Daily Bread for 11.9.17

Good morning.

Thursday in Whitewater will be partly cloudy with a high of thirty-eight. Sunrise is 6:40 AM and sunset 4:36 PM, for 9h 56m 15s of daytime. The moon is a waning gibbous with 64.9% of its visible disk illuminated. Today is the three hundred sixty-fifth day.Days since Trump’s election, with 11.9.16 as the first day.

Whitewater’s Community Involvement and Cable Television Commission is scheduled to meet at 5 PM. Two items on tonight’s agenda tell Whitewater’s tale. Item 2 asks “Approval of August 17th Minutes – October 19th cancelled due to lack of quorum.” When even a community involvement meeting is cancelled for lack of a quorum, one knows all one needs to know about current conditions. Item 5 shows how, even when the commission cannot muster a quorum, some residents will waste time of trivial matters. Item 5 is unintentionally funny: “2nd Discussion of commission name after review of ordinance (Requested by Stewart).”  The name’s not the pressing problem, for goodness’ sake. (It’s not as though the commission is called the Dog-Eating Club, after all. That, admittedly, would be a bad name for a group trying to spur community participation.) Oh, brother: a second discussion of a minor detail explains in part why Whitewater’s aged leadership can’t inspire a new generation to embrace community involvement.

On this day in 1620, the passengers and crew of the Mayflower first see present-day Cape Cod. On this day in 1968, an earthquake shakes Wisconsin: “one of the strongest earthquakes in the central United States occurred in south-central Illinois. Measured at a magnitude of 5.3, press reports from LaCrosse, Milwaukee, Port Washington, Portage, Prairie Du Chien, and Sheboygan indicated that the shock was felt in these cities. [Source: United States Geological Survey]”

Recommended for reading in full —

Denise Clifton reports Putin’s Trolls Used the Texas Church Massacre to Sow More Chaos (“How the Kremlin keeps exploiting Twitter to attack America”):

False information inundated social media after Sunday’s mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Russian trolls were in the thick of it.

Conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich led the way, falsely branding shooter Devin Patrick Kelly as a member of the far-left antifa movement, and the Russian media outlet RT America had the lie posted on Facebook for five hours, according to BuzzFeed. The hashtags #antifa, #sutherlandsprings and #texas were three of the top 10 recorded over the weekend by Hamilton 68, a nonpartisan research project that tracks Russian influencers on Twitter in real time.

Much of last week’s congressional hearings focused on Russia’s interference operations on Facebook during the 2016 election, when Kremlin-planted ads and fraudulent posts reached upwards of 130 million users. But disinformation attacks by Putin’s trolls seeking to sow chaos in American politics have continued apace ever since—and Twitter continues to provide an optimal platform for them, according to researchers….

Pema Levy and Dan Friedman report  3 Times Jeff Sessions Made False Statements to Congress Under Oath (“His denials about Russian contacts don’t match up to new revelations”) [listing here just one of the three occasions from the story]:

Here are the three moments in which Sessions appeared not to tell the truth to the Senate:

1/10/17: At Sessions’ confirmation hearing for his nomination to be attorney general, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked Sessions a lengthy question about contacts between Trump campaign surrogates and Kremlin affiliates:

FRANKEN: CNN just published a story alleging that the intelligence community provided documents to the president-elect last week that included information that, quote, “Russian operatives claimed to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” These documents also allegedly say, quote, “There was a continuing exchange of information during the campaign between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government.”

Now, again, I’m telling you this as it’s coming out, so you know. But if it’s true, it’s obviously extremely serious, and if there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?

SESSIONS: Sen. Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities. I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have—did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.

But Sessions did communicate with the Russians. As detailed by the Washington Post in March, Sessions twice met with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. (Later, a third meeting with Kislyak came to light.) Further, Sessions may not have been aware of an ongoing stream of communications between Russians and campaign surrogates, but it’s clear from the revelations by Papadopoulos and Page that he knew of at least a few instances —not to mention his own meetings with the Russian ambassador.

Kevin Poulsen reports an Exclusive: Russia Activated Twitter Sleeper Cells for Election Day Blitz:

As U.S. polling places opened last Nov. 8, Russian trolls in St. Petersburg began a final push on Twitter to elect Donald Trump.

They used a combination of high-profile accounts with large and influential followings, and scores of lurking personas established years earlier with stolen photos and fabricated backgrounds. Those sleeper accounts dished out carefully metered tweets and retweets voicing praise for Trump and contempt for his opponent, from the early morning until the last polls closed in the United States.

