Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for September 16th, 2016

The Trumps are getting closer inspection and more pressure than ever before. Some can’t handle it.

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Ivanka Trump, for example. Christina Cauterucci writes in XXfactor:

Ivanka Trump is turning into her father. The usually composed and genteelbusinesswoman gave a very Donald Trumpian interview to Cosmopolitan on Wednesday, in which she denied that Donald has said the things he’s said, stumbled over basic questions about his new maternity leave proposal, and scolded the reporter for doing her job. Then, when the interview turned out to be more pointed than a sweet conversation between gal friends, Ivanka bounced.

Donald Trump’s Ivanka-backed plan proposes six weeks of paid unemployment benefits for women who physically give birth to a child, paid for by cutting “fraud” in the unemployment insurance system. It does not include any paternity leave or leave for a mother who adopted her child or whose partner gave birth. Paternity leave has been proven to have lasting effects on greater equality in housework, child care responsibilities, and wages. Cosmo reporter Prachi Gupta pointed that out, and Ivanka brushed it off:

Paternity leave is said to be a great factor in creating gender equality. So I’m wondering, why does this policy not include any paternity leave?

This is a giant leap from where we are today, which is sadly, nothing. Both sides of the aisle have been unable to agree on this issue, so I think this takes huge advancement and obviously, for same-sex couples as well, there’s tremendous benefit here to enabling the mother to recover after childbirth. It’s critical for the health of the mother. It’s critical for bonding with the child, and that was a top focus of this plan.

OK, so when it comes to same-sex—

So it’s meant to benefit, whether it’s in same-sex marriages as well, to benefit the mother who has given birth to the child if they have legal married status under the tax code.

Ivanka did not elaborate on what difference legal marriage makes if the leave plan only benefits the partner who gives birth, nor on whether it might also be important for fathers and non­­–birth mothers to bond with new children. But she got testy when Gupta asked her for more information on gay couples who adopt.

Well, what about gay couples, where both partners are men? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 7:43 pm

NYPD William Bratton says, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that police will reform themselves

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Alice Speri reports in The Intercept:

On his last day at the helm of the largest police force in the country, Commissioner William Bratton ended his 46 years as a police officer with a parting thought: police reform will happen from within.

His words, coming at a time when the public’s confidence in the police officers sworn to protect them is at a historic low and when advocates in New York and across the country are demanding faster, more radical transformations to police departments, couldn’t have sounded more tone-deaf and reactionary.

In a New York Times op-ed he opened by billing himself a “reformer,” Bratton shut down the growing chorus of critics demanding more police regulation and oversight:

There are police reformers from outside the profession who think that changing police culture is a matter of passing regulations, establishing oversight bodies and more or less legislating a new order. It is not. Such oversight usually has only marginal impact. What changes police culture is leadership from within.

In other words, only cops can change cops. Except so far they haven’t.

“If police departments could reform themselves from within, we wouldn’t be in a national crisis of police abuse and lack of accountability of which New York is ground zero,” Monifa Bandele, a member of the New York-based Communities United for Police Reform, wrote in a statement to The Intercept. “He is no reformer but is part of the problem because of his inability to acknowledge the harm done by his policies and under his leadership, or have any perspective on experiences outside of his own.”

In New York City, the “leave police alone” approach has long been the operating principle, as police leaders have successfully fought off legislation aiming to regulate the department’s practices, or even just make it more transparent and accountable to the public.

As Bratton leaves office, New York is home to one of the most restrictive police secrecy laws in the country, making it nearly impossible to access officers’ disciplinary records — and identify where and how often the department has failed to do anything about misconduct.

A court-ordered body-camera program has been delayed since 2013.

And earlier this summer the New York City Council declined to consider a legislative proposal that could have made it mandatory for police officers to do something as basic as identify themselves and explain the reasons for a stop. The proposal, known as the Right to Know Act, was endorsed by some 200 community organizations — the police reformers Bratton thinks should let cops be cops.

In a backroom deal, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito reached a compromise with the NYPD to adopt some reforms as a matter of department policy rather than law. That’s also what happened with a proposal to decriminalize some petty offenses — object of the “broken windows policing” that’s been the signature of Bratton’s second mandate in New York. That, too, was reduced to a matter of police discretion rather than regulation, essentially leaving it up to cops to decide whether or not to “reform.”

As The Intercept has reported, reform that’s not legislated is essentially as good as no reform. The police chokehold that killed Eric Garner two summers ago was against the department’s policy — not against the law. And that wasn’t enough to keep officer Daniel Pantaleo from “walking around free as a bird today,” said Lumumba Bandele, another member of Communities United for Police Reform. (In fact, Pantaleo got a raise.)

In his op-ed, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 6:33 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Paprika Recipe Manager

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After reading this recommendation, I got the Paprika Recipe Manager, and I have to say I’m impressed. It includes a browser with a lengthy list of links to recipe sites, and when you find a recipe you like, you can save it directly to Paprika Recipe Manager, where it is nicely formatted for reading and can be printed as a shopping list (ingredients organized by category) or as a recipe to use in the kitchen.

