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Knarfs Knewz / The attacks on Mueller push us closer to the precipice
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:38:30 AM »
Our democratic republic is in far more danger than it was even a few weeks ago.

Until this point, there was an underlying faith in much of the political world that if Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian collusion in the election turned up unmistakably damning material about Donald Trump, Republicans in Congress would feel obligated by their commitment to the country’s well-being to accept Mueller’s findings and challenge the president.

We would often hear recollections of how Republicans during Watergate — Sen. Barry Goldwater would inevitably come up — decided that the smoking guns were too smoky and that Richard Nixon had to go. They made clear to him that he no longer had the support of his party.

Surely, said the optimists, we have not drifted so far from decency that this sort of patriotism is beyond us.

Well, it sure seems to be. It’s not surprising that Trump and those on his payroll want to protect him at all costs. But we learned last week that Republicans are deepening their complicity in derailing Mueller’s investigation and burying the facts. The more Mueller imperils Trump, the more McCarthyite the GOP becomes.

The apotheosis of Republican congressional collusion with Trump’s efforts to hang on at all costs came at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. One Republican after another attacked Mueller and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as if the latter should be placed on a new compendium of subversive organizations.

The occasion was testimony before the committee by Christopher A. Wray, the Trump-appointed FBI director. It was heartening to see Wray stand up for his colleagues, which made you wonder if Wray may soon go the way of his predecessor, James B. Comey.

Deserving an Academy Award for the most striking imitation of a member of the old House Un-American Activities Committee was Rep. Louie Gohmert. The hard-right Texas Republican went through a roll call of investigators, name by name, asking Wray if each had shown political bias. Wray defended every one of them he knew and wryly smiled when he was unfamiliar with one of the five names on Gohmert’s hit list.

Gohmert might as well have echoed the favored question of the congressional inquisitors of the early ’40s and ’50s: “Are they now or have they ever been . . . supporters of Hillary Clinton?” When Republicans are FBI haters who are sidetracking probes into Russian subversion, the world truly is turned upside down.

Note also the statement of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) that if every member of Mueller’s team who was “anti-Trump” were kicked off, “I don’t know if there’d be anyone left.” The implication is that even if Mueller’s investigation produced unassailable evidence of wrongdoing by Trump, we should ignore the truth, because Mueller’s team should have been vetted to exclude anyone who had a smidgen of doubt about the president.

The rationale for this GOP assault is that Peter Strzok, an FBI agent involved in the investigation, exchanged texts critical of Trump and favorable to Clinton with an FBI lawyer. Somehow, Mueller got no props for removing Strzok from the investigation this summer.

But even if Strzok played some role in developing material that ultimately hurts Trump or proves Russian collusion, are Americans supposed to brainwash themselves? Trump’s allies want us to say: Too bad the president lied or broke the law, or that Russia tried to tilt our election. This FBI guy sending anti-Trump texts is far more important, so let’s just forget the whole thing.


Because we are inured to extreme partisanship and to the political right’s habit of rejecting inconvenient facts, we risk overlooking the profound political crisis that a Trumpified Republican Party could create. And the conflagration may come sooner rather than later, as Mueller zeroes in on Trump and his inner circle.

Only recently, it was widely assumed that if Trump fired Mueller, many Republicans would rise up to defend our institutions. Now, many in the party are laying the groundwork for justifying a coverup. This is a recipe for lawlessness.

We also assumed that Mueller’s findings would be respected because of his deserved reputation for fairness and independence. Just last May, Newt Gingrich called him a “superb choice to be special counsel” and praised his “honesty and integrity.” Now, pro-Trump politicians feel free to contradict anything they said in the past and to dismiss what they once saw as legitimate authority if those who hold it threaten their power. This is a recipe for autocracy.

Trump himself told us plainly on Friday night in Pensacola, Fla., that he will do whatever it takes to hold power, and he should be taken seriously. “There are powerful forces in Washington trying to sabotage our movement,” he declared. “These are bad people, these are very, very bad and evil people. . . . But you know what, we’re stopping them. You’re seeing that right now.”

