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Cardi B speaks out on government shutdown

Image: Mel Evans/AP/Shutterstock

As Donald Trump’s partial shutdown of the U.S. government approaches the end of its first (and hopefully last) month, every little bit helps. Jon Bon Jovi is doing his part.

The ’80s rocker — he’s had quite an accomplished career, but memories of Slippery When Wet will never fade — owns and operates New Jersey’s JBJ Soul Kitchen with his wife and business partner, Dorothea. The two have offered to treat any furloughed federal employees to a free lunch on Monday.

“Since founding the Soul Kitchen, we wanted to ensure that anyone struggling with food insecurity had a place to go,” the pair said in a statement, via NBC Philadelphia. “This Monday, we will be open for lunch as a way to create a place of support and resources for furloughed federal workers, many of whom are our friends and neighbors.”

The meals will be offered in partnership with the Murphy Family Foundation, a charitable organization founded by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy and First Lady Tammy Murphy. Monday, January 21, marks Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

The statement went on to add that additional free meals for federal employees “will be determined by turnout, feedback and demand, and will be announced at a later date.” Federal employees should bring proof of employment if they want to get in on this.

JBJ Soul Kitchen isn’t your typical restaurant. Founded in 2011, the self-described “community restaurant” serves three-course meals paid for by a suggested $20 donation. According to its website, the restaurant will still serve those who can’t afford the donation. 

The partial U.S. government shutdown that began on Dec. 22 has left roughly 800,000 federal employees temporarily out of work or working without pay. It’s the longest shutdown in U.S. history and the second of Trump’s troubled tenure as president.

Read more: https://mashable.com/article/bon-jovi-restaurant-us-government-shutdown-free-lunch/

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The week that took Windrush from low-profile investigation to national scandal

Britains reputation has been shattered by the cruelty of the governments immigration policy

For the past six months, the Guardian has highlighted case after case of Home Office brutality towards the Windrush generation, describing how retirement-age citizens who have lived and paid taxes in the UK for decades have been detained, made homeless, sacked or denied benefits and NHS treatment because they have struggled to prove they are British. Seven days ago, the government had barely acknowledged the scandal.

Everything changed this week. In the space of five days, the prime minister was forced to apologise twice for the hurt caused to victims, while the home secretary said she was sorry for the appalling actions of her own department and issued a strong rebuke to her staff. Amber Rudd said she was concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual.

What happened to prompt this sudden admission of culpability? How was it possible for the government to ignore for so long the Guardians detailed reports of the tragic problems unleashed on passport-less Windrush-era citizens by Theresa Mays flagship immigration policy, the hostile environment for illegal migration, that she launched in 2013 as home secretary?

A series of articles were published in the Guardian, prompting shock from our readers and indifference from the government. We documented the cases of people such as Paulette Wilson, 61 (former kitchen worker at the House of Commons, made homeless, detained and threatened with removal to Jamaica, after 50 years in the UK), Michael Braithwaite, 66 (sacked as a special needs teaching assistant after 56 years in the UK), Hubert Howard, 61 (sacked and unable to visit his dying mother after 49 years in UK), and Albert Thompson (not his real name, denied NHS cancer treatment and told it would cost him 54,000 after four decades paying taxes).

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Top row, left to right: Elwaldo Romeo, Paulette Wilson, Renford McIntyre. Bottom row: Michael Braithwaite, Sarah OConnor and Anthony Bryan. Composite: Martin Godwin/Fabio de Paulo/David Sillitoe/Alicia Canter for the Guardian

These were people who had contributed for decades and whose lives had been destroyed by Home Office harassment over their immigration status. All of them are here legally, but none of them have the documentation to prove it. Mays tightened immigration rules mean officials have begun demanding to see papers, often targeting those who they suspect (judging by accents and skin colour) may not have them.

When the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, raised Thompsons case with May in parliament last month, she said she was not aware of it. Obviously the prime minister is busy, and maybe doesnt read the Guardian much, but it is curious that no one in her office thought this issue serious enough to brief her on it.

It reveals something about Britain that these cases did not attract noisy universal condemnation sooner. Several victims speculated on whether this would have happened to them if their skin were a different colour. The fact that some of these cases go back two or three years and never made the headlines, and were not highlighted by MPs, also says something uncomfortable about racism in this country.

Q&A

What is the Windrush deportation crisis?

Who are the Windrush generation?

They are people who arrived in the UK after the second world war from Caribbean countries at the invitation of the British government. The first group arrived on the ship MV Empire Windrush in June 1948.

What is happening to them?

An estimated 50,000 people face the risk of deportation if they never formalised their residency status and do not have the required documentation to prove it.

Why is this happening now?

It stems from a policy, set out by Theresa May when she was home secretary,to make the UK ‘a really hostile environment for illegal immigrants‘. It requires employers, NHS staff, private landlords and other bodies to demand evidence of peoples citizenship or immigration status.

Why do they not have the correct paperwork and status?

Some children, often travelling on their parents passports, were never formally naturalised and many moved to the UK before the countries in which they were born became independent, so they assumed they were British. In some cases, they did not apply for passports. The Home Office did not keep a record of people entering the country and granted leave to remain, which was conferred on anyone living continuously in the country since before 1 January 1973.

What is the government doing to resolve the problem?

On Monday, the home secretary Amber Ruddannounced the creation of a new Home Office teamdedicated to ensuring that Commonwealth-born long-term UK residents would no longer find themselves classified as being in the UK illegally.

Photograph: Douglas Miller/Hulton Archive

When she was filled in on Thompsons case, Mays response was tough. Thompson needed to evidence his settled status in the UK, she said, apparently unaware that this was precisely what he was unable to do: the Home Office demands copious evidence, records have been destroyed and officials did not accept (as you would expect) his decades of tax payments. In response to every case the Guardian raised, Home Office staff issued statements saying the affected people needed to get legal advice and submit the correct applications. They were apparently unaware that legal aid cuts made that impossible, and that Home Office fees were prohibitively expensive for people who were borderline destitute after losing their jobs and being denied benefits.

Things changed after the Barbados high commissioner, Guy Hewitt, revealed that Downing Street had rejected a formal request from 12 Caribbean heads of government to discuss the problem with May at the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, which opened in London on Monday. On Sunday, Hewitt said it was regrettable. Within 24 hours, Labours David Lammy had gathered 140 MPs from all parties to sign a letter calling on the prime minister to act, and Rudd apologised in the Commons and set up a dedicated Windrush hotline.

This did little to stem the spiralling crisis. The Guardians revelation on Tuesday that thousands of Windrush-era landing slips were destroyed in October 2010 caused fresh embarrassment for the government. An ex-Home Office whistleblower said employees in his department told their managers that it was a bad idea to destroy the documents, because they were often the last remaining record that could be checked, in the event of uncertainty over an individuals arrival date in the UK. The cards could offer crucial evidence of a pre-1973 arrival, which holds the key to securing a British passport.

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‘National day of shame’: David Lammy criticises treatment of Windrush generation video

Both Downing Street and the Home Office did their best to play down the significance of the revelation, offering various and shifting bits of information about what had happened, and stating that it would be misleading and inaccurate to suggest that registration slips would have any bearing on Commonwealth immigration cases. However, further whistleblowers immediately contacted the Guardian to say Home Office staff had routinely used landing card information as part of their decision-making process, and to detail the emergence of a gotcha attitude among some staff, who enjoyed catching applicants out.

Throughout the week there were political spats about whether or not any Windrush-era citizens had actually been deported; this was largely a red herring, because deportation is just one of many ways that people are affected. There was a squabble between Corbyn and May over when the decision to destroy the cards was made, and who knew, but this was also a red herring. The key point was that the documents were destroyed under Mays watch, and she went on to introduce rules just two years afterwards that had the effect of requiring people to gather documentary evidence of their arrival in the UK.

The spiralling scandal completely overshadowed the Commonwealth heads of government meeting, just when the government had hoped to confirm post-Brexit ties with old allies. On the night before a rapidly scheduled meeting with Caribbean leaders (an embarrassing Downing Street U-turn), the mother of Dexter Bristol, who died last month after being sacked for having no papers, told the Guardian she believed the stress caused by his immigration problems was responsible for his death. Bristol had been in the UK for 49 years, arriving here when he was eight. Calling on May to resign, his mother, Sentina, said her son was the victim of the governments racist policies.

Its worth watching footage of Mays awkward apology to Caribbean leaders. She admits quite casually that she was responsible for the whole catastrophe, stating that the issue had come to light because of measures that we introduced recently and suggesting it was merely a bureaucratic concern for those people who now needed to evidence their immigration status. She made no mention of the pain caused to thousands.

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Theresa May apologises for treatment of Windrush generation video

Meanwhile, Thompson was upset that although May had told the Commons he would get the treatment he needs, no one had bothered to get in touch to explain whether or when he would receive the radiotherapy that was supposed to start in November. He is still waiting for an explanation, and would like an apology.

Dozens of Windrush victims have contacted the Guardian and accounts of 19 ruined lives have been published. Each one is devastating. People have told of parents who left the Caribbean to seek better lives in the UK, often saving up for years before they could afford to bring their children to join them; of working hard in vital, low-paid public service jobs and often being too poor to contemplate holidays, so never applying for passports. More stories are coming.

The link between the prime ministers policies and this tragedy is clear. It will be impossible for her to reconcile her central role in the Windrush scandal with her earlier pledge to shake off the Conservative nasty party tag and her words on the steps of Downing Street when she became prime minister in July 2016. She promised to fight injustice and make Britain a country that works for everyone . In the same speech, she noted that if youre black, youre treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if youre white. The same could be said for her Home Office.

None of the Windrush victims interviewed by the Guardian over the past six months are happy today. This is a scandal that has caused untold damage to Britains reputation.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/20/the-week-that-took-windrush-from-low-profile-investigation-to-national-scandal

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This Miracle Fuel Has a Few Problems

In the space of an hour on a recent evening, a couple dozen cars refilled their gas tanks at a Valero service station just off the Redwood Highway in Mill Valley, a northbound stop on the way into California’s Marin County. During that time, the only pumping station that sat mostly unused was the cobalt blue one supplying hydrogen fuel. The hydrogen pump received only three visitors: two of the 3,800 hydrogen-powered sedans on California’s roads, each looking for a quick fill-up, and one old station wagon that parked there for a few minutes. An attendant who’s worked at the Valero for three years says that’s a pretty busy day for the hydrogen pump, which usually fuels one car per hour.

That’s not much of a return on the roughly $100 million California has spent over the past several years to build fueling stations for hydrogen vehicles. Each of the 31 hydrogen pumps around the state cost at least $2.5 million and was heavily subsidized with funds from the public and from Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., and other automakers. Demand, however, remains so low that even with subsidies, they aren’t busy enough to turn a profit. (A typical fill-up costs customers about $45, but that’s heavily subsidized, and most lessors cover fuel costs.)

At Governor Jerry Brown’s direction, the state is spending more than $2.5 billion in clean energy funds to accelerate sales of hydrogen and battery vehicles. That includes $900 million earmarked to complete 200 hydrogen stations and 250,000 charging stations by 2025. A larger hydrogen network will help make the market more sustainable, the thinking goes—part of a kitchen sink approach to reducing carbon emissions alongside electric cars. Brown’s office referred requests for comment to the California Energy Commission, which said in a statement that the governor aims to have 5 million zero-emission vehicles on state roads by 2030, and that hydrogen is a part of that calculus.

