April 11, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 8:59 PM


White House proposed releasing immigrant detainees in sanctuary cities, targeting political foes (Rachael Bade and Nick Miroff April 11, 2019, The Washington Post)

White House officials have tried to pressure U.S. immigration authorities to release detainees onto the streets of "sanctuary cities" to retaliate against President Trump's political adversaries, according to Department of Homeland Security officials and email messages reviewed by The Washington Post.

Trump administration officials have proposed transporting detained immigrants to sanctuary cities at least twice in the past six months -- once in November, as a migrant caravan approached the U.S. southern border, and again in February, amid a standoff with Democrats over funding for Trump's border wall.

Let's start going to the three Mexicos to fetch them, which will make their migration safer.

Posted by orrinj at 7:06 PM


Bashir is out in Sudan, but 'protesters are not satisfied' with military rule (PRI's The World, April 11, 2019)

President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan in autocratic style for 30 years, was overthrown in a military coup on Thursday, but protesters' jubilation was short-lived as they took to the streets demanding military leaders hand over power to civilians.

Bashir, 75, had faced 16 weeks of demonstrations against his rule. Announcing the ouster, Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf said Sudan would enter a two-year period of military rule to be followed by presidential elections.

Ibn Auf announced a state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution. Seated on a gold-upholstered armchair, he said Sudan's airspace would be closed for 24 hours and border crossings shut until further notice.

The main organizer of protests against Bashir, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), rejected the minister's plans. It called on protesters to maintain a sit-in outside the defense ministry that began on Saturday.

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM


Palestinian Authority wary of Hamas intentions toward US (Adnan Abu Amer April 11, 2019, Al Monitor)

Hamad's statement is, nonetheless, in line with Hamas' updated founding charter issued in May 2017. The charter states, "In its relations with world nations and peoples, Hamas believes in the values of cooperation, justice, freedom and respect of the will of the people." It adds, "Hamas welcomes the stances of states, organizations and institutions that support the rights of the Palestinian people. ... At the same time, it denounces the support granted by any party to the Zionist [Israel]."

The charter makes no mention of the United States. This seems to imply a consensus among members not to object to a meeting with Washington aimed at improving Hamas' international image.

Hasan Youssef, a Hamas leader in the West Bank, reasserted to Palestinian news website al-Modon on March 31 that Hamas doesn't object to meeting any US official, even Trump himself, despite the latter's bias toward Israel. He noted, however, that the aim of such a meeting would be to convey the Palestinian version of the conflict with Israel.

Meanwhile, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani, who is close to Abbas, told Al-Monitor, "Hamas' desire to open a dialogue with the US is not surprising. The movement sees itself as an alternative to the Palestinian leadership. Hamad's statements aim to pave the way for the 'deal of the century,' [an as-yet unveiled US peace proposal]. This proves our convictions that Hamas is a party to this deal. Hamas is a pragmatic organization, it has flexible political positions, and does not oppose the rapprochement with Washington."

Posted by orrinj at 6:48 PM


Posted by orrinj at 6:41 PM


Objective reality may not exist, European researchers say (KEVIN DICKINSON, 11 April, 2019, Big Think)

Objective reality cannot be known. It's the kind of statement you expect to hear from a sophomore postmodernist or nihilists after they've torched your car. Not a group of scientists.

Yet that is the result of a recent study published in the preprint journal arXiv. Basing their investigation on a famous thought experiment developed by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner in 1961, the study's researchers devised a way for observers to measure a photon's state differently, despite each measurement being equally valid.

The primacy of Faith has always been obvious, just hard to accept.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 PM



Plenty of Jeopardy! champions have rung up six-figure payouts. But until James Holzhauer put up his $110,914 total on Tuesday, no one had done it in a single game. He did with with smarts, sure--but also with a nearly flawless command of Jeopardy! game theory.

The Jeopardy! board is arranged in a grid featuring 30 total clues across six categories. You'll often see players work their way through a single category, from easiest clue to hardest--and least to most valuable--before moving on to another column and repeating the process. That's one way to play, sure, in the same way that a light jog is one way to complete an Olympic steeplechase course.

Holzhauer does not jog. He blitzes the bottom of the board, where the hardest and most valuable clues reside. He staggers from category to category, stalking the invaluable so-called Daily Double clues that let players bet any portion of their winnings to that point. And he goes all in as often as he can.

"My approach isn't complicated: Get some money, hit the Daily Doubles, bet big, and hope I run hot," Holzhauer said in an email to WIRED. And if you think he sounds more like a gambler describing his craft than a gameshow contestant, that's no coincidence: Holzhauer, a Nevada resident, bets on sports for a living.

Posted by orrinj at 6:18 PM


How Russia Often Benefits When Julian Assange Reveals the West's Secrets (Jo Becker, Steven Erlanger and Eric Schmitt, Aug. 31, 2016, NY Times)

United States officials say they believe with a high degree of confidence that the Democratic Party material was hacked by the Russian government, and suspect that the codes may have been stolen by the Russians as well. That raises a question: Has WikiLeaks become a laundering machine for compromising material gathered by Russian spies? And more broadly, what precisely is the relationship between Mr. Assange and Mr. Putin's Kremlin?

