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TBR News February 2, 2020

Feb 02 2020

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. February 2, 2020:“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.

Trump aches from his head to his toes
His sphincters have gone where who knows
And his love life has ended
By a paunch so distended
That all he can use is his nose

Commentary for February 2:”Here is a selection of headlines seen this day in the American and foreign media concerning the Latest Thrilling Danger:
• Millions now must wear disease masks when using toilets!
• Death toll in China reaches 10!
• Air travel from Antarctia to Miami suspended due to horrible new plague!
• Did dead panda in German zoo die of new plague?
• Scenes of panic as people are seen fleeing from football stadium after game. All are wearing masks but it it believed scores will die in future!
• President Trump declares Diego Garcia a Forbidden Travel Zone due to threat of plague.
• Several people die in American hospitals; new deadly Chinese plague might be responsible: WHO
• Major American banks closed on Sunday due to plague threat”

The Table of Contents
Trump impeachment: Republican Senate ‘coverup’ prompts backlash
• Will we just accept our loss of privacy, or has the techlash already begun?
• How to Sweep For Bugs and Hidden Cameras
• NSA Spying
• Postal Service Photographs Every Piece of Mail in the U.S., Shares With Agencies That Request It
• The Season of Evil
• The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Trump impeachment: Republican Senate ‘coverup’ prompts backlash
Liberal groups target November elections for payback
• Senators seek to explain votes with constitutional contortions
•  Republicans march over the impeachment cliff
February 1, 2020
by David Smith in Des Moines, Iowa
The Guardian
Outraged by what they see as a coverup in the impeachment trial of Donald Trump, grassroots activists are planning a massive “payback project” designed to punish Republican senators at the ballot box.
Even as key Republican senators acknowledged Trump’s guilt on charges of abusing power and obstructing Congress, they defied public opinion on Friday by voting to block witnesses and documents, paving the way for the president to be acquitted and claim exoneration.
Republican fealty to Trump has long wearied liberals but the senators’ move appeared to cause a new level of anger. The Indivisible Project, a progressive group, announced it would target nine senators, among them majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Trump loyalist Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, in November’s elections.
Indivisible said it would next week call out one of the “nine Payback Project senators for their participating in a coverup by placing a full page newspaper ad in one of their biggest state papers”. In an appeal to activists, it said “rage is good for recruiting. Hello. Are you pissed about impeachment too?”
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives in December, for seeking to coerce a foreign government for his own personal political gain. Two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction of Congress – were transferred to the Senate for trial.
But on Friday the Senate failed to allow documents and new witnesses including the former national security adviser John Bolton, who in an upcoming book accuses the president of making military aid to Ukraine conditional on an investigation into his rival Joe Biden.
Every impeachment trial in US history, including the two that featured presidents, allowed documents and witnesses. But only two Republicans voted in favour: Susan Collins of Maine and Mitt Romney of Utah.
Some said they did not think Trump did anything wrong. Others went through extraordinary contortions. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Rob Portman of Ohio reasoned that Trump’s actions were wrong but not impeachable.
In an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press due to be broadcast on Sunday, Alexander said: “If you have eight witnesses who say someone left the scene of an accident, why do you need nine? I mean, the question for me was: do I need more evidence to conclude that the president did what he did? And I concluded no.”
Alexander told the New York Times why that was not enough to require Trump’s removal: “The Senate reflects the country, and the country is as divided as it has been for a long time. For the Senate to tear up the ballots in this election and say President Trump couldn’t be on it, the country probably wouldn’t accept that. It would just pour gasoline on cultural fires that are burning out there.”
In a stunning Medium post, Marco Rubio of Florida, humiliated by Trump in the 2016 primary, went even further, arguing that impeachment would be too divisive even if a president engaged in clearly impeachable conduct.
“Just because actions meet a standard of impeachment does not mean it is in the best interest of the country to remove a president from office,” he wrote.
Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a moderate who Democrats courted, said the case was rushed and flawed. She told reporters she was “angry at all sides” and the prospect of a tie vote on witnesses weighed on her decision. She also said she knew how she would vote on the charges but: “Will I share it with you tonight? I’ve had so much drama today, I’m just going to chill. How’s that? Was that fair?”
Trump’s takeover of the Republican party appears complete. On Saturday the widely read Politico Playbook commented: “Here’s the truth: Republicans are not comfortable with the president’s behavior. They say it privately, some say it publicly on their way out.
“But they have no incentive to say this aloud no matter how egregious they believe the president’s behavior to be. To win as a Republican in any seat that’s at all marginal, you need to appeal to Republicans to vote.”
Republicans who break from Trump can face a bitter backlash. Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union, announced on Twitter that Romney was “formally NOT invited” to the influential Conservative Political Action Conference.
Democrats will seek to make Republicans pay in November, as they did in the 2018 midterms when victory in the House made impeachment possible. Under the headline, “How impeachment could flip the Senate”, Rahm Emanuel, a former White House chief of staff, wrote in the Washington Post that “impeachment is likely to have an outsize impact” and every Republican senator will “own Trump’s emboldened rhetoric of being exonerated”.
He added: “Some 63% of voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina look unfavourably on the Senate’s decision … to disallow witnesses and hide documents… That may partly explain why the five Republican senators are ‘underwater’, meaning more constituents view them negatively than positively.”
The trial will resume on Monday for final arguments. That evening, Trump is sure to cruise to victory in the Iowa caucuses while Democrats battle for the right to challenge him. The president will deliver his state of the union address on Tuesday and is set to be acquitted by the Senate on the following day.
As he did after special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, Trump is expected to falsely claim “total exoneration” and that Democrats seek to overturn the last election. In turn, Democrats will warn that the president will solicit foreign interference again.
David Axelrod, a former chief strategist for Barack Obama, suggested the trial could inflict lasting damage.
“For Trump, this trial is going to end swiftly, as he hoped,” he tweeted. “But it’s not ending well. Far from vindication, even some who oppose his removal, acknowledge his guilt. And the conspicuous avoidance of material witnesses like Bolton casts an inescapable shadow.”

