Category Archives: Law

Jerry Brown vetoed 2016 bill aimed at preventing powerline wildfires | Nov 14 2018

Gov. Brown vetoed 2016 bill aimed at power line, wildfire safety

|| San Jose Mercury News Oct 2017

 

“Serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds.”

“A year ago, a bipartisan bill aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires from overhead electrical lines went to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

It was vetoed.

The author of the measure — passed unanimously by both houses of the Legislature — now says the governor missed out on a chance to tackle one of his state’s longstanding vulnerabilities: massive wildfires endangering residential communities. But the governor’s office and the California Public Utilities Commission say the bill duplicated efforts already underway among the CPUC, Cal Fire and utilities like PG&E.

Now, as a series of deadly fires rages in Wine Country, serious questions are once again being asked about the safety of overhead electrical wires in a state prone to drought and fierce winds.

On Wednesday, Cal Fire said that investigators have started looking into whether toppled power wires and exploding transformers Sunday night may have ignited the simultaneous string of blazes.

The acknowledgment followed publication of a review by the Bay Area News Group of Sonoma County firefighters’ radio transmissions in the fires’ infancy that found that there were numerous downed and arcing wires. In the first 90 minutes Sunday night, firefighters were sent to 10 different spots where problems had been reported with the area’s electrical infrastructure. The crews reported seeing sparking lines and transformers.

During that same time period, radio transmissions indicate 28 blazes — both vegetation and structure fires — breaking out, mostly in Sonoma County. Firefighters were sent to eight fallen tree calls, with many reports of blocked roadways.

“Those were witnessed,” Cal Fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff said Wednesday, regarding the blown transformers and downed wires. “However, you have to go and look to see if it was a cause of the fire or as a result of the fire.”

The state’s fire agency has said it has ruled out lightning, but said the investigation continues for an official cause of the blazes, which as of late Wednesday had killed 23 people and destroyed more than 3,500 structures in Sonoma, Napa and other Northern California counties.

PG&E acknowledges there were troubles with its equipment Sunday night, but says blaming the utility’s electrical system for the fires at this point would be “highly speculative.” It has labeled the conditions in the first hours of the fires a “historic wind event.”

But meterologist Jan Null, owner of Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga, said that Sunday night’s winds, while strong, were not “hurricane force” and had been surpassed in previous storms. Atlas Peak had gusts of 32 miles per hour at 9 p.m. on  Sunday night, Null said. By comparison, the peak had gusts of 66 mph in last February.

SB 1463 had been introduced in last year’s legislative session by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. The bill would have required the state to identify the places most at risk for wildfires and would have required the CPUC to beef up plans to prevent fires sparked by power lines — including moving lines underground if necessary.

But Brown said the bill was unnecessary. “Since May of last year, the Commission and CalFire have been doing just that through the existing proceeding on fire-threat maps and fire-safety regulations,” he said in his veto message. “This deliberative process should continue and the issues this bill seeks to address should be raised in that forum.”

But the senator isn’t buying it.

“Up until my bill those guys were doing nothing,” Moorlach said Wednesday. “I think you got some false information.”

He said his bill would’ve sped up what had become a cumbersome process and given local communities more of a voice by clarifying how fire risk is defined.

Had the governor signed his bill into law, he added, “I think it would have changed things. … I think it would’ve given Cal Fire a whole different set of priorities.”

Brown’s sister Kathleen, he pointed out, served on the board of the energy services holding company, Sempra. Power and utility companies, Moorlach said, “didn’t want to spend the money” making things safer by moving lines underground.

That’s “so outrageous it doesn’t merit a response,” Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said of the notion that the governor didn’t sign the bill to somehow help out Sempra. “It’s unfortunate this particular individual is trying to score political points by peddling inaccurate, self-serving claims at a time like this.”

CPUC spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said the years-long CPUC and Cal Fire effort has already reached key goals.

Phase One was completed in 2015 and Phase Two is nearly done as well, which will implement new fire safety regulations in high priority areas of the state.

PG&E has paid millions of dollars in fines and settlements over the years for its failure to properly maintain vegetation clearance around its electrical lines when it led to massive fires.

In April, the state Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $8.3 million for failing to maintain a power line that sparked the Butte fire in Amador County in September 2015. That fire burned for 22 days, killing two people, destroying 549 homes and charring 70,868 acres.”

….Continue reading more @ San Jose Mercury News

The Case for Stripping ex-intelligence officials of their Security Clearances | July 27 2018

Why Former US Intelligence Officials Should Be Stripped of Their Security Clearances

|| Consortium News

“How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. “

 

| J

COMMENTARY: Former CIA agent John Kiriakou argues that no former intelligence official should be allowed to keep their security clearances when they leave government, especially if they work in the media.

