Apparently it's supposed to be a BIG SHOCK!!!1! that the intelligence groups have ways to hack phones and televisions and stuff. I have no idea why, but there you go. The Russians and various rightists (including our favourite pederast) are now alleging that it wasn't Russia who hacked the DNC's computers - it was the CIA. Sure. Why not. (WikiLeaks publishes CIA trove alleging wide scale hacking, CIA Has an “Impressive List” of Ways to Hack Into Your Smartphone, WikiLeaks Files Indicate)
TSA's new "pat-down method" is so "invasive" that they're telling local agents to meet beforehand with local POLICE so that when people report BEING MOLESTED that police blow it off as just new patdown. Of course, this will never be used to cover up sexual assault or anything else. Seriously: I won't get on another US airplane in the US. Somebody will ram their hands up my vag and I will punch them in the face and then _I'll_ go to jail, and it's just not worth it (TSA Introducing New, More Invasive Pat-Down Method).
Trump administration halts California's plans for high-speed rail and infrastructure improvements pretty much speaks for itself. It's not a 100% shutdown, but it's a real attempt to kneecap the state's transit efforts. Because fuck California, apparently.
LGBT issues: Study: Statewide legal same-sex marriage reduced suicide attempts for gay, bisexual youth; Texas conservatives launch massive anti-transgender misinformation campaign,
Alt-Facts: Spokane County sheriff blames Obama for cop deaths, The EPA’s Science Office Removed “Science” From Its Mission Statement
Canada: The Alt-Right Has Eaten the Conservative Leadership Race (This is very discouraging.)
And finally, Russia and Trump Administration Insanity:
Blumenthal: Special prosecutor must probe Trump/Russia ties
A Conspiracy Theory’s Journey From Talk Radio to Trump’s Twitter
Trump's Wiretap Tweets Raise Risk of Impeachment
Russia: The Conspiracy Trap
GOP refuses to back Trump's wiretap claim
Top Trump Ally Met With Putin’s Deputy in Moscow
Before Elections, Dutch Fear Russian Meddling, but Also U.S. Cash
----- 1 -----
Blumenthal: Special prosecutor must probe Trump/Russia ties
By Jim Shay | Connecticut Post
Updated 9:35 am, Monday, March 6, 2017
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal says he will use “every possible tool” to block the nomination of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein until he commits to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
Following Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from involvement in the Russian investigation, it is now the responsibility of the Deputy Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor.
On Monday morning, Blumenthal’s will detail how he would block Rosenstein’s nomination until he commits to appointing a special prosecutor to investigate ties between the Trump administration and Russia.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on Rosenstein’s nomination to serve as Deputy Attorney General.
“Unless Rosenstein commits to appointing a special prosecutor, Blumenthal will use every tool available to block his nomination, including denying unanimous consent and obstructing action on the Senate floor,” the Democratic senator’s office announced in a release.
----- 2 -----
4 GOP senators demand to keep Obamacare Medicaid expansion
By Jennifer Haberkorn | Politico
[Their complaints were not addressed in the final bill, as far as I can tell, so I'm still including this]
Four Republican senators from states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare say they can’t support a draft House repeal bill because it won’t protect people enrolled in the health entitlement — a move that could doom the legislation's prospects.
“We are concerned that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services,” Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. “The February 10th draft proposal from the House does not meet the test of stability for individuals currently enrolled in the program and we will not support a plan that does not include stability for Medicaid expansion populations or flexibility for states.”
Medicaid expansion has emerged as a key friction point in the debate over scrapping the health law. Several Republicans say they’re worried that Americans who obtained coverage under the program would suddenly lose their health insurance and be left without options if the program is rolled back.
The senators' announcement was noteworthy, coming hours before House GOP leaders were expected to unveil a final version of a repeal plan.
