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Trump Staff Keep Spreading Manipulated Videos Of Joe Biden

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“This is what happens when you corner a rat,” a spokesperson for Joe Biden told BuzzFeed News

Last updated on September 1, 2020, at 11:18 a.m. ET

Posted on August 31, 2020, at 7:26 p.m. ET


Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters

The White House and President Trump’s reelection campaign on Monday circulated two videos that had been manipulated to negatively portray presidential candidate Joe Biden. Both videos spread widely on social media before being flagged as false or manipulated.

The first video was posted on Saturday, Aug. 29, but promoted to new audiences a day later by Dan Scavino, the White House deputy chief of communications.

The video, which purported to show Joe Biden asleep during a TV interview, was a manipulated copy of a 2011 KBAK news segment in which actor Harry Belafonte appears to be napping during a live interview. The manipulated version shared by Scavino substituted Biden for Belafonte and added a snoring soundtrack.

“This is what happens when you corner a rat,” a spokesperson for Joe Biden told BuzzFeed News. “Donald Trump is in so far over his head that rather than even trying to overcome the crises he has helped trigger and has exacerbated — the botched response to the pandemic and the climbing death toll, the economic collapse, and unrest and division — he is founding his incoherent case for doing even more damage in a second term on pretending he is not president now and pretending he’s running against someone other than Joe Biden.”

Reached for comment, the Trump campaign pointed to a Trump War Room tweet saying journalists “can’t take a joke.”

By Monday afternoon, the video had been labeled as “Manipulated Media” by Twitter, marked as false by Facebook fact-checkers, and removed entirely from the YouTube account that originally posted it. By the end of the day, the video tweeted by Scavino was removed because of a copyright issue. It was viewed over 2 million times on Twitter.

This is fake. You know how I know? I was the coanchor in studio.

We were interviewing Harry Belafonte. https://t.co/gPRU9JGyI7

The video was originally created by Damon Imani, who told BuzzFeed News over Twitter direct messages that he had intended it to be a parody. Imani said he’s 28, lives in Denmark, and follows US politics because, he said, “It’s a complete circus!” He said he wished Scavino had tweeted the original video instead, which included a disclaimer.

“I think if people had shared the original video from my account, the disclaimer that I tweeted in the video thread would’ve reached out to way more people so that the Twitter label could’ve maybe been avoided,” he said.

The second manipulated video was posted by @TrumpWarRoom, the official Twitter account of the Trump campaign. “You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America,” the Democratic nominee says in the three-second clip. But the video had been edited to remove crucial context. Had the clip been a few seconds longer, audiences would have heard Biden say something very different.

More wild dishonesty from the Trump campaign “war room.”

This, left, is clipped from a coherent quote in which Biden said *Trump and Pence* argue “you won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America” even though the current violence is from “Donald Trump’s America.”

Full quote at right:

“Since they have no agenda or vision for the second term, Trump and Pence are running on this, and I find it fascinating: ‘You won’t be safe in Joe Biden’s America.’ And what’s the proof? The violence we’re seeing in Donald Trump’s America,” Biden said in the speech that Trump’s campaign tweeted.

While the Trump campaign claimed that the out-of-context video was a parody, Twitter labeled it “Manipulated Media” and removed the ability to comment, like, or share it, unless it’s a quote-tweet.

The doctored interview format that made it look like Biden’s asleep has been used before. In 2018, conservative media outlet CRTV used it to make then–Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appear incompetent. The video garnered nearly a million views at the time. In that case, too, the creators said it was parody.

Republicans are so scared of me that they’re faking videos and presenting them as real on Facebook because they can’t deal with reality anymore.

Here’s one bonafide truth:
Election Day is November 6th. https://t.co/Z7MfisgiWl

The two Biden videos spreading on Monday played directly into the lines of attack Trump set up during the Republican National Convention last week. The president has nicknamed the Democratic nominee “sleepy” and spent much of his convention speech telling supporters they won’t be safe should Biden be elected.

