progressive at the top of the ticket could push swing states into President Trump's hands, the bookish 37-year-old Navy veteran and former McKinsey consultant is packing venues in Iowa and New Hampshire by talking moderation and reconciliation.
Voter interest certainly hasn't fizzled, as pundits once predicted would happen to the candidacy of a leader of a city roughly the size of Burbank. Instead, Buttigieg is fast threatening former Vice President Joe Biden's dominance of the Democratic primary's pragmatic lane.
“He makes me feel inspired again, like Obama,” said Jo-Ann Wangh, a 69-year-old arts integration specialist who came to see Buttigieg at a Manchester town hall. “He gets it.”
Buttigieg is already surging in Iowa, where a recent Quinnipiac poll showed the openly gay mayor just a point behind the Iowa front-runner, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He has considerably more work to do in New Hampshire and beyond. But as he bounded into this state for a four-day swing of town halls, rallies and walking tours that drew large crowds, rivals were expressing agitation at his ascendancy.
“I was mayor of a city that's 14 times larger than South Bend,” former Housing Secretary Julián Castro quipped last week on Comedy Central's “The Daily Show.” “We could almost fit South Bend in our Alamodome in San Antonio.”
Castro took aim at Buttigieg's biggest shortcoming: meager support from African Americans and other minorities. It is “risky to have a candidate at the top of the ticket that cannot speak to, in a convincing way, those different communities,” Castro said.
<< more >>
The Los Angeles Times
PURPLE PEOPLE .. IN A RED TOWN (IN A BLUE STATE)
In this California ‘Trump country' town, folks hear the impeachment talk, but it feels a world away
Taft is a red “oil field strong” town in blue California, but residents don't let politics get in the way of supporting each other through day-to-day life.
By TYRONE BEASON
TAFT, Calif. — On the road into Taft, fields of fruit trees give way to orchards of oil rigs nodding on golden hills that shimmer against a blue sky like creased velvet.
This small oil town two hours northwest of Los Angeles has one stoplight and a city center that seems to go dark well before the sun goes down. Friday night football is the hottest ticket around. Children play on the quiet streets without a parent in sight. Taft, with its 9,400 or so people, feels a world away from the impeachment drama in the nation's capital.
The city got its name from the 27th president, William H. Taft, who was famous for telling people that “politics makes me sick.” Around here, a lot of people would agree.
Impeachment doesn't naturally come up in conversations, even as the House inquiry of President Trump heats up and hearings with key witnesses are about to go public.
It's not that people here don't like to talk politics; many are just exasperated with the bitterness and division straining the rest of the nation.
Marketing specialist T. Aaron Carter, a voter registered with neither major party who wryly described himself as the most liberal person in this rural outpost on the southwestern edge of the San Joaquin Valley, feels something's missing.
“We've lost our ability to argue anymore,” he said about much of the country. “It's either you're with me or against me.”
Carter, 41, described his hometown as a place set in its ways politically but tolerant, a tight little society that allows people who aren't alike to disagree and get along, fight but still count on each other.
<< more >>
SOME SHORT STUFF
The Wall Street Journal
From reporter Keach Hagey:
Before you see that ad online, lots of things happen that you can't see. And Google is likely behind them. Much of Google's power as an ad broker stems from acquisitions of ad-technology companies, especially its 2008 purchase of DoubleClick. Regulators who approved that $3.1 billion deal warned they would step in if the company tied together its offerings in anticompetitive ways.
In interviews, dozens of publishing and advertising executives said Google is doing just that with an array of interwoven products. Google operates the leading selling and buying tools, and the biggest marketplace where online ad deals happen. Google says the way its ad products work together is one of the primary attractions for publishers, advertisers and other tech companies.
Virtually every news website you've ever heard of uses Google's tools to place its ads, even though Google competes directly with these online publishers for ad dollars–and is increasingly winning this competition. The reason has to do with the way all of Google's market-dominating pieces of advertising technology fit together. Publishers feel they can't afford to stop using Google's ad-selling tool because it's the only way to get the full fire hose of ad dollars flowing through Google's ad-buying tools—a source of ad demand so crucial to publishers that one of them dubbed it “crack.”
From Admiral Mike Gilday
A special day
A century ago, on November 11, 1919, Americans marked the one-year anniversary of the end of World War I with a new holiday.
"Armistice Day" is now known as Veterans Day and it honors those who have served in the military in war and peace. Among those we should remember Monday, wrote Admiral Mike Gilday, the US Navy's Chief of Naval Operations, is Cmdr. Ernest Evans, "who chose to sail the USS Johnston into harm's way during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippine Sea in 1944. Despite the superior Japanese force of battleships, heavy cruisers, and destroyers, Johnston's actions ultimately crippled the Imperial Japanese Navy. Evans, who died in action, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor."
The lesson to remember? Gilday wrote, "Across the nation this Veterans Day, we honor the service, sacrifice and commitment of those men and women who have worn the cloth of this great nation. If you believe as I do that there is a desire in every human heart to live in freedom, then this day is a special day."
Chinese land deal in Solomon's Guadalcanal disrupts access to WWII site
By Jonathan Barrett
(Reuters) -- The battle fields of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands, draw visitors from the United States and its war allies, as well as those from Japan, decades after the bloody campaign in the South Pacific ended.
But in recent weeks, some visitors say they have been prevented from accessing one of Guadalcanal's most significant World War Two sites, which includes a Japanese war monument, after a deal handed control of the land to a company controlled by a Chinese businessman.
Tour operators and the Japanese ambassador to the Solomons say it appears to be a case of a lack of understanding of the significance of the Alligator Creek site by the new owner.
The issue has stirred up debate in the Solomons concerning its new relationship with China, which was formalized in September following the Pacific island nation's decision to sever its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favor of Beijing.
That decision has frustrated the now aligned United States and Japan, with U.S. officials expressing concern about China's “use of economic and military levers” to increase its influence in the South Pacific.
“I would like the problem settled in a peaceful way,” Japan's ambassador to the Solomons, Shigeru Toyama, told Reuters by phone from the capital, Honiara.
Toyama said he hoped to meet with the new owners, JQY Ltd, in the coming days.
“I hope they will pay much attention to the monument and will reconcile how to preserve it,” said Toyama.
Protests in Hong Kong have been escalating for five months now, and several serious incidents this weekend may mark a new boiling point. A traffic police officer shot a 21-year-old protester in the torso, sparking renewed outrage and violence. (Police say the protester is expected to survive.) Hours after the shooting, a man who confronted a group of pro-democracy protesters was doused in a flammable liquid and set alight. Amid the violence, a police officer appeared to drive his motorcycle into a crowd and has been suspended by the force. All of this escalating unrest follows the death of a 22-year-old student on Friday, who passed away after falling from a parking garage during a demonstration. The surge in violence has taken a toll on the economy: Hong Kong stocks suffered their worst day in more than three months on Monday.
The Wall Street Journal
Jewish West Bank settlements are going mainstream in Israel.
Built on territory captured from Jordan in the 1967 war, they are among the most emotional issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, seen by many advocates of a two-state solution as an obstacle to peace. Other Israelis once viewed them with skepticism, if not downright hostility—but a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute found that today 48% of Israelis support a plan by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to annex them. The settlements are now home to 450,000 Israelis, up from 116,300 in 1993, and newcomers say they are motivated less by politics than by economics and lifestyle.
The Los Angeles Times
Out of Prison, Into the Voting Booth
When should felons have the right to vote? Most states, including California, automatically restore people's rights after they have left prison and completed probation or parole. Iowa, Kentucky and Virginia don't allow those who have completed prison sentences to vote unless the governor personally intervenes. Maine and Vermont allow felons still in prison to cast ballots.
And in Florida, confusion reigns after voters restored voting rights for formerly incarcerated felons, only to see the Legislature act to place a limit on those rights.
The Los Angeles Times
SUPREME COURT - DACA
The DACA Swing Voter
The impeachment inquiry into President Trump will dominate the headlines out of Washington this week, with public hearings set to begin Wednesday. But on Tuesday, another drama will begin to play out in the Supreme Court: The justices will hear arguments in this year's most far-reaching immigration case, about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
The court, which somewhat reluctantly took up the case, will decide whether Trump was justified in seeking to revoke the Obama-era policy that allowed more than 700,000 immigrants brought to the country illegally as children to temporarily live and work here. Given the conservative majority on the court, the so-called Dreamers' best hope for victory almost surely depends on Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.
|The Wall Street Journal
The Court and the Dreamer Pawns
They deserve legal status but judges pre-empted a political compromise.
The Supreme Court leaps again Tuesday into the thicket of executive power when it considers President Trump's rescission of the Obama Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This is an example of how judicial meddling undermined a political compromise, and the Justices will have to sort the law from the emotive politics.
The Justices are being warned in DHS v. University of California Regents that if they don't uphold lower-court injunctions, a million young adults who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children could be deported to a country of which they have no memory. We agree these young adults (often called Dreamers) should be able to remain in the U.S.
But this all started when President Obama, under the smokescreen of prosecutorial discretion, offered legal status and work permits if these adults came out of the shadows. That legal status was never secure, and states threatened litigation if Mr. Trump didn't rescind DACA. In September 2017 Mr. Trump ordered the program wound down and gave Congress six months to protect DACA recipients with an option to renew work permits for two years.
The goal was to use the time to negotiate a political compromise, but Democrats walked away after lower courts enjoined the rescission and removed an impetus for compromise. The Dreamers have now become pawns due to a breakdown of the Constitution's separation of powers that needs repairing.
In one of its most important cases this term, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments today over President Trump's efforts to end the program that protects about 700,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.
<< more >>
The New York Times
Justices to hear ‘Dreamers' case
Mr. Trump has praised the goals of the Obama-era program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, but has said that it's unconstitutional. That argument has been rejected by lower courts, which have ruled that the decision to shut it down was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Background: DACA shields young immigrants from deportation and allows them to work. The status lasts for two years and is renewable, but it doesn't offer a path to citizenship.
Go deeper: The 2017 memo announcing the end of DACA relied on a strictly legal argument, rather than one based on policy objections. That memo is now at the heart of what experts say is a major weakness in the government's case.
The New York Times
Justices seem inclined to rule against ‘Dreamers'
The Supreme Court's conservative majority appeared on Tuesday to support President Trump's efforts to end the program that protects about 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Chief Justice John Roberts indicated that the administration was on solid legal footing in saying that the Obama-era program, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was unlawful. But he said the court could rule in a way that would minimize the hardships that participants would face.
Chief Justice Roberts noted that the Obama and Trump administrations have said they wouldn't deport DACA participants. “The whole thing was about work authorization and these other benefits,” the chief justice said. “Both administrations have said they're not going to deport the people.”