Will we just accept our loss of privacy, or has the techlash already begun?
Not so long ago we searched Google. Now we seem quite happy to let Google search us
February 2, 2020
by Alan Rusbridger
The Guardian
Probably too late to ask, but was the past year the moment we lost our technological innocence? The Alexa in the corner of the kitchen monitoring your every word? The location-betraying device in your pocket? The dozen trackers on that web page you just opened? The thought that a 5G network could, in some hazily understood way, be hardwired back to Beijing? The spooky use of live facial recognition on CCTV cameras across London.
With privacy there have been so many landmarks in the past 12 months. The $5bn Federal Trade Commission fine on Facebook to settle the Cambridge Analytica scandal? The accidental exposure of a mind-blowing 1.2 billion people’s details from two data enrichment companies? Up to 50m medical records spilled?
Maybe your mind was changed by the New York Times’s Privacy Project, an intensely reported and alarming yearlong exploration of the issue? Or the publication of Shoshana Zuboff’s searing book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism? Was it the growing unease over the probable manipulation of elections the world over? Or that moment when you learned from whistleblowers that Big Tech giants had hired actual humans to monitor Siri and Alexa activations, who ended up listening to couples making love?
Even people whose job it is to think deeply about technology have begun to come out with forms of belated protest or dissent. The Washington Post’s tech columnist, Geoffrey A Fowler, concluded 2019 by writing: “Learning how everyday things spy on us made me, at times, feel paranoid. Mostly, my privacy project left me angry. Our cultural reference points – Big Brother and tinfoil hats – don’t quite capture the sickness of an era when we gleefully carry surveillance machines in our pockets and install them in our homes.”
Fowler’s newspaper – owned by one of the biggest data harvesters of all, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – was not alone in publishing detailed guides to readers on the steps they could try to recover a degree of privacy online (belatedly, essential reading for Bezos himself, now he knows what it is like to have his own privacy invaded in the most spectacular way). But most commentators agree that such measures are too little too late – maybe 20 years too late. “We were caught off-guard by surveillance capitalism,” says Zuboff, a Harvard professor. “Once we searched Google, but now Google searches us. Once we thought of digital services as free, but now surveillance capitalists think of us as free… The message here is simple: Once I was mine. Now I am theirs.”
The future of privacy is likely to be complicated. For starters, no one can even agree what “privacy” means today. Some argue its first obituary was written 21 years ago when Scott McNealy, then CEO of Sun Microsystems, pronounced: “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” That may, technically speaking, be true. A different question is: have we reached the tipping point when enough people mind?
The traditional response is to argue that privacy has become a bargain. We may all be uneasy about granting so much access to our lives that big corporations know more about us than we do about ourselves… but we are, by and large, happy to trade that data for the (mostly free!) services and convenience we get in return.
So one scenario is that nothing much will change. Elite newspapers and Harvard professors can wring their hands about the human rights implications and the menacing power of the algorithm. But, in the end, the world has moved on and the privacy genie is never going back into the bottle. A second scenario is that there will be some sort of techlash, with consumers increasingly changing their privacy settings – both real and metaphorical.
What’s changed in the past year (this argument goes) is the growing realisation of the sheer scale of what’s happening. You or I might have been reasonably relaxed about Google or Instagram targeting us with tailored ads in return for free email, search or social pictures. But we may draw the line at the newly revealed armies of trackers and data-brokers, traders and compilers who are running riot across insurance, retail, finance, health, education and much, much more. The New York Times found smartphones broadcasting the exact locations of users thousands of times per day through hundreds of apps.
“That”, thundered a NYT editorial, “is not a glitch in the system. It is the system. If the government ordered Americans to continuously provide such precise, real-time information about themselves, there would be a revolt.” And maybe – just maybe – there will be one. Possibly it could take just one more massive hack or leak or breach of data to make even non-NYT readers sit up and take notice.
A third scenario could see a gradual shift in behaviours as new players enter the market, along with new technologies that allow for the better stewardship of personal data. So-called edge computing seeks to move information out of the cloud and back on to personal devices. Think of the developments in the Apple iPhone that seek to do encryption and store biometric information on your smartphone itself rather than pinging information halfway round the globe.
One estimate is that there may be 200 or 300 startups, SMEs and entrepreneurs rethinking the ownership and value of data. Finland’s MyData project is just one high-profile attempt to let individuals regain control of their own data. Other players are exploring how blockchain can strengthen privacy as a basic consumer right. The jury is out – and doubtless will be for a while yet.
The final scenario is regulation. Europe has led the way with GDPR (see the recent thumping £500k fine on Dixons Carphone for not spotting the malicious software planted on more than 5,000 tills). It used to be assumed that the US would be slow to go down this route, but there have been baby steps in Vermont and Illinois, and January 2020 saw the introduction of the California Consumer Privacy Act, which marks a significant change in how west coast companies need to behave. Who will follow?
Our actual loss of privacy will eventually be dated to before 2019, but that was the year we shed our naivety about the scale of the loss. As always in the digital world, the future is unknowable. We may carry on as though nothing has happened. Or everything could be disrupted in the blink of an eye.
“Competitors that align themselves with the actual needs of people and the norms of a market democracy”, says Zuboff, “are likely to attract just about every person on Earth as their customer.”
Now there’s an opportunity.