----- 3 -----
A Conspiracy Theory’s Journey From Talk Radio to Trump’s Twitter
By PETER BAKER and MAGGIE HABERMAN
The New York Times | MARCH 5, 2017
WASHINGTON — It began at 6 p.m. Thursday as a conspiratorial rant on conservative talk radio: President Barack Obama had used the “instrumentalities of the federal government” to wiretap the Republican seeking to succeed him. This “is the big scandal,” Mark Levin, the host, told his listeners.
By Friday morning, the unsubstantiated allegation had been picked up by Breitbart News, the site once headed by President Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon. Less than 24 hours later, the president embraced the conspiracy in a series of Twitter posts accusing his predecessor of spying on him, setting in motion the latest head-spinning, did-he-really-say-that furor of Mr. Trump’s six-week-old presidency.
Previous presidents usually measured their words to avoid a media feeding frenzy, but Mr. Trump showed again over the weekend that he feeds off the frenzy. Uninhibited by the traditional protocols of his office, he makes the most incendiary assertions based on shreds of suspicion. He does so without consulting some of his most senior aides, or even agencies of his own government that might have contrary information. After setting off a public firestorm with no proof, he then calls for an investigation to find the missing evidence.
To his adversaries, Mr. Trump’s bomb-throwing seems like a calculated strategy to distract from another story he wants to avoid. In this case, they said Sunday, he clearly wanted to turn the conversation away from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who recused himself last week from any federal investigation into the Trump campaign’s links with Russia in response to reports that he had met with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential race. Instead of what Mr. Sessions did or did not do, the Sunday talk shows were dominated by discussion about what Mr. Obama did or did not do.
----- 4 -----
Trump's Wiretap Tweets Raise Risk of Impeachment
March 6, 2017 1:42 PM EST
By Noah Feldman | Bloomberg News
The sitting president has accused his predecessor of an act that could have gotten the past president impeached. That’s not your ordinary exercise of free speech. If the accusation were true, and President Barack Obama ordered a warrantless wiretap of Donald Trump during the campaign, the scandal would be of Watergate-level proportions.
But if the allegation is not true and is unsupported by evidence, that too should be a scandal on a major scale. This is the kind of accusation that, taken as part of a broader course of conduct, could get the current president impeached. We shouldn’t care that the allegation was made early on a Saturday morning on Twitter.
The basic premise of the First Amendment is that truth should defeat her opposite number. “Let her and Falsehood grapple,” wrote the poet and politician John Milton, “who ever knew Truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
But this rather optimistic adage only accounts for speech and debate between citizens. It doesn’t apply to accusations made by the government. Those are something altogether different.
In a rule of law society, government allegations of criminal activity must be followed by proof and prosecution. If not, the government is ruling by innuendo.
Shadowy dictatorships can do that because there is no need for proof. Democracies can’t.
For these reasons, it’s a mistake to say simply that Trump’s accusation against Obama is protected by the First Amendment.
False and defamatory speech isn’t protected by the First Amendment.
And an allegation of potentially criminal misconduct made without evidence is itself a form of serious misconduct by the government official who makes it.
When candidate Trump said Hillary Clinton was a criminal who belonged in prison, he was exposing himself to a libel suit. And the suit might not have succeeded, because Trump could have said he was making a political argument rather than an allegation of fact.
But when President Trump accuses Obama of an act that would have been impeachable and possibly criminal, that’s something much more serious than libel. If it isn’t true or provable, it’s misconduct by the highest official of the executive branch.
----- 5 -----
House GOP releases plan to repeal, replace Obamacare
Dan Mangan | CNBC
6 March 2017
[Included mostly because why does executive pay get more deductible? Oh, because payoff, right]
Congressional Republicans on Monday night finally unveiled their broad plan for replacing Obamacare, which includes killing the requirement that most Americans health insurance or pay a fine.
The GOP proposal also would end or radically changes other aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including terminating Obamacare taxes on the wealthy, while keeping some of its more publicly popular provisions.
Additionally, it would alter the system by which many customers get financial aid to buy insurance on the individual plan market.