The Washington Post
SUPREME COURT - GUNS
Supreme Court allows families of Sandy Hook shooting victims to sue gunmaker Remington
By Ann E. Marimow
The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a request from the gun industry intended to block a lawsuit from families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.
The decision lets stand a groundbreaking ruling from the Connecticut Supreme Court that said the manufacturer of the Bushmaster AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle can be sued and potentially held liable for the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn.
The Supreme Court declined to review the ruling without comment from any individual justice.
The lawsuit was brought by the estates of nine victims killed by Adam Lanza, who was armed with the high-powered rifle, made by Remington, during his assault that left 28 dead, including 20 young children.
Why is American masculinity at the center of gun culture, but not the gun debate? There have been 167 mass shootings in the U.S. All but three were committed by men. Some experts are asking: is it time for masculinity to enter the gun debate? (Nicki DeMarco, Erin Patrick O'Connor, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)
Gun-control advocates applauded the Supreme Court's decision not to block the lawsuit.
“Gun manufacturers throughout the country should be on notice that they'll need to answer for their reckless business practices in the courts,” Eric Tirschwell, managing director of litigation for Everytown Law, said in a statement.
“This reaffirms that the gun industry is not above the law and that the families of the Sandy Hook victims will have their day in court.”
The Connecticut court's 4-to-3 decision in March overcame a federal law backed by the National Rifle Association and designed to immunize gunmakers from liability for the crimes committed with their weapons.
The narrow state court decision limited liability for gunmakers based on how they advertise their firearms, rather than on the sale to third parties who go on to commit crimes. In its ruling, the court said companies that market military-style guns to civilians as a way of killing enemies could be violating state fair trade laws.
Even so, the decision was seen as having broad implications for gun-control advocates across the country who have had little success in seeking ways to hold gunmakers responsible for crimes committed with their products.
Firearms company Remington had convinced a lower court that federal law prevented the families' lawsuit. But Connecticut's high court said that the law had exceptions and that one of them was meant for state consumer protection laws.
The NRA fought hard to get the immunity from Congress, saying it was needed to protect U.S. companies from costly, and what they see as unfair, litigation that blames them for the crimes of others.
Remington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Wall Street Journal
Please consider watching this VIDEO later:
US Dept of JUSTICE
Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Launch of Project Guardian - A Nationwide Strategic Plan to Reduce Gun Violence
WASHINGTON – Attorney General William P. Barr today announced the launch of Project Guardian, a new initiative designed to reduce gun violence and enforce federal firearms laws across the country. Specifically, Project Guardian focuses on investigating, prosecuting, and preventing gun crimes.
Reducing gun violence and enforcing federal firearms laws have always been among the Department's highest priorities. In order to develop a new and robust effort to promote and ensure public safety, the Department reviewed and adapted some of the successes of past strategies to curb gun violence. Project Guardian draws on the Department's earlier achievements, such as the “Triggerlock” program, and it serves as a complementary effort to the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). In addition, the initiative emphasizes the importance of using all modern technologies available to law enforcement to promote gun crime intelligence.
“Gun crime remains a pervasive problem in too many communities across America. Today, the Department of Justice is redoubling its commitment to tackling this issue through the launch of Project Guardian,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Building on the success of past programs like Triggerlock, Project Guardian will strengthen our efforts to reduce gun violence by allowing the federal government and our state and local partners to better target offenders who use guns in crimes and those who try to buy guns illegally.”
Project Guardian's implementation is based on five principles:
If you have questions, please use the contacts in the message or call the Office of Public Affairs at: 202 / 514-2007
- Coordinated Prosecution.
- Enforcing the Background Check System.
- Improved Information Sharing.
- Coordinated Response to Mental Health Denials.
- Crime Gun Intelligence Coordination.
The New York Times
EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN -- Huh? Don't women already have that?
Congressional Democrats to Revive Equal Rights Amendment Push
Democrats aim to repeal an expired deadline on the measure to ensure equality of the sexes, clearing the way for Virginia — where they just won legislative control — to be the last state to ratify it.
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
Democrats, buoyed by their party's electoral sweep in Virginia this week, plan on Friday to revive the Equal Rights Amendment in Congress, embarking on what they hope is a final push to add the nearly century-old measure to enshrine equality of the sexes into the Constitution.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, will announce that his panel intends to mark up a bill eliminating the deadline for states to adopt the amendment, known as the E.R.A., which was one state short of the 38 needed for ratification when the deadline passed in 1982.
The aim is to clear the way for Virginia — where Democrats have just won control of the Legislature and are eager to approve the amendment — to become that final state. Although legal experts debate whether Congress's deadline was ever constitutionally valid, and whether it can now remove that deadline, doing so would seem to help carve a legal path for the amendment to be written into the Constitution. But both the House and the Republican-led Senate would have to vote to do so.
“It is now highly likely that if we eliminate the deadline, Virginia will ratify and become the 38th state, and then the E.R.A. can go into effect as a constitutional amendment,” Mr. Nadler said in an interview Friday. “So it's time to do it.”
First proposed by women's suffragists in 1923 and adopted by Congress in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment, which would bar discrimination on the basis of sex, has for decades been a dream of women's rights advocates. Its language is simple: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
It was first incorporated into the Republican platform in 1940 — four years before it was added to the Democratic platform. It took three more decades for the E.R.A. to pass both the House and the Senate with the required two-thirds majority.
The measure was then sent to the states for ratification with a seven-year deadline. When that deadline passed in 1979, Congress extended it to 1982.
<< more >>
The Wall Street Journal
Trump Reverses Obama's Anti-Religious Decree
No more discrimination against Catholics and evangelical Protestants in adoption services.
By Russell Moore
Pro-life Americans often get criticized for focusing too much on babies in the womb and not enough on those who've been born. Yet countless evangelical Christians devote their lives to foster care, adoption and similar services for vulnerable children. As born-again Christians, we have been adopted by Christ and have a special obligation to those who need a mother and father.
But those who want to live out these convictions frequently find themselves stopped by the government. Last week the Trump administration took a major step toward addressing the problem.
In the closing days of the Obama administration, the federal government handed down a regulation that effectively barred from federal child-welfare programs organizations that believe marriage is between a man and woman. This affected many Roman Catholic and evangelical Protestant organizations. This misguided policy was rushed into effect right before President Trump's inauguration.
While the Obama administration made the issue national, it's happening locally too. In March 2018, Philadelphia declared an urgent need for hundreds of new foster families. Then the city government barred Catholic Social Services from placing children in homes because of the Catholic Church's teaching about marriage. City hall's use of children as leverage to force a religious institution to change its beliefs was appalling.
Michigan's Attorney General Dana Nessel cited the Obama-era rule when attempting to cancel a state-approved foster-care and adoption-services contract with St. Vincent Catholic Charities. Thankfully, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction so the group can continue serving children as the case continues. This year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a waiver to Miracle Hill Ministries, one of the leading adoption and foster-care providers in South Carolina. This Christian ministry provides placements for 15% of the children in the state's foster care system. The waiver was a welcome recognition of the important work Christian agencies do, but still they're only a brief respite.
It's no secret what happens when faith-based providers get pushed out. A year after Boston stopped working with them, the percentage of youth in foster care who left the Massachusetts system because they aged out rose more than 50%. With fewer available homes to place children in, aging out is one of the worst outcomes as it increases a child's likelihood of homelessness and unemployment. The rate still has not returned to pre-2006 levels. In 2011 Illinois passed a law discontinuing its partnerships with faith-based agencies—then lost more than 1,500 foster homes between 2012 and 2017. All this when the world desperately needs more providers.
Communities of faith have a lot to offer to children in foster care. Barna research shows that practicing Christians may be more than twice as likely to adopt compared with the general population—with Catholics three times as likely and evangelicals five times as likely. That's because Christians are eager to open their hearts and homes for children in foster care. They are commanded by the Bible to care for widows and orphans in their distress (James 1:20). One need not agree with these beliefs to see that it is self-defeating for government to bar the participation of thousands of religious Americans from serving children in need because of their theological convictions.
The U.S. faces a crisis when it comes to children. The foster-care system is burdened, with children who need parents enduring tragically long waits for placement. Genuine civic pluralism means everyone—secularists, atheists and agnostics, along with religious people of all sorts—should care about these children. Why exclude those who are the most motivated? The White House rule change is a good start in that direction.
Mr. Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
<< more >>
The Washington Post
Women in Japan were told not to wear glasses to work. Their response has been fiery.
By Miriam Berger
Glasses, say some companies in Japan, are just not right for women to wear to work.
In recent reports by Japan's Nippon TV and Business Insider Japan, women from a range of industries described being instructed by their employers not to wear glasses.
One receptionist recalled being told that glasses for her were not allowed, while a male receptionist was permitted to don corrective eyewear, Business Insider reported. A nurse at a beauty clinic developed dry eye from long hours in contacts but also was not allowed to wear glasses. Her employer imposed other requirements: Makeup was a must, as was making sure she didn't gain too much weight. A domestic airline reportedly has the no-glasses rule for safety reasons. Some restaurants said glasses on female employees didn't go well with their traditional attire.
Why all the fuss? Glasses can give a “cold impression,” or cover up one's makeup, or just aren't liked by the boss, said women interviewed by the news organizations.
All of this was apparently news to many women in Japan, who, upon hearing what their fellow women have had to endure, took to social media to break that glasses ceiling.
The hashtag “glasses are forbidden” has been trending in Japan since Wednesday.
“Isn't it so troublesome when you can see all the middle-aged men in the world?” someone wrote on Twitter under the hashtag after tweeting out a picture of her new glasses.
There don't appear to be any official numbers on how widespread the bans are. “It was not clear whether the so-called ‘bans' were based on company policies, or rather reflected what was socially accepted practice in those workplaces,” the BBC reported.
But judging from the reaction, the news has touched a nerve among Japanese women tired of having their bodies scrutinized and regulated in ways that they say their male counterparts are not.
It's not just Japan where bespectacled women face public scrutiny. Last year, a South Korean early-morning news presenter broke ranks when she wore glasses on air — as some male counterparts do. This was a change from her previous look involving contacts and false eyelashes. The simple move was seen as a big affront to Korean female beauty standards and prompted the presenter to explain herself on social media that sometimes her eyes were just too dry or tired for contacts.
“I have to wake up early in the morning for the morning news, but when I have insufficient sleeping time and short preparation time, I sometimes want to wear glasses. Viewers are also focusing on the nature on the news, not the appearance of the anchor,” she wrote on Instagram.
