Wed 4.25

Today’s Dog & Pony Show

George Washington slept here and he must be whirling in his grave.

Oh, those restless teacherz

>>> Colorado: legislators threatens jail time
ABC News
… for any educator caught “directly or indirectly inducing, instigating, encouraging, authorizing, ratifying, or participating in a strike against any public school employer”
>>> Arizona Schools Chief Threatens Teachers Over Strike, Says It’s ‘Not Legal’
Phoenix New Times
— Douglas suggested that the state Department of Education will investigate teachers who walk out, and could refer teachers to the State Board of Education, which could give teachers a letter of censure or strip them of their teacher’s certificate.

Deputies cowered as Parkland school shooter fired
Fox News
The deputies who were among the first to arrive to the scene of the Florida school massacre were found taking cover behind their cars and a nearby tree and had no idea where the gunman was, according to an official report released Tuesday.
— The report from Coral Springs Officer Bryan Wilkins details how he arrived at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School within minutes of the active shooter alert — only to find Broward County Sheriff’s Officers hadn’t entered the school, but were instead taking cover.

Possibly propaganda but interesting nonetheless:
Theory: N. Korea suspended nuke tests because site collapsed
South China Morning Post
— One group of researchers found that the most recent blast tore open a hole in the mountain, which then collapsed upon itself. A second group concluded that the breakdown created a “chimney” that could allow radioactive fallout from the blast zone below to rise into the air.

China tells dude: You’re banned from air travel because of low social score
CBS News
— When Liu Hu recently tried to book a flight, he was told he was banned from flying because he was on the list of untrustworthy people. Liu is a journalist who was ordered by a court to apologize for a series of tweets he wrote and was then told his apology was insincere.
— “I can’t buy property. My child can’t go to a private school,” he said. “You feel you’re being controlled by the list all the time.”
— And the list is now getting longer as every Chinese citizen is being assigned a social credit score — a fluctuating rating based on a range of behaviors. It’s believed that community service and buying Chinese-made products can raise your score. Fraud, tax evasion and smoking in non-smoking areas can drop it.

Our Well-Regulated Militia
Frantic babysitter called 911 after boy, 11, was shot by 13-year-old brother, police say
Columbus Dispatch

Why so many companies fear “death by Amazon”
The Guardian
— With its profound knowledge of its customers, Amazon can move into almost any sector – striking fear into the hearts of rivals. And the $740bn company is ‘just getting started’
— The company’s success has produced panic among investors. When Amazon bought Whole Foods, grocery chains’ stock prices crashed. Two months later, when Amazon announced it would cut Whole Foods’ prices, grocery stocks plummeted again. The meal kit maker Blue Apron’s stock price fell 11% after the news that Amazon was filing for a meal kit trademark. A vague announcement from Amazon that it was collaborating with JP Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway on some kind of non-profit healthcare venture sent healthcare stocks on a downward slide.
–>>> Amazon median salary: $28,446

White House stooge admits Washington is a pay-to-play town
— Mick Mulvaney, acting head of the consumer finance watchdog, told a room full of bankers that the only lobbyists he met with as a congressman were those who made political donations to his office, and he urged them to continue lobbying lawmakers to weaken the regulator he runs.
— Mulvaney, a former Republican lawmaker from South Carolina who sat in the House of Representatives between 2011 and 2017, was giving a speech to the 1,300 attendees of the American Bankers Association conference in Washington.
— As well as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mulvaney is director of the Office of Management and Budget (OBM) after being appointed by President Donald Trump to the role in February 2017.
— “We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney told the conference, reported the New York Times. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”

At least one Kansas farmer finally figures it out–
Trump doesn’t give a shit about anyone
Raw Story
— Mike Callicrate, a Kansas cattle rancher, has written an editorial for the Washington Post detailing how President Donald Trump’s agricultural policies have been bad news for American farmers.
— Callicrate writes that the consolidation of power among big agribusiness companies is the biggest problem facing American farmers — and Trump’s administration has only made things worse.
— “Despite Trump’s campaign promises, when it was time to stand up against big agribusiness, he caved,” he writes. “His actions have left farmers and ranchers such as myself feeling betrayed and afraid for our economic futures.”
— Callicrate calls out Trump’s Department of Agriculture for overturning the Obama administration’s Farmer Fair Practices Rules, which gave independent farmers more power to bring unfair practice claims against big agribusiness firms.

Mike Callicrate: “Feeling betrayed and afraid for our economic futures.”

Women more successful than men at crowd-funding
Popular Science
— On sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which allow entrepreneurs to make their case directly to potential customers, women are more successful than men at meeting their funding goal. Ethan Mollick, an associate professor of management in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has spent years analyzing crowd-funding data. He says it all comes down to the sense of connection a crowd-funding campaign can foster.

Chicago looting its own citizens by impound, asset seizure
Chicago’s aggressive vehicle impound program, which seizes cars and fines owners thousands of dollars for dozens of different offenses. The program impounds cars when the owner beats a criminal case or isn’t charged with a crime in the first place. It impounds cars even when the owner isn’t even driving, like when a child is borrowing a parent’s car.

Judge: “This is a redneck court.”
Courthouse News Service
— A South Texas judge’s daily court-opening phrase, “This is a redneck court,” got him censured by a state ethics watchdog, which ordered him to take racial sensitivity classes.
— Christopher Lee, a Republican (No! Really?)  is a justice of the peace in Kleberg County, presiding over a small claims court, with jurisdiction covering misdemeanors punishable by up to a $500 fine and civil matters with not more than $10,000 at stake.
— The Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct reprimanded Lee after Jesus Espinosa complained that the judge’s statement “This is a redneck court” during a November 2016 jury trial offended him. The commission issued Lee a “public warning” on April 18, which was released Tuesday.

“Dreamers” win, bigots lose in court

— The judge, ruling in favor of Princeton University and the NAACP, wrote Tuesday that the administration’s explanation was “particularly egregious” because it didn’t mention that many of the hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries had obtained jobs and pursued education based on the assumption that they would be allowed to renew.