The proposal also would remove the $500,000 cap on the amount of executive salaries that insurers can deduct from their taxes as a business expense. Under the bill, insurers could deduct the executives' full pay.
----- 6 -----
Trump administration halts California's plans for high-speed rail and infrastructure improvements
By Walter Einenkel | Daily KOS
Monday Feb 20, 2017 · 8:47 AM PST
The orange-Republican administration has said all kinds of things that it will do to make the United States “great again.” Anyone with half of a brain cell knows that this administration has very little interest in actually coming through on any of his campaign promises. It’s almost like he is pathologically compelled to do the opposite. For example, rebuilding our infrastructure.
In the first big hit to the Bay Area from the Trump administration, newly minted Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has put the brakes on $647 million for Caltrain to go electric — and in the process pretty much killed hopes for high-speed rail coming to San Francisco anytime soon.
“It puts the (electrification) project in serious jeopardy,” Caltrain spokesman Seamus Murphy said Friday.
The hope in California was to begin creating jobs through much needed infrastructure work and upgrades. Our country’s infrastructure, as many already know, is not only an issue of needing basic maintenance, we need to modernize virtually everything.
----- 7 -----
TSA Introducing New, More Invasive Pat-Down Method
By Mary Beth Quirk | Consumerist
6 March 2017
[The new "pat-down method" will apparently be so invasive they're EXPECTING ASSAULT CLAIMS TO RESULT, and are telling local TSA to PRE-WARN POLICE so they aren't taken seriously. Which GUARANTEES that there will be actual gropings with no recourse - cops will have been pre-briefed to dismiss complaints. 100% GUARANTEES it.]
The next time you go through a pat-down at airport security, things might be a bit different: The Transportation Security Administration has a new, more invasive pat-down procedure that some travelers might find unusual. To that end, the agency is warning local police departments that they may see an uptick in reports related to these up close and personal examinations.
The agency is now proactively warning airport officials that people might find these new patdowns odd, notifying employees of “more rigorous” searches that “will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.”
“Due to this change, TSA asked FSDs [field security directors] to contact airport law enforcement and brief them on the procedures in case they are notified that a passenger believes a [TSA employee] has subjected them to an abnormal screening practice,” ACI wrote.
----- 8 -----
Spokane County sheriff blames Obama for cop deaths
Updated 8:44 am, Tuesday, March 7, 2017
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Spokane County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich (Kuh-nez'-oh-vitch) is standing by remarks in which he blamed former President Barack Obama for emboldening people to "hunt and assassinate" law enforcement officers.
Knezovich made the comments Saturday at a conservative rally in Spokane Valley in support of President Donald Trump.
The Republican sheriff told The Spokesman-Review that Obama's rhetoric is part of a broader war on cops that inspired attacks on officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Dallas; New York and other cities.
The chairman of the Spokane County Democrats, Andrew Biviano, is urging the sheriff to tone down his rhetoric and use more nuanced language.
According to the Washington Post, the number of law enforcement officers intentionally killed each year has been steadily declining for decades and reached historic lows during Obama's presidency.
----- 9 -----
The Alt-Right Has Eaten the Conservative Leadership Race
Drew Brown | VICE Canada
7 May 2017
Sorry I meant to write something funny but then the Bernier meme appeared and it generated a completely new set of thoughts so here instead is a Serious Look at wtf is going on in this terminal stage of the CPC leadership race.
Leadership races are beautiful things. They represent the purest expression of the free marketplace of ideas that our political system can handle. Candidates appear as salespeople, hawking both themselves and their vision for the country to a group of rationally self-interested partisan supporters. Through the magic power of competitive forces, the products are honed until the superior one is purchased and/or is given monopoly rights within the party. Or something. I don't know, Conservatives love market metaphors.
