Later On

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

Archive for November 2017

My best pepper-mill solution

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I use quite a bit of freshly ground pepper. (We favor Penzey’s European Blend, though sometimes I’ll buy black Tellicherry peppercorns.) I use a lot (2 tablespoons) in the breakfast bites recipe since pepper is a nutritional catalyst that helps one utilize turmeric (a powerful anti-inflammatory).

I really liked the Oxo Good Grips Lewis pepper mill when I first got it: the crank handle is a lot easier to operate than a slick knob or twist top when your hands are wet or oily, and the bottom of the pepper mill has a snap-on/off cap that can collect pepper if you want to measure.

However, after a few months’ use, the shaft that propelled the grinder simply fell out, broken loose from its mount. Oxo did send a free replacement, but after a few months’ use, that one too failed in the same way. Plus it wasn’t all that easy to load.

I finally found a solution, much easier to load, much more robust, and can collect more ground pepper: it’s the Hario Mini Mill Slim Hand Coffee Grinder. The crank handle is easily lifted off and hangs on the grinder to minimize the storage room required, but is securely held in place when mounted for use. The long crank handle minimizes effort, and the receptacle can easily be unscrewed from the grinder to pour out the ground pepper (or, if you’re using it for the stated purpose, coffee).

The indicators show how many coffee-measuring spoons you have ground (1 cup or 2 cup). One coffee-measuring spoon = 2 tablespoons, so you can easily estimate by eye how much pepper you’ve ground.

It has about the same footprint as any good pepper mill, and I find it works much better. I don’t think this one will be breaking.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

The case for normalizing impeachment

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Ezra Klein writes at Vox:

In recent months, I have grown obsessed with a seemingly simple question: Does the American political system have a remedy if we elect the wrong person to be president? There are clear answers if we elect a criminal, or if the president falls into a coma. But what if we just make a hiring mistake, as companies do all the time? What if we elect someone who proves himself or herself unfit for office — impulsive, conspiratorial, undisciplined, destructive, cruel?

My fixation on this question began with President Donald Trump’s tweets to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. This was the president of the United States, the man who controls the world’s largest nuclear arsenal, launching deranged, unvetted provocations at the most singularly irrational regime in the world: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 3:44 pm

Bombs in your backyard

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Lena Groeger, Ryann Grochowski Jones, and Abrahm Lustgarten report in ProPublica:

The military spends more than a billion dollars a year to clean up sites its operations have contaminated with toxic waste and explosives. These sites exist in every state in the country. Some are located near schools, residential neighborhoods, rivers and lakes. A full map of these sites has never been made public – until now. Enter your address to see the hazardous sites near you, or select a state.

Continue reading for the interactive graphic.

Note the related story “Open Burns, Ill Winds,” which begins:

RADFORD, VIRGINIA — Shortly after dawn most weekdays, a warning siren rips across the flat, swift water of the New River running alongside the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. Red lights warning away boaters and fishermen flash from the plant, the nation’s largest supplier of propellant for artillery and the source of explosives for almost every American bullet fired overseas.

Along the southern Virginia riverbank, piles of discarded contents from bullets, chemical makings from bombs, and raw explosives — all used or left over from the manufacture and testing of weapons ingredients at Radford — are doused with fuel and lit on fire, igniting infernos that can be seen more than a half a mile away. The burning waste is rich in lead, mercury, chromium and compounds like nitroglycerin and perchlorate, all known health hazards. The residue from the burning piles rises in a spindle of hazardous smoke, twists into the wind and, depending on the weather, sweeps toward the tens of thousands of residents in the surrounding towns.

Nearby, Belview Elementary School has been ranked by researchers as facing some of the most dangerous air-quality hazards in the country. The rate of thyroid diseases in three of the surrounding counties is among the highest in the state, provoking town residents to worry that emissions from the Radford plant could be to blame. Government authorities have never studied whether Radford’s air pollution could be making people sick, but some of their hypothetical models estimate that the local population faces health risks exponentially greater than people in the rest of the region.

More than three decades ago, Congress banned American industries and localities from disposing of hazardous waste in these sorts of “open burns,” concluding that such uncontrolled processes created potentially unacceptable health and environmental hazards. Companies that had openly burned waste for generations were required to install incinerators with smokestacks and filters and to adhere to strict limits on what was released into the air. Lawmakers granted the Pentagon and its contractors a temporary reprieve from those rules to give engineers time to address the unique aspects of destroying explosive military waste.

