POLITICS

Call John Bolton What He Is: A Coward

The sordid history of Trump's NatSec advisor.

Picture the most gung-ho warhawk in modern history, a man who's made a career out of calling for military invasions of foreign countries, forced regime changes, ends to peace treaties.

Do you imagine a hardened war veteran with military accolades who's seen the cost of war and knows its price? Or a nationalist who's fine throwing human life away from the safety of his armchair, despite doing everything in his power to avoid going off to war himself as a youth? If you picture the latter, you've got Trump's national security advisor John Bolton.

John Bolton did serve in the the National Guard and Army Reserve. But he did so in order to avoid being drafted for the Vietnam War, essentially biding his time stateside out of fear of real battle. "I confess I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy. I considered the war in Vietnam already lost," wrote John Bolton in his 25th college reunion book.

Speaking from a position of privilege might be Bolton's greatest asset, though. Those who have seen war generally speak about it in more tempered measures, while Bolton reached his position through pushing extremes.

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Throughout his long career, Bolton has worked under multiple right-wing administrations, from Reagan to W. Bush to Trump. During this time, he's advocated again and again for war, pushing for a U.S. invasion of Iraq dating back to shortly after the first Gulf War, calling for the "end of North Korea," and advocating to terminate the Iran Nuclear Deal. He has also expressed strong nationalistic views against the concept of the United Nations, stating, "There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along."

John Bolton's greatest supporters tend to be similarly-minded radicals like Dick Cheney and Donald Trump, while his detractors tend to be anyone more moderate. Even fellow Republicans denounce Bolton. Condoleezza Rice resisted Cheney's efforts to make Bolton her deputy when she was secretary of state, instead passing him off as a UN ambassador. During the nomination hearing for that job, conservative Republican intelligence official Carl Ford described him as a "kiss-up, kick-down sort of guy" who "abuses his authority with little people." Even George W. Bush would later say he regretted Bolton's appointment, allegedly saying he didn't "consider Bolton credible."

And yet now, Bolton is the national security advisor to Donald Trump, a fellow draft dodger with a known disregard for human life. To Trump, it doesn't matter that Bolton is reviled by the international community. It doesn't matter that Bolton is considered radical, largely disrespected even within his own party. For Trump, Bolton is the right man for the job.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


TECHNOLOGY

Is the '10 Year Challenge' Training Facial Recognition Technology?

How the newest viral meme could change the future.

You're probably already familiar with the viral '10 Year Challenge' meme.

You may have even participated. But for the uninitiated, you simply post a picture of yourself 10 years ago next to a current picture of yourself now. It's the sort of fun, simple premise that understandably gains traction online. It's cool seeing how your friends, family, and even strangers have changed over time, so it's no wonder '10 Year Challenge' images have taken over social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

But it's also important to remember that whenever you use social media, you are a product and any information you post, including your interests and identity, can be utilized by corporations. Considering this reality, author Kate O'Neill considered a distinct possibility: that perhaps the '10 Year Challenge' was not so innocent after all - perhaps it was being used to train facial recognition algorithms.

The tweet quickly gained traction, leading Kate O'Neill to pen a piece on the topic for Wired. There, she discusses potential scenarios in which a seemingly harmless meme could be utilized to shape our future in indeterminable ways.

For instance, advanced facial recognition technology could be used to great societal benefit in helping recognize missing people. With the right algorithm at work, we might be able to accurately age up child abduction victims or other missing persons with enough accuracy to make them fully recognizable even decades later.

On the other hand, advanced facial recognition technology could potentially be utilized by insurance companies to deny coverage to people they deem likely of developing certain conditions. Obviously the technology is nowhere near that point yet, but it's essential to consider the reach of future technology when discussing the way we put information about ourselves online in the present.

That being said, the notion that Facebook is using this meme for the purpose of facial recognition technology has detractors too. Some argue that most of the pictures people are using were already on Facebook in the first place. As such, Facebook wouldn't gain any new information from this meme. Others think the non-serious nature of many online posts would probably ruin a lot of potential data.