How to Sweep For Bugs and Hidden Cameras
To keep them from listening in, take a very good look around you. And then bust out the tools.
by Lily Hay Newman
If you’re facing targeted security threats, your problems run deeper than spyware on your devices. You need to check your physical spaces as well—your home, hotel room, office, and so on—for hidden cameras, mics, and other eavesdropping tools that someone may have planted. That means performing regular “technical surveillance counter measures” inspections. In other words? Checking for bugs.
Hackers bug lots of places, including some people wouldn’t think of,” says Jill Johnston, president of KJB Security Products, a security and surveillance device wholesaler. “Tanning beds, dressing rooms, bathrooms, hidden cameras in an Airbnb, on your car, in your house. You want to be able to scan a room and feel safe.”
Look Around, Look Around
First, take a close look at your surroundings. Carefully check for anything new or out of place, and listen to your gut about whether anything seems off. You don’t have to see the bug itself; installing eavesdropping devices can involve changes as subtle as shifting an object or a piece of furniture. A bug could be lodged in an inconspicuous object planted in plain sight, or it could be glued behind a small hole drilled in a wall.
Next, review the list of devices that are connected to your router for any that you don’t recognize. Usually bugs that need internet connectivity will have a more clandestine plan for accessing the web, though, like using their own hotspot or SIM card, so also check the Wi-Fi networks with a strong signal available around you. Anything that’s not coming from a neighbor or a nearby business, or other likely suspect, could be a bug’s own network.
It’s also important to think about a bug’s power supply. Some may run on a battery, giving them a limited lifespan, but persistent surveillance requires a steady power source. Always follow visible wires, scan for wires in walls, and check outlets, crowded power strips, and extension cords. It’s also worth considering what devices you have in the open that bugs could hide in to steal power. For example, this audio bug (complete with SIM card) hides in a USB to micro-USB cord, drawing power any time the cord is plugged in, while listening to everything around it.
Once you’ve completed a thorough visual and physical inspection, you can use a variety of scanning tools to conduct a more advanced check. Truly spy-grade bugs often incorporate mechanisms to try to defeat scanners, so you’ll have more success if you conduct multiple types of sweeps than if you rely on a one-size-fits-all approach.
“I tell everybody that calls, there’s no one device that I can sell you that will do everything,” says Jon Marshall, president of the surveillance device seller Spy Gadgets.
Now turn off all wireless devices; not just laptops and smartphones but routers, set-top boxes, and that connected refrigerator that seemed like a good idea at the time. Then use a radiofrequency detector from a surveillance product seller—or even Amazon—to scan for transmitters by moving the instrument slowly and methodically around the space. You can also check your clothes and your bags for things like GPS-tracking bugs this way. Some devices show a visual graph of activity, while others make a sound that gets louder as you get closer to an RF-emitting source. Anything broadcasting a radio signal will pop up.
Commercial bugs usually fall in the 10 MHz to 8 MHz range, but some sweeping devices look at 10 hertz all the way to 24 GHz. Reliable instruments that can scan a broad RF range cost hundreds of dollars, but depending on your situation you could opt for cheaper models. Simple bugs can also create static or sound distortions as you turn the dial on a commercial AM/FM radio.
And, if you’re really worried that you’ll miss a bug that you know is somewhere in the room, you can use a white noise machine—or a white noise app on your smartphone—or audio jammer to stymie prying ears.
Advanced Checks
Some bugs obfuscate their radio frequencies altogether, or might happen to be powered off during your sweep. To identify those, use a device called a “nonlinear junction detector,” which helps sniff out semiconductor electronics. Benign objects—even a nail in a wall—can create false positives, though, so carefully vet whatever turns up. One of the most prominent NLJD manufacturers, Research Electronics International, is based in Tennessee, and offers extensive device training for customers purchasing its Orion bug detectors, which cost about $10,000 to $20,000 depending on the model.
Remember, too, that snoops aren’t just listening; sometimes they watch as well. Fortunately, checking for night-vision cameras comes significantly cheaper than high-end bug detectors; infrared scanners cost about $100 to $300. You can also use IR and visible light emitters (even a flashlight) to scan for the glint of camera lenses reflecting light back. Some apps, like Glint Finder for Android and Spy Hidden Camera Detector for iOS, use your smartphone flash to scan for camera lenses.
Bugs always need a way to deliver the data they’re gathering to their owners, so deep bug sweeps should go beyond regular electronics detection to scan for laser beam and microwave transmission setups. These rigs can encode and send data out of a room to an attacker without using traditional methods. Radiofrequency scanners with a wide enough range check for microwaves, and many general-purpose antisurveillance tools feature laser-detection modes.
Regular Upkeep
Sweeps also shouldn’t be one-off occasions. Record your results, especially if you don’t find anything suspicious, so you can establish a baseline that will help you compare readings over time and detect anomalies down the road. Persistent spectrum analyzers, like Delta X, will watch for changes on a number of different feeds over time, but they cost about $14,000.
It takes Jim Hopper from Stranger Things a long time to tear his house apart looking for government bugs (spoiler: the mic is in an overhead light). And that’s in 1983, when there weren’t a lot of electronics to check. If the process seems daunting or too pricey to undertake alone, there are always professional services who can sweep for you. “If you have a serious problem and it’s a serious threat, hire someone who has all the tools in their tool box and the expertise, and they’ll sweep,” says Spy Gadgets’ Marshall.
There’s a lot you can do yourself, though, before things get too expensive and complicated. Besides, if you’re in that deep, there might not be anyone left you can trust except yourself.
The Wired Guide to Digital Security
More Tips for Superspies: After you sweep for bugs, remove the mic from your devices and dive down the paranoia rabbithole.
Activist? Journalist? Politician? Consider Yourself a Target, Too: Encrypt everything, sign up for Google Advanced Protection, take a tour of Tor, and deploy physical measures to increase your digital security.
Advice for Regular Users (the Hackers Are Still Circling): Master passwords, lock down your smartphone, keep yourself secure from phishers, know how to deal with getting doxed, and, if you have kids, keep them safe online.
Comment: And if you plan to have a confidential conversation in your house, be sure to unplug your television set from its cable connection. And put a cellphone in a metal box to prevent its being used to listen.

