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TBR News August 12, 2020

Aug 12 2020

The Voice of the White House

Comments for August 12, 2020:Now that Biden has chosen a woman of color to be his VP, Trump,who hates black and even dark tan, people must be squirming. If he attacks Harris as a black, he will lose a huge number of votes but then Trump is a man who is not

in control of himself at all times. Kamala Harris is known to have a forceful personality so if she even debated Trump is would prove to be a disaster for him.

The Table of Contents

  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 vs. the Flu
  • Who owned the chemicals that blew up Beirut? No one will say
  • Germany expresses ‘displeasure’ at US threat over Russia pipeline
  • US: Chicago sees violence, looting after cop-involved shooting
  • Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate in historic first for a woman of color
  • Why Kamala Harris may prove an elusive target for Trump
  • Innovation Should Be Made in the U.S.
  • Government Disinformation Methodology
  • The junk science cops use to decide you’re lying
  • The Encyclopedia of American Loons

 

Who owned the chemicals that blew up Beirut? No one will say

August 11, 2020

by Maria Vasilyeva, Lisa Barrington and Jonathan Saul

Reuters

MOSCOW/DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – In the murky story of how a cache of highly explosive ammonium nitrate ended up on the Beirut waterfront, one thing is clear — no one has ever publicly come forward to claim it.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding last week’s huge, deadly blast in the Lebanese capital, but ownership should be among the easiest to resolve.

Clear identification of ownership, especially of a cargo as dangerous as that carried by the Moldovan-flagged Rhosus when it sailed into Beirut seven years ago, is fundamental to shipping, the key to insuring it and settling disputes that often arise.

But Reuters interviews and trawls for documents across 10 countries in search of the original ownership of this 2,750-tonne consignment instead revealed an intricate tale of missing documentation, secrecy and a web of small, obscure companies that span the globe.

“Goods were being transported from one country to another, and they ended up in a third country with nobody owning the goods. Why did they end up here?” said Ghassan Hasbani, a former Lebanese deputy prime minister and opposition figure.

Those linked to the shipment and interviewed by Reuters all denied knowledge of the cargo’s original owner or declined to answer the question. Those who said they didn’t know included the ship’s captain, the Georgian fertilizer maker who produced the cargo and the African firm that ordered it but said it never paid for it.

The official version of the Rhosus’ final journey depicts its voyage as a series of unfortunate events.

Shipping records show the ship loaded ammonium nitrate in Georgia in September 2013 and was meant to deliver it to an explosives maker in Mozambique. But before leaving the Mediterranean, the captain and two crew members say they were instructed by the Russian businessman they regarded as the ship’s de facto owner, Igor Grechushkin, to make an unscheduled stop in Beirut and take on extra cargo.

The Rhosus arrived in Beirut in November but never left, becoming tangled in a legal dispute over unpaid port fees and ship defects. Creditors accused the ship’s legal owner, listed as a Panama-based firm, of abandoning the vessel and the cargo was later unloaded and put in a dockside warehouse, according to official accounts.

The Beirut law firm that acted for creditors, Baroudi & Associates, did not respond to requests to identify the cargo’s original legal owner. Reuters was unable to contact Grechushkin.

The empty ship eventually sank where it was moored in 2018, according to Lebanese customs.

The Rhosus’ final movements are under fresh scrutiny after the ammonium nitrate caught fire inside the warehouse and exploded last week, killing at least 158 people, injuring thousands and leaving 250,000 people homeless.

Among the still-unanswered questions: who paid for the ammonium nitrate and did they ever seek to reclaim the cargo when the Rhosus was impounded? And if not, why not?

The cargo, packaged in large white sacks, was worth around $700,000 at 2013 prices, according to an industry source.

UNINSURED

Reuters inquiries have raised numerous red flags.

Under international maritime conventions and some domestic laws, commercial vessels must have insurance to cover events such as environmental damage, loss of life or injury caused by a sinking, spill or collision. Yet the Rhosus was uninsured, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

The ship’s Russian captain, Boris Prokoshev, said by phone from his home in Sochi, Russia, that he had seen an insurance certificate but could not vouch for its authenticity.

Reuters was unable to obtain a copy of the ship’s documents.

The Mozambican firm that ordered the ammonium nitrate, Fábrica de Explosivos Moçambique (FEM), was not the cargo owner at the time because it had agreed to only pay on delivery, according to its spokesman, Antonio Cunha Vaz.

The producer was Georgian fertilizer maker Rustavi Azot LLC, which has since been dissolved. Its owner at the time, businessman Roman Pipia, told Reuters he had lost control of the Rustavi ammonium nitrate plant in 2016. UK court documents show that the firm was forced by a creditor to auction off its assets that year.

The factory is now run by another firm, JSC Rustavi Azot, which also said it could not shed light on the cargo owner, according to the plant’s current first deputy director, Levan Burdiladze.

FEM said it had ordered the shipment through a trading firm, Savaro Ltd, which has registered companies in London and Ukraine but whose website is now offline.

A visit to Savaro Ltd’s listed London address on Monday found a Victorian terraced house, with a locked and barred door, near the fashionable bars of Shoreditch. No one responded to knocks on the door.

Reuters contacted UK-registered Savaro Ltd director Greta Bieliene, a Lithuanian based in Cyprus. She declined to answer questions.

A source familiar with the inner workings of Savaro’s trading business said it sold fertilizer from ex-Soviet Union states to clients in Africa.

Ukraine-based businessman Vladimir Verbonol is listed as director of Savaro in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian corporate data base You Control. Reuters was unable to contact Verbonol for comment.

THE RUSSIAN

As grief and anger over the blast turn to civil unrest in Beirut, there are signs the Lebanese government’s promised investigation has already turned its sights back to the Rhosus and Grechushkin, the man the crew considered as its owner.

A security source said Grechushkin was questioned at his home in Cyprus last Thursday about the cargo. A Cypriot police spokesman said an individual, whom he did not name, had been questioned at the request of Interpol Beirut.

The Rhosus arrived in Beirut in November 2013 with a leak and in generally poor condition, captain Prokoshev said. It had already been beset with problems.

In July 2013, four months before docking in Beirut, the ship was detained for 13 days by port authorities in Seville, Spain, after multiple deficiencies including malfunctioning doors, corrosion on the deck area and deficient auxiliary engines were found, according to shipping data. It resumed sailing after inspection firm Maritime Lloyd issued a cargo ship safety construction certificate, which would have involved a survey of the ship, the data showed.

Teimuraz Kavtaradze, an inspector at Georgia-based Maritime Lloyd, which does not rank among the most prominent and widely-used inspection firms, said he could not confirm whether or not the firm had provided any inspection documents to port officials in Seville. He said he was working for Maritime Lloyd in 2013 but that other staff and the management had since changed.

Seville port officials were not immediately available for comment. Paris MoU, a body of 27 maritime states under whose authority the detention was carried out, confirmed in an email that the vessel was detained and inspected in Seville.

Moldova, where the Rhosus is registered, lists the owner of the ship as Panama-based Briarwood Corp, a certificate of ownership seen by Reuters shows. Reuters was not immediately able to identify Briarwood Corp as a Panamanian registered company. Panama’s maritime authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ship’s charterer, Teto Shipping Ltd, is based in the Marshall Islands and was dissolved in 2014, according to International Registries, which says it provides shipping registry services to the Marshall Islands.

Igor Zaharia, the director of Moldova’s Naval Agency, said Grechushkin was Teto Shipping’s director.

The Rhosus’ captain passed Reuters an email address that he and the crew had been using for Teto Shipping, but requests for comment to the same address went unanswered. The captain said he regarded Grechushkin and Teto as the same entity.

