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In New Zealand, “Transgender” Wins Weightlifting Contest, River Becomes Person

Is it strange that in a country where a woman pretending to be a man wins a weight-lifting contest, that the government would declare a river to be a person?

Wait. It might have been a man pretending to be a woman. You can never tell in these “transgender” stories which part of Reality has been affronted.

What we do know is that the New Zealand Herald reported that a “transgender” person named Hubbard won a weight-lifting competition. Hubbard beat the second-place finisher by hoisting about 40 additional pounds.

Maybe this was a man pretending to be a woman. In that case, then a man lifted more weight than a woman. So Dog-Bites-Man. Or it was a woman pretending to be a man. In that case it must have been a woman juiced on various drugs, like anabolic steroids and testosterone, to make her competitive with real men. And that makes it a story of performance-enhancing illegal drug use.

Both stories are depressing.

As What Gender Does the River Identify?

So is the story that New Zealand’s Parliament has recognized the Whanganui River as a legal person. Yes, the river, also called Te Awa Tupua, is to be treated the same as hot dog hawkers and college professors. According to BioEdge:

Riverine personhood is an untested concept in a Western legal system. According to the government, Te Awa Tupua will now have its own legal personality with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person. Lawyers say that the river cannot vote and cannot be charged with homicide if people drown in it. But it will have to pay taxes, if liable. The gender of the river is unspecified at the moment.

How this riverine person will pay taxes is something to be watched. Maybe in the spirit of Finders-Keepers, the river will offer up rings and other jewelry lost by actual people while swimming. But will swimming even be allowed? Unless you’re still preborn, you can’t swim in an actual person. May you swim in a riverine person?

That brings up the natural question: How will we know Mr. — or Ms.? — Whanganui’s opinion about swimming? We don’t even know his or her preferred “gender.” Obviously, like in Hubbard’s case, people are free to call themselves whatever “gender” they wish. Thinking anything else is rank bigotry. But we at least have the advantage of asking Hubbard’s opinion whether she is a he or he is a she, or whatever. We can assume that Whanganui gurgles, as all rivers do, but who speaks River? Who can tell us Whanganui’s preferred gender?

We’ll have to rely on hydromancy. That’s the “method of divination by means of water, including the color, ebb and flow, or ripples produced by pebbles dropped in a pool.” Or in this case, dropped in a river.

Hydromancy requires a hydromancer. That’s an actual human person who can interpret the wiggles and waves of (Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. or Mx.) Whanganui into human commands and desires. Since New Zealand’s Parliament says that these human-like desires exist, they’re going to have to fund the position of Official Hydromancer (which, in a way, they are).

The person-river also now has rights.

One politician said, “The river itself has the right itself not to be polluted. It has the right not to be degraded. It has the right not to be overdrawn before it can replenish itself.”

So Rivers Have Rights. Do They Have Duties?

These are fine rights, sure to swell in number as time passes, as all rights do. But it does seem unfair that the river gets only rights but has no duties. It can commit homicide but can’t be held accountable for it? Wait and see: this leniency will encourage bad behavior, like flooding. Don’t anger Whanganui!

There are, of course, deep tangled sensitive politics behind New Zealand’s move to call a river not a river but a man (or woman). Yet these motivations, weighty as they are, fail to explain the full enthusiasm of the Parliament for its ruling. For instance, the government could have ceded control of the river or applied vast quantities of money to those who hold the river sacred. Instead, they insisted that all of New Zealand call the river a person.

Or it could have agreed that those who wanted could call the river a person. Instead, it gave freedom to those who wanted to follow Reality to call the river a river.

Yet if a man can call himself a woman (or vice versa) and expect all must agree with his choice of “gender,” it follows that a river can be a man and that all must agree that a river is a man.

Or a woman. (For more from the author of “In New Zealand, “Transgender” Wins Weightlifting Contest, River Becomes Person” please click HERE)

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The U.S. And U.K. Just Banned Something Everyone Uses on Certain Flights

Senior administration officials confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. will be implementing carry-on restrictions banning electronic devices larger than a smartphone from flights arriving in the United States from selected airlines in the Middle East and Northern Africa. The new TSA “emergency amendment” requires passengers to put their laptops, tablets, game consoles, etc., in with their checked baggage, whether they intended to check any luggage or not.

The new procedure affects the following airports: Jordan’s Queen Alia International; Egypt’s Cairo International; Kuwait International; Qatar’s Doha International; Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk; Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz International; Saudi Arabia’s King Khalid International; Morocco’s Mohammed V Airport; Dubai International; and Abu Dabi International.