In Japan, many women have had it and are hoping to do away with dress codes specifically targeting women in the workplace. Ishikawa submitted a petition in June asking the government to bar companies from imposing dress codes that activists say specifically discriminate against women, like requirements that women wear heels, makeup or glasses.
“Women are evaluated mostly on their appearance,” Kumiko Nemoto, a professor of sociology at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies, told the BBC this week. “That's the message that these policies are sending, at least.”
<< more >>
The New York Times
CHILD SEX ABUSE ON INTERNET
Child Abusers Run Rampant as Tech Companies Look the Other Way
Though platforms bar child sexual abuse imagery on the web, criminals are exploiting gaps. Victims are caught in a living nightmare, confronting images again and again.
By MICHAEL H. KELLER and GABRIEL J.X. DANCE
The two sisters live in fear of being recognized. One grew out her bangs and took to wearing hoodies. The other dyed her hair black. Both avoid looking the way they did as children.
Ten years ago, their father did the unthinkable: He posted explicit photos and videos on the internet of them, just 7 and 11 at the time. Many captured violent assaults in their Midwestern home, including him and another man drugging and raping the 7-year-old.
The men are now in prison, but in a cruel consequence of the digital era, their crimes are finding new audiences. The two sisters are among the first generation of child sexual abuse victims whose anguish has been preserved on the internet, seemingly forever.
This year alone, photos and videos of the sisters were found in over 130 child sexual abuse investigations involving mobile phones, computers and cloud storage accounts.
The digital trail of abuse — often stored on Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive — haunts the sisters relentlessly, they say, as does the fear of a predator recognizing them from the images.
“That's in my head all the time — knowing those pictures are out there,” said E., the older sister, who is being identified only by her first initial to protect her privacy. “Because of the way the internet works, that's not something that's going to go away.”
Horrific experiences like theirs are being recirculated across the internet because search engines, social networks and cloud storage are rife with opportunities for criminals to exploit.
The scope of the problem is only starting to be understood because the tech industry has been more diligent in recent years in identifying online child sexual abuse material, with a record 45 million photos and videos flagged last year.
But the same industry has consistently failed to take aggressive steps to shut it down, an investigation by The New York Times found. Approaches by tech companies are inconsistent, largely unilateral and pursued in secret, often leaving pedophiles and other criminals who traffic in the material with the upper hand.
To report online child sexual abuse or find resources for those in need of help, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
The companies have the technical tools to stop the recirculation of abuse imagery by matching newly detected images against databases of the material. Yet the industry does not take full advantage of the tools.
Amazon, whose cloud storage services handle millions of uploads and downloads every second, does not even look for the imagery. Apple does not scan its cloud storage, according to federal authorities, and encrypts its messaging app, making detection virtually impossible. Dropbox, Google and Microsoft's consumer products scan for illegal images, but only when someone shares them, not when they are uploaded.
And other companies, including Snapchat and Yahoo, look for photos but not videos, even though illicit video content has been exploding for years. (When asked about its video scanning, a Dropbox spokeswoman in July said it was not a “top priority.” On Thursday, the company said it had begun scanning some videos last month.)
The largest social network in the world, Facebook, thoroughly scans its platforms, accounting for over 90 percent of the imagery flagged by tech companies last year, but the company is not using all available databases to detect the material. And Facebook has announced that the main source of the imagery, Facebook Messenger, will eventually be encrypted, vastly limiting detection.
“Each company is coming up with their own balance of privacy versus safety, and they don't want to do so in public,” said Alex Stamos, who served as chief of information security at both Facebook and Yahoo. “These decisions actually have a humongous impact on children's safety.”
How PhotoDNA Works
UPLOADED IMAGE DATABASE IMAGE
The uploaded image — in this instance a photograph of Dr. Farid — is turned into a square and colors are removed, making the process faster and consistent across images.
An algorithm finds the edges in the image, which are key to identifying unique features.
The result is split into a grid …
… and each square in the grid is assigned a value based on its visual features to generate the image's fingerprint. The values shown here are for illustration purposes.
The system compares the newly generated fingerprint against those of known illegal images.
If two fingerprints are similar enough, the system reports a match. PhotoDNA is able to account for subtle differences between images, such as color changes, resizing and compression.
The process is near-instantaneous, allowing for millions of comparisons per second.
<< more >>
A record 45 million images were flagged last year.
A Times investigation found that tech companies consistently failed to take coordinated steps to shut down the illegal content. We spoke to survivors of child sexual abuse whose anguish has been preserved on the internet, seemingly forever.
Among our findings:
¦ Apple does not scan its cloud storage, and it encrypts its messaging app, making detection virtually impossible.
¦ Amazon does not look for the images in its cloud service.
¦ Dropbox, Google and Microsoft's consumer products scan for illegal images only when someone shares them, not when they are uploaded.
¦ Facebook scans its platforms, but it has announced plans to encrypt its messenger service, which will make it harder to detect illegal images.
¦ Live streams represent a major challenge. No major tech company is able to detect, much less stop, illegal live streaming.
The New York Times
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Preying on Children: The Emerging Psychology of Pedophiles
By Benedict Carey
Images of child sex abuse have reached a crisis point on the internet, spreading at unprecedented rates in part because tech platforms and law enforcement agencies have failed to keep pace with the problem. But less is understood about the issue underlying it all: What drives people to sexually abuse children?
Science in recent years has begun to provide some answers. One thing most pedophiles have in common: They discover, usually as teenagers, that their sexual preferences have not matured like everyone else's. Most get stuck on the same-age boys or girls who first attracted them at the start of puberty, though some retain interest in far younger children.
“People don't choose what arouses them — they discover it,” said Dr. Fred Berlin, director of the Johns Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic. “No one grows up wanting to be a pedophile.”
Over the past generation, psychologists, forensic specialists and others have studied pedophilia, a disorder characterized by “recurrent, intense arousing fantasies, urges or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child,” according to psychiatry's diagnostic manual. These experts have interviewed patients in depth, piecing together life histories and performing a variety of psychological and anatomical measures.
While no study offers a complete picture, a portrait is emerging — one that helps elucidate the mental dynamic behind the surge in abuse images and the deepening depravity they depict. These findings also defy common stereotypes about what pedophilia is, and what the risks are for engaging in physical abuse.
A majority of convicted offenders are men who prey on children ages 6 to 17. But women also commit hands-on offenses; rough estimates put the rate of pedophilic attraction at 1 to 4 percent in both men and women. Studies suggest that a small subset of male and female pedophiles have an interest in toddlers, or even infants.
As scientists seek to understand how the disorder develops, there is growing consensus that the origin is largely biological. This view is based in part on studies pointing to subtle physical traits that have a higher incidence among pedophiles.
“The biological clues attached to pedophilia demonstrate that its roots are prenatal,” said James Cantor, director of the Toronto Sexuality Center. “These are not genetic; they can be traced to specific periods of development in the womb.”
Psychological and environmental factors may also contribute, though it is not yet clear what those are or how they interact with developmental conditions.
By contrast, the common presumption that pedophiles were themselves abused as children now has less support. Child victims are at far greater risk of future substance abuse, depression, persistent traumatic stress or criminal aggression than of becoming molesters. The vast majority of offenders deny any sex abuse in their childhood, even though they could garner sympathy in court by doing so, experts say. “A chaotic childhood increases the likelihood of a chaotic adulthood, of any kind,” Dr. Cantor said.
The relationship between viewing or collecting images and committing hands-on abuse is a matter of continuing debate among some experts, and one that is critical to evaluating the risk an offender poses. Until recently, the prevailing view was that only a minority of people caught viewing such images, between 5 and 20 percent, also committed physical abuse.
That perception began to change in 2007, when a pair of psychologists at the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that 85 percent of convicted online offenders acknowledged in therapy that they had raped or otherwise sexually abused children.
Learning to manage a drive as visceral, and often consuming, as sexual desire is possible, therapists say, but it cannot be shut off; nor can it be replaced, the way heroin can be swapped for methadone. Treatment can require drugs that reduce circulating testosterone and software that limits online browsing habits.
Often, therapy addresses substance abuse as well. Studies suggest that at least 40 percent of sex offenders were using drugs or alcohol when they committed their crimes.
“The important thing, I think, is that people know that treatment is possible,” Dr. Berlin said. “There's a subgroup out there, they refer themselves here, and they are quite convinced that they do not want real-life sex with children.”
The San Francisco Chronicle
GUNS IN AMERICA
NRA drops lawsuit against San Francisco, which labeled it a ‘terrorist organization'
By Bob Egelko
The National Rifle Association on Thursday backed away from a lawsuit against San Francisco for labeling the gun group as a “domestic terrorist organization,” after city officials made it clear they were only expressing an opinion and not ordering an economic boycott.
The dismissal was far from harmonious, though. The NRA said it had forced San Francisco to back down, while the city said it wouldn't be silenced.
San Francisco supervisors voted unanimously Sept. 3 to classify the powerful firearms advocacy group as a sponsor of terrorism and to urge other cities, states and the federal government to follow suit.
Supervisor Catherine Stefani introduced the resolution two days after the Gilroy Garlic Festival shootings in July that killed four people, including the gunman, and wounded 17. She blamed the NRA for the proliferation of guns in the United States and the increasingly common mass shootings.
The NRA went to federal court less than a week later. Its lawsuit said the city was promoting a “blacklist” that would cut ties with vendors or contractors who did business with the NRA. San Francisco was attempting to silence the organization in the debate over firearms, the suit said, “by reducing the NRA's funding and ability to advocate for Second Amendment rights.”
But in a motion to dismiss the suit last month, the city said the resolution was a statement of policy and not a mandate to take any action, economic or otherwise.
Mayor London Breed had already told city staff that the measure did not limit the city's dealings with any vendors doing business with the NRA. Stefani said her resolution was a legitimate public denunciation with no binding consequences.
The NRA's immediate response, through one of its lawyers, was that it would not drop its suit until San Francisco “officially withdraws its unconstitutional threat and makes amends for the harm suffered by the NRA.” The city took no further action, but on Thursday the NRA dismissed its suit and said it had gotten what it wanted.
The organization “celebrates the important victory it obtained on behalf of its members,” said attorney William Brewer III. “After the association challenged the unconstitutional resolution, the city beat a hasty retreat and backed down from its wildly illegal blacklisting scheme,” said William Brewer III, a lawyer for the NRA.
Nonsense, said City Attorney Dennis Herrera.
“We're pleased the NRA backed down on its frivolous lawsuit,” he said in a statement. “This was a baseless attempt to silence San Francisco's valid criticisms of the NRA and distract from the gun violence epidemic facing our country. San Francisco will never be intimidated by the NRA.”
