These assholes are unbelievable.
From the article:
Amid those cotton fields will rise the Trump Organization’s project designed like an “antebellum plantation” in towns near Cleveland, Mississippi. The town population is just barely over 12,000 people with a majority African-American citizenry. Located in the Mississippi Delta, it’s being pitched as a place where The blues can be celebrated. “A plan that some black residents view as Trump’s effort to monetize the threadbare music invented by slaves in the Mississippi cotton fields.” […]
The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah has accused Saudi Arabia of forcing its prime minister to step down. Saad al-Hariri’s resignation threatens to reignite sectarian divisions in the country.
US President Donald Trump is a blowhard driven by ego, according to George Bush Sr. And that’s why he, a staunch Republican, voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton.
The 93-year-old reveals he voted for Mrs Clinton at the 2016 election and describes Mr Trump as a “blowhard” driven by ego, who lacks a commitment to public service.
Wilbur Ross stands to profit from company run by Russians, some of whom are under US sanctions
In 2014, Ross led a €1bn takeover of the Bank of Cyprus, a favoured destination for Moscow oligarchs seeking to store their wealth. The bank’s biggest shareholder at the time was the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. In 2008, as the US began to fall into a financial crisis, Rybolovlev bought a Florida mansion from Trump for $95m. The future president had paid $41m for it four years earlier.
Also invested in the bank takeover was the billionaire Russian industrialist Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg, who owns the world’s biggest collection of Fabergé eggs, attended the now infamous December 2015 dinner in Moscow for the Kremlin TV channel RT, where Trump’s future national security adviser Michael Flynn was photographed next to Putin.
Ross sat on the senior leadership team of Bank of Cyprus alongside Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, a former KGB colleague of Putin’s who is also on the board of several state corporations in Moscow.
And in 2015, while Ross was vice-chairman of the bank, its Russia-based businesses were sold off to Artem Avetisyan, a Russian businessman who had been appointed by Putin to lead an agency responsible for strengthening ties between the Kremlin and business.
NBC NEWS: WASHINGTON — Federal investigators have gathered enough evidence to bring charges in their investigation of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser and his son as part of the probe into Russia’s intervention in the 2016 election, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation.
Michael T. Flynn, who was fired after just 24 days on the job, was one of the first Trump associates to come under scrutiny in the federal probe now led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller into possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign.
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) November 5, 2017
Mueller is applying renewed pressure on Flynn following his indictment of Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, three sources familiar with the investigation told NBC News.
The investigators are speaking to multiple witnesses in coming days to gain more information surrounding Flynn’s lobbying work, including whether he laundered money or lied to federal agents about his overseas contacts, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
Mueller’s team is also examining whether Flynn attempted to orchestrate the removal of a chief rival of Turkish President Recep Erdogan from the U.S. to Turkey in exchange for millions of dollars, two officials said.
A spokesperson for the special counsel had no comment.
— Scott Dworkin (@funder) November 5, 2017
Flynn’s son, Michael G. Flynn, who worked closely with his father, accompanied him during the campaign and briefly worked on the presidential transition, could be indicted separately or at the same time as his father, according to three sources familiar with the investigation.
If the elder Flynn is willing to cooperate with investigators in order to help his son, two of the sources said, it could also change his own fate, potentially limiting any legal consequences.
The pressure on Flynn is the latest signal that Mueller is moving at a rapid, and steady, pace in his investigation. Last week, investigators unsealed indictments of Manafort and Manafort’s business partner Rick Gates. They pleaded not guilty.
Investigators also revealed Monday that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had pleaded guilty to lying to federal officials and had been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation.
If the senior Flynn is charged, he would be the first current or former Trump administration official formally accused of criminal wrongdoing by the Mueller team.
So far, the probe has only ensnared campaign officials, and the White House has argued that the connection to the president is minimal. An indictment of the president’s former national security adviser and his son would scramble that dynamic.
The most amazing story coming out of the Middle East this week is a report by Haaretz around two days ago about a massive undertaking by the Israeli Maronite and Christian populace to be able to come to Lebanon for pilgrimage, a country that is at war, and has no diplomatic relations with Israel.
The way these Israelis go at it is the following: they leave Israel and enter Jordan with their Israeli passports. In Jordan, they are issued Palestinian travel documents which they use to travel to Beirut. Those travel documents are then confiscated at our airport, and are only valid for a one week entry.
