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5G networks could throw weather forecasting into chaos

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

If you had a choice between a better, faster cell phone signal and an accurate weather forecast, which would you pick? That’s the question facing federal officials as they decide whether to auction off more of the wireless spectrum or heed meteorologists who say that such a move could throw U.S. weather forecasting into chaos.

On Capitol Hill Thursday, NOAA’s acting chief, Neil Jacobs, said that interference from 5G wireless phones could reduce the accuracy of forecasts by 30 percent. That’s equivalent, he said, to the quality of weather predictions four decades ago. “If you look back in time to see when our forecast scale was roughly 30 percent less than today, it was 1980,” Jacobs told the House Subcommittee on the Environment.

That reduction would give coastal residents two or three fewer days to prepare for a hurricane, and it could lead to incorrect predictions of the storms’ final path to land, Jacobs said. “This is really important,” he told ranking committee member Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma).

In March, the FCC began auctioning off its 24-gigahertz frequency band to wireless carriers, despite the objections of scientists at NOAA, NASA, and the American Meteorological Society. This week, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) wrote to FCC chair Ajit Pai requesting the commission stop companies from using the 24-GHz band until a solution is found, and to delay any more of the auction.

Jordan Gerth, a research meteorologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has been studying this issue as part of a group at the American Meteorological Society. He says that while the FCC can switch which regions of the spectrum it allocates to phone companies, forecasters are stuck. That’s because water vapor emits a faint signal in the atmosphere at a frequency (23.8 GHz) that is extremely close to the one sold for next-generation 5G wireless communications (24 GHz). Satellites like NOAA’s GOES-R and the European MetOp monitor this frequency to collect data that is fed into prediction models for upcoming storms and weather systems.

“We can’t move away from 23.8 or we would,” Gerth told WIRED. “As far as 5G is concerned, the administration has a priority to put 5G on the spectrum, and they thought this was an OK place to do it. It’s just close to where we are sensing the weather.” Gerth says that wireless carriers could turn down the power emitted by 5G cellphone transmitters so they don’t drown out the sensitive sensors on the satellite. NOAA and NASA want to limit the interference noise to a level closer to what is considered acceptable by the European Union and World Meteorological Organization.

NOAA’s Jacobs told the House committee that the number currently proposed by the FCC would result in a 77 percent data loss from the NOAA satellite’s passive microwave sounders. He also said that experts from the two agencies are trying to work out a compromise. “I’m optimistic we can come up with an elegant solution,” he told lawmakers Thursday.

In the meantime, Gerth says this issue probably won’t go away anytime soon. The FCC plans future 5G auctions for the radio frequency bands near ones used to detect rain and snow (36–37 GHz), atmospheric temperature (50.2–50.4 GHz), and clouds and ice (80–90 GHz). “This is not one and done,” Gerth added. “Today it’s 23.8, tomorrow it’s 36.”

The state department is negotiating with other nations over the interference level, which will be settled at a world radio conference in October. The FCC’s 5G auction has reaped nearly $2 billion from both small and large wireless providers and is still underway.


5G networks could throw weather forecasting into chaos

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Gianforte Issues Stomach-Turning “Apology”

Mother Jones

Yesterday Greg Gianforte melted down and assaulted a reporter who tried to ask him a question. Today he issued one of the most repugnant apologies I’ve ever heard:

Yesterday, when it might have hurt his election chances, Gianforte went the full Trump: he belligerently denied doing anything wrong and issued a craven statement that basically blamed Ben Jacobs for assaulting Gianforte’s fist with his nose. His supporters all roared their approval. That Jacobs guy had it coming for having the bad manners to ask a question about some breaking news.

Now, when there’s no longer any price for apologizing, he apologizes. That’s squalid enough. But to pretend that he’s manning up is just stomach turning. What a disgusting human being.

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Gianforte Issues Stomach-Turning “Apology”

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Sheldon Adelson Documents

Mother Jones

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Steve Jacobs’ wrongful-termination lawsuit has surfaced scores of emails and internal memos illuminating how Sheldon Adelson and his company, Las Vegas Sands, do business. We’ve gathered court records from Jacobs’s case and other legal actions involving Adelson, as well as government reports and other key documents—explore them below.

