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TBR News December 29, 2019

Dec 28 2019

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. December 29, 2019:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the
election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for December 29:”The Internet has an enormous storehouse of information and nearly any desired material can be located and downloaded. That is the positive aspect of the Internet. The negative side is that the Internet supplies an enormous flood of false, misleading and useless information, almost all of invented out of whole cloth by the same types that also have rushed to join, and use, what is known as the Social Network.
The Social Networks are a handy means for persons to express their personal views on almost any subject and to communicate with others of a like mind. The problem that one notes from reading their postings is the same one observes in reading the comments appended to serious articles on major newspapers. In reading both of these areas, one is at once struck by the utter stupidity of the writers, their total lack of English, their constant bad grammar and terrible spelling and, most important, their desire not to express a thoughtful view but to parade their insignificance and ignorance to a wide audience.
Another negative aspect of the Social Network is that, at least in the United States, all of the networks of any size are working closely with such official governmental agencies as the DHS and the FBI, to spy on their members at no cost or effort to themselves. In these cases, the mindless babblings and boastings of the dim of wit load federal surveillance files with moronic chatters from which the authorities can easily build a criminal case.
We did some research on the social networks and discovered that they have attracted more members than the government can keep up with, redolent of the thousands of hungry flies congregating in a cow pen.”

The Table of Contents
2019 saw most mass killings on record, US database reveals
• US saw highest number of mass killings on record in 2019, database reveals
• Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders to hold Muhammad cartoon contest
• What is Islam? Who was Mohammad?
• Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands
• The Season of Evil

2019 saw most mass killings on record, US database reveals
Thirty-three of 41 incidents involved firearms, research shows, even as overall number of homicides fell
December 28, 2019
by Edward Helmore
The Guardian
This year saw the highest number of mass killings on record, database records show, with 41 incidents claiming 211 lives in 2019 even as the overall US homicide rated dropped.
According to the database complied by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University, 33 of the incidents, defined as when four or more people are killed excluding the perpetrator, involved firearms.
The 41 mass killings were the most in a single year since the database began tracking such events back in 2006. Other research going back to the 1970s shows no other year with as many mass killings. The second-most was 38 in 2006.
Following deadly rampages in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in May; in the Texas cities of Odessa and El Paso, and Dayton, Ohio, in August; and in Jersey City, New Jersey, this month, the brutal yearly tally comes as the debate over gun-control and efforts to reduce access to 4m assault weapons in circulation appear stalled.
On Saturday, the 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden renewed his calls for curbs on the military-style weapons, telling supporters in a funding email: “The American people may be running out of tears, but we cannot run out of strength and resolve to get something done.”
But Biden remains an exception to the leading Democratic candidates in refusing to support some form of federal gun licensing.
With some variations in detail, all, including Biden, have called for imposing stricter background checks and a federal ban on assault-style weapons. But only the former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg has made gun control central to his policy platform, calling for a national gun licensing system, stricter background checks, as well as federal laws allowing courts to confiscate firearms from people considered dangerous.
Those efforts come after a troubled year for the country’s most vociferous and powerful gun advocate, the National Rifle Association. Beset by executive infighting, the lobbying group faces a New York state investigation into claims that thousands of dollars were diverted to its board members.
In terms of the number of fatalities, the 211 people killed in this year is still eclipsed by the 224 victims in 2017, when the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history took place at a concert in Las Vegas.
California, with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, registered eight mass killings, the most in the country. Nearly half of US states experienced a mass killing.
According to the database, most mass killings fail to make national news unless they spill into public spaces. The majority involve people who knew each other, family disputes, drug or gang violence or people with beefs that directed their anger at co-workers or relatives.
According to the database, the first mass killing of the year occurred 19 days into the new year when a 42-year-old man took an ax and stabbed to death his mother, stepfather, girlfriend and 9-month-old daughter in Clackamas county, Oregon. The attack ended when police shot and killed the assailant.
In many cases, what triggered the perpetrator remains a mystery, the database shows. The incident in Oregon was one of 18 mass killings where family members were killed, and one of six that didn’t involve a gun. Other weapons included knives, axes and arson. Nine mass shootings occurred in public spaces; others were in homes, workplaces or bars.
“What makes this even more exceptional is that mass killings are going up at a time when general homicides, overall homicides, are going down,” James Densley, a criminologist and professor at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, told the Associated Press.
“This seems to be the age of mass shootings,” Densley said, expressing worry over a “contagion effect” spreading mass killings.
“What fuels contagion is fear,” explained James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern. “These are still rare events. Clearly the risk is low but the fear is high.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting

US saw highest number of mass killings on record in 2019, database reveals
December 29, 2019
BBC News
The US suffered more mass killings in 2019 than any year on record, according to researchers.
The number of mass killings in the US had risen despite the overall number of homicides going down, said James Densley, a criminologist and professor at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota.
“As a percentage of homicides, these mass killings are also accounting for more deaths,” he told AP.
Prof Densley said he believed the spike was partly a consequence of an “angry and frustrated time” in US society, but he added that crimes tended to occur in waves.
“This seems to be the age of mass shootings,” he said.
Gun ownership rights are enshrined in the second amendment of the US constitution, and the spike in mass shootings has done little to push US lawmakers towards gun control reforms.
In August, following deadly attacks in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, President Donald Trump said “serious discussions” would take place between congressional leaders on “meaningful” background checks for gun owners.
But Mr Trump quietly rowed back on that pledge, reportedly after a long phonecall with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association – a powerful lobby group which opposes gun control measures.
Speaking to reporters after the call, the president said the US had “very strong background checks right now”, adding that mass shootings were a “mental problem”.