“(CN Op-ed) — Libertarian senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said on Monday that in a personal meeting with President Donald Trump, he urged the president to revoke the security clearances of a half dozen former Obama-era intelligence officials, including former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I couldn’t agree more with Paul’s position, not specifically regarding these three people, but for any former intelligence official. No former intelligence official should keep a security clearance, especially if he or she transitions to the media or to a corporate board.

The controversy specifically over Brennan’s clearance has been bubbling along for more than a year. He has been one of Trump’s most vocal and harshest critics. Last week he went so far as to accuse Trump of having committed “treason” during his meeting in Helsinki, Finland with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Brennan said in a tweet, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots: Where are you???” The outburst was in response to Trump’s unwillingness to accept the Intelligence Community position that Putin and the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

Other intelligence professionals weighed in negatively on Trump’s Helsinki performance, including Republicans like former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former CIA director Mike Hayden.

Why are these people saying anything at all? And why do they have active Top Secret security clearances if they have no governmental positions? The first question is easier to answer than the second. Before answering, though, I want to say that I don’t think this issue is specific to Donald Trump. Former officials of every administration criticize those who have replaced them. That’s the way Washington works. It’s a way for those former officials to remain relevant. Donald Trump happens to be an easy target. His actions are so wildly unpredictable—and frequently so disingenuous on the surface of things—that he proves wrong the oft-quoted observation by the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser: “The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves. You only make complicated stupid moves, which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”

Cashing In

I’ve known John Brennan for 30 years. He was my boss in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence decades ago. John was hard to get along with. His superiors generally didn’t like him. He was once fired from a job at the CIA. He’s not particularly bright. And then he found a patron in former CIA director George Tenet, who saved his career. Brennan has had his run. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He’s been CIA Director, deputy National Security Advisor, director of the Transnational Terrorism Information Center, and deputy Executive Director of the CIA. That’s pretty heady stuff for a kid from Bergen, New Jersey.

He also has very low self-esteem from those early days at the CIA. Almost everybody else had more degrees, spoke more languages, and went to better schools. Until Tenet, Brennan never had a political rabbi and was stuck at the GS-15 (journeyman) level for years. Now, all these years later, he again doesn’t have anyone to help his career. Barack Obama isn’t president anymore. And Brennan desperately wants to be Secretary of Defense. He says it to anybody willing to listen. That is what’s supposed to be his legacy, at least in his mind.

Besides legacy, Brennan and the others have cashed in on their government service. They’ve all become rich by sitting on corporate boards. Brennan is on the board of directors of a company called SecureAuth + CORE Security. He also serves on the board of The Analysis Corporation, which he helped found before joining the Obama Administration. Finally, and most importantly, Brennan is now the official talking head and “Intelligence Consultant” for NBC News and MSNBC.

To me, this is the point that is the most obviously wrong. How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. First, these officials run the risk of exposing classified information in a television interview, either inadvertently or not. Second, and more cynically, what is to keep them from propagandizing the American people by simply spouting the CIA line or allowing the CIA to use them to put out disinformation? What’s to keep them from propagandizing the American people by selectively leaking information known only to the intelligence agencies and Congress? Or to release information passed to them by the FBI?

No former intelligence officials should have a security clearance. There’s no purpose for it other than propaganda and personal enrichment. And if Brennan or Hayden or Clapper or any other former intelligence official becomes an employee of a media company, he or she should not have a security clearance. Period. Donald Trump ought to act right now.”

John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.

…Read more @ TheAntiMedia.com

|| American Spectator

Gotta hand it to Special Counsel Robert Mueller: He knows how to set off a stick of dynamite. I refer, of course, to his office’s recent indictment of thirteen Russians in Russia, which we are now to chase after, yelling “Pearl Harbor!” on the Left and “No collusion!” on the Right, forgetting all about the coalescing revelations of corruption and conspiracy and, yes, Russian influence, to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016, and, failing that, to destroy the Trump presidency.

The key is still in the “dossier” spying scandal.

Nellie Ohr is the “dossier” spying scandal’s woman in the middle.

To one side of Ohr, there is the Fusion GPS team, including fellow contractor Christopher Steele. To the other, there is husband Bruce Ohr, who, until his “dossier”-related demotion, was No. 4 man at the Department of Justice, and a key contact there for Steele.

As central as Nellie Ohr’s placement is, her role in the creation of the “dossier” remains undefined. For example, the House Intelligence Committee memo on related matters vaguely tells us that Nellie Ohr was “employed by Fusion GPS to assist in the cultivation of opposition research on Trump”; the memo adds that Bruce Ohr “later provided the FBI with all of his wife’s opposition research.” Senator Lindsey Graham more sensationally told Fox News that Nellie Ohr “did the research for Mr. Steele,” but details remain scarce.

Still, relevant facts have emerged. These include Nellie Ohr’s study in the USSR in 1989; her fluency in Russian and Ph.D. in Russian history in 1990; a 2010 CIA affiliation, which practically makes her former MI6 agent Steele’s “opposite number”; and the extremely curious detail, harkening back to earlier eras of spycraft, that on May 23, 2016, around the time she came on board Fusion GPS, Nellie Ohr applied for a ham radio operator’s license.

Notably, the “dossier” men in her life have tried to shield Ohr from public scrutiny, even at professional risk. Her husband, as the Daily Caller News Foundation reports, failed to disclose his wife’s employment with Fusion GPS and seek the appropriate conflict-of-interest waiver, which may have been an important factor in his demotion from associate deputy attorney general late last year.

Under Senate and House questioning, Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson consistently failed to disclose Nellie Ohr’s existence as one of his firm’s paid Russian experts, let alone that he hired her for the red-hot DNC/Clinton campaign Trump-Russia project.

Even Christopher Steele may have tried to keep Nellie Ohr “under cover.” Steele, put forth as the “dossier” author ever since its January 2017 publication in BuzzFeed, does not appear to have let on to his many media and political contacts that he had “dossier”-assistance from at least two fellow Fusion GPS Russian experts, Nellie Ohr and Edward Baumgartner. Baumgartner, interestingly, was a Russian history major at Vassar in the 1990s when Nellie Ohr taught Russian history there.”

….Read more @ https://Spectator.org

Does Fake Music Streaming Account for Millions in Theft? ‘Physically Impossible’ Numbers | July 26 2018

Halfway Through 2018, Streaming Continued Growth Defies Mathematical Trends

|| Billboard

“In the first half of 2018, overall on-demand streaming increased 41.7 percent to reach 403.5 billion U.S. streams, according to Nielsen Music. That growth defies mathematical trends, which dictate that, as a base enlarges, it becomes harder to achieve a bigger percentage growth than in preceding time periods.

.. ..

When looking at only album consumption units constructed with audio on-demand streams — the kind used in tallying the Billboard 200 and U.S. market share — the industry grew by 13.8 percent to 270 million units at midyear 2018, compared to 237.2 million at the midway point of 2017. Audio on-demand streams grew 45.5 percent to 268.3 billion, from the 184.5 billion accumulated in the first six months of 2017, while video on-demand streams grew 34.7 percent to 135.2 billion from the 100.4 billion streams tallied in the first half of 2017. (Overall video stream count is not available because YouTube stopped reporting streams of song videos that do not garner at least 1,000 views a day in mid-2016.)

.. ..

R&B/hip-hop remained the most popular genre with a 31.2 percent market share, and had the largest gain overall, up from 28.65 percent in 2017. Conversely, rock came in second at 23.1 percent, but had the largest decline, falling from the 24.81 percent it had accumulated in the first six months of 2017. Latin continued to show strong growth, accounting for 7.74 percent market share, up from 6.46 percent for the corresponding period in 2017, while the other large genre, pop, grew to 15.09 percent this year from 14.76 percent last year, with its album consumption units increasing to 46.22 million from 38.93 million units.

While country grew 8.1 percent to 25.74 million album consumption units at the midway points, its market share actually declined to 8.4 percent, down from 9.03 percent last year, because it isn’t growing as fast as the overall market.”

….Continue reading more @ Billboard.com

 

Beyoncé Claps Back At Accusations Of Fake Streaming Numbers On New Album

|| The Federalist

Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new collaborative album takes a shot at Spotify, presumably in response to recent reports about Tidal’s fudging of subscriber numbers.

“My success can’t be quantified/ If I gave two f–ks about streaming numbers, would’ve put ‘Lemonade’ up on Spotify/ F–k you, f–k you,” Beyoncé spits on her new joint album with Jay-Z. Queen Bey’s not-so-cryptic lyrics seem to be a response to accusations her husband’s streaming service, Tidal, faked hundreds of millions of plays and subscriber numbers.

In May, the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported that Tidal fudged the streaming numbers for both Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” and Beyonce’s “Lemonade,” generating “massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.”

According to Variety, Tidal claims that West’s album recorded 250 million plays in the first 10 days of its release with just 3 million subscribers. Meaning that every subscriber played the album on average eight times per day. Tidal also said “Lemonade”was streamed 306 million times in its first 15 days of release last April.

