AuthorTopic: The Surlynewz Channel  (Read 393875 times)

Offline Surly1

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Scummy Fuck Joe Ricketts Shuts Down DNAinfo, Gothamist After Writers Unionize
« Reply #2955 on: November 03, 2017, 07:29:16 AM »

Scummy Fuck Joe Ricketts Shuts Down DNAinfo, Gothamist After Writers Unionize

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images for Roadside Attractions

Joe Ricketts, TD Ameritrade founder, billionaire, and father of Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, shut down the local news network of DNAinfo and Gothamist sites today, a week after the writers voted to unionize. Anyone attempting to reach one of the sites was redirected to this letter:

November 2, 2017

Dear DNAinfo and Gothamist Readers:

Today, I’ve made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist. Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly.

I started DNAinfo in 2009 at a time when few people were investing in media companies. But I believed an opportunity existed to build a successful company that would report unbiased neighborhood news and information. These were stories that weren’t getting told, and because I believe people care deeply about the things that happen where they live and work, I thought we could build a large and loyal audience that advertisers would want to reach.

A lot of what I believed would happen did, but not all of it. Today, DNAinfo and Gothamist deliver news and information each day to over half a million people’s email inboxes; we have over 2 million fans across our social channels; and each month, we have over 15 million visits to our sites by over 9 million people. But more important than large numbers of visits and fans, we’ve reported tens of thousands of stories that have informed, impacted, and inspired millions of people. And in the process, I believe we’ve left the world a better place.

But DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business, and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure. And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded. I want to thank our readers for their support and loyalty through the years. And I want to thank our employees for their tireless effort and dedication.

I’m hopeful that in time, someone will crack the code on a business that can support exceptional neighborhood storytelling for I believe telling those stories remains essential.

Sincerely,

Joe Ricketts

Chief Executive Officer

A DNAinfo spokesperson essentially admitted to the New York Times that the writers’ union drive was a “competitive obstacle” making it more difficult to be “financially successful,” so Ricketts’s explanation reads like horseshit covering up a malicious, calculated move. With the sites’ articles functionally locked, the reported 115 newly jobless writers now have no clips as they search for work, either. CNN’s Tom Kludt reports that the employees will be paid through February:

 

 

 


Tom Kludt   ✔ @TomKludt
I visited both DNAinfo and Gothamist every day. Probably read @rachelholliday more than any other reporter. Gutted by this news.
 Tom Kludt  ✔ @TomKludt

Here's the memo to DNAinfo/Gothamist staff, telling them what happens next. Ricketts plans to begin negotiating with Writers Guild tomorrow pic.twitter.com/MDtLtSBunw


5:35 PM - Nov 2, 2017
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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The SurlyZone 11/4
« Reply #2956 on: November 04, 2017, 12:30:18 PM »
An afternoon paper today.

The SurlyZone

A collection of articles and notes of interest to one particular cynical observer.

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"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #2957 on: November 09, 2017, 08:08:12 AM »
The Year Since Trump's Election, as Explained by Bad Pizza

The Year Since Trump's Election, as Explained by Bad Pizza

Wednesday, November 08, 2017 By William Rivers Pitt, Truthout | Op-Ed

(Photo: Raja Sambasivan)(Photo: Raja Sambasivan)

I would like to take a moment, here on this calamitous anniversary, to contemplate the political and cultural impact of bad pizza upon our zany little world. I am, of course, referring to the massive international chain restaurant called Papa John's, and to its wealthy owner, Mr. John Schnatter of St. Louis. The two entities -- the subpar pizza joint and the man with all the dough -- sit at the core of a small confluence of absurdity that explains nearly everything you need to know about Year One in the Age of Trump.

Ridiculous? Certainly. True? You tell me.

There are more than 5,000 Papa John's pizzerias in 45 countries around the world. It is the most widely recognized advertiser for the National Football League; if you watch the NFL on Sundays, like as not you'll see the face of "Papa" John Schnatter a dozen times mugging it up with the likes of Peyton Manning and the guy who mows the playing field. His connections to the NFL run deeper than TV commercials. Dallas Cowboys owner and billionaire oilman Jerry Jones owns more than 120 Papa John's franchises.

Schnatter played in Republican politics behind the scenes for a time, holding fundraisers for Mitt Romney in 2012 and donating to Donald Trump's campaign in 2016. He made his first ham-fisted entrance onto the public political stage about five years ago, when the passage of the Affordable Care Act motivated him to take out his rage on his customers and employees. If the ACA wasn't repealed, he said at the time, he would be forced to jack up the price of his pizza, and some of his franchises would have to cut workers' hours. Because this was nonsense, there was a fairly damaging backlash and Schnatter backed down.

Odds are Schnatter would have kept his head down for good after that mess, but then several things happened almost simultaneously: NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police violence against people of color, several players joined him, Donald Trump attacked them repeatedly and viciously, a whole slew of players then joined Kaepernick and the protest became a national thing, the NFL commissioner and ownership predictably redefined the term "clumsy reaction" in response, and somewhere in there a whole lot of people realized, for reasons having nothing to do with protests or presidents, that Papa John's pizza is just awful.

That last bit is important, because Schnatter recently announced that he is considering pulling his advertising from NFL games. Why? His sales are way down and, according to him, the NFL's refusal to come down hard on the anti-racism player protesters is the reason behind that decline. "NFL leadership has hurt Papa John's shareholders," said Schnatter last week during a call with analysts. "This should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago. Good or bad, leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership."

"Good or bad," said Schnatter. An interesting choice of words, given the fact that he has amassed a tremendous fortune peddling food that can only be called "pizza" because it is round and has "cheese" on it. Any reputable consumer survey puts Papa John's product somewhere between sewer rat and used floss on the quality scale. To quote Deadspin writer David Roth, "It's pizza that tastes the way long-distance bus travel feels." Occam's Razor would suggest that protests seldom televised by the NFL are less to blame for Schnatter's woes than market oversaturation of a crummy product. P.S., NFL: That means you, too.

Hot on the heels of Schnatter's broadside against the NFL and its ownership came another proclamation: The Daily Stormer, the white supremacist website which gained notoriety after the horrific violence in Charlottesville and Donald Trump's subsequent reaffirmation of his embrace of Nazis and Klansmen, announced that Papa John's was now the official pizza of racists everywhere. To underscore their zeal for Schnatter's product, they published a photo of a pizza bearing a swastika rendered in pepperoni slices.

This forced the public relations wing of the Papa John's empire to release a statement requesting that white nationalists, white supremacists, Nazis, Klansmen and racists in general refrain from purchasing their product, which is exactly how you want to spend your Friday when you're the press office for a well-known multinational corporation that is already collapsing under the weight of its own inadequacies.

When the long tale of this dented era is finally unspooled, "Papa" John Schnatter and his serial woes will wind up as a footnote for an afterthought. Yet this dim little parable perfectly illustrates the time and place we find ourselves in, one long year down the line. At the bottom of it all sits an execrably unpalatable product with a swastika squished into the middle. I think it is safe to say we could all use some better ingredients.

My country, 'tis of thee I sing.

Three more years. Maybe.

