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TBR News October 5, 2016

Oct 05 2016

The Voice of the White House 

Washington, D.C.  October 4, 2016: “We are out of the office until October 6.-ed

Exclusive: Yahoo secretly scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence – sources

October 4, 2016

by Joseph Menn


SAN FRANCISCO-Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to the two former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.”Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand. Yahoo declined any further comment.

Through a Facebook spokesman, Stamos declined a request for an interview.

The NSA referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declined to comment.

The demand to search Yahoo Mail accounts came in the form of a classified directive sent to the company’s legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. phone and Internet companies are known to have handed over bulk customer data to intelligence agencies. But some former government officials and private surveillance experts said they had not previously seen either such a broad directive for real-time Web collection or one that required the creation of a new computer program.

“I’ve never seen that, a wiretap in real time on a ‘selector,'” said Albert Gidari, a lawyer who represented phone and Internet companies on surveillance issues for 20 years before moving to Stanford University this year. A selector refers to a type of search term used to zero in on specific information.

“It would be really difficult for a provider to do that,” he added.

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target. The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Reuters was unable to confirm whether the 2015 demand went to other companies, or if any complied.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, did not respond to requests for comment.


Under laws including the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, intelligence agencies can ask U.S. phone and Internet companies to provide customer data to aid foreign intelligence-gathering efforts for a variety of reasons, including prevention of terrorist attacks.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others have exposed the extent of electronic surveillance and led U.S. authorities to modestly scale back some of the programs, in part to protect privacy rights.

Companies including Yahoo have challenged some classified surveillance before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal.

Some FISA experts said Yahoo could have tried to fight last year’s directive on at least two grounds: the breadth of the demand and the necessity of writing a special program to search all customers’ emails in transit.

Apple Inc made a similar argument earlier this year when it refused to create a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone used in the 2015 San Bernardino massacre. The FBI dropped the case after it unlocked the phone with the help of a third party, so no precedent was set.

Other FISA experts defended Yahoo’s decision to comply, saying nothing prohibited the surveillance court from ordering a search for a specific term instead of a specific account. So-called “upstream” bulk collection from phone carriers based on content was found to be legal, they said, and the same logic could apply to Web companies’ mail.

As tech companies become better at encrypting data, they are likely to face more such requests from spy agencies.

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said email providers “have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”


Mayer and other executives ultimately decided to comply with the directive last year rather than fight it, in part because they thought they would lose, said the people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo in 2007 had fought a FISA demand that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a court-approved warrant. Details of the case remain sealed, but a partially redacted published opinion showed Yahoo’s challenge was unsuccessful.

Some Yahoo employees were upset about the decision not to contest the more recent directive and thought the company could have prevailed, the sources said.

They were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.

Stamos’s announcement in June 2015 that he had joined Facebook did not mention any problems with Yahoo. (bit.ly/2dL003k)

In a separate incident, Yahoo last month said “state-sponsored” hackers had gained access to 500 million customer accounts in 2014. The revelations have brought new scrutiny to Yahoo’s security practices as the company tries to complete a deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc for $4.8 billion.

(Reporting by Joseph Menn; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Tiffany Wu)

Delete Your Yahoo Account

October 4 2016

by Sam Biddle

The Intercept

There’s no good reason to have a Yahoo account these days. But after Tuesday’s bombshell report by Reuters, indicating the enormous, faltering web company designed a bespoke email-wiretap service for the U.S. government, we now know that a Yahoo account is a toxic surveillance liability.

Reuters’s Joseph Menn is reporting that just last year, Yahoo chose to comply with a classified “directive” to build “a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials” — the NSA in particular.

It’s still unknown what the “specific information” here was — or is — but Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision not to put up any fight against the extremely broad request apparently prompted the departure of then-Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, now head of security at Facebook.

Reached via Twitter DM, Stamos told The Intercept that he’s “not commenting at all on Yahoo.” When asked if Facebook had ever received a similar government directive, Stamos replied that he would “pass that to Facebook comms.”

A Facebook spokesperson told The Intercept, “Facebook has never received a request like the one described in these news reports from any government, and if we did we would fight it.”

It remains unclear what form the directive took, though according to Andrew Crocker, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the best guess is that it invoked Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which permits the bulk collection of communications for the purpose of targeting a foreign individual.

But this Yahoo program doesn’t appear to have had even an ostensibly non-U.S. target. Rather, literally every single person with a Yahoo email inbox was evidently placed under surveillance, regardless of citizenship.

Crocker said the Yahoo program seems “in some ways more problematic and broader” than previously revealed NSA bulk surveillance programs like PRISM or Upstream collection efforts. “It’s hard to think of an interpretation” of the Reuters report, he explained, “that doesn’t mean Yahoo isn’t being asked to scan all domestic communications without a warrant” or probable cause.

“The Fourth Amendment implications of that are pretty staggering,” Crocker said.

The Yahoo program, as described, also differs from previous federal data grabs in that the scanning occurred in real time, as messages arrived in a user’s inbox, rather than being conducted in an archive of stored communications.

The fact that every single Yahoo email account was subject to this surveillance seems at odds with figures in Yahoo’s transparency report, which claims fewer than 20,000 accounts were tapped at the behest of the U.S. government. It would also appear to run contrary to the spirit of two quotations on Yahoo’s transparency site, where Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell claims, “We fight any requests that we deem unclear, improper, overbroad, or unlawful,” and Mayer says, “We’ve worked hard over the years to earn our users’ trust and we fight hard to preserve it.”

The Reuters report is sourced to “two former employees and a third person apprised of the events,” rather than government officials — raising the possibility that similar orders have been issued to other major service providers.