For his part, Belafonte told New York Times White House correspondent Maggie Haberman that Trump should be voted out.

“They keep stooping lower and lower. A technical glitch in an interview I did 9 years ago now becomes another one of their lies, more of their fake news,” he told Haberman. “I beg every sane American-please vote them out. I knew many who gave their life for the right to vote. Never has it been so vital to exercise that right.”

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Zoom Deleted Events Discussing Zoom “Censorship”

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Zoom shut down a series of events meant to discuss what organizers called “censorship” by the company.

The events were planned for Oct. 23, and were organized in response to a previous cancellation by Zoom of a San Francisco State University talk by Leila Khalid, a member of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a designated terror organization in the US. Khalid is best known for highjacking two planes, one in 1969 and one in 1970.

Zoom told the Verge at the time that the Sept. 23 talk was in violation of the company’s terms of service. The Verge also reported that the action was in response to pressure by Jewish and Israel lobby groups, such as The Lawfare project.

Following the Sept. 23 cancellation, a group of academics organized a series of events across the country, as well as in Canada and the UK, which were meant to highlight the issue.

“Campuses across North America are joining in the campaign to resist corporate and university silencing of Palestinian narratives and Palestinian voices,” said the day of action event description, which was meant to be held on Oct. 23.

The follow-up events did not include Khalid presenting. The event held in part by New York University, which was canceled the day of, included a compilation of her previous statements, according to a blog post on the incident.

“Khaled is undergoing medical treatment and was unable to provide a voice message for the occasion,” the post stated.

“Zoom is committed to supporting the open exchange of ideas and conversations and does not have any policy preventing users from criticizing Zoom,” a spokesperson for the company said. “Zoom does not monitor events and will only take action if we receive reports about possible violations of our Terms of Service, Acceptable Use Policy, and Community Standards. Similar to the event held by San Francisco State University, we determined that this event was in violation of one or more of these policies and let the host know that they were not permitted to use Zoom for this particular event.”

However, Zoom did not respond to questions about which specific policy was violated or whether other events have been shut down by the company.

Adam Saeed, a student at University of Leeds, said he used his personal Zoom account to organize the event. He told BuzzFeed News that the company deleted his event and disabled his account without explanation. He contacted the company’s customer support line, but said he has not yet heard back.

“It cannot be a unilateral decision saying, ‘You violated our terms of use,’ they have to prove that,” he said. “We have to have the right to contest this and present our case.”

Andrew Roth, a professor of social and cultural analysis at NYU who organized the event in conjunction with the American Association of University Professors, called the situation “absurdist.”

“Everyone working in higher education right now depends on Zoom and we cannot be in a position of allowing a corporate, third-party vendor to make these kinds of decisions,” Roth said. “It’s simply unsustainable.”

Roth added that he asked the tech worker who was helping organize the event to check whether the link was active the night before it was set to go live because the event for the University of Hawaii had already been affected. It was fine at that point, but by early afternoon Friday, it had disappeared and there was no option to restore it.

“Universities tend to get into these lucrative contracts with Zoom, and more or less handed over this very fragile power to decide what is acceptable academic speech and what is not,” said Roth. “For those of us who work in the field of supporting and protecting Palestinian rights, it’s no surprise to us that Palestinian speech is the first to be cracked down on.”

The NYU event eventually went on with Google Meet, but the effort was intercepted by “politically-motivated trolls,” Roth said, and the organizers had to hold it privately and then publish the recording.

Cynthia Franklin, a professor at the University of Hawaii, also saw an event she organized deleted by Zoom, but was unable to find an alternative platform.

“I know that I have free speech rights that are being violated,” she said, “and a private entity is dictating to my public university what I can and cannot say.”

Katherine Franke, a professor at Columbia University who was a panelist at the NYU talk, has experienced events focused on Palestive being canceled in the past and was recently deported from Israel. She sees Zoom’s reaction as an extension of old problems.

“I think it presents a real challenge for universities to think about how to protect academic freedom in this context where we’re so dependent upon these internet-based ways of gathering and talking about comfortable and uncomfortable ideas,” she said.