WILLIAM RIVERS PITT

William Rivers Pitt is a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout. He is also a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of three books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to KnowThe Greatest Sedition Is Silence and House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation. His fourth book, The Mass Destruction of Iraq: Why It Is Happening, and Who Is Responsible, co-written with Dahr Jamail, is available now on Amazon. He lives and works in New Hampshire.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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White House chief of staff tried to pressure acting DHS secretary to expel 000s
« Reply #2958 on: November 09, 2017, 09:25:37 AM »
White House chief of staff tried to pressure acting DHS secretary to expel thousands of Hondurans, officials say

White House chief of staff tried to pressure acting DHS secretary to expel thousands of Hondurans, officials say


Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke meets with Britain’s Home Secretary on Oct. 20. Duke refused to bow to pressure from White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly to expel tens of thousands of Hondurans living in the United States under protected status. (Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images)
By Nick Miroff November 9 at 10:39 AM 

On Monday, as the Department of Homeland Security prepared to extend the residency permits of tens of thousands of Honduran immigrants living in the United States, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly called Acting Secretary Elaine Duke to pressure her to expel them, according to current and former administration officials.

 Duke refused to reverse her decision and was angered by what she felt was a politically driven intrusion by Kelly and Tom Bossert, the White House homeland security adviser, who also called her about the matter, according to officials with knowledge of Monday’s events, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

“As with many issues, there were a variety of views inside the administration on a policy. The Acting Secretary took those views and advice [on] the path forward for TPS and made her decision based on the law,” said Jonathan Hoffman, the DHS spokesman, referring to a form of provisional residency called Temporary Protected Status. He added that it was also “perfectly normal for them to discuss the issue before she had reached a decision.”

[DHS ends protected immigration status for Nicaraguans, but Hondurans get extension]

A White House official confirmed the calls to Duke on Monday, but said Kelly’s frustration had to do “with Duke’s lack of decisiveness.” 

 Play Video 1:26
What does temporary protected status (TPS) mean?
DHS ended the protected immigration status of some 2,500 Nicaraguans on Nov. 6. Hondurans under the program received an extension. Here is what you need to know about TPS. (Melissa Macaya, Claritza Jimenez/The Washington Post)

By extending the residency permits of the Hondurans, Kelly told her that the TPS decision “keeps getting kicked down the road” and that the additional delay “prevents our wider strategic goal” on immigration, the White House official said.

Duke, who was confirmed by the Senate in April, has informed Kelly she plans to resign, said the officials. Hoffman said there is “zero factual basis” to the claim that Duke has said she’ll step down, and disputed the claim that Kelly called to pressure Duke, insisting she had reached out to him to solicit advice on the TPS decision.

 DHS had until the end of the day Monday to announce its plans for some 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans who were allowed to remain in the United States under TPS after Hurricane Mitch hit Central America in 1998. 

Another 50,000 Haitians and 200,000 Salvadorans were nervously awaiting the decision, as their residency permits will expire early next year. Trump administration officials have repeatedly cited the TPS program as an example of what they say is U.S. immigration policy gone awry, because a program designed to be temporary should not be used to grant long-term residency in the United States. 

[A Haitian woman asks, ‘How would I survive back there?’]

Duke had decided to end the TPS designation for the Nicaraguans, giving them until January 2019 to leave the United States or change their immigration status. But Duke felt she did not have enough information for the much larger group of Honduran immigrants, so she deferred, granting them a six-month extension, administration officials said Monday when they announced the TPS decision.

 As DHS officials prepared to make that announcement, Kelly made an urgent call from Japan, where he was traveling with President Trump. He was “irritated,” administration officials said, and didn’t want his handpicked nominee for DHS Secretary, Kirstjen M. Nielsen, to face potentially uncomfortable questions about TPS during her confirmation hearing.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly listens as President Trump speaks during a meeting on tax policy with business leaders in the White House, Oct. 31. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

 “He was persistent, telling her he didn’t want to kick the can down the road, and that it could hurt [Nielsen’s] nomination,” said one administration official.

 Duke held her ground, the official said. “She was angry. To get a call like that from Asia, after she’d already made the decision, was a slap in the face.”

 “They put massive pressure on her,” said another former official with knowledge of the call. 

Duke wanted to proceed carefully, because the Central Americans have lived in the United States for two decades or more, and she had been contacted by former U.S. diplomats who implored her to weigh the decision carefully. 

Congress created the TPS designation in 1990 to refrain from deporting foreign nationals to nations too unstable to receive them following natural disasters, civil strife or a health crisis. Previous administrations have repeatedly renewed the residency permits every 18 months, and over the years TPS has become a target of immigration hard-liners who say the law has been abused.

Trump wants to overhaul the U.S. immigration system, replacing a model based in part on family reunification with a “merit-based” approach to favor skilled labor.

The White House official said Kelly did not mention Nielsen by name during the calls with Duke, but told her “this shouldn’t be a problem for the next secretary to deal with.”

The pressure from the White House ended up delaying Monday’s announcement, which DHS officials did not make until an 8 p.m. conference call with reporters, just hours before the deadline, as tens of thousands of immigrants and their families remained in suspense.

 In public, at least, the White House has deferred questions about TPS, calling the decision a prerogative of Homeland Security officials, in consultation with the State Department. 

 Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent a letter to Duke essentially giving DHS a green light to send the Nicaraguans and Hondurans back, telling her conditions in Central America had improved. 

 White House officials said Kelly acknowledged during the call that the decision was Duke’s to make. But she felt the pressure amounted to a direct intervention in the process, administration officials said.

 Duke, a DHS veteran, has informed Kelly she will resign once Nielsen takes over, according to several officials, even though Trump has publicly asked her to remain in the deputy role. 

 Nielsen, who is Kelly’s deputy at the White House and was his chief of staff when he ran DHS between January and July, appeared to breeze through her Senate confirmation hearing Wednesday, and did not face especially tough or contentious questioning. 

 No one asked her what she planned to do with the 300,000 TPS recipients who will lose their legal status and face deportation if their residency is not renewed. Their families include an estimated 275,000 U.S.-born children.

 The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is scheduled to vote on her nomination Thursday afternoon. Senate aides say the White House is pushing for a full vote on Nielsen to get her confirmed before the Thanksgiving recess.

 Duke, who returned to DHS to be Kelly’s deputy earlier this year, was never among the top candidates for the secretary job, lacking the law enforcement and counterterrorism credentials typically associated with that role. But she is considered a skilled manager and has earned praise for her stewardship of the massive federal agency, which has 240,000 employees, 22 sub-agencies and a $40 billion budget.

 Nielsen, a cybersecurity expert, began her career as a Senate staffer, then crafted legislation and policy at the Transportation Security Administration. She was a White House adviser for emergency preparedness and disaster management under President George W. Bush, a job that put her at the centerof the administration’s bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

 Kelly brought Nielsen to the White House to be his deputy, and she earned a reputation as a disciplinarian, with unwavering loyalty to the former Marine Corps general.

The Rubik's Cube is not just a forgotten toy from the 80's. The fact is that it's even more popular than ever before. You can play with this great puzzle here.

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline azozeo

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #2959 on: November 09, 2017, 09:30:26 AM »
This is the price you have to pay to watch a fun sport, like football.
The stands are half full at best anymore. People have lost interest.
You can't just leave the game alone, you have to add outside influence & fuck it up.
Make a statement because you've got folks tuning in to the sport.
Sell nasty tasting pizza brimming with preservatives wash it down with Bud or Pepsi.
Be sure to take the WHOLE FUCKING MONTH of OCTOBER to push your pink bullshit ribbons
to sell radiation poisoning to the masses about some lame ass cure "Just around the corner",
knowing full well that cannabis cures the shit in 6 weeks.
Inundate the game with cute little reptillian pitchmen selling "INSURANCE" laden fear porn & NEW JUNK CHEVY'S.

