Former CIA Chief: The Smoke Around Trump and Russia Is Thickening

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OZY senior columnist John McLaughlin teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and was deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004. Follow him on Twitter: @jmclaughlinSAIS

On Monday, special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 campaign broke open with public charges against Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his business associate, Rick Gates, for money laundering and conspiracy. It was also revealed that a junior aide, George Papadopoulos, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia on behalf of the Trump campaign — and is cooperating with Mueller. We turned to OZY senior columnist and former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin for insight on the new revelations.

How much trouble is Paul Manafort in?

John McLaughlin: This is very serious. Bob Mueller, the special counsel, is someone who approaches these things with great care. When he offers evidence, it’s because he has great confidence that it’s going to hold up in court. So I think this is a serious situation for Manafort, even though he pleaded not guilty Monday.

How is all this linked to the Trump campaign?

McLaughlin: There are some linkages. But I don’t believe the information about Manafort establishes collusion. That’s a difficult concept to deal with legally. But certainly Monday’s evidence thickens the smoke. The way in which this is linked to the campaign is that Manafort was at a meeting in June when the Russian lawyer came offering evidence of Hillary Clinton’s wrongdoing that would help Trump. And Manafort cannot claim naiveté over this in the way that, say, Donald Trump Jr. could claim to be inexperienced. Manafort had been around Russians and Ukrainians and had worked closely with a Vladimir Putin ally in Ukraine.

Manafort was there, and so he may be in a position to say how that meeting came about. Did anything happen after it that we don’t know about? Was the offer accepted? Those are things he can explain. The indictment of George Papadopoulos also constitutes the second documented evidence of Russia reaching out to the Trump campaign to offer assistance in targeting Hillary Clinton. So while we don’t know a lot about how that information was received, used or followed up on, it’s clear that there was intent by the Russians to offer assistance, and there was not immediate rejection of that on the Trump side. Nor did anyone from the campaign report to the FBI that a foreign power was offering to provide information — presumably and possibly illegally obtained — on Hillary Clinton. Remember, this offer from the Russians came in April 2016, about a month after the first WikiLeaks release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails and six months before the U.S. government formally charged the Russians with responsibility for the hack.


Will Manafort shed more light on that meeting, or is this arrest an indication that he’s not cooperating?

McLaughlin: There may not yet be a final decision on his part. We simply have no visibility on whether there are negotiations under way between his attorneys and the special counsel. At this point we have no evidence that he’s cooperating. It would make some sense that he would want to bargain a bit before agreeing to cooperate.

There’s also a message here, in the way that Mueller has dropped this news, to other individuals who may be worried about being targets of this investigation: First is the example of Papadopoulos, who was arrested in July and at some point between July and October agreed to cooperate and has some kind of plea bargain arrangement — and may have even been gathering evidence secretly for the special counsel during that period. The other example they’re looking at is someone who did not agree to cooperate and who’s been indicted by a grand jury and is in serious legal jeopardy.

With these two indictments, I think the special counsel protects himself from being fired — unless Trump does something truly foolish. A month ago the president would have kicked up a lot of controversy by firing Mueller, whom he has criticized vigorously; Trump has even called this investigation a hoax. Firing Mueller would have led to very bad things for Trump, but he might have gotten away with it. Now, however, it’s very difficult to see how he could consider firing him without exposing himself to serious charges from Congress.

What would it take to prove collusion?

McLaughlin: Collusion is very difficult to prove in a legal sense. I hear lawyers say that collusion is not well defined legally. So I think to prove it here you would have to have irrefutable evidence that members of the Trump campaign in authoritative positions either reached out to Russia to accept information or to guide Russian efforts to interfere and then used Russian assistance in some way that materially affected the campaign and the outcome of the election. I think the bar would be very high to establish collusion to everyone’s satisfaction.

What do you make of recent revelations that the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped pay for the famous “dossier” on Trump?

McLaughlin: If I understand it correctly, Christopher Steele, the British intelligence veteran, did not start working on this problem until the DNC took over the contract from the company that was originally hired by Republicans to do research on Trump. As an intelligence veteran reading that dossier, one of the thoughts I have is in dealing with sources: What you get from them depends to a large degree on how you ask the question. If you ask the question in terms of “what do you know about Russian attitudes toward the American election campaign,” you might get one answer. If you ask the question in terms of whether Russia is doing anything to help Donald Trump in the election campaign, you’re probably going to get a different answer. And if the source is being paid and senses that you’re looking for certain information, with human sources you always have to ask: Are they telling me what I want to hear? This is why professional intelligence officers subject human-agent reporting to rigorous vetting and feel obliged to characterize a source’s reliability and reporting record.  

Not knowing who the source is, or whether the source had some intent, I think the net result makes the contents of the dossier harder to judge. That said, some of what’s in the dossier seems to resonate with what we are learning. The first message in the dossier, for example, talks about the Russian government’s willingness to provide information to the Trump campaign that is harmful to Clinton. That message is dated June 2016, around the time of the meeting with Donald Trump Jr. But, fundamentally, I think the more we learn about the dossier from an intelligence perspective, the harder it is to judge its reliability.

Martin Luther’s Other Reformation — When He Became a Husband


When Martin Luther nailed up his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Germany, exactly half a millennium ago on Oct. 31, 1517, the 33-year-old was an audacious reformer, one who would almost single-handedly (with a big hand from Gutenberg’s printing press) kick-start the Protestant Reformation and alter the course of Western civilization. He was also a life-long bachelor, and a rather slovenly one at that — he’d spent most of his time hanging around other men and was just as fluent in bawdy bathroom jokes as he was in the church’s teachings.

Then, eight years after he designed perhaps the biggest institutional schism in the history of the planet, Luther entered into a brand-new institution himself: marriage, to a recovering nun named Katharina von Bora. And in his union to this remarkable woman, later known as Katie Luther, the reformer found a new force for love and order in his life that he much preferred to the one in Rome he had forsaken.