We are far closer to the edge than we want to think.
Knarfs Knewz / Qatar signs $8bn Typhoon fighter jet deal with the UK
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:29:30 AM »

New purchase comes after Doha announced last week it would buy 12 French-made Dassault Rafale fighters

Qatar will buy 24 Typhoon fighter jets worth $8bn from the United Kingdom as the Gulf state continues to stock up on high-tech weaponry.

The deal between the two countries was signed in Doha by Qatar's Defence Minister Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah and his British counterpart, Gavin Williamson.

It is the biggest order for Typhoon fighters in more than a decade.

"These formidable jets will boost the Qatari military's mission to tackle the challenges we both share in the Middle East, supporting stability in the region and delivering security at home," Williamson said.

The deal for the Typhoon jets also includes training of air force personnel, the statement said.

The two countries also agreed to create a Joint Operation Squadron, the start of a partnership between Qatar's air force and Britain's Royal Air Force (RAF).

"The squadron tackles all air combat operations, ensuring combat readiness for all Qatari and British pilots and technicians," said the statement.

"It will have a notable role in operational coverage and aerial security during 2022 World Cup events."

Qatar said on Thursday it would buy 12 Dassault Rafale fighter jets from the French aviation company in a deal worth $1bn.

Both deals come as the blockade against Qatar has gone on for more than six months.

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates said they would cut all diplomatic and economic ties with the Gulf nation.

The countries accused Qatar of having ties to terrorism, strengthening its relations with Iran, and meddling in their internal affairs.

Qatar has denied all allegations against it.

The Eurofighter Typhoon
Knarfs Knewz / Erdogan: Israel is a terrorist state
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:25:16 AM »

Erdogan has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel over Jerusalem's status

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has labelled Israel a "terrorist state", and declared the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital "null and void".

Erdogan said on Sunday that US President Donald Trump's decision on December 6 on the status of Jerusalem "has no validity" for Turkey.

Speaking at a meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in Sivas, Erdogan said "Palestine has been under occupation since 1947," adding: "Israel is an occupying state, a terrorist state."

Turkey will host an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Istanbul on December 13 to discuss Jerusalem, which is home to sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Erdogan has threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel over the issue of Jerusalem, declaring the city's status a "red line" on December 4.

The US decision to move its embassy to the city from Tel Aviv has drawn international condemnation and sparked a wave of protests. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Anger has spread from Asia, through the Middle East, to North Africa, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to denounce the controversial move.

Responding to Erdogan's criticism, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Turkish leader shouldn't "preach to us".

"He bombs Kurdish villages in Turkey, imprisons journalists … and helps terrorists attack innocents in Gaza and other places," he said.

Netanyahu, speaking in Paris on Sunday alongside French President Emmanuel Macron, told reporters: "[Jerusalem] has been the capital of Israel for 3,000 years, [and] it's been the capital of the Jewish state for 70 years."

Macron, however, warned that Trump's move is a "threat to peace" in the region.

Confrontations on Sunday between Israeli forces and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza left 157 people injured, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

At least four Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the US declaration.
Bank of America’s Patent for Cryptocurrency Exchange System Application Gets Accepted

Bank of America‘s patent application for its proposed cryptocurrency exchange system has been accepted by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The system will enable automatic conversion of one cryptocurrency into another, and the exchange rates will be calculated based on external data feeds.


How The System is Going to Work

From what can be gathered by going through the patent documents, Bank of America’s cryptocurrency exchange will use a system comprising of three separate accounts. Of these three accounts, the first one will be used by the customers of a business that uses the system, and the remaining two accounts will be used by the business itself.

The users will use the customer account to store the cryptocurrency of their choice. The second account, which is referred to as a “float account,” will act as a holding area for the cryptocurrency that the customer is selling. The third account, which is also a float account, will have the equivalent amount of the cryptocurrency the customer should receive in exchange for the cryptocurrency they are selling.

Once the conversion between the cryptocurrencies takes place, the converted funds are then transferred from the third float account to the customer account.

For example, if a user has some Bitcoin in their customer account, and wants to exchange the Bitcoin for Litecoin, this is how the transaction is going to take place:


    Once the customer initiates the transaction, the Bitcoin will be transferred to the second float account.
    The system will calculate the Litecoin the customer should receive in exchange for the bitcoin they have, and deposit the Litecoin in the third float account.
    The Litecoin in the third account will be transferred to the customer account, completing the transaction.