C'mon man, I just want to enjoy the game.   
Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
And stars fill my dream
I’m a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race
This world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait
All will be revealed

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #2960 on: November 09, 2017, 11:08:07 AM »
This is the price you have to pay to watch a fun sport, like football.
The stands are half full at best anymore. People have lost interest.
You can't just leave the game alone, you have to add outside influence & fuck it up.
Make a statement because you've got folks tuning in to the sport.
Sell nasty tasting pizza brimming with preservatives wash it down with Bud or Pepsi.
Be sure to take the WHOLE FUCKING MONTH of OCTOBER to push your pink bullshit ribbons
to sell radiation poisoning to the masses about some lame ass cure "Just around the corner",
knowing full well that cannabis cures the shit in 6 weeks.
Inundate the game with cute little reptillian pitchmen selling "INSURANCE" laden fear porn & NEW JUNK CHEVY'S.

C'mon man, I just want to enjoy the game.

I see it your way, with a couple of annotations.

Attendance is down in some cities (like LA needs the Chargers, right?) but steady in others. The boycott some are trying to organize largely doesn't have teeth enough to bite the Owners, most of whom are half-human jackals. Attendance otherwise is pretty consistent.

The NFL is still contending with sluggish ratings half way into the 2017 season, but overall NFL ratings are still huge. One of the most reliable ad buys an advertiser seeking adult males can make. You'll recall Dolt 45 continually rage-tweeted about the NFL nearly 20 times, perhaps to prove the point that anthem protests were hurting the league.

While the NFL's numbers are down from last year and down drastically from two years ago, it still brings in the biggest ratings on television. Yet, a 6% drop is nothing to ignore. The root cause of the declining numbers could stem from a myriad of issues that range from bad games to bad press coming from Trump's attacks against the league, to even the Kap-supporting boycott.

What's really hurting the league is perennial dick Jerry Jones. I could wax rhapsodic on this score, but I turn to Deadspin's Drew Magary, il miglior fabbro, to spit the rhymes:

Quote
No matter how rich and powerful Jerry Jones gets, I can always count on his team—America’s Moral Sewer—to turn into a clown show anytime they sniff the postseason. And I can always count on their fans to be absolute scum who are always begging to be humiliated. They lie in wait until the team is good again and take the opportunity to maximize ALL of their insufferability, to remind you just why you despised the Cowboys to begin with.
Regardless of his tiff with Goodell, Jerry is still the shadow commissioner of this league, and he has remade the whole venture in his image. He engineered the existence of two shitty teams in LA. He runs stadium ops for teams that are not his own. And he has already pioneered new ways to drain local coffers by opening luxury practice facilities. This is a greedy, tacky, corrupt league with no soul at its core. It doesn’t really matter if the Cowboys regress this season—and again, they will. Jerry will still be the kingfish, raking in his money and spending it with all the sensitivity of Marie Antoinette.
This is the America you live in now. Not only do the bad guys win, they don’t even have to sneak around to do it. Everyone knows Jerry has a fixer (hmmm). Everyone knows Jerry is horny at all hours. Everyone knows the NFL has a fucked-up relationship will local prosecutors in case players—or the league itself—get in a jam. It doesn’t matter. You live in an age of naked, unapologetic corruption. No organization is a more fitting exemplar of this than the Dallas Cowboys and their tiresome, Real Housewives casting reject fans. After all, it’s not just Dallas players that are out here assaulting women. They don’t deserve success. They don’t deserve happiness. They deserve to have a horse stomp on their throat.


When the Cowboys' star running back got suspended, Jerry was a bullying shitbag through the whole ordeal. Jerry Jones needs to be crucified at High noon, the quickest way ain't fast enough. He's pure fucking evil. Oh, and did I mention he pwn's a shitload of Papa John's franchises?


John Schplatter wants to blame his declining revenues on the NFL and players taking a knee. He has his nose so far up Trump's ass that if Trump shifts in his seat, Papa John will get a dislocated jaw.






"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline azozeo

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #2961 on: November 09, 2017, 11:23:28 AM »
Surly,
When you & I were growing up, football was a workin' mans sport.
Today it's seasonally trendy.
Full of prima' donna athletes. It reminds me of pro-wrestling on steroids.
I don't know if you ever watched Leatherheads with George Clooney, but that
movie was loosely tied to the formation of today's NFL. Showmanship, not athleticism.

I can see why the networks are gaa-gaa over the ratings, it's all there is to watch.
I haven't sat down & watched primetime since the 80's. Married with children & Cheers were the last
sitcoms I remember viewing regularly. Even 3rd Rock, that's my fave, was all watched on re-runs.
Here in Az. on cable we have a channel dedicated to cars called Velocity that I watch once in a great while. That's it.

   
Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
And stars fill my dream
I’m a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race
This world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait
All will be revealed

Offline Surly1

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Molly Fisk: American Riddle
« Reply #2962 on: November 16, 2017, 03:30:14 AM »
Molly Fisk: American Riddle

When you can’t figure out how to stop

the war in Iraq, much less how to make

enough money to pay your mortgage,

moving the hundred and eighty dollars

from savings back into your checking

account as if that will help — when it’s

all you can do to acknowledge the actual

world and not lose yourself half the afternoon

in People Magazine where the movie stars

revolve like frosted cakes in a glass case

at the old Lady Baltimore bakery

on Throckmorton, before your home town

became so chic none of the kids

from your high school could afford

to live there — when you’re so tired

of reinventing yourself you want to lie down

on the road, right on the double yellow line

in front of your driveway, exactly where

two of your cats have been killed and wait

for someone to run you over but with your luck

you’d probably just lose an arm, no doubt

the right one, so you’d have to relearn

holding the pencil against the page

at the proper angle, and your sweater’s

sleeves would need to be hemmed

to cover the stump and then you’d really

have something to complain about

as well as something in common with soldiers

returning from the Middle East

who left precious parts of themselves behind,

which is where this poem begins and ends:

How the hell are we going to stop the cavalier

waste? How are we going to apologize?


Copyright 2010 Molly Fisk. From The More Difficult Beauty, HipPocket Press

.


« Last Edit: November 16, 2017, 03:36:03 AM by Surly1 »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Molly Fisk: American Riddle
« Reply #2963 on: November 16, 2017, 04:00:17 AM »
Molly Fisk: American Riddle

Is that a poem because it's a long run-on sentence with carriage returns every 5-10 words?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Offline Surly1

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Re: Molly Fisk: American Riddle
« Reply #2964 on: November 16, 2017, 06:21:38 AM »
Molly Fisk: American Riddle

Is that a poem because it's a long run-on sentence with carriage returns every 5-10 words?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE

Actually, it's pearls before swine.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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Re: Molly Fisk: American Riddle
« Reply #2965 on: November 16, 2017, 06:36:44 AM »
Molly Fisk: American Riddle

Is that a poem because it's a long run-on sentence with carriage returns every 5-10 words?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE

Actually, it's pearls before swine.


RE
SAVE AS MANY AS YOU CAN

Offline Surly1

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Re: Molly Fisk: American Riddle
« Reply #2966 on: November 16, 2017, 06:47:28 AM »
Molly Fisk: American Riddle

Is that a poem because it's a long run-on sentence with carriage returns every 5-10 words?  ???   :icon_scratch:

RE

Actually, it's pearls before swine.