She brought stability to a fundamentally unstable man…

The son of a miner, Luther dreamed of being a professor as a young man until one day a lightning bolt literally stopped him in his tracks, and he knew he was meant to become a monk. But Luther grew disenchanted with the Catholic Church, of which he was an ordained member. In nailing up his Theses, preaching salvation by faith alone and giving speeches challenging doctrines like papal infallibility, the practice of indulgences and clerical celibacy, Luther did not set out to create a movement, but the man almost hit by lightning would soon become a lightning rod. By 1521, he had been excommunicated, condemned as a heretic and forced into hiding.

While he was in seclusion, however, Luther’s powerful ideas roamed the countryside, winning converts. Among other things, Luther called for nuns to flee their convent confines, and so a group of local nuns wrote to him in 1523 to ask for help in orchestrating their escape. Shortly thereafter, 12 nuns, including one Katharina von Bora, were smuggled out of their cloister inside empty herring barrels. “A wagon load of vestal virgins has just come to town,” one Wittenberg man observed of the daring escape, “all more eager for marriage than for life.”


As Ruth A. Tucker chronicles in her new book, Katie Luther, First Lady of the Reformation, Luther found suitable husbands for most of the escapees, but there was one, a bright, feisty red-haired woman in her mid-20s, who remained uncoupled, having been jilted by her potential partner. And so Martin, at that time 41, with nuns and monks marrying left and right (thanks largely to him), nominated himself for the backup role, marrying Katie in a shotgun marriage (and consummation) without informing any of his friends in advance. “The whole ordeal — from engagement to crawling out of bed,” writes Tucker, “was probably wrapped up in less than half an hour.”

For a long time, Martin had vowed to remain single, in part because he expected to be killed by his enemies at any moment. And he married Katie not out of love but rather pity, and also, as he put it, to “please his father, rile the pope, make the angels laugh and the devils weep.” It’s likewise unlikely Katie saw Martin as particularly good husband material. “He was a brilliant man and a household name when Katie married him,” says Tucker, but “she reportedly said that she would change him to be more to her liking — and she did.”

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Martin Luther became a reformed man himself, by marrying a nun who escaped the nunnery in a fish barrel.

Source Creative Commons

Katie and Martin’s marriage was an instant scandal, one seized on by his opponents. The prominent Catholic Thomas More compared the union to incest between a brother monk and his sister nun. “Suddenly and while I was occupied with far other thoughts,” Luther himself reflected, “the Lord has plunged me into marriage.” And Katie quickly plunged into reforming her new husband. 

Despite his many other talents, Luther was financially inept, hygienically challenged and suffered from a variety of maladies, from gout to insomnia to hemorrhoids. Katie not only nursed him to health and calmed his depressive mood swings, but she did so while also looking after six children and serving as a commercial farmer, brewer and head of a boarding house. Far from being a conventional wife, Katie was assertive, opinionated and entrepreneurial, and she brought stability to a fundamentally unstable man, one who Tucker claims could easily have gone off the rails in his 40s without her.

Katie also brought out a new appreciation of family in her husband. Their marriage was defined by mutuality, and she was his primary confidant. Martin doted on his large family and, after a tumultuous youth, was able to devote himself to the simpler pleasures of life like gardening, board games and music. Marriage and family became more central to Luther’s reforms, and in many ways he became Protestantism’s first family-values proponent. Consequently, Katie should be considered, says Tucker, “the most important individual of the German Reformation second only to Luther himself.”

And by his death in 1546, Luther was undoubtedly a reformed man himself. After all, as he had argued years before in Thesis No. 44: “Because love grows by works of love, man thereby becomes better.”

The Legendary Murder of Hex Hollow

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It was desperation that drove John Blymire to the farmhouse of Mrs. Knopt on those autumn nights. For years, Blymire was convinced he had been hexed, and that the curse was to blame for all the misery in his life — his nervous disposition, his night sweats, his bad luck.… And so the haggard 32-year-old sought out Knopt, the witch of Marietta — aka Nellie Noll, the river witch — whose occult powers were well-known throughout York and Lancaster counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. Perhaps she could lift the hex at long last. Over the course of six sessions — $5 each — the old woman gradually revealed the identify of the man who had cursed Blymire: Nelson D. Rehmeyer.

And so one of the strangest murders in the history of the Keystone State was set in motion.

To lift the curse, Blymire had to bury his tormentor’s copy of a sacred spell book and a lock of his hair.

By 1928 most Americans had long since relegated superstitious tales of witches and hexes to 17th-century Salem and Puritan New England. Not so among the rural hills and hollows of Pennsylvania, where the Amish kept alive the unique folk-healing traditions of brauch or brauchen — “powwow” in English. The tradition mixes pagan rituals with Christian theology, and features herbal remedies, ceremonies and charms designed to heal or protect a person seeking help. (Brauchen also means “need.”) “Those unfamiliar with powwow think it’s an evil practice when in fact it’s a Christian practice used for good, not evil,” explains Shane Free, director of the 2015 documentary Hex Hollow: Witchcraft and Murder in Pennsylvania.


In those days, most powwowers held healing or hexing sessions in their farmhouses, although a few “doctors” had discreet offices in the small cities of Lancaster and York. A powwower might instruct someone suffering from an overactive bladder to burn a hog’s bladder and then eat the ashes, or he might tell a “patient” with a wound to repeat the phrase “blood, thou must stop, until the Virgin Mary bring forth another son,” according to David W. Kriebel’s Powwowing Among the Pennsylvania Dutch (Penn State University Press, 2007). 

