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Flickr acquired by professional photo hosting service SmugMug

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Flickr has been bought by professional photo hosting service SmugMug for an undisclosed price, according to a report from USA Today . The fate of Flickr has been up in the air as part of the ongoing decline of Yahoo, which was bought by Verizon last year $4.5 billion dollars and combined with AOL into Oath.

Yahoo itself had bought Flickr back in 2005 for $35 million, but never really seemed to know what to do with the service up until the end, even as it tried various redesigns and new services to revive Flickr, it never succeeded in mounting a comeback against more modern alternatives like Instagram. “Flickr has survived through thick-and-thin and is core to the entire fabric of the Internet,” SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA Today.

SmugMug isn’t doing away with that legacy; the company intends to keep Flickr as a standalone community and give it more resources and attention than Oath did. But technology-wise, this acquisition might be a tall order for SmugMug, which isn’t nearly as big as the photo service it now owns.

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satadru
45 minutes ago
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Anybody have a good way of downloading all of your flickr photos for import into google photos?
New York, NY
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Trump Fundraiser Offered Russian Gas Company Plan to Get Sanctions Lifted for $26 Million

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Shortly after President Donald Trump was inaugurated last year, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

Broidy is a Trump associate who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair. But in February 2017, when he laid out his lobbying proposal for Novatek, he was acting as a well-connected businessman and longtime Republican donor in a bid to help the Russian company avoid sanctions imposed by the Obama administration. The 2014 sanctions were aimed at punishing Russia for annexing Crimea and supporting pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

In February 2017, Broidy sent a draft of the plan by email to attorney Andrei Baev, then a Moscow- and London-based lawyer who represented major Russian energy companies for the firm Chadbourne & Parke LLP. Baev had already been communicating with Novatek about finding a way to lift U.S. sanctions.

Broidy proposed arranging meetings with key White House and congressional leaders and generating op-eds and other articles favorable to the Russian company, along with a full suite of lobbying activities to be undertaken by consultants brought on board. Yet even as he offered those services, Broidy was adamant that his company, Fieldcrest Advisors LLC, would not perform lobbying services but would hire others to do it. He suggested that parties to the deal sign a sweeping non-disclosure agreement that would shield their work from public scrutiny.

The plan is outlined in a series of emails and other documents obtained by The Intercept. Broidy and Baev did not dispute the authenticity of the exchanges but said the deal was never consummated.

In March, Bloomberg News reported that Broidy “offered last year to help a Moscow-based lawyer” — Baev — “get Russian companies removed from a U.S. sanctions list.” The news outlet did not identify the Russian firms or provide details of that proposal.

“At the time when I was a partner of Chadbourne & Parke LLP I had very preliminary discussions with Elliott Broidy with regard to possible engagement of him as a strategic consultant with regard to a possible instruction by one of my corporate clients. This instruction has never materialized,” Baev told The Intercept in an email. “Nor did I or Chadbourne provide any services to any other individual or entity in connection with any attempt to remove any Russian company or an individual from the US sanctions list.”

Broidy told The Intercept through a spokesperson that Baev had approached him about the proposal, but that Broidy had decided not to go through with it for political reasons. “At the time Mr. Baev had approached us he was then a managing partner of a major U.S. law firm and the new Administration had indicated an interest in normalizing relations with Russia and potentially easing sanctions,” Broidy told The Intercept in a statement provided by his spokesperson. “Subsequently, the geopolitical landscape changed and I made the decision not to pursue it.”

Baev was introduced to Broidy in October 2016, before Trump was elected. At the time, Broidy was serving as a top fundraiser for the Trump campaign; he would later become vice chair of Trump’s inaugural committee before transitioning to his most recent position at the RNC.

Broidy began sharing drafts of his lobbying plan with Baev by December. That month, he also sent Baev a Wall Street Journal article headlined “France Poised for Pro-Russia Pivot.”

The article describes how François Fillon and Marine Le Pen, the center-right and far-right candidates, respectively, during the 2017 French presidential election, both opposed punitive sanctions levied by French President François Hollande against Russia for its activity in eastern Ukraine. “With U.S. President-elect Donald Trump also promising friendlier relations with Moscow, Western agreement on sanctions against Russia could crumble,” the article says. Fillon and Le Pen were eventually defeated by France’s current president, Emmanuel Macron.

As the discussions continued, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others began pushing legislation that would take the decision on whether to lift sanctions out of Trump’s hands and put Congress in control, a development that Novatek apparently recognized as a threat given that Broidy’s power to affect policy lay in his presumed influence with Trump.

