Norwegian Police Launch Investigation Into Disappearance of WikiLeaks Associate

Norwegian Police Launch Investigation Into Disappearance of WikiLeaks Associate

Arjen Kamphuis was last seen two weeks ago.

Mary Papenfuss09/03/2018 05:54 AM ET

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Norwegian police have launched an investigation into the disappearance of Arjen Kamphuis, a Dutch cybersecurity expert and WikiLeaks associate who was last seen two weeks ago in Norway.

WikiLeaks posted an updated tweet Saturday about the “strange disappearance” of a man who has described himself as a “digital self-defense professional.”

Kamphuis, 47, was last seen Aug. 20 checking out of his hotel in the Norwegian town of Bodo. He was scheduled to fly to Amsterdam two days later out of Trondheim, 450 miles south of Bodo.

“We have started an investigation,” a Norwegian police spokesman told Agence France-Presse. Police won’t “speculate about what happened to him,” he said.

Information about his disappearance was first posted on Twitter on Friday by Ancilla van de Leest, a member of the Dutch Pirate Party and a privacy activist. “Friends, colleagues and family are very, very worried,” she wrote. Van de Leest contacted police and newspapers and an extensive cyber network to get the word out about her missing friend at  #ArjenKamphuis and #FindArjen.

View image on Twitter



My best friend has gone missing in Bodø, Norway. Friends, colleagues and family are very, very worried. Please share ❤ #FindArjen #Bodø #Norway #MissingPerson #ArjenKamphuis

1:45 PM – Aug 31, 2018


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Kamphuis’ disappearance has triggered a slew of conspiracy theories on Twitter, particularly given his connections to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, who published Democratic Party emails hacked by operatives linked to the Kremlin.

But the cybersecurity expert is also described in the missing poster as an “avid hiker,” and some speculate that he could be lost or injured in the wilds of Norway. He describes himself on Twitter as a “free software advocate, mountanieer, sailor, carpenter, geek — and damn proud of it.″

Van de Leest sent out a call on Twitter for anyone with drones, presumably to do aerial searches of outdoor areas.



Update on the strange disappearance of @ArjenKamphuis. Arjen left his hotel in Bodø on August 20. He had a ticket flying out of Trondheim on August 22. The train between the two takes ~10 hours, suggesting that he disappeared in within hours in Bodø, Trondheim or on the train.



.@JulianAssange associate and author of “Information Security for Journalists” @ArjenKamphuis has disappeared according to friends (@ncilla) and colleagues. Last seen in Bodø, #Norway, 11 days ago on August 20.

8:42 PM – Sep 1, 2018


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Kamphuis wrote the 2014 free handbook Information Security for Journalists to help media professionals protect their work and communications from government snooping.



Dutchman Arjen Kamphuis has dissapeared. A man with a heart for transparency.

Please help find him. #FindArjen

Nordic News


Norwegian police start investigation into disappearance of Dutch Arjen Kamphuis #ArjenKamphuis



11:58 AM – Sep 2, 2018


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Missing poster for Arjen Kamphuis dated August 31st, 2018. English copy reads: Arjen Kamphuis was last seen in Bodø, Norway on August, 20th. He has long blond hair and glasses. He is 47 years old, 1.78m tall and has a normal posture. He was usually dressed in black and carrying his black backpack. He is an avid hiker. Arjen is a Dutch citizen and did not arrive back home in The Netherlands.

Aral Balkan


Privacy/free software advocate & all-round wonderful human being @ArjenKamphuis is missing. He was last seen in Bodø, Norway on Aug 20th. He’s usually dressed in black, carries a black backpack & is an avid hiker. If you have info/are in the area/have drones…

3:01 PM – Aug 31, 2018


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The police in Bodø started their investigation this morning, They are looking for electronic traces (smartphone). Furthermore there are tips from Ålesund and other places in West-Norway. #FindArjen



De politie in Bodø is zondagochtend onderzoek begonnen. Ze onderzoeken o.a. of ze een elektronisch spoor (smartphone) kunnen vinden. Er zijn verder tips gekomen uit Ålesund en elders in West-Noorwegen. #FindArjen



12:47 PM – Sep 2, 2018

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An Online Vigil in Defense of Julian Assange With Daniel Ellsberg, Craig Murray, Bill Binney and Ray McGovern

An Online Vigil in Defense of Julian Assange With Daniel Ellsberg, Craig Murray, Bill Binney and Ray McGovern

September 1, 2018 • 34 Comments

Joe Lauria, editor-in-chief of Consortium News, on Saturday helped moderate a daylong chain of interviews in defense of WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, including a discussion with Daniel Ellsberg.

#Unity4J online vigil was held on Saturday to defend the WikiLeaks editor-in-chief, whose sanctuary at the Ecuadorian embassy in London has turned into torturous solitary confinement.

Among the participants on Saturday were Craig Murray, a former U.K. ambassador; Nat Parry, son of Consortium New’s founder and first editor, Robert Parry; Bill Binney, former technical director at the National Security Agency, and Ray McGovern, a former CIA officer. Joe Lauria interviewed Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower and author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. 

The entire 11 hour and 45 minute event can be viewed here:

#Unity4J Online Vigil in support of Julian Assange 4.0

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International media have reported that Ecuador may hand over Assange to United Kingdom authorities, with a fear that he then would be extradited to the United States. The U.K. and Ecuadorian sides are engaged in ongoing negotiations, but Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange and WikiLeaks since 2010, has acknowledged that Assange’s legal team is not part of those talks.

The fate of Assange represents a threat to human rights, asylum rights, liberty and press freedoms. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights already have found in Assange’s favor.

#Unity4J originated from an unplanned but timely response to injustice when Assange’s internet access and visitation rights were taken away. The action has grown into a series of high-profile monthly online vigils.

A dynamic new format for the monthly online vigils was introduced on Saturday.  Conceived by organizer Suzie Dawson, the concept is described as a “daisy-chain style digital relay”—which featured more than  twenty guest appearances of 30 minutes duration each. At the conclusion of each segment, the guests transitioned from interviewee to interviewer.

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act,” Assange reminds us, “we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”

For more information about Assange and WikiLeak’s legal situation, visit and  and .


I am personally not a fan of Assange.

Read my article:Wizard Julian Assange And The Children Of The Damned

Crypto in Israel: Deep Likelihood Analysis of Mass Adoption, Tax Evasion Issue

Crypto in Israel: Deep Likelihood Analysis of Mass Adoption, Tax Evasion Issue

Sep 01, 2018 at 10:08 // News

On Aug 26, the Jerusalem Post wrote a very good story about the chances of Israel adopting a state-backed crypto just like Venezuela did a few days ago,  although for completely different reasons.

While Venezuela launched the Petro recently as an outrageous Hail Mary as it faces 6-figure inflation, Israel’s Central Bank and Finance Ministry are purportedly considering a national crypto as a method of combating tax evasion.

Israel’s Crypto Idling 

Since Bitcoin’s popular skyrocketing period from late last year into early this year, crypto has become a harsh government issue everywhere from Canada to Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro lately made headlines for launching the global’s first state-backed crypto known as the Petro.

Amidst increasing inflation, record unemployment and a deadly lack of food and important supplies, the Petro is Venezuela’s Bitcoin attempt at rescuing its economy by pinning its currency value to its significant oil production.

Concerned authorities in Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem are planning to form an Israeli state-backed cryptocurrency for a variety of reasons. The Bank of Israel and the ministry of Finance are planning to launch a formal Israeli digital currency as a major tool to aid the state combat tax evasion. Under Israeli tax codes, all corporate organizations pay 46% and private individuals pay 25%.

Crypto Ecosystem not Bothered at all 

Regardless of this, the already existing cryptocurrency sector is not showing any sign of decelerating in the future. Israel is a home of crypto and the world’s most fertile Blockchain innovators. Listed among the top ten innovative countries in the world, the bank of Israel has now become much more involved in crypto, but not in a manner market traders would inevitably hope for.

Earlier in 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court clearly ruled that Bank Leumi can’t lawfully close customer accounts due to crypto transactions.

Inside the Cold War Between Prince Charles and William and Harry

Inside the Cold War Between Prince Charles and William and Harry

There have always been rumors of significant tension between Prince Charles and his sons, Harry and William.

Of course, it would be unsurprising—considering their father’s appalling behavior towards their mother Princess Diana—if there were a complete absence of resentment from the younger men towards their father.

As has been well documented, Charles was having an affair with Camilla Parker Bowles while engaged to Diana, and continued it right throughout their troubled marriage.

The transgressions were blatant and egregious—one tiny example: Two weeks before their marriage, Charles sent Camilla a bracelet engraved with his pet name for her, which Diana found.

Publicly, Harry and William have never directly allowed that there is as much as a cigarette paper of distance between them and their father.

Shrewdly, they have never openly spoken of anything other than their untold admiration and respect for him.

However the Daily Beast has been told by a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, that it is well known in the intimate circles of the higher echelons of the royal family that the two boys’ relationship with their father is “strained.”

“They are very different people and they just don’t get on. It’s as simple as that. They rarely see each other outside of official business,” the source said.

The source also added that Charles “hates” William and Harry’s public “emoting” which has seen them discuss, in heartbreaking detail, the psychological troubles they endured following the loss of their mother, as part of their efforts to reduce the stigma around discussing mental health issues.

“My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today”

The public declarations of vulnerability by the princes reached a height around the 20th anniversary of Diana’s death last year, from which Charles was completely airbrushed.

The closest Harry came to expressing what many believe to be his deep-seated anger towards his father was in a an interview to mark her death when he said: “My mother had just died, and I had to walk a long way behind her coffin, surrounded by thousands of people watching me while millions more did on television. I don’t think any child should be asked to do that, under any circumstances. I don’t think it would happen today.”

Although Charles was not mentioned by name it’s hard to see how Harry could have had anyone in mind but his father.

William and Harry spent much more time with Diana than they did with Charles after their parents’ divorce, and so were exposed to Diana’s loathing and contempt for ‘that woman’ from an early age—and the relationship with Camilla has not been easy for them to accept.

Another figure who appears at many key moments in this story is Prince Charles’s former adviser, Mark Bolland.

Bolland ran a ruthless media operation after Diana’s death aimed at getting the public and the media to accept Camilla. Under Bolland’s influence, Prince Charles sanctioned gross violations of his sons’ privacy in return for positive media coverage.

As the Daily Beast has previously reported, in 1998, a 16-year-old William agreed for the first time to meet Camilla. Every moment of that traumatic first meeting was subsequently described in vivid detail in the Sun newspaper. William was furious, and demanded to know how the story had got out.

The Sun’s royal editor of the time, Charlie Rae, told the BBC documentary Reinventing The Royals, “Apart from Camilla and William telling us, you couldn’t have got it from a better source… It was Mark Bolland.” Bolland denied being the Sun’s source.

Bolland also used Harry to make Charles look good. After the News of the World got hold of a story that Harry had smoked weed, the palace agreed to confirm the story if the paper ran an item saying that Charles had taken him to a drug rehab centre to guide him in the dangers of drugs. In fact, the visit to the drug rehab had happened months earlier.

Harry was furious and felt betrayed.

Richard Kay, a veteran Daily Mail journalist told the BBC documentary that William’s anger at being manipulated by his father’s staff “explained a lot about what happened in subsequent years when he decided to break away from his father’s people.”

The Daily Beast understands that, generally, the very different, more informal way of doing things beloved by the younger royals is another cause of irritation to Charles, who considers it inappropriate for the royals.

For instance, William, Kate, Meghan and Harry all call staff by their first names, a studied rejection of Charles’s high-handed interpersonal communication style.

Harry regularly brings in coffee from Starbucks to his staff at Kensington Palace, one insider previously told the Daily Beast, popping out to the street in just a baseball cap pulled low for disguise.

“William loves his father and is tremendously loyal to him, but from the beginning he has said he is his own man and hates being told what to do”

The writer Christopher Andersen told the Daily Beast that tension has also been brewing between Charles and William owing to disagreements over William and Kate’s work schedule.

“William loves his father and is tremendously loyal to him, but from the beginning he has said he is his own man and hates being told what to do. So whenever he’s pressured by Charles’ aides at St. James’s Palace to take on some royal assignment he isn’t interested in, William complains bitterly.

“William is also unhappy with Charles’s camp for promulgating the notion that the Cambridges aren’t pulling their weight. In fairness, they have three young children and there is no reasonable way they can be expected to match the hundreds of tree-plantings, plaque-unveilings, ribbon-cuttings, hospital visits, and walkabouts Charles and Camilla perform each year.”

These fresh suggestions of strained relationships—unexpectedly, perhaps, Harry is said to be more willing to compromise with Charles than William in the cause of keeping the peace—fit with other stories that have been doing the rounds, some of them for many years.

One of the most assiduous chroniclers of these stories has been the investigative journalist Tom Bower.

In his new book, Rebel Prince, Bower claimed that Charles sees far less of his grandchildren than do the Middletons, and is annoyed by the important role Kate’s family has been given in the rearing of the future king.

Bower also suggested that the geographical distance between Prince Charles’s house at Highgrove and the Cambridges’ base at Sandringham was part of the reason William and Kate chose to be based there.

“Charles saw Kate and William as the new stars and feared he’d be in trouble”

Diana famously claimed Charles was jealous of the attention she received, and Charles allegedly feels similarly aggrieved by the attention William and Kate have received, Bower suggests.

“People don’t fully realize the extent to which Charles is jealous of anyone who gets more attention than he does”

“Charles saw Kate and William as the new stars and feared he’d be in trouble,” the late Robert Higdon, a friend of Charles’ who looked after the interests of his charities in America, told Bower for his book.

Andersen makes a similar point: “People don’t fully realize the extent to which Charles is jealous of anyone who gets more attention than he does. Charles was incredibly jealous of Diana for swallowing up all the attention, and the fact that polls routinely show that two-thirds of Britons would rather have William and Kate as their king and queen than Charles and Camilla has always been a source of tension between the two camps.”

The palace almost never comments on the personal lives and relations of its principal characters, and the palace declined to comment on a detailed email request for this story sent by the Daily Beast.

Invisible weapon might be cause of diplomats’ illness

Invisible weapon might be cause of diplomats’ illness

By the NYT

During the Cold War, Washington feared that Moscow was seeking to turn microwave radiation into covert weapons of mind control.

More recently, the U.S. military itself sought to develop microwave arms that could invisibly beam painfully loud booms and even spoken words into people’s heads. The aims were to disable attackers and wage psychological warfare.

Now, doctors and scientists say such unconventional weapons may have caused the baffling symptoms and ailments that, starting in late 2016, hit more than three dozen U.S. diplomats and their family members in Cuba and China. The Cuban incidents resulted in a diplomatic rupture between Havana and Washington.

The medical team that examined 21 affected diplomats from Cuba made no mention of microwaves in its detailed report published in JAMA in March. But Douglas H. Smith, the study’s lead author and director of the Center for Brain Injury and Repair at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a recent interview that microwaves were now considered a main suspect and that the team was increasingly sure the diplomats had suffered brain injury.

“Everybody was relatively skeptical at first,” he said, “and everyone now agrees there’s something there.” Smith remarked that the diplomats and doctors jokingly refer to the trauma as the immaculate concussion.

Strikes with microwaves, some experts now argue, more plausibly explain reports of painful sounds, ills and traumas than do other possible culprits — sonic attacks, viral infections and contagious anxiety.

In particular, a growing number of analysts cite an eerie phenomenon known as the Frey effect, named after Allan Frey, an American scientist. Long ago, he found that microwaves can trick the brain into perceiving what seem to be ordinary sounds.

The false sensations, experts say, could account for a defining symptom of the diplomatic incidents: the perception of loud noises, including ringing, buzzing and grinding. Initially, experts cited those symptoms as evidence of stealthy attacks with sonic weapons.

Members of JASON, a secretive group of elite scientists that helps the federal government assess new threats to national security, say it has been scrutinizing the diplomatic mystery this summer and weighing possible explanations, including microwaves.