Additional reporting by Michele Kambas in Nicosia and Limassol, Cyprus; Maria Tsvetkova and Polina Devitt in Moscow, Victoria Waldersee in Lisbon, Tsvetelia Tsolova in Sofia, Margarita Antidze in Tbilisi, Tom Perry in Beirut, Alexander Tanas in Chisinau, Elida Moreno in Panama City, Guy Faulconbridge and Luke Baker in London, Nathan Allen in Madrid; Editing by Mark Bendeich and Nick Tattersall

 

Germany expresses ‘displeasure’ at US threat over Russia pipeline

German foreign minister speaks with his US counterpart about Washington’s threat of sanctions over Nord Stream 2.

August 10, 2020

Al Jazeera

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has expressed “displeasure” to his US counterpart Mike Pompeo about Washington’s threat of sanctions against a German port over a gas pipeline from Russia.

Speaking in Berlin on Monday as transatlantic tensions spike, Maas was asked by a reporter about last week’s letter from three US senators, which pledged tough sanctions against the operators of a key German port involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

“I mentioned it in a telephone call with (Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo yesterday and expressed my surprise and displeasure,” he said.

Nord Stream 2, a 10 billion-euro ($11bn) pipeline nearing completion beneath the Baltic Sea, is set to double Russian natural gas shipments to Germany, the EU’s largest economy.

US President Donald Trump last year signed legislation against contractors working on Nord Stream 2 and another Russian gas project, TurkStream, which goes through the Black Sea.

But while those sanctions focused on technical assistance, the separate Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act lays out harsh measures that can include severing access to the US financial system.

Pompeo announced guidelines last month stipulating that German companies could suffer sanctions even for small investments in the project.

Internal affairs

Germany had voiced anger over the earlier sanctions law, saying that it interfered in its internal affairs.

But Ukraine, Poland and Baltic states fear that Nord Stream 2 will further embolden Russian President Vladimir Putin by giving Moscow more control over crucial energy flows.

Germany, despite political differences with Russia, sees Nord Stream 2 as ensuring a more stable and cleaner source of energy as it pivots away from coal and nuclear power.

Berlin is a long-standing ally of the US, but Trump has tense relations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, once berating her as “captive” to Russia.

The Sassnitz port is located in Merkel’s electoral district, which German media interpreted as a personal affront to the veteran leader.

Meanwhile, Trump recently approved plans to pull 9,500 US troops from Germany, accusing Berlin of treating the US unfairly on trade while not paying enough as a NATO ally for defence.

 

US: Chicago sees violence, looting after cop-involved shooting

A heavy police presence is expected in downtown Chicago until further notice after looting and firing at officers.

August 10, 2020

AL JAZEERA

More than 100 people were arrested on Monday following a night of looting and unrest in the US Midwestern city Chicago that left 13 officers injured and caused damage in the city’s upscale Magnificent Mile shopping district and other parts of the city, authorities said.

The looting followed demonstrations that began after police shot a man who allegedly fired at officers the previous day in the city’s Englewood neighbourhood.

Police Superintendent David Brown said the unrest “was not an organised protest” but “an incident of pure criminality”.

At one point early on Monday, shots were fired at police and officers returned fire. Brown said a heavy police presence is expected in the downtown area until further notice.

“This was straight up, felony criminal conduct,” said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “This was an assault on our city.”

Those arrested were expected to face charges including looting, disorderly conduct, battery against police. Lightfoot said the city has activated a neighbourhood protection programme that will be in place “for foreseeable days until we know our neighbourhoods are safe”.

No officers were injured in the shooting, police spokesman Tom Ahern said on Twitter. Many of the businesses that were ransacked had recently opened after Chicago protests of George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis devolved into chaos.

The unrest began shortly after midnight and anti-police graffiti was seen in the area of the Magnificent Mile, which is one of Chicago’s most-visited tourist attractions. Hours earlier, dozens of people had faced off with police after officers shot and wounded a person on Sunday in the Englewood neighbourhood, located about 16km (10 miles) away.

Brown said after a crowd dissipated following that shooting, “We are monitoring social media and we come across a post of a caravan of cars being prompted to go to our downtown and loot.”

‘Very orchestrated’

Along the Magnificent Mile, people were seen going in and out of stores carrying bags full of merchandise as well as at a bank, the Chicago Tribune reported, and as the crowd grew vehicles dropped off more people in the area.

On streets throughout the downtown area, empty cash drawers from stores were strewn about and ATMs were ripped open.

Stores miles from downtown were also ransacked, with parking lots littered with glass and items from inside the stores. Clothes hangers and boxes that once contained television sets and other electronics were seen – evidence that thieves had taken racks of clothes and removed them from the hangers.

“This was obviously very orchestrated,” the Reverend Michael Pfleger, a prominent Roman Catholic priest and activist on the city’s South Side, told WBBM-TV as cameras panned the downtown area.

One officer was seen slumped against a building, several arrests were made and a rock was thrown at a police vehicle, the newspaper said. Police worked early Monday to disperse the crowds.

There was a large police presence on Monday morning outside an Apple store located north of Chicago’s downtown area. Blocks away, debris was strewn in parking lots in front of a Best Buy and a large liquor store.

Train and bus service into downtown was temporarily suspended at the request of public safety officials, the Chicago Transit Authority said on Twitter.

Bridges over the Chicago River were lifted, preventing travel to and from the downtown area, and Illinois State Police blocked some expressway ramps into downtown. Access was being restored later Monday morning.

Chicago and its suburbs, like many other cities, saw unrest following the death of Floyd. Chicago’s central business district and its commercial areas were shut down for several days after violence erupted and stores were damaged in the wake of marches protesting against Floyd’s custodial death.

Floyd, a Black man who was handcuffed, died after a white officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

In the Sunday shooting in Englewood, police said in a statement that they responded about 2:30pm (18:00 GMT) on Sunday to a call about a person with a gun and tried to confront someone matching his description in an alley. He fled from officers on foot and shot at officers, police said.

Officers returned fire, wounding him, and a gun was recovered, police said. He was taken to a hospital for treatment and three officers involved also were taken to a hospital for observation, the statement said.

More than an hour after the shooting, police and witnesses said a crowd faced off with police after someone reportedly told people that police had shot and wounded a child. That crowd eventually dispersed.

 

Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate in historic first for a woman of color

  • Choice of California senator follows months-long search
  • Harris is first Black woman and first Asian American on a major party’s presidential ticket

August  11, 2020

by Lauren Gambino and Joan E Greve in Washington

The Guardian

Joe Biden has named California senator Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential running mate, a historic choice he believes will bolster his chances of beating Donald Trump in an election year shaped by the global coronavirus pandemic and a national reckoning on race.

Harris – Biden’s former Democratic presidential rival and a barrier-breaking former prosecutor – is the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India and is the first Black woman and the first Asian American to be nominated for a major party’s presidential ticket.

“I have the great honor to announce that I’ve picked @KamalaHarris – a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country’s finest public servants – as my running mate,” Biden wrote on Twitter.

In a tweet, Harris said she was “honored” to join Biden on the Democratic ticket and pledged to “do what it takes to make him our Commander-in-Chief”.

Biden announced the selection in a text and email message to supporters. His campaign said the two would hold their first event together on Wednesday, in Biden’s hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

Though Biden and Harris clashed during the Democratic presidential debates before she dropped out of the race last year, she has become a strong supporter and a voice of authority on issues of racial justice in an election year convulsed by nationwide protests in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.

The decision is of great consequence, not only for Democrats’ immediate political prospects but for the future of the party.

