Category Archives: Politics

Facebook Bans Suspicious Accounts

Following the banning of 32 accounts in late July with suspected connections to Russia, Facebook removed an additional 652 accounts, groups and pages that it identified as exhibiting “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” That behavior included the sharing of political material.

The banned accounts were linked not only to Russia, but what was a surprise, also to Iran.
The 32 accounts banned in July were generally engaged in efforts to influence the up and coming November mid-term elections. The 632 additional fake accounts were focused more on influencing US foreign policy, and regional politics in the Middle East.

Facebook is not the only internet site where foreign entities go to influence the US voting public. Twitter suspended 284 accounts for “coordinated manipulation,” with many of those accounts sourced to Iran. Microsoft announced they saw a new Russian practice to copy conservative US websites, perhaps as a component of a spy campaign.

“There’s a lot we don’t know yet,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said.

“You’re going to see people try to abuse the services in every way possible … including now nation states,” he said. He described the deception campaigns as “sophisticated and well-funded efforts that aren’t going to stop.”

Bikers Boycott Harley, But Buy Haitian T-shirts

Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

In a bit of an ironic twist smothered in hypocrisy, it turns out Bikers for Trump leader Chris Cox chose to have pro-Trump T-shirts made in Haiti and not in the United States, to save money, despite Cox’s announcement that he will be boycotting Harley-Davidson for sending production overseas.

Bikers for Trump is a vocal group extending support for President Trump and has met the president on many occasions. The last time they met was this past Sunday, the same day that Trump tweeted his agreement with a boycott of Harley-Davidson, a US-based manufacturer of motorcycles.

Harley-Davidson announced that it was moving some of its production of motorcycles abroad for its European market, to avoid tariffs that would force the company to charge an additional $2,200 for each bike it sold to its European customers. The EU tariffs which the company seeks to avoid are a result of the trade war started by President Trump.

Yes, despite the declaration of a boycott against Harley-Davidson, Cox decided to purchase pro-Trump T-shirts in Haiti to save some money.

“If I get a T-shirt made in the USA, it’s going to cost about $8 more,” Cox told the New York Times.

“I looked far and wide to try to get a shirt made in America, it’s just they get you, they gouge you,” he said while selling the T-shirts from his RV for $20 each.

One Bikers for Trump member, Gary Rathbun, told the Times, “I’m riding my last Harley. It was American made, and that’s why we stood behind them.”

It was unclear whether Rathbun bought a pro-Trump T-shirt made in Haiti. Or if he would even notice a problem with such a purchase.

Cal 3 Has the Votes to Appear on November’s Ballot

Map of the Cal3 (or Three Californias) proposal by Tim Draper (2017). Map courtesy of Wikipedia.

The initiative to divide the state of California into three separate states, Cal 3, received over 450,000 valid signatures, more than enough to appear on this November’s ballot in search of approval from California voters.

Yes, you read that correctly. The voters in California will decide whether they want California to add two new entities within its borders, to be known as Northern California and Southern California. Just plain California will be the area that includes all the coastal counties from Los Angeles to Monterrey.

The money behind the initiative comes from Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper. He was an early backer of Tesla and Skype and believes three Californias are better than one.

It is unclear if this initiative is an amendment to California’s constitution or a revision. If its considered a “small change” than it will not need approval from the state legislature before it heads to Congress for approval. However, if it is indeed a revision, which is a big change, then it will need to be enacted first by the California state legislature before heading to Washington, D.C.

Draper has tried twice before to split up his home state but failed. This time around he has dedicated $1.2 million of his own funds to push for Citizens for Cal 3. He probably spent an additional million dollars to get the signatures he needed to see the initiative on the ballot.

Polls seem to show that Cal 3 wont pass, with only 17% of Californians saying they would vote for the initiative in November. Since the poll only asked 900 voters, it could be be misleading.

The proposal would give the three new states 6 senators together in place of the two they have now. The number of congressmen would be determined by the population of each newly created state. Even if the proposal were to pass, the initiative will still have many obstacles in its way before it could be implemented. Cal 3 is most likely a bad case of “California Dreaming” for some of the residents of the Golden State.

American Released from Venezuelan Jail After Two Years

Nicolás Maduro Moros, interim President of The Boliviarian Republic of Venezuela following the death of Hugo Chávez. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Joshua Holt, an American citizen who had been held in a Venezuelan jail for the past two years, was freed last week as a result of high-level diplomatic talks. His wife Thamara Caleno, was also released.

“Overwhelmed with gratitude,” Holt was welcomed in Washington, DC by his parents, Laurie and Jason Holt, and a few hours later by President Donald Trump.

“Those two years, they were a very, very, very difficult two years,” said an emotional Holt, sitting beside Trump in the Oval Office. “Not really the great vacation that I was looking for. … I’m just so grateful for what you guys have done.”

Holt, a Utah citizen, went to Venezuela in 2016 to marry Caleno, a woman he had met online but never in person. Soon after arriving in Venezuela and marrying Caleno he was arrested and labeled by the Venezuelan government as the “CIA’s top spy in Latin America.
Holt’s release was orchestrated by Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who met with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in what was a surprise meeting.

The couple was arrested on June 30, 2016 in a raid on Caleno’s family’s apartment. They were accused of stockpiling an assault rifle and grenades and being linked to other unspecified attempts by the US to weaken Maduro’s rule.

Upon his release the Holt family released the following statement:

“We thank you for your collaboration during this time of anguish. We ask that you allow us to meet with our son and his wife before giving any interviews and statements. We are grateful to all who participated in this miracle.”

Saudi Prince in US to Discuss Politics and Business

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud at the Royal Court Palace in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has arrived in the United States to conduct a tour to strengthen not only business ties but also political ties with the US.

This is the Crown Prince’s second visit to the US. It begins with a stop at the White House for a meeting with US President Donald Trump. Trump has been working since his inauguration to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.“

Saudi Arabia was the first foreign country Trump visited after taking office, traveling to the kingdom in May and signing memorandums and agreements for defense spending that totaled about $110 billion,” according to Bloomberg.

The US and Saudi Arabia have been allies for 75 years, according to the Brookings Institute. During that time, they have worked “closely together” and have also at times been “estranged,” said Brookings.

Forbes said that the two leaders will most likely be discussing a reinstatement of sanctions against Iran; Saudi’s protracted war in Yemen; and the kingdom’s wish to buy at least one additional nuclear power plant and what role the US government will play in allowing a company like GE to construct it.“

Other issues that may come up would include the disagreement between Qatar on one hand and Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt on the other as well as the U.S. decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem,” said Forbes.

Bloomberg also said that the Crown Prince will be meeting top executives to discuss business deals. He is on schedule to meet the heads of Apple Inc., Google, and:

• Uber
• Executives from the film industry
• Oil Services Companies
• Amazon
• GE
• NYSE