Asked about the microwave theory of the case, the State Department said the investigation had yet to identify the cause or source of the attacks. The FBI declined to comment on the status of the investigation or any theories.

The microwave idea teems with unanswered questions. Who fired the beams? The Russian government? The Cuban government? A rogue Cuban faction sympathetic to Moscow? And, if so, where did the attackers get the unconventional arms?

Microwaves are ubiquitous in modern life. The short radio waves power radars, cook foods, relay messages and link cellphones to antenna towers. They are a form of electromagnetic radiation on the same spectrum as light and X-rays, only at the opposite end.

While radio broadcasting can employ waves a mile or more in length, microwaves range in size from roughly a foot to a fraction of an inch. They are seen as harmless in such everyday uses as microwaving foods. But their diminutive size also enables tight focusing, as when dish antennas turn disorganized rays into concentrated beams.

The dimensions of the human head, scientists say, make it a fairly good antenna for picking up microwave signals. Frey, a biologist, said he stumbled on the acoustic effect in 1960. The Soviets took notice — and furtively, globally, the threat grew.

Soviet research on microwaves for “internal sound perception,” the Defense Intelligence Agency warned in 1976, showed great promise for “disrupting the behavior patterns of military or diplomatic personnel.” Washington, too, foresaw new kinds of arms: In Albuquerque, N.M., Air Force scientists sought to beam comprehensible speech into the heads of adversaries.

Russia, China and many European states are seen as having the know-how to make basic microwave weapons that can debilitate, sow noise or even kill. Advanced powers, experts say, might accomplish more nuanced aims such as beaming spoken words into people’s heads. Only intelligence agencies know which nations actually possess and use such unfamiliar arms.

A new Israeli law is making this fiercely loyal sect question what it has fought for

A new Israeli law is making this fiercely loyal sect question what it has fought for

Loveday MorrisISFIYA, Israel —

Yariv Said stands next to the grave of his father, Hasan Said, this month in Isfiya, Israel, at a military cemetery for Druze security-force members. (Quique Kierszenbaum)

September 1 at 11:24 AM

At a military cemetery lined by conifers on the wooded slopes of Israel’s Mount Carmel, Safwan Marich walks besides the graves of local soldiers killed in active service for Israel.

“Look at these people,” said the retired officer. “Why did they fight? For whom? For their nation?”

“Now,” he continued, “the government is saying: ‘No, you didn’t die for your nation. It’s not your nation.’ ”

Marich and the slain soldiers interred here are members of Israel’s minority Druze community, known for its fierce dedication to the Israeli state and service in the armed forces. Hundreds have paid the ultimate price for Israel, but now their sacrifices feel hollow, Marich said, because of Israel’s new nation-state law.

Passed in July, the law has stirred fierce debate across Israeli society over what it means to be a minority in Israel and highlighted fundamental questions about equality and democracy here.

Portraits of past Israeli and Druze leaders hang last month in the hall of remembrance in Daliyat al Carmel, with an inscription that reads, “Founders of the shared destiny of Druze and Jews in Israel.” (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

The bill enshrines in constitutional law key elements of Israel’s declaration of independence, including the Jewish nature of the state and its anthem, flag and capital.

It describes Jewish settlement as a “national value” that should be promoted and consolidated and elevates the status of Hebrew over Arabic, making Hebrew the sole official language. Most troubling for Marich and other members of Israel’s minorities, largely Arabs who make up 20 percent of the population, is what is missing from the law — the assurance in the declaration of independence of equal rights for all Israel’s citizens regardless of race or creed.

Marich works for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which has spoken out against the law and urged the government to adjust it.

Backers of the law, most prominently Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, argue it was necessary to ensure the future of Israel as a Jewish nation — and not an Israeli-Palestinian one, given its large Arab minority.

Its critics, who include international Jewish groups, Arab Israelis and human rights advocates, argue it is racist and damaging to Israeli democracy. A flurry of Supreme Court petitions have been lodged challenging it.

Some of the most passionate denunciations have come from the Druze, who are adherents of a cloistered sect that splintered from Islam in the 11th century. When Israel was created, the Arabic-speaking Druze entered what they describe as a “covenant of blood” with Jews, identifying with the struggles of another religious minority. At the request of their leader, Israel has recognized the Druze as an ethnic and religious group separate from the Arabs.

A tiny population of just 150,000 people, the Druze wield disproportionate influence in the state, fielding ministers and officers in the upper echelons of the military. When Marich and other Druze officers organized a protest in Tel Aviv last month, they drew tens of thousands of Israelis, including many Jews who came out in solidarity. Former heads of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and the Israel Defense Forces were speakers.

Demonstrators protest the Jewish nation-state law on Aug. 4 in Tel Aviv. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

For the Druze, who thought they had proved their loyalty by serving in the military — first voluntarily and later under compulsory service — the law has been particularly wounding. Druze protest leaders, though, say they say they are in a unique position to push back against the law, while similar efforts by Arab Israelis could be dismissed as unpatriotic.

Israeli Arab politicians have said that the nation-state law simply formalizes long-standing “apartheid” policies. Many identify as Palestinians, separated from their brethren when Israel was created, and have long complained of facing deep discrimination in education, housing and policing.

While the government has worked to reach a compromise with the Druze over their complaints, Netanyahu dismissed protests led by tens of thousands of Israeli Arabs last month. In a statement, he said that many demonstrators want to “cancel” Israel as the national state of the Jewish people and turn it into an “Israeli-Palestinian state” or a “state of all its citizens.”

Miri Regev, Israel’s culture minister, said she would refer the issue of Palestinian flags being flown at the Israeli Arab demonstration to the attorney general.

But Druze protests have been harder to brush off.

“When they passed this law they didn’t think about the Druze,” said Kamal Mallak, sitting in the garden of his house in Isfiya, in the heart of the Druze community. “They were aiming for something bigger, and they drove over the Druze on the way.”

A Druze demonstrator at the early-August protest in Tel Aviv. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

The multicolor striped Druze flag fluttered over the house next door. It had been newly raised, he said, with the nation-state law prompting a resurgence in Druze pride in their own symbols.

“There is only one state for the Jewish people. I believe that they have a right to a country that keeps that definition,” said Mallak, 49, who is running for the local council. “But 100 percent people should be equal.”

The law’s backers say it was necessary to prevent Israel from becoming what columnist Dror Eydar described in a recent op-ed in the Israel Hayom newspaper as a “bi-national” state.

“Everyone in Israel is equal before the law,” he wrote. “But the nation-state law is different: it is part of a larger picture. That is why it addresses nothing other than the issue of nationality. On that issue there isn’t any equality; there is only room for one national self-determination in Israel: the self-determination of the Jewish people.”

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, which backed the bill, said the new law does not diminish equality, which is enshrined in other parts of Israeli constitutional law.

“Unless it harms equality then there’s nothing to talk about,” he said. “Critics even say it’s not about what’s in it, it’s about how it makes them feel.”

Mallak said that instead of creating divisions, Israel should embrace its minorities and make them feel like part of the state.

“We are struggling for our rights, but it’s something bigger. We are struggling for the face of the state of Israel, for everyone,” he said. “What makes the difference between Israel and its neighbors is this is supposed to be a democratic state, enlightened.”

Like other critics, he attributed the law to Netanyahu’s political calculations, saying the prime minister hopes to expand his right-wing support heading into national elections, which many observers expect to be called in the coming months.

In the wake of the furor over the bill, Netanyahu has set up a committee to address issues such as housing and employment grievances for “minority members who serve in the security forces” and has proposed a separate law to recognize their contributions.

This initiative would not tackle problems of those in the larger Arab Israeli population, since they are not required to do mandatory service.

Druze protest leaders say they will accept nothing but a change in the law that assures equal rights for minorities, whether or not they serve.

Yariv Said at the memorial for the fallen Druze security-force members in Daliyat al Carmel. (Quique Kierszenbaum)

Yariv Said served for 25 years in the Israeli military, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“I’m hurt. I’m offended,” he said as he stood by the grave of his father, who was killed in a military training accident in 1978. A few yards away was the grave of his great-grandfather, who died when fighting for the Jewish Haganah militia in 1938, a decade before Israel was created.

“This shows that we built this state,” Said said.

The younger generation of Druze, who grew up thinking they were completely Israeli, have been particularly hurt by the law’s passage, he said. At least two Druze officers quit the army in protest but later rejoined.

“I’m worried about my children, this conflict of identity,” Said said. “It’s as if you live in a family together. You eat together you play together, and then one day the head of the family says the Jews stay and you get out.”

The Weak are Slaughtered, the Strong Prevail: Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Shy Away From Conflict

The Weak are Slaughtered, the Strong Prevail: Netanyahu Says Israel Will Not Shy Away From Conflict

By David Brennan On 8/31/18 at 6:48 AM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a stark warning to the country’s Middle Eastern rivals yesterday, declaring that peace could only be achieved alongside a strong Israeli nation-state.

Speaking at an event to rename an Israeli nuclear research facility after former President and Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Netanyahu said the late statesman’s wish for peace was always built on the provision that Israel would “strongly grasp defensive weaponry,” The Times of Israel reported.

The prime minister said this approach was necessary to ensure the survival of the country. “In the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak. The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive,” Netanyahu said.

PM of Israel


· Aug 29, 2018

Replying to @IsraeliPM

PM Netanyahu: Shimon aspired toward peace but he knew that true peace can be achieved only if our hands strongly grasp defensive weaponry. In the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak.

PM of Israel


The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.

12:05 PM – Aug 29, 2018


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PM of Israel


· Aug 29, 2018

Replying to @IsraeliPM

PM Netanyahu: Shimon aspired toward peace but he knew that true peace can be achieved only if our hands strongly grasp defensive weaponry. In the Middle East, and in many parts of the world, there is a simple truth: There is no place for the weak.

PM of Israel


The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.

12:05 PM – Aug 29, 2018


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“The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong,” he added.

Israel’s strength, the prime minister said, was to thank for the “normalization” of relations with “leading countries in the Arab world” that have traditionally been enemies. It appears he was referring to Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with whom Israel is now working closely on a range of issues.

In a thinly veiled message to Iran, Netanyahu warned that Israel remained a threat. “But our enemies know very well what Israel is capable of doing. They are familiar with our policy. Whoever tries to hurt us—we hurt them,” he said.

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“I am not spouting slogans. I am describing a persistent, clear and determined policy…backed by appropriate deployment, equipment, preparedness and—in the hour of need—appropriate orders,” the prime minister continued.

The comments, later posted to the official prime ministerial Twitter account, were met with criticism on social media. Some compared Netanyahu’s rhetoric to fascist speeches from the 1930s, while Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Iran was being “threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory.”

Netanyahu was one of the most vocal critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 deal signed with Iran to curtail its nuclear weapons research in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions. The prime minister said his government would help the U.S. to “apply pressure on the dangerous, extremist regime” in Iran, and continue to pressure Tehran to withdraw its forces from neighboring Syria.

It is significant that Netanyahu made the fiery remarks at the country’s top-secret nuclear research facility. Israel is the only state in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons, though its policy of “strategic ambiguity” makes it difficult to say how large its atomic armory is. Estimates reach as high as 400 nuclear warheads.

Israeli Public Radio Sparks Uproar After Playing Wagner Despite Boycott

Richard Wagner figures in Bayreuth, southern Germany, July 25, 2013AP

Israeli Public Radio Sparks Uproar After Playing Wagner Despite Boycott

Several complaints were made to the station following the broadcast, which was cut short ■ Wagner’s music is not usually aired on Israeli radio and television because he was anti-Semitic, and considered Hitler’s favorite composer

Itay SternHaggai Hitron


Israel’s public radio broadcast Richard Wagner’s opera “Twilight of the gods” (Gotterdammerung) on its classical radio station Kol Hamusica Friday despite the country’s boycott against Wagner’s works that began before the establishment of the state.

On “As You Want,” edited by Uri Marcus aired a live recording of the third act of the opera, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1991.

“In 1849, Richard Wagner began to formulate his revolutionary ideas about opera as a result of anarchist political activity, and gave rise to a new artistic form merging poetry and drama…we will listen to the final act of ‘Twilight of Gods,'” the Avishai Pelchi said on air.

However, a few minutes later the work was cut short by a 40 second pause, followed by the names of musicians and singers, including Barenboim, of the piece. Pelchi then continued to play the work until the end.

Richard Wagner – Götterdämmerung – Twilight of the gods – AWESOME

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According to details received by Haaretz, there had been several complaints made to the station about the broadcast. Wagner’s music is not aired on Israeli radio and television because he was anti-Semitic, and considered Hitler’s favorite composer.

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Yonatan Livni, Chairman of the Wagner Foundation in Israel, said: “I welcome the first unhidden playing of Wagner’s music … we do not play the opinions of the composer, but the wonderful music he created. My late father was a Holocaust survivor and from him I learned to get to know Wagner: ‘He was a vile man who wrote heavenly music.'”

Israeli public radio said: “The directives in the Kan public broadcaster remained as they have been for years – the work of Wagner will not be played on ‘Kan Kol Hamusica.’ This from an understanding the pain caused by playing [Wagner’s music] among Holocaust survivors who listen to us. The editor was wrong when he chose to play the piece … we apologize for this before our listeners … the matter was clarified to those related to the issue.”

The statement said the piece’s abrupt stop was a technical glitch, “perhaps deigned by fate,” and added this issue too was being examined. “Any conspirative claim which says some other factor intervened in the matter, is ruled out.”

Several attempts in Israel have been made to break the boycott, including by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, with Zubin Mehta as conductor, in 1981. The orchestra faced immediate backlash for its decision.

In 2001, Barenboim played the first act of the Wagner’s piece at Israel’s most prestigious arts festival amid pressure from the festival’s management to abandon the plan.

John McCain’s Mixed Record In Sports

John McCain’s Mixed Record In Sports

Evan WeinerAugust 30, 2018

McCain used his position to investigate sports business.

John McCain’s Mixed Record In Sports

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The debate on John McCain’s effectiveness as a United States Senator from Arizona between 1987 and 2018 will go on. In the sports world, McCain had a mixed record. He supported the revocation of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday in Arizona in 1987. Because of that change, the NFL stripped Arizona of the 1993 Super Bowl. But there was a promise of giving the Phoenix area the big game if Arizona residents said yes in a 1992 referendum to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day an Arizona holiday. Arizona voters said yes and Tempe got the 1996 Super Bowl.

Boxing promotor Bob Arum called John McCain the “Boxing Senator”. McCain helped craft the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act which became law in 2000, which protected fighters from promotors’ and managers’ exploitation particularly in financial areas. Beginning in 2004, McCain had pushed for a President pardon of champion Jack Johnson, which finally happened this past May. Johnson, an African American was convicted by an all-white jury in 1913 for transporting a white woman across state lines for “immoral purposes,” which was illegal under the Mann Act.  McCain was also involved in the 2004-05 Congressional call to clean up the so-called Steroids era in Major League Baseball. In 1999, McCain was looking into the activities of the International Olympic Committee after all the reports surfaced that IOC delegates took bribes as part of the process of awarding the 2002 Winter Olympics to Salt Lake City. McCain pushed for United States Olympic Committee changes. McCain was also concerned with rising cable TV rates in 2002 and the reasons behind the increasing cost of programming, particularly sports programming. Nothing happened though. McCain supported the 1992 federal restriction that allowed just Nevada to have sportsbooks operating. That law was overturned by the Supreme Court in May. McCain was a sports fan.

This Is The Designer Behind Cult Gaia, The Ark Bags All Over Instagram

This Is The Designer Behind Cult Gaia, The Ark Bags All Over Instagram

Karin Eldor7:27 pm

765 views|Aug 31, 2018,


Jasmin Larian Hekmat, founder of handbag and fashion brand Cult Gaia, Photo Credit: Courtesy of Cult GaiaCourtesy of Cult Gaia

Fashion and creativity are in Jasmin Larian Hekmat’s DNA: her mom is a former fashion designer and artist, while her father is famously the creator of the Bratz dolls. But it’s Jasmin’s vision that is credited with the iconic Ark bags, which have been taking over Instagram.

