AuthorTopic: The Surlynewz Channel  (Read 515089 times)

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3360 on: August 08, 2018, 04:16:53 AM »
Home of the Brave, etc.... Team 'Murka! Fuck, yeah!!

Now the Trump administration wants to limit citizenship for legal immigrants
The most significant change to legal immigration in decades could affect millions of would-be citizens, say lawyers and advocates.
Image: United States Citizenship Ceremony with Justice Ginsberg
New citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a naturalization ceremony in New York on April 10.Justin Lane / EPA file

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is expected to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare, four sources with knowledge of the plan told NBC News.

The move, which would not need congressional approval, is part of White House senior adviser Stephen Miller's plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year.

Details of the rulemaking proposal are still being finalized, but based on a recent draft seen last week and described to NBC News, immigrants living legally in the U.S. who have ever used or whose household members have ever used Obamacare, children's health insurance, food stamps and other benefits could be hindered from obtaining legal status in the U.S.

Immigration lawyers and advocates and public health researchers say it would be the biggest change to the legal immigration system in decades and estimate that more than 20 million immigrants could be affected. They say it would fall particularly hard on immigrants working jobs that don't pay enough to support their families.

Many are like Louis Charles, a Haitian green-card holder seeking citizenship who, despite working up to 80 hours a week as a nursing assistant, has had to use public programs to support his disabled adult daughter.

Using some public benefits like Social Security Insurance has already hindered immigrants from obtaining legal status in the past, but the programs included in the recent draft plan could mean that immigrant households earning as much as 250 percent of the poverty level could be rejected.

A version of the plan has been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget, the sources said, the final step before publishing a rule in the federal register. Reuters first reported that the White House was considering such a plan in February.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security said: "The administration is committed to enforcing existing immigration law, which is clearly intended to protect the American taxpayer by ensuring that foreign nationals seeking to enter or remain in the U.S are self-sufficient. Any proposed changes would ensure that the government takes the responsibility of being good stewards of taxpayer funds seriously and adjudicates immigration benefit requests in accordance with the law."

Miller, along with several of his former congressional colleagues who now hold prominent positions in the Trump administration, have long sought to decrease the number of immigrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year. And even before the rule is in place, the administration has made it more difficult for immigrants to gain green cards and for green-card holders to gain citizenship.

Image: Immigrants From Over 50 Countries Become U.S. Citizens At The New York Public Library
A new U.S. citizen holds a flag to his chest during the Pledge of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony at the New York Public Library on July 3, 2018.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

In fiscal year 2016, the last full fiscal year under the Obama administration, 1.2 million immigrants became lawful permanent residents, or green-card holders, and 753,060 became naturalized U.S. citizens, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Data from the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 indicates that the administration is on track for a decline in immigrants granted green cards by 20 percent. Data for the first two quarters of fiscal year 2018 for immigrants obtaining naturalized citizenship shows little change compared to the same period of 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says they expect naturalization numbers to rise in the latter half of the year based on previous trends.

Four immigration lawyers practicing in Massachusetts, Virginia, Tennessee and California told NBC News they have noticed a spike in the number of their clients being rejected when seeking green cards and naturalized citizenship.

In a statement, agency spokesperson Michael Bars said, "USCIS evaluates all applications fairly, efficiently and effectively on a case-by-case basis."

President Trump Departs The White House For Travel To South Carolina
Stephen Miller, White House senior adviser for policy, right, walks on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One on June 25.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

“Contrary to open borders advocates, immigration attorneys and activists," said Bars, "USCIS has not changed the manner in which applications for naturalization have been adjudicated, as the law generally requires that an eligible applicant must have been properly admitted for permanent residence in order to become a U.S. citizen. ... We reject the false and inaccurate claims of those who would rather the U.S. turn a blind eye to cases of illegal immigration, fraud, human trafficking, gang activity and drug proliferation at the expense of public safety, the integrity of our laws and their faithful execution."

"I DID EVERYTHING THEY ASKED ME"

Charles, the Haitian green-card holder who works as a nursing assistant in a psychiatric hospital near Boston, said he was stunned to learn his application for citizenship had been denied. He had used a fake passport given to him by smugglers when he entered the U.S. from Haiti in 1989, but confessed to border officers and received a waiver from USCIS absolving him of his wrongdoing and allowing him to obtain a green card in 2011.

Now 55, Charles is a homeowner and a taxpayer and thought obtaining citizenship would be a smooth process. "I thought in this country everything was square and fair," Charles said.

But when he went for his citizenship interview in August 2017, the USCIS officers told him they were going to revisit the decision to waive the fake passport incident, meaning he could potentially lose his green card as well.

Image: Louis Charles
Louis Charles, a Haitian green-card holder seeking citizenship, works up to 80 hours a week as a nursing assistant, but has had to use public programs to support his disabled adult daughter.Facebook

Then he received a letter in September telling him his request for citizenship had been denied.

"I was devastated. And I'm not sure exactly why they did it. I did everything they asked me to."

He appealed the decision, but as he waits for a final verdict, his lawyer says his green-card status may also now be in question.

In late November, the Trump administration announced they would end temporary protected status for Haitians who came to the U.S. after the deadly 2010 earthquake. Charles's wife was a recipient of that protection and without him becoming a citizen, he would be unable to vouch for her.

But Charles's biggest concern is his daughter. Although she is in her 20s and a U.S. citizen, she has severe disabilities that make it impossible for her to live by herself.

Charles is unaware of Miller's new plan to limit citizenship for immigrants who have used public assistance. But it is likely to affect him because he has used public assistance to help care for his daughter, so she could end up further hurting his chances for citizenship.

Though its effects could be far-reaching, the proposal to limit citizenship to immigrants who have not used public assistance does not appear to need congressional approval. As the Clinton administration did in 1999, the Trump administration would be redefining the term "public charge," which first emerged in immigration law in the 1800s in order to shield the U.S. from burdening too many immigrants who could not contribute to society.

Rosemary Jenks, executive vice president of NumbersUSA, which promotes limited immigration, said the new rule and the increased scrutiny around green card and citizenship applications are all part of a new focus at DHS on enforcing the law and preventing fraud.

"Applications for renewal or adjustment of status that have been filed with the government before are being re-examined to look for fraud," Jenks said.

In light of this, immigration attorneys are cautioning their clients before moving from green-card status to citizenship.

Rose Hernandez is the supervising attorney at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition's naturalization clinic. She said the clinic's model has completely changed in light of the crackdown. She now sends six information requests to government agencies to check on green-card holders' backgrounds before she advises them to file for citizenship. If the government finds something she doesn't, the fear is the applicants could lose their green cards and be sent home.

And other immigration attorneys are preparing to push back fiercely against the public charge rule.

"Any policy forcing millions of families to choose between the denial of status and food or health care would exacerbate serious problems such as hunger, unmet health needs, child poverty and homelessness, with lasting consequences for families' wellbeing and long-term success and community prosperity," said the National Immigration Law Center in a statement.

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

Offline Eddie

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Re: Bank issued an alarming warning that Earth is running out of resources
« Reply #3361 on: August 08, 2018, 06:18:53 AM »
Duh. Now, even the banksters.

One of the largest banks issued an alarming warning that Earth is running out of the resources to sustain life

Beijing smog
A paramilitary officer in Beijing wears a mask after a red alert was issued for heavy air pollution in 2016.
Jason Lee/Reuters
  • The planet is running out of resources, HSBC warned in a new note.
  • Earth Overshoot Day — the point in a year at which our demand for natural resources exceeds what the planet can renew — occurred on August 1, just seven months into 2018.
  • HSBC said companies and governments are not "adequately prepared" for climate effects.

One of the world's largest banks says the planet is running out of resources and warns that neither governments nor companies are prepared for climate change.

The world spent its entire natural resource budget for the year by August 1, a group of analysts at HSBC said in a note that cited research from the Global Footprint Network (GFN).

That means that the world's citizens used up all the planet's resources for the year in just seven months, according to GFN's analysis.

"In our opinion, these findings and events show that many businesses and governments are not adequately prepared for climate impacts, nor are they using natural resources efficiently," the HSBC analysts said in the note.

Many banks and asset managers have started factoring climate risks into their decision-making — a move spurred in part by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But it's far less common to see multinational banks sound the alarm about climate change so explicitly in their equity research.

To calculate Earth's natural resource budget, GFN considers the demand for natural resources — which includes food, forests, and marine products — as well as humans' effects on the environment from factors like carbon emissions. The combined total is designed give a comprehensive picture of humanity's global footprint.

Earth Overshoot Day , the point in a year at which we use up a year's worth of resources, has been steadily moving forward in time since GFN first started tracking it. In 1970, we "overshot" Earth's resource budget by only 2 days — Overshoot Day fell on December 29, according to HSBC. That date has been pushed up by almost five months since then.

HSBC's note also warned about extreme events resulting from heat, including the wildfires in Scandinavia and broken temperature records around the world.

"As scientists work on attribution analysis for specific events — the general consensus is that climate change is making these events more likely to occur and more severe," HSBC said.

The predicted effects of climate change are starting to become real. Wildfires have torn through California in recent years, and they're part of a worsening trend related to rising global temperatures. Other consequences include increased frequency of hurricanes and flooding , melting ice sheets , and greater numbers of heat waves .

Recent studies have shown that global temperatures by the year 2100 could be up to 15% higher than the highest projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

According to HSBC, extreme events have severe economic and social costs.

"In our view, adaptation will move further up the agenda with a growing focus on the social consequences," the analysts said.


The world spent its entire natural resource budget for the year by August 1, a group of analysts at HSBC said in a note that cited research from the Global Footprint Network (GFN).

Made me blow coffee out my nose. How about:

The world spent the next 10,000 years resource budget in less than 100 years on war, sophisticated weapons, and cars people don't even need that much, so we can drive to air-conditoned malls and buy things we don't need that much either.

Morons.
What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.

Offline Surly1

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Re: Bank issued an alarming warning that Earth is running out of resources
« Reply #3362 on: August 08, 2018, 12:59:01 PM »
The world spent its entire natural resource budget for the year by August 1, a group of analysts at HSBC said in a note that cited research from the Global Footprint Network (GFN).

Made me blow coffee out my nose. How about:

The world spent the next 10,000 years resource budget in less than 100 years on war, sophisticated weapons, and cars people don't even need that much, so we can drive to air-conditoned malls and buy things we don't need that much either.

Morons.

Well, sure. I don't know what's more amazing-- the fact that this made it out of a bank's C-suite, or that it has taken these fools this long to notice.
"It is difficult to write a paradiso when all the superficial indications are that you ought to write an apocalypse." -Ezra Pound

Offline Agent Graves

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3363 on: August 09, 2018, 02:07:41 AM »
No shit ay? in other words, we already have already twice the population the earth can support.
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Offline Surly1

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US JUDGE AUTHORIZES SEIZURE OF VENEZUELA'S CITGO FOR DEBT
« Reply #3364 on: August 12, 2018, 07:29:55 AM »

US JUDGE AUTHORIZES SEIZURE OF VENEZUELA'S CITGO FOR DEBT



By Staff, Archyworldys.com
August 11, 2018 | EDUCATE!