Recommended. Here’s where to get it.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 6:14 pm

Police activity here and there—who will protect people from the cops?

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Radley Balko’s full list of links is here. A few from the list:

  • Police in Mesa County, Colo., have apologized to a family of seven after launching a predawn SWAT raid on their home in search of meth. Police broke down the door, smashed several windows and stormed the place with guns before realizing that they had the wrong house. Instead, they found a couple and their five children, ages 3 to 12.
  • From the courts: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit recently overturned a lower court and granted qualified immunity to a police officer who was in charge of making sure a raid team hit the correct house. It didn’t, and in the course of the raid, reopened a surgical wound in the man they wrongly raided. The appeals court ruled that there is no clearly established law requiring police officers to make sure they have the correct address before breaking down a door and storming a house with guns.
  • Kenneth Probus is out on bond while awaiting his trial on charges of attempted murder of a police officer. Probus shot a Shively, Ky., officer in the legs as the officer tried to break down Probus’s bedroom door. Probus, a former firefighter and Marine who served in Afghanistan, has claimed he didn’t know the raid team were police officers. They were apparently in street clothes, one wearing a University of Louisville hoodie. Probus even called 911 after the exchange of gunfire. Police appear to have been serving a warrant for Loretta Harris, who also lived at the house. She and Probus have been charged with drug trafficking, although it’s unclear whether police found any drugs in the house. Probus had no prior criminal record.
  • Finally, this is a bit older, but I missed it when it happened: In April, Volusia County, Fla., paid the family of Derek Cruice a $500,000 settlement. Cruice died after a deputy shot him in the face during a 6 a.m. marijuana raid on Cruice’s home. Cruice was unarmed at the time, wearing only a pair of basketball shorts. The deputy was cleared in the shooting.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 2:41 pm

Drug-resistant infections have become much worse over the past 15 years: No program to deal with it.

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I suppose the idea is that the weak will die and if you survive, good for you. That seems to be the only plan. David Epstein reports in ProPublica:

You have the flu. You also have an important deadline coming up, and the slave-driving editor at the non-profit investigative newsroom where you work is breathing down your butterfly collar. You have to get it together, or risk your editor trying to write much more incoherent things into your story to get it done in time. To make the deadline, you pop some penicillin … Ok, joke’s on you, because the flu is a virus, not a bacterial infection, and you just took an antibiotic. (Don’t do that.) But let’s say you had an infection, so you take an antibiotic to get back to work. While you’re convalescing, evolution is happening. A few of the microbes the antibiotic are attacking happen to have some gene mutation that allows them to survive the attack. The surviving enemy microbes spawn a new population, all of which have the gene mutation for laughing in the face of your puny antibiotic. Now multiply that scenario by millions of people taking antibiotics when they probably don’t really need them, and you begin to understand how we’ve created “superbug” infections via the overuse of antibiotics. A new Reuters investigation shows that 15 years after drug-resistant infections were declared a “grave threat,” the situation is far worse, and the country has no system in place to track the tens of thousands of deaths that occur each year. (Editors, however, manage to track exactly how long I, I mean you, procrastinate.) Your five Ws:

What is the death toll?

Great question. Wish someone had an answer. While every state tracks AIDS-related deaths, Reuters reports that only about half track deaths related to antibiotic-resistant infections, and those that do generally track only a few different types of infections. In a survey, the tracking states reported about 3,300 deaths from resistant infections between 2003 and 2014. Meanwhile, Reuters found a slightly higher number recorded on death certificates during that period: 180,000. So close! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 23,000 people die each year from 17 of the most common antibiotic-resistant infections, but, Reuters says, that number is “mostly guesswork.” Ya know, give or take a few tens-of-thousands of deaths. I think this is one of those situations for the ironic use of the phrase, “close enough for government work.”

What else?

The words that CDC officials used with Reuters to describe the agency’s death toll estimate are truly confidence inspiring: “jerry rig,” “ballpark figure,” “a searchlight in the dark attempt;” and, my personal favorite because I love 19th Century art, from Michael Craig, the CDC’s senior adviser for antibiotic resistance coordination and strategy, “an impressionist painting rather than something that is much more technical.” Excuse you, Mike, do you know how much technical skill it took to create Waterloo Bridge, Effect of Fog? … Art before science, I bet Mr. Craig was a star pupil in Miss Jean Brodie’s class.

Why?

… are drug-resistant infections often left off of death certificates? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 2:31 pm

Republicans want foreign money in US elections

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Jon Schwarz and Naomi LaChance report in The Intercept:

A proposal to begin writing new regulations to staunch the flow of money from foreign-owned corporations into U.S. elections is the latest victim of the Federal Election Commission’s chronic deadlock when it comes to anything remotely like a reform measure.

The FEC has six members, and by law no more than three may be from the same political party. The three Republican commissioners have often voted as a block to prevent any additional restrictions on money in politics.