The design of the half-moon silhouette and use of bamboo was actually conceived by Larian in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2016 that it became a fashion blogger phenomenon. With celebrity fans like Jessica Alba, Michelle Williams and Chrissy Teigen, the “cultish” popularity of Cult Gaia (the name Gaia derives from the ancient Greek goddess of mother earth and the daughter of chaos) has only skyrocketed in the past two years. And Larian is no one-hit wonder: she introduced two new handbag styles (including the popular circular design, “Luna”), expanded her product assortment with the launch of a womenswear collection, accessories, as well as a footwear collaboration with online retailer Net-a-Porter.

It’s safe to say that Cult Gaia disrupted fashion by paving the way for a new handbag silhouette — the iconic crescent moon — as well as a flood of bamboo and straw bags that followed thereafter. So it’s no surprise that Lorian was named among 2018′s Forbes “30 Under 30″ in the Art & Style category. I spoke with the innovative designer about her inspiration, her key traits for a female entrepreneur, and her advice for anyone who wants to pursue a fashion career.

Karin Eldor: Take me back to before you launched Cult Gaia in 2012: what were you working on and where were you working?

Jasmin Larian Hekmat: I was in New York at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology), studying fashion design and interning at Jason Wu. I was simultaneously working on a ready-to-wear evening-wear line and making flower crowns as a side hustle. The crowns took off and led me to what Cult Gaia is today.

The Cult Gaia Ark handbag, Photo Credit: courtesy of Cult GaiaCourtesy of Cult Gaia

Eldor: What inspires you? Where do you go for daily inspiration?

Hekmat: I am most inspired when I travel, when I am in nature and among friends. My friends are my muses. They are who I design for.

Eldor: Part of Cult Gaia’s manifesto is: “Perfection is imperfect, as nature dictates.” Can you elaborate on this?

Hekmat: I think the nuance in things is what makes them beautiful. “Perfectly imperfect” is hard to achieve in production, but I’m always trying to show our partners what I mean by using nature as a visual metaphor.

Eldor: What are the 3 most critical components to being a female entrepreneur?

Hekmat: Having grit, perseverance and being collaborative.

Eldor: What is the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Hekmat: My dad taught me, “Go big or go home.”  And “I wait for the customer to tell us how much to make,” courtesy of Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia.

Eldor: Why did you decide to add footwear and clothing to your collection?

Hekmat: It has always been important to me to give our customer the full package. Head-to-toe Gaia. When we were just making our bags, I made clothes just so that I didn’t have to style with other people’s clothing. Then people started asking for the clothes, so it was organic. I’ve always wanted to do shoes and Net-A-Porter approached us to do an exclusive collection for them, so that was also serendipitous! It is really fulfilling to be able to create the world of Cult Gaia.

Eldor: You had a successful pop-up on Melrose Place last fall (2017). What are some lessons you learned for this type of “in real life” selling experience?

Hekmat: I learned that product training and finding the right brand ambassadors is key. I also think it’s important now more than ever to create moments that invite your customer to hang out and want to share with friends. It’s more of a marketing tool than a sales strategy.

Eldor: What motivated you to do the pop-up?

Hekmat: I wanted to invite our girl into our world. Touch and feel our products in real life, all in one place!

Eldor: What are some exciting things coming up for Cult Gaia?

Hekmat: We did a soft launch of our debut shoe line with Net-A-Porter that we will roll out to more partners in the spring! It’s a true extension of our brand DNA: wearable art.

Eldor: Your fashion career is so inspiring! What advice would you have for someone who wants to go into fashion design or the fashion industry in general?

Hekmat: Start small, put one foot in front of the other, and intern as much as you can.  Make yourself indispensable in whatever you do.

I’m a journalist, copywriter, and retail expert. Fashion, beauty, pop culture, and social media are my jam. Follow my updates on Instagram @alwayskarin.

I am a freelance journalist specializing in career, fashion, retail, social media, and wellness; contributor for COVETEUR, Create & Cultivate, Teen Vogue, Monster,…MORE

32,944 views|Jul 25, 2018,12:19 pm

Global Finance Leader Study: Finance Leaders Share the Top Risks that Matter Most

By Christy Sasser, Staff Writer, Workday

CFOs operate in an increasingly volatile business environment, from geopolitical uncertainty to the universal threat of cybercrime. These and other risks are exacerbated by the rapid rate of change in the world today, making them increasingly difficult to navigate and manage.

“I see more change happening today in the political, economic, and regulatory landscape than ever before in my 30-plus years in finance,” says Robynne Sisco, chief financial officer at Workday. “As a result, now more than ever, CFOs and their teams must be able to quickly adapt and respond to change as it happens.”

What risks weigh most heavily on the minds of finance leaders? In our global “Finance Redefined” study, which surveyed over 670 CFOs and senior finance leaders worldwide and across multiple sectors, the research shows that growing regulatory scrutiny tops the risk landscapes, with the top seven risks being:

1 Growing regulatory scrutiny

2 Pace of technology change/digital disruption

3 Political risk and uncertainty

4 Cybersecurity risk

5 Uncertain economic conditions/weak demand

6 Data privacy risk


8 Volatility in financial markets

Let’s take a closer look.

Risk #1: Growing Regulatory Scrutiny

In an increasingly complex regulatory environment, it should come as no surprise that finance leaders identified regulatory scrutiny as the foremost risk across all of the regions surveyed. Regulatory change continues to affect corporations around the world, from tax reform in the United States to the greater focus on cybersecurity regulation in Asia, such as the Singapore Cybersecurity Bill aimed at information infrastructure. Other developments include Europe’s PSD2 and MiFID II as well as the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect in May. As regulatory scrutiny continues to increase, finance leaders must understand the impact of these risks on their organizations and ensure their processes and technologies are agile, allowing them to adjust quickly to change.

Risk #2: Pace of Technology Change/Digital Disruption

The second most pressing area of risk was the pace of technology change/digital disruption. For finance leaders, this risk can be manifested in two ways.

First, not keeping pace with technology change creates risks to the wider business. For example, the business may lack the speed and efficiency needed to make decisions quickly and stay ahead of competitors, thereby putting the business model and value of the enterprise under threat. It’s important that CFOs collaborate with other parts of the business, both to understand how the technology landscape is changing and to make decisions about what investments are needed in order to drive innovation and growth in the business.

Second, the finance function itself faces risks if it doesn’t keep pace with new technologies such as automation and data analytics. These technologies enable finance leaders to improve operational performance, build confidence and trust in the numbers, and drive innovations such as advanced analytics. Looking ahead, innovation in areas including artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) could result in considerable reductions in manual work, as well as enable finance leaders to make more effective decisions.

There is a greater need for advanced risk analytics to glean insights from data and support rapid decision-making.

For finance leaders to keep pace with change, they need to build their own understanding of the latest technologies. They also need to build their team’s digital skills, both in terms of bringing in fresh talent and also developing their existing workforce.

Risk #3: Political Risk and Uncertainty

While CFOs are not expected to be political, there is no doubt that geopolitics is an increasingly important topic for the C-suite agenda. As a recent KPMG report, “The CEO as Chief Geopolitical Officer,” noted: “Today’s geopolitical environment is nothing like what we’ve seen in the past. CEOs are beholden to the outputs of an increasingly complex geopolitical system that moves at an accelerated pace, with few guardrails.”

There are certainly plenty of developments to monitor in the current market, including the threat of increasing territorialism by national governments. For example, with one year to go before Brexit, the UK’s departure from the EU is looming large: Deloitte’s Q4 2017 “CFO Survey” identified the effects of Brexit as the foremost risk affecting UK CFOs. Almost three quarters (73 percent) predicted that the overall business environment will be worse if the UK leaves the EU—up from 60 percent at the beginning of 2017.

Risk #4: Cybersecurity Risk

Respondents to the Workday survey cited cybersecurity risk as the fourth most pressing risk. There has been no shortage of headline-grabbing attacks in recent years. These range from the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist, which resulted in the loss of $81 million, to last year’s WannaCry ransomware attack, which affected over 200,000 computers across 150 countries.

For businesses, falling victim to a cyber attack can bring major disruption, huge costs, and reputational damage. Last year, several large multinationals incurred costs running to hundreds of millions of dollars following a series of attacks involving NotPetya malware. Accenture’s 2017 “Cost of Cybercrime Study” found that the global average cost of cybercrime was $11.7 million in 2017, a 27.4 percent increase from the previous year.

However, managing the impact of a potential attack is not always straightforward. A report by BAE Systems, “The Intelligence Disconnect,” revealed an intriguing disconnect when it comes to who is deemed responsible for security breaches: 35 percent of C-Suite respondents said responsibility lay with the IT team, compared to 19 percent of IT decision-makers who felt the same way. As the report points out, “It’s vital that organizations work to narrow these gaps in understanding, intelligence, and responsibility.”

Risk #5: Uncertain Economic Conditions/Weak Demand

Overall, global economic conditions have improved in recent years, with global economic growth reaching 3 percent last year—the highest rate since 2011. Nevertheless, stability and market conditions vary and are more uncertain in some regions than in others.

ACCA and IMA’s “Q4 2017 Global Economic Conditions Survey” found that, at a global level, the picture is mixed, with confidence levels highest in Central and South America, followed by North America and South Asia, and lowest in the Caribbean and the Middle East. The report also noted a drop in confidence in China—although confidence there remains high by historic standards—against a backdrop of slower expansion, with growth recorded at just below 7 percent in 2017.

Risk #6: Data Privacy Risk

Related to the cyberthreat is the risk that sensitive or confidential data will be breached. The BAE Systems report found that the theft of customer information or personal data in the event of a cyber attack was the biggest concern for IT decision-makers, and the second biggest for C-suite respondents. Meanwhile, companies face greater challenges as a result of increasingly stringent data protection laws, including those we have previously mentioned, such as GDPR.

Risk #7: Volatility in Financial Markets

Volatility in financial markets was the lowest-ranked risk, reflecting the lower levels of volatility seen in recent years. For CFOs, however, having access to data and information on volatility is still essential as they seek to make provide support for critical corporate investment decisions.

Resilience is Lacking

While CFOs are managing greater risks than ever, only 39 percent of finance leaders described themselves as “highly confident” in their ability to manage their top risks according to the Workday survey. To address this lack of resilience, finance leaders need to ensure that risk assessments are part and parcel of business planning discussions. Consequently, there is a greater need for advanced risk analytics to glean insights from data and support rapid decision-making. Having the right technology—as well as the right skill sets—will be key.

For the full research findings behind the “Finance Redefined” global study, read the report here.

About the Workday Global Finance Leader Study

We surveyed more than 670 finance leaders across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, and South Africa covering 10 main sectors from September 2017 to January 2018. Over one-third (38 percent) came from large organizations of more than $1 billion annual revenues, with 35 percent between $500 million and $1 billion, and 27 percent between $250 million and $500 million. Over one-third of respondents were CFOs, finance directors, or chief accounting officers/controllers, and the remaining were drawn from senior finance roles, such as head of financial planning and analysis or vice president of financial operations.

Teal Swan & The Craziest Wellness Cult Conspiracy You’ve Never Heard Of

Teal Swan & The Craziest Wellness Cult Conspiracy You’ve Never Heard Of

Morgan BailaJul 17, 2018 at 10:44am PDT

Photo: Courtesy of Matt Laumb.

Teal Swan, a tall, Amazonian woman with piercing blue eyes and long, dark hair, is a well-spoken wellness guru for the Goop generation and a self-described “spiritual catalyst” who boasts a large and dedicated following (nearly 800,000) on social media. She is also the subject of Gizmodo’s The Gateway, an addictive podcast in which host Jennings Brown and lead producer Jessica Glazer spend hours talking about Swan, her viewpoints, and her acolytes. The podcast is well-made, thought-provoking, and very bingeable. But prior to listening, I’d never heard of Swan. Have you? What makes her worthy of a 6-episode podcast are her controversies and the allegations against her. Former followers and critics charge that she is running a YouTube-driven cult, which she adamantly denies — but that’s still up for debate.

Brown first discovered Swan the way many people do: “YouTube started recognizing her videos and recommending them [to me],” he told Refinery29 one recent afternoon, a week after the final episode of the podcast aired. “Her message was just very unorthodox. You see her, and she is this charismatic alluring person. It is easy to think that she has the success of life, but then the deeper you get, things start to get a little darker,” he said. Cult or not, Swan is most certainly running a well-oiled machine. Her empire, which spans social media accounts and IRL meet-ups, represents a new Internet phenomenon in which “followers” become actual followers, and “influencers” wield actual life-altering influence. As a public figure, and self-described clairvoyant, she has been accused of promoting dangerous ideas around suicide and depression. Complicating her story even further: Swan claims she survived and escaped a cult herself as a young woman. In their investigative podcast, Brown and Glazer try to find the “gateway” into Swan’s world, to figure out this if this cultish figure is actually a threat, or a blessing, to her “Teal Tribe.”

Since January 2011, Swan has made her entire career on social media, using strategic search engine optimization to get ahead of her competition. With it, she has built a strong following — in the social media sense — on every social channel: YouTube (474K followers), Instagram (77.4K followers), Twitter (15.7K followers), and Facebook (160K followers). The “Teal Tribe” and “Teal Tribers,” as the group and individual followers have been deemed, often found Swan while Googling phrases or searching for videos on sensitive topics like depression, addiction, and suicide. Like those in search of advice on their love lives or careers, many use the internet to seek help with their mental health, and because of Swan’s virtual reach, many end up on the curated gallery of her YouTube videos, which have garnered a over 60 million views.

It’s unclear how Swan makes money, but she does appear to profit from the dozen books she was written, her various events, and the “completion process” services (more on this later) offered on her website. Her ultimate goal, according to the Brown and Glazer, isn’t to be rich, but to be famous. “She says she wants to be like an Oprah or an Ellen,” Brown says. “I don’t think it is like a charlatan trying to make money or anything.” He contrasts her low income endeavors, like her “completion process,” to NXIVM’s pyramid scheme, noting the clear differences. “In NXIVM, they trained and processed people, and then there was a kickback to them. As far as i know, she doesn’t get a kickback [from the completion process practitioners]. Certification training costs $2,600, so she is making money, but it isn’t a largely scalable business.”

Unlike Oprah or Ellen, however, Swan can get very, very extreme in her discussions and teachings. Brown cited one example: A video called “The Secret Behind All Sexual Fetishes” that talks about fetishes with children and necrophilia. There is no trigger warning for the material, although YouTube does include an age restriction. Swan toes the same line on her Instagram, where she features memes mocking herself in between quotes about extraterrestrials, living in hell, and “orgasms to manifest” (sound familiar?). In the videos, her voice is hypnotic. She maintains eye contact with the camera, and easily transitions between psychological terms, spiritual language and casual slang. She’s not a knock-off Gwyneth Paltrow in a floral dress — she’s more like an Osho with very small pores.

Then there are her radical views on suicide. Swan, who addresses the subject with explicit and didactic language both in her YouTube videos and in live events at her Philia Center in Costa Rica, has been criticized for her teachings and beliefs on suicide.Some have suggested that at least two former Teal Tribers, Leslie Wangsgaard and another unidentified male, died by suicide because of the influence of her teachings. While no charges have ever been filed, The Gateway and multiple sites (“Teal Swan Exposed” and “The Truth About Teal”), videos, and groups continue to investigate her role in these deaths.

Swan is very aware of the “Teal Truthers,” as The Gateway calls them, who seek to expose the allegedly cult-ish power she has over her followers. It’s Swan herself who brings up Wangsgaard’s name during her first interview with Jennings. She says her “haters” believe she is responsible for Wangsgaard’s death, a claim which she finds laughable and untrue. When Refinery29 reached out to ask Swan about the podcast and the allegations against her, Swan’s team sent back a link to a video titled, “Teal Swan Answers To The Allegations Made Against Her (Exposed, Fraud, Fake, Scam).” The nearly 1 hour and 48-minute long reaction video was posted in October 2017, months before The Gateway’s release. In it, Swan says that she felt “guilty” after Wangsgaard’s death. It was early in her career, about “4 to 5 years ago” when she was seeing clients individually that she met Leslie and her husband. She calls the accusations that she “wants” her clients and followers to die “completely outrageous.” But Wangsgaard’s death is mentioned multiple times on the podcast because of its profound impact on her tight-knit community, and Swan remarks that key members left because they felt she was spreading a toxic message. But despite the backlash, she says in the video that “I have confidence that I have the strategy to help people out of suicidal thoughts.”

