Later On

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

Archive for March 20th, 2018

Wow! This Facebook thing is a fusion bomb.

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From Brian Stelter’s Reliable Sources:

Exec summary: Scroll down for Ralph Peters’ scorching statement about Fox News, NYMag’s new hire, Google’s subscription help, and another “Black Panther” record… Plus, a snow day delay in the AT&T trial…

FACEBOOK SCANDAL

What will Facebook do?

Lawmakers in the U.S. and the U.K. are asking Mark Zuckerberg to testify… FTC officials are making inquiries… And Cambridge Analytica is suspending CEOAlexander Nix.

What will Wednesday bring? Maybe a public statement from Zuckerberg and/or Sheryl Sandberg. As CNN’s Laurie Segall reported, frustration is brewing inside Facebook about the company’s response to this crisis…

–> FB says Zuckerberg and Sandberg are “working around the clock to get all the facts… The entire company is outraged we were deceived…

–> Zuck’s former mentor Roger McNamee told Christiane Amanpour that Facebook is confronting a crisis of public trust “that is going to destroy the company…”

–> Wired’s Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein summed it up well here: “A Hurricane Flattens Facebook”

Meet the data scientist

Donie O’Sullivan emails: We tracked down Aleksandr Kogan, the scientist that swept up Facebook data on millions of Americans for Cambridge Analytica. He saysFacebook is making him a scapegoat… He suspects thousands of other developers gathered Facebook data just like him… And he says he’s willing to talk to Congress…

–> Kogan’s point about FB: “Using users’ data for profit is their business model…”

 –> Donie adds: For a guy that has prompted so much international intrigue these past few days, Kogan seems quite calm about it all. He seems to find it more surreal than anything else…

Continue reading.

And definitely watch this video.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 9:08 pm

The Dream/Nightmare (depending on your POV) Team Opposing Trump

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From a comment in the Washington Post:

Meet the Dream Team of Prosecuting Attorneys that are going to put Trump away.
Robert Mueller (Representing the USA): https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-mueller-12a03547/
Michael Avengetti (Representing Stormy Daniels): https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-avenatti-44ab1a1a/
Gloria Allred: (Representing Summer Zervos): https://www.linkedin.com/in/gloriaallred/
Peter K. Stris (Representing Karen McDougal):

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 8:50 pm

Trump Economist Wants to Give Rich People Another Tax Break, Without a Vote in Congress

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Sigh. Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine:

The Trump administration’s new National Economic Council director, Lawrence Kudlow, has a lifelong monomaniacal obsession with reducing taxes for the rich. Unfortunately for Kudlow and his boss, Republicans have already used up their one-per-session budget reconciliation bill, which would allow them to pass a tax cut bill with a majority vote in the Senate, unlike the normal 60-vote requirement. And since Democrats aren’t about to support another tax cut for the rich — zero supported the last one — they’re stuck for this term.

Or are they? The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports that Kudlow is interested in applying an inflation index to the capital gains tax. “Some believe Potus could do it as exec order,” he told Rubin via email.

The policy Kudlow is describing would reduce the amount of taxable income paid by people who receive income from capital gains (mostly, by selling stock). As it stands, right now, if you bought $1,000 worth of stock, and sold it ten years later for $1,500, you would pay tax on the $500 you gained.

The tax code already confers a lot of benefits upon capital gains income. First of all, people who earn money from capital gains don’t pay ordinary income tax rates, as they did in the aftermath of the 1986 Tax Reform Act. They pay a tax rate that’s about half the level of taxes on ordinary income. Second, they get the additional benefit of deferring all taxes until the sale goes through. Their stock portfolio can appreciate for years or decades without any tax, unlike wage income, on which taxes are paid annually. And third, gains in stock that is passed on to heirs go completely untaxed, a massive break.

Conservatives have long wanted to give capital gains an additional break, by subtracting inflation from the taxable gain. So, to go back to that $500 stock gain, if inflation ran a total of 10 percent over that decade, then the IRS would knock $100 off the value of the sale, and you’d only be taxed for a $400 capital gain.