Hackers design a master key that would open millions of hotel room doors
…  a design flaw in the software of electronic keys produced by VingCard, a global provider of hotel locking systems. By F-Secure’s count, the vulnerable software, Vision, is deployed in as many as 166 countries at over 40,000 buildings—millions of doors, in other words.

A “Tea Party Liberal” tries to climb a political mountain in W. Virginia
ojeda— Richard Ojeda is a populist with a penchant for the working class. But a friend of his also insisted that he’s gotten more “progressive” with time. As a freshman state senator, he led an effort to legalize medical marijuana, and this past January he gave passionate speeches in the state capitol demanding teacher raises.
— “I come home from spending 24 years in the United States Army and I realize I got kids in my backyard that have it worse than the kids I saw in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
— But can he win in a region that backs Trump at 80%?

Tue 4.24

We try to choose stories that: 
(A) Provide insight into where America is going and …
(B) Get to the point quickly.
— Thanks for reading RealNews.

Chinese cars coming to a showroom near you?

— What seemed like just another launch of a new vehicle was actually something more: the coming-out party for China’s globally ambitious auto industry. For the first time, a Chinese-branded car will be made in Western Europe for sale there, with the ultimate goal of landing in U.S. showrooms.

Google absolutely rolling in profit
— Earnings jumped because a change in accounting rules forced the company to recognize the rough value of its stake in the ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies Inc., and spending was hit by a fancy new building and ambitious infrastructure projects.

robotarmyArmy of None
The headlong,
and very real,
rush toward
robot battlefield

Science Mag

Fear of losing status, not economic hardship, drove voters in 2016 presidential election
Eureka Alert
It has been a well-worn postmortem of the 2016 presidential election: the white working class, having faced job losses and stagnant wages under President Obama, voted with their pocketbooks when they chose Donald Trump.
— Strong new evidence published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports the idea that many Trump voters are feeling left behind, but not for reasons related to personal financial problems or economic anxiety about the future.
— University of Pennsylvania professor Diana C. Mutz found that traditionally high-status Americans, namely whites, feel their status in America and the world is threatened by America’s growing racial diversity and a perceived loss of U.S. global dominance.

Ocean vacuum cleaner will suck up plastic
NY Post
— The first-ever machine to clean up the planet’s largest chunk of ocean plastic is due to set sail.
— It’s heading to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, halfway between California and Hawaii, where it will commence collecting the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic rubbish amassed there by ocean currents.
— The system uses a combination of huge floating nets (dubbed “screens”) held in place by giant tubes, ironically made out of plastic, to suck stubborn waste out of the water.

Hope for Great Barrier Reef seen in genetic diversity
— A study published Wednesday had some frightening news for the Great Barrier Reef—the iconic marine ecosystem is at “unprecedented” risk of collapse due to climate change after a 2016 heat wave led to the largest mass coral bleaching event in the reef’s history.
— But another study published Thursday in PLOS Genetics offers some hope: Corals are still in danger from climate change, but we have an extra 50 years to act to save them.
— Researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that corals in the Great Barrier Reef have enough genetic diversity to survive rising ocean temperatures for another century, which is half-a-century more than previously thought.

Toronto cop arrested murderous terror suspect without firing a shot
Toronto Sun (with video)
torontocops— A police officer has been praised for calmly confronting the suspected Toronto van crash driver.
— Video footage showed the police officer staring down the suspect, later identified as Alek Minassian, at gunpoint in the middle of a road. The suspect pointed what appeared to be a gun and shouted, “Kill me”.
— The unnamed officer replied, “No, get down”. When the suspect then said, “I have a gun in my pocket,” the officer responded, ”I don’t care. Get down.”
— Eventually Minassian was arrested “without incident.”

He’s got a little problem. A few of them, actually
Trump’s ass-kissing doc may not make it as VA boss
CBS News 
–The ranking Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee is reviewing allegations he’s hearing about Ronny Jackson, the White House physician and President Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs. It was unclear late Monday whether the Senate panel would postpone Jackson’s confirmation hearing, which was scheduled for Wednesday, in light of stories about the nominee told by current or former White House medical staff.
— Sources familiar with the tales say Sen. Jon Tester’s committee staff is reviewing multiple allegations of a “hostile work environment.” The accusations include “excessive drinking on the job, improperly dispensing meds,” said one of the people familiar, who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about the situation. The other people familiar with the stories also confirmed those details.

Young California mayor’s radical experiment in universal basic income
Out in Stockton, California, there’s an experiment underway in millennial-led government that’s trying to pull a city back from the brink using what is essentially privately-funded socialism.
— The experiment’s name is Michael Tubbs.
— The 27-year-old mayor of a city of 307,000—26 when he knocked out the Republican incumbent, the same night Donald Trump won, in his own status quo-bulldozing election—is looking to redefine the sense of what works through redefining how people think about work.
— It’s not just the $500 checks that will soon start going out to 100 residents monthly in a universal basic income pilot program. It’s about transforming the entire posture of city government.
–>>> Finland’s basic income experiment is a leaker
— The Finnish government has decided not to expand a limited trial in paying people a basic income, which has drawn much international interest.
— Currently 2,000 unemployed Finns are receiving a flat monthly payment of €560 (£490; $685) as basic income.
— “The eagerness of the government is evaporating. They rejected extra funding [for it],” said Olli Kangas, one of the experiment’s designers.

NRA breaks 15-year fundraising record
— The National Rifle Association’s Political Victory Fund raised $2.4 million from March 1 to March 31, the group’s first full month of political fundraising since the nation’s deadliest high school shooting on Valentine’s Day, according to filings submitted to the Federal Elections Commission. The total is $1.5 million more than the organization raised during the same time period in 2017.

Insane laws allowed Waffle House lunatic to keep his guns
Vice News
— Inconsistent state gun laws allowed Travis Reinking, the man suspected of killing four people in a Nashville-area Waffle House Sunday, to keep an assault-style weapon, even though he had a history of mental illness, was known to police, and was once arrested in front of the White House.