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Nelson D. Rehmeyer

Source Courtesy of Hex Hollow

As for Blymire, he initially refused to believe the elderly witch. Rehmeyer was a family friend, a renowned powwower who had been called on to remove Blymire’s hexes on at least three occasions during his miserable childhood. To convince her supplicant, who was also a powwower, Knopt asked the distraught man to place a dollar bill on the palm of his hand, according to Kriebel’s account. When she pulled the bill away, the head and torso of Rehmeyer appeared to Blymire.

Diagnosis confirmed, Knopt presented her prescription: To lift the curse, Blymire must bury his tormentor’s copy of a sacred powwow spell book, The Long Lost Friend, by John George Hohman, and a lock of Rehmeyer’s hair. Blymire knew that the 6-foot-2 Rehmeyer, still powerfully built at age 60, would not give up his spell book without a fight, so he enlisted John Curry, 14, and Wilbert Hess, 18, convincing the boys that Rehmeyer had hexed them as well. 

Three months later, on the evening of Nov. 27, 1928, Blymire and his two accomplices drove to Rehmeyer’s weathered, two-story clapboard farmhouse in Stewartstown, Pennsylvania. It was Thanksgiving Eve, and the pale light of a full moon illuminated the chilly autumn landscape in Rehmeyer’s Hollow. Armed with sticks and 25 feet of rope, Blymire and the boys demanded that the old witch surrender his spell book. When Rehmeyer refused, they bound him to a chair in the kitchen and beat him. At trial, Blymire accused Curry of delivering the fatal blow at 12:01 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

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An 18th-century Pennsylvania Dutch variant of the Sator Square amulet. Use of the Sator Square is one of the spells contained in The Long Lost Friend.

Source Public Domain

Panicked, the three cursed murderers doused Rehmeyer’s corpse with lamp oil and set it on fire, hoping the blaze would burn down the house and destroy the evidence of their crime. But the fire did not spread, and two days later, a neighbor discovered Rehmeyer’s charred remains. Superstitious locals saw occult forces at work, noting the fact that the fire did not consume the old wooden house and the kitchen clock had stopped at 12:01. 

It did not take long for the authorities to track down Blymire, Curry and Hess, who all confessed. In spite of the grave charges he faced, Blymire claimed that he finally was at peace — Rehmeyer’s death had lifted the hex. 

What became known as the York Witch Trials began on Jan. 9, 1929, with Judge Ray Sherwood presiding.  Sherwood ruled that all mention of hexes and witchcraft be edited out of the trio’s confessions before committing them to record. In court documents, the motive for the crime is robbery. Five days later, Blymire and Curry were found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Hess was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced 10 to 20 years. Blymire and Curry were both paroled in 1939 and returned to York County, as did Blymire, who was paroled in 1953. None of the men ever committed another crime.

Rehmeyer’s great-grandson now owns the farmhouse, known to locals as Hex Hollow, and welcomes visitors who inspect the charred floorboards, protected by Plexiglas, and stare at the clock, still frozen at 12:01. Though the trials occurred nearly a century ago, Free maintains that among the people of York County, the jury is still out. “The relatives of Rehmeyer find his murder tragic and insist he was simply a farmer who intended to help people,” Free says. “He kept to himself, which led some people to believe he had something to hide. [But] some relatives of the murderers, the old-timers, believe that Rehmeyer was up to no good and that he could have been responsible for some of the men’s bad luck.”

Could This Young Physicist Finally Crack the Code to Nuclear Fusion?

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Amid the chaos of the Iran–Iraq War and its turbulent aftermath, Fatima Ebrahimi found her refuge in physics. As a teenager in the 1980s, she could do little more than observe the turmoil, but physics and its equations? That she could master. “Even if I was surrounded by all this craziness, it was a thing I could just do,” she tells OZY.

Now a physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Ebrahimi wants to bring order to another form of chaos: plasma, the electrically charged, superhot gas that makes up the sun. Deep inside the sun, plasma fuels nuclear fusion reactions, in which hydrogen atoms collide to form helium atoms, releasing massive amounts of energy. Ebrahimi’s research focuses on replicating that process on Earth in devices called tokamaks. Using computer simulations, she’s uncovering the physics behind a method she hopes will simplify the design of these devices, as well as reduce their size and cost, bringing us closer to creating a limitless supply of clean, renewable energy — the holy grail of energy research.

Most emissions of carbon dioxide, a major contributor to global warming, come from burning fossil fuels, used to power vehicles and generate electricity. “We desperately need another energy source that’s clean,” says Barrett Rogers, a theoretical and computational physicist at Dartmouth College. Ebrahimi’s fusion research “could be a breakthrough,” he says. And unlike nuclear fission — the splitting apart of atoms, which fuels today’s nuclear power plants — nuclear fusion doesn’t produce radioactive material.

[Physics is] like a piece of music that comes into your head …

Fatima Ebrahimi

To be sure, it’s early days yet. To make fusion power a reality, reactors need to generate more energy than they consume, which tokamaks have yet to do. And while Ebrahimi’s model of plasma “is definitely the right first step,” it’s “not the final step,” Rogers says. Plus, although several of her computer simulations have held up in lab experiments, others still require testing.

Ebrahimi, 46, has a broad smile and a full-throated laugh. A math whiz growing up, she was captivated by the notion of a unifying law of physics, an ever-elusive equation that could explain the entire universe. After studying physics at the Polytechnic University of Tehran, she knew she had to venture elsewhere to find success as a woman in science. In 2003, she earned a Ph.D. in plasma physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a focus on fusion, which she continued to investigate as a faculty member at the University of New Hampshire and, later, Princeton.


One goal of her research is to supersede the limitations of today’s conventional, doughnut-shaped tokamaks, which consist of a magnetic coil, or solenoid, resting within a central hole. An electric current runs through the solenoid, triggering another current in the plasma and generating a magnetic field that confines and heats the plasma. The extremely high temperatures — hundreds of millions of degrees Celsius — cause fusion to occur between hydrogen atoms in the plasma, releasing tons of energy. But, creating enough fusion to generate electricity requires a large solenoid and, therefore, a large tokamak. (For perspective, you could drive a tractor-trailer through a multibillion-dollar tokamak now under construction in France.) Plus, the current that flows through the plasma relies on ramping up the current in the solenoid; once that runs out, researchers need to deliver a fresh pulse of current to the solenoid, again and again.

