Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From Russia With Thanks

The Russians tried to bribe whom?
Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.
A little Russian money goes a long way...

Blogging In The Years: 1962

President Kennedy has a plan to reduce spending and give more money back to the people:
The final and best means of strengthening demand among consumers and business is to reduce the burden on private income and the deterrents to private initiative which are imposed by our present tax system; and this administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes to be enacted and become effective in 1963.

I am not talking about a "quickie" or a temporary tax cut, which would be more appropriate if a recession were imminent. Nor am I talking about giving the economy a mere shot in the arm, to ease some temporary complaint. I am talking about the accumulated evidence of the last 5 years that our present tax system, developed as it was, in good part, during World War II to restrain growth, exerts too heavy a drag on growth in peace time; that it siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power; that it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment, and risk-taking.

In short, to increase demand and lift the economy, the Federal Government's most useful role is not to rush into a program of excessive increases in public expenditures, but to expand the incentives and opportunities for private expenditures.
Spend not, need not...

Monday, October 16, 2017

Gold Star Mine

There's gold in them stars:
The colliding stars spewed bright blue, super-hot debris that was dense and unstable. Some of it coalesced into heavy elements, like gold, platinum and uranium. Scientists had suspected neutron star collisions had enough power to create heavier elements, but weren't certain until they witnessed it.

"We see the gold being formed," said Syracuse's Brown.

Calculations from a telescope measuring ultraviolet light showed that the combined mass of the heavy elements from this explosion is 1,300 times the mass of Earth. And all that stuff — including lighter elements — was thrown out in all different directions and is now speeding across the universe.

Perhaps one day the material will clump together into planets the way ours was formed, Reitze said — maybe ones with rich veins of precious metals.
Time to start thinking about staking interstellar claims?

No Donation, No Return

Consider it money ill spent:
Why isn’t the organization giving back the money?
A spokesperson for the foundation told The Daily Mail that the donations — thought to range anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 — will not be returned because the money has already been spent.

The spokesperson also said that the last time the organization received a Weinstein donation was in 2014.

So where did the money go?
The spokesperson revealed that Weinstein’s contributions went toward its own programs to help lower the price of HIV medication and to assist women in developing countries.
I'm sure they'd love to be "assisted" by him...

Le Fine

No whistling allowed:
"It's completely necessary because at the moment street harassment is not defined in the law," she told RTL radio on Monday in a major interview to outline the law, which is to be voted next year.

The escalating scandal over Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual assaults on a string of actresses has rekindled debate on sexual harassment and predation in France.

The MeToo hashtag encouraging women to share their experiences is among the top 10 trends on French Twitter, and a new one has emerged -- #balancetonporc ("Expose the Pig") -- to report sexual harassment in the workplace.

Asked about the difficulty of drawing a line between harassment and flirtation, Schiappa replied: "We know very well at what point we start feeling intimidated, unsafe or harassed in the street."
When it really happens, or just when you think it does?

Bergdahl Gets Busted

Bowe Berghdahl is going away:
"I understand that leaving was against the law," said Bergdahl, whose decision to walk off his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 prompted intense search and recovery missions, during which some of his comrades were seriously wounded.

"At the time, I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations," Bergdahl said, but he added that now he does understand that his decision prompted efforts to find him.

Bergdahl, 31, is accused of endangering his comrades by abandoning his post without authorization. He told a general after his release from five years in enemy hands that he did it with the intention of reaching other commanders and drawing attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.
Being dumb is hard...

Forced Moving Day

The "tolerant" left strikes again:
Loesch, a conservative commentator and syndicated talk radio host, followed the announcement of her family's move by condemning the way politically progressive society has treated not just her, but conservative women as a whole.

In the wake of Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct allegations, many women are telling their stories of assault on Twitter, using the hashtag, #MeToo. Loesch used the hashtag to tell her story of how she is being threatened for her views on guns and the Second Amendment.
The First Amendment protects free speech. The second helps us protect ourselves...

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Missing Man

Whatever happened to that Las Vegas security guard?
David Hickey, the president of the Security Police and Fire Professionals Union, is representing Campos and had been preparing with him for four days leading up to Thursday, the day he had a laundry list of interviews scheduled.

Hickey said: “For the past four days he’s been preparing. Thursday we had a meeting with MGM officials, and after that meeting was over we talked about the interviews, we went to a private area, and when we came out, Mr. Campos was gone.”

According to KVVU-TV, Hickey later received a text message informing him that Campos was at a “quick clinic.”