In January 2017, Baev wrote to Broidy asking whether McCain’s bill would put their efforts at risk. “The client is asking how our road map would be affected by a new bill sponsored by Senator McCain to codify the existing sanctions and to impose new ones as a matter of federal law which the Administration will not be in a position to lift without consent of the US Congress. What are your thoughts on this?”

Broidy responded: “We need to convince McCain to abandon or water down the bill while we push the admin and other members of Senate to water down and vote no. Not a game changer.

In a proposal dated February 23, 2017, Broidy told Baev that he had found “many influential experts, lobbyists, and attorneys” who were “willing and able to work immediately on your behalf and on behalf of Novatek.” The document, marked “strictly-confidential, attorney client privilege,” lays out a plan for a two-year influence campaign that Broidy claimed could dilute McCain’s bill and lift sanctions by February 2019.

The plan outlines a 25-step “Roadmap” that includes getting buy-in from congressional Foreign Relations committees, as well as outreach to the White House, the Treasury, and the Commerce, State, and Justice departments.

It also lists “issues for Congress” that would have to be overcome in order to implement the plan, including progress on agreements to resolve the situation in Ukraine. Congress would also “need information as to whether Russia did indeed hack DNC and attempt to influence US Presidential election,” according to the document.

Broidy added: “Congress would require agreement with Russia that Russia will not do so again.”

Elliott Broidy Russia Novatek Proposal5 pages

Broidy proposed a one-time fee of $500,000 to Fieldcrest, followed by monthly payments starting at $300,000 and eventually rising to $500,000. He proposed an additional monthly $300,000 for “attorneys, lobbyists, experts and other consultants that Fieldcrest Advisors will recommend.” The documents include a chart estimating the expenses for the next three years:

Baev told The Intercept that the conversations were preliminary in nature and that he and Broidy spoke of their own volition. “Neither I nor Chadbourne & Parke LLP has ever been instructed by any Russian company or individual to represent them in connection with this matter,” he said in an email. “For ethical reasons, I cannot address whether I was asked to perform any such services, but whether I or the firm was contacted or not, we were never engaged to perform these services and never performed them.”

The documents show, however, that Novatek asked Baev to discuss retaining Broidy to help the company get off the sanctions list, and Novatek appears to have specifically referenced Broidy’s proposal in doing so. In February, Baev had received a letter from Denis Solovev, the director of communications for Novatek, marked “confidential.”

“I am authorized by the management of Novatek to contact you and express our interest in your services related to removing Novatek from the US sanctions list,” wrote Solovev. “We would like to discuss with you your proposed road map.”

Throughout the documents and correspondence, Broidy articulates a desire to avoid publicly registering under the Lobbying Disclosure Act or the Foreign Agent Registration Act — laws that require influence peddlers to be transparent about who is funding their lobbying campaigns, and, in the case of FARA, whom they are speaking to. In an effort to avoid such disclosures, Broidy proposed that he and his consulting company, Fieldcrest, would “advise on the creation of an appropriate team” and “provide advice and manage coordination of the team.” “Fieldcrest is not a ‘lobbyist’ or registered ‘foreign agent’ and … at no time would be acting in such capacities,” Broidy noted in his outline, which also suggests that each team member be required to sign a confidentiality and non-disparagement form.

One hiccup came when Broidy sought legal advice about the plan. Elliot Berke, an attorney and managing partner at Berke Farah LLP, reviewed Broidy’s proposal and flagged the avoidance of lobbying registration as a problem. “Fieldcrest offers a somewhat detailed ‘Roadmap,’ which in and of itself could be viewed as providing strategic advice to influence US policy,” Berke wrote to Broidy in February, suggesting that he may have already run afoul of FARA. “The fee amounts and scope also would not support a claim that Fieldcrest’s activities would be limited to non-FARA-registrable administrative activities.” Berke also noted that “some of the characterizations” in the plan “could be construed to suggest that Fieldcrest has already engaged in registrable activity.”

Berke closed the letter: “Not the conclusion you were hoping for, I know, but happy to discuss more next week.”

Broidy consulted Berke Farah to ensure that his plan was legal, and the answer he received was a factor in the decision not to move forward with the agreement, according to his statement to The Intercept. “As with any matter, I took early steps to ensure that any proposed engagement, if one had gone forward, was in compliance with all applicable laws, which is why I consulted with my attorneys. As I’ve consistently stated though, I did not wish to be a lobbyist or FARA agent and would have declined any engagement requiring such steps.”

Berke did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept.

