Parkland students interview Bernie Sanders: ‘Your generation has the power to change America’

Two student journalists from the Eagle Eye, Stoneman Douglas high schools newspaper, interviewed the Vermont senator about the search for a breakthrough in the gun debate and his own voting record

We are a part of the Eagle Eye newspaper at Stoneman Douglas. We just wanted to ask a couple of questions. So first, has the Parkland shooting affected your opinion on how gun laws should be handled federally?

Bernie Sanders I wouldnt say it affected my opinion other than it made the entire country start focusing on an issue, which previously did not get the attention that it deserved. And I think, you might ask, Why Parkland? Why not Las Vegas, the terrible tragedy we had in Las Vegas or other shootings? I dont know why. But somehow or another, maybe because of the response of the students, or maybe because the American people finally had enough, the consensus was [it was] the straw that broke the camels back, and people looked around and said, What is going on in America? We have got to do something. Saying that in a way that we have not seen for a long, long time. I think people are saying, I am saying, many members of Congress are saying, We have got to do something. Weve got to do it now. Kids have got to be safe in school and we cannot allow people just to be shot down with military weapons.

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Your home state of Vermont is one of the most gun-friendly states in the nation, yet has one of the lowest gun violence crime rates. Why do you think that is?

In states like Vermont, which are very, very rural states, people hunt, people do target practice, people go to gun shows. Guns are a way of life and people take that very seriously, and they treat guns with a lot of respect. That is something very different in other parts of the country, where guns are used by people who are criminals, who are into drug dealing and so forth and so on. But I would also say, maybe Im wrong on this but I think Im right, that in Vermont the vast majority of people, including gun owners, understand that we need what I call commonsense gun legislation.

People say, Oh, the American people are divided on the issue of guns. Well, you know what, by and large the American people are not divided. It is this Republican Congress that is controlled by the NRA [National Rifle Association] that is the problem. If you go out, and you look at the polling, and youll say to the American people, Do you think we should improve and expand background checks? You know what the American people say overwhelmingly, what gun owners say overwhelmingly? Of course.

The majority of the American people say, This is pretty crazy. Lets deal with it. Increasingly, something that Ive felt strongly about for 30 years, people also understand that military-style assault weapons should not be sold in this country and distributed. More and more people believe that. But not quite as many as believe the other thing. So I think what Parkland was about is the straw that broke the camels back. That people want action right now. That people are prepared to stand up to the NRA. I want to say that you, you guys, in the high school deserve an enormous amount of credit for helping bring about that change of attitude.

In the past couple of years weve seen a lot of grassroots movements, like the #MeToo movement, and Black Lives Matter and now the Never Again movement. What do you feel is the importance of these kinds of grassroots movements on changing policy?

Extraordinarily important. Thats how change takes place. Ive said it a million times in every speech that I give. Change never takes place from the top. It always comes from the bottom on up. So right now, when you have large numbers of young people all across this country who are saying to the leaders of this country, When we go to school we want to feel safe, that will have an impact, absolutely, to my mind.

So what do you think of the importance of students and young people getting involved in politics?

How many hours do you have here? I think it is enormous. I think you are the future of this country. And I think, one of the things There are two truths here and that is young people in general, not just high school students but younger people in general, dont know their political strength. They dont know their political strength. They can turn this country around.

I was just on the floor today dealing with another issue, dealing with Yemen. And the point that I talked about [was] the Vietnam war. That war was finally stopped. You know how it was stopped? Not by people here, but by people on the streets, mostly young people. It was stopped because kids 18 and 19 were saying, I dont want to go to Vietnam and get killed or kill people. This war does not make sense. So I think that the future of this country is in the hands of young people. You have to understand your power, youve got to be involved politically. And I very much hope that thats what your generation does.

So in 2006 you were awarded a C- rating from the NRA. What prompted that raise in rating?

I have no idea. I have a D- lifetime average. The NRA is very arbitrary. In fact, if Im not mistaken, I wont swear to you on this, you and you could cast exactly the same votes and you get a different rating. It is extremely arbitrary.

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Bernie Sanders is interviewed by students of the Eagle Eye newspaper. Photograph: Amana Fontanella-Khan for the Guardian

Do you think that the NRA has the kind of hold on Congress the media portrays?

It has a very significant hold. I think that hold may be breaking a little bit.

I think what the NRA can do, like any other powerful interest, whether its Wall Street or the pharmaceutical industry, if you vote the wrong way, they will primary you theyll run a candidate against you in the primary and they will spend a lot of money against you. And they have a lot of power, they have a lot of members. They intimidate a whole lot of members here [in Congress].

Youre seeing that power in the sense that the American people want serious gun safety legislation. Were not seeing that on the floor. Why is that? Are they doing what 80% of the American people want? No. Theyre doing what the NRA wants.

And youre seeing the president who one day, as is usually the case with him, on a Monday he says one thing and on a Wednesday he says something completely different. But that has to do with the power of the NRA.

Do you think federal emphasis should lie in mental healthcare laws or gun control laws?

Both. Heres the problem and this is a sad truth. And I indicated to you some of what I think has to be done in terms of expanding background checks, doing away with the gun show loophole, doing away with the so-called straw man provision, banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons, doing other things as well. Thats the gun safety part. But lets be very clear, sad to say, this is not anything we should be happy about, but in this country today there are many thousands of people who are walking the streets as we speak who are suicidal and homicidal.

So its not either/or. What the people who are dominated by the NRA are saying, Oh its just a mental health problem. Well, theres truth to that. But its not just a mental health problem. It is also a gun issue and we have to deal with that as well.

Why did you, though it was 1993 vote against the Brady bill, that would have introduced a lot of gun control measures to reform issues, including background checks and waiting periods?

Well, there was a debate at that time. It was a long long time ago, between what is now understood to be the case and that is kind of automatic background checks as opposed to a waiting time. And the people in my state preferred the automatic background checks rather than the waiting time. I think thats the reason. Yes.

So would you say, though, over your tenure as a senator and as a representative of your state, that there have been things that have influenced your ideas of supporting those universal background checks and supporting longer waiting periods and things like that in regards to gun reform?

Well, again, I come from a state, as you indicated, which has no gun control legislation. And 30 years ago, as it happens, I may have lost an election. I lost an election by three points and running against a Democrat and a Republican who both opposed the ban on assault weapons, and I supported that ban. That cost me the election mainly. But that was 30 years ago. Not everybody was talking about that at that point. I think that Thats all. I voted the way I did and I gave you the reason why. And I also voted to ban assault weapons, and I think my own view, now and for many years, has been that we can bring people together.

For example, on the banning of assault weapons, there are real differences of opinion in this country. But on many other things, there is overwhelming support and we should do that. And we can do that right away.

Do you think that its likely that Congress will pass any kind of legislation soon and what obstacles do you think are in place to prevent that?

I think it is 100% dependent upon grassroots activism. So, if youre an average politician and somebody says, well 80% of the people in your state want to do something, you would think that you would do it, right? Its pretty good politics. And thats the case. On the other hand, what they are weighing is the power of the NRA. And if we can create, and I know the marches have got to be part of that, if we can create a strong grassroots movement and real pressure, yeah, I think we will. If not, we wont. The NRA is very powerful.

Its also about creating a united front of a bipartisan agreement that we all want this to happen never again?

We all do. Theres no one there whos going to tell you that theyre not outraged by school shootings. But I really do think it comes down to the power of a very powerful interest, this is the NRA. And whether, in this case, mostly Republicans, will have the courage to stand up to them. And some will. But the job of, I think, grassroots America is to make sure that we have a majority of people [in Congress]. Were close to that. We are very close to that. It can be done. Its going to take a lot of grassroots activism to do it.

Do you think President Trump has the courage to take on the NRA?

No. President Trump lies all the time and he will come up with some ideas that may sound good. In fact, he had a televised meeting with some members of Congress and said all the things he wanted to do and two days later he backed away from it. No, I think he sees the NRA as very important to his re-election effort. And I do not think he has the courage to stand up to them.

This interview was edited for clarity and length

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/23/bernie-sanders-gun-control-parkland-students

Martin Shkreli jailed: ‘Pharma Bro’ sentenced to seven years for fraud

Shkreli, convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy, sought leniency from the court after calling the trial a witch-hunt

In a packed Brooklyn courthouse on Friday, Martin Shkreli, the Pharma Bro who rose to international notoriety after increasing the price of a lifesaving drug 50-fold, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Shkreli, 34, was convicted of two counts of securities fraud and a single count of conspiracy last August. He had dismissed the trial as a silly witch-hunt perpetrated by self-serving prosecutors.

