The Saudi Arabian Government Just Purchased This Home, A Piece Of American History, For $43M

When Steve Case, the ultra-wealthy co-founder of AOL, heard that the Saudi Arabian government was interested in his Virginia mansion, he got excited. Because it had a $43,000,000 price tag, Case was eager to sell it off to the highest bidder. Despite the mansion being a beacon of American history, he sold it off to a foreign government because they offered the right amount of cash.

Case’s former property was once the residence of Jackie Kennedy when she was a teenager after her mother remarried.

It is called the Merrywood estate, which is located in McLean, Virginia. Case listed it for sale for $49.5 million but sold it for a bargain to the Saudi government for $43 million.

The property was built back in 1919. It housed Jackie Kennedy Onassis when she was a teenager. But in 2005, Steve Case, the co-founder of AOL, purchased it for $24.5 million. In a little more than a decade, he has nearly doubled his investment on the property, which is considered part of American history.

The mansion is humongous. It contains 13 bathrooms and nine bedrooms. You can enjoy a game on the tennis court on the estate or a dip in the luxury pool.

The deal closed last week. And it has just become the most expensive deal ever recorded in the Washington, D.C. area. And now the piece of history is owned by the Middle Eastern country’s government.

Jackie Kennedy Onassis moved to the mansion when she was twelve-years-old. Her mother had remarried Standard Oil heir Hugh D. Auchincloss Jr.

The Saudi government plans to use the estate when delegates visit the United States to discuss politics. The governmental spokeswoman said:

“The Saudi government understands the historical significance of the Merrywood home and has tremendous respect for its place in American history.”

Twelve years after Case bought the property with his wife Jean in 2005, he listed it for $49.5 million with Mark C. Lowham of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty and Juliana E. May of JLL, reports the Daily Mail.

“We enjoyed living in Merrywood for the past 13 years, and we hope the new owner will appreciate the property as much as we did,” the couple said in a statement.

Case and his wife sold the property because the no longer need such a large estate. With their children out of the home, they decided to downsize despite their massive wealth. They will move to a farm in Warrenton, which used to be their weekend home. They also have an apartment in Washington, D.C.

Case came to his wealth after founding America Online (AOL) with computer programmer Marc Seriff. Case was chairman and CEO of AOL Time Warner until he resigned in 2003. Now he is a chief executive at the investment firm Revolution. Meanwhile, his wife Jean serves as the chairman of the National Geographic Society.

The mansion is 23,000 square feet and in the Georgian style. It is just eight miles from the nation’s capital. For foreign dignitaries, the mansion offers a quick ride over to D.C. for meetings.

What do you think about this piece of twentieth-century American history?

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Grocery Store Shopping Made Easier Through Technology

The Kroger located on Harper Rd. is now allowing customers to order groceries from their computer or mobile device with the click of a button by visiting the website. The most convenient part is you don’t even have to go into the store as groceries will be picked up curbside.

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GameStop and Extra Life Host First-Ever Charity Event at E3…

GameStop Gives, the company’s social responsibility arm, along with Extra Life , the gaming fundraising program for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals , will host the first-ever video game trade-in charity event at the Entertainment Electronics Expo , the world’s premier event for computer and video games and related products. From June 12-14, E3 attendees are invited to donate their pre-owned video games to benefit the children undergoing medical treatments at the 170 CMN Hospitals.

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Is the FBI Trying to Bolster Its War on Cryptography?

Christopher WrayIf you were to take law enforcement at its word, you would believe that the encryption techniques that secure our data actually end up serving criminals who would do us harm. For the past few years, the FBI and other authorities have revived the “War on Crypto” because they say it prevents them from accessing devices that they need to bring killers and terrorists to justice.

FBI director Christopher Wray has been fond of claiming that the Bureau was locked out of some 7,775 devices last year. In January, he argued that “being unable to access nearly 7,800 devices in a single year is a major public safety issue.”

It turns out that the FBI wildly inflated those figures, according to the Washington Post. The Bureau still doesn’t know the exact number of devices that have apparently been so central in the miscarriage of justice. If previous numbers are to be believed—which have hovered around 700 to 800 devices—the true number is probably closer to 1,000.

The FBI told the Post that “programming errors” were responsible for the over-counting, since they were apparently pulling their numbers from three separate databases. But that excuse seems awfully convenient, given the agency’s recent antagonism towards security technologies.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued a scathing letter to the FBI in response to their admission of error, chiding that because the FBI is “struggling with basic arithmetic” it should “not be in the business of dictating the design of advanced cryptographic algorithms.” He pointedly noted that such a major miscalculation could either be the product of “sloppy work” or something more nefarious: “pushing a legislative agenda.”

