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Wed, 16 Aug 2017
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'Dangerous to be British' warns freed Al-Qaeda hostage who converted to Islam

© Gulshan Khan / AFP
Freed South African Hostage Stephen McGown.
A tourist held hostage by Al-Qaeda in Mali for nearly six years has warned it is "dangerous to be British" and described how his conversion to Islam saved his life.

Speaking 10 days after his release, Stephen McGown, a South African with British citizenship, said he did not believe his captors knew his nationality and thinks it would have been "first prize" had they known he was from the UK.

McGown was abducted with Swedish citizen Johan Gustafsso and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke in Timbuktu, northern Mali, by Islamist extremists in 2011. He had been traveling across the Sahara on a motorbike.

In his first appearance before the media since his release, McGown, still sporting long hair and a beard from his years in captivity, said his captors did not know his nationality when they caught him.

"They obviously would have really preferred me to have been British. This would have been first prize.

"And it took a long time for the British status to fall away. I think my family were pushing for this, and I was pushing for this. Because it's dangerous to be British, I think."

He believes he was kidnapped "because I just wasn't a Muslim."

Evil Rays

Perpetual fear: Ex-MI5 boss says Britain will face radical Islamist threat for decades to come

© Neil Hall / Reuters
Police guard a cordon on the north side of London Bridge, after attackers rammed a hired van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby killing and injuring people, in London, Britain June 4, 2017.
Former MI5 chief Lord Evans has warned that the Islamist threat to the UK is likely to continue for the next "20 to 30 years."

In an interview with BBC Radio 4, the former director of Britain's Security Service (MI5) said the issue of Islamist terrorism is a "generational problem" and that the UK must "persevere" to defeat it comprehensively.

Evans, who resigned as the head of MI5 in 2013, warned the threat posed by radical Islamists is unlikely to subside due to the rise of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

"There's no doubt that we are still facing a severe terrorist threat but I think it's also important to put this in a slightly longer context because right the way back from the 1990s we have been experiencing difficulties from Islamist terrorists of one sort or another.

"Over that period the threat has come and gone but the underlying threat has continued.

"Since 2013 there have been 19 attempted attacks that have been disrupted and even since the attack at Westminster [in March] we are told there have been six disruptions, so this is a permanent state of preparedness.

"We're at least 20 years into this. My guess is that we will still be dealing with the long tail in over 20 years' time," Evans added.

"I think this is genuinely a generational problem. I think we are going to be facing 20 to 30 years of terrorist threat and therefore we need, absolutely critically, to persevere."

Microscope 2

Four scientists respond to the Google Memo on diversity

Professor Lee Jussim
Lee Jussim is a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University and was a Fellow and Consulting Scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2013-15). He has served as chair of the Psychology Department at Rutgers University and has received the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, and the APA Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology. He has published numerous articles and chapters and edited several books on social perception, accuracy, self-fulfilling prophecies, and stereotypes. His most recent book, Social Perception and Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, ties that work together to demonstrate that people are far more reasonable and rational, and their judgments are typically far more accurate than social psychological conventional wisdom usually acknowledges. You can follow the twitter account: @PsychRabble for updates from his lab.

The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right. Its main points are that: 1. Neither the left nor the right gets diversity completely right; 2. The social science evidence on implicit and explicit bias has been wildly oversold and is far weaker than most people seem to realize; 3. Google has, perhaps unintentionally, created an authoritarian atmosphere that has stifled discussion of these issues by stigmatizing anyone who disagrees as a bigot and instituted authoritarian policies of reverse discrimination; 4. The policies and atmosphere systematically ignore biological, cognitive, educational, and social science research on the nature and sources of individual and group differences. I cannot speak to the atmosphere at Google, but: 1. Give that the author gets everything else right, I am pretty confident he is right about that too; 2. It is a painfully familiar atmosphere, one that is a lot like academia.