Should We Even Care?

Although traditional banks have shied away from taking the cryptocurrency plunge so far, the tide seems to be gradually turning. Bank of America is probably looking into cryptocurrency exchange services for its corporate clients. Even if they don’t make any concrete move in the near future, at least they are keeping their options open.

Another fact worth mentioning is that despite the dominant belief that traditional banks are completely unaware of the ground realities, and hence, will be sitting ducks in the coming cryptocurrency revolution, Bank of America filed a patent to create a cryptocurrency-powered wire transfer system way back in 2014.

Bank of America’s latest patent is definitely good news for the cryptocurrency world, as it shows that it’s only a matter of time until they join the party. Bank of America is the second largest bank in the US, and so, this is quite significant. We must remember that regardless of the negative statements by various bankers about cryptocurrencies, they don’t have anything against cryptocurrencies in reality. They are there to do business, and yes, to make money. If they think that there is money to be made by embracing cryptocurrencies, they will.

We are not so far from the point when the traditional financial institutions actively start participating in the cryptocurrency world, and won’t we just love to see that!
Fishing nets and lack of food blamed for pushing number of the world’s most endangered marine animal to just 450

Researchers examine a dead North Atlantic right whale along the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Canada.

Officials with the US federal government say it is time to consider the possibility that endangered right whales could become extinct unless new steps are taken to protect them.

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest marine mammals in the world, and they have endured a deadly year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has said there are only about 450 of the whales left and 17 of them have died so far in 2017.

The situation is so dire that American and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”

Bullard and other NOAA officials made the comments during a Tuesday meeting of the regulatory New England Fishery Management Council. Mark Murray-Brown, an Endangered Species Act consultant for NOAA, said right whales have been declining in abundance since 2010, with females hit harder than males.

The U.S. and Canada must work to reduce the human-caused deaths of the whales, Murray-Brown said. Vessel-strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are two frequently cited causes of the whales’ deaths.

“The current status of the right whales is a critical situation, and using our available resources to recover right whales is of high importance and high urgency,” he said.

The animals give birth in temperate southern waters and then head to New England and Canada every spring and summer to feed. All of this year’s deaths were off of New England and Canada.

Some recent scientific studies have shed some light on why whale deaths have ticked up. One, published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports, stated that the whales move around much more than previously thought. Some scientists have posited that whales might be venturing outside of protected areas in search of food, putting themselves in harm’s way.

In another study, published last month in the journal Endangered Species Research, scientists examined right whale faeces and found whales that suffer long entanglements in fishing gear produce hormone levels that indicate high stress. The stress negatively impacts their ability to reproduce even when they survive entanglement, scientists said.

“My colleagues are trying to find solutions so we can find out how they can continue to fish, but not entangle whales,” said a study co-author, Elizabeth Burgess, an associate scientist with the Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England Aquarium in Boston.

A five-year NOAA review of right whales that was released in October said the animals should remain on the endangered list. It also included recommendations to protect the species. They included developing a long-term plan for monitoring the population trends and habitat use, and studying the impact of commercial fishing on right whales.
The most destructive wildfire raging in southern California has expanded significantly, scorching an area larger than New York City.

The Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has consumed 230,000 acres (930 sq km) in the past week.

Fanned by strong winds, it has become the fifth largest wildfire in recorded state history after it grew by more than 50,000 acres in a day.

Residents in coastal beach communities have been ordered to leave.

Satellite imagery shows the vast Thomas Fire, north of Los Angeles, which has spread as far as the Pacific coast

On Sunday, firefighters reported that 15% of the blaze had been contained but were forced to downgrade that to 10% as it continued to spread.

"This is a menacing fire, certainly, but we have a lot of people working very diligently to bring it under control," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

The containment operation is not only being hampered by dry winds. It is proving challenging for firefighters because of the location and mountainous terrain.

An analyst with the California fire protection department, Tim Chavez, said the emergency services were struggling because "a hot interior" was in parts practically meeting the ocean, making access difficult.

"It's just a very difficult place to fight fire," Mr Chavez said, adding: "It's very dangerous and has a historical record of multiple fatalities occurring over the years."