The question is whether the money would be better spent on charging stations and other support for the state’s 360,000 plug-in electric vehicles. “There are still some kinks to work out,” says Joe Gagliano, infrastructure development manager at the California Fuel Cell Partnership, a group of state agencies and hydrogen proponents. “Hydrogen is coming out of left field for most consumers.”

So far, California is the only place in North America where drivers can buy a fuel cell vehicle and have some confidence they can get it refueled. “Competition is pretty scarce right now,” says Shane Stephens, chief development officer of FirstElement Fuel Inc., which built 16 of California’s 31 stations with $28 million in state grants. Most of the existing single-pump stations can fill 50 tanks to 60 tanks a day. Sometimes there’s a wait at the pumps, but mostly the nozzles hang limp, devoid of cars to feed.

On the occasions when two or more cars line up to fill at the same time, the second car typically has to wait an extra few minutes after the first car is done, because gas pumped under high pressure begins to freeze a single pump’s nipple, condensing moisture from the air into ice. Several newer, two-pump stations have helped address this problem, but California still needs more trucks to deliver supplies of hydrogen for the stations. (The state is subsidizing the refills for eight years.)

For decades, hydrogen advocates have called the Earth’s most abundant element the future of clean energy. But the occasional pilot programs around the world and those fueling stations in California have consistently failed to find traction, typically because of high costs and limited usability. Meanwhile, plug-in electrics have leapt ahead, thanks to Elon Musk and swift declines in lithium ion battery costs. California’s network of public charging stations now tops 14,000, well beyond the 9,000 gas stations that power the state’s roughly 25 million fossil fuel vehicles.

Stephens says the gap is beginning to narrow, if slightly. With continued government support, he says, FirstElement will be profitable in a couple of years and won’t need subsidies a decade from now. “We’re seeing uptake accelerate,” he says. Gagliano, who drives a hydrogen car himself, says that once people master the learning curve, they’ll appreciate hydrogen cars’ longer range (400 miles, compared with 300 for a typical Tesla) and shorter fill-up time (about four minutes, vs. at least a half-hour for the fastest battery-charging stations). “Filling up your first time is a little intimidating, but after that it’s no different than a gas pump,” Gagliano says.

Jim Collins, an investor who commutes to San Francisco from Tiburon in a hydrogen-powered Honda Clarity, says there are enough stations in the Bay Area to keep his car’s fuel cell running on the local trips he needs, but he wouldn’t have leased it if the state hadn’t put up $5,000 to lower the $400-a-month lease and kept subsidizing the fuel. Even brief disruptions of the refueling network, he says, can be a serious problem. When a station wasn’t working a week earlier, he switched to driving an old Saab. “This technology obviously isn’t ready for prime time,” he says.

California’s hydrogen power advocates say the next phase of the state’s fuel pump development will remain an early step along a path that’s likely to take decades. “We understand the skeptics,” Gagliano says. “What we’re doing now is just the tip of the spear. This is about getting to zero emissions by 2050.” But there’s little to suggest that consumers will be satisfied with similar standards 30 years from now, says Claire Curry, a technology analyst for Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “I’m skeptical,” she says. “I’d be surprised if we aren’t all getting around in a battery electric by then.”

    BOTTOM LINE – Governor Brown has earmarked millions more dollars of state funds to subsidize hydrogen pump installations and refills. That may not be the easiest way to cut carbon emissions.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-05/california-should-focus-on-electric-cars-not-hydrogen-fuel

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    Immigrants Group Sues Trump for Ending Refugee Program

    Haitian and Salvadoran refugees sued President Donald Trump, claiming his administration’s decision to end protections that allowed them to stay in the U.S. was "tainted by racial animus."

    The lawsuit, filed in Boston federal court, seeks to block the administration from ending the Temporary Protected Status program that allowed thousands of people from countries experiencing a humanitarian or environmental crisis to live legally in the U.S.

    While prior administrations have extended the protection for Haitian and Salvadoran immigrants, the Trump administration acted with "invidious discrimination" and racial bias, violating Constitutional rights to equal protection under the law, the plaintiffs said.


    "President Trump has made no secret of his racist views," said Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, which filed the lawsuit. "The administration’s decision to terminate TPS for El Salvador and Haiti manifests these discriminatory views."

    Katie Waldman, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the office doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

    TPS has been in place for Salvadorans since the country was struck by a series of devastating earthquakes in 2001. Haitians won the protection after a 2010 earthquake.

    In January, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen announced the administration was ending the program for Salvadoran immigrants, giving them until Sept. 9, 2019 to leave or be deported. The Trump administration months earlier terminated protection for Haitians with a July 22, 2019, deadline.

    TPS Children

    According to the group, there are 242,900 Salvadorans and 93,500 Haitians living in the U.S. under the program. The Salvadorans have 192,700 children who were born in the U.S., while the Haitians have 27,000 children who are U.S. citizens, according to the complaint.

    Nielsen has used "flawed analysis" in concluding that both countries have now "stabilized," according to the lawsuit, which says the administration ignores how the people have established themselves in the U.S. “These individuals have homes, jobs and families.”

    The plaintiffs include Juan Carlos Vidal, a Salvadoran from Revere, Massachusetts, who worked his way from a kitchen assistant to owning four restaurants in the Boston area after getting the protection in 2001.

    The suit cites comments Trump made, including his assertion that African immigrants who have seen America would never "go back to their huts" and cited Trump saying policies should encourage immigration from countries like Norway. The complaint is the second to accuse the administration of racial bias after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued in January.

    "The animus directed toward Latino and Black immigrants is a clear and unfortunate thread running through President Trump’s statements — and is actualized by his Administration’s policies, such as the ones challenged by this lawsuit," the group said.

    A separate lawsuit filed Thursday in Brooklyn federal court challenges what the practice of depriving certain TPS holders from becoming lawful permanent residents.

    The government is violating the Administrative Procedures Act, a statute which governs the way in which federal agencies propose and establish regulations, by refusing to recognize that TPS holders have been been deemed lawfully "inspected and admitted" into the country, according to the complaint.

    In the New York suit, which seeks class-action or group status, the plaintiffs asked the judge to declare ending TPS is unlawful.

    The Massachusetts case is Centro Presente v. Trump, 18-cv-10340, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).

    The New York case is Moreno v. Nielsen, 18-cv-1135, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-22/immigrants-group-sees-trump-as-racist-in-ending-refugee-program

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      Meet Antifa’s Secret Weapon Against Far-Right Extremists

      The email arrived just as Megan Squire was starting to cook Thanksgiving dinner. She was flitting between the kitchen, where some chicken soup was simmering, and her living room office, when she saw the subject line flash on her laptop screen: “LOSer Leak.” Squire recognized the acronym of the League of the South, a neo-­Confederate organization whose leaders have called for a “second secession” and the return of slavery. An anonymous insider had released the names, addresses, emails, passwords, and dues-paying records of more than 4,800 members of the group to a left-wing activist, who in turn forwarded the information to Squire, an expert in data mining and an enemy of far-right extremism.

      Fingers tapping across the keyboard, Squire first tried to figure out exactly what she had. She pulled up the Excel file’s metadata, which suggested that it had passed through several hands before reaching hers. She would have to establish its provenance. The data itself was a few years old and haphazardly assembled, so Squire had to rake the tens of thousands of information-filled cells into standardized sets. Next, she searched for League members near her home of Gibsonville, North Carolina. When she found five, she felt a shiver. She had recently received death threats for her activism, so she Googled the names to find images, in case those people showed up at her door. Then she began combing through the thousands of other names. Two appeared to be former South Carolina state legislators, one a firearms industry executive, another a former director at Bank of America.

      Once she had a long list of people to investigate, Squire opened a database of her own design—named Whack-a-Mole—which contains, as far as anyone can tell, the most robust trove of information on far-right extremists. When she cross-checked the names, she found that many matched, strengthening her belief in the authenticity of the leak. By midafternoon, Squire was exchanging messages via Slack with an analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a 46-year-old organization that monitors hate groups. Squire often feeds data to the SPLC, whose analysts might use it to provide information to police or to reveal white supremacists to their employers, seeking to get them fired. She also sent several high-profile names from the list back to the left-wing activist, who she knew might take more radical action—like posting their identities and photos online, for the public to do with what it would.1

      February 2018. Subscribe to WIRED.

      Sean Freeman

      Squire, a 45-year-old professor of computer science at Elon University, lives in a large white house at the end of a suburban street. Inside are, usually, some combination of husband, daughter, two step-children, rescue dog, and cat. In her downtime she runs marathons and tracks far-right extremists. Whack-a-Mole, her creation, is a set of programs that monitors some 400,000 accounts of white nationalists on Facebook and other websites and feeds that information into a centralized database. She insists she is scrupulous to not break the law or violate Facebook’s terms of service. Nor does she conceal her identity, in person or online: “We shouldn’t have to mask up to say Nazis are bad. And I want them to see I don’t fit their stereotypes—I’m not a millennial or a ‘snowflake.’ I’m a peaceful white mom who definitely doesn’t like what they’re saying.”

      Though Squire may be peaceful herself, among her strongest allies are “antifa” activists, the far-left antifascists. She doesn’t consider herself to be antifa and pushes digital activism instead of the group’s black-bloc tactics, in which bandanna-masked activists physically attack white supremacists. But she is sympathetic to antifa’s goal of silencing racist extremists and is unwilling to condemn their use of violence, describing it as the last resort of a “diversity of tactics.” She’s an intelligence operative of sorts in the battle against far-right extremism, passing along information to those who might put it to real-world use. Who might weaponize it.

      As day shifted to evening, Squire closed the database so she could finish up cooking and celebrate Thanksgiving with her family and friends. Over the next three weeks, the SPLC, with help from Squire, became comfortable enough with the information to begin to act on it. In the shadowy world of the internet, where white nationalists hide behind fake accounts and anonymity is power, Whack-a-Mole was shining a searchlight. By mid-December, the SPLC had compiled a list of 130 people and was contacting them, to give them a chance to respond before possibly informing their employers or taking legal action. Meanwhile, the left-wing activist whom Squire had separately sent data to was preparing to release certain names online. This is just how Squire likes it. Hers is a new, digitally enabled kind of vigilante justice. With no clear-cut rules for just how far a citizen could and should go, Squire has made up her own.

      “I’m the old lady of activism,” says Megan Squire, a professor of computer science at Elon University.