RE

Very. Well. Played.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Surly1

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The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change
« Reply #2967 on: November 19, 2017, 05:42:30 AM »
The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change

The Zombie Diseases of Climate Change

 
A zombie hand reaching its way out of a blanket of snow and ice
Narciso Espiritu
 

From the air, the coast of Greenland appears vast and tranquil. Hundreds of fjords, their surfaces a mirror of blue sky and cloud bottoms, divide the territory. In the gaps between them, the terrain folds over itself, hill over hill, descending into obsidian lakes. The turf is covered in the waxy pastels of alpine dwarf willows and the dull white of age-bleached lichen.

Though an immense ice sheet sits in its interior, Greenland’s ice-free coast encompasses almost 159,000 square miles and and houses 57,000 people. In other words, it is larger than Germany with a population half the size of Topeka, Peoria, or New Haven. It is possible to stand on a hill outside the coastal town of Ilulissat and hear only the grass quaking, the harbor ice dully grinding against itself.

I visited Greenland because, lately, the land here has gone soft, and disquieting things threaten to wake in it.

Let me orient you. At the top of the world, there is water. Television anchors sometimes speak of the Arctic Ocean as the “polar ice cap,” but that is a contingency of temperature and a quirk of today’s climate. Consider it instead a landlocked ocean, a northern Mediterranean Sea. Surrounding it sit great landmasses—Europe, Asia, North America—and a surfeit of islands. Among the largest are Svalbard, which is due north of Norway and so dense with polar bears that everyone who strays beyond its sole settlement must carry a rifle; Novaya Zemlya, the site of the largest atomic test ever conducted; and Greenland.

In all of these places, rich, marshy soils run from the edge of the interior ice right up to the ocean cliffs. Once, this dirt gave rise to lush ferns and open grasslands; now, after 35,000 years of frigid cold, we call them permafrost.

Despite their name, they are not permanently, or entirely, frozen. Every winter, a sheet of ice blossoms over the Arctic sea, and the soils seize shut with frost. Then, during the long summer days, the ice breaks up and the permafrost partially thaws.

Lately, as summers have lengthened and winters have warmed, this seasonal transformation has lost its symmetry. What biologists call the permafrost’s “active layer”—the part of the dirt where microbes and other forms of life can live—now reaches farther underground, and further north, than it has for tens of thousands of years.

The newly active permafrost is packed with old stuff: dead plants, dead animals, mosses buried and reburied by dust and snow. This matter, long protected from decomposition by the cold, is finally rotting, and releasing gases into the atmosphere that could quicken the rate of global warming.

This matter is also full of pathogens: bacteria and viruses long immobilized by the frost. Many of these pathogens may be able to survive a gentle thaw—and if they do, researchers warn, they could reinfect humanity.

Climate change, in other words, could awaken Earth’s forgotten pathogens. It is one of the most bizarre symptoms of global warming. And it has already begun to happen.

The russian botanist Dmitri Ivanovsky was just 28 when, at a scientific meeting in St. Petersburg, he presented evidence of an unexplainable phenomenon: He had found a disease with no germ.

When he exposed tobacco leaves to a certain clear liquid, he could watch the leaves mottle, but he could not find the bacteria under his microscope that could explain the change. In the decades before his work—it was 1892—Louis Pasteur and other scientists had demonstrated that microscopic life could cause disease. But here was a disease with no microbe at fault. Ivanovsky said that the disease must be inherent to the gloop he had put on the leaves. He termed it a virus, from the Latin word for slime.

Narciso Espiritu

One hundred and twenty-five years later, we still use Ivanovsky’s term, but we know viruses are far stranger than he ever imagined. An individual virion, the unit of viral existence, makes many copies of itself over its life cycle, but it never does something that can be described as living. It never breathes or mates. It punctures a cell’s wall, hijacks its protein factories, and forces it to make more of itself. A single virion can make tens of thousands of copies of itself near instantly. Viruses are living nonlife, a desirous but mindless substance.

At the frontier of viral life are Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel, two professors of microbiology at Aix-Marseilles University who happen to be married to each other. Since the turn of the century, they have established themselves as two of the world’s most famous microbe hunters. In 2002, while researching Legionnaires’ disease in their lab in Marseilles, they discovered the largest virus ever: Mimivirus, a virion so large that it could be seen under a microscope.

They have identified four more monster viruses since, all several times larger than any virion known to science before 2000. Their menagerie oozes about in a far-flung set of landscapes: one monster virus was found in a shallow lake in Australia, another lurked in a bucket of seawater hauled off the Chilean coast. A third was discovered in a woman’s contact lens.

All of these mammoth viruses infect amoebae, not people. They do not pose an infective risk to us. But they are strange substances. They rival bacteria in size; they can be seen under a microscope. They are quite durable. And some of them produce more proteins than most amoebae.

Claverie and Abergel weren’t thinking of monster viruses when they began poking around in the permafrost. In 2013, Claverie read about a Russian team that had found a seed lodged deep in the permafrost. The fruit, buried some 125 feet below the surface, had spent thousands of years at about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, never thawing out in the wax and wane of seasons. But once warmed and placed in a pot, it sprouted waxy arms and delicate white flowers.

Claverie contacted the Russian team, explained his work with microbes, and asked for a bit of permafrost to test. The team agreed, and they mailed Claverie and Abergel a sample of the same deep-frozen core of permafrost that had contained the seed. The pair pulled a small sample onto a high-resolution microscope, brought it to room temperature, introduced an amoeba as bait, and waited.

And then, as they watched, a virus appeared in their viewfinder: Pithovirus sibericum, a massive ovular virion that had survived 30,000 years frozen in the ice core. It was also the largest virion ever discovered.

“We tried to isolate amoeba viruses without knowing they were going to be giant viruses—and a totally different type of virus than we already know appeared,” Claverie said. “It turns out the viruses we are getting [in the permafrost] are extremely abnormal, extremely fancy.”

Claverie and Abergel’s viruses aren’t a threat to humanity—yet. But human pathogens have also survived freezing and thawing in the permafrost. Last summer, an outbreak of anthrax in Siberia infected dozens of people and killed one child. The vector of disease is thought to be the thawing and decaying carcass of a reindeer killed in 1941.

And a team of Canadian scientists recently found a strain of bacteria, Paenibacillus, in a cave in New Mexico that had been closed off for more than 4 million years. Though harmless to humans, the ancient bacteria was resistant to most clinical antibiotics, including most of the newest and most aggressive. The discovery suggested that bacteria can survive the most exotic and remote environments.

Researchers are continuing to test the limits of pathogens. Reportedly, a Soviet microbiology lab revived bacteria from the permafrost in the 1980s, but its paper went little noticed. Claverie is traveling to Siberia this year to core even deeper into the soil, to prove that viruses can survive being thawed out after a million years.

“We’re trying to go deeper and deeper in our sampling, to demonstrate that it is possible that viruses could survive—amoeba viruses. We are not going to try to revive human viruses, of course, we are not crazy,” he said.

He already frets about what climate change will unlock in the permafrost, especially when humans help it along.

Take Greenland, for instance. Right now, the island is a territory of Denmark, the country that colonized it three centuries ago. Greenland is slowly severing itself from Europe—in 2009, its government took over every government function from Denmark except defense and foreign policy. Denmark still pays out a block grant to Greenland every year equal to roughly two-thirds of its government budget, but independence will likely mean giving that up. To fill that eventual budget hole, Greenland has explored opening six new mines across the country. Greenland abounds in minerals—the island’s south contains the largest reserve of untapped rare-earth elements on the planet—but the Arctic’s dangerous seas and extreme temperatures have ensured they’ve never been mined. Climate change will solve both those problems, so to speak.

