The Department of Immigration & Customs Enforcement is taking new steps in its plans for monitoring the social media accounts of applicants and holders of U.S. visas. At a tech industry conference last Thursday in Arlington, Virginia, ICE officials explained to software providers what they are seeking: algorithms that would assess potential threats posed by visa holders in the United States and conduct ongoing social media surveillance of those deemed high risk.
The comments provide the first clear blueprint for ICE’s proposed augmentation of its visa-vetting program. The initial announcement of the plans this summer, viewed as part of President Donald Trump’s calls for the “extreme vetting” of visitors from Muslim countries, stoked a public outcry from immigrants and civil liberties advocates. They argued that such a plan would discriminate against Muslim visitors and potentially place a huge number of individuals under watch.
ICE officials subsequently changed the program’s name to “Visa Lifecycle Vetting.” But, according to the ICE presentation, the goal of the initiative — enhanced monitoring of visa holders using social media — remains the same.
Speaking to a room of information-technology contractors, hosted by the Government Technology & Services Coalition, Louis Rodi, deputy assistant director of ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ National Security Program, said the agency needs a tool equipped with “risk-based matrices” to predict dangers posed by visa holders, with the social media of those considered a threat under continuous surveillance throughout their stay in the U.S.
“We have millions and millions and millions of people coming every year, and subsequently departing, so we have to be smart about it,” said Rodi to a room of representatives from companies like Microsoft, Accenture, Deloitte and Motorola Solutions. “And I’m sure there are tools out there that can help.”
For this targeted group of visa holders, ICE’s online monitoring of public social media posts would be large-scale and non-stop. “Everything we’re dealing with is in bulk, so we need batch-vetting capabilities for any of the processes that we have,” said Rodi. Alysa Erichs, ICE Homeland Security Investigations’ acting deputy association director for information management, told attendees that ICE hopes to get automated notifications about any visa holders’ social media activity that could “ping us as a potential alert.”
ICE spokeswoman Carissa Cutrell stressed to ProPublica that the Department of Homeland Security has not actually begun building any such program. “The request for information on this initiative was simply that — an opportunity to gather information from industry professionals and other government agencies on current technological capabilities to determine the best way forward,” Cutrell wrote in an email. The program would require clearance from numerous DHS units, including the Privacy Office and the Principal Legal Advisor, before it could be implemented, according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
In his speech, Rodi referred to meetings ICE has had with companies but did not mention any frontrunners. The major tech companies present at the conference, including Microsoft, Accenture and Deloitte, either declined to comment or didn’t respond to ProPublica’s request to comment about their level of interest in providing technology for the vetting program. Microsoft has opposed Trump’s immigration policies, and several Microsoft researchers have publicly called for ICE to stop spying on visitors’ social media.
ICE is already monitoring some social media at eight Homeland Security Investigation posts internationally, Rodi said, and the plan is to expand to more sites. In response to a question posed by ProPublica from the audience, he stated that the department was open to other social media monitoring techniques, such as link analysis (which helps authorities map out applicants’ online connections), so long as they solely rely on public posts.
The ICE officials emphasized the Trump administration’s strict stance. “This administration is big on immigration enforcement, so we’re not going to look the other way like we have in the past when we have overstays,” said Rodi. “Maybe it’s an administrative violation — it’s still a crime. These people need to pay. They can’t get away with it.”
Some analysts argue that gathering social media data is necessary. ICE already has a tool that searches for connections to terrorists, according to Claude Arnold, a former ICE Homeland Security Investigations special agent, now with the security firm Frontier Solutions. But, he said, potential terrorist threats often come from countries, such as Iraq or Syria, that provide little intelligence to U.S. authorities. As a result, in Arnold’s view, social media information is all the more important.
Privacy advocates take a darker view. “ICE is building a dangerously broad tool that could be used to justify excluding, or deporting, almost anyone,” said Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology. “They are talking about this as a targeted tool, but the numbers tell a different story.”
Bedoya noted that the program outline originally anticipated that the monitoring would identify 10,000 high-risk visa holders a year. That suggests the pool of people under social media surveillance would be many orders of magnitude larger. (ICE officials did not address this point at the conference.)
Last week, a coalition of academics and technologists warned in a public letter that ICE’s interest in using big data algorithms to assess risk is misguided, given how rare it is for foreign visitors to be involved in terrorist attacks in the U.S. That means there’s little historical data to mine in hopes of using it to design a new algorithm. The letter cited a Cato Institute analysis that found that the likelihood of an American dying in a terrorist attack on U.S. soil in any given year was 1 in 3.6 million in the period between 1975 and 2015.