      João Canziani

      Squire grew up near Virginia Beach in a conservative Christian family. She has been involved in left-leaning movements since she was 15, when her high school environmental club took a trip to protest the pollution from an industrial pig farm. “I loved the activist community,” she says, “and saying things we weren’t supposed to say.” After getting degrees in art history and public policy from William & Mary, she became interested in computers and took a job as a secretary at an antivirus software company, working her way up to webmaster. She eventually got a PhD in computer science from Nova Southeastern University in Florida and moved to North Carolina to work at startup companies before landing a job teaching at Elon. Between classes she could often be spotted around town waving signs against the Iraq War, and in 2008 she went door to door campaigning for Barack Obama. But Obama’s failure, in her view, to live up to his rhetoric, compounded by the Great Recession, was “the turning point when I just threw in the towel on electoral politics,” she says. She plunged into the Occupy movement, coming to identify as a pacifist-anarchist, but she eventually became disillusioned with that as well when the movement’s “sparkle-fingers” utopianism, as she puts it, failed to generate results. In 2016, she cast a vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

      Donald Trump’s campaign, though, gave Squire a new sense of mission: “I needed to figure out what talents I had and what direct actions I could do.” When a mosque in the nearby city of Burlington was harassed by a local neo-Confederate group called Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County, she decided to put her skills to use. ACTBAC was using Facebook to organize a protest against the opening of the mosque, so Squire began scraping posts on the page that threatened to “kick Islam out of America.” She submitted her findings to the SPLC to get ACTBAC classified as a hate group, and to the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, which started an investigation into the group’s tax-exempt nonprofit status. She also organized a counterprotest to one of the group’s rallies, and it was at this event and others like it where she first became acquainted with the black-clad antifa activists. She was impressed. “They were a level of mad about racism and fascism that I was glad to see. They were definitely not quiet rainbow peace people.” Over the following months, she began feeding information to some of her new local antifa contacts. As white pride rallies intensified during 2017’s so-called Summer of Hate—a term coined by a neo-Nazi website—Squire began to monitor groups outside of North Carolina, corresponding with anonymous informants and pulling everything into her growing Whack-a-Mole database. Soon, in her community and beyond, antifa activists could be heard whispering about a new comrade who was bringing real, and potentially actionable, data-gathering skills to the cause.

      The first big test of Whack-a-Mole came just before the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, August 12. In the weeks before, because of her database, Squire could see that nearly 700 white supremacists on Facebook had committed to attend the rally, and by perusing their posts, she knew they were buying plane tickets and making plans to caravan to Charlottesville. Her research also showed that some of them had extensive arrest records for violence. She sent a report to the SPLC, which passed it on to Charlottesville and Virginia law enforcement. She also called attention to the event on anarchist websites and spread the word via “affinity groups,” secret peer-to-peer antifa communication networks.

      “Antifa was a level of mad about racism and fascism that I was glad to see. They were definitely not quiet rainbow peace people.”

      The night before the rally, Squire and her husband watched in horror on the internet as several hundred white supremacists staged a torch-lit march in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, chanting “Jews will not replace us!” The next morning, the couple got up at 5 am and drove more than 150 miles through rain and mist to Virginia. At a crowded park, she met with a half-dozen or so activists she knew from North Carolina, some of them antifa, and unfurled a banner for the Industrial Workers of the World. (She’d joined the Communist-inspired labor organization in December 2016, after witnessing what she considered its well-organized response to KKK rallies in North Carolina and Virginia.) Just before 10 am, the white supremacists began marching into Emancipation Park, a parade of Klansmen, neo-Nazis, militia members, and so-called alt-right adherents, armed with everything from homemade plexiglass shields to assault weapons. Squire screamed curses at the white supremacists by name—she knew them because she had their information on file in Whack-a-Mole and had memorized their faces. At one point, a group of clergy tried to blockade the white supremacists, and Squire linked arms with other activists to protect them. A petite woman, she was pushed aside by men with plexiglass shields. Fights broke out. Both sides blasted pepper spray. Squire put on a gas mask she’d been carrying in a backpack, but the pepper spray covered her arms, making them sting.

      After the police finally separated the combatants, Squire and dozens of other counter­protesters took to Fourth Street in triumph. But then, a gray Dodge Challenger tore down the street—and rammed into their backs. The driver, who had marched with the white nationalists and was later identified as James Alex Fields, missed Squire by only a few feet. She stood on the sidewalk, weeping in shock, as the fatally injured activist Heather Heyer lay bleeding in the street.

      Recounting the event months later, Squire began to cry. “I had all this intelligence that I hadn’t used as effectively as I could have. I felt like I’d wasted a chance that could have made a difference.” When she returned home, she threw herself into expanding Whack-a-Mole.

      Squire, center, marches through the streets of Asheboro, North Carolina, to protest the KKK.

      Daniel Hosterman

      One morning in December, I visited Squire in her small university office. She had agreed to show me the database. First she logged onto a foreign server, where she has placed Whack-a-Mole to keep it out of the US government’s reach. Her screen soon filled with stacks of folders nested within folders: the 1,200-plus hate groups in her directory. As she entered command-line prompts, spreadsheets cascaded across the screen, each cell representing a social media profile she monitors. Not all of them are real people. Facebook says up to 13 percent of its accounts may be illegitimate, but the percentage of fakes in Squire’s database is probably higher, as white nationalists often hide behind multiple sock puppets. The SPLC estimates that half of the 400,000-plus accounts Squire monitors represent actual users.

      Until Whack-a-Mole, monitoring white nationalism online mainly involved amateur sleuths clicking around, chasing rumors. Databases, such as they were, tended to be cobbled together and incomplete. Which is one reason no one has ever been able to measure the full reach of right-wing extremism in this country. Squire approached the problem like a scientist. “Step one is to get the data,” she says. Then analyze. Whack-a-Mole harvests most of its data by plugging into Facebook’s API, the public-facing code that allows developers to build within Facebook, and running scripts that pull the events and groups to which various account owners belong. Squire chooses which accounts to monitor based on images and keywords that line up with various extremist groups.

      Most of the Whack-a-Mole profiles contain only basic biographical sketches. For more than 1,500 high-profile individuals, however, Squire fills out their entries with information gleaned from sources like the SPLC, informers, and leaks. According to Keegan Hankes, a senior analyst at the SPLC, Squire’s database “allows us to cast a much, much wider net. We’re now able to take a much higher-level look at individuals and groups.”

      In October, after a man fired a gun at counterprotesters at a far-right rally in Florida, SPLC analysts used Squire’s database to help confirm that the shooter was a white nationalist and posted about it on their blog. Because so much alt-right digital data vanishes quickly, Whack-a-Mole also serves as an archive, providing a more permanent record of, say, attendees at various rallies. Squire’s database has proven so useful that the SPLC has begun laying the groundwork for it to feed directly into its servers.

      “I don’t have any moral quandaries about this. I know I’m following rules and ethics that I can stand up for.”

      Mark Peterson/Redux

      When Squire sends her data to actual citizens—not only antifa, but also groups like the gun-toting Redneck Revolt—it gets used in somewhat less official ways. Before a neo-Nazi rally in Boston this past November, Squire provided local antifa groups with a list of 94 probable white nationalist attendees that included their names, Facebook profiles, and group affiliations. As one activist who goes by the pseudo­nym Robert Lee told me, “Whack-a-Mole is very helpful. It’s a new way to research these people that leads me to information I didn’t have.” He posts the supposed identities of anonymous neo-Nazis and KKK members on his blog, Restoring the Honor, which is read by journalists and left-wing activists, and on social media, in an effort to provoke the public (or employers) to rebuke them.

      Lee is careful, he says, to stop short of full-on doxing these individuals—that is, publicizing more intimate details such as home addresses, emails, and family photos that would enable electronic or even real-world harassment against them. Squire says that’s why she feels comfortable sending him information. Of course, once a name is public, finding personal information is not that hard. In the digital age, doxing is a particularly blunt tool, one meant to terrorize and threaten people in their most private spaces. Celebrities, private citizens, left-wing activists, and Nazis have all been doxed. The tactic allows anonymous hordes of any persuasion to practice vigilante justice on anyone they deem evil, problematic, or just plain annoying. As the feminist video­game developer and activist Zoe Quinn, who has been doxed and brutally harassed online, has written: “Are you calling for accountability and reform, or are you just trying to punish someone—and do you have any right to punish anyone in the first place?”

      Squire has been doxed herself. Pictures of her home, husband, and children have been passed around on racist websites. She has received death threats and terrorizing voicemails, including one that repeated “dirty kike” for 11 seconds. Elon University has fielded calls demanding she be fired. On Halloween, Confederate flags were planted in her yard. Still, though Squire fears for her family’s safety, she keeps going. “I’m aware of the risks,” she says. “But it seems worth it. That’s what taking a stand is.”

      Members of Berkeley’s antifascist group block an Infowars reporter from covering a rally.

      Mark Peterson/Redux

      After Charlottesville, Squire considered, in her anger and grief, publicly releasing the entire Whack-a-Mole database. It would have been the largest-ever doxing of the far right. But she worried about the consequences of misidentification. Instead, she worked with her regular partners at the SPLC and activists she trusts. At one point the SPLC contacted a university about a student whom Squire had identified as a potentially violent member of the League of the South. The university did not take action, and she thought about tossing the student’s name to the ever-ravenous social media mobs. But here too, she reasoned that when you have someone’s life at your fingertips, you need rules. If the university wasn’t willing to act, then neither was she. It was, for her, a compromise, an attempt to establish a limit in a national moment pointedly lacking in limits.

      Critics might still argue that public shaming of the kind Squire promotes constitutes a watered-down form of doxing, and that this willingness to take matters into their own hands makes Squire and her cohort no better than vigilantes. As David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, says of Squire’s work: “Is it ethical to digitally stalk people? It may not be. Is it legal? Probably, as long as she doesn’t hack into their accounts and she’s collecting information they post publicly on an open platform like Facebook.” But he warns that limiting speech of anyone, even white supremacists, starts down a slippery slope. “Political winds can shift across time. Liberals who might cheer at a university limiting neo-Nazi speech also have to worry about the flip side of that situation when someone like Trump might penalize them in the future.”

      As far as Squire is concerned, there’s a clear difference between protected speech and speech that poses an imminent threat to public safety. “Richard Spencer yelling about wanting a white ethno-state after events like Charlottesville—it’s hard to argue that kind of speech doesn’t constitute danger.”

      Ultimately, Squire sees her work as a type of “fusion center”—a government term for a data center that integrates intelligence from different agencies—for groups combating white nationalism. And she admits that she is outsourcing some of the ethical complexities of her work by handing her data off to a variety of actors. “But it’s the same as how Facebook is hypocritical in claiming to be ‘just a platform’ and not taking responsibility for hate. Every time we invent a technology to solve a problem, it introduces a bunch more problems. At least I’m attentive to the problems I’ve caused.” Squire sees herself as having to make difficult choices inside a system where old guidelines have been upended by the seismic powers of the internet. White nationalists can be tracked and followed, and therefore she believes she has a moral obligation to do so. As long as law enforcement keeps “missing” threats like James Alex Fields, she says, “I don’t have any moral quandaries about this. I know I’m following rules and ethics that I can stand up for.”

      After Charlottesville, some white supremacist groups did find themselves pushed off certain social media and hosting sites by left-wing activists and tech companies wary of being associated with Nazis. These groups relocated to platforms like the far-right Twitter clone Gab and Russia’s Facebook-lite VK. Squire sees this as a victory, believing that if white nationalists flee to the confines of the alt-right echo chamber, their ability to recruit and organize weakens. “If the knowledge that we’re monitoring them on Facebook drives them to a darker corner of the internet, that’s good,” she asserts.