Broidy has worked to funnel money into the U.S. political system for others, however. Last month, the Associated Press reported that Broidy received millions of dollars from George Nadar, a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and a close confidant of Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. AP reported that Broidy received that money weeks before he made personal donations to congressional campaigns in an effort to shape a bill critical of Qatar, which the United Arab Emirates is currently blockading. The New York Times also reported that Broidy was reimbursed by Nadar after he funded an October conference that was highly critical of Qatar, which was confirmed by documents obtained by The Intercept. The UAE has contracts with a private security company Broidy owns that are worth “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to the Times.

Broidy has blamed Qatar for the hack and disclosure of his emails. His attorney wrote a public letter to the Qatari ambassador to the U.S. blaming the Gulf nation for spreading “false and stolen information about him,” and claiming that Broidy had “irrefutable forensic evidence tying Qatar to this unlawful attack.” Broidy has since filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the Qatari government.

The Qatari Embassy did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment. The documents were provided to The Intercept anonymously.

Top photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin, center, accompanied by Novatek founder Leonid Mikhelson, second left, and Russia’s energy minister Alexander Novak, left, visits a liquefied natural gas plant in the port of Sabetta on the Yamal peninsula beyond the Arctic Circle on Dec. 8, 2017.

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satadru
5 hours ago
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shocked
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Scientists confirm 'mad cow disease' in camels sparking fears it could be passed to humans

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A prion disease similar to that which causes “mad cow disease”  in cattle has been discovered in camels, raising fears that it could be passed to humans.

A study published in the journal of Emerging Infectious Disease by an international team of food safety scientists and veterinarians confirmed the fatal degenerative disease in camels in Algeria and called for urgent action to safeguard both animal and human health.

“Our identification of this prion disease in a geographically widespread livestock species requires urgent enforcement of surveillance and assessment of the potential risks to human and animal health,” say the authors.

The source of the infection is not known but the paper says it is possible the disease came from exports of BSE-infected cattle.

“The possibility that BSE-infected feed could have reached North Africa cannot be ruled out”, the paper says.

Dromedary – or "Arabian" – camels number more than 10 million worldwide. Although best known in the west as pack animals, they are a major source of meat and milk in Africa and much of the Middle East.

Camel stews, sausages and even burgers are a common and important part of the human diet in countries as diverse as Sudan, Saudi Arabia and China.

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satadru
6 hours ago
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ICE agents remove legal foreign worker from farm, threaten farmer when questioned about having a warrant

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I don't want to alarm anyone, but it sounds like maybe some ICE agents are, I dunno, a shower of bastards.

According to Syracuse.com, New York state dairy farmer John Collins was doing his thing when he heard screaming. When he ran out to see what was happening, he found that his hired hand, Marcial de Leon Aguilar, was being pinned to the side of his farm's milk house by armed men. Aguilar is from Guatemala, and had all of the paperwork required to work in the United States. He'd been employed by Collins for just under a year.

When Collins confronted the armed men about what they were doing with his employee, they stated that they were ICE agents. As the goons slapped a set of handcuffs on Aguilar, Collins demanded to see the warrant that allowed ICE to come on to his property. You'll be shocked to know, I'm sure, that the agents stated that they had none.

It gets better. As the agents dragged Aguilar across the road to their waiting vehicle, Collins continued to demand that they produce paperwork on why they were taking his employee or show the authority that allowed them onto his land. As he did so, he began filming the exchange with his smartphone. Collins alleges that, at this point, one the agents grabbed the phone out of his hand, handcuffed him and threatened to arrest him for hindering a federal investigation. In the end, Collins was released, but Aguilar was carted away.

Oh, did I mention that Aguilar's kids saw the whole damn thing? Because they totally did – the Aguilar's family was living in a house on Collins' spread as a partial payment for his gig.

From Syracuse.com:

Aguilar's wife, Virginia, and the couple's four children were not in the U.S. until recently. She was caught crossing the border, illegally, with the children. Collins said she has been meeting with ICE officers since she arrived, and is seeking asylum for herself and the children because of the violence in Guatemala. Collins said Virginia met with ICE officers as recently as last week, and has another meeting scheduled for this Friday. At times, Aguilar has accompanied his wife, who is pregnant, to some of the meetings, Collins said.

So, instead of going through the proper channels to obtain a warrant, or nothing to go after individuals, per their mandate, that are actually in the country illegally, the two uniformed ass clowns opted to grab the first brown fella that they saw on the farm. Outstanding work. So what's the lesson here? Don't attend meetings surrounding the asylum process? Warrants and the rule of law don't matter under the current administration? Jackboots are a state of mind? I dunno.

