Later On

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

Archive for January 7th, 2017

Really great romcom movie movie, “America’s Sweethearts,” is on Amazon Prim

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John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal, Stanley Tucci, Catherine Zeta-Jones, et al. A really wonderful movie, IMO. I do have a weakness for movie movies, though.

And it’s on Amazon Prime.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 7:03 pm

Posted in Movies & TV

Number spirals at Numberspiral.com

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If you read this page and you are like me, you keep reading…

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Math

Someone Is Destroying Online Go, And Nobody Knows Who It Is

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Only, as the article explains, now they do. Alex Walker reports on Kotaku.com:

Right now, there’s a player lurking in the depths of the online Go scene that is laying waste to some of the best players in the world. It’s called Master, and nobody knows who it is.

Update: The identity of the mystery account has finally been revealed – you can read all about it here.

The account is simply called “Master”, and since the start of the new year it has made a habit out of trashing some of the world’s best Go professionals. It’s already beaten Ke Jie twice, who is currently the highest ranked Go player in the world. AlphaGo, incidentally, is #2.

Not that the ranking stopped him from being battered, mind you. A European professional Go player, Ali Jabarin, wrote on Facebook that Ke Jie was “a bit shocked … just repeating ‘it’s too strong'”. Jabarin wasn’t sure whether the player was AlphaGo or not, but he was certain that an AI was behind the mystery account.

By January 3, the number of probably-but-we-can’t-officially-say AI sanctioned beatings had risen to 41-zip. There’s a few signs that it might not be an all-AI account, though. Jabarin received a polite message on New Year’s declining a match, and a post appeared offering around $US14,000 to any professional player who could beat it. . .

Continue reading.

More at the link, including one of the games Master played.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 5:27 pm

Posted in Games, Go, Technology

Vietnam: The War that Killed Trust

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A thoughtful article on one of the things that set the US on its current course. Karl Malantes writes in the NY Times:

In the early spring of 1967, I was in the middle of a heated 2 a.m. hallway discussion with fellow students at Yale about the Vietnam War. I was from a small town in Oregon, and I had already joined the Marine Corps Reserve. My friends were mostly from East Coast prep schools. One said that Lyndon B. Johnson was lying to us about the war. I blurted out, “But … but an American president wouldn’t lie to Americans!” They all burst out laughing.

When I told that story to my children, they all burst out laughing, too. Of course presidents lie. All politicians lie. God, Dad, what planet are you from?

Before the Vietnam War, most Americans were like me. After the Vietnam War, most Americans are like my children.

America didn’t just lose the war, and the lives of 58,000 young men and women; Vietnam changed us as a country. In many ways, for the worse: It made us cynical and distrustful of our institutions, especially of government. For many people, it eroded the notion, once nearly universal, that part of being an American was serving your country.

Continue reading the main story

But not everything about the war was negative. As a Marine lieutenant in Vietnam, I saw how it threw together young men from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds and forced them to trust one another with their lives. It was a racial crucible that played an enormous, if often unappreciated, role in moving America toward real integration.

And yet even as Vietnam continues to shape our country, its place in our national consciousness is slipping. Some 65 percent of Americans are under 45 and so unable to even remember the war. Meanwhile, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our involvement in Syria, our struggle with terrorism — these conflicts are pushing Vietnam further into the background.

All the more reason, then, for us to revisit the war and its consequences for today. This essay inaugurates a new series by The Times, Vietnam ’67, that will examine how the events of 1967 and early 1968 shaped Vietnam, America and the world. Hopefully, it will generate renewed conversation around that history, now half a century past. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Government, Military

Interesting column: Megyn Kelly’s move to NBC is a symptom of the network’s rightward movement

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Melanie McFarland has an intriguing column at Salon:

Historically, the month of January has been very good to Megyn Kelly.

In January 2014, three months after “The Kelly File” made its debut on Fox News, a fawning Elle magazine profile described her as “an almost self-parodically perfect apotheosis of her species, the FOX fox.”

In January 2015, New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg even coined a term for the anchor’s Blue Steel equivalent: The Megyn moment.

A Megyn moment, Rutenberg explained, “is when you, a Fox guest — maybe a regular guest or even an official contributor — are pursuing a line of argument that seems perfectly congruent with the Fox worldview, only to have Kelly seize on some part of it and call it out as nonsense, maybe even turn it back on you.”

He goes on: “You don’t always know when, how or even if the Megyn moment will happen; Kelly’s political sensibility and choice of subjects are generally in keeping with that of the network at large.”

