In the ground and off the page: why we’re banning ads from fossil fuels extractors | Membership | The Guardian

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In a bid to reduce our carbon footprint, confront greenwashing and increase our focus on the climate crisis, the Guardian this week announced it will no longer run ads from fossil fuel extractors alongside any of its content in print or online. The move will come into immediate effect, and follows the announcement in October last year that we intend to reduce our net emissions to zero by 2030.

Once upon a time, a newspaper was a rather straightforward business. You generated enough material of interest to attract a significant number of readers. You then ‘sold’ those readers to advertisers happy to pay to get their ideas, products or brands in front of consumers with cash to spend.

Of course, digital disruption over the past 20 years has upended that model, but advertising remains an important part of the media business ecosystem. At the Guardian, it is still responsible for about two-fifths of our income.

But what happens when the readers don’t like the adverts? What do you do when the message that advertisers want to spread jars awkwardly with the work your journalists are doing?

What if your journalists are some of the best in the world at revealing and investigating the deepening climate catastrophe and the disaster that is fossil fuel growth, while some of your advertisers are the very people digging the stuff out of the ground?

This contradiction has bothered us – and some of you – for some time. We came up with a rather bold answer this week: turn away the money and double down on the journalism.

“It’s something we thought about for a long time,” says Anna Bateson, the interim chief executive officer of Guardian Media Group, the Guardian’s parent company. “We always felt it was in line with our editorial values but were cautious for commercial reasons.”

She said it was the logical next step after the Guardian committed last year to becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and was certified as a B Corp – a company that puts purpose before profit. But she added that the move had to be weighed carefully, given the fact that the Guardian only recently returned to breakeven after years in the red.

“You have to be careful you are not making cavalier decisions,” she said. “ We are still having to fight for our financial future. But because of the support we get from our readers, it is less of a risk.”

On the advertising side of our business, Adam Foley said there were no complaints at all that potential customers were suddenly off-limits, adding that staff felt that “being part of a company that shares their values” was the biggest motivation for his teams.

“A statement like this reaffirms to all of us that we’re contributing to a business that really lives those values – to the extent where it is prepared to sacrifice profit for purpose.”

The response from the wider world has been a pleasant surprise. Hundreds of you have written in, pledging your support, and in some cases, one-off contributions to start making up the shortfall. (EDS: See below – I’m going to append the best responses below. In print you can use as the panel)

The environmental movement was instantly appreciative, with activists quickly urging our peers to follow suit. “The Guardian will no longer accept advertising from oil and gas companies,” Greta Thunberg tweeted. “A good start, who will take this further?” Greenpeace called it “a huge moment in the battle against oil and gas for all of us.”

Some readers have been calling for the Guardian to go the whole hog and forsake advertising from any company with a substantial carbon footprint. Bateson said that was not realistic, adding that such a move would result in less money for journalism. She said the fossil fuel extractors were specifically targeted because of their efforts to skew the climate change debate through their lobbying effort.

“We are committed to advertising,” she said. “It will continue to be part of our future. We want advertisers who want to be appear alongside our high quality journalism.”

And how will we know if this has worked?
“We will listen to our readers, we will listen to our advertisers. The response so far has been gratifying. If we continue to hear positive noises from our readers and supporters, then it will have been a success.”




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Responses from our supporters

That is such a brilliant decision and it will be tough, but it is the correct one and I am very proud of The Guardian. Barbara Syer

Following the Guardian’s decision to ban ads from fossil fuel companies I’m making a monthly contribution to support its fearless journalism: reader support is essential for independent scrutiny of the powerful in business, finance and politics. Titus Alexander, Hertfordshire, England

I live at present in Canada, home to the Alberta Tar Sands: another name for ecological devastation resulting from fossil fuel extraction. I fully support The Guardian’s action in ceasing to be a vehicle for advertising by fossil fuel extractive companies, and I’m proud to be a supporter. My monthly donation is small, but when I can I will make it much greater. Rosemary Delnavine, Canada

Congratulations. At this time it may be a bold step, indeed, within this industry, but true leaders have to take bold steps for the betterment of the quality of life, and more importantly for the life of future generations. I applaud this decision, and will spread the word. Raphael Sulkovitz, Boston MA

What a bravery! This is what the life on earth needs, thank you. Karri Kuikka, Finland (EDS: please leave her wonderful Finglish intact!)

