TBR News July 19, 2018

Jul 19 2018

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Isaiah 40:3-8

Washington, D.C. July 18, 2018:” We will be out of the office until July 20, 2018. Ed”



The Table of Contents

  • Undaunted by criticism, Trump looks to next Putin meeting
  • The global heat wave that’s been killing us
  • Enjoy the warmth while it lasts
  • The New Toll of American Student Debt
  • California high court orders proposal to split up state removed from November ballot
  • Judge slams FBI for improper cellphone search, stingray use
  • Days after Helsinki summit, Russia shows off Putin’s ‘super weapons’
  • US has intervened in twice as many elections as Russia
  • Spanish court drops international warrant for Puigdemont
  • Chaos Prevails in Immigrant Detention Centers, with Children Under 5 Still Separated From Parents
  • Germany sees sharp rise in ‘fake science’ journal publications — report
  • Jon Rappoport



Undaunted by criticism, Trump looks to next Putin meeting

July 19, 2018

by Doina Chiacu, Andrew Osborn


WASHINGTON/MOSCOW (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed forces within the United States on Thursday for marring what they called the success of their first summit, with Trump saying he looked forward to their second meeting. Trump, who has struggled to quiet an uproar over his failure to confront Putin over Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election at Monday’s summit in Helsinki, fell back on one of his favorite targets, the news media. The Republican president accused the media of distorting comments in which he gave credence to Putin’s denials of election interference despite the conclusions of the American intelligence community about Moscow’s conduct.

“The Summit with Russia was a great success, except with the real enemy of the people, the Fake News Media,” Trump, who has faced criticism from lawmakers in both parties after the summit, wrote on Twitter.

“I look forward to our second meeting so that we can start implementing some of the many things discussed, including stopping terrorism, security for Israel, nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, trade, Ukraine, Middle East peace, North Korea and more,” Trump said.

A day after he refused to blame Putin at the summit for the election meddling, Trump on Tuesday said he had misspoken and accused “some people” of hating the fact that he got along with Putin.

American intelligence agencies last year announced their conclusion that Russia carried out a campaign of hacking and propaganda targeting the 2016 U.S. election in an attempt to sow discord, disparage Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and aid Trump’s candidacy. Putin has denied any such meddling.

U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and FBI Director Christopher Wray publicly reaffirmed their confidence in the findings after the Helsinki meeting.

In Moscow, Putin said “powerful” U.S. forces were trying to sabotage what the summit had achieved, but said the two leaders had begun to improve U.S.-Russia ties anyway.

“It was successful overall and led to some useful agreements. Of course, let’s see how events will develop further,” Putin said in remarks to Russian diplomats from around the world, without disclosing the nature of the agreements to which he referred.

“We see that there are forces in the United States that are prepared to casually sacrifice Russian-U.S. relations, to sacrifice them for their ambitions in an internal political battle in the United States,” Putin said.

Putin did not name names, but spoke of U.S. politicians who put their “narrow party interests” above the best interests of the United States and were powerful enough to be able to foist their questionable “stories” on millions of Americans.

U.S. prosecutors have offered mounting evidence concerning Russian election meddling. Special Counsel Robert Mueller secured an indictment last Friday charging 12 Russian intelligence officers with hacking Democratic computer networks in 2016 as part of a wide-ranging conspiracy involving sophisticated hacking and staged releases of documents.

In another irritant in U.S.-Russian relations, a U.S. judge on Wednesday ordered Maria Butina, an accused Russian agent, jailed until her trial after American prosecutors argued she has ties to Russian intelligence and could flee the United States.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey in Washington, Andrew Osborn and Olesya Astakhova in Moscow; Editing by Will Dunham




The global heat wave that’s been killing us

A heat wave is ravaging countries around the world. Although many celebrate sunny days, wildfires, wasted crops and health problems are some of the many disastrous consequences hot weather can have.

July 18, 2018

by Irene Banos Ruiz


Most of us enjoy sunny days and complain on rainy ones — yet behind the clear skies lies a less pleasant reality. Since June 2018, numerous regions around the world have been facing infernal temperatures, which have caused wildfires, ruined crops and, sadly, killed hundreds of people.

The hottest year ever recorded was 2016, due to a combination of global warming and a strong El Niño episode. Despite 2018 experiencing the opposite climate event, La Niña — which tends to cool temperatures — June has ranked as one of the hottest months on record.

A heat wave describes a period of at least five days with a temperature of 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above the average.

Extremely hot individual days can be a one-off, which doesn’t always have a link to heat waves or global warming.

However, a trend is clear: As a result of climate change, we can expect more extreme and frequent heat waves. Clare Nullis, media officer World Meteorological Organization, confirmed this to DW.

The heat hits

For a south European person, 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) is nothing special. But that definitely is hot for people in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where the normal temperature in June doesn’t exceed 20 degrees.

On June 28, Glasgow reached its hottest June day ever, with 31.9 degrees Celsius, and the Irish town of Shannon its highest temperature ever recorded at 32 degrees.

Germans have enjoyed — or suffered — temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius for most of May and June. In the country of Georgia, July 4 made history with 40.5 degrees Celsius.

North America has not escaped the suffocating wave either. Denver and Los Angeles were among several cities in the United States that tied or broke heat records.

Montreal, in Canada, recorded the highest temperature in 147 years of record-keeping on July 2. The heat wave there killed more than 70 people.

Thermometers in Japan, Russia and Algeria, among other places, were also on fire. On July 5, the Ouargla weather station in Algeria’s Sahara Desert reported the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa: 51.3 degrees Celsius.

In a climate change scenario, extreme heat waves may occur “as often as every two years in the second half of the 21st century,” Vladimir Kendrovski, technical officer for climate change and health for the World Health Organization (WHO) regional office for Europe, told DW.

Too hot to survive

“Heat waves have caused much higher fatalities in Europe in recent decades than any other extreme weather event,” Kendrovski pointed out.