On the lookout for willing idiots
Pissed at GOP, Koch Bros rethink how to spend their $400 million political slush fund

The Hill
Their stated agenda:
> Protection for so-called “Dreamers” in exchange for border security.
> Criminal justice reform.
> Roll back Dodd-Frank banking rules.
> Providing access to experimental drugs for terminally ill patients.
> A rescission package to claw-back omnibus spending.
>A  vote to make individual tax rate cuts permanent.

Our Failing Democracy
Maine’s governor says screw the voters, no Medicaid expansion
— Nearly 60% of Maine’s voters gave the green light to Medicaid expansion in their state in a November ballot initiative, and individuals are supposed to become eligible for coverage starting July 2, per that mandate. But Gov. Paul LePage is defying voters by refusing to adopt the ObamaCare program and missing paperwork deadlines,

Amazon want the keys to the trunk of your car
— Amazon is expanding its in-home delivery service called Key to include deliveries to trunks and backseats of cars. The service is available only to Amazon Prime members in 37 cities who have a 2015 or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac or Volvo with an active OnStar or Volvo On Call account.
— Starting Tuesday, people in dozens of cities across the United States can start getting their Amazon orders delivered to a parked car, provided their vehicle has the proper technology.

Music streaming overtakes CD, vinyl  music sales for first time

The sneaky, persistent and irrational rise in price of Rx drugs
— When Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of Daraprim, which treats dangerous infections, from $13.50 to $750, the public was appalled.
— But lost in the outrage over predatory pricing was one crucial fact: What Shkreli did was completely legal—and common. Between 2012 and 2017, for example, the price for Nitrostat, which prevents and treats chest pain, increased by 477 percent, from $15.91 to $91.76. Nothing about the medication changed during those years—not its chemical formula, not its uses and not the manufacturing process. Pfizer, which sells Nitrostat, offered no explanation for the spike.


14 states see record low unemployment
The Hill

Iran, China try to loosen dollar’s grip
Wall Street Journal
— A small but growing number of countries are stepping up efforts to wean themselves off the dollar, aiming to chip away at the U.S. currency’s decades-long dominance.
— Iran last week became the latest when it pledged to replace the dollar with the euro in its foreign-currency accounting.
— China introduced the world’s first yuan-denominated oil contracts last month, part of a continuing effort to raise its currency’s global profile, while Venezuela launched a bitcoin-like cryptocurrency earlier this year. Russia has ramped up its gold reserves to diversify away from the dollar.
— Some analysts say the governments moving against the dollar may be trying to capitalize on growing unease among many nations, including U.S. allies, over recent or perceived shifts in U.S. trade policy.



Mon 4.23



Senate weakens, backs Pompeo for Sec/State
The Hill
— Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced Monday he will back CIA Director Mike Pompeo‘s nomination as secretary of State.

The Rolls-Royce concept of a self-navigating cargo ship.

Self-navigating ships on the horizon, 
but US is asleep in the wheelhouse
— The day in which unmanned “ghost ships” ply the seas laden with cargo is fast approaching. But don’t expect the drone vessels to be flying a U.S. flag.
— The United States is not among the global hotspots where a revolution in autonomous commercial shipping is unfolding. One needs to look to places like Norway, Finland, Singapore and China to observe the competition for unmanned shipping.
— A shipyard in Norway will soon begin building a 237-foot battery-powered electric container ship that will operate with nary a sailor aboard by 2020.

Nope, N. Korea is not going to negotiate away its nuclear weapons
Joshua H. Pollack, editor, The Nonproliferation Review 
Kim says: “the victory … was won and thus the struggle of the Korean people who worked hard with their belt tightened to acquire a powerful treasured sword for defending peace was successfully concluded and the firm guarantee by which our descendants can enjoy the most dignified and happiest life in the world was provided.”
— So. Does the completion or perfection of a nuclear arsenal as a “firm guarantee” for the security and well-being of posterity sound like a prelude to unilateral disarmament? Or does it sound like the precise opposite?

Retired military brass: Say no to torture, kill Haspel nomination
The Hill
— Dozens of retired U.S. military generals and officers on Monday issued a letter urging senators to reject President Trump’s nominee for CIA Director.
— In a letter posted on Human Rights First, the retired officials expressed concerns over Gina Haspel’s involvement in “enhanced interrogation” programs under the Bush administration. Those programs and the techniques used are now widely considered torture.
— “We do not accept efforts to excuse her actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees by offering that she was ‘just following orders,’ or that shock from the 9/11 terrorist attacks should excuse illegal and unethical conduct,” the officials wrote.

Twilight dreams
M.I.T researchers focus on hypnagogia, a key to creativity

— Hypnagogic consciousness has been coveted by some of the most brilliant scientific and artistic minds in history. Thomas Edison, Edgar Allen Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, Mary Shelley, Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, August Kekule, and Richard Wagner all expressed their fascination with hypnagogia and claimed that their experiences in this twilight zone of the mind resulted in sudden bursts of creativity or mental clarity. The idea that “conscious access to underlying, unconscious forces” is at the root of creativity was also echoed and reformulated in a more scientifically rigorous way by the Nobel biophysicist Eric Kandel in the 90s.

Google won’t remove “deepfake” videos of Melania, Ivanka “porn”
But the problem goes much deeper than an embarrassed White House
Vice News
— However, the potential threat from deepfake videos goes far beyond porn. From turbocharging the fake news problem to undermining democracies and inciting violence, the ability to depict anyone saying anything has potentially catastrophic implications.”
— “[Deepfakes] will significantly exacerbate the already existing problem we’ve got with disinformation undermining self-governance, democracy and the rule of law,” said Bobby Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas and former White House adviser.

CBD oil studies to focus on relief of anxiety, addiction
— Proponents of CBD’s use in treating medical conditions and ailments hope the findings of studies now underway will help change that thinking about its legal classification — and its potential benefits.