An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the record when asked if Apple has received or complied with the same or a similar directive, but he pointed to a section from a recent public letter by CEO Tim Cook, which he said was still accurate:

Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

A Google spokesperson provided the following statement: “We’ve never received such a request, but if we did, our response would be simple: ‘no way.’” The spokesperson later clarified that the company has not received a “directive” or “order” to that effect, either.

“We have never engaged in the secret scanning of email traffic like what has been reported today about Yahoo,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. The spokesperson would not comment on the record as to whether the company has ever received such a request.

Asked whether Twitter had ever received such a directive aimed at its messaging system, Nu Wexler, the company’s public policy communications chief, replied that “Federal law prohibits us from answering your question, and we’re currently suing the Justice Department for the ability to disclose more information about government requests.” Twitter filed the lawsuit in 2014.

In a subsequent statement, Wexler clarified:

We’ve never received a request like this, and were we to receive it we’d challenge it in a court. Separately, while federal law prohibits companies from being able to share information about certain types of national security related requests, we are currently suing the Justice Department for the ability to disclose more information about government requests.

Yahoo issued this statement: “Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States.”

Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that “the order issued to Yahoo appears to be unprecedented and unconstitutional. The government appears to have compelled Yahoo to conduct precisely the type of general, suspicionless search that the Fourth Amendment was intended to prohibit.”

He added: “It is deeply disappointing that Yahoo declined to challenge this sweeping surveillance order, because customers are counting on technology companies to stand up to novel spying demands in court.”

Here is how to delete your Yahoo account.

Update: October 4, 2016

This article has been updated to include comments from Microsoft, Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Yahoo.

‘Great Pacific garbage patch’ far bigger than imagined, aerial survey shows

Giant collection of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items called a ‘ticking time bomb’ as large items crumble into micro plastics

October 4, 2016

by Oliver Milman

The Guardian

The vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined.

A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”, located between Hawaii and California.

The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated.

“Normally when you do an aerial survey of dolphins or whales, you make a sighting and record it,” said Boyan Slat, the founder of the Ocean Cleanup.

“That was the plan for this survey. But then we opened the door and we saw the debris everywhere. Every half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots – it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean.”

The heart of the garbage patch is thought to be around 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles), with the periphery spanning a further 3.5m sq km (1,351,000 sq miles). The dimensions of this morass of waste are continually morphing, caught in one of the ocean’s huge rotating currents. The north Pacific gyre has accumulated a soup of plastic waste, including large items and smaller broken-down micro plastics that can be eaten by fish and enter the food chain.

According to the UN environmental programme, the great Pacific garbage patch is growing so fast that it, like the Great Wall of China, is becoming visible from space.

Last year, the Ocean Cleanup sent 30 vessels to cross the patch to scoop up micro plastics in fine nets to estimate the extent of the problem. However, the new reconnaissance flights from California have found that large items of more than half a meter in size have been “heavily underestimated”.

Slat said: “Most of the debris was large stuff. It’s a ticking time bomb because the big stuff will crumble down to micro plastics over the next few decades if we don’t act.”

Following a further aerial survey through the heart of the patch on Sunday, the Ocean Cleanup aims to tackle the problem through a gigantic V-shaped boom, which would use sea currents to funnel floating rubbish into a cone. A prototype of the vulcanized rubber barrier will be tested next year, with a full-sized 100km (62-mile) barrier deployed by 2020 if trials go well.

The boom will not be able to suck up all of the strewn rubbish, however, with Slat warning that plastic is “quite persistent. We need to clean it up, but we also need to prevent so much entering the oceans. Better recycling, better product design and some legislation is all part of that. We need a combination of things.”

The full scale of plastic pollution was revealed in 2014, when a study found there were more than 5tn pieces of plastic floating in our oceans. In 2014, 311m tonnes of plastic were produced around the world, a 20-fold increase since 1964. It is expected to quadruple again by mid-century.

A report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation earlier this year predicted there would be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 unless urgent action was taken.

US bristles as Russia sends air-defense system to Syria

Russia has deployed an S-300 missile system to Syria. The United States has suspended talks on reviving a failed ceasefire, citing Russia’s support of the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

October 5, 2016


On Tuesday, Russia sent an air-defense missile system to Syria. The deployment immediately raised questions from the Pentagon.

“It depends on how the Russians plan to use it,” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said. “Last I checked, the Russians said that their primary goal was to fight extremism, ISIL and Nusra, in Syria,” Cook added, using a common acronym for “Islamic State” (IS) and making reference to a rival, al Qaeda-linked rebel group. “Neither one has an air force. … So this is something we’ll watch carefully. But it should be clear to the Russians and everybody else operating in Syria how seriously we take the safety of our air crews.”

Last month, aircraft tied to the US-led coalition fighting IS struck troops from Syria’s army near Deir el-Zour. The regime of President Bashar al-Assad has claimed that 60 Syrian soldiers died in the air raid. Officials in Washington say the US-led coalition launched the strike by mistake, but the Kremlin has questioned that explanation.

Though the United States put diplomatic contact on hold on Tuesday, the country has maintained a military-to-military dialogue intended to prevent incidents in the air between Russian and US-led coalition aircraft over Syria.

Such a stir’

The rebels and US-led coalition have accused Russia of indiscriminately bombing opposition-held areas in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, in an effort to help an offensive conducted by regime forces. Despite credible reports to the contrary, Russian officials deny that strikes have hit hospitals and other civilian facilities and on Tuesday expressed bewilderment about why the new missile system might provoke controversy.