Those questions are made all the more pointed by Russia's prominent place in the American presidential election campaign. Mr. Putin, who clashed repeatedly with Mrs. Clinton when she was secretary of state, has publicly praised Mr. Trump, who has returned the compliment, calling for closer ties to Russia and speaking favorably of Mr. Putin's annexation of Crimea.

From the outset of WikiLeaks, Mr. Assange said he was motivated by a desire to use "cryptography to protect human rights," and would focus on authoritarian governments like Russia's.

But a New York Times examination of WikiLeaks' activities during Mr. Assange's years in exile found a different pattern: Whether by conviction, convenience or coincidence, WikiLeaks' document releases, along with many of Mr. Assange's statements, have often benefited Russia, at the expense of the West.

Among United States officials, the emerging consensus is that Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks probably have no direct ties to Russian intelligence services. But they say that, at least in the case of the Democrats' emails, Moscow knew it had a sympathetic outlet in WikiLeaks, where intermediaries could drop pilfered documents in the group's anonymized digital inbox.

In an interview on Wednesday with The Times, Mr. Assange said Mrs. Clinton and the Democrats were "whipping up a neo-McCarthyist hysteria about Russia." There is "no concrete evidence" that what WikiLeaks publishes comes from intelligence agencies, he said, even as he indicated that he would happily accept such material.

WikiLeaks neither targets nor spares any particular nation, he added, but rather works to verify whatever material it is given in service of the public, which "loves it when they get a glimpse into the corrupt machinery that is attempting to rule them."

But given WikiLeaks' limited resources and the hurdles of translation, Mr. Assange said, why focus on Russia, which he described as a "bit player on the world stage," compared with countries like China and the United States? In any event, he said, Kremlin corruption is an old story. "Every man and his dog is criticizing Russia," he said. "It's a bit boring, isn't it?"

Since its inception, WikiLeaks has succeeded spectacularly on some fronts, uncovering indiscriminate killing, hypocrisy and corruption, and helping spark the Arab Spring.

To Gavin MacFadyen, a WikiLeaks supporter who runs the Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of London, the question for Mr. Assange is not where the material comes from, but whether it is true and in the public interest. He noted that intelligence services had a long history of using news organizations to plant stories, and that Western news outlets often published "material that comes from the C.I.A. uncritically."

Recent events, though, have left some transparency advocates wondering if WikiLeaks has lost its way. There is a big difference between publishing materials from a whistle-blower like Chelsea Manning -- the soldier who gave WikiLeaks its war log and diplomatic cable scoops -- and accepting information, even indirectly, from a foreign intelligence service seeking to advance its own powerful interests, said John Wonderlich, the executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a group devoted to government transparency.

"They're just aligning themselves with whoever gives them information to get attention or revenge against their enemies," Mr. Wonderlich said. "They're welcoming governments to hack into each other and disrupt each other's democratic processes, all on a pretty weak case for the public interest."

Others see Mr. Assange assuming an increasingly blinkered approach to the world that, coupled with his own secrecy, has left them disillusioned.

"The battle for transparency was supposed to be global; at least Assange claimed that at the beginning," said Andrei A. Soldatov, an investigative journalist who has written extensively about Russia's security services.

"It is strange that this principle is not being applied to Assange himself and his dealings with one particular country, and that is Russia," Mr. Soldatov said. [...]

It was the first of several times that Mr. Putin would take up Mr. Assange's cause. He has called the charges against Mr. Assange "politically motivated" and declared that the WikiLeaks founder is being "persecuted for spreading the information he received from the U.S. military regarding the actions of the U.S.A. in the Middle East, including Iraq."

In January 2011, the Kremlin issued Mr. Assange a visa, and one Russian official suggested that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize. Then, in April 2012, with WikiLeaks' funding drying up -- under American pressure, Visa and MasterCard had stopped accepting donations -- Russia Today began broadcasting a show called "The World Tomorrow" with Mr. Assange as the host. [...]

Many of the documents WikiLeaks has published are classified, such as a C.I.A. tutorial on how to maintain cover in foreign airports. But what may be WikiLeaks' most intriguing release of secret documents involved what is, on the surface, a less sensational topic: trade negotiations.

From November 2013 to May 2016, WikiLeaks published documents describing internal deliberations on two trade pacts: the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would liberalize trade between the United States, Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim countries, and the Trade in Services Agreement, an accord between the United States, 21 other countries and the European Union.

Russia, which was excluded, has been the most vocal opponent of the pacts, with Mr. Putin portraying them as an effort to give the United States an unfair leg up in the global economy.

The drafts released by WikiLeaks stirred controversy among environmentalists, advocates of internet freedom and privacy, labor leaders and corporate governance watchdogs, among others. They also stoked populist resentment against free trade that has become an important factor in American and European politics.