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Sheldon Adelson Documents

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Trump’s "Go-To" National Security Adviser Says He’s Never Talked Policy With Trump

Mother Jones

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When Donald Trump, the reality show tycoon turned GOP front-runner, appeared on Meet the Press this past Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked him, “Who do you talk to for military advice right now?” At first, Trump had no direct answer. He replied, “Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great—you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals and you have certain people that you like.” Todd pressed him: “But is there a go-to for you?” Trump said he had two or three “go-to” advisers. He named John Bolton, one of the most hawkish neoconservatives, and retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, who is a military analyst for MSNBC and NBC News. “Col. Jack Jacobs is a good guy,” Trump said. “And I see him on occasion.”

There’s just one problem with Trump citing Jacobs as a national security adviser: Jacobs says he has never talked to Trump about military policy.

“He may have said the first person who came to mind,” Jacobs tells Mother Jones. “I know him. But I’m not a consultant. I’m not certain if he has a national security group of people. I don’t know if he does or if he doesn’t. If he does, I’m not one of them.”

Jacobs, who received a Medal of Honor (and two Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars, and two Purple Hearts) for his service in Vietnam, notes that he has attended numerous charity events where Trump was present. “I’ve seen him at a number of functions,” he says. But Jacobs adds that he has had no discussions with Trump about national security affairs—at those events or anywhere else.

Jacobs says he assumes Trump has watched his appearances on television. But does Jacobs see his on-air comments reflected in what Trump has been saying as a candidate? “I talk about a wide variety of things on television,” Jacobs remarks. “Who knows what anybody absorbs? But I’m delighted to hear that he’s a fan of MSNBC.”

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to an inquiry about why Trump cited Jacobs as a military policy adviser.

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Trump’s "Go-To" National Security Adviser Says He’s Never Talked Policy With Trump

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Did Anti-Gay Evangelicals Skirt US Sanctions on Russia?

Mother Jones

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This Wednesday, activists from around the world will gather in Moscow for a conference titled “Large Families: The Future of Humanity.” The gathering in the Russian capital will focus on defending “the way of life of large families” and includes workshops on topics such as the “natural family” and the role of media in promoting “the values of a traditional family.”

Originally, the World Congress of Families had scheduled a similarly titled conference, “Every Child A Gift: Large Families, the Future of Humanity,” to take place in Moscow this week. The Illinois-based WCF, as I have reported previously, has promoted anti-gay and anti-abortion policies around the globe, perhaps most actively and successfully in Russia. WCF has helped host at least five major gatherings in Russia since 2010, providing venues for American evangelicals to present their ideas to Russian legislators, religious leaders, and activists.

Yet in July, after the United States and the European Union leveled economic sanctions against Russia in response to its incursions into Ukraine, WCF canceled its Moscow confab, citing “uncertainties” due to the new rules and the “possible liability arising therefrom.” These were legitimate concerns: Two of the WCF’s key Russian allies had been placed on a list of individuals sanctioned by the Treasury Department, making conference planning complicated, and possibly forbidden.

However, the upcoming Large Families conference looks a lot like a barely rebranded version of the original WCF event. Beyond its nearly identical title, the new conference will take place in the same location, on the same dates, and with a similar schedule, according to research by the Human Rights Campaign. This week’s event also advertised some of the same organizers as the scrubbed meeting: WCF managing director Larry Jacobs and WCF communications director Don Feder were listed on the forum’s seven-member organizing committee.

As of last Friday, when Mother Jones asked WCF for comment, Jacob and Feder were still on the list of organizers. By Sunday, the committee list had disappeared from both the English and Russian versions of the website of the Istoki Fund, an endowment run by Vladimir Yakunin, a close adviser to President Vladimir Putin who codirects several of the conference’s sponsoring organizations. The original page, including the committee list, is archived here. A copy of the original press release on the site of another Yakunin-affiliated conference sponsor has also vanished. (Here’s the Russian original.)

Also on the committee list was Elena Mizulina. In March 2014, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets and Control (OFAC) sanctioned several dozen top Russian government officials including Mizulina, a member of parliament, and Yakunin.

Both Mizulina and Yakunin are among WCF’s heartiest supporters. Mizulina sponsored both pieces of anti-gay legislation that caused international uproar in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics in February. WCF has expressed support for these laws. She has met repeatedly with Jacobs, has attended a number of WCF’s Russian events, and has invited a WCF planning committee member to speak before Duma members about anti-gay policies.

The billionaire Yakunin helped pay for the 2011 Moscow Demographic Summit, the WCF’s first major conference in Russia. Last spring, he launched Istoki, a fund that backs three charities—two co-run by him, and a third headed by his wife, Natalia. All three organizations have ties to WCF’s work in Russia. Three of the Large Families conference’s five sponsors are affiliated with Yakunin: the Sanctity of Motherhood Foundation, the Center for National Glory, and St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation. The latter two are run by Yakunin and all three are funded by Yakunin’s Istoki fund.

