‘We Can Fact Check Your Ass,’ but Not When It Comes to Political Ads

On the heels of Facebook announcing it would allow misleading or even factually-incorrect political advertisements, Twitter has announced that it will forego running all paid ads for individual candidates and issues. As Reason‘s Scott Shackford notes, Twitter has not yet released its final guidelines (Twitter head Jack Dorsey has promised to deliver them by November 15) and both platforms are clearly responding to threats by legislators seeking to regulate social media.

The differing approaches to the issue of paid speech provide a good opportunity to discuss not just how political communications work in a post-broadcast world but also how the internet is falling short of its promise to radically alter the way people communicate and connect. There are many reasons to criticize Twitter’s decision (which, as a private platform, it has every right to make), but the ultimate reason is this: It represents a near-complete lack of faith in users to function as critical consumers of information.

In a long thread, Dorsey extols the virtue of organic “reach” on Twitter, writing:

A political message earns reach when people decide to follow an account or retweet. Paying for reach removes that decision, forcing highly optimized and targeted political messages on people. We believe this decision should not be compromised by money.

He immediately recognizes that the very same argument can be made against all forms of advertising, which is how Twitter makes money, so he feels a need to claim that political speech is uniquely serious:

While internet advertising is incredibly powerful and very effective for commercial advertisers, that power brings significant risks to politics, where it can be used to influence votes to affect the lives of millions.

Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale.

This sort of thinking represents a fundamental betrayal of the ideals that helped build the internet into an unparalleled, open system of knowledge and information. Dorsey is effectively saying that we—you, me, and the typical Twitter user—can’t manage to sift wheat from chaff online.

Go back to the mid-1990s, as the World Wide Web was becoming a mass medium, and you’ll find everyone talking excitedly about “disintermediation,” or the removal of middlemen and gatekeepers from all sorts of cultural, economic, and political transactions. Finally, we would all be able to find and connect directly with like-minded souls in hyper-personalized, ultra-niche communities and markets (this spirit is alive and well in the bitcoin/blockchain space, with boosters celebrating the end of the need for “trusted third parties” to issue currency and validate transactions). Transactions would become more direct—and thus cheaper and more efficient. That attitude fit hand-in-glove with a belief that people could generally be trusted to act honestly and forthrightly, either because they were freed of the corrupting influence of intermediary institutions or because of forced transparency.

We can fact check your ass,” crowed pioneering online journalist Ken Layne in the early 2000s, announcing an ostensibly brave new world in which untruths, half-truths, and patently false claims would be readily debunked by legions of readers and writers who now had access to the means of publication. What was true for journalism was true for everything else, too: The reputations of once-sanctified professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and even college professors (remember Rate My Professors?) suddenly became matters of public record rather than recommendations passed along in semi-secrecy to the advantaged few. For the first time, car dealers had to face customers who had something approaching equal information about automobile costs (look upon Edmunds.com and despair, old school salesmen!). Online merchants were subjected to publicly accessible reviews. Piping up about the food and service at restaurants quickly became the province of amateur critics. Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist pushed to put all government transactions online on the theory that somebody somewhere would be interested in sifting through checks and bringing meaningful information to light (that spirit is alive and well in groups such as Open the Books).

There were, of course, more than a few complications. It turns out that middlemen often provide massive value for customers by sifting through a lot of information, data, or choices and presenting a few items in a given field. It’s a good thing that the power once held by, say, record labels has faded, but there’s no question that the A&R guys at Columbia or Atlantic listened to a lot of bad music so the rest of us didn’t have to. The same is true of publishing houses, clothing stores, and a lot of institutions and structures that literally and figuratively brought things to market. If you ever deputized a friend to pick movies or restaurants or clothing for you, you understand the value of middlemen or guides or editors. In 1994, former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel argued persuasively that as more raw information, news, and data became available we’d enter the “age of the editor” precisely because we would need trusted people who could help us navigate all the choices in front of us.

But the biggest complication to the simple idea that the internet and disintermediation would bring us the whole truth and nothing but the truth is simply this: We have different definitions of what is true, what is good, and what is meaningful. This is especially the case in politics, which is a lot more like religion than math. Most religions claim some monopoly on “truth,” but what they’re really providing is a way of seeing and understanding the world in ways that are subjective. Same with politics. Is Donald Trump’s vision of what is wrong with America and how to fix it true or is Bernie Sanders’? I’d say neither is. But what the internet does (especially platforms like Facebook and Twitter) is enable more of us to directly enter the discussion—the argument over who is right and who is wrong. That’s a great and liberating development but one that is mostly ignored by Twitter’s Dorsey, who instead focuses on the creator of content rather than the consumers of it:

We need more forward-looking political ad regulation (very difficult to do). Ad transparency requirements are progress, but not enough. The internet provides entirely new capabilities, and regulators need to think past the present day to ensure a level playing field.