But before his sentencing, Shkreli wrote to Judge Kiyo Matsumoto asking for leniency. I was a fool. I should have known better, he wrote.

Prosecutors had called for 15 years. The defense had pushed for 12 to 18 months.

In court a tearful Shkreli apologized: I did not act appropriately. He said that the government had not brought him down. I took down Martin Shkreli, he said.

Shkreli, who has grown a beard since his time in prison, wore a blue prison uniform and a brown undershirt. He slouched throughout the sentencing, with his chin against his chest or hands interlaced in his lap.

His lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, argued against a lengthy sentence saying the prosecution had painted a dark picture of Shkreli.

He shouldnt be sentenced simply for being Martin Shkreli, said Brafman. Im old enough to be his father. He said there had been times I want to hug and hold him, times I want to punch him in the face for some of the things hes said.

Quite frankly, Ive got my begging voice on, said Brafman.

Federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of cheating investors out of more than $11m between 2009 and 2014 in the investment funds and paying them back as well as financing his own life with money from Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company he founded in 2011.

Summing up they called him a dangerous man who had failed to show contrition, mocked the justice system and needed to be stopped.

The charges were unrelated to the drug scandal that made him nationally notorious and saw him dubbed the most hated man in America.

Shkreli rose to infamy in 2015 when, as the CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of Daraprim, a lifesaving drug used by some Aids patients, from $13.50 per pill to $750.

The news sparked a national debate about US drug prices and Shkreli managed the unlikely feat of uniting Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in condemning his actions.

Shkreli seemed delighted with the attention and began a high-profile campaign trolling his critics, refusing to speak to the congressional committee that summoned him to testify against them while calling lawmakers imbeciles on Twitter.

At the trial his bizarre behavior led prosecutors to call for him to be gagged. He eventually lost bail after he encouraged his fans to obtain a hair off Clintons head: $5,000 but the hair has to include a follicle. Do not assault anyone for any reason ever (LOLIBERALS), he wrote in a now-deleted Facebook post.

Matsumoto said Shkreli had created a danger to the public with his Clinton post. She also noted that a doctor had written to the court stating Shkrelis greed and mendacity had cost one of his patients life and that he had threatened the wife of a former employee, writing: I hope to see you and your four children homeless.

The judge cited emails Shkreli sent while in prison, where he said, Fuck the feds, as evidence that six months in maximum-security prison may not have had the desired effect of deterring Shkrelis behavior.

I would encourage you while in custody to seek mental health treatment, she said.

But she also cited acts of generosity, said he had created no problems in jail and said he was a gifted individual with the capacity for kindness.

John Coffee, director of the Center on Corporate Governance at Columbia Law School, said Shkreli would probably have been prosecuted even without the Daraprim controversy.

Lots of anonymous people get prosecuted for insider trade. If you are the CEO of a company and you are involved in basic common law fraud, I would think that would be reason enough that the prosecution would say we cant ignore this he could do it again, said Coffee.

But his behavior in court and his threat to Clinton didnt help. Im not saying he made life easier being the Pharma Bro that didnt help his case, said Coffee.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/09/martin-shkreli-jail-sentence-how-long-pharma-bro-court-trial

Parkland students: our manifesto to change America’s gun laws | Editorial staff of the Eagle Eye

After the massacre at our high school, our lives have changed forever so were proposing these changes to halt mass shootings

As a student publication, the Eagle Eye works to tell the stories of those who do not have a voice. Today, we are the ones who feel our voice must be elevated.

In the wake of the tragedy that occurred at our school on 14 February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, our lives have changed beyond what we ever imagined. We, along with our publication, have been transformed. We will remain so for the rest of our lives.

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We have a unique platform not only as student journalists, but also as survivors of a mass shooting. We are firsthand witnesses to the kind of devastation that gross incompetence and political inaction can produce. We cannot stand idly by as the country continues to be infected by a plague of gun violence that seeps into community after community, and does irreparable damage to the hearts and minds of the American people.

Thats why the Eagle Eye has come together and proposed these following changes to gun policy. We believe federal and state governments must put these in place to ensure that mass shootings and gun violence cease to be a staple of American culture.

We will be marching this Saturday, 24 March, for those that we loved and lost, and we write this in the hope that no other community or publication will ever have to do the same.

The changes we propose:

Ban semi-automatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds

Civilians shouldnt have access to the same weapons that soldiers do. Thats a gross misuse of the second amendment.

These weapons were designed for dealing death: not to animals or targets, but to other human beings. The fact that they can be bought by the public does not promote domestic tranquility. Rather, their availability puts us into the kind of danger faced by men and women trapped in war zones.

This situation reflects a failure of our government. It must be corrected to ensure the safety of those guaranteed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Madyson Kravitz, Dara Rosen Photograph: Ali Smith for the Guardian

Ban accessories that simulate automatic weapons

High-capacity magazines played a huge role in the shooting at our school. In only 10 minutes, 17 people were killed, and 17 others were injured. This is unacceptable.

Thats why we believe that bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories that simulate the effect of military-grade automatic weapons should be banned.

In the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, 58 people were killed and 851 others were injured. The gunmans use of bump stocks enabled vast numbers of people to be hurt while gathered in one of the most iconic cities in America. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere. Thats why action must be taken to take these accessories off the market.

Establish a database of gun sales and universal background checks

We believe that there should be a database recording which guns are sold in the United States, to whom, and of what caliber and capacity they are.

Just as the department of motor vehicles has a database of license plates and car owners, the Department of Defense should have a database of gun serial numbers and gun owners. This data should be paired with infractions of gun laws, past criminal offenses and the status of the gun owners mental health and physical capability.

Together with universal background checks, this system would help law enforcement stop a potentially dangerous person before they commit a gun crime.

Change privacy laws to allow mental healthcare providers to communicate with law enforcement

As seen in the tragedy at our school, poor communication between mental healthcare providers and law enforcement may have contributed to a disturbed person with murderous tendencies and intentions entering a school and gunning down 17 people in cold blood.

We must improve this channel of communication. To do so, privacy laws should be amended. That will allow us to prevent people who are a danger to themselves or to others from purchasing firearms. That could help prevent tragedies such as the Parkland massacre.

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Taylor Yon, Leni Steinhardt, Emma Dowd Photograph: Ali Smith for the Guardian

Close gun show and secondhand sales loopholes

Thanks to loopholes, people who otherwise wouldnt be able to buy firearms are able to purchase them at gun shows and secondhand sales. The existence of these loopholes reflects the ineptitude of state and federal legislators.

If we are serious about preventing people from purchasing deadly weapons, we must monitor sales that take place at gun shows and on secondhand markets. This is especially urgent given the danger posed by mentally unstable and violent individuals armed with firearms.

Allow the CDC to make recommendations for gun reform

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be allowed to conduct research on the dangers of gun violence. The fact that they are currently prohibited from doing so undermines the first amendment. It also violates the rights of the American people.

It is hypocritical to rally people to protect the second amendment, while remaining silent on the ways that blocking research violates one of our most basic constitutional freedoms.

Raise the firearm purchase age to 21

In a few months from now, many of us will be turning 18. We will not be able to drink; we will not be able to rent a car. Most of us will still be living with our parents. We will not be able to purchase a handgun. And yet, we will be able to purchase an AR-15.

Why is it that we will be able to legally obtain a weapon that has the ability to fire over 150 rounds and kill 17 people in about six minutes? That is unacceptable. It makes no sense that to buy a handgun, you have to be 21, but a gun of mass destruction and devastation like the AR-15 can be purchased when one is just becoming an adult.

With the exception of those who are serving the United States in the military, the age to obtain any firearm must be raised to 21.

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Brianna Fisher, Zoe Gordon Photograph: Ali Smith for the Guardian

Dedicate more funds to mental health research and professionals

Federal and state government should earmark more funds specifically for mental health services. Those with mental health issues, especially those who express aggressive, violent, suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts should have the opportunity to receive the help they need regardless of their economic status.

Schools specifically should receive more funds in order to hire more psychologists and guidance counselors who can aid students suffering from PTSD, depression and other debilitating mental illnesses.

Many of those who commit mass shootings suffer from these kinds of illnesses. It is essential that more funds be dedicated to mental health research.

Increase funding for school security

We believe that schools should be given sufficient funds for school security and resource officers to protect and secure the entire campus. As a school of over 3,000 students, teachers and faculty, Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school was only supplied funds to hire one on-campus armed resource officer by the state.

