Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for April 2019

Rod Rosenstein Embodies the Republican Surrender to Trump

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

The most bizarre passage in Rod Rosenstein’s letter to President Trump resigning his post as deputy attorney general is praise for “the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations.” It is not standard practice for the president to have personal conversations with the deputy attorney general at all, certainly not when that person is supervising an investigation into the president himself. And while we cannot know the substance of those personal conversations, we do know that Rosenstein was once so alarmed by Trump’s behavior that he discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to have him removed on account of mental unfitness.

Maybe Trump’s private conversations somehow contain the humor that is completely lacking in his public persona, which consist of boasts, lies, and belittling attacks. Trump’s public treatment of Rosenstein included tweetingan image of him behind bars along with other alleged traitors. That Trump, what a jokester.

Rosenstein’s status as a target of Trump’s rage, and his background as a career official, raised broad hopes that he would check the president’s authoritarian impulses. By all indications, he failed to live up to this heroic destiny. Rosenstein ended his career as a dutiful functionary, allowing Trump to trash the rule of law while claiming he had upheld it.

Rosenstein deserves to be judged by the forgiving standards of a man placed in an untenable situation and having no good options. Trump’s worldview is inimical to the concept of the rule of law. The president believes the Department of Justice can and must be placed at his personal disposal, and used to harass his enemies while giving himself and his friends impunity. Trump can no more grasp a Department of Justice that holds his views at arm length than he could abide the doorman at his hotels subjecting him to strip searches.

Rosenstein’s answer to this dilemma was to bend, and bend, and bend. When Trump demanded personal loyalty from the FBI director and fired him for failing to quash a probe into Trump’s campaign, Rosenstein dutifully wrote a letter supplying Trump with a phony pretext. When Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the offense of following Department rules and recusing himself from an investigation into which he was massively conflicted, he remained loyal. When Trump installed a transparent hack in Matthew Whitaker, prompting more than 400 former DOJ officials to sign a public letter of protest, Rosenstein called the choice “superb.”

And then of course Rosenstein joined with Attorney General William Barr to impose their judgment that Robert Mueller’s investigation would not accuse the president of obstructing justice. One of Trump’s many acts of obstruction included instructing Corey Lewandowski, a private citizen, to order Sessions to violate Department procedure and take control of the investigation. As Ben Wittes notes, “If true and provable beyond a reasonable doubt, it is unlawful obstruction of justice.”

Barr, with Rosenstein’s imprimatur, deemed these and all of Trump’s other efforts to harm the investigation to be non-crimes. He did this despite the fact that Trump’s obstruction of justice successfully obstructed the probe – by dangling pardons to key witnesses, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort, thereby preventing Mueller from getting to the bottom of the campaign’s collusion with Russia. Barr and Rosenstein made the comically backward argument that because Trump prevented Mueller from proving criminal collusion, there was no underlying crime, therefore his efforts to halt the probe must go unpunished.

Before his firing, Comey confided his misgivings about Rosenstein. “Rod is a survivor,” he said. And you don’t get to survive that long across administrations without making compromises. “So I have concerns.” This turned out to be a perfect epitaph for Rosenstein’s tenure.

When Trump was poised to fire Rosenstein last fall, Rosenstein pleaded for his job. “I give the investigation credibility,” he said, according to the Washington Post, “I can land the plane.” Trump has a gift for homing in on this kind of weakness, and surrounding himself with morally compromised individuals who will do his bidding. Rosenstein’s desperation to avoid the ignominy of a firing and the torrent of abuse that always followed it – “I don’t want to go out with a tweet,” he said, according to the Post – made him suitably pathetic for Trump’s purposes.

In a farewell speech several days ago, Rosenstein sycophantically quoted his boss: “As President Trump pointed out, ‘we govern ourselves in accordance with the rule of law rather [than] … the whims of an elite few.’” It was perhaps his most overt gesture of submission. Here Rosenstein credited a man he knows perfectly well has contempt for the rule of law with cherishing the principle he has relentlessly undermined, a task at which Rosenstein ultimately aided him. He might as well have quoted Trump proclaiming the importance of truth, chastity and frugality.

We can extend Rosenstein enough credit to assume things did not follow his fondest hopes. He surely did not want the FBI Director and Attorney general to be fired for doing their jobs properly, nor to be publicly belittled by the president. Instead he seems to have convinced himself that the need for normalcy, or the appearance of it, transcended everything else. After principled resignation seemed unthinkable, every new compromise simply kept the plane on track for its landing.

It turns out most of the Republicans in the bureaucracy operate along the same principles as the ones running for office. Trump’s manifest unfitness for office and disdain for democratic norms begin as a shock. Gradually, though, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2019 at 6:54 pm

Brave New World includes automated firing: Amazon’s software generates firing papers for workers who fail to meet production goals

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From a newsletter sent by Institute for the Future:

Amazon has a system that tracks and categorizes the activities of its warehouse employees. If a worker spends too much “time off task” (such as pausing or taking breaks) the software system will generate paperwork to fire the employee. An Amazon spokesperson said a human supervisor makes the ultimate decision to fire a worker, and fired workers can appeal ”with a group of their associate peers or the general manager of the site.”

I imagine that software tracks the decisions of the human supervisor and a supervisor who fails to fire too many workers tagged for firing will also be fired.

Companies now treat employees as serfs.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2019 at 6:49 pm

Trump Claims He Can Ignore Subpoenas Because Congress Is Mean

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

Last night Donald Trump and his family filed a lawsuit to prohibit Deutsche Bank and Capital One from turning over his financial information to congressional investigators. The legal basis for the lawsuit, in layman’s terms, is as follows: Congress is mean and only wants the information because it hates Trump. Or, to quote the only-slightly-more-sophisticated language of the lawsuit, “The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage. No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one.”

This same argument runs nearly all of Trump’s refusals to abide congressional subpoenas. “These aren’t, like, impartial people,” the president declared of Congress. “The Democrats are trying to win 2020.”