Leading Democrats have called publicly for stricter gun control measures.
Earlier this month, presidential candidate and former US Vice-President Joe Biden used the seventh anniversary of the Sandy Hook school shooting to renew a call for tighter regulations. Mr Biden’s plans include a ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.
Another Democratic presidential hopeful, Elizabeth Warren, outlined plans earlier this year to reduce gun deaths by 80% with a mixture of legislation and executive action. Ms Warren has also called for stronger background checks, as well as the ability to revoke licences for gun dealers who break the law.


Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders to hold Muhammad cartoon contest
In a post on Twitter, Geert Wilders said he was reviving the Prophet Mohammad cartoon competition. The Dutch politician canceled a similar contest last year to avoid possible violent attacks in the Netherlands.
December 28, 2019
Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders announced on Saturday he was reviving a plan to hold a contest for caricaturing Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, more than a year after he shelved a similar event due to the fear of a violent backlash.
“Freedom of speech must prevail over violence and Islamic fatwas,” said Wilders, who heads the largest opposition party in the Dutch parliament, inviting people to send in caricatures.
In August last year, Wilders canceled a similar contest after Dutch police arrested a 26-year-old man who had threatened to kill him over his anti-Islam stance.
Wilder’s previous plan to hold the Muhammad cartoon contest prompted huge demonstrations in some Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan.
Images of the Prophet Muhammad are traditionally forbidden in Islam as idolatrous, and caricatures are regarded by many Muslims as highly offensive.
Violent reaction
In 2005, a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten sparked violent protests across the Islamic world. Several attempts were made to kill the newspaper’s editor, as well as cartoonist Kurt Westergaard.
In 2015, Islamist gunmen shot dead 12 people at the offices of the Paris-based Charlie Hebdo magazine, which often publishes articles mocking various religions, including Islam.
Wilders is an outspoken critic of Islam, and has made controversial comments regarding the Prophet Muhammad in the past. He regularly receives death threats from Islamists.
After he announced the plan to hold the competition last year, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the leader of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik Islamist party, issued a fatwa (religious edict) against Wilders.
Some 10,000 protesters participated in Rizvi’s march, chanting “we will die to protect the honor of the Prophet,” and holding a large banner that said they were holding a “peaceful protest.”
In a tweet on Saturday, Wilders said it was unfortunate that Rizvi was not arrested in Pakistan for issuing fatwas against him.

What is Islam? Who was Mohammad?
December 28, 2019
by Germar Rudolf
Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion, articulated by the Qur’an, a text considered by its adherents to be the verbatim word of God and by the Prophet of Islam Muhammad’s teachings.
Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable and that the purpose of life is to worship God They regard their religion as the completed and universal version of a primordial, monotheistic faith revealed at many times and places before, including, notably, to the prophets Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Islamic tradition holds that previous messages and revelations have been changed and distorted over time. Religious practices include the Five Pillars of Islam, which are five obligatory acts of worship. Islamic law touches on virtually every aspect of life and society, encompassing everything from banking and warfare to welfare and the environment.
The majority of Muslims belong to one of two denominations, the Sunni and the Shi’a. About 13% of Muslims live in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country.31% in the Indian Subcontinent, 20% in the Middle Eastand 15% in Sub-saharan Africa. Sizable communities are also found in China and Russia, and parts of the Caribbean. Converts and immigrant communities are found in almost every part of the world. With about 1.57 billion Muslims comprising about 23% of the world’s population (see Islam by country), Islam is the second-largest religion in the world and arguably the fastest-growing religion in the world.
Islam’s fundamental theological concept is the belief that there is only one god. The Arabic term for God is Allah. Other non-Arabic nations might use different names, for instance in Turkey, the Turkish word for God, “Tanrı” is used as much as Allah. The first of the Five Pillars of Islam, declares that there is no god but God, and that Muhammad is God’s messenger. In traditional Islamic theology, God is beyond all comprehension; Muslims are not expected to visualize God but to worship and adore Him as the Protector. Muslims believe the purpose of life is to worship God. Although Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet, they reject the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and divinity of Jesus, comparing it to polytheism. In Islamic theology, Jesus was just a man and not the son of God;
Muhammad (c. 570 – June 8, 632) was a trader and camel-breeder and who later became a religious, political, and military leader. Muslims now view him, not as the creator of a new religion, but as the restorer of the original, uncorrupted monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others. In Muslim tradition, Muhammad is viewed as the last and the greatest in a series of prophets—as the man closest to perfection, the possessor of all virtues. For the last 22 years of his life, in 610, beginning at age 40, Muhammad started receiving what he claimed were “revelations from God.” It now also appears that Muhammed suffered from some form of Alzheimer’s Disease and that his final days were given to long and senseless utterances that his supporters claimed were ‘revelations.’ The content of these revelations, known as the Qur’an, was memorized and recorded by his companions.
During this time, Muhammad preached to the people of Mecca, imploring them to abandon polytheism. Although some converted to Islam, Muhammad and his followers were persecuted by the leading Meccan authorities. After 12 years of preaching, Muhammad and the Muslims performed the Hijra (“emigration”) to the city of Medina in 622. There, with the Medinan converts and the Meccan migrants Muhammad established his political and religious authority. Within years, two battles had been fought against Meccan forces: the Battle of Badr in 624, which was a Muslim victory, and the Battle of Uhud in 625, which ended inconclusively. Conflict with Medinan Jewish clans who opposed the Muslims led to their exile, enslavement or death, and the Jewish enclave of Khaybar was subdued. At the same time, Meccan trade routes were cut off as Muhammad brought surrounding desert tribes under his control. By 629 Muhammad was victorious in the nearly bloodless Conquest of Mecca, and by the time of his death in 632 (at the age of 62) he and his followers ruled over the Arabian peninsula.