The material was released at critical moments, with the apparent aim of thwarting negotiations, American trade officials said.

The overlapping goals of Vlad, Assange and Donald make them natural allies.

Did Trump really mention WikiLeaks over 160 times in the last month of the election cycle? (Gabrielle Healy, April 21st, 2017, PolitiFact)

President Donald Trump reveled in WikiLeaks' disclosures against Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the closing argument of his presidential campaign.

His CIA director, Mike Pompeo, revealed a different attitude in a tough April 13 speech which addressed the anonymous hacking website.

The group "walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service," Pompeo said.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., was one of many voices who noticed the administration's hardened view toward WikiLeaks.

CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer interviewed Speier, a member of the House intelligence committee, on April 13 about Pompeo's characterization of WikiLeaks.

How much did Trump the candidate love WikiLeaks in the last days of the campaign? She attempted to count the ways.

"If you recall during the election cycle, in the last month of the campaign, I believe that President Trump as a candidate hailed WikiLeaks as the new savior, had mentioned it over 160 times in speeches during that period of time.

Really, that many times? We decided to check it out.

Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM


Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange arrested (BBC, 4/11/19)

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange arrested after seven years in Ecuador's embassy in London, UK police say

Posted by orrinj at 12:05 AM


Posted by orrinj at 12:02 AM


Why the Zionist left died this week:  Stuck in a Zionist paradigm, Israel's mainstream left-wing parties are unable to put forth a vision of equality and inclusion for all in Israel-Palestine. (Edo Konrad |Published April 10, 2019, +972)

Labor and Meretz lost voters to Gantz's "anyone but Bibi" campaign. But there is something far more fundamental at play here: neither party has been able to come up with a compelling vision because they are unable to grapple with two issues that haunt Israeli society: the dark legacy of 1948, and five decades of military rule in the occupied territories.

They are afraid because Netanyahu has shifted the discourse so far to the right that discussing the occupation has now become a taboo. Because those who want to talk about human rights violations in the West Bank or Gaza are now labeled traitors. Because talking about the Nakba or the fate of Palestinian refugees is beyond the pale.

There are, of course, other reasons for the downfall of the once-dominant liberal parties. For much of the past two decades, with the demise of the peace process that it once led, Labor has attempted to position itself as a centrist party with a dovish pedigree, abandoning left-wing politics altogether. While Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reached out to Arab citizens in the early 90s -- the Arab parties helped ensure he could push through the Oslo Accords while keeping his government intact -- any talk of a real alliance with Israel's Palestinian community has never been on the table.

Beset by years of accusations that it was too Ashkenazi-dominated, that it was corrupt, and that it did too little to undo the damage caused by institutionalized discrimination against Israel's Mizrahi population during the early years of the state, Labor brought in Avi Gabbay to head the party. Gabbay is not the first Mizrahi to head the party, but many on the inside believed that his rags-to-riches story -- born to Moroccan parents in a working-class Jerusalem neighborhood, he rose to become the CEO of Israel's largest telecommunications company -- would speak to voters in the economically depressed towns in Israel's periphery who for decades turned their back on Labor.

But neither an increase in diversity nor a relatively moderate social democratic economic agenda brought Labor the redemption it yearned for. On the contrary, Gabbay's middle-of-the-road politics, which never truly meshed with the youthful, idealistic image of some of its younger hopefuls, was a turn-off for classic Labor voters. When it came to the issue of Israel's 52-year-old military occupation, Labor offered little: more building in the settlement blocs, pledges to evacuate outposts, and a referendum for Israeli citizens over Palestinian neighborhoods and refugee camps on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Gabbay also declared that he would not sit in a coalition with the Arab parties.

Given its lack of a clear vision, many veteran Labor and Meretz voters drifted toward Gantz -- the retired IDF chief of staff who led a campaign bereft of any real promises apart from taking down Netanyahu.

Posted by orrinj at 12:01 AM


Retiring as a Judge, Trump's Sister Ends Court Inquiry Into Her Role in Tax Dodges (Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig, April 10, 2019, NY Times)

President Trump's older sister, Maryanne Trump Barry, has retired as a federal appellate judge, ending an investigation into whether she violated judicial conduct rules by participating in fraudulent tax schemes with her siblings.

The court inquiry stemmed from complaints filed last October, after an investigation by The New York Times found that the Trumps had engaged in dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud, that greatly increased the inherited wealth of Mr. Trump and his siblings. Judge Barry not only benefited financially from most of those tax schemes, The Times found; she was also in a position to influence the actions taken by her family.

It's a RICO case.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Ex-Obama White House counsel expected to be indicted in relation to work with Paul Manafort (Catherine Garcia, April 10, 2019, The Week)

Under the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act, individuals must let the Justice Department know if they are lobbying or advocating in the United States on behalf of a foreign government or political entity. The expected indictment is connected to work Craig did in 2012 with President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, on behalf of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, The Associated Press reports. Last year, Manafort pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his Ukrainian lobbying.