Cathy O’Neil, one of the signatories to that letter and author of “Weapons of Math Destruction,” told this reporter in August that any algorithm a company proposes would come built-in with some very human calculations. “At the end of the day, someone has to choose a ratio,” she said. “How many innocent false positives are you going to keep out of the country for each false negative?”
Thus far, social media monitoring of visa applicants has not identified any potential threats that wouldn’t have turned up in existing government databases, Rodi acknowledged. “We haven’t found anything that would preclude someone from getting a visa through social media alone,” he said. “But, you never know, the day may come when social media will actually find someone that wasn’t in the government systems we check.”
That argument doesn’t placate those who believe ICE’s vetting is already exhaustive. Social media surveillance would be difficult to carry out without collecting collateral data on thousands of American citizens in the process, said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel to the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program.
“Generally, with surveillance technologies, they are adopted for national security purposes overseas, but are then brought stateside pretty quickly,” she said, citing practices first honed overseas, such as intercepting cellphone calls. “So once there’s some kind of dragnet surveillance tool or information collection tool in place for one purpose, slippage can happen, and it will expand and expand.”
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It’s Thanksgiving week in the U.S.!
My creative output this week will be mainly culinary — I’ve got three kinds of pie to bake tomorrow, plus all of the other fun things we’ll have on the table. So this week is a short one for you.
On Monday, the editorial team got together to talk about a problem we all face sometimes — what to do when you’re totally out of writing ideas. We’ve got eight writers weighing in with their favorite tips, tricks, and strategies for refilling that creative well.
On Tuesday, Brian Gardner officially announced our “Black Friday” (“Really Dark Gray Tuesday?”) sale on our StudioPress premium WordPress themes. If your WordPress site could use a little makeover, this is a great time to pick up a shiny new theme — or you could use your discount to get all the StudioPress themes by picking up a Pro Plus Pack.
Over on Copyblogger FM, I talked a little bit about formal gratitude practices. While I love these in theory, when I actually do them, I often find they can feel shallow or artificial. I shared some related practices that I’ve found more meaningful — as well as a resource on how to navigate that weird gratitude conversation around the Thanksgiving table.
On the Sites podcast, Sean Jackson interviewed Joost de Valk — the creator of the Yoast SEO plugin — to talk about WordPress SEO today and how he sees its future.
And don’t miss the first part of Kelton Reid’s series on how to make a living as a pro content writer over on The Writer Files.
by Sonia Simone
by Brian Gardner
by Sonia Simone
by Sean Jackson
by Kelton Reid
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I’m Andrea Salcedo, one of this year’s Emerging Reporters at ProPublica Illinois. Landing an academic-year fellowship with ProPublica during my last year as a multimedia journalism student at Columbia College Chicago was a young journalist’s dream.
When our editor-in-chief asked if I’d be interested in interviewing our reporters and publishing short Q&As on our website, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only did I think it’d be a good way to introduce our staff to you, but I also thought it’d be fun and a unique chance to meet the journalists and mentors whom I admire and whose knowledge I want to absorb. Who else gets to ask questions of their colleagues and call it work? As a journalist just starting my career and hoping that one day I will be working as a full-time investigative reporter in a newsroom like ProPublica’s, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to be curious — even nosy — and ask these reporters everything I want to know about their lives and careers.
Every other week, I sat in a booth near ProPublica Illinois’ newsroom and asked reporters as many questions as I could. Sometimes, we talked for so long that the deputy editor came to check if we were OK and if I was ready for the next interview. Other times, we continued the conversation after I had stopped recording and I forgot it was time to go home. Yes, the conversations were that engaging! Every one of them either taught me something new, challenged a preconceived belief or reinforced an idea about journalism.
And now I’d like to share some of the lessons that stuck with me. But before I do, I want to extend the invitation to you, too. Why keep the fun all to myself? So … as you read about what I learned by asking our reporters questions, I hope you’ll come up with some questions of your own. If you’ve got a question for a particular reporter, I’d love to hear it. We’ll gather some of your questions, share them with the team and update you with their answers in another newsletter.
OK, enough talking. Let’s get into it…
The idea that journalism can only be produced by reporters working in a traditional newsroom is changing. Journalism school typically tells you that you can either choose print, broadcast, digital or radio as a branch within the field. Exploring different ways of doing journalism is often overlooked. Engagement reporter Logan Jaffe put it this way: “I want to do more things that people don’t normally associate with something that a newsroom could do. I want to partner with organizations that are beyond other newsrooms, like working with local theater groups or just exploring different ways that journalism can relate to other forms of communication that you might not traditionally think of as news media … Journalists haven’t really branched out so much beyond the newsroom environment in the way that they can tell stories.”