Biden, who, at 77, would be the oldest person ever elected, has pitched himself as a “transitional candidate” and a “bridge” to a new generation of leaders, fueling speculation that should he be elected, he would be a one-term-president.

In selecting Harris, a 55-year-old Democratic star, he may not only be naming a partner but a potential successor who could become the nation’s first female president.

Harris is among the most prominent Black women in American politics, with appeal across the party’s ideological spectrum. She served six years as the attorney general of California before arriving in the Senate in 2016.

During the primary, Harris struggled to reconcile her prosecutorial record with her support for criminal justice reform, facing criticism from progressives who doubted her evolution on the issue. But on Tuesday, the announcement was celebrated by Democrats from diverse political backgrounds.

“Joe Biden nailed this decision,” said Barack Obama, who went through a similar process in 2008 when he selected Biden as his running mate, in a statement. “By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character. Reality shows us that these attributes are not optional in a president. They’re requirements of the job.”

“She understands what it takes to stand up for working people, fight for health care for all, and take down the most corrupt administration in history,” Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted.

Black women were critical to Biden’s success in the Democratic primary, lifting him to victory in South Carolina after series of stinging losses. But the political landscape changed after Floyd was killed in Minneapolis in May, touching off months of mass anti-racism protests that intensified pressure on Biden to to select a Black running mate.

“For a little girl who grew up poor, Black and female in the South to be considered during this process has been an incredible honor,” said the Florida congresswoman Val Demings, who was one of six Black women considered for the role. “I feel so blessed. To see a Black woman nominated for the first time reaffirms my faith that in America, there is a place for every person to succeed no matter who they are or where they come from.”

Harris’ own presidential campaign began on a high note in January 2019, as she announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Day and paid tribute to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to seek the nomination of a major party.

She officially kicked off her campaign with an Oakland rally attended by more than 20,000 people. The one-term senator was considered an early frontrunner for the nomination, and her polling numbers surged after a contentious exchange with Biden at the first Democratic debate.

Harris pushed Biden on his past opposition to mandated busing to racially integrate schools. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bussed to school every day. That little girl was me,” Harris told Biden.

Biden appeared taken aback by the confrontation, but the two Democrats indicated they had made amends after Harris suspended her campaign in December. Harris endorsed Biden’s presidential bid in March.

The Trump campaign immediately seized on their debate exchange to cast Harris as hypocrite, while assailing her – in the same sentence – as both a tough-on-crime prosecutor and a far-left radical.

“Not long ago, Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received,” said Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign and one of his most high-profile Black surrogates. “Clearly, Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat party.”

Though Harris has long been viewed as a likely contender for the nomination, some advisers and allies of the former vice-president harbored reservations. In the weeks before she was selected, reports surfaced that the former senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, part of Biden’s vice-presidential vetting panel, had told donors she demonstrated “no remorse” for her attacks on Biden while on a debate stage. Others anonymously accused her of having too much “ambition” and a personality that can “rub people the wrong way”.

For many Democratic women, the backlash was further evidence of the importance of selecting a candidate who demonstrated the vital role of Black women within the party.

“Senator Harris is a fearless champion for justice,” said Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPac. “She understands the urgency of the moment and will work to restore competent, moral leadership to Washington.”

Harris was elected to the Senate in 2016, becoming only the second black woman ever to serve in the chamber. A fierce critic of the president, Harris drew national attention for her prosecutorial-style inquisitions during Senate committee hearings with Trump administration officials. In one memorable exchange, a flustered Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, told her: “I’m not able to be rushed this fast – it makes me nervous.”

Biden was unusually candid about the selection process, an affair traditionally shrouded in secrecy and intrigue. Having spent eight years serving as vice-president to the nation’s first Black president, Biden recalled the experience fondly and presented their working relationship as a model for what he was looking for in a running mate.

During Zoom meetings with donors and supporters, he would often expand on his search, emphasizing that he wanted someone “simpatico” with his personality and his world view as well as someone who was ready to govern on day one.

Only two women have previously been nominated for the vice presidency of a major political party and neither was successful: Sarah Palin, the governor of Alaska, in 2008, and the congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro in 1984.

Angela Davis, the philosopher and activist who became a prominent figure in the Black Power movement, was twice nominated as the vice-presidential candidate of the Communist party in the 1980s.

“Today is a spark of hope and a watershed moment for Black women and women of color,” said Aimee Allison, Founder of She the People, an organization dedicated to mobilizing women of color. “This is one step in a much larger fight for representation towards the multi-racial Democracy women of color have dreamed of, fought for and bled for, for generations. We need Black, Latina, Indigenous, and Asian American women leading at every level of American politics.”

 

Why Kamala Harris may prove an elusive target for Trump

August 12, 2020

by James Oliphant

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate provides a brand-new target for President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign that has struggled to find an effective line of attack against his Democratic rival.

But going after Harris comes with its own risks and challenges.

Within minutes of Biden’s announcement on Tuesday, Trump had called Harris “nasty,” “horrible” and “disrespectful,” while his campaign painted her as an extremist who would yank the moderate Biden to the left.

But there is little evidence at the moment that suggests that the public views Harris, a former California prosecutor and attorney general with strong ties to the Democratic establishment, as a radical.

In fact, she’s more liked by Republicans than Biden, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on Aug. 10-11, just before she was announced as Biden’s pick. The poll showed 21% of registered Republican voters have a favorable impression of Harris, compared with 13% who had a similarly favorable view of Biden.

More concerning for Trump: Attacks that could appear sexist or racist against the first Black woman on a major party ticket in U.S. history could complicate his campaign’s effort to shore up his standing among suburban women, a critical voting bloc he must win back in order to get re-elected, strategists on both sides say.

Already, leading Democratic women warned against a replay of Trump’s match-up in 2016 with then Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, who was subject to gender-based critiques as the first female presidential candidate. Trump has also called Clinton “nasty” and accused her of playing the “woman’s card.”

“If he wants to use misogynistic tropes against Kamala Harris, I think that is deeply challenging for him,” said Neera Tanden, a top aide to Clinton during her presidential bid. “He has no room for error with suburban women.”

According to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, Biden had an advantage of 10 percentage points among women and a 6-point lead among those who live in the suburbs. Overall, Biden leads Trump by 11 points, less than three months to go before the Nov. 3 vote.

Sarah Longwell, a Republican pollster, said Trump’s advisers would likely want the president, known for fiery and bombastic rhetoric against his political rivals, to be more cautious about attacking Harris unless they had reason to believe suburban women distrusted or disliked her.

“But there’s no evidence yet that they do dislike or distrust her,” Longwell said. “In fact, my guess is that she’ll play pretty well with suburban women.”

LOOKING FOR AN EDGE

Trump’s standing with the public has faded badly amid the coronavirus pandemic, the economic downturn and nationwide protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Scrambling for something to alter the trajectory of the race, Trump and his Republican allies quickly launched a fusillade of attacks at Harris moments after the pick was announced.

The campaign hosted a conference call with reporters to assail her early stances during her own White House bid, when she supported progressive policy proposals such as the Green New Deal, a sweeping clean energy plan, and Medicare for All, a single-payer, government sponsored healthcare plan. Biden has not backed either proposal.

Harris shifted several of her policy stances in the course of the campaign in a bid to move toward the center. But the Trump campaign made clear it will attempt to paint her as an unrepentant leftist, while suggesting that the 77-year-old Biden could soon be out of office and replaced by her.

At the same time, the campaign said it will also seek to highlight criticism of Harris from the African-American community over her criminal justice record, hoping to drive a wedge between her and the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency.