Republicans have been proposing this change for a long time but have never enacted it, in part because Democrats have opposed it as a complicated change that would give rich people a windfall for no serious economic benefit. The Congressional Budget Office published a paper analyzing it back in 1990. Kudlow is proposing that Trump would just go ahead and order the IRS to implement this change on its own, via executive order.

If Trump does this, would it stand up in court to a legal challenge? Probably not, since Congress obviously did not intend to make this change when it wrote capital gains tax laws —but you never know what judge you might get. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 8:47 pm

Disappointing hot sauce

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I bought some Scotch bonnet hot sauce at the little store across the street. It looked promising: Scotch bonnet peppers are, I think, quite hot… yes: from Wikipedia:

Most Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units.[5] For comparison, most jalapeño peppers have a heat rating of 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. However, completely sweet varieties of Scotch bonnet are grown on some of the Caribbean islands, called cachucha peppers.

This sauce must have been made from the sweet variety. I was expecting some fire, but… nothing.

I thought of a Charles Addams cartoon:

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 7:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food

Republicans Can’t Understand Why Trump Is Acting Guilty

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It looks as though the US is headed for real trouble, thanks to the way the GOP in Congress is failing in its constitutional duties. Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine:

During the final competitive stages of the 2016 presidential primary, Ted Cruz was all that stood between the Republican Party and nominating a candidate who called Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” insulted his wife’s appearance, and accused his father of possibly helping to assassinate JFK. Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager, has never been one to let a thing like pathologically dishonest bullying affect his political judgment. In a New York Times op-ed this weekend, Roe urges his party to stand behind its president. “No, you don’t have to support the president’s tweet storms,” he wrote. “But you do have to defend his policy accomplishments.”

What Roe has defined here is the mainstream stance of the Republican Party. A handful of dissidents, all of whom are retiring from elected office, have attacked the president as unfit for office. A considerably larger group on the right has staunchly defended every aspect of his performance. But the largest faction of the party has taken the position that Donald Trump is a fantastically successful president whose main error is undisciplined tweeting.

What is most notable about this approach is what it omits: the idea that Trump possesses authoritarian instincts or might be deeply implicated in the Russia scandal. It focuses entirely on the most superficial critique of his job performance and ignores evidence of his fundamental unfitness for office.

This weekend, Trump abandoned his pose of restraint toward Robert Mueller and began openly lashing out at the special counsel. This was yet another effort to test the limits of what his Republican allies would accept. Trump proceeded to hire a lawyer, Joseph E. diGenova, who has described the Russia investigation as a plot to “frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

The mainstream Republican response to these provocations has focused on the style of Trump’s actions, rather than the substance. A Wall Street Journal editorial applauds the firing of Andrew McCabe from the FBI, assuring its readers that — while the evidence remains private — McCabe probably deserved it. “Mr. Sessions’s statement was a straightforward explanation that he fired Mr. McCabe for a serious violation of duty,” the Journal concludes. The stated rationale for the firing “should have been cause for Mr. Trump to let the dismissal speak for itself, but the President is too self-involved for such restraint,” the editorial lamented. “Instead he tweeted on Saturday, ‘Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI — A great day for Democracy.’”

Maybe the fact that Trump decided to taunt and smear the fired civil servant should be evidence that, perhaps, the pretext given for his firing is not entirely on the level. Maybe McCabe was singled out for scrutiny because Trump has demanded such an action. The Journaldoes not entertain the possibility, though. Trump is simply making the completely neutral execution of administrative justice appear biased for no reason at all.

Republican congressman Trey Gowdy, the former Benghazi inquisitor, has moved from his party’s fever swamp wing to its mainstream (or perhaps stood still while the party lurched further toward craziness than he could tolerate). Gowdy, who is retiring, scolded Trump’s lawyer John Dowd for threatening Mueller, saying, “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it.” But what if … Dowd’s client is not innocent? It would certainly explain his behavior, but also force people like Gowdy to entertain scenarios they would rather ignore.