The Los Angeles Times
U.S. border agents wrote fake court dates on paperwork to send migrants back to Mexico
By GUSTAVO SOLIS
Asylum seekers who have finished their court cases are being sent back to Mexico with documents that contain fraudulent future court dates, keeping some migrants south of the border indefinitely, records show.
Under the Migrant Protection Protocols policy, asylum seekers with cases in the United States have to wait in Mexico until those cases are resolved. The Mexican government agreed to only accept migrants with future court dates scheduled.
Normally, when migrants conclude their immigration court cases, they are either paroled into the United States or kept in federal custody depending on the outcome of the case.
However, records obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune show that on at least 14 occasions, Customs and Border Protection agents in California and Texas gave migrants who had already concluded their court cases documents with fraudulent future court dates written on them and sent the migrants back to Mexico anyway.
Those documents, unofficially known as tear sheets, are given to every migrant in the Migrant Protection Protocols program who is sent back to Mexico. The document tells the migrants where and when to appear at the border so that they can be transported to immigration court. What is different about the tear sheets that migrants with closed cases receive is that the future court date is not legitimate, according to multiple immigration lawyers whose clients have received these documents.
This has happened both to migrants who have been granted asylum and those who had their cases terminated — meaning a judge closed the case without making a formal decision, usually on procedural grounds. Additionally, at least one migrant was physically assaulted after being sent back to Mexico this way, according to her lawyer.
Bashir Ghazialam, a San Diego immigration lawyer who represents six people who received these fake future court dates, said he was shocked by the developments.
“This is fraud,” he said. “I don't call everything fraud. This is the first time I've used the words, ‘U.S. government' and ‘fraud' in the same sentence. No one should be OK with this.”
The Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Protection did not respond to multiple requests to comment about why they had engaged in the practice.
<< more >>
The Wall Street Journal
The Water's Fine, Mr. Bloomberg
The former New York mayor could be a strong Democratic nominee.
By The Editorial Board
The news that Michael Bloomberg might compete for the Democratic presidential nomination is causing consternation on the political left. But that's all the more reason to welcome his candidacy to challenge a vulnerable President Trump next year.
“Memo to Bloomberg: Democratic Voters Don't Want More Candidates” blared a headline Thursday night on the left-wing Huffington Post urging the former New York Mayor to stay out. The piece was the first we saw of what will be many lecturing Democratic voters that they should be happy with their field and don't need a billionaire. But if that's true, then the party's progressives have nothing to worry about.
The truth they don't want to admit is that the Democrats now leading in the primary polls have major vulnerabilities. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to blow up American capitalism and replace it with their top-down, socialist designs. Their agenda might scare suburban voters more than four more years of Mr. Trump does.
Joe Biden often stumbles with his words on the stump and can't escape the Ukraine imbroglio if impeachment goes to a Senate trial. He's also low on money. Pete Buttigieg is a glib and clever 37-year-old, but his only political experience is as the mediocre mayor of a small and struggling city. Kamala Harris has been exposed as unprepared for the national stage and is running on her identity far more than ideas. Others like Amy Klobuchar have appeal as potential Presidents, but they haven't shown they can attract a large primary following.
No wonder Mr. Bloomberg thinks he might have a chance. As three-term mayor of New York, he has more executive experience than anyone of the field. As a successful entrepreneur, he understands the private economy better than any candidate other than John Delaney, also a former CEO. Those would both be significant campaign assets against Mr. Trump in a general election.
His bigger challenge would be getting the Democratic nomination. Success in business is a liability on the Democratic left that is increasingly detached from the private economy and wealth creation. Progressives resent his wealth more than see it as a sign of ability.
Mr. Bloomberg also clashed with the teachers unions by promoting charter schools and teacher accountability in New York. And his stellar record in reducing crime, including support for such policies as stop-and-frisk, isn't popular with the social-justice left.
On the other hand, Mr. Bloomberg is no conservative. He is a down-the-line cultural liberal, he has become the leading national financier for candidates who support gun control, and he is a zealot on climate change who would regulate coal out of business (we're not sure about natural gas). None of these would be obstacles in the Democratic primaries.
<< more >>
The Washington Post
Hey, Michael Bloomberg, no one wants you to run for president
By David Byler
On Thursday, reporters learned that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is preparing to enter the Democratic primary. Scores of Democratic donors rejoiced at the news, and tens of families in the Hamptons erupted in cheers. In this era of increasing racial diversity, gender equality and rising populist anger, the Democratic primary clearly needed a septuagenarian white male billionaire to enter the race. Thank God Bloomberg is here to save the day!
Snark aside, Bloomberg 2020 is a bad idea. Polls suggest that Democrats neither want nor need a Bloomberg candidacy, and his strategy seems seriously flawed. Democratic donors have been sounding the alarm about their front-runners, but even if they're right, Democrats already have better options than Bloomberg in the race.
Real-life, non-million-dollar-donor Democrats are happy with the candidates they already have. In July, Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of Democrats had a “good” or “excellent” impression of the candidates running for the Democratic nomination, 25 percent said their sense was that the field was fair, and only 5 percent had a “poor” impression.
By historical standards, those are excellent numbers. In 2015, only 51 percent had an unambiguously positive impression of the field, and in 2003 just 44 percent did. Democrats are about as happy with the field as they were in 2007, when Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards were leading the Democratic primary and the party was on its way to a landslide victory. According to a Economist/YouGov poll, only 22 percent of registered Democrats who plan to vote in primaries wished they had more choices, and Pew found that 63 percent of Democrats are excited about several of the party's candidates.
Bloomberg occasionally gets a decent Democratic primary poll, but most surveys that include him have shown his support somewhere between zero and 2 percent. That number could go up if he runs a strong campaign and finds a way to differentiate himself from other candidates, but polling shows that there isn't some great outstanding hunger for a Bloomberg run.
<< more >>
The Los Angeles Times
POLITICS - IMPEACHMENT
1 in 4 Americans are uncertain about Trump impeachment, poll finds
Americans are divided about the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, and as the House prepares for public hearings next week, roughly 1 in 4 remain uncertain, providing a large audience that could be especially swayed by the evidence, a new poll shows.
Currently, 44% say the House should vote to impeach and 30% say it should not, according to the latest USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times nationwide poll. But 26% say they either don't know or that it's too soon to tell.
Those uncertain Americans will be a targeted audience when public hearings begin into Trump's actions toward Ukraine. The hearings are scheduled to start Wednesday, with the first witness set to be William B. Taylor Jr., the top U.S. diplomat in that country.
Taylor has already told House investigators in a deposition that Trump withheld aid from Ukraine as leverage to prod the country's leaders into publicly announcing an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, according to a transcript released Wednesday by House Democrats.
Asked whether the Senate should convict Trump and remove him from office if the House impeaches him, Americans split along lines nearly identical to their feelings about a House impeachment vote, with 45% saying Trump should be removed, 28% saying he should not be and 28% saying they are unsure or that it's too soon to say, the poll found.
Unlike many other recent surveys on impeachment, the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times poll gave people the explicit choice of saying that they remained uncertain or that it was too soon to tell; many other polls allow people to volunteer that they haven't made up their minds but don't provide that as an explicit choice.
Compared with other polls that offer only “yes” or “no” options, offering uncertainty as a choice appears to reduce support for both sides, but not equally: Support for impeachment appears more solid than opposition.
That finding is consistent with many other measurements regarding the president almost throughout his tenure: A large share of Americans solidly opposes him, a smaller share solidly backs him and a third group generally supports him but sometimes wavers.
In the current poll, for example, a majority of respondents, 52%, say they would be unhappy if Trump were reelected, and just 30% say they would be happy. While 40% say they would be “completely unhappy,” about half of that number say they would be “completely happy.” And 18% sit in the middle.
The roughly 1 in 4 Americans who say that they haven't made up their minds on impeachment provide a potentially important but elusive audience for the two warring sides.
<< more >>
The Los Angeles Times
‘Deep fake' videos could upend an election — but Silicon Valley may have a way to combat them
By EVAN HALPER
Election officials and social media firms already flummoxed by hackers, trolls and bots are bracing for a potentially more potent weapon of disinformation as the 2020 election approaches — doctored videos, known as “deep fakes,” that can be nearly impossible to detect as inauthentic.
In tech company board rooms, university labs and Pentagon briefings, technologists on the front lines of cybersecurity have sounded alarms over the threat, which they say has increased markedly as the technology to make convincing fakes has become increasingly available.
On Tuesday, leaders in artificial intelligence plan to unveil a tool to push back — it includes scanning software that UC Berkeley has been developing in partnership with the U.S. military, which the industry will start providing to journalists and political operatives. The goal is to give the media and campaigns a chance to screen possible fake videos before they could throw an election into chaos.
The software is among the first significant efforts to arm reporters and campaigns with tools to combat deep fakes. It faces formidable hurdles — both technical and political — and the developers say there's no time to waste.
“We have to get serious about this,” said Hany Farid, a computer science professor at UC Berkeley working with a San Francisco nonprofit called the AI Foundation to confront the threat of deep fakes.
“Given what we have already seen with interference, it does not take a stretch of imagination to see how easy it would be,” he added. “There is real power in video imagery.”
The worry that has gripped artificial intelligence innovators is of a fake video surfacing days before a major election that could throw a race into turmoil. Perhaps it would be grainy footage purporting to show President Trump plotting to enrich himself off the presidency or Joe Biden hatching a deal with industry lobbyists or Sen. Elizabeth Warren mocking Native Americans.
The concern goes far beyond the small community of scientists.
“Not even six months ago this was something available only to people with some level of sophistication,” said Lindsay Gorman, a fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a bipartisan think tank. Now the software to make convincing fakes is “available to almost everyone,” she said.
“The deep-fakes problem is expanding. There is no reason to think they won't be used in this election.”
Facebook has launched its own initiative to speed up development of technology to spot doctored videos, and it is grappling over whether to remove or label deep-fake propaganda when it emerges. Google has also been working with academics to generate troves of audio and video — real and fake — that can be used in the fight.
A new California law, AB 730, which takes effect in January, will make it illegal to distribute manipulated audio or video of a candidate that is maliciously deceptive and “would falsely appear to a reasonable person to be authentic.” There is a bipartisan effort in Congress to pass similar legislation.
Such bans, though, are legally precarious and could prove difficult to enforce in part because the line between a malicious fake and a satirical video protected under the 1st Amendment is a difficult one to draw.
The urgency around the videos comes as artificial intelligence developers unveil demos of deep fakes that appear stunningly authentic.