Could this “accidental miscounting” have been a purposeful ploy to undermine strong encryption? A review of the FBI’s recent public and behind-the-scenes activities certainly makes it look that way. The agency has been engaged in an all-out public war on encryption using emotional rhetoric to push for the access into our devices they have long sought.

Encryption technologies have been a chief bugaboo of America’s top feds for about as long as these security technologies have been available to the public, which is to say for most of you and I’s experiences on the internet. In the 90’s, authorities argued that strong encryption techniques were a kind of munition, and tried to prevent computer scientists from deploying security measures. Thankfully, the computer scientists won the previous battles over public-key encryption.

But the question of device encryption has taken on a new political urgency following the high-profile attacks in San Bernardino in December of 2015. With the so-called “Going Dark” problem, authorities argue that the measures that keep our phones secure can prevent them from accessing critical data in an investigation. Thus, they want technology companies to build special government access into our phones, called a “backdoor.”

It is easy to sympathize with investigators who work to bring criminals to justice. But unfortunately, with the San Bernardino incident, it looks like FBI leadership was more motivated by a general antipathy to encryption than a specific need to access particular data.

Consider the specifics of the case. Authorities could have discreetly and respectfully approached engineers for solutions to access suspected terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook’s locked iPhone. After all, the FBI was eventually able to access the phone through a technical tool purchased by a private vendor. No across-the-board security-limiting technology changes needed.

But that’s not what the FBI did. Instead, it engaged in a public-relations blitz against Apple to argue that government operatives needed a backdoor into all of our devices so that they could access data at their leisure. The feds pushed this issue all the way through the courts, attempting to litigate a backdoor, until it eventually turned tail when it was able to access the data without it.

An inspector general’s report from March finds that the FBI “may not have been interested in researching all possible solutions” and “[delayed seeking] and obtaining vendor assistance that ultimately proved fruitful.” One Bureau employee told the IG that the San Bernardino case was viewed as a “poster child” for the Going Dark crusade. As Sen. Wyden’s letter points out, the report suggests that “the FBI was more interested in establishing a powerful legal precedent than gaining access to the terrorist’s iPhone.”

Other evidence corroborates the theory that the intelligence community used Apple as a convenient foil to promote their crusade against encryption as well. In August of 2015, a top lawyer for US intelligence urged authorities to wait for “a terrorist attack of criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.” Officials could then take advantage of that tragedy to pull on America’s heart strings and put pressure on legislators to finally mandate the backdoors for which they have long salivated. Just a few months later, San Bernardino presented a perfect opportunity.

Thankfully, there has not been another “San Bernardino” that authorities could exploit to promote their political ends. Perhaps this is why the FBI turned to numbers, instead. Without a newsworthy event to point to, FBI director Wray may have found the sky-high number of reported locked phones to be a convenient rhetorical fallback.

But even the lower figure deserves our scrutiny. The mere presence of a locked device in some investigation on its own is not very compelling. Perhaps there is no relevant information on the device. Maybe the device belonged to some suspect who was later cleared. And how many devices are associated with a single case? The lower figure that the FBI provided likely contains many such instances.

What we need to know is how many investigations were significantly hindered because authorities could not access specific data on a specific device. It’s relatively rare for people to solely store data on their phone, given the rise of cloud computing. Much inference can be gleaned from metadata, which is often unencrypted. And perhaps the evidence on any particular device is redundant with other evidence, anyway.

Wyden demanded answers to these and related questions in his blistering rebuke to the FBI. Until we have more information on how many cases fall into this narrower and relevant bucket, we should take the FBI’s figures with a grain a salt.

The FBI should not have inflated the number of devices that they say they cannot access. This egregious error would be especially contemptible if it was a naked lie in pursuit of a policy goal. But even if those figures were true, it wouldn’t really change the Going Dark debate. Undermining encryption would make us all less secure, no matter what the justification for doing this. The FBI’s recent “miscalculations” and behind-the-scenes antagonism toward security technologies suggest that the agency is unfortunately far from internalizing these truths.

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The Case Against Higher Education

Today, all Americans are told, “Go to college!”

President Obama said, “College graduation has never been more valuable.”

But economist Bryan Caplan says that most people shouldn’t go.

“How many thousands of hours did you spend in classes studying subjects that you never thought about again?” he asks.

Lots, in my case. At Princeton, I learned to live with strangers, play cards, and chase women, but I slept through boring lectures, which were most of them. At least tuition was only $2,000. Now it’s almost $50,000.

“People usually just want to talk about the tuition, which is a big deal, but there’s also all the years that people spend in school when they could have been doing something else,” points out Caplan in my new YouTube video.

“If you just take a look at the faces of students, it’s obvious that they’re bored,” he says. “People are there primarily in order to get a good job.”