NSA Spying
The US government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in massive, illegal dragnet surveillance of the domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001. Since this was first reported on by the press and discovered by the public in late 2005, EFF has been at the forefront of the effort to stop it and bring government surveillance programs back within the law and the Constitution.
History of NSA Spying Information since 2005 (See EFF’s full timeline of events here)
News reports in December 2005 first revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications. Those news reports, combined with a USA Today story in May 2006 and the statements of several members of Congress, revealed that the NSA is also receiving wholesale copies of American’s telephone and other communications records. All of these surveillance activities are in violation of the privacy safeguards established by Congress and the US Constitution.
In early 2006, EFF obtained whistleblower evidence (.pdf) from former AT&T technician Mark Klein showing that AT&T is cooperating with the illegal surveillance. The undisputed documents show that AT&T installed a fiberoptic splitter at its facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco that makes copies of all emails web browsing and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers and provides those copies to the NSA. This copying includes both domestic and international Internet activities of AT&T customers. As one expert observed, “this isn’t a wiretap, it’s a country-tap.”
Secret government documents, published by the media in 2013, confirm the NSA obtains full copies of everything that is carried along major domestic fiber optic cable networks. In June 2013, the media, led by the Guardian and Washington Post started publishing a series of articles, along with full government documents, that have confirmed much of what was reported in 2005 and 2006 and then some. The reports showed-and the government later admitted—that the government is mass collecting phone metadata of all US customers under the guise of the Patriot Act. Moreover, the media reports confirm that the government is collecting and analyzing the content of communications of foreigners talking to persons inside the United States, as well as collecting much more, without a probable cause warrant. Finally, the media reports confirm the “upstream” collection off of the fiberoptic cables that Mr. Klein first revealed in 2006. (See EFF’s How It Works page here for more)
EFF Fights Back in the Courts
EFF is fighting these illegal activities in the courts. Currently, EFF is representing victims of the illegal surveillance program in Jewel v. NSA, a lawsuit filed in September 2008 seeking to stop the warrantless wiretapping and hold the government and government officials behind the program accountable. In July 2013, a federal judge ruled that the government could not rely on the controversial “state secrets” privilege to block our challenge to the constitutionality of the program. On February 10, 2015, however, the court granted summary judgment to the government on the Plaintiffs’ allegations of Fourth Amendment violations based on the NSA’s copying of Internet traffic from the Internet backbone. The court ruled that the publicly available information did not paint a complete picture of how the NSA collects Internet traffic, so the court could not rule on the program without looking at information that could constitute “state secrets.” The court did not rule that the NSA’s activities are legal, nor did it rule on the other claims in Jewel, and the case will go forward on those claims.This case is being heard in conjunction with Shubert v. Obama, which raises similar claims.
In July, 2013, EFF filed another lawsuit, First Unitarian v. NSA, based on the recently published FISA court order demanding Verizon turn over all customer phone records including who is talking to whom, when and for how long—to the NSA. This so-called “metadata,” especially when collected in bulk and aggregated, allows the government to track the associations of various political and religious organizations. The Director of National Intelligence has since confirmed that the collection of Verizon call records is part of a broader program.
In addition to making the same arguments we made in Jewel, we argue in First Unitarian that this type of collection violates the First Amendment right to association. Previously, in Hepting v. AT&T, EFF filed the first case against a cooperating telecom for violating its customers’ privacy. After Congress expressly intervened and passed the FISA Amendments Act to allow the Executive to require dismissal of the case, Hepting was ultimately dismissed by the US Supreme Court.
In September of 2014, EFF, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho, joined the legal team for Anna Smith, an Idaho emergency neonatal nurse, in her challenge of the government’s bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans. In Smith v. Obama, we are arguing the program violated her Fourth Amendment rights by collecting a wealth of detail about her familial, political, professional, religious and intimate associations. In particular, we focus on challenging the applicability of the so-called “third party doctrine,” the idea that people have no expectation of privacy in information they entrust to others.

Comment: One way to ruin the lives of NSA domestic spies is to send messages to people outside the US. The NSA interdicts all such messages. Put in groups of letters and numbers such as this example:
‘I heard from my senior FBI friend that 33938 jwoc0 x99jju sic8n0 President Trump 1mmd!
This is a fake code and trying to read it will drive the knuckle-draggers to distraction.