<< more >>
The Washington Post
It's not up to Mark Zuckerberg to decide what news is legitimate
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
There is now a growing consensus that American democracy needs to be saved by Mark Zuckerberg. People from Sen. Elizabeth Warren to Aaron Sorkin are demanding that Facebook stop running obviously false political advertising. So, let me pose a question: Would everyone be as comfortable if the person deciding what constitutes real news vs. fake news were not Zuckerberg but Rupert Murdoch?
It's not a fantasy. In 2005, News Corp. bought MySpace, then the leading social network on the planet. Had things worked out differently, it would be Murdoch or a band of Fox News experts who would be determining what counts as legitimate political speech. Still comfortable?
And these fact-checking decisions aren't as simple as they sound. Let's take the ad that the Trump campaign ran recently on Facebook that provoked the furious backlash. It made three assertions: During the Obama administration, the U.S. government promised Ukraine $1 billion in aid. Then-Vice President Joe Biden threatened to withhold that aid unless a key Ukrainian anti-corruption official was fired, which he was. Finally, Biden wanted this done because the official was investigating a company associated with his son Hunter.
Now here's the difficulty. The first two claims are undeniable facts. As for the third, the former Ukrainian official, Viktor Shokin, has filed an affidavit in a European court asserting that he was indeed fired for investigating Hunter Biden's company. But is it true?
No. Shokin is almost certainly lying because, for him, it's a better explanation for his dismissal than the more plausible one — that he was widely viewed as corrupt himself. So President Trump's claim is almost certainly false, but that is my judgment based on my understanding of the facts and context.
Broadcast networks cannot censor political ads because doing so would be considered an infringement of free speech on their large public platforms. Cable companies such as CNN (where I work) are not regulated the same way and thus can make their own decisions. Facebook, of course, is a larger platform than all the networks combined. It now serves as a sort of global public square, and it should be open to political speech.
The criticisms of Facebook are varied, and many of them are valid. It has been far too lax in allowing and even promoting incendiary messages that end up provoking violence, as in countries including Myanmar and Sri Lanka. It also acts as a quasi-monopoly, snuffing out competition, which is a separate matter.
Many argue that Zuckerberg is being disingenuous when he claims that Facebook is a neutral platform, open to all views equally. In fact, Facebook's algorithm promotes certain kinds of material over others — which can help spread fake news, exaggerations and lies. The algorithm encourages engagement and intensity of belief. That helps, say, stamp collectors and animal lovers get more of the content they crave. It helps Warren's supporters see material they like. And it helps Trump-leaning voters see the stuff that excites them.
The real issue is that the United States has become deeply polarized, and each side wants to believe the worst slander and lies about the other. And undeniably this phenomenon is far more prevalent on the right than the left. The situation with Facebook is a symptom of this problem. If Facebook didn't exist, Trump supporters would listen to talk radio, watch Fox News, go to other websites. Facebook accentuates partisanship more than causes it.
The Washington Post
Don't abolish political ads on social media. Stop microtargeting.
By Ellen L. Weintraub, chair of the Federal Election Commission
Twitter's surprise announcement on Wednesday that it would stop selling political advertising is an inflection point in paid political ads on the Internet. Twitter has made its move; pressure will build for the other Internet giants, particularly Facebook, to respond.
Here's a move that would allow political ads while deterring disinformation campaigns, restoring transparency and protecting the robust marketplace of ideas: Sell political ads, but stop the practice of microtargeting those ads.
“Microtargeting” is the sales practice of limiting the scope of an ad's distribution to precise sets of people, such as single men between 25 and 35 who live in apartments and “like” the Washington Nationals. But just because microtargeted ads can be a good way to sell deodorant does not make them a safe way to sell candidates. It is easy to single out susceptible groups and direct political misinformation to them with little accountability, because the public at large never sees the ad.
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey diagnosed the problem exactly right: “Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes,” he tweeted. “All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.”
But Dorsey's prescription — killing off political ads altogether — isn't the only way to address the problem. One of the primary ailments of the current online political advertising system is the way Internet platforms sell their ads. Microtargeting by foreign and domestic actors in 2016 proved to be a potent weapon for spreading disinformation and sowing discord. There is no reason to think it will not be wielded even more effectively going forward. The microtargeting of political ads may be undermining the united character of our United States.
Such ads also undermine the main remedy that the Supreme Court has set out for lies in politics: counterspeech. Counterspeech is most possible where a broad public can hear the speech and respond.
Eliminating political-ad microtargeting would address a healthy share of the worst problems we see in online political advertising. It would:
• Enhance transparency and accountability. Ads that are more widely available will contribute to the robust and wide-open debate that is central to our First Amendment values. Political advertisers will have greater incentives to be truthful in ads when they can more easily and publicly be called to account for them. And ad-targeting disclosures would be much more straightforward and helpful than they are now.
• Deter and flush out disinformation. Malicious advertisers, foreign and domestic, would be less likely to say to an entire state what they have been willing to say to a small audience targeted for its susceptibility.
• Unite us. Political advertisers, who would have to appeal to a wider audience, would have incentive to avoid fueling the divisiveness that pulls us apart.
The remaining large sellers of Internet advertising — Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Verizon — would do well to consider voluntarily stepping back from microtargeted political ads. This would entail foregoing “custom audiences” programs and allowing express-advocacy ads and electioneering communications (ads that mention candidate names and run right before Election Day) to be targeted only by large and fully disclosed geographic areas.
A good rule of thumb could be for Internet advertisers to allow targeting no more specific than one political level below the election at which the ad is directed. Want to influence the governor's race in Kansas? Your Internet ads could run across Kansas, or target individual counties, but that's it. Running at-large for the Houston City Council? You could target the whole city or individual council districts. Presidential ads could likely be safely targeted down two levels, to the state and then to the county or congressional district level.
This would be a major departure from the way political ads are sold on the Internet today. But as Twitter's announcement highlights, nothing about the status quo is immutable. It is the product of decisions the Internet companies have made. Will those companies continue to use an ad-sales technique that further divides our democracy? Internet advertising companies have created this problem. What are they willing to do to fix it?
<< more >>
CRIME - LAW ENFORCEMENT
She Stole Something While Struggling With Heroin Addiction. Cops Turned Her Into A Facebook Meme.
Wanted posters, the distracted boyfriend meme, #ThugThursday. Police departments have discovered how Facebook makes negative or extreme content go viral. Experts say it ruins people's trust in cops.
By Tasneem Nashrulla and Jennifer Grygiel
On May 31, Meghan Burmester became a meme. She was featured, along with four other women, on the Harford County Sheriff's Office “Ladies' Night” Facebook post for alleged theft under $1,500.
“Oh yes! It's Ladies' Night here in Harford County!” the post said. “This month we are running our summer special - turn yourself in, and get a free stay at the Harford County Rock Spring Road Spa (a.k.a, Harford County Detention Center). Sorry, no pedicures, manicures, facials, massages, spa services included (or available).”
The Maryland department's “Ladies' Night” Facebook posts, which feature a handful of women who have open warrants against them usually for alleged theft or traffic- or drug-related offenses, are a big hit with its 55,000 followers.
“5 idiots!” one fan commented on the post featuring Burmester. Another follower tagged a friend and joked, “I found your dating site lol.”
“Just use a bag of fentanyl for their faces next time,” one comment read.
And under Burmester's photo, in which she had a black eye, someone wrote, “Wow!! She is HIGH!!!!!”
One person did speak up for the group. “They look like young women who obviously have a substance use disorder,” the person commented. “They are sick and need treatment. Their legal troubles are a result of their addiction. These women are someone's daughter, sister or mother. A little compassion and empathy would go a long way. And perhaps a prayer.”
Burmester, a 28-year-old restaurant server in South Carolina, was in fact at the height of her heroin addiction at the time of the photo. She'd stolen something to resell so she could feed her habit, she told BuzzFeed News.
She is now five months clean, she said, but this post with her photo and her residential address remains on the sheriff's Facebook page as a digital repository of shame.
Burmester, who was only in Maryland for a short time, didn't find out about the post until a few weeks after it went up, when her ex-boyfriend's friend sent him a screenshot. “Isn't this your girlfriend in South Carolina?” the friend asked.
She called it “disgusting,” “unprofessional,” and “tasteless” that a law enforcement agency was allowed to mock people and make them “feel worse about their situation.”
“The most embarrassing thing is watching this community that sees the page comment nasty things on my picture,” Burmester said.
“I read these comments from people who have no idea who I am and they don't know the situation I was in,” she said. “It's humiliating.”
Police have experimented with using humor on social media for years. They've been both criticized for it and validated by it.
Social platforms, but especially Facebook, reward content driven by communally negative or extreme comments and reactions. So police departments are now celebrating #ThugThursdays, #FelonFridays, and “Ladies' Night” and use the distracted boyfriend meme to mock suspects' physical attributes, names, clothing, facial expressions, and drug addiction issues.
Some of the posts are racist, sexist, and classist. Most of these suspects are accused of committing nonviolent crimes like shoplifting, not paying child support, and traffic offenses — though some are accused of violent crimes.
Facebook didn't return requests for comment.
<< more >>
The Washington Post
Justice for victims of violent crime in Mexico is rare. Can the deaths of nine Mormons change that?
In Mexico, perpetrators of violent crimes are rarely held to account, despite efforts to reform the criminal justice system in recent years.
By Miriam Berger
Funerals have begun for the nine U.S.-Mexican nationals who were gunned down [last] Monday as they were driving in a caravan of SUVs in northern Mexico. Yet there's still much that is unknown about why the family of fundamentalist Mormons was ambushed and whether this was a deliberate hit or a case of one drug cartel mistaking the caravan as that of a rival.
We do know, however, that in Mexico, perpetrators of violent crimes are rarely held to account, despite efforts to reform the criminal justice system in recent years.
Here are factors that may play a role in whether those who committed Monday's attacks will be brought to justice.
How relatives and Mexico's government are responding to the massacre of a Mormon family Authorities have yet to determine who killed nine members of a Mormon family in Mexico on Nov. 4, or their motive, but the victims' family is demanding justice. (Alexa Ard/The Washington Post)
Mexico has a sky-high crime rate but a tiny number of prosecutions
The number of homicides in Mexico rose to 33,341 last year, while 40,000 people were reported missing. A 2019 report by the group Justice in Mexico, based at the University of San Diego, attributed a “third to a half” of the violence “to the presence of organized crime groups, particularly drug trafficking organizations.”
Yet roughly 98 percent of violent crimes, including homicides, go unsolved in Mexico. That rate, based on various academic studies, has generally held steady for roughly 15 years, said Vanda Felbab-Brown, who researches drug and crime policy as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a D.C.-based think tank.
“The weak rule of law is really the crux of the problem,” said Arturo Sarukhán, former Mexican ambassador to the United States. “It's one of Mexico's Achilles' heels.”