The first thing to understand about this legal theory is that it is not a legal theory. Congress is a coequal branch of government which has a legal right to conduct investigations, including of the Executive branch and its officials. There is a legal gray zone around “executive privilege,” which describes the right of officials in the Executive branch to have some confidentiality around their internal discussions.

But Trump is not articulating a theory of executive privilege here. Nor would such a privilege cover a president’s right to maintain a business empire that accepts payments that may or may not be bribes disguised as legitimate reimbursements in complete secrecy from Congress and the public.

Essentially Trump’s argument is that congressional oversight is simply “politics” and, therefore, somehow null and void. Trump’s Deutsche Bank lawsuit has a passage that could have been lifted from an op-ed written by a sophomore member of the College Republicans. It quotes Nancy Pelosi promising “checks and balances to the Trump administration,” then asserts she was “not referring to legislation.” It proceeds to quote a series of journalists describing Congress’s investigations as being unpleasant for Trump:

The fact that journalists are describing congressional oversight as being difficult for Trump does not mean this was Congress’s sole intent. In any case, Congress’s dislike for Trump does not nullify its legal rights.

The American system of government of course is not predicated on different branches of government wanting to help each other out. Checks and balances assumes political competition. The system is designed to channel political rivalry into a productive synthesis. Of course Democrats are “trying to win.” So is Trump!

Trump’s notion that he can ignore legal obligations from anybody who isn’t “like, impartial” is especially comic. Trump has spent his presidency trampling on the the entire concept of neutral authority. His wild attacks on political norms have polarized every figure, requiring them either to submit to his demands or be identified as an enemy. Overtly fair-minded figures like Robert Mueller, or even friendly ones like Jeff Sessions, have been the target of Trump’s wrath simply for having the temerity to operate outside his personal control. The premise that he would accept “impartial” congressional oversight is a joke.

His refusal to abide oversight on the grounds that Congress is biased is so amateurish, legal experts are struggling to come up with ways to describe it. “This isn’t a close legal question,” Stanford law professor David Alan Sklansky tells the Washington Post, calling it “frivolous argument, even if it’s true.”

Trump’s opposition to congressional oversight appears to be an extension of his business strategy of threatening counterparties with expensive, time-consuming lawsuits in order to shirk his obligations. It worked in business, because he could bully smaller contractors who couldn’t afford the legal bills of a protracted fight to obtain their promised payments. Congress doesn’t have that problem, but the courts might take long enough processing the “arguments” that Trump can keep his scandals bottled up until after the election.

Trump’s extreme litigiousness is a natural extension of his general lack of shame. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2019 at 5:52 pm

“Dear Republicans: Stop using my father, Ronald Reagan, to justify your silence on Trump”

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Patti Davis, the author, most recently, of the novel “The Wrong Side of Night” and the daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, writes in the Washington Post:

Dear Republican Party,

I have never been part of you, but you have been part of my family for decades. I was 10 years old when my father decided to stop being a Democrat and instead become a Republican. From that point on, you were a frequent guest at our dinner table — and an unwelcome one to me. I wanted to talk about my science project on the human heart, or the mean girls at school who teased me for being too tall and for wearing glasses. Instead, much of the conversation was about how the government was taking too much out of people’s paychecks for taxes and how it was up to the Republicans to keep government from getting too big.

You went from an annoying presence at the dinner table to a powerful tornado, lifting up my family and depositing us in the world of politics, which no one ever escapes. I know it’s not completely your fault. My father’s passion for America, his commitment to try to make a difference in the country and the world, and his gentle yet powerful command over crowds that gathered to hear him speak made his ascent to the presidency all but inevitable. He would have gotten there one way or another; it just happened to be as a Republican.

You have claimed his legacy, exalted him as an icon of conservatism and used the quotes of his that serve your purpose at any given moment. Yet at this moment in America’s history when the democracy to which my father pledged himself and the Constitution that he swore to uphold, and did faithfully uphold, are being degraded and chipped away at by a sneering, irreverent man who traffics in bullying and dishonesty, you stay silent.

You stay silent when President Trump speaks of immigrants as if they are trash, rips children from the arms of their parents and puts them in cages. Perhaps you’ve forgotten that my father said America was home “for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness.”

You stayed silent when this president fawned over Kim Jong Un and took Vladimir Putin’s word over America’s security experts. You stood mutely by when one of his spokesmen, Rudolph W. Giuliani, said there is nothing wrong with getting information from Russians. And now you do not act when Trump openly defies legitimate requests from Congress, showing his utter contempt for one of the branches of our government.

Most egregiously, you remained silent when Trump said there were “very fine people” among the neo-Nazis who marched through an American city with tiki torches, chanting, “Jews will not replace us.”

Those of us who are not Republicans still have a right to expect you to act in a principled, moral and, yes, even noble way. Our democracy is in trouble, and everyone who has been elected to office has an obligation to save it. Maybe you’re frightened of Trump — that idea has been floated. I don’t quite understand what’s frightening about an overgrown child who resorts to name-calling, but if that is the case, then my response is: You are grown men and women. Get over it.

My father called America “the shining city on a hill.” Trump sees America as another of his possessions that he can slap his name on. A president is not supposed to own America. He or she is supposed to serve the American people.

In their book “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt warned: “How do elected authoritarians shatter the democratic institutions that are supposed to constrain them? Some do it in one fell swoop. But more often the assault on democracy begins slowly.”

Trump has been wounding our democracy for the past two years. If he is reelected for another term, it’s almost a given that America will not survive — at least not as the country the Founding Fathers envisioned, and not as the idealistic experiment they built using a Constitution designed to protect democracy and withstand tyranny.

My father knew we were fragile. He said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”

So, to the Republican Party that holds tightly to my father’s legacy — if . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2019 at 1:14 pm

Meißner Tremonia Pink Grapefruit shaving paste with the iKon Short Comb

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A badly framed photo this morning. So it goes. The RazoRock 400 brush is very nice and the lather was truly excellent in fragrance and consistency. I like MT’s shaving pastes a lot: a very nice approach to a shaving cream, with firmness that allows easy loading.