At Thursday’s meeting, the GOP commissioners’ opposition was so categorical they declined even to support beginning the process of writing new FEC regulations to prevent corporations that are wholly-owned by foreign governments from putting unlimited money into the U.S. political process. (They did allow that they might consider such a proposal in the future.)

The main proposal on foreign money discussed at the meeting came from one of the FEC’s Democratic members, Ellen Weintraub, and was intended to address a peculiar loophole created by the 2010 Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

U.S. law strictly prohibits “foreign nationals” — a term which includes foreign individuals, corporations and governments — from putting money into the U.S. political process. However, the law also states that any company incorporated in the U.S. is a U.S. national, regardless of its ultimate ownership.

President Obama predicted in his 2010 State of the Union address that — because Citizens United lifted previous bans against corporate involvement in federal elections — it would therefore make it possible for “foreign corporations” to “spend without limit in our elections.”

As evidence that this loophole is in fact being utilized, Weintraub’s proposal cited recent reporting by The Intercept about a California corporation called American Pacific International Capital, or APIC. APIC is owned and controlled by Chinese citizens, and donated $1.3 million to Right to Rise USA, the main Super PAC supporting Jeb Bush’s recent presidential run.

During yesterday’s meeting, Lee Goodman, one of the Republican commissioners, claimed that “both before Citizens United and after Citizens United this commission and the Department of Justice have been fully capable of preventing foreign national involvement.”

The FEC and Justice Department did not investigate APIC’s donations before The Intercept’s reporting. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 2:20 pm

A case of really bad Republican timing

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Matt O’Brien reports in the Washington Post:

It’s generally a bad idea to say something is a failure right after its biggest success.

That may seem sort of self-evident, but apparently it isn’t. Take House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.). He has been trying to recast the presidential campaign as a contest between Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump, but rather his “Better Way” agenda — basically tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts for the poor and deregulation for big business — and what he says would be President Obama’s third term. Now, as part of that, he recently had this to say about the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, whose job is, well, to protect consumers from financial malfeasance.

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-2-03-54-pm

This was not the best timing. The CFPB, after all, just fined what’s supposed to be one of the best run banks in the country — Wells Fargo — $185 million for allegedly creating 2 million bank and credit card accounts for customers without their knowledge so that bank employees could hit their rather ambitious sales goals and get — earn isn’t quite the right word here — bonuses. That sure seems like the definition of protecting people to me.

Ryan’s spokesman didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

This is a lot more important, though, than just an inopportune tweet. It shows us what the non-Trump portion of the Republican Party’s priorities are. Those are, on the one hand, trying to get more people to become investors and, on the other hand, trying to get rid of investor protections. Now let’s back up a minute. It’s important to remember that Republicans don’t think the financial crisis was a case of bankers blowing up the global economy because that was what maximized their year-end bonuses, but rather the government pushing bankers to blow up the global economy out of a misguided attempt to help poor people buy homes. Never mind that it was Wall Street banks, and not Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, that were behind the subprime boom. Or that even a conservative former Federal Reserve official says there’s no evidence that the Community Reinvestment Act, which outlaws redlining, “contributed in any substantive way” to the housing bubble’s bad lending.

That’s why Republicans seem to think that trying to stop financial fraud is a bigger problem than the risk of financial fraud itself. Indeed, Ryan’s budget would give less money to the market cops at the Securities and Exchange Commission. It would also get rid of the CFPB’s independent funding — right now it gets its money from the Fed so that it’s free from influence from members of Congress who might not be free from influence from bank lobbyists — and replace its independent director with a five-person bipartisan committee. His anti-poverty plan, meanwhile, would make it legal for financial advisers to once again recommend things that are in their own — but not their clients’ — best interests. (Believe it or not, that was changed only in the past year). And on top of that, House Republicans want to make it easier for penny stock companies — which, the SEC has warned, are a veritable playground for scammers and other assorted manipulators — to issue shares without as much oversight.

It’s as if Republicans are telling people to jump in a pool that Democrats are worried is shark-infested — and then saying that the real problem is there are too many lifeguards.

Republicans say this is all about consumer choice. It’s not the government’s job, they say, to tell people which financial products they can and cannot buy. Why shouldn’t I be able to take out a risky mortgage that I can probably pay back just because my neighbors might not be able to? Well, the answer is that if enough of them don’t, as we found out in 2008, it’s not just their problem — it’s everybody’s. And besides, is the freedom to take out a potentially dangerous loan or get bad financial advice really something we should be worrying about? What about the insiders who profit off their info, the bankers who move your money into accounts you didn’t ask for, the advisers who steer you into high-fee investments, and the con artists who pump up their penny stocks and then dump them on unsuspecting investors? These people exist. Regulators have caught them. Why should we do less about it? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 2:08 pm

The Congressional Bill That Would Save Community Broadband Networks Nationwide

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Sam Gustin reports at Motherboard:

An influential Democratic lawmaker on Tuesday introduced federal legislation to help communities across the country develop locally-controlled communications networks, setting up a fierce battle with anti-municipal broadband Republicans in Congress.