That exemption has remained in place ever since, even as other Western countries have figured out how to destroy aging armaments without toxic emissions. While American officials are mired in a bitter debate about how much pollution from open burns is safe, those countries have pioneered new approaches. Germany, for example, destroyed hundreds of millions of pounds of aging weapons from the Cold War without relying on open burns to do it.

In the United States, outdoor burning and detonation is still the military’s leading method for dealing with munitions and the associated hazardous waste. It has remained so despite a U.S. Senate resolution a quarter of a century ago that ordered the Department of Defense to halt the practice “as soon as possible.” It has continued in the face of a growing consensus among Pentagon officials and scientists that similar burn pits at U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan sickened soldiers.

Federal records identify nearly 200 sites that have been or are still being used to open-burn hazardous explosives across the country. Some blow up aging stockpile bombs in open fields. Others burn bullets, weapons parts and — in the case of Radford — raw explosives in bonfire-like piles. The facilities operate under special government permits that are supposed to keep the process safe, limiting the release of toxins to levels well below what the government thinks can make people sick. Yet officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, which governs the process under federal law, acknowledge that the permits provide scant protection.

Consider Radford’s permit, which expired nearly two years ago. Even before then, government records show, the plant repeatedly violated the terms of its open burn allowance and its other environmental permits. In a typical year, the plant can spew many thousands of pounds of heavy metals and carcinogens — legally — into the atmosphere. But Radford has, at times, sent even more pollution into the air than it is allowed. It has failed to report some of its pollution to federal agencies, as required. And it has misled the public about the chemicals it burns. Yet every day the plant is allowed to ignite as much as 8,000 pounds of hazardous debris.

“It smells like plastic burning, but it’s so much more intense,” said Darlene Nester, describing the acrid odor from the burns when it reaches her at home, about a mile and a half away. Her granddaughter is in second grade at Belview. “You think about all the kids.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 2:51 pm

Writer Jenny Lumet: Russell Simmons Sexually Violated Me

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Jenny Lumet writes of the time Russell Simmons raped her. Tough reading, and seems a highly credible account. I bet Simmons now wishes he were a politician, since politicians get away with it.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 1:50 pm

Wow. Feds: Indicted gun task force officer planted drugs, duped Baltimore Det. Suiter into finding them

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And Jeff Sessions decided that the BPD could police itself: decide for itself the outcomes. Justin Fentin reports in the Baltimore Sun:

New charges have been filed against an indicted member of the Baltimore Police gun task force, alleging that in 2010 he set up Det. Sean Suiter by planting drugs on a suspect after a high-speed chase and crash.

In a new indictment unsealed Thursday afternoon, prosecutors wrote that then-Detective Wayne Jenkins told a third officer that he was going to send “Officer #1” to search the car because he was “clueless” that Jenkins had planted drugs.

“Jenkins knew the heroin [in the car] had been planted,” prosecutors wrote.

Though Suiter is not named in the new documents, Jenkins wrote in charging documents filed in 2010 that Suiter found heroin in the car. The suspect, Umar Burley, was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison as a result of the charges.

Records show Burley’s case was reactivated in August, and he was released from custody. Prosecutors on Thursday filed a motion to vacate his conviction and the conviction of another man who was with him.

Jenkins’ attorney Steve Levin declined to comment on the new accusations.

The Sun first reported on the new activity in the Burley case last week.

Commissioner Kevin Davis said at a news conference that Suiter was “set up” by Jenkins to find the drugs, and was not involved “in any way, shape, or form.”

“That’s a damn shame,” Davis said.

Suiter, a decorated 18-year veteran, was killed in an alley on Nov. 15, and Police Commissioner Kevin Davis said federal authorities disclosed to him that Suiter was killed one day before he was scheduled to testify before a federal grand jury investigating the gun task force. Davis said he was told Suiter was not a target of the grand jury, and there was no evidence to suggest Suiter was set up or that his killing was related to his scheduled testimony.

But questions around two cases continue to swirl. Earlier Thursday, Council President Bernard “Jack” Young and Councilman Brandon Scott called on the Suiter case to be turned over to the FBI.

“An independently conducted investigation would be the quickest way to provide the public and those who loved Det. Suiter with the answers they rightly deserve,” Young and Scott wrote in a letter to Davis.

They also said it would allow members of the Baltimore homicide unit, which is investigating the case, “the chance to properly mourn their fallen comrade.”

Suiter’s death remains unsolved, despite a $215,000 reward. For now, it is the only line-of-duty killing in the agency’s history that is unsolved, with suspects apprehended on the scene or quickly identified through tips in previous cases. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 1:17 pm

Some anonymous North Carolina lawmakers just made it harder to be poor

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Many GOP initiatives can be predicted by assuming the GOP hates the poor. Radley Balko provides a timely example in the Washington Post:

This story from the Marshall Project is just infuriating. North Carolina, like many states, has added layers of fees and fines for roadway infractions — and then for not being able to pay those fees and fines — that for low-income people can make even something as banal as a seat-belt violation grow into a crushing debt.

As post-Ferguson reports have drawn national attention to the debilitating nature of these fines and fees, some North Carolina judges have begun waiving them for people who can demonstrate that they’re too poor to pay them. Enter the state legislature, which Republicans control with a veto-proof majority.

A new North Carolina law takes effect Friday that is designed to hamstring the ability of judges to waive fines and fees for poor people.

Critics say the law will mean jail time for more poor people who can’t pay court costs that start at $179 for a seat belt violation and can easily surpass $1,000.

The law is believed to be the first of its kind in the country. It runs counter to reform efforts in other states that are attempting to reduce the number of people jailed because they are unable to pay fines or fees or make bail.

The measure seems crafted by the Republican-controlled General Assembly to maneuver around a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Bearden v. Georgia, in which the court held that people cannot be jailed simply because they are too poor to pay fines and fees. Judges can waive costs if the failure to pay is not willful.

North Carolina’s new law would not explicitly prohibit waivers for the poor, but would throw up a serious impediment, requiring judges to give 15 days notice to all affected agencies before issuing a waiver.

In North Carolina, that would be a lot of notices. An offender in the state is subject to a vast array of fees, from $5 for being arrested to $200 for failing to appear. The state charges a fee of $7.50 to underwrite the police and sheriff retirement funds and a fee of up to $40 a day for taking up space in jail. Perhaps inevitably, there is a $50 fee for failing to pay a fee.

In all, 52 fees are routed to four state agencies and 611 counties and municipalities.

The law would saddle counties across the state with thousands of dollars in administrative and postage fees to process and mail the notices.

The argument in favor of the law, as near as I can tell, is that many public services in the state (including the courts) rely on these fines and fees for significant portions of their operational budgets. But the problem there is not that waiving these fees will starve the courts and some of these agencies of revenue; it’s that the state has a system in which so many basic government functions are reliant on fines and fees extracted from people accused of breaking the law. It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the impartiality of the state’s municipal courts when their operating budgets grow fatter with every conviction and thinner with every acquittal.

The other problem with the argument that frequent waivers will starve operating budgets is that these waivers are being granted to people who can’t afford the fines and fees. That’s the whole point. Perhaps some judges are more generous with the waivers than others. And perhaps this law will persuade a few of them to grant fewer waivers. Even so, this is a pool of people who at least facially made the case that they couldn’t afford the fines they had been assessed. Making it more difficult to grant them waivers might, at best, result in a select few paying fines who otherwise wouldn’t — the few who managed to convince a judge that they were too poor when, in reality, they had enough money to pay the fine. It seems rather doubtful that this will bring in significantly more revenue.

Here’s what likely will happen: Under the new law, judges who frequently grant waivers are now looking at thousands of dollars in additional costs. If they stop granting waivers, those costs go away. The people who were too poor to pay before are probably still too poor to pay. It’s just that now their debts will continue to mount, they’ll eventually face the loss of their driver’s license and perhaps eventually wind up in jail. (Also, please spare me the line about “if you’re too poor to pay the fine, just follow the law.” As I’ve explained here before, our roads and traffic laws are designed to encourage law-breaking and to generate revenue.)

But all of that isn’t even the worst of it. The worst of it is that the politicians who crafted this cruel legislation undoubtedly knew it was cruel, because they were too cowardly to put their names on it. Again from the Marshall Project: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 11:13 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government, Law

A marijuana risk: Obscure Vomiting Illness Linked To Long-Term Pot Use

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Pauline Bartolone reports in California Healthline:

For 17 years, Chalfonte LeNee Queen suffered periodic episodes of violent retching and abdominal pain that would knock her off her feet for days, sometimes leaving her writhing on the floor in pain.

“I’ve screamed out for death,” said Queen, 48, who lives in San Diego. “I’ve cried out for my mom who’s been dead for 20 years, mentally not realizing she can’t come to me.”

Queen lost a modeling job after being mistaken for an alcoholic. She racked up tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, and her nausea interrupted her sex life. Toward the end of her illness, Queen, who stands 5-foot-9, weighed in at a frail 109 pounds.

Throughout the nearly two decades of pain, vomiting and mental fog, she visited the hospital about three times a year, but doctors never got to the bottom of what was ailing her. By 2016, she thought she was dying, that she “must have some sort of cancer or something they can’t detect,” Queen said.

But she didn’t have cancer. She had an obscure syndrome called cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, a condition only recently acknowledged by the medical community. It affects a small population — namely, a subset of marijuana users who smoke multiple times a day for months, years or even decades.

There’s no hard data on the prevalence of the illness. But in California and Colorado, which have loosened marijuana laws in recent years, emergency physicians say they’re seeing it more often. One study in Colorado suggests there may be a link.

Dr. Aimee Moulin, an emergency room physician at UC-Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, said she has seen a rise in the number of cases since California voters legalized recreational marijuana last November. She expects to see another increase after commercial sales are permitted starting in January.

Doctors say it’s difficult to treat the condition. There is no cure other than to quit using marijuana, and many patients are skeptical that cannabis is making them sick, so they keep using it and their vomiting episodes continue.

Doctors can do little to relieve the symptoms, since traditional anti-nausea medications often don’t work and there are no pills to prevent the onset of an episode. Patients may need intravenous hydration and hospital stays until the symptoms subside.

“That’s really frustrating as an emergency physician,” said Moulin. “I really like to make people feel better.”

Diagnosing the syndrome can also be frustrating — and expensive. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 10:11 am

How a U.S. citizen was mistakenly targeted for deportation. He’s not alone.

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The US is changing character rapidly now. Joel Ruben and Paige St. John report in the LA Times:

Sergio Carrillo had already been handcuffed in the Home Depot parking lot when an officer wearing a Homeland Security uniform appeared.

“Homeland Security?” Carrillo asked. “What do you want with me?”

Ignoring Carrillo’s demands for an explanation, the officer ordered the 39-year-old taken to a federal detention facility in downtown Los Angeles for people believed to be in the country illegally.

“You’re making a big mistake,” Carrillo recalled saying from the back seat to the officers driving him. “I am a U.S. citizen.”

The arrest last year was the start of a perplexing and frightening ordeal for Carrillo, who said in an interview with The Times that immigration officials scoffed at his repeated claims of citizenship and instead opened a case against him in immigration court to have him deported. It would take four days for government officials to concede their mistake and release Carrillo.

The case, say civil rights attorneys and other critics of the country’s immigration enforcement system, highlights broader problems with how people are targeted for deportation. They argue databases used by immigration officials to determine who is and isn’t in the country legally are beset by outdated and inaccurate information that leads to an unknown number of U.S. citizens being detained each year.

Since 2002, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has wrongly identified at least 2,840 United States citizens as possibly eligible for deportation, and at least 214 of them were taken into custody for some period of time, according to ICE records analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Because ICE in January stopped releasing data on those it takes into custody, it is impossible to know how many citizens have been caught up in the aggressive push to increase arrests and deportations being carried out under President Trump.

In one such case, Guadalupe Plascencia complained that she was transferred from San Bernardino County jail to ICE custody in March despite having become a citizen two decades earlier. The 59-year-old hairdresser said she was released only when her daughter showed ICE agents her passport.

On Wednesday, attorneys for Carrillo announced a settlement deal in which the government will pay him $20,000 to resolve a civil lawsuit he filed over the arrest.

A spokeswoman for ICE declined to comment about the case, citing federal privacy laws. She said in a written statement that generally “ICE would never knowingly take enforcement action against or detain an individual if there was probative evidence indicating the person was a U.S. citizen.” . . .

Continue reading.

This sort of thing is what I associate with totalitarian countries.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 10:04 am

WSP Prince, Valobra shave stick, Baili BR171, and Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave

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Valobra’s shave stick is really excellent: highly recommended. The Wet Shaving Product Prince made a lather that struck me as exceptional. The Baili BR171 did its usual wonderful job. It amazes me that a (metal) razor this good can be had for $6. I also like the look (and feel) of the handle.

Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave I purchased a while back, right here in Victoria. It remains to this day one of my favorite aftershaves: I love the fragrance.

The razor round-up article is getting comments, always a pleasure even when the comment reveals that I did not express myself clearly enough. “Live and learn” will be my motto until the day that I die.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2017 at 10:01 am

Posted in Shaving

Sessions remakes DOJ, Trump amplifies far-right anti-Muslim group

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Some dispiriting links from Radley Balko in the Washington Post:

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2017 at 3:24 pm

Hate Crime Training for Police Is Often Inadequate, Sometimes Nonexistent

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A.C. Thompson, Rohan Naik, and Ken Schwencke report in ProPublica:

To become a police officer in the U.S., one almost always has to enroll in an academy for some basic training. The typical academy session lasts 25 weeks, but state governments — which oversee police academies for local and state law enforcement officers — have wide latitude when it comes to choosing the subjects that will be taught in the classrooms.

How to properly identify and investigate hate crimes does not seem terribly high on the list of priorities, according to a ProPublica review.

Only 12 states, for example, have statutes requiring that academies provide instruction on hate crimes.

In at least seven others — Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Missouri, South Dakota and Texas — recruits aren’t required to learn about hate crimes at all, according to law enforcement officials.

Even states that provide new recruits with at least some education on hate crimes often provide training that is cursory at best.

Officials overseeing police training in three states — Wisconsin, North Carolina and Washington — told ProPublica that their recruits spent about 30 minutes of class time on the subject.

Hate crimes in America have made no shortage of headlines over the last year as the country has once more confronted its raw and often violent racial, religious and political divisions. Just how few hate crimes get formally reported and analyzed has shocked many. Fewer still get successfully prosecuted, a fact that has provoked frustration among some elected officials and law enforcement agencies.

But the widespread lack of training for frontline officers in how to handle potential hate crimes, if no great surprise, might actually be the criminal justice system’s most basic failing. There is, after all, little way to either accurately tabulate or aggressively prosecute hate crimes if the officers in the street don’t know how to identify and investigate them.

Hate crimes are not, by and large, simple to deal with. Different states identify different categories of people to be protected under their laws. And the authorities must prove not only guilt, but intent. It isn’t enough to find fingerprints on a weapon. The authorities must explore a suspect’s state of mind, and then find ways of corroborating it.

“Hate crimes are so nuanced and the laws can be so complex. You’re trying to deal with the motivation of a crime,” said Liebe Geft, director of the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, which has for years provided training to officers as expert consultants.

“Thirty minutes in the academy is not enough,” Geft said.

Though each state operates its police academies differently, most of them rely on a training council or commission to oversee the institutions, shape the curriculum and set minimum standards for graduation.

ProPublica spent weeks trying to answer the question of how, if at all, police departments prepare their officers to respond to possible hate crimes, which are known as bias crimes in some jurisdictions. We interviewed key officials in 45 states and the District of Columbia about the lessons being taught to new recruits during their police academy classes. We reviewed thousands of pages of training material — curricula, detailed lesson plans, legal guidance, PowerPoint presentations and videos. We studied the statutes and regulations governing police training around the nation and interviewed experts who have spent years educating officers and federal agents. Several states declined to discuss their instructional practices, or provide ProPublica with any training materials.

Among our findings:

A key federal training program was scuttled during the early days of the Obama administration as police leaders concerned about violence colored by race, religion and politics shifted their focus toward Islamic extremists and terrorism. That program, which was run by an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, sent experts around the country to teach local and state police officers how to respond to hate crimes.

State leaders at times displayed a lack of even basic knowledge about hate crimes. In Alaska, the state Department of Public Safety told ProPublica that officers in that state don’t learn about hate crimes during their time in the academy because Alaska doesn’t have a hate crimes law. In fact, Alaska’s hate crimes statute has been on the books since 1996.

Training materials used in Kansas explain the history behind the federal hate crimes law, but make no mention of Kansas Statute 21-6815 — the state’s hate crimes code — which is likely to be of more use to a local officer in Topeka or Wichita.

Some states that require hate crimes training often combine the instruction with what has long been called cultural sensitivity training. Such instruction typically involves material on the subtleties of dealing with specific ethnic or religious communities. Our review, however, showed some of those materials to be either hopelessly out of date or downright inflammatory.

Law enforcement leaders point to several factors to explain, if not justify, the lack of emphasis on training for hate crimes. While the offenses can be dramatic and highly disturbing — like the incident earlier this year in which a white supremacist impaled an African-American man with an 18-inch sword in New York’s Times Square — they . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2017 at 1:42 pm

Comcast Is Already Ditching Net Neutrality

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Jon Brokiin of Ars Technica reports:

We wrote earlier this week about how Comcast has changed its promises to uphold net neutrality by pulling back from previous statements that it won’t charge websites or other online applications for fast lanes.

Comcast spokesperson Sena Fitzmaurice has been claiming that we got the story wrong. But a further examination of how Comcast’s net neutrality promises have changed over time reveals another interesting tidbit—Comcast deleted a “no paid prioritization” pledge from its net neutrality webpage on the very same day that the Federal Communications Commission announced its initial plan to repeal net neutrality rules.

Starting in 2014, the webpage, corporate.comcast.com/openinternet/open-net-neutrality, contained this statement: “Comcast doesn’t prioritize Internet traffic or create paid fast lanes.”

That statement remained on the page until April 26 of this year, according to page captures from the Internet Archive’s WayBack Machine.

But on April 27, the paid prioritization pledge was nowhere to be found on that page and remains absent now.

What changed? It was on April 26 that FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced the first version of his plan to eliminate net neutrality rules. Since then, Pai has finalized his repeal plan, and the FCC will vote to drop the rules on December 14.

Here’s what Comcast’s net neutrality promise looked like as late as April 26: . . .

Continue reading.

So it begins.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2017 at 1:03 pm

Omega mini-silvertip, Wilkinson shave stick, iKon open comb, and Hâttric—and a list of favorite razors

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I do like that little Omega, and its handle is terrific: excellent grip. Wilkinson makes a pretty bad shaving soap in a tub, but there’s nothing wrong with their shave stick: very nice lather in a plain fragrance.

This is an older iKon open comb and it is wonderfully comfortable with no compromise on efficiency. Three passes, no nicks, and a BBS result, to which I applied a splash of Hâttric.

Leisureguy’s razor round-up, a list of my favorite razors that cost $100 or less, can be seen now on Sharpologist.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2017 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Shaving

Trump Envoy Erik Prince Met with CEO of Russian Direct Investment Fund in Seychelles

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There sure are a great many Trump-Russia connections. Erin Banco reports in The Intercept:

SHORTLY BEFORE Donald Trump’s inauguration, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater and head of Frontier Services Group, traveled to the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, and met with a Russian official close to President Vladimir Putin. According to the Washington Post, the meeting between the Russian and Prince, who presented himself as an unofficial envoy of Trump, took place “around January 11” and was brokered by Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to establish a backchannel between the president-elect and Putin.

The identity of the Russian individual was not disclosed, but on January 11, a Turkish-owned Bombardier Global 5000 charter plane flew Kirill Dmitriev, CEO of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, to the Seychelles, flight records obtained by The Intercept show. Dmitriev’s plane was an unscheduled charter flight and flew to the island with two other Russian individuals, both women. The RDIF is a $10 billion sovereign wealth fund created by the Russian government in 2011.

On August 7, Prince told CNN that he was in the Seychelles “on business” in January to meet with Emirati officials and met “some fund manager — I can’t even remember his name.” Prince said the meeting “probably lasted about as long as one beer.”

Although Prince repeatedly stated he couldn’t remember the Russian’s name — “We didn’t exchange cards” — a spokesperson for Frontier Services Group confirmed to The Intercept in September that Prince “crossed paths” with Dmitriev in the Seychelles.

The apparent encounter between Prince and Dmitriev offers yet another glimpse into the growing web of connections between the Trump administration and the Russian government, and raises the possibility that U.S. sanctions against Russia could have been violated if a business deal took place. Compliance lawyers and current and former U.S. officials say the mere presence of RDIF in a transaction that touches the U.S. financial sector or involves American individuals or companies risks violating sanctions.

The Washington Post reported in April that the FBI was looking into the Seychelles meeting as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Prince is scheduled to testify on November 30 before the House Intelligence Committee as part of its Russia investigation.

During the same period in January when Dmitriev and Prince were in the Seychelles, Alexander Mashkevich, a Kazakh businessman linked to a shady Trump investment vehicle known as Bayrock, also arrived to meet with Zayed, who was “holding court” at his mansion on the island, a source familiar with the meetings said. Abdulrahman Khalid bin Mahfouz, a Saudi billionaire whose grandfather founded the first Saudi private bank and whose father allegedly helped Al Qaeda, was also present. The meetings came several weeks after Zayed flew to New York to meet with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, and Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser who is now a subject in the federal Russia probe.

A spokesperson for Mashkevich said . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2017 at 4:11 pm

Rebuking Uber Lawyers, Judge Delays Trade Secrets Trial

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Cade Metz (great name) reports in the NY Times:

A federal judge on Tuesday delayed a highly anticipated trade secrets trial between Waymo, Alphabet’s self-driving car unit, and Uber, a day before jury selection was set to begin.

Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco said a letter written by a lawyer for Richard Jacobs, a former Uber employee, which surfaced last week, contradicted earlier statements by Uber’s lawyers, forcing him to delay the trial until Waymo’s lawyers could gather more information.

The letter, along with Mr. Jacobs’s testimony on Tuesday, provided a window into a secretive operation inside Uber that collected intelligence on competitors while going to considerable lengths to cover its tracks.

“I can no longer trust the words of the lawyers for Uber in this case,” Judge Alsup said. He added, “If even half of what is in that letter is true, it would be an injustice for Waymo to go to trial.”

The United States attorney’s office in Northern California alerted the court to the letter, written by Mr. Jacobs’s lawyer to Angela Padilla, deputy general counsel at Uber. Uber hired Mr. Jacobs in March 2016 as its manager of global intelligence and fired him in April of this year, Mr. Jacobs testified in court on Tuesday. He is now a paid security consultant for Uber.

In discussions with other Uber employees, Mr. Jacobs testified, he learned of an internal organization that gathered trade secrets, code and other information about its competitors. It was called the “marketplace analytics team,” according to the letter. The group frequented the code-sharing site GitHub, searching for private material that may have been accidentally revealed by competitors.

This Uber team also led efforts “to evade, impede, obstruct, influence several ongoing lawsuits against Uber,” according to the letter from Mr. Jacobs’s lawyer. The team also tried to find out what other companies were doing. In 2016, Uber hired a man named Ed Russo to help recruit employees of competitors to steal trade secrets, according to the letter.

This group relied on “anonymous” servers separate from the rest of the Uber network, and some employees were expected to rely on devices that encrypted or automatically deleted messages after a certain amount of time, Mr. Jacobs testified. Email was a last resort.

This system, Mr. Jacobs said in his testimony, “was to ensure there was no paper trail that would come back to haunt the company in any criminal or civil litigation.” . . .

Continue reading.

This seems like deliberate criminality, and Uber a criminal organization.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2017 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Business, Law, Technology

Roy Moore’s alleged pursuit of a young girl is the symptom of a larger problem in evangelical circles

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Kathryn Brightbill reports in the LA Times:

We need to talk about the segment of American culture that probably doesn’t think the allegations against Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore are particularly damning, the segment that will blanch at only two accusations in the Washington Post expose: He pursued a 14-year-old-girl without first getting her parents’ permission, and he initiated sexual contact outside of marriage. That segment is evangelicalism. In that world, which Moore travels in and I grew up in, 14-year-old girls courting adult men isn’t uncommon.
I use the phrase “14-year-old girls courting adult men,” rather than “adult men courting 14-year-old girls,” for a reason: Evangelicals routinely frame these relationships in those terms. That’s how I was introduced to these relationships as a home-schooled teenager in the 1990s, and it’s the language that my friends and I would use to discuss girls we knew who were in parent-sanctioned relationships with older men.

One popular courtship story that was told and retold in home-school circles during the 1990s was that of Matthew and Maranatha Chapman, who turned their history into a successful career promoting young marriage. Most audiences, however, didn’t realize just how young the Chapmans had in mind until the site Homeschoolers Anonymous and the blogger Libby Annerevealed that Matthew was 27 and Maranatha was 15 when they married. Libby Anne also drew mainstream attention to Matthew Chapman’s writings, in which he argued that parents should consider marriage for their daughters in their “middle-teens.” At that point the Chapmans stopped receiving quite so many speaking invitations.

Child marriage advocate Vaughn Ohlman followed more or less the same arc. He made a career out of speaking at home-school conventions until the wider world heard tell — again thanks to Homeschoolers Anonymous — of his planned retreat for families to arrange child marriages.

“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson advocated for adult men to marry 15- and 16-year-old girls and deemed age 20 too old because “you wait until they get to be 20 years old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket.” Home-school leader Kevin Swanson, whose 2015 convention was attended by several Republican presidential candidatesdefended Robertson on his radio show after the story broke. Advocating for child marriage hasn’t slowed down Robertson’s career. He just got a new show on the conservative digital network CRTV.

As a teenager, I attended a lecture on courtship by a home-school speaker who was popular at the time. He praised the idea of “early courtship” so the girl could be molded into the best possible helpmeet for her future husband. The girl’s father was expected to direct her education after the courtship began so she could help her future husband in his work.

In retrospect, I understand what the speaker was really describing: Adult men selecting and grooming girls who were too young to have life experience. Another word for that is “predation.”

Much of the sexual abuse that takes place in Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, or IFB, churches involves adult men targeting 14- to 16-year-old girls. If caught, the teenage victim may be forced to repent the “sin” of having seduced an adult man. Former IFB megachurch pastor Jack Schaap argued that he should be released from prison after being convicted of molesting a 16-year-old girl, asserting that the “aggressiveness” of his victim “inhibited [his] impulse control.” In the wake of the Schaap case, numerous other stories emerged of sexual abuse cover-ups involving teenage girls at IFB churches. In another high-profile case, pregnant 15-year-old Tina Anderson, who was raped by a church deacon twice her age, was forced to confess her “sin” to the congregation.