Without backup, this officers hesitation proved to be disastrous and allowed for the senseless deaths of people who were killed on the third floor of the 1200 building.

Though this idea has been proposed in the past, these funds should not be appropriated from the already scarce funding for public education. Governments should find resources to secure the millions of children that attend public schools without taking away from the quality of education that is offered at these institutions.

The Eagle Eye is the newspaper of Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school. Editorial staff: Madyson Kravitz, Dara Rosen, Taylor Yon, Leni Steinhardt, Emma Dowd, Brianna Fisher, Zoe Gordon, Kyra Parrow, Carly Novell, Rebecca Schneid, Kevin Trejos, Suzanna Barna, Nikhita Nookala, Richard Doan, and Christy Ma

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/commentisfree/2018/mar/23/parkland-students-manifesto-americas-gun-laws

Who owns water? The US landowners putting barbed wire across rivers

New Mexico is a battleground in the fight over once public waterways, sparking fears it could set a national precedent

As Scott Carpenter and a few friends paddled down the Pecos river in New Mexico last May, taking advantage of spring run-off, the lead boater yelled out and made a swirling hand motion over his head in the universal signal to pull over to shore. The paddlers eddied out in time to avoid running straight through three strings of barbed wire obstructing the river.

Swinging in the wind, the sign hanging from the fence read PRIVATE PROPERTY: No Trespassing.

One member of their party waded into the swift water to lift the wire with a paddle for the others to float under. As they continued downstream, Carpenter, a recreational boater from Albuquerque, looked over his shoulder a see a figure standing outside the big ranch house up the hill. He offered a wave, but received nothing in return.

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Its a scene playing out with increasing frequency in New Mexico, where a recent bid to legally privatize streams has public users like Carpenter more than a little alarmed, not least for the precedent it might set beyond the borders of this western state.

While the fight over US public lands has reached a fever pitch unlike anything seen in recent decades, and the Trump interior department seeks to lease out vast areas to private interests for mining and drilling, the fate of public waterways has largely flown under the radar. Now New Mexico has become a battleground for that very issue, with the state government, landowners, and outfitters on one side of the fight and anglers, boaters, recreationalists and heritage users on the other. At the heart of the argument: who owns the water that has long been considered the lifeblood of the arid west.

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Barbed wire across the Pecos river. Photograph: Courtesy of Scott Carpenter

Water use rights and access vary by region across the country, though the water itself has always been a public resource for people to fish, paddle, wade and float in. Private landowners have long taken unsanctioned steps to keep the public out of waterways, as in the recent case of an Arizona man convicted of shooting at kayakers boating down a river that runs through his land.

But in the last hours of 2015, efforts to bar public access received official sanction, when New Mexicos state government quickly and quietly passed a bill that implies private ownership of public waters that run through private land. It was a response to a statement from New Mexicos then attorney general, Gary King, that the public can wade and fish in streams running through private property, as long as they remain in the stream, which is in line with common doctrine in many states. Landowners and outfitters protested.

The rule remained mostly dormant until late December, when in a special meeting with only 10 days notice just a third of the 30-day standard the state began a process to allow landowners to certify streambeds as private property.

Prohibiting access from the public is privatizing what has been historically ours, and the way this happened is chilling, says Robert Levin, New Mexico director of the American Canoe Association. The process was hasty and moved through more quickly than it should have been. From a recreation standpoint on this, you start to worry about an erosion of inclusion.

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The Rio Grande river runs through a canyon just outside Los Alamos, New Mexico. Prohibiting access from the public is privatizing what has been historically ours, says the director of the American Canoe Association. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Garrett VeneKlasen, 51, grew up fly-fishing the Pecos, a well-known river that cuts across western New Mexico, with his father. He remembers when it was possible to walk nearly the entire length of the river without running into fencing. As long as you were respectful to the landowner and private property, you could pretty much come and go and fish right through that entire watershed, he recalls. There was almost no exclusivity.

But when the experience of fly-fishing became a commodity, things started to shift. VeneKlasen had a front-row seat to the evolution when he landed his first job as a fishing guide at 15 years old. He explains it with an example hes seen play out on whats now a fenced section of the Pecos.

That landowner started out just like any landowner, and he had trout in the stream that runs through his property. He decided to do some in-stream improvements, and the trout fishing got better. Then he started to stock big trout in the section that ran through his land, and feed them so theyre artificially big and suddenly, you can sell an experience. So he fences the river to keep other people out, and to some extent, to keep those fish in. And just like that, a lifestyle became an industry.

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The tragedy is that the public is going to have to spend millions to win back something that was ours in the first place, says Garrett VeneKlasen. Photograph: Courtesy of Garrett VeneKlasen

Dan Perry sees it differently. He bought the first section of his Trout Stalker Ranch in northern New Mexico in 2011, when the Rio Chamita that runs through it flowed Technicolor with toxic magnesium, phosphorus, and other chemicals leaked from the wastewater treatment plant upstream. He worked with the New Mexico governor to secure $8m for a cleanup effort.

Now theres clean water coming out of the Chamita, he says proudly. Perry has easements on the north and south end of his property for public river access, but he restricts the majority of the waterway with a cable across the river hung with a No Trespassing sign. He feels hes protecting his investment in restoring stream health. Private property owners are some of the biggest conservation stewards right now, he says. I feel like the beauty of our lands and species survival is up to private landowners.

Many landowners, including Perry, allow private outfitters access to the water theyve fenced off to the public, bolstering the view of many New Mexicans that this is the latest example of turning public lands over to a wealthy elite and private interests while shutting out the public itself.

Its like someone walking into my house without ringing the doorbell and telling me that I cant sit on my couch any more, says Steve Polaco, president of the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant, a historic land grant whose heirs have traditionally fished some of the waterways in question.

Public access advocates are already fighting back by working to strike down the law as unconstitutional, but the effort wont be cheap. The tragedy is that the public is going to have to spend millions to win back something that was ours in the first place, says VeneKlasen, by suing the entity thats supposed to act in the publics best interest and be the steward of a public resource.

The New Mexico department of game and fish is funded by hunting and fishing licenses from people who generally have little means and its going to be using those dollars to fight against the people its supposed to protect.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/15/privatized-rivers-us-public-lands-waterways

Trump calls for death penalties for drug dealers as focus of opioids plan

Trumps policy rollout focuses on punishment for dealers and traffickers but doesnt propose new legislation to combat the crisis

Donald Trump called on Monday for some drug dealers to receive the death penalty in a new opioids policy rollout in New Hampshire, a state hard hit by the national crisis.

Were wasting our time if we dont get tough with drug dealers, and that toughness includes the death penalty, said Trump in typically combative style.

He later added: The ultimate penalty has to be the death penalty. Maybe our country is not ready for that, its possible, its possible. Trump said personally I cant understand that about those opposed to such drastic measures.

Some states already charge drug dealers with murder if customers overdose. In Florida, people who provide cocaine, heroin or the powerful opioid fentanyl to a person who dies from using the drug in question can be charged with first-degree murder and sentenced to either life in prison or death.

Drug-induced homicide laws, which emerged in the 1980s, are being used more frequently because of the opioids crisis, according to a November 2017 report by the Drug Policy Alliance. However, there is no evidence that such laws reduce drug use.

On Monday Trump was effectively sending a message to prosecutors to be harsher on drug dealers, who traffic in street drugs like heroin as well as black market prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, and various versions of the potent narcotic fentanyl. But he did not call specifically for legislation to expand use of the death penalty for federal drug crimes.

The justice department said the federal death penalty is already available for limited drug-related offenses, including violations of the drug kingpin provisions of federal law.

The attorney general, Jeff Sessions, attended the event on Monday and sat next to Melania Trump. The DoJ later issued a statement, saying: At the Department of Justice, we have made ending the drug epidemic a priority. We will continue to aggressively prosecute drug traffickers and we will use federal law to seek the death penalty wherever appropriate.

Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University, said it was not clear federal death sentences for drug dealers, even for those whose product causes multiple deaths, would be constitutional. Berman said the issue would be litigated extensively and would have to be definitively decided by the supreme court.

New Hampshire has been hit hard by the opioid crisis, a fact Trump acknowledged last August when he said: We have the drug lords in Mexico that are knocking the hell out of our country. They are sending drugs to Chicago, Los Angeles, and to New York. Up in New Hampshire I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den [it] is coming from the southern border.

The comment caused offence in the state, with the Democratic senator Maggie Hassan responding: Instead of insulting people in the throes of addiction, [Trump] needs to work across party lines to actually stem the tide of this crisis.