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Fatima Ebrahimi’s computer simulations at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory are helping to boost the advancement of fusion energy.

Source Courtesy of Fatima Ebrahimi

As a workaround, Ebrahimi is investigating coaxial helicity injection (CHI), a method of starting fusion reactions that doesn’t involve solenoids, thereby simplifying the design of conventional tokamaks and making them both more compact and less costly. Instead of using a solenoid to generate a magnetic field, CHI involves injecting a magnetic field into the floor of the tokamak, removing the need to deliver periodic pulses of current. As it’s injected, the magnetic field — picture a series of concentric loops — inflates inside the tokamak. When a current runs through the magnetic field lines, they snap shut and pinch off, a process called magnetic reconnection, essentially forming a magnetic “balloon” filled with the current needed to fuel fusion while also confining the plasma.

Through computer simulations of CHI, Ebrahimi is studying its underlying physics, which could inform the design of future tokamaks. Her simulations suggest, for instance, that narrowing the bottom of the magnetic balloon that fills the tokamak creates a stronger current flowing through the plasma, making the device produce energy more efficiently. Conversely, she modeled regions at the edges of the plasma that can disrupt that current; understanding how this happens is key to preventing it. Now, she’s investigating whether CHI could allow tokamaks to run indefinitely, a major step toward making them commercially viable.

Beyond nuclear fusion, magnetic reconnection is behind a number of explosive phenomena, like solar flares. “It’s an area where people are making contributions,” says Adil Hassam, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland. “Ebrahimi and her colleagues will be among those at the forefront.” 

Stewart Prager, Ebrahimi’s Ph.D. adviser and now a professor at Princeton, cites this intellectual drive as Ebrahimi’s major strength. “Her mind is always going in many directions.” But at the same time, he adds, she’s “always purposeful.”

It’s the sort of drive that keeps Ebrahimi awake late at night, churning away at her research. “[Physics is] like a piece of music that comes into your head,” she says. “Tomorrow the same thing comes, because it’s beautiful to you.”

Getting the world closer to infinite clean energy? Now that would be beautiful music.

Check Out Arizona’s Creepiest Roadside Attraction

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An exit in the middle of the desert and a turn down an endless road to nowhere. And then it comes into view — a cluster of giant, white-and-yellow semi-hemispheric domes poking up out of the desert like a copse of giant poisonous mushrooms. Pulling to the side of the road, curiosity turns to unease. If Texas Chainsaw Massacre–style villains existed, this is the sort of place they’d lay in wait. The Middle of Nowhere, Arizona. Utterly isolated. 

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The vast emptiness of the Arizona desert can make the imagination run wild.

Source James Watkins/OZY

It’s clear that hundreds have climbed over the low barbed-wire fence where a broken plywood sign lies faceup in the dirt. It’s covered in graffitied tags, but just visible beneath them all are the spray-painted words: “Welcome to Hell.”

I had some terrible things happen to me after visiting that place.

Adam Forner, paranormal investigator

This is no haunted house or tourist attraction. The abandoned, never-completed domes of Casa Grande, an hour south of Phoenix, were intended to manufacture semiconductors in the ’70s. The domes have become a regular spot for local devil worshippers, as well as curious ghost hunters and daring late-night partygoers. The front dome is shaped like a spaceship; the others are larger, as if a chain of half-domes were joined together into a caterpillar shape. There is a white-and-yellow pattern on the outside where the concrete shell has been destroyed to reveal insulation beneath. Graffiti is everywhere, but in addition to the big block and grotesque cartoon faces are more pentagrams and 666s than you might expect.

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Grafittied signs of devil worship are scattered around, and locals say that dead animals are regularly found here.

Source James Watkins/OZY

What looks like a No Trespassing sign (the letters are obscured by black spray paint) warns visitors away, but it’s clear that nobody pays any attention — there’s even an Instragram location filter here. There is trash everywhere, from lumps of concrete to used fireworks, spray paint cans and a near-universal carpet of broken glass. And then, in the middle of a concrete forecourt between the two largest remaining structures, a disturbing sight: a dead pigeon with its chest cavity cut open and a half-burned matchstick poking out. Satantic ritual perhaps? 


Dead animals are regularly found here, according to Adam Forner, co-founder of a small group called the Casa Grande Paranormal Investigations. Forner has visited Casa Grande four times, twice on formal paranormal investigations. There have been dead bodies too, he says, though I can’t find any reports to support his claim. On his first visit, in the dead of night, Forner says he saw a spirit that “almost looked like the Grim Reaper … it was like black feathery flames in a cloak.” On another occasion, when asking questions into the dark while listening to a spirit box (a device used by ghost hunters to scan radio frequencies for fragments of semi-intelligible audio — ghosts trying to communicate), Forner describes distinctly hearing the words “get out” before a dust storm blew through the dome. 

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Inside, the natural sound effects are as disorienting and eerie as a horror movie score.

Source James Watkins/OZY

Whether you’re a believer or not, the site is decidedly creepy. As I walk around — in the daytime, I might add — every footfall pings around the circular structures half a dozen times like a ricocheting bullet. Combined with the wind whistling through odd holes in the structures, the natural sound effects of the place are as disorienting and eerie as any horror movie score. And if the accidental acoustics lesson doesn’t float your boat, then you could spend hours reading through the endless graffiti to delve into the minds of the occult (and of the far-right and the downright weirdos — there are swastikas and even glory holes aplenty).