As a matter of history, it should send a chill down everyone’s spine when anyone talks about regulating political speech. Campaign finance laws, including innocuous-sounding transparency requirements, are routinely used to penalize outliers such as the Socialist Workers Party. More than that, “the entirely new capabilities” provided by social media include the ability to engage, critique, and research any and all claims that come our way. We can indeed fact-check the ass of every advertiser we stumble across. Even more radically, we can block them at the click of button. If Dorsey wants to improve political discourse in cyberspace, he would do far better to give users more tools to tailor their experience as they see fit than to start banning whole categories of ads (which will be much harder in practice than theory; will Twitter ban paid endorsements by popular users as unfair? What about unpaid ones?).

“At some point,” writes Jeff Jarvis, an early theorist of the ways in which online culture was empowering individuals in powerful new ways. “We must trust the public, the electorate, ourselves. If we cannot, then we are surrendering democracy. We must put our faith in the public conversation.” Jarvis is a critic of both Twitter’s and Facebook’s political ad policies for reasons that are different from mine. But what is great and unique about the internet and social media is precisely that it allows more of us to participate in ever-changing and always-contested definitions of what is good, true, and relevant. Yes, yes, Twitter and Facebook and all the other platforms have every right to make whatever decisions they want, but when those choices are at odds with the internet’s essential spirit, they deserve to be criticized.

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11 Years Ago Today Satoshi Nakamoto Published The Bitcoin White Paper

11 Years Ago Today Satoshi Nakamoto Published The Bitcoin White Paper

Authored by Marie Huillet via CoinTelegraph,

Today, Oct. 31, marks eleven years since the publication of the Bitcoin white paper by the still-mysterious person or group pseudonymously identified as Satoshi Nakamoto.


A revolutionary text

Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System — published on Oct. 31, 2008 —  outlined a tamper-proof, decentralized peer-to-peer protocol that could track and verify digital transactions, prevent double-spending and generate a transparent record for anyone to inspect in nearly real-time. 

The protocol represented a cryptographically-secured system — based on a Proof-of-Work algorithm —  in which Bitcoins (BTC) are “mined” for a reward by individual nodes and then verified by other nodes in a decentralized network.

This system contained the possibility of overcoming the need for intermediaries such as banks and financial institutions to facilitate and audit transactions — a major disruption to a siloed, monopolized field of centralized financial power.

image courtesy of CoinTelegraph

304033233% all-time-price appreciation

Eleven years on, Bitcoin is consistently setting new records for its network hash rate — a measure of the overall computing power involved in validating transactions on the blockchain at any given time. 

More power and participation establishes greater network security and attests to widespread recognition of the profitability potential of Bitcoin mining. 

As of the middle of this month, network data revealed that since the creation of the very first block on the Bitcoin blockchain on Jan 3, 2009 — known in more technical language as its “genesis block” — miners have received combined revenue of just under $15 billion. 

The figure includes both block rewards — “new” bitcoins paid to miners for validating a block of transactions — as well as transaction fees, which broke the $1 billion mark this week. 

Bitcoin’s first-ever recorded trading price was noted on Mar. 17, 2010 — on the now-defunct trading platform bitcoinmarket.com, at a value of $0.003. 

The cryptocurrency’s appreciation thus stands at a staggering 304033233% as of press time, with Bitcoin currently trading at $9,120.

As of this August, 85% of Bitcoin’s supply in circulation had been mined — leaving just 3.15 million new coins for the future.

Eleven years on, the mystery enshrouding the white paper’s author remains as impenetrable as ever.

Those both within and without the crypto community began attempting to determine Nakamoto’s identity as early as October 2011, just a few months after the mysterious figure first went silent.  


Tyler Durden

Thu, 10/31/2019 – 17:25

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What Ethics Violation? Katie Hill Blames Departure On Nudes Leaked “For The Sexual Entertainment Of Millions”

What Ethics Violation? Katie Hill Blames Departure On Nudes Leaked “For The Sexual Entertainment Of Millions”

Democratic Rep. Katie Hill of California, who wrote the world’s lengthiest non-apology while resigning under a House Ethics Committee probe into allegations that she slept with an employee, gave her final swan-song on the House floor on Thursday, where she blamed leaked nudes and mysoginy (and not her own ethics violation) for her departure.

I am leaving now because of a double standard. I am leaving because I no longer want to be used as a bargaining chip. I am leaving because I didn’t want to be peddled by papers and blogs and websites, used by shameless operatives for the dirtiest gutter politics that I’ve ever seen,” Hill said, adding that her nude photos were shared “for the sexual entertainment of millions.

