Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlogThe just-published book “Dark Money,” penned by New Yorker staff reporter Jane Mayer, reveals that the Koch Brothers hired the former commissioner of the New York Police Department (NYPD) ;– and his daughter, a former FBI agent ;– ;to smear her as a “plagiarist” in the months after the release of her August 2010 bombshell article on the Kochs.That article, titled “Covert Operations,” served at the time as one of the first in-depth pieces of long-form investigative journalism on David and Charles Koch and the influential right-wing political and climate change denial Tea Party network they had Frankensteined. Mayer’s book exposes that the Kochs hired the firm Vigilant Resources International, run by former NYPD head Howard Safir and his daughter Jennifer Safir (the former FBI special agent), to do dirty work on their behalf.The story, as Mayer told it in “Dark Money,” began when she received a January 3, 2011 email from her New Yorker editor, David Remnick. ;”In his e-mail,” to me, Mayer wrote, “Remnick explained that ten minutes earlier he’d received a baffling inquiry about me from Keith Kelly, the reporter who covered the media industry for the New York Post.”Remnick’s query centered around accusations — most likely emanating from somewhere within Koch World and handed to the New York Post and other outlets — that Mayer’s journalistic track record, according to their research, was rife with plagiarism. The main issue: it wasn’t in the slightest. Mayer has impeccable journalism credentials.That didn’t stop the witch hunt from proceeding and nearly reaching take off mode, though. ;Smear AppearsWith or without real evidence, the point of the covert campaign was not to find genuine evidence of plagiarism, but rather a classic case of attacking the messenger. ;”Their aim, according to a well-informed source, was to counteract The New Yorker’s story on the Koch brothers by undermining me,” wrote Mayer. “‘Dirt, dirt, dirt’ is what the source later told me they were digging for in my life. ‘If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.'”Vigilant Resources International, “Dark Money” details, got a retainer fee to help the effort along according to sources who spoke to Mayer on the condition of anonymity.”VRI’s Threat, Risk and Vulnerability Assessments focus on safety and value and address a full spectrum of physical security, integrity, intellectual property and other operational risks,” VRI explains of its work on its website.VRI goes on to explain of ;its business conduct:We provide our findings and prioritized recommendations as actionable ‘blueprints’ for what should promptly and continuously be addressed to drive the best outcomes in risk management, crisis prevention and mitigation for each facility assessed. ;Our findings, recommendations and plans comport with applicable regulatory requirements and present industry best practices that are custom-tailored to the unique organizational structure, culture, profile and operations of each client.After receiving initial contact from the New York Post, Mayer also got what she described in her book as a more alarming plagiarism query from the right-wing news website The Daily Caller, along with more benign ones from The Washington Post, ThinkProgress and a couple others. The Washington Post and ThinkProgress denied plagiarism victimhood, however, as did two other outlets not named by Mayer in the book.”Paul Kane, a reporter at The Washington Post, quickly looked up the story in question and sent me an e-mail saying, ‘Not only did you not steal from me, you Frickin’ credited me in the VERY NEXT line,'” Mayer explains in “Dark Money.” “The New Yorker had even linked to his story online. And, I later learned, my husband, who was then an editor at The Washington Post, had edited the story that I supposedly stole.”Lee Fang, now a reporter at The Intercept and formerly a blogger for ThinkProgress, similarly denied the copyright infringement ;accusation. ;”Ms. Mayer properly credited me in her story, and clearly did a ton of her own research,” Fang declared in a January 2011 statement provided to the New York Post. “I have nothing but admiration for her integrity as a journalist.”Smear DisappearsMayer killed the smear campaign before it gained any momentum or press time, however, mostly due to deft ;handling of the situation before it spun out of control and developed a life of its own.”With only a few hours before these allegations were set to go online, all I could do was to try to get out the truth before the lies ;were spread,” Mayer explained of how she management of accusations. “By midnight, I had reached three of the four authors from whom I was alleged to have plagiarized. All offered to make public statements supporting me and denying I had misappropriated