Skipping ahead to January 2016 — past her game-changing turn as moderator of the Republican presidential debate, where she confronted Donald Trump on his sexist and questionable temperament — Vanity Fair’s Evgenia Peretz warned all blowhards that “Megyn Kelly Will Slay You Now.”

At last, here we are in January 2017, closing Kelly’s employment file at Fox News and witnessing the turn to the next part of her career with NBC News.

Gauging the extent to which the mediasphere shuddered at Tuesday’s news of Kelly’s departure from Fox to take a job at NBC, one would have thought that some natural disaster had knocked the world off of its axis. But the sun came up this morning, didn’t it? The earth still rotates. Maybe Matt Lauer can exhale a little over his weekend brunch.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Kelly’s leap from cable to a Big Three broadcast newsroom indicates a seismic shift that’s been rumbling under the crust for years. Mainstream broadcast and cable news has steadily veered to the right since Fox News aligned itself with the Bush administration after 9/11, as news organizations have done everything possible to capture some of the audience the conservative network has attracted.

NBC’s hiring of Kelly, one of Fox’s most popular personalities, is simply . . .

Continue reading.

There really does seem to be a mass cultural shift to the right—perceptibly so, and in any areas.

And in this connection, consider this passage from one of the movie discussions blogged earlier today:

If there is one thing that unites many of Trump’s voters it is a desire to “shake things up,” an understandable wish given the mess in Washington, but one that counts on the unspoken presumption, which history flatly and terrifyingly contradicts, that there is in effect a safety net under this country, that there is a limit to how bad things can get under any presidency, no matter how feckless. Viewed in that light, what’s the risk?

Hollywood has promoted this illogical protective idea throughout its history, insisting that this country’s citizens are the good guys, protected by John Wayne and the almighty and destined to always come out on top. The apocalypse, by definition, rains destruction only on other people.

That’s from Kenneth Turan’s perceptive essay, and you should definitely read the whole thing.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 1:20 pm

Do we like the cultural values movies have taught us?

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The LA Times has a series of brief statements of various answers to the question, “Has Hollywood lost touch with American values?

You can go to the link above and scroll down through the stories, or read them individually:

From Mary McNamara’s piece:

. . . Long considered a bastion of pathological progressiveness and wanton liberalism (Remember the blacklist? The one not starring James Spader?), film and television were accused of obsessing too much about things like transgender rights and how many black actors got Oscar nominations and not enough worrying about the concerns of “real Americans”: Rust Belt unemployment, devotion to guns, fear of porous borders, disillusionment with government, feelings of personal alienation and a general sense of a world run amok.

How, many wondered, could the creators and arbiters of popular culture have been so out of step with the viewers and moviegoers they serve?

The answer is they weren’t and aren’t. Because there is no notion more thoroughly absurd than that of Hollywood’s liberal agenda.

Although many members of the entertainment industry espouse, often publicly, a left-leaning political slant, Hollywood is still dominated by white men who prefer to make movies and television shows that revolve around other white men — men beset by feelings of alienation, who often wield guns, who fight (or represent) corrupt government, and generally attempt to survive and/or save a world run amok.

Across galaxies, through the centuries, in every genre imaginable.

For every film that does not revolve around such a lead character, there are 78 others that do, just as for every series that features a transgender character, there are 8,000 that do not. . .

In the part not quoted, she notes that TV has done a better job than movies, but still a bad job.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 12:30 pm

Texas offers bad questions on its standardized educational tests

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No real surprise: Texas in the state in which the GOP tried to make it illegal to teach critical thinking skills. But in this case the questions about two poems were so bad that the poet herself could not answer them. Valerie Strauss reports in the Washington Post:

Badly worded or poorly conceived questions on standardized tests are not uncommon (remember the question about a “talking pineapple” on a New York test in 2012?). But here’s something new: The author of source material on two Texas standardized tests says she can’t actually answer the questions about her own work because they are so poorly conceived. She also says she can’t understand why at least one of her poems — which she calls her “most neurotic” — was included on a standardized test for students.

The author is Sara Holbrook, who has written numerous books of poetry for children, teens and adults, as well as professional books for teachers. She also visits schools and speaks at educator conferences worldwide, with her partner Michael Salinger, providing teacher and classroom workshops on writing and oral presentation skills. Her first novel, “The Enemy: Detroit 1954” will be released March 7.

In this amusing but sobering post, Holbrook writes about the episode. This first appeared on the Huffington Post, and Holbrook gave me permission to republish.