During that one week, the itinerary that the Israelis have includes: Mar Charbel in Annaya, Batroun’s convents, Harissa, Maghdouche, Baalbek, etc… as well as some Beirut mall, of course, which they are allowed to visit for a few hours only. They stay at facilities provided by the Maronite Church, are not permitted to leave their groups unattended, and the entire trip is planned from points A to Z in the utmost details in order to prevent any fallback from such measures in both countries.
In fact, they are not even allowed to talk to Lebanese people at the sites they are visiting for fear of someone recognizing where they’re from and tipping off authorities. They keep to themselves, spend a week here, and go back to their country reportedly very “appreciative” of the experience they got.
The Haaretz report (link) says that hundreds of Israeli Christians have been using that method to come to Lebanon for pilgrimage. I was intrigued as to why Israelis would want to come to Lebanon for Christian pilgrimage when they are literally living in the Holy Land. As it turns out, the majority of those coming into Lebanon are Maronites, who have bonds to the region being where the seat of Maronitisim and its main holy sites are.
The origin of such a pilgrimage trip reportedly goes back to 2014, which also happens to be the last time a high profile Maronite figure visited the Holy Land was when Patriach Bechara El Rai went there in 2014 when the Pope was also visiting. During that visit, the patriarch reportedly met with Mahmoud Abbas, head of the Palestinian authorities, in Ramallah and discussed with him issuing Palestinian travel documents to Israeli Arab Christians who wish to visit Lebanon for pilgrimage. As it turns out, Mahmoud Abbas obliged.
Since then, those trips have become increasingly less hidden, with authorities in Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine deciding to turn a blind eye to these people going about their religious escapades in a country they’d normally not be able to visit. For $1800, the people wishing to visit Lebanon register their names with a yet unidentified priest in Galilee who then transmits that list to the Palestinian authorities for travel documents issuance.
Given that many Israeli Muslims are allowed to go to Saudi Arabia using Jordanian passports for Hajj, I don’t believe that such trips into Lebanon purely for religious purposes should cause any uproar. Even Al-Akhbar, known for their anti-Israeli crusades against anything that is touched by the Zionist state (as long as it’s not something they’re dependent on of course), was not entirely critical of the visits, labeling them under the guise of religion, rather than politics.
As it is though in the Middle East, everything is political.
Soon after the Haaretz report surfaced, Patriarch Rai announced that he believes Lebanese Christians should also be permitted to be able to visit the Holy Land and Jerusalem as part of religious pilgrimage. Rai believes that such visits would not fall under the much-dreaded normalization, but rather under religious auspices.
To that effect, during his much talked about visit to Saudi Arabia later in the month, he will discuss the logistics of how KSA, a country also with no diplomatic relations to Israel (yet), facilitates its own pilgrimage process of Israeli Muslims. As per the Haaretz article, Raï said “when I visited the Holy Land, I met with my community and had no political activity. And I don’t see anything wrong with this.”
Except while Patriarch Raï sees nothing wrong with such a move, a Lebanese population that rose up in arms about a movie with an Israeli actress will sure run towards the guillotines and shout treason and normalization at anyone who agrees with such a prospect.
Currently, a Lebanese citizen who wishes to visit the Holy Land cannot do so unless they are in the possession of a second nationality which permits visits to Israel, and even then that person would technically be breaking Lebanese law, although I wonder: how much emphasis can we put on laws whose application is as arbitrary as the Lebanese raison d’etre, only put into action when there’s enough political backbone for them to be applied, only enforced on those who don’t have IMDB pages to their names or enough clout to escape the judicial system?
I find the premise of religious causes outweighing political ones to be appealing, but this is the Middle East and not La La Land (that movie deserved the Oscar fyi). In a region as volatile and as precipitous, and between two countries that are constantly in conflict, whether actual or an undercurrent, should religious pilgrimage be allowed?
I’d like to say that if the Israelis are doing it, then we should do it as well. But while those Israeli Arabs have technical means with which they can access Lebanon (Palestinian documents, as they also happen to be Palestinian), Lebanese Christians only have their passport as their means for visitation. Such visits are, therefore, not technically feasible in the first place.
Add to the technical aspect of things all the treason threats that those who undertake such visits would get. It wasn’t a long time ago that people accused me of treason and sympathy with Israel because my name indicated I was Christian, solely due to me not wanting Wonder Woman to be banned. Even Al-Akhbar which was okay with the visits from Israel’s Arabs (apparently it considers them to be forcibly naturalized), the mere mention of such reciprocity had them be up in flames.
Such visits from Lebanon cannot be done in hiding – as their Israeli counterpart is happening. The Lebanese state has to sign off on them to begin with, and such a thing will never happen.