“I remind you that the S-300 is a purely defensive system and poses no threat to anyone,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement released Tuesday. “It’s not clear why the placement of S-300 in Syria has caused such a stir among our Western colleagues.”

In addition to the Tartus facility – its only naval supply station outside the former Soviet Union – Russia runs an air base outside Latakia, which houses warplanes used in the bombing campaign the country launched a year ago in support of Assad, a longtime ally. In August, a senior official said Russia planned to expand its Hmeimim air base in Syria into a permanent military facility. The base already has an S-400 air-defense system – the most modern in Russia’s arsenal.

Syria truce: Going beyond the blame game

October 4, 2016

by Salman Rafi

Asia Times News

No power or state can ‘win’ this war. Russia and the US should end it before things go out of control.

While the US and Russia are blaming each other for the failure of Syrian truce, any such agreement that fails to satisfy most of their respective interests is unlikely to succeed.

As such, a ceasefire that was meant to instil trust and bridge the gaps has ended increasing the trust deficit between the two countries, deepened suspicion on all sides and raised fears of more violence.

Other parties involved in the conflict too are to blame as they pursue divergent objectives. The apparent allies — US and Saudi Arabia or Russia and Iran — have, as the crisis evolved from an “uprising” to a “multi-state war”, developed differences over what is achievable and where compromises can be made. Middle East has indeed moved from an era when the US and Russia held sway over actors such as Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Turkey seems to be playing Russia and US against each other to project itself as a key stakeholder in Syria.

Iran sees in Syria the only territory it can use to project its powers against its chief rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia. For Iran, President Bashar al-Assad has offered Syria as a crucial transit route to fund its Hezbollah proxies and as a bulwark against the sort of Sunni Islam propagated by Saudi Arabia.

Riyadh has funded rebel groups and insists that Assad must step down for Sunni Islam to hold political sway over the whole region stretching from North Africa to Caucuses. This has been the objective since the beginning of this ‘terror-based’ phase of geopolitical tussles and it continues to be so even today (the US suspects Gulf States may arm ‘Syrian rebels’ with superior weapons once the ceasefire is dead) adding to the misery of innocent people.

Of all the players involved in Syria, the one that has sacrificed and will sacrifice the most are the Iranians. While Russia and the US may be able to work out some deal, they still have to deal with the Iranians and their rivals.

The ceasefire, which was supposed to pave way for intelligence sharing and US-Russia joint operations against Islamic State, failed because it lacked the support of all the parties.

The Pentagon itself appeared wary of the plan as it exposed a fundamental flaw: America’s promise of cooperation with Russia made US-backed opposition feel that Washington is no longer acting in its interests. They are now awaiting the emergence of Hillary Clinton as the new US president for the end of US-Russia military co-operation in Syria.

The ceasefire deal did not get much support within Syria and Iran as they saw in it the potential to ultimately lead to a regime change.

While Russia maintains that Assad is pivotal in the fight against terrorism, it remains flexible on his future in the post-conflict Syria.

For Iran, the question of Assad’s exit does not arise. On the eve of the ceasefire agreement, Iran’s ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani, said Tehran’s position remains unchanged on Assad. Iran seeks a political solution to the Syrian crisis by making all parties involved in the conflict respect the national sovereignty of the country and allowing Syrians to determine its political future.

Meanwhile, Turkey, which has launched Operation Euphrates Shield, is controlling almost 900 sq km inside Syria and eyeing more territory to convert it into a safe zone.

The question of who should be included in negotiations and who should be considered a stakeholder has resurfaced in this context leaving Russia and the US confused.

The events in Syria over the past two weeks and the way different states have taken markedly different positions point to a dangerous development: no state has any decisive say, and no power including Assad, Russia, Islamic State, Al-Nusra, Iran, America and Britain has the capacity to swing the war on the ground decisively in its favor. Any attempt to impose a unilateral decision would only deepen the conflict and pump more weapons and jihadists from all over the world into Syria.

Since the states involved in the Syrian conflict pursue diametrically opposite interests, their perceptions of “terrorists” and “rebels” involved in it vary. However, one thing is clear: no power or state can ‘win’ this war. Hence, Russia and the US should end it before things go out of control.

Baghdad bridles at Turkey’s military presence, warns of ‘regional war’

October 5, 2016

by Maher Chmaytelli and Tuvan Gumrukcu


BAGHDAD/ANKARA-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned Turkey that it risks triggering a regional war by keeping troops in Iraq, as each summoned the other’s ambassador in a growing row.

Relations between the two regional powers are already broadly strained by the Syrian civil war and the rise of the Islamic State militant group.

Turkey’s parliament voted last week to extend its military presence in Iraq for a further year to take on what it called “terrorist organizations” – a likely reference to Kurdish rebels as well as Islamic State.

Iraq’s parliament responded on Tuesday night by condemning the vote and calling for Turkey to pull its estimated 2,000 troops out of areas across northern Iraq.

“We have asked the Turkish side more than once not to intervene in Iraqi matters and I fear the Turkish adventure could turn into a regional war,” Abadi warned in comments broadcast on state TV on Wednesday.

“The Turkish leadership’s behavior is not acceptable and we don’t want to get into a military confrontation with Turkey.”

Turkey says its military is in Iraq at the invitation of Masoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government, with which Ankara maintains solid ties. Most of the troops are at a base in Bashiqa, north of Mosul, where they are helping to train Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni fighters.

Turkey’s deputy Prime Minister, Numan Kurtulmus, said the deployment had become necessary after Islamic State’s seizure of Iraq’s second city, captured in 2014

“Neither Turkey’s presence in Bashiqa nor its operation right now in Syrian territory are aimed at occupying or interfering with the domestic affairs of these countries.”