In 630 A.D. Mecca was re-taken followed by the battle of Hunain wherein the army under command of the Prophet, the non-Muslim tribes were defeated, and a large number of the enemy were killed but, under the Prophet’s order, no child was harmed. Often, after such a murderous battle, Muhammad had young children, both boys and girls, brought before him, had them stripped naked and then chose ones he wished “to lie with.”
One day after battle, Muhammad came back home and said to his daughter Fatima, “Wash the blood from this sword and I swear in the name of Allah this sword was obeying me all the time.” .
The number of military campaigns Muhammad led in person during the last ten years of his life is twenty-seven, in nine of which there was hard fighting. The number of expeditions which he planned and sent out under other leaders is thirty-eight
Muhammad’s last speech to his followers on Mt Arafat:
…..”I descended by Allah with the sword in my hand, and my wealth will come from the shadow of my sword. And the one who will disagree with me will be humiliated and persecuted.”
Muhammad told Abu Sufyan: “Woe to you! Accept Islam and testify that Muhammad is the apostle of God before your neck is cut off by the sword.” Thus he professed the faith of Islam and became a Muslim. This man, Abu Sufyan, was not a believer at first, but he quickly “believed” after he was threatened by death.’
So, even before Muhammad pagans were worshipping this black stone in the Kaba. Are we surprised that although Muhammad proclaimed only one God, he continued to participate in idol worship at this pagan shrine (Kaba); and Muslims still do idol worship there today. The black stone of Ka’aba is nothing but a holdover within Islam, from pre-Islamic paganism.
There is evidence that black stones were commonly worshipped in the Arab world. In 190 A.D. Clement of Alexandria mentioned that “the Arabs worship stone”. He was alluding to the black stone of Dusares at Petra. In the 2nd century, Maximus Tyrius wrote; “The Arabians pay homage to I know not what god, which they represent by a quadrangular stone”. Maximus was speaking of the Kaaba (Ka’ba) that contains the Black Stone.
Muhammad led 27 military campaigns against innocent villages and caravans and planned 38 others
“I am the prophet that laughs when killing my enemies.”
Muhammad posed as an apostle of God, yet his life was filled with lustfulness (12 marriages and sex with many children, both male and female, slaves and concubines), rapes, warfare, conquests, and unmerciful butcheries. The infinitely good, just and all holy God preached by Muhammad simply cannot tolerate anything in the least unjust or sinful. What Muhammad produced in the Qur’an is simply a book of gibberish consisting of later evil verses superseding earlier peaceful verses. These verses in Arabic poetically “tickle” the ears of Arab listeners.
Modern Islam is a caustic blend of paganism and twisted Bible stories. Muhammad, its lone “prophet”, who made no prophecies, conceived his religion to satiate his lust for power, sex, and money. He was a terrorist. And if you think these conclusions are shocking, additional research will easily uncover the evidence mostly from Islamic historians 70% of what is here is from Muslim and ex-Muslim historians – back to the 8th century.
Accordingly, after a degenerative disease of which the main symptom were headache, loss of memory, increasing skin eruptions and incontinence, he died in the arms of his favorite wife, Aysha, on Radiulawwal 11 A.H.—633 A.D.
After an objective and lengthy study of the life of Muhammad, the only rational conclusion is that Islam’s lone prophet was a ruthless terrorist, a mass-murderer, a thief, slave trader, rapist and aggressive pedophile.
In his personal life, Muhammad had two great weaknesses. The first was greed. By looting caravans and Jewish settlements he had amassed fabulous wealth for himself, his family, and his tribe
When we turn and look at the life of Muhammad we find that he clearly killed and robbed people in the name of Allah according to the Quran. He taught his disciples by example, command, and precept that they could and should kill and rob in Allah’s name and force people to submit to Islam.
His next greatest weakness was women and young boys. Although in the Quran he would limit his followers to having four wives, he himself took more than four wives, numerous concubines and young boys and girls into his bed.
The question of the number of women with whom Muhammad was sexually involved either as wives, concubines or devotees was made a point of contention by the Jews in Muhammad’s day.
“All the commentaries agree that verse 57 of Sura 4 (on-Nesa) was sent down after the Jews criticized Mohammad’s appetite for women, alleging that he had nothing to do except to take wives”
Since polygamy was practiced in the Old Testament by such patriarchs as Abraham, the mere fact that Muhammad had more than one wife is not sufficient in and of itself to discount his claim to prophethood. But this does negate the fact that the issue has historical in terms of trying to understand Muhammad as a man.
It also poses a logical problem for Muslims. Because the Quran in Sura 4:3 forbids the taking of more than four wives, to have taken any more would have been sinful for Muhammad. He not only exceeded this fiat many times but also added young boys and girls to his harem in direct contravention of his own pronouncements.
While in Islamic countries an eight or nine-year old girl can be given in marriage to an adult male, in the West, most people would shudder to think of an eight or nine-year old girl being given in marriage to anyone
This aspect of Muhammad’s personal life is something that many scholars pass over because they do not want to hurt the feelings of Muslims, or, more pragmatically, they do not want to experience a knife in the dark. Yet, history cannot be rewritten to avoid confronting the facts that Muhammad had unnatural desires for little girls and, even more reprehensible, little boys.
The documentation for all the women in Muhammad’s harem is so vast and has been presented so many times by able scholars that only those who use circular reasoning can object to it.