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Boogaloo Bois Build Network Of Extremist Violence

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Julio Cortez / AP

A protester runs in front of the burning 3rd Precinct building of the Minneapolis Police Department, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis.

The young man came to the protest over the police killing of George Floyd wearing a tactical vest on his chest and a skull mask over his face. In grainy video footage captured outside of Minneapolis’ Third Police Precinct on the night of May 28, the man can be seen pulling out an AK-47 style rifle and blasting 13 shots into the police building. The shooting happened shortly before the structure was set ablaze.

On Friday, federal officials issued a complaint against a 26-year-old Texan, Ivan Harrison Hunter, they say they have identified as the man in the video. Hunter faces one count of participating in a riot, with a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Hunter could not be reached for comment, and it was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.

But along with the charge, federal officials unsealed an affidavit accusing Hunter of being part of a loose nationwide network of violent extremists, known as Boogaloo Bois. The extremists connected and communicated through social media apps, including Facebook, to plot and glorify shocking violence, including killing a federal officer in Oakland and a scheme to supply Hamas with weapons to use against US soldiers.

For example, just a few hours after allegedly shooting up the precinct, Hunter messaged an associate in California, Steven Carrillo.

“Boog,” Hunter wrote.

“Did,” Carrillo responded.

“Go for police buildings,” Hunter advised.

“I did better lol,” Carrillo answered. Indeed, shortly before that exchange, according to authorities, Carrillo had shot and killed a Federal Protective Services officer, David Patrick Underwood, in Oakland.

Experts said the affidavit suggests evidence of a development that many have long suspected and feared: The Boogaloo Bois may not be just disconnected extremists who share a penchant for Hawaiian shirts and chaos. They may have built nationwide systems to coordinate acts of violence and terror.


Via Court Records / Via U.S. District Court Minnesota

“This now tells us the Boogaloo Bois are more than just a bunch of unconnected extremists,” said Brian Levin, director for The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “[It’s] a network for extremists who communicate in real time around terror plots and attacks.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Boogaloo Bois emerged from “antigovernment and white power online spaces in the early 2010s.” They have at times called for a second Civil War and are well known for wearing floral Hawaiian shirts with camouflage fatigues and subscribing to a range of extremist ideas.

The criminal complaint filed in court Friday reveals a network across the country whose members have been directly linked with deadly acts, hoping to incite even more violence across the nation. It also reveals the violent group of extremists used a variety of apps to communicate and network, yet continued to heavily rely on Facebook to not just connect with one another, but amplify their message over a network that expanded across the country, touching on Oakland, Minneapolis, Texas and across to North Carolina.

Facebook announced on June 30 that it was banning the anti-government network from its platform. BuzzFeed News had previously reported that the social network had profited by running ads for Boogaloo pages.

Despite the ban, Levin said much damage had already been done: the group had already greatly expanded using the network. Now, groups like the Boogaloo Bois could simply move their network out of Facebook and into other encrypted apps and networks.

“The problem is they give the vaccine after the virus has already ravaged the body,” Levin said of the decision by Facebook to ban Boogaloo groups on its platform. “The horses are out of the barn now with regard to Boogaloo.”


Via Court Records / Via US District Court Minnesota

According to court records, it was a May 26 Facebook post that prompted Hunter to drop everything, grab his AK-47-style rifle and make the 1,000-mile drive from Austin to Minneapolis, where protests over the killing of George Floyd by police had turned violent.

“I need a headcount,” the post read, asking Boogaloo Bois members across the country to respond.

“72 hours out,” Hunter replied.

The Facebook post Hunter responded to, authorities said, was posted by Michael Solomon, a 30-year-old who along with Benjamin Ryan Teeter are accused of trying to sell weapons to someone they believed was a member of Hamas. The two also considered becoming “mercenaries” for the terrorist group, prosecutors alleged, in order to raise money to fund the Boogaloo movement.