The assumption that Trump is probably innocent informs the party’s most popular position on Mueller, which is to quietly defend his work, while ignoring the possibility that Trump would fire him. Last year, several Republican senators expressed support in passing a law to protect Mueller from the kind of purge Trump seems intent upon carrying out. But the progress of those bills has crawled to a halt. Democratic senators are pleading with their Republican colleagues to pass them before it’s too late: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 5:47 pm

Trump wants to end warning labels on junk food

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Since junk food seems to be a mainstay of his diet, perhaps he’s just tired of reading them. Azam Ahmed, Matt Richtel, and Andrew Jacobs report in the NY Times:

The contentious negotiations over the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement have veered into one of the world’s most pressing health issues: fighting obesity.

Urged on by big American food and soft-drink companies, the Trump administration is using the trade talks with Mexico and Canada to try to limit the ability of the pact’s three members — including the United States — to warn consumers about the dangers of junk food, according to confidential documents outlining the American position.

The American stance reflects an intensifying battle between trade officials, the food industry and governments across the hemisphere. The administration’s position could help insulate American manufacturers from pressure to include more explicit labels on their products, both abroad and in the United States. But health officials worry that it would also impede international efforts to contain a growing health crisis.

Obesity has at least doubled in 73 countries since 1980. Many public health officials, worried about the rapid spread of highly processed foods, have found hope in a new tactic: the use of vivid warnings on foods with high levels of sugar, salt and fat.

Officials in Mexico and Canada — along with governments in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia — are discussing options like the use of colors, shapes and other easy-to-understand symbols that warn consumers of health risks. They were inspired in large part by Chile’s introduction of stringent regulations in 2016 that include requirements for black stop-sign warnings on the front of some packages.

But the Office of the United States Trade Representative, which is leading the Nafta talks on the American side, is trying to head off the momentum. It is pushing to limit the ability of any Nafta member to require consumer warnings on the front of sugary drinks and fatty packaged foods, according to a draft of the proposal reviewed by The New York Times.

The American provision seeks to prevent any warning symbol, shape or color that “inappropriately denotes that a hazard exists from consumption of the food or nonalcoholic beverages.”

Some experts have likened the fight over food labeling to that over tobacco — and the fierce if ultimately unsuccessful opposition and lobbying that industry waged to prevent the imposition of health warnings on packaging. The Trump administration’s position on food labeling reflects the desires of a broad coalition of soft-drink and packaged-foods manufacturers in the United States. .

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry trade group that sits on the advisory board to the trade talks, says it favors voluntary labeling programs. [They like voluntary programs because companies can opt not to volunteer, and they almost surely will. – LG] The group says it “supports a modernized Nafta that will ensure standards are based on science, minimize unnecessary trade barriers, and benefit consumers in all three countries.”

The organization is fighting to keep Chile’s model from being adopted more widely. Roger Lowe, a spokesman for the group — whose board members include executives from Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Mondelez International, which owns brands like Oreos, Chips Ahoy and Ritz crackers — said it was concerned about the “evidence and impact” of Chile’s laws.

Emily Davis, a spokeswoman for the United States Trade Representative, said she could not comment on what she called “alleged negotiating documents.” In general, she said, “the United States supports science-based labeling that is truthful and not misleading.”

Proponents of more explicit labels said the Trump administration’s proposal and the corporate pressure behind it hold the potential to handcuff public health interests for decades.

“It is one of the most invasive forms of industrial interference we have seen,” said Alejandro Calvillo, the founder of El Poder del Consumidor, or Consumer Power, a health advocacy group in Mexico that was illegally targeted with government spyware when it fought for a soda tax in Mexico. “The collusion between the industry and the government is not only at the level of spying — it reaches the level of the renegotiation of Nafta and the nation’s own policy against obesity.”

