Aug 13, 2019

The scariest video on the internet.

The scariest video on the internet.

Plus, a new immigration rule and what's happening in Kashmir.

Today’s read: 6 minutes.

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A weird note about you:

Yesterday, the most-clicked link in Tangle was: “this is the most reasonable exploration of the blossoming Epstein conspiracies I’ve seen.” Five percent of everyone who read Tangle clicked it. Come one, come all, my conspiracy brethren.

What D.C. is talking about.

The Trump administration’s new immigration rule. It’s just expanded the “public charge inadmissibility” rule. On Monday, the Trump administration announced that it will give the federal government the ability to turn down legal immigrants’ requests for permanent citizenship based on their financial situation. The administration’s rule will target hundreds of thousands of legal immigrants who come to the United States and then apply for permanent residency or citizenship. It applies a “wealth test” to those immigrants to determine whether they can sustain themselves or will require federal assistance. Via The New York Times: “Poor immigrants will be denied permanent legal status, also known as a green card, if they are deemed likely to use government benefit programs such as food stamps and subsidized housing. Wealthier immigrants, who are designated as less likely to require public assistance, will be able to obtain a green card.”

What Democrats are saying.

Told you so. For the last few years, Democrats have insisted that the Trump administration’s goal was to limit all immigration, not just illegal immigration. This new rule is the clearest evidence yet that their claims are true, and they are making sure everyone knows it. Democrats are also saying the rule is hypocritical, cruel and illegal. Hypocritical in the sense that members of the Trump administration, Trump included, are the descendants of poor and educated immigrants (as is Stephen Miller, who was the architect of the rule’s expansion). Cruel in the sense that it will force immigrants who need assistance to stop using those programs for fear of their permanent status being jeopardized. Illegal in the sense that it gives the feds very broad parameters to work within in order to deny citizenship or deport an immigrant. The National Immigration Law Center and New York State Attorney General Letitia James already said they are planning to sue the administration to hold the new rule up in court whenever it is officially released.

What Republicans are saying.

Finally. Merit-based immigration has been on the Republican docket for decades, and redefining the parameters of the public charge rule is a clever way to get it done. Immigrants have always been assessed before entering the U.S., but this puts more focus on their financial situation and — in theory — will reduce the cost of the social programs some immigrants use. Kenneth Cuccinelli, the acting director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, announced the rule at the White House. “The benefit to taxpayers is a long-term benefit of seeking to ensure that our immigration system is bringing people to join us as American citizens, as legal permanent residents first, who can stand on their own two feet, who will not be reliant on the welfare system, especially in the age of the modern welfare state which is so expansive and expensive,” he said. More moderate Republicans are yet to take a side on the issue, as the backlash from the left has been swift. But North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, a close ally of the president, said on Twitter, “This is the right decision and a common sense enforcement from @realDonaldTrump, protecting needed-safety nets for American citizens first. Bravo.”

My take.

There are two very different stories being told in America right now. The one being told by the left is that we are the wealthiest nation in the world, but that wealth is concentrated at the top because the game is rigged for the rich. Once you’re wealthy, our system puts you above the law and makes it easier to make gratuitous amounts of money that you don’t need. Tax laws are too lax on the super-wealthy and rich Americans in the country have a stranglehold on the government. Most money that does go to Uncle Sam ends up going to the military, which spends and wastes exorbitant amounts of money, far more than other nations.

The story being told by conservatives is markedly different. Their story says that America is the wealthiest country in the world because it’s one of the freest, and because capitalism gives every American a shot to climb the ladder of wealth. If you have a great idea, if you work hard, if you act responsibly, if you don’t break the law, you’ll be able to attain a fulfilling and comfortable life in America. In this story, the great burden on America’s wealth is not the rich people creating jobs or the laws or the military, it is immigrants, the welfare state and the bureaucratic government. It’s the people cheating the welfare system, it’s the fat of the federal government and the bureaucrats who get paid six-figure salaries to sit at a desk all day. While an anti-war, reduced-military spending coalitions are growing on the right, generally speaking conservatives believe the federal government’s No. 1 responsibility should be protecting the nation and funding the military, and most are comfortable with whatever the price tag on that is.

These two stories crash head-on into each other in the immigration debate. There’s only so much money in America, despite being the wealthiest nation on earth, and Americans are divided on where they want it to go. People on the right generally feel that offering social benefits to immigrants hurts native-born Americans, hurts the military and increases taxes on the hard-working people who are making money and supporting themselves. People on the left generally see it as America’s responsibility to welcome immigrants, to care for the needy, and believe it’s worth taxing the wealthy and reducing our military spending in order to take care of those people. This new rule is a clear signal to those on the right that Trump is all-in on their story.