Explicit photos of Hill were published in the Daily Mail and other publications, while allegations that she and her husband had a separate relationship with an unnamed female campaign staffer resulted in the ethics investigation.

“I am leaving because of a misogynistic culture that gleefully consumed my naked pictures,” Hill added in her Thursday comments. “The forces of revenge by a bitter jealous man, cyber exploitation and sexual shaming that target our gender and a large segment of society that fears and hates powerful women have combined to push a young woman out of power and say that she doesn’t belong here.”


Hill then turned her ire to President Trump, saying it’s unfair that “a man who brags about his sexual predation, who has had dozens of women come forward to accuse him of sexual assault, who pushes policies that are uniquely harmful to women and who fills the courts with judges who proudly rule to deprive women of the most fundamental right to control of their own bodies, sits in the highest office of the land.”

We weren’t aware that President Trump was sleeping with employees.

Watch the rest of Hill’s speech below:


Tyler Durden

Thu, 10/31/2019 – 17:05

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The Political Parties & The Media Have Abandoned The Working “Middle Class”

The Political Parties & The Media Have Abandoned The Working “Middle Class”

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

Where is the line between “working class” and “middle class”? Maybe there isn’t any.

Defining the “middle class” has devolved to a pundit parlor game, so let’s get real for a moment (if we dare): the “middle class” is no longer defined by the traditional metrics of income or job type (blue collar, white collar), but by an entirely different set of metrics:

1. Household indebtedness, i.e. how much of the income is devoted to debt service, and

2. How much of the household spending is funded by debt.

3. The ability of the household to set aside substantial savings / capital investment.

4. The security of the households’ employment.

5. The dependence of the household wealth on speculative asset bubbles inflated by central bank policies.

6. The percentage of the household income that is unearned, i.e. derived not from labor but from productive assets.

7. The exposure of the households’ employment to automation, AI or offshoring.

8. How much of the household income is government transfers: benefits, subsidies, etc.

After writing about the middle class and America’s class structure in depth for over a decade, it seems to me the actual, real-world class structure is something along these lines:

1. No formal earned income, dependent on government transfers, possibly supplemented by informal “black market” income; no family wealth.

2. The Working Poor, those laboring at minimum wage or part-time jobs with few if any benefits. This class depends on government transfers to get by: EBT (food stamps), housing subsidies, school lunch subsidies, Medicaid, etc. Highly exposed to reductions in hours, tips, gigs, etc. and layoffs.

3. The “muddle class” which muddles through on earned income, much of which goes to debt service (student loans, auto loans, mortgages, credit cards) and skyrocketing big-ticket expenses: rent, healthcare, childcare, etc. Unable to save enough to move the needle on household capital, any net worth is dependent on speculative asset bubbles continuing to inflate. Highly exposed to layoffs or destabilizing changes in employment status: from full-time to part-time, loss of benefits, etc.

This article from WSJ.com describes the Muddle Class: Families Go Deep in Debt to Stay in the Middle Class

4. The Protected Class with secure income/earnings and benefits: this includes the nomenklatura of government employees, mid-level technocrat / managerial employees in academia, government-funded non-profits, etc., and retirees with Medicare, Social Security and other income (pensions, unearned investment income, etc.) and family assets (home owned free and clear, substantial 401K nest eggs, etc.)

5. “Winner Take Most” Corporate America / market-economy households: top managers and salespeople, entrepreneurs, successful business owners, speculators in financialization/asset bubbles, marketers, those earning substantial royalties, etc. Most work crazy-hard and make sacrifices, as per this article from The Atlantic: Why You Never See Your Friends AnymoreOur unpredictable and overburdened schedules are taking a dire toll on American society.

6. The wealthy and super-wealthy. Many continue working hard despite being worth tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars, as per this article from NYT.com: Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working? Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes.

7. The upper reaches of this class constitute a Financial Aristocracy / Oligarchy / New Nobility, those who have leveraged mere wealth into political, social and financial power.

8. The Mobile Creatives Class, currently small but expanding, which essentially obsoletes the entire status quo of working for an employer (often to get benefits), going heavily into debt for a college degree, vehicle, house, wedding, etc., hiring employees and paying outrageous prices to live in an overcrowded, soul-destroying city, etc.

I’ve written often about Mobile Creatives, but the basic idea is multiple income streams and forms of capital provide security rather than depending on the state or an employer: Career Advice to 20-Somethings: Create Value as a Mobile Creative.

Where is the line between “working class” and “middle class”? Maybe there isn’t any. The old definitions of working and middle class were social more than financial–the middle class was better educated (school teacher, etc.) than the working class (factory worker, skilled tradesperson) but both could aspire to owning a home and giving their children a more secure life than they had started with.