The American proposal conflicts with the guidance from Mexico’s national health institute and from the World Health Organization. Both have recommended that Mexico pass regulations to help combat diabetes, which claims 80,000 lives a year there. That is one of the highest rates in the world — and more than double the record number of homicides that the nation suffered in 2017. . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Later in the article:

Public health experts have hailed Chile’s rules as a new standard. They include a ban on the use of cartoon characters like Tony the Tiger, but the package warnings are considered the most aggressive of the tactics.

“We have shown that a simple message and a symbol is enough to communicate that you should be consuming less of certain foods,” said Dr. Camila Corvalán, a nutritionist at the University of Chile who helped develop the logos. “There’s nothing misleading about a warning logo, and clearly this is what worries the industry.”

I am sick of the way corporations run the government and ride roughshod over consumer interests. The government is supposed to stand up for consumers, not be a lickspittle for corporations. In this case there is actually a public health crisis of obesity, and so far as I can tell corporations don’t give a damn, just as cigarette manufacturers didn’t give a damn if long-time cigarette smokers died of lung disease, heart disease, emphysema, and so on, so long as they could use Joe Camel to hook new customers in their teens. Corporations are soulless and will do absolutely anything to increase profits. Cf. Facebook.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 4:23 pm

Notes, emails reveal Trump appointees’ war to end HHS teen pregnancy program

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Heidi Przybyla reports for NBC News:

The Trump administration’s abrupt cancellation of a federal program to prevent teen pregnancy last year was directed by political appointees over the objections of career experts in the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the program, according to internal notes and emails obtained by NBC News.

The trove shows three appointees with strict pro-abstinence beliefs — including Valerie Huber, the then-chief of staff for the department’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health — guided the process to end a program many medical professionals credit with helping to bring the nation’s teen pregnancy rate to an all-time low.

Prior to serving at HHS, Huber was the president of Ascend, an association that promotes abstinence until marriage as the best way to prevent teen pregnancy.

The $213 million Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program was aimed at helping teenagers understand how to avoid unwanted pregnancies. It had bipartisan support in Congress and trained more than 7,000 health professionals and supported 3,000 community-based organizations since its inception in 2010.

In the notes provided to NBC News, Evelyn Kappeler, who for eight years has led the Office of Adolescent Health, which administers the program, repeatedly expressed concerns about terminating the program, but appeared out of the decision-making loop and at one point was driven to tears.

In a July 17, 2017 note, she says she was admonished to “get in line” and told it was not her place to ask questions about the agency’s use of funds. In a July 28 note, Kappeler recalled she was “frustrated about the time this process is taking and the fact that (her staff) has not been part of the discussions.” She described being “so rattled” that “my reaction when I got on (sic) the phone was to cry.”

She and her staff “were not aware of the grant action until the last minute” — an apparent reference to the decision, it says.

Last month, Democracy Forward, a nonprofit law firm and advocacy group, sued the administration for unlawfully terminating the program after the agency took months to respond to its Freedom of Information Act request.

The group claims the newly obtained emails show that HHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act that bars arbitrary decision-making and that the political appointees thwarted the will of Congress.

“Now that we’ve seen these documents, there is no question to us why the Trump administration withheld” the emails, said Skye Perryman, the group’s lawyer. The decision to end the program “was made hastily, without a record of any reasoned decision making and under the influence of political appointees who have long opposed evidenced-based policy,” she said. . .

HHS has given different explanations about its decision to terminate the program, including claims that it was ineffective or that it did not conform to the president’s proposed budget. HHS did not respond to emails or answer questions about who was responsible for ending the program.

HHS spokesman Mark Vafiades directed NBC News to a fact sheet and announcement on the agency’s website. They state that 73 percent of the projects funded by the program “had no impact or had a negative impact on teen behavior, with some teens more likely to begin having sex, to engage in unprotected sex or to become pregnant.”

“The evidence stands in stark contrast to the promised results,” the statement says. . .

It is also part of a broader narrative about programs benefiting women and children becoming political targets under a president who insists he is an advocate for women’s rights and health. Under Trump, a mandate under the Affordable Care Act to cover contraceptive coverage has been rolled back, while Republicans in Congress have sought to defund Planned Parenthood and proposed budget cuts to Medicaid, which covers half of all births.