their work.”Most importantly, Mayer had the truth on her side. The allegations? Tantamount to a ruse, as she laid out in the book:Someone, probably using a computer program, had mechanically sifted through almost a decade of my work and isolated quotations from officials, and other widely repeated phrases, to argue that ‘the structure and wording’ were ‘quite close’ to four other reporters’ news stories. None of the supposedly purloined sentences were of any particular significance…Even sillier, in two of the four stories I was alleged to have ‘plagiarized,’ I had specifically given credit to the authors whose work ;The Daily Caller was claiming I’d stolen.Rather than plagiarism becoming the story, then, the genesis of how the smear campaign appeared and subsequently disappeared was picked up by the likes of the New York Post, Business Insider and Salon. At the heart of that campaign was The Daily Caller, an alternative right-wing version of The Huffington Post founded by Tucker Carlson, the former MSNBC host and senior fellow at the Koch-founded and Koch-funded Cato Institute. ;”In the end, even the Daily Caller found the allegations to be unfounded, and to its credit, abandoned the story,” wrote the New York Post. “The story is dead but the person or persons behind the allegations remains a shadowy mystery.”Tucker Carlson proclaimed cluelessness as to how his publication was tipped off to the so-called story to begin with. ;Tucker Carlson; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons”I never ask the reporters where they get stuff, only whether it’s true,” he told the New York Post. “In this case, we didn’t have enough.”Safir and VRI did not confirm or deny any retainer ties to the effort, Mayer reported in the book.A source told Mayer that Nancy Pfotenhauer — ;former head of Koch front group Americans for Prosperity and Citizens for a Sound Economy, as well as former Koch Industries lobbying in Washington, DC and senior adviser to U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — served as one of several ringleaders of the effort.Koch Industries already came out swinging in advance of the book’s publication, responding to an advanced review by New York Times reporter Nicholas Confessore by accusing Mayer of working to “further an agenda-driven story line [that] is grossly inaccurate.” — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]
PARIS – Solomon Islands Negotiator Elisabeth Holland and her fellow Pacific Islands representatives have a problem. And it is our problem too. Regardless of whether a strong climate change agreement is reached, it may not allay the dislocations of people already underway in the small atoll nation she represents, and in the member nations of the Pacific Small Island Developing States more generally. Several international migrations have already occurred, according to Holland, and Fiji and the Solomon Islands are drafting laws to allow them to accept climate refugees from neighboring countries. “The Pacific leaders are recognizing they have a problem that will stretch across international boundaries,” Holland said. “They are trying to solve that problem, knowing that they may or may not be able to find solutions within the UN system.” Sea level rise, salinization of coral island fresh water, climate-related cyclones and tropical storms have made life very difficult for many across the Pacific islands, leading the delegation to call for more ambitious objectives (a 1.5 °C level of greenhouse gas-driven warming by 2100 rather than the 2 °C (3.6 °F) accepted by most scientists and diplomats. And the Pacific island nations want the United Nations to adopt a generous policy of compensating front-line countries for the losses they disproportionately incur. A tally by the think tank Germanwatch, using insurance company data lists 530,000 deaths from some 15,000 extreme weather events between 1994 and 2013 which generated some US $2.2 trillion in damages (adjusted to purchasing power parity). Over that time, the nations suffering most – Honduras, Myanmar, Haiti, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Bangladesh – were all poor developing nations. “Vulnerability is the reality,” said Bangladesh Ministry of Environment Negotiator Sultan Ahmed. “People are living it. This is not rhetoric for the COP meeting.” He said some 35 million of the country’s 160 million people, predominantly poor, can only live in lowland areas for about four months of the year and must otherwise relocate to higher ground. Rice yields have dropped as brackish water has replaced potable fresh water in many areas, and cyclones pose an increasing threat. Holland noted that recent Alaskan village resettlements cost some US $10 million per village, and that international migration will soon be commonplace in the Pacific, although it will be challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Elsewhere too, resettlement assistance is being sought. “Bangladesh wants loss and damages,” Ahmed said, in order to pay for the dramatic changes ahead. “But mostly we want a legally binding agreement. It’s everybody’s problem. If there is a legally binding agreement we can all count on it and work on how to implement that thing. Then every government will feel an obligation to do something for mitigation and adaptation. Otherwise it is rhetoric. There is no time to wait.” Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu lamented that critics of addressing loss and damage in the Paris agreement did not want to codify special rights for the especially vulnerable. Citing a study that some 75 percent of Tuvalu’s population said they would migrate immediately if there were no dramatic improvements in their circumstances, Sopoaga said his people were only asking for respect for their sovereign rights as people. “There is no regime under the UN to deal with these people [those who would migrate]. If we come out of Paris with no statement on loss and damage these people will be left behind. The world will be moving forward, but they will be drowned.” If as the old adage goes, a nation’s greatness is truly measured by how it treats its most vulnerable, then the community of nations must also face its obligations. The Pacific Small Island Developing States would do well to continue their self-help approach as they are vulnerable to weather changes as well as to the UN and the self-interests of its wealthiest members. But the UN would also do well to codify an equitable means of indemnifying nations at the front lines of climate change as their emissions were not the cause of the problem. But the plight of Tuvalu and Bangladesh and the other most vulnerable is on the conscience of us all. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]
Many Mac owners may be under the impression that their computers don’t need antivirus protection. They’re inherently safer, right? While there are fewer Trojan horses, viruses and worms designed to attack Macs than PCs, that doesn’t mean they’re immune to infection. “Many threats, like phishing, don’t care whether you’re running Windows or a Mac,” says Christopher Budd, global threat communications manager for Trend Micro. In fact, a serious threat to Macs was verified as recently as December 2014, according to the National Vulnerability Database. To combat this threat, Apple issued its first ever automatic security update for Mac computers in December. (Previously, Mac users would initiate the security updates themselves.) The bug, CVE-2014-9295, could enable hackers to gain remote control of machines through a vulnerability with the network time protocol, or NTP, which synchronizes a computer’s clock. It was serious enough that Apple didn’t want to wait for users to fix it themselves, according to Reuters. With even one threat on the table, protection is needed. So we set out to find the best Mac antivirus software out there. We reviewed security lab results, interface accessibility data, and product feature ratings from independent experts and websites to recommend our favorites. We placed an emphasis on performance and security over a trunk full of features. To find the best freeware, it had to meet top-notch security ratings while still offering a few perks. For paid software, we decided it had to not only achieve high security ratings, but it had to cost less than $100, offer a one-year subscription with multi-device protection, and be designed for home use. With that, we narrowed it down to our two security software picks — one free, one paid — for 2015. The best free Mac security software Avast Free Mac Security 2015 is the go-to software for protecting your Mac without spending a penny. It’s a simple, on-demand scanning platform that can complete four different types of scans: Full System Scan, Removable Volumes Scan, Home Scan or Custom Scan. While the variety is useful for performing different system checks, it lacks the scheduled scans feature that many busy consumers want. Nonetheless, its simple-to-use interface, strong all-around coverage, and anti-spam features still pull it ahead of other free offerings. While it’s not perfect at detecting all intrusions, independent security researcher AV-TEST reports that it gets the job done — after all, it’s free. In testing, it performed the highest among its freeware counterparts, detecting 97.4 percent of all on-demand threats (above the average of 80.8 percent). It even outperformed some paid competitors, including Kaspersky, which only detected threats 93.2 percent of the time. It also held its own with paid offerings when it came to minimizing system slowdown. Once Avast detects something suspicious, it locks it away in a