High temperatures increase the level of pollutants in the air, as they speed up the rate of chemical reactions. This increases the risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Substances like pollen, which can cause asthma, are also higher in extreme heat, WHO said.

Unusually high temperatures at night disturb restful sleep, preventing the body from recovering from daytime heat.

Vulnerable groups such as young children and the elderly suffer the most, Simone Sandholz, associate academic officer at the United Nations University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security, told DW. Most victims of extreme heat live in densely populated urban areas, where ventilation is scarce, she added.

Heat and humidity form a particularly deadly combination for humans, Nullis said. Up to 70 people may have died in Montreal as a result of the persistent heat wave and high humidity. In a recent three-day weekend, 14 people died in Japan, while more than 2,000 were sent to hospitals for heat exhaustion or insolation.

Hot weather coupled with humidity is also a perfect setting for insects to thrive. In England, helpline calls for insect bites almost doubled in early July.

But this is particularly worrisome for countries vulnerable to diseases such as malaria or dengue — that is, vector-borne diseases — transmitted by the bite of species such as mosquitoes, ticks or blackflies.

“Vector-borne diseases are associated with climate change, due to their widespread occurrence and the vectors’ sensitivities to their environments,” Kendrovski said. Mosquitos like Aedes aegypti are spreading into new regions due at least in part to rising temperatures.

And if you’ve ever felt it was so hot your brain doesn’t work, science says you could be right. Hot weather can make your thinking more than 10 percent slower, a new study shows.

Another study in New York City schools suggested that “upwards of 510,000 exams that otherwise would have passed received failing grades due to hot temperature, affecting at least 90,000 students.”

A complex circle

Wildfires are another sad result of unusually sunny days, and lack of rainfall has caused large fires in the UK, Sweden and in Russia, where 80,000 hectares of forest have been devastated this season.

Farmers and crops are further victims of heat waves and droughts. In the UK, growers of peas and lettuce have struggled to meet demand due to low yields and crop failure this growing season; wheat, broccoli and cauliflower are also on the list of crops affected by the weather.

In Germany, farmers have resigned themselves to a much lower grain harvest due to the heat and dryness.

“We will again have a harvest that is far below the average,” Joachim Rukwied, president of the German Farmers Association (DVB), said in a statement. Some farmers have opted to destroy the crops instead of trying to harvest them, he added.

Access to air conditioning and cooling systems, though vital in a warmer world, can be part of a vicious cycle. Increasing use of cooling devices, currently powered largely by fossil fuels, would further contribute to climate change — and therefore rising temperatures.

Time to adapt

If health systems were better prepared and coordinated with meteorological systems, health problems from heatwaves and hot weather could largely be prevented, Kendrovski points out. “That’s the good news,” he said.

Sandholz highlighted the role of adequate urban planning to reduce heat impacts in urban areas. Simple changes, such as building out green zones or creating wind corridors, could make a huge difference.

We should not understimate the heat, Sandholz concluded.


Enjoy the warmth while it lasts

October 31, 2009

by Lawrence Solomon

Thank your lucky stars to be alive on Earth at this time. Our planet is usually in a deep freeze. The last million years have cycled through Ice Ages that last about 100,000 years each, with warmer slivers of about 10,000 years in between.

We are in-betweeners, and just barely – we live in (gasp!) year 10,000 or so after the end of the last ice age. But for our good fortune, we might have been born in the next Ice Age.

Our luck is even better than that. Those 10,000-year warm spells aren’t all cosy-warm. They include brutal Little Ice Ages such as the 500-year-long Little Ice Age that started about 600 years ago. Fortunately, we weren’t around during its fiercest periods when Finland lost one-third of its population, Iceland half, and most of Canada became uninhabitable – even the Inuit fled. While the cold spells within the 10,000 year warm spells aren’t as brutal as a Little Ice Age, they can nevertheless make us huddle in gloom, such as the period in history from about 400 AD to 900 AD, which we know as the Dark Ages. We’ve lucked out twice, escaping the cold spells within the warm spells, making us inbetweeners within the inbetween periods. How good is that?

We aren’t alone in having been blessed by good weather. About 2000 years ago, around the time of Caesar and Christ, temperatures were also gloriously warm, some say much warmer than those we’ve experienced in recent decades. That period – the centuries immediately before and after Caesar and Christ – are known as the Roman Warm Period, a time of wealth and accomplishment when the warmer weather filled granaries and extended grape and olive growing regions to lands that had previously been unarable.

Another period of unusual warmth came about 1000 years after the Roman Warm Period, during the centuries before and after the year 1000, in what is known as the Medieval Warm Period. In this period, again warmer than the present time, the world shucked off the insularity of the Dark Ages to allow civilization to once again blossom. England, then positively balmy, became a grape-growing region. In the North Atlantic, the Arctic sea ice released its grip over Greenland, making this vast island hospitable for Viking settlers. In the Canadian Rockies, majestic forests – trees larger than those of today – thrived before their decimation by the glaciers that came in with the Little Ice Age.

Another 1000 years and we come to our time, known to climatologists as the Modern Warm Period. What a great time of technological and cultural advancement we’ve known, one of unprecedented prosperity, human longevity, and human comfort. For a brief period in the 1970s it appeared to some scientists that the climate that had abetted our prosperity had turned – this was the fear of global cooling that then made headlines. Though many now mock those fears of climate cooling, the scientists were eminent and the science was sound – after all, given Earth’s history through the eons, and the passage of 10,000 years since the last ice age, it was hardly outlandish to believe that time of warmth was up.

It wasn’t then – the decades after the 1970s have been about as good as it gets. But it could be now. In fact, some of the same scientists who in the 1970s warned of a new cold spell still believe it could be imminent. Other eminent scientists with compelling new evidence have recently joined them in predicting the end of our Modern Warm Period. They and others note that the warming of the planet stopped 11 years ago and that the planet has begun to cool.