A few days after her team shared the video with Refinery29, they also shared a new blog post on Swan’s website, titled “Their Lives In My Hands, My Life In Their Hands.” In the post, Swan addresses the podcast, its portrayal of her, and speculation that she is a cult leader encouraging suicidal thoughts and actions. “To put it mildly,” she wrote, “if I first heard about me from his podcast, I would think I was a monster.” She argues that the podcast simply sensationalized the juiciest parts of her life and her practice. She compares herself directly to Osho aka Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the cult leader depicted in Netflix’s popular documentary series Wild, Wild Country, writing that “people, like myself, who are leading a spiritual movement, we live in terror of situations like Osho got himself into. We live in terror of being unable to control what other people in our following do and don’t do, but being made responsible for it.” In the same blog post she compares her followers, namely those with suicidal thoughts, to “stray cats” and “orphaned children” who need her help. It’s these highly-triggering comments and extreme views on suicide that trickle into almost every piece of content Swan produces. The claims that Swan is directly encouraging suicide are unsupported, but it’s clear from quotes like this that her view on suicide is potentially harmful.

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Photo: Courtesy of Matt Laumb and Nora Ballard.

In response to the recent blog post, Jennings shared the following statement with Refinery29: “We were transparent with Teal and her team throughout the production of the podcast, and we engaged with them until the end. They responded to many requests for comment on our reporting. I believe the podcast has a balanced presentation of Teal’s approach, showing both the potential value and harm of her spiritual teachings.”

From her blog, it appears that she wants the influence and power over her followers, but not the responsibility that comes with it. So is she dangerous? The answer isn’t clear, but in Brown’s words: “Teal probably would not have the influence or the global reach and following that she has if it weren’t for the internet. She could have been a charismatic, spiritual leader. But I think she thrives around people who are suffering and afraid to go get help.” This tendency to appeal to the vulnerable isn’t new. While members of a cult don’t have to be completely brainwashed to follow their leader, they do have to value and prioritize them more than other people in their lives. Considering the number of people who post and share images of themselves with custom Swan tattoos, featuring her quotes and even drawings of her face, she is admired and revered to a degree beyond the typical wellness vlogger. What also makes her so charismatic is how she presents herself on Instagram. “If you look at her Instagram, it looks very adjacent to something you would see on Goop,” he says. “It is in the wellness spectrum. Her followers take photos of her, like an influencer and her boyfriend.”


According to Larry Rosen, a professor emeritus at California State University and research psychologist with a specialty in the psychology of technology, many people, especially teens and young adults, suffer from what he calls “technological dependence.” “You’re probably spending well more than half your day with some sort of screen in front of you,” he tells Refinery29. This, Rosen says, could create “an almost altered sense of reality … you’re not really driving your own behavior.” Marketers, Influencers and, yes, spiritual gurus like Swan, could thus exploit our obsession with our phones and social media, “You’re honing people into specific niches, and that can be problematic,” he says. “You may get roped into things that you don’t necessarily want to.”

Brown agrees, and thinks it’s a factor in Swan’s success. “I write about subcultures online and how religious movements and spiritual movements are evolving on the internet,” he says. “I thought [Swan] was doing something really unique using the rules of the internet, and I thought it would be really interesting to show how the internet allows new spirituality ideas to form and spread.”

He continues of The Gateway: “I knew there was a lot of controversy, especially because of the subversive things she says, sort of like politicians, celebrities who say things that will purposefully cause controversy like our President or [YouTuber] Logan Paul. We wanted to understand what she is building and how she is developing her brand of spirituality, but then it evolved to also include the harm she is causing.”

In the final episode of The Gateway, Brown asks Swan if she considers herself to be a cult leader. This is the central question we, the listeners, have been waiting for. The first five episodes have taught us that Swan satisfies a lot of the checklist for a cult leader: charismatic, confident, spiritual, mysterious, persuasive, defiant, and virtually present at all times. Does she consider herself, and her followers, to be part of a cult?

“What do I say to people saying I run a cult? Here’s the thing: a lot of people are going to demonize me because of my honesty. I have the perfect recipe for a cult, and I fucking know it… I have a demographic of people who are miserably isolated, and who need belonging, desperately. That’s what makes me safe…These people are desperate. They need my approval. They will do whatever the hell I say. The only reason that it is not steered there is because of my ethics. I’ve lived in a cult —”

This backstory is the focus of episode 5, in which Brown and Glazer dig into Swan’s past. In her teens, Swan says a man she trusted, a veterinarian, recruited her to be in a satanic cult. While she was in it, she claims she witnessed the sacrifice of at least two young children. These are heavy claims, and the details of her alleged experience were left out of the final version of the podcast.

“No one should hear about these horrific things on their daily commute,” Brown said. “That was hard, because it was a big part of her story, but they were too explicit for our radio audiences. And that is saying a lot.” But we do know this: her memories of the alleged cult were uncovered during a therapy session with Barbara Snow, a controversial figure in her own right. Snow specialized in “recovered memory” from one’s adolescence, and according to a 2007 article about a government investigation about her, she “allegedly imposed on them false memories about being sexually abused and being subjected to military testing.” The government eventually dropped the allegations against her after she agreed to go on probation. Swan has modeled a version of her teachings after recovered memory, and she calls them “completion processes.” (According to her website, Snow is still a practicing individual and group therapist in Salt Lake City.) Swan appears to have been so influenced by this repressed memory work that she has even developed her own version of Snow’s process by combining it with Carl Jung’s shadow work, and has deemed it the “Completion Process.” This process has a person reenacting a moment or interaction from their childhood in to uncover the root of one’s “current pain” and resolve it. In the podcast, Brown undergoes a completion process treatment, and it’s as bizarre (and personally unconvincing) as it sounds.

“There is nothing worse than being accused of leading a cult when you grew up in one that is incredibly horrific, which is why there is no financial buy-in like there is in a typical cult. There is no consequence for leaving. People do it all the time,” she vehemently tells the host. “I teach people to follow their own internal guidance system. That is probably the worst thing you could ever do if you want to have a cult. So no, I think it is complete fucking bullshit that people say I have a cult.” She may not have followers locked in a house, demanding their praise and worship, but it could be her influence may still verge on toxic.

“‘Is it or isn’t it a cult?’ is beside the point,” says Glazer “Whether or not we label it a cult doesn’t matter, because what she is doing is still there.” And by “there” she means that device in your pocket, or on your desk, in your hand right now. That little electric brick that connects you to your family, friends, coworkers, and…someone like Swan. Her combined 727,000 online followers are avidly watching and listening, waiting to hear whatever she says next.

Since the podcast has aired in full, Brown and Glazer say a few former Swan followers have reached out to thank them for shining a light on her, and her practice. “A former Teal follower who was in the car while she was listening with her mom, and our podcast helped her mom understand her daughter’s time in this dark place, and what this woman was saying about suicide and how it impacted her.” Brown adds that the point of the podcast was not to criticize Swan, but to highlight the work of a polarizing and influential figure in the wellness community. ”Until now, if you Googled Teal Swan there was blind criticism and praise.”

The Gateway wasn’t created to criticize Swan, but to draw attention to a new type of Internet guru — one who, whether she calls her movement a “cult” or not, exploits the Internet to make herself constantly available to followers. Ultimately, she isn’t that different from the beauty blogger who tries to sell you her favorite night cream, or the TV personality who teases clips of their new show on Instagram. She’s a part of a pantheon of public figures who have a great deal of power — power that can be used for good, or evil.

A whistleblower is facing a visa ban despite backing from three Nobel prize winners

A whistleblower is facing a visa ban despite backing from three Nobel prize winners

Tom Coburg

A threat to ban celebrated whistleblower Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning from visiting Australia has meant she will be unable to speak in person at a scheduled event at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday 2nd September. Government dithering also means that other scheduled dates are in doubt too.


A letter to Manning from the Australian government outlined its position:

Journalist John Pilger commented:

John Pilger


Just when it doesn’t seem possible that Australia’s reputation can sink further into a mire of injustice and racism, the government in Canberra proposes to deny Chelsea Manning a visa and deny her right to free speech. When will Australians take action against such outrages?

3:39 AM – Aug 30, 2018


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Grounds in question

Australia has threatened Manning with a visa ban under the Migration Act as she has a “substantial criminal record”.

However, others dispute this:

Peter Greste


· Aug 29, 2018

Chelsea Manning threatened with visa denial ahead of Australian tour. What are they afraid of?



via @smh

Chelsea Manning threatened with visa denial ahead of Australian tour

The Australian government has informed the American whistleblower of its intention to refuse her visa days before her speaking tour was due to start.



Manning does not have a criminal record. She has a military record. She was convicted under military law in military courts for communicating true information to the press about the war in Iraq–including of the slaughter of journalists. She was released by presidential decree.

8:43 PM – Aug 29, 2018


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Neighbouring New Zealand has not imposed a ban and Manning has several speaking dates lined up there. In September 2017, Canada imposed a ban based on similar criteria to that given by Australia but withdrew this in May 2018.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the Sydney event have decided to continue with the Manning interview via video link.


Over the years, support for Manning has come from many ‘celebrities’ and journalists including Maggie Gyllenhaal, Roger Waters, Oliver Stone, Daniel Ellsberg, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Moby, Molly Crabapple, Russell Brand, Chris Hedges, and Michael Ratner:

I am Bradley Manning (full HD)

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Other prominent people who voiced support for Manning included Professor Noam Chomsky and author and social commentator Ralph Nader. Three Nobel Peace Prize laureates – Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and Mairead Corrigan-Maguire – also spoke out in support of her. And Corrigan-Maguire nominated Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013.

Manning is the recipient of several awards, including the Guardian’s Person of the Year and the prestigious Sean MacBride Peace Prize (though Manning has made it clear she’s not a pacifist).


Manning was responsible for the leak of over 700,000 documents, subsequently published by WikiLeaks, relating to the second Iraq War and the Afghanistan conflict. On 22 October 2010, Wikileaks released the Iraq War Logs:

Iraq War Logs: Context

Iraq War Logs: What the Numbers Reveal

Iraq War Logs: The Truth is In the Detail

Perhaps Manning’s most infamous war crime exposé was a video of a US Army Apache helicopter in Baghdad in 2007 opening fire on a group of men. The helicopter crew fired on civilians, including a Reuters photographer and his driver. The crew also fired on a van that stopped to rescue one of the wounded men. The driver of the van was taking his small children to a tutoring session. He was killed, and his two children badly injured.

Wikileaks leaked video of Civilians killed in Baghdad – Full video

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In 2013, Manning was convicted of espionage by a military tribunal and sentenced to 35 years. However, in January 2017, US President Barack Obama commuted her sentence to end in May of that year


Since her release, Manning has also been active on a range of issues including LGBT rights and anti-fascism, as well as speaking out against the US political system generally.

Chelsea Manning Speaks at Anti-Fascist Rally, Berkeley 9/23/17

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Manning is a dual US-UK citizen and, as such, has every right to enter and live or work in the UK, should she so choose.


Manning’s views could not be further removed from those of the Australian government, also known for its vicious treatment of asylum-seekers and children imprisoned on offshore islands Nauru and Manus Island.

Indeed, journalist and Iranian refugee Behrouz Boohani, currently detained on Manus, argues Australia could only progress if it underwent a moral revolution. It could start by allowing Chelsea Manning into the country.

Get Involved!

– Read more on Chelsea Manning

– Read more of The Canary‘s reporting on Iraq.

Featured image via YouTube – Jeff Paterson

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Self-Described ‘Hitler’ Duterte to Dedicate Holocaust Memorial on Israel Visit

Self-Described ‘Hitler’ Duterte to Dedicate Holocaust Memorial on Israel Visit

By David Brennan On 8/30/18 at 10:35 AM

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is set to inaugurate a new Holocaust memorial in Israel, despite his previous self-comparisons to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

The strongman leader is heading to Israel next week for a four-day visit, which will include a lunch meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, Haaretz reported.

Before returning home, Duterte will also dedicate a new memorial to the victims of the World War II genocide in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv. His will be the first visit by a Philippine president since the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1957.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the 117th police anniversary celebration at the national headquarters in Manila. Philippines, on August 8. TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images

But Duterte seems a strange choice for a Holocaust memorial inauguration given past inflammatory remarks about Hitler and his persecution of the Jewish people. In 2016, Duterte compared his controversial war on drugs—in which more than 12,000 people have already been killed—to the Holocaust.

“Critics compare me to Hitler,” he explained, adding, “Hitler massacred three million Jews…there’s three million drug addicts. There are. I’d be happy to slaughter them.” He then said, “If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have…,” and pointed to himself without finishing the sentence.

At least 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, alongside another 11 million estimated perceived enemies of the Nazi state and its Axis allies. A key theme in Holocaust denial is minimizing the number of deaths that occurred, making Duterte’s comments even more troubling.

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The president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, called Duterte’s remarks “revolting” and demanded an apology, The Guardian said. “Drug abuse is a serious issue,” he said, “but what President Duterte said is not only profoundly inhumane, but it demonstrates an appalling disrespect for human life that is truly heartbreaking for the democratically elected leader of a great country.”

The president later apologized “profoundly and deeply” to the Jewish community, Reuters reported. He maintained his comments simply described how his critics saw him, rather than his own beliefs. “The reference to me was, I was supposedly Hitler, who killed many people,” he explained. The president underscored his apology with a visit to a synagogue in the Filipino city of Makati during Jewish new year celebrations.

Duterte is well-known for his offensive remarks, which have previously been directed toward women, Catholics, the United Nations, European Union and even former President Barack Obama, to name just a few. Nonetheless, he remains relatively popular among the electorate, though his recent anti-Catholic remarks saw his approval rating drop to a record low of 45 percent.

POLITICO Playbook: Senate Republican leadership-linked PAC drops ads on Donnelly and McCaskill, while House Republicans prep for bloodletting

POLITICO Playbook: Senate Republican leadership-linked PAC drops ads on Donnelly and McCaskill, while House Republicans prep for bloodletting

Jeremy B. White

08/31/2018 06:28 AM EDT

Presented by

Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri is getting hit with a new ad campaign from Mitch McConnell-aligned One Nation. | Jeff Roberson/AP Photo

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — ONE NATION, a conservative group aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has spent a whopping $39 million this cycle. The group is up with two new ads hitting Sen. Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri on their support for “illegal amnesty.” The McCaskill ad not only dings her for supporting sanctuary cities — but also features a cameo by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi! Tweet this


ONE NATION is spending $1.2 million in Indiana and $1.5 million in Missouri on the radio, TV and digital buy. The group is also up with ads in Arizona and Nevada this week. Other states they have targeted this cycle include: North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Indiana ad The Missouri ad

ALEX ISENSTADT: “‘Tough decisions have to be made’: House Republicans prepare for pain”: “With a massive field of vulnerable House incumbents to defend and limited resources to go around, Republicans are readying for a painful round of political triage — deciding which lawmakers are worth trying to rescue, and which ones need to be cut loose to fend for themselves in November.

“GOP officials say as many as 45 Republican-held seats are at serious risk, making it impossible to salvage each one in the costly scramble to protect the party’s 23-seat majority – especially those members who have waged sluggish campaigns and posted lackluster fundraising totals. …

“Behind the scenes, senior party strategists have begun polling to determine which incumbents may be beyond saving. Among those most in jeopardy of getting cut off, they say, are Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus, and Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, all of whom are precariously positioned in their districts.