Above Photo: From Archyworldys.com

A US federal judge authorized the seizure of Citgo Petroleum Corp., the subsidiary of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, to satisfy a debt of the Venezuelan government, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The ruling could trigger a dispute between Venezuela’s many unpaid creditors to wrest control of their only visibly unalienable US asset, the report said.

Judge Leonard P. Stark of the United States District Court in Wilmington, Delaware, issued the ruling Thursday. However, his complete opinion, which could include conditions or impose more legal obstacles, was sealed. A redacted version is expected to be available at a later date, say journalists Andrew Scurria and Julie Wernau, who report the news.

The ruling increases the likelihood that the Venezuelan state oil company will lose control of a valuable foreign asset in the midst of the country’s economic and political crisis, although the decision could be appealed to a higher federal court, it said.

The lawyers of PDVSA were not available to comment. Citgo declined to comment, reports the WSJ.

Crystallex International Corp., is a missing Canadian gold mining company that filed a legal action, trying to collect a judgment against the Venezuelan government for lost mining rights, and to that end it has focused on Citgo, an oil refinery, because it is the Largest active in the United States of the Latin American nation drowned liquidity problems and wrapped up in a crisis.

Other Venezuelan creditors are also stalking Citgo, but Crystallex is the first to win a ruling authorizing its seizure, says the WSJ.

Crystallex had argued that Citgo is owned by PDVSA, which is an “alter ego” of Venezuela and as such is responsible for the debts of the South American country. According to Scurria and Wernau, the decision of the judge in favor of Crystallex allows him to take control of the actions of the parent company of Citgo based in the US, which would be the first step towards the sale of the company.

The information indicates that Venezuela and its various entities controlled by the state have altogether $ 62 billion in outstanding unsecured bonds, with approximately $ 5 billion so far in unpaid interest and principal, and that according to estimates of analysts the government has approximately a total of $ 150 billion in outstanding debt with creditors around the world.

Venezuela and its state-controlled entities, including PDVSA, began to default on bond payments last year and since then a generalized default has fallen. US sanctions prohibit creditors from engaging the Venezuelan government in any type of restructuring or purchase of new debt.

“For Venezuela, losing control of Citgo could jeopardize one of its only sources of oil revenues, (ie) the US At the same time, investors in Venezuela’s default debt – as well as at least 43 companies that legally sue the government – run the risk of losing one of the few obvious assets in the US that can be confiscated for reimbursement, “explains the WSJ.

The only payment made this year by Venezuela was $ 107 million in its PDVSA bonds, due in 2020, for which Citgo has been pledged as collateral. That was a clear move by Caracas to protect that asset, according to analysts.

Without the ownership of Citgo, investors fear that PDVSA has little incentive to continue paying the debt

Any sale of Citgo shares would require the approval of the US Treasury Department, and Crystallex has to eliminate other legal obstacles before it can sell the shares.

Scurria and Wernau say that “In trying to claim Citgo, the creditors follow a family playbook,” referring to hedge funds run by Elliott Management Corp. that did something similar when they looked for Argentine assets after the 2001 default. that country, the biggest sovereign default at that time, in more than $ 80 billion in sovereign debt.

When Argentina refused to pay the agreements resulting from the breach, the hedge funds searched for Argentine assets to seize, arguing that everything from the assets of its central bank to its state oil company was an “alter ego” of the state.

Elliott in 2012 persuaded a Ghanaian court to seize a training ship from the Argentine Navy, and in 2014 asked a California court to prevent Argentina from launching satellites into space. Argentina reached an agreement with the hedge funds in 2016, delivering gains of up to 900% on some of its original principal investments.
"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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How Bill Browder Became Russia’s Most Wanted Man
« Reply #3365 on: August 14, 2018, 03:41:07 AM »
How Bill Browder Became Russia’s Most Wanted Man
The hedge-fund manager has offered a fable for why the West should confront Putin.


Bill Browder was a subject of the Trump Tower meeting and the Helsinki summit.

Illustration by Tyler Comrie; photographs by (from left to right): Mikhail Klimentyev / Russian Presidential Press and Information Office / TASS / Getty; Bertrand Guay / AFP / Getty; Brooks Kraft / Getty

Shortly after Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin wrapped up their recent summit at the Finnish Presidential Palace, in Helsinki, around two hundred journalists gathered in the building’s neoclassical ballroom. It was July 16th, three days after the special counsel Robert Mueller published an indictment charging twelve members of the G.R.U., Russia’s military-intelligence service, with hacking into Democratic Party servers and disseminating e-mails during the 2016 election. As Trump started answering questions about the interference, and it became clear that he would not accept the assessment of U.S. intelligence agencies over the denials offered by Putin, the frenetic sense of anticipation in the room turned to silent confusion.

Trump claimed that Putin had made “an incredible offer” during their meeting: investigators working with Mueller could come to Russia to interview the twelve indicted intelligence officers. In exchange, Putin explained to the gathered press, Russian investigators would question certain Americans who the Kremlin believes “have something to do with illegal actions on the territory of Russia.”

Putin singled out William Browder, an American-born hedge-fund manager who had worked in Moscow in the nineties and early aughts. Putin falsely claimed that Browder’s business associates had earned more than $1.5 billion in Russia and “never paid any taxes,” and that Browder had donated some four hundred million dollars of this money to Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. (Browder has said that he has “not given Hillary Clinton’s campaign or anybody else’s campaign a single penny ever.”) Browder watched the press conference on his computer: Putin’s “forehead was getting all twisted and furrowed, and you could just tell—he was not playing poker,” he said. “He was pissed.”

At the lectern in Helsinki, Putin did not speak of what is surely the true source of his animus: Browder’s decade-long campaign against Russian corruption. In 2009, Browder’s tax adviser Sergei Magnitsky testified that the Russian police and tax authorities had attempted to steal two hundred and thirty million dollars in Russian taxes paid by Browder’s Moscow-based investment firm, Hermitage Capital. Magnitsky was arrested, and died in a pretrial detention center in Moscow. In the years that followed, Browder strenuously lobbied for a law that would punish those responsible. The Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russian human-rights violators and other officials implicated in corruption and abuse-of-power cases, was passed by Congress in 2012 and has been a subject of furious preoccupation for Putin ever since.

The law has made Browder, if not quite a household name, then a central figure in the Trump-Russia drama. Last summer, news broke of a meeting that took place at Trump Tower in June, 2016, at which members of the Trump campaign team, having been offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton, met with Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer with close ties to Russian government officials. In Donald Trump, Jr.,’s initial statement about the meeting—which the President’s lawyers later admitted had been dictated by the President himself—he insisted that he, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, who was then Trump’s campaign chairman, had attended simply hoping for “information helpful to the campaign.” The main topic of the meeting was “the adoption of Russian children,” he said, although Veselnitskaya had also “mentioned the Magnitsky Act.” According to Veselnitskaya, she talked mostly about Browder and his alleged misdeeds, to the disappointment of the Trump team, which was, she said, hoping for “some sort of grenade.”

The President has maintained that he was not aware of the meeting at the time, despite recent claims of his former lawyer Michael Cohen to the contrary. Earlier this month, Trump tweeted, “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics—and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” Mueller’s investigation is almost certainly exploring the question of whether the meeting was, in fact, “totally legal,” or an attempt to collude with a foreign government, and whether the Administration’s initial version of events and the actions of the President constituted an obstruction of justice.

Since the Magnitsky Act passed, the Russian government has charged Browder with myriad crimes, and has periodically tried to lodge warrants for his arrest via Interpol. “Their main objective is to get me back to Russia,” Browder has said. “And they only have to get lucky once. I have to be lucky every time.” In 2012, in Surrey, England, Alexander Perepilichny, one of Browder’s chief sources of information on the movement of the stolen funds, collapsed while jogging near his home and died. The case is still under investigation. Browder, who has taken to relating to as large an audience as possible the danger he faces, has called this “a perfect example of why you don’t want to be an anonymous guy who drops dead.”

In Helsinki, Trump’s apparent openness to handing Browder over seemed to play into Browder’s fears. (It also raised practical questions: in 1998, Browder, who lives in the U.K., acquired a British passport and renounced his American citizenship.) The next day, Russian prosecutors added Michael McFaul, a top adviser on Russia policy in the Obama Administration and, later, the U.S. Ambassador to Russia, to the list of those they wanted to question. That the White House considered the proposal was an extraordinary breach of diplomatic protocol. “I couldn’t believe it,” McFaul told me. “So being involved in a policy process is now somehow considered criminal behavior?” The State Department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert called the notion “absolutely absurd,” and, after lawmakers from both parties raised an outcry, the White House rejected Putin’s offer. Browder was reassured by the bipartisan response. “The whole world knows that Vladimir Putin hates me, Vladimir Putin wants to get his hands on me, and, if anything happens to me, Vladimir Putin is going to be blamed,” he told National Review.

Browder, who is fifty-four, with a dusting of silver hair and rimless eyeglasses, has a forceful yet understated authority and a talent for telling a coolly suspenseful tale. In 2015, he published a memoir, “Red Notice,” which sold three hundred and fifty thousand copies in the U.S. and was described by a reviewer in the Times as “riveting” and “marred only by Browder’s perhaps justifiable but nevertheless grating sense of self-importance.” He is a persuasive speaker, and careful in selecting the details of the story he presents. (He declined to talk to me for a profile.) As an anti-corruption activist, Browder has spoken out against the exploitation of offshore tax havens—for example, the ones detailed in the documents that were leaked from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, in 2016. Many companies listed in the so-called Panama Papers were entirely legal. Still, Browder tends not to mention that Mossack Fonseca set up at least three firms for him and Hermitage.

“Well, like they say—if you don’t like New York weather, wait twenty years till it’s all underwater.”

In April, 2016, Robert Otto, a top intelligence official at the State Department, wrote in one of many e-mails that were later leaked online, in a hack widely linked to Russia, “I am beginning to feel we are all just part of the Browder P.R. machine.” That machine has been singularly effective, allowing Browder to turn his experiences into a fable for why the West should confront Putin—a tale he has told as a frequent guest on cable news shows and as a speaker at congressional hearings. Browder is obviously nothing like the cartoon villain that Putin portrays him to be, and yet his political influence means that his every move, past and present, has global reverberations. Putin’s actions, too, can seem to prove Browder’s case about the need to combat the Russian state’s corruption and malfeasance. His singling out of Browder in Helsinki, McFaul told me, “only gives Bill a bigger global platform—it was a huge public-relations coup, which of course Bill will use.”

As Browder often points out, he has an improbable background for a millionaire hedge-fund manager. His grandfather Earl Browder became active in socialist politics during the First World War and lived in the Soviet Union for five years before becoming the secretary-general of the Communist Party of America. Earl’s son Felix was a noted mathematician. William Browder took an interest in business while in boarding school in the seventies. “I would put on a suit and tie and become a capitalist. Nothing would piss my family off more than that,” he writes in “Red Notice.”

