Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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Apple and Google accused of helping Saudis ‘enforce gender apartheid’

Insider reports: Apple and Google have been accused of helping to “enforce gender apartheid” in Saudi Arabia, by offering a sinister app which allows men to track women and stop them leaving the country. Both Google Play and iTunes host Absher, a government web service which allows men to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel. Absher

The much-heralded end of the Mueller investigation

Mikhaila Fogel and Benjamin Wittes write: Everyone is saying it: The Mueller investigation is winding down. The acting attorney general declared the investigation “close to completion” during a press conference. His wife, Marci Whitaker, has also insisted that the special counsel’s investigation is “wrapping up.” President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general, William Barr, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that, given his public actions, Mueller is “well along” in

Swiss mystery company is at the heart of a Mueller puzzle

The Daily Beast reports: A little-known company located in Switzerland has come under scrutiny by the Special Counsel’s Office for its connection to Psy Group, the firm that created a social-media manipulation plan to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. That’s according to three sources with knowledge of the office’s questioning, and documents obtained by The Daily Beast. Former employees of Psy Group said the FBI interviewed them in

Music: Bugge Wesseltoft — ‘Sender’

 

Trump’s trail of fears

Jamelle Bouie writes: On Saturday, after Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts formally announced her campaign to oust President Trump from the White House, he took aim at her on Twitter. “Today, Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to by me as Pocahontas, joined the race for President,” he said, making a strange, meta-textual reference to his previous tweets before launching into his usual mockery of Ms. Warren’s claims to Native heritage. “Will

Private Mossad for hire

Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow write: One evening in 2016, a twenty-five-year-old community-college student named Alex Gutiérrez was waiting tables at La Piazza Ristorante Italiano, an upscale restaurant in Tulare, in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Gutiérrez spotted Yorai Benzeevi, a physician who ran the local hospital, sitting at a table with Parmod Kumar, a member of the hospital board. They seemed to be in a celebratory mood, drinking expensive bottles

The problematic role of lobbyists in our politics

Tom Friedman 2011: "I hope that Israel’s prime minister understands that standing ovation he got in Congress this year wasn't for his politics. That ovation was bought & paid for by the Israel lobby."Was that an "anti-semitic trope"? Or is it so only when @IlhanMN says it? — Moshe (@Moshelias) February 11, 2019 Listening and learning, but standing strong 💪🏽 pic.twitter.com/7TSroSf8h1 — Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) February 11, 2019 I am

Meet the Republicans in Congress who suddenly discovered anti-Semitism

Think Progress reports: After Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) made comments on Sunday evening that evoked an anti-Semitic trope in suggesting that support for Israel in Congress was due to financial support from pro-Israel organizations like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), congressional Democrats and Republicans alike criticized her remarks. But six of those people have had anti-Semitic moments in their own pasts that make their sudden concern for the

Here’s how the Israel lobby stacks up against other Washington influencers

Market Watch reports: The pro-Israel lobby is a significant player in terms of political donations, contributing $14.9 million in the 2018 election cycle, according to data from OpenSecrets.org, a website tracking money in politics that’s run by a nonpartisan research group, the Center for Responsive Politics. The center ranks this lobby as the 50th-biggest spender in the last cycle — well behind the securities and investment industry at No. 1

U.S. banks won $21 billion Trump tax windfall then cut staff, loaned less

Bloomberg reports: Major U.S. banks shaved about $21 billion from their tax bills last year — almost double the IRS’s annual budget — as the industry benefited more than many others from the Republican tax overhaul. By year-end, most of the nation’s largest lenders met or exceeded their initial predictions for tax savings. On average, the banks saw their effective tax rates fall below 19 percent from the roughly 28

Music: Bugge Wesseltoft — ‘El’

 

Humans cannot survive without them yet within a century the world’s insects may be extinct

The Guardian reports: The world’s insects are hurtling down the path to extinction, threatening a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”, according to the first global scientific review. More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a

A princess from Dubai vanishes. A video offers alarming clues

The New York Times reports: The princess known as Sheikha Latifa had not left Dubai, the glittering emirate ruled by her father, in 18 years. Her requests to travel and study elsewhere had been denied. Her passport had been taken away. Her friends’ apartments were forbidden to her, her palace off-limits to them. At 32, Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum went nowhere without a watchful chauffeur. “There’s no justice here,”

Saudi Arabia’s threadbare cover-up of Khashoggi’s murder unravels further

In an editorial, the New York Times says: The Saudi heir and his friends in the White House evidently calculated that the outcry over the barbarous murder of Jamal Khashoggi would die out over time, and that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would be free to continue on his autocratic way, repressing critics and dissidents with impunity. They were wrong. More than four months have passed since Mr. Khashoggi was

Michael Cohen’s secret agenda

The Washington Post reports: At first, Michael Cohen appeared indifferent as he listened to the group of Republican leaders urge his boss to run for governor. It was the fall of 2013, and Donald Trump was already fixated on “the big thing,” as he referred to running for president. But the Republicans knew they were getting somewhere when Trump signaled to his attorney that he wanted more talks. “So Michael,”

Music: Bugge Wesseltoft — ‘Singing’