The working class was not limited to the working poor: working-class jobs provided security and social mobility, just like white-collar middle class jobs.

What differentiates classes now is debt, employment security and the ability to build household capital that isn’t just a sand castle of speculative bubble “wealth.” The worker with tradecraft skills (welding, logger, etc.) has more security and earning power than a college graduate with few skills that can’t be outsourced or automated.

Many college graduates work in sectors that are highly exposed to layoffs and downsizing once the economy contracts: food and beverages, hospitality, etc.

All of which leads us to a highly verboten conclusion: both political parties and the corporate media have abandoned the 2/3 of the workforce that is working/middle class. The bottom 20% dependent on government transfers has more security than those earning just enough to disqualify the household for transfers, while the top 15% in the Protected Class are doing just fine unless they’re over-indebted.

The winner take most class and the wealthy dominate both political parties and the media which is now dependent on advertising that appeals to the top 10% of households that collect more than 50% of the national income.

The political parties take care of the government dependent class to keep the rabble from rebelling, and they keep the government gravy train flowing to the Protected Class (healthcare, national defense, academia, government employees) to insure their support at election time, but they take their marching orders from the Aristocracy / Oligarchy that fund their campaigns and enrich them with $100,000 speaking fees, seats on the board of directors, etc.

The Working/Middle Class gets nothing but lip-service, and that’s been the case for decades. The political parties and the media abandoned the Working/Middle Class long ago, buttering their bread with the soaring wealth of the Aristocracy / Oligarchy and relegating everyone outside the Protected Class who labors for their livelihood to the servitude of politically impotent tax donkey / debt-serfdom.

Please examine these charts closely. They look busy but show that income inequality has been rising for over three decades.

Here’s income by quintile. The top 5% have done extremely well, the Protected Class 15% below them have done just fine, and the bottom 80%, well, who cares about them as long as they’re politically passive and make their loan payments?

Cumulative income reveals the widening gap between the bottom 80% and the top 5%. The gap was not very big in the early 1990s, but look at it now:

Another chart of the top 5% pulling away from the rest of us:

No wonder the media depends on luxury/aspirational advertising: the top 5% are the only ones with the money and credit to blow on status-signifying fripperies:

Where does this lead? To this–a collapse of buffers: debt is not income, and eventually the buffers of borrowing more to keep afloat thin and break down. When the financial buffers of the middle two-thirds of working / middle class households break down, the economy and the social-political order will break down, too.

Don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.

*  *  *

My recent books:

Will You Be Richer or Poorer? Profit, Power and A.I. in a Traumatized World (15% discount in October, Kindle $5.95, print $10.95) Read the first section for free (PDF).

Pathfinding our Destiny: Preventing the Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic ($6.95 (Kindle), $12 (print), $13.08 ( audiobook): Read the first section for free (PDF).

The Adventures of the Consulting Philosopher: The Disappearance of Drake $1.29 (Kindle), $8.95 (print); read the first chapters for free (PDF)

Money and Work Unchained $6.95 (Kindle), $15 (print) Read the first section for free (PDF).

*  *  *

If you found value in this content, please join me in seeking solutions by becoming a $1/month patron of my work via patreon.com.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 10/31/2019 – 16:45

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2Wx2Say Tyler Durden

CDC Says Vaping-Related Lung Injuries Overwhelmingly Involve Black-Market THC Products, but It’s Still Warning People to Avoid E-Cigarettes

According to numbers updated today, 1,888 cases of vaping-related lung injuries, including 37 deaths, have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of October 29. The CDC is now referring to these acute respiratory illnesses as cases of “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI),” which is not only cumbersome but also misleading. While the term e-cigarette typically refers to legal vaping devices, such as Juul, that deliver nicotine, the vast majority of the lung injuries have been linked to black-market cannabis products.

In cases where the information was available, according to a new CDC study, just 11 percent of patients said they had vaped only nicotine. The study notes that “data on substances used…were self-reported or reported by proxies and might be subject to recall bias, as well as social desirability bias because nonmedical marijuana is illegal in many states.” In other words, since patients or their relatives may be reluctant to report illegal drug use, the role of black-market THC vapes could be even greater than the numbers suggest. The CDC also notes that patients may not actually know what was in the products they consumed, especially if they bought them online or off the street from illegal distributors.

“Use of THC-containing products was reported for 86% of patients who survived and 84% of patients who died,” the study says. “Reports from Illinois, Utah, and Wisconsin suggest that patients have typically obtained their THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products through informal sources, such as friends or illicit in-person and online dealers.”