“I had some terrible things happen to me after visiting that place,” says Forner. Although a born skeptic, I’m still thankful I spoke with Forner after my visit — I had enough chills down my spine walking around without the need for visions of feathered and flaming visitors from the afterlife. Finding that poor mutilated pigeon was more than enough for me.

How Brazilian Women Are Fighting Back Against Data Theft


For a boot camp on privacy, São Paulo’s symposium was anything but subtle. In May, the fourth annual CryptoRave drew 3,000 people to the Casa do Povo, a modernist downtown museum, for 30 hours of strobe-lit dance parties, craft beer and workshops on topics that ranged from offline health and “holistic security” to protecting personal communications from government and corporate spying. The overall objective: “Celebrate our connections to each other while learning to behave safely online,” organizer Gabi Juns tells OZY.

Concerns about online privacy and security are as old as the internet itself, but Brazil’s activists say they are fighting two types of abuse that have intensified in recent years: government surveillance of dissidents and government sharing of personal information with the private sector. At the front ranks of those sounding the alarm are women in groups like CryptoRave and the Brazilian think tank Coding Rights, which launched a site on Brazil’s Valentine’s Day in June titled Chupadados [“The Datasucker”], which revealed how some dating apps in Brazil siphon personal information without the users’ knowledge, in some cases for resale.

If we truly want everyone to be communicating safely online, female protagonists need to be visible.

Zeilane Fernandes, Pirate Girls hacker collective

Some activists point to a pair of sports events for the uptick in privacy concerns: the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics. In preparation for those global showcases, government officials sold Brazilians on what Joana Varon, director of Coding Rights, calls “RoboCop discourse” — that is, the more high-tech security measures in place, the safer the public.

Based on that sweeping reasoning, Brazilian security forces spent more than $25 million on intelligence-gathering software from 2014 to 2016, according to Brazil’s Ministry of Defense. Before the events, security officials repeatedly warned of potential violence from two types of actors: drug traffickers and political protesters. As it turned out, the police mainly went after the drug lords the old-fashioned way — with guns blazing in raids that often caught civilians in the crossfire. Government data shows that in 2016, police in Rio killed 920 people in raids — more than double the total in 2013.


The surveillance tactics were focused on political threats. Prior to the World Cup final, police in Rio arrested 30 activists in their homes after tracking their electronic communications. A state judge ordered their imprisonment for planning to organize violent activities, but days later they were freed due to lack of evidence. Charges were dismissed against five of them, two were tried and absolved in a juvenile court, and the cases of 23 remain open. A spokesperson for Rio’s justice department declined to comment. 

Adding to the churn are reports in the Brazilian media about government agencies sharing personal data with credit-rating companies, which some experts say could unfairly prejudice decisions on loan applications. A federal prosecutor is currently suing Brazil’s social security agency for this type of sharing, claiming violation of privacy rights guaranteed in 2002 legislation.


São Paulo’s CryptoRave featured workshops in rooms of the Casa do Povo museum temporarily renamed for computing and digital rights icons such as Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer.

Source Courtesy of CryptoRave

And then there’s the data scraping involved in the push for post-Olympic Rio and São Paulo to become “smart cities,” full of security cameras and public transportation pass cards linked to social security numbers. São Paulo’s government is preparing to sell data gleaned from those pass cards to private companies, and its mayor is considering doing the same with data obtained from residents’ use of free city Wi-Fi.

São Paulo’s technology and innovation officer, Daniel Annenberg, tells OZY, “We will absolutely respect citizens’ privacy rights by not allowing any of their data to be shared without consent.” Digital strategy consultant Vitor Amuri, who has worked in cities across Brazil, says that selling personal data is the most viable option for urban areas to finance free public Wi-Fi and that São Paulo is currently in talks to monetize citizen data that is rendered anonymous via digital ledgers like blockchain.

Still, Rafael Zanatta of Brazil’s Institute of Consumer Defense tells OZY that the country’s current legislation safeguarding personal data is fragmented. He says a 2014 court decision about credit scoring systems could be used as a precedent to require regulating algorithms so they preserve transparency rights and nondiscrimination. But Brazil lacks a general personal data protection law, so Zanatta is part of a coalition of 24 Brazilian organizations lobbying lawmakers to pass one. Their campaign has yielded three bills that would ban to different degrees the nonconsensual use of personal data by third parties.


This workshop on feminist sexuality and privacy was hosted in CryptoRave’s Ada Lovelace room.

Source Courtesy of Fernanda Monteiro

This coalition bucks stereotypes about the unshakeable male-centricity of tech: Women make up at least 50 percent of the leadership in half of the organizations. And women steer privacy initiatives at groups like CryptoRave and Actantes. Fernanda Monteiro, director of São Paulo’s MariaLab, tells OZY, “Women’s leadership on digital privacy is in part because we’re more harassed online than men.”

Monteiro has helped engineer a “feminist server,” through which women can co-author documents without fearing the oversight of companies like Google. A Rio-based hacker collective called Pirate Girls draws women into the digital privacy movement with projects like a menstrual tracking app that encrypts personal health data so it can’t be monitored and monetized. “If we truly want everyone to be communicating safely online, female protagonists need to be visible,” Pirate Girls’ Zeilane Fernandes tells OZY.

Juns of CryptoRave notes, “Just because intrusive technology exists does not erase fundamental rights” like nondiscrimination and innocence until proven guilty.

Although it’s a complex challenge to regulate big tech and maintain autonomy in its world, Varon of Coding Rights notes that living in male-dominated societies has made women “experts at finding ways forward in systems aimed to limit our choices.” Brazil’s privacy warriors, she says, show “the power of creativity when diverse teams come together.”