Until then, let those Israeli Arabs enjoy the many convents and spectacular views that Lebanon has to offer. By the looks of it, such visits will not be lasting long now.
Crabs and lobsters have a tough time at the hands of humans. In most countries, they are excluded from the scope of animal welfare legislation, so nothing you do to them is illegal. The result is that they are treated in ways that would clearly be cruel if inflicted on a vertebrate.
This might in part be because they are so alien to us. It is hard to begin to imagine the inner life of a 10-legged, faceless creature with a nervous system distributed throughout its body. Worse still, crustaceans lack the headline-grabbing intelligence of the octopus. With only about 100,000 neurons in their nervous system compared with the octopus’s 500 million, crabs and lobsters are unlikely to set the ocean alight with their cognitive prowess. They are easy to overlook and difficult to empathise with.
Nevertheless, if you care about animal welfare, you should care what happens to crabs and lobsters. Consider live boiling. The animal often takes minutes to die, during which it writhes around and sheds its limbs. Crustaceans can be killed in seconds with knives, but most non-specialists don’t know the right technique. Electrocution using a ‘Crustastun’ takes about 10 seconds, and is probably as humane as it gets, but the expense of this device means it is hardly standard kitchen equipment. Some processing plants use them (and some UK supermarkets require their suppliers to do so), but many do not, and there is no legal requirement to stun. Crabs are often still, as one recent study put it, ‘processed in a live state’. ‘Processed’ here is a euphemism for ‘carved alive’.
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Does any of this matter ethically? For many, the key question here is whether these animals are capable of feeling anything – whether they are sentient. If they feel nothing as they are boiled or carved alive, then ethical qualms about these practices seem as misplaced as they would be for vegetables. But if they do feel – if they are sentient – then they are cruel and inhumane.
So what is the reality? Are crabs and lobsters sentient or not? Can science settle the issue? Before we can address this question, it helps to be clearer about what we’re looking for. I will focus here specifically on the phenomenon of pain. There is much more to an animal’s subjective experience of the world and of its own body than pain alone – but pain is the aspect of sentience with the most obvious ethical consequences.
Animal welfare scientists define pain as ‘an aversive sensation and feeling associated with actual or potential tissue damage’. When they talk about pain, they mean pain in its most elemental, evolutionarily ancient sense – a feeling that might have some but not all of the aspects of pain in humans. In particular, to feel pain in this basic sense, it is not necessary to be self-conscious – to be aware of oneself as being in pain.
Do crustaceans feel pain in this basic sense? Over the past few years, a series of experiments by the biologist Robert Elwood and colleagues at Queen’s University Belfast has demonstrated impressively sophisticated behaviour in crabs. Here is one example. Hermit crabs live in shells vacated by other animals. They prefer some types of shell to others, and will often switch from a less-preferred to a more-preferred shell in the wild. Elwood drilled holes in the hermit crabs’ shells and poked electrodes through the holes to see how they would react to small electric shocks – not a pleasant procedure, but a necessary one to gain insight into their responses.
Unsurprisingly, crabs would sometimes vacate a shell, even a good one, if the shock became too severe. More surprisingly, the crabs traded off the quality of the shell against the intensity of the shock received within it. For a given intensity of shock, they’d be more reluctant to give up a high-quality shell than a low-quality one. This is known as a motivational trade-off. The crabs were balancing their need to avoid shocks against their other needs.
In another experiment, Elwood and colleagues found that shore crabs rapidly learn to avoid locations they associate with harmful experiences. The crabs were offered a choice of two dark shelters: in one, they received shocks; in the other, they did not. In general, crabs prefer to return to shelters that they have previously occupied. But after repeatedly receiving a shock in one of the shelters, the crabs were much less likely to return to it – a phenomenon known as conditioned place avoidance.
Motivational trade-offs and conditioned place avoidance are what I call credible indicators of pain – credible because they cannot be explained away as mere reflexes, and because they tie in with a reasonable theory about the function of pain for animals that feel it. The idea in the background here is that pain is a guide to decision-making. To make flexible decisions, animals need to be able to weigh the seriousness of an injury against other things they need. Sometimes fleeing is the right thing to do; sometimes carrying on as normal is the right thing to do; sometimes tending the injury is the right thing to do – it depends on the situation. Pain is the currency in which the need to stop, or the need to flee, is measured. When we find an animal making flexible decisions by integrating information about past or present injury with information about its other needs, that is a credible indicator of pain.