Browder studied economics at the University of Chicago, and then did a stint at the management-consulting firm Bain & Company. In 1989, he got his M.B.A. at Stanford before going to Poland as a consultant for the Boston Consulting Group. He became entranced by the opportunities in the country’s newly privatized industries and bought up shares of formerly state-held enterprises. In the early nineties, he spent several years in London as a trader at Salomon Brothers, and met his first wife, who is British. In 1996, Browder moved to Moscow and founded Hermitage Capital.

This was the peak of the chaotic post-Soviet “Wild East,” a time of lawlessness and speculation. Over the next two years, Hermitage’s portfolio grew to more than a billion dollars, but it was nearly wiped out in August, 1998, when Russia defaulted on its sovereign debt, causing widespread panic. Browder was one of the few Western financiers who chose to remain in the country. Between 1998 and 2005, the price of oil quadrupled and the Russian stock index went up by nearly three thousand per cent.

Browder gained attention for publicly criticizing the management of companies in which his fund had invested as a minority shareholder, in an effort to goad them into being more efficient and transparent. He held combative press conferences outlining Russian corporate malpractice and passed along to journalists dossiers that described the way venal oligarchs engaged in asset stripping, wasteful spending, and share dilutions. Bernie Sucher, a prominent American banker in Moscow throughout the nineteen-nineties and the aughts, told me, “Looking back, I think he was absolutely right. The government needed that harsh spotlight.” But, he added, “I don’t think Bill started out with a passion for corporate governance. He found it to be an instrument that helped him and his investors make a lot of money. Ultimately, it became a sincere crusade.” According to Steven Dashevsky, then the head of research at a Russian investment bank, Browder’s anti-corruption stance was a kind of “free marketing” for Hermitage.

Despite his public campaign, Browder was not immune to the era’s spirit of financial adventurism. One of the most attractive investments for Western funds and banks operating in Russia was Gazprom, the state-owned natural-gas behemoth. Regulators had instituted a dual price structure for the company’s shares: one class of shares, priced relatively cheaply, could be held only by Russian citizens and firms; the second class, priced much higher, could be purchased by anyone. Hermitage got the cheaper price by buying Gazprom stock through companies it registered in Russia. It was a work-around used by a number of Moscow-based investment funds that, as Dashevsky put it to me, “fell into a gray zone: it was clearly against the spirit of the law, but never prosecuted or pursued.”

Browder also minimized how much Hermitage paid in Russian taxes. The government, in an effort to stimulate regional investment, had established a special zone in Kalmykia, a republic north of the Caucasus, that offered a lower tax rate. The rate went down even more if disabled workers made up a majority of a company’s employees. To take advantage of this, Hermitage hired disabled people for its companies in Kalmykia. A banker who managed a number of Russian funds said, “We’re not generally disciples of Mother Teresa, but Bill was singularly bottom-line focussed.” Other investors, the banker said, considered tax-avoidance measures like Hermitage’s hiring of disabled people “too risky, and borderline illegal, with the possibility of too much danger if revealed.” (A spokesperson for Browder said, “The use of Kalmykia and disabled-employee tax incentives were standard practice at the time and fully in compliance with the law.”)

Browder received a British passport in 1998 and, rather than become a dual citizen, renounced his U.S. citizenship. He has explained that he had been motivated by the discrimination that his grandparents faced in America during the McCarthy era as a result of their political activism for the Communist Party: his grandfather was forced to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, and his grandmother was threatened with deportation to Russia. “This type of thing could never happen in Britain, and that was the basis of my decision to become British,” he recently told an audience in Colorado. But those I talked to who knew Browder in the nineties assumed that the reasons were financial. U.K. tax rules governing foreign income are less stringent than those in the United States. A person who was friendly with Browder at the time said, “He told me he didn’t want to pay U.S. taxes.” He added, “If there has been a consistent passion in Bill’s life over the last twenty or thirty years, it is not wanting to pay taxes.”

Vladimir Putin assumed the Presidency in 2000, and at first Browder was an ardent supporter. He believed that Putin’s predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, had allowed Russia’s oligarchs to manipulate the economy for their own profit. “Yeltsin let the animals get out of the cages and start running the zoo in Russia,” Browder told a trade publication for investors in 2000. “I think Putin’s going to put them back in, and that’s good for business.” In 2003, when the billionaire head of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was arrested and charged for fraud and tax evasion, many saw it as evidence that Putin was becoming uncompromisingly authoritarian. But Browder welcomed the prosecution of Khodorkovsky, with whom he had clashed in the past. In 2004, he told the Times, “We want an authoritarian—one who is exercising authority over mafia and oligarchs.” He added that Putin “has turned out to be my biggest ally in Russia.”

Business was going well for Browder until one day in November, 2005, when Russia’s border guards denied him entry at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. He was told that his Russian visa had been annulled on national-security grounds. In 2006, Celeste Wallander, a program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (she later worked as an adviser to President Obama on the National Security Council), ran into Browder at a conference. She recalled that he was convinced his visa problems could be resolved if he could only explain his predicament to Putin himself. Browder expressed the incongruity of his plight to The Economist: “Logic dictates that it’s not in the national interest to ban the biggest investor in Russia and one of the biggest supporters of the government’s policy.”

In July, 2006, Putin was asked at a press conference about Browder. Putin said that he didn’t know the particulars of the case, but added, “I can imagine this person has broken the laws of our country, and if others do the same we’ll refuse them entry, too.” Browder instructed his Hermitage colleagues to sell off the firm’s Russian assets and moved key staff to London.

As Browder tells it in his book, on June 4, 2007, while he was on a business trip to Paris, he got a call from Moscow. The offices of Hermitage and its law firm were being raided by dozens of police officers as part of a tax-fraud investigation into Kameya, which, in “Red Notice,” Browder describes as “a Russian company owned by one of our clients whom we advised on investing in Russian stocks.” (Kameya was, in fact, one of the companies that Hermitage had initially set up in Kalmykia.) The allegations were curious: Hermitage had been under investigation for tax avoidance in previous years, but it was not in arrears at the time, and the Russian authorities had no active tax claims against it. During the search, police officers seized thousands of documents. They also made off with Hermitage’s original corporate seals and stamps, bureaucratic instruments needed to register a new company and to act on its behalf.

Browder has often said that, in response to the raid, he went out and hired Sergei Magnitsky, “the smartest lawyer I knew in Moscow.” Actually, Magnitsky, then thirty-five, was a tax adviser who worked for the firm that had advised Hermitage for a decade. Magnitsky, Browder, and others at Hermitage began to piece together what they believed had happened next: police had used the impounded seals and stamps to reregister Hermitage’s companies in the name of low-level criminals, and those companies then applied for tax refunds totalling two hundred and thirty million dollars, the amount that Hermitage had paid in capital-gains tax. Two state tax offices in Moscow appeared to have approved the refunds the next day.

Hermitage filed criminal complaints, some of them more than two hundred pages long. Magnitsky testified to Russian state investigators in June, 2008, after which his lawyer advised him to leave the country. He refused, and gave further testimony that October. Several weeks later, he was arrested on charges of abetting tax evasion through Hermitage, and held in pretrial detention. Over the next eleven months, he was transferred from one Moscow prison to another, held in increasingly foul and torturous conditions. He developed gallstones and pancreatitis; a doctor ordered surgery, but he was not treated. On November 16, 2009, he felt deeply unwell, and was brought to Matrosskaya Tishina, or Sailor’s Rest, a notorious prison in northeast Moscow that had a medical wing. According to Magnitsky’s lawyer and Russian human-rights advocates who later investigated the case, Magnitsky was put in a holding cell, handcuffed to a bed, and beaten. By 10 p.m., he was dead.

In “Red Notice,” Browder describes getting the news of Magnitsky’s death, at home in London. “The pain I felt was physical, as if someone were plunging a knife right through my gut,” he writes. A few low-level officials were admonished for Magnitsky’s maltreatment, but no one in Russia faced criminal punishment. Browder and his colleagues at Hermitage conducted their own investigation. In 2010, Browder went to Washington with a list of Russian officials he said were to blame. The Obama Administration placed sanctions on some of them, a routine procedure that barred them from entering the United States. McFaul, then in charge of Russia policy at the National Security Council, recalls, “Bill, to his credit, said, ‘That’s not enough. You didn’t make it public. You didn’t seize any assets.’ ” In “Red Notice,” Browder calls the Russia policy of the Obama Administration at the time “appeasement.”

Browder then approached the Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency in Washington that monitors human rights, where he met Benjamin Cardin, a Democratic senator from Maryland. Cardin told me that visitors routinely bring him tales of injustice and atrocity. “But what was unique here was Bill Browder,” he said—in particular, Browder’s ability to tell the story of Magnitsky’s suffering. “We were as outraged as he was,” he told me. David Kramer, who was the president of Freedom House at the time and sat in on a number of congressional meetings and hearings where Browder gave testimony, said, “I think it boils down to one phrase I heard him use numerous times: ‘They killed my guy.’ He feels a responsibility and obligation to make sure Sergei didn’t die in vain, and it’s hard to argue with that.”

Even so, the Magnitsky Act might have languished had it not been for the fact that, in 2012, Russia was about to become a member of the World Trade Organization. In order to grant Russia what the group calls “permanent normal trade relations” status, Congress would have to repeal the Jackson-Vanik amendment, a 1975 measure aimed at the Soviet Union that penalized trade with countries that had restrictive emigration policies. Legislators did not want to rescind the law without sending the Kremlin a message about American toughness on human rights. Stephen Sestanovich, who worked on Russia policy in the Reagan and Clinton Administrations, explained to me that, more than the legislation’s particular merits, “the real question was whether Congress and the White House could find any substitute for Jackson-Vanik other than Magnitsky. The answer turned out to be no, they couldn’t.”

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort at Trump Tower. Her defense of a client in what was formally a white-collar financial matter became an influence campaign with geopolitical stakes.

Photograph by Olya Ivanova for The New Yorker

On December 14, 2012, Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law. It called for those deemed culpable in the fraud and in Magnitsky’s death to be denied entry into the United States and their assets in the country seized. Browder handed hundreds of pages of documents over to the U.S. government. Daniel Fried, then the head of sanctions policy at the State Department, told me that he was wary. He didn’t like that Browder had given up his U.S. citizenship, and, when they first met, in 2002, Browder had struck him as “a shill for Putin.” But, Fried said, “I don’t have to like him—I thought it was the right thing to do, and I was happy the U.S. government was doing it.”

The opacity of the Russian bureaucracy and the lack of any prosecutions within Russia meant that much of the information Browder offered was difficult to confirm. As Michael Carpenter, a career diplomat at the State Department who worked on Russia policy and later served on the National Security Council, told me, “We had strong confidence in the details of the over-all Magnitsky story, but where we had less confidence initially was the culpability of particular individuals.” The Obama Administration chose to sanction just eighteen of the two hundred and eighty-two people Browder had nominated. Over the next six years, thirty-one more were sanctioned as well.