“Lock and load boys,” Teeter allegedly posted on Facebook as he headed to Minneapolis from North Carolina. “Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off.”

As each man made their separate drives to Minneapolis, federal officials allege that Teeter and Hunter communicated mostly through Facebook messages, and coordinated with Solomon to eventually meet at a Cub Foods grocery store near the police department’s third precinct.

“We have a team of 5,” Hunter messaged Solomon, according to the indictment.

Video obtained by the FBI shows someone wearing a skull mask over his head, glasses and a baseball cap firing into the police station that night while looters were inside the building. According to the indictment, Hunter was identified as the shooter by a “cooperating defendant.”

Hunter allegedly yelled out, “Justice for Floyd!” and then high-fived someone nearby.

Days later, Solomon would post a picture on his Facebook page of the group standing in the darkness outside the Cub Foods that day, including Hunter holding on to his rifle.

Teeter would post two pictures with Hunter, wearing the same skull mask, and then message him calling themselves, “battle buddies,” before Hunter headed back down to Texas.

“My mom would call the fbi if she knew what I do and the level I’m at w[ith] iot,” Hunter allegedly wrote on social media.

The group of extremists continued to communicate through Facebook and other apps, and even reached out to each other as law enforcement tried to catch up to them.


Via Court Records / Via US District Court Minnesota

On June 1, Carrillo was being sought by law enforcement after allegedly killing a federal officer in Oakland. Officials said Carrillo is believed to have taken advantage of the massive protests that erupted across the country “to kill cops” to try to spark a Civil War.

Carrillo was in hiding when Hunter reached out on Facebook again, asking for money.

Court records don’t explain why Hunter needed the money, but Carrillo responded that he was going to “be in the woods for a bit,” and managed to send Hunter $200.

“Doing good shit out there,” Carrillo allegedly wrote to Hunter.

“You too king!” he replied.


Via Court Records / Via US District Court Minnesota

Meanwhile on Facebook, Hunter publicly boasted of committing violent acts, claiming he had “burned police stations with black panthers in Minneapolis.”

“Want something to change? Start risking felonies for what is good,” he wrote.

According to the complaint, Hunter referred to himself as a “terrorist,” and claimed he and Carrillo were members of the “Happy Friends Group,” a team that would respond with violence if police tried to take their guns away.

Then on June 7, Hunter learned Carrillo had been taken into custody, accused of shooting and killing a Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Deputy in the process. Before officers grabbed him, Carrillo allegedly wrote “BOOG” on the hood of a white van with his own blood.

Hunter sent a Facebook message to Teeter that day, sharing a link to news of the arrest.

“Well shit,” Teeter replied.

It was months later in September that Hunter would learn that Teeter and Solomon were arrested over their alleged plot to sell weapons to Hamas.

The 26-year-old then told a confidential informant working with the FBI that it was “time to start shooting” and that he was willing to, “go down shooting.”


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Early warning: human detectors, drones and the race to control Australia’s extreme blazes | Australia news

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Perched in his fire tower high above the pine trees, Nick Dutton leans back and nods to the cascading hills and mountains behind him.

“I love being out here, just away from stuff,” he says. “I mean, you can’t really complain.”

Dutton, a fire tower operator, is sitting in his office, a tiny cabin propped high above the treetops by metal supports that sway with the wind.

His walls are littered with compass points and references, each a guide to the bush stretching in every direction along the eastern ACT-NSW border.

Every day, Dutton climbs into one of the ACT’s four towers, armed with binoculars, a radio, and his notebook, keeping a watchful eye for the faintest wisp of smoke rising in the distance.

The mind can easily deceive.

Stare at a spot too intently, you’ll see smoke, Dutton says.

“With a little bit of experience up here, you get used to what is and what isn’t smoke,” he says.

“Some people when they first start find it hard to discern dust from smoke. But smoke does have its own characteristics and you do learn to pick that out.”

It’s a lonely assignment.

The days are long and quiet, narrated by birdsong from the surrounding pine forest and punctuated by hourly weather reports back to headquarters. Human encounters are typically limited to the odd buzzing of radio chatter and errant bushwalkers.

