Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Trump’s actions raise ‘urgent concern’ inside the intelligence community

In an editorial, the New York Times says: It’s not every day that a whistle-blower in the intelligence community files a complaint about the president of the United States. But it seems to have happened last month, when an unidentified intelligence employee alerted the inspector general of the intelligence community, Michael Atkinson, to multiple acts by President Trump, including a promise he is said to have made to a foreign

How Democrats can mitigate the damage done to the judiciary by Trump and McConnell

Jamelle Bouie writes: Should [Democrats] win a federal “trifecta” — the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives — they’ll still have to deal with a Trump-branded judiciary. It’s entirely possible that a future Democratic agenda would be circumscribed and unraveled by a Supreme Court whose slim conservative majority owes itself to minority government and constitutional hardball. So what should Democrats do? They should play hardball back. Congress,

Are the Amazon fires a crime against humanity?

By Tara Smith, Bangor University Fires in the Brazilian Amazon have jumped 84% during President Jair Bolsonaro’s first year in office and in July 2019 alone, an area of rainforest the size of Manhattan was lost every day. The Amazon fires may seem beyond human control, but they’re not beyond human culpability. Bolsonaro ran for president promising to “integrate the Amazon into the Brazilian economy”. Once elected, he slashed the

DEA seeks major increase in federally-approved cannabis production to meet growth in research needs

The Motley Fool reports: The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had an opportunity to reschedule or de-schedule marijuana back in the summer of 2016 in response to two petitions but chose not to take any action. However, news out of the DEA this past week might signal that the regulatory agency is changing its tune, or at least softening its stance, on marijuana. As reported by Forbes, the DEA has

A ‘culture of cruelty’ in the Border Patrol

The New York Times reports: The Border Patrol, whose agents have gone from having one of the most obscure jobs in law enforcement to one of the most hated, is suffering a crisis in both mission and morale. Earlier this year, the disclosure of a private Facebook group where agents posted sexist and callous references to migrants and the politicians who support them reinforced the perception that agents often view

The miseducation of Brett Kavanaugh

Hanna Rosin writes: Nearly a year after the fateful Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh have become martyrs in separate and hostile galaxies — one for #believeallwomen and the other for those who believe Democrats will use any means necessary to take down good and honorable men. So there is a weird satisfaction in rewinding the story more than 30 years, back to the moment when

Schiff accuses top intel official of illegally withholding ‘urgent’ whistleblower complaint

Politico reports: The nation’s top intelligence official is illegally withholding a whistleblower complaint, possibly to protect President Donald Trump or senior White House officials, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff alleged Friday. Schiff issued a subpoena for the complaint, accusing acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire of taking extraordinary steps to withhold the complaint from Congress, even after the intel community’s inspector general characterized the complaint as credible and

How giving legal rights to nature could help reduce toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie

A severe blue-green algae bloom spreads across western Lake Erie on July 30, 2019. NASA Earth Observatory By Dana Zartner, University of San Francisco August and September are peak months for harmful blooms of algae in western Lake Erie. This year’s outbreak covered more than 620 square miles by mid-August. These blooms, which can kill fish and pets and threaten public health, are driven mainly by agricultural pollution and increasingly

Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: State attorneys general

The Washington Post reports: Historically, the federal government has taken the starring role in competition matters, including investigations into potential monopolies and mergers, and such inquiries involving the tech giants are underway. But the states are potent actors in their own right, with the power to invoke local laws on antitrust and consumer-protection and to tap Washington’s antitrust statutes on behalf of their residents. When state attorneys general have banded

We’re still trapped in the dystopian aftermath of 9/11

Matt Ford writes: The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center was created in 2003 because, as a FAQ on its web site explains, “The 9/11 Commission report found that agencies did not share counterterrorism information in an effective and timely manner.” This is true—to a point. The executive summary of the report recommends the following: “Determine, with leadership from the President, guidelines for gathering and sharing information in the new security systems

Is the Pentagon helping Trump’s Turnberry resort stay afloat?

Politico reports: In early Spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies. What wasn’t routine was where the crew stopped along the way: President Donald Trump’s Turnberry resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland. Since April, the House Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17 military transport plane made the unusual stay —

How an MIT research center concealed its relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

Ronan Farrow reports: The M.I.T. Media Lab, which has been embroiled in a scandal over accepting donations from the financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, had a deeper fund-raising relationship with Epstein than it has previously acknowledged, and it attempted to conceal the extent of its contacts with him. Dozens of pages of e-mails and other documents obtained by The New Yorker reveal that, although Epstein was listed as

Voice-mimicking AI software reportedly used in a major theft

The Washington Post reports: Thieves used voice-mimicking software to imitate a company executive’s speech and dupe his subordinate into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account, the company’s insurer said, in a remarkable case that some researchers are calling one of the world’s first publicly reported artificial-intelligence heists. The managing director of a British energy company, believing his boss was on the phone, followed orders one Friday

The Russians at the heart of Italy’s oil scandal

BuzzFeed reports: Two men with deep ties to top figures in Russian politics are the voices caught on tape negotiating a proposed oil deal to fund Matteo Salvini’s far-right Lega party, according to new analysis revealed today. In July, BuzzFeed News uncovered an explosive audio recording of longtime Salvini aide Gianluca Savoini discussing a plan to covertly channel tens of millions of dollars of Russian oil money toward Lega’s upcoming

U.S. chicken industry accused of conspiring to keep immigrant wages down

Bloomberg reports: Companies producing more than 90% of America’s chicken have conspired to depress wages for a largely immigrant work force in some of the nation’s most dangerous jobs, according to a lawsuit. The case filed last week is mostly based on interviews with former employees, and claims the conspiracy among 18 companies, their subsidiaries and affiliates and two consulting firms continues until today. It was filed on behalf of

Former Tory prime minister to join legal fight to stop Boris Johnson suspending parliament

The Guardian reports: John Major has said he will seek the high court’s permission to join a legal fight to prevent the government from suspending parliament before the Brexit deadline, in an unprecedented legal battle that could pit a former prime minister against the incumbent. The Labour deputy leader, Tom Watson, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, also said they were seeking to join the case brought by the