quarantined area called the Virus Chest, where you can choose to restore it if it’s a falsely-identified file, or delete it altogether. And like most of its competitors, Avast also detects Windows malware. Generally, free security packages are pretty bare bones in their features. But Avast takes the freeware landscape to a new level by offering an anti-spam tool, which is uncommon among its freeware competitors. Similar to paid versions, Avast monitors incoming web data — through its Web Shield and Mail Shield features — like malicious links or attachments, and flags and isolates any threats it finds. Additionally, in early 2015, Avast will include the industry’s first four-pronged home network security system. The system’s Home Network Security scan can identify misconfigured Wi-Fi networks, routers with weak passwords and compromised Internet connections. The SecureDNS feature encrypts the Internet traffic between Avast-protected devices and Avast’s DNS server to prevent users from being directed to malicious sites. A new Smart Scan feature will integrate all on-demand scans into one (antivirus, Home Network Security, junk-file cleaning, and software update scans) to meet your security needs. Rounding out this four-component security system, Web Shield will get an upgrade to be able to scan securely-encrypted sites for malware and threats. Web Shield will accomplish this by detecting and decrypting TSL/SSL protected traffic in its web-content filtering component for any threats, Avast says. The best paid Mac security software Bitdefender Antivirus for Mac offers greater security than its competitors at a comparable cost. It’s $59.95 for a one-year subscription, which covers up to three Macs. Some Mac antivirus protection products tout just the “Internet security” feature and neglect the rest of a computer’s needs. Or for “total” protection, you’re limited to protection for just one device and it costs 50% more than standard protection. Bitdefender balances cost and protection in the same product, offering coverage against adware, polymorphic viruses, spyware, trojans, worms, and more. Bitdefender has a simple interface that’s easy to understand. If your Mac’s safe, you’ll know it because a green checkmark in the status bar will tell you so. If a security issue is detected, the status bar turns yellow and offers tips on how to quickly fix the issue. To scan your Mac for possible threats, you have four options: Scan Critical Locations, Full System Scan, Scan a Custom Location and Continuous Scan. Scanning critical locations checks for malware in your vulnerable hotspots, such as documents, downloads, attachments, and temporary files folders. The full scan checks for malware on the entire system, including connected mounts, like external drives. You can hide certain folders and drives from Bitdefender’s watchful eye by adding them the exclusions list, or choose to scan a specific location, such as a once-hidden external drive. A downside is that you can’t schedule scans. Instead, Bitdefender includes Continuous Scan mode, which keeps the software running day and night in the background. On the plus side, you’ll always have the most up-to-date protection because it’ll automatically update its virus-tracking database in this mode. (If Continuous Scan mode is off, you can still update the by going to Actions > Update Virus Database.) And you may never even know it’s there: in the third-party lab tests, “Bitdefender hardly slows the system at all,” says AV-TEST. If you share files with Windows users (or your own PC), you’re covered as well. The software detects Windows viruses on your Mac, and while these threats can’t affect your Mac, you can still pass them on to Windows computers on the same network if you’re not protected. Bitdefender also automatically scans any files you download for security threats, alerting you when a problem is detected. You can track and adjust these alerts since they’re fully integrated into your Mac’s Notification Center (go to System Preferences > Notifications). For security on the web, Bitdefender connects its free TrafficLight extension, which monitors your web traffic and blocks any malicious content. It also notifies you of worrisome websites in your search results (with a red dot), and detects and blocks suspicious links it finds on Facebook and Twitter. TrafficLight detects “trackers” as well; code snippets that track and analyze browsing behavior. All scans happen in the cloud, so the extension offers a strong layer of protection without slowing you down. TrafficLight is available for Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari. While Bitfender excels at malware protection, it’s still lacking in a couple of areas. For example, families may prefer a security suite with parental controls added in. But OS X’s complementary parental