Keep it up. Here in Canada, we’re still trying to have it both ways — sell the product internationally but discourage buying domestically. As I recall, it was the same with tobacco. Eventually, it took a change in public opinion to solve the problem. As a news source, your efforts are part of this solution. Robert Shotton, Ottawa

I applaud your decision to”walk the talk.” I will therefore continue to contribute to The Guardian. Bob Wagenseil

Bravo yr decision to eschew $ from the FFI. Please do continue to hold to the fire(s) the feet of the deniers and the willfully ignorant. Sydney Alonso, Vermont, US

I am very happy to hear that good news. It’s quite courageous on your part, and I’m happy to support you! Have a great year ahead, you’ll have my continuous support! Julien Psomas

I completely support your plan to refuse ads from fossils, despite the
financial hit to the Guardian. I have made a donation to help out. David Thompson

A very commendable decision, very much in keeping with the Guardian’s position as leader of green issues to leave a better planet for following generations. Richard Vernon, Oxford

Yay! I’m so proud of the Guardian! We can no longer support or fund in any manner the fossil fuel industry if we have any chance of survival as a civilization on this planet. You’ve taken a courageous and moral step that will hopefully embolden others to join you. Good on you! Best, Carol Ross, Missouri, US

Good decision. I’ll support you as much as I can, which unfortunately is not much as I live on age pension only. Keep up the good work, we need it desperately! Ursula Brandt, South Australia

I am absolutely delighted by this decision. So many people pledge to do something about Climate Change, but few actually are willing to get uncomfortable and DO it. I am very proud of you as my favourite source of Information and this only makes a case for me to donate next time to you again. Christiane Gross

It was great reading what The Guardian is doing re the climate. As a Guardian on-line reader from The Netherlands I’m going to contribute monthly now instead of ‘now and again’. The amount will be relatively small as I do not have a great income. I really hope more of your supporters will do so, because it is really great what you are doing.
With kind regards, Aleida Oostendorp, Netherlands

I congratulate you and your team on taking this step regarding fossil fuel companies. The Guardian’s stance on the environment and its excellent coverage of related stories and events is the major reason for my support. Well done, and good luck in the future. Deirdre Moore

Love your new policy about accepting money from fossil fuels. Will contribute more to help make up for the shortfall. Todd Misk

I live on a fixed income with a strict budget so my continuing support of your excellent news organisation represents my commitment to the fight to address climate change. Every step counts. Barbara Hirsch, Texas, US

Only when we speak truth to power can change take place. thank yo for your courageous and expensive decision. Nancy Shepherd, Vermont, US

Love your journalism, especially your investigative work and the climate change topic. And with the bold statement about not receiving any more sponsorship from the fossil extracting companies? Well, the already great newspapers became even more impressive now. Keep up the good work. Miroslav Řezníček, Czech Republic

Thank you for taking the bold step of refusing advertising from fossil fuel extractive companies. I think it is the right thing to do & hope many more companies do the same. We must all work together if we want to save our planet. It is one of the most important issues of our times. Ginger Comstock, New York, US

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Facebook keeps policy protecting political ads | ABS-CBN News

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Facebook logos are seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019. Johanna Geron, Reuters/file

SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.

The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.

“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”

Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.

The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Donald Trump’s campaign that attacked Joe Biden’s record on Ukraine.

“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”

But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.

On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit micro-targeting, but still thought the policy fell short.

“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Other groups, however, said Facebook had been more thoughtful about political ads than its industry peers.

“Facebook opted against limiting ad targeting, because doing so would have unnecessarily restricted a valuable tool that campaigns of all sizes rely on for fundraising, registering voters, building crowds and organizing volunteers,” said Tara McGowan, chief executive of Acronym, a non-profit group that works on voter organization and progressive causes.

Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the reelection of Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump.

But Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Trump’s reelection, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”

2020 The New York Times Company

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Man cancels wedding a day to wedding after bride-to-be cheated

A man has reportedly canceled wedding plans a day before the d-day after he found out that his bride-to-be cheated on him few months ago.

According to the report by a Facebook user identified as Sandra Ibeh, the man was in the know a day after the infidelity incident but he kept mum until a day before the wedding.

The lady, who claimed to be close to the man wrote on Facebook:

Tomorrow is 31st December 2019 and the last day of this decade. While some are in celebration mood, a man has decided to humiliate a whole family by pulling out of his church and traditional wedding scheduled for tomorrow somewhere in Anambra because his bride to be cheated on him 2 months back.

In as much as I am not in support of what the bride did, I equally condemned the groom’s last-minute decision. He knew that his bride cheated on his since October and didn’t confront her. He went along with the marriage preparation putting the lady through so many stress while he remained in England hatching his evil plan.

He came back to Abuja on the 28th and told his mother this morning that he’s not going ahead with the wedding.
The painful part of this whole thing is that he’s acting as if he’s doing the right thing. Spoke with him, he was laughing and the next thing he said was that I can provide my brother to take his place since everything is in place. He carefully planned to humiliate this girl and her family and to be honest, this is wrong.

Bride to be has been crying uncontrollably in the village. She admitted that she made a mistake and she regrets her action. She had more to drink during her friend’s birthday and ended up sleeping with one of their mutual friends (action she greatly regrets) without knowing that it was a setup. The next day pictures were sent to her fiance and he held on to it and acted normal until today.

I asked him why he kept quiet and continued with the preparation, he said that he wants the girl to feel the kind of pain he felt when he saw the pictures.

I honestly think that what he’s doing is wrong and insulting to both his family and the bride’s family because both families have been preparing for this wedding and are ready until he called this morning to cancel.

Every other person is against his decision except his older brother but he’s not ready to change his stance.