Though a forbidden subject, pedophilia and homosexual practices were an active part of Muhammad’s life. Today, homosexuality and pedophilia is a very strong part of Muslim life. Adherents of Islam believe that these activities are fully approved, not only by the writings in the Quran but also by the examples set during his lifetime by the Prophet Muhammad himself. His harem did indeed have many women but many of them were as young as nine and there were also a significant number of pre-pubescent boys among them
In brief summation, the Prophet of the Muslim faith does not come off as a spiritual leader. He lied; he cheated; he lusted; he failed to keep his word, He was neither perfect nor sinless. By Western standards of the present time, Muhammad was a fraud, a common murderer, a lecher and a pedophile.
Homosexuality and Islam
For centuries, Muslim men have taken boys, roughly 9 to 15 years old, as lovers. Some research suggests that half the Muslim Afghanistani Pashtun tribal members in Kandahar and other southern Afghanistan towns are bacha baz, the term for an older man with a boy lover. Literally it means “boy player.” The men like to boast about it.
The Pashtun are Afghanistan’s most important tribe. For centuries, the nation’s leaders have been Pashtun.
As for Karzai, an American who worked in and around his palace in an official capacity for many months told me that homosexual behavior “was rampant” among “soldiers and personnel on the security detail. They talked about boys all the time.”
In Kandahar, population about 500,000, and other towns, dance parties are a popular, often weekly, pastime. Young boys dress up as girls, wearing makeup and bells on their feet, and dance for a dozen or more leering middle-aged men who throw money at them and then take them home. A recent State Department report called “dancing boys” a “widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.”
A recent (July 2010) Department of State analysis, heavily classified,not only discusses rampant homosexual pedophilia among Muslims, not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq, Iran and, especially, in Saudi Arabia. The thesis that American and NATO forces fighting and dying to defend tens of thousands of proud, aggressive pedophiles, is a subject that has been forbidden of discussion by orders from the White House itself. Fear of “energizing’ the Muslim world and creating more active terrorists is the maini motive for this concern.
Sociologists and anthropologists say the problem results from interpretation of Islamic law. Even after marriage, many men keep their boys, suggesting a loveless life at home. A favored Muslim expression goes: “Women are for children, boys are for pleasure.” Fundamentalist Muslim imams, exaggerating a biblical passage on menstruation, teach that women are “unclean” and therefore distasteful. That helps explain why women are hidden away – and stoned to death if they are perceived to have misbehaved. Islamic law also forbids homosexuality. But the pedophiles explain that away. ‘It’s not homosexuality,’ they aver, ‘because they aren’t in love with their boys’.
They only sodomize them because they view women as unclean and the Prophet approved of pedophelia .

Colleges are turning students’ phones into surveillance machines, tracking the locations of hundreds of thousands
December 29, 2019
by Drew Harwell
Washington Post
When Syracuse University freshmen walk into professor Jeff Rubin’s Introduction to Information Technologies class, seven small Bluetooth beacons hidden around the Grant Auditorium lecture hall connect with an app on their smartphones and boost their “attendance points.”
And when they skip class? The SpotterEDU app sees that, too, logging their absence into a campus database that tracks them over time and can sink their grade. It also alerts Rubin, who later contacts students to ask where they’ve been. His 340-person lecture has never been so full.
“They want those points,” he said. “They know I’m watching and acting on it. So, behaviorally, they change.”
Short-range phone sensors and campuswide WiFi networks are empowering colleges across the United States to track hundreds of thousands of students more precisely than ever before. Dozens of schools now use such technology to monitor students’ academic performance, analyze their conduct or assess their mental health.
But some professors and education advocates argue that the systems represent a new low in intrusive technology, breaching students’ privacy on a massive scale. The tracking systems, they worry, will infantilize students in the very place where they’re expected to grow into adults, further training them to see surveillance as a normal part of living, whether they like it or not.
“We’re adults. Do we really need to be tracked?” said Robby Pfeifer, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, which recently began logging the attendance of students connected to the campus’ WiFi network. “Why is this necessary? How does this benefit us? … And is it just going to keep progressing until we’re micromanaged every second of the day?”
This style of surveillance has become just another fact of life for many Americans. A flood of cameras, sensors and microphones, wired to an online backbone, now can measure people’s activity and whereabouts with striking precision, reducing the mess of everyday living into trend lines that companies promise to help optimize.
Americans say in surveys they accept the technology’s encroachment because it often feels like something else: a trade-off of future worries for the immediacy of convenience, comfort and ease. If a tracking system can make students be better, one college adviser said, isn’t that a good thing?
But the perils of increasingly intimate supervision — and the subtle way it can mold how people act — have also led some to worry whether anyone will truly know when all this surveillance has gone too far. “Graduates will be well prepared … to embrace 24/7 government tracking and social credit systems,” one commenter on the Slashdot message board said. “Building technology was a lot more fun before it went all 1984.”
Instead of GPS coordinates, the schools rely on networks of Bluetooth transmitters and wireless access points to piece together students’ movements from dorm to desk. One company that uses school WiFi networks to monitor movements says it gathers 6,000 location data points per student every day.
School and company officials call location monitoring a powerful booster for student success: If they know more about where students are going, they argue, they can intervene before problems arise. But some schools go even further, using systems that calculate personalized “risk scores” based on factors such as whether the student is going to the library enough.
The dream of some administrators is a university where every student is a model student, adhering to disciplined patterns of behavior that are intimately quantified, surveilled and analyzed.
But some educators say this move toward heightened educational vigilance threatens to undermine students’ independence and prevents them from pursuing interests beyond the classroom because they feel they might be watched.
“These administrators have made a justification for surveilling a student population because it serves their interests, in terms of the scholarships that come out of their budget, the reputation of their programs, the statistics for the school,” said Kyle M. L. Jones, an Indiana University assistant professor who researches student privacy.