In a paper this year in the European Journal of Internal Medicine, Claverie worried about the pathogenic consequences of opening the Arctic Ocean, specifically around Siberia and the Russian Arctic, to commercial traffic.

Narciso Espiritu

“We know, and the Russians know, there are a lot of resources there. Very precious metals, rare-earths, petrol, there is gas and gold,” he told me. Greenland is not separate from these pressures.

Getting at the minerals and petroleum deposits throughout the Arctic, he says, will require moving a lot of permafrost—an amount properly measured in millions of tons. “At once, you are going to excavate 16 million tons of permafrost that has not been moved or perturbed in a million years of time,” he said.

He imagines towering heaps of rotting permafrost stacked up next to mining cabins, their contents open to the sun and air and summer rain. “We are really reaching places where, if there are microbes infectious to humans or human ancestors, we are going to get them,” he says.

If one of these contagions does get loose in Greenland, Luit Penninga will be one of the first men to deal with it. He is the lead surgeon at Ilulissat Hospital in Greenland. His office looks out across Disko Bay, a gray sea 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle disturbed by azure-edged icebergs and the occasional breaching tail of a humpback whale.

His entire life is dictated by the scarcity of Arctic medicine. The night before I met Penninga, he boarded a red helicopter and rode it across the bay to meet a woman suffering a pregnancy out of the womb. She lives in the village of Uummannaq, population 1,200, which has no doctors of its own. He helped her board the helicopter, attended to her through the flight, and—when the helicopter landed at Ilulissat Hospital—operated on her. It was successful. Early the next morning he invited me to visit the hospital. When I meet him, he is gentle and calm.

Health care in Greenland is socialized—all hospitals are state-owned and all medical care and prescription drugs are free—and the vast country is split into regions. Since Penninga leads health care in Ilulissat, he oversees human health across the entire northwest half of the world’s largest island—from Ilulissat, the country’s third-largest city, to Qaanaaq, a small town of 650 that overlooks the Arctic Ocean. Seventeen thousand people live in the region, mostly in small villages accessible only from boat or helicopter, spread out over an area larger than France.

Penninga must sometimes take the three-hour flight between Qaanaaq and Ilulissat, a distance of more than 700 miles (1173 km). It costs $1400. From Qaanaaq, it’s another hour-long helicopter ride to reach some of the smallest villages, where people hunt seal and walrus as their ancestors have for generations. These transportation costs add up: In any year, between 10 and 15 percent of Greenland’s national health budget is spent on transportation costs alone.

Penninga treats snowmobile and dogsled accidents, appendicitis and chlamydia and pneumonia. Many of the worst ailments are bacterial: A particularly aggressive form of ear infection, which seems endemic to Greenland, can leave holes in kids’ eardrums that last for years, permanently inhibiting their performance in school. The island also seems to have its own form of sepsis, which doctors learn to fear after a couple years of working there. “Some people can have a very short course of disease—they develop sepsis, very shortly come in, and die,” he said.

When I asked him about the zombie pathogens, he laughed and nodded. “They say that, yes,” he told me. Penninga has enough problems.

Some of the microbes lurking in the permafrost may be familiar: adversaries that humanity already knows and believes it has defeated. The World Health Organization brags that it has eradicated smallpox, for instance—other than the stores in the United States and Russia—but Claverie warns that it could well have survived in the tundra.

Even more worrisome are the microbes we don’t know. “No one really understands why Neanderthals went extinct,” Claverie said. Sometimes, he catches himself when talking about these possible permafrost-locked diseases—they may have threatened humans or human relatives in the past, he’ll say. Then, he’ll change tense, emphasizing that they could do so again.

Two weeks after I left Greenland, a patch of permafrost not far from Penninga’s office burst into flame. The press marveled around the world: a wildfire on the tundra. It raged for weeks as authorities tried to figure out how to keep it from causing anyone harm. The problem itself, the logistics involved in addressing it, required a response no one had anticipated or practiced for. Eventually, rain put it out.

Such emergencies—those that overwhelm our understanding of “known knowns”—are among the most unsettling portents of climate change. Whether the emergencies of the coming century arrive in the form of fires, or floods, or plagues that rise invisibly from the ground, they’re likely to become more and more extreme and less and less familiar—a fantastical parade of crises we will be shocked to find ourselves battling. Even in its quietest places, the world will become newly hostile.

 

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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EXCLUSIVE: WHAT TRUMP REALLY TOLD KISLYAK AFTER COMEY WAS CANNED
« Reply #2968 on: November 23, 2017, 06:54:06 AM »
EXCLUSIVE: WHAT TRUMP REALLY TOLD KISLYAK AFTER COMEY WAS CANNED

During a May 10 meeting in the Oval Office, the president betrayed his intelligence community by leaking the content of a classified, and highly sensitive, Israeli intelligence operation to two high-ranking Russian envoys, Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov. This is what he told them—and the ramifications.

 
trump lavrov kislyak
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, President Donald Trump, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergei Kislyak meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on May 10th, 2017.
By Alexander Shcherbak/TASS/Getty Images.

On a dark night at the tail end of last winter, just a month after the inauguration of the new American president, an evening when only a sickle moon hung in the Levantine sky, two Israeli Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters flew low across Jordan and then, staying under the radar, veered north toward the twisting ribbon of shadows that was the Euphrates River. On board, waiting with a professional stillness as they headed into the hostile heart of Syria, were Sayeret Matkal commandos, the Jewish state’s elite counterterrorism force, along with members of the technological unit of the Mossad, its foreign-espionage agency. Their target: an ISIS cell that was racing to get a deadly new weapon thought to have been devised by Ibrahim al-Asiri, the Saudi national who was al-Qaeda’s master bombmaker in Yemen.

It was a covert mission whose details were reconstructed for Vanity Fair by two experts on Israeli intelligence operations. It would lead to the unnerving discovery that ISIS terrorists were working on transforming laptop computers into bombs that could pass undetected through airport security. U.S. Homeland Security officials—quickly followed by British authorities—banned passengers traveling from an accusatory list of Muslim-majority countries from carrying laptops and other portable electronic devices larger than a cell phone on arriving planes. It would not be until four tense months later, as foreign airports began to comply with new, stringent American security directives, that the ban would be lifted on an airport-by-airport basis.

In the secretive corridors of the American espionage community, the Israeli mission was praised by knowledgeable officials as a casebook example of a valued ally’s hard-won field intelligence being put to good, arguably even lifesaving, use.

Yet this triumph would be overshadowed by an astonishing conversation in the Oval Office in May, when an intemperate President Trump revealed details about the classified mission to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and Sergey I. Kislyak, then Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. Along with the tempest of far-reaching geopolitical consequences that raged as a result of the president’s disclosure, fresh blood was spilled in his long-running combative relationship with the nation’s clandestine services. Israel—as well as America’s other allies—would rethink its willingness to share raw intelligence, and pretty much the entire Free World was left shaking its collective head in bewilderment as it wondered, not for the first time, what was going on with Trump and Russia. (In fact, Trump’s disturbing choice to hand over highly sensitive intelligence to the Russians is now a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s relationship with Russia, both before and after the election.) In the hand-wringing aftermath, the entire event became, as is so often the case with spy stories, a tale about trust and betrayal.