The other fires hitting California are largely controlled, but 200,000 people have evacuated their homes and some 800 buildings have been destroyed since 4 December.

Evacuation orders were issued overnight on Sunday for parts of Carpinteria close to Los Padres National Forest, about 100 miles (160km) northwest of Los Angeles.

Forecasters said wind speeds were expected to increase throughout the day, before dying down again overnight.

The local fire department tweeted pictures of a wall of flames advancing on homes on the outskirts of Carpinteria early on Sunday morning.

Meanwhile, actor Rob Lowe, who lives in Santa Barbara, a city of close to 100,000 people, tweeted that he was praying for his town as fires closed in.

"Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now," Lowe added.

 Rob Lowe


Praying for my town. Fires closing in. Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now.
10:37 AM - Dec 10, 2017

    596 596 Replies
    328 328 Retweets

California has spent the past seven days battling wildfires. Six large blazes, and other smaller ones, erupted on Monday night in southern California.

The Thomas Fire - named according to where it started, near the Thomas Aquinas College - is by far the largest of the fires.

They swept through tens of thousands of acres in a matter of hours, driven by extreme weather, including low humidity, high winds and parched ground.

The authorities issued a purple alert - the highest level warning - amid what it called "extremely critical fire weather", while US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency.

On Saturday, California Governor Jerry Brown described the situation as "the new normal" and predicted vast fires, fuelled by climate change, "could happen every year or every few years".

Several firefighters have been injured, but only one person has died - a 70-year-old woman who was found dead in her car on an evacuation route.

There are also fears the blaze will seriously hit California's multi-million dollar agricultural industry.

Are you in the area? If it is safe to do so, share your experience with us by emailing

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

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Knarfs Knewz / India outrage over brutal rape and murder of six-year-old
« Last post by knarf on Today at 04:06:18 AM »

The extent of the injuries to the child have horrified Indians

Police in India are questioning several people in connection with the brutal rape and murder of a six-year-old in the northern state of Haryana.

Her body was found on Sunday close to her home from where she was allegedly abducted on the night of 8 December.

The extent of the injuries to the child have horrified Indians, with many drawing parallels with the 2012 Delhi bus rape that caused massive outrage.

The child's mother told BBC Hindi's Manoj Dhaka that they wanted justice.

"It's been 24 hours and the police are yet to catch anyone," she said.

Police have detained three of her husband's relatives for questioning but no arrests have been made so far. However no details have been released.

The government has formed a special investigative team as public pressure mounts on authorities to catch those responsible for the crime. Locals, including activists and political leaders from the district, have gathered in the village to protest.

The girl's family is demanding an inquiry by the federal police, saying they have no faith in the local police.

The girl's father, a rag picker, said he was away on work the night his daughter was abducted.

When his wife woke up the next morning, he said, she realised one of their daughters was missing. The couple have three other children - two sons and one daughter.

The six-year-old was brutally raped and murdered

The family lives on a plot of land along with four other families in a Haryana town. Police suspect those who raped and killed the girl could have come from a nearby slum.

The girl's family had initially refused to cremate her until the killers were caught. The funeral only went ahead after the police assured them that they would make an arrest soon.

They have set a deadline for the police - 11am on Wednesday morning - to make an arrest. If that doesn't happen, they have threatened to escalate the protest.

In another incident, one man has been arrested over the alleged gangrape of a teenage cancer patient from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The girl has alleged that she was abducted and raped by two men, and when she approached a neighbour for help he raped her as well.

Scrutiny of sexual violence has grown in India since the 2012 gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old student on a bus in the capital Delhi.

The crime sparked days of protests and forced the government to introduce tougher anti-rape laws, including the death penalty.

However, brutal sexual attacks against women and children continue to be reported across the country.
German politicians have condemned the burning of Israeli symbols during protests against the US decision on Jerusalem. Police in Berlin have so far detained at least 20 people during protests.

Germany‘s interior minister has criticized the burning of Israeli national symbols in Berlin in protest against the United States' decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"We don't accept when Jews or the state of Israel are disgraced in this way," Thomas de Maziere told the Monday edition of mass daily Bild. Germany is "bound in a special way to the state of Israel and people of Jewish belief," he said.