Privately, however, Trump’s aides acknowledged Harris would be a formidable adversary. One senior White House official said that the Harris pick means Vice President Mike Pence would have a tough debate in October.

Trump, in his White House news conference, acknowledged Harris’ aggressive questioning of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his 2018 confirmation hearing.

“She was nasty to a level that was just a horrible thing the way she treated now-Justice Kavanaugh, and I won’t forget that soon,” Trump said.

Harris and Biden’s immediate challenge, in fact, will be to stamp out any brush fires among progressives who had urged Biden to choose a more overtly progressive candidate, such Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic activists say. [L1N2FD2IE]

During her presidential bid, Harris was fiercely criticized by progressives who viewed her prosecutorial record as overly supportive of law enforcement. She has since become a vocal supporter of progressive criminal-justice reforms.

Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, an advocacy group that has worked with Harris on police reform efforts, said the nominee will have to engage her progressive critics to win them over.

“These are questions she has to answer head-on,” Robinson said. “She has to answer questions about her evolution. Talk about the challenges that she has and talk about where she has moved.”

Additional reporting by Joseph Ax, Trevor Hunnicutt, Chris Kahn, Jeff Mason and John Whitesides; Editing by Soyoung Kim, Robert Birsel

 

Innovation Should Be Made in the U.S.A.

Offshoring by American companies has destroyed our manufacturing base and our capacity to develop new products and processes. It’s time for a national industrial policy.

November 15, 2019

by Sridhar Kota and Tom Mahoney

WSJ

In 1987, as the Reagan administration was nearing its end, the economists Stephen S. Cohen and John Zysman issued a prophetic warning: “If high-tech is to sustain a scale of activity sufficient to matter to the prosperity of our economy…America must control the production of those high-tech products it invents and designs.” Production, they continued, is “where the lion’s share of the value added is realized.”

Amid the offshoring frenzy that began in the late 1980s, this was heterodox thinking. In many quarters, it still is. Even as trade tensions with China have deepened, many U.S. political and economic leaders continue to believe that offshoring is not only profitable but also sound economic strategy. Manufacturing in China is cheaper, quicker and more flexible, they argue.

With China’s networks of suppliers, engineers and production experts growing larger and more sophisticated, many believe that locating production there is a better bet in terms of quality and efficiency. Instead of manufacturing domestically, the thinking goes, U.S. firms should focus on higher-value work:”innovate here, manufacture there.”

Today many Americans are rightly questioning this perspective. From the White House to Congress, from union halls to university laboratories, there is a growing recognition that we can no lnger afford the outsourcing paradigm. Once manufacturing departs from a country’s shores, engineering and production now-how leave as well, and innovation ultimately follows. It’s become increasingly clear that “manufacture there” not means “innovate there.”

What’s the solution? It’s time for the U.S. to adopt an industrial policy for the century ahead- not a throwback to the old ideas of state planning but a program for helping Americans to compete with foreign manufacturers and maintain our ever more precarious edge in innovation.

Consider the results of the original offshoring craze of the 1960’s, which centered on consumer electronics. The development of modern transistors, the establishment of standardized shipping containers and creation of inexpensive assembly lines in East Asia cut costs for consumers and created huge markets for televisions and radios; it also catalyzed the Asian manufacturing miracle. Though American federal research investment in the decades that followed enabled the invention of game-changing technologies such as the magnetic storage drive, the lithium-ion battery and the liquid crystal display, the country had, by then, already let go of consumer electronics manufacturing. Asia dominated.

Since the turn of the millennium, the off-shoring trend has accelerated, thanks to China’s entry into the World Trade Organization and major investments in workforce and production capacity by other Asian nations. U.S.-based companies began to contract out both design and product-development work. A 2015 study by the consulting firms Strategy& and PwC found that U.S. companies across sectors have been moving R&D to China to be closer to production, suppliers and engineering talent- not just to reap lower costs and more dynamic markets. An estimated 50% of overseas-backed R&D centers in China have been established by U.S. companies.

Innovation in manufacturing gravitates to where the factories are. American manufacturers have learned that the applied research and engineering necessary to introduce new products, enhance existing designs and improve production processes are best done near the factories themselves. As more engineering and design work has shifted to China, many U.S. companies have a diminished capability to perform those tasks here.

Manufacturing matters- especially for a high-tech economy. While it’s still possible to argue that the offshoring of parts assembly and final production has worked well for multinational companies focused on quarterly earnings, it is increasingly clear that offshoring has devastated the small and medium-sized manufacturers that make up the nation’s supply chains and geographically diverse industrial clusters. While the share of such companies in the total population of U.S. manufacturers has risen, their absolute numbers have dropped by nearly 100,000 since the 1990’s and by 40,000 just in the last decade. Numbers have fallen in relatively high-technology industries such as computers, electronics, electrical equipment and machinery.

The loss of America’s industrial commons-the ecosystem of engineering skills, production know-how and comprehensive supply chains- has not just devastated industrial areas. It has also underined a core responsibility of government: providing for national defense. Recent Pentagon analyses of the defense industrial base have identified specific risks to weapons production, including fragile domestic suppliers, dependence on imports, counterfeit parts and material shortages. Meanwhile despite tariffs, manufacturing imports continue to set records, especially in advanced technology products. Dependence on imports had virtually eliminated the nation’s ability to manufacture large flat-screen displays, smartphones, many advanced materials and packaged semiconductors. The U.S. now lacks the capacity to manufacture many next-generation and emerging technologies.

This is to say nothing of the human suffering and sociopolitical upheaval that have resulted from the hollowing out of entire regional economies. Once vibrant communities in the so-called Rust Belt have lost population and income as large factories and their many supporting suppliers have closed. The shuttering last March of the GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio- resulting in the loss of some 1,400 high-paying manufacturing jobs- is just the latest example. It joins a list that includes most of the long-established furniture industry in North Carolina, large steel mills in places like Bethlehem, Penn., and Weirton, W.Va. and the machine tool industry that once clustered around Cincinnati. Real wages across the country have been stagnant for decades, and though the causes are debatable, he loss of manufacturing jobs and the dramatic decline in manufacturing productivity growth have certainly played major roles.

In terms of long-term competitiveness, the biggest strategic consequence of this profound decline in American manufacturing might be the loss of our ability to innovate- that is, to translate inventions into production. We have lost much of our capacity to physically build what results from out world-leading investments in research and development. A study of 150 production-related hardware startups that emerged from research at MIT found that most of them scaled up production offshore to get access to production capabilities, suppliers and lead customers.  As for foreign multinationals, many participate in federally funded university research centers and then use what they learn in their factories abroad. LG, Sharp and Auo, for example, were partners in the flexible display research center at Arizona State University funded by the U.S. Army, but they do not manufacture displays here.

The slow destruction of the U.S. industrial eco-system is a clear case of market failure, and the government has an important role to play in remedying it. Thanks to continued federal funding in the sciences, the U.S. is still the best in the world in groundbreaking scientific discoveries and inventions. But the federal government must do more than invest in basic research; it must also fill the innovation deficit by creating a new infrastructure for R&D in engineering and manufacturing.

The American government invests about $150 billion annually in science and technology, significantly more than other advanced industrial nations. Yet relatively little of this is devoted to the translational R&D in engineering and manufacturing needed to turn basic research results into successful commercial products. Germany, Japan and South Korea spend three to six times as much as the U.S. on industrial and production technologies.  These three advanced nations have high wages and strict regulations, and their energy costs and levels of automation are higher that in the U.S.

Historically, American companies have performed this essential translational research, but in the past two decades of cost cutting to maximize quarterly earnings, corporate R&D labs at GE,IBM, Xerox, AT&T and other industrial giants invented new products and production processes, ranging from semiconduictors and lasers to MRI machines and industrial robots. In too many industries, this translational R&D capability has been lost, or at least seriously downsized, and the U.S. has lost its leadership position.