The iKon Short Comb, here mounted on a handle from Wolfman Razors, is not an especially comfortable head for me, and I did get a couple of tiny nicks—nothing that My Nik Is Sealed couldn’t easily handle, but still. There’s a reason this razor did not make my list of very comfortable, very efficient razors, though it indeed very efficient: a perfectly smooth result without effort.

A splash Geo. F. Trumper West Indian Extract of Limes aftershave, and the month draws to a close.

From Finnerty Gardens, an exuberance of yellow:

Written by Leisureguy

30 April 2019 at 7:18 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Reuters Drops a Bombshell: The Big-Short Doomsday Machine Is Back

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The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, by Michael Lewis, is a fascinating book and it’s also a damn good movie that you can rent to watch on YouTube (at the link). And it may be time to study up a bit: Pam Martens writes in Wall Street on Parade:

In what can only be described as a new low in defining deviancy down on Wall Street, Thomson Reuters’ International Financing Review (IFR) reported this past weekend that some of the biggest names on Wall Street have returned to creating and/or trading synthetic collateralized debt obligations (Synthetic CDOs).

The products were a major factor in bringing the U.S. financial system to the brink of failure in 2008. Synthetic CDOs also resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in fines and reputational damage to these same Wall Street behemoths as investigators found that the firms were allowing hedge funds to pick “crap” subprime mortgage bonds to stuff in the CDOs in order to make windfall profits for the hedge fund, which shorted (bet against) the CDOs. The Wall Street firms had full knowledge of what the hedge funds were doing but, nonetheless, peddled the investments as sound to unsuspecting investors. In some instances, the same Wall Street firm that was selling the product as a good investment to public pension funds, school districts, churches and insurance companies, was also making short bets itself against the CDO. In at least one case involving Goldman Sachs, it placed a 10 to 1 short bet on failure of its own product.

Writing for IFR, Christopher Whittall reports that “Trading volumes in synthetic collateralised debt obligations linked to credit indexes are up 40% this year, according to JP Morgan, after topping US$200bn in 2018 on the back of three years of double-digit growth. Meanwhile, analysts predict more than US$100bn in sales of bespoke synthetic CDOs in 2019 following an estimated US$80bn of issuance last year.”

Who are the major players in this market? According to Whittall, Citigroup is a major player while Deutsche Bank has “an eye on expanding in this market.” Our own sources tell us that Morgan Stanley has also structured deals in the past two years.

The bombshell here is not about the trading of synthetic CDOs. Firms can do that all day long without exposing their balance sheets and the U.S. economy to collapse. The bombshell is that the bespoke (custom-made) synthetic CDO market has returned to Wall Street and if analysts are predicting $100 billion this year after an estimated $80 billion last year, that means the real secret number is dramatically higher. Those figures also reveal nothing about how much shorting is going on. That could be 10 to 1 or even 20 to 1.

Instead of subprime mortgages being targeted this time around, what’s being stuffed into these bespoke products is corporate debt – which has exploded over the past decade, in no small part because publicly-traded corporations and Wall Street banks are being allowed to prop up their share prices through stock buybacks financed with debt.

The second bombshell in Whittall’s article is that . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more and it’s extremely ominous. I wish Sen. Elizabeth Warren were president: she would get this under control because she understands it and has no patience for lying, venal, dishonest banks.

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2019 at 11:12 am

Woody Almond Shaving Paste with the RazoRock Stealth

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Meißner Tremonia’s Woody Almond has the strong bitter almond fragrance that Italians seem to like, along with a cedar note. The Rooney Victorian made a very nice lather indeed, and with the Stealth I easily got a totally smooth result, all the smoother-seeming because of yesterday’s scratchy face. A good splash of Chiseled Face’s Easy Street, which has a good hit of menthol, finished job.

And a vivid group of flowers in Finnerty Gardens:

Written by Leisureguy

29 April 2019 at 9:33 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Interesting duology of movies: “Olympus Has Fallen” and “London Has Fallen” (Note demotion for London)

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Same actors in principal roles. Note the implication that deadly power is a panacea, something I believe is false. Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen are both on Netflix. I, for one, say “Thank God for CGI.”

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2019 at 3:57 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap to Some People?

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Dedicated to The Eldest. Max Falkowitz writes in Taste:

Most of the world loves cilantro, a refreshing herb with a bright verdant character, but for approximately 17 percent of white people and 3 to 4 percent of Latino and Middle Eastern people, cilantro might as well be poison. Or soap. Or moldy shoes. The reason is at least partly genetic.

Cilantro is high in aldehydes, a volatile compound that delivers pungent flavors to our noses, and one particular gene in our DNA is responsible for interpreting those aldehydes into a flavor and aroma. And just like gene variation determines our eye and hair color, variation in our OR6A2 gene is linked to how we taste aldehydes in food. The bad news is that for people with this cilantro-hating gene, there’s nothing to be done to improve the situation.

The good news is it’s not your fault, and if anyone gives you flack for being a picky eater, well, your DNA profile is too large to whip out and show them, but rest assured that you have science on your side.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2019 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Food, Science

Measles and the Limits of Facts

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James Hamblin writes in the Atlantic:

Students are currently being quarantined in Los Angeles. Mandatory-vaccination policies have been implemented in Brooklyn. Even President Donald Trump, contrary to prior assertions, today urged people to get children vaccinated.

All for a disease that was declared eliminated in the United States two decades ago.

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that measles outbreaks have led to the highest number of cases reported in the country since that declaration in 2000.

The overall number of cases—695 so far—is not a significant portion of the millions annually around the world. But it’s the pattern and direction that are striking to global officials, as well as America’s unpreparedness to address the actual source. Among wealthy countries, the United States has, by far, the highest number of children who did not receive the first two measles vaccination doses over the past several years. The American outbreaks are described by officials as multiple and “unrelated,” stretched across 22 states, meaning that each has potential to spread further. But the unifying forces behind them are clear.