      That doesn’t mean Squire won’t follow them there. She has no plans to stop digitally surveilling far-right extremists, wherever they may be. After Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right rally, was unverified on Twitter, he joined VK. His first post read, “Hello VK! I’d rather the Russians have my information than Mark Zuckerberg.” The declaration was quickly scooped up by Squire. She had already built out Whack-a-Mole to track him there too.


      The Free Speech Issue

      • Tech, Turmoil, and the New Censorship: Zeynep Tufekci explores how technology is upending everything we thought we knew about free speech.
      • “Nice Website. It Would Be a Shame if Something Happened to It.”: Steven Johnson goes inside Cloudflare's decision to let an extremist stronghold burn.
      • Please, Silence Your Speech: Alice Gregory visits a startup that wants to neutralize your smartphone—and un-change the world.
      • The Best Hope for Civil Discourse on the Internet … Is on Reddit: Virginia Heffernan submits to Change My View.
      • 6 Tales of Censorship: What it's like to be suspended by Facebook, blocked by Trump, and more, in the subjects’ own words.

      Doug Bock Clark (@dougbockclark) wrote about Myanmar’s digital revolution in issue 25.10. His first book, The Last Whalers, comes out in July.

      1 Correction appended, 1/22/2018, 2:58 PM EDT: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Squire sent names from the LOSer Leak spreadsheet to another contact. She only sent them back to the person she received the spreadsheet from.

      This article appears in the February issue. Subscribe now.

      Listen to this story, and other WIRED features, on the Audm app.

      Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/free-speech-issue-antifa-data-mining/

      Read More

      The Many Faces of Five Star Are Winning Votes All Over Italy

      In Daniele Abate’s Sicilian home town, many people don’t even have running water, and he blames the politicians. So the former cook will be voting for Five Star on March 4.

      At the other end of the country, across the economic divide that runs through Italy, a third of small company owners in Vicenza plan to do the same, according to Luigino Bari, who runs a local business association. They want tax cuts and deregulation, he says.

      As an uncertain country gears up for a crucial election, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement is demonstrating a rare ability to appeal to disaffected voters across geography and social strata. Its eclectic mix of environmentalism, euro-skepticism and widely questioned promises on taxes and benefits offers something for anyone with an ax to grind about the way Italy has been run.

      Luigi Di Maio, leader of Five Star.
      Photographer: Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images

      “It’s a catch-all party,” said Piergiorgio Corbetta, a political science professor at the University of Bologna. “There are many reasons to vote for Five Star.”

      With four weeks to go, polls show Five Star may have provided enough reasons to secure one of the biggest victories yet for populists in western Europe. With an outright majority still a distant prospect and few natural allies in parliament, the party is still likely to be kept out of office by an alliance of establishment groups. But their success highlights the challenge facing the next administration.

      “Whatever color of government Italy ends up with, they will weigh heavily on the debate,” said Marc Lazar, a professor at Sciences Po in Paris. “When you take almost 30 percent of the vote, you are a reality that must be dealt with.”

      Since starting as an internet-based campaign group in 2009, Five Star’s rise has been driven by support in places like Abate’s home region of Trapani, which was found to have the lowest quality of life among Italy’s 110 provinces by La Sapienza University last year.

      Abate has been living off a 280-euro ($350) disability pension each month since his knee gave out a few years ago, forcing him to give up kitchen work. He’s 53, but looks older and struggles to stand. For Abate, the appeal of Five Star is its pledge to take on the privileges of lawmakers and civil servants in Rome.

      QuicktakeItaly’s Election

      “We work for many years and barely get a thing,” he said, sitting in the main square of his hometown of Alcamo near a 17th century church. “They serve for a few months and can retire.’’

      The key to electoral success for Five Star leader Luigi Di Maio will be pushing into Italy’s wealthier north. While the party won 40 percent of the vote in Trapani in the last national elections 2013, it got 25 percent in the manufacturing center of Vicenza near Venice.

      Vicenza’s entrepreneurs are also frustrated with the status quo, regardless of the recent pickup in growth. They are demanding cuts to business taxes and regulations, and investment in the single-lane roads crowded with trucks carrying products from the region’s factories.

      “It’s clear that the traditional parties have made promises that they haven’t kept,” said Bari, 64, who wouldn’t say who he’ll be voting for.

      Roberto Castiglion
      Source: Comune di Sarego

      Just down the road, the 7,000 inhabitants of Sarego elected the first Five Star mayor in the northeastern Italy in 2012. Roberto Castiglion, a 37-year-old IT manager, was re-elected last year with an increased vote.

      Most of Castiglion’s work as mayor has involved the environment, installing solar panels and increasing recycling, but he says the party is very keen to help local businesses which ship factory machinery, adult diapers and leather goods around the world.

      “In this country, we are drowning in norms and regulations,” he said.

      “Five Star is saying the right things to small businesses, but there is some hesitancy,” said Remigio Bisognin, the 63-year-old founder of a 14-employee Sarego firm that stamps plastic parts. “We don’t really know these people.’’

      One source of concern for business leaders has been Five Star’s past threats to pull Italy out of the euro. Bisognin says mistakes were made introducing the single currency but it’s too late to go back now, and Di Maio has walked back his comments. It’s a move that broadens the party’s appeal in the north without hurting its base in the south.

      “The euro is not something we worry about,” said Gaetano Milazzo, a 40-year-old tax collector as he talked to friends where the warren of narrow streets opens out into Alcamo’s square. “Some houses here get water one day a week and there’s hardly any public transport.”

      Indeed, parts of the sprawling town of 45,000 aren’t even connected to the water mains and Domenico Surdi, the 34-year-old lawyer Five Star mayor since in 2016, says the existing pipes hadn’t been maintained for decades when he took office.

      With no budget for repairs, Surdi has had to improvise. He’s aiming to raise the amount of garbage that’s recycled to 70 percent from about 60 percent to save about 1 million euros a year on trash hauling.

      “We’ve been mismanaged for so long,” said Abate. “The problems won’t go away overnight.”

        Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-02-02/the-many-faces-of-five-star-are-winning-votes-all-over-italy

        Read More

        Watch these shows, not ‘Teleprompter Trump’s’ State of the Union speech, tonight

        Image: bill clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc.

        Once upon a better time, watching the State of the Union address each year was considered a civic duty. Now that Trump is president, it’s rightly considered a spectacular waste of time. 

        Last year, Trump successfully read off a teleprompter for an hour straight and was deemed “presidential” by a bunch of CNN talking heads who somehow make more money than you. Few in the punditocracy cared about whether Trump would actually follow up on his promises. They were just thrilled to learn that our nation’s commander-in-chief was borderline literate.

        Don’t make the same mistake these people did, or maybe you even did last year. Don’t watch the SOTU. Change the channel and learn something.

        Below are a list of far superior programs, most with slightly civic bents, that are either broadcasting at the same time as the State of the Union or are available on popular streaming sites. All of these programs contain far more valuable information than anything you’ll find in Stephen Miller’s State of the Union. Bonus! They won’t crush your fumbling little soul.

        1. The Florida Project

        This movie wasn’t a contender for Best Picture because — surprise! — Academy voters can be shitty. The Florida Projecthits both iTunes and Amazon today. A percentage of sales will go to Community Hope Center, a nonprofit that serves low-income people in Kissimmee, Florida, until February 5th.

        2. The Black Panther trailer on repeat

        Trump’s SOTU will probably last about 58 minutes longer than the Black Panther trailer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t watch this on repeat until you fall asleep, safe and sound and free of GIFs of Trump’s mouth spit.

        3. High Maintenance

        I highly encourage you to backwatch Season 2 of this highly underrated Brooklyn-based stoner comedy on HBO tonight. I’d send you my password if 20,000 people could agree not to use it at the same time. Cool?

        4. A blank wall and/or a meaningless patch of kitchen tiles

        Staring at a blank wall is a consistently more uplifting experience than watching Trump do anything at all.

        5. Fixer Upper

        HGTV’s Fixer Upper will air at the same time as the SOTU on the East Coast. What it lacks in civic education it more than makes up for in meaningful insights about toilet installation.

        6. All the President’s Men

        With the Russia investigation fully underway, it’s important to look back to a quaint old time when lawmakers weren’t beholden to evil brothers and held members of their own party accountable. Available on iTunes, YouTube, Amazon, Vudu, and Google Play.

        7. The Chi

        The next episode of this Lena Waithe series doesn’t air until February 11th. That gives you plenty of time to watch earlier episodes on Showtime about this Chicago community where Trump once promised to “send in the Feds,” Oh my god.

        8. Law and Order

        Wherever you are in the United States, no matter what kind of cable package you have, you have access to Law and Order. I can guarantee you that anything that comes out of Mariska Hargitay’s mouth > than anything that comes out of Paul Ryan’s sycophantic little face. 

        9. Lovesick

        Lovesick, available now on Netflix, is a clever British sitcom about a man who contracts an STD and is forced to tell all of his previous partners. Yes, even chlamydia humor is superior to the details about Trump’s immigration plan.

        10. Drunk History

        A new episode of Drunk History premieres tonight at  10 pm EST. If you can’t wait that long and feel compelled to watch the SOTU, suppress that impulse and watch a earlier Season 5 episode at 9:30 pm. Stay safe and Trump-free, people!

        11. This old YouTube clip I found of Supermarket Sweep

        It is far more valuable to learn the price of Tide in 1992 than the details of Trump’s opioid crisis plan that he will never, ever implement.

        12. FDR’s State of the Union Address from 1941

        Widely considered one of the best SOTU addresses, FDR famously outlined four freedoms “everyone in the world” should be entitled to: freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. I’d like to revise FDR’s fears to include “freedom from Trump,” but since that’s not entirely possible, “freedom to change the channel” will have to do.

        Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/01/30/trump-sotu-alternatives-to-watch/

        Read More

        Kushners Deutsche Bank-Backed Property Stung by Tenant Troubles

        In a six-floor retail space near Times Square, the Guy Fieri restaurant has closed and construction hasn’t begun on celebrity chef Todd English’s food hall. A tourist attraction featuring a 1/87th scale model of New York City was behind on rent for two months as of December, according to loan documents.

        It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

        When Kushner Cos. bought the property for $296 million in 2015, then-Chief Executive Officer Jared Kushner had big plans to capitalize on the tens of millions of tourists who visit the area every year. Deutsche Bank AG financed the endeavor before selling most of the debt to investors across Wall Street a year ago. Those investors were shown disclosures describing the retail space as 100 percent occupied and estimating it would throw off $24 million of rent annually.

        But Fieri, English and Gulliver’s Gate, the operator of the miniature Manhattan, account for $9.9 million of that rent estimate, which underpinned a market-defying appraisal boost and helped justify $370 million of loans, the disclosures show. Problems with these spaces could make the economics challenging.

        Documents Requested

        Last year, New York prosecutors requested documents from Deutsche Bank related to the property, where the Kushners used the debt to take out $59 million in cash. It isn’t clear what prosecutors are looking for. But mortgages granted under generous financial assumptions then sold to others who will bear the risk have piqued their interest in other cases. A spokesman for the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Deutsche Bank.

        Despite the turbulence, Kushner Cos. says it isn’t worried.