controls system already lets you manage and monitor your child’s computer use, interactions and Internet activity (to access this feature, go to System Preferences > Parental Controls). It’s also missing its own firewall protection, but again, your Mac already has its own firewall tools to stop malicious network traffic. Plus, in third-party lab tests, some of Bitdefender’s competitors that do offer firewall protection actually performed poorly at malware detection tests. (For example, Symantec only detected threats 54.7 percent of the time, compared to Bitdefender’s 100 percent, according to AV-TEST.) So we’ll take greater malware protection and speedy performance over additional bells and whistles any day. This article originally appeared on Techlicious. More from Techlicious: 1 Billion Data Records Stolen in 2014 ‘Find My iPhone’ Taking a Huge Bite Out of Smartphone Thefts Is it OK to Share Your Netflix and Hulu Passwords? […]
When it comes to keeping America’s communities and businesses safe and secure, we can’t take our eyes off the sun. That vigilance is ensured with last week’s successful launch of DSCOVR — the Deep Space Climate Observatory. DSCOVR will operate 24/7, alerting forecasters when large magnetic eruptions are headed toward Earth from the red-hot star at the center of our solar system. The need for DSCOVR, a NOAA space weather observing satellite, is critical. From sporadic solar flares to electrically-charged blasts of gas exploding from the sun at up to 6,000,000 miles per hour, “space weather” has the potential to severely disrupt our lives and livelihoods. A range of technologies is threatened, from telecommunications and power grids to the countless GPS applications vital to our daily lives and national and local economies. In an increasingly wired world, space weather poses serious risk to essential, yet vulnerable infrastructure. The scale of vulnerability is daunting. In 2013, a Lloyds of London study predicted that the most extreme space weather storms could affect 20 to 40 million people in the U.S. and cause up to $2.6 trillion in damages, with recovery taking up to two years […]
Fen Rascoe boards up his parent’s cottage as they prepare for Hurricane Irene August 25, 2011 in Nags Head, North Carolina. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Which scares you more: Hurricane Victor or Hurricane Victoria? People are slightly less likely to flee an oncoming storm with a feminine name than a masculine one, a new study finds.
But here is Victoria’s secret: Hurricanes with feminine names turn out to be deadlier in the United States than their more macho-sounding counterparts, probably because their monikers make people underestimate their danger, the researchers conclude.
In fact, the two deadliest storms to make landfall in the U.S. since 1979, when male names were introduced, were named Katrina and Sandy.
The study, which didn’t involve any experts in meteorology or disaster science, is published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Atlantic hurricane season started Sunday.
In six different experiments, more than 1,000 test subjects told behavioral scientists at the University of Illinois in Champaign that they were slightly more likely to evacuate from an oncoming storm named Christopher than Christina, Victor than Victoria, Alexander than Alexandra and Danny than Kate. They found female names less frightening.
“People are looking for meaning in any information that they receive,” said study co-author Sharon Shavitt, a professor of marketing. “The name of the storm is providing people with irrelevant information that they actually use.”
Shavitt said both men and women rated female storms less scary and they both “are likely to believe that women are milder and less aggressive.” It fits with other research about gender perception differences, she said. Sandy, while it can also be a male name, was chosen as a female name by weather authorities in 2012. Shavitt said it also ranked as rather feminine when she asked a small group of people to assess names on a masculine-feminine scale.
Hurricane and disaster science experts, such as MIT’s Kerry Emanuel, were skeptical at first. Then after more consideration some but not all found merit in the work, noting that it is more about psychology rather than physical science.
Emanuel said confusion over whether 2012’s Sandy was called a hurricane or post-tropical storm did cause confusion, so maybe names could make a difference too. He joked that maybe names matter and perhaps meteorologists should start using scarier-sounding ones like Jack-the-Ripper or King Kong.
But Susan Cutter, director of the University of South Carolina’s Hazards and Vulnerability Research Institute, dismissed the idea that female-named storms are deadlier. She considered the study results just coincidence.