As the number of cases has risen in the United States—which has historically been at the fore of global-health campaigns—it has also risen around the world. By 2017, the disease that killed half a million people annually at the turn of the century was down to 110,000 cases. Now, the first three months of the year saw a 300 percent increase from the same period a year ago, according to a report from UNICEF.

The global-health organization Gavi ties the issue together, citing a storm of seemingly disparate factors: disinformation campaigns in Europe, a collapsing health system in Venezuela, and pockets of low immunization in Africa. In South Sudan, where hundreds of measles cases have been reported in recent months, efforts to vaccinate people after the country’s civil war appear to have been thwarted because of the difficulty of keeping vaccines cool—not because people are refusing them.

Though the United States’ own outbreaks are unrelated to one another in a physical sense, they are linked to a growing online disinformation movement. In a statement on Thursday, the CDC said the outbreak in New York is significant in part due to “misinformation in the communities about the safety of the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine. Some organizations are deliberately targeting these communities with inaccurate and misleading information about vaccines.”

The overall effect is a single, global dilemma. There is no opting out. The death toll will go up or down; the choice is between doing what’s possible to contain the virus and enabling its spread. The ways media ecosystems have evolved and siloed people are familiar in political discourse, but they are less addressed in conversations about public health.

In a statement this week, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar reiterated a tactic that has proven ineffective at reaching skeptical populations in recent years: telling them what to do. “Vaccines are a safe, highly effective public-health solution that can prevent this disease,” he said. “The measles vaccines are among the most extensively studied medical products we have, and their safety has been firmly established over many years in some of the largest vaccine studies ever undertaken.”

Earlier this month, CNN asked 10 current and former liaison members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices about the agency’s plans for countering anti-vaccination disinformation online. The response of the senior director of infection control at the Children’s Minnesota Hospital, Patricia Stinchfield, was emblematic: “I feel like on social media, the anti-vaxxers are very sophisticated and active and way ahead of us.” Another official, who declined an interview with CNN, issued a statement that included: “It is critical that parents and anyone seeking information about vaccines have access to credible information.”

Research suggests that the reason informed people fall into conspiracy-theory mind-sets often has less to do with a lack of information than with social and emotional alignment.  . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2019 at 1:39 pm

White House Official Shut Down Plans To Fight Russian Election Interference

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Eric SchmittDavid E. Sanger, and Maggie Haberman report in the NY Times:

In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.

President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

[Update: F.B.I. warns of Russian interference in 2020 election and boosts counterintelligence operations.]

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

As a result, the issue did not gain the urgency or widespread attention that a president can command. And it meant that many Americans remain unaware of the latest versions of Russian interference.

This account of Ms. Nielsen’s frustrations was described to the New York Times by three senior Trump administration officials and one former senior administration official, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity. The White House did not provide comment after multiple requests on Tuesday.

After this article was published on Wednesday, Mr. Mulvaney said through a spokesman, “I don’t recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting.”

He said the Trump administration would not tolerate foreign interference in American elections and was working to prevent it, including by increasing coordination and intelligence sharing among state, local and federal governments.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, concurred, saying, “Election security is and will continue to be one of our nation’s highest national security priorities.”

While American intelligence agencies have warned of the dangers of new influence campaigns penetrating the 2020 elections, Mr. Trump and those closest to him have maintained that the effects of Russia’s interference in 2016 was overblown.

“You look at what Russia did — you know, buying some Facebook ads to try to sow dissent and do it — and it’s a terrible thing,” Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said on Tuesday during an interview at the Time 100 Summit in New York.

“But I think the investigations, and all of the speculation that’s happened for the last two years, has had a much harsher impact on our democracy than a couple of Facebook ads,” he said.

Before she resigned under pressure on April 7, Ms. Nielsen and other officials looked for other ways to raise the alarm.

The opening page of the Worldwide Threat Assessment, a public document compiled by government intelligence agencies that was delivered to Congress in late January, warned that “the threat landscape could look very different in 2020 and future elections.”

“Russia’s social media efforts will continue to focus on aggravating social and racial tensions, undermining trust in authorities and criticizing perceived anti-Russia politicians,” the report noted. It also predicted that “Moscow may employ additional influence tool kits — such as spreading disinformation, conducting hack-and-leak operations or manipulating data — in a more targeted fashion to influence U.S. policy, actions and elections.”

By comparison, cyberthreats have taken a back seat among security priorities at the White House. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2019 at 7:50 am

After Pentagon Ends Contract, Top-Secret Scientists Group Vows To Carry On

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The US government seems to be moving to embrace ignorance (and incompetence). Geoff Brumfiel reports at NPR:

A secretive group of scientists who advise the U.S. government on everything from spy satellites to nuclear weapons is scrambling to find a sponsor after the Defense Department abruptly ended its contract late last month.

The group, known as the Jasons, will run out of money at the end of April. The Pentagon says that the group’s advice is no longer needed, but independent experts say it has never been more relevant and worry the department is throwing away a valuable resource.

Russell Hemley, the head of the Jasons, says that other government agencies still want advice and that the Jasons are determined to give it.

Late Thursday, it appeared that another government agency might be willing to take on the group. The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration posted a solicitation saying it intends to take over the contract for the group. That could happen in a matter of months, and it is unclear how the Mitre Corp., which manages the Jasons, would fund the group in the interim.

The Jasons group comprises about 60 members. By day, they’re normal academics, working at colleges and universities and in private industry. But each summer, they come together to study tough problems for the military, intelligence agencies and other parts of the government.

The group’s name, like the group itself, is shrouded in mystery, though it’s believed to be a reference to Jason, the Greek mythological prince who leads the Argonauts in looking for the Golden Fleece.

“The idea that they’re going to cut back on the kind of advice that the Jasons provide is not good for the Department of Defense,” says Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, an independent watchdog group. “It’s not good for the nation.”

“We’re very independent, we have this diversity of talent and we often come up with very different, very original perspectives and solutions to problems,” says Hemley, a physicist and chemist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Hemley is one of the few members who publicly identify themselves as part of the group. He says the Jasons are unlike anything else out there — academics at the top of their individual fields, with security clearances that let them work on any problem.