This is not the kind of news one should be hearing at the end of the year. It’s painful and annoying.

Meanwhile, the girl said that he had cheated on her before and she forgave him.

My question is, why can’t he forgive her too and call it even? Why grandstand?

Follow us on Facebook – @Lailasnews; Twitter – @LailaIjeoma for updates

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US discussing Goldman Sachs 1MDB settlement of below US$2 billion

GOLDMAN Sachs Group Inc could end up paying less than US$2 billion (RM8.32 billion) to resolve US criminal and regulatory probes over its role in raising money for scandal-ridden Malaysian investment fund 1MDB, said three people familiar with the negotiations.

The Justice Department and other federal agencies, in internal discussions held in recent weeks, have weighed seeking penalties of between US$1.5 billion and US$2 billion, the people said. That’s less than what some analysts have signalled Goldman might have to pay. While a settlement could be announced as soon as next month, the terms could change before a deal is finalised, said the people who asked not to be named in discussing private negotiations.

The bulk of the penalties would be paid to the Justice Department. Attorney General William Barr has directly immersed himself in the case, according to another person familiar with the matter. Earlier this year, Barr obtained a waiver to let him oversee the investigation, even though his former law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, is representing Goldman. It’s unclear whether the Justice Department is seeking a guilty plea from the bank.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did spokesmen for the Federal Reserve and Securities and Exchange Commission, which have been pursuing civil investigations into Goldman. The bank reiterated its previous statements that it continues to cooperate with authorities.

Goldman Sachs shares climbed as much as 3.1 per cent on the discussions, the biggest intraday gain in almost two months. The bank’s stock is up 33 per cent this year.

Reputation blow

Goldman’s involvement with 1MDB has triggered one of the biggest blows to its reputation in recent years, leading to a litany of investigations and embarrassing revelations of a former banker bribing government officials. The Wall Street firm has been eager to move past the scandal, and a US settlement of below US$2 billion would put it on track to avoid the worst-case scenario that some analysts pegged at as much as US$9 billion in global fines.

Goldman is separately negotiating a settlement with Malaysian authorities, who have in recent discussions floated much lower figures than their public stance of wanting to recover US$7.5 billion. Goldman is still privately seeking to reduce its sanctions, arguing that the crimes were committed by a rogue employee and that the bank wasn’t aware of the misconduct.

If it pays anywhere close to US$2 billion, Goldman would join other banks that have been subjected to massive US penalties this decade. In 2012, HSBC Holdings Plc set a new bar when it agreed to pay more than US$1.9 billion to settle allegations that it violated sanctions and enabled money laundering. BNP Paribas SA was then hit with the largest financial penalty ever in a US criminal case when it paid US$9 billion over sanctions violations.

In previous international corruption cases, the US has sometimes credited penalties paid to other countries for the same conduct. For example, a US$1.3 billion US settlement last year with Societe Generale SA included a credit of almost US$300 million that was paid to French authorities.

1MDB became the hub of a global corruption and embezzlement scandal in which a massive amount of cash was allegedly diverted to corrupt officials and financiers. Goldman helped the state investment fund raise cash, with the Wall Street bank making about US$600 million from US$6.5 billion in bond sales in 2012 and 2013.

Yacht, movies

Tim Leissner, a former senior Goldman banker in Southeast Asia, admitted last year to bribery and pleaded guilty to US charges that he conspired to launder money.

Money diverted from 1MDB was allegedly spent around the world, including on a super yacht, the Hollywood movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” and high-end real estate. Authorities in several countries have been working to recoup some of the missing billions and punish those involved.

There are signs that Goldman has made progress in its negotiations with US agencies and may also have a sense of how much it might pay to settle the investigations.

For instance, Goldman stopped buying back its stock in the third quarter as it began discussions with US authorities on 1MDB. Goldman later restarted its buybacks as talks with the government progressed and the firm added US$300 million to its estimate of possible legal losses, chief financial officer Stephen Scherr said on an October conference call with analysts and investors.

Compliance failures

Goldman has previously blamed Leissner for concealing his wrongdoing from the firm’s compliance efforts. Leissner has countered that the bank’s culture of secrecy led him to bypass compliance. US authorities allege that in addition to Leissner, two other bankers were aware of the scheme, including one who went on to become the bank’s top dealmaker in the region.

Earlier this year, the Fed banned Leissner and his former deputy, Roger Ng, from the banking industry. Ng faces US accusations of money laundering and bribery, and also Malaysian charges of aiding the bank’s efforts to mislead investors. – Bloomberg

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Trump leaving NATO: dangerous for U.S., nightmare for Israel – Haaretz.com

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This article was first published on January 17, 2019

When Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the new Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, settled into his office at the Kirya after being sworn in Tuesday, he had a long list of military challenges to plan for: Rockets and tunnels by Hamas and Hezbollah, Iran’s persistent threatening stance against Israel in Syria, Iran’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

One thing he probably never thought he would have to add to that list was planning for the possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from NATO. 

The day is almost over, and no one from the Administration has denied the NYT story about Trump wanting to pull out of NATO. Worse, no one from the Administration would dare say he would never do it. Because they know he might.