The Community Broadband Act of 2016, which was sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo, the California Democrat, is designed to accompany a similar Senate measure backed by Sen. Cory Booker, the New Jersey Democrat, and Sen. Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, along with several of their colleagues.

Eshoo’s legislation, which is expected to face fierce opposition from Republicans, comes one month after a federal court ruled that the Federal Communications Commission lacks the authority to preempt Comcast and AT&T-backed state laws that pose barriers to community broadband development.

“I’m disappointed that a recent court ruling blocked the FCC’s efforts to allow local communities to decide for themselves how best to ensure that their residents have broadband access,” Eshoo said in a statement on Tuesday. “This legislation clears the way for local communities to make their own decisions instead of powerful special interests in state capitals.”

Eshoo’s bill faces steep odds of success as long as Republicans control Congress, but it nevertheless represents an important development in the nationwide movement to help local communities build their own broadband networks in order to lower prices, boost speeds, and increase competition.

Eshoo’s legislation would block any state law that prohibits a city, municipality or public utility from providing “advanced telecommunications capability.” Nearly two dozen states have passed such laws, often at the behest of the nation’s largest cable and phone companies, including Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T, as my colleague Jason Koebler has documented.

The nation’s telecom giants and their GOP political allies often claim that locally-controlled networks would put companies like Comcast and AT&T at a competitive disadvantage, hence the need for restrictive state laws. But community broadband advocates say that these corporate giants are just trying to protect their monopoly power against publicly-owned services that could deliver faster speeds at lower prices.

“Rather than restricting local communities in need of broadband, we should be empowering them to make the decisions they determine are in the best interests of their constituents,” said Eshoo, who represents the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, and is a longtime champion of pro-consumer technology policies, including the FCC’s plan to increase competition in the video “set-top box” market.

Community broadband advocates were dealt a bitter blow last month when a federal court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to grant a request from Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina for the feds to preempt state laws that block those cities from expanding their locally-controlled networks to underserved communities in neighboring areas. Two weeks ago, the FCC said it would not appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.

Christopher Mitchell, Director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, told Motherboard that he’s “excited to see Rep. Eshoo’s bill that would restore local authority to communities. Local governments need to be empowered to decide how to improve internet access rather than leaving their businesses and residents at the mercy of a few big monopolies.”

“However,” Mitchell added, “the big cable and telephone companies are so influential, with campaign contributions especially, that the path for this bill is quite challenging.” He warned of potential unintended consequences if lobbyists for AT&T, Comcast, and Charter are able to insert language that “could make investment and competition more difficult.”

No lawmaker is more likely to oppose Eshoo’s bill than Rep. Marsha Blackburn, the influential Tennessee Republican who has received mountains of campaign cash from the likes of AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, according to the Center For Responsive Politics. Blackburn has repeatedly acted to undermine community broadband development efforts. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:54 pm

The House Science Committee’s anti-science rampage

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Unfortunately a great many in Congress are quite foolish, which doesn’t seem to slow them down a bit as they use their power to muck things up. Lawrence Krauss reports in the New Yorker:

If you know the answers you want in advance, you can always find them by cherry-picking your data. That’s what climate-change deniers have tried to do in recent years in arguing that there’s been a “pause” in the global-warming trend over the past two decades—suggesting, thereby, that global warming is just a temporary anomaly unrelated to human industrial activity. Last year, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put the “climate change hiatus” myth to bed. They published a paper in Science that showed, using new and more definitive data, that the claimed “pause” hadn’t taken place.

Not long after the paper was published, something odd happened. Kathryn Sullivan, the head of N.O.A.A., received a subpoena. It came from Lamar Smith, the Texas congressman who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and it demanded that the N.O.A.A. scientists turn over records and internal communications. They had already turned over their data in response to previous requests but refused to turn over scientists’ correspondence. In a statement, Smith accused the N.O.A.A. scientists of falsifying their data:

It was inconvenient for this administration that climate data has clearly showed no warming for the past two decades. The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want. . . . NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration’s extreme climate change agenda.

From climate change and evolution to sex education and vaccination, there has always been tension between scientists and Congress. But Smith, who has been in Congress since 1987 and assumed the chairmanship of the Science Committee in 2013, has escalated that tension into outright war. Smith has a background in American studies and law, not science. He has, however, received more than six hundred thousand dollars in campaign contributions from the oil-and-gas industry during his time in Congress—more than from any other single industry. With a focus that is unprecedented, he’s now using his position to attack scientists and activists who work on climate change. Under his leadership, the committee has issued more subpoenas than it had during its previous fifty-four-year history.

Smith, a Christian Scientist, has steadfastly campaigned against other scientific findings that cut against his a-priori beliefs—he’s opposed efforts to allow marijuana use for medical purposes, for example, which he has argued do not exist.