The tests on which Holbrook’s poems appeared are the STARR, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness. The questions were released by the Texas Education Agency. Teachers use past test questions to prepare students for future exams.

Click the link above (or here) to read Holbrook’s article.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 12:17 pm

Posted in Books, Education, Government

Is sugar the world’s most popular drug?

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Gary Taubes writes in the Guardian:

Imagine a drug that can intoxicate us, can infuse us with energy and can be taken by mouth. It doesn’t have to be injected, smoked, or snorted for us to experience its sublime and soothing effects. Imagine that it mixes well with virtually every food and particularly liquids, and that when given to infants it provokes a feeling of pleasure so profound and intense that its pursuit becomes a driving force throughout their lives.

Could the taste of sugar on the tongue be a kind of intoxication? What about the possibility that sugar itself is an intoxicant, a drug? Overconsumption of this drug may have long-term side-effects, but there are none in the short term – no staggering or dizziness, no slurring of speech, no passing out or drifting away, no heart palpitations or respiratory distress. When it is given to children, its effects may be only more extreme variations on the apparently natural emotional rollercoaster of childhood, from the initial intoxication to the tantrums and whining of what may or may not be withdrawal a few hours later. More than anything, it makes children happy, at least for the period during which they’re consuming it. It calms their distress, eases their pain, focuses their attention and leaves them excited and full of joy until the dose wears off. The only downside is that children will come to expect another dose, perhaps to demand it, on a regular basis.

How long would it be before parents took to using our imaginary drug to calm their children when necessary, to alleviate discomfort, to prevent outbursts of unhappiness or to distract attention? And once the drug became identified with pleasure, how long before it was used to celebrate birthdays, a football game, good grades at school? How long before no gathering of family and friends was complete without it, before major holidays and celebrations were defined in part by the use of this drug to assure pleasure? How long would it be before the underprivileged of the world would happily spend what little money they had on this drug rather than on nutritious meals for their families?

There is something about the experience of consuming sugar and sweets, particularly during childhood, that readily invokes the comparison to a drug. I have children, still relatively young, and I believe raising them would be a far easier job if sugar and sweets were not an option, if managing their sugar consumption did not seem to be a constant theme in our parental responsibilities. Even those who vigorously defend the place of sugar and sweets in modern diets – “an innocent moment of pleasure, a balm amid the stress of life”, as the journalist Tim Richardson has written – acknowledge that this does not include allowing children “to eat as many sweets as they want, at any time”, and that “most parents will want to ration their children’s sweets”.

But why is this rationing necessary? Children crave many things – Pokémon cards, Star Wars paraphernalia, Dora the Explorer backpacks – and many foods taste good to them. What is it about sweets that makes them so uniquely in need of rationing?

This is of more than academic interest, because the response of entire populations to sugar has been effectively identical to that of children: once people are exposed, they consume as much sugar as they can easily procure. The primary barrier to more consumption – up to the point where populations become obese and diabetic – has tended to be availability and price. As the price of a pound of sugar has dropped over the centuries, the amount of sugar consumed has steadily, inexorably climbed.

In 1934, while sales of sweets continued to increase during the Great Depression, the New York Times commented: “The Depression [has] proved that people wanted candy, and that as long as they had any money at all, they would buy it.” During those brief periods of time during which sugar production surpassed our ability to consume it, the sugar industry and purveyors of sugar-rich products have worked diligently to increase demand and, at least until recently, have succeeded.

The critical question, as the journalist and historian Charles C Mann has elegantly put it, “is whether [sugar] is actually an addictive substance, or if people just act like it is”. This question is not easy to answer. Certainly, people and populations have acted as though sugar is addictive, but science provides no definitive evidence. Until recently, nutritionists studying sugar did so from the natural perspective of viewing it as a nutrient – a carbohydrate – and nothing more. They occasionally argued about whether or not it might play a role in diabetes or heart disease, but not about whether it triggered a response in the brain or body that made us want to consume it in excess. That was not their area of interest.

The few neurologists and psychologists interested in probing the sweet-tooth phenomenon, or why we might need to ration our sugar consumption so as not to eat too much of it, did so typically from the perspective of how these sugars compared with other drugs of abuse, in which the mechanism of addiction is now relatively well understood. Lately, this comparison has received more attention as the public-health community has looked to ration our sugar consumption as a population, and has thus considered the possibility that one way to regulate these sugars – as with cigarettes – is to establish that they are, indeed, addictive. These sugars are very probably unique in that they are both a nutrient and a psychoactive substance with some addictive characteristics.