Putin’s beleaguered political opponents in Russia celebrated the sanctions. In 2013, Boris Nemtsov, a leading opposition activist in Russia, wrote of the new law, “It hurts Putin’s thieves, murderers and scoundrels, and benefits the country.” (Two years later, he was assassinated, not far from the walls of the Kremlin.) The Magnitsky Act threatened the unspoken pact that governs Putin’s relations with those who enforce his power, whether they are interior-ministry officials or bureaucrats in the tax agency. “It means his krysha doesn’t work,” Celeste Wallander explained. Krysha is Russian for “roof,” and in criminal jargon means the protection that a powerful figure can offer others. “It screws up his social contract with those inside the system,” she said.

Two weeks after the bill was passed, officials in the Kremlin came up with a particularly cruel response: a ban on U.S. citizens’ adoptions of Russian children. Putin, searching for retribution, supported the idea. In the years before the ban, Russian children had been adopted by more families in the U.S. than in any other country—around a thousand a year. At the time the law was passed, more than two hundred Russian children, who had already met their new parents, were prevented from travelling to the U.S. to join their adoptive families.

Other effects of the law were harder to measure. Russian law-enforcement officers on the list were unlikely to travel to the United States in any case, and, for years, as far as officials in Washington could tell, no assets were seized as a result of the sanctions. But Canada, the Baltic states, and the U.K. have passed their own Magnitsky-style bills, and, last year, Congress passed the Global Magnitsky Act, which targets human-rights abusers worldwide. McFaul told me it had long struck him that “the spectre of the Magnitsky law and the noise around it are much more important than the law itself.” After the Helsinki summit, he said, he revised that assessment. “The main evidence that the law is having an effect is how obsessed Putin is with it. I don’t get why he’s so obsessed, but the fact remains that he is, and that suggests it’s had a tremendous impact.”

The only time the Magnitsky story was invoked in the seizing of assets inside the United States was in September, 2013, when the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York filed money-laundering charges against a company called Prevezon. The company’s sole shareholder was Denis Katsyv, a businessman and the son of Pyotr Katsyv, who, as a high-ranking bureaucrat, oversaw large state budgets for the region surrounding Moscow.

Browder was responsible for the case: in December, 2012, he hand-delivered a letter to the office of the New York District Attorney documenting allegations against Prevezon and Denis Katsyv, and requesting that prosecutors “initiate a civil forfeiture action.” The District Attorney passed the materials to the U.S. Attorney and the New York office of the Department of Homeland Security, which has a dedicated money-laundering and financial-crimes task force. The indictment, which appeared to have drawn much of its information from an investigation published in Novaya Gazeta, a respected Moscow-based independent newspaper, claimed that Prevezon had benefitted from a part of the two-hundred-and-thirty-million-dollar theft uncovered by Magnitsky and used those funds to buy a number of luxury apartments in Manhattan.

The Prevezon case provided the platform for an ever-expanding Russian campaign against the Magnitsky Act, largely overseen by Natalia Veselnitskaya, who had been the lawyer for the Katsyv family for a decade. I met Veselnitskaya last fall in Moscow, at a café in the center of town; she is an imposing, glamorous woman with an exhaustive memory for dates and facts. She doesn’t speak English, is not licensed to practice law in New York, and, at the time the charges were filed, had never been to the United States. She played no formal role in Katsyv’s defense but acted as his legal adviser and confidante. Katsyv, following Veselnitskaya’s advice, hired BakerHostetler, an élite law firm with offices in Rockefeller Center.

In March, 2014, a lawyer from BakerHostetler deposed the agent from the government task force who had acted on Browder’s tip. It emerged that the task force had received bank records, Russian court judgments, and other documents from Browder and his associates at Hermitage, but had interviewed no other witnesses or parties involved in the alleged crime. In one particularly testy moment in the deposition, the BakerHostetler lawyer asked whether the government agent had contacted the banks in question, in Moldova and Switzerland, to confirm the wire records provided by Browder. “No, I did not. They were foreign banks,” the agent replied. The lawyer countered: “Does your phone go long distance?”

Veselnitskaya, convinced that U.S. law enforcement had not done due diligence, devoted herself to investigating Browder and undermining the Magnitsky Act. “I’m a lawyer, but I’m also a citizen of my country,” she told me. “I wanted to do something to fix it.” She and the BakerHostetler lawyers wanted Browder deposed as part of pretrial discovery. This would require a court subpoena; Browder had not voluntarily agreed to testify and, having given up his U.S. citizenship, was not immediately liable to the jurisdiction of a U.S. court. In spring, 2014, Katsyv’s defense team hired Glenn Simpson, of Fusion GPS, a private research-and-investigation firm in Washington, D.C., to identify Browder’s remaining ties to the United States, and to dig up everything he could on his past activities. Veselnitskaya said that she was “stunned” when she received Simpson’s findings, “which ran to something like six hundred pages, with charts and attachments and analysis.” Simpson and his researchers had found a company called Hermitage Global Partners, registered in Delaware, at which Browder was listed as an executive officer. When Katsyv’s legal team sent a subpoena to the firm’s Delaware address, they got a reply saying that it was a mistake, and that Browder had nothing to do with the company. Simpson also found that Browder had frequently used a ten-million-dollar vacation home in Aspen, Colorado, which is held through a company he set up for this purpose. (A spokesperson for Browder said, “Mr. Browder is not aware of Fusion GPS discovering . . . which houses he visits.”)

According to multiple sources familiar with the Katsyv family’s legal strategy, the legal work on the Prevezon case and Veselnitskaya’s related lobbying carried costs of up to forty million dollars—a vast sum, considering that the U.S. government was trying to seize, at most, fourteen million dollars’ worth of property. Veselnitskaya has closer links to the world of Russian officialdom than she has previously let on. “I get the feeling Natalia is a very effective provincial-court operator,” a person close to the Prevezon defense team said. “She’s not that important—but for a while the case she was fighting was.” The Prevezon investigation was of particular interest to those back in Moscow who resented the Magnitsky Act. Talking to me, Veselnitskaya downplayed any ties she had to Yuri Chaika, Russia’s general prosecutor, but a researcher on the Prevezon case told me that she often took his calls.

Information gathered by Prevezon’s defense team made its way to officials in Moscow. It included supposed links between Hermitage Capital’s purchase of Gazprom shares and the New York investment firm Ziff Brothers, a longtime Democratic donor for which Browder had once made stock trades in Russia. In July, 2016, information about Ziff Brothers appeared in requests for legal coöperation sent to the Department of Justice from the Russian general prosecutor’s office—the body Chaika heads. Veselnitskaya raised the allegations in Trump Tower, and Putin returned to them in Helsinki when he mentioned the “business associates of Mr. Browder” who “sent a huge amount of money” to Clinton. The researcher for the Prevezon defense, who helped unearth information on Browder’s relationship with Ziff Brothers, said that the details had “morphed into something wildly inaccurate.” The researcher added, “We never thought this Ziff stuff would have any value. We tried to find a use for it, and never managed to—but, obviously, the Russians did.” Ultimately, the researcher said, Putin’s false accusations had only strengthened Browder’s credibility.

In 2015, as Browder was busy promoting his book, he expounded on the Katsyv case in television and radio interviews, but was reluctant to testify in court. Prevezon’s lawyers sent process servers to issue a subpoena twice in person—first in July, 2014, as Browder was leaving a talk he had given at the Aspen Institute. He let it drop to the ground and drove off with his teen-age son. In February, 2015, outside the New York studio of “The Daily Show,” where Browder had filmed an interview with Jon Stewart, another server tried to hand him a subpoena. He leaped out of a waiting town car and fled down Fifty-first Street.

In March, 2015, the judge in the Prevezon case ruled that Browder’s activism and promotion of “Red Notice” counted as business in America, and that he would have to give testimony as part of pretrial discovery. The judge was skeptical that Browder’s evasiveness was motivated by fear of the Kremlin. “Apparently, the credible threats did not prevent him from going on ‘The Daily Show’ on February 3rd, ‘Fox & Friends’ on February 3rd, appearing on Sirius on February 3rd, going on CNBC ‘Squawk Box’ on February 3rd, going on MSNBC on February 5th, going on Gregg Greenberg’s program on February 6th,” he said.

The deposition took place on April 15, 2015. Browder was questioned by Mark Cymrot, a lawyer from BakerHostetler, who pushed him on where he got this or that document, or how he knew an allegation to be factual. Browder often replied that he didn’t know or didn’t remember, or that the answer to a particular question was known only by his lawyers or the team at Hermitage. At one point, Cymrot read from the letter that Browder had delivered to prosecutors in New York in 2012, which refers to the “corrupt schemes” by which Katsyv acquired his wealth. Cymrot asked him which schemes he was referring to. “I don’t know,” Browder said. Cymrot quoted another passage from the letter, which alleged that Katsyv had “taken significant steps” to conceal the source of his assets. What were they? “I don’t know,” Browder answered.

Toward the end of nine hours of questioning, Cymrot turned to the year Magnitsky had spent in jail before his death. “Did you consult with Mr. Magnitsky’s lawyers from time to time?” Cymrot asked. “No,” Browder said. Did anyone else consult on Browder’s behalf in directing Magnitsky’s defense? “I don’t know,” he answered. But elsewhere Browder has talked openly of having had contact with Magnitsky’s legal team. In “Red Notice,” for example, he mentions the need for secure, in-person communication with Magnitsky’s lawyer. Last fall, when Preet Bharara asked Browder if he had ever wanted Magnitsky to sign a fake confession to end his jailhouse tortures, Browder answered, “Yeah, through his lawyer I encouraged him to.”

Browder’s tight-lipped answers were understandable, given his concerns for his safety. The kind of transparency required by a U.S. judicial process could also have exposed the identities of those who leaked crucial materials to Hermitage. A spokesperson for Browder said that “it was apparent that the requests posed by the Russians were for collateral purposes of the Russian government, not to assist with the litigation,” and that “Glenn Simpson’s activity on behalf of the Russian government has caused Mr. Browder and his family grave harm and has put his life at greater risk in the long term.” But Simpson, of Fusion GPS, testifying before the Senate, wondered whether there was something else Browder “was hiding about his activities in Russia.” Senator Cardin called Simpson’s insinuations about Browder’s past “irrelevant” to the law, describing any attempts to smear Browder’s reputation as “a distraction, and an effort being made to deflect responsibility from Mr. Putin.”

“Is that all you can think about?”