China slammed for “men only” jobs
— Leading Chinese firms including e-commerce giant Alibaba were heavily criticised Monday for gender discrimination in job adverts in a new report which said the landscape for the female workforce in China was deteriorating.
— The report by Human Rights Watch, entitled “Only Men Need Apply: Gender Discrimination in Job Advertisements in China”, details a host of offenses by private companies and public bodies, from issuing “men only” job ads to requests for women applicants to be “trim” and “aesthetically pleasing”.

Crocodile tears
Professor who mined data for Cambridge Analytica
tries to redeem his sorry ass on 60 Minutes

CBS 60 Minutes
he asked Facebook users to take a survey he designed from which he built psychological profiles meant to predict their behavior.
— He failed to disclose that what he was really after was access to their friends, tens of millions of people he could not otherwise reach easily. And that he was doing the survey for Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm, that used the material to influence people on how to vote.
…  “at the time I thought we were doing everything that was correct. You know, I was kinda acting, honestly, quite naively. I thought we were doing everything okay.”

Revealed: Amazon’s secret plan to build home robots
— It’s unclear what tasks an Amazon robot might perform. People familiar with the project speculate that the Vesta robot could be a sort of mobile Alexa, accompanying customers in parts of their home where they don’t have Echo devices. Prototypes of the robots have advanced cameras and computer vision software and can navigate through homes like a self-driving car.

The Well-Regulated Militia …
How the crazed Waffle House shooter got his guns back
— Cops took away Waffle House shooter’s 4 guns … but they gave the guns to his father … who returned them to his son.
— >>> Shooting suspect arrested near his home AP

One of his victims, DeEbony Groves, was a senior on the dean’s list at Belmont University & a basketball player … also killed were Taurean Sanderlin, 29, Joe R. Perez, 20,  and Akilah Dasilva, 23.  DeEbony Groves is pictured below via a tweet from her sister.

Foreign students snub US
New foreign student enrollment in the U.S. dropped by 3 percent during the 2016-17 school year, and that decline is projected to double this school year, data show. At the same time, universities overseas are seeing increases as high as the double digits. The decline in foreign students enrolling in American colleges is just the latest evidence of Trump’s immigration policies shutting doors in America.

Sean Hannity’s secret $90 million real estate empire
The Guardian
— His ownership hidden by shell corporations.
— Dozens of the properties were bought at a discount in 2013, after banks foreclosed on their previous owners for defaulting on mortgages. Before and after then, Hannity sharply criticized Barack Obama for the US foreclosure rate. In January 2016, Hannity said there were “millions more Americans suffering under this president” partly because of foreclosures.
— Hannity amassed part of his property collection with support from the US Department for Housing and Urban Development, although he regularly rants against government programs.

Weekend 4.21 & 4.22

“Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty; eternal vigilance is the price of human decency.”
— Aldous Huxley

4 dead, 8 wounded in shooting at Tennessee Waffle House
Nude shooter uses assault rifle in 3 a.m. mayhem

Unarmed man tackled Waffle House shooter, saving lives
The Tennessean
— A 29-year-old man credited with saving numerous lives Sunday morning after he disarmed a man who opened fire on an Antioch Waffle House said he was just trying to stay alive.
— James Shaw Jr., said after feeling cornered he saw an opportunity to tackle the man shooting into an Antioch Waffle House.

James Shaw 

More news from the Well-Regulated Militia:
Ohio mom shoots 2-year-old dead
ABC News
— Police in Wickliffe, Ohio, said Saturday that it appears as though the mother of the child was handling the gun when she dropped it and it went off, hitting the girl. Police said the girl was struck in the chest and rushed to the hospital where she died.

Sex cult trying to intimidate witnesses, federal prosecutors say
Page Six (NY Daily News)
— Leaders of upstate sex slave cult Nxivm have been trying to undermine potential witnesses by registering websites in their names and threatening to reveal damaging information about them, according to federal prosecutors.
— When word got out that the Feds were investigating the organization, “high-ranking members … undertook efforts to undermine potential witnesses, including by registering domain names such as [Witness Name], with the intention of publishing damaging information regarding those witnesses,” prosecutors wrote in court papers Friday.
>>>Smallville actress pleads not guilty to sex trafficking

Texas court: Revenge porn is protected by First Amendment
Dallas Morning News
— Is distributing intimate photos of current or previous sexual partners without their consent protected by the First Amendment? A state appeals court says yes.
— Now it will be up to the state attorney general’s office to defend the state’s “revenge porn” law, which was passed in 2015 and punishes those who post intimate images from previous or current relationships online.
— The Tyler-based 12th Court of Appeals said the law is unconstitutional because it’s too broad and infringes on free speech.
— The ruling applies only to about a dozen northeast Texas counties that fall under the jurisdiction of  the 12th Court of Appeals, but other courts would likely consider its reasoning,

They’re back!
Swarming, self-cloning invasive ticks spread in NJ
Newark Star Ledger aka

— The ticks are known to swarm and infest deer and animals other than sheep, so the department is warning that it has the potential to infect other North American wildlife species. The ticks reproduce asexually and just one of them is capable of laying thousands of eggs. 

A well-regulated gov’t agency…
The deeper the probe goes, the scummier Pruitt turns out to be
NY Times
— EPA’s so-called leader “forgot” to mention shady real-estate dealings and certain “favors” for, you know, friendly banks.
>>> Pruitt’s the target of at least 10 federal investigations
Vice News

Among Pruitt’s many deals was buying into a minor league baseball franchise. He seems to be quite adept at underpaying for things. It is not known whether he paid full price for that hot dog and soda.


Mittens fails to get nod as Utah senator, faces primary
— Mitt Romney did anything but cruise to the Republican nomination for Orrin Hatch’s Utah Senate seat on Saturday in “a wild and raucous day of voting” at the state’s nominating convention. Romney, among a dozen Republicans seeking Hatch’s seat, was unable to secure 60% of the votes and thus the nomination; on the second round of voting, state representative Mark Kennedy came out on top with 50.88%, with Romney nipping at his heels with 49.12%. 