Still, the existence of two images, both dated by their subject as being a decade apart, creates a more accurate data sample then two images simply posted ten years apart and assumed to be accurately dated. Moreover, even current facial recognition software is adept at recognizing human faces, so joking content would likely not be as big a hindrance as some might imagine.

All that being said, Facebook denies any direct involvement with the popularity of this meme. A spokesperson told O'Neill: "This is a user-generated meme that went viral on its own. Facebook did not start this trend, and the meme uses photos that already exist on Facebook. Facebook gains nothing from this meme (besides reminding us of the questionable fashion trends of 2009). As a reminder, Facebook users can choose to turn facial recognition on or off at any time."

Not to say that Facebook is being honest here, but chances are that this really is just a harmless meme being pushed by users who find it fun. Even if Facebook could possibly use it for technological advancement, there's probably no conspiracy at play. But the larger conversation about the way we freely supply data about our lives to companies online is still entirely relevant.

Before you post anything online, always consider how that information could be used in the future. Do you really want that out there?


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com



POLITICS

3 Ways Presidential Power Can Be Abused During a National Emergency

It turns out national emergencies are very subjective.

The Trump administration has laid bare many of the failings of our government.

All three government branches are privy to partisanship. Our checks and balances may not necessarily work as intended. But most alarmingly, American presidential power might be far less defined than most people realized.

Historically, dictatorial regimes have utilized "national emergencies" as excuses to consolidate and reinforce power. We've seen this playbook employed by Erdogan in Turkey and by Duterte in the Philippines. But could this happen in America? The answer is murky. In fact, national emergencies are murky territory in general, the main problem being that most of the terminology involved is broad and ill-defined.

In a recent video posted by The Atlantic, Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, explains, "There's no legal definition of emergency, no requirement that congress ratify the decision, and no judicial review." In other words, the decision to declare a national emergency are almost entirely up to a president's personal discretion. Normally, we assume that our elected officials have the best interest of the people in mind, and would not declare a national emergency for personal or partisan political gain. But considering Donald Trump's noted praise of dictators like Erdogan, coupled with his extreme penchant for partisanship, we can no longer simply rely on the president's best judgment.

The question then becomes, "If the president declares a national emergency now, what powers can he abuse?"

1. The Power to Take Over Wire Communication

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During a national emergency, the president has the power to shut down or take over radio stations. Assuming there's a threat of war (which, again, can be determined at the president's own discretion), that power expands to any and all wire communications. This executive power was last used during WWII, before most people utilized daily wire communication in any meaningful way beyond the occasional phone call.

Today, given the vagueness and broad applications of "wire communications," declaring a national emergency could allow the president to control Internet traffic in the US. This could include shutting down websites he didn't like, blocking emails to and from dissidents, and altering search results to only display pre-approved propaganda. Doing so would be akin to removing free speech from the Internet, and during a national emergency that would be completely within the president's power.

2. Sanctioning American Citizens

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Imagine going to work, only to discover you've been fired because you can no longer legally be employed. You go back to your apartment and find out you're being evicted. So you go to the bank to take out cash for a hotel, but your funds are frozen. Turns out you're on a list of US citizens suspected of providing support to foreign threats. That's the potential reality of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

This act allows the president to declare a national emergency to "deal with any unusual extraordinary threat" that "has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States." It gives the president the power to freeze assets and block transactions where a foreign nation or foreign national might have a vested interest. George W. Bush used this after 9/11 to sanction those being investigated (sometimes wrongly) of helping terrorists. Were a president to declare "illegal immigrants" a national emergency, the implications could be disastrous.

3. Deploying the Military Within the US

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The idea of armed soldiers marching down your city street to hunt down civilians might sound like something out of a dystopian novel. But during a national emergency, it could be an American reality. The Insurrection Act states that during a national emergency, the president can deploy military troops inside the US to suppress any "unlawful combinations" or "conspiracies" that "obstructs or hinders the execution of the law." The problem, again, is that the terms are so vaguely defined.