Iraq’s central government in Baghdad says it never invited such a force and considers the Turkish troops occupiers.


Tensions between Iraq and Turkey have risen with expectations of an offensive by Iraq and U.S.-backed forces to retake Mosul.

Turkey has said the campaign will send a wave of refugees over its border and, potentially, on to Europe.

Ankara worries that Baghdad’s Shi’ite Muslim-led forces will destabilize Mosul’s largely Sunni population and worsen ethnic strife across the region, where there are also populations of Turkmens, ethnic kin of the Turks.

Turkey is also uncomfortable with the arrangement of Kurdish forces expected to take part in the offensive.

In northern Syria, where Turkey is backing rebels fighting Islamic State, Ankara has warned that Kurdish militias are “filling the vacuum” left by Islamic State. Fearing that this will boost the Kurdish rebellion across the border in southeast Turkey, it has threatened to “cleanse” them.

Turkey announced late on Tuesday that it was summoning Iraq’s ambassador to complain about the parliamentary vote.

“We believe this decision does not reflect the views of the majority of Iraqi people, whom Turkey has stood by for years and attempted to support with all its resources,” Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said.

“We find it noteworthy that the Iraqi parliament, which has not said anything about the accepted mandate for years, puts this on the agenda as though it were a new development in times when terror is taking so many lives in Turkey and Iraq.”

On Wednesday, Iraq summoned the Turkish ambassador to Baghdad to protest what it said were “provocative” comments from Ankara about the troop deployment.

(Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

New Guccifer 2.0 claims: Hacked Clinton Foundation files show ‘pay to play’, bank ties

October 4, 2016


Documents reportedly hacked from the Clinton Foundation servers have identified major Democratic donors and troubling ties between TARP aid given to banks and their political contributions. One folder is outright labeled “Pay to Play.”

A Hacker calling himself “Guccifer 2.0,” who claimed responsibility for previous breaches of the Democratic National Committee and the congressional Democrats, published the documents on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the vice-presidential debates.

“I hacked the Clinton Foundation server and downloaded hundreds of thousands of docs and donors’ databases,” the hacker wrote on his blog. “Clinton and her staff don’t even bother about the information security.”

The Clinton Foundation has denied the hack, with president Donna Shalala saying that “none of the files or folders shown are ours.”

Guccifer 2.0 also claimed that one of the documents shows that big banks are donating a percentage of funds received through the government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program to the DNC, citing a spreadsheet that lists the TARP amounts next to the amounts donated to lawmakers like then-Representative Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), co-author of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

“It looks like big banks and corporations agreed to donate to the Democrats a certain percentage of the allocated TARP funds,” he wrote.

Another document posted on the blog appears to be a master list of Clinton Foundation donors in the western US, allegedly tracking contributions from 2009 to 2015. Among the names are movie directors JJ Abrams and Gore Verbinski; Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff; Google CEO Eric Schmidt; Walt Disney Co. President and CEO Robert Iger; Microsoft founder Bill Gates; Microsoft VP Steve Ballmer; and major Hollywood stars like Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, and Tom Hanks.

While the authenticity of documents shared by Guccifer 2.0 could not be verified, some of the leaks stand up to scrutiny.

Taking his moniker from recently jailed Romanian hacker Guccifer, Guccifer 2.0 has been releasing hacked papers since mid-July.

He previously released documents purloined from the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), exposing alleged bias towards Clinton, railroading Senator Senders as well as sensitive financial data.

The files revealed that the DNC ‘rewarded’ campaign donors and fund-raisers among high profile officials. The leaks led to resignations of several top Democratic Party officials, including DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, lending credence to Guccifer 2.0 claims.

The Democrats have blamed the hacks on Russia, but Guccifer 2.0 denied having any ties with the Russian government or Russia, though he admits being of Eastern European extraction.

‘We’re living in an occupied country’

Ranchers Jim and Sue Chilton have been fighting for years for better US-Mexico border protection. Donald Trump is the only one they trust to stop the drug cartel that controls their land. Ines Pohl reports from Arizona.

October 3, 2016

by Ines Pohl


Every few meters there’s a rusty steel post holding up lines of barbed wire. From a distance you can scarcely make them out in the sandy, hilly landscape, between the cacti and the desert grass. And under the blazing sun you have to look closely to see all the places where the barbed wire has been repaired. The glint of fresh metal gives them away.

Jim Chilton is 77 years old, and has a bit of a belly. It takes him less than a minute to crawl under the fence. With that he has crossed the border between Mexico and the United States. He’s hung his pale cowboy hat on one of the steel posts, but the Colt stays in its holster on his heavy leather belt – always close at hand.

Almost all are drug smugglers

Thousands of people cross their land every year. No one knows the exact figure. They leave behind tons of plastic rubbish. When cows eat it, they die a painful death. The people cut through the fence, causing further losses when the cows escape. “These days, one of my cowboys’ main jobs is fixing fences,” says Jim.

bove all, fewer and fewer of those who cross the border are people looking for work, hoping for a better life. Instead, they’re drug smugglers controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the most brutal criminal organizations in the world.

“Crossing the border has gotten way too dangerous for ordinary people looking for work,” says Jim. He explains that they too are forced to carry drugs. He shows photos of bushes with women’s underwear hanging off them. “Those are the trophies the criminals hang there after they’ve raped their victim, sometimes for days.” His steely blue eyes narrow to slits as he says this. “It’s wrong, what’s happening here on my land, what’s happening here in America.”