        “We are very happy with this investment and continue to meet all our financial obligations and will continue to do so in the future,” Christine Taylor, a spokeswoman, said in an email.

        Gulliver’s Gate was cited due to a technicality and payments were only a few days late, she said. The company has a letter of intent for the Fieri space from a prestigious tenant at a higher rent, and the operator of the food hall is making final adjustments to its plan, she added, saying the changes are increasing the value of the property and will attract more visitors.

        A spokeswoman for Gulliver’s Gate said that it “is up to date on their rent and paid in full on their lease” and there are “no concerns” about its future there.

        Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, left his role in the family company when he joined the administration a year ago and divested from some assets. He says that, to avoid conflict of interest, he’s no longer involved in the business.

        Watch List

        New managers of the loans bought from Deutsche Bank have taken notice of the property’s issues. Even if they were brief, the missed payments by Gulliver’s Gate, the second most lucrative tenant, triggered a clause in the Kushners’ loan documents allowing creditors to demand any excess cash from the property until the problem was resolved, according to reports from debt servicers. Managers also put the retail space on watch lists for potentially troubled debt because it lost money for nine months through September 2017 after accounting for interest payments, the reports show. That’s because new tenants were given millions in free rent, a common tactic used to fill store spaces. Kushner Cos. set aside $11 million of the loans for the free rent. Disclosures don’t describe that figure as including funds for vacancies.

        Bumps in the road are common when repositioning buildings, which can take years to reach full earning potential. But the retail tenants at the former New York Times building at 229 West 43rd Street posed special risks. Disclosures for potential lenders show that none had a credit rating from Fitch, Moody’s Investors Service or S&P Global Inc., unlike many large retail properties that tend to be anchored by stores with known credit profiles.

        Full Occupancy?

        In truth, maintaining full occupancy looked tough from the start. When the debt was sold to investors, the 500-seat Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar had been beset by negative reviews, and Todd English and his partners hadn’t yet taken possession of the space for his food hall. The chef, who has pulled out of another project, was scheduled to open for business there last April. Gulliver’s Gate, reportedly a $40 million endeavor, had not yet opened and was an untried competitor amid the glitz of Times Square.

        On a recent Monday afternoon, the area reserved for Todd English was empty and unfinished with no sign of construction. Banners hung outside read “AFI Retail,” the name of a subsidiary of the building’s previous owner.

        “We continue to work towards delivering this project,” Richard A. Chinsammy, executive vice president of Outstanding Hospitality Management Group, English’s partner for the food hall, wrote in an email. A spokeswoman for English said the restaurant is now scheduled to open in December.

        Logos Pulled

        Logos for Fieri’s restaurant had been ripped from windows, though a large metal sign remained above the doorway. A spokeswoman for Fieri declined to comment.

        Upstairs, about 50 people were visiting Gulliver’s Gate. Two attendants said it was busier on weekends. Tickets for the 49,000-square-foot space filled with miniature buildings are $36 for adults and $27 for children and seniors. Tickets are also included with purchases of nearby hotel rooms, according to online reviews.

        When Kushner Cos. bought the property in 2015 from Africa-Israel, the distressed firm of Russian diamond magnate Lev Leviev, online retailers were ascendant, and the future of brick-and-mortar stores was uncertain. So filling the property with tenants offering experiences seemed smart.

        Ocean Odyssey

        In addition to Todd English and Gulliver’s Gate, Kushner signed National Geographic, whose “Encounter: Ocean Odyssey” promises an “incredible underwater journey” without any danger of getting wet. Bowlmor Lanes — with bowling, an arcade and party spaces — was already there. Neither tenant has been reported to have any problems.

        The expected surge in income preceded a new appraisal in October 2016 at $445 million plus additional cash in accounts, indicating a stunning growth in value that far outstripped the broader Manhattan retail market, which had suffered a slowdown. Against that valuation, the $370 million of loans represented only 83 percent of the value, the investor disclosures showed. But Moody’s and Kroll, the risk-assessment firm, found in independent calculations that the loans exceeded the value.

        Four Trusts

        Deutsche Bank’s $285 million loan to Kushner Cos. was divided into four trusts with pieces of other loans to be sold to investors as commercial mortgage-backed securities. All told there are 163 loan pieces in the trusts, but only seven have been flagged on watch lists — including the four Kushner chunks. The Kushners received another $85 million in high-interest loans from SL Green Realty Corp. and Paramount Group.

        In determining how much in interest payments the property could handle, underwriters estimated that costs to manage it would run about $4 million, disclosures show. If it achieved full rent of $24 million, that would indicate a modest cushion after making interest payments: about $18 million annually, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. But any loss of tenants with no immediate replacements could change those numbers quickly.

        The situation might get worse before it gets better. In an October legal complaint against the Plaza Hotel, which contains a Todd English restaurant, the chef is accused of sexual harassment. In November, S&P downgraded the debt of another tenant, Guitar Center, saying it thought a potential debt restructuring could occur in the next six months, “a transaction that we would view as tantamount to a default.” A Guitar Center spokeswoman declined to comment.

        Entertainment venues are more likely to experience money crunches in an economic slump than traditional retailers, Kroll said in its March report on the property and its debts. “This may subject the loan to increased risk of default and loss,” the firm said.

        Still, there are worse venues to hunt for new tenants than Times Square, which commands the highest retail rents in the city after Fifth Avenue.

          Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-19/kushner-s-deutsche-bank-backed-property-stung-by-tenant-troubles

          Read More

          Hellish summer of hurricanes smashes FEMA

          (CNN)“We need help.”

          I’ve heard them spat in anger and mumbled in resignation and from California, you can hear them choked through smoke and fear in real time as 2017 explodes the ranks of America’s fastest growing demographic: Disaster survivor.
          Nearly 5 million Americans have registered for federal aid since Labor Day; more victims than Hurricanes Katrina and Wilma and Superstorm Sandy combined.
          But the man in charge of answering all those pleas is sounding his own cry for help. FEMA Administrator Brock Long, chosen by Donald Trump to be the nation’s top emergency manager, wants everyone to understand three fundamental truths:
          1. FEMA is broke.
          2. The system is broken.
          3. If this is the new normal, Americans can’t rely on a federal cavalry when disaster strikes. They will have to take care of themselves.
          “I haven’t even been here for six months yet, and what I hope to do is inform Americans about how complex this mission is,” Long says. “I didn’t come up here to do status quo, I’m ready to change the face of emergency management.”
          But out in the disaster zones, that’s a tough sell.
          “If you could talk to the head of FEMA, what would you tell him?” I ask Samantha McCrary, one of the millions of summer of ’17 survivors and the creator of a homemade relief camp in Rockport, Texas.
          “I’d tell him to pull his head out of his ass.”
            Long winces when I play him the clip.
            He has the look of a man who hasn’t slept much since hurricane and wildfire season began and his staff has worked such long hours, many have hit a congressionally mandated pay cap and must give back portions of their overtime pay.
            But he agreed to meet me at FEMA headquarters in Washington to hear a recovery report card from folks I met while retracing the paths of Harvey, Irma and Maria.

            Texas after Harvey

            Most will remember Hurricane Harvey for the water. They remember all those boats on boulevards as Houston became a giant concrete bowl full of rain, but in the beloved tourist town where Harvey came ashore, they remember the wind.
            The storm stalled over Rockport for 13 hours and months later, the proof of its strength is piled in the center of Highway 35, where semi-trucks haul the broken pieces of people’s lives.
            One big truck holds 100 cubic yards of debris. By some estimates, this little town devoted to bird watching, art and the sea will fill 200,000 truckloads.
            “Right here, on my right, is an example of one of our apartment buildings,” Mayor Charles Wax says as he drives past a demolished complex. “There is not a single apartment building operating in this entire city, so all of these people who were renting these apartments are all displaced. They are somewhere. We don’t know where, and we don’t know when and or if they will return.”
            With all five of his main attractions damaged or blown away, Wax worries about an economic death spiral for Rockport. “We had over 1,300 businesses operating in the community. As of last week, we had 360 that reopened,” he tells me in late November.
            On the outskirts of town, there’s proof the federal response can seem as fickle as the storm itself. After Harvey trashed their uninsured mobile home, Bo and Rene Carettini were delighted to receive a brand new, three-bedroom, three-bath modular home, but they admit it is much more than one couple needs.
            “It wasn’t something that we had expected,” Rene says, walking through her new kitchen. “We have a travel trailer and figured we’ll stay in there. When they called about this, I was like, ‘But I didn’t sign up for it.” She says they offered to take something smaller, but FEMA insisted.
            Meanwhile at Samantha McCrary’s pop-up relief camp, she points to a family with special needs children sleeping in their car while an expectant mother lives in a tent in her backyard.
            “How does that make sense?” she says, after her colorful suggestion for Long and his head.
            “I identify with Samantha’s frustrations. When you and your neighbors have lost everything you’ve worked for, it’s an incredibly tough situation,” Long says. “But you have to understand — we don’t have the houses. We don’t have tens of thousands of manufactured homes and travel trailers just stored somewhere ready to go.”
            He explains how FEMA has to order, build, install and inspect each manufactured home at a cost of $200,000 to $300,000 before they go to a family for a temporary lease of 18 months. “And then when it’s done, I’m not allowed to reuse that trailer. I can’t refurbish it and reuse it. We have to dispose of it,” Long says and describes his desire to streamline the cumbersome inspection process while passing housing and reconstruction responsibilities down to states and counties.
              But these are the kind of legislative fixes that could take years. In the meantime, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of Texas storm survivors found that 45% aren’t getting the help they say they need and most of those believe it will never come.

              Florida after Irma

                Weir: This has shaken me unlike anything

              “We’re not leaving until the shit hits the fan.”
              Those were the live-on-CNN words of Peter Althuis, owner of Snappers Bar on Key Largo as Hurricane Irma set her sights on the Conch Republic.
              I was there to do the typical pre-storm live shot; to marvel at the Old Salts and Never Leavers who thumb their nose at the swirling satellite map and mock the “premature evacuators.”
              Since it was near closing time, I let the first expletive slide but then he dropped a second s-bomb, creating a viral moment.
                Thirty-six hours later, the interview took on new meaning when Snappers was washed away.
                But thanks to good insurance and loyal regulars willing to haul wreckage, he was open within days of the storm and now, surrounded by revelers under a tiki-hut reconstruction zone, he greets me in a T-shirt that reads “Snappers: We Give Two Shits.”
                “It was a very positive energy right after the hurricane,” he says. “Everybody is helping each other out. And the government is not doing anything.”
                He’s from Amsterdam, where a sense of unified civic duty keeps the waves at bay in a nation built below sea level.
                “You should expect that government stands up and helps instead of getting in the way.”
                Althuis was angry that county inspectors held up his tiki hut reconstruction, but he now sees a light at the end of the tunnel of red tape.
                Compared to other disaster zones, the Upper Keys are blessed.
                Brandon “Bam Bam” Jimenez, the fishing boat captain who risked life and livelihood to take me into the aftermath, had 19 charters in November. “It’s good to see tourists rally around the Keys,” he says with a smile.