Another idea of mine that reporter and mentor Jodi Cohen challenged is that news organizations are constantly competing for stories and reporters from different news outlets won’t work together and with the public. Let’s face it: Journalism is a competitive profession. But some principles should be closely examined.
“There’s just a different mindset happening,” Cohen said. “Reporters, editors [and] newsrooms are more willing to collaborate and also just more willing to be public about the work they’re doing. This mindset of being an investigative reporter in a room by yourself doing all the work and then having a big reveal is not the way of the future. Reporters are really more open and public about what they’re doing and seeking the public’s help. It’s leading to better informed” stories.
Journalism has the power to spark change — whether by overturning a wrongful conviction, creating or changing a law or forcing an authority figure to resign. But reporter Duaa Eldeib explained that there’s also power in “organic” change. As a reporter, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of measuring success with awards, policy changes or resignations. Yes, all of these feel great and validate our work, but it’s not why we do what we do. I don’t think someone could have phrased it better than Duaa. “If I’m able to tell someone’s story through my writing, then I feel like I will have succeeded,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a small story. Every story affects somebody, somewhere, somehow. If you’re able to reach that person, then you’ve done your job.”
When I asked reporter Mick Dumke near the end of our conversation what journalism has taught him, he gave me a simple but key piece of advice. “Be humble. In most cases, the stories we work on are not about us, but we’re interested in them for some reason. You have to be drawn by something inside you, but you also (have to) realize you’re a speck out there and you’re trying to report on a much bigger world than your own.”
When you’re a young journalist about to graduate and jump into the real world, you ask yourself: “Do I have enough good clips? Did I land enough internships to gain experience? Were my clips published in big and recognized news outlets? Will I ever win a Pulitzer Prize? Will I land a job at a medium or big news organization right from the start?” It’s almost impossible to avoid getting caught up in this narcissistic game. Even veteran journalists do sometimes. But the truth is that none of this should matter. You don’t get into journalism to nourish your ego with awards, fame or prestigious news organizations. No. You choose journalism to tell untold stories, give power to the powerless and hold authority figures accountable. In the end, that’s all that matters.
So far, I’ve been the one asking our reporters these questions, but now I would like to give you, our readers, the opportunity to ask a few. What do you want to ask our investigative reporters? Tweet me your questions @salcedonews. I will select a few to ask our staff. Ask away!
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I’m somewhat of a productivity freak. I like having time.
Time allows me to work smarter, and so I protect it like a rare and beautiful diamond. If you want to steal my time, you better be prepared for one hell of a battle. I’d happily give up money before I would ever give up time.
While everybody is lining up for the lift or going 1 meter every ten minutes on the escalator, I take the stairs. It keeps me fit and I get where I want to go faster. Nothing in life worth achieving is easy so get used to taking the stairs and doing some physical work.
Water instead of wine/soft drink/coffee etc.
One big goal at any point in time instead of a to-do list of goals that lead nowhere.
One email address instead of multiple inboxes.
One computer and one phone instead of a Fitbit, laptop, phone, tablet and Apple Watch.
“Vanilla options are easy and low fuss. Decisions fatigue you”
Lunch can be done in 15 minutes. The trick is to buy or make your lunch before the rush. Standing in lines and getting frustrated is unnecessary. Get some time in your day back by doing lunch earlier. I recommend 11:45. With the extra time you gain back, try adding in 10 minutes of meditation.
When I go to the city, I leave the car at home. By the time I get into the car, battle against the seven seas that is traffic and then get parking, I could have already been there by train or equivalent. This transit time also becomes my portable learning time. I use this time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks instead of having to think about driving.
Being alone with your thoughts and complete silence, once a week, makes you mega productive. A few moments of quietness are far more valuable than hours of busyness and noise. In complete isolation, you have no choice but to focus and complete your goals.
People hate tiredness. I love it. Tiredness tells me to stop working on my goals and do the things we all have to do like housework. I don’t need any energy or inspiration to do housework so why waste my high energy states on it?
Having said that, I aim to eliminate tiredness. This is a work in progress and requires exercise combined with an excellent diet. Until then, housework I love you!
That word “notifications” feels like grand larceny. Companies used to steal my time through notifications and now I’ve declared war on them. When you’re powering through a task, the last thing you want is an interruption in the form of a notification.