“What’s to say that the institution doesn’t change their eye of surveillance and start focusing on minority populations, or anyone else?” he added. Students “should have all the rights, responsibilities and privileges that an adult has. So why do we treat them so differently?”
Students disagree on whether the campus-tracking systems are a breach of privacy, and some argue they have nothing to hide. But one feeling is almost universally shared, according to interviews with more than a dozen students and faculty members: that the technology is becoming ubiquitous, and that the people being monitored — their peers, and themselves — can’t really do anything about it.
“It embodies a very cynical view of education — that it’s something we need to enforce on students, almost against their will,” said Erin Rose Glass, a digital scholarship librarian at the University of California San Diego. “We’re reinforcing this sense of powerlessness … when we could be asking harder questions, like: Why are we creating institutions where students don’t want to show up?”
SpotterEDU chief Rick Carter, a former college basketball coach, said he founded the app in 2015 as a way to watch over student athletes: Many schools already pay “class checkers” to make sure athletes remain eligible to play.
The company now works with nearly 40 schools, he said, including such universities as Auburn, Central Florida, Columbia, Indiana and Missouri, as well as several smaller colleges and a public high school. More than 1.5 million student check-ins have been logged this year nationwide, including in graduate seminars and chapel services.
SpotterEDU uses Bluetooth beacons roughly the size of a deck of cards to signal to a student’s smartphone once a student steps within range. Installers stick them on walls and ceilings — the less visible, Carter said, the better. He declined to allow The Washington Post to photograph beacons in classrooms, saying “currently students do not know what they look like.”
School officials give SpotterEDU the students’ full schedules, and the system can email a professor or adviser automatically if a student skips class or walks in more than two minutes late. The app records a full timeline of the students’ presence so advisers can see whether they left early or stepped out for a break.
“Students today have so many distractions,” said Tami Chievous, an associate athletic director at the University of Missouri, where advisers text some freshmen athletes if they don’t show up within five minutes of class. “We have to make sure they’re doing the right thing.”
The Chicago-based company has experimented with ways to make the surveillance fun, gamifying students’ schedules with colorful Bitmoji or digital multiday streaks. But the real value may be for school officials, who Carter said can split students into groups, such as “students of color” or “out-of-state students,” for further review. When asked why an official would want to segregate out data on students of color, Carter said many colleges already do so, looking for patterns in academic retention and performance, adding that it “can provide important data for retention. Even the first few months of recorded data on class attendance and performance can help predict how likely a group of students is to” stay enrolled.
Students’ attendance and tardiness are scored into a point system that some professors use for grading, Carter said, and schools can use the data to “take action” against truant students, such as grabbing back scholarship funds.
The system’s national rollout could be made more complicated by Carter’s history. He agreed earlier this year to stay more than 2,500 feet from the athletic offices of DePaul University, where he was the associate head basketball coach from 2015 to 2017, following an order of protection filed against him and allegations that he had threatened the school’s athletic director and head basketball coach. The order, Carter said, is related to NCAA violations at the program during his time there and has nothing to do with SpotterEDU.
Rubin, the Syracuse professor, said once-thin classes now boast more than 90 percent attendance. But the tracking has not been without its pitfalls: Earlier versions of the app, he said, included a button allowing students to instantly share their exact GPS coordinates, leading some to inadvertently send him their location while out at night. The feature has since been removed.
For even more data, schools can turn to the Austin-based start-up Degree Analytics, which uses WiFi check-ins to track the movements of roughly 200,000 students across 19 state universities, private colleges and other schools.
Launched by the data scientist Aaron Benz in 2017, the company says in promotional materials that every student can graduate with “a proper environment and perhaps a few nudges along the way.”
Benz tells school administrators that his system can solve “a real lack of understanding about the student experience”: By analyzing campus WiFi data, he said, 98 percent of their students can be measured and analyzed.
But the company also claims to see much more than just attendance. By logging the time a student spends in different parts of the campus, Benz said, his team has found a way to identify signs of personal anguish: A student avoiding the cafeteria might suffer from food insecurity or an eating disorder; a student skipping class might be grievously depressed. The data isn’t conclusive, Benz said, but it can “shine a light on where people can investigate, so students don’t slip through the cracks.”
To help find these students, he said, his team designed algorithms to look for patterns in a student’s “behavioral state” and automatically flag when their habits change. He calls it scaffolding — a temporary support used to build up a student, removed when they can stand on their own.
At a Silicon Valley summit in April, Benz outlined a recent real-life case: that of Student ID 106033, a depressed and “extremely isolated” student he called Sasha whom the system had flagged as “highly at-risk” because she only left her dorm to eat. “At every school, there are lots of Sashas,” he said. “And the bigger you are, the more Sashas that you have.”
A classifier algorithm divides the student body into peer groups — “full-time freshmen,” say, or “commuter students” — and the system then compares each student to “normal” behavior, as defined by their peers. It also generates a “risk score” for students based around factors such as how much time they spent in community centers or at the gym.
The students who deviate from those day-to-day campus rhythms are flagged for anomalies, and the company then alerts school officials in case they want to pursue real-world intervention. (In Sasha’s case, Benz said, the university sent an adviser to knock on her door.)
Some administrators love the avalanche of data these kinds of WiFi-based systems bring. “Forget that old ominous line, ‘We know where you live.’ These days, it’s, ‘We know where you are,’ ” Purdue University president Mitch Daniels wrote last year about his school’s location-tracking software. “Isn’t technology wonderful?”
But technical experts said they doubted the advertised capabilities of such systems, which are mostly untested and unproven in their abilities to pinpoint student harm. Some students said most of their classmates also didn’t realize how much data was being gathered on their movements. They worried about anyone knowing intimate details of their daily walking patterns and whereabouts.