Historians have often considered the sugar-as-a-drug metaphor to be an apt one. “That sugars, particularly highly refined sucrose, produce peculiar physiological effects is well known,” wrote Sidney Mintz, whose 1985 book Sweetness and Power is one of two seminal English-language histories of sugar. But these effects are neither as visible nor as long-lasting as those of alcohol or caffeinated drinks, “the first use of which can trigger rapid changes in respiration, heartbeat, skin colour and so on”.

Mintz has argued that a primary reason sugar has escaped social disapproval is that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 11:18 am

If It’s Not Treason, What Do We Call It?

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David Atkins writes in the Washington Monthly:

When Donald Trump takes the oath of office, it will mark the third time in the last half century the United States has installed a Republican president who allegedly worked with a hostile foreign power to sabotage American interests and the sitting U.S. president, in order to get himself elected. Read that sentence again slowly and consider the implications.

In 1968, Republican candidate Richard Nixon worked behind the scenes to scuttle Vietnam peace talks. Nixon knew that if the incumbent president LBJ agreed to terms with the South Vietnamese government, the resulting peace would benefit not only American soldiers in danger but also his Democratic opponent Hubert Humphrey. So Nixon’s camp sent private messages to the South Vietnamese promising better terms if they waited until he was elected president. When LBJ learned of the sabotage, recordings show that he described it as treason. Nixon won the election, and the Vietnam War continued for years afterward.

In 1980, Democratic president Jimmy Carter was dealing with the Iranian hostage crisis, in which 52 Americans were being held captive. On April 24th of that year, Carter attempted a daring rescue mission of the hostages. Had it succeeded Carter would have been hailed as a hero. But the mission’s failure led to a long slog of tense negotiations. There have been persistent allegations by Carter officials involved in the negotiations that Republican candidate Ronald Reagan’s team negotiated with the Iranians to delay the release of the hostages until after the election in order to hamstring President Carter in advance of the vote. Whatever the truth of these serious accusations, Iran deliberately chose to release the hostages on the day of Reagan’s inauguration as a political gift to the incoming Republican administration. The hostages were released in accordance with diplomatic concessions made by Carter’s team, not in fear of Reagan’s mythical prowess. The Reagan administration then proceeded to engage in secret arms deals with Iran–both in exchange for hostages in Lebanon and to fund murderous right-wing paramilitary death squads in Central America.

In 2016, the entire American intelligence community, alongside private cyber-security firms, have been unanimous in accusing Russian intelligence services of hacking the private communications of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta–as well as over a dozen Democratic candidates for the House of Representatives. It was an electronic burglary of private campaign data that dwarfed the Watergate break-in by orders of magnitude. The resulting disproportionate media coverage of the released emails was crucial in helping to give Donald Trump a narrow electoral college victory, despite losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots.

We will not know the extent of the Trump campaign’s cooperation and involvement with this activity for months or even years. But we do already have some very disturbing facts. First and foremost, during his last press conference of the campaign Donald Trump explicitly asked Russia to hack 30,000 of Clinton’s emails (he later claimed to have only done it in jest.) There are reports that Russia has been cultivating Trump for years. There is the bizarre communication between a server in Trump tower and a Russian bank tied to the Kremlin that may or may not be innocent, but so far no one in the Trump organization has provided a credible explanation for it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 11:15 am

You can tell that unions are good for labor by the intensity of GOP opposition to unions

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Lee Fang reports in The Intercept:

Republicans stormed to power in state elections across the country in November on a promise to take on the establishment and return government to the average citizen.

But in state capitals where they gained control, they moved quickly to do something else entirely: They’ve consolidated their newfound power — and rewarded their corporate donors — by delivering death blows to a longtime enemy: organized labor.

In Kentucky, Missouri, and New Hampshire, three states that flipped to unified Republican control, legislators have prioritized passing Right to Work, a law that quickly diminishes union power by allowing workers in unionized workplaces to withhold fees used to organize and advocate on their behalf.

That might seem odd to voters who heard promises to “drain the swamp,” but its what Republican partisans and business lobbyists have been demanding for years.

Business interests helped win new Republican victories, now legislators are paying them back.