Here, I mainly focus on the reactions to the essay on the Gizmodo site, which indirectly and ironically validate much of the author's analysis. Very few of the comments actually engage the arguments; they just fling insults and slurs. Yes, slurs. In 1960, the most common slurs were insulting labels for demographic groups. In 2017, the most common slurs involve labelling anyone who you disagree with on issues such as affirmative action, diversity, gaps, and inequality as a racist, sexist, homophobe, or bigot.


Suicided? Police say lawyer connected to DNC lawsuit shot himself but there was no gun found

Possibly 2017's biggest story is the lawsuit Bernie Sanders' supporters have brought against the Democratic National Committee (DNC) alleging the DNC committed fraud when it favored Clinton over Sanders in the primaries.

Arguably, however, most Americans have never heard about the DNC voter fraud, mainly because the mainstream media is camped out on the alleged collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. Shrouded in mystery, one of the DNC lawsuit's most jaw-dropping events occurred May 24, when the body of U.S. District Attorney Beranton J. Whisenant, Jr. was found on a Hollywood, Florida beach.

When his body was originally found, police announced they were investigating Whisenant's death from a head wound as a homicide, but detectives and the medical examiner reported this week that the married father of three "had shot himself in the head," according to The Sun Sentinel.

Jared Beck, husband of Elizabeth Beck (principal lawyers in the lawsuit and founders of JamPac, the group suing the DNC and Wasserman-Schultz), also made a bombshell admission in June, noting that he feared for his life due to the suspicious nature of all the deaths surrounding those working on exposing the DNC fraud. Whisenant was one to the people mentioned by Beck.


Cop fired for starting a wildfire 'just to feel the excitement of it'

If you live in the western U.S., you know that every year much of the region is threatened by wildfires which can cause massive property damage as well as environmental destruction.

That didn't stop former Utah Highway Patrol trooper Rex Richard Olsen from using a cigarette to intentionally start a fire on June 9 in Uintah County - "because he wanted to feel the excitement of it."

He didn't just flip a cigarette out of the window, but used a "burned cigarette and match combination...as a timed fuse."

The fast-moving fire consumed more than 1,000 acres, prompted evacuations and caused $800,000 in damage, while threatening the lives of firefighters. Unbeknownst to Olsen, his supremely ignorant act was caught on tape.

The Utah Dept. of Public Safety began investigating Olsen on June 21 after reviewing video surveillance from a gas station. GPS data from Olsen's patrol car was used to verify that the trooper was in the area when the fire started.

Arrow Up

Bitcoin surge continues as it hits all-time high of $3,550 on global exchanges

© Manuel Romano / Global Look Press
Bitcoin has hit a new all-time high, reaching an average of $3,550 on global exchanges on Friday, according to CoinDesk.

The world's most popular cryptocurrency has appreciated nearly 50 percent over the last month of trading, with data from the CoinDesk BPI indicating that the price of bitcoin was $2,423 on June 12.

The most dramatic growth has taken place over the past week, after bitcoin split into two to create a spinoff cryptocurrency called 'bitcoin cash.'

The split, which took place on August 1, came after an ongoing battle among the cryptocurrency community over the rules that should govern bitcoin's network.

Bitcoin is up nearly 25 percent on the week since the split, while bitcoin cash has risen 17 percent.


Major renovation of Denver Airport to take place in 2018

© Denver International Airport
It's been 22 years since Denver International Airport rose from the dusty Eastern Plains of our state.

And now, the city says it's close to an agreement that will modernize DIA's main terminal. But it comes at a big cost.

The city says the renovations are necessary-not just for comfort-but security.

The Great Hall Project will be funded through a private-public partnership that starts construction next summer and will take three years to complete.

"I'm picking up my daughter," says Ellen Moser of Greeley, while sitting in DIA's Jeppesen Terminal.

A major remodel of the terminal sounds like music to her ears--and not just because of a repertory orchestra performing an impromptu concert.

Her bag of nuts for lunch shows a lack of concessions here.

Comment: Will the remodeling get rid of those bizarre murals? Creepiest airport in the world - Denver International Airport

People 2

Female ex-technology consultant: That Google memo about women in tech wasn't wrong

© Getty Images
Have you heard about the Google memo? Have you heard nothing but "Google memo" all week? James Damore, an engineer at Google, wrote a memo suggesting that maybe there weren't so many women at Google because women are less interested in sitting around and staring at code all day. The internet erupted. James Damore is no longer working at Google.