Yakunin and Mizulina are currently on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. Once someone is on the list, American citizens and businesses “are generally prohibited from dealing with them,” according to OFAC, which administers economic and trade sanctions. Sanction rules hinge on what counts as “dealing” with an SDN, which isn’t clearly defined. “If a US individual or entity wanted to deal with a sanctioned entity on the SDN list, we would encourage them to reach out to OFAC for guidance on a case-by-case basis,” a Treasury spokeswoman told Mother Jones. “Generally what is prohibited are ‘dealings’ with SDNs. Doing business or doing transactions—all of that is covered in the regulations. But dealings is a general term.” She said that the agency does not comment on specific cases.

“The Office of Foreign Assets and Control has incredible discretion, so we always urge caution when interpreting these types of terms,” says Eric Lorber, an associate attorney at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has written extensively on international sanctions.

Lorber says it’s not possible to determine whether WCF is in violation of the sanctions without full knowledge of what exactly Jacobs and Feder are doing to assist Mizulina and Yakunin and what benefits, financial or otherwise, WCF or the Russians may be receiving. “What they are doing is extremely risky,” he writes in an email. “It depends on the specifics of the circumstances, but there definitely are possible routes for those folks to violate US sanctions on the SDNs.” He concludes, “If this were my client, I would advise them to pull out of the joint planning committee immediately.”

In an email to Mother Jones, WCF managing director Larry Jacobs distanced WCF from the Moscow conference:

Some World Congress of Families personnel plan on attending the conference and supporting our Russian civil society friends who are working to protect the unborn child and the natural family. Though some of us will be present, as was agreed by the International Planning Committee many months ago, the WCF is not financially supporting the conference in Moscow this week and we have not lent our name to what should be a very interesting conference.

In another statement sent to Mother Jones, Jacobs wrote that “WCF Communications Director Don Feder and I will be there to attend and speak as individuals and not as representatives of the World Congress of Families.”

However, Jacobs and WCF did not respond to questions about his or Feder’s apparent participation in the organizing committee. They also did not respond to requests for clarification on what sort of interactions Jacobs or Feder may have had with Mizulina or Yakunin. They also did not answer questions about whether they have asked OFAC for guidance on obeying the sanctions.

Jacobs also denied WCF involvement in next week’s conference in an email to BuzzFeed. “It’s NOT a World Congress of Families event and any one who calls it that is wrong, mis-informed or lying,” he wrote. WCF’s June newsletter, which announced the new Moscow conference, also said that “these events are being held independent of World Congress of Families.” Yet one of the Russian organizers, Alexey Komov, implied the opposite in a July interview with the Russian newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta, saying that the conference is being organized “with the participation of…the World Congress of Families.”

Interacting with the conference’s cosponsors, particularly Yakunin’s foundations and the endowment fund that supports them, isn’t necessarily prohibited by sanctions. It depends on whether Yakunin maintains 50 percent ownership of any of the groups, as well as several other factors, explains Lorber. “Merely dealing with the entities that are run by an SDN…wouldn’t be a problem,” he notes. “However, if, in the course of those dealings, the WCF employees had any dealings with Yakunin (such as having him participate in negotiations or exchanging anything of value with him), that activity would be sanctionable.”

WCF will not have to contend with diplomatic intrigue and sanctions as it plans its next international meeting. Shortly after canceling its event in Moscow, it announced that its 2015 international conference will be held in Salt Lake City. In his email, Jacobs clarifies that just as the WCF’s work in other countries isn’t an endorsement of their governments, “our presence there should not be construed as supporting all of the policies of the Obama Administration.”

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Did Anti-Gay Evangelicals Skirt US Sanctions on Russia?

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The World Congress of Families’ Russian Network

Mother Jones

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On September 10, 2014, the eighth World Congress of Families will open in Moscow. An international contingent of conservative activists will gather at the Kremlin to swap tactics and strategies while celebrating Russia’s recent successes in pushing anti-gay and anti-abortion laws. The people pictured below are all helping to put on this event as members of the WCF 2014 planning committee. (There are others on the committee who are not featured.)

This past October, the group met at Moscow’s Crowne Plaza hotel to hash out the details of the upcoming three-day affair, which organizers hope will draw upwards of 5000 attendees. But the bulk of these committee members were already deeply connected before they kicked off their planning this fall through ties forged while advancing anti-gay sentiment and legislation in Russia. You can read more about the links pictured below the image.