Some of his interventions seem to misunderstand the very nature of science. Last year, for example, Smith introduced legislation requiring that all scientists applying for federal grants guarantee, in a special section of their grant applications, that their work is in “the national interest.” It’s hard to know exactly what Smith means by this, but whatever it means it sets a dangerous precedent, because fundamental research should be driven by curiosity—by the simple desire to generate new knowledge—rather than by anyone’s political agenda. The real national interest is always served by the generation of new knowledge; Smith seems to think that only some knowledge is appropriate. The House passed his bill in February.

Throughout the past year, Smith has focused his attentions on a new target: the Union of Concerned Scientists—of which I am a “card-carrying” member. The U.C.S. is not an academic science organization, per se. Instead, it’s an advocacy group. It was established in 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, by scientists and students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who were concerned about the misuse of science for military purposes. Its founders proposed “to initiate a critical and continuing examination of governmental policy in areas where science and technology are of actual or potential significance” and to create an organization to assist “scientists and engineers so that their desire for a more humane and civilized world can be translated into effective political action.” Since that time, the U.C.S. has become one of the most focussed and highest-profile organizations speaking out in favor of sound science and environmental policies based on empirical evidence.

Around eight years ago, the U.C.S. began an ambitious research project about the fossil-fuel industry. U.C.S. researchers wanted to know how long oil companies had known about climate change. In 2015, the U.C.S. published a report suggesting that, even while it knew about global warming, the fossil-fuel industry had produced public disinformation campaigns about the impact of burning fossil fuels on the climate. Since then, at least two teams of reporters, including a group at Columbia University’s journalism school and another at InsideClimate News, have uncovered evidence that ExxonMobil’s own scientists wrote internal reports warning about the impacts of carbon emissions from fossil fuels on their own business model; during that same period, the company was making the opposite case to the public and to investors. Using material obtained from the ExxonMobil Historical Collection at the University of Texas at Austin, as well as other archives and interviews with former employees, they found evidence that Exxon was monitoring CO2 concentrations as far back as 1978, and, in the nineteen-eighties, hired scientists and mathematicians and worked with outside researchers to confirm models showing that greenhouse gases would result in climate change. As a result of these reports, attorneys general from New York, Massachusetts, and the Virgin Islands have begun investigating ExxonMobil for fraud.

Beginning in May of this year, Smith began what can only be described as a campaign of intimidation against the U.C.S. and other environmental organizations involved in researching Exxon’s actions. He demanded that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:45 pm

Latest Estimate Pegs Cost of U.S. Wars at $4.8 Trillion Since 2001

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Are we really and truly getting our money’s worth? Had that money been spent on domestic programs (such as infrastructure repair and maintenance, improvements to railway service, and so on), what an enormous difference it would have made. Naomi LaChance reports in The Intercept:

THE TOTAL U.S. budgetary cost of war since 2001 is $4.79 trillion, according to a report released this week from Brown University’s Watson Institute. That’s the highest estimate yet.

Neta Crawford of Boston University, the author of the report, included interest on borrowing, future veterans needs, and the cost of homeland security in her calculations.

The amount of $4.79 trillion, “so large as to be almost incomprehensible,” she writes, adds up like this:

  • The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, and other overseas operations already cost $1.7 trillion between 2001 and August 2016 with $103 billion more requested for 2017
  • Homeland Security terrorism prevention costs from 2001 to 2016 were $548 billion.
  • The estimated DOD base budget was $733 billion and veterans spending was $213 billion.
  • Interest incurred on borrowing for wars was $453 billion.
  • Estimated future costs for veterans’ medical needs until the year 2053 is $1 trillion.
  • And the amounts the DOD, State Department, and Homeland Security have requested for 2017 ($103 billion).

Crawford carried out a similar study in June 2014 that estimated the cost of war at $4.4 trillion. Her methodology mirrors that of the 2008 book The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Costs of the Iraq Conflict by Linda Bilmes and Joseph Stiglitz.

There are even more costs of war that Crawford does not include, she writes. For instance, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:40 pm

Benjamin Netanyahu Added 100,000 Settlers. Now the U.S. Rewards Him With Largest Aid Package Ever.

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It’s almost as if the U.S. is encouraging Netayaho to expand his program of illegal settlements in Palestinian territories and, presumably, his aggressive actions against the Palestinian people, such as the destruction of people’s homes. Zaid Jilani reports in The Intercept:

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION on Wednesday signed a formal memorandum of understanding that would increase the annual military aid package to Israel, rewarding it with a record $38 billion over 10 years.

This increase in aid comes as the Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israeli government, which took office in 2008, has vastly expanded the network of illegal settlements deep into the Palestinian territories in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Shortly before Netanyahu took office, 474,000 Israeli settlers were living in these territories. By the end of 2014, the last time the Israeli government released comprehensive statistics on the matter, that number had grown to around 570,000.

The United States and the international community consider these settlements to be a primary obstacle to Palestinian independence. The network of military checkpoints, erected barriers, and private transportation networks that sustain them cut deep into Palestinian territory, undermining its territorial contiguity.

Watch an AJ+ explainer on the topic: . . .

Continue reading. Video at the link.