If a new Dark Age does come, it could be rapid, marked by plunging temperatures and extreme weather events. Such was the transition from the Roman Warm Period to the Dark Ages and from the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age. To date, we have seen no plunging temperatures, no uncharacteristically extreme weather.

If we are living on borrowed time, as the history of the world would suggest, this reprieve would be but one more blessing to count. We should enjoy the warmth while we can, and hope that it persists so that the world our children and grandchildren inherit will be no less warm and welcoming.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute and author of The Deniers: The world-renowned scientists who stood up against global warming hysteria, political persecution, and fraud.



The New Toll of American Student Debt

July 11, 2018

by Tara Siegel Bernard and Karl Russel

New York Times

It’s a sign of the times: A new game show, “Paid Off,” debuted on Tuesday offering winners not dream vacations or new cars, but a pile of cash to help lessen the crushing weight of their student debt.

The reach of America’s student loan problem — total debt is now about $1.4 trillion — is vast. Millions of people are in default, and many young people are graduating into adulthood facing payments that limit their ability to buy homes and to start families of their own. Some employers have even begun dangling student loan repayment benefits as a perk to potential workers.

A new analysis of federal loan data indicates that the average student’s debt load is plateauing, and perhaps even declining slightly, at least when adjusted for inflation.

That should be welcome news, except that it comes with a major asterisk: College has not become more affordable, but more students seeking bachelor’s degrees, especially at higher-cost colleges, have borrowed as much as they can under the federal loan program.

As a result, the analysis suggests, many parents are going deeper into debt to pay for their children’s education.For students receiving bachelor’s degrees, the average debt load at graduation was $30,301 in 2015-16, about the same as estimates for the previous three years, according to the analysis, which is based on data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The federal Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics conducts the study every four years.

Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher and vice president of research at SavingForCollege.com, ran the numbers. He believes the explanation for the flattening is that many students simply cannot borrow any more money through the federal loan program.

More than 40 percent of students in the 2015-16 school year reached the limit of $31,000 for dependent students, up from 39 percent in 2011-12.

But some students — those whose parents cannot get federal parental loans, called PLUS loans — have a higher cap on how much they can borrow. (They can borrow up to $57,500, the same limit used for independent students.)

The percentage of all students taking advantage of the higher maximum loan amounts rose to 7.4 percent of those receiving bachelor’s degrees in 2015-16, up from 5.8 percent in 2011-12 and 3.3 percent in 2007-08, according to Mr. Kantrowitz’s analysis.

In that time, parents’ average debt load at graduation for federal PLUS loans rose 14 percent, or $4,090, to $33,291 in 2015-16 from 2011-12.

“Parents are a pressure-relief valve for when students hit the Stafford loan limits,” Mr. Kantrowitz said, referring to the federal loan program.

Among PLUS loan borrowers in 2015-16, roughly two-thirds were taking loans on behalf of students pursuing bachelor’s degrees who had reached their loan limit in their senior year, Mr. Kantrowitz said.

In a further wrinkle, although parental debt loads have risen significantly, the number of parents taking out federal PLUS loans declined by about 10 percent from 2011-12 to 2015-16.

“It may be that we are in an economic recovery and as the stock market improves, fewer parents are borrowing and don’t need to borrow,” Mr. Kantrowitz said. “But those who borrow need to borrow more because the cost of college continues to rise,” he said, adding they were also picking up the slack for children who were unable to take out more federal loans.

The data also shows more students opting for lower-cost public colleges. That seems like a practical move. But, Mr. Kantrowitz said, it suggests that families are feeling financially squeezed.

“Parents are realizing they just can’t afford that more expensive college,” he said. “The shift from private to public is of concern mainly because it is a sign of financial pressure, a kind of canary in the coal mine.”

More problematic is separate data that shows low- and middle-income students enrolling in associate degree and certificate programs instead of bachelor’s degree programs. That, Mr. Kantrowitz said, is “of greater concern because students who could benefit from a bachelor’s degree are scaling back their educational attainment for no reason other than college affordability.”


California high court orders proposal to split up state removed from November ballot

July 18, 2018

by Steve Gorman


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The California Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the November ballot purged of an initiative that seeks to split California into three states, citing significant questions raised about the proposal’s validity.

State election officials certified last month that supporters of the so-called Cal3 measure, also known as Proposition 9, had collected enough signatures to qualify it for the ballot in the country’s most populous state.

An environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League, challenged the measure in court, arguing it posed a “revision” of the state constitution – as opposed to an amendment – that is too sweeping to be legally subjected to the direct consent of the voters.

Siding with opponents for the time being, the court directed state election officials to keep the measure off the upcoming November ballot to allow the justices sufficient time to review and decide the merits of the case.

The court left open the possibility of allowing the initiative to be put before voters in the future, saying the “potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs” the harm of its delay.

The initiative was launched by billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has argued that California’s size makes it ungovernable. He failed in two previous bids to qualify a six-way split of California for the ballot.

Draper decried Wednesday’s outcome as indicative of a “corrupted” political system, saying: “This is not the way democracies are supposed to work.”

Opponents said Draper’s partition plan would be chaotic and a costly waste of time and resources.

Voter approval of Cal3 would not automatically divide California into three states. Instead, the governor would be directed to petition Congress to approve the split, as called for under the U.S. Constitution, and the president would be required to sign such legislation into law.

Political experts say Congress is unlikely to embrace the concept of three Californias and they question whether state voters would take it seriously.

The last time a state was split apart was during the Civil War, when a portion of Virginia seceded to form West Virginia.

Under Cal3, California – home to nearly 40 million people – would be partitioned into “Northern California,” comprising San Francisco, Sacramento and a tract extending to the Oregon border; “Southern California,” including San Diego and inland cities such as Fresno, Bakersfield, San Bernardino and Riverside; and a new “California,” consisting of Los Angeles and a coastal swath stretching north to Monterey.

Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney


Judge slams FBI for improper cellphone search, stingray use

“They are not the only instances of sloppy, inappropriate law enforcement work.”

July 18, 2018

by Cyrus Farivar

ars technica

A federal judge in San Francisco recently excoriated the government over its improper methods in searching one suspect’s cell phone and in the use of a stingray to find an alleged co-conspirator.

Prosecutors say the two men, Donnell Artis and Chanta Hopkins, were engaged in credit card fraud and also illegally possessed firearms, among other pending charges that also involve four other people

The crux of the issue is that, in April 2016, an FBI agent sought and obtained two warrants from an Alameda County Superior Court judge: one to search Artis’ phone and another to deploy a stingray to locate Hopkins.

As Ars has reported for years, stingrays are in use by both local and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide. The devices determine a target phone’s location by spoofing or simulating a cell tower. Mobile phones in range of the stingray then connect to it and exchange data with the device as they would with a real cell tower.

Once deployed, stingrays intercept data from the target phone along with information from other phones within the vicinity—up to and including full calls and text messages. At times, police have falsely claimed that information gathered from a stingray has instead come from a confidential informant.

Good faith

However, California law does not allow state judges to sign off on warrants for federal agents, something that this particular FBI agent, Stonie Carlson, apparently did not know.

“But the two warrants were plagued by numerous errors, reflecting a pattern of systematic recklessness by law enforcement that militates in favor of suppressing the evidence (and against applying the ‘good-faith exception’ to the exclusionary rule),” US District Judge Vince Chhabria wrote in a July 3 order. “This ruling is published separately to put the relevant actors in the criminal justice system on notice that California law prevents state judges from issuing search warrants to federal law enforcement officers, which means that federal law enforcement officers are not permitted to execute such warrants.”

In a hearing before Judge Chhabria on Tuesday, July 17, prosecutors reiterated that they would seek to appeal his separate order that suppressed evidence obtained as a result of those illegal searches. This process will take months to be heard before the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals. If this ruling is upheld, it would throw a major wrench into the prosecutions of Artis and Hopkins.

“The good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule does not apply in this case,” Judge Chhabria wrote in the second July 3 order. “Perhaps any one of the above-referenced errors, viewed in isolation, could be excused under the good-faith exception. But the whole string of errors embodied in these warrant applications militates against applying the good-faith exception. Indeed, although the above-described errors are the most egregious ones, they are not the only instances of sloppy, inappropriate law enforcement work.”

In his orders, Judge Chhabria referred multiple times to a recent stingray case out of Oakland, United States v. Ellis, in which another federal judge definitively found that using a stingray requires a valid warrant.

During a December 2017 hearing, Judge Chhabria also had this incredible exchange with Randall Leonard, an Assistant United States Attorney who argued that because Agent Carlson was part of a sheriff-federal task force, he should be considered a sheriff, with all the rights of a state “peace officer.”

Judge Chhabria didn’t buy it.

THE COURT: Federal law makes him a sheriff under California law?

  1. LEONARD: Well, I mean—

THE COURT: So if federal law said that all French poodles are sheriffs under California law, would that be OK?

  1. LEONARD: Of course not, Your Honor.

THE COURT: There would have to be California law saying, “Yes, we agree that French poodles are sheriffs;” right?

  1. LEONARD: Certainly.

THE COURT: Otherwise French poodles would not be a sheriff under California law, right?

  1. LEONARD: That’s right.

“Never before”

The case of United States v. Artis et al. really begins back in August 2015 when Oakland-based FBI Agent Stonie Carlson got involved in investigating Chanta Hopkins, who had an outstanding warrant for counterfeiting issued in Placer County (roughly 100 miles away).

Later that month, Hopkins’ Audi, according to Carlson, was seen near Willie Brown’s Liquor, a run-of-the-mill East Oakland liquor store—but Hopkins himself did not turn up.

Months later, the FBI learned that Hopkins was providing bogus credit cards to Donnell Artis, who also had an outstanding warrant for his arrest. So the FBI attempted to arrest Artis and found out that he often spent the night at his girlfriend’s apartment on Ellis St. in San Francisco, across the bay from Oakland. But on March 24, 2016, when Carlson and his team turned up at her apartment, something strange happened.

“When we approached Apartment 405, I knocked on the door loudly, as I have hundreds of times,” Carlson wrote in a November 2017 declaration. “When I knocked, the door swung open as if it had not been latched shut in the first place. Never before in my career had this happened, and its occurrence struck me as troubling and concerning, especially in the high-crime area in which the apartment was located. I immediately began to fear for the well-being of anyone who might be inside. I decided to conduct a safety sweep of the apartment.”

Senator to FCC: How much do police stingrays drain a cell phone battery?The team announced itself and entered, sweeping the girlfriend’s apartment to see if anyone was there. The agents found no one. On a countertop, though, Agent Carlson found what he believed to be counterfeit credit cards in Artis’ name.

Less than two weeks later, Carlson learned that Artis also liked to hang out at Willie Brown’s Liquor, so off he went with another FBI special agent, Brian Koh.

On April 5, 2016, Carlson, dressed in street clothes, went to Willie Brown’s Liquor store and spotted Artis’ car. Knowing that Artis had fled police before, Carlson and Koh decided to park nearby and walk up.

“My badge was around my neck but concealed in my hand,” Carlson wrote. “I was not wearing any distinctive law enforcement markings. As we approached Artis, he and I made contact. He stepped behind a tree blocking my visual of his whereabouts. SA Koh, to my left, went around the left side of the tree. I went around the right side of the tree. As I came around the tree, Artis had fallen on the ground, and I attempted to subdue him. At around this time, I noticed Artis’ phone hit the ground. Artis was able to get to his feet and run across Fruitvale Ave. then across Foothill Blvd. We chased after him. Artis continued northbound on Fruitvale Ave. eventually heading west on E. 22nd St.”