In July 2017, the Office of Adolescent Health notified 81 grantees including the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and Cuyahoga County, Ohio, that it would be discontinuing funding under the Obama-era program beginning this June, with some programs cut off immediately.

After the program’s 2010 inception, teen pregnancy and birth rates fell faster than ever. Health care experts say considerable research and money that has already been invested in the program will be wasted and the number of at-risk teens will increase. . .

Continue reading.

There’s a lot more. The US government has been taken over by ideologues and zealots who ignore (and even hide) evidence.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 2:19 pm

How to Delete Your Facebook Account

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I’m seriously considering deleting my Facebook account. Daniel Oberhaus explains in Motherboard why you might want to do that and how to do it:

I’ve been contemplating deleting my Facebook for years, but every time I’d come close to making the jump I’d come up with some excuse about why it would be impossible. I needed Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family while living out of the country. I needed it to stay in touch with friends who live abroad. I needed it to stay on top of news. I needed it for my job. I needed it to validate my existence with a constant stream of engagement.

This resulted in a long on-and-off relationship with the platform, in which I would deactivate my profile for weeks or months at a time, only to come crawling back. Recently, however, it occurred to me that I hadn’t used or even thought about Facebook in over six months. Then the Cambridge Analytica story broke, which revealed just how easily Facebook’s massive collection of user data could be mishandled. It seemed like as good a time as any to finally pull the plug and permanently delete my Facebook profile.

Even if you don’t care about your personal data being sold to third parties that might use this information to, say, manipulate a national election, there are plenty of other reasons why you might want to delete your Facebook profile. A growing body of research suggests that using Facebook makes us depressed. Sometimes Facebook even makes us depressed on purpose. Facebook is a primary vector for fake news. Facebook contributes to genocide and racism. You already spend 50 minutes a day on Facebook, but the company wants even more of your attention. Facebook is a goldmine for hackers. Facebook is a stalker’s dream. Facebook has a stranglehold on digital media.

Deleting your Facebook might be a good way to regain control of your personal data online, improve your mental health, or free up your time, but it’s also important to recognize that deleting your profile is a privilege that isn’t seen as a realistic option for many people in the world. For all its downsides, Facebook has become an indispensable tool for many. The company has also made attempts at trying to fix some of its problems: It’s asked users to report fake news. It’s banned spammy ad networks. It’s implemented a trial for automated revenge porn detection, and an algorithm to detect suicidal users. Still, many users feel the social media giant hasn’t gone far enough in fixing it’s platform—including Mark Zuckerberg.

Although there’s a strong argument to be made for Facebook reform over abolition, there’s no reason you can’t delete your own Facebook while helping improve the platform for those who depend on it.

Facebook makes deactivating your profile as easy as clicking a few buttons, but permanently deleting it can be a bit of a pain in the ass if you don’t know what you’re doing. So here’s a step-by-step guide to leaving Facebook for good:

DEACTIVATE OR DELETE?

First, you need to decide whether you want to deactivate or delete your account.

Deactivating basically just logs you out and makes your profile invisible to all your friends until you log back in. Your friends will still be able to see all the old messages you’ve sent them, but they aren’t able to message you unless you’ve opted to keep Facebook’s messenger app running on your phone. To reactivate your account, all you need to do is log back in to Facebook, and everything will be just as you left it.

Read More: Cambridge Analytica’s Ad Targeting is the Reason Facebook Exists

Deleting your account, on the other hand, will make your profile inaccessible forever. Your friends will still be able to see messages you’ve sent them and posts to groups will remain, but all your comments, status updates, photos and everything else stored in your account will be permanently scrubbed from Facebook’s servers within 90 days of pulling the plug.