“Right now I’m just concerned where my member is, and what his condition is. It’s highly unusual. I’m hoping everything is OK with him and I’m sure MGM or the union will let [the media] know when we hear something,” Hickey said.
Along with the rest of this case, this has gotten mighty strange...

The Mob Wins

A restaurant is forced to close for the crime of being pro-Trump:
The post went insanely viral and garnered hate from people across the country, including one person who said they wanted to burn the restaurant to the ground with the owners inside, according to Tuscon.com. They deleted the post just three hours after they posted it because of the outrage.

Vice detailed the addition backlash:

The restaurant was receiving so many angry phone calls, “several” employees decided they’d rather quit than deal with them. Julian Alarcon, the chef and a partner in the restaurant, also quit—and was reportedly meeting with an attorney to separate himself from the backlash.
How did the owners respond?
The owners apologized for bringing politics into a “business forum,” but said the only reason the post garnered so much outrage is because it supported Trump.

“Our decision to bring our personal political beliefs into a business forum is regretful, and for this we apologize to all,” the owners said in a statement, according to Tuscon.com.

“It’s hate feedback and it’s for one reason only and it’s that we showed our support for Donald Trump. There was nothing that we put in the post that was absolutely wrong and terrible in that we supported our president and our troops,” they added.

They also explained they “never ever fathomed” the response it would garner. “We assumed there would be some discussion and shares, but never this type of animosity and hostility,” they said.

What have the owners done since?

The restaurant’s Yelp ratings tanked and people from across the country voiced their outrage over the post. Because of it, the owners decided to close their doors last Monday.
Welcome to the new age of mob rule...

Saturday, October 14, 2017

CSI In Miniature

The mother of forensic science:
The nutshells are dioramas, based on actual death scenes that Lee painstakingly researched. (“Convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell” went a police saying at the time.) Lee finished 20 nutshells before her death in 1962. Eighteen are still used today by Maryland’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to train detectives to look for clues, one was destroyed in transit, and the last “lost” nutshell has been recovered from an attic and restored for an upcoming exhibit of Lee’s work at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.

Lee was fastidious—to the point of obsession. In one nutshell titled “Saloon and Jail,” a man lies facedown in the street. Debris is strewn on the pavement: miniature cigarettes (hand-rolled and filled with paper), a banana peel (painted leather), scraps of paper with visible faces. A storefront in the background displays newspapers and magazines with real covers from the date of the man’s death. A bucket of tiny, colorful lollipops sits under the magazines, each piece of candy individually wrapped in cellophane.
Solving crime is all in the painstaking details...

The Asian Circuit

What it's like to be a comic in Asia:

A former automotive engineer for General Motors, Mr. Xu was able to quit his day job because of corporate comedy gigs, many of which come through Chinese government agencies.

The Chinese government requires him to submit scripts in advance of his commercial performances — that gets him a permit to tell jokes. He also has to provide video of someone reading the comedy lines aloud. Government censors have told him to remove jokes not for political content, but for being too rude.

“They’ll decline you if it’s too obscene or dirty; you can’t swear on stage,” he said.

When Mr. Xu travels to Hong Kong to perform, he can put the swear words back into the script. With its more hands-off local government, Hong Kong has developed into a hub for touring comedians from Asia and further afield, though its scene is fairly new: Its first full-time comedy club wasn’t founded until 2007.
Asian comedy isn't pretty, but give it time...

The New Social Media Scene

The NY Times cracks down on bias, 21st century style:
Key points of the policy
“In social media posts, our journalists must not express partisan opinions, promote political views, endorse candidates, make offensive comments or do anything else that undercuts The Times’s journalistic reputation.”
“Our journalists should be especially mindful of appearing to take sides on issues that The Times is seeking to cover objectively.”
Questions for reporters to ask themselves
“Would you express similar views in an article on The Times’s platforms?”
“Would someone who reads your post have grounds for believing that you are biased on a particular issue?”
“If readers see your post and notice that you’re a Times journalist, would that affect their view of The Times’s news coverage as fair and impartial?”
“Could your post hamper your colleagues’ ability to effectively do their jobs?”
“If someone were to look at your entire social media feed, including links and retweets, would they have doubts about your ability to cover news events in a fair and impartial way?”
By their tweets you shall know them...

Professor Hillary?

What would her lectures be like?
According to reports, Clinton could take on the title of “university professor,” where she would lecture at different departments at the school or she may take a role in the institution’s esteemed law school or school of international and public affairs.