Artis got away, but Carlson managed to retrieve the phone—while he had it, Hopkins seemingly called the phone more than once. (Carlson was told by a confidential informant that the phone number of the missed calls belonged to Hopkins.) Later that day, Carlson went to an Alameda County Superior Court judge to get a warrant to search the phone. (However, as Judge Chhabria ruled, this warrant was actually invalid.)

The next day, now that he had Hopkins’ phone number, Carlson went back to the Alameda court, this time to authorize the use of a cell-site simulator, also known as a stingray. That way, he hoped, he could locate Hopkins.

Locating the iPhone

Days later, on April 11, 2016, Carlson and the San Francisco Police Department used the stingray to locate Hopkins in an apartment building near the intersection of 1st St. and Lansing St., in the SoMa district. After using the stingray for several hours to try to locate Hopkins’ iPhone, law enforcement eventually arrested Hopkins as he exited Apartment 3306 at 45 Lansing St. Soon after, with a warrant to search Apt. 3306, police found cocaine in the freezer, for which Hopkins was also charged.

But Hopkins’ lawyer, Steven Gruel, himself a former federal prosecutor, argued that his client’s arrest was not only unlawful but that the search of his person and his apartment were illegal. Gruel argued that Carlson was dishonest when he claimed that he saw Hopkins’ phone number on Artis’ seized phone. Gruel added that Carlson was not forthright when explaining to the county judge what a cell-site simulator actually does.

Worse still, not only did the Alameda County judge not have the authority to sign off on a warrant for an FBI agent, that judge also could not authorize the use of a stingray in an entirely different county: San Francisco.

In short, because Carlson had the wrong type of warrant, that was effectively the same as having no warrant at all—therefore, it was an unconstitutional search. Ultimately, Judge Chhabria found this argument convincing.

“The judge’s order suppressing the FBI agent’s illegal use of the cell-site simulator to locate Mr. Hopkins is in line with the understanding that we all have a legally recognized privacy expectation in our location,” Gruel emailed Ars.

“Whether the FBI uses a GPS or a stingray device to locate someone, the courts are clear that there must be a search warrant supported by probable cause.”

Plus, he added: “We had to dig up what the FBI agent hid. There was an obvious effort to hide the truth about using the stingray device to locate and arrest my client.”

The United States Attorney’s Office in San Francisco did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Both sides are due back in court on September 4.


Days after Helsinki summit, Russia shows off Putin’s ‘super weapons’

July 19, 2018


MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Thursday broadcast a series of videos showing the testing and operation of a new generation of nuclear and conventional weapons, days after Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed how to avoid an arms race. President Putin announced an array of new nuclear weapons in March in one of his most bellicose speeches in years, saying they could hit almost any point in the world and evade a U.S.-built missile shield.

Both he and Trump, who held their first summit in Helsinki on Monday, have spoken of the need to avoid an arms race, and Putin has spoken of the urgent need to work to extend the new START strategic arms reduction treaty.

On Thursday, the Russian Defence Ministry aired Hollywood-style footage of many of the new weapons Putin unveiled in March being tested or in action.

It showed a Russian MiG-31 fighter jet taking off from an airfield carrying the new Kinjal hypersonic missile and then launching it while airborne.

MiG-31 jets which patrol the Caspian Sea have been armed with the Kinjal since April, the Interfax news agency reported.

The ministry also said it was preparing to conduct flight tests of a new nuclear-powered cruise missile, the Burevestnik or Storm Petrel.

The first footage of a live launch of the Avangard hypersonic missile, which Moscow says boasts “a glider maneuvering warhead,” was also aired along with a clip of the heavy Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile.

Putin’s boasts about the new weapons have been greeted with scepticism in Washington, where officials have cast doubt on whether Russia has added any new capabilities to its nuclear arsenal beyond those already known to the U.S. military and intelligence agencies.

Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Andrew Osborn


US has intervened in twice as many elections as Russia

July 17, 2018

by Philip Weiss


Donald Trump made bombshell news yesterday at his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki when he said that the Russian president’s case that the Russians did not intervene in the 2016 election was as strong as the finding by American intelligence agencies that Russia did. John McCain has said it was “one of the most disgraceful performances by a U.S. president in memory,” and the mainstream media have echoed that view. Some have accused Trump of treason.

Not to take Trump’s side here, but his abandonment of U.S. intelligence agencies has exposed some hypocrisy on the liberal Democratic side: their support for the security state and their inability to acknowledge the long history of American interference in foreign elections. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on the PBS News Hour last night injected that realism.

I would say that President Trump has a healthy dose of skepticism towards our intelligence community and I share some of that. James Clapper [then director of National Intelligence] came before the Senate and lied. He said they weren’t collecting our information. That’s the biggest boldface lie that we’ve had in decades and no one did anything about it… They [Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan, who also faulted Trump] had the power to snoop on any American, to snoop on any person in the world. And believe you me they were scooping up everybody’s information…

I’m not saying they [the Russians] didn’t interfere with  the election. In all likelihood they did.  There’s a guy named Dov Levin from Carnegie Mellon who looked at this from 1946 to 2000, and he found 81 times in which the US intervened in elections, about 36 times for the Soviet Union. None of it makes it right, but any country that can spy does and any country that can intervene in foreign elections does. Yes, we’ve been involved in Russia in their elections, we’ve been involved in the Ukraine elections. And we say it’s for democracy. But we don’t support the Russian party. We support the pro-western party. And we paint ours as if ours is always just on the up and up. But we get involved in foreign countries’ elections.

And so yes, we have elevated this Russian thing to a degree that we are simply deranged by it… Did the Russians get involved in it? Yes. What I would tell Russians is exactly what I have told their ambassador and others: if you thought it would help things, it’s actually backfired. Because there can be no rapprochement with Russia, no engagement with Russia, because of the meddling in the election.

Here is an interview from 2016 with Levin about that study.

How often do other countries like Russia, for example, try to alter the outcome of elections as compared to the United States?