Is it conceivable that motivational trade-offs and conditioned place avoidance occur without any pain? Of course, but no one is suggesting that pain is conclusively established by these experiments. We are talking about credible indicators, not conclusive proof. If we demand conclusive proof, this will never be attained – not for any animal, not even for other human beings.
What should we do, then, in this state of uncertainty? I suggest a common-sense approach: apply a version of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle was originally devised for environmental policy. It says, in effect: when you’re uncertain about the link between human actions and a seriously bad outcome, don’t let your uncertainty prevent you from taking effective precautions. The principle has been applied to environmental threats as diverse as climate change and neonicotinoids (or neonics), the pesticides linked to colony collapse in bees.
It should also be applied to the question of animal sentience. I have recently proposed the following ‘animal sentience precautionary principle’:
Where there are threats of serious, negative animal welfare outcomes, lack of full scientific certainty as to the sentience of the animals in question shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent those outcomes.
In short: when the evidence is suggestive but not conclusive, give the animal the benefit of the doubt.
The phrase ‘lack of full scientific certainty’, taken from the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, is, admittedly, far too vague. It does not specify the evidential standard that has to be met. This is why I have also proposed a specific, pragmatic standard: we should act to mitigate risks to animal welfare when there is at least one credible indicator of sentience in at least one species of the order of animals in question. The decapod crustaceans meet this standard. Arguably an even stronger case can be made for octopus, squid and cuttlefish, which already receive some protection in the European Union.
The phrase ‘cost-effective measures’ is also vague. So here is my specific, pragmatic proposal: when the evidential standard is met, we should bring the order of animals within the scope of animal welfare legislation in a way appropriate to their particular welfare needs. In the case of crustaceans, that means banning processing methods with a substantial risk of inflicting pain, such as live carving and live boiling.
To be clear, the precautionary principle is a guide to policy, not to individual action. In light of evidence of pain in crustaceans, you might feel it appropriate to stop eating them. That would be a reasonable reaction, but it isn’t entailed by my proposals, which are concerned with the law rather than with individual behaviour. What my proposals do entail is that decapod crustaceans deserve a basic level of legal protection.
We could wait for evidence to pile up, demanding more credible indicators in more species, while decapods continue to be ‘processed’ alive around the world. But there’s a good chance we’d regret our inaction, just as we might well come to regret our inaction over climate change and neonics. Alternatively, we could take precautions now. On climate change and neonics, it is common sense to act now to mitigate the risk of environmental disaster. Likewise, we should act now to protect decapods, to mitigate the risk of a continuing animal welfare disaster.
“We reject: kings, presidents, and voting. We believe in: rough consensus and running code.” So declared MIT professor David D. Clark in 1992. Twenty-five years later, this sentiment mirrors the global zeitgeist more than ever. The American public distrusts government in record numbers. Other nation-states disdain the US to world-historical degrees. A non-nation-state, Facebook, just topped 2 billion users—more than a quarter of the world’s population, surpassing even China’s population by almost 40 percent. In short, nation-states are not the only game in town anymore.
Alexis Wichowski (@awichowski) teaches technology, media, and government at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She is also the press secretary for the City of New York’s department of veterans’ services. Views expressed here are her own.
It is time to name this new landscape. The world is no longer dominated by nation-states alone. We have moved into a non-state, net-state era.
Why “net-states”? Because the world is no longer neatly divided into states (countries like the US, France, and India) and non-states (terrorist organizations like ISIS and al Qaeda). Ever since Barbara Ehrenreich’s 2011 article “Coming to a Theater Near You: War Without Humans” described the “emergence of a new kind of enemy, so-called non-state actors,” the term transformed into a fancy way of saying “bad guy.” Now we need new language to describe the non-state, non-bad-guys. I propose “net-states.”
Net-states are digital non-state actors, without the violence. Like nation-states, they’re a wildly diverse bunch. Some are the equivalent to global superpowers: the Googles, the Facebooks, the Twitters. Others are mere gatherings of pranksters, like Lulzsec (whose sole purpose for action is “for the lulz”—the laughs). Others still are paramilitary operations, such as GhostSec, an invite-only cyberarmy specifically created to target ISIS. There are also hacktivist collectives like Anonymous and Wikileaks.
Regardless of their differences in size and raison d’etre, net-states of all stripes share three key qualities: They exist largely online, enjoy international devotees, and advance belief-driven agendas that they pursue separate from, and at times, above, the law.