Clinton is currently on a national book tour, promoting her book that details her failed 2016 presidential campaign, titled, “What Happened.” A decision about Clinton’s career path will be made shortly after the end of the book tour.

But many social media users weren’t exactly thrilled with the prospect of Clinton becoming a university professor. People mocked her on Twitter with the hashtag — #HillaryCourses — joking about the “courses” she will teach.
How to be Bitter 101?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Red Nostalgia

The New York Times remembers the Reds:
As part of a series called, “Red Century,” The New York Times has run many piece reflecting on communism, some of them bordering on outright glorification.

One article by David Priestland titled, “What’s Left of Communism,” asks, “A hundred years after the Russian Revolution, can a phoenix rise from the ash heap of history?”

Priestland states, “We are only at the beginning of a period of major economic change and social turmoil. As a highly unequal tech-capitalism fails to provide enough decently paid jobs, the young may adopt a more radical economic agenda. A new left might then succeed in uniting the losers, both white-collar and blue-collar, in the new economic order.”

Another article, written by Vivian Gornick, is titled, “When Communism Inspired Americans.”

In the article, Gornick writes of communist sympathizers during the height of the Cold War and the “moral authority” of the Communist Party in America “that lent shape and substance, through its passion for structure and the eloquence of its rhetoric, to an urgent sense of social injustice.”
I'm sure that's what those who actually lived under Communism at the time felt...

Girl Fight

When feminists eat their own:
Feminists and their organizations blasted the Women’s Convention, a three-day event aimed a female liberation, for having Sanders speak on the opening night of the convention. Some women took to Twitter to voice their frustrations, while others rallied behind a petition calling for the immediate removal of Sanders.

Amanda Hambrick Ashcraft launched the petition “Remove Bernie Sanders from opening the Women’s Convention,” calling for the organizers to choose a “female-identifying figure” as the opening night speaker.

“The individual who kicks off an event often becomes the ‘face’ of the event. It is only right to have a woman’s face for the Women’s Conference. Having a man’s face only continues the invisible presence, work, and voices of women,” the petition notes. “Women are best qualified to speak about women’s issues.”

“This choice sends the wrong message. We’ve reached out to the @womensmarch organizers to share our disappointment and offer our help,” tweeted Stephanie Schriock, the president of Emily’s List.

The Women’s March organizers defended their position, pointing out that some women were not able to make it because of their busy schedules and that women would be speaking first when the convention started.

“Our program features more than 60 women leading in activism, organizing and advocacy, as well as grassroots leaders running for and serving in office across the country. We are excited to come together, to unite across our differences and to fight for a future we all believe in,” the group said in a statement.
Welcome to the new liberalism, ladies...

Fuzzy Aide Math

It was just a slip-up, I'm sure:
Kushner submitted his financial disclosure form on March 9 to the Office of Government Ethics, with the company he co-founded with his brother Joshua and a Harvard classmate not specifically listed. Newsweek lays out how different Kushner’s disclosure was from how he eventually amended it:

Kushner’s lawyer says Cadre was not specifically cited on the March 9 form because his holding company, BFPS Ventures, acquired his interest in Cadre on February 17. That transaction appears to be noted on his financial records as a $100,000 to $250,000 sale. But that amount does not match subsequent disclosures. When Kushner finally amended his financial disclosure form on July 21, he valued his interest in Cadre from $5 million to $25 million.

The outlet reports that his failure to include the full value of Cadre in his filing may have allowed him to hold onto most of his interest rather than divest. Additionally, the company may not have been as attractive to investors attracted to the company’s White House ties.

Left-wing billionaire George Soros was one of the initial investors of the project, who reportedly opened up a $250 million line of credit between his offices and Cadre. But it raises the question as to whether a conflict of interest could have arisen.
And whether Jarod should still have a job...

The Art Of The Iran Deal

The Iran deal may soon be DOA:
Mr. Trump’s move Friday deals a blow to the 2015 agreement, and touches off a high-pressure campaign in Washington and European capitals over the future of the deal.

Under a law passed in 2015 to give Congress oversight of the nuclear deal, the president must tell Congress every 90 days if Iran is complying. If the president doesn’t, that triggers a 60-day process for lawmakers to weigh whether to reimpose sanctions under expedited consideration.

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been working closely with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on amending the law, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, known in Washington as INARA. Sens. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) and Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) have also been involved in crafting the amended legislation.

Mr. Corker’s office said the modified legislation would aim to “address the major flaws of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by requiring the automatic ‘snapback’ of U.S. sanctions should Iran violate enhanced and existing restrictions on its nuclear program.”
Haven't they been doing that already?