Hillary Clinton has already made it clear that she will support Israel regardless of whatever actions it takes, and I imagine she will continue to pour billions into the country.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:33 pm

Tech money in government privacy conference

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Corporate influence on the US government continues apace. Sam Biddle reports in The Intercept:

In Januay, academic-turned-regulator Lorrie Cranor gave a presentation and provided the closing remarks at PrivacyCon, a Federal Trade Commission event intended to “inform policymaking with research,” as she put it. Cranor, the FTC’s chief technologist, neglected to mention that over half of the researchers who presented that day had received financial support from Google — hardly a neutral figure in the debate over privacy. Cranor herself got an “unrestricted gift” of roughly $350,000 from the company, according to her CV.

Virtually none of these ties were disclosed, so Google’s entanglements at PrivacyCon were not just extensive, they were also invisible. The internet powerhouse is keenly interested in influencing a lot of government activity, including antitrust regulation, telecommunications policy, copyright enforcement, online security, and trade pacts, and to advance that goal, has thrown around a lot of money in the nation’s capital. Ties to academia let Google attempt to sway power less directly, by giving money to university and graduate researchers whose work remains largely within academic circles — until it gains the audience of federal policymakers, as at PrivacyCon.

Some research at the event supported Google’s positions. An MIT economist who took Google money, for example, questioned whether the government needed to intervene to further regulate privacy when corporations are sometimes incentivized to do so themselves. Geoffrey Manne, the executive director of a Portland-based legal think tank that relies on funding from Google (and a former Microsoft employee), presented a paper saying that “we need to give some thought to self-help and reputation and competition as solutions” to privacy concerns “before [regulators start] to intervene.” (Manne did not return a request for comment.) Other research presented at PrivacyCon led to conclusions the company would likely dispute.

The problem with Google’s hidden links to the event is not that they should place researchers under automatic suspicion, but rather that the motives of corporate academic benefactors ought to always be suspect. Without prominent disclosure of corporate money in academia, it becomes hard for the consumers of research to raise important questions about its origins and framing.

Google declined to comment on the record for this article.

How Tech Money Flows to Privacy Scholars

Google’s ties to PrivacyCon are pervasive enough to warrant interrogation. As a case study in how pervasive and well-concealed this type of influence has become, PrivacyCon is hard to beat.

Authors of a whopping 13 out of 19 papers presented at the conference and 23 out of 41 speakers have financial ties to Google. Only two papers included disclosure of an ongoing or past financial connection to Google.

Other tech companies are also financially linked to speakers at the event. At least two presenters took money from Microsoft,` while three others are affiliated with a university center funded by Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:18 pm

Ted Cruz is Trying to Sabotage the Internet’s Governance Transition

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Ted Cruz is what is known as “a piece of work” (in the pejorative sense). Sam Gustin reports in Motherboard:

The US government’s plan to relinquish stewardship of key internet governance functions is under attack from Republicans who are using blatant falsehoods and fear-mongering to obstruct the historic transfer, according to internet policy experts.

Led by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Republicans are working to sabotage the US government’s long-standing plan to transfer oversight of core internet technical functions, including management of the Domain Name System (DNS), to a nonprofit group of global stakeholders.

Cruz and his GOP allies claim that the Oct. 1 transfer would undermine global internet freedom, imperil US national security, and violate federal law—and they’ve pledged to use the federal budget process to block the move. Cruz has even gone so far as tothreaten federal employees working on the transition with prosecution and imprisonment.

“If Congress fails to act, the Obama administration intends to give away control of the internet to an international body akin to the United Nations,” Cruz declared last weekon the Senate floor. “If the proposal goes though, it will empower countries like Russia, China, and Iran to be able to censor speech on the internet, your speech.”

Internet policy experts say Cruz’s attempt to delay the transition, which is largely clerical in nature and unlikely to even be noticed by the world’s 3.2 billion internet users, poses serious risks to global internet governance and could embolden repressive regimes around the world to undermine internet freedom and seek greater government-led or intergovernmental control of the internet.

“The Obama administration’s proposal to give away control of the internet poses a significant threat to our freedom,” Cruz said, warning darkly of “the significant, irreparable damage this proposed internet giveaway could wreak not only on our nation but on free speech across the world.”

Internet policy experts say the claims advanced by Cruz and his allies are blatantly false, and amount to political grandstanding that demonstrates a fundamental ignorance about how the internet works, especially when it comes to warnings that Russia, China, or Iran could somehow censor Americans’ speech on the internet.

“There’s no legitimate way for him to get to that conclusion,” Milton Mueller, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Public Policy and a leading authority on global internet governance, told PolitiFact, which rated Cruz’s claims asFALSE. “What he’s doing is fear-mongering and trying to create a bogeyman, which is the United Nations.”

In fact, by launching a politically-motivated crusade against the internet governance transition, Cruz appears to be taking advantage of an important international tech policy issue to stoke the now-familiar conservative conspiracy theory that President Obama is not a loyal American, but instead is a traitorous interloper who wants to cede US sovereignty to the UN, or perhaps more ominously, to “enemies” of the US.