The group’s origins go back to the early days of the Cold War.

“They just formed themselves, back in 1960,” says Ann Finkbeiner, who wrote The Jasons: The Secret History of Science’s Postwar Elite. It began when a group of physicists won funding from the Pentagon to spend the summer learning about the problems facing the Defense Department in its fight against the Soviet Union. These stubborn researchers were determined to advise the government. They went on to study everythingfrom anti-submarine warfare to missile defense.

“Probably their most famous study was about trying to stop the infiltration from North Vietnam into the South,” Finkbeiner says.

The problem was that North Vietnamese troops and supplies were hard to find beneath the dense jungle canopy. The Jasons’ solution was to develop a system of remote sensors that could be airdropped into the jungle and provide intelligence on the enemy. The program, like much to do with Vietnam, was controversial and didn’t work perfectly. But it laid the groundwork for modern electronic warfare, in which sensors provide troops with detailed battlefield information, Finkbeiner says.

In recent years, Hemley says, the Jasons have broadened the areas they study. They’ve tried to help the Department of Agriculture develop better ways to use data to understand crop production, for example. And they advised the Census Bureau on how to streamline its operations.

So it came as a surprise to Hemley and others when, in late March, the Pentagon abruptly announced it was ending its primary contract with the Jasons. The contract, run through the Mitre Corp., is the vehicle that allows the Jasons to do work with other parts of the government as well. Without it, the group has no way of getting the several million dollars in funding it needs to operate annually.

“The department remains committed to seeking independent technical advice and review,” Pentagon spokesperson Heather Babb said. But Aftergood sees another reason for the end of the relationship. He says that the Jasons are a blunt bunch. If they think an idea is dumb or won’t work, they aren’t afraid to say so.

“They were offering the opposite of cheerleading,” he says. “And DOD decided that maybe they didn’t want to pay for that any longer.”

Aftergood says it’s a real mistake to cut ties with the Jasons now. The Pentagon is embarking on ambitious research into artificial intelligence, quantum computing and advanced hypersonic missiles. The Jasons have expertise on these topics and will likely be useful. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2019 at 7:43 am

“Unvaccinated!Life — Live it while you can.”

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Good parody site that I discovered through comments on this story by Josh Nerius in the Washington Post:

In May 2016, I’d been feeling sick for a few days. My doctor diagnosed strep and sent me home with antibiotics. But this wasn’t like any strep I’d ever had before. My sore throat and fever kept getting worse, and I developed a rash on one of my arms. Then, one morning, I collapsed onto the floor of my apartment. The emergency room doctors took blood and ruled out strep, after all. Maybe it was scarlet fever? Then someone thought to ask: Were you vaccinated against measles? In my haze, I realized that I wasn’t sure. I texted my mother the question. She responded with a thumb’s-down emoji. Why?, she asked. I’m in the hospital, I wrote back.

Measles was like the worst flu I’d ever had, combined with the worst hangover I’d ever had. It flattened me. Mentally, I was disoriented. I’d gone to a teaching hospital, Northwestern Memorial in Chicago, so medical students would come to my bedside and ask if they could take photos of my rash, which had spread in pronounced, red blotches. None of them had ever seen this disease in person before: The United States had declared measles eliminated in 2000.

Once my temperature fell and blood oxygen levels rose, the hospital released me with strict instructions to stay home. But before I’d become ill, I’d gone to a tech conference in Las Vegas, with tens of thousands of attendees. I had no idea how many people I’d met, shaken hands with or brushed up against. Measles is so contagious that if one infected person is in a room, 90 percent of the unvaccinated people around him will also become infected. The live virus can linger in the air for two hours after a cough or sneeze.

Officials from the Illinois Department of Health got in touch. They established that I’d caught the measles at a graduation ceremony I’d attended before the conference, at Northern Illinois University, where someone visiting from another country had brought the disease. They then interviewed me about my whereabouts, and followed up with loved ones, acquaintances and anyone else I’d been in contact with to check if they were immunized. Fortunately, I hadn’t passed the disease on to anyone else.

It took me months to feel even close to normal: My heartrate was unusually elevated and I was fatigued. During that slow recovery, I had a long talk with my parents to try to understand my medical history. It turned out that I had never been vaccinated against any infection — not measles, not polio, not tetanus — in my 30 trips around the sun. It’s hard to draw out the specifics of their beliefs, or drill down to the root cause of their immunization denial. They don’t believe that some vast conspiracy is imposing vaccines on us; they’re just predisposed to be suspicious of “unnatural” medical intervention, and they stand behind their decision. I love them, and I try not to judge them too harshly: Medical information is much more widely accessible now than it was in the 1980s, when they were raising us and the measles vaccine became widely available. Still, people with that attitude have put their children’s lives at risk.

I felt a little dumb for not realizing sooner. My parents held all kinds of alternative beliefs. When someone in our family got sick, they turned to home remedies. They home-schooled my seven siblings and me, and after that, I took college classes remotely. I never passed through any of the usual institutional checkpoints, where some authority would ask for health records, so the subject never came up. I was just lucky that I hadn’t gotten sick (or stepped on a nail) before this. As soon as I could manage it, I called my doctor, and we drew up a six-week schedule to catch me up on my immunizations.

In the first few months of 2019, the United States has had its highest number of measles cases in the past five years: 695 reported in 22 states as of Wednesday. That total may rise, especially because the number of people claiming vaccine exemptions for nonmedical reasons has increased over the past decade. Vaccine skeptics brush off measles as a once common “childhood illness,” making it sound like a manageable nuisance — a rite of passage, even. But they forget that it can lead to serious complications, including pneumonia and meningitis, and that it can be fatal.