— Dan Shapiro (@DanielBShapiro)

But as he learned from the New York Times, the possibility is very much on President Donald Trump’s mind.

It is no small matter for Israel.

In the first instance, Israel benefits from NATO because of the way it broadens U.S. influence. NATO is an alliance, but it also entails its European members willingly accepting the United States’ leadership position on the continent.

U.S. allies outside the alliance benefit from the association. It has helped earn Israel a seat at the table as a NATO partner, has opened doors to cooperation with non-U.S. militaries, and helps prevent escalatory scenarios in moments of tension between Israel and NATO members, notably Turkey. In a post-NATO world, Israel’s alignment would be with an isolated United States that lacks the multiplying effect of broader Western support.

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But the operational effects could be far more challenging. Israel maintains impressive self-defense capabilities, which will be sustained in any scenario, but its security partnership with the United States, another critical pillar of its defense policy, will be forced to adapt in complicated ways.

The day-to-day relationships between the IDF and the U.S. military are conducted via U.S. European Command. U.S. forces based in Germany are the ones who travel to Israel by the thousands to conduct joint exercises, including those that drill bringing Patriot missile batteries to augment Israel’s domestic capabilities and help defend Israel in the case of a major conflict.  

U.S. Navy destroyers, home-ported in Spain and equipped with Aegis missile defense capabilities, are among the Sixth Fleet’s ships that sail regularly in the Eastern Mediterranean (and make port calls in Haifa) to ensure adequate support for Israel’s defense. U.S. Air Force squadrons based in Italy come to Israel to conduct joint air exercises with the Israeli Air Force. Other U.S. troops sit even closer, at Incirlik Air Force Base in Eastern Turkey.

Remove the United States from NATO – and forward-deployed U.S. forces from Europe, which would certainly follow – and the United States’ ability to respond to a Middle East crisis would be diminished.

Could U.S. support for Israel be shifted and coordinated instead through U.S. Central Command, based in the Persian Gulf? It has been proposed before as an efficiency measure. But Israeli generals have always resisted the proposal. Their worry is that they would find it challenging to enjoy the same level of intimacy they currently have with Europe-based U.S. commanders, with commanders who maintain a similar closeness with Arab militaries. 

True, Israel is closer strategically today with the Arab Gulf states than at any time in its history, because of a focus on the common threat of Iran and the lower priority of the Palestinian issue. But those relationships are a long way from being normalized – and could still backslide.

Israeli security planners are, therefore, still most likely to want to maintain separation between their relationships with the U.S. military and with their Arab neighbors. Having observed the intense friendships formed between Israeli military commanders and their U.S. counterparts based in Europe, I can say that these ties will not be easily replaced.

The broader Middle East would also experience the effects of NATO’s demise in the form of further empowerment of Russia. That is happening already, but losing NATO would turbocharge those trends.

Already, Russia’s brutally decisive intervention in Syria, combined with successive U.S. administrations’ preference to reduce active U.S. military engagements in the region, have led many regional states to explore expanded security ties with Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets more frequently with Putin than he does with Trump, and the IDF and Russian Air Force deconflict their operations in Syria. The leaders of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, all close partners of the United States, have visited Moscow and explored acquiring advanced Russian weapons systems in addition to their American-supplied arsenals.

Should Russia decide to exert leverage, such as by constraining Israeli freedom of action against Iranian military targets in Syria, the United States would be ill-equipped to push back.

A U.S. withdrawal from NATO would unmistakably be understood as a major pullback from the United States’s leadership in global affairs. The effect of expanding Russian influence would be felt far beyond Europe and the Middle East.

Military planners are renowned for imagining, and developing options for, every possible scenario. So General Kochavi and his colleagues will find a way to prepare, and put themselves in a position to adapt. But there are certain anchors that any country hopes to maintain, particularly one facing as many threats, and so tied to its American ally, as Israel.

To avoid having to grapple with the nightmarish set of problems that would result from the U.S. leaving NATO, General Kochavi might consider recommending to his Prime Minister and Defense Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that he use his influence with President Trump to dissuade him from such a dangerous course.

Daniel B. Shapiro is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He served as U.S. Ambassador to Israel, and Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa in the Obama Administration. Twitter: @DanielBShapiro

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We’ve received death threats over Sowore, DSS claims – Vanguard News

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Soni Daniel, Abuja

The Department of State Services (DSS) says its personnel have started receiving death threats from unknown persons over the detention of the convener of the Revolution Now movement, Omoyele Sowore.

Although the Spokesman for the DSS, Peter Afunanya did not name those threatening the personnel of the agency, he made it clear that the security agency was still providing the best possible care for Sowore.

Afunanya, however, explained that Sowore would only be released to appropriate persons who stood surety for him, and not just anybody.

Afunanya was speaking at a media briefing in Abuja on the matter between the agency and the detained publisher and activist, who had fulfilled his revised bail conditions and freed by a court but still held back in the DSS custody over non-appearance of ‘appropriate persons’ to take him home.