Several students said they didn’t mind a system designed to keep them honest. But one of them, a freshman athlete at Temple University who asked to speak anonymously to avoid team punishment, said the SpotterEDU app has become a nightmare, marking him absent when he’s sitting in class and marking him late when he’s on time.
He said he squandered several of his early lectures trying to convince the app he was present, toggling his settings in desperation as professors needled him to put the phone away. He then had to defend himself to campus staff members, who believed the data more than him.
His teammates, he said, have suffered through their own technical headaches, but they’ve all been told they’ll get in trouble if they delete the app from their phones.
We can face repercussions with our coaches and academic advisers if we don’t show 100 percent attendance,” he said. But “it takes away from my learning because I’m literally freaking out, tapping everything to try to get it to work.”
Campus staff, Carter said, can override data errors on a case-by-case basis, and Rubin said a teaching assistant works with students after class to triage glitches and correct points. SpotterEDU’s terms of use say its data is not guaranteed to be “accurate, complete, correct, adequate, useful, timely, reliable or otherwise.”
Carter said he doesn’t like to say the students are being “tracked,” because of its potentially negative connotations; he prefers the term “monitored” instead. “It’s about building that relationship,” he said, so students “know you care about them.”
But college leaders have framed the technology in exactly those terms. In emails this year between officials at the University of North Carolina, made available through public-records requests, a senior associate athletic director said SpotterEDU would “improve our ability to track more team members, in more places, more accurately.”
The emails also revealed the challenge for a college attempting to roll out student-tracking systems en masse. In August, near the start of the fall semester, nearly 150 SpotterEDU beacons were installed in a blitz across the UNC campus, from Chapman Hall to the Woollen Gym. The launch was so sudden that some students were alarmed to see an unknown man enter their classroom, stick a small device near their desks, and walk away. The student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel, reported on “an individual” entering class to install a “tracking device” and filed for school records related to the SpotterEDU contract.
Unclear what was happening, the dean of UNC’s journalism school, Susan King, had someone yank a beacon off the wall after learning of a commotion spreading on Facebook. She told The Post she faulted “stupidity and a lack of communication” for the panic.
Carter said the frenzy was due to the school’s need for a quick turnaround and that most installations happen when students aren’t in class. (In an email to UNC staff, Carter later apologized for the mass installation’s “confusion and chaos.”)
A UNC spokeswoman declined to make anyone available for an interview, saying only in a statement that the university was evaluating “streamlined attendance tracking” for a “small group of student-athletes.”
But campuswide monitoring appears to be on its way, the emails show. The school is planning to shift to a check-in system designed by a UNC professor, and an IT director said in an email that the school could install beacons across all general-purpose classrooms in time for the spring semester. “Since students have to download the app, that is considered notification and opting-in,” one UNC official wrote.
Chris Gilliard, a professor at Macomb Community College in Michigan who testified before Congress last month on privacy and digital rights, said he worries about the expanding reach of “surveillance creep”: If these systems work so well in college, administrators might argue, why not high school or anywhere else?
The systems, he added, are isolating for students who don’t own smartphones, coercive for students who do and unnecessary for professors, who can accomplish the task with the same pop quizzes and random checks they’ve used for decades. “You’re forcing students into a position,” he said: “Be tracked or be left out.”
Some parents, however, wish their children faced even closer supervision. Wes Grandstaff, who said his son, Austin, transformed from a struggling student to college graduate with SpotterEDU’s help, said the added surveillance was worth it: “When you’re a college athlete, they basically own you, so it didn’t matter what he felt: You’re going to get watched and babysat whether you like it or not.”
He now says he wishes schools would share the data with parents, too. “I just cut you a $30,000 check,” he said, “and I can’t find out if my kid’s going to class or not?”
Students using Degree Analytics’ WiFi system can opt-out by clicking “no” on a window that asks whether they want to help “support student success, operations and security.” But Benz, the company’s chief, said very few do.
That is, until last month at VCU, which recently launched a pilot program to monitor a set of courses required of all freshmen. Students said they were frustrated to first learn of the system in a short email about a “new attendance tool” and were given only two weeks before the opt-out deadline passed.
Students quickly scattered the opt-out link across social media, and the independent student newspaper, the Commonwealth Times, sowed doubts about the program’s secrecy and stated mission, writing, “Student success my ass.” The university declined to make an official available for an interview.
One student who opted out, VCU senior Jacie Dannhardt, said she was furious that the college had launched first-year students into a tracking program none of them had ever heard of. “We’re all still adults. Have a basic respect for our privacy,” she said. “We don’t need hall passes anymore.”
The opt-out rate at VCU, Benz said, climbed to roughly half of all eligible students. But he blamed the exodus on misunderstanding and a “reactionary ‘cancel culture’ thing.” “We could have done a much better job communicating, and the great majority of those students who could opt out probably wouldn’t have,” he said.
Joanna Grama, an information-security consultant and higher-education specialist who has advised the Department of Homeland Security on data privacy, said she doubted most students knew they were signing up for long-term monitoring when they clicked to connect to the campus WiFi.
She said she worries about school-performance data being used as part of a “cradle-to-grave profile” trailing students as they graduate and pursue their careers. She also questions how all this digital nudging can affect students’ daily lives.
“At what point in time do we start crippling a whole generation of adults, human beings, who have been so tracked and told what to do all the time that they don’t know how to fend for themselves?” she said. “Is that cruel? Or is that kind?”
Alice Crites contributed to this report.