Postal Service Photographs Every Piece of Mail in the U.S., Shares With Agencies That Request It
by Lauren Walker
Tucked away in a seemingly innocuous annual audit of the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) century-old “mail covers” surveillance program were some surprising revelations: It has not only grown exponentially but it suffers from a lack of oversight, making it vulnerable to abuse.
The 2014 audit, which was posted on a postal service website without announcement in May, exposes the fact that the USPS approved nearly 50,000 requests last year, both internally and from state or federal law enforcement agencies at all levels, to monitor Americans’ mail.
According to information obtained via Freedom of Information Act request by The New York Times, 50,000 far exceeds the number of requests made in previous years. Between 2001 and 2012, the USPS received more than 100,000 requests from state and federal law enforcement—an average of 8,000 a year—to monitor Americans. This number does not include requests made from the service’s law enforcement arm or from national security investigations.
The USPS uses a program called Mail Imaging, which takes a photograph of the outside of every piece of mail sent in the U.S. While the primary purpose of taking the pictures is to process the mail, law enforcement agencies are able to request images of mail sent and received by a target they are investigating.
Another system used by the USPS is called the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program, which was created and put in place after anthrax attacks claimed five lives in 2001. It tracks and investigates mail suspected of containing bio-hazardous material, and was first made public in 2013 during an investigation into ricin-laced letters sent to President Obama and then New York City Mayor Bloomberg.
Though it appears old-fashioned—providing law enforcement with only names and addresses—agencies insist the program yields an abundance of information. Postal officials boast their methods of surveillance are far less intrusive than the broad data collection by the National Security Agency.
Defense lawyers say that because the program is shrouded in secrecy, it is hard to track surveillance abuses. But the audit, in addition to materials obtained by the Times, shows that monitoring was often done without adequate reason or authorization.
In 2011, Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County Arizona supervisor and a critic of the controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, discovered that the county sheriff’s office was monitoring her mail. Using information gathered through surveilling her mail, Arpaio and his lawyer were able to obtain warrants for the banking information of two restaurants Wilcox and her husband owned. His office also raided a company that hired Wilcox to provide concessions at a local airport, causing her to lose the business.
“I don’t blame the postal service,” Wilcox said in an interview with the Times, but you shouldn’t be able to just use these mail covers to go on a fishing expedition. There needs to be more control.”
And that is just one example that we know of. Since tracking does not have to be reported to anyone, abuse has the potential to run rampant.
“A program like this, which can reveal sensitive correspondence, must have proper oversight, authority and justification,” Harley Geiger, senior counsel for the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Democracy & Technology told the Chicago Tribune, “and it appears that privacy controls were developed, but not followed.”
“You can’t just get a mail cover to go on a fishing expedition,” said Paul J. Krenn, a spokesman for the Postal Inspection Service to the Times. “There has to be a legitimate law enforcement reason, and the mail cover can’t be the sole tool.”
The newly revealed method of surveillance, mixed with the erosion of protections of Americans from unreasonable searches and seizures, has made our information “up for grabs by the government without the need for any judge’s approval,” Mark Brodin, a professor at Boston College Law School, also told the Tribune.
At a time when awareness and anger about government surveillance is at an all-time high, this is not something Americans want to hear.

Comment: One way to frustrate the FBI is to put an incorrect return address on a letter. And use a name such as Michael (Mike) Hunt. This is not illegal…yet.