U.S.-backed reforms haven't brought justice to average Mexicans, experts say
The U.S. government has contributed more than $300 million since 2008 to a project to overhaul Mexico's justice system, as The Washington Post's Joshua Partlow reported in 2017.
“It is hard to overstate the significance of the restructuring,” Partlow wrote. “It seeks to turn the notoriously ineffective police into professional investigators. It strengthens the independence of judges. It provides more rights to defendants in a country where authorities have been known to demand bribes, extract confessions under torture and doctor evidence.”
U.S. funds went toward equipping courthouses with cameras and new technology and training police and legal personnel.
The changes were badly needed. Mexico's opaque judicial system was a remnant of the country's authoritarian, one-party rule throughout much of the 20th century.
“Police were often seen as an instrument of control — not investigation,” Partlow reported. “Judicial appointees, meanwhile, were expected to be loyal to the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party. Judges rarely disagreed with the written cases put together by prosecutors.” Detained people could languish in prison on minor charges or be tortured to make certain confessions.
The system was indeed broken. But the reforms didn't necessarily fix it.
The reasons are complex. But as Partlow found, one important factor is that, along with the corruption, the limited capabilities of law enforcement remained a major issue constraining the judicial system. “The exacting new procedures have been grafted onto feeble, corruption-plagued institutions created decades ago by an authoritarian state. Judges are demanding the kind of legal precision found in Washington or London, from police who sometimes can barely read and live in places that can feel like war zones,” he reported.
For the past decade, Mexico's drug war has also been shaped by U.S. policies that prioritized top-down law enforcement tactics.
“Since Mexico's [now-former] President Felipe Calderón declared the start of the Drug War in 2006, both the U.S. and Mexico's security forces have aggressively pursued what is referred to as the kingpin strategy: they go after the ‘head' with the intent of weakening the ‘body,' " Gladys McCormick, an expert in Mexico's political violence at Syracuse University, told The Post's Adam Taylor earlier this year. “After a decade of this approach, policy experts concur that it has failed and, if anything, has worsened the Drug War.”
This helps explain why Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador successfully campaigned with a slogan of “hugs, not bullets” last year. He has pledged to focus on long-term socioeconomic causes of Mexico's drug cartel crisis, such as unemployment that leads people to leave school for criminal work, rather than relying exclusively on law enforcement and security tactics to stem the violent tide.
<< more >>
The Los Angeles Times
For 53 million Americans stuck in low-wage jobs, the road out is hard
Unemployment is hovering near a five-decade low, workforce participation is at the highest level in six years and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome H. Powell recently called the labor market “strong.”
Yet, 44% of Americans age 18 to 64 are low-wage workers with few prospects for improving their lot, according to a Brookings Institution report.
An estimated 53 million Americans are earning low wages, according to the study. That number is more than twice the number of people in the 10 most populous U.S. cities combined, the report notes.
The median wage for those workers is $10.22 an hour and their annual pay is $17,950.
Although many are benefiting from high demand for labor, the data indicated that not all new jobs are good, high-paying positions.
The definition of “low-wage” differs from place to place. The authors define low-wage workers as those who earn less than two-thirds of the median wage for full-time workers, adjusted for the regional cost of living.
For instance, a worker would be considered low wage in Beckley, W.Va., with earnings of $12.54 an hour or less, but in San Jose, Calif., the low wage bar rises to $20.02 an hour.
“We have the largest and longest expansion and job growth in modern history,” Marcela Escobari, coauthor of the report, said in a phone interview. That expansion “is showing up in very different ways to half of the worker population that finds itself unable to move.”
The millions of Americans in low-wage jobs are likely to stay there. Workers who make $10 to $15 an hour have a 52% chance of remaining in that wage bracket when they switch jobs.
For middle-wage workers, or those earning $19 to $24 an hour, there's a 46% chance that a job transition would result in lower pay. That's bad news for the nearly 3.5 million workers who quit their jobs in September alone.
The demographics of low-wage workers span race, gender and geography, but women and minority groups are more likely to earn low wages. Black workers are 32% more likely to earn low wages than whites, and Latinos are 41% more likely.
Nearly half of low-wage workers are concentrated in just 10 occupations, according to the report.
The largest group is retail salespeople (4.5 million), followed by information and records clerks (2.9 million), cooks and food preparation workers (2.6 million), building cleaners and janitors (2.5 million), material movers (2.5 million) and food and beverage servers (2.4 million).
Rounding out the top-10 list are construction trade workers (2.3 million), material dispatchers and distributors (1.9 million), motor vehicle operators (1.8 million) and personal care and service providers (1.8 million).
As for the future, the main concern is displacement, Escobari said.
“Both the industries that are growing and the industries that are shrinking are low wage,” and available work “is going to be more low-wage work,” she said.
Escobari and coauthors Ian Seyal and Michael Meaney suggest a variety of potential solutions to allow low-wage workers to avoid becoming trapped in those positions.
This would include efforts that match training to local and national industry needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
“Policymakers can design reskilling programs that tap into local talent pools and facilitate workers' realistic upward transitions into growing occupations,” the report said.
|The New York Times
A test case for raising the minimum wage
The minimum wage in New York State is $11.10 and is set to reach $12.50 next year, while neighboring Pennsylvania has stuck by the federal minimum of $7.25.
That discrepancy provides an opportunity to test higher wage floors during a push to raise the federal minimum to $15 an hour.
Recent research by the Federal Reserve suggested that higher minimum wages didn't cost jobs in border counties. An analysis of the data by The Times, paired with on-the-ground reporting, generally supports those findings, with caveats.
Another angle: Employment growth and the jobless rate are roughly equivalent in both Democratic- and Republican-leaning metro areas. But a closer look shows stark differences between blue and red economies.
The Wall Street Journal
His World Collapsed the Night the Berlin Wall Fell. Then Came the Hard Part.
After the wall came down 30 years ago, a young East German faced life in a new Germany
By Ruth Bender
The smells were foreign to Falk Fleischer. Even the cigarette smoke felt different. He heard Champagne corks popping. A hand flipped his cap off his head. Another pinned a flower to his lapel.
The 20-year-old East German border guard in training disentangled himself from the other soldiers. There was no point trying to block the crowd from entering the forbidden zone. At first, people trickled through the border one by one; then the trickle became a stream. The guards were no longer checking passports. In the ruckus, he recalled, a woman walked by with a circus bear on a leash.
It was Nov. 9, 1989, at the Checkpoint Charlie crossing between divided East and West Berlin. For most Germans, it was a night of joy. The infamous Berlin Wall had become history. The East German people, having defeated one of the Soviet bloc's most repressive dictatorships, was bursting through the barrier. But for Mr. Fleischer, it was the night his own world collapsed.
One of the pictures taken that night by the British photographer Mark Power captured a group of young, gangly East German soldiers who barely filled their uniforms. In the middle is Mr. Fleischer, staring into a void. Three decades later, The Wall Street Journal went searching for the young soldiers. It found the story of a man's struggle to reconstruct his life in a strange new Germany.
At the time, Western politicians, academics and journalists—like most Germans on both sides of the wall—grossly underestimated the complexities of merging two countries separated for 40 years. Mr. Power's photograph, with its ambivalence and sense of the unknown, was a more prescient portrait of what was about to unfold than the images of celebration that flooded the world in the days after Nov. 9.
In it, the three soldiers seem aloof, lost in their own thoughts, unsure of what they're witnessing as a beaming civilian reaches out to them. The story it tells isn't about courageous rebels who stood up for democracy. It's about the millions of East Germans who accommodated and sometimes propped up a system that banned free speech and spied on its people's most intimate secrets. For Mr. Fleischer, it's a tale of falling asleep and waking up in a foreign country.
The end of Germany's division is often referred to as its reunification. But the East German historian Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk's book on the event is called “The Takeover,” and it offers another depiction: a small, impoverished nation being absorbed by its bigger and richer neighbor. No East German institution survived, while life in the West went on largely unchanged. The newly reunified country even retained its old, Western name—the Federal Republic of Germany.
The German government spent two trillion euros on upgrading the former Communist state—repairing its infrastructure, rebuilding the courts, schools, police and military. But while the East has partially caught up to the West economically, the regions remain far apart in many respects. Eastern wages and pensions are lower and unemployment higher; few East Germans lead big German companies; Westbound emigration has emptied many Eastern towns. The government's latest report on the state of reunification, published in September, claims that 57% of East Germans feel like second-class citizens and only 38% consider reunification a success. In the West, many resent such sentiment after so much tax money was funneled into the region.
Politically, East and West have even started diverging again after a long period of growing together. The nativist Alternative for Germany, or AfD, is now among the three most popular parties in the East, according to opinion polls and recent election results. One of its slogans is “let's complete the Wende ,” or “turning point,” as the events of 1989 are known—an appeal to the sense of frustration many feel in the East over issues ranging from the lack of economic parity with the West to the rejection of some Western views on immigration and diversity.
Today, the 50-year-old Mr. Fleischer has swapped his native Saxon dialect for Hessian, the accent of the Western state he has called home since 1990. He has no wish to see the old regime return. Yet he's proud of having known the German Democratic Republic, which in his childhood memory is a “safe, caring and fraternal” country. “West Germans seem to always think that because we came here, we could just live like them,” he said, searching to explain why East and West still won't meld into one nation. “But few consider that our histories are so fundamentally different. You can't just strip that off.”
<< more >>
The Washington Post
OPINION - BERLIN WALL
The fall of 1989
The Berlin Wall crumbled. Regimes toppled. But 30 years later, how much have things changed?
Thirty years ago, the citizens of Soviet-dominated Central Europe achieved something extraordinary: a wave of peaceful revolution that swept away the system that had exerted near-seamless control over their lives for the previous four decades.
The enormous impact of those events was obvious to everyone who witnessed them. Since then, a generation has passed. The Berlin Wall — and everything it symbolized — is just a memory, and it is tempting to view the events of 1989 as mere history.
That would be a mistake. In fact, that remarkable year has left an enduring imprint on Europe — and the rest of the world. The upheaval of that moment still shapes politics, economies and biographies in ways we don't normally consider.
We may think we have put 1989 behind us — but its shadow still looms large.
NOTE: see also OPINION stories on Angela
Merkel, the one who went west, Vladimir
Putin and the ghosts of 1989 and The strange odyssey of
The end of history? Not quite.
By Brian Klaas
In the summer of 1989, just a few months before protesters streamed through Checkpoint Charlie of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama published an article in the National Interest called “The End of History?,” which later became the foundation of his book “The End of History and the Last Man.” He argued that the great ideological struggles of the 20th century — first between liberal democracy and fascism and then between liberal democracy and communism — were over. History, defined by Fukuyama as the struggle between grand ideologies, had reached its endpoint. Liberal democracy had won.