“The party has to date reserved millions of dollars of future advertising time to buttress Comstock and Rothfus. Yet those funds may be diverted to other incumbents viewed as more likely to win in the fall.” POLITICO

Good Friday morning. THE PRESIDENT gave a one hour and 10 minute speech last night in Indiana. INDIANAPOLIS STAR: “‘We love winners’: Donald Trump shares favorite Bobby Knight story, praises former coach”

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8): “Trump has said twice this month that car companies are moving back to Pennsylvania. Bernard Swiecki of the Center for Automotive Research notes, ‘There are no assembly plants in Pennsylvania at all.’”

FOR THE RECORD — Bloomberg: “Trump Says He’ll Keep Sessions Until November Despite ‘Illegal’ Probe”

— OK THEN!: “‘I don’t think they can impeach somebody that’s doing a great job,’ Trump said Thursday in a White House interview with Bloomberg News. ‘You look at the economy, you look at jobs, you look at foreign, what’s going on with other countries. You look at trade deals. I’m doing a great job.’” Bloomberg

THE STEP BACK: WAPO’S ASHLEY PARKER — “‘Totally dishonest’: Trump asserts only he can be trusted over opponents and ‘fake news’”: “Over roughly the past day, President Trump has decried the ‘totally dishonest’ media, with its ‘fake news’ and ‘fake books.’ He has argued that Google is biased against conservatives. And he has accused NBC News of ‘fudging’ the tape of an interview with him that has been available online for more than a year.

“The president has even declared there is no chaos in his White House, which he claimed is a ‘smooth running machine’ with changing parts,’ despite the tumult that emanates almost daily from within its walls.

“Trump’s assertions — all on Twitter, some false, some without clear evidence — come just over nine weeks before the midterm elections that could help determine his fate, and they are bound by one unifying theme: All of his perceived opponents are peddling false facts and only Trump can be trusted.” WaPo

SCOOP — ELIANA JOHNSON, “Top 2008 campaign aides shut out of McCain funeral”: “John McCain’s funeral will spotlight some of the late senator’s political rivals — but some of his closest campaign aides are being excluded from the proceedings. Three of the most prominent members of his 2008 presidential campaign — campaign manager Steve Schmidt, senior adviser Nicolle Wallace and longtime strategist John Weaver — were not invited to any of McCain’s services, according to three people familiar with the guest list.

“It’s not clear whether McCain ordered the snubbing of formerly high-ranking aides before his death. The McCain family has carefully organized all of the funeral proceedings, which begin Thursday in Arizona and conclude Saturday at the National Cathedral. Invitations were extended on Monday with RSVPs from invitees requested by Tuesday, according to one of the people familiar with the proceedings.

“Tucker Bounds, a former McCain campaign aide and a spokesman for the team organizing the memorial services, declined to comment. After nearly a week filled with eulogies from friends and family remembering McCain’s finest qualities, the exclusion of the trio, along with McCain’s 2008 running mate Sarah Palin, is a quiet acknowledgment of an unhappier chapter of his life.” POLITICO

— JOHN MCCAIN will lie in state in the Capitol today. The memorial ceremony begins at 11 a.m., and will feature remarks by Speaker Paul Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Mike Pence.

SCOTUS WATCH — BEHIND THE SCENES: ANDREW RESTUCCIA, ELANA SCHOR and LORRAINE WOELLERT: “Inside Kavanaugh’s hearing prep: mock hearings and faux protesters”: “On Monday, Kavanaugh participated in his last full moot court session, which lasted nearly the entire day. Sitting in a large office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, he took questions from aides who played key members of the committee, mimicking their style of questioning.

“The mock hearing room has been outfitted with a dais, nametags, microphones and a clock with red and green lights meant to keep his answers within the allotted time limit. The sessions, which are often referred to as ‘murder boards,’ have also featured faux protesters to make sure Kavanaugh stays cool in the event of a mid-hearing outburst.

“Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) have all helped Kavanaugh practice and critique his performance, according to people familiar with the sessions. Another source said that Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) — a former Judiciary Committee chairman — played the role of chairman in a mock hearing, which included GOP senators standing in for Judiciary members and zeroing in on topics that Democrats are expected to grill Kavanaugh about.” POLITICO

— FIRST LOOK: NARAL AIMS NEW SCOTUS AD AT COLLINS, via Elana Schor: The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America is launching a new six-figure ad campaign today appealing to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a key swing vote in the Kavanaugh confirmation battle, and focusing on the Supreme Court nominee’s potential to chip away at Roe v. Wade.

The ad features a Maine woman who voted for Collins sharing her personal experience of obtaining an abortion while in an abusive relationship and is set to keep airing through Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings next week, including TV and digital appearances. The ad

2020 WATCH — KYLE CHENEY: “Amid 2020 speculation, Deval Patrick supporters plan fall push”: “Dozens of former aides to Deval Patrick, who’s contemplating a presidential bid in 2020, convened a conference call Thursday to discuss ways to amplify the former Massachusetts Democratic governor’s message as he campaigns for congressional candidates across the country.

“The call was organized by Reason to Believe PAC, a federal fundraising vehicle launched Wednesday by some of Patrick’s closest political advisers during his two terms as governor from 2007 to 2015. The formation of the PAC was the latest sign that Patrick continues to weigh a White House bid.” POLITICO

OOPS! … “Postal Service Improperly Divulged Spanberger’s Sensitive National Security File, and Asks for It Back,” by NYT’s Mike Tackett: “The Postal Service said on Thursday that it ‘deeply regrets our mistake in inappropriately releasing’ the official personnel file of Abigail Spanberger, a former C.I.A. operative now running as a Democratic candidate for Congress, and requested that a Republican-aligned super PAC return the documents.

“‘We take full responsibility for this unfortunate error, and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not happen again,’ David Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman, said in a statement. … The Postal Service also acknowledged the possibility of additional inappropriate disclosures, but when asked, would not provide details like whether those disclosures involved other candidates for office.” NYT

MORE WHITE NATIONALIST TIES … “Homeland Security staffer with white nationalist ties attended White House policy meetings,” by WaPo’s Nick Miroff: “Ian M. Smith, a Department of Homeland Security analyst who resigned this week after he was confronted about his ties to white nationalist groups, attended multiple immigration policy meetings at the White House, according to government officials familiar with his work.

“Smith quit his job Tuesday after being questioned about personal emails he sent and received between 2014 and 2016, before he joined the Trump administration. The messages, obtained by the Atlantic and detailed in a report published Tuesday, depict Smith engaging in friendly, casual conversations with prominent white supremacists and racists.” WaPo

TRUMP’S FRIDAY — The president is headed to Charlotte, North Carolina, this afternoon. He will participate in a retirement security event before heading to Carmel Country Club to participate in a roundtable with supporters and attend a joint fundraising committee reception. He will then return to Washington, D.C.

PLAYBOOK ON THE ROAD — THANK YOU for an amazing contest with all your entries from around the world! We will announce the three winners of signed Matt Wuerker cartoons on Tuesday. This week’s entries

— SOME OF OUR FAVORITES THIS WEEK: KARL ROVE and MARK MCKINNON: On the lower Roaring Fork River below Carbondale, Colorado: “Rove and McKinnon always read the Playbook before we find out who can catch the bigger fish. … I credit this fish to reading the Playbook.” Pic JOHN JUDIS and SUSAN PEARSON: Mountainview Lake, Sunapee, New Hampshire. PicMARK A. BLOOMFIELD, president and CEO of the American Council for Capital Formation: Paris. PicSTEVE ELMENDORF, partner at Subject Matter: Panther pond in Raymond, Maine. PicTODD BREASSEALE, Obama DHS alum: Silicon Valley. PicBRUCE WOLPE, a Henry Waxman alum: “Enroute from Sydney to Boston for a book event for ‘The Committee’ at the American Political Science Association convention.” Pic

… BEN CHANG: “Reading @playbookplus while in the orthodontist’s chair getting my braces off — helps ease the pain! #PlaybookLoyal” Pic journalist DAVID A. ANDELMAN: “At the 70th annual Artists & Writers Softball Game on Saturday in East Hampton, Long Island.” PicMARK EIN, founder of Venturehouse Group and VP of the U.S. Tennis Association board: “Was catching up on my Playbook reading tonight in the President’s Suite at the U.S. Open watching Novak Djokovic beat one of our Kastles players Tennys Sandgren.” PicKEVIN BROWNING, manager for Umphrey’s McGee: Reading Playbook during soundchecks in New Orleans. Pic


“Meet the Press”:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) … Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) … Andrew Gillum. Panel: Kimberly Atkins, Matt Continetti, Mark Leibovich and Amy Walter

“Fox News Sunday”:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Panel: Donna Edwards, Marc Thiessen, Charles Lane and Marc Lotter

“State of the Union,”
guest-hosted by Dana Bash: Andrew Gillum. Panel: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Jan Brewer, S.E. Cupp and Bakari Sellers

“Inside Politics,”
guest-hosted by Phil Mattingly: Julie Pace, Jonathan Martin, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Zeleny

“This Week”:
Panel: Matt Dowd, Cokie Roberts, Shawna Thomas and Rick Klein

“Face the Nation”:
John Kerry. Panel: Kelsey Snell, Margaret Talev, Edward Wong and Salena Zito


GREAT READ — ANNIE KARNI in POLITICO Magazine: “Why Mark Penn Is Sounding Trumpy”

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Trump administration to end U.S. funding to U.N. program for Palestinian refugees,” by WaPo’s Karen DeYoung and Ruth Eglash: “The Trump administration has decided to cancel all U.S. funding of the United Nations aid program for Palestinian refugees, part of its determination to put its money where its policy is as it seeks a recalculation of U.S. foreign aid spending and prepares its own Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

“In an announcement to be made within the next several weeks, the administration plans to voice its disapproval of the way the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, spends the funds and to call for a sharp reduction in the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees, dropping it from more than 5 million, including descendants, to fewer than a tenth of that number, or those still alive from when the agency was created seven decades ago, according to officials familiar with the decision.” WaPo

SPY GAMES — “Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client,” by NYT’s David D. Kirkpatrick and Azam Ahmed: “The rulers of the United Arab Emirates had been using Israeli spyware for more than a year, secretly turning the smartphones of dissidents at home or rivals abroad into surveillance devices. So when top Emirati officials were offered a pricey update of the spying technology, they wanted to make sure it worked, according to leaked emails submitted Thursday in two lawsuits against the spyware’s maker, the Israel-based NSO Group.

“Could the company secretly record the phones of the emir of Qatar, a regional rival, the Emiratis asked? How about the phone of a powerful Saudi prince who directed the kingdom’s national guard? Or what about recording the phone of the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper? ‘Please find two recordings attached,’ a company representative wrote back four days later, according to the emails. Appended were two recordings the company had made of calls by the editor, Abdulaziz Alkhamis, who confirmed this week that he had made the calls and said he did not know he was under surveillance.” NYT

THE INVESTIGATIONS — “Anticipation builds around Mueller as 60-day election window nears,” by Josh Meyer: “The window closes next week for special counsel Robert Mueller to take any more bombshell actions before midterm season officially kicks off, and people in the president’s orbit and across Washington are watching with heightened anticipation that a final pre-election surprise could come soon.

“Longtime Donald Trump confidant Roger Stone emailed supporters Monday and asked for donations to his legal defense fund, saying he believes his indictment is imminent. The president’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has publicly called on Mueller to wrap up his investigation into Trump by the end of next week, when the midterms will be two months away.” POLITICO

— “Trump Foundation Says New York State Probe Is Rooted in Political Bias,” by WSJ’s Rebecca Ballhaus and Corinne Ramey: “A lawyer for President Donald Trump’s family foundation on Thursday accused the New York attorney general’s office of political bias, claiming the state’s former top legal officer used an investigation into the charity to further his own re-election campaign.

“The accusation is the first formal response to a lawsuit filed in June by the attorney general’s office, which claimed the president had used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to pay legal settlements, further his campaign and promote his businesses. … The NYAG raised money and campaigned on a virulently anti-Trump platform,’ the filing says. ‘The Office he led reflected his antipathy, was conflicted, manifestly partial, and should never have been investigating this case.’” WSJ

WILD TIMES IN SPRINGFIELD … AARON SCHOCK UPDATE — “Federal prosecutors replaced in Aaron Schock case,” by John Bresnahan: “The Justice Department is replacing the prosecutors overseeing the criminal case against former Rep. Aaron Schock, an unusual move that could delay the proceedings in the case.

“In a court document filed on Thursday, John Childress, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois, told U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly — himself new to the case — that the change was being made. Childress didn’t specify in the court filing why the prosecutors were being swapped out, although he did say they would not come from his office.

“‘The Department of Justice is in the process of reassigning the prosecution of this matter to a different prosecution team outside of the Central District of Illinois,’ the document states. ‘When the successor prosecution team is assigned, it will take some time for the attorneys to become familiar enough with the facts of this case, the charges brought and the procedural history to appropriately respond to the pending motions, to determine whether to file new motions, and to otherwise prepare the case for trial.’

“Schock’s trial is scheduled to begin in January. It’s not clear now whether the trial will actually start then.” POLITICO

MEDIAWATCH — “Ronan Farrow’s Ex-Producer Says NBC Impeded Weinstein Reporting,” by NYT’s John Koblin: “[A] producer who worked closely with Mr. Farrow has accused the network of putting a stop to the reporting, saying the order came from ‘the very highest levels of NBC.’ Rich McHugh, the producer, who recently left his job in the investigative unit of NBC News, is the first person affiliated with NBC to publicly charge that the network impeded his and Mr. Farrow’s efforts to nail down the story of Mr. Weinstein’s alleged sexual misconduct. He called the network’s handling of the matter ‘a massive breach of journalistic integrity.’ NBC denied his characterization on Thursday, saying Mr. Farrow’s work was not broadcast-ready when the reporter decided to take his reporting to The New Yorker. …

“Mr. McHugh, 43, described NBC as ‘resistant’ throughout the eight-month reporting process, a characterization disputed by the network. Last August, he said, it seemed that the network was no longer supporting the story. ‘Three days before Ronan and I were going to head to L.A. to interview a woman with a credible rape allegation against Harvey Weinstein, I was ordered to stop, not to interview this woman,’ Mr. McHugh said. ‘And to stand down on the story altogether.’ The producer would not disclose which executives had given him that direction. But by doing so, the network was, in his view, ‘killing the Harvey Weinstein story.’” NYT

— “Sources: NBC Threatened Ronan Farrow if He Kept Reporting on Harvey Weinstein: Ronan Farrow had already left NBC News. But a top lawyer at the network threatened to smear him if he continued to pursue the Hollywood mogul, multiple knowledgeable sources say,” by the Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Lachlan Cartwright. Daily Beast


BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Brian Johnson, a principal at the Vogel Group and an API alum. How he’s celebrating: “Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love the outdoors: specifically the North Carolina outdoors. So, my wife and I are at our family beach house in the Outer Banks for two weeks and we’ve had several groups of friends come down and spend some time with us. A lot of beach time, great local seafood, and zero cable news.” Playbook Plus Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Tommy Vietor, cohost of “Pod Save America,” host of “Pod Save the World” and founder of Crooked Media (hat tip: Ben Chang) … NYT politics editor Patrick Healy … Michael Finnegan … Ryan Stanton of Rio Tinto … Hillary DeParde (hubby tip: Dick Keil) … Lauren Fine, press secretary for Steve Scalise … former Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) is 42 … NYT congressional correspondent Tom Kaplan … POLITICO’s Kim Hefling and Paul Demko … Ed Goeas, president and CEO of the Tarrance Group, is 66 … Rachel Oliver … Lenny Stern … POLITICO Europe’s Mathilde Ciocci … Alison Schwartz … Paul Garrahan … Jennifer Shutt … Ryan Ellis … Mattie Duppler, president and founder of Forward Strategies (h/t Drake Springer) … Alex Schriver, SVP of public affairs at Targeted Victory (h/t Zac Moffatt) … Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.) is 56 …

… Christopher Dickey, Paris-based foreign editor for The Daily Beast … Meghan Barr … Jess Levin … Nick Horowitz … Fox News’ Leland Vittert … Justin Meyers … Alison Fox … Ramzi Nemo … Jordan Ball … Kaylin Minton … Sam Merchant … Ida Rukavina … Brian Garcia … Lori Stith … Tim Marchman … Adam Dolin (h/t Michael Knopf) … West Foster … Neil Alpert … Bennett Resnik, manager of gov’t relations/regulatory affairs at Cardinal Infrastructure … Elizabeth Pemmerl … Elizabeth Whitehouse … Kent Klein … Jill Rackmill … Beth Roberts … Iris Krasnow … John Leary … Liz Kurantowicz … Ethan Gray … Steve Smith … Tricia Yates … Scott Shalett … Karisa Johnson … Barb Helmick … Philip Smucker (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

Lawsuit lays bare Israel-made hack tools in Mideast, Mexico

Lawsuit lays bare Israel-made hack tools in Mideast, Mexico

PARIS (AP) – One day late last year, Qatari newspaper editor Abdullah Al-Athbah came home, removed the SIM card from his iPhone 7 and smashed it to pieces with a hammer.