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 inaccurat

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019

Chapter 75

When the sweet sessions of music were ended, Chuck came into the kitchen and looked in the cabinets for something to eat. The others were still talking but they stopped when Chuck appeared.
“You know,” Chuck said to no one in particular, “he’s actually very good. Most people can’t play Chopsticks but Alex has talent, no doubt about it. What are you two doing in here looking so grim?”
“Not grim,” Claude said, pouring more coffee, “just reflective. We’re being reflective, aren’t we Gwen?”
“You make me sound like a tail light, Claude. No, Chuck, we were getting ready to discuss taking a nice trip to Chicago. Weren’t we, Claude?”
“Oh, of course, Gwen, a trip to Chicago. I clean forgot.”
Before he could forget anything else, Lars came through the door, looking excited.
“Oh, there are a bunch of bears out in front of the house! I saw them through the window, Chuck. A whole bunch of them. Maybe about nine or ten!”
There was an immediate exodus to the front hall.
In truth, there were seven black bears, snuffling around the gate and the spot where one of their number and his severed head had fallen into the snow.
“Look at the size of them!” Gwen said. The only bears she had ever seen were either in a zoo or on the Discovery Channel and as black bears went, they were of average size.
They didn’t appear to be at all interested in climbing over the fence in the beginning but then one stood up and pawed at the metal fence tentatively.
“I’ll get the Magnum, guys. Just wait here.”
She came back a minute later with her huge pistol in one hand and two boxes of ammunition stuffed into the pockets of her parka.
“Well, do we go after them or not?
“Probably should,” Chuck said, “just to keep them from coming over the fence again. Let me get my coat and my own gun and we can have a regular shooting gallery.”
Alex heard the noise and came into the hall. When he discovered there was to be shooting, he ran back for his precious parka. It was now Gwen’s turn to be pestered.
“Gwen, will you let me shoot one? Please?”
“This is not a game, Alex. You said you never shot a gun before.”
“No, but you promised to teach me. It didn’t look all that hard when Chuck shot them last time. Please let me shoot one?”
Chuck came up, buttoning up his leather jacket.
“Here, kid, take this H&K and we can all go outside and make the local bears an endangered species.”
He started to give Alex the pistol but Gwen reached out and took it.
“First, we teach him gun safety. It this loaded?”
“Of course it’s loaded, dear. There’s nothing in the chamber.”
One of the bears had started to climb the fence and Lars shouted.
“Hey, one’s coming over the fence!”
And out they all went, onto the entrance terrace.
The bear, with a dim memory of noise and blood, stopped about halfway to the top and looked at them with piggish brown eyes.
Gwen shot it twice, once through the heart and once through the head and it grunted and dropped heavily into the snow, right on top of another bear that was trying to climb up right under it.
Chuck shot one through the snout and caused it to shriek with pain as it shook its head back and forth, splattering hot blood all over the snow.
Gwen finished the wounded bear off with a shot through the skull and then she and Chuck advanced down the driveway, shooting as they went.
“Way to go!” Chuck shouted as he hit another one in the leg.
“Jesus, Chuck, try to kill the shits, not make them mad!”
And she shot it through the shoulder, severing its spine,
“That’s what I mean. Hey, get that one down there before it gets away!”
And Chuck rushed up to the fence and pumped six shots into the staggering escapee who fell over several times before dying in a froth of bloody bubbles
There were three bears left and strangely, none of them tried to run away from the firing and death. One started to climb the fence and Alex ran up to Chuck.
“Hey, Chuck! Chuck! Let me shoot it! I can shoot it, OK?”
Chuck handed him the pistol, into which he had just stuck a fresh, loaded clip.
He pulled back the slide and snapped on the safety.
“Here, Alex. Take this and only point it at the bear. Now, turn the safety off…snap it down. Fine. Now aim carefully and do not jerk the trigger. Squeeze the trigger.”
The pistol went off with a loud report and Alex almost dropped it. He had missed the bear but he ran right up to the inside of the fence and emptied the magazine into its bulky torso at point blank range.
Bellowing and spraying blood, the bear tried to scramble down from the fence, lost his grip and thumped down into the carmine snow. He thrashed and flailed and Gwen ran up a moment later and shot him through the heart. The other two bears escaped across the road, startling everyone with their burst of speed.
The bears ran into the woods in puffs of snow and their dark shapes vanished in the thick pine woods leaving everyone watching the spot where they disappeared.
There were empty brass cases all over the ground and Alex was carefully picking them up and putting them into his pocket.
Aside from some post mortem twitchings, the dead bears lay where they fell and everyone finally went inside for the night. It was decided very strongly that it would not be a practical or safe idea to attempt to remove the corpses until rigor had set in and there was the hope that other bears might come in the night, as they had once before, and remove their fallen comrades for an al fresco banquet.
Alex was still extremely excited and he reenacted his single-handed victory over his very own bear a number of times while everyone was assembled in the kitchen.
“I blew him away, Chuck! I got right upon him and blew him clean away! Man, that was really cool! Thanks for letting me do it, dude. That’s the neatest thing I’ve ever done.”
A lengthy discussion of the possible reason for the bear attacks was held over cups of coffee and, in the case of Alex, a cup of hot chocolate.
“My theory,” Chuck said, very seriously, “is that bears hibernate in winter but the weather has been unexpectedly warming up and their body clocks tell them that spring is here. We know better because we have calendars but the bears do not. And they smelt LeBec rotting and came for dinner. They do eat garbage, after all. And I guess once they were up and around, they lunched on their dead friends and decided to find more food. It’s too bad we can’t shove them into a truck and turn them loose in my uncle’s office when Collins is visiting.”
Claude disagreed with this, at least for the sake of interesting conversation.
“My theory is that these are trained bears from a defunct Russian circus that Collins sent up here to kill us in such a way that no suspicions could fall on him.”
“Maybe they are brain controlled,” Lars contributed. He has once seen a very bad quality science fiction movie wherein attack parrots ripped the bikinis off of large-breasted young women on a tropical beach.
“Speaking of warm weather, guys, I think we ought to set a solid date for the trip to Chicago.” Gwen was determined to finish off Collins one way or the other.
Because Alex was present, no specifics were mentioned but it was finally agreed the trip to Chicago to buy a new car would take place on the following Wednesday without fail.
Alex was upset because he was told he could not go because Chuck and Claude would be taking Claude’s car and there was not enough room for Alex. Alex saw it differently but he was so pleased with his recent kill that he lapsed into silence and made himself a cold roast beef sandwich to accompany a large glass of milk.
In the morning, it was discovered that all of the bear corpses had been feasted upon by their cannibalistic relatives during the long watches of the night but none had been dragged away, giving the area the festive appearance of a slaughter house. Half-eaten bears and portions thereof were scattered all over the drive and parts of the roadway and the area was a morass of bloody snow studded with bear parts, dried blood, bits of fur and bone and a quantity of bear feces. All of this mess was overlaid with a pattern of bear tracks that indicated the presence in the night of a fair number of the creatures.
Why, Chuck thought as he surveyed the shambles, didn’t they have the good manners to remove their meals to a more distant spot?
A good part of the day was occupied with the removal of the remains and a general cleaning of the area. Gwen sat by the gate with her pistol in case any bears decided to return to the smorgasbord while everyone else, Alex included, dragged the remnants across the road and threw them down the steep slope into the woods.
They wore rubber gloves that were usually part of the dishwashing process and the heavier bits were dragged behind the ATV.
When they were finished, the ground looked like the aftermath of the first battle of Fredericksburg and no one had the slightest interest in eating anything that even looked like meat.
Alex, who was extremely proud of his assassinated bear, was determined to keep some kind of a trophy of a triumph of his young manhood. Chuck suggested a claw, several of which remained attached to a leg but Alex thought the skull would look fine in his room. The head was intact and Alex suggested that if he could remove it, perhaps it could be boiled.
There was considerable objection to this project until Claude pointed out that the boiling could be done inside the safety of the fence but outside of the house on a portable gas barbecue that had never been used.
The head was removed by Alex himself with a double-bitted ax, put into a large pot of water and set to boil on the driveway.
While everyone else went inside to get away from the stench, Alex spent most of the afternoon watching the pot boiling and skimming off the remains with a barbecue fork that would probably never be used again.
He showed remarkable persistence in removing bits of bear that stuck to the white bone and then removed the brains through the bottom of the skull with a tool he found in the garage. About nine at night, after everyone else had finished their soup and salad, Chuck came outside to observe the progress of the boil.
Alex lifted the head out of the pot with the fork and showed it to Chuck. It was quite clean and the jaws sagged downwards, still attached to the skull with withered tendons.
“Looks neat, doesn’t it? I got the brains out and I guess the rest I can do with a sharp knife.”
The whitish skull looked unimpressive but the large sharp teeth were a reminder that bears are not cuddly, furry creatures to be petted or hand fed candy bars.
Rendering a bear’s head in the middle of a Minnesota winter was a singularly unpleasant project and Chuck was secretly delighted, not with the final results but with the amount of perseverance that Alex had manifested. He obviously had the character to endure a lengthy and thoroughly unpleasant process to get what he wanted.
The trophy was left in the garage, the stockpot full of bear bits was dumped outside the fence and they went into the house for soup and salad. Alex, however, had not been put off by the smell and proceeded to have a roast beef sandwich with his soup, something that Chuck found impossible to consider