But markets are rarely this elegant outside an economics textbook. The dialectic between the leader-commodity and the consumers it seeks to represent/articulate can lead to some pretty warped places. This can happen even under "normal" circumstances (there are no normal circumstances in the fluid history of politics) but things get significantly more unhinged when there are 14 forgettable candidates trying to shout over each other to fractured blocs of Tories at a historical moment when the worldwide right-wing zeitgeist is tracking in some wildly regressive directions. The Conservative leadership race looks less like a marketplace of ideas than a bizarre bazaar.
----- 10 -----
Russia: The Conspiracy Trap
Masha Gessen | The New York Review of Books
7 March 2017
What’s so terrible about Russia? Serious question.
Among the things that unite President Trump and his cabinet picks is their propensity for lying. ProPublica recently offered a list of lies made by Trump nominees in confirmation hearings in Congress, mostly under oath. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt lied when he claimed not to have used a private email account as Oklahoma attorney general (Vice President Mike Pence used one too, as governor of Indiana); Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price lied about a suspect stock purchase; Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin lied about his firm’s history of profiting from the housing crisis; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos lied that she was not involved in her family foundation, which has supported anti-LGBT causes and funded a variety of conservative think tanks and colleges, though tax filings show she has been its vice president for seventeen years. And, as we now know, Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied about contacts with the Russian ambassador.
Lying to Congress is a criminal offense. But Pruitt was confirmed in a 52-46 vote, with two Democrats voting in favor; Price got confirmed 52-47; Mnuchin’s tally was 53-47; and even DeVos, whose utter lack of knowledge about public education led two Republicans to vote against her, squeaked through with a 50-50 vote broken by Vice President Pence. These affirming votes took place despite the fact that it was clear before the decision that the candidates had misled Congress—and despite the fact that each of them supports policies that are deeply threatening to large numbers of Americans.
Lies about Russia are a different matter. Trump’s national security adviser, Mike Flynn, was forced to resign less than four weeks into the new presidency after it emerged that he had lied to Pence about meeting with the Russian ambassador; and Sessions, under bipartisan fire for having lied to Congress about the same thing, now faces calls to step down.
I am, of course, merely pretending not to know what makes Russia so special. For more than six months now, Russia has served as a crutch for the American imagination. It is used to explain how Trump could have happened to us, and it is also called upon to give us hope. When the Russian conspiracy behind Trump is finally fully exposed, our national nightmare will be over.
The backbone of the rapidly yet endlessly developing Trump-Putin story is leaks from intelligence agencies, and this is its most troublesome aspect. Virtually none of the information can be independently corroborated. The context, sequence, and timing of the leaks is determined by people unknown to the public, which is expected to accept anonymous stories on faith; nor have we yet been given any hard evidence of active collusion by Trump officials. As a paragraph deep into a New York Times analysis noted on Friday,
A later building block in the story, which has become its virtual cornerstone, is the joint intelligence report on Russian interference in the campaign, which was released in December and is, plainly, laughable. Is it possible that there is a trove of yet-unleaked classified information that proves that a Russian conspiracy existed, and succeeded in hijacking the American election? Yes, it is. Is it also possible that a few, or many, intelligence officials, who feel, understandably, both insulted by Trump, who has openly and repeatedly denigrated the intelligence establishment, and terrified of what he might do to the country, are using scant or inconclusive evidence to try to undermine his credibility? Yes. What is indisputable is that the protracted national game of connecting the Trump-Putin dots is an exercise in conspiracy thinking. That does not mean there was no conspiracy. And yet, a possible conspiracy is a poor excuse for conspiracy thinking.
The most solid part of the story to date is the hack of the Democratic National Committee, apparently carried out by people connected to Russian intelligence. Hacking, releasing email, and spreading disinformation has been a standard Russian strategy for a number of years. Domestically, these tactics are used to discredit opponents of the regime. Internationally, they are used—and have been used repeatedly in numerous European countries as well as the United States—to disrupt and undermine public trust in Western democracies. This strategy predates email and the Internet and even contemporary Russia—it goes back to the cold war, when the Soviet Union aimed to sow disinformation and build alliances with marginal political players—perhaps not so much because they were the best possible conduits for disruption as because they were the only ones Soviet spies could reach.