                On Marathon Key, I find “Dub” Richardson at the Seapointe condos — the same spot I found him just after the storm.
                But this time there is no knee-deep sand filling the lobby and blocking the elevator.
                “How long before you’re back to normal?” I ask him.
                “At least a year,” he says.

                  Keys’ deer population plummets after Irma

                Farther down the chain of islands, near where the eye wall was strongest, things are so much worse.
                On Big Pine Key, it looks like the storm just ended.
                Massive piles of shattered roofs, waterlogged appliances and wrecked boats fill entire neighborhoods and line US 1.
                Though Monroe County had a cleanup contract in place before Irma hit, Florida’s Department of Transportation gave emergency contracts to outfits two days after the storm made landfall.
                Given the demand for heavy machinery and cleanup crews in the hellish summer of ’17, these contractors were able to charge Florida rates up to 10 times higher than pre-storm levels.
                  A damaged refrigerator that would have cost the county $100 to pick up before Irma now costs $969, according to contracts seen by CNN affiliate CBS4 News. The broken boats washed onto US 1 would have set them back $3,200 before the storm. After Irma, the price went to $20,000.
                  “FEMA doesn’t do debris,” Long explains. They write the check, but it’s ultimately up to the governor to make sure your federal tax dollars are spent wisely. “There was a huge demand for debris contractors … but I don’t think FEMA should dictate the market rate of the private sector. We encourage them to find a competitive and fair rate, or we don’t reimburse.”
                  Those in the tourism economy hope to salvage the high season, and with Key West largely unscathed by Irma, plenty of folks are likely to take the Overseas Highway down to those pastel sunsets and boat drinks.
                    But the mess along the way is a stark reminder of how messy local politics affects recovery. Spurred by lawmakers in Florida and Texas, Congress could vote to release up to $81 billion of emergency aid.
                    But exactly HOW that money is spent comes down to governors, mayors and county managers. Thus millions of survivors now have a new, keen interest in local elections.

                    Puerto Rico after Irma and Maria

                      CNN probe prompts review of Maria death toll

                    I met a Vietnam vet named Miguel Olivera in the hills outside San Juan in the days after Maria blew his island to pieces and he told me it was scarier than any firefight in the Cambodian jungle.
                    He huddled with Diana Aponte, his wife of 50 years as a 10-story transmission tower crashed through the neighbor’s roof. They talked about saying goodbye but then the storm passed and the real survival began as they tried to keep his last doses of insulin from spoiling in a powerless fridge.
                    When I returned a month later, their little street was crawling with power trucks and linemen and Aponte was in high spirits.
                    Kind folks at the Department of Veterans Affairs saw our story and sent help!
                    Olivera was getting better just as real progress was happening next door.
                    Aponte pointed up with pride, “Look! they put the Puerto Rico flag on the tower!”
                    But six weeks later, there is still no power and Olivera died the day before Thanksgiving.
                    In the end, it was pneumonia and intestinal problems. Aponte is thankful to the VA doctors who tried to save him, but like so many families in Puerto Rico, she wonders: If the island had power, clear roads and able hospitals, would her husband still be alive? Should he be counted among Maria’s dead?
                    After investigations by CNN and others, the governor of Puerto Rico is finally asking those same questions. After an island-wide forensic inquiry, the official death toll could jump from 64 to over 1,000.
                    That is just one grim puzzle on an island full of them. While the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority says power generation is back to 69%, the operative word is “generation.” Generated power does no good in a mountain town where every line is down and roads must be carved through the jungle before someone can put them back up.
                    After the tiny Montana company Whitefish Energy was fired over a scandalous $300 million contract, the Army Corps of Engineers is scrambling to patch together an obsolete grid while “Operation Blue Roof” has helped install around 20,000 tarps to keep the rain out of shattered houses. Another 50,000 families are still on the waiting list. “You have to have enough roof structure to attach a blue tarp to,” Long says while describing the difficulty of a construction mission on an island without enforced building codes.
                    “Anytime FEMA is the first responder, the primary responder, like we were in Puerto Rico, it’s never an ideal situation,” the FEMA director says. “But I do believe, for example in Puerto Rico, that we kept that island from complete and total collapse.”
                    Even if he’s right, the story of Miguel Olivera and the tower is just one example that Puerto Rico is an ongoing, slow-motion disaster that gets costlier and more complicated by the day. And it’s driving people away. Since Hurricane Irma, hundreds of thousands of the 3.4 million Americans who called Puerto Rico home have left for the mainland.
                    While Brock Long preaches pre-storm planning and mitigation, he does not agree with the vast majority of climate scientists who predict the summer of ’17 is just a preview of a hotter planet with bigger, more frequent disasters. “A lot of this could be that the climate is changing,” he says. “But it also could be other things that are cyclical in nature.”
                    But he firmly believes that millions of Americans are destined to live through a future disaster. And he wants neighborhoods to prepare for them the way our grandparents prepared for war. “Americans are the true first responders,” he says. “We’ve gotta get back to the basics, and teach people tangible skills, not only how to do CPR and first aid but to shut off your house gas lines or water lines after a disaster. We’ve gotta get people to save money. They need their own rainy day account.”
                    The summer of ’17 may be remembered through the ages.
                    But the millions who survived it learned the same harsh lesson:
                    The storm is just the starting line.
                    The fire is just the beginning.
                    Once the sun comes out or the smoke clears, you will see how much of your life is gone and what comes next may change the way you think of America.
                    For better or worse.

                    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/19/politics/summer-of-hurricanes-broke-fema-weir/index.html

                    Read More

                    Portugals radical drugs policy is working. Why hasnt the world copied it?

                    The long read: Since it decriminalised all drugs in 2001, Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdoses, HIV infection and drug-related crime

                    When the drugs came, they hit all at once. It was the 80s, and by the time one in 10 people had slipped into the depths of heroin use bankers, university students, carpenters, socialites, miners Portugal was in a state of panic.

                    lvaro Pereira was working as a family doctor in Olho in southern Portugal. People were injecting themselves in the street, in public squares, in gardens, he told me. At that time, not a day passed when there wasnt a robbery at a local business, or a mugging.

                    The crisis began in the south. The 80s were a prosperous time in Olho, a fishing town 31 miles west of the Spanish border. Coastal waters filled fishermens nets from the Gulf of Cdiz to Morocco, tourism was growing, and currency flowed throughout the southern Algarve region. But by the end of the decade, heroin began washing up on Olhos shores. Overnight, Pereiras beloved slice of the Algarve coast became one of the drug capitals of Europe: one in every 100 Portuguese was battling a problematic heroin addiction at that time, but the number was even higher in the south. Headlines in the local press raised the alarm about overdose deaths and rising crime. The rate of HIV infection in Portugal became the highest in the European Union. Pereira recalled desperate patients and families beating a path to his door, terrified, bewildered, begging for help. I got involved, he said, only because I was ignorant.

                    In truth, there was a lot of ignorance back then. Forty years of authoritarian rule under the regime established by Antnio Salazar in 1933 had suppressed education, weakened institutions and lowered the school-leaving age, in a strategy intended to keep the population docile. The country was closed to the outside world; people missed out on the experimentation and mind-expanding culture of the 1960s. When the regime ended abruptly in a military coup in 1974, Portugal was suddenly opened to new markets and influences. Under the old regime, Coca-Cola was banned and owning a cigarette lighter required a licence. When marijuana and then heroin began flooding in, the country was utterly unprepared.

                    Pereira tackled the growing wave of addiction the only way he knew how: one patient at a time. A student in her 20s who still lived with her parents might have her family involved in her recovery; a middle-aged man, estranged from his wife and living on the street, faced different risks and needed a different kind of support. Pereira improvised, calling on institutions and individuals in the community to lend a hand.

                    In 2001, nearly two decades into Pereiras accidental specialisation in addiction, Portugal became the first country to decriminalise the possession and consumption of all illicit substances. Rather than being arrested, those caught with a personal supply might be given a warning, a small fine, or told to appear before a local commission a doctor, a lawyer and a social worker about treatment, harm reduction, and the support services that were available to them.

                    The opioid crisis soon stabilised, and the ensuing years saw dramatic drops in problematic drug use, HIV and hepatitis infection rates, overdose deaths, drug-related crime and incarceration rates. HIV infection plummeted from an all-time high in 2000 of 104.2 new cases per million to 4.2 cases per million in 2015. The data behind these changes has been studied and cited as evidence by harm-reduction movements around the globe. Its misleading, however, to credit these positive results entirely to a change in law.

                    Portugals remarkable recovery, and the fact that it has held steady through several changes in government including conservative leaders who would have preferred to return to the US-style war on drugs could not have happened without an enormous cultural shift, and a change in how the country viewed drugs, addiction and itself. In many ways, the law was merely a reflection of transformations that were already happening in clinics, in pharmacies and around kitchen tables across the country. The official policy of decriminalisation made it far easier for a broad range of services (health, psychiatry, employment, housing etc) that had been struggling to pool their resources and expertise, to work together more effectively to serve their communities.

                    The language began to shift, too. Those who had been referred to sneeringly as drogados (junkies) became known more broadly, more sympathetically, and more accurately, as people who use drugs or people with addiction disorders. This, too, was crucial.

                    It is important to note that Portugal stabilised its opioid crisis, but it didnt make it disappear. While drug-related death, incarceration and infection rates plummeted, the country still had to deal with the health complications of long-term problematic drug use. Diseases including hepatitis C, cirrhosis and liver cancer are a burden on a health system that is still struggling to recover from recession and cutbacks. In this way, Portugals story serves as a warning of challenges yet to come.

                    Despite enthusiastic international reactions to Portugals success, local harm-reduction advocates have been frustrated by what they see as stagnation and inaction since decriminalisation came into effect. They criticise the state for dragging its feet on establishing supervised injection sites and drug consumption facilities; for failing to make the anti-overdose medication naloxone more readily available; for not implementing needle-exchange programmes in prisons. Where, they ask, is the courageous spirit and bold leadership that pushed the country to decriminalise drugs in the first place?


                    In the early days of Portugals panic, when Pereiras beloved Olho began falling apart in front of him, the states first instinct was to attack. Drugs were denounced as evil, drug users were demonised, and proximity to either was criminally and spiritually punishable. The Portuguese government launched a series of national anti-drug campaigns that were less Just Say No and more Drugs Are Satan.

                    Informal treatment approaches and experiments were rushed into use throughout the country, as doctors, psychiatrists, and pharmacists worked independently to deal with the flood of drug-dependency disorders at their doors, sometimes risking ostracism or arrest to do what they believed was best for their patients.

                    In 1977, in the north of the country, psychiatrist Eduno Lopes pioneered a methadone programme at the Centro da Boavista in Porto. Lopes was the first doctor in continental Europe to experiment with substitution therapy, flying in methadone powder from Boston, under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice, rather than the Ministry of Health. His efforts met with a vicious public backlash and the disapproval of his peers, who considered methadone therapy nothing more than state-sponsored drug addiction.