President Eisenhower once used this law to enforce desegregation in schools. But a president with different sentiments could just as easily use it against protestors or undocumented migrants. For instance, if Trump were to decide Black Lives Matter constituted an "unlawful combination" during a state of emergency, sending the army to suppress them would be fully within his power. Alternatively, a sanctuary city harboring illegal immigrants might be interpreted as a "conspiracy" and therefore subject to military rule.

In many ways, the limits of an American president's power during a national emergency have not been tested. On one hand, theoretical checks and balances do exist which could allow Congress to end a national emergency that was being abused. On the other hand, this would require a majority that a largely partisan Senate would likely not have. There also might be opportunities for the courts to block various moves made during a national emergency but, again, the legality here is largely untested.

Ultimately, as citizens, we must keep a watchful eye on our president's actions should he declare a national emergency. And if things go south, we must keep this in mind the next time we vote. After all, when one person who is supposed to represent all of us holds so much power, we must make sure it is a person of strong enough character and mental capability to understand the repercussions of his or her actions.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


ISSUES

The 6 Most Dangerous Foods for US Consumers

Find out what foods to be careful around.

As a health-conscious consumer, it's always important to be aware of what you're putting into your body.

Many illnesses are foodborne, and certain ingredients can also activate allergic reactions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consistently monitors and regulates outgoing food products, making it a great resource to help you stay on top of your meals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has a great list of risky food groups, so you can be extra careful when preparing your meals. Currently, these are the top foods for US Consumers to watch out for.

Leafy Greens

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While salad is exceedingly healthy, raw or improperly washed greens can be a hotbed for dangerous germs including Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. Most recently, an outbreak of E. coli linked to California-grown romaine lettuce infected 62 people, hospitalizing 25. As of January 19, 2019, the outbreak seems to be over, according to the CDC. California-grown romaine lettuce should be safe to eat once again, but even so, it doesn't hurt to practice caution at the salad bar.

Raw Flour

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You may love the taste of raw cookie dough, but anything containing uncooked flour is unsafe to eat. This is because flour is a raw agricultural product that hasn't been treated to kill potential germs. As a result, any contamination of the grain in the field can travel to your plate. The bacteria is killed through cooking though, so as long as you bake your desserts, you'll be fine.

Raw Oysters

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Raw oysters are a wonderful delicacy, but they can also pose health risks if harvested from contaminated waters. If the water contains norovirus, it can be easily spread through raw oysters, along with Vibrio bacteria, which can lead to vibriosis. To avoid potential food poisoning, try cooked oysters as an alternative.

Eggs

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Eggs are an amazing source of healthy fat and protein. That being said, they can also contain Salmonella, a germ which can make you ill. To be safe, always buy pasteurized eggs and egg products, and be sure to cook eggs well until the yolks and whites are firm. Also, be sure to keep eggs refrigerated at 40º or colder.

Raw Milk, Cheese, and Dairy

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Everyone enjoys dairy products like cheese, yogurt, and ice cream. But raw dairy products are known to contain harmful germs such as Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella. To avoid these, make sure your dairy products are pasteurized, and be especially careful of raw milk and soft cheeses like feta and brie.

Chicken, Beef, Pork, and Turkey

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Raw meat contains all sorts of germs including Campylobacter, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Salmonella, E. coli, and Yersinia. As such, always be sure you're using fresh, unexpired meat, and cooking it thoroughly to kill any potential bacteria. Also, do not wash meat before cooking. This poses the risk of spreading harmful bacteria to other surfaces and utensils.

Always be sure to stay up-to-date on FDA advisories before going grocery shopping, and be aware of proper cooking methods, too. Knowing what products are safe and what products to avoid can help protect you and your family from serious foodborne illnesses.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


ISSUES

8 Recent Disease Outbreaks You Need To Know About

The best way to minimize risk is to stay informed.