The paper’s investigation used data from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, where researchers estimated that Tidal’s total number of subscribers was closer to 1 million globally. Tidal denied the report and responded in a statement issued to Music Week: “This is a smear campaign from a publication that once referred to our employee as an ‘Israeli Intelligence officer’ and our owner as a ‘crack dealer’. We expect nothing less from them than this ridiculous story, lies and falsehoods. The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously.”

This isn’t the only sign of Tidal’s struggle. Kanye West ended his contract with the company last summer over money, claiming Tidal owed him $3 million. And TMZ reported on Tuesday that the heirs of Prince’s estate are about to back out of a deal giving Tidal exclusive streaming rights, saying “they don’t want the estate getting caught up in the streaming service’s legal problems.”

The other tracks on the power couple’s new album collaboration talk about their life at home, life in the public eye, celebrating their marriage rehab and growing family. “This beach ain’t always been no paradise/But nightmares only last one night,” Bey raps on “LoveHappy.”

 The real irony of Beyonce’s lyrics on the track ‘NICE’ is that she actually does give more than two f–ks about her streaming numbers. The album dropped exclusively on Tidal over the weekend, but was available on Spotify and Apple Music by Monday morning.”

…Read more @ The Federalist

 

 

 

FORGET ABOUT FAKE ARTISTS – IT’S TIME TO TALK ABOUT FAKE STREAMS

|| Music Business Worldwide | By Tim Ingham

“I’ve got a confession to make. I’m a fake artist.

One afternoon, about a decade ago, I started nobbing about on GarageBand. Made a scratchy demo. It wasn’t very good.

Last month, thinking nothing of it, I uploaded that demo to Spotify, via Tunecore.

I called it PH, by Pinky Hue. On Pinky Hue Records.

(As it turns out, my pseudonymous tendencies wererather more in vogue than I’d appreciated.)

Then, for over a fortnight, nothing. Aside, that is, from one loyal monthly listener in Milton Keynes, England. (Thanks mum.)

But this past week-and-a-half, things have kicked right off.

First 1,000 listens, then 3,000, then 5,000. Word’s getting out.

As we stand today, Pinky Hue has racked up more than 10,000 Spotify plays – and is already marching towards 15,000.

Anyone know a good manager?

There’s just one problem with this empowering rags-to-riches story, of course.

I bought these streams off the internet.

And I could have bought 2 million of them.


The issue of fake streams has been on my mind since Midem back in June – in particular, a panel called ‘How distributors and streaming services collaborate.’

Anne-Marie Robert (VP International, Tunecore France) appeared alongside reps from the likes of The Orchard and ADA, and was asked how self-releasing artists could gain better access to streaming playlists which would then revolutionize their career.

“Contrary to my friends from ADA and The Orchard, we don’t provide direct trade marketing services because we let the artist do [that] and we take no commission,” she replied.

“But we give a lot of advice on our blog… and also, we are partnering with some services where you can buy some streams [on] Deezer and other websites which can help you.”

Robert specifically mentioned Feature.fm, which allows artists and rights-holders to have their music played in promotional slots on streaming platforms – for a price.

Robert’s comments triggered a subsequent thought in my head: How hard is it to go out and actually purchase fake plays online?

So, the other week, I Googled ‘buy fake Spotify streams’.

And voila: options.

The top result was for a company called Streamify, which boasts on its homepage: ‘Whether you want to get more fans, boost sales or just monitor your plays [sic] count, Streamify has the answers and insights you need to get your songs played more.’

Streamify LLC is officially located in Houston, Texas and offers a full menu of fake stream delicacies specific to Daniel Ek’s platform.

For the timid trialist, $5 will buy you 1,000 Spotify plays.

For the bolder connoisseur, $200 will buy you 100,000 Spotify plays.

And for the full-on, screw-it-this-will-change-my-life desperado, $2,250 will buy you 2 million Spotify plays.

Other options for buying Spotify streams on the internet – and to be clear, MBW cannot vouch for the legitimacy of these companies – include Streampot/StreamKO and Mass Media, both of which also sell packages of fake YouTube plays.”

….Read more @ Musicbusinessworldwide.com

 

Did Tidal really fake Kanye and Beyoncé’s streaming numbers?

|| Digital Trends

“A Norwegian newspaper made huge waves in the music streaming industry on May 9, claiming that on-demand music streaming service Tidal had manipulated listener data for two of its biggest artists: Kanye West and Beyoncé.

The accusations surround both artists’ most recent albums, Kanye’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, with the newspaper claiming that it had gained access to royalty reports and a hard drive that contained “extensive data” regarding Tidal’s streaming plays. Tidal had exclusive streaming rights to both albums when they launched. Tidal owner Jay-Z is married to Beyoncé and is a longtime friend and collaborator of West.

.. ..

