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2020-02-19 10:38:24 UTC
2020-02-19 17:38:36 UTC
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Many media outlets are saying "Paul Ryan Retires" (For example, Vox's original headline.) This doesn't mean he won't still be there until the new Congress is seated in January 2019.
More and more Republicans are looking at how the 2018 elections are shaping up and deciding they want no part of them--with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) just the latest to announce they won't run for reelection this year.
This makes 25 House Republicans and three GOP senators who are calling it quits, not counting several more who are stepping down to run for another political office (or who have already resigned). That's the highest such number for just one party in decades.
Revealingly, only nine House Democrats and zero Democratic senators have so far made the same choice. (Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota resigned due to scandal, but his seat has already been filled by Tina Smith, who will run this fall.) That's a dramatic discrepancy.
Though the explanations offered for these decisions differ, and though many of these GOP-held seats are in no real danger of flipping to Democrats, these retirements are revealing how members of Congress currently view the national political environment. That is: they think there's a real possibility of a Democratic wave.
But the trend is more meaningful even than that. These very retirements could help make such a wave even bigger, because it's generally easier for the opposition party to flip open seats than it is to knock off incumbents.
[...] According to FiveThirtyEight's numbers, the only time in the past 40 years there's been a bigger partisan discrepancy in [the who's not running for reelection stats] was 2008, which turned out to be a Democratic wave year.
The United States and North Korea have been holding secret, direct talks to prepare for a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, a sign that planning for the highly anticipated meeting is progressing, several administration officials familiar with the discussions tell CNN.
Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo and a team at the CIA have been working through intelligence back-channels to make preparations for the summit, the officials said. American and North Korean intelligence officials have spoken several times and have even met in a third country, with a focus on nailing down a location for the talks.
Although the North Korean regime has not publicly declared its invitation by Kim Jong Un to meet with Trump, which was conveyed last month by a South Korean envoy, several officials say North Korea has since acknowledged Trump's acceptance, and Pyongyang has reaffirmed Kim is willing to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Also at The Hill.
Park became South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office last year when the Constitutional Court ordered her out over a scandal that landed the heads of two conglomerates in jail. The court also fined Park, the daughter of a former military dictator, 18 billion won ($16.9 million) after finding her guilty of charges including bribery, abuse of power and coercion.
"The defendant abused her presidential power entrusted by the people, and as a result, brought massive chaos to the order of state affairs and led to the impeachment of the president, which was unprecedented," judge Kim Se-yoon said as he handed down the sentence.
Up to 1,000 Park supporters gathered outside the court, holding national flags and signs calling for an end to "political revenge" against her.
The court found Park guilty of colluding with her old friend, Choi Soon-sil, to receive about 7 billion won ($6.56 million) each from Lotte Group, a retail giant, and Samsung, the world's biggest maker of smartphones and semiconductors, while demanding 8.9 billion won from SK, an energy conglomerate. Most of the money was intended to bankroll non-profit foundations run by Choi's family and confidants, and to fund the education of Choi's horse-riding daughter, the court said.
Previously: South Korean President Park Geun-hye Impeached
President Park Geun-hye's Impeachment Upheld as South Korea's "Trial of the Century" Begins
Ousted South Korean Leader Behind Bars After Arrest on Bribery Charges
Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Sentenced to Five Years in Corruption Scandal Ruling
The sanctions are part of a crackdown on smuggling of North Korean commodities in violation of UN sanctions resolutions.
The UN Security Council has blacklisted 27 ships, 21 companies and a businessman for helping North Korea breach sanctions, as the United States keeps up pressure on Pyongyang despite its recent overtures towards talks.
The sanctions were passed on a request from the US and they are part of a global crackdown on the smuggling of North Korean commodities in violation of UN sanctions resolutions, which were adopted in response to Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Despite the diplomatic opening, the US has made clear they will keep the pressure on Pyongyang to shift course by pressing on with sanctions.
"We want to thank the members of the Security Council, as well as Japan and South Korea, for working with us to keep up the pressure and for their commitment to implementing UN Security Council resolutions and holding violators accountable," Haley added on Friday.
Twenty-one shipping and trading firms were hit by an assets freeze. Three of them are based in Hong Kong including Huaxin Shipping, which delivered shipments of North Korean coal to Vietnam in October.
Twelve North Korean firms were blacklisted for running ships involved in illegal transfers of oil and fuel, according to the document.
Two other companies, Shanghai Dongfeng Shipping and Weihai World Shipping Freight, also based in China, were blacklisted for carrying North Korean coal on their vessels.
The government of Ecuador has confirmed that it has cut off internet access in its embassy in London to Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing site WikiLeaks, saying that he was putting the country's international relations at risk.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Ecuador said that the step had been taken because Assange had failed to abide by an agreement not to interfere in the South American country's relations with other states.
"The government of Ecuador warns that Assange's behaviour, through his messages on social networks, put at risk the country's good relations with the United Kingdom, the other states of the European Union, and other nations," the statement said.