In the months after the deposition, Veselnitskaya expanded her own counter-campaign. She had befriended Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian-born lobbyist in Washington, D.C., who was hired to join the Katsyv defense as a consultant. Decades ago, as an enlisted soldier in the Soviet Army, he had worked for military counterintelligence. Last July, he filed a libel lawsuit against Browder for describing him as “a Russian G.R.U. officer” and “a Russian intelligence asset.” Akhmetshin introduced Veselnitskaya to pro-Russian lawmakers, including Representative Dana Rohrabacher, of California. Veselnitskaya and Akhmetshin also came up with the idea for a new nonprofit, the Human Rights Accountability Global Initiative Foundation, funded largely by wealthy Russians close to Katsyv. Its ostensible aim was to overturn the Russian adoption ban, but its real mission was to lobby for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. Veselnitskaya’s defense of a client in what was formally a white-collar financial matter had become an influence campaign with geopolitical stakes. As she wrote in a memo, the Magnitsky law was “the beginning of a new round of the Cold War.”

In May, 2016, Veselnitskaya had a meeting in Moscow with an old client, Aras Agalarov, a billionaire property developer who owns a shopping center and an entertainment complex in the Moscow region. She told him about her mission. As she recalled, Agalarov suggested that she meet with Donald Trump, Jr., whom he and his son, Emin, knew from the 2013 Miss Universe competition, which had been held in Moscow at a venue owned by Agalarov.

Emin Agalarov called Rob Goldstone, a British tabloid reporter turned music promoter and P.R. agent who had helped put together the 2013 pageant. Goldstone wrote to Trump, Jr., telling him, confusingly, that “the Crown prosecutor of Russia”—he later clarified that he meant Veselnitskaya—had met with Aras Agalarov and “offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official . . . information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” Trump, Jr., was enthusiastic: “I love it.”

Veselnitskaya insisted that she did not discuss her meeting in Trump Tower with Yuri Chaika or other Russian officials before or after it took place. But the researcher on the Prevezon team told me, “Natalia is an incredibly careful and considerate person. She would not have gone for something like this—meeting the son of a U.S. Presidential candidate—unless she felt someone very high up had O.K.’d it.”

Veselnitskaya described the meeting as awkward and disappointing. Kushner, she told me, was barely paying attention; Manafort was mostly on his phone, or asleep. The only time any of her interlocutors perked up, she said, was when she mentioned that the profits of the trades Browder had executed for Ziff Brothers could have made their way to the Democratic National Committee. As Veselnitskaya remembered it, Trump, Jr., asked her if she had any proof that the Clinton campaign or the D.N.C. had received funds that could be traced back to Russia; she told me that she said no. As for her real agenda—Browder and the Magnitsky Act—she relayed to Katsyv, via text, what the Trump team told her: “That all sounds really great, but we’ll deal with this issue if we come to power.”

When I asked Steven Hall, a former head of Russia operations at the C.I.A., what he made of the meeting, he said he was convinced that it was a Russian intelligence operation to gauge the Trump campaign’s willingness to accept assistance from the Kremlin, whether through e-mail leaks damaging to Clinton or targeted propaganda efforts. “Cutouts”—envoys with no official role—would always be used for an approach like that. “They did it by the book,” Hall told me. “There were no Russian intelligence officers who showed up, no one firmly associated with the Russian government. If you’re going to do it in New York City, right in Trump Tower, you want to have some sort of cover story.” In this case, Hall said, that was the Magnitsky Act and the adoption ban.

For the Trump campaign, the timing of the meeting is certainly suspect: on June 7th, four days after Goldstone wrote to Trump, Jr., and two days before the meeting at Trump Tower, Trump, Sr., who had just clinched the Republican nomination, spoke to an audience outside New York City. In that address, he made a promise that, in the end, he didn’t keep: “I am going to give a major speech on probably Monday of next week, and we’re going to be discussing all of the things that have taken place with the Clintons. I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.”

In May, 2017, the two sides in the Prevezon case reached a settlement: Katsyv would pay nearly six million dollars to the U.S. government, but would not have to admit any wrongdoing. Veselnitskaya wrote, in a post on Facebook, “For the first time, the U.S. recognized that the Russians were in the right!” In fact, Katsyv agreed to pay three times more than the sum he had turned down during negotiations with the U.S. Attorney’s office in 2015, before the Prevezon defense team spent millions of dollars more on court proceedings. According to Browder, the settlement was a victory for justice. “This sends a clear message to the people who received that money in the West that it’s not safe and will be seized,” he said.

The same month, Mueller was appointed. Evidence of Russian meddling in the 2016 election continued to mount. Last October, Manafort was indicted on charges arising from his consulting work in Ukraine for pro-Russian interests. His former business associate Rick Gates, whose links to Russian intelligence were revealed earlier this year, was indicted on the same charges. In February, the special counsel indicted a group of Russian trolls based in St. Petersburg and, in July, Russian intelligence officers who allegedly hacked the D.N.C. servers. In March, in Salisbury, England, the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent. The British Parliament responded by passing a Magnitsky-style law.

These events have only strengthened Browder’s case against the Kremlin. Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition activist who has been poisoned twice in Russia, has accompanied him on his European campaign. “With time, Bill has proved that whatever he may have done in the past, he is genuine and serious about this work now. I have great respect for him,” he said. Kara-Murza warned against focussing too much on Browder’s biography: the over-all message of the Magnitsky Act and its effects has “little to do with Bill,” he said.

But the law might never have passed without Browder’s persuasion. His fervor can be discomfiting. Browder regularly claims, for instance, that Putin’s fortune is worth two hundred billion dollars—a figure that is nearly impossible to prove with such specificity. “He can talk about Russia in a way that is very black and white,” McFaul admitted. “Usually, I’m the guy who is accused of doing that, and there have been times when even I don’t feel comfortable with the way he talks about Russia.” But, McFaul added, after the Russian state singled him out, as they had Browder, he gained a new perspective. “I, tragically, have a new appreciation for what Bill has endured all these years of being chased around the world through Interpol,” he said. “I had earlier thought about it in the abstract—but when I started to think about it myself, in real time, it gave me a new sense of respect for his mission.” ♦

This article appears in the print edition of the August 20, 2018, issue, with the headline “Russia’s Most Wanted.”
  • Joshua Yaffa is a New Yorker contributor based in Moscow. He is also a New America fellow.

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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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Aretha Franklin's Most Unforgettable Vocal Performances
« Reply #3366 on: August 16, 2018, 09:18:42 AM »
Aretha Franklin's Most Unforgettable Vocal Performances
Her voice inspired social change and brought world leaders to tears.


image

Aretha Franklin performs at the Lincoln Memorial
Mark Reinstein

Aretha Franklin is impossible to define. In a time when everything is iconic and stunning and must-see, none of those words seem to do her justice because Franklin's legacy transcends vocabulary words. Instead, maybe the best way to remember her is simply by listening to the stories she's already told us. Over the course of seven decades, Aretha Franklin's voice has had the power to bring world leaders to tears, to fuel the Civil Rights movement, and change the very fabric of music. Franklin, The Queen of Soul, died on Thursday at the age of 76. These are her performances that will remain among the greatest in history.

"AMAZING GRACE," NEW TEMPLE MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH, 1972

Franklin's voice transcended religion. As an artist, she contributed to the secularization of gospel music—echoes of which are still heard today on pop and hip-hop radio. Her performance of "Amazing Grace" went on to sell over two million copies, becoming the highest selling gospel album of all time. But this performance? Even if you don't believe in a higher power, after listening to Aretha work her way through the hymn, you'd be hard pressed not to wonder if she has some kind of connection up there.

"(YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A) NATURAL WOMAN," KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, 2015

After receiving her own Kennedy Center Honor 21 years before, the Queen of Soul returned to the stage to honor Carole King, the writer of one of her most recognizable hits. King immediately leapt to her feet as Aretha started the song. By the time the song ended, Franklin had shed her fur coat, President Obama was wiping tears, and every person in the place was on their feet.

"NESSUN DORMA," GRAMMY AWARDS, 1998

After legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti had to pull out of the 40th annual Grammy Awards following throat problems, the Grammys had to make a quick move. Two hours before the performance, Aretha stepped up to the challenge. What resulted was a performance for the ages. Moving back and forth between Italian and English, Aretha's soul-infused rendition of the aria from the opera Turnadot was one of the most surprising moments in Grammy, and music, history.

"PRECIOUS LORD, TAKE MY HAND,"HER FATHER'S FUNERAL, 1984

Having originally released the song in 1956, "Precious Lord" had a long history in Aretha's life. Her mentor, Mahalia Jackson, sang it at Martin Luther King, Jr's funeral. Four years later, Franklin would sing it at Jackson's, as well as the dedication of the MLK memorial in Washington D.C.

"MY COUNTRY 'TIS OF THEE," BARACK OBAMA'S INAUGURATION, 2009

For President Obama's first inauguration, his choice to have Aretha sing "My Country 'Tis of Thee" was a powerful moment in American history. Here was one of the greatest singers in history—one who's made great strides for women and people of color—singing at the inauguration of the first black president. No matter what comes next, her performance of the patriotic 1831 song will remain a proud moment in this country's history.

"I DREAMED A DREAM," BILL CLINTON'S INAUGURATION GALA, 1994

President Obama wasn't the first Commander in Chief with the good idea to pull in the talents of Aretha Franklin. The Les Misérables showstopper is admittedly a strange choice for a presidential inauguration, but if anyone has the ability to make it work, it's Aretha Franklin. The giant Broadway number grows even bigger with her raspy voice and soulful infusion, ending in yet another standing ovation.

"(I CAN'T GET NO) SATISFACTION," AMSTERDAM, 1968

A voice like this can do any genre. And as the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she absolutely covered rock music, too. Her cover of The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," highlights the blues roots of the hit, connecting it to the origins of rock music and Franklin's own training as a gospel musician.

"SAY A LITTLE PRAYER," 'THIS IS TOM JONES,' 1970

Recorded a year before by Dionne Warwick, Aretha revamped Burt Bacharach and Hal David's "Say a Little Prayer" with a burst of energy that set it apart from the original recording. As a guest on This Is Tom Jones, she performed the song effortlessly, cementing it as another single in a long list of successes.

"RESPECT," ANTIBES, FRANCE, 1967

If Aretha Franklin had to be summed up into one song, there's a pretty good chance it would be "Respect." While recorded versions and later live performances were a bit slower, the original live performances turned "Respect" up several notches. This performance came right as Aretha's career was hitting meteoric status. The breakdown after the bridge is just one example of why Aretha is and always will be a live performance master.

"BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER," LIVE AT THE FILLMORE WEST, 1971

Choosing a favorite performance from her concert at Fillmore West is nearly impossible. But alongside covers of "You're All I Need To Get By" and "Eleanor Rigby," it always comes back to the most-soul driven performance of the bunch. Taking to the piano and slowing the song down a bit to really tear into those big notes, Aretha's performance of the Simon & Garfunkel classic is proof that even the most well-known songs can benefit from the gift that is Aretha's voice.