Though Trump is visiting to lobby for harsher sentencing for opioid-related crimes, New Hampshire is one of many states now pushing criminal justice reform.

On Monday, the state judiciary announced it would review bail policies, after nationwide criticism of courts that serve as de facto debtors prisons for people too poor to pay bail.

In 2012, substance use disorders such as opioid dependence cost New Hampshire $284m in criminal justice costs. More than half of jail and prison costs in the state are attributed to drug abuse, according to a report by the advocacy group New Futures. Nationally, 76% of inmates are believed to have substance use disorders, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Trump, who aims to be seen as tough on crime, has repeatedly highlighted his preference for the ultimate penalty for drug dealers.

At a Pennsylvania rally this month, Trump told supporters countries like Singapore have fewer issues with drug addiction because they harshly punish dealers. He argued that a person in the US can get the death penalty or life in prison for shooting one person, but a drug dealer who potentially kills thousands can spend little or no time in jail.

The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness, Trump said in remarks he echoed on Monday.

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‘Solve drug problem through toughness’: Trump advocates death penalty for drug dealers video

Trump also wants Congress to pass legislation reducing the amount of drugs needed to trigger mandatory minimum sentences for traffickers who knowingly distribute certain opioids, said Andrew Bremberg, Trumps domestic policy director, who briefed reporters on the White House plan.

The president was joined in New Hampshire by the first lady, Melania Trump, who has shown an interest in the issue, particularly as it pertains to her focus on child welfare.

Trumps plan concerns law enforcement and interdiction to break the international and domestic flow of drugs into and across the US. It also includes broadening education and awareness, expanding access to treatment and recovery effortsand government funding for efforts to develop non-addictive painkillers. He also said that the Department of Justice was looking very seriously into bringing major litigation against some of these drug companies. Leading opioids makers in the US are already engulfed in a flurry of civil litigation brought by cities, counties and states.

Opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, killed more than 42,000 people in the US in 2016, more than any year on record, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q&A

Why is there an opioid crisis in America?

Almost 100 people are dying every day across America from opioid overdoses more than car crashes and shootings combined. The majority of these fatalities reveal widespread addiction to powerful prescription painkillers. The crisis unfolded in the mid-90s when the US pharmaceutical industry began marketing legal narcotics, particularly OxyContin, to treat everyday pain. This slow-release opioid was vigorously promoted to doctors and, amid lax regulation and slick sales tactics, people were assured it was safe. But the drug was akin to luxury morphine, doled out like super aspirin, and highly addictive. What resulted was a commercial triumph and a public health tragedy. Belated efforts to rein in distribution fueled a resurgence of heroin and the emergence of a deadly, black market version of the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The crisis is so deep because it affects all races, regions and incomes

We call it the crisis next door because everyone knows someone, said Kellyanne Conway, a senior Trump adviser. This is no longer somebody elses community, somebody elses kid, somebody elses co-worker.

  • The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/mar/19/donald-trump-death-penalty-drug-dealers-opioids-new-hampshire

I made Steve Bannons psychological warfare tool: meet the data war whistleblower

Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate

The first time I met Christopher Wylie, he didnt yet have pink hair. That comes later. As does his mission to rewind time. To put the genie back in the bottle.

By the time I met him in person, Id already been talking to him on a daily basis for hours at a time. On the phone, he was clever, funny, bitchy, profound, intellectually ravenous, compelling. A master storyteller. A politicker. A data science nerd.

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Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ video

Two months later, when he arrived in London from Canada, he was all those things in the flesh. And yet the flesh was impossibly young. He was 27 then (hes 28 now), a fact that has always seemed glaringly at odds with what he has done. He may have played a pivotal role in the momentous political upheavals of 2016. At the very least, he played a consequential role. At 24, he came up with an idea that led to the foundation of a company called Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that went on to claim a major role in the Leave campaign for Britains EU membership referendum, and later became a key figure in digital operations during Donald Trumps election campaign.

Or, as Wylie describes it, he was the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating Steve Bannons psychological warfare mindfuck tool.

In 2014, Steve Bannon then executive chairman of the alt-right news network Breitbart was Wylies boss. And Robert Mercer, the secretive US hedge-fund billionaire and Republican donor, was Cambridge Analyticas investor. And the idea they bought into was to bring big data and social media to an established military methodology information operations then turn it on the US electorate.

It was Wylie who came up with that idea and oversaw its realisation. And it was Wylie who, last spring, became my source. In May 2017, I wrote an article headlined The great British Brexit robbery, which set out a skein of threads that linked Brexit to Trump to Russia. Wylie was one of a handful of individuals who provided the evidence behind it. I found him, via another Cambridge Analytica ex-employee, lying low in Canada: guilty, brooding, indignant, confused. I havent talked about this to anyone, he said at the time. And then he couldnt stop talking.

Explainer embed

By that time, Steve Bannon had become Trumps chief strategist. Cambridge Analyticas parent company, SCL, had won contracts with the US State Department and was pitching to the Pentagon, and Wylie was genuinely freaked out. Its insane, he told me one night. The company has created psychological profiles of 230 million Americans. And now they want to work with the Pentagon? Its like Nixon on steroids.

He ended up showing me a tranche of documents that laid out the secret workings behind Cambridge Analytica. And in the months following publication of my article in May,it was revealed that the company had reached out to WikiLeaks to help distribute Hillary Clintons stolen emails in 2016. And then we watched as it became a subject of special counsel Robert Muellers investigation into possible Russian collusion in the US election.

The Observer also received the first of three letters from Cambridge Analytica threatening to sue Guardian News and Media for defamation. We are still only just starting to understand the maelstrom of forces that came together to create the conditions for what Mueller confirmed last month was information warfare. But Wylie offers a unique, worms-eye view of the events of 2016. Of how Facebook was hijacked, repurposed to become a theatre of war: how it became a launchpad for what seems to be an extraordinary attack on the USs democratic process.

Wylie oversaw what may have been the first critical breach. Aged 24, while studying for a PhD in fashion trend forecasting, he came up with a plan to harvest the Facebook profiles of millions of people in the US, and to use their private and personal information to create sophisticated psychological and political profiles. And then target them with political ads designed to work on their particular psychological makeup.

We broke Facebook, he says.

And he did it on behalf of his new boss, Steve Bannon.

Is it fair to say you hacked Facebook? I ask him one night.

He hesitates. Ill point out that I assumed it was entirely legal and above board.

Last month, Facebooks UK director of policy, Simon Milner, told British MPs on a select committee inquiry into fake news, chaired by Conservative MP Damian Collins, that Cambridge Analytica did not have Facebook data. The official Hansard extract reads:

Christian Matheson (MP for Chester): Have you ever passed any user information over to Cambridge Analytica or any of its associated companies?

Simon Milner: No.

Matheson: But they do hold a large chunk of Facebooks user data, dont they?

Milner: No. They may have lots of data, but it will not be Facebook user data. It may be data about people who are on Facebook that they have gathered themselves, but it is not data that we have provided.

Alexander
Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica CEO. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

Two weeks later, on 27 February, as part of the same parliamentary inquiry, Rebecca Pow, MP for Taunton Deane, asked Cambridge Analyticas CEO, Alexander Nix: Does any of the data come from Facebook? Nix replied: We do not work with Facebook data and we do not have Facebook data.

And through it all, Wylie and I, plus a handful of editors and a small, international group of academics and researchers, have known that at least in 2014 that certainly wasnt the case, because Wylie has the paper trail. In our first phone call, he told me he had the receipts, invoices, emails, legal letters records that showed how, between June and August 2014, the profiles of more than 50 million Facebook users had been harvested. Most damning of all, he had a letter from Facebooks own lawyers admitting that Cambridge Analytica had acquired the data illegitimately.

Going public involves an enormous amount of risk. Wylie is breaking a non-disclosure agreement and risks being sued. He is breaking the confidence of Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer.

Its taken a rollercoaster of a year to help get Wylie to a place where its possible for him to finally come forward. A year in which Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of investigations on both sides of the Atlantic Robert Muellers in the US, and separate inquiries by the Electoral Commission and the Information Commissioners Office in the UK, both triggered in February 2017, after the Observers first article in this investigation.

It has been a year, too, in which Wylie has been trying his best to rewind to undo events that he set in motion. Earlier this month, he submitted a dossier of evidence to the Information Commissioners Office and the National Crime Agencys cybercrime unit. He is now in a position to go on the record: the data nerd who came in from the cold.