For most of its history, the strategy was a colossal waste of money and human resources, probably because Soviet understanding of Western political systems was exceedingly poor. Judging from the memoirs of Soviet defectors, their masters imagined the West exactly as it was portrayed in Soviet propaganda. In a popular 1984 miniseries called “TASS is Authorized to Declare,” for example, a heroic KGB officer exposes an American spy in Moscow. The spy’s handler, an American named John Glabb, not only organizes pro-American military coups in small African countries but also traffics in heroin, which he smuggles in the bodies of babies purchased from impoverished families and killed for CIA purposes. Modern Russian spymasters get their ideas about the West from the West itself—they are generally convinced that the American political system is accurately portrayed by House of Cards. If Russian disruption efforts were more successful during the 2016 American election, it was not because the Russians have become so much better at what they do or have finally developed a sophisticated understanding of American politics—it is because American politics have come to resemble the TV caricatures.
And then this campaign staffed with bottom-feeders won, and talk of Russia’s influence on the outcome—though the Kremlin itself by every indication seems to have assumed a Clinton presidency—has finally reached the point of pushing leading members of Congress to call for an investigation by a special attorney. If a causal relationship between Russian interference and Trump’s 70,000-vote, three-county edge exists, the likelihood that such a relationship can be proved is vanishingly small. Failing that, what might an investigation find? Undoubtedly, it can find that Trump’s associates lied about their contacts with Russian officials—as they lie, habitually, about a great many things. What makes the Russia lies worse than any other?
The answer is intuitive: Republicans in the House and Senate cannot be compelled to call out the Trump administration’s other lies—even when they break the law. And they will do everything in their power to avoid having to, since, as terrible as Trump is, his administration is the best chance in years to push through some of their most far-reaching policy goals, from dismantling health care to lowering taxes and reversing banking reforms. In addition, their constituents voted for Trump, who will unleash a Twitter firestorm in response to any slight, real or imagined. But the fear of being seen as ignoring a primary threat to national security, indeed, as disloyal to the country may, if the media buildup continues, force them to respond to the allegations.
----- 11 -----
WikiLeaks publishes CIA trove alleging wide scale hacking
Raphael Satter and Jack Gillum, Associated Press
Updated 10:43 am, Tuesday, March 7, 2017
WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks on Tuesday released thousands of documents that it said described sophisticated software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.
If the documents are authentic, as appeared likely at first review, the release would be the latest coup for the anti-secrecy organization and a serious blow to the C.I.A., which maintains its own hacking capabilities to be used for espionage.
The initial release, which WikiLeaks said was only the first part of the document collection, included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments, the group said. The entire archive of C.I.A. material consists of several hundred million lines of computer code, it said.
Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
The source of the documents was not named. WikiLeaks said the documents, which it called Vault 7, had been “circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors in an unauthorized manner, one of whom has provided WikiLeaks with portions of the archive.”
WikiLeaks said the source, in a statement, set out policy questions that “urgently need to be debated in public, including whether the C.I.A.’s hacking capabilities exceed its mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency.” The source, the group said, “wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use, proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
The documents, from the C.I.A’s Center for Cyber Intelligence, are dated from 2013 to 2016, and WikiLeaks described them as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.” One former intelligence officer who briefly reviewed the documents on Tuesday morning said some of the code names for C.I.A. programs, an organization chart and the description of a C.I.A. hacking base appeared to be genuine.
Some of the details of the C.I.A. programs might have come from the plot of a spy novel for the cyberage, revealing numerous highly classified — and in some cases, exotic — hacking programs. One, code-named Weeping Angel, uses Samsung “smart” televisions as covert listening devices. According to the WikiLeaks news release, even when it appears to be turned off, the television “operates as a bug, recording conversations in the room and sending them over the internet to a covert C.I.A. server.”
The release said the program was developed in cooperation with British intelligence.