“You really have to love being alone to do this,” he says. “I think that’s the main trait, if you hate being by yourself and not talking to anyone, you won’t survive.”

Dutton’s is an increasingly rare occupation.

Towers like the one in Kowen Forest are the oldest continuing method of bushfire detection and monitoring, used in Australia since the early 1900s.

Nick Dutton surveys the landscape at the Kowen Forest fire tower near Canberra.



Nick Dutton surveys the landscape at the Kowen Forest fire tower near Canberra. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Victoria still has more than 70 towers, Western Australia’s parks department operates 13 and NSW forestry authorities operate a network of almost 50.

But their use is in decline.

In the US, where lonesome observers are known unofficially as “freaks on the peaks”, there were almost 10,000 staffed fire towers in the 1950s.

Now, there’s just a few hundred.

The decline has been driven by rapid advances in technology, and the emergence of automated cameras, sensory technology, and more accurate satellite imagery.

At the same time, worsening bushfire conditions, driven by climate change, have demanded faster, more efficient detection and monitoring technology.

The shifts beg the question: is there still a place in modern firefighting for the observer in the fire tower?

Satellites, cameras and drones: striving for real-time detection

In the 1980s, a remarkable breakthrough in fire detection was made.

US researchers noticed tiny white specks on a satellite image of the Persian Gulf captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s polar orbiting environmental satellites.

Those white specks were the thermal signatures of gas flares from oilfields.

They were the first active fires ever recorded from space.

The discovery promised new space-based potential to find and watch bushfires.

At first, the results were mixed. The systems were unable to differentiate a bushfire from oilfields.

But the technology was refined, the processing algorithms improved, and more specialised sensors and satellites were brought into the mix.

View over the pine plantation from the Kowen Forest fire tower near Canberra.



View over the pine plantation from the Kowen Forest fire tower near Canberra. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

A sensor known as the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer, placed aboard Nasa’s Terra and Aqua satellites, is now able to capture red “hotspots”.

The hotspots, seen in satellite imagery during last season’s horror bushfires, mark where marking the satellite sensor’s thermal bands detect high temperatures.

The accuracy, while not perfect, is now vastly improved and the technology continues to move at pace.

Earlier this year, a start-up named Fireball International, co-founded by University of Southern Queensland researcher Christopher Tylor said it had developed technology that fused satellite and tower sensors to detect a wildfire in California about 66 seconds after power lines fell and caused ignition.

Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo foundation is also proposing to use satellites, infrared sensors, and drones to identify and extinguish fires within an hour by 2025, through its $70m grant to the “Fire Shield” program.

The project is currently collaborating with fire towers like the one at Kowen Forest.

Companies like Ninox Robotics have proposed using a fleet of long-range drones equipped with advanced cameras accompanied by machine-learning algorithms to detect and monitor active fires.

Ninox believes the entire state of New South Wales can be monitored from 20 sites, using one active drone each.

Climate change, the worsening bushfire threat and ‘fast-attack’ strategies

The deployment of new technology would be most welcome in Australia.

The nation is now experiencing extreme bushfires at three times the rate it did a century ago and the climate crisis has brought new urgency to efforts to improve firefighting methods, including early detection.

Earlier this year, former commissioner of Fire and Rescue NSW, Greg Mullins, and 32 other former emergency services leaders told the bushfire royal commission that Australia should adopt “fast-attack strategies”, based on detection by remote cameras, satellite images and spotter flights.

Early detection should be complemented by mid-sized and purpose-built water bombers with the aim of extinguishing fires within 24 hours, they argued.

Nick Dutton believes detection technology will one day render fire towers unnecessary.



Nick Dutton believes detection technology will one day render fire towers unnecessary. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

“Every big fire was once a small fire,” Mullins told the Guardian at the time. “It’s very much like a military operation with eyes in the sky, with your ground troops that are backed up with some artillery.”