The Story Behind This Haunted Mansion Will Give You the Creeps

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A dark and rainy October night envelops the Lemp Mansion, lit by eerie orb lights and surrounded by knotted trees. Its white facade is faded. The premises are now used for Sunday brunches and dinner theater, among other things. But the patrons here are not alone in their revelry — not according to Betsy Burnett-Belanger, a paranormal investigator who has studied the haunted manse for more than two decades. There are nine “identifiable” spirits in the house, she says, and while they aren’t malevolent, they aren’t exactly benevolent either. “They’re just people — and sometimes they have a bad day, and people make them mad.”

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Would you be afraid to stay at Lemp Mansion?

Source Courtesty of The History and Haunting of Lemp Mansion Facebook

Yes, here we must insert some caveats. The study of paranormal activity is pseudoscience, at best, and ghosts aren’t real … right? Yet each year thousands of visitors flock to Missouri’s spookiest haunt, where they claim to experience bizarre occurrences: strange apparitions and glowing orbs caught on film, items that go flying through the air, chilling voices.

The devastation awaiting the Lemps began with a stroke of fortune.

They aren’t the only ones to discard their doubts. In 1980, Life magazine called it one of America’s nine most haunted houses, according to the Missouri History Museum. Since then other members of the media have visited, from Syfy’s Ghost Hunters to MTV’s short-lived show Fear. 

Those who tour the house leave with more than a fright. They encounter a key part of St. Louis history, filled with immigrant dreams and unlikely riches, devastating losses and four suicides under the same roof. “At the time, Lemp was bigger than Budweiser,” says Mark Farley, founder of the St. Louis Paranormal Research Society. “You had this extremely successful family that went down this really bad road of tragedy.”


The devastation awaiting the Lemps began with a stroke of fortune. There were only 18 German families in all of St. Louis in 1833, according to the city’s cultural resources office. But by 1838, when John Adam Lemp arrived from Eschwege, thousands of Germans had immigrated to Missouri, romanticized in writings as “the American Rhineland.” Originally a grocer, John Adam discovered his biggest seller was a lager his father had taught him to brew. After just two years he sold his store, opened a brewery and used a cave system to ferment his golden ticket. The immigrant died a millionaire — the embodiment of the American Dream.

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Is this the image of Julia Feickert Lemp? The photograph was taken with a night-vision camera in the second-floor suite across the hall from the bedroom where Julia’s husband committed suicide in 1904.

Source Courtesy of the St. Louis Paranormal Research Society

His son, William J. Lemp, also prospered, building a new brewery in 1864 that eventually spanned five city blocks. On the eve of the 20th century, the newly incorporated William J. Lemp Brewing Company became the first brewery to distribute coast to coast and launched the Falstaff beer brand, which is still in circulation. Hilda, William’s savvy daughter, married Gustav Pabst of Milwaukee’s royal brewing family.

Then the troubles began. William’s sickly heir, Frederick, died at age 28, in 1901. A month and a half later, his good friend Frederick Pabst died on New Year’s Day, 1904. Despondent, William went into decline. On the morning of February 13, he ate breakfast, retired to his bedroom and shot himself in the head with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson.

It was not the last shot to echo in the stately mansion. William “Billy” Lemp Jr. took over the business, along with his wife, Lillian, the so-called “Lavender Lady,” whose creepy portrait still hangs in the house. A playboy and philanderer, Billy used the beer-making caves as a playground for prostitutes and partiers. It is rumored he sired a bastard son with Down syndrome, although Burnett-Belanger is convinced “Zeke” was the legitimate child of the couple. If he did live, it was in the mansion’s locked attic, and visitors sometimes call up to his spirit.

The company struggled under Billy’s indifferent leadership. Then, in 1919, Prohibition passed, crippling the beer industry. No longer the wealthiest heiress in St. Louis and suffering from a troubled marriage, Billy’s sister, Elsa, shot herself in her bedroom, in March 1920.

Billy dissolved the company and sold its buildings and machinery. In 1922, following his father’s example, he also shot himself with a .38 caliber handgun, but in the heart and in the family’s first-floor office. Today, the suicides might be recognized as a genetic predisposition to depression. But Burnett-Belanger believes something more nefarious was at work when Charles, the other sibling, took over the mansion the year his brother died. “He was very ill,” she admits, suffering from arthritis, but also “he was drawn to that house, I think, by the spirits that preceded him.” In May 1949, Charles was found dead, also with a .38 caliber in his hand.

The mansion was sold and turned into a boarding house that flopped — its residents frequently complained of strange disturbances. Zeke’s voice is said to be heard coming from the attic; Billy the womanizer is accused of peeking over bathroom stalls. Some guests write about seeing glasses, or ice, tossed across the room. Others smell strange perfumes and experience sudden cold spells.

Skeptical? You don’t have to wait until next Halloween to test the spooky claims. “People think the Lemp Mansion is only haunted in October,” Burnett-Belanger says, but “the spirits are there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Could Jersey’s Likely Next Governor Be the Dems’ Great Last Hope?

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Phil Murphy always wanted to be an actor. By the time he got to Harvard, he was doing musical theater with the famed Hasty Pudding Theatricals, but he eventually realized he wasn’t good enough to make it a career. Nearly 40 years later, he’s turned to a different kind of performance art: politics. You can see it when Murphy stands before a rapt audience in a spacious suburban living room, deploying an actor’s big gestures and arched eyebrow, his keen comedic timing juicing every joke. (When he is handed a cup of water: “This appears to be scotch, Ben.”)

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In Obama’s first return to the campaign trail, the former president is stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey and Virginia as they prepare for next month’s elections.

Source Public Domain

The Democrat with the aggressively toothy grin is the clear favorite — though so was Hillary Clinton, he reminds the crowd — to be New Jersey’s next governor after the November 7 election. If he wins, you can expect to see Murphy on the national stage. Closing his half-hour speech, Murphy proclaims that as governor he will weigh in on Washington debates, from health care to immigration to Donald Trump’s waffling response to white nationalists. “We need a governor with a steel backbone … who will stand up for all of us in this state and say: With all due respect, Mr. President, you will not do that in the great state of New Jersey.”