A reader comment from Michael, a child and adolescent therapist in Pittsburgh, PA, who wrote in about the conspiracies around Jeffrey Epstein’s apparent suicide:

“Of course I don't know the policies and procedures and training that went on in the prison. I do work in a facility where suicide checks have to be performed every 5 to 15 minutes for some consumers and we are considered a step down from higher levels of care. I can say that people have found intensely creative ways to hurt themselves when they really want to, including widow sills, light switches, light switch panels, bed frames, and vents. If people really want to harm themselves, they can, and it seems like Epstein was really not a stable person. There can be any number of reasons why this has happened but having someone on suicide watch is no guarantee that they will be safe. There are just too many variables to draw any firm conclusions.”

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Tangle is about repairing the relationship between reporters and readers. Simply reply to this email to submit a question and I’ll get to it in an upcoming newsletter.

Q: What is happening in Kashmir?

- Kevin, New York, NY.

Tangle: Thanks for the question. This is a bit of an under the radar global tension story, the likes of Russia-Crimea, Israel-Palestine, etc. Kashmir is a beautiful mountain valley territory that sits just between India, Pakistan and China. In fact, it’s broken up and controlled in part by each country. Its history is rich and complicated, but the gist of it is that it’s a predominantly Muslim country mostly under India’s Hindu rule. When India declared its independence from Britain in 1947, Kashmir was fought over. The fights haven’t stopped. Ultimately, the Indian government granted it autonomy to function under its own laws and constitution but as a state within India. Pakistan and China both retained small parts of the region. Since then, mostly India and Pakistan have battled with each and for control of the Kashmir region, all while Kashmiri people were stuck in the middle. So what’s happening now?

In February, a terrorist attack in the India-controlled Kashmir region killed 38 police officers. Then, Pakistan and India exchanged airstrikes for the first time about 50 years. Last week, journalists from Kashmir began reporting bizarre activity. Busloads of Indian soldiers were arriving in the valley and nobody was sure why. Suspicion was high as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who just won an election in convincing fashion, has made control over Kashmir a top priority. Then, on Sunday night, reporters in Kashmir suddenly went dark. Landlines and internet service were cut, and nobody outside the region was able to communicate with anyone inside the region. At the same time, Indian officials proposed a new rule to revoke Kashmir’s specials status that gave it autonomy. Predictably, this proposal pissed a lot of people off, hence the soldiers and internet muzzle. Indian officials offered several justifications for the proposal, including security concerns, a goal to improve Kashmir’s economy and increase development, and a larger plan to catch Kashmir up with the rest of the world. The plan received a lot of support in India, including from some of Modi’s detractors, but also faces opposition.

Kashmiris are not pleased and they are not alone. Members of India’s own government are saying it’s an unprecedented, undemocratic move. Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir state, called it the “darkest day in Indian democracy.” Others say the move is Modi’s way of forcing Hindu onto a predominantly Muslim country and stems from his sense of religious superiority. Kashmiris are also worried that, under Indian control, the region will suddenly see an influx of developers and Indians from faraway cities who want to build, buy and sell. Think the pains of gentrification, but in Kashmir.

It’s unclear what’s next. Because of the communication blackout, and the detention of local politicians, much of the reaction from inside Kashmir has been stifled. That’s going to change soon, and when it does you can expect tensions to ramp up. Pakistan has already said it will halt all trade with India, though it’s unclear who that move will hurt more.

A story that matters.

“Deep fakes” are here and they are terrifying.  A deep fake is a highly edited, photoshopped video that is so well-done it’s nearly impossible to decipher it from a real video. The U.S. government has been warning about deep fakes being used to sow discord and manipulate elections, and tech insiders say there is no good mechanism for identifying, shutting down or tracking the deep fakes. The ramifications of this can’t be understated. Most Americans have trouble spotting fake news, so it’s scary to think about how hard it’ll be for them to spot fake videos even the trained eye has trouble seeing. Below, you can see an example of a deep fake. As Bill Hader does impressions of Seth Rogen and Tom Cruise, the video editor seamlessly turns him into Seth Rogen and Tom Cruise. It’s one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever seen. The creator of the video said he’s releasing these to raise awareness about the dangers of Deep Fakes. You can read more about him here.

The gossip.

A video released late Monday shows CNN anchor Chris Cuomo in an expletive-laced verbal altercation with someone who called him “Fredo,” which Cuomo claims is “like the n-word” for Italians.

And he got an interesting message of support from a network rival…

And eventually apologized…

Have a nice day.

Have you ever seen one of those heart-wrenching posts about a dog that was in a kill shelter and would be put down if it wasn’t adopted? Well, Delaware just became the first “no-kill” state in America. It’s not a ban on kill shelters, but instead the state has reached a threshold where shelters across the state have a 90% save rate. That means it’s exceedingly rare for an animal to be put down once it reaches a shelter. The Best Friends Animal Society is the nonprofit behind Delaware’s landmark achievement, and it says its plan is to make America a no-kill country by 2025. You can read more here.

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