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccurate.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 42

When Claude was six, his father had gone back to France and his mother took in sewing and men in that order. Finding Claude an irritant to her boyfriends, she convinced her brother, who was a priest, to put her son into a nice Catholic home on the grounds that she simply could not care for him. Simply did not want to care for him would have been more accurate but socially less acceptable. So at the age of six, without the faintest idea of what was happening to him or worse, why, Claude was driven down to an establishment in Florida run by a group of nuns that were dedicated to the practice of tough love. There he remained without visits or letters until he was thirteen when a thoroughly unexpected and exceptionally violent hurricane slammed into the part of the Atlantic coast graced by the red brick, three story barracks with bars on the windows, and damaged it beyond repair.
The day the hurricane struck, Claude had been hiding in a service closet on the third floor because he had punched one of his fellow inmates in the stomach, causing him to vomit copiously all over the mess hall table. When the police came by to evacuate the children, most of whom had never been outside of the building in their lives, Claude remained hidden behind a drum of industrial cleaner, aware of the shouting and knocking activities of the police but unaware of the reason for their frantic actions. He thought they were looking for him and nothing would have persuaded him to leave the pungent safety of his hiding place.
Later, when the roof had blown off the building and the towering surf had battered itself into the first, and later, part of the second floor, he began to realize that there was more than enough reason to be afraid of something other than the local police. The eye of the hurricane passed over the remnants of the town and Claude, who had no experience with hurricanes, as the subject was not taught in school, escaped through a shattered second floor window and discovered that he still knew how to swim.
When the eye passed and the still-deadly storm struck from the other direction, he was fortunate enough to find shelter in another higher building and so survived the night, thoroughly wet and completely terrorized.
The next day was hot and very humid and he wandered through the stinking rubble of a town he had never known, only glimpsed fragments of from various windows. The Red Cross found him wandering around with a dazed expression on his face and they took him to a shelter twenty miles away in a bus filled with other dazed or damaged residents. As they left behind them the swath of smashed buildings, bloating corpses, dead fish and sea birds and an incredible mountain range of indescribable debris that would occupy the television media, rescue workers and insurance adjusters for months, Claude began to collect his thoughts as best he could. Whatever else Claude might have been, he was an instinctive survivor.
He knew his mother was living in Philadelphia. He even had her address, something he had found in the files in the office of the chief sister. In order to find this information, he had crept out of his dormitory late at night, gone up the central staircase to the second floor landing, crawled along a ledge until he found the right window and then spent nearly two hours getting into the filing cabinets without leaving any marks. He had copied down the information in his file very laboriously in a neat hand with the aid of the light from a nearby street light fixture, replaced the files and was back in bed just three minutes before the night watchman’s’ 2 AM. bed check.
Before he left the orphanage, he had the good sense to crawl into what was left of the main office and take the contents of the petty cash box, which he stuffed into his shoes. In the shelter, he counted the damp stack of bills out in a toilet booth and later, found even more money in the Red Cross office when he visited it shortly after everyone had left to welcome a new bus.
The next day, Claude got onto an interstate bus headed for the City of Brotherly Love, his mother’s address carefully noted on a small scrap of paper folded up in the pocket of the new pants the Red Cross had given him.
Even at thirteen, Claude had been careful not to give his real name to his rescuers and when they discovered his absence, just a day before the welfare department was supposed to come for him to put him back into another institution, no one really cared and so officially, Claude Duplessis was believed to have been killed in the company of so many others.
Ironically enough, the entire compliment of the orphanage, prisoners and jailers alike, survived intact in the steel-reinforced National Guard armory and Claude’s disappearance was neither noted nor the subject of any concern.
For the age of thirteen, Claude was small, with a narrow face, pointed and cleft chin, dark brown eyes and expressive black eyebrows, all topped off with a shock of black hair. He had a wistful and rather vulnerable expression that made the various adults he met on his voyage north want to help him. Even at thirteen, Claude had some basic knowledge of how to manipulate people, a knowledge that later grew to a skill that would not only rival but also eventually eclipse his embryonic burglary efforts.
It was exactly a week after Christmas when a cab dropped Claude off at the seven-story apartment house located in an older part of the city. He found his mother’s name on one of the mailbox slots and pushed the button beside it. A moment later, the door buzzed and he walked into a small lobby smelling of boiled cabbage and age.
His mother lived on the top floor and when he walked down the long hall with its faded and worn carpet, he saw a door at the end of the hall open and a blonde woman in a pink wrapper step out into the hall. She shaded her eyes, looking towards her approaching son and said,
“Is that you, Carl?”
It was not Carl and she did not recognize him. When she had last seen her son, he was much smaller but something unpleasant stirred in her mind. She did not know it but Claude looked very much like his vanished father, a man whom she still hated.
“What is it, kid?” she asked, hands on hips. “If you’re collecting for the paper, I’ll have the money tomorrow.”
“It’s me, mama, Claude.”
When he tried to hug her, she pulled him away, looked quickly up and down the hall and shoved him into her apartment.
“Jesus H. Christ! What are you doing here? Did you run away? If you did, back you have to go.”
This warm, maternal greeting was not a realization of the fantasy that had occupied so much of Claude’s time and he had no response, other than to stare at his mother in disbelief. He had often thought that she had put him in the orphanage because she could not afford to take care of him, not because she didn’t want him. Realization came slowly but it came nevertheless.
“Aren’t you glad to see me, mama? I was in this hurricane and it blew the orphanage to pieces. I had to swim away and I went right in through the window of an office building when it came again. I came up here to be with you.”
His mother, whose remembered blonde hair was now dyed a flat yellow, made a face as if she had found a strange turd in her toilet and pushed Claude into the small kitchen at the back of the apartment.
“Listen, Claude, I’m really sorry about this but I can’t have you here. They took very good care of you down in Florida and the sisters wrote me a nice progress report every year about you. They told me that when you were fifteen you were going to a vocational school to learn a trade.”