Until the age of 26, I was employed as a technology consultant by a small firm that served the financial industry. I built servers and workstations, mostly for banks, and in a happy foreshadowing of my future writing for Bloomberg View, I installed some of the first PC-based Bloomberg terminals for a Japanese firm's office in New York.

Finance back then was heavily male, as it is now. And technology, the same. At the intersection of the two ... well, I can count on one hand all the women I worked with directly during almost four years of consulting.

It was very male-centric. I heard about client outings, involving strippers, to which I was obviously not invited. And the sexual harassment (entirely from clients, not colleagues), could be spectacular.

Which has nothing to do with why I left. This will make me sound a bit dim, but at the time, it never occurred to me that being a female in this bro ecosystem might impinge my ultimate career prospects. Nor did I miss having women in the room. I liked working with the bros just fine. And the sexual harassment, while annoying, was just that: annoying. I cannot recall that it ever affected my work, nor that I lost any sleep over it.

Comment: See also:

Георгиевская ленточка

Russian Federation Sitrep 10 August 2017

Patrick Armstrong provides an overview of circumstances and challenges currently facing Russia.

The Sanctions

The hypocrisy is thick: NordStream 2 (257.a.9) is specifically targeted; damage to NASA (237) is carefully voided. (NASA needs the Russians to get to the ISS and to launch things but European allies can freeze in the dark. Take that, Europeans, it's for your own good! "You can't... ask for a bigger U.S. military commitment... while... oppose nonmilitary coercive measures"). The effect of anti-Russia sanctions since 2014 is that Europe has likely suffered more than Russia and certainly more than the USA; Russia has used the sanctions (and its counter sanctions) to increase domestic production (see below) whereas Europe has just lost markets. Well, we'll find out whether Europe has the feet to stand on that Merkel thinks it has. Russia has many ways to respond and, as Jeffrey Carr has pointed out, Congress has shown it where to hit hardest. Another thing to find out is whether Moscow decides it's had enough - as Medvedev suggests - and that it's time to make its "partner" hurt. (Some responses: no more rocket engines, no overflights, no supply line to Afghanistan, no US NGOs, no Russian investments in USA, no accepting US dollars in trade. But Putin & Co will probably come up with something cleverer than anything I can think of). They will be a drag on Washington's foreign policy for decades: "never recognize" Crimea in Russia (257.a.3)? well, they're going to have to some time. I am collecting negative reactions on my site. They're another step on the downward trajectory of the USA: they will drive a wedge between Europe and the USA; push Russia closer to China; may even lead to a rapprochement between Europe and Russia. But short-sighted outbursts are to be expected in the final days I suppose: Congress' war with Trump displays a contemptuous indifference to its allies' interests. (Mercouris argues that Trump's signing statement hints at a Supreme Court challenge: very plausible given that there is nothing to the Russia collusion story - even the WaPo seems to be backing off - and that Trump will be able to appoint more SC judges.)

Bad Guys

Target of 'pedophile hunters' takes own life days after confronted in sting operation

© Silent Justice / Facebook
Police are investigating the suicide of a man who was questioned over claims by 'pedophile hunters' that he sent explicit images to decoy underage girls.

The group, 'Silent Justice,' describes itself as exposing suspected pedophiles across Ireland and Britain by posing as underage girls and boys online, and arranging to meet people who make sexual advances towards them.

The 50 year old was confronted by the group at his County Antrim home last weekend after allegedly sending explicit photos of himself to members of the group who were posing as underage girls.

A spokesman for Silent Justice told the Irish News the group suspected that the man in question was in contact with real young children, and decided as a team to "expose" him "sooner rather than later."

The group streamed the doorstep confrontation live on their Facebook page, with the man denying making any contact with anyone purporting to be a 14-year-old girl.

Comment: See also: The BBC wants to make you believe that pedophilia is acceptable