Rolling Stone has since reported that Tidal has contracted a third-party cybersecurity firm to investigate the data breach.  The company still denies the allegations made by the story and says it is undertaking the investigation as a means of reassuring its customers that their data is secure.

“Although we do not typically comment on stories we believe to be false, we feel it is important to make sure that our artists, employees and subscribers know that we are not taking the security and integrity of our data lightly,” Tidal CEO Richard Sanders told Rolling Stone.

The newspaper, Dagens Naeringsliv, worked in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to analyze the data, producing a report which claims that more than 320 million false plays had been logged for the two albums on more than 1.7 million user accounts. In March 2016, Tidal claimed that The Life of Pablo had been streaming 250 million times in 10 days. The streaming service claimed that Lemonade had 306 million plays in just 15 days following its release.

A later article from Dagens Naeringsliv that was published Wednesday, May 16 claims that Tidal has also failed to make royalty payments to some major labels since October of 2017.

.. ..

Many may be wondering why Tidal would want to skew its own streaming numbers in the first place. After all, you may think that increased plays would just cost the streaming service more money in royalty payments overall, thereby hurting the company. That is not true, as Billboard points out. Due to the nature of its contracts with major labels, Tidal — as well as competitors like Apple Music and Spotify — pays royalties from a percentage of revenue, not based on the total number of plays in a given term. This means it would simply shift the proportion of money they would have already paid other labels and artists towards West and Beyoncé.

There a few reasons this may have been in Tidal’s interest, should the allegations be true. First, it would have garnered increased publicity for two of its biggest artists. Second, it would have increased Tidal’s position and valuation in the marketplace — potentially profiting the company in terms of its increased ability to sell equity (Tidal sold a 30 percent stake in the business to Sprint in early 2017). And third, it would have made both artists over a million dollars in extra royalties, provided they were paid the “superstar” royalty rate of 50 percent on streaming from Def Jam and Columbia, the labels that produced the albums.

Tidal claims that the data was stolen and manipulated by Dagens Naeringsliv itself. One thing the study did indicate is that the data was unlikely to have been manipulated by a software bug or by accident.

“Due to the targeted nature and extent of the manipulation, it is very unlikely that this manipulation was solely the result of a code-based bug or other anomalies,” the study reads.

“[It] is highly likely that the manipulation happened from within the streaming service itself,” concludes professor Katrin Franke, who led the university team.

As part of its extensive story, Dagens Naeringsliv interviewed numerous affected customers, whose accounts show numerous plays of the album during odd hours.

Music critic Geir Rakvaag, for example, is shown in the data to have listened to songs from The Life of Pablo 96 times in a single day, and 54 times in the middle of the night.

“It’s physically impossible,” he claims in the story.

We’ll continue to keep tabs as this story develops. As for whether or not Tidal actually did manipulate user data to generate bigger publicity and profits for two of its biggest artists: Time will tell, and numerous lawsuits are likely forthcoming.”

…Read more @ Digitaltrends.com

FBI Agent Strzok Admits to Conspiracy | July 13 2018

Peter Strzok Admits Junk Russia Dossier Came from Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS

|| TGP

“On Thursday disgraced FBI investigator Peter Strzok admitted during his congressional hearing that the phony Russia dossier was funneled through the FBI by Nellier and Bruce Ohr.

The junk dossier went from Fusion GPS and Glenn Simpson–> to Nellie Ohr at Fusion GPS–> to her husband Bruce Ohr at the DOJ –> walked over and fed to Peter Strzok at the FBI –> and this was the impetus for the entire Trump-Russia investigation!

And it was all paid for by the Clinton Campaign and DNC!

This was the basis for the Trump-Russia collusion investigation.
It was all a Democrat Party operation.

It all make sense now.”

…Continue reading more at: TGP

Trump Travel Ban Upheld by U.S. Supreme Court | June 26

SUPREMES DEAL VICTORY FOR TRUMP, UPHOLD TRAVEL BAN

|| Daily Caller

“A five-justice majority of the U.S. Supreme Court upheld in full the latest iteration of President Donald Trump’s travel sanctions Tuesday.

The ruling was an unqualified victory for the Trump administration, after earlier variants of the entry ban were greeted with raucous airport protests and break-neck litigation that left the White House reeling.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the Court’s opinion, joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch.

“The president has lawfully exercised the broad discretion granted to him under [federal law],” Roberts wrote.

Speaking moments after the Court issued its decision, Trump said the ruling vindicates his immigration and national security priorities.

“The Supreme Court has upheld the clear authority of the president to defend the national security of the United States,” he said. “In this era of worldwide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country. This ruling is also a moment of profound vindication following months of hysterical commentary from the media and Democratic politicians who refuse to do what it takes to secure our border and our country.”