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

The Encyclopedia of American Loons

Linda Moulton Howe

Another legend among UFO enthusiasts, Linda Moulton Howe is a ufologist and “investigative journalist”, and a mainstay on the Coast to Coast AM radio show and the Ancient Aliens TV series. She is in particular associated with cattle mutilation nonsense, starting with her 1980 documentary A Strange Harvest, where she investigated what she concludes to be unusual animal deaths (but really a mix of hearsay and the readily naturally explainable) caused by “non-human intelligence and technology”. Her conclusions were based on careful investigation of the evidence after ruling out, prior to investigation, the possibility of a natural explanation. She followed up with more “evidence” in the 1989 book Alien Harvest. Howe also claims to have seen secret government documents that supposedly prove that aliens are mutilating cattle, abducting people and generally flying around military bases. Indeed, in 1983 she was shown a secret presidential briefing paper that revealed how “extraterrestrials created Jesus” and placed him on earth “to teach mankind about love and non-violence” (but apparently also randomly mutilate cattle). The documents were allegedly shown to her by Richard Doty. We have covered Doty and his documents before.
Howe runs her own website called “EarthFiles.com”, which charges a subscription fee of $45 a year to access her body of work. Some of it, however, has been published in reputable journals disseminated in radio programs hosted by luminaries like Art Bell, George Noory and Whitley Strieber. That material contains, in addition to cattle mutilation tripe and reports of “unexplained” lights and sounds reported from all over the US:
“Bigfoot DNA”: Melba Ketchum (to be covered) apparently has proof that Bigfoot exists.
“The Return of Ezekiel’s Wheel”, based on recent “eyewitness sightings”.
“Pyramids Discovered in Alaska and Turkey”: “Immense structures not only built, but used in some unknown way for a thousand years.”
“Missing Time”: Howe has managed to unearth “a rare case of documented missing time”.
“Unknown objects in our skies. What are we NOT being told”: Yes, the government is conspiring to deny the presence of UFOs, for the usual nebulous reasons.
“The Rendlesham Code”: Howe investigates endorses a UFO contactee’s claims to have telepathically downloaded binary code numbers from aliens.
“Project Serpo”: Yup, Howe fell for that one, to no one’s surprise.
Howe also does crop circles and a variety of other environmentalist conspiracies (eg. colony collapse disorder and Monsanto).
By the way, the aliensdidit “explanation” for cattle mutilations seems to have received some competition from even more exotic hypotheses. Tom Bearden, for instance, thinks the “mutilations are the physical manifestation of the whole human unconsciousness which is somehow aware that the Soviets will, probably within three years, invade and destroy the Western world;” so there is that.
Diagnosis: Crazy, but her most characteristic trait seems to be that she’s amazingly gullible and will fall for anything you serve her if it concerns UFOs – unless it is based on reason and evidence, of course.

Tim Huelskamp

More fish in a barrel, but we’ve got little choice. Tim Huelskamp was the U.S. Representative for Kansas’s 1st congressional district from 2011 to 2016 (when he was defeated in the primaries), representing the Tea Party – the kind whom The House Republican Steering Committee eventually had to remove from both the Budget Committee and the Agriculture Committee, officially citing his “inability to work with other members” (the unofficial appraisal from colleagues was that he was a “jerk”). Huelskamp is of course an anti-gay loon and climate change denialist, so we couldn’t really afford to overlook him either if we wish to aim for comprehensiveness.
As for climate change Huelskamp has said that it is not “settled science” (offering, by contrast, that “that life begins at conception, that’s settled science,” which is false in any sense that is remotely relevant to the abortion debate) and claiming that “I don’t think there’s a scientific consensus on that.” Huelskamp promptly voted against any effort or piece of legislature targeted at remedying or preventing the negative effects of climate change, however. Of course, there is scientific consensus on that, regardless of what Huelskamp might think, and the interesting thing is that even if there weren’t, from any decision theoretic standpoint that is remotely rational, even the chance of climate change occurring should lead one to support such measures given the potentially disastrous consequences. When offered the fact that science does, indeed, show that burning fossil fuels creates greenhouse gases that are causing the planet to heat up, Huelskamp responded with “No, that’s global warming.” So that settles that, then.
As you might have expected, Huelskamp has a decent anti-gay activism track record. After the Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional, Huelskamp immedialy suggested introducing a constitutional amendment to restore it, lamented the judges’ attack on Jesus (“the idea that Jesus Christ himself was degrading and demeaning is what they’ve come down to”) and said that he “can’t even stand to read the decisions because I don’t even think they’d pass law school with decisions like that.” It’s probably a fair bet that if you, who are not a legal scholar, disagree with the Supreme Court majority and think their arguments would have failed them in law school, then you are the one who would have failed law school. He has also requested “real men” (not women or gay men, who are not really men) to stand up against gay marriage for the women and children who are unable to defend themselves. Gay marriage will apparently harm children, the economy and society (e.g. because it will “discourage family formation;” he didn’t specify the mechanism). And he claims to have the support of the American people in his fight against gay marriage: “Eighty-five percent of Americans say, ‘We support traditional marriage,’” said Huelskamp, lamenting that the Obama administration still doesn’t listen. Well, his numbers are a bit out of date – or perhaps he is employing the same skills with numbers that led him to deny scientific consensus on climate change. Huelskamp has also appeared in insane conspiracy theory documentaries about gay rights.
Diagnosis: Though he didn’t quite achieve it, Huelskamp got pretty close to vying with Steve King and Louie Gohmert over being both the most insane and the most inane member of Congress. Which is quite a feat.