And yet, the Israelis cannot say they weren’t warned.

In the American-Israeli intelligence relationship, it is customary for the Mossad station chief and his operatives working under diplomatic cover out of the embassy in Washington to go to the C.I.A.’s Langley, Virginia, headquarters when a meeting is scheduled. This deferential protocol is based on a realistic appraisal of the situation: America is a superpower, and Israel, as one of the country’s senior intelligence officials recently conceded with self-effacing candor, is “a speck of dust in the wind.”

Nevertheless, over the years the Israeli dust has been sprinkled with flecks of pure intel gold. It was back in 1956, when the Cold War was running hot, that Israeli diplomats in Warsaw managed to get their hands on the text of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s top-secret speech to the Twentieth Party Congress in Moscow. Khrushchev’s startling words were a scathing indictment of Stalin’s three dec­ades of oppressive rule, and signalled a huge shift in Soviet dogma—just the sort of invaluable intelligence the C.I.A. was eager to get its hands on. Recognizing the value of what they had, the Israelis quickly delivered the text to U.S. officials. And with this unexpected gift, a mutually beneficial relationship between the resourceful Jewish spies and the American intelligence Leviathan began to take root.

Over the ensuing decades it has expanded into a true working partnership. The two countries have gone as far as to institutionalize their joint spying. The purloined documents released to the press by Edward Snowden, for example, revealed that the N.S.A., the American electronic-intelligence agency that eavesdrops on the world, and Unit 8200, its Israeli counterpart, have an agreement to share the holiest of intelligence holies: raw electronic intercepts. And the two countries inventively worked in tandem, during the administration of George W. Bush and continuing with President Obama, on Operation Olympic Games, creating and disseminating the pernicious computer viruses that succeeded in damaging Iran’s uranium-enrichment centrifuges. American and Israeli spooks have even killed together. In 2008, after President George W. Bush signed off on the operation, the C.I.A. cooperated with agents from the Mossad’s Kidon—the Hebrew word for “bayonet,” an appropriate name for a sharp-edged unit that specializes in what Israeli officials euphemistically call “targeted prevention.” The shared target was Imad Mughniyah, the Hezbollah international operations chief, and any further terrorist acts he’d been planning were quite effectively prevented: Mughniyah was blown to pieces, body parts flying across a Damascus parking lot, as he passed an S.U.V. containing a specially-designed C.I.A. bomb. But like any marriage, the cozy—yet inherently unequal—partnership between the American and Israeli intelligence agencies has had its share of stormy weather. In fact, an irreparable divorce seemed likely in 1985 after it was discovered that Israel was running a very productive agent, Jonathan Pollard, inside U.S. Naval Intelligence. For a difficult period—measured out in years, not months—the American spymasters fumed, and the relationship was more tentative than collaborative.

But spies are by instinct and profession a pragmatic breed, and so by the 1990s the existence of shared enemies, as well as shared threats, worked to foster a reconciliation. Besides, each had something the other needed: Israel had agents buried deep in neighboring Arab countries, producing “HUMINT,” as the jargon of the trade refers to information obtained by human assets. While the U.S. possessed the best technological toys its vast wealth could buy; its “SIGINT,” or signals intelligence, could pick up the chatter in most any souk in the Arab world.

And so by the time of Trump’s election, despite the snarky, rather personal feud between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama, the two countries’ spies were back playing their old tricks. Together they were taking on a rogues’ gallery of common villains: al-Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Islamic State. “We are the front line,” a high-ranking Israeli military official bragged to me, “in America’s war on terror.” Over recent months, the U.S. intelligence windfall has been particularly bountiful. Israel, according to sources with access to the activities of the Mossad and Unit 8200, has delivered information about Russia’s interaction with the Syrian, Iranian, and Hezbollah forces taking the field in the Syrian civil war. And there is little that gets American military strategists more excited than learning what sort of tactics Russia is employing.

It was against this reassuring backdrop of recent successes and shared history, an Israeli source told Vanity Fair, that a small group of Mossad officers and other Israeli intelligence officials took their seats in a Langley conference room on a January morning just weeks before the inauguration of Donald Trump. The meeting proceeded uneventfully; updates on a variety of ongoing classified operations were dutifully shared. It was only as the meeting was about to break up that an American spymaster solemnly announced there was one more thing: American intelligence agencies had come to believe that Russian president Vladimir Putin had “leverages of pressure” over Trump, he declared without offering further specifics, according to a report in the Israeli press. Israel, the American officials continued, should “be careful” after January 20—the date of Trump’s inauguration. It was possible that sensitive information shared with the White House and the National Security Council could be leaked to the Russians. A moment later the officials added what many of the Israelis had already deduced: it was reasonable to presume that the Kremlin would share some of what they learned with their ally Iran, Israel’s most dangerous adversary.

Currents of alarm and anger raced through those pres­ent at the meeting, says the Israeli source, but their superiors in Israel remained unconvinced—no supporting evidence, after all, had been provided—and chose to ignore the prognostication.

The covert mission into the forbidden plains of northern Syria was a “blue and white” undertaking, as Israel, referring to the colors of its flag, calls ops that are carried out solely by agents of the Jewish state.

Yet—and this is an ironclad operational rule—getting agents in and then swiftly out of enemy territory under the protection of the nighttime darkness can be accomplished only if there is sufficient reconnaissance: the units need to know exactly where to strike, what to expect, what might be out there waiting for them in the shadows. For the mission last winter that targeted a cell of terrorist bombers, according to ABC News, citing American officials, the dangerous groundwork was done by an Israeli spy planted deep inside ISIS territory. Whether he was a double agent Israel had either turned or infiltrated into the ISIS cell, or whether he was simply a local who’d happened to stumble upon some provocative information he realized he could sell—those details remain locked in the secret history of the mission.

What is apparent after interviews with intelligence sources both in Israel and the U.S. is that on the night of the infiltration the helicopters carrying the blue-and-white units came down several miles from their target. Two jeeps bearing Syrian Army markings were unloaded, the men hopped in, and, hearts racing, they drove as if it had been the most natural of patrols into the pre-dawn stillness of an enemy city.

“A shadow unit of ghosts” is what the generals of Aman, Israel’s military-intelligence organization, envisioned when they set up Sayeret Matkal. And on this night the soldiers fanned out like ghosts in the shadows, armed and on protective alert, as the Mossad tech agents did their work.

Again, the operational details are sparse, and even contradictory. One source said the actual room where the ISIS cell would meet was spiked, a tiny marvel of a microphone placed where it would never be noticed. Another maintained that an adjacent telephone junction box had been ingeniously manipulated so that every word spoken in a specific location would be overheard.

The sources agree, however, that the teams got in and out that night, and, even before the returning choppers landed back in Israel, it was confirmed to the jubilant operatives that the audio intercept was already up and running.

Now the waiting began. From an antenna-strewn base near the summit of the Golan Heights, on Israel’s border with Syria, listeners from Unit 8200 monitored the transmissions traveling across the ether from the target in northern Syria. Surveillance is a game played long, but after several wasted days 8200’s analysts were starting to suspect that their colleagues had been misinformed, possibly deliberately, by the source in the field. They were beginning to fear that all the risk had been taken without any genuine prospect of reward.