I contracted the disease as an adult in good health, and it landed me in the hospital. To this day, I still feel its effects. Years after people seem to recover, measles can suppress the immune system, effectively creating an “immune amnesia” that leaves them more vulnerable to other infections. When someone close to me gets the sniffles, I end up coughing for weeks. Worry about panencephalitis — in which virus lingering in the brain triggers a deadly immune response — also weighs on me. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 April 2019 at 7:38 am

Creed Green Irish Tweed and a razor experiment for a reader

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A reader asked about using the Fatip Testina Gentile head on the Rockwell 6S handle. The issue is that Rockwell uses SAE 10-32 threading  rather than metric M5x.8 threading that other modern razors use. From Rockwell:

The pitch between 10-32 and M5x.8 are nearly identical, but the diameter differs slightly. We selected the smaller diameter 10-32 to ensure the threading (which is produced straight from MIM, and is not machined) would comfortably fit within an M5x.8, even if there was a slight variation in diameters between pieces (accounting for the – very slight – variability within critical dimensions inherent in MIM). You’ll notice we also flattened the threading on two sides of the threading of the 6S cap, both to allow it to be produced by MIM and so that it leaves enough play that it can comfortably work with a M5x.8 handle.

I tried it, and I found that the Rockwell handle worked easily and well with the Testina Gentile head, but I could not get the Testina Gentile handle to fit into the Rockwell head at all. However, since the reader specifically wants the Testina Gentile head on the Rockwell head, that’s not an issue.

In the photo, you’ll see the Rockwell handle holding the Testina Gentile head, and that’s my shave today. The shaving soap is Creed’s Green Irish Tweed, and the Plisson HMW 12 with horn handle made a very nice lather indeed.

Three easy passes with the hybrid Rockwell/Fatip razor left my face perfectly smooth and a splash of Creed Green Irish Tweed EDT finished the job. Overall, an extremely nice shave and a great way to launch the weekend.

And from Finnerty Gardens, some flowers I would call mauve in color, but for all I know they are literally mauve flowers: “Mauve is a pale purple color named after the mallow flower (French: mauve).“:

Written by Leisureguy

27 April 2019 at 7:55 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

Game over: Greenland Is Falling Apart—Since 1972, the giant island’s ice sheet has lost 11 quadrillion pounds of water.

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Global warming will destroy civilization, because of: (a) crop failures and food shortages, and (b) forced mass migrations due to sea-level rise. European countries don’t like immigrants? They had better brace themselves. Hundreds of millions of people will be on the move. In the US, the denizens of Florida are going to be forced to move up into Georgia and north.

Robinson Meyer writes in the Atlantic:

The Greenland Ice Sheet is the world’s second-largest reservoir of fresh water sitting on the world’s largest island. It is almost mind-bogglingly huge.

If Greenland were suddenly transported to the central United States, it would be a very bad day for about 65 million people, who would be crushed instantly. But for the sake of science journalism, imagine that Greenland’s southernmost tip displaced Brownsville, Texas—the state’s southernmost city—so that its icy glaciers kissed mainland Mexico and the Gulf thereof. Even then, Greenland would stretch all the way north, clear across the United States, its northern tenth crossing the Canadian border into Ontario and Manitoba. Kansas City, Oklahoma City, and Iowa City would all be goners. So too would San Antonio, Memphis, and Minneapolis. Its easternmost peaks would slam St. Louis and play in Peoria; its northwestern glaciers would rout Rapid City, South Dakota, and meander into Montana. At its center point, near Des Moines, roughly two miles of ice would rise from the surface.

Suffice it to say: The Greenland Ice Sheet, which contains enough water to refill the Great Lakes 115 times over, is very large. And it is also falling apart.

A new study finds that the Greenland Ice Sheet added a quarter inch of water to global sea levels in just the past eight years. The research, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, covers nearly 20 years previously not included in our detailed understanding of the troubled Greenland Ice Sheet. It finds that climate change has already bled trillions of tons of ice from the island reservoir, with more loss than expected coming from its unstable northern half.

“The glaciers are still being pushed out of balance,” Eric Rignot, a senior scientist at NASA and an author of the paper, told me. “Even though the ice sheet has [sometimes] been extremely cold and had low surface melt in the last year, the glaciers are still speeding up, and the ice sheet is still losing mass.”

The paper casts the transformation of the Greenland Ice Sheet as one of the profound geological shifts of our time. Scientists measure the mass of ice sheets in “gigatonseach unit equal to 1 billion metric tons, or roughly the same amount of water that New York or Los Angeles uses in a year. Greenland, according to the study, has lost 4,976 gigatons of water since 1972. That’s enough water to fill 16 trillion bathtubs or 1.3 quadrillion gallon jugs. That much water weighs about 11 quadrillion pounds. (A quadrillion is 1 with 15 zeros after it.)

More worryingly, the paper finds that Greenland lost about half of that ice—roughly 2,200 gigatons—in the years between 2010 and 2018. The ice sheet has also failed to gain mass in any year since 1998.

This melting isn’t happening at a steady pace, in other words. Greenland’s demise seems to be accelerating. Think of Greenland as a huge inland ice sea, surrounded by faster-moving ice rivers (which are glaciers) that empty the sea and carry ice to the ocean. The paper finds that those rivers are speeding up, carrying ice out of the island’s core nearly twice as fast now as they did in the 1990s or 2000s.

That’s an alarming result, because it means glaciers might now be shrinking Greenland from the bottom faster than hot weather can melt it from the top. And researchers believe that bottom-melting glaciers are less stable and more prone to rapid collapse. “If there’s a risk of rapid sea-level rise in the future, it will be associated with glaciers speeding up, and not anything happening at the surface,” Rignot said.

The paper’s findings are stirring in part because they go much further back in time. “A lot of the publications [about Greenland’s mass] start in 2000 or 2002, some go back to 1992, but this is the first time we go back another 20 years,” Rignot said. Historically, most studies of Greenland combine data from radar flybys, GPS beacons, and laser or gravity-sensing satellites. But there’s not enough data from before 1992 to be useful, so that’s when estimates usually stop. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2019 at 7:14 pm

Garlic thoughts from a new locale

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I once lived in Monterey CA, which is just down the road from Gilroy, self-proclaimed Garlic Capital of the World— and even closer to Castroville, the Artichoke Capital of the World. Castroville has a giant artichoke sculpture, but Gilroy lacks a giant garlic sculpture, probably because it’s not needed since the garlic odor is enough. (Artichokes lack the strong odor.)