“What we may be witnessing,” Fukuyama wrote, “is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”
When the Berlin Wall fell only a few months later, Fukuyama looked more like a prophet than a political scientist. But does he still look right today?
Thirty years later, history itself appears to have refuted “the end of history.” China, Russia and Vietnam have revived and prolonged authoritarianism precisely by adapting capitalism to their own designs. Turkey and Egypt have created new forms of sultanism. And in east-central Europe, Hungary and Poland — once bright spots of the 1989 revolutions — are once again embracing one-party rule in all but name. Germany, once the standard-bearer for Eastern Europe, now also finds itself bedeviled by right-wing populism. Even in the United States — a country that Ronald Reagan called a “shining city upon a hill” in January 1989 — a weak but dangerous would-be strongman now rules.
These examples, and others, are driving a dangerous trend. Young people in the West are losing faith in democratic institutions. Roughly 75 percent of Americans born in the 1930s say it is “essential” to live in a democracy — but only about 30 percent of Americans born in the 1980s share that view. Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden show a similar dynamic.
More are also willing to consider alternatives that were once unthinkable fringe views. In 1995, 1 in 16 Americans said army rule would be “good” or “very good.” By 2014, that figure had grown to 1 in 6.
Yet this is not the entire story. For one thing, the current democratic recession doesn't negate the astounding growth of liberal democracy since World War II.
In 1945, the world was home to 137 autocratic states — and just 12 democratic ones. By 1989, the number of autocracies had fallen to 105 compared with 51 democracies. In 2018, democracies were in the lead, by a count of 99 to 80. (This is a broad category that encompasses many different kinds of states, ranging from robust parliamentary democracies to relatively illiberal ones.) Oxford economist Max Roser calculates that the number of people who live in democracies nearly doubled between 1989 and 2015, from about 2 billion to about 4 billion.
Even more striking, perhaps, is the persistence with which post-1989 despots strive to present themselves as democrats. Many make a point of holding regular and seemingly competitive elections (while rigging them). They allow a semi-free press (which they muzzle when it suits them). They make a pretense of maintaining the rule of law on paper (though not in practice). As Nic Cheeseman and I have argued, this is why there are more elections than ever before as the world becomes less democratic.
<< more >>
The Wall Street Journal
TECH - FACEBOOK
California Probing Facebook's Privacy Practices
State's attorney general accuses tech giant in lawsuit of not complying with subpoenas related to investigation
By Sebastian Herrera
California is investigating Facebook Inc.'s privacy practices, the state's attorney general revealed Wednesday in a lawsuit that accuses the Silicon Valley tech giant of failing to adequately comply with information requests.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra said he has asked the San Francisco Superior Court to force Facebook to comply with investigators' subpoenas, the latest of which were issued in June.
“The responses we have received to date are patently inadequate,” he said at a press conference.
California prosecutors began probing Facebook in 2018, shortly after the company said data from as many as 87 million of its users may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica, a British political consulting firm that worked on President Trump's 2016 campaign and has since shut down. Facebook says it has complied with requests from California authorities.
As it sought to settle a privacy investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, Facebook uncovered emails that appeared to connect Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg to potentially problematic privacy practices at the company, The Wall Street Journal previously reported. Facebook's unearthing of the emails while it responded to the federal probe raised concerns internally that they would harm the company, at least from a public-relations standpoint.
The emails suggest Mr. Zuckerberg and other senior executives didn't make compliance with an existing FTC consent decree a priority, the Journal reported. The potential impact of the internal emails was a factor in the tech giant's desire to reach a speedy settlement with the FTC.
In July, the FTC approved a roughly $5 billion settlement with Facebook related to privacy missteps by the company.
California said in its legal filing that it doesn't believe Facebook has searched the emails of either Mr. Zuckerberg or Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg in response to the subpoena.
“We have cooperated extensively with the state of California's investigation,” Facebook Vice President of State and Local Policy Will Castleberry said Wednesday. “To date, we have provided thousands of pages of written responses and hundreds of thousands of documents.”
Mr. Becerra's office said it issued a first round of subpoenas to Facebook on June 4, 2018, including about the company's ties to Cambridge Analytica. It waited more than a year for responses from the social-media giant, the attorney general's office said.
A second round of information requests was issued this past June. In that case, the company didn't answer 19 of 27 sets of written questions, gave only partial responses on six others and didn't provide any documents to six document requests, the attorney general's office said.
<< more >>
The Wall Street Journal
Google's ‘Project Nightingale' Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans
Search giant is amassing health records from Ascension facilities in 21 states; patients not yet informed
By Rob Copeland
Google is engaged with one of the U.S.'s largest health-care systems on a project to collect and crunch the detailed personal-health information of millions of people across 21 states.
The initiative, code-named “Project Nightingale,” appears to be the biggest effort yet by a Silicon Valley giant to gain a toehold in the health-care industry through the handling of patients' medical data. Amazon.com Inc., Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are also aggressively pushing into health care, though they haven't yet struck deals of this scope.
Google began Project Nightingale in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, a Catholic chain of 2,600 hospitals, doctors' offices and other facilities, with the data sharing accelerating since summer, according to internal documents.
The data involved in the initiative encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.
Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and the documents.
In a news release issued after The Wall Street Journal reported on Project Nightingale on Monday, the companies said the initiative is compliant with federal health law and includes robust protections for patient data.
Some Ascension employees have raised questions about the way the data is being collected and shared, both from a technological and ethical perspective, according to the people familiar with the project. But privacy experts said it appeared to be permissible under federal law. That law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, generally allows hospitals to share data with business partners without telling patients, as long as the information is used “only to help the covered entity carry out its health care functions.”
<< more >>
Google in this case is using the data in part to design new software, underpinned by advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning, that zeroes in on individual patients to suggest changes to their care. Staffers across Alphabet Inc., Google's parent, have access to the patient information, internal documents show, including some employees of Google Brain, a research science division credited with some of the company's biggest breakthroughs.
WarAnimals.com - CNN
Honoring Animals The Have Served Our Country In War & Peace
A new award and highest honor to an animal for bravery in both war and peace will be created with a ceremony called the Inaugural Animals in War and Peace Medal Ceremony to be held in Washington, DC on November 14, 2019.
Inaugural Animals in War & Peace Medal Ceremony
A reception and awards ceremony honoring eight to ten unsung animal heroes recognizing their accomplishments in both war and peace. This reception will be the first step toward a new Congressional Medal of Bravery to underscore America's appreciation of the sacrifices and heroics of our animals who served our country. This American medal will be similar to the British PDSA Dickin Medal, “the Victoria Cross for Animals”. The Dickin Medal has been presented to seventy-one war heroes since WW2, with six of them as American heroes.
Six posthumous medals will be given by Members of Congress and sponsors to animals that served in World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Afghanistan/Iraq War. Two to four medals will be given by Members of Congress and sponsors to current (alive) working or retired military animals representing our five military services or first responders/police dogs for their bravery, service and sacrifice.
Date: Thursday, November 14th, 2019
Time: 5:00PM to 8:00PM EST (Medal ceremony at 6:00PM)
Place: The Gold Room, Rayburn House Office Building, Independence Ave.,SW, Washington, DC
Hosts: The National Marine Corps League and Angels Without Wings, Inc. (a California non-profit organization that spearheaded monuments to Korean War horse, Sgt. Reckless.)
Honorary Attendees: The Honorable Don Beyer (8th VA), The Honorable Julia Brownley (26th CA) and former Senator The Honorable John Warner (VA).
For TICKET information:
Mari Lou Livingood, email@example.com, 703-297-5961 https://waranimals.com/medal-of-bravery
Robin Hutton, firstname.lastname@example.org, 805-603-2174
We hope you will join us at this historic event as we honor our winged and four-legged heroes who have served so valiantly in defense of our nation.
Tiny deer-like animal thought lost to science photographed for first time in 30 years
By Katie Hunt, CNN
(CNN) A tiny deer-like creature about the size of a rabbit has been photographed in the wild for the first time in three decades in southern Vietnam, delighting conservationists who feared the species was extinct.
The silver-backed chevrotain, also called the Vietnamese mouse deer, was last recorded more than 25 years ago when a team of Vietnamese and Russian researchers obtained a dead chevrotain from a hunter.
"For so long, this species has seemingly only existed as part of our imagination," said Vietnamese biologist An Nguyen, an associate conservation scientist with Global Wildlife Conservation, a nongovernmental organization, and a PhD student with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
"Discovering that it is, indeed, still out there, is the first step in ensuring we don't lose it again, and we're moving quickly now to figure out how best to protect it," he said in a statement.
Scientists had thought the tiny creature, which had been among a list of 25 "most wanted" lost species compiled by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC), had fallen victim to habitat loss and intensive hunting for the illegal wildlife trade. Wire snares are widely used in the region.
Details of the rediscovery were published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
The tiny mammals live in coastal rainforest in southern Vietnam.
After interviewing villagers and forest rangers near the beach city of Nha Trang, the team of scientists set camera traps for five months in areas where the locals said they may have seen the animal.
This resulted in 275 photos of the mammal. The team then set up another 29 cameras in the same area, this time recording 1,881 photographs of the chevrotain over five months.
Despite their nickname, chevrotains are neither mice nor deer, but the world's smallest ungulates or hoofed mammals, according to GWC. They are shy and solitary, appear to walk on the tips of their hooves and have two tiny fangs. They typically weigh less than 10 pounds.
<< more >>
The Wall Street Journal
HEALTH - HELP FROM ANIMALS
A New Approach to Gene Therapy — Now In Dogs, Maybe Later In Humans
Gene therapy has successfully been used to treat age-related ailments in mice. Now it's being studied in dogs.
By Sumathi Reddy
North Grafton, Mass. -- A Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Shadow was at the front lines of a new approach to gene therapy.
Earlier this month, 7-year-old Shadow was the first dog to be screened at Tufts University for a pilot study attempting to use gene therapy to treat a type of heart disease that often afflicts aging cavaliers.
It's part of a novel approach to gene therapy that has successfully treated age-related ailments in mice. Now it is being studied in dogs, with eventual hopes to test it in humans.
Researchers reported their success in mice in a study published Monday in the journal PNAS. They treated four age-related diseases in mice using genetic therapy: heart and kidney failure, Type 2 diabetes and obesity. On average, the mice experienced a 58% increase in heart function, a 75% reduction in kidney degradation, and normalized weight and blood-sugar levels in mice fed a high-fat diet, the study found.