Trump with NYT reporter Maggie Haberman, whom he “doesn’t speak to and has nothing to do with.” (Unlike POTUS, this caption spells her name correctly.)

Trump backs sexual abstinence program for teens
The Hill
“Serial adulterer who fathered 5 kids with 3 successively younger trophy wives tells teens to stop fucking.”
— El Gliko on Twitter

Sessions says he’d quit if Trump tried to fire Rosenstein
The Hill

Swamp not quite drained yet
GOP fundraiser advised Russian company on sanctions.
The price to kill them: $26 million

Novatek-gas-sales-decline-in-H1The Intercept
— Shortly after Trump was inaugurated, top Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy offered Russian gas giant Novatek a $26 million lobbying plan aimed at removing the company from a U.S. sanctions list.
— Broidy was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he resigned last week amid reports that he had agreed to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model with whom he had an affair.

US probe: Did Verizon, AT&T conspire to keep customers from switching carriers?

— The probe was opened after at least one other wireless carrier and one device maker registered complaints. One source said the device maker was Apple.

Xi: China MUST control its internet
Reuters via Yahoo
— China must strengthen its grip on the internet to ensure broader social and economic goals are met, state news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday citing comments from President Xi Jinping.
— “We cannot let the internet become a platform for disseminating harmful information and stirring up trouble with rumors.”

Court scuffle over Sinclair takeover of  TV stations
Courthouse News Service
Right wingers’ plan would put their TV stations in 72% of US homes
— A panel of the D.C. Circuit on Friday asked the Federal Communications Commission some tough questions about a rule change that would allow broadcasters to skirt a 39 percent cap on how many local TV stations they can own — a key question in the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s quest to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion.
— Sinclair — which drew scrutiny recently for ordering its TV news anchors to read a script about the dangers of fake news — owns 173 U.S. TV stations. Acquiring Tribune would give it another 42, expanding its reach to 72 percent of U.S. households.
>>> In April 2017, Sinclair hired Boris Epshteyn, … a senior Trump advisor, as chief political analyst. All Sinclair stations are required to air Ephsteyn’s commentary nine times per week. (Source: Wikipedia)

Netflix buying actual movie theaters to boost its Oscars prospects
The Independent 
— Netflix will reportedly begin purchasing movie theatres – to help it get ahead in the race for Academy Awards.
— The streaming giant has aimed to land an Oscar nod since the release of its first original feature in 2015, Beasts of No Nation.
— According to the Los Angeles Times, Netflix is allegedly contemplating the acquisition of cinemas in Los Angeles and New York to help them during awards season.

Trucker in deadly human smuggling tragedy gets life in prison
bradleybooked— A U.S. district judge handed a sentence of life in prison today to a driver who was transporting undocumented immigrants in a tractor-trailer so hot that ten people died.
— “I am so sorry it happened,” said James Matthew Bradley Jr. in a video statement played in court. “There’s not a day or night that goes by that I don’t relive this scene.”
— At first, Bradley told federal investigators that he became aware of his human cargo only after stopping for a bathroom break, as he heard people banging on the vehicle’s doors. But in October he pleaded guilty.

Massachusetts preschool bans kids from using term “best friend”
— The “term best friend can lead other children to feel excluded,” and it can “ultimately lead to the formation of cliques and outsiders,” and the school encourages “students to have a wider group of friends.”

Body cam shows cops never got out of squad car
while searching for dying teen
— The officers responding to Kyle Plush’s pleading 911 call never got out of their cruiser and appeared to only search one of the three parking lots around his school, at least while their body-worn cameras were turned on.
— And at one point an officer said, “I don’t see nobody, which I didn’t imagine I would.”
— Kyle was trapped in his van and having trouble breathing. He called 911 twice, but help never arrived. His father found his body hours later.plush



TGIF 4.20

NYT headline:

Comey Memos Provide Intimate Look Into Trump Presidency

But what if you don’t want to be “intimate” with Trump or his presidency? Well, in that case, you push on to find some Real News …

N. Korea claims it has suspended nuclear testing
— North Korea said Saturday it has suspended nuclear and long-range missile tests and plans to close its nuclear test site.
— The North’s official Korean Central News Agency said the country is making the move to shift its national focus and improve its economy.
–The North also vowed to actively engage with regional neighbors and the international community to secure peace in the Korean Peninsula and create an “optimal international environment” to build its economy.

“Remember: The “win” for Kim *is* the summit and emerging as a de facto nuclear power.”
— Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at MIT, focusing on nuclear proliferation and strategy and North Korean nukes.

In fear of the Robot Apocalpyse
If elected POTUS, Andrew Yang would send all Americans $1,000 a month

yangAlthough he’s starting with just two people. Let’s not get carried away here.
— Automation is coming for our jobs, the longshot candidate says—not five years from now, not tomorrow, but right now. Like a growing contingent of advocates, Yang thinks that the best way to buffer the incoming pain is by administering a universal basic income. Starting ASAP.
— He wants to fund the monthly cash payments, which would be sent via check or direct account transfer to every American aged 18 to 64, with a value-added tax imposed on the companies that use automation, and benefit most from its gains.

For first time ever in Arizona, teachers vote to strike
— At issue is a plan crafted by Gov. Doug Ducey to give teachers a 20 percent raise by 2020, starting with a 9 percent hike next year.
— Initially, Ducey’s plan drew support from two education advocacy groups, but both  have withdrawn their support, saying the plan is not sustainable and likely will come at the expense of others in the educational system.

Court upholds order protecting “sanctuary cities”
Courthouse News Service
— Citing the need to check the potential “tyranny” of the executive branch, the Seventh Circuit upheld a nationwide preliminary injunction Thursday blocking U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ attempt to financially punish so-called sanctuary cities for refusing to enforce federal immigration laws.

Senate confirms whack-job Oklahoman to lead NASA
Sen. Marco Rubio votes to confirm after saying:  “NASA is an organization that needs to be led by a space professional.” Uh? Huh?