That sounds like a good reason to go to college. But Caplan, in his new book, The Case Against Education, argues that there’s little connection between what we absorb in college and our ability to do a job.

“It’s totally true that when people get fancier degrees their income generally goes up,” concedes Caplan, but “the reason why this is happening is not that college pours tons of job skills into you. The reason is…a diploma is a signaling device.”

It tells employers that you were smart enough to get through college.

But when most everyone goes to college, says Caplan, “You just raise the bar. Imagine you’re at a concert, and you want to see better. Stand up and of course you’ll see better. But if everyone stands up, you just block each other’s views.”

That’s why today, he says, high-end waiters are expected to have college degrees.

“You aren’t saying: you, individual, don’t go to college,” I interjected.”You’re saying we as a country are suckers to subsidize it.”

“Exactly,” replied Caplan. “Just because it is lucrative for an individual doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for a country.”

Caplan says if students really want to learn, they can do it without incurring tuition debt.

“If you want to go to Princeton, you don’t have to apply,” he points out. “Just move to the town and start attending classes.”

That’s generally true. At most schools you can crash college lectures for free. But almost no one does that.

“In people’s bones, they realize that what really counts is that diploma,” concludes Caplan.

Because that diploma is now usually subsidized by taxpayers, college costs more. Tuition has risen at triple the rate of inflation.

It’s not clear students learn more for their extra tuition, but colleges’ facilities sure have gotten fancier. They compete by offering things like luxurious swimming pools and gourmet dining. That probably won’t help you get a job.

“If you’re doing computer science or electrical engineering, then you probably are actually learning a bunch of useful skills,” Caplan says. But students now often major in abstract topics like social justice, diversity studies, multicultural studies.

“But don’t the liberal arts expand people’s minds?” I asked. Philosophy? Literature? Isn’t it all making our brains work better?

“That’s the kind of thing you expect teachers to say,” answered Caplan. “There’s a whole field of people who have actually studied this (and) they generally come away after looking at a lot of evidence saying, ‘Wow, actually it’s wishful thinking.'”

A study found that a third of people haven’t detectably learned anything after four years in college.

Although Caplan thinks college is mostly a scam, he says there’s one type of person who definitely benefits—professors like him.

“I’m a tenured professor,” he said. “A tenured professor cannot be fired…. You got a nice income and there are almost no demands upon your time.”

Professor Caplan is only expected to teach for five hours a week.

I told him that sounded like a government-subsidized rip-off.

“Yeah. Well, I’m a whistleblower,” replied Caplan.

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USS Blue Ridge ignites its boilers for first time in 2 years

The USS Blue Ridge lit its boilers for the first time in two years this week, signifying a big step toward bringing the Navy’s oldest deployable warship back to sailing condition.

As steam plumed from the 7th Fleet’s flagship late Tuesday evening, sailors who had watched the Blue Ridge undergo various repairs, refurbishments and system upgrades since June 2016 felt a great sense of accomplishment.

“I saw this engine room before dry dock when she was still steaming. Then during the time that it was shut down and ripped apart, it seemed like everything was working against us,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Raymond Davis III, a machinist’s mate attached to the Blue Ridge. “To finally light off the boilers is one of the best feelings I have had in the United States Navy.”

Commissioned on Nov. 14, 1970, the Blue Ridge has spent 38 years forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. It is scheduled to stay in service for at least another two decades.

With the boilers ignited, the warship can operate under its own power — meaning it is “one step closer to returning to sea and being fully operational in support of the 7th Fleet,” the Navy said.

The warship’s maintenance period was expected to last 14 months before unexpected issues arose with its engineering plant. In the end, repairs took about 135,000 man hours and cost more than $60 million.

Upgrades included modernizing the engineering plant and refurbishing the main condenser and ventilation systems, the service said. It was also outfitted with the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services computer system, which “consolidate[s] and modernize[s] communications, computers and intelligence network systems,” according to Northrop Grumman.

The amount of time the ship spent undergoing maintenance offered various challenges. There was a large turnover of crewmembers, and about 80 percent of the Blue Ridge’s engineers came “straight from boot camp or other non-engineering assignments” because the ship had entered restricted availability status, the Navy said.

“They had to go from learning the difference between the bow and the stern, to learning how to conduct a material check on an advanced piece of equipment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Hartley, the ship’s chief engineering officer.

Before the boilers could be ignited, the warship’s crew underwent a weeklong light-off assessment. The ship’s programs, standard operating procedures, equipment and emergency response protocols were evaluated “to ensure maximum compliance” before the first flame in two years could be sent into boiler, the Navy said.

“The magnitude of the boilers to the Blue Ridge cannot be underestimated. They produce steam for the ship’s propulsion, electrical power, auxiliary systems and potable water,” the Navy said. “Managing the complex engineering system is no easy feat, but the Blue Ridge demonstrated it was up to the task.”