Aerospace is the main counter example, where the U.S. continues to lead in advanced technology. It is the last major industry that has maintained a strong trade surplus. Not surprisingly, it is also more dependent on government customers- mostly the Department of Defense- and the beneficiary of substantial government R&D investments in basic and translational research. Though few would call it such, this amounts to a successful industrial policy to support an industry deemed critical to national defense. It’s an example that needs to be replicated.

Unless something is done, the weak U.S. industrial commons will continue to create incentives for American companies to manufacture offshore, innovate offshore and weaken national competitiveness. A strategic and coordinated national effort is needed that moves beyond tax and trade policy, which, so far at least, has not resulted in an American manufacturing resurgence.

This national effort- call it Industrial Policy 2.0- should focus on ensuring that hardware innovations are manufactured in this country. The idea is not to recover lost industries but to rebuild lost capabilities.  The U.S. needs to leverage its dominance in science and technology to create future industries to provide us with first-mover advantages in reclaim American leadership in manufacturing.

The first step would be to create a new federal agency responsible for the health of U.S. manufacturing. A number of agencies currently have manufacturing-related programs, but there is little or no coordination or strategy. Defense alone cannot solve this challenge because defense procurement needs are dwarfed by commercial markets, and defense-specific technologies may have few commercial applications.

A new agency is needed to signal new priorities. This National Manufacturing Foundation, as it could be called, would be a cabinet-level agency focused on rebuilding America’s industrial commons and translating our scientific knowledge into new products and processes. What policies might it promote?

  • To maximize the wealth and jobs created from our national R&D investments, the
    results must be manufactured in the U.S. Any licensee of federally funded research resuts should be required to manufacture at least 75% of the value added in this country, with no exceptions and no waivers.
  • An additional 5% of the federal science and technology budget should be invested in engineering and manufacturing R&D and process technologies. This included creating translational research centers as innovation hubs around the country. Affiliated with major research universities and institutions, these centers would take promising basic research results and perform the translational R&D necessary to demonstrate the viability of large-scale commercial production.
  • Developing hardware typically requires more resources and time than developing software. Public-private partnerships could provide the needed patient capital. State-level programs in Massachusetts, Georgia and other states already provide encouraging examples, The South Carolina Research Authority, for example, provides grants, loans and didrect investments to a portfolio of companies, roug.ly 40% of which are manufacturers. Leveraging defense procurement and other federal spending would help too, as would the targeted use of Small Business Administration loans.
  • Restoring innovation in domestic manufacturing will require much greater investments in human capital. The country needs significantly more graduate fellowships in engineering for qualified domestic students and many more four-year engineering technology programs that focus on application and implementation rather than concepts and theory. American multinationals need to do their part by revamping internship and apprenticeship probfams to fill the skills gap.

Industrial Policy 2.0 would not be the industrial policy discussed and often criticized in past decades, it would not pick winners and losers but would keep other countries from taking advantage of our winners; it would make sure the U.S., not its economic rivals, benefits from American know-how. The goal would be to maximize innovations in hardware technologies and, in doing so, to create high-value products, well-paying jobs, national wealth and national security.
Such steps are essential to generating a strong return on the U.S. taxpayer’s enormous investments in science and technology. For too long Americans have suffered from the self-inflicted wound of hollowing out our industrial capacity. Other countries have moved quickly to take our place, It’s time for the U.S. to act

 

Government Disinformation Methodology

Governments, and the globalists who back them, have immense assets — an almost endless fiat money printing press — and control over most legal and academic institutions. With these advantages, disinformation can be executed on a massive scale. Here are just a handful of the most prominent tactics used by government agencies and private think tanks to guide public opinion, and establish the appearance of consensus:

1) Control The Experts: Most Americans are taught from kindergarten to ignore their instincts for the truth and defer to the “professional class” for all their answers. The problem is that much of the professional class is indoctrinated throughout their college years, many of them molded to support the status quo. Any experts that go against the grain are ostracized by their peers.

2) Control The Data: By controlling the source data of any investigation, be it legal or scientific, the government has the ability to engineer any truth they wish, that is, as long as the people do not care enough to ask for the source data. Two major examples of controlled and hidden source data include; the NIST investigation of the suspicious 9/11 WTC collapses, in which NIST engineers, hired by the government, have kept all source data from their computer models secret, while claiming that the computer models prove the collapses were “natural”. Also, the recent exposure of the CRU Climate Labs and their manipulation of source data in order to fool the public into believing that Global Warming is real, and accepting a world-wide carbon tax. The CRU has refused to release the source data from its experiments for years, and now we know why.

3) Skew The Statistics: This tactic is extremely evident in the Labor Department’s evaluations on unemployment, using such tricks as incorporating ambiguous birth / death ratios into their calculation in order to make it appear as though there are less unemployed people than there really are, or leaving out certain subsections of the population, like those who are unemployed and no longer seeking benefits.

3) Guilt By False Association: Governments faced with an effective opponent will always attempt to demonize that person or group in the eyes of the public. This is often done by associating them with a group or idea that the public already hates. Example: During the last election, they tried to associate Ron Paul supporters with racist groups (and more recently, certain Fox News anchors) in order to deter moderate Democrats from taking an honest look at Congressman Paul’s policies.

4) Manufacture Good News: This falls in with the skewing of statistics, and it also relies heavily on Media cooperation. The economic “Green Shoots” concept is a good example of the combination of government and corporate media interests in order to create an atmosphere of false optimism based on dubious foundations.

5) Controlled Opposition: Men in positions of power have known for centuries the importance of controlled opposition. If a movement rises in opposition to one’s authority, one must usurp that movement’s leadership. If no such movement exists to infiltrate, the establishment will often create a toothless one, in order to fill that social need, and neutralize individuals who might have otherwise taken action themselves.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, the FBI began a secretive program called COINTELPRO. Along with illegal spying on American citizens who were against the Vietnam conflict or in support of the civil rights movement, they also used agents and media sources to pose as supporters of the movement, then purposely created conflict and division, or took control of the direction of the movement altogether. This same tactic has been attempted with the modern Liberty Movement on several levels, but has so far been ineffective in stopping our growth.

The NRA is another good example of controlled opposition, as many gun owners are satisfied that paying their annual NRA dues is tantamount to actively resisting anti-gun legislation; when in fact, the NRA is directly responsible for many of the compromises which result in lost ground on 2nd amendment issues. In this way, gun owners are not only rendered inactive, but actually manipulated into funding the demise of their own cause.

6) False Paradigms: Human beings have a tendency to categorize and label other people and ideas. It is, for better or worse, a fundamental part of how we understand the complexities of the world. This component of human nature, like most any other, can be abused as a powerful tool for social manipulation. By framing a polarized debate according to artificial boundaries, and establishing the two poles of that debate, social engineers can eliminate the perceived possibility of a third alternative. The mainstream media apparatus is the key weapon to this end. The endless creation of dichotomies, and the neat arrangement of ideologies along left/right lines, offers average people a very simple (though hopelessly inaccurate) way of thinking about politics. It forces them to choose a side, usually based solely on emotional or cultural reasons, and often lures them into supporting positions they would otherwise disagree with. It fosters an environment in which beating the other team is more important than ensuring the integrity of your own. Perhaps most importantly, it allows the social engineer to determine what is “fair game” for debate, and what is not.

Alinsky himself wrote: “One acts decisively only in the conviction that all the angels are on one side and all the devils on the other.”