To examine past death rates, Shavitt and doctoral student Kiju Jung used Shavitt’s scale that rated names from 1 to 11 in terms of masculinity and femininity. They looked at death rates going back to 1950 and found that, in general, the deadlier storms were more feminine.
However, male-named storms weren’t introduced until 1979. Only female names were used for storms from 1953 to 1978. From 1950 to 1952, military-style phonetic names (like Able, Baker, Charlie) were used and before that, there were no official names for storms.
While since 1979, female storms have been deadlier — even with the outlier of Katrina removed — the sample size is so small that the trend from 1979 is not statistically significant. But it is significant when combined with data from 1950, Shavitt said.
Also telling is that the amount of damages is not much different between male and female storms, indicating the big difference is not the size of the storm but how people react to it, Jung said.
This year’s hurricane names will be Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.
Jung and Shavitt said one name jumps out at them for danger: Dolly. It’s considered highly feminine.
Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears
Cherry trees are in full bloom in Washington, DC. On Tuesday, I traveled to DC with a group of students from my York College science classes. Pink cherry blossoms — considered the springtime soul of our nation — graced the entire perimeter of the tidal basin. Dogwoods and other flowering trees lining the Capitol Mall and side streets served as a pleasing visual indicator that we had finally emerged from the lingering brutal winter that gripped much of the nation. The fragrant scent of spring was in the air. The purpose of our DC trip was to connect classroom discussion about the scientific basis of climate change with contemporary political discourse. What we observed was a spectacle of contentious political discord…Whew! Verbal fireworks during a confirmation hearing within the Dirksen Senate Office Building contrasted sharply with the mellow mood outside […]
Thomas ‘Tom’ Vilsack, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON (AP) — Climate change is already hurting American farmers and rural residents, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday, warning that the U.S. would regret any failure to adapt and prepare for shifting weather realities.
Unveiling a new effort to coordinate the government’s response, Vilsack said extreme weather events have already taken the U.S. by surprise, putting ranchers and others out of business. He pointed to the intensity and frequency of recent storms, long droughts, snowstorms and subzero weather as evidence that climate change is no longer hypothetical or in the future.
“The combination of all those factors convinces me that the climate is changing, and it’s going to have its impact, and will have its impact, and is having its impact on agriculture and forestry,” Vilsack said.
Pine bark beetle that in years past were killed off during harsh winters have now infected about 45 million trees in western states, leading to more severe forest fires, posing flood risks and threatening the timber industry, Vilsack said. In the absence of adequate forecasting and disaster assistance, he said, an October snowstorm wiped out entire cattle operations in the Dakotas.
“When that snowstorm hit, it didn’t wipe out just a few animals. It wiped out the entire operation,” Vilsack said. “Nobody anticipated and expected that severe a storm, that early.”
To that end, the Obama administration said seven new “climate hubs” will open in regions across the U.S., acting as clearinghouses for data and research about effects of climate change. Based out of existing Agriculture Department facilities, the hubs will assess local climate risks, such as drought and wildfire, then develop plans for dealing with them, such as improved irrigation techniques.
The goal is to synchronize the federal government’s preparation and resources with what other entities, such as universities, tribal communities and state governments, are doing to prepare for shifting temperatures.
“It’s taking existing avenues, research service or forest service, and charging them with a new responsibility to basically take a look at precisely what risks are currently being recognized and what’s the vulnerability to agriculture and to forestry in each region of the country,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack disclosed the locations for the new hubs, which were announced last year and included in Obama’s broader climate change plan. The seven regional hubs will be housed in forest service stations or government research labs in Ames, Iowa; Durham, N.H.; Raleigh, N.C.; Fort Collins, Colo.; El Reno, Okla.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Las Cruces, N.M. Three smaller “sub-hubs” will be created in Houghton, Mich.; Davis, Calif.; and Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico.
Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP