Later On

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

Archive for April 26th, 2017

Report: New Orleans prosecutors threatening witnesses with fake subpoenas

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Another in the series of examples of the U.S. today, in a column by Radley Balko in the Washington Post:

If you thought the New Orleans district attorney’s office hit rock bottom when its prosecutors started locking up rape victims, sending innocent men to death row or bringing perjury charges against witnesses who recant after they were pressured by police to testify to things that didn’t happen . . . think again.

From the Lens:

The notice Tiffany Lacroix received in November had “SUBPOENA” printed at the top, next to a logo of the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office. It ordered her to meet with a prosecutor to discuss the upcoming trial of Cardell Hayes, charged with murdering former Saints player Will Smith.

“A FINE AND IMPRISONMENT MAY BE IMPOSED FOR FAILURE TO OBEY THIS NOTICE,” it declared.

But it wasn’t authorized by a judge. It wasn’t issued by the Clerk of Court, which sends out subpoenas. And Lacroix wouldn’t have gone to jail if she had ignored it. In other words, it was fake.

The notice came from District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office. His prosecutors are using these fake subpoenas to pressure witnesses to talk to them — a tactic that defense lawyers and legal experts said is unethical, if not illegal.

Remarkably, the office isn’t denying the charge, it’s defending it. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 7:34 pm

Silencing a low-carb rebel

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UPDATE: The best articles seem to be in FoodMed.net, and they have a category for the Noakes trial. The articles are listed in descending chronological order, so start with the last article listed and read your way up. It really is fascinating. /update

Bill Gifford has a very interesting article in Outside Online, one of a series of links posted by DietDoctor.com on the Noakes case. Here are the links in the order they were published, the earliest (the aforementioned Bill Gifford article) first:

The Silencing of a Low-Carb Rebel

Big Food Vs. Professor Noakes: The Final Crusade

Professor Noakes About the Twitter Trial and Challenging Dogma

The Twitter Hearing of Professor Noakes Is Almost Over

Professor Tim Noakes Found Innocent!

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 4:52 pm

Trump’s five biggest deficiencies are on full display

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Jennifer Rubin has a particularly good post today in the Washington Post. I always point out that she is a conservative Republican.

President Trump’s approval rating nearing the 100-day mark hovers at about 40 percent. The latest CBS News poll, for example, found that 53 percent of Americans disapprove of his performance, while only 41 percent approve. Among independents, only 38 percent approve. Fifty-seven percent say they are either “concerned” or “scared.” The last week or so has highlighted the range of problems and deficiencies that plague this presidency.

First, we saw Ivanka Trump get booed in Germany trying to vouch for her father as a protector of the family. We also saw the chairman and ranking Democrat of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee declare that they believed that former national security adviser Michael Flynn (who didn’t make it through the first month on the job) broke the law in failing to disclose monies he was receiving from Russian and Turkish clients during the campaign. This president, to put it mildly, has a corruption problem, a nepotism problem and a competency problem. His staff is stocked with extremists (e.g. Stephen K. Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Stephen Miller), hapless characters (Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer) and unqualified relatives (Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner) with substantial conflicts of interest.

Second, Trump’s emoluments problems, conflicts of interest and refusal to release his tax returns become more hobbling with each passing week. Whether it is the State Department hawking Mar-a-Lago or a tax plan that likely saves him millions (if we had his returns, we’d know for sure), Trump leaves us wondering whether he views the presidency as another of his get-rich-quick schemes. Needless to say, Republicans would be apoplectic if Hillary Clinton had done a fraction of this.

Third, he has no appealing legislative agenda. The latest incarnation of Trumpcare (3.0, or is it 4.0?) would be even less appealing to voters and GOP moderates as the last version. It still contains a big tax cut for the rich, still makes insurance more expensive for older Americans in rural areas and still rolls back Medicaid — but now states can also opt out of the list of essential health benefits. It’s unclear how this would get through Senate reconciliation. Trump’s half-baked tax plan — which apparently would grant enormous tax benefits to the rich and open up a gaping hole in the budget — doesn’t seem like an attractive proposition for anyone outside his core base. Trump’s agenda, in short, forces GOP House members to choose between doing nothing and doing things the voters hate. Good luck to House Republicans trying to explain themselves to voters in 2018.

Fourth, Trump remains so woefully ignorant that he comes across as duplicitous. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 4:47 pm

Bribe Cases, a Secret Jared Kushner Partner and Potential Conflicts

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Jesse Drucker reports in the NY Times:

It was the summer of 2012, and Jared Kushner was headed downtown.

His family’s real estate firm, the Kushner Companies, would spend about $190 million over the next few months on dozens of apartment buildings in tony Lower Manhattan neighborhoods including the East Village, the West Village and SoHo.

For much of the roughly $50 million in down payments, Mr. Kushner turned to an undisclosed overseas partner. Public records and shell companies shield the investor’s identity. But, it turns out, the money came from a member of Israel’s Steinmetz family, which built a fortune as one of the world’s leading diamond traders.

A Kushner Companies spokeswoman and several Steinmetz representatives say Raz Steinmetz, 53, was behind the deals. His uncle, and the family’s most prominent figure, is the billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries. In the United States, federal prosecutors are investigating whether representatives of his firm bribed government officials in Guinea to secure a multibillion dollar mining concession. In Israel, Mr. Steinmetz was detained in December and questioned in a bribery and money laundering investigation. In Switzerland and Guinea, prosecutors have conducted similar inquiries.

The Steinmetz partnership with Mr. Kushner underscores the mystery behind his family’s multibillion-dollar business and its potential for conflicts with his role as perhaps the second-most powerful man in the White House, behind only his father-in-law, President Trump.

Although Mr. Kushner resigned in January from his chief executive role at Kushner Companies, he remains the beneficiary of trusts that own the sprawling real estate business. The firm has taken part in roughly $7 billion in acquisitions over the last decade, many of them backed by foreign partners whose identities he will not reveal. Last month, his company announced that it had ended talks with the Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese financial firm linked to leading members of the ruling Communist Party. The potential agreement, first disclosed by The New York Times, had raised questions because of its favorable terms for the Kushners.

Dealings with the Steinmetz family could create complications for Mr. Kushner. The Justice Department, led by Trump appointees, oversees the investigation into Beny Steinmetz. Even as Mr. Kushner’s company maintains extensive business ties to Israel, as a top White House adviser, he has been charged with leading American efforts to broker peace in the Middle East as part of his broad global portfolio.

“Mr. Kushner continues to work with the Office of the White House Counsel and personal counsel to ensure he recuses from any particular matter involving specific parties in which he has a business relationship with a party to the matter,” said Hope Hicks, a White House spokeswoman. . .

Continue reading.

The U.S. government is now led by a thoroughly corrupt and unethical family. And the GOP Congress is on board with that.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 1:32 pm

Big Pharma’s Dirtiest Dealer

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Many (most?) corporations nowadays lack any sort of moral compass or ethical guidelines. They judge all actions by how those actions affect profits; actions that increase profits are deemed “good,” actions that don’t improve profits are deemed “bad.” Legal, moral, and ethical considerations do not matter.

Here’s an example, reported in Motherboard by David Bienenstock:

Insys Therapeutics executives suffered multiple arrests for bribing doctors to prescribe its fentanyl-based pain medication while funding anti-weed campaigns and developing its own lab-made THC drug.

Sarah Fuller first got her hands on Subsys in January 2015, when FedEx delivered a box containing a twenty-day supply of the fentanyl-based mouth spray. During the fifteen months from her first dose of Subsys, Insys Therapeutics’s flagship opioid pain medication, until her death at 32 from a fatal overdose, Medicare shelled out $250,544 to cover the drug, STAT News reported.

According to Fuller’s family and transcripts of their lawsuit against Insys, she had previously struggled with opioid dependency following two car accidents that left her with painful fibromyalgia. But after experiencing kidney problems related to prescription painkillers, she’d subsequently gone cold turkey and was off all pharmaceuticals the first time she visited with Dr. Vivienne Matalon (whose license was subsequently suspended) in her office in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

That’s where Fuller reportedly encountered an Insys sales rep, who was present during one of her doctor’s appointments to helpfully explain how spraying Subsys under her tongue every four hours would work wonders on that pesky pain. Never mind her history of abuse, or that Subsys had only ever been approved for cancer patients with breakthrough pain.

“As far as I’m concerned they killed her,” Sarah’s mother told STAT in a video interview, referring to both Dr. Matalon and the Insys sales rep.

Read more: Can Weed Cure America’s Opioid Epidemic?

In my fifteen years of reporting on the War on Drugs—the disproportionate government crackdown on certain communities using narcotics—I’ve never seen a case that pulled back the curtain and tied the whole room together quite like Insys Therapeutics.

First, you’ve got a publicly-traded pharmaceutical company pushing fentanyl, a drug that’s 50 times stronger than heroin. And then you’ve got the same company donating half-a-million dollars to a smear campaign against cannabis legalization in Arizona, where Insys is based, while simultaneously developing its own synthetic THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of cannabis) drug with full state and federal government approval. What a magnificent intersection of irony, hypocrisy, and corruption.

Meanwhile, given the way the War on Drugs is generally conducted in America, the only truly surprising event in this whole sordid affair is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation actually stepped in last year and arrested six former Insys executives, including the company’s one-time CEO, for allegedly “leading a nationwide conspiracy to bribe medical practitioners to unnecessarily prescribe a fentanyl-based pain medication and defraud healthcare insurers.”

Not to mention the countless people who got seriously hooked on Subsys. Throw in multiple lawsuits and a looming Congressional investigation, and it’s all taken a sizable toll on the company’s bottom line. On April 4, Insys reported a 41.6 percent decline in quarterly revenue, presumably the only negative outcome the company really cares about.

But it’s not all bad news for Insys. Just last month the company won approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration to start selling Syndros, a wholly lab-produced 100 percent THC liquid. Meaning, as far as the federal government is concerned, a cancer patient smoking a joint in California is a criminal in possession of a Schedule 1 narcotic with no proven medical value and a high risk of abuse. But Insys can produce and sell marijuana’s most psychoactive component in its purest possible form.

How is this okay with the DEA? According to a Washington Post investigation, since 2005, at least 42 officials from the agency have gone on to work for Big Pharma, including 31 directly from a division tasked with regulating the industry.

Congress, however, is about to step in.

Continue reading.

Do read the entire article. There’s a lot more and it shows how very broken the U.S. has become.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 1:15 pm

Other law-enforcement links worth looking at

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More links from Radley Balko this morning:

More at the link above.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 12:59 pm

Posted in Law Enforcement

Alabama’s answer to finding that innocent people are put on death row: Speed up executions

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Radley Balko notes: “Eight people who served time on Alabama’s death row have been exonerated. That includes one man freed last February. Still, state officials want to shorten appeals and speed up executions.” This is now the kind of country the U.S. has become. I never thought I would see such a perversion of the government. Knowing that innocent people would have been executed under the Alabama proposal and pushing for the proposal anyway shows some serious moral deficiency.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 12:54 pm

Posted in Law

Ivanka Trump does an extreme version of the Clinton Foundation (a Foundation strongly criticized by the Trumps, among others)

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This is a jaw-dropping post from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

From Josh Marshall:

This is really quite astounding. In this morning’s edition of Mike Allen’s not-Playbook from Axios he introduces what seems to be Ivanka Trump setting up something that sounds a lot like the Clinton Foundation, only in this case run from within the White House by a top presidential aide who is also the President’s daughter, who also runs her own large international company and who also has two brothers who are currently running the President/Father’s company and trying to rake in as much money as possible on the fame and power of the presidency.

Here is Mike Allen:

Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.

“The statistics and results prove that when you invest in women and girls, it benefits both developed and developing economies,” she said. “Women are an enormous untapped resource, critical to the growth of all countries.”

  • Under the radar: Canadians, Germans and a few Middle Eastern countries have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.
  • How it’ll work: The fund will provide working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Who’s involved: President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter’s idea, and she has consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.

 

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 12:31 pm

Man Fined $500 for Crime of Writing ‘I Am An Engineer’ in an Email to the Government

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The United States is going in a very bad direction. Read this article in Motherboard. The First Amendment is under attack from various directions, but this one is surprising.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Government, Law

Republicans won’t accept for themselves what they force on others: Healthcare division

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Kevin Drum points out how Republicans tacitly acknowledge that the plan they want for the public is one that they themselves will not accept:

. . . The latest Republican amendment to their health care bill allows states to opt out of Obamacare’s essential requirements. But it doesn’t apply to Congress. They are exempted. Just to refresh your memory, here’s the list of essential benefits:

  1. Ambulatory patient services.
  2. Emergency services.
  3. Hospitalization.
  4. Maternity and newborn care.
  5. Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.
  6. Prescription drugs.
  7. Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.
  8. Laboratory services.
  9. Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management.
  10. Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

The state of Wisconsin, for example, could choose to approve plans that don’t include doctor visits (#1), hospitalization (#3), or prescription drugs (#6). House Republicans apparently think that’s just fine.

But for themselves, their plans will include every single benefit on that list. I’m not normally too bothered by political hypocrisy, but this really jumps the shark. Back in 2009, Republicans gleefully proposed an amendment to Obamacare that would make it apply to Congress. They apparently figured that this would show up Democrats who didn’t want to eat their own dog food. But no: Democrats were perfectly willing to be covered by their own law. They shrugged, voted for the amendment, and Republicans were then stuck using Obamacare for their insurance.

But now that they’re in charge, Republicans are dead set on not eating their dog food. And who can blame them? Their dog food sucks. . .

Continue reading.

The GOP really is despicable, though the odds are that there must be some in the Republican party who are not. But they are not in Congress.

From a different report in the Washington Post by David Weigel:

“Removing protections for people with preexisting conditions will go down in infamy as one of the most heartless acts of this Republican Congress,” said DCCC spokesman Tyler Law. “As proof of the repeal bill’s devastating impact, Republican members of Congress are exempting themselves from the punishment they are willing to inflict on their constituents.”