But Gilroy does have the Garlic Festival, which I once attended: heat, dust, and an over-abundance of garlic. (I love garlic, but even I found garlic ice cream not so appealing as you might think.)

Approaching the point of the post, I will note that in Victoria and, I think, in BC generally, there’s a strong locavore ethic that predates the word locavore—thus the wonderful wines and spirits available here. Garlic is not excepted. In the fall there’s a hard-stem garlic—a red garlic with cloves the size of small hen’s eggs—that is available for a few weeks. See this post.

Those are long gone until this coming fall, but in the meantime there is a lot of a local garlic that I like a lot. It’s a soft-neck garlic, but unlike Gilroy (and Chinese) garlic, it’s extremely easy to peel: twist the clove a bit, and the peel pops off. I had read about such a garlic in the (wonderful) book Garlic Is Life, by Chester Aaor, a book I wholeheartedly recommend, but I had never experienced it until I moved up here.

Every time I’ve peeled some cloves and chopped them to sit a while (which is frequent) I’ve thought about blogging the phenomenon, and now I’ve done it at last. The garlic is amazing and wonderful. Read the book and know that such garlic actually exists. (Reading the book is a pleasure, so this is not an onerous assignment.)

The garlic tonight will be sautéed in my Field Company No. 10 skillet with olive oil, and then diced chayote squash and Shanghai bok choy. In the No. 8 skillet I’ll cook some crab cakes.

Field has just announced their No. 4 skillet, but I think I’ll pass. I really like my 8 7/8″ Matfer Bourgeat skillet which is now so well-seasoned that after cooking The Wife’s daily scrambled eggs with shredded cheese in a little (1 tsp) butter, I can just wipe out the pan with a paper towel and it’s clean. I can’t seem improving on that, plus the carbon-steel will heat more quickly than the cast-iron.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2019 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Joe Biden’s utter failure as chairman of the hearings regarding Clarence Thoms

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This is hard to read but shows just how completely Biden failed in every respect.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2019 at 3:24 pm

Exercise reduces chronic inflammation

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And why is that important? From an article in Harvard Magazine:

Because the idea that inflammation—constant, low-level, immune-system activation —could be at the root of many noncommunicable diseases is a startling claim, it requires extraordinary proof. Can seemingly unconnected illnesses of the brain, the vasculature, lungs, liver, and joints really share a deep biological link? Evidence has been mounting that these common chronic conditions—including Alzheimer’s, cancer, arthritis, asthma, gout, psoriasis, anemia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and depression among them—are indeed triggered by low-grade, long-term inflammation. But it took that large-scale human clinical trial to dispel any lingering doubt: the immune system’s inflammatory response is killing people by degrees.


Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2019 at 1:19 pm

TurboTax Deliberately Hides Its Free File Page From Search Engines

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Corporations are, basically, scum. Legal persons with antisocial personality disorder*. Justin Elliott reports in ProPublica:

This week, we reported on how TurboTax uses deceptive design and misleading advertising to trick lower-income Americans into paying to file their taxes, even though they are eligible to do it for free.

There’s a new wrinkle: It turns out, Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, is deliberately hiding the truly free edition — TurboTax Free File — from Google Search.

Intuit has done that by adding code on its site telling Google and other search engines not to list TurboTax Free File in search results.

“It’s deliberately saying: ‘Google, we don’t want you here. Do not bring us traffic,’” said Jared Spool, a veteran web design and user experience expert.

The code in question, which can be found in a file called robots.txt or in an HTML tag, has to be actively added to a site, as Intuit has done. It is typically used on pages that designers want to hide from the open internet, such as those that are for internal use only. Without that code, Google and other search engines default to adding a site to their search results.

“Robots.txt is a big ‘No, don’t go any further’ sign on the web,” Spool said.

The code on TurboTax’s Free File site says “noindex,nofollow” — instructions for it not to show up in search results.

In contrast, the TurboTax page that puts many users on track to pay signals to Google that it should be listed in search results.

Sen. Ron Wyden, the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee, said in a statement that he plans to raise Intuit’s misleading marketing with the IRS. “Intuit’s tactics to reduce access to the Free File program and confuse taxpayers are outrageous,” he said.

Here’s the page for TurboTax’s Free File edition. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

An Intuit spokesman didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

In exchange for the IRS promising not to create its own free, online filing tool, Intuit, H&R Block and other companies signed a deal to offer Free File options to lower-income Americans.

The fact that TurboTax Free File is effectively hidden from Google could contribute to the low rate of use. While 70% of taxpayers are eligible for Free File options from TurboTax and other tax software products, just 3% of eligible taxpayers or fewer use them each year.

Under the Free File deal, Intuit and other companies pledged to work “to increase electronic filing of tax returns, which includes extending the benefits of online federal tax preparation and electronic filing to economically disadvantaged and underserved populations at no cost.”

Intuit is the dominant player in consumer tax software, with market share reportedly in the 60% range.

We found that Intuit’s smaller competitor in the market, H&R Block, also hid its H&R Block Free File product from Google using the same sort of code. An H&R Block spokeswoman said: “We are proud that we have helped millions of Americans file their returns under the Free File Alliance program. … Our Free File Alliance offering, like all other alliance partners, is presented in the IRS site and easily reachable through the IRS, on, and also by googling ‘FFA H&R Block.’”

But the Google results for that search do not directly link to H&R Block’s Free File landing page.

The Senate is currently considering a wide-ranging, bipartisan bill, the Taxpayer First Act, that would make the tax software industry’s Free File deal with the IRS permanent. Intuit and other tax software companies have long lobbied for the language in the bill. . .