Then what they’d been waiting for was suddenly coming in loud and clear, according to Israeli sources familiar with the operation: it was, as a sullen spy official described it, “a primer in constructing a terror weapon.” With an unemotional precision, an ISIS soldier detailed how to turn a laptop computer into a terror weapon that could pass through airport security and be carried on board a passenger plane. ISIS had obtained a new way to cause airliners to explode suddenly, free-falling from the sky in flames. When the news of this frightening ISIS lecture arrived at Mossad’s headquarters outside Tel Aviv, officials quickly decided to share the field intelligence with their American counterparts. The urgency of the highly classified information trumped any security misgivings. Still, as one senior Israeli military official suggested, the Israeli decision was also egged on by a professional vanity: they wanted their partners in Washington to marvel at the sort of impossible missions they could pull off.

They did. It was a much-admired, as well as appreciated, gift—and it scared the living hell out of the American spymasters who received it.

On the cloudy spring morning of May 10, just an uneasy day after the president’s sudden firing of F.B.I. director James B. Comey, who had been leading the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, a beaming President Trump huddled in the Oval Office with Sergey Lavrov and Sergey Kislyak.

And, no less improbably, Trump seemed not to notice, or feel restrained by, the unfortunate timing of his conversation with Russian officials who were quite possibly co-conspirators in a plot to undermine the U.S. electoral process. Instead, full of a chummy candor, the president turned to his Russian guests and blithely acknowledged the elephant lurking in the room. “I just fired the head of the F.B.I.,” he said, according to a record of the meeting shared with The New York Times. “He was crazy, a real nut job.” With the sort of gruff pragmatism a Mafia don would use to justify the necessity of a hit, he further explained, “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” Yet that was only the morning’s perplexing prelude. What had been an unseemly conversation between the president and two high-ranking Russian officials soon turned into something more dangerous.

“I get great intel,” the president suddenly boasted, as prideful as if he were bragging about the amenities at one of his company’s hotels. “I have people brief me on great intel every day.”

He quickly went on to share with representatives of a foreign adversary not only the broad outlines of the plot to turn laptop computers into airborne bombs but also at least one highly classified operational detail—the sort of sensitive, locked-in-the-vault intel that was not shared with even Congress or friendly governments. The president did not name the U.S. partner who had spearheaded the operation. (Journalists, immediately all over the astonishing story, would soon out Israel). But, more problematic, President Trump cavalierly identified the specific city in ISIS-held territory where the threat had been detected.

As for the two Russians, there’s no record of their response. Their silence would be understandable: why interrupt the flow of information? But in their minds, no doubt they were already drafting the cable they’d send to the Kremlin detailing their great espionage coup.

So why? Why did a president who has time after volatile time railed against leakers, who has attacked Hillary Clinton for playing fast and loose with classified information, cozy up to a couple of Russian bigwigs in the Oval Office and breezily offer government secrets?

Any answer is at best conjecture. Yet in the search for an important truth, consider these hypotheses, each of which has its own supporters among past and current members of the U.S. intelligence community.

The first is a bit of armchair psychology. In Trump’s irrepressible way of living in the world, wealth is real only if other people believe you’re rich. If you don’t flaunt it, then you might as well not have it.

So there is the new president, shaky as any bounder might be in the complicated world of international politics, sitting down to a head-to-head with a pair of experienced Russians. How can he impress them? Get them to appreciate that he’s not some lightweight, but rather a genuine player on the world stage. 

There’s also the school of thought that the episode is another unfortunate example of Trump’s impressionable worldview being routinely shaped by the last thing he’s heard, be it that morning’s broadcast of Fox & Friends or an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. As advocates of this theory point out, the president was likely told that one of the issues still on his guests’ minds would be the terrorist explosion back in October 2015 that brought down a Russian passenger plane flying above Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. With that seed planted in the president’s undisciplined mind, it’s a short leap for him to be off and running to the Russians about what he knew about an ISIS scheme to target passenger aircraft.

Yet there is also a more sinister way to connect all the dots. There are some petulant voices in official Washington who insist that the president’s treachery was deliberate, part of his longtime collaboration with the Russians. It is a true believer’s orthodoxy, one which predicts that the meeting will wind up being one more damning count in an indictment that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, will ultimately nail to the White House door.

But, for now, to bolster their still very circumstantial case, they point to a curiosity surrounding the meeting in the Oval Office—U.S. journalists were kept out. And, no less an oddity, the Russian press was allowed in. It was the photographer from TASS, the state-run Russian news agency, who snapped the only shots that documented the occasion for posterity. Or, for that matter, for the grand jury.

But ultimately it is the actions of men, not their motives, that propel history forward. And the president’s reckless disclosure continues to wreak havoc. On one level, the greatest casualty was trust. The president was already waging a perilous verbal war with the U.S. intelligence agencies. His sharing secrets with the Russians has very likely ground whatever remnants of a working relationship had survived into irreparable pieces. “How can the agency continue to provide the White House with intel,” challenged one former operative, “without wondering where it will wind up?” And he added ominously, “Those leaks to The New York Times and The Washington Post about the investigations into Trump and his cohorts is no accident. Trust me: you don’t want to get into a pissing match with a bunch of spooks. This is war.”

And what about America’s vital intelligence relationships with its allies? Former C.I.A. deputy director Michael Morell publicly worried, “Third countries who provide the United States with intelligence information will now have pause.”

In Israel, though, the mood is more than merely wary. “Mr. Netanyahu’s intelligence chiefs . . . are up in arms,” a prominent Israeli journalist insisted in The New York Times. In recent interviews with Israeli intelligence sources the frequently used operative verb was “whiten”—as in “certain units from now on will whiten their reports before passing them on to agencies in America.”

What further exacerbates Israel’s concerns—“keeps me up at night” was how a government spymaster put it—is that if Trump is handing over Israel’s secrets to the Russians, then he just might as well be delivering them to Iran, Russia’s current regional ally. And it is an expansionist Iran, one Israeli after another was determined to point out in the course of discussions, that is arming Hez­bol­lah with sophisticated rockets and weaponry while at the same time becoming an increasingly visible economic and military presence in Syria.

“Trump betrayed us,” said a senior Israeli military official bluntly, his voice stern with reproach. “And if we can’t trust him, then we’re going to have to do what is necessary on our own if our back is up against the wall with Iran.” Yet while appalled governments are now forced to rethink their tactics in future dealings with a wayward president, there is also the dismaying possibility that a more tangible, and more lethal, consequence has already occurred. “The Russians will undoubtedly try to figure out the source or the method of this information to make sure that it is not also collecting on their activities in Syria—and in trying to do that they could well disrupt the source,” said Michael Morell.

What, then, was the fate of Israel’s agent in Syria? Was the operative exfiltrated to safety? Has he gone to ground in enemy territory? Or was he hunted down and killed? One former Mossad officer with knowledge of the operation and its aftermath will not say. Except to add pointedly, “Whatever happened to him, it’s a hell of price to pay for a president’s mistake.”

"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

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INTO THE MAELSTROM: HOW THE HYPERCONNECTED AGE IS TEARING US APART
« Reply #2969 on: November 23, 2017, 07:40:51 AM »
I first encountered McLuhan as an undergraduate in communication back during the last ice age. Interesting to be reminded how he anticipated the implications of then-technological changes, when at the time it read, at least to me, as improbable nonsense.

This writer is addressing themes that occur to me, but which are too elusive for me to be competent to write about. One of the attributes of getting older being the you see your own ignorance in sharp relief.