Fifth generation ranchers

He’s been farming his 20,000-hectare (50,000-acre) ranch, employing four cowboys, since 1987. That’s more than 28,000 football fields – a lot of land, even by American standards. Some 800 hectares belong to him and his wife, Sue; the rest is leased by the state. That’s usual in this Arizona border region. Jim owns a herd of just under 1,000 cows. A former investment banker, with university degrees in politics and business administration, he makes most of his money from the sale of young cattle.

Jim was almost 50 when he decided to carry on the family tradition, giving up his life in politics and banking. The Chiltons have been ranchers for five generations. His ancestors drove the first herds through Arizona in 1888. One of the main reasons why they chose this farm, 110 kilometers (68 miles) southwest of Tucson, was that there are a lot of springs on the land. “Water’s the most important thing in raising cattle,” he says. Thirty years ago the fact that the Mexican border was only 16 kilometers from his ranch, and his land ran right along the border for eight kilometers, wasn’t a consideration for him. Now, this proximity to the international border determines his whole life.

“Right from the start there were Mexicans who would cross the border to work in the US. That never bothered us,” says Jim. “When we came across them we’d give them water and show them where there were more watering places on the way across our land.” In the summer months the temperature can reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade.

Like his wife Sue, Jim keeps repeating the sentence: “No one should die on our land.” Both are regular churchgoers. Seventy-four-year-old Sue conducts the Catholic church choir. Jim continues to install little spouts on his cattle’s 20 water troughs, so people can drink and fill their water bottles, even though he no longer finds the situation acceptable.

Many neighbors have given up

He and his neighbors have been fighting for years for proper border patrols: “Long before Donald Trump talked about a wall, we were calling for one.” More and more of his neighbors have given up – they don’t believe anything’s going to change. They don’t believe that proper roads will finally be built along the border or that there will be manned posts near the border so it doesn’t take three or four hours for police to get there when they’re called or when the surveillance cameras show long lines of men carrying heavy packs and armed with AK-47s snaking their way across the terrain. Friends have sold their farms for half their worth, happy to have found anyone at all to take them. Usually it’s the government that buys them, because no private individual wants to take the risk.

Taking on the drug mafia can have fatal consequences. Two families they’re friends with have experienced this: Rob Krentz and Larry Link were shot after reporting stashes of drugs they found. Jim says that to be on the safe side, he himself left his ranch for a while after he stumbled across a group of drug smugglers and reported the goods they left behind. “I’ve never had to use my weapons, but I know why I always carry at least one gun.”

No help from Washington

It’s hard to get an overview of things around here; the many canyons offer excellent cover for the smugglers with their heavy rucksacks, weighing up to 30 kilos (66 pounds) and full of marijuana, cocaine or heroin. In addition, Jim explains, the cartel has set up sentries everywhere, and they have top-of-the-range equipment. They guard the area, and warn the smugglers. Once, he says, he came across one of these scouts, who dropped his radio telephone as he ran away. “It was worth more than $2,500. They’re better equipped than our border patrol guards.”

The Sinaloa Cartel has assumed complete control of the land. “When I’m out here, I feel as if I’m in an occupied country,” says Jim. He stares down at his feet in their hand-stitched cowboy boots.

For decades, he and his wife were staunch Democrats. After university, Jim even worked for Democratic Senator Carl Hayden. This year, Donald Trump will get the Chiltons’ vote. “We don’t agree with everything he says and does. But he’ll take care of us. Hillary Clinton’s Washington gave up on us long ago.”

WikiLeaks’ Assange promises presidential election leaks

October 4, 2016

by Kim Hjelmgaard


BERLIN — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed Tuesday that the online publishing organization would publish “significant” secret information related to the United States presidential election before Nov. 8.

Assange made the comments via video link from London to Berlin as part of a news conference to mark WikiLeaks’ 10th anniversary.

He said WikiLeaks intends to start “publishing every week for the next 10 weeks” material on weapons, war, Google, the election and other topics, but did not otherwise elaborate on the timing or the subject matter of the documents.

Ahead of the news conference there was intense speculation that WikiLeaks would release documents Tuesday connected to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, but that did not happen. Assange did not say whether any of the releases would be about Republican candidate Donald Trump.

“We are going to need an army to defend us from the pressure that is already starting to arise,” Assange, 45, said via video link.

He has been in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. There, he faces a rape allegation and the prospect of extradition to the U.S. where investigators want to question him about espionage charges.

Apple biggest tax avoider in US stashing $215bn offshore

October 5, 2016


A new study reveals Fortune 500 companies are holding nearly $2.5 trillion in accumulated profits offshore to pay less tax. Top is Apple which since 2009 funneled $214.9 billion to tax havens and would owe $65.4 billion if the profits returned to the US.

The report was published just weeks after a European investigation concluded Ireland provided Apple with a favorable tax rate which allowed the company to pay one percent on EU profits in 2003 down to 0.005 percent in 2014. Apple is now obliged to pay $14.5 billion in back taxes.

The $215 billion Apple booked offshore through three tax havens last year is bigger than the gross domestic product of Portugal, Greece or New Zealand. If the company returned the earnings to the US and paid the $65.4 billion in tax, it would have been more than economies of Belarus, Uruguay or Croatia.

According to the authors, the second biggest tax avoider is pharmaceutical giant Pfizer with 181 offshore subsidiaries and almost $194 billion of profits booked offshore.

Number three is Microsoft with five tax haven subsidiaries and $124 billion of profits held offshore.

Sneaker giant Nike holds $10.7 billion offshore and would owe $3.6 billion in US taxes. One of the authors of the report, Citizens for Tax Justice, has noted that Nike’s offshore companies in Bermuda are named after its own brands, like Air Max Limited, Nike Cortez, Nike Flight, Nike Force, Nike Huarache, Nike Jump Ltd., Nike Lavadome, Nike Pegasus, Nike Tailwind and Nike Waffle.