A peek at the future, maybe?
13 bills, already in Congress, that could transform America
Raw Story
Bills backing clean energy, fair pay for women, restrictions on political donations, Net neutrality, and an end to gerrymandering. Among others.

In a San Francisco lab, one floor above a methadone clinic,
scientists are closing in on non-addictive pain killer
The Guardian

“I think what our drug could do is make some significant contributions to [combating] the opioid epidemic, and I think that our drug may do a better job to relieve pain than opioids,” said Paul Blum, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln biology professor. The drug, named N-001 for now, is designed to avoid detrimental side effects of opioid use, addiction among them.
Americans say they’d rather have fake news than gov’t censors
Pew Research 

In Indonesian province, sex hijinks punished by public whippings
— More than a thousand people, including dozens of tourists, jeered and screamed abuse at three men and five women as they were flogged on a stage outside a mosque in the capital Banda Aceh.
— Some snapped pictures as a hooded figure rained down lashes from a rattan cane on their backs, with each getting between 11 and 22 strokes.
— The couples were whipped for showing affection in public, while two of the women were suspected sex workers, officials said.
— Aceh is the only province in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country that imposes Islamic law.
>>> Officials now say whipping will only happen in prisons
Straits Times

And while we’re on the topic of pointless brutality…
US executes man, 83
NY Post

Many Amazon workers getting food stamps
— In Kansas, Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, and Arizona, Amazon is among the top 20 beneficiaries of SNAP—and in Arizona things are particularly dire, with one out of every three Amazon employees needing food stamps.

The Michael Flynn Comeback Tour

He’s tan, he’s rested, he’s ready
“General Flynn is moving on with his life and this speech is part of that endeavor,” said his brother, Joseph Flynn, who is spearheading a legal defense fund to help Michael Flynn pay his attorney bills. “There are lots of people who want to hear his voice again.”
via Politico

Wells Fargo faces fine of $1 billion for lying, cheating and stealing
“They shouldn’t even be allowed to operate as a business. They stole BILLIONS from customers. I know people in prison right now for stealing $500 of electronics.”
— Shaun King on Twitter

You can thank the Koch Bros  for …

… more than a dozen new policies, including replacing the Clean Power Plan, which cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants … revoking monument designations … streamlining permits for infrastructure projects … repealing limits on short-term health insurance plans … implementing tax cuts.

Senate’s top Dem: Make marijuana great again
Buzz Feed
— Sen. Chuck Schumer now supports decriminalizing cannabis.
— Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, has crafted a broad outline for a bill that includes “removing marijuana from the list of scheduled substances,” and boosting minority- and women-owned cannabis businesses.

15,000 stoners to gather in Golden Gate Park
to celebrate “Marijuana Day”
SF Gate
— Tens of millions of Americans are expected to clock out and spark up for the global cannabis holiday today known as 4/20. That includes about 15,000 on Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill and the second annual licensed 4/20 gathering.

SCIENCE! Why pot smokers can’t resist the munchies

Thur 4.19

S. Korea leader says N. Korea seeks to quit nukes
— North Korea has expressed its desire for “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and is not seeking conditions such as U.S. troops withdrawing from the South first, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday.
— “All they are expressing is the end of hostile policies against North Korea, followed by a guarantee of security.”

Hundreds of police chiefs advise Congress
to knock it off with that concealed-carry crap
The Hill
— A coalition of police chiefs across the country is urging lawmakers to reject legislation that would allow for concealed-carry gun reciprocity between states.
— The International Association of Chiefs of Police in a letter to congressional leadership obtained by The Washington Post presses lawmakers not to approve legislation passed by the House in December. That bill would allow people to use their permits across state lines and boost the background check system for gun sales.
— “These bills would override state permitting laws that limit who can carry a loaded hidden gun in each state and would force states to allow individuals to carry guns who are not qualified to do so under their own laws,” the letter reads. 

GOP begs Evangies: Our “only hope is the president”
In churches and email solicitations, through voter guides and major conferences, organizations that target Christian conservative voters plan to argue at every turn that the success of Trump’s presidency — and potentially, its very existence — is on the line this year.

Oh, so that’s how it works
UK refused to help money laundering raid, citing donations to Tory pols.
— The British government refused to assist a French investigation into suspected money laundering and tax fraud by the UK telecoms giant Lycamobile – citing the fact that the company is the “biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party” and gives money to a trust founded by Prince Charles.

How European rules will change Facebook and Big Data
The Guardian
… the looming General Data Protection Regulation will give people better privacy protections and force companies including Facebook to make sweeping changes to the way they collect data and consent from users – with huge fines for those who don’t comply.
— “It’s changing the balance of power from the giant digital marketing companies to focus on the needs of individuals and democratic society,” said Jeffrey Chester, founder of the Center for Digital Democracy. “That’s an incredible breakthrough.”
— In addition to the new personal privacy rights, companies will only be able to collect data if there’s a specific business purpose for it, rather than collecting extra information at the point of sign-up just in case.

What’s the Matter With Kansas, Chapter 127
Voter suppression candidate held in contempt of court
But he’ll appeal, and the circus rolls on.

ICE raided my farm without warrant, handcuffed me
Hmm. Elections have consequences. 
— John Collins was standing outside the milk house at his dairy farm when he heard yelling coming from inside. He ran in, he says, and saw his worker, Marcial de Leon Aguilar, pinned up against the window by armed men.
— The men did not identify themselves and were screaming at Aguilar, Collins said.
>>> Across Midwest, farmers wring hands over what they brought on themselves
NY Times
— “They’re not in touch with the reality of the Midwest and the impact that the tariffs would have,” said Bart Bergquist, a biology professor and part-time farmer who lives on 10 acres just south of Waterloo, Iowa. Bergquist, who voted for Trump, added that commodities prices had already taken a toll on the area.