« Last Edit: August 16, 2018, 09:49:20 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

Offline azozeo

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3367 on: August 16, 2018, 03:43:00 PM »
The woman was definitely connected  :icon_sunny:

Glad you posted this one Surly.
I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is but its there, like a splinter in your mind

Offline Surly1

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Re: The Surlynewz Channel
« Reply #3368 on: August 16, 2018, 05:50:01 PM »
The woman was definitely connected  :icon_sunny:

Glad you posted this one Surly.

Connected to the Divine, I would think.
"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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An Admiral Speaks Out
« Reply #3369 on: August 19, 2018, 06:47:07 AM »
An Admiral Speaks Out
An op-ed criticizing the president from the man responsible for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden represents a startling intervention by a studiously non-political figure.


GARY CAMERON / REUTERS

This week, retired Admiral William McRaven published an unsparing open letter to President Trump requesting that, in the wake of the president’s decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of a security clearance, the president grant him the same honor. It is a startling intervention by a luminary of military leadership—the man responsible for the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden—who has not previously publicly criticized this president, nor any other for that matter.

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To understand the meaning of McRaven’s intervention, one must recognize the ongoing challenge faced by former national security officials and military officers regarding appropriate responses to this president. National security is supposed to exist apart from politics—the identity of the president might change the list of national intelligence priorities or military objectives, but the job stays the same. This is a realm in which everyone is supposed to be on the same team; permitting cracks in that foundation leads to rapid erosion. Even after retirement, former military officers and similarly situated national security officials typically refrain from overt political participation: What is a formal rule during the period of service transforms into a powerful norm of silence upon return to civilian life. The candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump has upended this tradition.

The president’s detractors are simultaneously applauding McRaven’s statement and lamenting that it will have no impact. They are correct that McRaven’s op-ed is unlikely to change any minds among the president’s base. It will not embolden congressional Republicans finally to take a stand. Certainly it will not shame Trump into ceasing his relentless campaign against any and all who would dare oppose him. But the letter isn’t designed to do any of those things.

McRaven’s intended audience is not the general public, nor the president to whom this letter is addressed. Rather, McRaven is speaking to a small community of his peers, those who have served in high-ranking national security posts, both in and out of uniform, and have, like McRaven, remained staunchly apolitical. McRaven’s entire letter was just 250 words, but his message to that group required fewer than twenty: The retired admiral would feel privileged to lose his security clearance, he writes, so “I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

McRaven—a man so assiduously apolitical that he strenuously slapped downnascent rumors that he was being considered as potential vice presidential candidate—has now added his name to those who publicly oppose this president. In doing so, he is saying that the time has come for others in his circle to do the same.

Indeed, the following morning, twelve former intelligence agency directors and deputy directors signed a public letter admonishing the president and urging that security clearance decisions remain apolitical. Former CIA Director and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates joined a day later. At least five of the signatories—including Gates, David Petraeus, and George Tenet—had not previously publicly criticized this administration.

This was followed by an additional open letter sent Friday evening and signed by 60 former CIA officials, who expressed a shared “belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”

Until now, a great many other members of this small community have remained silent. They recognize that as the president assails the norms of apolitical national security, there is a risk that responding in kind only hastens institutional destruction. After all, what better way to prove the existence of a “deep state” working against the president than unified opposition of national security officials rising from the depths?

It is against this backdrop that McRaven penned his missive. In speaking out, McRaven tells his peers that the cost of silence now outweighs the benefits of remaining above the fray.

During the campaign, Adm. (Ret.) Martin Dempsey, the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, penned his own Washington Post open letter on retired military officers appearing at the Democratic and Republican conventions, writing that former officers “have an obligation to uphold our apolitical traditions. They have just made the task of their successors — who continue to serve in uniform and are accountable for our security — more complicated. It was a mistake for them to participate as they did. It was a mistake for our presidential candidates to ask them to do so.” Dueling letters signed by retired general and flag officers in support of Hillary Clinton and Trump likewise drew rebuke from scholars of civilian-military relations.

Trump’s election further strained traditions against political participation. As outrage upon outrage has mounted over the course of this presidency, former military and intelligence officials have increasingly tested the waters of public opposition—contradicting the president’s more outrageous statements and policies. John Brennan has been openly critical of President Trump since shortly after his inauguration, as have former DNI General (Ret.) James Clapper and Gen. (Ret) Michael Hayden among others. Indeed, even the sitting military service chiefs have flirted with public pushback on the president, as when they told Congress that transgender service members posed no threat to unit cohesion, despite the administration’s insistence that accommodations for these troops would place an “unreasonable burden on the military.”

Even Gen. Dempsey has moderated his prior critique that generals should remain apolitical, saying in March 2018, “I think the American people expect our military to be nonpartisan—not apolitical. We do have political beliefs, but we try to remain nonpartisan so that the American people never wonder whether we're serving one particular individual or one particular party or another.” Dempsey’s Twitter account now shares insights on leadership that are on the surface unrelated to politics, but stand in such obvious contrast to the current command-in-chief that they can only be described as subtweets.

McRaven has been resolutely non-political throughout his nearly four decades of service and since returning to civilian life. And he is not attempting to be political now. For someone like McRaven to author this letter is to declare that criticizing this president isn’t about politics at all; it is a defense of the United States.

McRaven’s risk is calculated, but it is still a risk. His prior reservations, those that compelled him to stay silent, may prove to be well-founded. Already, speculation is rising that McRaven plans to run for president in 2020 or that he should. McRaven may have been speaking to his compeers, but the rest of the world saw a man known for the stars on his shoulder, saying Trump is a danger to this country. He may have intended the letter to be a non-political act, but when it comes to commenting on this president there is simply no such thing.

Nevertheless, McRaven has made his choice. He has added his name. Each person who follows his lead makes it easier for the next person to speak out—and harder for others to justify their silence.

"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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Manafort guilty, Cohen rolls as Trump rages on Twitter
« Reply #3370 on: August 21, 2018, 02:22:03 PM »
Eight guilty counts for Manafort (so far), and Cohen rolled up like an old rug. Time for 45 to declare war on Mars, or the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

“THEY’RE SQUEEZING DON JR. RIGHT NOW”: AS THE MUELLER SIEGE TIGHTENS, TRUMP’S TWITTER RAGE CRESTS

White House counsel Don McGahn’s interviews with Mueller have rattled Trump to his core. “Total meltdown,” one outside adviser said of his mood, while a Republican ally described him as “extremely frustrated.”

Donald Trump crosses his arms at the Resolute Desk.
Trump during an interview in the Oval Office.
By Leah Millis/Reuters.

In recent weeks,Donald Trumphas privately expressed doubts about White House lawyerDon McGahn’sloyalty. Trump hasventedto aides that McGahn doesn’t support the House Freedom Caucus’s quixotic campaign to impeach Deputy Attorney GeneralRod Rosenstein—a bank shot that would leaveRobert Muellerunprotected. McGahn has also clashed with Trump’s personal attorney,Rudy Giuliani,whom one Republican said McGahn “hates with the intensity of 1,000 burning suns.” There has been talk of Trump replacing McGahn with his outside lawyerEmmet Flood.

ButThe New York Times’ revelation that McGahn had spoken for more than 30 hours with Mueller’s investigators has rattled Trump and the West Wing to the core, according to three of Trump’s outside advisers, causing Trump to ratchet up his Twitter war on Mueller to new heights. Over the weekend,Jared Kushnerdescribed Trump’s mood as “rip-shit,” according to one of the advisers. “Total meltdown” was how another adviser put it. “He’s extremely frustrated,” a Republican close to the White House said.

The biggest fear rippling through the West Wing is that no one knows what McGahn told Mueller during his multiple interviews. “Trump didn’t know how many hours it was,” one Republican briefed on Trump’s thinking said. Last night,The Washington Postreportedthat McGahn’s lawyer,Bill Burck,has been doing damage control, telling the White House that McGahn did not “incriminate” Trump. That’s provided little solace to Trump and West Wing aides. “You have to understand McGahn kept notes oneverysingle meeting with Trump,” one former West Wing official said. “There’s no way this guy is going to protect him.” (A person close to McGahn disputed that McGahn took extensive notes of his meetings with Trump, but added that McGahn has only provided Trump’s lawyers a “high-level summary” of his comments to Mueller.) Trump also views McGahn as a “[Reince] Priebusguy,” shorthand for being a member of the Republican establishment of which Trump remains suspicious.

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Since news broke of McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mueller, Trump has been lashing out on Twitter. “He’s got to frame the narrative. He thinks the media is like a shark: you’re either feeding it or it eats you,” one Republican close to the White House said. Privately, Trump blames his precarious position on the people who work for him. Trump’s fury at Attorney GeneralJeff Sessions,already raging, has been stoked thanks to Sessions’s refusal to resign after months of public abuse. “You can’t talk to Trump without him bringing up Sessions,” one adviser said.

Trump’s frustration with Sessions has even caused him to turn on Giuliani. Over the weekend, Trump blamed Giuliani for the entire Russia probe. According to a person to whom the conversation was described, Trump loudly said to his lawyer: “It’s your fault! I offered you attorney general, but you insisted on being secretary of state. Had I picked you none of this would be happening.” (The White House declined to comment.)

A lot of what’s driving Trump’s ire, White House advisers said, is Trump’s growing realization that his previous legal team,Ty CobbandJohn Dowd,made a strategic error in waiving executive privilege to cooperate fully with Mueller. But Trump being Trump, he won’t admit to making this mistake, so he directs blame onto others. Another theory for what’s motivating Trump’s increasingly unhinged tweets is that Mueller may be closing in on his sonDon Jr.“A lot of what Trump is doing is based on the fact [that] Mueller is going after Don Jr.,” a person close to the Trump family told me. “They’re squeezing Don Jr. right now.”

Don Jr.’s lawyer said, “I’m not going to comment.” Another person briefed on the investigation disputed the term "squeeze," but said the Mueller team continues to ask for documents.This post has been updated.

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GABRIEL SHERMANGabriel Sherman is a special correspondent forVanity Fair.Most recently, Sherman served as national-affairs editor atNew Yorkmagazine, and he is a regular contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2018, 06:06:42 PM 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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Will the End of the US Empire Be a Soft Landing or a Total Collapse?
« Reply #3371 on: August 22, 2018, 03:25:03 AM »
Will the End of the US Empire Be a Soft Landing or a Total Collapse?
History shows that empires, ultimately, are unsustainable.


Will the End of the US Empire Be a Soft Landing or a Total Collapse?

History shows that empires, ultimately, are unsustainable.
August 20, 2018, 6:48 AM GMT

Photo Credit: U.S. Military

History shows that empires, ultimately, are unsustainable. From the Soviet Union to the U.K. to the Roman Empire, imperialism carried much too heavy a heavy price tag for a long list of major global powers. But some empires suffered more painful endings than others—and for the United States, the question is: will its empire experience a “soft landing” like France, the U.K. and Spain or a devastating collapse like the Roman Empire or the Soviet Union?