That small amount of time you spend getting distracted takes you out of the zone and away from the focused state you’re in. Go to settings and turn off notifications – especially Facebook.
As a kid, I loved computer games. That’s why I know to stay away from them as an adult because they are designed to get me to fight someone else’s mission. There’s no such thing as a quick game. Games are designed to keep you engaged and continually challenge you.
Yes, sir! I get up when it’s dark so I can do the big stuff first. Before the rest of the world can wake up and distract me, I’m getting my game on in the early hours of the morning. I really think you should wake up early. If you ignored everything else I said and just woke up early, I’d be proud.
Yes has become a first world disease. You can’t work smart if you say yes to every offer that comes your way. That’s why I tell myself no first, and then try to convince myself of yes. If I can’t convince myself, I say no. Auto responding with yes answers will make you busy.
If you think you are busy, and you verbally say so regularly, you’re not working smart. Busy is dumb. Busy will cripple your time and make your mindset go into meltdown. Humans can only focus on a small number of things so stop being busy!
Tell people the truth. Say no more. Guard your time. Avoid the trap of busy.
If I have to give a big speech then in the same week, I move away any other big goals that might distract me. Too many big goals all in a small space of time can become overwhelming quickly. Stick to one or two big goals at a time and you’ll achieve a lot more. Less is more.
That way I don’t need to worry about maintaining things, securing things, thinking about objects, spending money on things I can’t afford. Sell, sell, sell yourself out of living the dumb life.
“Stuff does not equal progress; personal growth does and money can’t buy that”
With almost no knowledge, anyone can invest in index funds and not have to worry about the burden of trying to predict the next biggest thing. In reality, this strategy will probably beat all of the people who waste their lives away trying to be fortune tellers.
All I do is buy low-cost index funds of major economies like the USA. I invest the same amount each time so I’m not affected by the rise and fall of the stock market. Thank you, Tony Robbins and Warren Buffet for this strategy.
Time looking at a screen is better spent reading a book. Fictional TV shows are not teaching me about life. Reading biographies, books about life lessons and the latest research in human psychology does that for me. One up on mediocrity and cancel your subscription.
Here’s the thing: Subscriptions equal time.
Companies have moved their business models to subscriptions because it helps keep you engaged and addicted to what they have to sell because you’re paying a recurring fee for it. Delete as many subscriptions as you can. I have one for my meditation app, one for the gym and one for my writing software.
Okay, so I do use Kindle which means that there is a temptation to look at apps. Delete apps from your reading device so you can actually read.
In Australia, everyone goes away in December and January. I take my holidays when they return to work. This means:
– More time in the office when it’s less busy
– Cheaper flights and accommodation during low peak times
– More chances to step up to leader roles while others are away
Everything is just less busy when you holiday off-peak.
This week I have a public speaking competition. I need all the practice I can get which requires energy. That’s why, in big goal weeks like the one I’m in right now, I cut out junk food. Energy equals time. Do a cheat day to celebrate at the end if you must.
– Necessities like food, clothes and rent
– Money for family and my girlfriend
– Unplanned indulgences (cheat day)
A balanced life requires resources (money). Splitting your money across these four areas allows you to work smart. You only have to work dumb when you waste your resources and therefore have to work ten times harder than you need to. When in doubt, less is more.
Coffee only makes us get the jitters and be nervous. I find when I’m on coffee I become more fearful. My relaxed state disappears.
We’re not machines. I do regular breaks of trampoline, walking, and eating fresh food in-between hours of writing on the weekend.
If I do things I’m horrible at, I do them badly. This stops me from working smart and can cause negativity. That’s why I outsource stuff I’m bad at wherever possible.
7 hours works for me. You have to sleep otherwise you’ll get tired which will cause negativity and a poor quality of work. This “sleep when you’re dead” tend is a fallacy.
I’ve placed a very high dollar value on my time. Because I consciously value it, I’m always reconciling how much time I have. By valuing your time, you become aware of it. You can’t focus on something you are not aware of.
LinkedIn sends me multiple requests a day for coffee catch ups. Most of them don’t state any valid reason for the catch-up. Now if you just say no to them all you could be missing out on the gift of socializing, learning new things and meeting people you can do business with.
The hack I use is this: Always do the first conversation via phone. That way you can tell if there is value or a need for a coffee catch up.
Second hack: do a video call instead of an audio-only call. Video lets you see the other person and connect better. It’s more personal and you’ll quickly figure out if you need that coffee after all. I personally don’t drink coffee, so these sort of catch ups take me out of rapport with the other person from the start.