It’s important to note, however, that deleting your Facebook doesn’t delete your data from any third-party services you may have connected to using your Facebook profile. This means you’ll have to basically reach out to each third-party service individually and ask them to delete your data, which they don’t have to do since you agreed to provide it to them in your terms of service. It may also mean losing access to apps that you’ve signed up for with Facebook, such as Tinder. Although you can create a new Tinder profile without Facebook, you will no longer have access to your old profile. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 2:04 pm

Republicans are in denial about a blue wave

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Jennifer Rubin has a good column on the upcoming Democratic tsunami:

NBC News reports:

Our latest NBC/WSJ poll finds Democrats with a 10-point lead in congressional preference, with Dems holding the advantage in enthusiasm and among independents, and with college-educated white women breaking heavily against the GOP. But there’s another ominous sign for Republicans in our poll: They’re losing ground on the congressional-preference question in GOP-held congressional districts. . .
Sixty percent of Democratic voters say they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections (registering either a “9” or “10” on a 10-point scale), versus 54 percent of Republicans who say the same thing. In addition, 64 percent of 2016 Clinton voters say they have a high level of interest, compared with 57 percent of 2016 Trump voters.
And among independent voters, Democrats lead in congressional preference by 12 points, 48 percent to 36 percent.

In GOP-held districts, the GOP preference of 14 points in January dropped to zero. “Given that so much of the 2018 House battleground is in red/purple areas, the GOP being in single digits — or even — in Republican-held districts is a problem.” That would be an understatement.
Moreover, Democrats hold huge leads among millennials (59 to 29 percent), women (57 to 34 percent), whites with a college degree (55 to 42 percent), independents (48 to 36 percent) and older voters (52 to 41 percent) The older voter numbers are especially problematic because older voters turn out in higher numbers in midterms than other groups and because this was previously a base of President Trump’s support (Trump won over-65 voters by a margin of 52 to 47 percent on Election Day while Republican House candidates won this group by a 53 to 45 percent margin.)

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 1:42 pm

Trump May Be Deposed in ‘Apprentice’ Groping Lawsuit

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Chris Dolmetsch reports for Bloomberg:

President Donald Trump can’t avoid a former “Apprentice” contestant’s defamation lawsuit and may be forced to respond under oath to allegations of sexual assault and his treatment of women.

Summer Zervos, a contender on The Apprentice in 2005, sued Trump in January 2017 alleging he “ambushed” her on more than one occasion starting in 2007, kissing her, touching her breast and pressing his genitals against her. On Tuesday, New York State Supreme Court Justice Jennifer Schecter denied the president’s request to throw out the lawsuit or delay it until he leaves office.

“No one is above the law,” Schecter wrote in an 18-page decision. “Nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the president cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility.”

The ruling could subject Trump to extremely broad questions about this case and similar ones, and he might be forced to testify under oath and provide documents, said Naomi Mezey, a professor at Georgetown Law School and an expert on civil procedure.

Zervos has already asked for Trump campaign documents concerning “any woman alleging that Donald J. Trump touched her inappropriately.”

The decision may also complicate Trump’s effort to dismiss allegations from various women about his behavior. Trump is separately embroiled in a scandal involving a $130,000 payment to an adult film actress — Stephanie Clifford, who performed under the name Stormy Daniels — who alleges he’s attempting to prevent her from discussing a sexual relationship she had with him in 2006. Her interview on “60 Minutes” is scheduled to air March 25.

Also on Tuesday, a former Playboy model who claims she had a 10-month affair with Trump starting in 2006 sued the company that owns the National Enquirer to void a 2016 contract requiring her not to talk about the encounter. . .

Continue reading.

The Washington Post also has the story.

And Vox has a good explainer.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 1:33 pm

A great story of informed persistence: Virginia vinticulture

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This worth reading. By Eric J. Wallace at Gastro Obscura:

FORTY-TWO YEARS AGO, GABRIELE RAUSSE received a phone call from a childhood friend who told him he had to “drop everything and come to America.”

The phone call was from one viticulturist to another. Rausse was 30 years old and working on a French vineyard. (He had been working in Australian wine, but his visa was revoked on a technicality.) His childhood friend, Gianni Zonin, was president of the Italian winemaking company Casa Vinicola Zonin. The two had grown up together in Italy’s Veneto wine region, and their phone call forever changed the U.S. wine industry.