One merely needs to observe a heated debate between a Democrat and a Republican to see how deeply this belief has been ingrained on both sides, and how destructive it is to true intellectual discourse.

Stopping Disinformation

The best way to disarm disinformation agents is to know their methods inside and out. This gives us the ability to point out exactly what they are doing in detail the moment they try to do it. Immediately exposing a disinformation tactic as it is being used is highly destructive to the person utilizing it. It makes them look foolish, dishonest, and weak for even making the attempt. Internet trolls most especially do not know how to handle their methods being deconstructed right in front of their eyes, and usually fold and run from debate when it occurs.

The truth, is precious. It is sad that there are so many in our society that have lost respect for it; people who have traded in their conscience and their soul for temporary financial comfort while sacrificing the stability and balance of the rest of the country in the process. The human psyche breathes on the air of truth, without it, humanity cannot survive. Without it, the species will collapse in on itself, starving from lack of intellectual and emotional sustenance. Disinformation does not only threaten our insight into the workings of our world; it makes us vulnerable to fear, misunderstanding, and doubt, all things that lead to destruction. It can lead good people to commit terrible atrocities against others, or      even against themselves. Without a concerted and organized effort to diffuse mass-produced lies, the future will look bleak indeed.

 

The junk science cops use to decide you’re lying

Leaked documents detail law enforcement trainings in lie detection techniques that have been discredited by scientists

August 12, 2020

by Jordan Smith

The Intercept

The training session was billed as “cutting edge,” and dozens of law enforcement professionals signed up to learn about “New Tools for Detecting Deception” from a human lie detector who calls herself “Eyes for Lies.” Her real name is Renee Ellory, and she claims that she’s one of just 50 people identified by scientists as having the ability to spot deception “with exceptional accuracy.”

A flyer for the event, hosted by Wisconsin’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area — a federal program that supports law enforcement drug interdiction work — was included among a trove of law enforcement documents that were hacked and posted online in June under the title BlueLeaks. The promo copy leans heavily into Ellory’s skill at ferreting out deception in others. She is “exceptional at pinpointing a liar and can tell you why she doesn’t trust someone on the spot,” it reads. Training participants would learn how to “identify anger, contempt, and disgust before words are even spoken.” Course objectives were broad: Learn to differentiate between “real” and “fake emotional displays”; “recognize hidden emotions”; identify the “ways our subconscious brain leaks information when we lie”; “analyze body language that indicates deception”; gain tips to use when interviewing a psychopath; “identify the key features of expressions that reveal danger for you!”

Participants spanned the law enforcement spectrum and included the chief of a small police department, corrections officers, university cops, state troopers, various members of the Milwaukee Police Department as well as individuals from the U.S. Probation Office and the FBI. In surveys filled out after the training, which took place in November 2015, the common complaint was that there weren’t enough structured breaks; as one participant put it, “the mind can only absorb what the buttocks can tolerate.” But otherwise, a majority of the 82 respondents gave the training high marks. Participants wrote that they would incorporate what they’d learned into their police work. A number of them said the most valuable thing they learned was “the seven universal facial expressions that all people have all over the world as a good indicator” of lying, as one trainee put it.t might seem reassuring that so many law enforcement officers found a skills training so valuable. But not in this case. That’s because Ellory’s lie detection training is based what many psychologists say are largely discredited theories, if not simply junk science. “It’s completely bogus,” said Jeff Kukucka, an assistant professor of psychology and law at Towson University who studies forensic confirmation bias, interrogations, and false confessions. “And what’s maybe more alarming about it … is that this isn’t new. We’ve known for quite a while that this stuff doesn’t work, but it’s still being peddled as if it does.

The BlueLeaks documents contain numerous flyers for trainings offered to police agencies across the country. Many of them promote methods of interviewing and interrogation, lie detection, and detecting “danger,” such as Ellory’s, that rest on unsteady scientific ground and have been linked to false confessions and wrongful convictions. The documents offer a window into how various training methods perpetuate myths — subjective, hunch-based approaches to interpreting human behavior that are unreliable and have been discredited by leading psychologists — that police are then encouraged to use in crime solving.

The search for a foolproof method of lie detection has a “long history,” said Richard Leo, a professor of law and psychology at the University of San Francisco School of Law and an expert on interrogation practices. “The search for some way to be able to read body language, demeanor, vocal pitch, gestures and then infer with a high degree of accuracy whether someone is telling the truth.” It just doesn’t exist, he said. He likens many of the claims about human lie detection to claims of psychic ability. “This reminds me of psychics and the lottery. If there was a psychic and they could see what the lottery numbers are, that would just be gold, right? Why wouldn’t they win $400 million when the Powerball is up there?”

As the country has become increasingly focused on police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis cops, experts say the movement should include reforms to the way police are trained to interview and interrogate suspects, witnesses, and victims to ensure they’re grounded in best practices supported by science. “Part of the distrust that you see between law enforcement and minority communities stems from the way that suspects, witnesses, victims, and family members are treated by detectives during the course of an investigation,” said Steven Drizin, co-director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, who studies false confessions. Law enforcement training that isn’t based in science “just furthers the deterioration of the relationship between case officers and people in the community.”

`Dumb Luck

In addition to Wisconsin’s HIDTA, police agencies in California, Georgia, Nevada, and Texas have promoted Ellory’s trainings, according to flyers found within the BlueLeaks files. One flyer boasts that Ellory has trained law enforcement in the “largest U.S. cities,” including “New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Reno, Key West — just to name a few.” In an email to The Intercept, Ellory said she has been training as Eyes for Lies since 2009 and estimates she’s reached between 2,500 and 3,000 law enforcement officers.

The problem is that what she’s teaching them has been widely discredited — an assertion Ellory vehemently denies. According to Ellory, she was one of 50 individuals identified as an “expert in deception” as part of the so-called Wizards Project, run by researchers associated with Paul Ekman, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco. The researchers studied thousands of people — from CIA and Secret Service agents to regular folks — to see who could best detect behavior associated with deception, a practice that relies heavily on the idea of universal facial expressions and so-called microexpressions that last mere fractions of a second. Ellory’s trainings rely on the validity of both concepts.

While the theory of universal expressions dates back to Charles Darwin, research has been mixed, and Ekman’s work in this area has been repeatedly challenged by scientists in recent years as unreliable, in part because of methodological issues.

Where microexpressions are concerned — also an area of Ekman’s studies — subsequent research has found them “rare and nondiagnostic,” Kukucka said, and that training individuals to see them doesn’t actually work.

Ultimately, Kukucka said, the individuals Ekman identified as exceptional human lie detectors were simply a result of chance. With the Wizards Project, the idea was to test thousands of people to identify those who scored “unusually” high on a lie detection test, Kukucka said. Out of 15,000 people, “they found 50 who were unusually good. And they thought maybe from those people’s knowledge they could reverse engineer — OK, well, what are these people doing that’s working? And then use that to figure out what actually works,” he explained. “The problem with that is, it’s a total artifact of just having a bunch of people and how probability works. If you flip 15,000 coins 10 times, you’re going to get a couple that come up heads all 10 times, but there’s really nothing different about those coins than any of the other coins, just dumb luck.”

Indeed, years of research has demonstrated that behavioral cues — like eye-blinking, arm-crossing, a voice rising or dropping in pitch — are simply not reliable indicators of deception. “A lot of ‘police science’ is really pseudoscience,” Drizin said. “Police officers do believe that they’re able to detect liars from truth-tellers at much higher rates that you and I are. And that’s just been proven not to be the case.” In fact, research has found that the odds of a person detecting deception in another are really no better than chance, and that while those who’ve been trained to do so feel more confident in their conclusions, they’re no more competent. “When police are trained in this false and misleading stuff, they become more confident, so they become more prone to error,” said Leo. “It’s just this loop, this dangerous loop.”