So far in humans, gene therapy has been used to treat rare genetic diseases by adding a functional gene to compensate for a defective one. Treatments have recently been approved to treat an inherited eye disorder and spinal muscular atrophy.
What's interesting about the new research in mice is that it is broader—targeting not a single rare defect, but common age-related ailments. The experiments injected mice with DNA to create an extra copy of a healthy gene, expressing more healthy material in cells linked to common diseases of aging.
The goal of the biotech company behind the mice study, Rejuvenate Bio —which sprang from research out of the lab of Harvard geneticist George Church, who is a co-founder—is to treat multiple aging-related diseases in dogs. It recently started working with Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine on the dog pilot. If successful in dogs, the company hopes to treat similar human diseases but says that will take a lot more resources and time.
The firm says it expects the cost of dog genetic therapies would be similar to dog cancer treatments, including surgery, which range from about $500 to $8,000.
At least one other research group is also working on gene-therapy approaches for dogs. James Wilson, director of the gene therapy program at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, is a founder and chair of the scientific advisory board of Scout Bio, a Philadelphia-based biotech company working on gene therapy therapeutics for various pet health conditions.
Scout is doing pilot studies in lab animals, treating anemia in cats and osteoarthritis in dogs and cats. “If we can show these approaches using gene therapy for cats and dogs work, then it's going to be an easier lift to move into humans,” says Dr. Wilson.
It's part of a wider push to extend the healthy lifespan of dogs. Some researchers are looking to apply therapies already used in humans to treat dogs. Others are using dogs as a proxy to learn more about aging in humans.
<< more >>
Scientists discover first new HIV strain in nearly two decades
By Jen Christensen, CNN
(CNN) For the first time in 19 years, a team of scientists has detected a new strain of HIV.
The strain is a part of the Group M version of HIV-1, the same family of virus subtypes to blame for the global HIV pandemic, according to Abbott Laboratories, which conducted the research along with the University of Missouri, Kansas City. The findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.
HIV has several different subtypes or strains, and like other viruses, it has the ability to change and mutate over time. This is the first new Group M HIV strain identified since guidelines for classifying subtypes were established in 2000. It is important to know what strains of the virus are circulating to ensure that tests used to detect the disease are effective.
"It can be a real challenge for diagnostic tests," Mary Rodgers, a co-author of the report and a principal scientist at Abbott, said. Her company tests more than 60% of the world's blood supply, she said, and they have to look for new strains and track those in circulation so "we can accurately detect it, no matter where it happens to be in the world."
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said current treatments for HIV are effective against this strain and others. However, identifying a new strain provides a more complete map of how HIV evolves.
"There's no reason to panic or even to worry about it a little bit," Fauci said. "Not a lot of people are infected with this. This is an outlier."
For scientists to be able to declare that this was a new subtype, three cases of it must be detected independently.
<< more >>
The New York Times
SCIENCE - TECH
Sweeping up space debris (maybe)
NASA isn't the only U.S. agency working in space.
This month, the Navy's Research Laboratory is testing the idea that space equipment could draw on electrons in the ionosphere to enable fuel-free space maneuvering hundreds of miles from Earth's surface.
A satellite launched from a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in June will, when given the command from Earth, split into two identical pieces, each smaller than a shoe box. They will unfurl between them a kilometer-long electrodynamic filament.
As they pull that tether through the Earth's magnetic field, the minisatellites will draw in electrons at each end. Sending them through the tether in one direction creates a propulsive force, and in the other, drag. It's the same physics — the Lorentz force — that drives an electric motor.
The experiment won't generate enough current for meaningful propulsion, but if it works, it holds the promise of longevity for satellites, as well as a way to nudge a satellite at the end of its useful life into the atmosphere to burn up, to prevent the accumulation of space junk.
This astronaut cast his vote from the International Space Station
By Ryan Prior, CNN
(CNN) Defying their earthly bounds doesn't stop many astronauts from exercising their civic duties.
Andrew Morgan cast an early vote from space last month, weighing in on a Pennsylvania election, NASA says.
According to his official biography, Morgan is a physician who was selected to join the astronaut corps in 2013, and completed his training in 2015. He's now aboard the space station as a flight engineer for several expeditions.
The father of four considers New Castle, about 55 miles north of Pittsburgh, to be his hometown. And he voted early in the election held Tuesday.
Ed Allison, who heads up voter registration for Lawrence County, told CNN that Morgan sent in what's called a federal post card application. Elections officials sent Morgan a ballot via email, and gave him a secure password to open it. He made his choices and sent it back to them on October 10.
"We secured the ballot and it will be counted Friday," Allison said.
"This is the first time we ever did anything from the space station," he added. "We've gone out to hospitals and delivered ballots and brought it back. We will accommodate any voter as long as it is within the assets that we have available to us."
A spokeswoman for NASA told CNN she couldn't confirm whether other astronauts currently in orbit had voted in this year's elections.
Many astronauts have voted from space
In a post on Tumblr, NASA noted that a Texas bill passed in 1997 made it possible to vote from space. That bill, signed into law by then-Gov. George W. Bush, came to fruition because most astronauts live in the Lone Star State, NASA says.
For many, the process to vote from space begins about a year before liftoff, when astronauts select which elections they wish to vote in from their perch in the heavens.
They fill out the post card application -- a form of an absentee ballot request -- about six months out and then when the time comes, they set up a secure connection with their local county clerk's office, as Morgan did last month.
Celestial votes have been cast in almost every election cycle.
David Wolf became the first astronaut to vote from space when he cast his vote while aboard Russia's Mir Space Station. In 2004, Leroy Chiao voted from space, NASA said. Michael Lopez-Alegria did it in 2006, and Greg Chamitoff and Mike Fincke followed their civic duty in 2008.
In 2010, astronauts Doug Wheelock, Shannon Walker, and Scott Kelly voted from the International Space Station.
"It felt like an honor and privilege to exercise our rights as US citizens from the International Space Station," Kelly said at the time.
The New York Times
TECH - BUSINESS
Inside the High-Stakes Race to Build the World's First Flying Taxi
Lilium, a German start-up, illustrates the potential and the risks of creating a new generation of electric aircraft for urban transportation.
By Adam Satariano
MUNICH — Inside an airplane hangar about 20 miles from central Munich, Daniel Wiegand lifted the door of a prototype that he said would become one of the world's first flying taxis. He's coy about how much it cost to build — “several million,” he says — but promises that within five years a fleet of them could provide a 10-minute trip from Manhattan to Kennedy International Airport for $70.
A lot is riding on his plane. Mr. Wiegand, 34, is the chief executive and a founder of Lilium, one of the most promising and secretive start-ups in the global race to build an all-electric aircraft that will — regulators and public opinion willing — move passengers above cities.
“This is the perfect means of transportation, something that can take off and land everywhere,” Mr. Wiegand (pronounced VEE-gand) said. “It's very fast, very efficient and low noise.”
Expectations that aerial taxis will be a reality in the coming years are quickly building. Companies like Lilium are testing their machines, laying the groundwork for wider production and starting discussions to gain support from government officials.
At least 20 companies are in the market, which Morgan Stanley estimates will top $850 billion by 2040. Larry Page, the billionaire co-founder of Google, is financially backing Kitty Hawk, a company run by the first engineers on Google's autonomous car. Boeing and Airbus have projects underway. Automakers including Daimler, Toyota and Porsche are investing in the sector. Uber is developing an air taxi service, with plans to open by 2023 in Los Angeles, Dallas and Melbourne, Australia.
Yet saying your plane could fly over Manhattan in five years doesn't mean it will. Building durable jets at a reasonable cost still presents engineering and technical challenges. And a long process awaits with regulators, including the Federal Aviation Administration, that will need to weigh safety concerns.
“The question is can we build a platform that is broadly accessible to everybody and is not just a rich person's toy, and can we build it so quiet that people on the ground aren't annoyed by it?” said Sebastian Thrun, the chief executive of Kitty Hawk.
Lilium, which has raised more than $100 million from investors, illustrates the high-wire act of the companies trying to live up to the hype.
The black-and-white aircraft shown by Mr. Wiegand is less “Jetsons”-like flying car than a glider, with a carbon fiber body and 36-foot wingspan. Like several other flying taxis in development, it is battery powered, providing a range of 186 miles and a top speed of nearly 190 miles per hour. Inside the oval cabin will eventually be plush seats and other comforts for four passengers and a pilot.
<< more >>
The New York Times
HISTORY - SCIENCE
Naming the planets
The planet Mercury just made news by transiting the sun.
The innermost planet in the solar system, Mercury orbits in a zippy 88 days. The Romans named it after the speedy messenger of the gods (Hermes to the Greeks). The word “planet” is drawn from the ancient Greek for “wandering star.”
The Greeks and the Romans weren't the only ancient people fascinated with Mercury and with the four other planets visible with the naked eye.
For instance, the Chinese named the five after their primary elements. Jupiter is the wood star, Mars the fire star, Saturn the earth star, Venus the metal star and Mercury the water star.
Eventually, humans realized that what they were standing on was also a planet. What the West ended up calling Earth, the Chinese called Diqiu, meaning “ball of earth” — or, slightly less elegantly, “dirt ball.”
PUBLIC SAFETY 101
LAPD & LA County Sheriff -- How are they doing?
We'll explore how listeners feel about their local law enforcement agencies. How safe do they feel? How good is the local quality of life in their home town and what can be done to make things better?
We'll continue this discussion tonight ..
from LACP.org web site - MAIN ARTICLES
|DHS and FEMA - Preparedness Newsletter
DHS and FEMA
| This Digest is provided by FEMA to highlight community preparedness and resilience resources, an important part of FEMA's mission to help people before, during, and after disasters. We're building a culture of preparedness together.
CERT & Communities
Children & Disasters
Important Dates ..
|Emergency Management and Response -- Information Sharing and Analysis Center
| This INFOGRAM is distributed weekly to provide members of the Emergency Services Sector with information concerning the protection of their critical infrastructures.
Ambulance workers four times more likely to get injured on the job
Registration now open for CDP's Tribal Training Week 2020
New Cyber Essentials answers the question "Where do I start?"
Webinar: Surviving the Service - Cardiac, Cancer, Behavioral Threats
and more ..
|LAPPL Law Enforcement News
| Daily Local & Regional NewsWatch - 2019 Archives
The LA Police Protective League, the union that represents the rank-and-file LAPD officers, presents a weekday digest of local news, which often includes the union's perspective.
The articles are often from local newspapers and national other sources,
Thay constitute but a small percentage of the information available daily to the community policing and neighborhood activist public.
But most of the material includes issues of some interest to the Los Angeles community-policing community.