In his first ever run for office, Murphy, 60, has relied on these performances — spokesman Derek Roseman refers to town hall meetings as “Murphy in the Round” — his personal wealth and the political winds blowing against Trump and outgoing Republican Gov. Chris Christie. When Murphy brings up “enormous anxiety” about the president in the Westfield living room, members of his audience sigh audibly and shake their heads.

He’s not a guy who, sort of like Christie, slams his hand on the desk and says what he wants.

Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chairman

He’s asked about GOP criticism that he will raise taxes — and whether he will bring a single-payer health system to the state. Murphy plans to extract $1.3 billion in new tax money from corporations, newly legalized marijuana and incomes over $1 million. State-funded universal health insurance, he admits, is too costly, though he supports the idea on a national level.


His opponent, Republican Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, likes to emphasize Murphy’s decades working for investment bank giant Goldman Sachs. “Phil Murphy’s promise to raise taxes is simply out of touch,” Guadagno tells OZY via a spokesman. “He may be able to afford to pay more, but middle-class families cannot.” A former Goldman banker is not the ideal standard-bearer for Bernie Sanders’ supporters and the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party, and his investment portfolio has profited from gun manufacturers and big polluters. Republicans hope a plutocratic image will weaken Democratic base turnout.

But Murphy is far more than a rich guy who pals around with rocker Jon Bon Jovi (a family friend). He grew up working class outside Boston, with a father who did odd jobs and never finished high school and a mother who worked as a secretary. Scholarships, loans and part-time jobs got Murphy through Harvard, then business school at the University of Pennsylvania. He started as an intern at Goldman, eventually leading divisions in Central Europe and Asia, before retiring early in 2003.

That’s when he got involved in the money side of politics, eventually becoming Democratic National Committee finance chairman. Then–DNC chairman Howard Dean says he tapped Murphy because he “knows a lot about money,” and his Goldman career made him comfortable around big donors. Dean predicts Murphy’s energy and lack of ego will help him tackle New Jersey’s fiscal hardships. “He’s not a guy who, sort of like Christie, slams his hand on the desk and says what he wants,” Dean says. “When he disagrees with you, he keeps asking questions. And when you don’t answer, he eventually figures out he’s right.”

Piloting one of the financial engines behind Barack Obama’s presidential election in 2008 helped land Murphy the ambassadorship to Germany. While there, he had to deal with the fallout from Wikileaks’ publication of diplomatic cables, including some where Murphy had criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top German officials. In 2013 he returned to New Jersey and engaged in the local political scene, handing out donation checks to key Democrats and launching a progressive policy organization to get in the public eye. When election season began, Murphy kept big-name Democrats out of the primary field by loaning his campaign $10 million — but also relentlessly courting grassroots leaders, says Brigid Harrison, political science professor at Montclair State University.

Murphy has an extensive liberal wish list for the state, including free community college, restoring funding cuts to Planned Parenthood, expanding commuter rail, tightening gun laws and turning New Jersey into “the California of the East Coast” on climate change and green energy. Hanging over all of it is the state’s pension crisis, which has caused Wall Street to downgrade New Jersey’s bond rating repeatedly and will require thorny negotiations with public employee unions — who are backing Murphy’s bid. 

If he can pull off even a fraction of it, Murphy would boast quite a résumé: a governor with liberal policy accomplishments and foreign policy experience — “as Democrats are kind of flailing around looking for a suitable and attractive candidate for 2020,” Harrison says. Murphy has said he will not run for president from the governor’s mansion, à la Christie. “I’ve ruled it out 100 percent,” he said in May. But the former thespian could well emerge as a significant foil to a reality-TV president.

Getting Paid to Fight Fistfighting

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Standing in the doorway of a club in Nottingham, England, I watch the bouncer. He shifts from foot to foot. I can’t tell if he’s just a barbell boy or trains in martial arts as well. But I study bouncers. Having been one is like having owned a certain type of car: You’re forever on notice when you see it. I sidle up to him, eliciting some small amount of suspicion and professional cool until he hears me speak and pegs me for an American.

We start talking about bouncing and I ask him how things are there if you make your money keeping the people the club has kept drinking from hurting themselves. Or anyone else. He tells me that they’re licensed there, have classes, tests, sort of like a union. He asks about the States. I laugh.

You see, there’s nothing like that at all in the U.S. Or maybe I just mean there was nothing like that in the club I bounced in. Paradise Beach, by name and design, represented the best of a certain kind of California club culture. Fake palm trees, real sand and lifeguard chairs where the bouncers sat. Some worked the floor. Some worked the doors. The front door was the prestige spot, where you likely got tipped by those for whom line-waiting was not something they were going to do. But more specifically, you were the first-line visual cue for what kind of a night people were going to have.

The backdoor? The exact opposite. The only people who saw the backdoor were the hard cases, the intransigent. What happened back there was “secret,” even if every business has one. It’s the door you were going out if you were irredeemably in need of “work.” The kind we were paid to stop.

“You still working as a doorman?” I notice his correction. When you have a license? You’re a doorman. When you’re what I was? A bouncer.

“No,” I say with some small trace of regret. “I think it was bad for my health.”

The evening was uneventful, until the witching hour, when guys who came to get laid finally figured out that they weren’t going to and their drunk-guy default option was fighting.

I tell him specifically about my last night there. It was a Saturday. A Saturday after a Friday that had been particularly difficult.

“He’s got a knife, Clean. To your right.” The floor manager was a 275-pound Pacific Islander. Tough but calm. I slid out of the chair and made my way to the guy who was dancing alone, drink in his left hand, right hand in his pocket. 

“Can I talk to you for a second?” I stood very close to his pocketed hand.


After getting him to the side, I told him, “I’m going to have to pat your pockets. Are you OK with this?”