I spend less time arguing because I do stuff that my partner wants to do even if I don’t. She does the same. This way everybody wins and I don’t need to waste time arguing and lighting a fire under my mindset that causes me to want to evacuate to the world of temptation (coffee, Netflix, games, useless crap).
That’s right! I sleep around with any activity that doesn’t involve looking at my phone.
“The small glass window of my phone feels like such a tiny part of what the world has to offer. I choose to look out of the window of life instead and see limitless possibility”
Being smart is only possible when you have a positive mindset served on the side. Exercise has helped me relieve stress and get back to feeling good again. Do it.
People will gladly rob you of your time and waste it. They do this primarily because they have their own selfish goals, or they’re bored with life and wasting your time makes them feel better. Prosecute these time thieves’ by telling them your expectations and referencing your calendar if you have to.
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By Emma Young
After a traumatic experience, why do some people develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), while others don’t? Work to date has found evidence that various factors play a role, including a lack of social support and low levels of the neurotransmitter neuropeptide Y (due to its role in the body’s stress response). Into this mix come new findings, reported in Psychosomatic Medicine, that an individual’s complement of gut bacteria (their gut microbiome) may contribute to their vulnerability to trauma. The researchers are now investigating whether tweaking the gut microbiome could help to prevent or treat PTSD.
Lead author on the paper, Sian Hemmings, is based at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where about three quarters of the population experience at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, and more than half experience multiple traumatic events. PTSD is a debilitating anxiety disorder, which can persist for years. While estimates of its prevalence in South Africa, as well as other countries, vary widely, in the US, for example, about 6.8 per cent of adults are diagnosed with PTSD at some point in their lives. There’s a pressing need for new insights into the factors that contribute to PTSD, and new strategies for prevention and treatment.
Clues to the involvement of the gut microbiome in PTSD come from its role in the body’s response to infection and physical injury (the inflammatory response), which can be affected by stress. Regulatory T cells (Tregs) play an important role in the normal regulation of inflammation, and lowered levels of Tregs have been found in people after they are exposed to stress in the psych lab, and in refugees with chronic PTSD, compared with controls. Since the human microbiome can influence levels of Tregs, the researchers wondered if there might be any differences in the gut microbiomes of people with and without PTSD.
The researchers analysed the gut bacteria (via their faecal samples) of 30 South Africans who had experienced a traumatic event. Eighteen of them had subsequently developed PTSD and they had lower levels of three phyla of bacteria – Actinobacteria, Lentisphaerae and Verrucomicrobia – compared with those who hadn’t developed PTSD. Actinobacteria and Verrucomicrobia include many microbes that have been found to have immunoregulatory properties, such as mycobacteria, and Akkermansia muciniphila, and lower levels may be a sign of an exaggerated inflammatory response.
Christopher Lowry at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a senior author on the new paper, told us he and his colleagues believe that low levels of these bacteria contribute to risk of developing PTSD, although the new findings don’t prove that link.
If future research is consistent with the gut microbiome influencing vulnerability to PTSD, the potential mechanisms for now are unclear. “We currently do not have a good understanding of why elevated inflammation, at the time of trauma, increases risk of PTSD,” Lowry said. “This may involve priming of microglia [a type of cell] in the brain, so that exposure to trauma induces an exaggerated neuroinflammatory response.”
But this study, along with other work linking heightened inflammation to PTSD, does suggest that it’s worth exploring whether raising levels of these bacteria might reduce the risk of the disorder, or even help in treatment. Lowry and his colleagues are in the process of doing just that. In collaboration with US Veterans Affairs scientists, they are currently conducting a clinical trial evaluating the effects of a probiotic (which stimulates the growth of desirable bacteria) on the stress response in veterans with PTSD.
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This story has not been published anywhere in the world yet, and so you are getting to read this before anyone else does. I take allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously, and I would not have published this if these accusations were not solid. Joshua Chavez personally sent me call sheets and other documentation that establishes that he did work on the film projects that he describes below, and a very close personal friend of mine knows Joshua extremely well and helped connect us for this story. If Kevin Spacey would like to personally respond to these allegations, he can have equal space on my websites to do so. Like so many of the other allegations against him, my guess is the Spacey will not dispute these facts either.
Some have speculated that the reason why Spacey was able to play a deeply evil character so convincingly on “House of Cards” was because of the deep evil that is in his heart. If all of the allegations against Spacey are true, he is a predator of the highest order, and it says a lot about the culture of Hollywood that he was able to engage in this pattern of behavior for so many years without ever getting into trouble for it.