                    In Lisbon, Odette Ferreira, an experienced pharmacist and pioneering HIV researcher, started an unofficial needle-exchange programme to address the growing Aids crisis. She received death threats from drug dealers, and legal threats from politicians. Ferreira who is now in her 90s, and still has enough swagger to carry off long fake eyelashes and red leather at a midday meeting started giving away clean syringes in the middle of Europes biggest open-air drug market, in the Casal Ventoso neighbourhood of Lisbon. She collected donations of clothing, soap, razors, condoms, fruit and sandwiches, and distributed them to users. When dealers reacted with hostility, she snapped back: Dont mess with me. You do your job, and Ill do mine. She then bullied the Portuguese Association of Pharmacies into running the countrys and indeed the worlds first national needle-exchange programme.

                    A flurry of expensive private clinics and free, faith-based facilities emerged, promising detoxes and miracle cures, but the first public drug-treatment centre run by the Ministry of Health the Centro das Taipas in Lisbon did not begin operating until 1987. Strapped for resources in Olho, Pereira sent a few patients for treatment, although he did not agree with the abstinence-based approach used at Taipas. First you take away the drug, and then, with psychotherapy, you plug up the crack, said Pereira. There was no scientific evidence to show that this would work and it didnt.

                    He also sent patients to Lopess methadone programme in Porto, and found that some responded well. But Porto was at the other end of the country. He wanted to try methadone for his patients, but the Ministry of Health hadnt yet approved it for use. To get around that, Pereira sometimes asked a nurse to sneak methadone to him in the boot of his car.

                    Pereiras work treating patients for addiction eventually caught the attention of the Ministry of Health. They heard there was a crazy man in the Algarve who was working on his own, he said, with a slow smile. Now 68, he is sprightly and charming, with an athletic build, thick and wavy white hair that bounces when he walks, a gravelly drawl and a bottomless reserve of warmth. They came down to find me at the clinic and proposed that I open a treatment centre, he said. He invited a colleague from at a family practice in the next town over to join him a young local doctor named Joo Goulo.

                    Goulo was a 20-year-old medical student when he was offered his first hit of heroin. He declined because he didnt know what it was. By the time he finished school, got his licence and began practising medicine at a health centre in the southern city of Faro, it was everywhere. Like Pereira, he accidentally ended up specialising in treating drug addiction.

                    A
                    A nurse hands out methadone to addicts in Lisbon. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

                    The two young colleagues joined forces to open southern Portugals first CAT in 1988. (These kinds of centres have used different names and acronyms over the years, but are still commonly referred to as Centros de Atendimento a Toxicodependentes, or CATs.) Local residents were vehemently opposed, and the doctors were improvising treatments as they went along. The following month, Pereira and Goulo opened a second CAT in Olho, and other family doctors opened more in the north and central regions, forming a loose network. It had become clear to a growing number of practitioners that the most effective response to addiction had to be personal, and rooted in communities. Treatment was still small-scale, local and largely ad hoc.

                    The first official call to change Portugals drug laws came from Rui Pereira, a former constitutional court judge who undertook an overhaul of the penal code in 1996. He found the practice of jailing people for taking drugs to be counterproductive and unethical. My thought right off the bat was that it wasnt legitimate for the state to punish users, he told me in his office at the University of Lisbons school of law. At that time, about half of the people in prison were there for drug-related reasons, and the epidemic, he said, was thought to be an irresolvable problem. He recommended that drug use be discouraged without imposing penalties, or further alienating users. His proposals werent immediately adopted, but they did not go unnoticed.

                    In 1997, after 10 years of running the CAT in Faro, Goulo was invited to help design and lead a national drug strategy. He assembled a team of experts to study potential solutions to Portugals drug problem. The resulting recommendations, including the full decriminalisation of drug use, were presented in 1999, approved by the council of ministers in 2000, and a new national plan of action came into effect in 2001.

                    Today, Goulo is Portugals drug czar. He has been the lodestar throughout eight alternating conservative and progressive administrations; through heated standoffs with lawmakers and lobbyists; through shifts in scientific understanding of addiction and in cultural tolerance for drug use; through austerity cuts, and through a global policy climate that only very recently became slightly less hostile. Goulo is also decriminalisations busiest global ambassador. He travels almost non-stop, invited again and again to present the successes of Portugals harm-reduction experiment to authorities around the world, from Norway to Brazil, which are dealing with desperate situations in their own countries.

                    These social movements take time, Goulo told me. The fact that this happened across the board in a conservative society such as ours had some impact. If the heroin epidemic had affected only Portugals lower classes or racialised minorities, and not the middle or upper classes, he doubts the conversation around drugs, addiction and harm reduction would have taken shape in the same way. There was a point whenyou could not find a single Portuguese family that wasnt affected. Every family had their addict, or addicts. This was universal in a way that the society felt: We have to do something.

                    Portugals policy rests on three pillars: one, that theres no such thing as a soft or hard drug, only healthy and unhealthy relationships with drugs; two, that an individuals unhealthy relationship with drugs often conceals frayed relationships with loved ones, with the world around them, and with themselves; and three, that the eradication of all drugs is an impossible goal.

                    The national policy is to treat each individual differently, Goulo told me. The secret is for us to be present.


                    A drop-in centre called IN-Mouraria sits unobtrusively in a lively, rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood of Lisbon, a longtime enclave of marginalised communities. From 2pm to 4pm, the centre provides services to undocumented migrants and refugees; from 5pm to 8pm, they open their doors to drug users. A staff of psychologists, doctors and peer support workers (themselves former drug users) offer clean needles, pre-cut squares of foil, crack kits, sandwiches, coffee, clean clothing, toiletries, rapid HIV testing, and consultations all free and anonymous.

                    On the day I visited, young people stood around waiting for HIV test results while others played cards, complained about police harassment, tried on outfits, traded advice on living situations, watched movies and gave pep talks to one another. They varied in age, religion, ethnicity and gender identity, and came from all over the country and all over the world. When a slender, older man emerged from the bathroom, unrecognisable after having shaved his beard off, an energetic young man who had been flipping through magazines threw up his arms and cheered. He then turned to a quiet man sitting on my other side, his beard lush and dark hair curling from under his cap, and said: What about you? Why dont you go shave off that beard? You cant give up on yourself, man. Thats when its all over. The bearded man cracked a smile.

                    During my visits over the course of a month, I got to know some of the peer support workers, including Joo, a compact man with blue eyes who was rigorous in going over the details and nuances of what I was learning. Joo wanted to be sure I understood their role at the drop-in centre was not to force anyone to stop using, but to help minimise the risks users were exposed to.

                    Our objective is not to steer people to treatment they have to want it, he told me. But even when they do want to stop using, he continued, having support workers accompany them to appointments and treatment facilities can feel like a burden on the user and if the treatment doesnt go well, there is the risk that that person will feel too ashamed to return to the drop-in centre. Then we lose them, and thats not what we want to do, Joo said. I want them to come back when they relapse. Failure was part of the treatment process, he told me. And he would know.

                    Joo is a marijuana-legalisation activist, open about being HIV-positive, and after being absent for part of his sons youth, he is delighting in his new role as a grandfather. He had stopped doing speedballs (mixtures of cocaine and opiates) after several painful, failed treatment attempts, each more destructive than the last. He long used cannabis as a form of therapy methadone did not work for him, nor did any of the inpatient treatment programmes he tried but the cruel hypocrisy of decriminalisation meant that although smoking weed was not a criminal offence, purchasing it was. His last and worst relapse came when he went to buy marijuana from his usual dealer and was told: I dont have that right now, but I do have some good cocaine. Joo said no thanks and drove away, but soon found himself heading to a cash machine, and then back to the dealer. After this relapse, he embarked on a new relationship, and started his own business. At one point he had more than 30 employees. Then the financial crisis hit. Clients werent paying, and creditors started knocking on my door, he told me. Within six months I had burned through everything I had built up over four or five years.

                    Addicts
                    Addicts waiting for methadone at a drug treatment project in Lisbon. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

                    In the mornings, I followed the centres street teams out to the fringes of Lisbon. I met Raquel and Sareia their slim forms swimming in the large hi-vis vests they wear on their shifts who worked with Crescer na Maior, a harm-reduction NGO. Six times a week, they loaded up a large white van with drinking water, wet wipes, gloves, boxes of tinfoil and piles of state-issued drug kits: green plastic pouches with single-use servings of filtered water, citric acid, a small metal tray for cooking, gauze, filter and a clean syringe. Portugal does not yet have any supervised injection sites (although there is legislation to allow them, several attempts to open one have come to nothing), so, Raquel and Sareia told me, they go out to the open-air sites where they know people go to buy and use. Both are trained psychologists, but out in the streets they are known simply as the needle girls.

                    Good afternoon! Raquel called out cheerily, as we walked across a seemingly abandoned lot in an area called Cruz Vermelha. Street team! People materialised from their hiding places like some strange version of whack-a-mole, poking their heads out from the holes in the wall where they had gone to smoke or shoot up. My needle girls, one woman cooed to them tenderly. How are you, my loves? Most made polite conversation, updating the workers on their health struggles, love lives, immigration woes or housing needs. One woman told them she would be going back to Angola to deal with her mothers estate, that she was looking forward to the change of scenery. Another man told them he had managed to get his online girlfriends visa approved for a visit. Does she know youre still using? Sareia asked. The man looked sheepish.

                    I start methadone tomorrow, another man said proudly. He was accompanied by his beaming girlfriend, and waved a warm goodbye to the girls as they handed him a square of foil.

                    In the foggy northern city of Porto, peer support workers from Caso an association run by and for drug users and former users, the only one of its kind in Portugal meet every week at a noisy cafe. They come here every Tuesday morning to down espressos, fresh pastries and toasted sandwiches, and to talk out the challenges, debate drug policy (which, a decade and a half after the law came into effect, was still confusing for many) and argue, with the warm rowdiness that is characteristic of people in the northern region. When I asked them what they thought of Portugals move to treat drug users as sick people in need of help, rather than as criminals, they scoffed. Sick? We dont say sick up here. Were not sick.

                    I was told this again and again in the north: thinking of drug addiction simply in terms of health and disease was too reductive. Some people are able to use drugs for years without any major disruption to their personal or professional relationships. It only became a problem, they told me, when it became a problem.

                    Caso was supported by Apdes, a development NGO with a focus on harm reduction and empowerment, including programmes geared toward recreational users. Their award-winning Check!n project has for years set up shop at festivals, bars and parties to test substances for dangers. I was told more than once that if drugs were legalised, not just decriminalised, then these substances would be held to the same rigorous quality and safety standards as food, drink and medication.


                    In spite of Portugals tangible results, other countries have been reluctant to follow. The Portuguese began seriously considering decriminalisation in 1998, immediately following the first UN General Assembly Special Session on the Global Drug Problem (UNgass). High-level UNgass meetings are convened every 10 years to set drug policy for all member states, addressing trends in addiction, infection, money laundering, trafficking and cartel violence. At the first session for which the slogan was A drug-free world: we can do it Latin American member states pressed for a radical rethinking of the war on drugs, but every effort to examine alternative models (such as decriminalisation) was blocked. By the time of the next session, in 2008, worldwide drug use and violence related to the drug trade had vastly increased. An extraordinary session was held last year, but it was largely a disappointment the outcome document didnt mention harm reduction once.