LEVIN: Well, for my dataset, the United States is the most common user of this technique. Russia or the Soviet Union since 1945 has used it half as much.

Donald Trump made bombshell news yesterday at his joint press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki when he said that the Russian president’s case that the Russians did not intervene in the 2016 election was as strong as the finding by American intelligence agencies that Russia did. John McCain has said it was “one of the most disgraceful performances by a U.S. president in memory,” and the mainstream media have echoed that view. Some have accused Trump of treason.

Not to take Trump’s side here, but his abandonment of U.S. intelligence agencies has exposed some hypocrisy on the liberal Democratic side: their support for the security state and their inability to acknowledge the long history of American interference in foreign elections. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky on the PBS News Hour last night injected that realism.

I would say that President Trump has a healthy dose of skepticism towards our intelligence community and I share some of that. James Clapper [then director of National Intelligence] came before the Senate and lied. He said they weren’t collecting our information. That’s the biggest boldface lie that we’ve had in decades and no one did anything about it… They [Clapper and former CIA director John Brennan, who also faulted Trump] had the power to snoop on any American, to snoop on any person in the world. And believe you me they were scooping up everybody’s information…

I’m not saying they [the Russians] didn’t interfere with  the election. In all likelihood they did.  There’s a guy named Dov Levin from Carnegie Mellon who looked at this from 1946 to 2000, and he found 81 times in which the US intervened in elections, about 36 times for the Soviet Union. None of it makes it right, but any country that can spy does and any country that can intervene in foreign elections does. Yes, we’ve been involved in Russia in their elections, we’ve been involved in the Ukraine elections. And we say it’s for democracy. But we don’t support the Russian party. We support the pro-western party. And we paint ours as if ours is always just on the up and up. But we get involved in foreign countries’ elections.

And so yes, we have elevated this Russian thing to a degree that we are simply deranged by it… Did the Russians get involved in it? Yes. What I would tell Russians is exactly what I have told their ambassador and others: if you thought it would help things, it’s actually backfired. Because there can be no rapprochement with Russia, no engagement with Russia, because of the meddling in the election.


Spanish court drops international warrant for Puigdemont

Decision means former Catalan president and colleagues no longer face extradition threat

July 19, 2018

by Sam Jones in Madrid and Severin Carrell in Scotland

The Guardian

A Spanish judge has dropped the international arrest warrants issued for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont and five other fugitive pro-sovereignty politicians over their roles in last year’s illegal referendum and subsequent unilateral declaration of independence.

Supreme court judge Pablo Llarena announced the decision a week after a German court said it would extradite Puigdemont only over alleged misuse of public funds rather than the more serious charge of rebellion.

The dropping of the international warrant means that Puigdemont and his former colleagues – currently in Belgium, Scotland and Switzerland – no longer face extradition proceedings. However, national arrest warrants remain in force, meaning the six will be arrested should they return to Spain.

In his ruling, published on Thursday, Llarena hit out at the court in Schleswig-Holstein, accusing it of “a lack of commitment” over acts that could have “broken Spain’s constitutional order”. The German court’s refusal to extradite Puigdemont on the rebellion charge – which prosecutors had argued could be equated to “high treason” in the German penal code – meant that the deposed president could not be tried for the offence if sent back to Spain.

International arrest warrants for Puigdemont and four of his former colleagues, then in Belgium, were previously dropped last December after Llarena noticed discrepancies between Spanish and Belgian law that could have limited the extradition charges.

The warrants were reactivated in late March and Puigdemont was arrested by German police two days later as he crossed from Denmark into Germany after visiting Finnish lawmakers in Helsinki.

Among those whose international arrest warrant was dropped on Thursday is the Catalan academic and former regional education minister Clara Ponsatí.

Ponsatí, 61, a professor of economics at St Andrews University, had been fighting extradition in the Scottish courts after judges in Madrid accused her of misusing public funds and rebellion over the referendum last October.

With Ponsatí winning vocal support from Scottish nationalist politicians and campaigners, four weeks of extradition hearings at Edinburgh sheriff court had been scheduled for the next two months. She faced up to 26 years in jail had she been convicted in Madrid.

Her lawyer, Aamer Anwar, said they welcomed news that this arrest warrant had been withdrawn, but were still concerned about the threat Ponsatí could be arrested if she returned to Spain, or face a redrafted extradition request in future.

“We have not received any official confirmation of this so we’re treading cautiously,” Anwar said.

A spokesman for St Andrews university, which had backed Ponsatí’s claims that the case against her was politically motivated, said: “We are delighted for Clara, but will obviously monitor closely the further implications of the decision in Spain.”

Nine Catalan leaders – including Puigdemont’s former vice-president, Oriol Junqueras – remain on remand in Spain, awaiting trial on charges of rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds. All have now moved from jails near Madrid to Catalan prisons closer to their families.

The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, met Puigdemont’s successor, Quim Torra, for talks at the beginning of July, signalling a thaw in relations between the central and regional governments.



Chaos Prevails in Immigrant Detention Centers, with Children Under 5 Still Separated From Parents

July 19, 2018

by Debbie Nathan

The Intercept

In South Texas, over the last week, chaos has prevailed in immigration detention centers housing parents who were separated from their children in May and June under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” program.

Maria de la Cruz Hernandez Lopez was released on bond Monday evening, just as the parent-child reunifications were beginning at the Port Isabel immigration detention center, near Brownsville. Hernandez was separated from her 9-year-old daughter in early May. She was one of the first detainees to speak to a judge about child separation, during a mass trial in Brownsville at which she was a defendant. Now she is preparing to reunite with her daughter in North Carolina.

Hernandez said she witnessed several reunions before she was released from Port Isabel. “With children over the age of 6,” Hernandez said, “it was a happy experience because the kids recognized and went to their mothers. But the younger children, the 5 and 6 year olds — they wouldn’t look at their moms, only at their social workers. The mothers were devastated.