“As long as I am president, I will defend the sovereignty, safety, and security of the American people, and fight for an immigration system that serves the national interests of the United States and its citizens,” he added.

The ban in its currents form was issued in September 2017. The administration assessed travel penalties against eight countries, who failed to satisfy basic vetting and information-sharing expectations.

A coalition of Democratic states and civil rights groups challenged the proclamation, making two basic arguments. They first alleged the sanctions exceeded Trump’s authority under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA, the plaintiffs said, only allows the president to ban the entry of a specific class of dangerous aliens for a limited time. It also provides that the president may not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or nationality when issuing visas.

Second, the challengers claimed that the order was issued to disparage Muslims, in violation of the First Amendment’s ban on religious favoritism in government policy.

The high court rejected both these positions. Roberts explained that the INA “exudes deference to the president in every clause,” meaning that courts should not second-guess Trump’s national security findings.

The law sets just one requirement for the president: he must formally determine that the entry of a certain class of aliens is detrimental to U.S. interests. The majority found the administration easily satisfied this demand, as Trump’s order is the most comprehensive proclamation ever issued under the INA.

“The 12-page proclamation — which thoroughly describes the process, agency evaluations, and recommendations underlying the president’s chosen restrictions — is more detailed than any prior order a president has issued under [the INA],” the chief wrote.

With respect to the constitutional argument, the Court similarly concluded that its review should be limited given the national security sensitivities the case involves.

The ruling also identifies what it sees as significant shortcomings of the plaintiffs’ First Amendment argument. Just eight percent of the world’s Muslim population is encompassed by Trump’s sanctions, Roberts noted, and the proclamation itself creates a waiver program open to all affected aliens. Moreover, certain nationals — like exchange students — from sanctioned countries are specifically exempted from the entry ban.

All told, the majority saw these features as incompatible with a supposed Muslim ban.”

….Continue reading more @ Daily Caller

Diamond & Silk Take it to Congress | Apr 27 2018

Diamond and Silk Testify Before Congress on Social Media Censorship Against Conservatives

|| Breitbart

“Diamond and Silk testified before Congress over social media censorship against conservatives, Thursday, with Diamond declaring during their testimony that “censorship is no hoax.”

“We would like to thank the judiciary committee for allowing us the opportunity to voice our concerns about conservatives being targeted and censored on social media platforms,” opened Lynette Hardaway, who is better known as Diamond. “Facebook along with other social media sites have taken aggressive actions to silence conservative voices such as ourselves by deliberately restricting and weaponizing our page with algorithms that censored and suppress our free speech. These bias algorithms are tactics designed to pick up on keywords, thus telling the pages how to behave in ways that repress and stifle expressed ideas including shadow-banning, which blocked our content from being seen by our followers while depriving our brand through the demonetization of our videos.”

“Followers stop receiving notifications when we posted videos & content. Followers were also mysteriously unliked from our page. Subtle and slowly Facebook used one mechanism at a time to diminish our reach by restricting our page so that our 1.2 million followers would not see our content thus silencing our conservative voices,” she continued. “When we reached out to Facebook for an explanation, they gave us the runaround. Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress and stated that the most important thing he cared about was making sure no one interferes in the 2018 elections. But after doing our research we wondered if Mark Zuckerberg was using Facebook to interfere in the 2018 elections by labeling users accounts as either Liberal, Very Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, or Very Conservative.”

“This is one of the main underhanded ways to censor conservatives. So if I’m labeled as Very Liberal without the option to edit it, update and correct this setting, then algorithms are already put into place which allows advertisers that have Liberal views, services & causes to target me,” Hardaway explained, before adding that, “Diamond and Silk’s personal Facebook page has been labeled by Facebook as Very Liberal.”

Hardaway then declared that, “Even though we are not Very Liberal, Facebook does not give us the option to change this label to Conservative, making it less likely for us to see advertisement, news stories and services from a conservative point of view,” before asking, “If Facebook labeled our user account as very liberal and got it wrong, how many more other users account have they gotten wrong?”

Pointing to a screenshot of a Facebook notification which informed Diamond and Silk that restrictions had been placed on their Facebook page, and then to screenshots of their followers complaining that they can’t see their videos, Hardaway proclaimed, “They’re not receiving notification… They can’t watch our videos.”

Hardaway also showed screenshots comparing the number of views they used to get on videos compared to now, noting that anti-Trump pages with half the amount of followers were able to rack up hundreds of thousands of views, while Diamond and Silk’s views had dropped to just thousands.

“In 2016 with less than one million followers, our page reach would garner between 5 to 8 million people reached within a week. All of that changed when algorithms were placed on our page to suppress our reach,” she expressed, claiming that “YouTube also demonetized 95 percent of our videos in August of 2017 and categorized our videos as ‘hate speech,’ even though our account was in good standing.”