ALSO READ: Arrest, detention of Sowore, other Journalists undemocratic – Gov Dickson

The DSS said that even in its Sowore was still using his phone to make calls to mobilise people and call for violence and action against the Nigerian State.

Afunanya also said Sowore’s lawyer, Femi Falana, had not been to the DSS office or being in touch with them since the issue of the bail started.

The PRO said: “The stand of the Director-General (Yusuf Bichi) and the stand of the Service are not ambiguous about respect for justice, for rule of law and for human rights. There is no division, no doubt that in unison, the entire staff of the service would always pursue what is good for Nigeria and what is good for her unity and progress and stability.

We have to carry out our duties and would continue to do so in honour and good conscience despite deliberate efforts to harass and intimidate us. The issue of human right in the last week, the custody of suspects and all of that have been in the front burner.

“We have issued statements in the past week and the statements have been unambiguous. They were straight, direct and plain and at all times we were explaining our stance on issues. That he was granted bail by the courts; we said yes, we have received the court order. Now, every legislative enactment and judicial pronouncement needs to be enforced. They need to be enforced and that is why there are law enforcement agencies operatives,” Afunanya said.

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Interest rates: Powell tells Congress federal debt is ‘unsustainable’

Powell: U.S. debt is ‘on unsustainable path,’ crimping ability to respond to recession

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned lawmakers Wednesday that the ballooning federal debt could hamper Congress’ ability to support the economy in a downturn, urging them to put the budget “on a sustainable path.”

Powell suggested such fiscal aid could be vital after the Fed has cut its benchmark interest rate three times this year, leaving the central bank less room to lower rates further in case of a recession.

“The federal budget is on an unsustainable path, with high and rising debt,” Powell told the Joint Economic Committee. “Over time, this outlook could restrain fiscal policymakers’ willingness or ability to support economic activity during a downturn.”

Powell also reiterated that the Fed is likely done cutting rates unless the economy heads south.

“The outlook is still a positive one,” he said. “There’s no reason this expansion can’t continue.”

The testimony marks a more aggressive tone for Powell, who generally has steered clear of lecturing lawmakers on the hazards of the federal deficit. But after raising its key rate nine times since late 2015, the Fed has lowered it three times this year to head off the risk of recession posed by President Donald Trump’s trade war with China and a sluggish global economy.

Those developments have hurt manufacturing and business investment while consumer spending remains on solid footing.

The Fed’s benchmark rate is now at a range of 1.5% to 1.75%, above the near-zero level that persisted for years after the Great Recession of 2007-09 but below the 2.25% to 2.5% range early this year.

“Nonetheless, the current low-interest-rate environment may limit the ability of monetary policy to support the economy,” Powell said.

Noting the Fed has lowered its federal funds rate an average 5 percentage points in prior downturns, Powell said, “We don’t have that kind of room.” He added, “Fed policy will also be important, though,” if the nation enters a recession. Fed officials have said they still have ammunition to fight a slump, including lowering rates and resuming bond purchases.

Meanwhile, the federal budget deficit hit $984 billion in fiscal 2019, the highest in seven years, and it’s expected to top $1 trillion in fiscal 2020. The federal tax cuts and spending increases spearheaded by Trump have added to the red ink and are set to add at least $2 trillion to the federal debt over a decade. The national debt recently surpassed $23 trillion.

“The debt is growing faster than the economy and that is unsustainable,” Powell said.

He added that a high and rising federal debt also can “restrain private investment and, thereby, reduce productivity and overall economic growth.” That’s because swollen debt can push interest rates higher.

“Putting the federal budget on a sustainable path would aid in the long-term vigor of the U.S. economy and help ensure that policymakers have the space to use fiscal policy to assist in stabilizing the economy if it weakens,” Powell said.

He added, “How you do that and when you do that is up to you.”

Many economists are forecasting a recession next year, though the risks have eased now that the U.S. and China appear close to a partial settlement of their trade fight and the odds of a Brexit that doesn’t include a trade agreement between Britain and Europe have fallen.

Powell also said the Fed is unlikely to reduce interest rates further unless the economy weakens significantly – a message he delivered after the central bank trimmed its key rate for a third time late last month.

“We see the current stance of monetary policy as likely to remain appropriate” as long as the economy, labor market and inflation remain consistent with the Fed’s outlook, Powell said.

Since last month’s Fed meeting, the government has reported that employers added 128,000 jobs in October – a surprisingly strong showing in light of a General Motors strike and the layoffs of temporary 2020 census workers.

“There’s a lot to like about today’s labor market,” Powell said. He noted the 3.6% unemployment rate, near a 50-year low, is drawing Americans on the sidelines back into the workforce. And while average yearly wage growth has picked up to 3%, it’s lower than anticipated in light of the low jobless rate. Inflation, he said, remains below the Fed’s 2% target.

“Of course, if developments emerge that cause a material reassessment of our outlook, we would respond accordingly,” Powell said.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, tried to coax the Fed chief into weighing in on the potential economic impact of “a massive tax increase,” which some analysts say could be required by several Democratic presidential candidates’ proposals for universal health care or free college tuition.