Airlines affected by the ban are as follows: Turkish Airlines; Royal Jordanian; EgyptAir; Saudia; Qatar Airways; Kuwait Airways; Royal Air Maroc; Emirates; and Ethiad Airways. The ban does not apply to airline employees or flights into any of the listed airports.

DHS officials are calling it a safety precaution, citing past attacks in Egypt, Turkey, Belgium, and Somalia — none of which involved explosives or weapons being smuggled onboard in electronic devices. They also dismissed questions regarding whether or not the sudden restrictions were in response to any credible threat, how long the “emergency amendment” will be enforced, or the difference between a device being held in the cargo hold or held in the cabin of the same plane.

Less than 24 hours later, the U.K. followed suit, announcing a carry-on electronics ban “on direct flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.” The airlines affected by the ban are British Airways; EasyJet; Jet2.com; Monarch; Thomas Cook; Thompson; Turkish Airlines; Pegasus Airways; Atlas-Global Airlines; Middle East Airlines; Egyptair; Royal Jordanian; Tunis Air; and Saudia.

The spokesman for the prime minister declined to comment on what prompted the new procedures. (For more from the author of “The U.S. And U.K. Just Banned Something Everyone Uses on Certain Flights” please click HERE)

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Where the Fight Against ISIS Stands, and How the US Can Win

The Trump administration has invited 68 countries and international organizations to attend a summit in Washington on Wednesday to coordinate policies to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will lead the two-day gathering of foreign ministers in synchronizing coalition efforts to destroy ISIS on the battlefield, prevent it from staging a comeback, and deprive it of money, arms, and recruits.

The military campaign launched by the anti-ISIS coalition has made considerable progress in recent months. The ongoing offensives to push ISIS out of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, and seize Raqqa, the de facto ISIS capital city in Syria, will be key topics at the summit.

The Iraqi army, in coordination with Iraqi Kurdish and Shiite militias, launched the offensive against Mosul in October, and has surrounded and retaken most of the city. They have been aided by a U.S.-led air campaign and supported by U.S. advisers, trainers, artillery batteries, and special operations forces.

Defeating ISIS in Syria is likely to be much more difficult than in Iraq because of the lack of reliable partners on the ground.

Syria’s brutal dictatorship has long been hostile to the United States. Backed by Russia and Iran, President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has focused its military attacks not on ISIS, but against more moderate rebel groups, including some supported by the United States.

Washington has been working with Syrian Kurdish militias, which have been effective military forces, but they are handicapped by the fact that they are feared and resented in the predominantly Arab areas that ISIS controls.

Moreover, Turkey considers them to be terrorists due to their affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a terrorist group that Turkey has been fighting on and off since 1984.

The Pentagon in recent weeks has deployed several hundred Army rangers and Marines to Syria to bolster Syrian rebel groups and provide artillery support to help them defeat ISIS. This is in addition to an estimated 500 American special operations personnel already in Syria.

The Trump administration’s revised plans for seizing Raqqa reportedly call for an enhanced U.S. military role, including the deployment of additional U.S. special operations forces, artillery, and attack helicopters.

More Help Needed

Washington also should press its NATO allies and Arab coalition members to provide more military forces and support for the impending offensive against Raqqa.

The anti-ISIS summit also is an opportunity to develop a supportive international framework for transforming the military defeat of ISIS into a sustainable long-term political defeat.

The summit meeting should focus on how to restore law and order and enable self-government in areas of Syria liberated from ISIS. This means recruiting as many local Sunni Arabs as possible to root out ISIS and preclude it from resurging.

Washington also should press coalition members to take more effective steps to choke off fundraising for ISIS, combat its internet recruitment efforts, and discredit its propaganda.

The summit meeting also should focus on enlisting coalition members–particularly the rich Sunni Arab oil kingdoms—to provide adequate financial support for humanitarian aid for Syria’s huge refugee population and help Syrians to eventually rebuild cities shattered by the war.

But as long as Syria’s ferocious civil war rages on, international efforts to ease the humanitarian catastrophe, stabilize the country, and permanently bury ISIS will remain precarious exercises.

Washington should lead international diplomatic efforts to pressure the Assad regime to accept a political settlement to end the conflict, including the full autonomy of regions that have expelled the regime’s repressive presence.

To nail the ISIS coffin shut, Washington must use the summit meeting to coordinate coalition efforts not only on the military front, but on the diplomatic, counterterrorism, humanitarian, and self-government fronts as well. (For more from the author of “Where the Fight Against ISIS Stands, and How the US Can Win” please click HERE)

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Report: FBI Investigation Into Trump-Russian Connects Instigated by Clinton Opposition Researcher

The FBI investigation into potential connections between the Trump campaign and the Russian government began just weeks after a former British spy doing opposition research for Hillary Clinton supporters briefed bureau agents on evidence he had collected on such ties, Yahoo News reported Monday.