In Kentucky, Republicans won the legislature for the first time in 95 years with strong campaign support from Americans for Prosperity, the group founded and funded by the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch that is deeply focused on undermining union influence. Americans for Prosperity maintained a major presence in the state, funding campaign expenditures attacking state and local Democrats in swing districts, fielding a large voter canvassing effort, and providing specialized technology for campaign workers. No one knows how much Americans for Prosperity spent on local Kentucky races because the group is not required to disclose state-based campaign expenditures or its donors.

Along with the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and other business interests, the Koch-funded group demanded that the new GOP majority in Kentucky pass Right to Work. On Thursday, Kentucky state House legislators passed the union-busting measure, and the senate Senate is expected the follow suit on Saturday, with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin prepared to sign it.

Democrats in Kentucky are notably reliant on labor unions for political support. The largest group spending on behalf of local races for Democrats in Kentucky, a Super PAC called Kentucky Family Values, was nearly entirely funded by labor unions. In New Hampshire and Missouri, records show, unions similarly provide a bulk of campaign funds for local Democratic races in competitive districts.

Though advocates for Right to Work claim the measure is designed to boost job growth, studies suggest that the law may correlate with less pay for workers. Business groups dispute this finding, but no one disagrees that the law generally leads to a steep decline in union membership and union political power.

“We’re not anxious to be in a state where they have that much political muscle, the unions do, organized labor does,” said Woody Cozad, a lobbyist in Missouri, previewing the Right to Work bill scheduled for next week, which is also expected to pass now that Republicans control both the governor’s office and the state legislature.

The same thing happened after Republicans won the legislature and the governor’s office in Wisconsin in 2011, as well. They ran on dissatisfaction over the economic recovery, and with the help of groups like Americans for Prosperity — they then consolidated power by passing laws to weaken public sector unions in the state, a measure openly designed to undercut the largest donors to Democratic politicians. They followed up the changes to public sector unions with a Right to Work law.

Wisconsin union membership, once one of the highest, plummeted to below the national average after labor laws were changed by Republicans. In 2015, only 8.3 percent pf Wisconsin workers were union members. The changes have been bleak for Democrats, as the party failed to win any of the major contests last year, and Trump trounced the Hillary Clinton campaign in the state, one of the main drivers of his victory. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 10:05 am

Very interesting and simple exercise regimen using body weight

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Oliver Lee Bateman points out this sensible exercise program in Motherboard. He writes:

. . . [O]n reddit’s r/bodyweightfitness, users have joined forces to answer a question being asked by millions of people making their New Year’s exercise resolutions: What is the perfect workout?

The result is an extremely convenient, bodyweight-oriented solution to a mystery that has sold billions of dollars of fitness books, gym memberships, and equipment. Their program, as outlined in this video by YouTube fitness celebrity (and leading r/bodyweightfitness poster) Antranik, consists of three hour-long workouts that utilize simple movements such as planks, l-sits, handstands, and pull-ups—time-tested exercises that trainees were doing in 19th-century gymnasiums. The regimen is intended to be progressive, meaning that trainees will hold these poses for longer amounts of time or perform additional repetitions as they develop greater strength and flexibility.

First-time posters on r/bodyweightfitness typically describe themselves as out of shape and lacking access to a gym or information about fitness and nutrition. For individuals with such limited means and low starting skill levels, the workout would be effective, Equinox trainer Jason Strong told Motherboard. “I watched Antranik’s video and I must say I am impressed,” he said. “The workout is simple but thoroughly thought out. The progressions and regressions are very important. The breakdown of the workout is smart and follows traditional procedures–warm-up, skill movements, strength–and I love the prerequisite to move on to pull-ups. Now, if this is all you ever did, it is lacking rotational movements and stretching, but I do like it.”

Anthony Roberts, a fitness journalist and trainer, agreed with Strong’s assessment but cautioned that the absence of weight training from the workout would slow and eventually limit a trainee’s ability to continue developing total-body strength.

“Bodyweight or gymnastics movements will get you better at those types of movements,” he told Motherboard. “The disadvantage is . . .

Watch this video to get an idea of the progression. It makes sense to me.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 9:44 am

Posted in Fitness, Video

The American presidency: An unparalleled business and branding opportunity

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And the Trumps are getting right to work, monetizing the American presidency as much as they can. Susanne Craig, Jo Becker, and Jesse Drucker report in the NY Times:

On the night of Nov. 16, a group of executives gathered in a private dining room of the restaurant La Chine at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The table was laden with Chinese delicacies and $2,100 bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild. At one end sat Wu Xiaohui, the chairman of the Waldorf’s owner, Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial behemoth with estimated assets of $285 billion and an ownership structure shrouded in mystery. Close by sat Jared Kushner, a major New York real estate investor whose father-in-law, Donald J. Trump, had just been elected president of the United States.