If C.I.A. agents did manage to hack the smart TVs, they would not be the only ones. Since their release, internet-connected televisions have been a focus for hackers and cybersecurity experts, many of whom see the sets’ ability to record and transmit conversations as a potentially dangerous vulnerability.
In early 2015, Samsung appeared to acknowledge the televisions posed a risk to privacy. The fine print terms of service included with its smart TVs said that the television sets could capture background conversations, and that they could be passed on to third parties.
----- 12 -----
Study: Statewide legal same-sex marriage reduced suicide attempts for gay, bisexual youth
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests a link between states legalizing same-sex marriage and fewer attempted suicides among gay, lesbian and bisexual teens.
March 7, 2017
By Dahlia Bazzaz | The Seattle Times
The two-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established marriage rights for same-sex couples is coming up in June. And even before that, 35 states (including Washington, in 2012) passed laws that did the same.
Those laws not only led to more than 100,000 marriages, but a new study suggests they also may have reduced suicide attempts among gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers.
In states that granted same-sex marriage rights before 2015, researchers from Harvard and Johns Hopkins University found a 14 percent decrease in self-reported suicide attempts among teenagers who identify as sexual minorities. In their study, published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers didn’t see the same downward trend in other states.
Julia Raifman, a co-author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the results “suggest we should consider the significant child health impacts” of policy. Raifman also noted that the study did not address suicide attempts among teens who identify as transgender.
----- 13 -----
GOP refuses to back Trump's wiretap claim
Several Republican senators said the president again stepped on his messaging with an unfounded accusation.
By Burgess Everett and John Bresnahan | Politico
President Donald Trump will have to look somewhere besides Republican-controlled Capitol Hill for backup to his explosive and unsubstantiated charge that former President Barack Obama wiretapped Trump Tower before the election.
Trump was reportedly incensed Sunday that Republicans didn’t defend his allegations on the Sunday shows — in fact, several pointedly refused to lend Trump a lifeline when pressed. And more than 48 hours after the initial allegation, Republicans in Congress remained mostly mum as the controversy flared and threatened to create a lingering distraction for them as they try to pass major legislation in the coming weeks.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan offered no comment on the matter. And some of the chief critics of the Obama administration on Capitol Hill said they were aware of no evidence to support Trump’s claim.
“Boy. I have no idea,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, appearing puzzled. “I mean, I don’t know what’s behind it. I’m hoping in the next few days we’ll find out,” said Thune, the chamber’s third-ranking Republican.
----- 14 -----
CIA Has an “Impressive List” of Ways to Hack Into Your Smartphone, WikiLeaks Files Indicate
Jenna McLaughlin | The Intercept
A concerted effort by the CIA produced a library of software attacks to crack into Android smartphones and Apple iPhones, including some that could take full control of the devices, according to documents in a trove of files released by WikiLeaks Tuesday.
The attacks allow for varying levels of access — many powerful enough to allow the attacker to remotely take over the “kernel,” the heart of the operating system that controls the operation of the phone, or at least to have so-called “root” access, meaning extensive control over files and software processes on a device. These types of techniques would give access to information like geolocation, communications, contacts, and more. They would most likely be useful for targeted hacking, rather than mass surveillance. Indeed, one document describes a process by which a specific unit within the CIA “develops software exploits and implants for high priority target cellphones for intelligence collection.”
The WikiLeaks documents also include detailed charts concerning specific attacks the CIA can apparently perform on different types of cellphones and operating systems, including recent versions of iOS and Android — in addition to attacks the CIA has borrowed from other, public sources of malware. Some of the exploits, in addition to those purportedly developed by the CIA, were discovered and released by cybersecurity companies, hacker groups, and independent researchers, and purchased, downloaded, or otherwise acquired by the CIA, in some cases through other members of the intelligence community, including the FBI, NSA, and the NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ , the documents indicate.