According to Chief Investigative Correspondent Michael Isikoff, Christopher Steele, a former British MI-6 intelligence officer specializing in Russian operations, had been hired as an investigator by Fusion GPS, an opposition research firm working on behalf of Clinton. On July 5, 2016, Steele went to the FBI with what he’d compiled on contact between Trump advisers and Kremlin officials.

The early contact between Steele and the bureau now appears to have set in motion a chain of events that led to Monday’s extraordinary testimony by Comey that the bureau has been actively investigating possible links between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin since “late July” — or more than three months before Election Day.

If true, this would put the match of the fuse for this Russian business in the hand of someone with a vested interest in helping Hillary Clinton take down Trump. Further, the calendar raises an intriguing possibility.

The Curious Timing of the Plane on the Tarmac

Why is the July 5th date significant? For starters, it is the day FBI Director James Comey stood in front of the nation, explained all the egregious ways Hillary Clinton had violated and flouted the law in the handling of classified information, then said he was recommending against prosecuting her.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch quickly accepted the recommendation.

Days earlier, on June 27, Lynch had secretly met on a tarmac in Phoenix with Bill Clinton. In the dust-up after the rendezvous was revealed, Lynch recused herself from the Hillary email investigation.

But perhaps all eyes were on the wrong prize. Perhaps emails had as much to do with the meeting as photos of grandchildren. Let’s add Steele into the mix.

Would Steele have taken his bag of goodies to the FBI first? No. He would go to his client, Fusion GPS. The opposition research firm then goes to their client, and soon the Clinton campaign has their hands on explosive allegations that Donald Trump is in cahoots with the Russians. What are the Clinton’s going to do with the information?

Naturally, bring the goodies to someone who can do the most damage with it. Namely, their old friend, the Attorney General of the United States.

Bill’s pitch would be pretty simple: “We have information to share about potential criminal wrongdoing and interference in the election by a foreign power, and I have to deliver it to you personally.” (This would also explain the still-simmering mystery over why Lynch would agree to meet with Clinton, knowing that, given the on-going Hillary investigation, such a meeting was a gross breach of ethics.)

If Lynch Bites

Here’s the beauty. If Lynch bites, you have Donald Trump under investigation during the final months of the campaign. You have justification to have friendly electronic ears and eyes trained on his operations, and who knows what will emerge? Even if she doesn’t bite, you and your billion dollar campaign war chest still have Steele’s information to use politically.

Or maybe Lynch just says, “Bill, don’t get me involved. If you really have something, have your guy take it to the FBI.”

Is that what happened? We do know that within days of that prearranged secret meeting, the Clinton opposition researcher was knocking on Comey’s door and an investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia was set in motion with all the snooping and surveilling that would entail. We also know the fruit of that intelligence was spread around the administration and friendly media outlets like orange slices at a youth soccer tournament.

Questions for the Attorney General-Turned #Resistance Champion

If Lynn has a few moments between her calls of support for the anti-Trump resistance, perhaps she can answer a few questions:

“When did you first hear of any Trump-Russian connections?”

“From whom?”

“What action did you take with that information?”

“When did the White House get wind of it?”

“Did you discuss in any way shape or form Donald Trump, his associates and/or the Russians during your secret meeting with Bill Clinton?”

“Would you care to say that under oath?”

“Given you met with the husband of Donald Trump’s opponent right around the time the FBI got involved in investigating Trump, did you recuse yourself from that investigation?”

“Do you consider yourself a political opponent of Donald Trump?”

And finally, “Do you agree with The Federalist‘s Mollie Hemingway that ‘we really should be having a conversation about the surveillance of a political opponent during a campaign and what that means’?”

Perhaps Lynch already did have a conversation about the surveillance of a political opponent during a campaign.

“A Big Gray Cloud”

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif) says the FBI bombshell announcement of the on-going investigation — presented by Comey with the permission of an Obama hold-over at the Department of Justice — has left a “big gray cloud” over Trump’s White House.

So let a full investigation continue. And as more sunlight enters into the situation it’ll be curious to see who, despite the clouds, ends up burned. (For more from the author of “Report: FBI Investigation Into Trump-Russian Connects Instigated by Clinton Opposition Researcher” please click HERE)

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Trump Administration Sends Strong Signal to Russia by Indicting Hackers

Of all the security threats facing the U.S. today, cyber threats are among the most pernicious. Thankfully, the administration is taking some concrete steps to confront them.

