Posts tagged with "The Guardian"

In 2016, Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks’ Assange in Ecuadorian embassy

November 28, 2018

President Donald Trump’s former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort held secret talks with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he had sought asylum—and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign, The Guardian reported on November 27.

Manafort’s March 2016 visit to Assange lasted about 40 minutes, a source told the news outlet. Just two months later, in June 2016, WikiLeaks emailed Russian intelligence (the GRU) via an intermediary—seeking DNC materials. After failed attempts, Vladimir Putin’s spies sent the Democrats’ documents in mid-July to WikiLeaks as an encrypted attachment.

What’s more, this was not Manafort’s first visit to Assange. The Guardian’s “well-placed” source said that Manafort previously had visited Assanage at the embassy in 2013 and 2015.

Indeed, The Guardian reported, Manafort’s acquaintance with Assange goes back at least five years, to late 2012 or 2013, when the American was working in Ukraine and advising its Moscow-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

However, it is the 2016 encounter that is especially likely to come under scrutiny by Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Just this week, Mueller said that Manafort had “repeatedly lied to the FBI” after he promised to cooperate with the probe in mid-September. The former campaign manager now has been referred by Mueller to the court for sentencing. Whether the secret tête-à-tête in London already has been investigated Mueller’s team is unknown.

According to The Guardian’s report, Manafort, 69, denies involvement in the hack and says the claim is “100% false”. His lawyers declined to answer the Guardian’s questions about the visits.

His defense team says he believes what he has told Mueller to be truthful and has not violated his deal.

One key question is when the Trump campaign, itself, became aware of the Kremlin’s hacking operation—and what, if anything, it did to encourage it. President Trump repeatedly has denied collusion

One person familiar with WikiLeaks said Assange was motivated to damage the Democrats campaign because he believed a future Trump administration would be less likely to seek his extradition on possible charges of espionage. This fate had hung over Assange since 2010, when he released confidential U.S. State Department cables. It contributed to his decision to take refuge in the embassy.

According to the dossier written by the former MI6 Officer Christopher Steele, The Guardian reports, Manafort was at the center of a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and Russia’s leadership. The two sides had a mutual interest in defeating Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Steele wrote, whom Putin “hated and feared.”

Research contact: @lukeharding1968

The humble lanyard gets a high-fashion makeover

September 25, 2018

Lanyards used to be what we made in summer camp and brought home to mom. Today, they are what we wear to work. Our corporate IDs dangle off clips at the end of manufactured, ribbon lanyards—giving us access to high-security areas and identifying us as we pass security.

They are not pretty, but they make us look authoritative, accredited, and authenticated. That was until recently, when the humble lanyard went high fashion, according to a September 24 report by The Guardian.

Now, it seems to be cool to look uncool the news outlet says.

Indeed, three fashion houses recently introduced their own take on the humble lanyard:

Other brands have fallen for the workaday item – ironically, at a price most employees could never afford, The Guardian reports: A Balenciaga leather lanyard will set you back £195 (US$256); its cotton cousin, £175 (US$230). Virgil Abloh’s Off-White fashion line also  has previously mined the around-the-neck look.  Its lanyard wallet costs £305 (US$400)—and has sold out. Streetwear brands Supreme and Palace have their versions, too.

Indeed, lanyards – like socks and bumbags before them – offer a gateway into designer brands. They offer scope for multiple logos to promote the brand, too. Expect to see them all over social media soon, The Guardian says.

Research contact:  @ellsviolet

Use your ‘noodle’: Pastafarianism is not a religion, Dutch court rules

August 17, 2018

The Netherlands Council of State has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion—denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (yes, it’s a real thing) the right to wear a colander on her head in her passport and driver’s license photos. Plaintiff Mienke de Wilde is now considering taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights, according to an August 16 report by The Guardian.

The church was founded in the United States in 2005 by Bobby Henderson in response to a campaign by Christian fundamentalists, advocating the teaching of creationism in schools. In an open letter, Henderson demanded equal time in science classrooms for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, a faith that preaches that the world was created in one day by the Flying Spaghetti Monster—which created a mountain; then, a tree; and finally, a midget. According to a description on Wikipedia, the dogmas of Pastafarianism are centered on references to noodles and pirates, and on parodies of creationist theories.

Among other things, followers wear colanders on their heads in homage to their deity, revere pirates as the original Pastafarians, and vow to reject “crazy nonsense,” be nice to all sentient beings, and eat a lot of pasta. They say that global warming is the result of the decline of the pirate population.

The Netherlands’ highest court ruled that de Wilde, a law student from Nijmegen, could not be exempted on religious grounds from a ban on headwear in official identity photographs, because Pastfarianism was essentially a satire and not a serious faith.

Officially recognised by the New Zealand government, which approved a follower to conduct marriages in 2015, the church’s status is disputed in many other countries—although several have allowed followers to wear colanders or pirate outfits for ID photographs.

Among its tenets, laid down by Henderson in a 2006 parody of organized religion called The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, are eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts.” (According to church gospel, two of the original 10 pseudo-commandments “got lost”). If followed, the Didn’ts allow Pastafarians—who conclude their prayers with “Ramen” rather than “Amen”—to ascend to heaven, where they will find  a stripper factory and a beer volcano.

De Wilde said the church was humorous but that did not mean it was not “very serious in what it stands for.” She was disappointed by the decision, which backed Nijmegen authorities’ rejection of her ID photos.

“I can imagine that it all looks very odd if you don’t believe,” she told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “But that’s the case with many faiths if you don’t believe in them—people who walk on water or divide themselves in two, for example. I find other religions unbelievable.”