In an email exchange, Ellory first wrote that she wouldn’t have time to explain things to me unless I took one of her courses — her “master class” is currently priced at $1,950 per person — but then noted that she’s not “actively doing” classes right now.

In a subsequent email, she defended her trainings as being rooted in science but wrote that as a “rare expert,” she’s used to people not understanding that. “I find at times with my gift, it’s akin to seeing color in a world where other people live in a colorblind world. Seeing color is ‘real’ but trying to convince a color blind person color exists is nearly impossible,” she wrote. “I tell people in my classes what I teach will be common knowledge in 100 years, but we are still in the dark ages when it comes to understanding human behavior and deception,” she continued. “At a point, I learned, I can’t change the world alone. But I can educate those who are open to learning and they have thanked me endlessly.”

When asked whether it is appropriate to be training law enforcement officers who have power over individual liberty to use scientifically unproven techniques, Ellory retorted that she was “scientifically validated” by Ekman’s research. “I don’t need to reprove it to anyone.”

“You are saying that I shouldn’t teach because I can’t make people like me? Does that mean that Nobel prize winners, acclaimed scientists and researchers who achieve great things shouldn’t teach other people because other people may not reach the same success?” she asked. “Like Lance Armstrong should never coach because he could sustain a heart of 32 beats per minute and consume freakishly low oxygen, but others can’t — so it’s useless?”

“I don’t get that reasoning on any level,” she wrote. “I have insight into human behavior that most people have never considered, don’t understand and when I share it with them through demonstration and example it changes their world for the better. I don’t teach interrogation techniques. I teach people how to seek and find the truth.”

Kukucka called Ellory’s response bizarre. “They’re selling snake oil. I mean, let’s be honest,” he said. “They’re raking in money by selling snake oil to, unfortunately, people who have a lot of clout.”

Ellory’s is not the only training program found among the BlueLeaks documents that sells questionable science to law enforcement. There’s a California-based group that has provided training in neurolinguistic programming, which teaches that deception can be detected by tracking eye movements, a theory that has been widely discredited. And there’s a suite of programs from the Subconscious Communication Training Institute and Spotting Lies, outfits headed by Steven Rhoads — a former police chief, current sheriff’s department investigator, and retired Christian rodeo clown.

The leaked documents indicate that Rhoads’s group has provided a number of trainings over the last decade for law enforcement across the country, including individuals from the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The trainings feature lessons in how body language — including “facial gestures and human emotions,” “eye movement and gaze behavior,” and “gestures involving the torso” — can be used in interrogations and reveals not only deception but danger for officers. “As a very general rule of thumb the left side of the body is more apt to reveal known deception than is the right side of the body,” reads material for a 2018 training called “Subconscious Communication for Detecting Danger,” found in files connected to the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center.

Leo says the subconscious communication training is disturbing. “I mean, anything can be said to be subconscious,” he said. “So the cops can just make it up. It’s not based on any research.”

And Kukucka finds the documents related to detecting danger particularly troubling. “I would be very concerned that the context of those trainings would just exacerbate the implicit, especially racial, biases that already exist,” he said. “We know from very clever shooting simulation research that people already hold an implicit bias where their reaction time in shooting unarmed black individuals is faster. So I would wonder from a training like that, the cues that they’re teaching people to look for are those same cues perceived as threatening in black individuals and not in white individuals, for example.”

Rhoads says he’s been teaching interrogation techniques for more than four decades. “I’m still a police officer and use it regularly,” he said. “The techniques I’m teaching work extremely well.” That includes focusing on behavioral cues — including eye movements, like the ones used in neurolinguistic programming. Rhoads, who has a doctorate in behavioral science, said he was one of the “original researchers” into eye movements back in the ’70s, which he’s been able to prove are “98 percent accurate in determining deception.”

But he agrees that researchers are correct to say that you can’t just go into an interview and immediately rely on nonverbal cues to determine deception. Rather, he said, you first have to establish a “baseline” for a person before you can infer deception from their behavior or speech. He says he can do this with high accuracy, usually after asking no more than 20 questions.

Rhoads dismissed the idea that things in a person’s life that an interrogator wouldn’t know — like their cultural norms or past interactions with law enforcement — might influence their behavior during an interview or interrogation. He said his approach for establishing a baseline is similar to what a polygrapher does by measuring physiological responses. “It’s the same science that the polygraph is based on except this is strictly based on verbal and nonverbal leakage versus physiological factors.” Of course, polygraph results are generally inadmissible in court precisely because they’re unreliable.

The approaches that seem to work better to determine whether a person is being deceptive, Kuckuka said, “are the ones where the interviewer takes the initiative to be an active participant in the interview and questions a person in a way that draws out things that are diagnostic.” Kuckuka said he’d love to see the research that demonstrates Rhoads’s claim of over 90 percent accuracy with his techniques, which he says is just “astronomically higher than anything that any study has ever found.”

In the end, he said, resolving the conflicting claims between trainers like Rhoads and Ellory and researchers like himself should be easy. “If you can do this, prove it. That’s really what it boils down to,” he said. “If you can get 98 percent accuracy with whatever technique you’re using, and you can prove to the scientific community that you can actually do this: A, people are going to throw money at you, and B, we will all gladly be the first to say, ‘You know what? We were wrong, you were right.’”

Resistance Is Futile

Although there are dozens of documents related to deception detection and interrogation trainings by Ellory, Rhoads, and others, the single largest number of documents on the topic that The Intercept identified are for trainings by John E. Reid and Associates, purveyors of the so-called Reid technique. Essentially the granddaddy of interrogation methods, the Reid technique replaced the third degree, and while it does not employ physical torture, it is nonetheless controversial in its approach, which scholars agree has led to false confessions — a persistent problem in the criminal justice system. Roughly 12 percent of the 2,654 exonerations since 1989 involved a false confession, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. Of those who were wrongly convicted of murder and later cleared by DNA, 62 percent had confessed, reports the Innocence Project.

The Reid technique is guilt-presumptive, confrontational, and includes an emphasis on nonverbal behaviors. “It begins with an accusation, a confrontation,” Drizin said. “The police officers have conducted an investigation, and there’s no question in their mind that you were the person who committed the crime.” Interrogators will often lie about evidence linking a person to the crime. “Props are used: big, thick files filled with paper. Claims of DNA or other evidence. Every time the suspect asserts their innocence … they are interrupted and redirected to the idea that they’re guilty.” Reid interrogators also use “themes,” minimizing the crime in a way that makes a confession more likely — offering sympathy, downplaying the severity of the offense, or offering an excuse for it, like you didn’t know what you were doing because you were drunk. It’s “a justification or an excuse that operates as an implied promise of leniency,” said Drizin. “Over time, the message that resistance is futile begins to carry more weight. And then the suspects will agree to confess.”

Joseph Buckley, president of Reid and Associates, takes exception to the criticisms heaped on the technique by academics and lawyers and insists that it is supported by science. In response to a series of emailed questions, Buckley directed me to the company’s YouTube channel and a paper he wrote that seeks to clarify what the company calls “misrepresentations” about the practice, though many of them read like distinctions without a difference.

Consider the clarification regarding nonverbal cues. Like Rhoads, Buckley says they shouldn’t be used on their own as an indication of deception, only in context. He offers an example. Say a suspect is asked if he’s ever stolen from his employer. Yes, the suspect says, as he “crosses his legs, looks down at the floor, and dusts his shirt sleeve,” a couple years ago he stole from the hardware store where he worked. But what if a suspect is asked directly, did you steal that missing $2,500? His response — as he crosses his legs, looks at the floor, and dusts his sleeve: “No, I did not.”