“I’m particularly reluctant to be pulled into the 2020 election,” said Powell, a Republican and Trump appointee who has been repeatedly attacked by the president for not cutting interest rates more sharply.

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Jia Tolentino: I like to write about instincts that are in some way good and in some way dangerous’

Hailed as the Joan Didion of our times informed, funny and fearless the New Yorkers Jia Tolentino is making sense of the world one essay at a time

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Until recently, one of New Yorker staff writer Jia Tolentinos best-kept secrets was that she spent the summer of her 16th year filming a reality show called Girls v Boys: Puerto Rico. A cheerleader then, she got permission from her school, which was situated in the middle of a Texan megachurch so large they called it the Repentagon, by telling them shed be a light for Jesus, but on television. An essayist who explores what its like to live right now, no now, remains, at 30, rebellious and contradictory in ticklish ways.

For example, a person of the old world might not expect, when meeting the best young essayist in the world, to find her in denim cut-offs scrolling Instagram behind a Brooklyn caf. They might not expect a woman who grew up an evangelical Christian to write a piece that links the weightless grace of coming up on ecstasy to that of kneeling in church, in words like epiphany and glory. They might not expect a piece about the challenging year she spent in Kyrgyzstan to be headlined: I Joined the Peace Corps to Keep From Becoming an Asshole. She treats all her subjects (recent essays include anti-abortion propaganda and the internet trend of fans begging celebrities to kill them) with equal care and precision, and such academic tenderness that the reader barely notices their mind being changed after reading her interview with a woman whod had a late-term abortion, she received emails from pro-lifers rethinking their stance; hers are essays that talk to young women about old problems and old men about young memes. And they might not expect, in our interview of an hour-and-a-half, for the Joan Didion of our time (New York Magazine) to use the word like 1,035 times.

She has left her dog at home, which is sad. Luna is the size of eight dogs and appears often in her stories as comic relief. Usually, Tolentino works with Luna at her feet and talks to her as she picks her way through the rubble of an idea. She knows what she wants to write about when, I feel some sort of chemistry with the subject. The bar for me is when its interesting enough that I would talk about it on my own time. One example is womens optimisation, the project of getting better at being a woman which, in her new book Trick Mirror she investigates through chopped salad, her previous job at feminist website Jezebel, very expensive leggings, and Virgils Aeneid.

To read it as a person like me, brought up on girl power and the slogans of mainstream feminism, is to be stimulated and awakened to the small domestic truths of life. I like to write about modern instincts that are in some way good. And also in some way dangerous. She explores millennial issues with two hands, because, Maybe this things totally ridiculous, but also, secretly important. I enjoy those extremes.

Its easy to write about things as you wish they were, wrote Zadie Smith of Trick Mirror. Its much harder to think for yourself, with the minimum of self-delusion. Its even harder to achieve at a moment like this, when our thoughts are subject to unprecedented manipulation, monetisation and surveillance. One way Tolentino manages this is by offering one idea, then cracking it open to reveal a series of alternative ideas, Russian doll-like within. Her work, Smith added, filled me with hope.

Yep. And not just because of the kindness with which she approaches ideas, especially ideas we are used to seeing framed in black and white, but because the subjects she writes about today are the same subjects she once blogged about at Jezebel. What were once niche, womens magazine themes pop stars, beauty products, sex and rage are now, in the New Yorker, mainstream, and recognised as valid topics for study. This is not the old world any more.

Jia
Ive had the same personality since I was three years old. Really independent. Really social. But, also, really combative: Jia Tolentino. Photograph: Allison Michael Orenstein/The Observer

A lot of the book is about the thing versus the representation of the thing, she explains. For instance, love versus the representation of it in a wedding. In the essay I Thee Dread, she writes that despite having been invited, with her long-term boyfriend, to 46 weddings in nine years, her apathy towards them has grown. How much harder, she asks, would it be for straight women to accept the reality of marriage if they were not first presented with the fantasy of the wedding?

She remains fixated on the thing versus its representation, which means promoting (representing) her book (the thing) has become increasingly difficult. A hardback book feels awkward to her she likes to describe herself as just a blogger. Shes been blogging since she was 10 (Im going insane! I literally am addicted to the web! she wrote on her Angelfire site in 1999), but the just is sly her education in journalism at Jezebel was invaluable: a unique chance to learn how to fuck up on the internet. We would see these great waves of disapproval and anger and morality. With an uncommon amount of freedom to negotiate it. She thrives on such tensions.

It wasnt just to keep from becoming an asshole that she joined the Peace Corps in 2010, it was to test her limits. I wanted to be in the middle of nowhere and go nuts and see what its like. Tolentino arrived inKyrgyzstan just as the government was overthrown. She was evacuated. She got active tuberculosis. Kyrgyzstan is a place where bride kidnapping still happens; she was sexually harassed by her host father she was sexually harassed a lot, in part, she thinks, because with her Filipino parentage she happens to look Kyrgyz. Every day I was seesawing between extremes of transcendent lonely happiness and crushing despair.