A source had just handed Al-Athbah a cache of emails suggesting that his phone had been targeted by hacking software made by Israel’s NSO Group. He told The Associated Press he considered the phone compromised.

“I feared that someone could get back into it,” he said in an interview Friday. “I needed to protect my sources.”

Al-Athbah, who edits Qatar’s Al-Arab newspaper, now has a new phone, a new SIM card and a new approach to email attachments and links. He says he never opens anything, “even from the most trusted circles in my life.”

Al-Athbah’s discovery touched off a process that has led, months later, to parallel lawsuits filed in Israel and Cyprus – and provided a behind-the-scenes look at how government-grade spyware is used to eavesdrop on everyone from Mexican reporters to Arab royalty.

The NSO Group did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

The first lawsuit , filed in a Tel Aviv court on Thursday, carries a claim from five Mexican journalists and activists who allege they were spied on using NSO Group software. The second, filed in Cyprus, adds Al-Athbah to the list of plaintiffs.

Both draw heavily on the leaked material handed to the editor several months ago. Portions of the material – which appears to have been carefully picked and exhaustively annotated by an unknown party – appear to show officials in the United Arab Emirates discussing whether to hack into the phones of senior figures in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, including members of the Qatari royal family.

Al-Athba declined to identify his source and the AP was not immediately able to verify the authenticity of the material, some of which has already been entered into evidence in the Israeli case, according to Mazen Masri, a member of Al-Athbah’s legal team. But The New York Times, which first reported on the lawsuits earlier Friday, indicated that it had verified some of the cache, including a reference to an intercepted telephone conversation involving senior Arab journalist Abdulaziz Alkhamis. The Times said Alkhamis confirmed having had the conversation and said he was unaware that he was under surveillance.

The parallel lawsuits underline the growing notoriety of the NSO Group, which is owned by U.S. private equity firm Francisco Partners.

One of the Mexican plaintiffs, childhood anti-obesity campaigner Alejandro Calvillo, drew global attention last year when he was revealed to have been targeted using the Israeli company’s spyware. The NSO Group’s programs have since been implicated in a massive espionage scandal in Panama. A month ago, respected human rights organization Amnesty International accused the company of having crafted the digital tools used to target one of its staffers.

The five Mexican plaintiffs, who were advised by Mexico City-based digital activism group widely known by its acronym R3D, are seeking 2.5 million Israeli shekels ($693,000) in compensation and an injunction to prevent the NSO Group from helping anyone spy on them.

Al-Athbah said he wanted the case to go even further and spawn restrictions on the trade in hacking tools.

“I hope selling such technology should be stopped very soon,” he said.

Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client

Hacking a Prince, an Emir and a Journalist to Impress a Client

Aug. 31, 2018

Rulers of the United Arab Emirates have been using Israeli spyware for several years, leaked e-mails show.Rustam Azmi/Getty Images

The rulers of the United Arab Emirates had been using Israeli spyware for more than a year, secretly turning the smartphones of dissidents at home or rivals abroad into surveillance devices.

So when top Emirati officials were offered a pricey update of the spying technology, they wanted to make sure it worked, according to leaked emails submitted Thursday in two lawsuits against the spyware’s maker, the Israel-based NSO Group.

Could the company secretly record the phones of the emir of Qatar, a regional rival, the Emiratis asked? How about the phone of a powerful Saudi prince who directed the kingdom’s national guard? Or what about recording the phone of the editor of a London-based Arab newspaper?

“Please find two recordings attached,” a company representative wrote back four days later, according to the emails. Appended were two recordings the company had made of calls by the editor, Abdulaziz Alkhamis, who confirmed this week that he had made the calls and said he did not know he was under surveillance.

Why You’ve Never Heard of Al Gore’s Own ‘Trump Tower Moment’

Why You’ve Never Heard of Al Gore’s Own ‘Trump Tower Moment’

Sam Stein

Early in the morning on September 13, 2000, a mysterious package arrived at the offices of the lobbying firm Downey McGrath Group, Inc. in downtown Washington D.C. Addressed to the firm’s principal, former Congressman Tom Downey, it had been delivered separate from the usual mail delivery and was postmarked Austin, Texas.

The firm never got packages from Austin, Texas. And Downey’s assistant, Kathy McLaughlin, was summoned by the office receptionist to come retrieve the box. McLaughlin opened it in her office, discovering a massive binder and a set of videotapes inside. She went to find Downey, a New York Democrat who was, at the time, helping out with Al Gore’s presidential campaign. The two of them went into his office, where there was a television set and a VCR.

Their hearts started to race as they popped in the tape and pressed play.

On the screen appeared grainy footage of what looked like the inside of a garage. A familiar face showed up on the screen. It was George W. Bush. Only, he was wearing shorts. A second person was there too. It looked and sounded like Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. They were conducting what seemed to be an interview along the lines of Meet The Press, the famed Sunday political talk show that, at that time, was hosted by the dean of interrogation journalism, Tim Russert.

Hearts were now fully racing.

Not even ten seconds had passed and Downey and McLaughlin knew exactly what they were watching. They had been sent footage of the Bush campaign’s debate prep sessions. It was a veritable cheat sheet for the most important event of the 2000 presidential campaign, a piece of intel that could change the course of the election, win Al Gore the presidency, and fundamentally alter history.

Another five or so seconds went by. Downey jumped up from his chair. He stood in front of the TV and turned to McLaughlin.

“Turn it off!” he demanded. “Turn it off right away.”

Presidential campaigns are a compilation of tension points: a critical juncture when a campaign suspends operations; a period of intense media coverage over unearthed video; the planning and delivery of a major speech on race; and so on.

During the heat of the 2016 presidential election, such a moment presented itself to Donald Trump’s campaign in the form of an invitation from Kremlin-linked officials promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. The president’s eldest son, Don Jr., along with key campaign officials, took the meeting. They never intended for it to become public. And when it did, they insisted that the purpose had been to discuss adoption policy in Russia. Only when emails revealed the true reason did Trump, his son, and allies defend the gathering as simply business as usual.

“I think from a practical standpoint most people would have taken that meeting,” Trump said last summer. “Politics isn’t the nicest business in the world, but it’s very standard.”

There are no perfect parallels to what happened in Trump Tower. The closest example may be what took place some eighteen years ago in Tom Downey’s office. And for those who lived through it, it is proof of the fallacy of Trump’s defense.

“It was like a Trump Tower moment in that we had been handed the goods on our opponent,” said Tad Devine, a senior adviser to the Gore campaign. “But, in the end, we actually did the right thing.”

Indeed, instead of using —or even looking into—the surreptitiously-provided material that had landed in their laps, Al Gore’s aides and advisers handed it over to the FBI. To this day, they aren’t entirely sure whether, in doing so, they blew the election.

“That’s some place I prefer not to think about,” Downey told me. “I have. I have thought about it. And I don’t think that doing the right thing is ever wrong. You have to believe that doing the right thing will stand up to the judgement of history.”

And yet, for the all relevance that episode of the 2000 election now enjoys, many of the details remain lost to history—details that illustrate those tension points that campaigns face.

Perhaps the biggest misperception is that Gore’s campaign immediately handed the material over to authorities. In fact, it was Downey—a Gore friend tasked with playing Bush in the mock debates—who received the contraband; and, for a brief moment at least, there was some disagreement over what to actually do.

“I called the campaign and said, ‘Look I’ve got some bad news here,’” Downey recalled. “Bill Daley [the campaign chairman] and I had a good relationship. That call did not go well. At first he said he may want to use it politically. I said, ‘Look Bill, a crime has probably been committed here, probably mail fraud’….And we had a very stilted conversation after that. He may have thought I was taping him. He just said, ‘Wait, hold on a minute. Let’s think about what we should do here.’ In fairness to him, he was reacting in a way you would expect a campaign manager to act.”

Daley, for his part, recalled the details differently. Downey did call him. But only to inform him that he’d made up his mind to go public and refer matters to the FBI. It was, he feared in that moment, a bit of “grandstanding.”

“I was saying, ‘Wait, let’s talk about this.’ We wanted to get the facts here but how do we do it? I was not saying let’s use this. I never would have fucking said that. No way, no way, no way,” Daley told me. “I’m a lawyer too. And that wasn’t going to happen.”

The Bush campaign had started prepping for the debates all the way back in April of 2000, cognizant that the election was likely to be close. It was done in secret so as not to raise expectations. The Texas governor may have been the progeny of political elite but he was shaky as a public speaker and his aides didn’t want it to be known that he was putting in intense work.

As part of the process, the campaign put together massive binders filled with descriptions of policy positions, question-and-answer scripts, and messaging points. These binders were handed out to roughly eight or so key advisers. Each one was numbered so that the respective recipient had an assigned copy. But to add a further level of protection, the campaign also put a distinct typo inside each book. The thinking was that if a photocopy of the book made its way into the opposition’s hands, the campaign would be able to trace the leaker back to the typo.

Early in September 2000, the campaign nearly lost a book after Mark McKinnon—one of Bush’s top media consultants—left his copy on a street near the campaign headquarters. He and Stu Stevens, another adviser, had been loading equipment into McKinnon’s car and drove off without the prized possession.

“The best part is the guy who found it was an architect with an office in the same big office building as Bush headquarters,” Stevens recalled. “He brought it into office and loudly announced something like, ‘I’m a Democrat and wasn’t planning on voting for Bush but I still didn’t think you guys were a bunch of morons. But I found this on the street and now I know I was wrong.’”

That particular crisis averted, the campaign continued prepping Bush at his compound in Crawford, Texas. At the time, Bush had not yet built his larger ranch and was, instead, living in a small house. The mock debate sessions were done in a nearby shed with a weight and bench set that, according to Stevens, future Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice would “crush.” The air conditioning barely made a dent in the summer Texas heat and so everyone dressed casually.

Early on, there had been wrangling between the two campaigns over who would moderate the debates. The Bush team had proposed having Russert do at least one; and, perhaps, all three. So when they began practice sessions, they had Stevens play the role of the Meet the Press host (in the end, PBS’ Jim Lehrer would be the lone moderator). Gregg played the role of Gore. The campaign taped its sessions so that it could go back and critique the governor’s performance.

Nothing about the process was notable until, just weeks before the debate was to happen, McKinnon went back to his firm’s office only to discover a team of FBI agents ripping out computers.

“What the fuck is going on?” he asked.

The agents explained that a debate prep book had been stolen, along with videos and that, having checked the number on the book, they believed it was his. McKinnon frantically checked the closet behind his desk, where he kept his book. It was not there.

“The whole investigation quickly swung down on me,” he recalled. “It was terrifying. It was Kafka-esque.”

For roughly two minutes after Downey had stopped the video and shut off the TV, he and McLaughlin sat in shock. It was clear what they had seen. Less clear was why the material had been sent to them in the first place.

A fear entered McLaughlin’s mind: What if this had been a set up?

Karl Rove, Bush’s political svengali, was infamous for double crosses and misdirection. During the 1986 gubernatorial campaign in Texas, he had claimed that his personal office was bugged by his opponents. Nothing was proven, but Democrats suspected that Rove had bugged the office himself in order to generate negative coverage for incumbent governor, Mark White, who went on to lose the election.

The thought that this was another page from the dirty trick playbook didn’t occur to Downey. The more pertinent question was what to do with the materials. Before placing the call to Daley, he called his lawyer, Marc Miller, and had him rush over to the office.

Less than an hour passed by the time Miller arrived. The three of them sat around discussing how to get the material to the authorities. “It was completely new to all of us,” Miller recalled. “None of us had ever dealt with anything like that.”

They decided that Miller would bring the package to his office—so as to get it out of Downey’s possession—and then hand it over to the FBI. Only, he couldn’t find an actual number to call. The main FBI headquarter in D.C. said the matter fell outside its jurisdiction. Other officials Miller reached just didn’t believe him.

“I’m literally getting on the phone and telling agents and administrators and secretaries this story and a few of them were just straight out skeptical,” Miller said.

By 2 pm Miller had finally gotten through to the FBI office in Tysons Corner, Virginia. They agreed to send someone to his office. Downtown D.C. traffic was horrendous that day and the two agents didn’t arrive till 5 pm. Miller told them the entire story as the tapes and the book sat on his desk. They asked a few questions, put on gloves, took the materials, and left.

At the Gore campaign offices, news trickled in slowly. Though Daley had talked with Downey, campaign manager Donna Brazile was largely unaware, focusing her efforts on debate prep and the actual day-to-day of the election. “We immediately got the lawyers involved,” she recalled. “It was so quick. It wasn’t like we even had a conversation about it.”

Soon, however, a major decision would confront her and others. Hours after the package arrived, Downey announced that he was fully removing himself from any element of the remaining campaign, including his role as the Bush stand in for the mock debates. His firm office, not the campaign, sent out the press release. It reads now like a relic of bygone, almost quixotic political era.

“That was not hard,” Downey explained to me. “I knew people simply wouldn’t believe that you were being honest. They would think you had made copies and read it.”

Downey’s recusal was no small act. The ex-congressman had spent months studying Bush’s mannerisms and talking points. He also had Gore’s utmost trust. He’d played the role of Jack Kemp for the 1996 vice presidential debate practice sessions. And he and Gore were personal friends, which was important for his job as unflinching, mock-debate sparring partner.

With Downey out, the campaign turned to Paul Begala. The longtime Clinton operative knew Gore from the White House. Moreover, he hailed from Texas and had followed Bush closely, having watched every debate of the governor’s career. Bush’s predictability made the task of stepping in at the 11th hour much easier. “You knew what the answers were going to be,” Begala recalled. But that wasn’t enough to fill Downey’s shoes.

“I think Gore likes me just fine but his relationship with Tom was so close,” said Begala. “With Tom you had something much more of a peer in Gore’s eyes.”

At the Bush campaign headquarters, the mood was similarly frantic but for different reasons. News outlets descended down to Austin to chase the whodunnit mystery. McKinnon said reporters were trailing him to restaurants and rummaging through his trash cans. “It was like an LSD experience,” McKinnon recalled.

Though there was some skepticism among Bush’s aides over the idea that Gore’s team had not looked at the materials, Bush didn’t want to change his routine. “Guys we are going to do what we’ve got to do,” he told his staff. And so, they kept rehearsing as if nothing had happened.

The FBI, meanwhile, began interrogating individual campaign members in an attempt to sniff out a mole. They’d taken Miller, Downey and McLaughlin’s fingerprints; all of which were found on the package, briefing book, or videotape. But there was other pairs as well.

Forensic evidence led authorities to Juanita Yvette Lozano, a 31-year-old employee at McKinnon’s firm, Maverick Media. So too did security camera footage of a post office near the office, which showed Lozano mailing a package the exact day as the one sent to Downey. The FBI swooped in to question her.

“I vividly remember being down in that office and she came in and had these two FBI agents with her,” Stevens recalled. “I remember saying, ‘What is going on?’ And she said, ‘I have these two FBI agents who want to search my house.’ I said, ‘Yvette, do you have a lawyer?’ And she said, ‘Why would I need a lawyer?’ I said, ‘Yvette you need to get a lawyer.’”