Last week, the Justice Department indicted four individuals on charges relating back to the 2016 hack into Yahoo’s network that compromised at least 500 million user accounts. Of those indicted, two are officers of the Russian Federal Security Service, an agency very similar in function to the United States’ FBI.

According to remarks made by acting Assistant Attorney General Mary McCord, the Russian officers “protected, directed, facilitated, and paid criminal hackers to collect information through computer intrusions in the United States.”

The hackers that worked with the Russian officers have also been indicted on numerous charges. One hacker has been apprehended in Canada, while the other hacker and the two Russian officers are in Russia, where they are safe because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia.

Though these three individuals in Russia cannot be prosecuted in the United States, the indictment charges against them are not useless. The decision by the administration to bring these charges sends a strong message to other nation-states about committing cyberattacks on private companies in the United States.

Private companies such as Yahoo already face a daunting challenge in defending themselves from cyber criminals and hacktivists. But when these cyberattacks come from nation-states, the defenses of a private company are outmatched.

The U.S. government has a responsibility to protect U.S. companies and other domestic computer networks from nation-state hackers, and it has a myriad of tools at its disposal to punish and deter such cyber aggressors.

These tools include the legal charges we saw last week, as well as charges the U.S. brought against five members of the Chinese Liberation Army in 2013 following their cyber espionage against businesses in the United States.

By using legal charges to combat cyber aggression, the United States shows that it is serious about protecting its interests and its companies, and has the evidence to prove other nations are acting maliciously.

Other options to respond to cyber aggression include leveling sanctions against offending nation-states.

A recent example of this came last fall following the hacks on the Democratic National Convention. In response to these hacks, the Obama administration enacted sanctions against five Russian intelligence agencies and three Russian companies, which froze assets and halted transactions and travel between those Russian companies and the United States.

Visa, commercial, and financial restrictions, diplomatic condemnations, actions in international organizations such as the World Trade Organization, and other strategic responses to hacking should all be on the table.

The Trump administration has set a strong precedent by indicting the two Russian Federal Security Service officers and the two hackers that worked with them. But this is just a first step.

Further steps will need to be taken to improve the U.S. deterrence posture against nations who would engage in cyber aggression against the United States. (For more from the author of “Trump Administration Sends Strong Signal to Russia by Indicting Hackers” please click HERE)

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Tillerson: No ‘Strategic Patience’ With North Korea, Maybe War

On his way to China, Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, stopped off in South Korea.

During a visit to the demilitarized border, Tillerson dissed the Obama administration. He said its policy of “strategic patience” has run its course and all “all of the options are on the table.”

Tillerson said “obviously if North Korea takes actions that threatens South Korean forces or our own forces, that would be met with (an) appropriate response. If they elevate the threat of their weapons program to a level that we believe requires action that option is on the table.”

Trump sent out a tweet to underscore the new policy. He went so far as to take a swipe at China, already irritated by the US position on its activity in the South China Sea.

It looks like the Trump administration is dead serious about starting a war with North Korea if it continues to build and test missiles and nukes.

Although it is probably unlikely Trump will be able to start a war with North Korea—additional draconian sanctions seem more likely—the residents of Seoul, 35 miles from the border, might want to prepare a go-bag. North Korea has tens of thousands of missiles aimed at them. (For more from the author of “Tillerson: No ‘Strategic Patience’ With North Korea, Maybe War” please click HERE)

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30 Countries Are Refusing to Take Back Illegal Aliens Convicted of Serious Crimes

Approximately 30 countries are refusing to accept the deportations of illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes in the U.S., according to Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar.

While these countries are refusing to accept the deportations of these criminals, the U.S. government is still issuing visas and student visas to citizens of those countries, according to the Texan congressman. There is already a law on the books which allows the U.S. to hold visas from a country that is not taking back its criminals, but according to Cuellar, the U.S. is not enforcing it.

“We’re not enforcing it, which is amazing. So now my intent is to go back to our committee on appropriations and affect their funding until they do that,” Cuellar told Sharyl Attkisson, host of Full Measure, in an interview.

Cuellar, a Democratic member of the House Committee on Appropriations, told Attkisson that the Supreme Court has ruled that illegal immigrants arrested for criminal activity can only be held for a certain period of time before they must be released.