It was a mutually auspicious moment.

Mr. Wu and Mr. Kushner — who is married to Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka and is one of his closest advisers — were nearing agreement on a joint venture in Manhattan: the redevelopment of 666 Fifth Avenue, the fading crown jewel of the Kushner family real-estate empire. Anbang, which has close ties to the Chinese state, has seen its aggressive efforts to buy up hotels in the United States slowed amid concerns raised by Obama administration officials who review foreign investments for national security risk.

Now, according to two people with knowledge of the get-together, Mr. Wu toasted Mr. Trump and declared his desire to meet the president-elect, whose ascension, he was sure, would be good for global business.

Since the election, intense scrutiny has been trained on Mr. Trump’s company and the potential conflicts of interest he will face. But with Mr. Kushner laying the groundwork for his own White House role, the meeting at the Waldorf shines a light on his family’s multibillion-dollar business, Kushner Companies, and on the ethical thicket he would have to navigate while advising his father-in-law on policy that could affect his bottom line.

Continue reading the main story

Unlike the Trump Organization, which has shifted its focus from acquisition to branding of the Trump name, the Kushner family business, led by Mr. Kushner, is a major real estate investor across the New York area and beyond. The company has participated in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions in the last decade, many of them backed by opaque foreign money, as well as financial institutions Mr. Kushner’s father-in-law will soon have a hand in regulating.

The Anbang talks, which have not previously been reported, began roughly six months ago — “Well before the president-elect’s victory,” Mr. Kushner’s spokeswoman, Risa Heller, noted. That was, however, just as Mr. Trump clinched the Republican nomination. While the talks are far along, representatives for Mr. Kushner said some points remained unresolved. Ms. Heller declined to outline the financial terms under discussion.

Mr. Kushner, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has hired a leading Washington law firm, WilmerHale, to advise him on how to comply with federal ethics laws should he join the White House staff as an adviser to the president. The firm has concluded that one potential sticking point, a federal anti-nepotism law, is not applicable, though not all ethics experts agree. While the law prohibits federal officials from hiring relatives for agencies they lead, Mr. Kushner’s lawyers argue, among other things, that the White House is not an agency and is therefore exempt.

As for conflicts of interest, Mr. Kushner would be required to make limited financial disclosures, which could give the public a clearer picture of his holdings. And, unlike Mr. Trump, who as president will be exempt from conflict-of-interest laws, he would have to recuse himself from decisions with a “direct and predictable effect” on his financial interests. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 9:33 am

A wonderful wintertime stormy-day soap: Savannah Sunrise

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SOTD 2017-01-07

Savannah Sunrise is one of Dr. Jon’s handcrafted (and vegan) shaving soaps, and the fragrance is just right for a cold, dark day that will see extremely heavy rain as a winter storm wades into northern California. “Hints of Orange Blossom, Peach, Gardenia, Jasmine, and Honeysuckle” is just what the doctor would order for a day like today: the promise of summer lushness. The 2-ounce tin shown in the photo is an ideal size for a soap collector: enough for many shaves, but taking up less room than the 4-ounce tin, meaning in the same shelf space you can have a greater variety of soaps.

With the Fine Classic I got a superb lather, and it’s clear to me that the question of whether a tallow or vegan soap is better misses the point completely, like trying to pick a razor on whether it has a comb guard or bar guard. In both cases, there are superb choices of either type. What one wants is a good soap, and whether it has tallow or is vegan really doesn’t address that question, and if it is a good soap, then whether it has tallow or is vegan is beside the point (except, of course, to those who avoid or seek animal products). Purely in terms of shaving efficacy there are excellent soaps of both types—and probably also bad soaps of both types, but I try to avoid bad soaps.

The Rockwell razor remains one of the best I’ve used. I’m using the R4 plate these days, and I had no problem in getting a trouble-free BBS result in three passes.

A splash of Fine’s American Blend, and I’m ready for the day, which includes staying indoors and making a pot of chili. I got a chuck roast and will cut it into small pieces. With chili, I don’t brown the meat: the flavor from browning would be overwhelmed by the peppers, tomatoes, and spices, and I want the meat to be very tender. (Does anyone ever make chili from ground beef? I can’t imagine doing that, but I think that was the method of my childhood.)

Written by LeisureGuy

7 January 2017 at 9:29 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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