Havana Noise

Is this the sound of a sonic attack?
The Associated Press released the first publicly disseminated recording Thursday. The first of many audio recordings taken in Cuba has led U.S. intelligence operatives to believe the Cuban government is using an unknown sonic device to attack Americans and other foreigners on the island.

The U.S. Navy is currently investigating the strange recording, hoping to glean some information about what is harming American diplomats in Cuba.

Victims often described a sound similar to chirping crickets before experiencing any symptoms, but not all of the attacks have produced an audible sound. Some were described as inaudible, which is causing some concern among investigators who believe the attackers are developing, or even already employing, more sophisticated methods.
Just the latest Cuban buzz? Anyway, here it is, if you can make it out:

Another Obamacare Death Blow

No more subsidies for them:
Word of Trump’s latest plan came from two people familiar with the decision, who spoke to the Associated Press. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The White House said in a statement that the Department of Health and Human Services has determined there is no appropriation for cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers under the Obamacare law.

Trump's decision was expected to rattle already-unsteady insurance marketplaces. The president has previously threatened to end the payments, which help reduce health insurance copays and deductibles for people with modest incomes, but remain under a legal cloud.
That cloud may now soon be lifted...

Thursday, October 12, 2017

No Aid For You?

Hoarding, hurricane style?
“People call us and tell us some misappropriation of some goods and supplies by supposedly politicians, not necessarily mayors, but people that work for the mayors in certain towns,” FBI Special Agent Carlos Osorio told The Daily Caller Wednesday.

Osorio explained, “They’re supposedly withholding these goods and these supplies and instead of handing them out to people who really need them, [there are claims] that [local officials] are assigning them to their buddies first–people that have voted for them or people that contributed to their campaigns or what not.”

He added, “So what we’re doing is looking into these allegations. That I can tell you is happening. Again, I cannot say that we have any ongoing investigation. We’re just corroborating these allegations.”
Maybe the mayor of San Juan could answer a few questions...

The Tax Cut Scramble

The devil is in the details:
Republicans are finding that their desire for lowering corporate and individual rates is running into the fiscal challenge of how to pay for the reductions without exacerbating the nation’s debt load.

They argue that tax cuts, even if deficit-financed, will spur economic growth and provide new revenue. But many economists question that theory, saying it hasn’t worked that way in the past.

In addition, Republicans — in order to take advantage of special budget rules that will allow them to pass the tax plan in the Senate with a simple majority — must find ways to offset some of the costs.

Every percentage-point reduction in the corporate rate reduces federal tax revenue by about $100 billion over 10 years. Slashing the corporate rate to 20% would cost about $1.5 trillion.
Somebody has to pay for it all...

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Chicago Tax Way

The Windy City gets rid of its soda tax:
The repeal was a foregone conclusion after the board’s Finance Committee voted 15-1 on Tuesday, signaling the pop tax would be scrapped after just four months.

The Wednesday voice vote — two commissioners voted no — came despite a defiant 2018 budget address last week by Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who maintained the $200 million a year she expected the pop tax to raise was needed to avoid 11 percent across-the-board cuts. She warned of reductions in critical public health and criminal justice programs.

After the vote, Preckwinkle struck a conciliatory tone, even as she indicated she wouldn’t be proposing cuts herself.

“Part of the job of being board president is making tough choices, but another part of this job is understanding that not every choice you make will be embraced by your colleagues or constituents and accepting when you need to make a change,” she said. “I respect the commissioners who believe that repealing this tax was the right thing to do, and I respect the people of the county who weighed in on this tax and let their voices be heard. I will continue to hear their voices.”
That's how democracy works...

This Is Your Government On Drugs

Congress has its own drug dealer:
The deliveries arrive at the secretive Office of the Attending Physician, an elaborate medical clinic where Navy doctors triage medical emergencies and provide basic health care for lawmakers who pay an annual fee of just over $600. Every one comes from Washington’s oldest community pharmacy, Grubb’s.

Mike Kim, the reserved pharmacist-turned-owner of the pharmacy, said he has gotten used to knowing the most sensitive details about some of the most famous people in Washington.

“At first it’s cool, and then you realize, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems as well. And these are the people that are running the country,” Kim said, listing treatments for conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

“It makes you kind of sit back and say, ‘Wow, they’re making the highest laws of the land and they might not even remember what happened yesterday.'”
It would explain a few things...

From Russia With Thanks

The Russians tried to bribe whom? Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather exte...