There are many points where this story could begin. One is in 2012, when Wylie was 21 and working for the Liberal Democrats in the UK, then in government as junior coalition partners. His career trajectory has been, like most aspects of his life so far, extraordinary, preposterous, implausible.

Profile

Cambridge Analytica: the key players

Alexander Nix, CEO

An Old Etonian with a degree from Manchester University, Nix, 42, worked as a financial analyst in Mexico and the UK before joining SCL, a strategic communications firm, in 2003. From 2007 he took over the companys elections division, and claims to have worked on 260 campaigns globally. He set up Cambridge Analytica to work in America, with investment from RobertMercer.

Aleksandr Kogan, data miner

Aleksandr Kogan was born in Moldova and lived in Moscow until the age of seven, then moved with his family to the US, where he became a naturalised citizen. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, and got his PhD at the University of Hong Kong before joining Cambridge as a lecturer in psychology and expert in social media psychometrics. He set up Global Science Research (GSR) to carry out CAs data research. While at Cambridge he accepted a position at St Petersburg State University, and also took Russian government grants for research. He changed his name to Spectre when he married, but later reverted to Kogan.

Steve Bannon, former board member

A former investment banker turned alt-right media svengali, Steve Bannon was boss at website Breitbart when he met Christopher Wylie and Nix and advised Robert Mercer to invest in political data research by setting up CA. In August 2016 he became Donald Trumps campaign CEO. Bannon encouraged the reality TV star to embrace the populist, economic nationalist agenda that would carry him into the White House. That earned Bannon the post of chief strategist to the president and for a while he was arguably the second most powerful man in America. By August 2017 his relationship with Trump had soured and he was out.

Robert Mercer, investor

Robert Mercer, 71, is a computer scientist and hedge fund billionaire, who used his fortune to become one of the most influential men in US politics as a top Republican donor. An AI expert, he made a fortune with quantitative trading pioneers Renaissance Technologies, then built a $60m war chest to back conservative causes by using an offshore investment vehicle to avoid US tax.

Rebekah Mercer, investor

Rebekah Mercer has a maths degree from Stanford, and worked as a trader, but her influence comes primarily from her fathers billions. The fortysomething, the second of Mercers three daughters, heads up the family foundation which channels money to rightwing groups. The conservative megadonors backed Breitbart, Bannon and, most influentially, poured millions into Trumps presidential campaign.

Wylie grew up in British Columbia and as a teenager he was diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. He left school at 16 without a single qualification. Yet at 17, he was working in the office of the leader of the Canadian opposition; at 18, he went to learn all things data from Obamas national director of targeting, which he then introduced to Canada for the Liberal party. At 19, he taught himself to code, and in 2010, age 20, he came to London to study law at the London School of Economics.

Politics is like the mob, though, he says. You never really leave. I got a call from the Lib Dems. They wanted to upgrade their databases and voter targeting. So, I combined working for them with studying for my degree.

Politics is also where he feels most comfortable. He hated school, but as an intern in the Canadian parliament he discovered a world where he could talk to adults and they would listen. He was the kid who did the internet stuff and within a year he was working for the leader of the opposition.

Hes one of the brightest people you will ever meet, a senior politician whos known Wylie since he was 20 told me. Sometimes thats a blessing and sometimes a curse.

Meanwhile, at Cambridge Universitys Psychometrics Centre, two psychologists, Michal Kosinski and David Stillwell, were experimenting with a way of studying personality by quantifying it.

Starting in 2007,Stillwell, while a student, had devised various apps for Facebook, one of which, a personality quiz called myPersonality, had gone viral. Users were scored on big five personality traits Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism and in exchange, 40% of them consented to give him access to their Facebook profiles. Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook likes across millions of people.

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Examples, above and below, of the visual messages trialled by GSRs online profiling test. Respondents were asked: How important should this message be to all Americans?

The research was original, groundbreaking and had obvious possibilities. They had a lot of approaches from the security services, a member of the centre told me. There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked I hate Israel on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats.

There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.

The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research. Boeing, a major US defence contractor, funded Kosinskis PhD and Darpa, the US governments secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is cited in at least two academic papers supporting Kosinskis work.

But when, in 2013, the first major paper was published, others saw this potential too, including Wylie. He had finished his degree and had started his PhD in fashion forecasting, and was thinking about the Lib Dems. It is fair to say that he didnt have a clue what he was walking into.

An

I wanted to know why the Lib Dems sucked at winning elections when they used to run the country up to the end of the 19th century, Wylie explains. And I began looking at consumer and demographic data to see what united Lib Dem voters, because apart from bits of Wales and the Shetlands its weird, disparate regions. And what I found is there were no strong correlations. There was no signal in the data.

And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems theyre absent-minded professors and hippies. Theyre the early adopters theyre highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.

Here was a way for the party to identify potential new voters. The only problem was that the Lib Dems werent interested.

I did this presentation at which I told them they would lose half their 57 seats, and they were like: Why are you so pessimistic? They actually lost all but eight of their seats, FYI.

Another Lib Dem connection introduced Wylie to a company called SCL Group, one of whose subsidiaries, SCL Elections, would go on to create Cambridge Analytica (an incorporated venture between SCL Elections and Robert Mercer, funded by the latter). For all intents and purposes, SCL/Cambridge Analytica are one and the same.

Alexander Nix, then CEO of SCL Elections, made Wylie an offer he couldnt resist. He said: Well give you total freedom. Experiment. Come and test out all your crazy ideas.

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Another example of the visual messages trialled by GSRs online profiling test.

In the history of bad ideas, this turned out to be one of the worst. The job was research director across the SCL group, a private contractor that has both defence and elections operations. Its defence arm was a contractor to the UKs Ministry of Defence and the USs Department of Defense, among others. Its expertise was in psychological operations or psyops changing peoples minds not through persuasion but through informational dominance, a set of techniques that includes rumour, disinformation and fake news.

SCL Elections had used a similar suite of tools in more than 200 elections around the world, mostly in undeveloped democracies that Wylie would come to realise were unequipped to defend themselves.

Wylie holds a British Tier 1 Exceptional Talent visa a UK work visa given to just 200 people a year. He was working inside government (with the Lib Dems) as a political strategist with advanced data science skills. But no one, least of all him, could have predicted what came next. When he turned up at SCLs offices in Mayfair, he had no clue that he was walking into the middle of a nexus of defence and intelligence projects, private contractors and cutting-edge cyberweaponry.

The thing I think about all the time is, what if Id taken a job at Deloitte instead? They offered me one. I just think if Id taken literally any other job, Cambridge Analytica wouldnt exist. You have no idea how much I brood on this.

A few months later, in autumn 2013, Wylie met Steve Bannon. At the time, he was editor-in-chief of Breitbart, which he had brought to Britain to support his friend Nigel Farage in his mission to take Britain out of the European Union.

What was he like?

Smart, says Wylie. Interesting. Really interested in ideas. Hes the only straight man Ive ever talked to about intersectional feminist theory. He saw its relevance straightaway to the oppressions that conservative, young white men feel.

Wylie meeting Bannon was the moment petrol was poured on a flickering flame. Wylie lives for ideas. He speaks 19 to the dozen for hours at a time. He had a theory to prove. And at the time, this was a purely intellectual problem. Politics was like fashion, he told Bannon.

[Bannon] got it immediately. He believes in the whole Andrew Breitbart doctrine that politics is downstream from culture, so to change politics you need to change culture. And fashion trends are a useful proxy for that. Trump is like a pair of Uggs, or Crocs, basically. So how do you get from people thinking Ugh. Totally ugly to the moment when everyone is wearing them? That was the inflection point he was looking for.

But Wylie wasnt just talking about fashion. He had recently been exposed to a new discipline: information operations, which ranks alongside land, sea, air and space in the US militarys doctrine of the five-dimensional battle space. His brief ranged across the SCL Group the British government has paid SCL to conduct counter-extremism operations in the Middle East, and the US Department of Defense has contracted it to work in Afghanistan.

I tell him that another former employee described the firm as MI6 for hire, and Id never quite understood it.

Its like dirty MI6 because youre not constrained. Theres no having to go to a judge to apply for permission. Its normal for a market research company to amass data on domestic populations. And if youre working in some country and theres an auxiliary benefit to a current client with aligned interests, well thats just a bonus.

When I ask how Bannon even found SCL, Wylie tells me what sounds like a tall tale, though its one he can back up with an email about how Mark Block, a veteran Republican strategist, happened to sit next to a cyberwarfare expert for the US air force on a plane. And the cyberwarfare guy is like, Oh, you should meet SCL. They do cyberwarfare for elections.