Capt. Brett Crozier, the Blue Ridge’s commanding officer, said lighting the boilers was a rewarding milestone after the nearly 24-month maintenance period.

“Lighting these boilers is a reflection of all the hard work that has been put in by the crew, the ship-repair facility here in Yokosuka, the contractors and the Japanese shipbuilding company assigned to complete the majority of projects,” he said.

Crozier compared the warship’s extended maintenance period to a baseball team’s preparation for a season – and the boiler ignition as the start of the first game.

“Lighting off the boilers for the first time in nearly two years is the equivalent of the first pitch being thrown,” he said. “… This means it’s now game time — time to play ball preparing to return to sea.”

———

© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Oxford Faces Anger over Failure to Improve Diversity Among Students

Oxford’s glacial progress in attracting students from diverse backgrounds has been revealed in figures showing that more than one in four of its colleges failed to admit a single black British student each year between 2015 and 2017.

Several of the most prestigious colleges, including Balliol, University and Magdalen, each admitted two black British students as undergraduates during the three-year period.

The worst figures belonged to Corpus Christi College, which admitted a single black British student in those three years and attracted a dozen such applications.

Overall, white British applicants were twice as likely to be admitted to undergraduate courses as their black British peers – 24% of the former gained entry and 12% of the latter.

David Lammy, the Labour MP who has repeatedly criticised Oxford and Cambridge universities for failing to improve their track record on admissions, said the latest data released by Oxford showed little had changed.

“The university is clearly happy to see Oxford remain an institution defined by entrenched privilege that is the preserve of wealthy white students from London and the south-east,” he said.

“If Oxford is serious about access, the university needs to put its money where its mouth is and introduce a university-wide foundation year, get a lot better at encouraging talented students from under-represented backgrounds to apply and use contextual data when making offers, not just when granting interviews.

“The underprivileged kid from a state school in Sunderland or Rochdale who gets straight As is more talented [than] their contemporary with the same grades at Eton or Harrow, and all the academic evidences shows that they far outshine their peers at university too.”

The figures show marked variations between colleges, including wide gaps in the proportion of state-school and female students admitted.

Across the three years, less than 40% of Balliol’s British undergraduate intake were women, while Trinity College admitted three students from independent schools for every two they admitted from state schools.

Samina Khan, the university’s head of admissions and outreach, denied that the variation in admissions by colleges was hampering Oxford’s efforts to widen access. “I think the admissions process here does work, it’s fair and it’s transparent. It’s a strength of our undergraduate admissions,” she said.

In a press release accompanying the figures, the university said it “recognised the report shows it needs to make more progress”. It said it was adding 500 more places to its spring and summer school programme for students from under-represented backgrounds.

The expansion is to be part-financed by a £75m donation from the philanthropists Sir Michael Moritz and Harriet Heyman, which will also be used for Moritz-Heyman scholarships for British students eligible for free school meals or from households earning £16,000 or less each year.

The summer schools allow prospective A-level students from disadvantaged backgrounds to spend a week at the university and receive advice in making their applications. Students who attended the programme, known as Uniq, have a 34% chance of a successful application, compared to 20% for UK-wide applicants.

The data shows Oxford has struggled to recruit black and minority ethnic students to some of its most famous degree courses. PPE, the influential course in politics, philosophy and economics that has trained generations of politicians and policymakers, had 10 black British students enrolled between 2015 and 2017.

Oxford’s highly regarded course in English literature and language, taken by literary figures such as JRR Tolkien and Jeanette Winterson, admitted six black British students in the space of the three years.

Seven of Oxford’s 25 largest courses received fewer than 10 applications each from black students in 2015-17 and admitted only very small numbers.

In the three years to 2017, not a single black British student was admitted to theology, biomedical sciences or earth sciences courses. None of the 30 black British students who applied to study computer science or psychology gained entry.

Khan said Oxford faced particular challenges in convincing students from minority backgrounds to widen their aim away from law and medicine, where the majority of black British applicants applied, to pursue less competitive subjects.

“It’s less of a challenge in terms of the students, because the students want to do English literature or want to do theology and religion. It’s usually the parents or the community that say: ‘what job are you going to get after that?’” Khan said.

“So it’s the parents we really have to convince and turn around. But what we are working on is to show them that a degree from Oxford opens doors to so many careers, and that we have an excellent progression route from our degrees on to graduate employment.”

The figures are the first tranche of detailed data on admissions to be voluntarily released by Oxford. The university said it planned to release further spreadsheets offering more detail on Wednesday, and to make the release an annual event.

The post Oxford Faces Anger over Failure to Improve Diversity Among Students appeared first on American Renaissance.

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