Apparently ICE will be looking into the incident. I bet they'll send a real crackerjack investigator to hunt down the truth on this one.

Image: Police - Wikipedia Commons, Public Domain, Link

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mareino
11 hours ago
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Washington, District of Columbia
satadru
11 hours ago
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New York, NY
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What if humans weren't the first civilization on Earth?

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Is it possible that modern humans aren't the first civilization on Earth?

This is the insanely interesting question probed by "The Silurian Hypothesis", a new paper authored by Gavin A. Schmidt and Adam Frank, two NASA scientists.

As they point out, if an industrialized civilization existed in the deep past, it's not clear there'd be easily recognizable traces of it. Our geologic record doesn't go back any further than the Quaternary period of about 2.6 million years ago. "Go back much farther than the Quaternary," as Frank writes in an essay about the paper in the Atlantic, "and everything has been turned over and crushed to dust."

It's not even clear we'd find fossilized remains of a previous civilization, because while museumgoers might think that fossils are reasonably common, they're actually incredibly rare. A near-zero percentage of life on earth has ever been fossilized. A civilization could last what seems -- to us -- like a super-long time and still not produce any fossils, as Frank notes:

So, could researchers find clear evidence that an ancient species built a relatively short-lived industrial civilization long before our own? Perhaps, for example, some early mammal rose briefly to civilization building during the Paleocene epoch about 60 million years ago. There are fossils, of course. But the fraction of life that gets fossilized is always minuscule and varies a lot depending on time and habitat. It would be easy, therefore, to miss an industrial civilization that only lasted 100,000 years—which would be 500 times longer than our industrial civilization has made it so far.

The upshot is that Frank and Schmidt wind up focusing on the chemical traces of an advanced civilization. If previous lifeforms industrialized and began making stuff the way we do, you might see suspiciously large buildups of, say, nitrogen (in our case, from fertilizer) or rare-earth minerals (in our case, from making electronic gadgets).

Indeed, the truly massive chemical signal you might see is the shift in carbon that comes from burning fossil fuels -- and its attendant global warming. The scientists here study the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a period 56 million years ago where the global average temperature rose 15 degrees higher than today. The spike in carbon and oxygen isotope ratios was, they conclude, very much like what you'd see if an industrial society burned fossil fuels the way we do. But the thing that's different is the speed: The rise in atmospheric C02 these days is much, much sharper than the incline back then.

The upshot, Frank writes, is that the evidence doesn't really suggest a previous civilization existed. But engaging in the counterfactual is useful for pondering our modern society, and the detritus we're producing ...

It’s not often that you write a paper proposing a hypothesis that you don’t support. Gavin and I don’t believe the Earth once hosted a 50-million-year-old Paleocene civilization. But by asking if we could “see” truly ancient industrial civilizations, we were forced to ask about the generic kinds of impacts any civilization might have on a planet. That’s exactly what the astrobiological perspective on climate change is all about. Civilization building means harvesting energy from the planet to do work (i.e., the work of civilization building). Once the civilization reaches truly planetary scales, there has to be some feedback on the coupled planetary systems that gave it birth (air, water, rock). This will be particularly true for young civilizations like ours still climbing up the ladder of technological capacity. There is, in other words, no free lunch. While some energy sources will have lower impact—say solar vs. fossil fuels—you can’t power a global civilization without some degree of impact on the planet.

By the way, Doctor Who fans will no doubt recognize the reference in the title of "The Silurian Hypothesis" -- Silurians being a race of humanoid reptiles (picture above) that appeared originally back on the show in the 70s, and, as the lore goes, existed millions of years before humanity.

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satadru
11 hours ago
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Democratic Party lawsuit says Russia, Trump campaign, WikiLeaks conspired to hack 2016 presidential campaign

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The Democratic National Committee today filed a lawsuit against the Russian government, Donald Trump's presidential campaign, and WikiLeaks. The court papers describe a far-reaching conspiracy to disrupt the 2016 presidential campaign and throw the election for Donald Trump.

From reporters Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Ellen Nakashima in the Washington Post:

The complaint, filed in federal district court in Manhattan, alleges that top Trump campaign officials conspired with the Russian government and its military spy agency to hurt Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and help Trump by hacking the computer networks of the Democratic Party and disseminating stolen material found there.

“During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump’s campaign,” DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

“This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency,” he said.

The case asserts that the Russian hacking campaign — combined with Trump associates’ contacts with Russia and the campaign’s public cheerleading of the hacks — amounted to an illegal conspiracy to interfere in the election that caused serious damage to the Democratic Party.

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satadru
12 hours ago
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