U.S.
Steve Bannon: He loved the gays, says Wylie. He saw us as early adopters. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters

It was Bannon who took this idea to the Mercers: Robert Mercer the co-CEO of the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies, who used his billions to pursue a rightwing agenda, donating to Republican causes and supporting Republican candidates and his daughter Rebekah.

Nix and Wylie flew to New York to meet the Mercers in Rebekahs Manhattan apartment.

She loved me. She was like, Oh we need more of your type on our side!

Your type?

The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. Its why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.

Robert Mercer was a pioneer in AI and machine translation. He helped invent algorithmic trading which replaced hedge fund managers with computer programs and he listened to Wylies pitch. It was for a new kind of political message-targeting based on an influential and groundbreaking 2014 paper researched at Cambridges Psychometrics Centre, called: Computer-based personality judgments are more accurate than those made by humans.

In politics, the money man is usually the dumbest person in the room. Whereas its the opposite way around with Mercer, says Wylie. He said very little, but he really listened. He wanted to understand the science. And he wanted proof that it worked.

And to do that, Wylie needed data.

How Cambridge Analytica acquired the data has been the subject of internal reviews at Cambridge University, of many news articles and much speculation and rumour.

When Nix was interviewed by MPs last month, Damian Collins asked him:

Does any of your data come from Global Science Research company?

Nix: GSR?

Collins: Yes.

Nix: We had a relationship with GSR. They did some research for us back in 2014. That research proved to be fruitless and so the answer is no.

Collins: They have not supplied you with data or information?

Nix: No.

Collins: Your datasets are not based on information you have received from them?

Nix: No.

Collins: At all?

Nix: At all.

The problem with Nixs response to Collins is that Wylie has a copy of an executed contract, dated 4 June 2014, which confirms that SCL, the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, entered into a commercial arrangement with a company called Global Science Research (GSR), owned by Cambridge-based academic Aleksandr Kogan, specifically premised on the harvesting and processing of Facebook data, so that it could be matched to personality traits and voter rolls.

He has receipts showing that Cambridge Analytica spent $7m to amass this data, about $1m of it with GSR. He has the bank records and wire transfers. Emails reveal Wylie first negotiated with Michal Kosinski, one of the co-authors of the original myPersonality research paper, to use the myPersonality database. But when negotiations broke down, another psychologist, Aleksandr Kogan, offered a solution that many of his colleagues considered unethical. He offered to replicate Kosinski and Stilwells research and cut them out of the deal. For Wylie it seemed a perfect solution. Kosinski was asking for $500,000 for the IP but Kogan said he could replicate it and just harvest his own set of data. (Kosinski says the fee was to fund further research.)

Dr
An unethical solution? Dr Aleksandr Kogan Photograph: alex kogan

Kogan then set up GSR to do the work, and proposed to Wylie they use the data to set up an interdisciplinary institute working across the social sciences. What happened to that idea, I ask Wylie. It never happened. I dont know why. Thats one of the things that upsets me the most.

It was Bannons interest in culture as war that ignited Wylies intellectual concept. But it was Robert Mercers millions that created a firestorm. Kogan was able to throw money at the hard problem of acquiring personal data: he advertised for people who were willing to be paid to take a personality quiz on Amazons Mechanical Turk and Qualtrics. At the end of which Kogans app, called thisismydigitallife, gave him permission to access their Facebook profiles. And not just theirs, but their friends too. On average, each seeder the people who had taken the personality test, around 320,000 in total unwittingly gave access to at least 160 other peoples profiles, none of whom would have known or had reason to suspect.

What the email correspondence between Cambridge Analytica employees and Kogan shows is that Kogan had collected millions of profiles in a matter of weeks. But neither Wylie nor anyone else at Cambridge Analytica had checked that it was legal. It certainly wasnt authorised. Kogan did have permission to pull Facebook data, but for academic purposes only. Whats more, under British data protection laws, its illegal for personal data to be sold to a third party without consent.

Facebook could see it was happening, says Wylie. Their security protocols were triggered because Kogans apps were pulling this enormous amount of data, but apparently Kogan told them it was for academic use. So they were like, Fine.

Kogan maintains that everything he did was legal and he had a close working relationship with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Cambridge Analytica had its data. This was the foundation of everything it did next how it extracted psychological insights from the seeders and then built an algorithm to profile millions more.

For more than a year, the reporting around what Cambridge Analytica did or didnt do for Trump has revolved around the question of psychographics, but Wylie points out: Everything was built on the back of that data. The models, the algorithm. Everything. Why wouldnt you use it in your biggest campaign ever?

In December 2015, the Guardians Harry Davies published the first report about Cambridge Analytica acquiring Facebook data and using it to support Ted Cruz in his campaign to be the US Republican candidate. But it wasnt until many months later that Facebook took action. And then, all they did was write a letter. In August 2016, shortly before the US election, and two years after the breach took place, Facebooks lawyers wrote to Wylie, who left Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and told him the data had been illicitly obtained and that GSR was not authorised to share or sell it. They said it must be deleted immediately.

Christopher
Christopher Wylie: Its like Nixon on steroids

I already had. But literally all I had to do was tick a box and sign it and send it back, and that was it, says Wylie. Facebook made zero effort to get the data back.

There were multiple copies of it. It had been emailed in unencrypted files.

Cambridge Analytica rejected all allegations the Observer put to them.

Dr Kogan who later changed his name to Dr Spectre, but has subsequently changed it back to Dr Kogan is still a faculty member at Cambridge University, a senior research associate. But what his fellow academics didnt know until Kogan revealed it in emails to the Observer (although Cambridge University says that Kogan told the head of the psychology department), is that he is also an associate professor at St Petersburg University. Further research revealed that hes received grants from the Russian government to research Stress, health and psychological wellbeing in social networks. The opportunity came about on a trip to the city to visit friends and family, he said.

There are other dramatic documents in Wylies stash, including a pitch made by Cambridge Analytica to Lukoil, Russias second biggest oil producer. In an email dated 17 July 2014, about the US presidential primaries, Nix wrote to Wylie: We have been asked to write a memo to Lukoil (the Russian oil and gas company) to explain to them how our services are going to apply to the petroleum business. Nix said that they understand behavioural microtargeting in the context of elections but that they were failing to make the connection between voters and their consumers. The work, he said, would be shared with the CEO of the business, a former Soviet oil minister and associate of Putin, Vagit Alekperov.

It didnt make any sense to me, says Wylie. I didnt understand either the email or the pitch presentation we did. Why would a Russian oil company want to target information on American voters?

Muellers investigation traces the first stages of the Russian operation to disrupt the 2016 US election back to 2014, when the Russian state made what appears to be its first concerted efforts to harness the power of Americas social media platforms, including Facebook. And it was in late summer of the same year that Cambridge Analytica presented the Russian oil company with an outline of its datasets, capabilities and methodology. The presentation had little to do with consumers. Instead, documents show it focused on election disruption techniques. The first slide illustrates how a rumour campaign spread fear in the 2007 Nigerian election in which the company worked by spreading the idea that the election would be rigged. The final slide, branded with Lukoils logo and that of SCL Group and SCL Elections, headlines its deliverables: psychographic messaging.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

White House indicates it could find funds to train and arm 1 million teachers

President expands on idea to arm some teachers in schools and says gun-adept teachers/coaches would solve the problem instantly

The White House indicated on Thursday that the federal government could come up with the money to fund as many as a million teachers being trained and armed with guns across America in a controversial attempt to keep schools safe from more mass shootings.

This followed repeated assertions from Donald Trump during earlier meetings at the White House, as well as in presidential tweets, that his response to the school massacre in Florida last week is to arm teachers and sports coaches.

It would be a great deterrent to killers, he said.

At the White House press briefing on Thursday afternoon, Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, was asked if it was practical to expect teachers to carry concealed handguns to protect their students from shooters.

When you have a horrific situation, what you think and do not think is practical can change, Shah said.

Teachers unions have expressed shock and skepticism that any such plan could be feasible or effective.

But at a meeting at the White House with state and local officials early Thursday afternoon, Trump talked of paying bonuses to some teachers, providing highly adept people, people who understand weaponry, guns … [with] a concealed permit.

He suggested paying bonuses to armed, trained teachers, suggesting that 10, 20, 40% of teachers could be qualified to do so, especially retired military personnel.

I want my schools protected just like I want my banks protected, he said.