The CDC does not discuss the sources of nicotine products used by patients. But assuming that such products are in fact implicated in some cases, it seems likely that they also came from “informal sources” offering e-liquids of unknown provenance and composition. As psychiatrist Sally Satel, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted in her congressional testimony this month, “Consumers have been using commercially available vaping devices and nicotine products for 10 years without a single recorded death or any surge of illnesses…until this summer.” The timing, she said, “is consistent with a relatively acute contamination” by additives or byproducts in illicit vapes. “The lung injury problem is a story of the dangers of the black market, not of vaping,” Satel observed.

The CDC has gradually adjusted its advice to reflect the conspicuous role of black-market cannabis products in the lung disease outbreak. “Because most patients reported using THC-containing products before symptom onset, CDC recommends that persons should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC,” it now says. “Persons should not buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, off the street and should not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette, or vaping, products that are not intended by the manufacturer.”

But the CDC still adds that “because the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury is not yet known, and while the investigation continues, persons should consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.” That is not a sound recommendation for people who have switched to vaping from smoking, a far more hazardous source of nicotine.

The CDC implicitly acknowledges as much. “If you are an adult using e-cigarettes, or vaping, products, to quit smoking,” it says, “do not return to smoking cigarettes.” Yet the CDC’s muddled messaging, including the unfounded insinuation that legal e-cigarettes might be deadly, continues to obscure the crucial point that they are much less dangerous than the conventional combustible kind.

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CDC Says Vaping-Related Lung Injuries Overwhelmingly Involve Black-Market THC Products, but It’s Still Warning People to Avoid E-Cigarettes

According to numbers updated today, 1,888 cases of vaping-related lung injuries, including 37 deaths, have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of October 29. The CDC is now referring to these acute respiratory illnesses as cases of “e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI),” which is not only cumbersome but also misleading. While the term e-cigarette typically refers to legal vaping devices, such as Juul, that deliver nicotine, the vast majority of the lung injuries have been linked to black-market cannabis products.

In cases where the information was available, according to a new CDC study, just 11 percent of patients said they had vaped only nicotine. The study notes that “data on substances used…were self-reported or reported by proxies and might be subject to recall bias, as well as social desirability bias because nonmedical marijuana is illegal in many states.” In other words, since patients or their relatives may be reluctant to report illegal drug use, the role of black-market THC vapes could be even greater than the numbers suggest. The CDC also notes that patients may not actually know what was in the products they consumed, especially if they bought them online or off the street from illegal distributors.

“Use of THC-containing products was reported for 86% of patients who survived and 84% of patients who died,” the study says. “Reports from Illinois, Utah, and Wisconsin suggest that patients have typically obtained their THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products through informal sources, such as friends or illicit in-person and online dealers.”

The CDC does not discuss the sources of nicotine products used by patients. But assuming that such products are in fact implicated in some cases, it seems likely that they also came from “informal sources” offering e-liquids of unknown provenance and composition. As psychiatrist Sally Satel, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, noted in her congressional testimony this month, “Consumers have been using commercially available vaping devices and nicotine products for 10 years without a single recorded death or any surge of illnesses…until this summer.” The timing, she said, “is consistent with a relatively acute contamination” by additives or byproducts in illicit vapes. “The lung injury problem is a story of the dangers of the black market, not of vaping,” Satel observed.

The CDC has gradually adjusted its advice to reflect the conspicuous role of black-market cannabis products in the lung disease outbreak. “Because most patients reported using THC-containing products before symptom onset, CDC recommends that persons should not use e-cigarette, or vaping, products that contain THC,” it now says. “Persons should not buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC, off the street and should not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette, or vaping, products that are not intended by the manufacturer.”

But the CDC still adds that “because the specific compound or ingredient causing lung injury is not yet known, and while the investigation continues, persons should consider refraining from the use of all e-cigarette, or vaping, products.” That is not a sound recommendation for people who have switched to vaping from smoking, a far more hazardous source of nicotine.

The CDC implicitly acknowledges as much. “If you are an adult using e-cigarettes, or vaping, products, to quit smoking,” it says, “do not return to smoking cigarettes.” Yet the CDC’s muddled messaging, including the unfounded insinuation that legal e-cigarettes might be deadly, continues to obscure the crucial point that they are much less dangerous than the conventional combustible kind.

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ISIS Spy Who Betrayed Al-Baghdadi Likely To Receive “All Or Part” Of $25 Million Bounty

ISIS Spy Who Betrayed Al-Baghdadi Likely To Receive “All Or Part” Of $25 Million Bounty

The Islamic State militant who betrayed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was motivated by revenge, according to NBC News.