Goldman Sachs holds $28.6 billion offshore, but “reports having 987 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens, 537 of which are in the Cayman Islands despite not operating a single legitimate office in that country, according to its own website.”

Overall, if all the Fortune 500 companies paid taxes on their profits in the US, the country would get an additional $717.8 billion. In 2015, the US budget deficit stood at $438 billion.

America’s Outdated Special Relationship With Saudi Arabia

The next U.S. president will have an unprecedented opportunity to put some distance between Washington and Riyadh

October 5, 2016

by Ryan Suto


The current US presidential campaign debate on Middle East policy has focused disproportionately on the US response to the Islamic State (ISIS or IS). This series will focus instead on five alternative Middle East policy challenges facing the next president. This fourth part discusses the US-Saudi special relationship. See part one on Iraq, part two on Tunisia, and part three on Egypt.

Like other longstanding American relationships in the Middle East, the ties between Washington and Riyadh have nothing to do with human rights or democracy. The alliance rests mostly on two key factors: natural resources and regional stability.

First, in addition to being the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the House of Saud is the custodian of a singular holy resource: oil. Saudi Arabia’s role as the largest exporter of the crucial fossil fuel, as well as its cultural and political influence over other six other Arab OPEC members, makes friendship with the kingdom a valuable, and seemingly indispensable, asset for a fuel-thirsty superpower.

Second, in the Cold-War era, maintaining a balance of power between Western allies such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and Soviet allies such as Iran and Syria, was central to US policy in the region. Making overt advances in nonaligned countries like Egypt or through intermediary forces, such as supporting Saddam Hussein against Iran, was our preferred method of balancing Soviet influence in the region. In this context, retaining Saudi Arabia as a proxy for Western influence in the Arab world was an easy policy decision. Without American patronage, the Saudis might have turned to Russia. Further, although Saudi Arabia has no formal relations with Israel, unlike Egypt after the Camp David Accords, the Saudis have never used state force against Israel, making the kingdom more palatable to Washington.

Barack Obama’s administration has departed from the policies of its predecessors in being willing to equivocate in its dealings with Saudi Arabia. Obama has shown contempt toward the diplomatic assumption that he and the Saudis will present a common foreign policy in the region. The most dramatic example of this new approach was the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although he has not spurned all Saudi initiatives – he has backed the intervention in Yemen – Obama has been willing to diverge from Saudi interests, which has heightened the insecurity of Saudi leaders.

Saudi Arabia has done much to warrant Obama’s hesitation. Since the passing of King Abdullah in 2015, King Salman and Minister of Defense Mohammed bin Salman have intensified the simmering regional rivalry with Iran, attempting to counter the Shia nation in every theater in the region. Departing from post-9/11 reforms and moderations, the kingdom’s current leadership is now committed to either ignoring or supporting extremist Sunni theology.

Earlier this year Saudi Arabia suspended funding for the Lebanese army over the influence of Hezbollah in the country. Viewing the Houthis in Yemen as a proxy of Iran, Saudi has led an intervention in the country, generating accusations of war crimes against civilians in the process. In Saudi Arabia’s defense, Iran financially supports Hamas and maintains close ties with Hezbollah. The country has also played an enlarged role fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – often aligning with US interests. However, the extent of Iran’s role in Yemen is debatable. Nonetheless, German intelligence labels Saudi Arabia’s newfound activism in the region as “impulsive intervention.”

In the past two weeks, Congress has adopted a contradictory posture toward Saudi Arabia. It has pressed for both the declassification of a report that details the potential Saudi connection to the 9/11 attacks and on human rights violations within the Kingdom. It also overrode an Obama veto for the first time to pass a bill allowing the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government as a potential enabler of the attacks. At the same time, Congress blocked an attempt to undermine a $1.15 billion sale of military tanks to Riyadh.

In the post-Cold War world, the interests of Riyadh and Washington have increasingly diverged in the region. Obama is a pivotal figure. His term straddled the Arab Spring and the negotiations to end Iran’s nuclear program. The next administration must operate in a post-Arab Spring, post-Iran nuclear deal Middle East. If context, and not ideology, justified American ties with Saudi Arabia, new rationales must be found in this new regional context.

The first justification for the Washington-Riyadh relationship, the politics of oil, will undoubtedly remain an important factor for years to come. However, US per-capita consumption of foreign oil has been steadily decreasing for decades, with 2014 levels below 1994 levels. The declining importance of foreign oil for the US economy will allow future US presidents more room for policy divergence with foreign producers, such as Saudi Arabia.

The second justification, maintaining regional stability, is now an illusion. A nation or a region is politically “stable” when it is unlikely to change. In the context of the Cold War, where Western-approved dictators ruled largely docile publics, maintaining the status quo meant policy predictability. However, in the modern Middle East where Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Yemen have no effective centralized government that can control the entire state territory, maintaining the status quo means prolonged violence and a proliferation of failed states. And although the Syrian civil war has given Russia a larger foothold in the region than Washington would prefer, Vladimir Putin is a far cry from reaching Soviet-era levels of patronage in the region.

If the next administration continues to free US Middle East policy from its Saudi-centric, Cold-War-era thinking, Washington will find that it has more flexibility in making a strategic approach to Iran, advancing human rights in the region, and effectively countering political and religious extremism, whether Sunni, Shia, or any other variety.