Take Google, for instance. In 2013, the company launched an anti-censorship initiative called Project Shield, a sort of online safe haven for news sites censored by their national governments. Democratic countries like the US may laud such efforts, but in countries where Project Shield has been deployed across Asia and Africa—where free speech is not necessarily protected—those governments would be well within their rights to see Google’s actions as both disruptive and illegal. While Project Shield may be branded a business practice that generates good PR for the company, it also embodies Google’s fundamental doctrine to bring about positive change in the world. As co-founder Sergey Brin put it in a 2014 interview, “the societal goal is our primary goal.”
Anonymous—the hackers and pranksters most famous for the Operation Chanology protest movement against Scientology—occupies a very different role from Google among net-states. It’s not a business; it’s not even an official, card-carrying membership organization.
But Anonymous, too, dabbles in actions traditionally in the domain of government. For instance, after the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, Anonymous disabled between 5,500 and 20,000 ISIS-backed Twitter accounts within 48 hours. Governments have their own official channels to shut down terrorist social media accounts too, but doing so legally at such a large scale likely generates a tad more paperwork than can be processed in just two days.
It’s worth pausing for a moment to consider the point of all this. With deaths by terrorism steadily rising each year, does placing a new name on our already extant world order do anything to actually make us safer?
I argue that it does, because nation-states need a wake-up call: The world needs net-states in order to defeat the non-states. We’re not beating them on our own. To win information-era wars, countries need to recognize the power of the net-states, not as an ancillary locale of assembly in the cyberspace, but as critical entities wielding the kind of power and influence necessary to go toe-to-toe with non-state actors.
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The world needs net-states, because they occupy the same territory as the non-states: the digital sphere. As such, they understand their norms and tactics far more than a land-war, Cold-War era strategist ever could. Major General Michael K. Nagata, commander of American special operations forces in the Middle East, circled this idea back in 2014, in a leaked confidential conversation about ISIS. He said, “We do not understand the movement, and until we do, we are not going to defeat it. We have not defeated the idea. We do not even understand the idea.”
Failure to understand the idea is part of why the US continues to be stuck in the war on terror. And the US is indeed stuck: Secretary of defense James Mattis confirmed that in June, saying in a briefing to Congress, “We are not winning in Afghanistan,” His commanders have classified the 16 years of war a “stalemate.” And without the net-states, the war will likely continue to be one.
The US airstrikes acolytes by the thousands as if they were Old World beasts they can hunt to extinction. But deploying traditional military tactics in battles of belief are the equivalent of setting bear traps for ghosts: They’re not going to work. They’re not relying on the wrong weapons; they’re relying on the wrong worldview. And even purportedly innovative tactics, like government-generated counter-terrorism messaging, while logical in theory, relies on the same outdated perspective (see “Think Again Turn Away,” the State Department’s failed attempt at targeting ISIS Twitter accounts with direct rebuttals). It’s like hearing your parents tell you that drugs are bad. What we need are the cool kids to say it. We need the net-states to say it.
So, nation-states, adapt. And don’t just acknowledge net-states; work with them. Incorporate information-era savvy alongside military campaigns. The risk of not doing so is to lose the faith of the people. Worse, failure to adapt to the information age unwittingly nudges the population ever closer to “reject kings and voting”, to instead embrace “rough consensus and running code.” In other words, forget the anointed powers—put your faith in the general approval of the people and whoever’s actually getting things done. Honestly, when faced with the question of who gets the will of the people today, how many of us would really say “the United States” over “Google”?
In sum, the US can’t keep just shooting terrorists; ideas are the gun in this knife fight. And the keepers of ideas—the places people turn to set them free and watch them spread—are the net-states; not the nation-states. Nation-states ignore our non-state, net-state world order at all our peril.
WIRED Opinion publishes pieces written by outside contributors and represents a wide range of viewpoints. Read more opinions here.
Paul Manafort and Rick Gates were indicted on financial charges, but George Papadopoulos was the surprise as the Russia inquiry enveloped the capital
For a moment in court, the mask slipped. Paul Manafort glanced at his lawyer and smirked, like a TV mafia boss with reasons to be confident. It was the look of a man who, after decades of work as a lobbyist for murderous dictators in Africa and Asia, was not about to be rattled by the prospect of house arrest.
But less than a mile away, another man displayed rather less equanimity. Donald Trump woke before dawn on Monday and, instead of heading to the Oval Office, lingered in the White House residence. “Trump clicked on the television and spent the morning playing fuming media critic, legal analyst and crisis communications strategist, according to several people close to him,” the Washington Post reported.