Once again, what you are about to read are allegations from someone that previously worked with Spacey. I am satisfied with the documentation that Chavez provided for this story, and I very much trust the good friend that connected the two of us. What follows is Joshua’s story in his own words, and I hope that all of you will help me get Joshua’s story out to the rest of the world…
My name is Joshua Chavez and in 2007 I entered into the film industry where I began a lucrative business as a sound mixer. I didn’t start as one; I had to work my way up from a PA, sound utility, boom operator and then mixer. In 2012 I was asked to work for a certain sound mixer on three short films Kevin Spacey and his company trigger street productions was doing as the boom operator. Now a sound mixer is the head of the sound department and the boom operator is just below him and is responsible for picking up every line spoken by the actor or actress with a high-powered microphone. The first short film we worked on was called “The Ventriloquist” which was shot on March 22st and 23nd, the second short film was called “Spirit of a Denture” shot on March 26th and 27th, and then third short we shot was on April 1st and 2nd and that was called “Envelope”.
These three short films were all a part of a contest put on between trigger street productions and Jameson Whiskey called Jameson first shot. Writers from all over the world would send in their scripts for a chance to direct their own script and have it fully funded with Kevin Spacey as the main actor. The first day on set was at the promenade off of Figueroa St. in highland park LA. The first day of principal photography was the same as all the rest of the projects I’d been a part of. It was also uneventful considering what the rest of the days were going to be like working so close with Kevin Spacey. That first day I had met him he didn’t pay much attention to me. That is very normal for an A list actor towards a boom operator. I had introduced myself, put a lav (small hidden mic) on him a couple times and also boomed his scenes. Everything was very normal, nothing out of the ordinary. At that point in time, I had no idea Kevin was gay or attracted to me.
Day two was a whole different story though; the moment he got to set he began his relentless pursuit for me. I was sitting next to craft service (a table filled with all the snacks you could possibly imagine) and I noticed him pull up in a vehicle, get out, notice me and walk straight for me. I wasn’t sure he was looking at me or walking towards me for that matter but he was, he literally walked past every person on set, put out his hand in my direct and shook my hand with a big smile on his face and said “good morning Joshua, its good to see you back today” I was shocked and really confused. Kevin Spacey walked past every person on set to come say good morning to me, and he remembered my name… WHAT?! I didn’t realize his intentions at the moment so I felt really special, something like that had never happened to me before. The rest of the day was also normal, but Kevin would speak to me every now and then and he also sat down and had lunch with my sound mixer and myself.
The end of the first project had passed and the second short film was now underway, “Spirit of Denture”. The location we were filming at was called Soler Dental off of Los Feliz Blvd. in Los Angeles. It was a small dental office, which meant we were all in very close proximity to each other. One of the scenes in the dental office was Kevin’s character a Dentist with an active imagination looking out of his sliding glass window through binoculars. Now since the space was very small, and the cameras were behind him, I had to stand on a counter table that lined the wall right next to the sliding glass door. It was the only spot I could be in to properly get his lines without my reflection being seen by the cameras in the sliding glass door Kevin was standing in front of. There are many takes in order to get one scene and during this scene was when all of the real sexual assaults began to happen and from then on after. My first encounter with him during this scene was when the director yelled cut. I dropped my boom from over my head and sat down on the counter to rest while the camera changed some lenses for the next shot. Kevin was directly in front of me; he turned to me and asked me what I thought about his acting during that scene.
It was actually a funny question because why would my opinion matter to an A list actor. Regardless I politely answered the question “Yes, it was a good scene” and smiled, he then said “thank you” and lightly put his hand on my thigh. It was so quick and light that it didn’t really sound any alarms, however I didn’t feel comfortable with it. Since I was sitting on the counter and he was standing up, my thigh was about waist height to him. So I kind of ignored it and continued on. Well that was not the end of it, at the end of the next shot, he turned to me again and asked me the same question again, I replied the same, I mean it’s not like I was going say “Kevin, that was actually horrible… you need to stop acting and become a mime”! No, I’d be fired on the spot!
So I said it was great, he smiled again and then put his hand back onto my thigh, but this time it was for a very long period of time. It was so long that I started to move my thigh in hope he would take it off. He smiled and turned away. Now that time about every fiber in my body was screaming… that was not normal and there is something horribly wrong! Well the third time it happened yet again but this time he grabbed my upper thigh, took his pinky and rubbed my junk. “Woe, I am not comfortable with that, sorry but I’m not attracted to men. He took his hand off my upper thigh as if what I said didn’t even phase him, smiled at me and walked away. I was absolutely dumbfounded and shocked. I remember immediately going back to the mixer who I was working with and told him what had happened; he was surprised but shrugged it off.