“VOTE TRUMP to save ourselves from the New World Order. Time to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” read one. “Last chance to stop the Queen of Darkness! Vote Trump!” urged another.

The Daily Beast analyzed a dataset of 6.5 million tweets containing election keywords like “Hillary” and “Trump” that was collected over 33 hours last Nov. 7-9 by Baltimore-based data scientist Chris Albon.

The data are not comprehensive—only tweets with one of the keywords were collected, and limitations in Twitter’s API prevent a full capture even of those. But they represent a significant sampling of Election Day Twitter.

By filtering for the 2,752 users identified by Twitter as Russian troll accounts—a list the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released last week—we isolated 80 accounts dishing Election Day agitprop and reconstructed the big finish to Russia’s months-long active measures campaign….

David Alexander reports The Case Of Wilbur Ross’ Phantom $2 Billion:

Fresh off a tour through Thailand, Laos and China, United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Jr. picked up the phone on a Sunday afternoon in October to discuss something deeply personal: how much money he has. A year earlier, Forbes had listed his net worth at $2.9 billion on The Forbes 400, a number Ross claimed was far too low: He maintained he was closer to $3.7 billion. Now, after examining the financial-disclosure forms he filed after his nomination to President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, which showed less than $700 million in assets, Forbes was intent on removing him entirely.

Ross protested, citing trusts for his family that he said he did not have to disclose in federal filings. “You’re apparently not counting those, which are more than $2 billion,” he said. When asked for documentation, the 79-year-old demurred, citing “privacy issues.” Told that Forbes nonetheless planned to remove him from the list for the first time in 13 years, he responded: “As long as you explain that the reason is that assets were put into trust, I’m fine with that.” And when did he make the transfer that allowed him to not disclose over $2 billion? “Between the election and the nomination.”

So began the mystery of Wilbur Ross’ missing $2 billion. And after one month of digging, Forbes is confident it has found the answer: That money never existed. It seems clear that Ross lied to us, the latest in an apparent sequence of fibs, exaggerations, omissions, fabrications and whoppers that have been going on with Forbes since 2004. In addition to just padding his ego, Ross’ machinations helped bolster his standing in a way that translated into business opportunities. And based on our interviews with ten former employees at Ross’ private equity firm, WL Ross & Co., who all confirmed parts of the same story line, his penchant for misleading extended to colleagues and investors, resulting in millions of dollars in fines, tens of millions refunded to backers and numerous lawsuits. Additionally, according to six U.S. senators, Ross failed to initially mention 19 suits in response to a questionnaire during his confirmation process….

(Imagine the character flaw that would cause a man worth 700 million to insist falsely that he was worth nearly 3 billion. Wonder if there’s anyone else with that same flaw…)

Filmmaker Victoria Fiore reveals A Toxic, Closed-Off City on the Edge of the World:

Every day for two years, filmmaker Victoria Fiore tried to gain access to a toxic, closed city in Siberia with no ground transportation connections to the rest of the world. Located nearly 250 miles north of the polar circle, Norilsk is home to 177,000 people, many of whom are employed by the world’s largest mining and metallurgy complex, Norilsk Nickel. It spews more than two million tons of gas into the atmosphere per year. As a result, life expectancy in Norilsk is ten years shorter than Russia’s average (and twenty years shorter than that of the U.S.).

After a dozen failed attempts at a visa and multiple trips to Moscow to meet with mining representatives—who were, in turn, holding meetings with the FSB, the successor to the KGB—Fiore was finally granted entry into the industrial wasteland. She was stunned to find that the residents of Norilsk were proud to call it home. Her short documentary, My Deadly Beautiful City, captures what Fiore describes as “the hypnotic mysticism of a city on edge of the world.”

“It is really impossible to emphasize just how otherworldly this place was,” Fiore told The Atlantic. Despite its well-documented health concerns, including rates of cancer two times higher than the rest of Russia, “most people, including the city’s nuns and head doctors, claim that those from Norilsk have better health,” Fiore said. “And this is without mentioning that all nature in a radius almost the size of Germany is dead from severe air pollution. I already knew that the people of Norilsk loved their hometown, but I didn’t expect them to so openly contradict medical findings.”

Making the film caused Fiore to become concerned about the long-term effects of alternative facts. “If we are fed a narrative for long enough,” she said, “it becomes true.”

For more haunting images of life in Norilsk, Fiore recommends Russian photographer Elena Chernyshova’s World Press Photo Award-winning series. This film was originally produced for the New York Times Op-Docs.