Kyrgyzstan borders China, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. And the feel is very strange. Like, I had no running water in my village, but they sold cookies shaped like iPhones. Nothing made sense, you know? The cookies feel like some kind of metaphor for her work, the meeting of fast and slow, a mind that has been brought up online turning its lens inward, to analyse the internet itself she is particularly fascinating when writing about the online performance of identity, analysing the ways she has benefited from, for instance, the internets sticky focus on opinion. But my brain moves slower and shes already run ahead. I think thats one thing that growing up in the church did to me I love being uncomfortable. It is so… interesting.

In 2016 she wrote an essay called How Empowerment Became Something for Women to Buy. I hated that word, she shudders, yet at the same time, I knew my entire career was possible because feminism was marketable now.

How does she feel about becoming part of the feminism industry? I think about it a lot. If something is more fun to represent than to experience, then you should avoid it. Its the same way with the feminism marketplace: if something is more commodified than it is true, you should avoid it. Some amount of bullshit is endemic and inevitable, and I participate in it, and I benefit from it. The way I resolve it is to make myself uncomfortable enough to be aware of what is only bullshit.

You know what annoys her? Books about badass women in history. She groans very loudly. The whole girlboss realm, actually. Anything that is treating the magnification of a personal brand, or the acquisition of wealth as the ultimate prize, is just fully out the window. The way those books treat little girls as if theyre generic? I get sent so many self-help books that are about like, perfectly imperfect, badass feminists that dont give a fuck, but then the fuck is bleeped out? You know what I mean?

The thing is, we have more freedom available to us than ever before, and yet theres a cartoon-like image of what that looks like as if all women want to do is to be on stage wearing a bold matching suit and a strong lip shouting AM I RIGHT? She screeches this at a high pitch and a stranger jumps. Shouting: A guy called me baby on the street, but Im not a baby! and everyones like, YASSSS

What I havent mentioned, among earlier descriptions of Tolentinos essays, is that they are extremely funny, partly because she characterises herself affectionately as a sort of dummy stoner, leading with fizzy enthusiasm, rather than her Yale-earned learnedness. It seems like were shrinking towards a lowest common denominator of what the ideal feminist is. And the things that I like, maybe, are the things that dont have this feeling of sameness and oneness.

The idea of the problem with oneness is something she elaborates on when discussing #MeToo. The thing that bothered me about it, was how this totally accidental hashtag design has shaped our understanding of an incredibly important moment. The problem with the metoo hashtag was that it said, to express solidarity with someone, you need to meet them at the point of maximum shared vulnerability. The internet flattened it, and erased the important differences in these womens lives. Which seemed to be both well intentioned, and also, a misuse of our new freedoms.

One of which is the right to be heard. People are like, Womens voices are silenced. Which might be true. And at the same time, is less true. For example, Christine Blasey Ford she was absolutely listened to and still dismissed. I want the discussion to meet the exact situation, which is changing so quickly. Its not simply, Women are silenced it is something possibly much worse. I take a drink of water. We both do.

The work of explaining complicated problems in a tumultuous time is wearying. Last week, I was really down. I forgot that I get stressed out when I write about sexual assault. She had written about the latest rape accusations against Trump. Its like when you wake up after getting drunk, and youre like, Wow, Im not hungover. And then at 5pm youre like, Im dead. It comes around the back and shakes you. In a recent interview, she was asked, Do you feel defeated? She was shocked. The reporter was like, Well, you dont propose any solutions to things. But I often feel that knowledge is useless. I dont write with the hope of making an impact, because the world is too confusing right now. But that actually makes me feel free in writing you just try your best. And I think that needs to be the philosophy I adopt about life in general. To that reporter she wanted to explain that its possible to write an argument without neatly tying it up with a simple conclusion. She smiles her cheerleader smile again, twinkling with contradiction. I hate the obligatory epilogue.

Recently, Tolentino watched Girls v Boys: Puerto Rico for the first time. I found it agonising. But also comforting, because I was the same. Having stumbled upon the audition at a local mall, she writes of the chance encounter: I like this story better than the alternative, and equally accurate one, which is that Ive always felt that I was special and acted accordingly. Its true that I ended up on reality TV by chance. Its also true that I signed up enthusiastically, felt almost fated to do it.

Watching the show, she realised, she tells me, that to be on reality TV, you must have a fixity. Ive had the same personality since I was three. Really independent. Really social. But, also, really combative. Like all iconic reality contestants, shes not here to make friends. When she got back in touch with fellow contestants, one remembers her as contradictory, even under the blaze of the cameras. You were like, he told her, I dont want to get famous for this bullshit. I want to get famous for writing a book.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino (4th Estate, 14.99) is out now. Buy it for 13.19 at guardianbookshop.com

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Trump gripes about his critics while at the scene of tragedy

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(CNN)As President Donald Trump departed the Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Ohio, on Wednesday, he told officials traveling with him the visit was a smash success.