Ethan Huff

Ethan Huff is a staff writer at NaturalNews, and as such responsible for a fair proportion of the wild-eyed conspiracy theories and insane pseudoscience peddled there. Huff is perhaps most notable for his anti-vaccine articles, e.g. this one on gardasil, which is based on some of Sharyl Attkisson’s rants, but adds some extra conspiracy theories, viz. that when certain people he thought were going to support the anti-vaccine cause turned out not to, it must be because either i) Big Pharma got to them, or ii) they are mentally ill; yes, that’s how things go down in the epistemic abyss that is NaturalNews. As for his article “H1N1 vaccine linked to 700 percent increase in miscarriages,” well, it was based on the “research” by Eileen Dannemann – indeed, his only source is Dannemann; although several sources are listed, they are all based exhaustively on her. We have encountered Dannemann before. We have encountered other examples of misusing the VAERS database before, too, but Dannemann’s idiocy still manages to impress (she got some anecdotes, too, as well as her own press release – which she cited in her own “research”).
Huff has also weighed in on the scientific process. In particular, after a debate at the British Royal Society, where Richard Smith, former editor of the British Medical Journal (now The BMJ), took the role of attacking the current processes of research dissemination and hyperbolically called the peer review process a “sacred cow” ready to “slaughtered” Huff took it the only way someone in his cognitive situation could, and the result was the article “‘Sacred cow’ of industry science cult should be slaughtered for the good of humanity, BMJ editor says.” Of course, people like Huff really don’t like peer review, which is a process inherently biased against pseudoscientific, unsupported nonsense dreamed up by people with little understanding of the field they are trying to engage with. Apart from that, I don’t think Huff’s article needs much comment.
It seems to illustrate a common strategy of Huff’s, though: Pick up some anecdotes, quackery, or anti-science covered somewhere else and, if necessary, add some conspiracy theories before covering it on NaturalNews – here is (a commentary on) Huff reporting a very, very dubious breast cancer testimonial reported in The Sun – dubious, in that the person in question, though praising altmed quackery for her recovery, was in fact cured – to the extent she was – by conventional medicine. Or just go for the tinfoil-hat-level conspiracies: In a preemptive review of the movie Contagion, based on the trailer, Huff penned “Hollywood begins mass brainwashing campaign to get people ready for the next bioengineered virus release.” No seriously: “The entertainment industry is no stranger to government propaganda campaigns, and the latest Hollywood flicks are no exception. A quick look at the trailer for the upcoming release of the movie Contagion reveals what appears to be a massive brainwashing campaign designed to prepare the American psyche for the next [!] intentional release of a bioengineered virus – and it also conveniently and subtly programs viewers into accepting the idea that vaccines might be the solution to a major, devastating disease outbreak.” And you have no idea how deep the conspiracy goes: You may not have noticed, but Huff has, that the themes of major movie releases over the past several decades are predictive of what ends up taking place not too long afterwards, which clearly shows “that Hollywood is deeply connected to the agendas of those that are now in control of various world governments, including the US government.” For instance, the movie Armageddon clearly predicted 9/11 since it mentioned the possibility of an asteroid hitting New York, and that proves that the government masterminded 9/11 and that Hollywood is in on it. Reflect on that, sheeple!
Meanwhile, Huff is doing his best to protect you from the big bad wolves in the name of “health freedom”. Huff has for instance promoted, and urged his readers to tell Congress to support, a bill entitled the “Free Speech About Science” (FSAS) Act of 2011, which curbs the FDA’s powers to hold supplement manufacturers accountable for the health benefits of the snakeoil they make – basically that such companies’s right to “free speech” means that they shouldn’t be forced to back up their claims with evidence (“the bill will amend current law to allow growers and manufacturers to freely share honest information about food and supplements with their customers,” according to Huff). Clearly, stopping poor supplement manufacturers from falsely advertising their products is an abuse of the health freedom of average Americans. (Defense of supplement manufacturers is a recurring theme of Huff’s).
You get the gist. Here Huff and J.D. Heyes creates a couple of year-end lists for Natural News: their 2015 Journalist Courage Awards and their 2015 Celebrity Hall of Shame Awards. Guess where the science-based stuff ended up.
Diagnosis: Once again: you get the gist. Ethan Huff is an utterly lunatic tinfoil hatter and hard to distinguish from people with epilepsy-inducing webpage designs and weird font choices who are complaining that the lizard people in their TVs have possessed their ex-partners, were it not for the fact that Huff is usually able to stick to ordinary grammar conventions. And even so, NaturalNews can apparently pride themselves on a rather substantial readership. .

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