Modern medicine, especially vaccines, have drastically reduced the likelihood of getting infected by a deadly disease in first world countries.

But new strains, unvaccinated people, and other unforeseen factors can still pose a threat, and when an outbreak does occur, disease can spread like wildfire. This is especially true in third world countries, where access to medicine is lacking. These are the 8 recent disease outbreaks you need to know about to keep yourself safe.

1. Yellow Fever - Nigeria

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Yellow Fever, named for the yellowing effect it causes on skin, is currently spreading in Nigeria's Edo State. The virus is mainly spread through mosquitoes. This outbreak is unusually large in scale and severity, especially considering it's coming at a time of year when many travelers vacation to Nigeria. The World Health Organization (WHO) is not currently recommending any travel or trade restrictions, but they do implore any potential travelers to get vaccinated against the virus.

2. Ebola Virus - Democratic Republic of the Congo

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An ongoing Ebola epidemic has been raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 16 new cases confirmed between December 27, 2018 and January 2, 2019. Ebola is incredibly deadly, causing bloody vomit and internal bleeding, and spreads easily through saliva, bodily fluids, and contact with contaminated surfaces. Since there is no current accredited vaccine for Ebola, travelers are recommended to seek medical advice beforehand.

3. Measles - New York

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In 2019, confirmed cases of Measles have hit record highs in New York, at least dating back for a few decades. Measles is the most deadly vaccine-preventable virus, mainly affecting young children and resulting in a red, blotchy skin rash. The virus, which had been mostly irrelevant for decades due to vaccines, has been experiencing a global resurrection propelled by parents not vaccinating their children.

4. Hantavirus Disease - Republic of Panama

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Hantavirus disease has been ramping up in the Republic of Panama with 103 confirmed cases during 2018. Infection can progress to Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS), which is a fatal respiratory disease. The disease is primarily spread through rodents, and early treatment has a high success rate of mitigating lasting effects.

5. Typhoid Fever - Islamic Republic of Pakistan

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A drug-resistant outbreak of Typhoid Fever has recently been reported in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Typhoid Fever is a very serious disease that causes high fever, stomach issues, and in rare cases can result in internal bleeding and death. The illness is primarily spread through contaminated food and water, and the WHO notes that this outbreak highlights the importance of public health measures to prevent such spreads.

6. Candida Auris - US

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A type of yeast, Candida Auris is a relatively new infection that has proven difficult to combat. In 2018 there were nearly 500 confirmed cases in the US, and the trend seems to be continuing into 2019. Unfortunately the infection is largely drug-resistant, hard to spot, and prone to outbreak within the healthcare community.

7. Influenza - US

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This past flu season, over 80,000 people died from influenza, giving 2017-2018 the highest influenza death toll in 40 years. This was partially a result of the flu vaccine not being as successful as in previous years. People are still strongly recommended to continue getting their yearly flu vaccine to prevent future outbreaks of preventable strains.

8. E. Coli - US

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In June of 2018, an E. coli outbreak linked to contaminated romaine lettuce killed 5 people in the US. This strain of E. coli produced life-threatening toxins in the body which caused severe diarrhea, amongst other illnesses. 197 people were affected in total, but luckily the outbreak was contained. Yet another outbreak of E.coli linked to California-grown romaine lettuce ended on January 9, 2019, this time infecting 62 people. Unfortunately, E. coli and Salmonella poisoning is a relatively common occurrence now, especially considering how understaffed the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently. The ongoing government shutdown has served to further this problem, making safe oversight of food a serious issue right now.

Ultimately, sometimes you can do all the right things and still get infected with a disease or illness. That being said, with access to modern medicine, it's important to take every possible precaution to avoid preventable outcomes. This means making sure you, your family, and your friends are properly vaccinated, as well as avoiding those who are not. It also means doing your research before traveling to prepare for any possible outbreaks. Should you follow those basic rules, your risk of infection will be at a minimum.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com