….Continue reading more @ Breitbart

Image of the Day |

 

 

Pentagon Kills LifeLog Project

| Wired – Feb 04 2004

The Pentagon canceled its so-called LifeLog project, an ambitious effort to build a database tracking a person’s entire existence.

Run by Darpa, the Defense Department’s research arm, LifeLog aimed to gather in a single place just about everything an individual says, sees or does: the phone calls made, the TV shows watched, the magazines read, the plane tickets bought, the e-mail sent and received. Out of this seemingly endless ocean of information, computer scientists would plot distinctive routes in the data, mapping relationships, memories, events and experiences.

LifeLog’s backers said the all-encompassing diary could have turned into a near-perfect digital memory, giving its users computerized assistants with an almost flawless recall of what they had done in the past. But civil libertarians immediately pounced on the project when it debuted last spring, arguing that LifeLog could become the ultimate tool for profiling potential enemies of the state.

Researchers close to the project say they’re not sure why it was dropped late last month. Darpa hasn’t provided an explanation for LifeLog’s quiet cancellation. “A change in priorities” is the only rationale agency spokeswoman Jan Walker gave to Wired News.

However, related Darpa efforts concerning software secretaries and mechanical brains are still moving ahead as planned.”

….Continue reading more @ Wired
“Facebook is an American online social media and social networking service company based in Menlo Park, California. Its website was launched on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, along with fellow Harvard College students and roommates Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.”
 – wiki

Gov’t Must Impose ‘Transgender’ Demands Nationwide, Says WA Federal Judge | Apr 18 2018

Gov’t Must Impose ‘Transgender’ Demands Nationwide, Says Judge

|| Breitbart

“A federal judge in Washington State has declared that all civic groups nationwide must accept people of both sexes into their single-sex spaces and activities, or else be stigmatized and sued by the federal government.

In legal jargon, Judge Marsha Pechman declared in a lawsuit against the Pentagon’s “transgender” policy that the federal government must use its powers to champion people who want to live as members of the sex, either inside the military or outside, just as it must use federal powers to suppress racism:

Today, the Court concludes that transgender people constitute a suspect class. Transgender people have long been forced to live in silence, or to come out and face the threat of overwhelming discrimination. Therefore, the Court grants summary judgment in Plaintiffs’ and Washington’s favor as to the applicable level of scrutiny. The Ban specifically targets one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, and must satisfy strict scrutiny if it is to survive.

In this context, the term “strict scrutiny” means that people who say they are transgender must be treated as members of the opposite sex by all federal or state agencies, universities, schools and civic groups that accept federal dollars, except in rare circumstances. Judges would approve exceptions in rare circumstances that are absolutely necessary and also narrowly tailored to achieve an important goal.

In practice, the judge is telling all civic groups that they will lose nearly all lawsuits if women try to exclude men from showers and bathrooms, athletic competitions, victims’ shelters, girls’ schools, civic competitions, or any single-sex civic group or practice.

The judge’s decision, if accepted by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and by Supreme Court in 2020, would order the government to suppress and stigmatize any public recognition of any biological distinctions between the two different, equal and complementary sexes in a heterosexual society of women, men and children.

The judge is a feminist who would likely object to men who demand that women stay silent when their sexual privacy is violated and would object to the elimination of women’s athletics. But many feminists have embraced the transgender ideology because it blurs the civic distinctions between the two equal, different and complementary sexes. That blurring is sought by feminists who wish to compete for status and income against men in the workplace.

The transgender ideology says a person’s sex is determined only his or her feelings of “gender identity,” not by their biology. The ideology says the government agencies, such as the Pentagon, must force Americans to accept the wishes of men who deem themselves to be women and of the women who declare themselves to be men, even if those men and women decline any opposite-sex clothing or hormones, or cosmetic surgery.

Conservatives point out that men and women, teenage boys and teenage girls are very different, and prosper in a society which recognizes and accepts their equal, complementary and different priorities and capabilities.

Feminists say that pro-transgender policies will erase the concept of women — and of women’s rights —  because men will be women.

.. ..

The judge’s legal decision was made April 13 in a lawsuit against the Pentagon’s transgender policies, which excludes people from military service if they want to be treated as members of the other sex. The Pentagon policies reject the vague guidelines pushed by transgender activists about who should be classified as male or female, and instead reaffirmed the normal biology-based distinction between male and female as the fairest way to describe people’s sex:

.. ..