He added that freedom of speech and protest is respected, but those rights must be carried out peacefully.

On Friday, around 1,200 anti-Israel and anti-American protesters gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, near the US Embassy, to demonstrate against US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The Berliner Zeitung reported the 12 people are being investigated for disturbing the peace and violating laws prohibiting the desecration of the flags of foreign states. Police said 10 people were detained.

On Sunday, some 2,500 demonstrators marched through Berlin's Neukölln district and burned flags with the Star of David, the Berliner Zeitung reported.

Eleven people were detained and cited for offenses, including illegally covering the face, police said.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Bild that despite understandable criticism of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, "there is no right and also no justification to burn Israeli flags, incite hatred against Jews or question the right of Israel to exist."

Whoever does such things, Gabriel said, "is not just opposing Israel but also the constitutional order of Germany."

Justice Minister Heiko Maas also said there was no place for any sort of anti-Semitism.

The LinkedIn sign-in page is displayed on an Apple iPad Air in an arranged photograph in Hong Kong, China, on Feb. 25, 2014.

China has been using fake LinkedIn accounts to mine personal data from German politicians, diplomats, and other officials, Germany’s intelligence agency BfV has warned.

According to nine months of BfV research cited by Reuters, Chinese agents masquerading as scholars, researchers, or headhunters have contacted more than 10,000 German citizens over the professional networking site.

BfV took the unusual step this weekend of publicly outing fake profiles in a bid to urge Germans to exercise caution over social media.

“There could be a large number of target individuals and fake profiles that have not yet been identified,” a BfV spokesperson quoted by Reuters said.

Examples of known spurious LinkedIn users include “Lily Wu,” whose profile says she works at a think tank in eastern China, and “Allen Liu,” who claims to be a resources manager at an economic consultancy, the BBC reports.

The reach of fraudulent profiles likely extends beyond German borders. Reuters found that several fake profiles were connected to senior diplomats and politicians in other European countries.

‘No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.’

Chamath Palihapitiya speaks at a Vanity Fair event in October 2016

Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels “tremendous guilt” about the company he helped make. “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works,” he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a “hard break” from social media.

Palihapitiya’s criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” he said, referring to online interactions driven by “hearts, likes, thumbs-up.” “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

He went on to describe an incident in India where hoax messages about kidnappings shared on WhatsApp led to the lynching of seven innocent people. “That’s what we’re dealing with,” said Palihapitiya. “And imagine taking that to the extreme, where bad actors can now manipulate large swathes of people to do anything you want. It’s just a really, really bad state of affairs.” He says he tries to use Facebook as little as possible, and that his children “aren’t allowed to use that shit.” He later adds, though, that he believes the company “overwhelmingly does good in the world.”

Palihapitiya’s remarks follow similar statements of contrition from others who helped build Facebook into the powerful corporation it is today. In November, early investor Sean Parker said he has become a “conscientious objector” to social media, and that Facebook and others had succeeded by “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” A former product manager at the company, Antonio Garcia-Martinez, has said Facebook lies about its ability to influence individuals based on the data it collects on them, and wrote a book, Chaos Monkeys, about his work at the firm.

These former employees have all spoken out at a time when worry about Facebook’s power is reaching fever pitch. In the past year, concerns about the company’s role in the US election and its capacity to amplify fake news have grown, while other reports have focused on how the social media site has been implicated in atrocities like the “ethnic cleansing” of Myanmar’s Rohingya ethnic group.

In his talk, Palihapitiya criticized not only Facebook, but Silicon Valley’s entire system of venture capital funding. He said that investors pump money into “shitty, useless, idiotic companies,” rather than addressing real problems like climate change and disease. Palihapitiya currently runs his own VC firm, Social Capital, which focuses on funding companies in sectors like healthcare and education.

Palihapitiya also notes that although tech investors seem almighty, they’ve achieved their power more through luck than skill. “Everybody’s bullshitting,” he said. “If you’re in a seat, and you have good deal flow, and you have precious capital, and there’s a massive tailwind of technological change ... Over time you get one of the 20 [companies that become successful] and you look like a genius. And nobody wants to admit that but that’s the fucking truth.”
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