Yahoo Offers Non-Denial Denial of Bombshell Spy Report

October 5, 2016

by Sam Biddle

The Intercept

After Tuesday’s revelatory story by Reuters’ Joseph Menn that exposed an apparent vast, secret, government-ordered email surveillance program at Yahoo, the company has issued a brief statement through Joele Frank, a public relations firm.

From Jacob Silber of Joele Frank, via email:

Good morning –

We are reaching out on behalf of Yahoo regarding yesterday’s Reuters article. Yahoo said in a statement:

“The article is misleading. We narrowly interpret every government request for user data to minimize disclosure. The mail scanning described in the article does not exist on our systems.”


The Joele Frank Team

This is an extremely carefully worded statement, arriving roughly 20 hours after the Reuters story first broke. That’s a long time to craft 29 words. It’s unclear as well why Yahoo wouldn’t have put this statement out on Tuesday, rather than responding, cryptically, that they are “a law abiding company, [that] complies with the laws of the United States.”

But this day-after denial isn’t even really a denial: The statement says only that the article is misleading, not false. It denies only that such an email scanning program “does not” exist—perhaps it did exist at some point between its reported inception in 2015 and today. It also pins quite a bit on the word “described”—perhaps the Reuters report was overall accurate, but missed a few details. And it would mean a lot more for this denial to come straight from the keyboard of a named executive at Yahoo—perhaps Ron Bell, the company’s general counsel—rather than a “strategic communications firm.”

You should probably still delete your Yahoo account.

The statement was met with skepticism by some privacy experts and reporters.

Yahoo email scanning prompts European ire

October 5, 2016


Yahoo’s decision to scan clients’ email accounts at the behest of the U.S. authorities has prompted questions in Europe as to whether EU citizens’ data had been compromised, and could help derail a new trans-Atlantic data sharing deal.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Yahoo complied with a classified U.S. government demand to search customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner, the lead European regulator on privacy issues for Yahoo, said on Wednesday it was making enquiries about the matter.

European politicians called on the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body to look into the issue and lawyers said a legal challenge to the new EU-U.S. data sharing deal agreed earlier this year was now more likely in Europe.

“Any form of mass surveillance infringing on the fundamental privacy rights of EU citizens would be viewed as a matter of considerable concern,” the regulator in Dublin, where Yahoo’s European headquarters is based, said in a statement.

Yahoo said in response to the original Reuters story that it was “a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States”.

It declined to confirm whether it scanned users emails or to say if Europeans’ emails were intercepted as part of the program.

Johannes Kleis a spokesman with BEUC, an umbrella group for European consumer organizations, called on other EU data protection authorities to investigate Yahoo.

Fabio de Masi, a German member of the European parliament with the leftist Die Linke party called on the EU high representative for external affairs Federica Mogherini to seek clarification from U.S. authorities about the treatment of EU data.

Ashley Winton, a data protection and privacy lawyer with Paul Hastings, said the revelations that Yahoo had helped the authorities scan user emails could prompt clients to ditch Yahoo.

In addition to retail users in Europe, Yahoo also provides email services for other companies including UK listed groups Sky Plc and BT Plc.

Sky did not respond to a request for comment. When asked about the mater, BT referred to Yahoo’s comment about being a law abiding group.

In February, the United States and Europe published a new deal to allow U.S. companies to move data on EU clients to the United States.

Some European politicians have criticized the deal, saying it does not offer enough protection against mass surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies.

Winton said the Yahoo news increased the chances of a legal challenge in Europe against the so-called “Privacy Shield’ deal.

(Reporting by Tom Bergin; Writing by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Adrian Croft and Alexandra Hudson)

Hurricanes will worsen as planet warms and sea levels rise, scientists warn

Some say Hurricane Matthew, which slammed Haiti and is headed towards the US, is the sort of fierce lashing that will be more common due to climate change

October 5, 2016

by Oliver Milman

The Guardian

Major storms such as Hurricane Matthew, which has slammed into Haiti and is now headed towards the US, will grow in menace as the world warms and sea levels rise, scientists have warned.

Hurricane Matthew is already feared to have caused seven deaths after it hit Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, bringing 145mph winds, pounding rain and storm surges to coastal communities.

The category 4 storm, the strongest hurricane to hit Haiti in 50 years, is expected to surge northwards towards Florida’s east coast and up the south-eastern US coast by the weekend. It follows September’s Hurricane Hermine, which was the first hurricane to hit Florida in nearly 11 years.

While the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s prediction of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season is still on track, scientists have pointed to Hurricane Matthew as the sort of fierce lashing that will become more common due to climate change.

There was previously far more certainty among climate scientists over the increase of temperatures than trends in hurricanes, but government officials are now confident enough to say there has been a “substantial increase” in Atlantic hurricane activity since the 1980s, with the destruction set to ratchet up further as the world warms.

“We expect to see more high-intensity events, category 4 and 5 events, that are around 13% of total hurricanes but do a disproportionate amount of damage,” said Kerry Emanuel, a climate scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “The theory is robust and there are hints that we are already beginning to see it in nature.”

Hurricanes draw their energy from the ocean, which is currently acting like a sponge for the extra heat accumulating in the atmosphere due to human activity. Warming is thereby supercharging hurricane wind speed, with increased moisture delivering buckets of extra rain to affected areas. Parts of Haiti are expected to get 3ft of rainfall from Hurricane Matthew.

Some studies have found that while the number of hurricanes may dip slightly in the future, the most destructive events will actually increase.

“There will be subtleties with hurricane frequency – it’s likely the most intense ones will increase, while it’s unclear what the weak or moderate ones will do,” said James Done, a project scientist and Willis fellow at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

“The message is that hurricanes that do occur in the future, the major ones, will be stronger. Category four and five hurricanes could double or triple in the coming decades.”