The US government has long maintained stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, including the DNS, which operates like a “phone book” for the internet, and translates recognizable names like vice.com into numeric internet protocol (IP) addresses that connect users to websites around the world.

For more than a decade, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a Los Angeles-based nonprofit group, has managed the IANA functions under a contract with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). But as far back as 1998, the US made clear that it intended to privatize the DNS in order to facilitate “international participation in its management.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:13 pm

Deutsche Bank Says “No” to $14 Billion DOJ Fine

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

The old adage that when one is already in a hole, one should stop digging, has apparently not found its way to the corner offices of Deutsche Bank. After a non-stop two years of scandals, the Bank has decided to take its shareholders on another heart-thumping cop car chase by publicly feuding with the U.S. Justice Department. After the Wall Street Journal reported in the wee hours this morning that the Justice Department was proposing a fine of $14 billion for Deutsche Bank’s involvement in tricking investors with toxic mortgage backed securities, the Bank had the tenacity to tell Reuters that it was planning to “fight” the demand. This negotiating tactic sounds a little like something that might have been taught at the Trump Institute. 

In just the past two years, Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank with a large trading footprint in the U.S., has been terrifying widows and orphans – not to mention its shareholders. Two of its executives, William Broeksmit and Charles Gambino, hanged themselves. In June of this year the International Monetary Fund issued a report calling Deutsche Bank “the most important net contributor to systemic risks” on a global basis. In the same month, the U.S. Federal Reserve indicated that the U.S. unit of Deutsche Bank, Deutsche Bank Trust Corp., had failed its stress test. The Fed cited “material unresolved supervisory issues” as one of the reasons for the failed grade.

Last year Deutsche Bank settled charges with British and U.S. authorities for $2.5 billion for rigging the interest rate benchmark known as Libor. It pleaded guilty to the U.S. charges.

In 2014 Deutsche Bank, along with Barclays, was the target of an investigation by the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. The duo had created an elaborate scheme to assist hedge funds in magically converting millions of short-term trades into long-term capital gains, a much lower tax rate, and thus ripping off the U.S. Treasury of tax revenue. Called “basket options” or MAPS at Deutsche Bank, the bank effectively loaned out its balance sheet to hedge funds to conduct billions of trades each year in trading accounts under the bank’s name, deploying massive leverage as high as 20:1 that is illegal in a regular Prime Brokerage account for a hedge fund client. The banks got paid through margin interest, fees for stock loans for short sales, and trade executions.

This was not the first time Deutsche Bank had engaged in tax dodge maneuvers. According to the final report of the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, there had been a previous history of tax abuse. The report found the following: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 12:10 pm

Cow-Free Cow’s Milk

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Kaleigh Rogers reports in Motherboard:

. . . Pandya and Gandhi enlisted a third-party company to 3D print a DNA sequence that corresponds to the proteins found in milk. That DNA, combined with a standard Department of Agriculture species of yeast, creates the basis for their cow-free cow’s milk, which they’ve dubbed Buttercup.

“Once we have Buttercup, it’s just yeast farming, and this takes place in a brewery just like the way beer is made,” Pandya explained. . .

Read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 11:51 am

Posted in Business, Food, Technology

When will the press finally catch on about Trump?

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Kevin Drum has hopes that it will be soon. He blogs today at Mother Jones:

This is interesting. As I mentioned earlier, Donald Trump announced today that he would hold a press event to discuss birtherism. Cable news showed up in force, but instead of getting what they were told, they got this:

  • Trump showed up an hour late, guaranteeing lots of extra coverage.
  • He held the event at his new DC hotel and then spent several minutes telling everyone how great the hotel is. In effect, he conned the press into giving him a free, nationwide commercial for his hotel.
  • Then he spent 20 minutes introducing a bunch of military folks who were endorsing him.
  • Finally, at the very end, he gave a 10-second statement acknowledging for the first time that Barack Obama was born in the United States. Then he walked off without taking any questions.

So far, the reaction of the press corps has been scathing. It was a bait-and-switch. They got played. When will we ever learn? They are pissed.

So is this a turning point? It’s one thing to acknowledge Trump is a master of TV, but it’s another for him to be so blatant about manipulating the press. After all, there’s a point at which reporters stop being amused by the Trump campaign and start resenting it. Maybe we got there today.

UPDATE: Breitbart News rubs it in as only Breitbart can: . . .

Continue reading.

James Fallows, in his latest “Trump Time Capsule” installment, notes:

At his press conference /  hotel promo / endorsement spectacle just now in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump said this, and only this, about the long-running “birther” controversy that for years he led and whipped up:

Now, not to mention her in the same breath, but Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.  I finished it.  You know what I mean. President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.