I think he was under a lot of pressure from his family,” Gen. Mazloum Abdi – commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said in a detailed account of how he spent months handling the spy inside the inner circle of the terrorist organization’s now-dead leader.

“His relatives were subjected to harsh treatment by ISIS and he no longer believed in the future of ISIS. He wanted to take revenge on ISIS and al-Baghdadi himself,” added Abdi.

“He was, you could say, a security official,” the general added. “A personal security official for al-Baghdadi himself, in charge of al-Baghdadi’s movements.”

Part of the informant’s job, Abdi said, was “securing the places” where al-Baghdadi would later hide.

This ISIS spy memorized the locations and layouts of al-Baghdadi’s safe houses and even stole samples of the world’s most wanted terrorist’s blood and clothing for DNA analysis, he said.

None of that was easy.

Al-Baghdadi took his security precautions to the highest level,” Abdi said. “He never used high-tech communications at all. Any place he was in, was in a communications blackout, with exception of those who were directly responsible for his security, and that was a small group of people.” –NBC News

“His direct family, the children, his relatives, his siblings, they are formed a tight ring around him,” said Abdi, adding that the ISIS leader only allowed a small group of outsiders to meet with him – the spy being one of them.

What’s more, the spy is likely to receive some or all of the $25 million bounty for al-Baghdadi’s head according to the report.

“We confirmed that (al-Baghdadi) had been moved to Idlib in April of this year,” said Abdi – who wouldn’t reveal when or how his forces first made contact with the ISIS informant. Over the last five months, however, the relationship ‘deepend and expanded dramatically‘ according to the report.

Idlib was an unlikely place for the ISIS leader to hide. The province is largely controlled by other Islamist groups, including one linked to al Qaeda that is often called the Al-Nusra Front. The group has, at times, fought against ISIS. Abdi said al-Baghdadi was hiding among a pocket of supporters, in what was largely unfriendly territory.

The idea that al-Baghdadi was in Idlib was completely unexpected,” Abdi said. “It was a surprise to everyone.

Idlib is a large province with a varied terrain, including hills, canyons, olive groves, and several large towns and cities. Abdi said the spy’s meetings in Idlib were frequent but inconsistent. Kurdish intelligence officials said the spy could not approach the ISIS leader at will, but had to wait to be called for meetings. The face-to-face meetings — ostensibly to talk about security, movements, transportation and setting up future safe houses — would turn out to be critical. –NBC News

In order to determine where exactly al-Baghdadi was staying in Idlib province, the spy had to rely on his senses and memory according to Abdi. Bodyguards for the ISIS leader would pick him up in a car or taxi. Because of his trusted position, he was one of the few al-Baghdadi visitors who did not have to wear a blindfold on the journey. He was simply asked not to look out the car windows.

“When they approached the area, they would ask him to lower his seat so he can’t look around,” said Abdi. “They asked him to lie down, to lower the seat in the taxi.”

Even with the seat down, the spy was able to glean enough of the local topography to tell roughly where he was.

Once inside al-Baghdadi’s hideouts — and there were several, in close proximity to each other — the spy was able to look around freely, the general said.

He started memorizing the internal spaces and distinguishing structural features that could be seen from above, like a red water tank on a roof.

Those details, Abdi said, were fed constantly back to the Kurds and, through them, to American intelligence agencies, enabling U.S. aerial surveillance to pinpoint al-Baghdadi’s final hideout. The descriptions of the compound helped American commandos plan their assault.

He provided information about the house itself, the shape of the house and things to do with the house, the specifications of the house,” Abdi said. –NBC News

“We learned that there was a tunnel in the house,” said Abdi. “We learned how many people in the house, how many guards were in the house. We learned the closest al-Nusra checkpoints near the house. We learned all the security details of the house.”

US intelligence required proof, however, that the informant wasn’t lying. In order to prove himself, the spy stole a pair of al-Baghdadi’s underwear and, later, a blood sample to compare with known samples of the ISIS leader’s DNA from when he had been in US custody in Iraq.

Abdi said the spy stole underwear roughly three months ago from a house al-Baghdadi had previously used and abandoned. He wouldn’t say how the blood was collected, only that it was taken about a month ago. Abdi said both DNA tests matched, proving the spy’s bona fides.

After that, the CIA took this more seriously,” Abdi said. “They began to work hard and serious on the highest level.”

Meanwhile, President Trump’s decision to suddenly pull US troops out of northern Syria and Turkey’s subsequent invasion meant that Kurdish-led forces had to shift their focus on defending themselves.

At the same time, al-Baghdadi was preparing to move locations yet again.