The U.K., France, Portugal and Spain are all examples of empires that experienced a “soft landing” rather than a total collapse. The Spanish empire, in its heyday, was huge, which is why Spanish is the official language in most Latin American countries (although Portuguese-speaking Brazil, once a colony of Portugal, is an obvious exception). But imperialism in Spain was gradually phased out, and Francisco Franco—the fascist dictator who ruled Spain from 1936-1975—had a definiteisolationist streakand was much more focused on domestic policy than foreign policy. Similarly, the U.K., France and Portugal gradually phased out their empires when they realized that imperialism and empire-building came at the expense of domestic policy.

The fall of the Roman Empire was not a soft landing; it was a devastating collapse. And maintaining a communist empire was so costly and draining to the Soviet Union that in 1991, it ceased to exist. Is this where the U.S. is heading—or will the U.S. empire be gradually phased out as were the empires in the U.K., Spain, France and Portugal (all of which, post-empire, have been successful developed countries)?

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, neoconservatism—the imperialist ideology shaped by Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, among others—greatly influenced the policies of the George W. Bush administration. Prominent neocons argued like David Horowitz, Bill Kristol (Irving Kristol’s son and the Weekly Standard’s publisher), Vice President Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton (now national security advisor under President Donald Trump) all championed a more aggressive and interventionist foreign policy and supported the disastrous invasion of Iraq (which ultimately, made terrorism even worse and encouraged the creation of the Islamic State, Iraq and Syria, or ISIS).

Not all right-wingers, however, embrace neoconservatism. When he was serving in Congress, Rep. Ron Paul argued that the U.S. needed to free itself from “the burdens of empire”—and Antiwar.com is a right-wing libertarian/paleoconservative website that favors a very isolationist foreign policy and often argues that empire-building will bankrupt the U.S. if it doesn’t cease.

Politics make strange bedfellows. And as much as Justin Raimondo, Antiwar.com’s editorial director, disagrees with journalist Chris Hedges or activist Ralph Nader when it comes to economics, he shares their disdain for empire and imperialism.

Of course, being anti-empire or anti-imperialist isn’t automatically synonymous with being anti-military. One can favor a strong national defense and still be critical of the U.S.’ calamitous interventions in Iraq, Vietnam, Chile and so many other countries. But in the longrun, having a strong military won’t mean much if the U.S. falls apart domestically—and the Trump administration’s domestic policies have been abysmal on so many levels. 

A country without a strong middle class is a country that’s doomed to failure, and none of the policies of the Trump administration and the Republicans who currently control both houses of Congress have been good for the U.S.’ embattled middle class. Taxes are at the top of the list: as economist Robert Reich has emphasized, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 mainly benefits the super-rich—offeringprecious little tax reliefto the middle class and making income inequality even worse.

The Trump administration has failed miserably when it comes to health care. Had the Republican-sponsored American Health Care Act not been defeated in the Senate in 2017, it would have resulted in 23 million Americans ultimately losing their health insurance. But while Trump hasn’t been able to overturn the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, it has undermined it by flooding the market withjunk insurance plans, cutting subsidies that help an estimated six million low-income Americans afford health insurance, making it harder to sign up for coverage, and causing premiums to increase.

The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are also weakening the U.S. by neglecting its infrastructure, making draconian cuts to vital social programs like Social Security and Medicare, causing the federal deficit to increase considerably, undermining Net neutrality and emphasizing fossil fuels over green energy. Unless the U.S. changes course, the end of its empire could turn out to be not a soft landing, but a devastating collapse—which is what Hedges is envisioning.

Hedges correctly stresses that “the American empire iscoming to an end,” asserting that “the U.S. economy is being drained by wars in the Middle East and vast military expansion around the globe” while it slides deeper and deeper into the abyss domestically. 

In one of his columns, Hedges asserted, “Our democracy has been captured and destroyed by corporations that steadily demand more tax cuts, more deregulation and impunity from prosecution for massive acts of financial fraud, all the while looting trillions from the U.S. treasury in the form of bailouts. The nation has lost the power and respect needed to induce allies in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa to do its bidding. Add to this the mounting destruction caused by climate change, and you have a recipe for an emerging dystopia.”

Hedges’ grim prediction for the U.S.: “The empire will limp along, steadily losing influence until the dollar is dropped as the world’s reserve currency, plunging the United States into a crippling depression and instantly forcing a massive contraction of its military machine.” 

As wildly unpopular as the Trump administration is in Europe, none of the U.S.’ European allies want to see the U.S. fall apart. Quite the contrary: in a volatile world that includes the likes of Saudi Arabia, the People’s Republic of China and authoritarian figures such as Vladimir Putin in Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, the last thing the European Union (EU) wants is for the U.S. to do badly. But one need only read the newspapers and websites of France, Germany, Switzerland or Spain to realize how worried so many Europeans are about their ally the U.S. in the Trump era. For that matter, democratic U.S. allies in many other places (from Canada to Australia and New Zealand to Japan) are worried as well.

The U.S. is a troubled country that cannot afford its vast empire, and whether that empire experiences a soft landing—which is what its allies in Europe are hoping for—or a harsh collapse will affect not only the U.S., but also, its allies around the globe.

"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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Russian trolls and Twitter bots exploit vaccine controversy
« Reply #3372 on: August 25, 2018, 06:40:51 AM »
Russian trolls and Twitter bots exploit vaccine controversy


A nurse prepares to administer the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at Children's Primary Care Clinic in Minneapolis. (Courtney Perry for The Washington Post)

Public health experts battling dangerous misinformation about the safety of vaccines have a new foe: Twitter bots and Russian trolls.

Researchers found bots and Russian trolls mentioned vaccines more often than the average Twitter account over a three-year period, but for different reasons. Russian trolls stoked the debate by tweeting pro- and anti-vaccine messages in an apparent attempt to sow division, while bots that spread malicious software appeared to use anti-vaccine messages that inflame strong responses from both sides to attract clicks.

“Apparently only the elite get ‘clean’ #vaccines. And what do we, normal ppl, get?! #VaccinateUS,” a Russian troll account tweeted in one of the messages that stood out to researchers because of the unusual line it drew between vaccine fearmongering and income inequality.

“That’s not something you see from an antivaxxer,” said David Broniatowski, an engineer at George Washington University who led the research published in the American Journal of Public Health. “Elites getting clean vaccines — we thought that was very unique to the Russian trolls and could be interpreted as an attempt to link vaccination to a specific division within American society.”

The trolls were users connected to a Russian propaganda effort run by the Internet Research Agency, a troll farm. They were identified by the researchers through a list released by Twitter to Congress that was further refined by NBC. Twitter bots were identified through bot repositories and spanned a range including spambots that are clearly non-human and “content polluters” that spread malware or try to scam people.

Between 2014 and 2017, Twitter accounts that have been identified as Russian trolls were 22 times as likely to tweet about vaccines than the average user. The tweets fell on both sides of the vaccine debate and appeared aimed at sowing discord by amplifying the debate — even though the vast majority of Americansbelieve vaccines' benefits outweigh their risks. The tweets also appeared to link the debate to other divisions within American society, such as class and racial divisions.

But these didn’t appear to be anti-vaxx accounts mounting an attack on American public health by design; only one out of 550 tweets by Russian trolls touched on vaccines, the researchers found.

These trolls may be flitting between divisive topics. Renee DiResta, who studies computational propaganda with the grass-roots collective Data for Democracy, said her own research suggests Russian trolls have fixated on the vaccine debate not to seed a public health crisis but to exploit its divisiveness.

Tweets she discovered from September 2017, for example, connect vaccine denial to racial anxieties: “Diseases Expert Calls for White Genocide Since Most Vaccine Deniers are White,” several Russian trolls tweeted.

“It’s opportunism — opportunistically amplifying controversial topics,” DiResta said.

She pulled up one Russian bot, @WadeHarriot, that bounced around between various themes — anti-gay, pro-Ted Cruz, anti-Obama or pro-Trump until in early 2017 it began spouting anti-vaccination ideas. Only 38 of that user’s 6,000 tweets were about vaccines. They began right around the time that the topic surfaced in the general news cycle because vaccine critic Robert Kennedy Jr. announced that President Trump asked him to head a new commission on vaccines. That commission never came into being.

Bots focused on “content pollution” — circulating malicious software — were more likely to talk about the harms of vaccines, suggesting they may be trying to take advantage of a high-profile topic to get people to click on a link and accidentally download malware or be sent to a fraudulent website that would ask for a password. Run-of-the-mill spambots that are clearly not human, however, were less likely to talk about vaccines than average users.

Researchers could not explain to what extent this information stream influenced people’s behaviors or contributed to general anti-vaccine sentiment.

Their work strikes a cautionary note about the best way to fight misinformation. Because Russian trolls may be trying to stir up debate, battling them directly could run the risk of “feeding the trolls,” Broniatowski said, polluting social media with angry messages that could amplify the discussion even more and give the false impression that the sides are evenly split.

Public health officials tend to focus on education to combat anti-vaccine messages, but given this content isn’t always coming from real people, tech companies' ongoing efforts to weed out bots and accounts misusing their platforms could be another powerful tool.

The vast majority of vaccine-related tweets analyzed in the study came from users that couldn’t conclusively be categorized as people, cyborgs or bots by a tool called “Botometer.” Those actors might be people who really believe vaccines are dangerous, trolls trying to exploit the controversial topic to deepen divisions in American society, or bots using controversy as clickbait.

In response to the study, Twitter shared details of that work, pointing to a blog post that described its efforts to create tools that can identify “spammy or automated accounts automatically.” In May, the company said it challenged more than 9.9 million such accounts per week. The company also takes measures to ensure automated content can’t be discovered by general users.

Jon-Patrick Allem, a research scientist at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, said that to design effective interventions, it will be necessary to understand how or whether this online behavior affects real people — and that much of the research into public health messages on social media is still stuck in the first phase of quantifying the problem.

“The research I’ve been exposed to — and a lot of it is in the works right now — shows that Russian-backed accounts were designed with the intention to create discord on very particular and very nuanced issues in American culture,” Allem said.

But the risk of false information isn’t simply one from foreign governments. Allem has found social bots are much more likely to put out messages that they quit smoking with the help of e-cigarettes than real accounts — even though there isn’t convincing evidence that they help smokers quit. He also worries bots could disseminate incorrect information for a variety of interests, perhaps spreading misinformation about how effective medications are or promoting supplements and vitamins.

“It’s hard to identify the puppet master behind social bots,” Allem said.

Read More:

The moral differences between pro- and anti-vaccine parents

Kids in these U.S. hot spots at higher risk because parents opt out of vaccinations

How rubella helped change Americans’ views of abortion

"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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Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention
« Reply #3373 on: August 27, 2018, 03:50:43 AM »
'We're doomed': Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention
Patrick Barkham
The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it


Dr Mayer Hillman with his bike outside his home in London.
Dr Mayer Hillman with his bike outside his home in London. Photograph: John Alex Maguire / Rex Features

Patrick Barnham

“We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.”

Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so. His bleak forecast of the consequence of runaway climate change, he says without fanfare, is his “last will and testament”. His last intervention in public life. “I’m not going to write anymore because there’s nothing more that can be said,” he says when I first hear him speak to a stunned audience at the University of East Anglia late last year.

From Malthus to the Millennium Bug, apocalyptic thinking has a poor track record. But when it issues from Hillman, it may be worth paying attention. Over nearly 60 years, his research has used factual data to challenge policymakers’ conventional wisdom. In 1972, he criticised out-of-town shopping centres more than 20 years before the government changed planning rules to stop their spread. In 1980, he recommended halting the closure of branch line railways – only now are some closed lines reopening. In 1984, he proposed energy ratings for houses – finally adopted as government policy in 2007. And, more than 40 years ago, he presciently challenged society’s pursuit of economic growth.

When we meet at his converted coach house in London, his classic Dawes racer still parked hopefully in the hallway (a stroke and a triple heart bypass mean he is – currently – forbidden from cycling), Hillman is anxious we are not side-tracked by his best-known research, which challenged the supremacy of the car.

“With doom ahead, making a case for cycling as the primary mode of transport is almost irrelevant,” he says. “We’ve got to stop burning fossil fuels. So many aspects of life depend on fossil fuels, except for music and love and education and happiness. These things, which hardly use fossil fuels, are what we must focus on.”

While the focus of Hillman’s thinking for the last quarter-century has been on climate change, he is best known for his work on road safety. He spotted the damaging impact of the car on the freedoms and safety of those without one – most significantly, children – decades ago. Some of his policy prescriptions have become commonplace – such as 20mph speed limits – but we’ve failed to curb the car’s crushing of children’s liberty. In 1971, 80% of British seven- and eight-year-old children went to school on their own; today it’s virtually unthinkable that a seven-year-old would walk to school without an adult. As Hillman has pointed out, we’ve removed children from danger rather than removing danger from children – and filled roads with polluting cars on school runs. He calculated that escorting children took 900m adult hours in 1990, costing the economy £20bn each year. It will be even more expensive today.

Our society’s failure to comprehend the true cost of cars has informed Hillman’s view on the difficulty of combatting climate change. But he insists that I must not present his thinking on climate change as “an opinion”. The data is clear; the climate is warming exponentially. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that the world on its current course will warm by 3C by 2100. Recent revised climate modelling suggested a best estimate of 2.8C but scientists struggle to predict the full impact of the feedbacks from future events such as methane being released by the melting of the permafrost.

Hillman believes society has failed to challenge the supremacy of the car.
Hillman believes society has failed to challenge the supremacy of the car. Photograph: Lenscap / Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo

Hillman is amazed that our thinking rarely stretches beyond 2100. “This is what I find so extraordinary when scientists warn that the temperature could rise to 5C or 8C. What, and stop there? What legacies are we leaving for future generations? In the early 21st century, we did as good as nothing in response to climate change. Our children and grandchildren are going to be extraordinarily critical.”

Global emissions were static in 2016 but the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was confirmed as beyond 400 parts per million, the highest level for at least three million years (when sea levels were up to 20m higher than now). Concentrations can only drop if we emit no carbon dioxide whatsoever, says Hillman. “Even if the world went zero-carbon today that would not save us because we’ve gone past the point of no return.”

Although Hillman has not flown for more than 20 years as part of a personal commitment to reducing carbon emissions, he is now scornful of individual action which he describes as “as good as futile”. By the same logic, says Hillman, national action is also irrelevant “because Britain’s contribution is minute. Even if the government were to go to zero carbon it would make almost no difference.”

Instead, says Hillman, the world’s population must globally move to zero emissions across agriculture, air travel, shipping, heating homes – every aspect of our economy – and reduce our human population too. Can it be done without a collapse of civilisation? “I don’t think so,” says Hillman. “Can you see everyone in a democracy volunteering to give up flying? Can you see the majority of the population becoming vegan? Can you see the majority agreeing to restrict the size of their families?”

Hillman doubts that human ingenuity can find a fix and says there is no evidence that greenhouse gases can be safely buried. But if we adapt to a future with less – focusing on Hillman’s love and music – it might be good for us. “And who is ‘we’?” asks Hillman with a typically impish smile. “Wealthy people will be better able to adapt but the world’s population will head to regions of the planet such as northern Europe which will be temporarily spared the extreme effects of climate change. How are these regions going to respond? We see it now. Migrants will be prevented from arriving. We will let them drown.”

A small band of artists and writers, such as Paul Kingsnorth’s Dark Mountain project, have embraced the idea that “civilisation” will soon end in environmental catastrophe but only a few scientists – usually working beyond the patronage of funding bodies, and nearing the end of their own lives – have suggested as much. Is Hillman’s view a consequence of old age, and ill health? “I was saying these sorts of things 30 years ago when I was hale and hearty,” he says.

Hillman accuses all kinds of leaders – from religious leaders to scientists to politicians – of failing to honestly discuss what we must do to move to zero-carbon emissions. “I don’t think they can because society isn’t organised to enable them to do so. Political parties’ focus is on jobs and GDP, depending on the burning of fossil fuels.”

Without hope, goes the truism, we will give up. And yet optimism about the future is wishful thinking, says Hillman. He believes that accepting that our civilisation is doomed could make humanity rather like an individual who recognises he is terminally ill. Such people rarely go on a disastrous binge; instead, they do all they can to prolong their lives.

Can civilisation prolong its life until the end of this century? “It depends on what we are prepared to do.” He fears it will be a long time before we take proportionate action to stop climatic calamity. “Standing in the way is capitalism. Can you imagine the global airline industry being dismantled when hundreds of new runways are being built right now all over the world? It’s almost as if we’re deliberately attempting to defy nature. We’re doing the reverse of what we should be doing, with everybody’s silent acquiescence, and nobody’s batting an eyelid.”

"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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The Day the Soviets Arrived to Crush the Prague Spring, in Rarely Seen Photos
« Reply #3374 on: August 27, 2018, 04:10:54 AM »
A reminder to take nothing for granted, ever.

The Day the Soviets Arrived to Crush the Prague Spring, in Rarely Seen Photos

By

August 26, 2018

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Vladimír Lammer / Courtesy Czech Center New York

On August 20th and 21st, 1968, fifty years ago this week, hundreds of thousands of Soviet and allied Warsaw Pact troops poured over the Czechoslovak border from surrounding countries in a massive show of force that quickly deposed the government of Alexander Dubček. As the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Czech Communist Party, Dubček had presided over a short-lived experiment in Communist liberalization known as the Prague Spring. Dubček had rehabilitated political opponents, abolished restrictions on travel, erased press censorship, and encouraged freedom of expression; he later remembered being inspired by the French Revolution’s calls for “Liberté, Égalité, and Fraternité.” But the artistic and political ferment that resulted—Dubček referred to his program as “socialism with a human face”—proved too much for the doughty post-Stalinist Russian premier, Leonid Brezhnev. In the face of the Soviet invasion, the Prague Spring partisans adopted a policy of nonviolent resistance, which allowed them to hold out for another eight months, but the movement was ultimately crushed. The invasion evolved into an occupation that continued for twenty years, leading to a mass emigration from the country and breaking the spirit of many of those who stayed behind.

Nowhere in New York do the wounds of 1968 feel more fresh than at the hundred-and-twenty-year-old cultural center on East Seventy-third Street known as Bohemian National Hall. There, the Czech Center, part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has put up “August 21, 1968,” an exhibit that painstakingly documents the first twenty-four hours of the invasion. The exhibit, conceived of and mounted by the Czech Center’s programming director, Marie Dvorakova, is focussed on twenty photographs of the invasion that have never previously travelled to the United States. At the opening, on the night of the 21st, the director, Barbara Karpetová, observed with deliberate understatement that her compatriots viewed the Soviet invasion as “one of the most significant moments of our history,” and made it clear that the pain of that period’s failed struggle against authoritarianism is still “topical” for most Czechs.

Wenceslas Square, Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Vladimír Lammer / Courtesy Czech Center New York

Dvorakova had originally planned a commemorative exhibit featuring the work of Josef Koudelka, who took many of the iconic photographs of the Soviet invasion. (His images were initially published by the Sunday Times Magazine in London at the time of invasion itself, under the initials “P.P.,” for “Prague Photographer,” in order to protect Koudelka from retaliation.) But Koudelka’s photographs were already well known, and a friend suggested that Dvorakova instead speak with Dana Kyndrová, another Czech photographer, who was working inside the Czech Republic to collect photographs of major events in Czech history, including the invasion of 1968. Many of the photographs Kyndrova gathered had never previously been seen; some had to be printed directly from negatives. An exhibit of some of the images was staged in Prague in 2008, but they subsequently had little circulation outside of the Czech Republic. So, in July, Dvorakova met with Kyndrová in Prague, and they chose twenty photos taken during the initial twenty-four hours of the 1968 invasion. Dvorakova had prints made and brought them back in her suitcase. The photographs show the shock and grief of ordinary Prague citizens, and also residents’ efforts to impede and obstruct the plans of occupying troops. Dvorakova’s goal in the new exhibit, she said, is “to illustrate events that happened, hour by hour, on that one day.”

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Josef Hník / Courtesy Czech Center New York

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Jaromír Čejka / Courtesy Czech Center New York

The Czechoslovakia invaded by the Russians in 1968 has since been split into the Czech and Slovak Republics, and on the night of the Czech Center opening Bohemian National Hall was offering something of a double bill. Upstairs, the Slovak consulate was presenting a one-time screening of a documentary about Alexander Dubček, produced by TV Bratislava in 1991, a month before he was fatally wounded, at age seventy, in a car accident. Dubček’s own history deepens the understanding of the 1968 events. In the six hours between the Warsaw Pact troops crossing the border and their arrival in Prague, Dubček ordered the Czechs not to resist. “I would have had the blood of thousands on my hands without any hope of victory,” he told the TV Bratislava interviewer. The Russian invaders arrested him and hauled him off to Moscow anyway, only to allow him to return to Prague six days later, where he was forced to preside over the dismantling of his own liberalization. Within two years, however, Dubček was expelled from the Communist Party and became a much beloved, if constantly surveilled, Slovak Forest Service employee. In the documentary he recalls, during winter months, forcing his driver to pull over so that he could skate whenever they passed a frozen pond.

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Libuše Kyndrová / Courtesy Czech Center New York

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Jiří Stivín / Courtesy Czech Center New York

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Bohumil Dobrovolský / Courtesy Czech Center New York

If nothing else, the events surrounding the Prague Spring helped to punctuate the limitations of authoritarian solutions. When I asked Barbara Karpetová, of the Czech Center, about Dubček, she looked a little pained and said that she thought he was naïve to have imagined that he could accomplish what he wanted within the system he was working with. “It serves as a reminder,” she’d said earlier, “that freedom should never be taken for granted.”

Prague, August 21, 1968.

Photograph by Libuše Kyndrová / Courtesy Czech Center New York
"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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