Matt Green, cryptographer at Johns Hopkins University, agreed the leak was “impressive,” but concluded there weren’t many “technically surprising” hacks. This lack of originality may have stemmed from a desire on the part of the agency to avoid detection, judging from one document contained in the trove, in which apparent CIA personnel discuss an NSA hacking toolkit known as Equation Group and its public exposure. It was also previously known that the CIA was targeting smartphones; drawing on top-secret documents, The Intercept in 2015 reported on an agency campaign to crack into the iPhone and other Apple products.
----- 15 -----
The EPA’s Science Office Removed “Science” From Its Mission Statement
By Emily Atkin | The New Republic
March 7, 2017
When President Donald Trump took office in late January, his administration began tweaking the language on government websites. Some of the more prominent changes occurred on Environmental Protection Agency pages—a mention of human-caused climate change was deleted, as was a description of international climate talks. The shifts were small, but meaningful; many said they signaled a new era for the EPA, one in which the agency would shy away from directly linking carbon emissions to global warming and strive to push Trump’s “America First” message.
Those initial tweaks were documented by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative, a group of scientists and academics who spend their free time tracking changes to about 25,000 federal government webpages. On Tuesday, they shared their latest finding with the New Republic: The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Policy no longer lists “science” in the paragraph describing what it does.
“This is probably the most important thing we’ve found so far,” said Gretchen Gehrke, who works on EDGI’s website tracking team. “The language changes here are not nuanced—they have really important regulatory implications.”
The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology has historically been in charge of developing clean water standards for states. Before January 30 of this year, the website said those standards were “science-based,” meaning they were based on what peer-reviewed science recommended as safe levels of pollutants for drinking, swimming, or fishing. Since January 30, though, the reference to “science-based” standards has disappeared. Now, the office, instead, says it develops “economically and technologically achievable standards” to address water pollution.
----- 16 -----
House, Senate conservative Republicans plan own Obamacare repeal bill
Tue Mar 7, 2017 | 4:07pm EST
Eric Beech | Reuters
Conservative Republicans in Congress said on Tuesday they oppose aspects of the Republican leadership's healthcare bill and they plan to introduce their own legislation on Wednesday to repeal Obamacare.
U.S. Representative Jim Jordan, a former chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, and Senator Rand Paul told a news conference they would introduce repeal bills in their respective chambers.
----- 17 -----
Top Trump Ally Met With Putin’s Deputy in Moscow
Before the NRA poured more than $30 million into Trump’s election, it met with a notorious Kremlin hardliner, allegedly to discuss a rifle competition.
Tim Mak | The Daily Beast
In March 2014, the U.S. government sanctioned Dmitry Rogozin—a hardline deputy to Vladimir Putin, the head of Russia’s defense industry and longtime opponent of American power—in retaliation for the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
Eighteen months later, the National Rifle Association, Donald Trump’s most powerful outside ally during the 2016 election, sent a delegation to Moscow that met with him.
The meeting, which hasn’t been previously reported in the American press, is one strand in a web of connections between the Russian government and Team Trump: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn both denied speaking with the Russian ambassador, which turned out to be untrue; former campaign manager Paul Manafort supported pro-Russian interests in Ukraine; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson won an “Order of Friendship” from Putin; and then, of course, there’s the hacking campaign that U.S. intelligence agencies say Russian launched to tilt the election in Trump’s favor.
Meeting with Rogozin, a target of U.S. sanctions, is not itself illegal—as long as the two sides did no business together—explained Boris Zilberman, an expert on Russian sanctions at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. But, he noted, it is “frowned upon and raises questions… those targeted for sanctions have been engaged in conduct which is in direct opposition to U.S. national security interests.”
Which raises the question: Why was the NRA meeting with Putin’s deputy in the first place?
The NRA had previously objected to the parts of the U.S. sanctions regime that blocked Russian-made guns from import into the United States. But curiously, David Keene, the former NRA president and current board member who was on the Moscow trip, insisted the meeting with the high-ranking member of the Kremlin government had nothing whatsoever to do with geopolitics.