The White House was later challenged that 40% of Americas teachers being given a bonus of, for example, $1,000, would mean $1bn being distributed to a million of them.

Do you really think thats too much to pay for school safety? Shah responded. Shah said Trump would soon be talking to members of Congress about legislative and budgetary proposals.

Trump had earlier appeared to speak outagainst the kind of active shooter drills that are becoming the norm in many schools.

Active shooter drills is a very negative thing … Ill be honest with you. If Im a child, Im 10 years old and they say … Were going to have an active shooter drill, I say Whats that? Well, People may come in and shoot you … I think thats a very negative thing to be talking about, to be honest with you. I dont like it. Id much rather have a hardened school,he said.

But Shah explained that it was the frightening name the president disliked, not the drills themselves, and was in favor of calling them a safety drill.

He confirmed that Trump is considering supporting a rise in the age limit for purchasing an assault rifle to 21, but does not support banning assault weapons for US civilians outright. Students who survived the shooting at their high school in Parkland last week quickly began a fierce campaign calling for that measure.

In contrast to the combative tone coming from the administration, the Parkland mayor, Christine Hunschofsky, addressed safety and mental health in her meeting with Trump on Thursday, and then alluded to the assault rifle used by shooter Nikolas Cruz in last Wednesdays massacre, saying: In the end, how did somebody like this person get access to that kind of firearm?

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Angry father of Florida victim asks Trump: ‘How many children have to get shot?’ video

At an emotional session at the White House on Wednesday, the US president held a listening session with survivors of last weeks Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, telling them that armed teachers and school coaches could very well end the attack very quickly.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted: 20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions. Highly trained teachers would also serve as a deterrent to the cowards that do this.

Trump said having so-called gun-free zones around schools created a situation for school shooters like going in for the ice cream.

At Wednesdays meeting, Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son, Dylan, died at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, spoke out against arming teachers. I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place,she said.

Randi Weingarten, president of theAmerican Federation of Teachers union said in a statement:Anyone who wants guns in schools has no understanding of what goes on inside them or worse, doesnt care.

Barack Obama weighed in on Thursday, tweeting: Young people have helped lead all our great movements. How inspiring to see it again in so many smart, fearless students standing up for their right to be safe.

interactive

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/trump-proposal-teachers-guns-schools

NRA head breaks silence to attack gun control advocates: ‘They hate individual freedom’

Wayne LaPierre spoke at CPAC in the wake of the Florida school shooting, mounting an unrepentant defense of gun rights

The head of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) has broken his silence more than a week after the Florida school shooting with a vituperative attack on gun control advocates, accusing them of exploiting the tragedy to push their agenda.

Wayne LaPierre, whose lobby group faces an unprecedented challenge from the activism of students, including survivors of the massacre, sought to paint his opponents as elites and socialists hellbent on undermining Americans constitutional rights.

The elites dont care not one whit about Americas school system and schoolchildren, he told the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the National Harbor in Maryland. If they truly cared, what they would do is they would protect them. For them, its not a safety issue, its a political issue.

They care more about control, and more of it. Their goal is to eliminate the second amendment and our firearms freedoms so they can eradicate all individual freedoms… They hate the NRA, they hate the second amendment, they hate individual freedom.

Addressing a sympathetic audience of conservative grassroots activists, LaPierre continued: They fantasise about more laws stopping what other laws have failed to stop. So many existing laws were ignored. They dont care if their laws work or not. They just want to get more laws to get more control over people. But the NRA the NRA does care.

The massacre of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida, last week was the second deadliest shooting at an American public school and has spurred extraordinary protests across the country. The debate reached a watershed on Wednesday when students and teachers confronted US Senators in a noisy town hall event televised live by CNN; there were raucous cheers for the idea of sweeping bans on assault weapons.

LaPierres name was initially kept off the agenda at the annual CPAC to protect him from media scrutiny. The NRA often prefers to stay out of the spotlight in the wake of a major shooting.

LaPierre sought to put the warnings in the wider context of a socialist enemy within, who he said oppose our fundamental freedoms enshrined in the bill of rights. He claimed that the Communist Manifesto and Karl Marx were ascendent on university campuses, describing socialism as a political disease.

The NRA chief warned the packed ballroom: You should be anxious and you should be frightened. If these so-called European socialists take over the House and the Senate and, God forbid, they win the White House again our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever, and the first to go will be the second amendment to the US constitution the right to bear arms.

Pushing the same agenda on school security as Donald Trump, he insisted: The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous. If thats true, armed security makes us less safe, lets just go ahead and remove it from everywhere.

He continued: We must immediately harden our schools. Every day young children are being dropped off at schools that are virtually wide open, soft targets for anyone bent on mass murder. It should not be easier for a madman to shoot up a school than a bank or jewellery store or some Hollywood gala.

Schools should be the hardest target in this country. Evil must be confronted with all necessary force to protect our kids.

He ended his speech, which was met with a standing ovation, by repeating the notorious mantra he had issued after the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012: To stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes a good guy with a gun.

In an earlier speech, the NRAs national spokeswoman singled out the media for criticism. Dana Loesch said: Many in legacy media love mass shootings. You guys love it. Now Im not saying that you love the tragedy. But I am saying that you love the ratings. Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you.

Under intense public pressure, there has been speculation that Trump might use his credibility with Republicans to take on the NRA, one of his strongest backers. But on Thursday he tweeted full support: What many people dont understand, or dont want to understand, is that Wayne, Chris [Cox] and the folks who work so hard at the @NRA are Great People and Great American Patriots. They love our Country and will do the right thing. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

The president reaffirmed his proposal to address school shootings by giving some teachers guns, tweeting that it would be a great deterrent to killers. He suggested a little bit of a bonus for trained teachers who are armed.

Trump, who held a listening session with students and parents on Wednesday, also said he would advocate for tightening background checks for gun buyers, with an emphasis on mental health, and lifting the age limit to 21 to buy some types of guns policies less likely to please the powerful pro-gun lobby group.

Many attendees at CPAC expressed support for the idea of arming teachers.

Debi Millman, a fundraiser based in Los Angeles, suggested it was more realistic than restricting a country already awash with guns. How many millions of them are there? Youre never going to be able to keep evil out. A better solution for me is have the schools be able to defend themselves. If criminals know that if they attack a school theyll get their heads blown off, thats a good idea.

Randi Green, a personal trainer from Los Angeles, interjected: Except for the fact most teachers are liberals and would baulk at the idea.

Green was sceptical about the students at Parkland who had been speaking out. Theyre definitely being manipulated, she said. Everybody has a voice but these are young kids and I dont think they know better than lawmakers. I thought they were very disrespectful in the way they speak to people. I think the parents are rooting them on.

Scott Pio, 33, wearing a red Make America great again cap, also backed the proposal for teachers to carry and conceal firearms. We can arm everybody else around important people, why cant we arm everybody around our students, especially as they are soft targets? What are people so afraid of? Even city council managers are already protected by guns.

Pio, a software engineer from Fairfax, Virginia, also suggested making schools more secure, with only one point of entry, and increasing the number of security guards on site. But he was opposed to a ban on semi-automatic weapons. There are plenty of people in rural areas who use guns to protect their homes and go hunting. But Im OK with raising the age to 21 for assault rifles.

Chris Davis, 44, a police officer from Pennsylvania, said he was impressed by the students who have spoken out but criticised liberal campaigners demanding tighter gun controls. These same people say President Trump is a tyrant. The reason you have the second amendment is to protect yourself from a tyrant.

Todd McKinley, 40, a retired soldier from Kingsport, Tennessee, added: The left called him Hitler, but then they want to grab all guns just like Hitler did.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/22/nra-wayne-lapierre-gun-control-cpac-speech-2018

Trump’s solution to school shootings: arm teachers with guns

It is the gun, its the person behind the gun and its about helping people before they ever reach that point, said a mother whose son died at Sandy Hook elementary

Donald Trump has said he will consider a proposal to arm school teachers in an attempt to prevent mass shootings, a move certain to prove fiercely divisive.

The US president, holding a listening session at the White House with survivors of last weeks Florida school shooting and others affected by gun violence, claimed that allowing airline pilots to carry and conceal guns had demonstrated the measure could be a success.

It only works when you have people very adept at using firearms, of which you have many, Trump said during an emotionally searing session on Wednesday that, extraordinarily, was broadcast live on national television. It would be teachers and coaches.

Referring to Aaron Feis, a football coach who used his body as a shield to protect a student during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, the president continued: If the coach had a firearm in his locker when he ran at this guy that coach was very brave, saved a lot of lives, I suspect.