                    Despite that letdown, 2016 produced a number of promising other developments: Chile and Australia opened their first medical cannabis clubs; following the lead of several others, four more US states introduced medical cannabis, and four more legalised recreational cannabis; Denmark opened the worlds largest drug consumption facility, and France opened its first; South Africa proposed legalising medical cannabis; Canada outlined a plan to legalise recreational cannabis nationally and to open more supervised injection sites; and Ghana announced it would decriminalise all personal drug use.

                    The biggest change in global attitudes and policy has been the momentum behind cannabis legalisation. Local activists have pressed Goulo to take a stance on regulating cannabis and legalising its sale in Portugal; for years, he has responded that the time wasnt right. Legalising a single substance would call into question the foundation of Portugals drug and harm-reduction philosophy. If the drugs arent the problem, if the problem is the relationship with drugs, if theres no such thing as a hard or a soft drug, and if all illicit substances are to be treated equally, he argued, then shouldnt all drugs be legalised and regulated?

                    Massive international cultural shifts in thinking about drugs and addiction are needed to make way for decriminalisation and legalisation globally. In the US, the White House has remained reluctant to address what drug policy reform advocates have termed an addiction to punishment. But if conservative, isolationist, Catholic Portugal could transform into a country where same-sex marriage and abortion are legal, and where drug use is decriminalised, a broader shift in attitudes seems possible elsewhere. But, as the harm-reduction adage goes: one has to want the change in order to make it.


                    When Pereira first opened the CAT in Olho, he faced vociferous opposition from residents; they worried that with more drogados would come more crime. But the opposite happened. Months later, one neighbour came to ask Pereiras forgiveness. She hadnt realised it at the time, but there had been three drug dealers on her street; when their local clientele stopped buying, they packed up and left.

                    The CAT building itself is a drab, brown two-storey block, with offices upstairs and an open waiting area, bathrooms, storage and clinics down below. The doors open at 8.30am, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Patients wander in throughout the day for appointments, to chat, to kill time, to wash, or to pick up their weekly supply of methadone doses. They tried to close the CAT for Christmas Day one year, but patients asked that it stay open. For some, estranged from loved ones and adrift from any version of home, this is the closest thing theyve got to community and normality.

                    Its not just about administering methadone, Pereira told me. You have to maintain a relationship.

                    In a back room, rows of little canisters with banana-flavoured methadone doses were lined up, each labelled with a patients name and information. The Olho CAT regularly services about 400 people, but that number can double during the summer months, when seasonal workers and tourists come to town. Anyone receiving treatment elsewhere in the country, or even outside Portugal, can have their prescription sent over to the CAT, making the Algarve an ideal harm-reduction holiday destination.

                    After lunch at a restaurant owned by a former CAT employee, the doctor took me to visit another of his projects a particular favourite. His decades of working with addiction disorders had taught him some lessons, and he poured his accumulated knowledge into designing a special treatment facility on the outskirts of Olho: the Unidade de Desabituao, or Dishabituation Centre. Several such UDs, as they are known, have opened in other regions of the country, but this centre was developed to cater to the particular circumstances and needs of the south.

                    A
                    A man receives clean syringes after being given methadone at a clinic in Lisbon. Photograph: Horacio Villalobos/Corbis via Getty Images

                    Pereira stepped down as director some years ago, but his replacement asked him to stay on to help with day-to-day operations. Pereira should be retired by now indeed, he tried to but Portugal is suffering from an overall shortage of health professionals in the public system, and not enough young doctors are stepping into this specialisation. As his colleagues elsewhere in the country grow closer to their own retirements, theres a growing sense of dread that there is no one to replace them.

                    Those of us from the Algarve always had a bit of a different attitude from our colleagues up north, Pereira told me. I dont treat patients. They treat themselves. My function is to help them to make the changes they need to make.

                    And thank goodness there is only one change to make, he deadpanned as we pulled into the centres parking lot: You need to change almost everything. He cackled at his own joke and stepped out of his car.

                    The glass doors at the entrance slid open to a facility that was bright and clean without feeling overwhelmingly institutional. Doctors and administrators offices were up a sweeping staircase ahead. Women at the front desk nodded their hellos, and Pereira greeted them warmly: Good afternoon, my darlings.

                    The Olho centre was built for just under 3m (2.6m), publicly funded, and opened to its first patients nine years ago. This facility, like the others, is connected to a web of health and social rehabilitation services. It can house up to 14 people at once: treatments are free, available on referral from a doctor or therapist, and normally last between eight and 14 days. When people first arrive, they put all of their personal belongings photos, mobile phones, everything into storage, retrievable on departure.

                    We believe in the old maxim: No news is good news, explained Pereira. We dont do this to punish them but to protect them. Memories can be triggering, and sometimes families, friends and toxic relationships can be enabling.

                    To the left there were intake rooms and a padded isolation room, with clunky security cameras propped up in every corner. Patients each had their own suites simple, comfortable and private. To the right, there was a colour room, with a pottery wheel, recycled plastic bottles, paints, egg cartons, glitter and other craft supplies. In another room, coloured pencils and easels for drawing. A kiln, and next to it a collection of excellent handmade ashtrays. Many patients remained heavy smokers.

                    Patients were always occupied, always using their hands or their bodies or their senses, doing exercise or making art, always filling their time with something. Wed often hear our patients use the expression me and my body, Pereira said. As though there was a dissociation between the me and my flesh.

                    To help bring the body back, there was a small gym, exercise classes, physiotherapy and a jacuzzi. And after so much destructive behaviour messing up their bodies, their relationships, their lives and communities learning that they could create good and beautiful things was sometimes transformational.

                    You know those lines on a running track? Pereira asked me. He believed that everyone however imperfect was capable of finding their own way, given the right support. Our love is like those lines.

                    He was firm, he said, but never punished or judged his patients for their relapses or failures. Patients were free to leave at any time, and they were welcome to return if they needed, even if it was more than a dozen times.

                    He offered no magic wand or one-size-fits-all solution, just this daily search for balance: getting up, having breakfast, making art, taking meds, doing exercise, going to work, going to school, going into the world, going forward. Being alive, he said to me more than once, can be very complicated.

                    My darling, he told me, its like I always say: I may be a doctor, but nobodys perfect.

                    A longer version of this piece appears on thecommononline.org. Research and travel for this piece were made possible by the Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award

                    Follow the Long Read on Twitter at @gdnlongread, or sign up to the long read weekly email here.

                    Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/dec/05/portugals-radical-drugs-policy-is-working-why-hasnt-the-world-copied-it

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                    A timeline of the rogue Twitter employee’s last day at work before deleting Trump’s account

                    Image: mashable composite. max knoblauch; shutterstock

                    This post is a part of Mashable Humor. It is not real. We drew the bird, though, and think it’s pretty good.

                    A Twitter customer support employee is responsible for temporarily deactivating the account of President Trump for 11 minutes on Thursday night, just before 7:00 p.m. EST. According to a statement from the company, it was said employee’s last day, and they acted without the approval of anyone else at Twitter.

                    What follows is a comprehensive timeline of the “rogue” employee’s infamous last day at Twitter HQ.

                    9:05 a.m.: Employee arrives at office on their last day. Employee sits at desk.

                    9:15 a.m.: Employee’s manager approaches, asks employee if they received email. “I haven’t checked my email,” employee replies. “Oh, okay. Well, when you get a chance,” manager answers. The employee will not look at the email.

                    9:20 a.m.: Employee tells coworker Devin that his coffee mug is on their desk, technically, and has been every day for several months.

                    9:25 a.m.: Employee leaves for “early lunch.”

                    1:15 p.m.: Employee returns from lunch.

                    1:19 p.m.: Employee sends email recommending lunch spot’s Moscow Mules to full New York office.

                    1:25 p.m.: Employee forwards Moscow Mule email to global staff list with message, “In case any of you are ever in town.”

                    1:30 p.m.: Using Sharpie, employee writes, “This bread taste like DOGGGG SHIT” on a loaf of bread in the employee kitchen.

                    1:35 p.m.: Employee reminds coworker Devin about the coffee mug’s location, asking him, “Did you know?”

                    1:40 p.m.: Employee leaves for “late lunch.”

                    4:10 p.m.: Employee returns from late lunch.

                    4:45 p.m.: During team meeting, employee is asked to say a few words. Employee uses full time to again recommend the Moscow Mules. The employee has worked at Twitter for 4 years.

                    5:00 p.m.: Employee enters back room and adjusts office thermostat to 68 degrees.

                    5:03 p.m.: Employee arrives at HR for exit interview.

                    5:10 p.m.: Employee responds to HR’s question of, “How do you feel about your time here?” with simply, “Bad.”

                    5:12 p.m.: Employee responds to HR’s question of, “Is there anything you feel you have not been able to do in your time here?” with, “Delete the president’s Twitter.” Employee tells HR they think they will be deleting President Trump’s account later in the day. The HR representative chuckles.

                    5:15 p.m.: Employee returns to desk.

                    5:30 p.m.: Employee watches the first 25 minutes of Netflix’s What the Health at desk without headphones.

                    5:55 p.m.: Employee says, “Wow.”

                    5:56 p.m.: Employee messages manager that the office chairs are very uncomfortable. Manager replies with, “Well, I don’t furnish the office lol.” Employee replies, “I do not like you and I have not liked you for some time now.” Manager does not reply.

                    6:00 p.m.: Employee stands on desk and announces that they will be drinking Moscow Mules at the lunch spot nearby if anyone wants to go.

                    6:48 p.m.: Employee returns to office to retrieve coat.

                    6:49 p.m.: Employee throws Devin’s mug in the garbage.

                    6:50 p.m.: Employee deactivates the president’s Twitter account.

                    6:55 p.m.: Employee returns to lunch spot for Moscow Mules.

                    Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/11/04/rogue-twitter-employee-deletes-trump-timeline-satire/

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                    Melania Trump Tussles With Ivana Over First Lady Status

                    Melania Trump made it clear Monday that she may be President Donald Trump’s third wife but is the only “first lady.”

                    Her response was swift and certain Monday after Ivana Trump, the president’s first wife, laid claim to the title, perhaps playfully.

                    While promoting her new book, “Raising Trump,” Ivana Trump, who was married to the president from 1977 to 1992, has sought to take credit for what she sees as the president’s strengths, including his Twitter habit. Appearing Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” she said she has a “direct number” to her ex-husband and speaks to him about once every two weeks.

                    “I don’t want to call him there because Melania is there and I don’t want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I’m basically first Trump wife. I’m first lady, OK?” said Ivana, the mother of three Trump children: Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric.

                    Melania Trump’s White House team hit back. “There is clearly no substance to this statement from an ex, this is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said in a statement, hinting at sensitive relations among women who’ve been married to the president.

                    “Mrs. Trump has made the White House a home for Barron and the president,” Grisham added. “She loves living in Washington, D.C., and is honored by her role as first lady of the United States. She plans to use her title and role to help children, not sell books.”

                    The first lady has in recent weeks stepped up her efforts to build a policy platform, hosting children at the White House kitchen garden and attending meetings arranged by the president’s opioid commission. She is scheduled to travel Tuesday to West Virginia to visit Lily’s Place, a non-profit center that provides care for infants born with prenatal exposure to opioids or other drugs.

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                      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-09/melania-trump-tussles-with-first-wife-over-first-lady-status

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