“Rogozin is chairman of the Russian Shooting Federation and his Board hosted a tour of Federation HQ for us while we were there,” Keene told The Daily Beast. “It was non-political. There were at least 30 in attendance and our interaction consisted of thanking him and his Board for the tour.”
Rogozin tweeted photos of the meetings, writing that they discussed a forthcoming rifle competition in Russia.
But Rogozin is no ordinary Russian official, and his title extends far beyond being merely the chairman of a shooting club. His portfolio as deputy prime minister of Russia includes the defense industry. One issue where Rogozin seems particularly interested is cyberwarfare, which he has heralded for its “first strike” capability. And he’s well-known in Russia for being a radical—often taking a harder line than Putin himself.
----- 18 -----
Texas conservatives launch massive anti-transgender misinformation campaign
Discriminating against transgender people is now a Christian cause.
Zack Ford | Think Progress
Texas’s anti-transgender bill, SB6, is scheduled to have its first hearing on Tuesday, and the debate over whether to impose North Carolina-style bathroom discrimination throughout the state’s schools and public buildings is heating up. There will be a total of three different press conferences at the capitol in Austin on Monday taking different positions on the bill. At Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s (R) conference, there will be a massive new media campaign to reject transgender equality.
According to Patrick, “Operation One Million Voices” will educate pastors across the state to rally support in favor of the bill and against transgender protections.
Leading this effort will be Vision America, an organization founded by Rick Scarborough, the former Baptist preacher who once proposed a class action suit against homosexuality and who has repeatedly said that AIDS is God’s punishment for gay people. He also said he is willing to be burned to death for opposing marriage equality, but so far, that has not transpired.
John Graves, president of Vision America, was on hand at Patrick’s press conference to explain Operation One Million Voices. “We’re very happy to announce, as the lieutenant governor said, over a million Christians that we’re going to educate and mobilize in this process,” he said. According to Graves, they’ve already recruited over 300 pastors from across Texas who represent “over 150,000 people.” Over the next two months, the campaign will educate the pastors to educate the members of their churches “to find out what the truth is on this issue.”
The group’s suggested tagline is, “We choose Mothers over Money, Daughters over the dollar, and Privacy over Predators.”
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Before Elections, Dutch Fear Russian Meddling, but Also U.S. Cash
By DANNY HAKIM and CHRISTOPHER F. SCHUETZE | The New York Times
MARCH 7, 2017
AMSTERDAM — The parochial world of Dutch elections is not often seen as a hotbed of foreign intrigue. But in recent months, an unexpected worry has emerged: the influence of American money.
The country’s fast-rising far-right leader, Geert Wilders, is getting help from American conservatives attracted to his anti-European Union and anti-Islam views. David Horowitz, an American right-wing activist, has contributed roughly $150,000 to Mr. Wilders’s Party for Freedom over two years — of which nearly $120,000 came in 2015, making it the largest individual contribution in the Dutch political system that year, according to recently released records.
By American standards, the amount is a pittance. But to some Dutch, who are already fearful of possible Russian meddling in the election, the American involvement is an assault on national sovereignty.
“It’s foreign interference in our democracy,” said Ronald van Raak, a senior member of Parliament in the opposition Socialist party, who has co-sponsored legislation to ban foreign donations. “We would not have thought that people from other countries would have been interested in our politics,” he said. “Maybe we underestimated ourselves.”
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The Dutch parliamentary elections on March 15 are the kickoff for a pivotal political year in Europe. Other elections loom in France, Germany and possibly Italy. With the viability of the European Union at stake, anxieties are rising about foreign interference, with European intelligence agencies warning that Russia is working to help far-right parties through hacking and disinformation campaigns.
But sympathy for Europe’s far right is also coming from Americans who share similar views and are willing to contribute money to help the cause. Measuring this outside support is difficult, though, because many European countries have leaky, opaque accountability systems on campaign finance.