“Al al-Baghdadi had prepared a new house for himself in a different place located in the area of Dera al-Fraat (Jarablus area),” said Abdi. “That house was ready. I assume that within 48 hours he would have left the house to the new house, and the new house was completely different and wasn’t known.”

And while the spy was at the compound when US Special Forces attacked, “He was there and he returned safely with the American forces,” according to Abdi.


Tyler Durden

Thu, 10/31/2019 – 16:25

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2JD41rS Tyler Durden

Cops Destroyed This House To Arrest a Shoplifter. A Federal Court Says Police Don’t Have To Pay for the Damage.

A federal appeals court ruled this week that the Colorado man who had his home destroyed by a police raid in 2015 is not entitled to compensation for the damage, which was severe enough to require a complete demolition of the house.

“Under no circumstances in this country should the government be able to blow up your house and render a family homeless,” Leo Lech, the homeowner, told NPR after the court ruling on Wednesday.

The raid that left Lech and his family homeless had nothing to do with any of them. They weren’t even home when an armed shoplifter broke into their house on South Alton Street in the leafy Denver suburb of Greenwood Village. Although the burglar was armed only with a handgun and was fully barricaded inside the home, local police responded as if they were confronting Osama bin Laden.

“Unleashing a display of force commonly reserved for the battlefield, the tactical team bombarded the building with high-caliber rifles, chemical agents, flash-bang grenades, remote-controlled robots, armored vehicles, and breaching rams—all to extract a petty thief with a handgun,” wrote Jay Stooksberry in the December 2017 issue of Reason. At one point during the two-day operation, the cops drove an armored vehicle through the home’s front door. When it was all over, the house was unlivable. Greenwood Village condemned the structure, forcing Lech to have it torn down, and the city offered a measly $5,000 to cover the damage.

That prompted Lech’s lawsuit, which has been winding its way through federal court for several years. Lech claimed the city was liable because of the Constitution’s takings clause, which forbids governments from taking private property for public use without “just compensation.”

A federal district court ruled in 2016 that the city wasn’t liable. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed; in the ruling issued Wednesday, three judges said police cannot be held liable for damage caused while trying to apprehend a suspect.

“The defendants’ law-enforcement actions fell within the scope of
the police power and actions taken pursuant to the police power do not constitute
takings,” the judges wrote.

Lech did get a $345,000 payout from his homeowner’s insurance, but that was not enough to cover the full value of the home, which was appraised for $580,000. And this payout did not cover the costs of demolition or the loss of other property inside the home. Lech ended up having to take out a $390,000 loan to cover the costs of rebuilding, Stooksberry reported in 2017.

Lech and his attorneys told The Denver Post that they plan to appeal the decision to a full panel on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and could eventually take the case to the Supreme Court.

In a statement to the Post, Greenwood Village’s attorney pointed to a review of the incident conducted by the National Tactical Officers Association, a nonprofit that trains SWAT teams. The police raid that destroyed Lech’s home, the group concluded, was carried out in “in a highly commendable manner.”

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Cops Destroyed This House To Arrest a Shoplifter. A Federal Court Says Police Don’t Have To Pay for the Damage.

A federal appeals court ruled this week that the Colorado man who had his home destroyed by a police raid in 2015 is not entitled to compensation for the damage, which was severe enough to require a complete demolition of the house.

“Under no circumstances in this country should the government be able to blow up your house and render a family homeless,” Leo Lech, the homeowner, told NPR after the court ruling on Wednesday.

The raid that left Lech and his family homeless had nothing to do with any of them. They weren’t even home when an armed shoplifter broke into their house on South Alton Street in the leafy Denver suburb of Greenwood Village. Although the burglar was armed only with a handgun and was fully barricaded inside the home, local police responded as if they were confronting Osama bin Laden.

“Unleashing a display of force commonly reserved for the battlefield, the tactical team bombarded the building with high-caliber rifles, chemical agents, flash-bang grenades, remote-controlled robots, armored vehicles, and breaching rams—all to extract a petty thief with a handgun,” wrote Jay Stooksberry in the December 2017 issue of Reason. At one point during the two-day operation, the cops drove an armored vehicle through the home’s front door. When it was all over, the house was unlivable. Greenwood Village condemned the structure, forcing Lech to have it torn down, and the city offered a measly $5,000 to cover the damage.

That prompted Lech’s lawsuit, which has been winding its way through federal court for several years. Lech claimed the city was liable because of the Constitution’s takings clause, which forbids governments from taking private property for public use without “just compensation.”

A federal district court ruled in 2016 that the city wasn’t liable. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed; in the ruling issued Wednesday, three judges said police cannot be held liable for damage caused while trying to apprehend a suspect.

“The defendants’ law-enforcement actions fell within the scope of
the police power and actions taken pursuant to the police power do not constitute
takings,” the judges wrote.