Prominent conservative Reformed theologian Doug Wilson has a documented history of mishandling sexual abuse cases within his congregation. Nevertheless, he continues to be promoted by evangelical leaders such as John Piper, whose Desiring God site still publishes Wilson’s work. When a 13-year-old girl in Wilson’s congregation was sexually abused, Wilson argued that she and her abuser were in a parent-sanctioned courtship, and that this was a mitigating factor.

There’s no shortage of such stories. A Presbyterian Church in America, or PCA, pastor attempted to discipline a woman who warned home-school parents of the convicted sex offender in the congregation. . .

Continue reading. There’s also a video at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2017 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

D.R. Harris Marlborough shave stick with Simpson Case and the Baby Smooth

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D.R. Harris shaving soaps, whether in a tub or as a shave stick, make superb lather, and the little Case did a fine job of bringing it forth. The case is the big brother of the Wee Scot, but the larger-diameter knot feels much firmer.

Three passes with the RazoRock Baby Smooth, a splash of Marlborough aftershave, and the week’s moving along.

I’ll have an article in Sharpologist tomorrow.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 November 2017 at 8:32 am

Posted in Shaving

White House Memo Justifying CFPB Takeover Was Written By Payday Lender Attorney

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But of course. David Dayen reports in The Intercept:

The lawyer who wrote the Office of Legal Counsel memo supporting the Trump administration’s viewpoint that the president can appoint Mick Mulvaney as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau represented a payday lender in front of the CFPB last year.

Steven A. Engel wrote the memo for OLC, which has been criticized by academics for seeking a conclusion and working backward to justify it. “Let’s be honest, this is an argument where you get the answer, and then you go to the other side of the equation,” said former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a lead author of the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB. Engel was confirmed as an assistant attorney general earlier this month by a voice vote in the Senate.

But in July 2015, Engel was one of two lead counsels for NDG Financial Corp., a Canadian payday lender that CFPB cited for running a nine-year scheme to use its foreign status to offer U.S. customers high-cost loans that were at odds with state and federal law. “We are taking action against the NDG Enterprise for collecting money it had no right to take from consumers,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray at the time. Engel was active in the case up until August of this year.

The revelation underscores the extent of industry infiltration of the structure designed by Congress — a single permanent director who can only take office upon appointment by the president and confirmation by the Senate — to keep the consumer watchdog independent of the industry it is set up to regulate and buttresses the original intent of the lawmakers who established the agency.

CFPB alleged that NDG, which issues and collects payday loans online, made “false threats” to consumers that non-payment would result in wage garnishment, arrest, or imprisonment. The web of companies in the enterprise, situated in Canada and Malta, did not have the legal right to debit accounts to collect payday loans in the U.S., but they hid behind their foreign status to claim that they were exempt from various limitations and statutes. The case is still active in federal court in New York. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 November 2017 at 7:55 pm

Good news for the workers: California Supreme Court rules for farmworkers, and upholds binding mediation

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Maura Dolan reports in the LA Times:

California’s highest court decided unanimously Monday that farmers may have a labor contract imposed on them if negotiations with a union fail to produce an agreement.
The state Supreme Court, overturning a lower court ruling, upheld a 2002 law that permits the state to order farmers and unions to reach binding contracts.

The Legislature passed the law after determining that farmers were refusing to negotiate with unionized workers. The law allows either side to ask for a neutral mediator and for that mediator to impose a contract covering wages and working conditions.

The court said the law provided “numerous safeguards” to ensure fairness, including opportunities for appeal.

Monday’s ruling came in a dispute between the United Farm Workers of America, founded by Cesar Chavez, and Gerawan Farming Inc.

Gerawan owns 12,000 acres in Fresno and Madera counties and employs thousands of workers to grow, harvest and pack stone fruit and table grapes.

After winning the right to represent workers but failing to reach a contract, the UFW asked the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board in 2013 to intervene.

The board ordered a binding mediation, and the mediator eventually wrote a contract that the board approved.

Gerawan sued, arguing the state law was unconstitutional.

United Farm Workers President Arturo S. Rodriguez said Gerawan must now pay workers more than $10 million in back wages.

“After four years of stalling giant Gerawan Farming Inc. should immediately honor the union contract hammered out by a neutral state mediator,” Rodriguez said in a written statement.

The $10-million figure was based on calculations of the difference in hourly pay Gerawan’s 3,000 workers received and the higher wages they would have earned in addition to holiday pay under the state-ordered contract, the union said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 November 2017 at 6:57 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life, Law, Unions

Desperation: A woman who apparently works for O’Keefe tried to plant a false story (about Roy Moore) in the Washington Post. She failed.

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Interesting report.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 November 2017 at 6:52 pm

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