“This is bullshit, but go ahead.” I pat his pants pockets, his jacket pockets, nothing.

“Have a nice night, sir.”

But then, a fight. A guy had asked a woman to dance. She’d said no. He hit her. The backdoor was meant for guys like this.


I lifted him off his feet by his neck and hustled him toward the double doors, a few of his friends protesting, but by the time I tossed him out the back, there was only one other one there. They taunted me from the other side of the door while I tried to get the door shut. When I stepped across the threshold to get the door-holder off the door, his brother, who’d been hiding behind the door, hit me. A solid hit.

I turned to him and the brother I turned away from then hit me. I turned back to him and got hit by the first brother. You’ve seen this before. In a Three Stooges skit, but this was not funny. Our scuffle was blocking the other backdoor bouncer from getting out to help, so it was just me until I figured out first things first and choked the woman-slapping guy out. His brother was hitting me all the while. The police finally got there, asking if I wanted to press charges. “No.”

I asked the floor manager’s boss if he could spring for some X-rays. My jaw felt broken. “Go chew some gum,” he said. 

This stuck with me and the next night, Saturday, while it turned out my jaw was not broken, it still throbbed an angry throb. As did I. The evening was uneventful, until the witching hour, when guys who came to get laid finally figured out that they weren’t going to and their drunk-guy default option was fighting.


I found three guys facing down two guys. I stepped in front of the two guys facing the larger number.

“We could all go home happy and…” Before I finished my sentence, one of the three facing me decided to swing at the guy behind me. But that was what nowadays we call “a trigger.” I attacked the three. Lifelong martial artist and 265-pound weightlifter that I was, it made for quick work. Tossing them around like rag dolls, I was in the grips of what felt like a righteous fury, a festival of fists, knees and stomps. And then I noticed a rising chorus of voices, and they were all singing, “Eugene, STOP! STOP, EUGENE!”

So I stopped. “OK. You fellas have a nice night. The exit’s there …” I said, pointing to the backdoor that they gathered themselves to before limping out into the dark of the back parking lot. “Anyone want any gum?”

Outside of some freelancing here and there, I never worked as a bouncer again. Or rather, I was never asked to work as a bouncer again. But I’d be telling a lie if I told you I didn’t miss it. Just a little bit. 

One Way to Get Mexico to Pay for the Wall

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We all know the sound bite by now. Donald J. Trump is going to build a “big, beautiful wall on our southern border” to help crack down on illegal migration and drug trafficking. The best bit? “Mexico is going to pay for it.” Trump’s big, beautiful campaign pledge, however, has hit some snags since he took up residence in the White House, including the fact that the Mexican government says it will not pay for it “under any circumstances.”

But even if the U.S. government were to somehow elicit the funds from Mexico through NAFTA negotiations or even a remittances tax, there are still several other major, ahem, barriers to such a wall. Not least among them: Leaders of the Tohono O’odham Nation, a Native American reservation split in two by the U.S.-Mexico border, refuse “over [their] dead bodies” to support any such project on their land, and pressing ahead without their consent would require a special act of Congress. Cue the mother of all Standing Rock–style protests. Leaving a 62-mile gap in the wall in southern Arizona isn’t really feasible (existing border fences on either side of the tribal lands have only served to funnel illegal migration and drug crime through the Tohono O’odham Nation’s territory). Which leaves very few options for President Trump, unless …

Surely losing Tucson is a price worth paying for border security? 

Here’s my solution that could not only help ensure the wall gets built but also provides an attractive incentive for Mexico to fund it. In short, the U.S. returns an area of almost 30,000 square miles, mostly in southern Arizona plus a little piece of southwestern New Mexico, to their southern neighbor. It’s a chunk of land that was bought from Mexico in 1853 known as the Gadsden Purchase, or Venta de la Mesilla in Spanish, in what was the last major acquisition of territory in the contiguous United States. “For the most part, it’s pretty remote and desolate land,” says Oscar Martinez, a professor of history at the University of Arizona, though in the 19th century it featured agricultural land, ranching land and a few silver and copper mines of some value.


The key economic interest back then was finding flat-enough land for the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which became America’s second transcontinental railroad. Today, in addition to the Tohono O’odham Nation and miles of treacherous desert spotted with saguaro cactuses, one of the notable losses for the U.S. should the land be returned would be the city of Tucson. But surely losing Tucson is a price worth paying for border security? The price of the deal in 1853 was $10 million, which, as a proportion of U.S. gross domestic product, is now equivalent to over $56 billion, roughly two years of the economic output of Tucson, or two and a half times the cost of the wall, as estimated by PolitiFact.

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The idea doesn’t come from nowhere. Two months before the 2016 presidential election, center-left Mexican senator Armando Ríos Piter, who has announced a run for the presidency in 2018, proposed that his country should tear up the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo should Trump be elected. That was the treaty that ended the Mexican-American War by granting California, Nevada, Utah, parts of Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, and Arizona, minus the area of the later Gadsden Purchase, to the U.S. “Mexico lost half of its land as a result of that war,” Martinez says, “the most valuable part of Mexico was stolen by the United States, and that had a huge impact on Mexico.” Piter’s plan to regain control of the whole lot may be a nonstarter, but returning the Gadsden Purchase could serve as a demonstration of goodwill and perhaps the only way forward on Trump’s wall.

Even so, the compromise might not be palatable to all, including residents of Tucson and even the Tohono O’odham people, representatives of whom were unavailable to respond to OZY’s requests for comment. “They don’t want to be part of Mexico!” says Martinez, who argues that it’s not realistic to think the borders will ever be redrawn.

“I love you, Tucson!” Trump shouted to a roaring crowd three days before the Arizona Republican primary in March 2016 (which he won). Well, with few other options remaining for him to keep his campaign promise in full, maybe he’ll soon have to decide which one he loves more — the city of Tucson or a big, beautiful, contiguous wall, paid for by Mexico.