“These two subjects displayed identical paralinguistic and nonverbal behaviors during their responses,” Buckley wrote. “However, the interpretation of the behaviors is completely different.” In the first example, the guy is “telling the truth, but he feels embarrassed and possibly even threatened in revealing his prior theft.” But in the second example, the “verbal content … does not explain the accompanying nonverbal behaviors, so the investigator should consider these behaviors as reflecting possible fear or conflict — emotional states that would not be considered appropriate from a truthful subject.”

A 2018 flyer for a four-day Reid training in Austin, Texas, specifically talks about teaching investigators to read behavioral cues — “the verbal and nonverbal behavior symptoms that are displayed by a person who is telling the truth during a non-accusatory interview, as well as those displayed by a person who is withholding or fabricating relevant information,” including “posture changes,” “grooming,” and “eye contact.” On days three and four, the training covers the interrogation process, “beginning with how to initiate the confrontation; develop the interrogational theme; stop denials; overcome objections” and ask questions to “stimulate the admission.”

Building Rapport

Though Reid still dominates the market, there are encouraging signs that may be changing. In 2017, the police-training equivalent of a bomb dropped when Wicklander-Zulawski & Associates, one of the country’s leading law enforcement training organizations, announced that it would no longer teach the Reid technique because of the risk of false confessions. “Confrontation is not an effective way of getting truthful information,” Shane Sturman, the company’s president and CEO, told the Marshall Project. “This was a big move for us, but it’s a decision that’s been coming for quite some time. More and more of our law enforcement clients have asked us to remove it from their training based on all the academic research showing other interrogation styles to be much less risky.”

While science doesn’t support the efficacy of subconscious communication techniques, lie detection, or even the Reid technique, there is ample research to support a different approach: one that is decidedly nonconfrontational, encourages open conversation, and emphasizes rapport-building. Support for this approach in the U.S. comes in part through the work of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, a federally funded interagency effort created by the Obama administration as a means of “advancing the science and practice of interrogation” — and to end Bush-era torture practices against terrorism suspects. The group, known as the HIG, also funded research to develop the science of police interrogation. “Empirical observations have found that police in the U.S. regularly employ poor interview techniques that either reduce the amount of information elicited or entice subjects … to provide incorrect information,” reads a 2016 HIG report. (The HIG was basically abandoned by the Trump administration.)

Increased research in the field, including what has come out of the HIG, “has been paramount,” said Dave Thompson, partner and vice president of operations at Wicklander-Zulawski. Actually, he says, the research has always been there, it just hasn’t always been embraced by practitioners. “We’ve got a lot of these companies that are teaching police practices, regardless of what they are, but they’re teaching it off of being police officers for 30 years. And then you have a lot of academics who are running studies and coming up with great research results but have never been in a practitioner environment. So, I think the really important revolution we’ve had the last few years is the practitioner and the academic working together to make sure that we’re applying research in a practical setting.” Thompson says that’s what his company is trying to do in moving away from what he calls “traditional” interrogation methods.

If the practices that research finds are effective aren’t being incorporated “into what law enforcement’s being trained,” said Thompson, “then we’re headed in the wrong direction

There is some suggestion within the BlueLeaks files that newer methods of interrogation might be seeping in, albeit slowly. The documents include at least one flyer advertising “a modern way of interviewing suspects, victims and witnesses that is highly effective and in harmony with the latest research.” The training was organized by the San Mateo County, California, Sheriff’s Office in March. “You might have heard those ‘old-school’ interview techniques have been shown to cause false confessions (Yikes!),” it reads. “You’ve probably been frustrated and thought there ought to be a better way. Well, now there is.

 

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Bob Vander Plaats

Bob Vander Plaats is a wingnut activist and politician (running for governor of Iowa on numerous occasions and even gaining the endorsement of Chuck Norris), CEO of the organization The Family Leader, and the National Co-Chair for Ted Cruz for President in 2016 – though Vander Plaats later claimed that God intervened to elect Trump. He has previously endorsed a range of religious-right-sympathetic political candidates.

As a political activist, Vander Plaats has a straightforwardly theocratic vision of governance, where any policy must accord with his interpretation of the word of God: presidents, Congress and judges today “have forgotten who is the Lawgiver. That God institution (sic) government. He has three institutions: He has the Church, he has the family, and he has government. Where those three intersect, that is the focus of The Family Leader.” As such, his principles for running government are fairly straightforward: “You apply his principles and precepts to economics, then your economic house is in order. You apply his principles and precepts to marriage and the family, well marriage and family is in order. You apply his principles and precepts to foreign policy, and foreign policy is in order.” At least he didn’t claim, when the Iowa House of Representatives had an opening invocation given by a Wiccan priestess in 2015, that it was a violation of his religious freedom; he did warn them that it might cause God to exact some sort of retribution, however.

His group The Family Leader is an umbrella group that includes the Iowa Family Policy Center, Marriage Matters, and a political action committee, the goal being to focus the efforts of religious-right groups to ensure a stronger influence on political campaigns.

Family values       

“Family” is of course usually just a code for anti-gay bigotry in Vander Plaats’s speeches and columns. According to Vander Plaats, the Supreme Court’s 2013 DOMA ruling would cause a “constitutional crisis” because the ruling defied “the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.” In fairness, however, he has already made it clear that he doesn’t understand the Constitution. When a Kentucky judge struck down Kentucky’s same-sex marriage ban, Vander Plaats insisted that the decision “runs contrary to liberty” and defies the Declaration of Independence (he failed to offer further clarification). Then he suggested that Congress should defund courts and judges that come to conclusions he disagrees with, just to emphasize once again his abject failure to understand the fundamentals of that Constitution thing. He did, on the other hand, praise Russia’s criminalization of speech supportive of gay rights, something that apparently makes Russia a beacon of liberty and a model for how to enforce the American constitutional amendments.

One the one hand, Vander Plaats is a fierce defender of states’ rights and a critic of federal judges coming to decisions that aren’t in line with what he would like them to conclude with state constitutions, having even urged states to ignore Supreme Court rulings they don’t like; on the other hand, he is vehemently opposed to the “leave it to the states” position on marriage equality because gay marriage, like slavery, is something “you don’t leave up to the states”. Of course, ultimately he is, of course, just against same sex marriage, and will use whatever argument is ready at hand – being concerned with contradictions is anti-American.

Meanwhile, supporters of gay rights and marriage equality are really campaigning against liberty and America. Gay rights activists are, according to Vander Plaats,  “always going to throw stones” because Satan “wants to discourage” conservative Christians. He also links gay rights advocacy to advocacy for pot legalization to terrorism, and has compared a gay pride event with the Boston Marathon bombing. He has elsewhere argued (but of course) that legalization of same-sex marriage would lead to legalization of pedophilia and criminalization of the Bible, applying his usual aptitude for facts, reasoning and obvious distinctions.

Note, however, that Vander Plaats is not merely the crazy fundie conspiracy theorist with a website he should have been, but someone with actual political power. In 2010, for instance, he led the (successful) campaign against the retention of three members of the Iowa Supreme Court who had voted to overturn Iowa’s Defense of Marriage Act in Varnum v. Brien.

In fairness, and as opposed to many family values advocates, Vander Plaats has been a critic of the Trump administration’s family separation policy at the Mexican border, calling it “unconscionable. Inexcusable.”

Diagnosis: Lunatic bigot with a frightening amount of power and influence. It says, unfortunately, a lot about many of the good people of Iowa that he has this power.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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