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 11:28 am

Wonderful canned peeled whole cherry tomatoes

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Photo shows front and back of can. They are extremely tasty but also adorably cute. Tonight I’m using a can in a shrimp dish I’m making up (along with spring onions and green garlic).

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 11:20 am

Posted in Food

Steps toward an authoritarian government in the US: The Border Is All Around Us, and It’s Growing

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Laila Lalami writes in the NY Times Magazine:

The Border Patrol agent watched our Prius approach, then signaled for us to stop. Behind him stood several others in green uniforms, hands resting on holsters, eyes hidden behind sunglasses. German shepherds panted in the heat. “Are you all U.S. citizens?” the agent asked, leaning against the driver’s-side window and glancing around our car. “Yes,” said one of my companions, an artist from Iowa. “Yes,” echoed the other, a poet from Connecticut. Then it was my turn. “Yes,” I said. The agent’s gaze lingered on me for a moment. Then he stood up and waved us through the border.

Except this was not a border: This was the middle of Interstate 10 between El Paso and Marfa, Tex. No matter. At the Sierra Blanca checkpoint, agents can make arrests for drugs or weapons, share information with federal agencies and turn undocumented immigrants over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. There are many such checkpoints scattered throughout the continental United States — borders within borders.

Borders mark the contours of nations, states, even cities, defining them by separating them from all others. A border can be natural — an ocean, a river, a chain of mountains — or it can be artificial, splitting a homogeneous landscape into two. Often it is highly literal, announcing itself in the shape of a concrete wall, a sand berm, a tall fence topped with barbed wire. But whatever form it takes, a border always conveys meaning. Hours before my encounter with the Border Patrol, as the airplane I was on began its descent, I saw from my window seat the wall that separates El Paso from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. On one side were gleaming towers, giant freeways and sprawling parks; on the other, homes huddling together in the afternoon light, winding streets and patches of dry grass. Here you will find safety and prosperity, the wall seemed to say, but over there lie danger and poverty. It’s a message that ignores the cities’ joint history, language and cultures. But it is simple — one might say simplistic — and that is what gives it power.

For much of the United States’ history, national frontiers were fluid, expanding through territorial conquest and purchases. But at the start of the 20th century, as Arizona and New Mexico approached statehood and the country’s continental borders became stable, so did the desire to secure them and police them — first through congressional acts that prohibited immigration from certain countries and later through the building of fences and walls. During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump often promised to extend a wall along the Southern border and have Mexico pay for it. At his rallies, this promise was met with cheers and chants of “Build that wall!” When Vicente Fox, a former president of Mexico, declared that his nation had no intention of paying for any such wall, Trump’s response was, “The wall just got 10 feet higher.” The more it was challenged, the higher it became, as if literalizing the border could make all debate about it disappear.

Continue reading the main story

Whether the administration can find the money to construct an immense border wall remains to be seen. In the meantime, the legal apparatus around it is already being built. This month, speaking to Customs and Border Protection officers in Nogales, Ariz., Attorney General Jeff Sessions promised them “more tools in your fight against criminal aliens” — including charging immigrants who repeatedly cross into the United States illegally with felonies and, when possible, with document fraud and aggravated identity theft, which can carry mandatory prison time. His language was the language of war: Nogales, Sessions said, was “ground zero” in the fight to secure the border, a place where “ranchers work each day to make an honest living” while under threat from “criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into war zones, that rape and kill innocent civilians.” Under the new administration, he said, his Justice Department was prepared for the fight: “It is here, on this sliver of land, on this border, where we first take our stand.”

In this kind of rhetoric, the border separates not just nationals from foreigners, rich from poor and north from south, but also order from chaos, civilization from barbarians, decent people from criminals. Location becomes character, with everything that designation entails. A person is either American and an honest worker, or she is not American and is a criminal alien. The two categories are seen as inherent and inflexible.

In January, Trump signed an executive order temporarily barring nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, even if they were green-card holders or refugees who had already been cleared for resettlement. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 9:39 am

Mickey Lee’s Bee-Witched shaving soap and the RazoRock Old Type

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My G.B. Kent BK4 brush made a very nice lather from Mickey Lee’s Bee-Witched shaving soap, a soap that has a honey fragrance. It was a one-off, not part of his regular line, but I hope he brings it back at some point. Honey is not often used in shaving soap, which is too bad: it’s a wonderful fragrance.

Yesterday in using the RazoRock-branded Baili BD179, I commented that though it is quite comfortable, it is not so efficient as some of my razors. Today I’m using the RazoRock Old Type, which is equally comfortable but much more efficient, and the difference is striking: today a BBS result without effort and without problems.

A splash of Fine’s Clean Vetiver, and the day begins.

Written by Leisureguy

26 April 2017 at 9:36 am

Posted in Shaving

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