The Dutch council of state was not impressed, however, according to The Guardian’s report. “It may be the case that the colander is considered a holy object for Pastafarians, worn in honor of the Flying Spaghetti Monster but there is no obligation to do so,” it said in its ruling.

“In fact, Pastafarianism has no obligations or restrictions. De Wilde has said she wears her colander because she sees it as duty but it is an individual choice.”

Dutch law permits the head to be partially covered for identity photos, but only for genuine religious reasons.

“It is important to be able to criticize religious dogma freely through satire but that does not make such criticism a serious religion,” the council said, adding that Pastafarianism lacked the “seriousness and coherence” required of a religion.

According to Yahoo, there are about 6 billion Pastafarians worldwide, although it is unclear how the site came up with that estimate.

Research contact: @jonhenley

Incels: The scary new ‘ladykillers’

May 8, 2018

On April 22, when a van driven by 25-year-old Alex Minassian jumped the curb in order to mow down pedestrians on a Toronto sidewalk—killing ten and injuring 15 in the worst Canadian mass murder in nearly 30 years—the hate group called Incels further established its “street cred” and celebrated victory.

There are tens of thousands of Incels worldwide, according to an April 24 report by The Irish Times. Most are nonviolent, but Minassian is among a group who are quickly becoming radicalized.

Incel is an abbreviation for involuntary celibates, as they call themselves. Based on a study by Grinnell College, an Incel is at least 21 years of age and has gone six months without a romantic partner—not of his own volition.

While many people of all genders may fit this category, the predominantly heterosexual male Incels agree that the world (women) owes them sex and that they are oppressed for being celibate.

This year, the Southern Poverty Law Center recognized Incels, adding male supremacy—“a hateful ideology advocating for the subjugation of women”—to the dogmas it tracks, because of the ways in which these groups consistently denigrate and dehumanize women; often exhorting physical and sexual violence against them.

The villains of the movement are the Chads and Stacys in the mainstream population. A Chad is a popular and attractive man who has no problems finding dates or sexual partners. A Stacy is the sort of woman who would date and mate with a Chad. In the Incel lexicon, both Chads are Stacys are “normies”—regular people who don’t give Incels a glance.

Just moments before Minassian steered his vehicle onto the sidewalk, he texted, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow the Chads and Stacys. All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.”

Rodger is the cult hero of the ugly and dangerous part of the Incel movement. In 2014, the 22-year-old virgin killed six people and wounded eight as he drove around an Isla Vista campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Rodger left a YouTube account behind with about 20 video clips, entitled variously “Why do girls hate me so much?,” “Life is so unfair because girls don’t want me,” and “My reaction to seeing a young couple at the beach, Envy,” according a a report by The Guardian.

Until the Toronto attack, the movement would largely have been regarded as an insignificant backwater of the broader Manosphere – the network of blogs, forums and websites that focus on issues relating to men.

Now that the hate group subculture of the Incels has been activated, they represent another terrorist group that will keep us all on the alert.

Research contact:

Most Americans support bipartisan bill to protect Mueller

April 13, 2018

Fully 62% of Americans think that Congress should pass a law to block President Donald Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, based on findings of a recent poll conducted by Monmouth University and covered by The Hill.

Following an FBI raid at dawn on April 9 on the offices and hotel room of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in New York City, the POTUS “is edging closer to taking irreversible action against a federal investigation,” according to a report by The Guardian and other media outlets.

And 58% of the U.S. public does not doubt that the POTUS would take such action, according to Monmouth.

To forestall any such attempt, a bipartisan group of senators— Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey)—took the initiative on April 10: They introduced the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act to protect Mueller. The bill would bar the dismissal of the special counsel for any reason but “good cause,” would require that the he be sacked by a Justice Department official—and would provide for a review of the termination and for possible reinstatement of Mueller, if the reasons for the dismissal were not acceptable.

As it to be expected, top Republicans are arguing that the bill is unnecessary. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) said taking up such a measure is not necessary “right now,” The Hill reported.

Research contact:

Republicans strongly support citizenship question on 2020 Census

April 5, 2018

On March 26 Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that he would reinstate a question on legal U.S. citizenship that has not appeared since 1950 on the 2020 Census questionnaire.

The change in policy was greeted by great consternation on the part of Democrats—but was lauded by Republicans. Indeed , a poll of 1,000 U.S. adults released on March 30 by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports organization found that 89% agree that it’s at least “somewhat important” for the government to get as accurate account of U.S. citizens as possible—including 69% who believe that it’s “very important.” Only 25% disagree.

Democrats counter that fewer people will respond to a survey that includes a citizenship question—and that America will collect less population data as a result. Test surveys conducted by the Census Bureau in late 2017 found that some immigrants were afraid to provide information to U.S. Census workers because of fears about being deported.

The Census data is highly important because it is used to determine representation in the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as federal spending allocations and electoral votes by state.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra was the first to file a suit contesting what he called “a bad idea” on March 26, according to ABC News.

The next day, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he would lead a coalition of 18 states, six major cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in filing a lawsuit against the Trump administration for inclusion of the question.

At a press conference announcing the suit, Schneiderman commented, “This is a blatant effort to undermine the Census. Someone from the Trump administration knocking on your door asking about your citizenship status would provoke real fear.”

Schneiderman said the decision to add the question “directly targets” states with large immigrant populations, according to a same-day report by The Guardian.

In an interview with Fox Business, Ross asserted that the question was added at the request of the Department of Justice to protect minorities. “The Justice Department feels they need it so that they can enforce section two of the voting rights act, which protects minority voters,” said Ross.