If she felt any affection for her abandoned son, she concealed it very well.
Claude said nothing at all and merely stared at her.
“Stop looking at me that way. Look, a friend is supposed to come up here in a few minutes. I thought it was him on the buzzer. You can’t stay here, that’s all.”
She took a twenty-dollar bill out of her wrapper pocket and stuffed it into Claude’s jacket.
“Look kid, just take this money and go find yourself a nice place to stay. I don’t have any more and for Christ’s sake, don’t come back here again. If I see you around here, I’ll tell the cops you escaped from that place and they’ll just take you back. All of that is past and I don’t want to have anything to do with it, you or your rotten prick of a father again. Now just get out and stay out, do you hear me?”
It would have been very difficult not to hear her because she was screaming at him, her face bright red and the veins standing out in her neck and on her forehead. She took Claude by his shoulder, wheeled him around and, opening the back door, shoved him out onto the landing. The last Claude ever heard from his mother was a string of curses and the clatter and thunk of the door being latched behind him.
The landing had a flight of wooden steps that led, inexorably, down to the ground floor and Claude, who felt as if he had been punched in the stomach, managed to get to the bottom without falling. He could not see where he was going because tears stung his eyes. But as he descended, he passed other apartments and could hear the occupants apparently enjoying themselves.
At the bottom of the staircase was a large, recessed area that held several metal dumpsters. Christmas had passed more than a week ago and the dumpsters were filled up high with dying Christmas trees, boxes with festive wrapping still on them and many bags of garbage. Without thinking, Claude put a hand inside his pants pocket and his fingers touched a piece of metal. It was a cigarette lighter he had found on the desk of a Red Cross worker and he fondly believed it might be real gold. He pulled it out and then, without giving any thought to what he was doing, snapped it open. When a flame shot up, he stuck it under the thick, dried branch of a brown and tinseled relic of a Christmas tree.
The sudden fountain of flame brought him back to a semblance of reality and he ran out into the alley behind the apartment and down it to the street.

By now it was snowing, a snow mixed with wet sleet, and he ran down the sidewalk away from the apartment and then, noticing people on the street were looking at him, made himself slow down and finally, crossed the street at a light.
Two blocks away, he stopped in front of a sandwich shop, looked at the display of food at the back and went in. He hadn’t eaten since noon and he was very hungry.
The woman behind the counter was a motherly type and she peered at him.
“Are you all right, sonny? You look terrible. Are you OK?”
Claude began to weep again, wiped his arm across his face and tried not to blow his nose.
“It’s OK. My grandma just died, that’s all.”
“Oh, you poor thing. Would you like a sandwich or a Coke?”
Claude blinked and looked at the counter.
“Could I get a steak, please?”
Steak was a very distant memory. This would have been considered an extravagance at the orphanage, which favored mock meat made from soybeans and canned vegetables for Sunday feasts. Very small portions of gristly turkey could be had at Thanksgiving and hamburgers made from ground lamb bones made an appearance every Easter.
“I’m sorry, son, but we don’t serve steak here. This is a sandwich shop. I can give you a French Dip if you want it. It’s almost the same thing. Is that OK with you?”
Claude nodded and sat down by the window at a small table.
As the waitress busied herself behind the counter, Claude wiped his face again, this time with a paper napkin and finally blew his nose on something other than his jacket sleeve.
“How old was she, honey?” asked the waitress as she brought over a plate with food and a soft drink.
“Why your grandmother, dear, the one who died.”
“Oh, about a hundred, I guess. She thought she was taking something for her upset stomach and she drank a can of drain cleaner instead.”
One of the reasons why Claude had been unloved at the orphanage was his penchant for macabre inventions. The waitress was horrified.
“Oh my God, how horrible! Was there anyone around? I mean did your mother help her at all?”
Claude looked up from the steaming plate.
“Oh no, my mother is dead too. A dog bit her last year and she died in the hospital.”
“You poor thing,” said the waitress who was not sufficiently saddened to forget to leave the check on the table.
Even though the French Dip left something to the imagination, it was the best meal Claude had ever had, he decided, as he made very quick work of it. While he was debating if he would have another one, a whole parade of fire trucks hooted and screamed past the shop in the direction of his mother’s apartment and as Claude stared out of the window, he could see a bright orange glow over the roofs of the buildings on the other side of the street.
The waitress, hearing the sirens, rushed to the door and then announced,
“My God, there’s a terrible fire down the street! My God! Listen, kid, I’m going out to look at it. If you want refills on the Coke, wait until I get back, hear?”
And pulling on a bright red coat, she rushed out eagerly onto the sidewalk, just in time to witness three wailing ambulances following the fire trucks.
When Claude went behind the counter to fill up his paper cup, he noticed that the cash register drawer was open, saw the money in it and pausing only long enough to look at the door to be sure the waitress was not returning, cleaned it out, saving for the small change and checks.
He left the shop very quickly and then, out of curiosity, walked back up the slushy sidewalk in the direction from which he had come. At the next corner, the street was blocked by two police cars with flashing blue lights so he had to walk around the block to get a good view of the fire.
The entire building was a great, blazing torch with flames shooting out of all the windows, great streams of water pouring into the building, a helicopter from a television station hovering in the air like some alien spacecraft and a great and a growing crowd of people pushing forward to watch the immolation.
Claude watched for quite a while and when the front wall fell out into the street in an eruption of flames and sparks, crushing two fire trucks and an ambulance, he decided to take his late mother’s advice and find a place to stay that was as far away from her, or what was left of her, as possible.


This is also an e-book, available from Amazon:

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