INTO THE MAELSTROM: HOW THE HYPERCONNECTED AGE IS TEARING US APART

INTO THE MAELSTROM: HOW THE HYPERCONNECTED AGE IS TEARING US APART

Writing during the twilight age of literature, maverick media theorist Marshall McLuhan devoted his life to the understanding of the global mass media and its effect on human behavior. He argued that by changing our sense ratios, different communication technologies altered the focus of our mental attention and affected us both on an individual and societal level. For example, the communications satellite acted as a “proscenium arch” that made the TV generation all want to be performers, which led collectively to vast shifts in the nature of society as new industries emerged in response. In contemplating the humble photocopier in the 1960s, he saw the seeds of the audience participation and self-publishing that would come to characterize the internet:

“Xerox or xerograpy enables the reader to become a publisher, and this is an important aspect of electric circuitry. The audience is increasingly involved in the process. With print, the audience was detached, observant, but not involved. With circuitry, the reader, the audience becomes involved in itself and in the process of publishing. The future of the book is very much in the order of book as information service.”

Information would become personalized, as one would “phone up” a service and say the type of subject you were interested in knowing, and you’d be sent a “xerox” bundle personally compiled and curated for you as an individual. He also could see that the mass media was making the world smaller, coining the phrase the “global village,” prophesying electronic media (as he called it) would have a “retribalizing” effect on us by shifting us back to oral rather than literate cultural patterns. While the idea of the global village has practically entered the common tongue, one lesser known metaphor ran through all of his work but perhaps summed up his thinking more totally; the Maelstrom. The term was drawn from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, A Descent into the Maelstrom in which three fishermen were sucked into a gargantuan whirlpool while out at sea, and describes how they tried to escape the monstrosity:

“At first only saw hideous terror in the spectacle. In a moment of revelation, he saw that the Maelstrom is a beautiful and awesome creation. Observing how objects around him were pulled into it, he deduced that ‘the larger the bodies, the more rapid their descent.””

For McLuhan saw the mass media as a titanic vortex pulling society towards new forms of behaviours — new ways of being — that threatened to completely overwhelm or even destroy it.

In the electric age, the fluid nature of information and the sheer amount of it thwarted our attempts at top-down classification methods so characteristic of literate culture. His hopes that like the sailor protagonist of the poem, that if we now study the perturbations and “configurations” of the mass media, we can make sense of it and devise a way escape its centripetal pull.

“The huge vortices of energy created by our media present us with similar possibilities of evasion or consequences of destruction. By studying the patterns of the effects of this huge vortex of energy in which we are involved, it may be possible to program a strategy of evasion and survival.”

At the same time McLuhan was captivating television audiences with his often cryptic prophesies and ideas, the political scientist Simon Herbert was discussing the evolving landscape of communication technology from a less poetic, but perhaps more practical perspective. When he coined the phrase “attention economy” in the early 70s, about 18 computers were attached to the internet. But even though the internet was still in its infancy, he could see how the growth of global mass media and cheap publishing were putting an increasing strain on our ability to collect and process information, writing that:

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

He viewed this first and foremost as an organizational challenge; that “scarcity of attention in an information-rich world will be measured by the time, in minutes or hours, say, of a human executive” and as such, the information presented to them then needed to be accurate, useful and worthy of attention to begin with. If it was deficient in any part and did not correspond to reality, any decisions based on it could be botched at best and catastrophic at worst. The larger and more hierarchical the organization the greater the challenge, as each layer acts as an information filter that selectively processed data to channel to the top of the “pyramid.” This being the height of the Cold War, the hierarchical system that most concerned Simon was the American Government, writing that “a frightening array of matter converges on that single, serial information processing system, the President of the United States.”

Today, Big Data problems are still primarily framed as commercial and organizational challenges; of how wisdom can be sourced from exponential oceans of data measured in exabytes, zettabytes or other numbers alien to human scale. Even as we make advances, by developing machine learning tools to mine the vast data sets as they grow in size and complexity, we are like Lewis Carroll’s Red Queen, running to stay in the same place.

As more of us migrate online, and the more physical environment is colonized with information harvesting devices to catalogue every waking and sleeping moment, this is only going to get worse in the coming decades and centuries. Today the sheer speed at which we are exposed to information undermines any systematic and rational analysis almost by its very nature, either as organizations or as an individual. What was a whirlpool to McLuhan in the middle of the 20th century is today more akin to the Eye of Jupiter, a monster that, as it encroaches closer to our immediate realities, threatens to tear them apart.

The multi-tabbed, multi-screen, multi-channeled, multi-media prism through which we currently experience the world is already wreaking havoc with our ability to think clearly. The constant competition between signals clawing for attention erodes our “working memory”  — the neural architecture associated with our capacity for controlled attention and complex reasoning.Increasingly we interact with information through stimulus-driven attention; the unthinking animal response that does what it says on the tin. The media theorist Kevin Kelly similarly writes of how the medium of the book neurologically changed the brain, making it “focused, immersed,” training our minds to follow a single topic in incredible depth. He calls it “literature space”:

“One can spend hours reading on the web and never encounter this literature space. One gets fragments, threads, glimpses. That is the web’s great attraction: miscellaneous pieces loosely joined. But without some kind of containment, these loosely joined pieces spin away, nudging a reader’s attention onwards, wandering from the central narrative or argument.”

In 2007, English professor N.Katherine Hayles wrote of modern media causing a shift from “deep attention” that involves concentrating one’s mental focus on a single object or information stream, to what she calls “hyper attention,” which is:

“Characterized by switching focus rapidly among different tasks, preferring multiple information streams, seeking a high level of stimulation, and having a low tolerance for boredom.”

She did not see this so much as a new evolutionary adaptation to cope with the challenges of navigating the Maelstrom, so much as a reversion to a much older way of processing sensory information, drawn from our deep past in the Paleolithic jungle. She wrote this the same year the iPhone entered the market, massively escalating the war for our attention, creating a new, user-friendly means for psychic contagion to spread at the speed of light, right into the palm of our hands.

Today the Darwinian struggle for attention between advertisers, marketers, bloggers, charlatans, narcissists, political fanatics, religious zealots and general attention seekers-results in a race-to-the-bottom tactic to trigger emotions and get a hasty share or retweet. Any mashup of dubious stats, images, half-truths and hyperbole can be arranged in a way that can make the most preposterous conclusions appear plausible. The ease of access to information through search engines has created the illusion that truth is at our fingertips, instead, it is the ability to justify any prejudice or bias in seconds, or find other communities to do it on our behalf.

From artfully crafted selfies to outrage-inducing memes, we treat information pulled from the Maelstrom like so much ochre paste and seashells; simply baubles with which to decorate ourselves, there to signal social status and tribal allegiance. And because we’re often not thinking about or even consuming this media — and max-out on cognitive biases when we do — outrageous claims don’t even need to stand up to much scrutiny. Indeed, scrutiny is increasingly hard work. And even when we can force ourselves to wield deep attention long enough to do some sleuthing, the vast amounts of information available to us means that any topic can be explored in fractal levels of detail, with certainty itself remaining frustratingly elusive.

While truth might indeed lurk out there in the murk of the deep web, journeying out there to find it and bringing it back to the ordinary world is far too onerous for many of the TL/DR generation to contemplate. Instead things are “true” when they provide social validation within a like-minded peer group  —  the only metric of consequence  —  and not any proximity to empirical reality. It will come as little surprise to the reader that these frailties are routinely exploited.

« Last Edit: November 24, 2017, 05:27:41 AM by Surly1 »
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

 

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