Prosecutors: Jealous Chicago nurse used bitcoin, dark web to hire killers
Chicago Daily Herald
tinajones— A Des Plaines woman is being held on $250,000 bail after being accused of hiring a dark web company to kill the wife of her lover.
— Prosecutors say Tina Jones, 31, paid $10,000 in bitcoin in January to have the woman killed.
— Jones, a registered nurse at Loyola University Medical Center, was charged with solicitation of murder.
— A tip on the case was called in by the CBS News program “48 Hours.”

US health agency decides letting Big Pharma
“help” opioid research ain’t such a great idea

… many pharma companies are seen to have played in the opioid crisis. In its recommendations, the National Institutes of Health advisory committee cited Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt, two opioid manufacturers currently being sued for their opioid marketing tactics.
“There’s so much controversy swirling around pharmaceuticals on the opioid issue,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) “It’s too dangerous.”

Bringing you the finest in Russian propaganda
Syrian building hit by US bombs held cancer drugs, not chemical weapons
— The Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, which was left in ruins by last week’s US-led missile strikes, specialized in research into cancer drugs and production of life-saving medicines that have been in short supply due to Western sanctions.
Yes, we all know the Assad regime is quite concerned with saving lives.

Oh great
The creepy case of the fake clinical trials

Kaiser Health News
Hint: If a doctor is holding clinical trials in a motel room, maybe, just maybe, you ought to bug out.
halford— Three years before launching an offshore herpes vaccine trial, an American researcher vaccinated patients in U.S. hotel rooms in brazen violation of U.S. law, a Kaiser Health News investigation has found.
— Southern Illinois University associate professor William Halford administered the shots himself at a Holiday Inn Express and a Crowne Plaza Hotel that were a 15-minute drive from the researcher’s SIU lab. Halford injected at least eight herpes patients on four separate occasions in the summer and fall of 2013 with a virus that he created, according to emails from seven participants and interviews with one participant.

There’s this obscure document called the Constitution …
NJ court: Hey, you! Quit giving taxpayer $$$ to churches
Courthouse News Service

Your next pilot could be drone software
Airplanes could be safer with technology at the helm. A key sticking point is human opinion.
— A new generation of software pilots, developed for self-flying vehicles, or drones, will soon have logged more flying hours than all humans have – ever. By combining their enormous amounts of flight data and experience, drone-control software applications are poised to quickly become the world’s most experienced pilots.
— The most significant advantage is scale: Rather than teaching thousands of individual pilots new skills, updating thousands of aircraft would require only downloading updated software.
>  Professor Jeremy Straub is the lead inventor on a patent-pending technology for autonomous control of robots, UAVs and spacecraft.

Mass mortality hits Great Barrier Reef
Unprecedented bleaching event’ killed off half the coral there over 2 years

Maybe, just maybe, an advanced civilization can’t last very long
— Two astrophysicists have turned one of the great questions in science into a way of examining the down-to-earth consequences of global warming, the pollution of the oceans with indestructible polymers, and the wholesale destruction of species in the last 300 years.
— If there had been an advanced technological and industrial civilisation on Earth several hundred million years ago, how could anyone know? What marks would have been left by a race of intelligent reptiles with motorised transport, housing estates, international trade and an arms race?

“Ain’t nobody got time for this. For real.”
Fox News
911williamsHouston 9-1-1 operator gets taste of jail for hanging up on emergency calls.

— Crenshanda Williams’ attorney, Franklin Bynum, argued that his client “was going through a hard time in her life” when she hung up on the emergency calls, and said “punishing her doesn’t do anything to fix the problems that still exist at the emergency center.

When everybody in the ballpark wants to go home
pitchIn extra innings, Major League umpires will vary ball and strike calls in ways that tend to end the game as quickly as possible.
… umps don’t get paid more when games go to extra innings. That’s one more reason they may want the game to end early — their paycheck’s the same regardless.

Wed 4.18

While Drudge Report readers are catching up on volcanoes, earthquakes, shark attacks, rogue planets and two-headed giraffes … RealNews offers:

Sun Country Airlines: Sorry, passengers, you’re stuck in Mexico
Mpls Star-Tribune
— Hundreds of tourists were left stranded after Sun Country Airlines canceled flights back from Mexico and told passengers they would have to find their own ways home.
— The airline, which is based in Eagan, Minnesota, canceled flights Saturday from Los Cabos and Mazatlan in Mexico after a blizzard struck Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The two flights were the last scheduled for Sun Country’s wintertime-only service from those destinations.
— Sun Country’s telephone reservations line disconnected callers or said lines were jammed and directed them to “please call back later.”
— So maybe it’s not a great time for Sun Country to be promoting its Mexican vacations?

Bye bye to Bed, Bath and Beyond?
A credit rating cut will make it more difficult for Bed Bath & Beyond to borrow more money and will likely increase the amount of interest it has to pay on its existing long-term debt load: about $1.5 billion.

Serious people (bankers, diplomats, execs etc.) learning to ignore Trump
While markets will never completely discount his tweets and off-the-cuff pronouncements, “people are coming to realize that these statements often signify nothing, and are learning to live with the sound and fury.”

Southwest pilot who landed crippled jet
is Navy vet with “nerves of steel”
Washington Post via Stars & Stripes
shults-and-passengers— Tammie Jo Shults, a former fighter pilot, landed 148 people safely after an engine blowout.
— Passenger Diana McBride Self thanked Shults on Facebook for her “guidance and bravery in a traumatic situation.” She added that Shults “came back to speak to each of us personally.”
— Shults wasn’t allowed to fly in combat while she was in the Navy, because, you know, she’s uh … female. 

42% of Americans have <$10K saved, will retire broke

The No. 1 reason most people cited for not stashing more away was because they didn’t earn enough to save, followed by the fact that they were already struggling to pay bills, GoBankingRates said. The personal finance site polled more than 1,000 adults online in February.

Uh-oh again
House flipping at 11-year high
— A decade after the U.S. housing bubble burst, house flipping is on the rise again. Defined as reselling a house within a year of purchase, flipping is at an 11-year high in the United States and it’s the subject of dozens of TV shows and weekend workshops promising to teach real estate novices how to make a fortune.
— New research shows that flippers contributed to the housing crash of the mid-2000s more than economists initially realized. Because some of the same practices from the boom are making a comeback, some market watchers are concerned that the real estate market might once again be nearing a bubble.