Parents are not always reunited at the detention center where they have been incarcerated for weeks. Many have been moved from one detention center to another without being told why — it could be that they’re being collected for deportation, or that they are being readied for transport for reunification at another ICE facility.

There seems to be little rhyme or reason for who goes where. At Port Isabel one mother failed her “credible fear” interview and was sure when she was called out of her dorm by detention officials that she would be deported. Instead, she was reunited with her two children, ages 10 and 12, then transported to a shelter 60 miles away — where she was left with no money and no way of getting herself and her children to Kansas, where her partner lives.

Bety Mena Torres, a separated mother who also failed her credible fear hearing, ended up at detention center in Pearsall, Texas on Saturday, after being taken from Port Isabel a day earlier. She effectively disappeared during that time from ICE’s official custody list, terrifying her mother for the 24 hours it took to list her again at her new location, as well as her attorney, Ofelia Calderon, who had filed a stay of deportation on Mena’s behalf.

Mena was distraught by the time she communicated from Pearsall with her family and The Intercept. She wept as she talked about not having seen her 5-year-old daughter since she was apprehended in June, and about how as a victim of severe beatings by mafiosi in Honduras who wanted her to launder money through her clothing store, she was convinced that she would be murdered if she were deported back to her country.

On Wednesday afternoon, according to another inmate who called The Intercept, Mena was removed from the Pearsall detention center without being told why she was being taken or where she was going. Would she be reunited with her daughter, or deported? Transported to joy with her child, or plunged into a deeper nightmare? The chaos surrounding these moves is stunning, and terrifying.

Amid the chaos, it seems that not even the youngest of children or their parents are exempt. Last week, as the Department of Homeland Security struggled to comply with a court order to reunite immigrant children under age 5 with their mothers and fathers, the government gave an accounting of 103 immigrant “tender age” children it had identified. The government said that 57 “eligible” children had been reunited with their parents, but that 46 were still separated, either because the parents had serious criminal records, communicable diseases, or had been deported. Eleven parents were locked up in federal and local jails, for what the government vaguely called “other offenses.”

But The Intercept learned over the weekend of a mother and father who are not ill, who say they do not have criminal records, and have not been deported. Nonetheless, they remained separated from their 15-month-old daughter, who was breastfeeding when taken from her mother, and another daughter who is 4.

The Intercept asked ICE, DHS, and Health and Human Services why these little girls remained in a shelter, instead of being reunited with their parents. The agencies were given names, dates of birth, and other identifying information. None responded with information about the children.

We also contacted the American Civil Liberties Union, who litigated the lawsuit leading to the court decision mandating return of tender age children by July 10. We asked if the two little girls’ names appear on the government’s list of 103 children who were separated. Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, said that his organization and others who possess the list are prohibited from publicly discussing whether a name appears on it.

It’s thus impossible to know why these two very young sisters had not been reunited with their parents. But reunification likely failed to happen because neither the government nor the immigration civil rights advocacy groups knew about the children. While the scramble was on in late June and early July to match kids in shelters with parents in detention, this family may have fallen through the cracks in a process now known to be notoriously inefficient and chaotic. The Intercept discovered the little girls purely by accident, while interviewing a detainee about unrelated matters, which suggests that there may be many more tender age children than the 103 the government knows about — and many who remain separated from their mothers and fathers.

The separated baby is Mia Sharloth Fuentes Maradiaga; her 4-year-old sister is Brithany Fuentes Maradiaga. They are the children of Jennifer Maradiaga Peraza and Carlos Alberto Fuentes Maldonado of Honduras. According to Jennifer Maradiaga, the family left home this spring because Fuentes was shot at and threatened with death by a gang in a case of mistaken identity. She said that neither she nor her partner has ever been in trouble with the law.

The couple and their children traveled through Mexico and ended up at Piedras Negras, a Mexican city just across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. There, they tried to cross the Rio Grande. Maradiaga said the river was frighteningly deep, and once they got in, she and Fuentes started to worry that the children might drown. So they exited the water and approached a bridge used by railroad trains to traverse the border. The family climbed onto a train, but they were observed and apprehended by Border Patrol agents.

Up and down the border, most Central Americans who cross into the U.S. for the first time without papers are charged in federal court with the misdemeanor crime of illegal entry. In theory they can be punished with six months of prison and a $250 fine. But in practice, even under “zero tolerance,” federal magistrate judges generally sentence defendants to “time served,” meaning that immediately after their mass trial in criminal court, they are sent to immigration detention centers run by ICE. Once parents notify ICE officials about the children taken from them, ICE is supposed to coordinate with the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal agency responsible for the children.

But Maradiaga and Fuentes were sentenced to 25 days in a jail where, as Maradiaga put it, “We were mixed up with criminals like smugglers, even though neither of us has ever committed a crime or been in jail.”

Maradiaga said she suspects that she and her partner received the heavy punishment of jail time, which delayed their contact with ICE for weeks, because their children were wet with river water when they were apprehended. Or maybe, she said, they were punished more severely because they’d climbed onto a train. Her suspicions cannot be substantiated from court records. The language and statutes of the parents’ records look identical to those of other immigrants caught crossing the border illegally. There is no mention in the records about child endangerment or anything about railroad cars.

On July 11, the couple completed their jail sentences and were moved to an immigration detention center called South Texas, in Pearsall, about an hour from San Antonio. The previous day had been the deadline for reuniting parents in ICE custody with children younger than 5.

Neither parent had been able to speak with the children since being separated from them in mid-June. But Maradiaga’s mother lives in the U.S. and communicates with the little girls via video chat. They are at a Southwest Key shelter in Youngtown, Arizona. Brithany, the 4-year-old, used to love chatting with her grandmother on WhatsApp, Maradiaga’s mother said, but no longer wants to. “She was a talkative child,” she said. “Now she only says, ‘I don’t want to talk. It bores me.’” The baby, Mia Sharloth, does not smile as she used to do. Instead, she stares at the floor. Her face has mucus on it, as though she has a cold. She looks noticeably thinner than before the family was separated, probably, her grandmother says, because she is no longer breastfeeding. She looks depressed and spent.