Together, Zonin insisted, he and Rausse were going to establish the first Virginia vineyard to have commercial success growing Vitis vinifera, the species of grape responsible for fine wine.

“I was worried,” says Rausse. “All I could think was, ‘My God, he’s gone insane.’”

The year was 1976, and at that time, the idea of making premium wine in Virginia was crazy. While Napa Valley was establishing itself as a world-class producer, few had taken the idea of making European-style fine wine on the East Coast seriously since Thomas Jefferson tried and failed some 200 years earlier. The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services warned that vinifera varieties would not survive the winter. Even if they did, native pests and diseases would kill them off. According to wine-historian and journalist Richard G. Leahy, East Coast vineyards of the time made beverages that were almost universally “more relatable to winos than wine.” Crafted from French-American hybrids or native grapes that yielded flavors comparable to bubble-gum (think Boone’s Farm), the wines were essentially considered a bad-joke by connoisseurs.

On the call, Rausse debated how to tactfully turn down his friend. But he had a second thought.

“My only plan was to get my visa fixed and return to Australia. Suddenly, I realized going to America would let me practice my English,” he says. “So, I accepted. But with a big caveat. I told Gianni, ‘I’ll help you with your fool’s errand. But once I get my visa, I’m gone.’”

ZONIN HAD CONSIDERED ESTABLISHING AN American vineyard since visiting Napa Valley in 1961. He hoped to create a distribution center and further Casa Vinicola Zonin’s reach. He also worried that his family’s 11 vineyards might be nationalized by communists who seemed capable of winning elections in Italy. After inheriting the company presidency, the sixth-generation scion set out on a grueling survey of “every American viticultural region willing to build a winery.” After traveling to Oregon, New York, and California, he visited an Italian-born friend at the University of Virginia.

The visit coincided with the bicentennial of Jefferson breaking ground at his Monticello estate. Charlottesville was celebrating.

“I remember studying Jefferson’s attempts to cultivate vinifera in Virginia,” says Zonin. “I was fascinated by the idea of a president being a viticultural pioneer.”

Touring Monticello and the mountainous countryside surrounding Charlottesville, Zonin was reminded of his home in northern Italy. “It was so beautiful and somehow familiar. I was falling in love with the area,” he muses. He began to ask questions about soil, rainfall, and climate.

Then he learned of Jefferson’s enlistment of one of the 18th century’s most prestigious wine personalities, Philip Mazzei, an Italian, to manage his experimental vineyard. He also learned of Jefferson’s assertions that the venture would have succeeded if Mazzei’s vines had not been trampled by horses during the American Revolution. Says Zonin, “I began to think, ‘Maybe they chose this place for a reason.’”

Zonin returned to Italy, but Charlottesville stayed on his mind. In his spare time, he studied the region’s microclimate and traced the city’s latitude across the globe, comparing the data to that of sister regions in Italy.

“I noticed the average rainfall and temperature were nearly identical to areas in central Italy,” says Zonin. Virginia had long summers and mild, extended falls that often featured low rainfalls—ideal conditions for growing grapes. “That’s when I knew I wasn’t going to establish just another California vineyard. I was going to do this in Virginia.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 9:31 am

A rosy shave: WSP Baroness, D.R. Harris Rose, iKon Short Comb, and DRH Pink After Shave

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A shaving cream makes a good change of pace, the lather being somewhat different in character. The Baroness is a fine little brush and the lather was fragrant and creamy.

I like the look of this Wolfman handle, and it is also pleasant to hold. The iKon Short Comb is good, though not IMO as good as the 101. Still: a very smooth shave with very little effort.

A good splash of DRH Pink After Shave, and the day is launched. I can now barely recall what it was like starting each day with a boring, tedious, hateful chore as shaving was when I used canned foam and a cartridge razor.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 March 2018 at 9:25 am

Posted in Shaving

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