Facebook: Users MUST accept target ads, damn them
— Facebook Inc said on Tuesday it would continue requiring people to accept targeted ads as a condition of using its service, a stance that may help keep its business model largely intact despite a new European Union privacy law.
— Facebook will use “permission screens” – pages filled with text that require pressing a button to advance – to notify and obtain approval. The screens will show up on the Facebook website and smartphone app in Europe this week and globally in the coming months.

Trump sycophants fear Pence-Haley alliance in 2020
Raw Story
— What has spooked Trump ass-kissers was Pence’s recent decision to hire longtime Trump critic Jon Lerner as his own national security adviser — a move that Trump angrily squashed after he learned that Lerner had made anti-Trump ads.
— Haley, meanwhile, has been openly feuding with the White House after she said on Sunday that there would be additional sanctions levied against Russia — only to be shot down by Trump one day after her announcement.
>>> This week, the White House claimed Nikki Haley was “confused” when she said there would be new Russian sanctions. Haley’s retort: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.” Rumors are flying in DC that she’s about to resign as ambassador to UN.

Massachusetts court: 2nd Amendment allows civilians to carry stun guns
— The decision marked a reversal for the court, which reached an opposite conclusion in a different case in 2015. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, set aside that earlier ruling, saying the Massachusetts court failed to properly explain its decision.
— The Supreme Judicial Court stayed the effect of Tuesday’s ruling for 60 days, leaving the 2004 state ban in place to give the Legislature time to rewrite the law to regulate the ownership of stun guns, without banning them entirely.

Mexican drug cartels, having killed 82 politicians,
warn others: drop out die
— Those killed come from across the political spectrum, and most were running for local positions rather than high-profile national posts. Drug lords are hoping to install lawmakers they know and trust to ensure that their lucrative trade is allowed to continue.
— At least four politicians have been killed in the past week alone, as candidates vie for around 3,400 positions; a record number. If cartels can get their allies into office, local government offers a source of well-paid contracts and bribes. Local police forces can even be forced into working for and protecting the cartels.

GOP official: Voter ID law enabled Trump’s Wisconsin win
Politicus USA
— “We battled to get voter I.D. on the ballot for the November ’16 election,” said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel on a conservative radio show. “How many of your listeners really honestly are sure that Sen. [Ron] Johnson was going to win reelection or President Trump was going to win Wisconsin if we didn’t have voter I.D. to keep Wisconsin’s elections clean and honest and have integrity?”
— In 2014 a federal court stated that 9 percent of registered voters in Wisconsin didn’t have the photo I.D. About 45,000 voters statewide didn’t vote because of the law, most of them Democrats.  This is more than twice Trump’s 2016 margin of victory in Wisconsin.

2020 Census will ask about same-sex marriage for the first time
Pew Research

California fights AT&T, Verizon etc over net neutrality
Courthouse News Service
— Dodging heavy fire from AT&T and Verizon lobbyists, California lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a first-of-its-kind measure that would fill the regulatory void left by recently nixed federal net neutrality laws.
— State Sen. Scott Wiener’s consumer protection bill passed its first legislative test after he agreed to a series of amendments. It got out of committee on an 8-3 party-line vote. Wiener said the bill has been vetted by professors, industry experts and the state attorney general to clear legal scrutiny.

Feds going easy on air polluters these days
The Hill
— The Trump administration has quietly reshaped enforcement of air pollution standards in recent months through a series of regulatory memos.
— The memos are fulfilling the top wishes of industry, as the EPA is now allowing certain facilities to be subject to regulation and is letting companies use “Republican Math” in calculating emissions.

Hundreds airlifted to safety after storms, mudslides on Kauai
USA Today
— The National Weather Service recorded 28.1 inches of rainfall in the North Shore town of Hanalei between 2 a.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday.

Arid zone creeping eastward over fertile US farm belt
— Researchers predict that drylands will continue to move eastward with the century, as global temperatures continue to rise, and eventually trigger large-scale changes.

Starbucks arrests are no surprise to many in that Philly neighborhood
NY Times
— For some black Philadelphia residents who venture into Rittenhouse Square, the treatment depicted in the arrest video was a frustrating reality of everyday life.
— Rittenhouse Square, with its hotels, boutique museums and upscale shops, has the highest racial disparity in the city when it comes to police pedestrian stops. Although black people account for just 3 percent of the residents, they made up two-thirds of the people stopped by the police.

Atlanta’s subway soccer fields: the ‘crazy’ idea that works
The Guardian
— A radical idea to build a soccer pitch into an Atlanta subway station is enlivening once-dead plaza space while bringing the sport to underserved communities – and more are on the way.
— “I started thinking: What if we convert some pieces of this land to soccer fields and use the train system as a network for people to get to games?”

Concerned about weird sonic brain injury, Canada pulls families from Cuba
— Canadian diplomatic families are being recalled from Cuba after new research suggested a mysterious illness that afflicted some embassy staff was a “possible acquired brain injury.”
— This is the latest in a saga that began in late 2016, when American diplomats stationed in Cuba began complaining of headaches, dizziness, nosebleeds, vision and hearing problems, and a lack of concentration.
>>> FBI “making progress” on finding answer to sonic attacks
You have to take Marco Rubio’s word for it, though.

Miguel Diaz-Canel is the one and only candidate to lead Cuba
NY Daily News
— Little is known about the 57-year-old, born after the revolution, with the small bits of information available on him in Cuban press saying that he is a trained engineer who uses an iPad and likes the Beatles.
>>> “One of the biggest lies you will be told this week is that a non-entity named Miguel Diaz-Canel will be in charge in Cuba … In totalitarian systems titles really do not matter … you will hear a lot fake news this week regarding Cuba.”
— Mike Gonzalez (a Heritage fellow) on Twitter