Mia Sharloth, Brithany, and their parents came to the attention of The Intercept on July 14 — two days after the government issued its announcement about the 103 children separated — during an interview with Bety Mena Torres, the woman who fears deportation because of the beatings she suffered by money launderers. Mena mentioned that she had just spoken with the girls’ mother and learned that two children under 5 years of age remained separated from their parents.

Mena then connected Maradiaga to me. “I also went to an ICE official at the detention center,” she said on Sunday, “and told him about this family. He seemed surprised. He came into the women’s dorm and started asking the mother a lot of questions about her children’s names and ages. I was afraid the official was angry with me. But I’m going to ask around and see if I can find more parents separated from their babies.”

On Wednesday afternoon, according to the grandmother of the two children under 5, Maradiaga was notified at the detention center in South Texas that she would be immediately flown to Arizona to reunite with her little girls.

Also on Wednesday afternoon, Mena was removed from the same detention center, without being told why. Regardless of what happens to her, she likely will not be finding any more parents still separated from their children.


Germany sees sharp rise in ‘fake science’ journal publications — report

Thousands of German scientists — many using public funds — have published their results in quasi-scientific journals without being peer reviewed, according to a report. An expert described it as “a disaster for science.”

July 19, 2018


Over 5,000 scientists at German universities and other higher education institutes have published the results of their research in journals run by quasi-scientific publishers, according to a media report on Thursday.

When researchers publish their results in a scientific journal, the expectation is that their research questions, methods and data have undergone a rigorous review by other scientists in the field in a process known as peer review. The process acts as a form of quality control, ensuring that studies are scientifically sound before being released to the public.

However, quasi-scientific publishers carry out little to no review of the articles submitted to them and often publish the articles just days after receiving them, according to research carried out by German public broadcasters NDR and WDR as well as German news magazine Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin.

The publishers approach scientists and companies around the world, encouraging them to publish their work in one of their journals. The researchers then pay to have their article or study published in one of these journals where it appears within a few days.

The report found that some 400,000 researchers worldwide have used these scientifically dubious journals — knowingly or inadvertently — to publish their work.

Sharp rise in Germany

Although the quasi-scientific publishers are not a new phenomenon, the recent rise in scientists and researchers using these journals to publish their work is new.

The number of publications by reputable scientists in quasi-scientific journals around the world has tripled since 2013, the report found.

In Germany, the publications increased five-fold, the report found. Furthermore, many of the researchers in Germany were carrying out research that was publicly funded.

According to the report, many scientists are not aware that they’ve sent their work off to a dubious publisher, while others may use the pay-to-publish services to more quickly get their work out.

The quasi-scientific journals are used frequently by other authors seeking to publish work that would likely be rejected by reputable scientific journals. Climate change skeptics as well as companies selling controversial treatments for cancer, autism and Parkinson’s disease have published articles with these journals.

The report also found that German pharmaceutical giants like Bayer have also published studies about their products that have been written by employees. Similarly, tobacco companies use the journals to publish studies about the effects of smoking.

‘Disaster for science’

Leading German scientists who were found to have published their work using these journals expressed shock when asked about their publications.

Bernd Scholz-Reiter, the rector of the University of Bremen reportedly published 13 articles in the dubious journals. He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin that he hadn’t had any doubts about the seriousness of the publications, but emphasized the “scientific quality and integrity” of his texts were still intact.

A Nobel Prize recipient was also among those who published in one of the journals in question, although Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin declined to name the person.

Joachim Funke, a psychology professor and ombudsman for the University of Heidelberg, harshly criticized the fraudulent practices of the publishers.

The quasi-scientific journals are a “disaster for science, because unevaluated claims are sent into the world and give the impression that they are science,” he said in the report.

The nine-month-long research by NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin was carried out in partnership with other international media, including French newspaper Le Monde.


Jon Rappoport

May 21, 2014

Encyclopedia of American Loons

Jon Rappoport is a deliriously insane “independent researcher” and blogger. According to his bio, he “has lectured extensively all over the US on the question: Who runs the world and what can we do about it?” For the last decade, however, he has “operated largely away from the mainstream” because, as he puts it, “[m]y research was not friendly to the conventional media.” Indeed. His independent research encompasses “deep politics, conspiracies, alternative health, the potential of the human imagination, mind control, the medical cartel, symbology, and solutions to the takeover of the planet by hidden elites.”

He is, for instance, a germ theory denialist, and in his post “Germ theory and depopulation” (discussed here) he argues that “[i]n general, so-called contagious diseases are caused, not by germs, but by IMMUNE SYSTEMS THAT ARE TOO WEAK TO FIGHT OFF THOSE GERMS” (yes, the capitalization is in the original). Indeed, “GERMS ARE A COVER STORY. What do they cover up? The fact that immune systems are the more basic target for depopulation and debilitation of populations.” The main tool is of course vaccines, which are weapons the nefarious powers that be use to kill off, well, it is a bit hard to see, partially because Rappoport’s post is mostly all-caps from there. At least HIV is a cover story as well.

He has a similar screed on flu vaccines on whale.to if that’s the kind of stuff you fancy reading. It is barely grammatical, but at least he gets his enthusiastic anger across rather well.

Currently Rappoport seems to write on various topics for InfoWars. Recently, for instance, Rappoport and InfoWars dubbed Rep. Tim Murphy’s bill seeking to reform the way the government addresses mental health services a “diabolical legislative package,” since Rappoport thought the legislation would require almost all children to take “psychiatric meds,” and that the bill will ultimately give the federal government “a monopoly of the mind.” Yeah, that’s the way he rolls.

Diagnosis: Hysterically crazy; and his influence is probably not quite as limited as his level of crazy should suggest










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