But while the wind speed may be climbing, it won’t, on its own, prove the greatest killer. The seas are rising at their fastest rate in 2,800 years, with water disproportionately piling up on the east coast of the US. Storm surges and flooding caused by hurricanes will be fueled by this heightened sea level, posing a growing threat to life and limb.

“Storm surges and flooding are big killers, so this is a big worry,” Emanuel said. “If Hurricane Sandy occurred 100 years earlier it may not have flooded lower Manhattan because the sea was about 1ft lower in 1912.

“We expect another 3ft in sea level rise by the end of the century, so we should expect steadily increase damage. People moving to the coast really need to be aware of climate change.”

States of emergency declared across southeast U.S. as Hurricane Matthew approaches

October 5, 2016

by Mark Berman

Washington Post

A powerful hurricane expected to grow stronger marched toward the southeastern United States on Wednesday, as authorities in states readying for the storm’s devastating combination of winds and rain declared emergencies, ordered evacuations and shuttered schools.

Hurricane Matthew pummeled Haiti on Tuesday with winds of up to 145 mph, and at least 11 deaths — including at least seven in Haiti and four in neighboring Dominican Republic — have been blamed on the storm.

Matthew weakened overnight into Wednesday but was expected to gain strength over the next day. The storm is forecast to move across the Bahamas on Thursday and “expected to be very near the east coast of Florida by Thursday evening,” the National Hurricane Center said in a bulletin Wednesday morning.

From Florida to the Carolinas, officials urged residents to take the storm seriously, warning of the extreme danger posed by Matthew, which forecasters say could create “life-threatening” flooding along Florida’s eastern coast.

“If Matthew directly impacts Florida, there will be massive destruction that we haven’t seen in years,” Gov. Rick Scott (R) said during a news conference.

Scott has declared a state of emergency in Florida, as have the governors in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. By Wednesday, Scott said he expected to have 500 members of the Florida National Guard activated and another 6,000 ready to be deployed as needed.

Late Wednesday morning, the National Hurricane Center said it was extending hurricane warnings along much of Florida’s eastern coast. By 11 a.m., the storm was moving northwest with maximum sustained winds near 120 mph and higher gusts, the center said, and Matthew is expected to remain a Category 3 storm “or stronger” as it moves through the Bahamas and toward Florida.

“Regardless if there’s a direct hit or not, the impacts will be devastating,” Scott said during another briefing on Florida’s preparations. “I cannot emphasize it enough that everyone in our state must prepare now for a direct hit.”

Scott said that some mandatory evacuations were in place Wednesday. He also said he expected more evacuation plans would follow later in the day, and urged people to start planning where they will go.

Forecasts have shifted Matthew’s track closer and closer to Florida’s populous east coast, which could bring tropical storm or hurricane effects there on Thursday and into Friday. If Matthew does hit the region as a Category 3 or stronger hurricane, it would end the country’s decade-long streak of avoiding such a powerful storm making landfall, according to the Capital Weather Gang.

President Obama had been scheduled to visit Florida for two events Wednesday, but he scrapped that trip due to the storm, the White House said. Instead, Obama plans to visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Washington headquarters for a hurricane briefing Wednesday morning.

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) activated the South Carolina National Guard and said the state would evacuate all coastal communities and close all coastal schools on Wednesday. More than 1 million people in South Carolina are expected to be under evacuation orders, and by Wednesday morning, roads were already jammed as people tried to leave the region.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed an executive order declaring an emergency for a week in 13 of the state’s coastal counties, noting that the storm could cause “extensive flooding, fallen trees and the closure of numerous roads,” essentially rendering much of the region impassable.

“The safety of Georgians is our first priority, and we urge residents in these areas to remain calm but vigilant as they prepare for potential impact,” Deal said in a statement.

The North Carolina emergency declaration covered 66 counties in parts of eastern and central North Carolina. Gov. Pat McCrory (R) said that includes areas that have just recently seen substantial flooding and remain saturated. Two weeks earlier, McCrory had declared an emergency in counties flooded by the remains of Tropical Storm Julia.

Schools also closed their doors and said they expected more closures and cancellations throughout the week. In Florida, public schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties would be closed Thursday and Friday, as would others north of the Gold Coast. The Miami-Dade school system followed suit on Wednesday morning, saying its school facilities would shut down Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The University of South Carolina closed its Columbia campus on Wednesday and said it expected to remain closed through the rest of the week; the College of Charleston said that it was closing its campuses “until further notice.”

Florida International University in Miami, one of the country’s largest public colleges, said it would make a decision Wednesday about closing its campuses. The University of Miami said Tuesday night that officials there had no plans to evacuate its Coral Gables campus, located about two miles west of the beach, but that they were preparing to close a school of marine and atmospheric science right on the water.

Airlines also announced that they would waive fees for travelers changing flights due to the storm. Delta, JetBlue and American Airlines all said they were allowing people to change flights scheduled in the coming days through much of the southeast U.S. as well as the Bahamas and Caribbean.

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center said it would close on Wednesday at 1 p.m. and remain closed through Friday. A spokesman for SpaceX said that the company was “working with our partners at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to safeguard facilities and personnel in the potentially affected areas.” United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that also launches from Cape Canaveral, also said it was actively preparing for the storm.

Even the Mouse House was on high alert. Walt Disney World said in a statement Wednesday that while it was operating under normal conditions Wednesday, it was monitoring the hurricane. SeaWorld also warned customers that it expected “altered hours” due to the storm.

Jason Samenow, Angela Fritz and Christian Davenport contributed to this report.



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