In detail:

  • Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.” This is a flat lie. In an internal memo, people in the 2008 Clinton campaignconsidered applying an “othering” strategy against their rival Obama. It didnot involve any challenge to Obama’s birth or citizenship, and in any case it was not put into effect. What Trump said is a flat lie. More here and here andhere, with links to countless other sources.
  • I finished it. I finished it.” This is a flat lie. Trump started this phony and racist controversy and kept it going. (Racist? Yes. As Bernie Sanders pointed out today, Sanders’s own father, like Obama’s, was born overseas. But Sanders said that no one has ever asked him to prove that he was a “real” American.) Even after Trump claimed to have “finished” it with the appearance of Obama’s birth certificate five years ago, Trump has continued to put out Birther tweets and innuendos. You can see a sample at the end ofthis Vox piece; also here. Here is one from December 2013, two years after Trump supposedly “finished” the issue. As of this moment this is still live in Trump’s Twitter feed:trumptwitter
    Trump on Twitter
  • President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period.” Unlike the other two, this statement is not a lie. It was read in exactly the tone of a negotiated hostage statement. . .

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 11:49 am

Posted in Election, GOP, Media

The largest prison strike in the U.S. now enters its second week

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It’s odd that this doesn’t seem to be reported in the mainstream media. Alice Speri reports in The Intercept:

The largest prison strike in U.S. history has been going on for nearly a week, but there’s a good chance you haven’t heard about it. For months, inmates at dozens of prisons across the country have been organizing through a network of smuggled cellphones, social media pages, and the support of allies on the outside. The effort culminated in a mass refusal to report to prison jobs on September 9, the anniversary of the 1971 Attica prison uprising.

“This is a call to action against slavery in America,” organizers wrote in an announcement that for weeks circulated inside and outside prisons nationwide, and that sums up the strikers’ primary demand: an end to free prison labor. “Forty-five years after Attica, the waves of change are returning to America’s prisons. This September we hope to coordinate and generalize these protests, to build them into a single tidal shift that the American prison system cannot ignore or withstand.”

Since Friday, details on the strike’s success have trickled out of prisons with some difficulty, but organizers and supporters have no doubt the scale of the action is unprecedented, though their assessment is difficult to verify and some corrections departments denied reports of strike-related activities in their states.

Prisoners in 24 states and 40 to 50 prisons pledged to join the strike, and as of Tuesday, prisoners in at least 11 states and 20 prisons continued the protest, according to outside supporters in Alabama. Tactics and specific demands varied locally, with some prisoners reportedly staging hunger strikes, and detainees in Florida protesting and destroying prison property ahead of the planned strike date.

“There are probably 20,000 prisoners on strike right now, at least, which is the biggest prison strike in history, but the information is really sketchy and spotty,” said Ben Turk, who works on “in-reach” to prisons for the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World union helping to coordinate the inmate-led initiative from the outside.

Small rallies and demonstrations in support of the strikers were staged in dozens of U.S. cities and a couple of foreign countries, but so far the coordinated strike remains largely ignored on the outside.

“The strike has been pulled off, but we’re not quite breaking through to getting mainstream media,” Turk told The Intercept, noting that the strike was widely covered by independent media. “I talk to people who aren’t in that milieu and aren’t seeing it on their social media, and they’ll be like, ‘We didn’t hear about it, there’s nothing about it anywhere.’”

That’s bad news for the strikers, who rely on the support of outsiders to push for more radical reform but also depend on their outside visibility to mitigate retaliation by prison officials.

A week into the strike, . . .

Continue reading.

Interesting that in the U.S. today, slave labor is still used. Read the rest of the article on how prisons are ideal for housing slaves since the prison controls all communication to the outside and can put leaders into solitary confinement for as long as the prison wishes (decades in some cases). I’ve noted before that “Home of the brave” no longer applies given how easily the U.S. public panics and how fearful it is, and it seem that “Land of the free” does not apply to many.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 11:18 am

Posted in Law Enforcement

Red-tipped Super Speed (1956) goes to auction

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Red Tip side

This Red-Tipped Super Speed (date code B1) is in really excellent condition. It shaves quite well: comfortable and also efficient. It’s now listed on eBay.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 10:41 am

Posted in Shaving

Simpson Case, Meißner Tremonia Woody Almond, Maggard Slant, and Chatillon Lux Grigiot League Square

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SOTD 2016-09-16

I decided to use the Simpson case, at one time the Wee Scot 3 (the current Wee Scot being the Wee Scot 2 and an even more wee brush the Wee Scot 1). Meißner Tremonia’s Woody Almond shaving paste has a heady fragrance and makes a fine lather.

As you see, I bought the Maggard handle whose finish matches the finish of the slant (and the V3A). I actually turn out not to like the handle all that much: too long, too slender, too smooth—but it does look nice. However, I’m going back to the MR11 handle next time.

Three passes, no nicks, perfecty smooth finish, but this time is was clearer: for me the X3 is somewhat more comfortable.

A good splash of Grigiot League Square aftershave from Chatillon Lux, and I’m ready to finish off the week. For some reason, the fragrance of Grigiot League Square reminds me of a hair product.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 September 2016 at 10:32 am

Posted in Shaving

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