To be completely honest and transparent I shrugged it off as well. I told him I wasn’t into guys and I figured he got the hint but he didn’t, if anything it made me an even larger target for him. I had many encounters with him after that and each one made me more and more uncomfortable. Other individuals began to notice it on set, including the 2nd AD Shelly West who made comments on his actions in an email afterward and again just recently explaining in detail what she noticed on set. In an attempt to let production know these things were happening to me, I told one of the producers about the sexual assaults I was receiving from Kevin and the over all response was “you should be flattered Kevin Spacey is attracted to you”.
This is the thing, they all had the same worry and fear I had, being fired or blacklisted from the industry for being a problem on set. It was Kevin Spacey’s Production Company, and he was the main actor. The reason why I’m even telling my story right now is because people need to know these aren’t just allegations towards him, they aren’t made up, and it’s happened to probably hundreds maybe even thousands of young men on set. Human Resources is not a department on the call sheet, and pretty much every person there is self employed and contracted out for just that gig. During each production, if you are nice, work hard, don’t cause problems and know what you are doing, you’ll be rehired by someone that goes on to another project; tainting your name on set will put you on unemployment. So the sexual advances went on and on for the duration of the projects. There was one instance where I was sitting in a chair on set waiting for the next scene to be set up, Kevin walked past me, stopped and asked me what I was doing after wrap that night? He then proceeded to ask me if I wanted to go and get high with him at his house, just the two of us. With an uncomfortable laugh I said “you’re funny” pretending he was joking and walked away. I was once putting a lav on him for a scene and while I was doing it, he began to sexually rub my shoulders and preceded to tell me I have beautiful eyes.
The list goes on and on. After I finished those projects I didn’t feel like it affected me all that much, however in the past five years, I’ve told probably a hundred of people my encounter with him. I’ve never watched a single project that he’s been in since. I refused to watch house of cards because I didn’t want to support him. I guess I didn’t quite realize the scarring I received from him until my girl at the time pointed out I talked about it a lot.
Looking back, I should have done something about it, came out with it publicly or sued him in hopes he wouldn’t do it to someone else. One thing I would like to say is, Kevin I forgive you for what you did to me all those years back, but you have to stop what you’re doing and repent. If it scarred a guy that’s 26 like I was and me not even know it, what do you think it has done to all the little boys you’ve done it to. You have to repent for your sins and look to Jesus for change because you may not pay for what you’ve done in this life, but you sure will in front of the white throne judgment with a packed court house of witnesses coming against you.
In conclusion, my story is just one of many who have been assaulted by him, I’ve encountered guys that have had far worse experiences with him than myself. This stuff has to stop, power is being used for control and evil desires. We all need to speak up as soon as it happens, I did not do the right thing and stand up for myself. I was weak minded at the time and it took a news story about a 14 year old boy and Jesus for me to say enough is enough. I urge every single person in the industry to come out with your story, and bring hard evidence against him or her. What ever it takes to bring mere allegations into hard facts! Some of you have text messages, emails, video’s, eye witnesses, come out with them and bring a total stop to this gross abuse of power and control.
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The lead story of the November 20 USA Today, “Drilling Closes In on Alaska Wildlife Refuge,” was supposed to give readers the basics surrounding proposed legislation to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The article is intended as an explainer—“Here’s What You Should Know,” its online headline concludes—but one idea is conspicuously absent from its explanation: climate change.
Sales of drilling rights in the northeastern Alaskan coastal plain are slated to be attached to the Senate version of the tax bill, ostensibly as a way to raise revenue to offset the cost of massive tax cuts. The article’s lead frames the issue in terms of proponents’ view of the refuge “as an area rich with natural resources that could help fuel the United States’ drive for energy independence”—despite the fact that the United States became a net exporter of oil in 2013, and any increase in oil production would likely go to overseas markets.
After many paragraphs of wrangling over how much oil is likely to lie under the refuge, and how much money the US government would be likely to make from it, reporter Michael Collins includes a single sentence on the environmental impact of opening the wilderness area to oil extraction:
What’s more, opponents argue, drilling is a risky endeavor that would cause widespread and permanent damage to the coastal plain, destroy the area’s natural beauty and jeopardize its wildlife and ecosystems.
But nowhere does the article mention the biggest environmental danger posed by opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling: If the billions of gallons of petroleum believed to be under the refuge are pumped out and burned, they will add gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere, contributing to the ongoing climate catastrophe.
Nowhere in the article do the words “climate,” “warming,” “greenhouse” or “carbon” appear. Here’s what USA Today should know: This kind of coverage of energy issues is wrecking the planet.
Please tell USA Today to mention climate change prominently when writing about energy issues.
Twitter: @USA Today
Please share your messages to USA Today in comments. Remember that respectful communication is the most effective.
Justin Anderson contributed to this Action Alert.
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A disturbing report released today by researchers at the prestigious Colegio de Mexico provides new details about a 2011 massacre in Allende, a quiet Mexican ranching town less than an hour’s drive from the United States, and suggests that many more people were killed in the incident than estimated by Mexican authorities. The report’s authors also repeatedly cite an investigation of the incident by ProPublica and National Geographic in calling for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to provide information about its role in triggering the killing spree.
Based on previously undisclosed Mexican law enforcement files, the report paints a chilling portrait of a powerful drug cartel run amok throughout the northern Mexican state of Coahuila, right across the Rio Grande from Texas. Numerous mayors’ offices and municipal police departments served at the will of the Zetas cartel, the report said. State and federal authorities were either complicit or indifferent, taking no action as the Zetas, one of the most violent drug cartels in the world, took control of a regional prison and used it for years to store drugs and weapons, hold and torture hostages, and dispose of the bodies.
Perhaps the most brazen display of the cartel’s impunity occurred in March 2011, when a convoy of dozens of heavily armed Zetas gunmen descended on Allende and towns nearby and began rounding up friends and relatives of Zetas operatives that the cartel’s leaders believed had betrayed them. Dozens of victims — including some who had no connection to the cartel or the operatives — were rounded up and taken to a ranch just outside Allende, where they were killed and incinerated. There is still no firm count of how many people are either missing or presumed dead. State authorities had estimated that there were about 28 victims while groups formed by victims’ relatives put the number closer to 300.
The new report suggests that victims’ relatives are right and sets the center of the mayhem even closer to the border in Piedras Negras, a grimy factory town within walking distance of Eagle Pass, Texas. Some 1,400 emergency calls came in from residents there during the initial days of the rampage, more than from any other place in the region, according to the report. Many of those calls were about shootings or fires at locations that were known, like the prison, as Zetas extermination sites.
“The investigation into this vengeance is still not over,” said the report, whose lead author is the widely respected human rights investigator Sergio Aguayo. “The possibility exists that the number of dead and missing is greater than 100, and its even possible that it approaches 300.”
ProPublica and National Geographic, after months of interviews and poring through documents, found evidence of at least 60 people whose deaths and disappearances were connected to the attack.
Other unanswered questions, the report said, have to do with the role of the United States in triggering the massacre. It cites extensively from an investigative oral history published in June by ProPublica and National Geographic that revealed that the killing began after the DEA and its partners in the Mexican federal police mishandled sensitive intelligence. That intelligence wound up in the Zetas’ hands, and alerted the cartel that there were snitches inside the organization. The Zetas’ leaders ordered their henchmen to round up and kill those it believed had betrayed them and anyone linked to them.
The DEA did not conduct an investigation of the leak, or discuss it with either Mexican authorities or victims’ families. The agency had never commented publicly on the incident until interviews with ProPublica and National Geographic. In those interviews, the DEA apologized about the intelligence leak, but placed the blame for the violence on the Zetas.
“The indifference with which such delicate information is shared is typical of the informality that characterizes the security relationship between Mexico and the United States,” the report says. “It is characterized by the absence of the kinds of protocols the United States applies in other countries, like Colombia; the lack of accountability, which is evident by the agency’s failure to conduct an internal investigation of a leak that cost the lives of hundreds of people; and the government’s efforts to cover up information and deny responsibility.”
In an interview, Aguayo said he has long understood that the United States shared responsibility for the drug-related violence that has plagued Mexico in the last decade, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and missing across the country. The reporting by ProPublica and National Geographic, he said, made those connections real, and urgent. As a result, authorities in Coahuila have formally requested information from the DEA about the former cartel informants connected to the leak that set off the massacre.
Aguayo and other researchers at the Colegio de Mexico were given access to law enforcement files by the governor of Coahuila.
A DEA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
“If we’re ever going to understand not only what happened in Coahuila, but why, so that it doesn’t happen again,” Aguayo said, “it’s important that we follow the leak.”
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