McKinnon literally refused to believe it. Lozano wasn’t just an employee at his firm. She had been part of his personal life, having babysat his children. A hair sample on the tape proved inconclusive while the post office footage was dismissed away as a case of—as McKinnon put it—”highly embarrassing” timing. Lozano, he insisted, had been returning Gap retail pants he had purchased online.

The investigation continued through the debates. The Bush team still formally stood by her innocence, suggested that Democratic consultants who had shared the same office building as McKinnon’s firm may have been to blame. But as the election neared and then passed, the evidence became overwhelming.

Eventually, Lozano would plead guilty on counts of mail fraud and two counts of perjury. She was sentenced to a year in jail and fined $3,000.

Bush aides, then occupying the White House, were left stunned and confused by her motives. Maybe it was ideological. Lozano had been a former Democratic Party precinct chairwoman. Or maybe it was personal, since she was upset over having been left behind when the rest of the team went to the GOP convention. Perhaps, she had merely wanted to play a bigger role in the course of history and, when presented the opportunity, chose to take it.

Lozano could not be reached for comment. Her lawyer from the case, Chris Gunter, would only say that she was kind and pleasant as a client and aware of her guilt once the evidence was collected. Asked if she had gotten in over her head, he replied, “I think that’s an understatement.”

When Bush and Gore met for the first of their debates on October 3, the governor’s team anxiously watched to see if their leaked playbook had, in fact, been studied and used. The briefing binder, in particular, had specific answers that the Bush was to give to the expected questions. If Gore was able to anticipate those, it could inform his own comments and techniques.

Instead, it was a disaster. Gore invaded Bush’s space, sighed audibly a number of times, kept repeating the word “lockbox,” and seemed to have utter contempt for his opponent.

“The first debate was terrible,” said Daley. “But then again, every fucking debate was terrible.”

After the debate, Stevens sat down with an FBI agent as part of the inquiry into who had leaked the book and tapes. The agent had watched the debate himself. “I had the book in front of me,” he said to Stevens, “and if [Gore] had the book he would have done a lot better.”

Downey had watched the first debate on TV in a state of helplessness. He would attend the next one—in which Gore overcorrected from the first—but he refused to talk to the Vice President before or after. He wouldn’t reconnect with Gore until after the election. A year or so later, Downey would run into Bush at a NATO event in Prague (Downey was there as part of a lobbying effort for Estonia and Latvia). The then president saw him in a crowd, went over, and put his arm around him.

“This is a very good guy,” Bush said to the others. “He was me!”

By then, Downey had resolved not to dwell too hard on what could have been. A mere 537 votes in Florida had decided the outcome. And though it was well within reason to assume that a better debate performance would have made the difference, such mental games were far too bitter to play.

But not for others.

“Oh yeah, I’ve thought about it,” Miller said. “And when I do I would rather blame Ralph Nader.”

The hypotheticals for the Bush team are different. Looking back, they wonder what may have happened if Downey had simply decided to keep quiet; if, like Trump’s son, he had bit the bait and just kept on swimming.

History would have certainly been different. Perhaps the Gore campaign would have been caught, with the blowback all but crippling his presidential chances. But perhaps no one would have noticed at all. “We certainly wouldn’t have known they had the book,” Stevens conceded. “Nothing in our security would have triggered the fact that a book was missing or copied or that the tape had been copied.”

To rationalize that now is difficult for all who were involved. Electoral politics is, in the end, a zero sum game. Ethics and norms are lauded concepts but tangible power is the sole possession of the victor.

“The lesson here is good people do the right thing,” McKinnon said of his contemporaries on the opposite side.

But is it? After all, Downey lost and Trump Jr. won.

“Well,” he replied, choosing his words carefully. “That’s true. There is no question that had they listened to their darkest angels they could have won the presidency by keeping quiet about the materials they got.”

3301 archive

Song of the Cicada Project and the Mystery of Cicada 3301

Daniel JeffriesFeb 1

A lot of people ask me about the Cicada project.

Where is it at? How can I help? When is the alpha? Are you behind Cicada 3301? Do you need marketing people? Programmers?

I’ve been asking myself those questions a lot lately too, reflecting on where it is, where it’s been and where it’s going? After a lot of self-reflection I’ve come to one clear answer about what to do with the project.

But before I can tell you where it’s going I wanted to tell you the story of where it’s been.

The Origin

Some people thought I created the Cicada project as a way to market my book, The Jasmine Wars. I admit it started out that way for maybe the first week but it quickly evolved into something else all together.

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Originally I thought I’d just slap together a web site about some futuristic tech from the story, create a mysterious ad campaign and voila instant books sales!

Turns out not so much.

Book sales are a lot harder than a stupid marketing campaign. It takes patience and time to write and sell fiction for a living. There is no rushing it.

The turning point for me from marketing gimmick to real concept was the original Cicada white paper.

In the story Cicada is a massive distributed artificial intelligence and nation-state operating system. She’s a voting and communications platform and a fantastic alien mind. In many ways she embodies the best of the human race, while mitigating the worst of our dark dual natures. She seemed like the perfect choice for a chunk of killer future tech so I set out to create an early version of her.

At first, I figured I could dash the paper off in a few weeks. A week later it was abundantly clear that was ridiculous. As an engineer for twenty years I couldn’t just shit out the paper and pretend it made any sense. It would only embarrass me. I wanted it to pass the sniff test, to make people feel like it was really possible and more than that I wanted it to have a chance to actually work.

So I started asking myself questions. A lot of questions.

Could you really build a distributed democracy platform? Do the basic building blocks for something like that even exist? How would a system like that bootstrap into reality? How would it achieve mass adoption? How would it defend itself against people who wanted to corrupt it, back door it and take it over?

I knew right away that many of the pieces hadn’t been created yet. We can’t build strong AI and we really have absolutely no idea how to start. I wasn’t going to pretend that I knew a path to get us there either. A lot of smarter people than me need to do a lot of work to get us to the point where that makes sense, despite popular media’s overriding belief that Skynet and Terminators are just around the corner.

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But other pieces did exist. End to end verifiable voting had seen a surge of research in recent years. The Bitcoin breakthrough delivered a decentralized consensus mechanism. Advances in cryptography meant that we could maintain secret ballots and communicate with each other in real time.

If I’d asked myself those questions even a decade earlier the answer was decidedly no on all counts. I’d first thought of the idea of a decentralized democracy platform twenty years ago while fucked up on my friend’s balcony. I looked out over the city and saw it as a massive biological supercomputer, the lights from the cars surging through the streets like electrons. Back then Amazon wasn’t around and the Internet was just getting rolling. Open source barely existed. There was no Github, no Bitcoin, no blockchain, no cloud, no containers, no AI, no telecommunting, nothing.

But now many of the Lego bricks of the future stood at the ready. I just needed to put them together.

So I started digging into everything, studying and reading as much as I could. It didn’t take long before I was knee deep in some of the most obscure research in the world, cutting edge ideas scattered to the far corners of the Internet. There was no guide for me, no light in the darkness. I was completely on my own, reading ideas from people that had no further explanation, no O’Reilly book to explain it in simpler terms, no slick graphical website to sell it to the masses. I had to figure it all out on my own.

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Not actually my notebook just some other genius who created some flying contraption before his time named Da Vinci.

I spent days at my white board trying to solve every single problem in crypto. Instead of writing my book, here I was spending months at the drawing board, often running into totally intractable problems that wouldn’t yield to simple solutions.

Pretty soon I had to ask myself another question:

Are you insane?

The answer to that was:

Insane is relative.

When you take on any massive problem it’s in many ways totally and completely insane. You set out full of hope and quickly learn that you’re up against impossible odds. You’re outgunned, out classed. You seem to have no chance of success whatsoever.

And yet all of that is really an illusion.

It’s just a matter of going forward, taking each step as it comes.

Like Steve Wozniak once said “I learned not to worry so much about the outcome, but to concentrate on the step I was on and to try to do it as perfectly as I could when I was doing it.”

That’s the key to solving any “unsolvable” problem. You just put one foot in front of the other, focusing only on the step that you’re on right now.

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A book about how things get done.

In other words to really figure something out you have to do the work.

It didn’t matter if there was a gap in my understanding of some obscure cryptographic concept or in methods of verifying how people vote without exposing their identity. Tomorrow’s problem is tomorrow’s problem. You can solve that one when you get there. Until then you just have today’s problem, so you put tomorrow out of your mind.

That’s easier said than done. There were days I collapsed in bed, feeling utterly hopeless, my body and mind broken for the day.

What am I doing? Just get back to writing. Ignore this nonsense.

But I couldn’t.

I was obsessed. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. If it couldn’t be done because some piece of the puzzle wasn’t invented yet I could live with that but I couldn’t accept that it couldn’t be done because I’d quit on myself.

I pressed forward, day after to day, trying out concepts, diagramming them, writing about them, pounding the keyboard for hours and hours.

Sometimes I spent six months trying to solve something that just would not come together no matter how I imagined it. Those are the darkest times. You can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and there is no telling when it all will end.

But somehow I finished the paper and put it out there.

I put the website up with little fanfare. Frankly I was just happy to have the damn thing out of my system. I figured nobody would get it and certainly nobody would give me money for it or care about it at all.

I was wrong.

The Flood

I had a flood of people interested right away.

It got posted on a lot of different forums and debated.

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The book the inspired the name for the Sybil attack.

The number one question was always around the ID system. Everyone assumed I’d chosen biometrics as an anti-Sybil defense but I didn’t. It’s a way to create a unique ID for each person and a way to recover that ID after fraud. The unique reputation system was the real key to stopping attacks on the system.

Eventually I got tired of cutting and pasting my responses so I wrote a second white paper focused on the ID and reputation concepts. Of course people still manage to miss it and ask me the same questions anyway but now I can just point them to the paper.

Not long after that programmers and money people contacted me, as well as other projects. I was amazed.

At first I met with a bunch of programmers who joined my mailing list. Some of them were folks coming out of college just getting started. Others were hard core veterans with a wealth of experience. I knew I needed a transcendent programming team, people who could write code that didn’t exist.

I met some incredible coders and people.

And that’s where the problems started.

Inevitably here’s what would go down: I’d meet with people who wanted to dedicate their life to the project for months on end. I would tell them it’s going to take ten years and you won’t be able to just grab some existing libraries, fork Bitcoin and call it a day. They would all nod their heads but secretly they were thinking “Yeah I can, I’ll snag a little from here and there, write some glue code and bam, prototype in six months.”

In hindsight it was inevitable that they’d burn out or give up.

I started to dread the call I would get a few months later like clockwork.

“I’m going to step back from the project. It’s a lot bigger than I expected.”

It was depressing.

Today most people aren’t wired to do long term projects. We want instant gratification and building something incredible is not only hard it’s painful. It requires a constant battle with yourself and the world to get there. We used to do it as a matter of basic survival but today’s technological revolution has made life easier in a million little ways and it’s made us soft. In the past, a sculptor might spend a decade of his life on a single statue or a painter would spend twenty years working the same canvas again and again. Today we aren’t geared to do that kind of work.

But it wasn’t all their fault. It was absolutely mine.

Frankly, I’m a terrible project manager.

I love to come up with ideas and strategies but don’t put me in charge of logistics. For the love of God don’t do that. I’m not wired for it. I find it utterly bizarre that other people need a series of rules and guidelines to move forward, supplied by an outside party. At a mental level I understand it but personally I’ve always known what to do next and when I don’t I just figure it out. I find it unbearably tedious to create those rules for other people, monitor what they’re doing and keep them on track.

So the project fell apart multiple times.

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After that I figured the best bet was to merge with another project. I met the founder of the now defunct Fermat project and he and I shared a lot of the same ideas. The difference was he’d been working on his project for three years and had funding. I joined the team in Budapest for a magical week, having fun, meeting incredible people and feeling like this is it. This can really happen.

It didn’t.

Not long after the fissures started to show in the project. A civil war erupted and the project cleaved in two.

I formed a new project with many of the people who’d started the original Internet of People and we vowed to evolve both of our ideas into something new, a meta project, one project to rule them all.

We spent months working on the concepts.

Or at least I did.

The meta project quickly became an exercise in daily rage for me. I was creating 90% of the ideas and the write-ups. Meanwhile the rest of the team was debating about how many damn tokens they would get and how to divide them up for their share of doing absolutely nothing. Even worse, everyone thought of themselves as an Indian chief. Nobody wanted to be a role player. We had a team of all star ball hogs.

We wound up debating governance structures for months. Nobody wanted any leaders. They all wanted to make up their own rules as they went along. Except nobody was making up any rules at all. They found them too constricting. So there were no rules other than we agreed to divide tasks into working groups, like marketing and security.

Actually there was one other rule, a ridiculous one. Each group planned to elect their own leader. That’s all nice on paper but the main problem was that you can’t have the guy everyone likes in charge of the security of an ICO when projects were getting jacked for millions every other week. He or she actually needs to be good at security.

That’s when I realized a project is more than a collection of talent.

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What fools we mortals be.

It needs the right pieces of the puzzle and some of those pieces are people who are simply hired to do a job and move on. Someone has to order paper clips, make schedules and take out the trash. Instead I had the Brave New World problem, where everyone wants to be the king and nobody wants to clean the dishes and take out the trash.

I also understood with painful clarity that a Decentralized Autonomous Organization or DAO was a hell of a lot more than a smart contract. It requires an entirely new way of thinking about how we organize and motivate people. It needs brand new incentives and punishments. It needs new tools for communication. At this point there is almost zero chance that a DAO could scale to even a moderately successful traditional business today.

In the future I know we’ll get there but living through today’s DAO iteration was as much fun as pulling out my own teeth with pliers and blowtorch. I was trying to lead a bunch of people who didn’t want a leader and yet somehow still thought of me as their leader. It was like being a king with no army. It wasn’t working. I was miserable.

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I tried everything to get us to move forward. On one day I’d give an inspiring speech that got everyone excited to get started building something amazing. Another day I would yell and try to fire people up like a military task master. Nothing worked. Nothing got done.

Eventually I quit the project.

It’s a shame really. I created some incredible concepts and I didn’t want them to go to waste so I open sourced them in my article Gamifying the Delivery of Money.

The ideas in that article are a blueprint for changing the world for good.

But the project was finished for me. Cicada had evolved once more and still she never managed to get out of the gate. After I left a bunch of the team left with me. Some of them stayed and tried to make it work but it went nowhere fast.

So there was I was again, nowhere.

The Story of Me

But was I really nowhere?

It sure felt like it.

I got seriously depressed.

I’d dreamed of creating an incredible project and sending it out to change the world but instead I had I no project, no useful code and nothing to show for years of effort.

Then I realized something that I’d been missing the entire time. It was something I already knew but that like all great truths I’d forgotten and had to learn again.

There are millions of paths to choose from in life but only a few that are really right for you.

I asked myself the most important question:

Just because I could build Cicada, should I build Cicada?

That’s really the heart of the matter in anything we do in this life. We can do all kinds of things but should we do them?

The answer for the most part is a surprising one.


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The art of life is learning to let go of things that aren’t right for you.

You could say that life is about learning what is not you and leaving that not-you on the cutting room floor.

What we say no to is just as important that what we say yes to.

I realized very quickly that I love creating ideas, strategizing and figuring out the big picture. As a systems architect for most of my life I know how all the parts fit together perfectly to make a working platform.

But I’m a terrible coder and people manager.

The real problem wasn’t the project and its grand ideas. It was me trying to do something unnatural.

Life kept telling me that but I ignored it. How did it tell me?

The way it always does, by giving me obstacle after obstacle that I couldn’t get around.

That’s a totally different experience than what happens when you’re on the right path. You still find obstacles but it’s as if the obstacles are crafted just for you with a hidden weakness that only you can find and exploit. Suddenly you find yourself blowing past those obstructions to the next ones, confident that you’ll find the next answer and the next.

You can use that as a guide to know when you’re on the right trajectory. When the set backs and the misery never stop, you need to stop and reconsider. When the obstacles are brutal but you keep finding a way over and under them that’s the right path.