The WHO‘s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, tenth edition (ICD-10), has a diagnosis called dissocial personality disorder (F60.2):[55][56]

It is characterized by at least 3 of the following:

  1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others;
  2. Gross and persistent attitude of irresponsibility and disregard for social norms, rules, and obligations;
  3. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships, though having no difficulty in establishing them;
  4. Very low tolerance to frustration and a low threshold for discharge of aggression, including violence;
  5. Incapacity to experience guilt or to profit from experience, particularly punishment;
  6. Marked readiness to blame others or to offer plausible rationalizations for the behavior that has brought the person into conflict with society.

The ICD states that this diagnosis includes “amoral, antisocial, asocial, psychopathic, and sociopathic personality”. Although the disorder is not synonymous with conduct disorder, presence of conduct disorder during childhood or adolescence may further support the diagnosis of dissocial personality disorder. There may also be persistent irritability as an associated feature.[56][57]

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2019 at 12:59 pm

Saudi Fugitives Accused of Serious Crimes Get Help to Flee While U.S. Officials Look the Other Way

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I don’t understand what has happened to the US.  Sebastian Rotella, Tim Golden, and Shane Dixon Kavanaugh report in ProPublica:

The government of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly helped Saudi citizens evade prosecutors and the police in the United States and flee back to their homeland after being accused of serious crimes here, current and former U.S. officials said.

The FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies have been aware of the Saudi actions for at least a decade, officials said. But successive American administrations have avoided confronting the government in Riyadh out of concern that doing so might jeopardize U.S. interests, particularly Saudi cooperation in the fight against Islamist terrorism, current and former officials said.

“It’s not that the issue of Saudi fugitives from the U.S. wasn’t important,” said retired FBI agent Jeffrey Danik, who served as the agency’s assistant legal attache in Riyadh from 2010 to 2012. “It’s that the security relationship was so much more important. On counterterrorism, on protecting the U.S. and its partners, on opposing Iran, the Saudis were invaluable allies.”

American officials said Saudi diplomats, intelligence officers and other operatives have assisted in the illegal flight of Saudi fugitives, most of them university students, after they were charged with crimes including rape and manslaughter. The Saudis have bailed the suspects out of jail, hired lawyers to defend them, arranged their travel home and covered their forfeited bonds, the officials said.

A spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington, Fahad Nazer, said that only “a small fraction” of Saudi students in the United States have gotten into legal trouble, and that Saudi officials have “strictly adhered to all U.S. laws” in helping them. “The notion that the Saudi government actively helps citizens evade justice after they have been implicated in legal wrongdoing in the U.S. is simply not true,” he said. He did not respond to questions about how a series of Saudi students had managed to return home while facing criminal charges in the United States.

The Trump administration has deflected calls for an accounting of the Saudi government’s role in the flight of fugitives, asserting that there is little the United States can do because it has no extradition treaty with the kingdom. This week, the State Department said for the first time that it has raised the issue with senior Saudi officials, but it would not specify when or how.

“The U.S. government takes this seriously,” said a State Department spokeswoman, who would only respond to ProPublica’s questions on condition of anonymity.

The repeated flight of Saudi students from U.S. justice was revealed in a series of recent articles in The Oregonian/OregonLive, with which ProPublica is now collaborating to report on the issue. Those articles have identified more than 20 cases since 1988 in which Saudis have fled from legal troubles — before and often after being charged with crimes — in the United States and Canada. The extent of the Saudi government’s role in helping such fugitives and the fact that U.S. national security agencies have long known of it have not previously been reported.

U.S. officials said the problem of Saudi students fleeing prosecution had increased as the Saudi student population in the United States has exploded, rising from fewer than 5,000 in 2005 to more than 80,000 a decade later, according to DHS figures. The Saudi government has sponsored most of those students under a $3 billion scholarship program created by the late King Abdullah.

The students are dispersed widely around the United States, attending schools from Oregon State University to Western Illinois University to Southern New Hampshire University. The program has brought a bounty of full-freight tuition payments to dozens of state and private institutions and introduced a new generation of Saudis to life outside the regimented confines of the kingdom.

A former senior national security official said DHS first focused on the issue of Saudis evading justice in 2008, when an intelligence unit tracking foreign students noted a pattern of Saudis disappearing back to their homeland after they had been charged with crimes in the United States.

DHS analysts identified several Saudi officials who had assisted in the repatriation efforts while working out of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, a government agency that both supports and monitors Saudi students in the United States. At least some of the officials at the Cultural Mission appeared to be intelligence officers working undercover, the former senior official said.

Since then, DHS and other agencies have learned of more cases in which Saudi suspects have eluded American justice, apparently with their government’s help. But U.S. law enforcement agencies still have only a sketchy understanding of how some of the Saudi suspects escaped the United States and the role that Saudi operatives played, officials said.

Instances of misconduct by foreign diplomats are typically raised by State Department officials in meetings with foreign envoys in Washington and overseas. But none of the more than two dozen current and former officials interviewed for this story said they knew of any formal protest about the issue prior to the State Department’s new assertion that it has discussed the matter with Saudi leaders.

“I would not have hesitated to go to anybody — whether the crown prince or the deputy crown prince or the foreign minister — to bring up something that was distasteful or difficult,” said Joseph W. Westphal, who was the United States ambassador in Riyadh between 2014 and 2017. “It would not have been something that I shied away from if it was affecting the relationship. But it was not something that came to my desk.”

Officials offered several reasons for Washington’s lack of action. In some cases, state or local law enforcement officials had taken months to contact federal agencies to seek warrants for the suspects’ arrests for unlawful flight from prosecution. In other instances, local officials did not appear to have contacted federal agencies at all.

Although many current and former officials acknowledged having heard about individual cases of Saudis fleeing justice, some of them said they did not see a clear pattern emerge. American officials dealing with Saudi Arabia have also long been accustomed to the kingdom’s overarching concern with its image in the United States, and to the extraordinary lengths to which Saudi diplomats would often go to avoid negative publicity.

Within the federal government, information about the Saudi cases has been scattered across several agencies, none of which have had much incentive to address the problem.  . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2019 at 11:07 am

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