Even before the release of its final report, the royal commission has urged federal, state, and territory governments work together to fast-track advances to spatial technology to help “detect ignitions and monitor accurately all fire edge intensity and progression automatically across the nation in near real time”, the royal commission said.

The benefits of real-time detection are obvious. Shorten the time between ignition and a fire crews’ first attack, and the prospects of containing a fire are greatly improved.

Not only does early detection save lives, but it has the potential to save the Australian economy billions of dollars.

Earlier this year, researchers at the Australian National University estimated an effective early detection system could save the economy an estimated $2.2bn a year over 30 years.

“In our view, the large sums that result from our conservative estimates make investments and improvements in early detection financially very viable,” the authors concluded.

Mark Crosweller, the former head of Emergency Management Australia and the National Resilience Taskforce, said that detection, while important, should not be the main focus for Australia.

Crosweller said the common failure, seen in disaster after disaster, was one of situational awareness. Knowing where the fire is and where it’s going to go.

That failing was exposed with fatal consequences during the 2003 bushfires in Canberra, when a blaze burning in the mountains for more than a week ripped through the city without any proper warning to residents.

“They still have the same problem,” he said. “The industry is still fundamentally relying on human-centred intelligence, so human processing of data.”

The key advantage of more advanced sensory technology is its ability to feed into artificial intelligence and machine learning systems, which can then provide fast, accurate models to predict a fire’s behaviour.

“Sensory technology has the capacity to collect enormous amounts of data, but it needs to be machine analysed,” he said. “You still need a human to make a decision, but the machine can do the analysis work infinitely faster than a human can.”

“So I think it is the way of the future. And I think the future is now. I don’t think we have to wait any longer.”

The value of the human eye

Human observers, though, are far from obsolete.

In 2010, the CSIRO delivered a remarkable report on detection, comparing newer, automated camera systems with the skills of humans.

The study examined three systems: EYEfi, FireWatch, and Forest Watch, all of which used image analysis from sensors mounted on fixed towers.

The systems were tested for their ability to detect and locate fires, provide information to help with situational awareness, and integrate with emergency services agencies.

The humans won, hands down.

Experts say humans provide a critical second source of intelligence when a heat source is detected.



Experts say humans provide a critical second source of intelligence when a heat source is detected. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Six fires were lit intentionally for the study in forests near Tumut.

Tower observers saw all six. Firewatch reported one and Forest Watch reported zero. During the study, a further 250 private burns were conducted by neighbouring landholders.

“The camera systems reported many fires but comparison with tower observations in NSW and cross-referencing between camera reports in Victoria showed that a high proportion of private burns were not reported,” the study found.

The technology has come a long way since 2010.

But even still, Ailish Milner, a strategic planner with the ACT’s Rural Fire Service, believes human observers will have a key role to play in the near future.

Milner says humans provide a critical second source of intelligence when a heat source is detected using satellite or other technology.

“The towers are vital in being able to provide a second source of information,” she told the Guardian. “Being able to talk to the fire towers and say ‘we’ve got this heat source showing, can you see any smoke’ is that second source.”

“It’s all about intelligence. So the more intelligence you get, the more confirmation you have.”

Operators like Dutton don’t just spot fires, either.

Human observers bring their experience and extensive knowledge to contextualise and analyse what they’re observing.

Dutton recalls a recent example when a grassfire burnt through the Canberra suburb of Pialligo.

A colleague was in the tower and observed a strong wind change.

The observer knew the wind change would hit the fireground in Pialligo in a matter of minutes. Headquarters was alerted and crews on scene were informed.

Dutton believes detection technology will one day render fire towers unnecessary.

“But for now, I think you can start implementing the tech but still have the operators to refine the technology.”

“Because at the end of the day, the human eye is going to be much better.”

Crosweller agrees that human observers are still valuable, particularly while the industry still grapples with how to use machine learning and artificial intelligence.

“The better we get at machine learning and artificial intelligence, the better we’ll get at working out where humans fit in those systems,” he says.

“That’s why I wouldn’t exclude the use of people in that context. But it will change.”


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