But the judge seems to embrace the transgender ideology, and uses the “gender identity” term without quote marks, despite the inability of biologists to identify and measure a “gender identity’:

The term ‘transgender’ is used to describe someone who experiences any significant degree of misalignment between their gender identity and their assigned sex at birth … Experts agree that gender identity has a “biological component,” and there is a “medical consensus that gender identity is deep-seated, set early in life, and impervious to external influences.”

The judge also argues that her government-enforced redesign of the nation’s civic culture rests upon a claim that is only “widely understood,” but not actually confirmed by science or recognized by voters’ common sense:

The Court notes that the [Pentagon’s] Implementation Plan uses the term “biological sex,” apparently to refer to the sex one is assigned at birth. This is somewhat misleading, as the record indicates that gender identity—“a person’s internalized, inherent sense of who they are as a particular gender (i.e., male or female)”—is also widely understood to have a “biological component.”

These claims ignore the scientific evidence that the vast majority of children who claim an opposite-sex feeling of “gender identity” do drop that claim after puberty. Many adults also drop that claim after trying to live as members of the opposite sex, sharply weakening the claims that “transgender” people comprise a confirmable and permanent group.

Very few Americans claim to be transgender, but that rarity means they deserve maximum protection, says the judge:

While the exact number is unknown, transgender people make up less than 1 percent of the nation’s adult population … There are no openly transgender members of the United States Congress or the federal judiciary, and only one out of more than 7,000 state legislators is openly transgender.

People trying to live as members of the other sex deserve protection because of the harm they suffer, the judge said, even though she also disregarded the harm that would be caused by official suppression of sexual differences, such as the loss of sexual privacy in bathrooms or the health damage caused by “transgender” medical treatment of children. For example, training manual prepared by the Pentagon in 2016 said naked female soldiers must give “dignity and respect” to men who join them in their shared shower rooms.”

…Continue reading more @ Breitbart

 

 

THE DISTURBING TRUTH ABOUT HOW AIRPLANES ARE MAINTAINED TODAY

In the last decade, most of the big U.S. airlines have shifted major maintenance work to places like El Salvador, Mexico, and China, where few mechanics are F.A.A. certified and inspections have no teeth.

“Not long ago I was waiting for a domestic flight in a departure lounge at one of the crumbling midcentury sheds that pass for an American airport these days. There were delays, as we’ve all come to expect, and then the delays turned into something more ominous. The airplane I was waiting for had a serious maintenance issue, beyond the ability of a man in an orange vest to address. The entire airplane would have to be taken away for servicing and another brought to the gate in its place. This would take a while. Those of us in the departure lounge settled in for what we suspected might be hours. From the window I watched the ground crew unload the bags from the original airplane. When the new one arrived, the crew pumped the fuel, loaded the bags, and stocked the galley. It was a scene I’d witnessed countless times. Soon we would board and be on the way to our destinations.

As for the first airplane, the one with the maintenance problem—what was its destination going to be? When you have time on your hands, you begin to wonder about things like this. My own assumption, as yours might have been, was that the aircraft would be towed to a nearby hangar for a stopgap repair and then flown to a central maintenance facility run by the airline somewhere in the U.S. Or maybe there was one right here at the airport. In any case, if it needed a major overhaul, presumably it would be performed by the airline’s staff of trained professionals. If Apple feels it needs a “Genius Bar” at its stores to deal with hardware and software that cost a few hundred dollars, an airline must have something equivalent to safeguard an airplane worth a few hundred million.

About this I would be wrong—as wrong as it is possible to be. Over the past decade, nearly all large U.S. airlines have shifted heavy maintenance work on their airplanes to repair shops thousands of miles away, in developing countries, where the mechanics who take the planes apart (completely) and put them back together (or almost) may not even be able to read or speak English. US Airways and Southwest fly planes to a maintenance facility in El Salvador. Delta sends planes to Mexico. United uses a shop in China. American still does much of its most intensive maintenance in-house in the U.S., but that is likely to change in the aftermath of the company’s merger with US Airways.

The airlines are shipping this maintenance work offshore for the reason you’d expect: to cut labor costs. Mechanics in El Salvador, Mexico, China, and elsewhere earn a fraction of what mechanics in the U.S. do. In part because of this offshoring, the number of maintenance jobs at U.S. carriers has plummeted, from 72,000 in the year 2000 to fewer than 50,000 today. But the issue isn’t just jobs. A century ago, Upton Sinclair wrote his novel The Jungleto call attention to the plight of workers in the slaughterhouses, but what really got people upset was learning how unsafe their meat was. Safety is an issue here, too. The Federal Aviation Administration is supposed to be inspecting all the overseas facilities that do maintenance for airlines—just as it is supposed to inspect those in America. But the F.A.A. no longer has the money or the manpower to do this.”

….Continue reading more @ Vanity Fair