Julia
Julia Cordover, the student body president at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School wipes away tears during a listening session hosted by Donald Trump at the White House. Photograph: Xinhua / Barcroft Images

But if he had a firearm, he wouldnt have had to run, he would have shot him, and that would have been the end of it. This would only obviously be for people who are very adept at handling a gun. Its called concealed carry, where a teacher would have a concealed gun on them. Theyd go for special training and they would be there and you would no longer have a gun-free zone. Gun-free zone to a maniac, because theyre all cowards, a gun-free zone is: Lets go in and lets attack, because bullets arent coming back at us.

Trump added: An attack has lasted, on average, about three minutes. It takes five to eight minutes for responders, for the police to come in, so the attack is over. If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly.

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Trump says arming teachers with concealed weapons could prevent school massacres video

Knowledge of this would act as a deterrent to a would-be attacker, Trump claimed. You know, a lot of people dont understand that airline pilots now, a lot of them carry guns, and I have to say that things have changed a lot. People arent attacking the way they would routinely attack and maybe you would have the same situation in schools.

The president asked for a show of hands in the room over the proposal: some were in favour, others were against. We can understand both sides and certainly its controversial, he acknowledged, promising to discuss it seriously.

It emerged after the shooting at Parkland that there was an armed security guard on site but he did not get the chance to engage the gunman, Nikolas Cruz, on the sprawling campus. In May 2016, during the presidential election, Trump tweeted: Crooked Hillary [Clinton] said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!

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Donald Trump with notes during a listening session with high school students and teachers at the White House on Wednesday. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Nicole Hockley, whose six-year-old son Dylan died at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, spoke out against the idea of arming teachers. Its not personally something that I support. Rather than arming them with a firearm, I would rather arm them with the knowledge of how to prevent these acts from happening in the first place, she told Trump.

Safety assessments programmes and interventions for troubled children are vital, she added. Lets talk about prevention. There is so much that we can do to help people before it reaches that point, and I urge you please stay focused on that as well. It is the gun, its the person behind the gun and its about helping people before they ever reach that point.

Earlier during the session in the state dining room, where some speakers were tearful but composed as they recalled their experiences, Hockley also issued a challenge to the president. This is not difficult, she told him. These deaths are preventable. And I implore you: consider your own children. You dont want to be me. No parent does.

During the meeting Trump also asserted that he would be very strong on background checks for gun buyers as well as mental health issues. He sat in the middle of a semi-circle listening intently as six survivors of last weeks shooting and bereaved parents from Parkland, Columbine, and Sandy Hook took turns to address him.

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

Crooked Hillary said that I want guns brought into the school classroom. Wrong!

May 22, 2016

Sam Zeif, 18, a Parkland student whose text messages with his brother during last weeks shooting went viral, fought back tears as he told Trump: I turned 18 the day after. Woke up to the news that my best friend was gone. I dont understand why I can still go in a store and buy a weapon of war, an AR. I was reading today that a person 20 years old walked into a store and bought an AR-15 in five minutes with an expired ID. How is it that easy to buy this type of weapon? How are we not stopping this after Columbine, after Sandy Hook, sitting with a mother that lost her son? Its still happening.

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was killed at Stoneman Douglas, reflected the candid anger of many when he took the microphone. Were here because my daughter has no voice she was murdered last week, shot nine times, he said. How many schools, how many children have to get shot? It stops here, with this administration and me.

Pollack, his voice rising with raw emotion, added: It should have been one school shooting, and we should have fixed it, and Im pissed because my daughter, Im not going to see again.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/feb/21/donald-trump-solution-to-school-shootings-arm-teachers-with-guns

Dont listen to Gwyneth Paltrow: keep your coffee well away from your rectum | Jen Gunter

The colonic irrigation and coffee enemas promoted on Paltrows website Goop are not merely unnecessary, they are potentially dangerous, writes obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Jen Gunter

It seems January is Gwyneth Paltrows go-to month for promoting potentially dangerous things that should not go in or near an orifice. January 2015 brought us vagina steaming, January 2017 was jade eggs, and here we are in the early days of January 2018 and Goop.com is hawking coffee enemas and promoting colonic irrigation.

I suspect that GP and her pals at Goop.com believe people are especially vulnerable to buying quasi-medical items in the New Year as they have just released their latest detox and wellness guide complete with a multitude of products to help get you nowhere.

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Ha ha, go deep. Nice play on words for a dangerous yet ineffective therapy. An advertisement on Goop.com.

One offers to help if youre looking to go deep on many levels. Ha ha, go deep. Nice play on words for a dangerous yet ineffective therapy. Goop.com is not selling a coffee machine, it is selling a coffee enema-making machine. That, my friends, is a messed-up way to make money. I know the people at Goop will either ignore the inquiries from reporters or release a statement saying the article is a conversation not a promotion and that they included the advice of a board-certified doctor, Dr Alejandro Junger, but any time you lend someone else your platform their ideas are now your ideas. That is why I never let anyone write guest posts for my blog. And lets be real, if you are selling the hardware to shoot coffee up your ass then you are promoting it as a therapy especially as Goop actually called the $135 coffee enema-making machine Dr Jungers pick. I mean come on.

The interview with Junger is filled with information that is unsupported both by the medical literature and by human anatomy and physiology. There is no data to suggest that a colonic helps with the elimination of the waste that is transiting the colon on its way out. That is what bowel movements do. There are no toxins to be cleansed or irrigated. That is fake medicine. A 2011 review on colonics concluded that doctors should advise patients that colon cleansing has no proven benefits and many adverse effects.

The idea that colonics are used in conjunction with a cleanse is beyond ridiculous. Junger tells us via Goop that a cleanse creates some kind of extra sticky mucus that blocks elimination of what needs to be disposed of (I will admit that hurt my brain more than a little). Dr Junger says this cleanse residue is a mucoid plaque, basically some kind of adherent, cleanse-induced super-glue that needs a colonic for removal. He supports this assertion not with published research, but by telling Goops readers to Google mucoid plaque.

No really. That is what he said. Google it. So I did. This is what came up first:

Mucoid plaque (or mucoid cap or rope) is a pseudoscientific term used by some alternative medicine advocates to describe what is claimed to be a combination of allegedly harmful mucus-like material and food residue that they say coats the gastrointestinal tract of most people.

Apparently, the term mucoid plaque was coined by Richard Anderson, who is a naturopath, not a gastroenterologist, so not a doctor who actually looks inside the colon. I looked mucoid plaques up in PubMed. Guess what? Nothing colon-related. There is not one study or even case-report describing this phenomenon. Apparently only doctors who sell cleanses and colonics can see them. I am fairly confident that if some gastroenterologist (actual colon doctor) found some crazy mucus that looked like drool from the alien queen that she or he would have taken pictures and written about it or discussed it at a conference.

If we needed cleanses to live and thus colonics to manage this alien-like mucous residue created by cleanses, how did we ever evolve? Wouldnt we have died out from these mysterious toxins? Wouldnt our rectums be different? Wouldnt we have invented irrigation tubing before the wheel? So many questions.

There is only a side mention in the Goop post of two of the many complications seen with colonics: colon perforation and damage to gastrointestinal bacteria. And as for coffee enemas? While Dr Kelly Brogan, Paltrows Aids-denialist doctor gal pal who is speaking at In Goop Health later this month, is also a huge fan, there is no data to suggest that coffee offers any benefit via the rectal route but there are plenty of reports of coffee enema-induced rectal burns.

So here are the facts. No one needs a cleanse. Ever. There are no waste products left behind in the colon that need removing just because or after a cleanse. If a cleanse did leave gross, adherent hunks of weird mucus then that would be a sign that the cleanse was damaging the colon. You know what creates excess, weird mucous? Irritation and inflammation.

There are serious risks to colonics such as bowel perforation, damaging the intestinal bacteria, abdominal pain, vomiting, electrolyte abnormalities and renal failure. There are also reports of serious infections, air embolisms, colitis, and rectal perforation. If you go to a spa and the equipment is not sterilised, infections can be transmitted via the tubing.

Coffee enemas and colonics offer no health benefit. The biology used to support these therapies is unsound and there can be very real complications. Keep the coffee out of your rectum and in your cup. It is only meant to access your colon from the top.

Dr Jen Gunter is an obstetrician, gynaecologist and pain medicine physician. This piece originally ran on Jen Gunters blog

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/09/gwyneth-paltrow-goop-coffee-enema-colonic-irrigation