“That means you’re releasing criminals into our streets because those countries refuse to take back those criminal aliens,” said Cuellar. “That’s wrong. And especially I think it’s even worse that this is already on the books, and we’re still issuing business tourist visas and student visas to countries that refuse to take back their criminal aliens. That’s wrong, and we’re hoping to change that.” (Read more from “30 Countries Are Refusing to Take Back Illegal Aliens Convicted of Serious Crimes” HERE)

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Three US Soldiers Wounded in Afghan ‘Insider Attack’

Three American troops were wounded Sunday when an Afghan soldier opened fire in southern Helmand province, officials said, in the first known “insider attack” on international forces this year.

No insurgent group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack in Camp Antonik in Washer district, which highlights long-simmering tensions between Afghan and foreign forces.

“Three US soldiers were wounded this afternoon when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in Helmand province. Coalition security forces on the base killed the soldier to end the attack,” a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan told AFP.

“The US soldiers are receiving medical treatment at this time and we will release more information when available.”

An Afghan soldier was also killed in the shootout, provincial spokesman Omar Zwak told AFP. (Read more from “Three US Soldiers Wounded in Afghan ‘Insider Attack'” HERE)

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Death Toll in Ethiopia Landfill Collapse up Sharply to 113

The death toll from a collapse at a landfill outside Ethiopia’s capital has risen sharply to 113, an Addis Ababa city official said Wednesday, as the country began three days of mourning for victims who were mostly women and children.

Dagmawit Moges confirmed the new toll Wednesday evening. Meanwhile, Addis Ababa Mayor Diriba Kuma told state broadcaster EBC the search-and-rescue effort soon would be completed and an investigation into the cause of the accident would begin.

Hopes were waning for survivors, though an official with the city’s emergency department, Nigatu Mamo, said one person had been pulled out alive on Monday, two days after the disaster. (Read more from “Death Toll in Ethiopia Landfill Collapse up Sharply to 113” HERE)

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D.C. Circuit Court Issues Dangerous Decision for Cybersecurity

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit today held that foreign governments are free to spy on, injure, or even kill Americans in their own homes–so long as they do so by remote control. The decision comes in a case called Kidane v. Ethiopia, which we filed in February 2014.

Our client, who goes by the pseudonym Mr. Kidane, is a U.S. citizen who was born in Ethiopia and has lived here for over 30 years. In 2012 through 2013, his family home computer was attacked by malware that captured and then sent his every keystroke and Skype call to a server controlled by the Ethiopian government, likely in response to his political activity in favor of democratic reforms in Ethiopia. In a stunningly dangerous decision today, the D.C. Circuit ruled that Mr. Kidane had no legal remedy against Ethiopia for this attack, despite the fact that he was wiretapped at home in Maryland. The court held that, because the Ethiopian government hatched its plan in Ethiopia and its agents launched the attack that occurred in Maryland from outside the U.S., a law called the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) prevented U.S. courts from even hearing the case.

The decision is extremely dangerous for cybersecurity. Under it, you have no recourse under law if a foreign government that hacks into your car and drives it off the road, targets you for a drone strike, or even sends a virus to your pacemaker, as long as the government planned the attack on foreign soil. It flies in the face of the idea that Americans should always be safe in their homes, and that safety should continue even if they speak out against foreign government activity abroad.

Factual background

Mr. Kidane discovered traces of state-sponsored malware called FinSpy, a sophisticated spyware product which its maker claims is sold exclusively to governments and law enforcement, on his laptop at his home in suburban Maryland. A forensic examination of his computer showed that the Ethiopian government had been recording Mr. Kidane’s Skype calls, as well as monitoring his (and his family’s) web and email usage. The spyware was launched when Kidane opened an attachment in an email. The spying began at his home in Maryland.

The spyware then reported everything it captured back to a command and control server in Ethiopia, owned and controlled by the Ethiopian government. The infection was active from October 2012 through March 2013, and was stopped just days after researchers at the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab released a report exposing Ethiopia’s use of FinSpy. The report specifically referenced the very IP address of the Ethiopian government server responsible for the command and control of the spyware on Mr. Kidane’s laptop.

We strenuously disagree with the D.C. Circuit’s opinion in this case. Foreign governments should not be immune from suit for injuring Americans in their own homes and Americans should be as safe from remote controlled, malware, or robot attacks as they are from human agents. The FSIA does not require the courts to close their doors to Americans who are attacked, and the court’s strained reading of the law is just wrong. Worse still, according to the court, so long as the foreign government formed even the smallest bit of its tortious intent abroad, it’s immune from suit. We are evaluating our options for challenging this ruling. (For more from the author of “D.C. Circuit Court Issues Dangerous Decision for Cybersecurity: Ethiopia Is Free to Spy on Americans in Their Own Homes” please click HERE)

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