It was only later, as he watched from Air Force One while two local Democratic officials described their frustration at his divisive rhetoric and unclear gun control priorities, that he soured.
Jetting to the scene of a second massacre, Trump lashed out. Instead of imparting the sympathetic grief that his tour of killing zones was meant to illustrate, it was he who appeared aggrieved. And instead of highlighting his interactions with the shootings’ victims, it was his own perceived victimhood — at the hands of Democrats and the media — that he thrust upon two stricken communities.
    By the time he was ready to return to Washington, the most memorable part of his trip, for him, seemed to be the doctors’ and nurses’ welcome of him, even after a day spent confronting the lingering pain of more mass shootings.
    politics
    “We had an amazing day, as you know,” Trump said in the corridor of an emergency coordination center in El Paso, Texas, his final stop in a city where an anti-immigrant gunman had shot 22 people dead. “The love, the respect for the office of the presidency. It was, I wish you could have been in there to see it.”
    Even as Trump was savoring respect for the “office of the presidency,” his words and behavior on a two-stop tour of American tragedy reflected a striking departure from the traditional role US presidents have played in consoling the nation.
    Trump offered no visible emotion as he briefly spoke with reporters at the end of his trip. Instead of hitting themes of unity, he lashed out throughout the day at his political rivals, even as he traveled from trauma center to trauma center. When he wasn’t shown the deference he seemed to think he had earned, he and his aides mounted a fiery defense.
    Trump was “treated like a rock star” at the Dayton hospital, his social media adviser Dan Scavino tweeted.
    Since Monday, Trump has adopted a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona when it comes to responding to the dual shootings. While he issued a call for national unity during a direct-to-camera speech delivered from a teleprompter on Monday, he’s resumed the bitter partisan attacks on Twitter against those he sees as rivals.
    And while he departed the White House on Wednesday proclaiming a desire to “stay out of the political fray,” it was only a few hours earlier he had been telling Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke to “be quiet” after he said Trump was not welcome in El Paso.
    At the White House, aides recognize that Trump’s tone and demeanor are closely scrutinized during his visits to the scenes of tragedy. That includes by many Republicans, who have lamented Trump’s seeming inability to strike a unifying or consoling tone for more than a few days after moments of national crisis.
    Among Trump’s aides, there is a tacit acknowledgment that Trump does not view national unity as a driving mission in the way past presidents have sought to bring the country together. Instead, he has at most moments appeared more focused on driving a divisive political message, including in his capacity as President.
    While he has expressed intense interest in appearing “presidential,” including through the military trappings of the job, he has not eagerly adopted the tone his predecessors have used from the Oval Office or other official settings.
    Instead, he’s been more eager to blame those predecessors for what he sees as their own shortcomings in office.
    When Nan Whaley, the Democratic mayor of Dayton, raised the prospect of an assault weapons ban with Trump on Wednesday, she said he questioned why his predecessor hadn’t done it.
    “Why didn’t Obama get this done?” Trump asked, according to Whaley’s recollection.
    Trump gripes about his critics while at the scene of tragedy - CNNPolitics
    As the President winged between Dayton and El Paso, he revealed through Twitter an agitated mindset that was a distant cry from the sober-minded teleprompter speech he had delivered Monday.
    He complained about television coverage from his usual standby, Fox News. And he attacked former Vice President Joe Biden, whose speech linking Trump to white supremacy was playing on television screens aboard Air Force One.
    Apparently displeased with how his stop in Dayton was portrayed by local officials in a news conference, Trump — with help from aides — claimed Whaley and Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio were “mischaracterizing” his visit to the hospital.
    “I get on Air Force One, where they do have a lot of televisions,” Trump told reporters later as he lamented Brown’s and Whaley’s news availability. “They’re very dishonest people.”
    It wasn’t truly clear what Trump was disputing. In their news conference, Brown and Whaley criticized Trump for his stance on gun control and rhetoric they said was divisive. But they acknowledged Trump was met well at the Miami Valley Hospital.
    “He was received well by the patients, as you’d expect,” Brown said. “They were hurting, he was comforting. He did the right things, Melania did the right things. And it’s his job in part to comfort people. I’m glad he did it in those hospital rooms.”
    “I think the victims and the first responders were grateful that the President of the United States came to Dayton,” Whaley added.
    Later, in an interview on CNN, Whaley said she wasn’t sure what Trump meant.
    “Sen. Brown was next to me the entire time,” she said. “The senator was there. We talked about these issues. I think that’s pretty hard to say we were both lying.”
    If there is any dispute about what occurred inside the hospital, independent news coverage won’t be available to clarify. Reporters were kept in a holding room away from Trump and the first lady as they greeted staffers and victims.
    The press was not included because the visit was not “a photo op,” according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.
      But later, the White House distributed its own photos from inside the hospital and a slickly produced video showing the President greeting staff, set to serious-sounding music.
      Trump continued his offensive throughout his flight home to DC, this time targeting Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, complaining about being accused of racism and describing the “love, respect & enthusiasm” he found meeting people Wednesday in two communities rocked by tragedy.

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