I always seemed to find a way when I simply created concepts and put them to paper. I could take the six months staring at a blank white board with no answer but when I tried to build projects or businesses out of them they fell apart, not because the ideas were shit but because I’m not meant to run a big company or community project. It’s not my nature.

What I’m really meant to do is write and think and teach. And that’s what I’m doing now. That’s what I’ve dedicated the rest of my life to no matter what else happens.

When we focus on the things we’re supposed to do the Universe lines up to assist us. It’s like the Secret without all the marketing bullshit. It’s not actually a secret at all. It’s just the way the Universe works. When we go down another path that’s not right we get caught in a web of our own weaving again and again.

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I love putting my ideas down as clearly as possible and then letting the wind take them and carry them to whoever needs to find them. Like little seed pods they float away on the waves and find root in some foreign soil.

I grew up with the open source movement and now I’m bringing the concept of open source to the idea level.

I don’t need to climb every mountain. There are only so many days in the week, so many days in our lives.

Better to let go and let my ideas land where they land.

That’s what’s happening already.

Over the last few years I’ve met incredible people from all walks of life. Great coders and venture capitalists and incredible thinkers. I’ve met an amazing decentralized ID company that’s followed my work on IDs and built a prototype and a business around it while blending it with their own incredible vision. They have the people to carry it through to completion and to sell it without compromising it and building some back door.

I’ve connected with hundreds of people who told me my work inspired their projects, like Synaptic Celerity, from one of the leaders of the amazing DecStack community.

People take my concepts and weave them together with their own ideas. The interplay of ideas in society evolves and changes us into something even better. At least a dozen projects outright air lifted my concepts into their own papers. Awesome. That is open source in motion.

I’ve had the chance to consult on several projects, helping them rework their own visions into something bigger. I’ve ghost written a bunch of white papers and helped as an advisor on others.

I’m now seeing many new ideas start to take root in the broader community too. I can’t claim responsibility for all of them by any stretch and I won’t pretend to but many of the ideas I laid out in the Cicada papers are starting to show up everywhere. The massive Telegram ICO mega-paper uses a blockchain of blockchains, endless sharding and ubiquitous user friendliness just like Cicada. I don’t claim to have directly inspired them but I can’t really know if someone working on the paper stumbled across my work somewhere. Many of my articles have ended up translated into Russian and Chinese and Spanish just because someone felt like they were worth spreading. Someone told me I have a following in Russia and in China. Who knew?!

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The world evolves naturally through evolution and destiny. Sometimes it just steam engines when it’s steam engine time.

I’ve continued to see a growing surge of next-gen decentralization platforms coming out of the wood work as people figure out how to do decentralization at scale. Blockchain might go the way of the Dodo. As the sleek new project Radix points out “blockchain, your days are numbered.”

I’ll write about them more in the coming weeks but they’re one to watch out for this year.

Another project created by a friend in Poland, the Internet of Value, is looking to take back our data so we decide when to share it and how to monetize it, if we want to monetize it at all.

By letting go of Cicada I’ve seen her influence spread out into the world and continue to spread.

One mind working on a problem is an island. A million minds can change the world.

The truth is we simply can’t do everything in life by ourselves. We have to pick our battles carefully because we won’t survive them all. As we make choices many doors close to us and yet many doors open. We have to cut the cord to all the things in our life that are not us. I’m not a project manager and frankly I don’t want to be.

And so I cleared the field to let new crops grow.

And sometimes when you really release something you get the ultimate surprise.

Just last week I gave a talk to Polish entrepreneurs and thought leaders in Warsaw on the future of cryptocurrencies and decentralized consensus technology. To my total shock a local coder pinged me to let me know he and some young people had been working on Cicada for the last year.

Now wouldn’t that be amazing if there were dozens of competing Cicada projects out there?

That’s the true power of open source.

Let the best Cicada win.

The Insect Storm and the Song of the Cicada

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Oh yeah. I mentioned Cicada 3301.

A lot of people have asked me over the years if I’m involved with that project or if I’m behind the mystery in some way?

The answer is no.

But it’s also not that simple.

Of course, some asshole on Reddit will inevitably post this in the comments:

Is Dan Jeffries behind Cicada 3301? TLDR. No. LOL.

I just saved his lazy ass some time. He can cut and paste it.

Everyone who reads my work knows that if you jump right to the main points you miss a lot of what I have to say.

My work is food for thought. I get people to think. I break them out of familiar though patterns and get their minds working again.

So what do I mean about it not being that simple?

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Well, I actually had never even heard of Cicada 3301 before I named my AI that in the book and yet coincidences abounded between the names and ideas behind them from the very start.

I loved the concept of insects working independently together, building something greater then themselves and yet fully autonomous. That’s where the name came from and of course the sound of the Cicada is hypnotic, divine. The Cicada 3301 mystery seems to be about that as well, as far as I can tell. From the pages we’ve seen translated they all point to a kind of journey to self, a mini-enlightenment that leads to self determination and independent thought in a decentralized collective.

In my own work I’ve always tried to do the same, get people to wake up. I want everyone to think for themselves, to let go of their own mental prisons and see the world with fresh eyes, to find their own truth and take action in their lives.

And to me insects are the essence of decentralization. There is no surprise that both of us chose the Cicada to represent our visions.

A massive distributed colony can change the world. You can crush a million bugs but eventually they overwhelm anything with sheer numbers.

As National Geographic tells us “Like it or not…you’re surrounded — there are about 10 quintillion [insects] on Earth, including about 10 quadrillion ants.”

Insects swarm together or break apart. The can act on their own or as a highly coordinated group. Unlike centralized systems they’re anti-fragile to the extreme.

We’ve found extremophiles living in the harshest conditions on Earth, from flesh melting heat to bone shattering cold.

No matter what you do, no matter what any centralized power does, you can’t stamp out all the bugs. We have them surrounded. It’s when we wake up and realize it that we can change the world.

When you’re lost in the dark and facing the craziest obstacles I’ve found there is always a weird guiding light.

Strange coincidences.

Some people call them synchronicities.

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They’re these little glitches in the Matrix, something that shouldn’t be there but that are there. You could set your smart watch to them, if it didn’t have atomic time already.

As a creative person I find them again and again when I’m walking the right road. They light the path forward for me and everyone else who’s paying attention.

In the end it’s probably no coincidence at all that we chose the same name.

I didn’t create Cicada 3301 but somehow the concepts work together to show us the way into the decentralized future.

If you’re like me, you grew up with a lot of hope that technology would change the world. In many ways it did. The Internet gave us a world of information at our fingertips. Now a kid living in a broken down village with a crumbling economy and a corrupt government can log on to his smart phone and study physics with open courseware from the world’s top teachers. We can all become gurus and autodidacts.

The net has given us supercomputers in our pockets and the ability to publish books directly and order rides and food at the push of a button.

But it’s also let us down badly.

We rushed to create a million services in the early days of the Internet, all of them free. Eventually those companies needed a way to survive. They needed to retrofit a business model. And so they did.

That model is surveillance.

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They watch and record everything we do, think or say online. They crunch that data and feed us ads for crap we don’t want and services we don’t need. They profile us and track us. They sell that data to the highest bidder as fast as they can.

Data is the new oil and the new gold.

We need to think more completely about how we design the systems of tomorrow. We need to give people power over their data again and “lock in open forever.

We need systems that balance privacy and security and transparency. It can be done. Believe it. A system that is entirely anonymous or entirely transparent is a sick system. It can’t take into account the full range of possibilities in life. A good system is agnostic, able to serve everyone, even people we don’t agree with and wish didn’t exist.

Our society is increasingly sick. We can’t find common ground. We’re in a war for the future. Increasingly we’ve centralized everything into the hands of a tiny few.

But a new model is emerging:

The insect model.

Decentralized everything.

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That’s really what Bitcoin and Ethereum and the thousands of other coins out there are in the end.

They cannot be stopped.

Even if the world powers find some way to agree on world straddling regulation (not going to happen) or work to strangle the exchanges it won’t matter. Decentralized exchanges will pop up like Hydra heads. Apps that live on every phone and computer on Earth with connected to the sprawling new network. Money will go out directly to people through gamification and the people will choose their own money as the overly printed money of the overextended countries of the world recede into the memory of what money once was in the distant past.

Decentralization will change the way we do everything from supply change management to governance. And if we’re smart and we’re lucky we can evolve past surveillance technology and mass centralized monitoring and the death of privacy into something more balanced and beautiful, something that works for everyone and puts to rest our worst tendencies as a species.

The Cicada is the metaphor for that movement.

The powers that be might find ways to cripple and corrupt the early stages of progress but over time no central power can hope to stand against the might of a quintillion insect swarm.

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A bit about me: I’m an author, engineer and serial entrepreneur. During the last two decades, I’ve covered a broad range of tech from Linux to virtualization and containers.

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Crazy Rich Asian Jews – Singapore’s Least-known Elite

Constance Wu as Rachel Chu in a scene from the film “Crazy Rich Asians.” Sanja Bucko,AP

Crazy Rich Asian Jews – Singapore’s Least-known Elite

The creator of ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ Kevin Kwan, talks about rich and powerful Jewish families in the city state, and the Mossad connection in his books

Taly KrupkinNew York

30.08.2018 | 12:47 2 comments

NEW YORK – “Crazy Rich Asians” has been a surprise hit at the U.S. box office this summer, but what are the chances of a sequel called “Crazy Rich Asian Jews”? That may sound fanciful, but the author of the trilogy upon which the film is based says powerful Jewish families also exist among Asian society’s wealthy elite.

“There has always been a Jewish community in Singapore,” says best-selling novelist Kevin Kwan, who recalls how Singapore boasted “many synagogues” when he was growing up in the 1970s. There are several “rich and powerful Jewish families in Singapore,” operating very quietly and behind-the-scenes today, he explains. “And in China, of course, there were very illustrious families – the Sassoon family, for example [aka the ‘Rothschilds of the East’] – that really helped found modern China,” he says.

“There are a few very prominent Jewish families that have made Asia their home and really succeeded in becoming respected in the community,” adds Kwan, whose family left Singapore for the United States in the early ’80s.

As Singapore has developed into a high-tech city state, new money has poured in. “Singapore has become such an international hub, especially for people of high net worth,” says Kwan. “There is a new international billionaire class of people who are moving to Singapore from all over the world. Singapore has become a tax haven – sort of the Switzerland of Asia,” he explains.

The skyline of the Marina Bay tourist attraction in Singapore, March 2017. Wong Maye-E,AP

Jewish billionaires

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The island, situated off southern Malaysia, has the highest concentration of millionaires in the world and attracted several high-profile Jewish billionaires. These include Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin (now one of Singapore’s richest citizens) and the American-Canadian mining baron Robert Friedland.

Today, the Jewish population on the island numbers some 2,500, according to Singaporean newspaper The Straits Times – most of them not billionaires. Two synagogues serve the community, many of whom trace their roots back to the Iraqi Jews of Baghdad.

Kwan acknowledges that the arrival of the superrich has had an enormous impact on Singapore. “Most of the citizens are aware of how rich some people are in the country,” he says. “First of all, it’s a very rich country: 17 percent of the population are millionaires. So, most people are already at a certain class. But they are also aware of the superrich class that also exists on this island. It’s very obvious when you see the mansions or the beautiful high-rise penthouse apartments. And also the way people are living now.

Billionaire Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook Inc., speaking during an interview in Singapore, May 26, 2016. Bloomberg

Robert Friedland attending the 2nd Annual Emerging Markets Investor Conference in Hong Kong, November 2011. Bloomberg

“It’s very different from when I was growing up,” he continues. “When I was growing up, it was a quiet, sleepy island. Now it has become Manhattan meets [Beverly Hills’] Rodeo Drive – much more flashy. The people with money are showing it off; they are driving exotic cars, there are many luxury shops. It’s very evident to the local population that there is a class of the superrich on the island.”

Not everyone on the island is happy about these changes. “I feel that, to some extent, many in the middle class feel there is such a gap between the ‘normal’ wealthy people, the people that don’t have wealth, and the people that have hundreds of billions of dollars, so there is a growing resentment,” says Kwan. “But at the same time, because Singapore economically has done so well over the past 30 years, the system is working for the island and they can’t complain too much. Compared to other countries, the poorest in Singapore are not so poor.”

“Crazy Rich Asians” novelist Kevin Kwan. “Singapore has become a tax haven – sort of the Switzerland of Asia.” \ Mario Anzuoni/ REUTERS

Kwan is an executive producer on the film, which has taken $80 million at the U.S. box office to date. The novel “Crazy Rich Asians” was published in 2013, with Kwan saying his intention was to “introduce a contemporary Asia to a North American audience.” Two successful sequels followed: “China Rich Girlfriend” (2015) and “Rich People Problems” ( 2017).

The film has enjoyed widespread critical acclaim and is believed to be a watershed moment for Asian representation in Hollywood.

PM Netanyahu Visits Synagogue in Singapore

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Singapore, February 2017

Pools on a plane

Some critics, though, have sniped about the film’s ostentatious display of wealth, yet Kwan says that as extravagant as the lives of these crazy rich Asians are, the more outlandish details didn’t actually make it into the original novel for fear of alienating the public. After all, how can the average reader relate to people flying on a private jet that has a pool?

“There were a lot of things, especially in the first book, that my editor made me take out,” he recounts. “She said, ‘This is too unbelievable to the normal reader – you are going to lose the readers.’ The way I would describe a house, how it’s decorated, was so out of this world that she would say, ‘No one is going to believe it,’ even though the house really exists,” says Kwan. “Or she would say, ‘Why is everyone taking private planes and helicopters everywhere they go? There are too many planes!’ I said, ‘But this is how these people are – they use planes like other people use taxis.’

“Of course, everything changed after the first book became a big success,” he continues. “For the second book she would say, ‘More! More! More!’ And it was easy to do, because the second book is about mainland China – and there, the people are rich on such a crazy, crazy level that I couldn’t exaggerate it even if I tried!”

Not everything about “Crazy Rich Asians” is private jets and extravagant parties, though. As we follow one of the story’s protagonists, Rachel Chu (played in the movie by Constance Wu), into the world of those crazy rich Asians, we also get to see the darker side of wealth.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS – Official Trailer 1

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[SPOILER] In “China Rich Girlfriend” (which is now being adapted into a movie following the success of “Crazy Rich Asians”), there is a deadly car crash and rivalries over money take a dark turn. One of the book’s protagonists is even poisoned by a dangerous new drug developed by Israel’s Mossad espionage agency.

“It’s called Tarquinomid,” one of the characters explains. “It’s a very hard-to-get pharmaceuticalS that’s normally used to treat people with multiple sclerosis, manufactured only in Israel. They say it’s sometimes used by Mossad agents for assassinations.”

“I’m striving to accurately depict the situation,” explains Kwan. “For the mainland Chinese, there have been many, many scandals with the new money in China. These stories – the car accident, the poisoning – are inspired by front-page headlines, of things that have really happened in China among the superrich. It’s not that I intentionally wanted to go darker, but it’s where the truth of the story was.”

While the trilogy centers on the relationship between Rachel Chu and Nick Young, and the upheavals their romance brings to the close-knit elite of Singapore, it also explores social tensions between Asia’s old money and the new billionaires from mainland China.

“In countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, you have families that have lived there for hundreds of years. And, over the generations, these families have worked very, very hard and very quietly built up companies and organizations. And then, suddenly, there is a whole new class of mainland Chinese billionaires – overnight billionaires, really – and they start moving to Singapore and Hong Kong, and buying all the real estate. I think it rubbed a lot of the local aristocracy the wrong way.

“The ‘old money’ is retreating into its own private little world,” says Kwan. “But the mainland Chinese – I think they actually don’t care. They are creating their own society, they don’t care as much about assimilating with the local ruling class. They are rich, they are having fun, they are going to enjoy their money however they want.”

Audrey Sue-Matsumoto, right, posing for photos with her mother, Alice Sue, after watching the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” in Daly City, California, August 23, 2018. Jeff Chiu,AP