[...] Ecuador temporarily cut Assange's internet connection in 2016, over fears that he was using it to interfere in the US presidential election, but it was later restored.
North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un has visited Beijing for his first known trip outside of North Korea since he took power in 2011:
North Korea's enigmatic young leader, Kim Jong-un, made an unannounced visit to Beijing, meeting with President Xi Jinping weeks before planned summit meetings with American and South Korean leaders, Chinese and North Korean state news media reported on Wednesday.
[...] Mr. Kim made the trip to China at the invitation of Mr. Xi, North Korea's state-run Korean Central Television reported soon after the announcement in China. Mr. Kim was accompanied by his wife, Ri Sol-ju, as well as by his senior advisers, it said.
Mr. Kim told the Chinese leader that he was open to dialogue with the United States, including a potential summit meeting with President Trump, and was committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, according to an account published by China's news agency Xinhua.
"If South Korea and the United States respond with good will to our efforts and create an atmosphere of peace and stability, and take phased, synchronized measures to achieve peace, the issue of the denuclearization of the peninsula can reach resolution," Mr. Kim said, according to Xinhua's summary of his meeting with Mr. Xi.
Experts remain cynical:
Yang Xiyu, one of China's leading experts on North Korea, said that Mr. Kim was clearly trying to repair the North's deeply strained relations with Beijing, its traditional ally and benefactor, while opening new ties with its enemy South Korea. Even so, Mr. Yang said, that did not signal that Mr. Kim was willing to give up his nuclear arsenal, though he has told South Korean envoys that he was prepared to discuss the possibility. "He is starting a new game where he could make concessions on denuclearization," Mr. Yang said. "At most, he will cut the grass, but he will not pull out the roots."
Submitted via IRC for AndyTheAbsurd
UPDATE, March 23, 2018: President Donald Trump signed the $1.3 trillion government spending bill—which includes the CLOUD Act—into law Friday morning.
"People deserve the right to a better process." Those are the words of Jim McGovern, representative for Massachusetts and member of the House of Representatives Committee on Rules, when, after 8:00 PM EST on Wednesday, he and his colleagues were handed a 2,232-page bill to review and approve for a floor vote by the next morning.
In the final pages of the bill—meant only to appropriate future government spending—lawmakers snuck in a separate piece of legislation that made no mention of funds, salaries, or budget cuts. Instead, this final, tacked-on piece of legislation will erode privacy protections around the globe.
[...] As we wrote before, the CLOUD Act is a far-reaching, privacy-upending piece of legislation that will:
- Enable foreign police to collect and wiretap people's communications from U.S. companies, without obtaining a U.S. warrant.
- Allow foreign nations to demand personal data stored in the United States, without prior review by a judge.
- Allow the U.S. president to enter "executive agreements" that empower police in foreign nations that have weaker privacy laws than the United States to seize data in the United States while ignoring U.S. privacy laws.
- Allow foreign police to collect someone's data without notifying them about it.
- Empower U.S. police to grab any data, regardless if it's a U.S. person's or not, no matter where it is stored.
From the Vox:
Many American pundits seem to firmly believe that the country stands at a precipice in which young, left-wing college students and recent graduates are the leading edge of a rising tide of illiberalism that comes in the form of “political correctness” and poses a clear and present danger to free speech and rational discourse.
[...] The alarm about student protesters, in other words, though not always mistaken about particular cases, is generally grounded in a completely mistaken view of the big-picture state of American society and public opinion, both on and off campus.
[...] Since the 1970s, the General Social Survey has posed a question about whether five hypothetical speakers should be allowed to give a speech in your community — a communist, a homosexual, an opponent of all religion, a racist, and a person who favors replacing the elected government with a military coup.
Justin Murphy of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom aggregated trend data about all five kinds of speakers and found that public support for free expression has been generally rising
The Guardian has an article about a whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica, who claims to have devised a strategy to "weaponize" Facebook profiles, in order to use those profile for targeted advertising to sway the US elections in 2016.
(The Guardian headline titles are often crap). I read a few older articles, presumably by the same author: she had a series of articles in March--May 2017 about Cambridge Analytica being used as a weapon to convince British voters to vote for Brexit in the referendum. It seems that her investigative journalism encouraged this wistleblower to "come out" and be interviewed by her.
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others (Churchill), but when does advertising cross the line into psychological warfare against your own population?
Additional coverage at The Register
"The blockchain method primarily used by those engaging in cryptocurrency transactions is a decentralized mechanism where all the information is stored in blocks, can be viewed and altered by registered users. In the case of Sierra Leone elections, allows the votes to be seen by voters who are registered within the system, in the public ledgers, but only allowed authorized persons to make any changes, this, in turn, prevents the chances of fraud since the voting information is available to all the blockchain users."
I would personally like it if they would explain the mechanics of their so-called "blockchain" to us mortals.
As I understand a blockchain, it is an extensible data structure that (when used in a bitcoin context) incorporates sequentially applied, recursively structured self-referential checksum mechanisms to counter efforts at tampering with the contents of the blocks; usually, via recursive encryption.