Jack Hanick: The former Fox News producer spoke at the third Sanctity of Motherhood conference this past November. He also spoke at a WCF regional event hosted by Malofeev’s Safe Internet League and at a traditional values roundtable hosted this past June by Malofeev’s St. Basil charity. Brian Brown and the Duma’s Elena Mizulina were also in attendance, and gay marriage was a primary discussion topic.

Brian Brown: The president of the National Organization for Marriage, Brown also spoke at the June roundtable hosted by Malofeev’s St. Basil charity. Earlier that day, he spoke with Elena Mizulina’s Duma committee on family policy about adoption by gay couples.

Larry Jacobs: As WCF managing director, Jacobs works with Allan Carlson at the Howard Center, which runs the WCF. He is also a partner at Komov’s Integrity Consulting, and spoke at annual conferences hosted by Yakunina’s Sanctity of Motherhood group in 2010 and 2013.

Allan Carlson: A prolific historian and family scholar, Carlson is the president of the Howard Center for Religion, Family, and Society. He helped hatch the idea for the WCF in 1995 with Professor Anatoly Antonov. He is Jacobs’ colleague.


Vladimir Yakunin: Married to Natalia Yakunina, he helps fund her Sanctity of Motherhood program through several of his charities, including the Center for National Glory and the Foundation of St. Andrew the First-Called.

Natalia Yakunina: Married to Vladimir Yakunin and heads the Sanctity of Motherhood program.

Konstantin Malofeev: This billionaire businessman and telecommunications mogul helps fund the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, the largest Orthodox Charity in Russia, through Marshall Capital, the investment firm he founded. He’s also a trustee at the Safe Internet League. Through St. Basil, Malofeev also hosted a traditional values roundtable in June (attended by Jack Hanick, Brian Brown, and the Duma’s Elena Mizulina) where gay marriage was a primary discussion topic.

Elena Mizulina: A member of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, she also heads its committee on family policy. Mizulina sponsored both anti-gay laws—the propaganda and adoption bans—that passed in the summer of 2013. According to WCF’s Larry Jacobs, he and Mizulina have met at least three times in Russia. Two days after the propaganda law passed the Duma, Brian Brown met with Mizulina and her committee to discuss legislation about adoption by gay couples.

Archpriest Dmitri Smirnov: A top Orthodox official, Archpriest Dmitri was appointed to head the Patriarch’s commission on the family this past March. He describes the group as a family policy-development shop for the administration that often advises Mizulina’s Duma committee. Alexey Komov is the executive secretary of this commission.

Alexey Komov: The WCF’s official Russia representative, Komov heads FamilyPolicy.ru, a WCF Russian partner. He works with several other Orthodox groups, including Smirnov’s Patriarch’s commission (where he is executive secretary), Malofeev’s Safe Internet League (where he is on the board), and Malofeev’s St. Basil foundation (where he runs a charity). Komov is also the founding partner of Integrity Consulting, a management consulting firm.

Anatoly Antonov: A renowned demographer, Antonov is a professor in the sociology department at Moscow State University. He helped hatch the idea for the WCF in Moscow with Allan Carlson in 1995. Komov is working toward a PhD in the department, and Antonov is his dissertation adviser.

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The World Congress of Families’ Russian Network

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"Community’s" Gillian Jacobs: TV’s Coolest Feminist?

Mother Jones

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Nowadays, Gillian Jacobs (pronounced with a hard G) is famous for her role on NBC’s acclaimed comedy Community, which returns for its fifth season on January 2. The series has brought her many fans and accolades, and she has since appeared in 2012’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and 2013’s Bad Milo! The Pittsburgh-born actress will also star in the 2014 comedy Walk of Shame (alongside one of her personal heroes, Elizabeth Banks), as well as the sequel to Hot Tub Time Machine, in which she plays the female lead.

But what if Jacobs had never gone into acting? What would she be doing instead? Well, if she had her way, she’d probably be sitting on the highest court in the land.

“I never pursued anything but acting,” Jacobs tells Mother Jones. “But as a kid, I was really interested in the Supreme Court. I wanted to to be a Supreme Court justice, but didn’t want to be a lawyer. I just wanted to go straight to being a justice.”

I ask her to name her all-time favorite justice—the one who might serve as the greatest influence on Associate Justice Gillian Jacobs.

All the ladies,” she answers waggishly. “Like Ginsburg and Sotomayor. We need more of them, but I’m glad we have some.”

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"Community’s" Gillian Jacobs: TV’s Coolest Feminist?

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