Lech did get a $345,000 payout from his homeowner’s insurance, but that was not enough to cover the full value of the home, which was appraised for $580,000. And this payout did not cover the costs of demolition or the loss of other property inside the home. Lech ended up having to take out a $390,000 loan to cover the costs of rebuilding, Stooksberry reported in 2017.

Lech and his attorneys told The Denver Post that they plan to appeal the decision to a full panel on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and could eventually take the case to the Supreme Court.

In a statement to the Post, Greenwood Village’s attorney pointed to a review of the incident conducted by the National Tactical Officers Association, a nonprofit that trains SWAT teams. The police raid that destroyed Lech’s home, the group concluded, was carried out in “in a highly commendable manner.”

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Stocks Slump, Gold Jumps On Powell-Pause, Trade-Turmoil, & Dismal-Data

Stocks Slump, Gold Jumps On Powell-Pause, Trade-Turmoil, & Dismal-Data

October ended with the most disappointing macro-economic data since April 2017…

Source: Bloomberg

But stocks were holding up well until China blew it…

China chundered in the trade-deal punchbowl overnight, claiming that a deal was unlikely and despite Kudlow and Trump’s best efforts, the odds of a trade deal tumbled (but remain up on the month)…

Source: Bloomberg

And that crushed the gains in stocks that Powell had created…

Source: Bloomberg

Chinese stocks managed to hold on to gains from post-Golden-Week buying but faded the last few days as reality of the non-deal trade-deal hit investors…

Source: Bloomberg

European Stocks ended October higher with UK’s FTSE lagging and Germany’s DAX leading…

Source: Bloomberg

All major US Stock indices were higher in October, led by Nasdaq (Dow was a laggard) but the last few days has seen selling…

Source: Bloomberg

NOTE that US, Europe, and China all saw stocks rise once China returned from Golden Week

A daft end to the day…

US equity gains came on the back of an almost non-stop short-squeeze…

Source: Bloomberg

Momo ended October just in the red, after a big slide intramonth…

Source: Bloomberg

Defensives and Cyclicals were practically unchanged on the month, thanks to a surge in cyclical risk-taking mid-month…

Source: Bloomberg

Financials outperformed on the month but started to fall back in line with the yield curve in the last few days…

Source: Bloomberg

Smart Money has started to decouple from stocks…

Source: Bloomberg

Equity and credit protection costs collapsed in October…

Source: Bloomberg

Treasury yields were mixed on the month with the short-end lower and 10Y/30Y higher by the end (despite a collapse in yields the last few days)…

Source: Bloomberg

This divergence meant that the yield curve (2s10s) soared in October – its biggest steepening since Dec 2016 (right after Trump elected)…

Source: Bloomberg

The Dollar Index dived in October (after 3 straight months higher), the worst month since Jan 2018, and back in the red for 2019 (back below 200DMA)…

Source: Bloomberg

While the rest of the world appears to be weakening vs the dollar, the dollar itself is losing notable ground against ‘money’…

Source: Bloomberg

Cable soared over 5% in October, the biggest gain since May 2009 (back above 200DMA)…

Source: Bloomberg

Offshore Yuan surged in October, its best gain since January 2019…

Source: Bloomberg

Despite an ugly puke late in the month, Cryptos ended October higher (after 3 down months), led by Bitcoin Cash…

Source: Bloomberg

Bitcoin bounced perfectly off its 200DMA during the month, roaring back above a key trendline…

Source: Bloomberg

Silver soared in October and while the dollar dived, crude ended lower…

Source: Bloomberg

This is silver’s 4th month higher in the last 5, ending back above $18…

Gold managed to end October higher (up 5 of the last 6 months) and back above $1500…

Silver’s outperformance of gold erased September’s relative gains…

Source: Bloomberg

WTI ended back below $55 after three big legs down this week…

Finally, we note that the Fed’s liquidity spigot is wide open and shows no signs of being “fixed”…

Source: Bloomberg

Additionally, after today’s vote to formalize the public phase of the House’s impeachment inquiry, odds of Trump being impeached by the House have risen to 79% BUT the odds of him completing his first term (i.e. a bet that the Senate will reject the impeachment) is at 70%…

Source: Bloomberg

And for those claim that global economic data is bottoming… it’s not!! (October was the worst month since May 2018)…

Source: Bloomberg

And what happens next, now that The Fed has shown their cards…

Source: @StockCats

Could happen, especially given the stock market’s decoupling from Fed expectations…

Source: Bloomberg


Tyler Durden

Thu, 10/31/2019 – 16:02

via ZeroHedge News https://ift.tt/2PCGUBl Tyler Durden