Later On

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Archive for April 10th, 2018

Michael Cohen Has a Big Problem

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Adam Serwer writes in the Atlantic:

It takes strong evidence to execute a search warrant against an attorney representing a subject in a federal investigation, let alone the president’s personal counsel.

Whatever evidence federal prosecutors have collected concerning Michael Cohen, President Trump’s longtime attorney, it is most likely extraordinarily strong.

Before federal agents raided Cohen’s home, hotel room, and office Monday afternoon, they would have had to convince high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice and a federal judge that a search warrant was necessary to obtain the evidence sought.

“Doing a search warrant rather than a subpoena suggests the investigators thought Cohen, if given a subpoena, would possibly destroy evidence or withhold key evidence, particularly if it were incriminating,” Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, said.

Under normal circumstances, obtaining a search warrant on an attorney for the subject of a federal investigation is an incredibly aggressive move. When the attorney’s client is the president of the United States, the stakes couldn’t possibly get any higher.

“These things are not anonymized, so you know you’re talking about Michael Cohen, the longtime attorney for the person who is now president of the United States, so you know you’re in very deep water,” John Q. Barrett, a former associate special counsel in the Iran-Contra affair and a law professor at St. Johns, said. “Any law-enforcement official would proceed very carefully.”

The raid, first reported by The New York Times, is an extraordinary development in a story that was already incredibly strange. Cohen wired $130,000 to adult actress Stormy Daniels in late 2016, during the waning days of the presidential campaign, in order to prevent her from speaking out about her alleged affair with Trump. A longtime employee of the Trump Organization and one of the president’s personal attorneys, Cohen has reportedly been under scrutiny by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating the Russian effort to sway the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf, and whether the Trump campaign aided that effort. It’s unclear whether the raid is related to the special counsel’s investigation, or a separate inquiry being pursued by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York.

The raid was reportedly conducted after Mueller went to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein with evidence, and Rosenstein referred the matter to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District, Geoffrey Berman (Berman reportedly recused himself). According to the Times, federal agents seized “business records, emails, and documents related to several topics,” including Cohen’s payment to Daniels, and “privileged communications” between Cohen and his clients, according to Cohen’s attorney.

“You don’t just have to have the evidence that the documents may or may not exist, you have to show that there’s no other way to get them besides serving a warrant on the attorney, because of the sensitivity of attorney-client privilege,” David Gomez, a former FBI agent and a fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security, said.

On Tuesday, Trump tweeted “WITCH HUNT” and “Attorney–client privilege is dead!”

Some of the president’s supporters in the conservative press have been invoking attorney-client privilege, the legal rule that says communications between an attorney and a client are typically protected. But there are important exceptions.

“Records of conversations between Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump are not necessarily privileged,” Bruce Green, a former federal prosecutor and a law professor at Fordham University, said. “If the conversations do not relate to a legal representation, but Mr. Cohen was providing business assistance or other non-legal services, the privilege probably will not apply.”

There is also something known as the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege. “When the communications between an attorney and client are in furtherance of criminal activity, it’s viewed as an exception to attorney-client privilege,” Barrett said.

In cases where an attorney’s records are seized, a separate team of federal investigators, known as a “taint team,” will go through those records and sort out which are protected, and which prosecutors will be allowed to see or use. “There are various other limitations and exceptions that could make the privilege inapplicable. If it isn’t clear whether documents are privileged, the issue may get litigated,” Green said.

One thing prosecutors are reportedly examining are Cohen’s payments to Daniels. Cohen has said he drew on his home-equity line of credit from First Republic Bank in Manhattan to obtain the funds. Even if the evidence seized from Cohen was sought for a different investigation, if federal prosecutors uncover evidence related to the special counsel’s Russia inquiry, Mueller will have access to it. “Whatever the returns of these searches are, if relevant to Mueller’s work, it will become available to him,” Barrett said. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2018 at 4:30 pm

He Ate the World’s Hottest Pepper, Then Landed in the Hospital With ‘Thunderclap’ Headaches

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James Gorman reports in the NY Times:

If you eat a really hot pepper, you expect pain. A lot of pain.

In addition to the feeling that you have just put a live coal in your mouth, you may weep, vomit and wonder where in your life you took a wrong turn.

You don’t expect a headache so intense and immediate that it sends you to the emergency room. But that’s what happened to a 34-year-old man who turned up at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown, N.Y., with what clinicians call a thunderclap headache.

His problems began when he ate a whole Carolina Reaper — the hottest pepper in the world, according to Guinness World Records — while participating in a hot-pepper-eating competition.

He immediately started experiencing dry heaves — not unknown in the hot-pepper-eating world. But then a pain in his neck and head came on like … a thunderclap.

It passed, but over the next few days he experienced more thunderclap headaches — that’s the clinical term — so he sought medical attention.

Continue reading the main story

Scans of his head and neck showed the kind of constriction in some arteries that can cause intense headaches, doctors reported on Mondayin BMJ Case Reports. The scientific term for this temporary narrowing of arteries is reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome.

Dr. Kulothungan Gunasekaran, one of the report’s authors, now at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said that for some reason the man must have been particularly sensitive to capsaicin. The Carolina Reaper is a popular pepper, and many people eat them and experience nothing worse than the desire to cut out their own tongues.

“I was discussing the case with a nurse who had eaten three Carolina Reapers,” Dr. Gunasekaran recalled.

The Reaper has been measured at more than two million Scoville heat units, the accepted scale for how hot peppers are. Measurements vary, but a really hot habanero might come in at 500,000 Scoville units.

The patient was fine, with no lingering damage, but thunderclap headaches are not to be dismissed. For one thing, there’s the pain, which seems to surpass even the normal effect of the peppers.

Dr. Lawrence C. Newman, a neurologist and director of the headache division at NYU Langone Health, said, “On a one to ten scale, it’s off the charts.” And it can indicate the kind of stroke that results from bleeding in the brain.

It happens instantaneously. If that kind of headache hits you, it makes sense to seek medical attention “whether you’ve bitten into a pepper or not,” Dr. Newman said.

The new study does suggest that capsaicin, being investigated for its role in alleviating pain and lowering blood pressure, can have unexpected effects on certain people. . .

Continue reading.

And a good tip:

So if you happen to go beyond your limits — having, say, entered a hot-pepper-eating competition?

“Citric acid seems to work the best to alleviate the pain,” he said. “Don’t chug milk because you’ll just throw it up.”

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2018 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Food, Medical

Pope Francis on the duty of holiness

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Kevin Drum blogs at Mother Jones:

Pope Francis offers up some words on holiness today:

95. In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel (vv. 31-46), Jesus expands on the Beatitude that calls the merciful blessed. If we seek the holiness pleasing to God’s eyes, this text offers us one clear criterion on which we will be judged. “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me” (vv. 35-36).

….100. I regret that ideologies lead us at times to two harmful errors. On the one hand, there is the error of those Christians who separate these Gospel demands from their personal relationship with the Lord.

….101. The other harmful ideological error is found in those who find suspect the social engagement of others, seeing it as superficial, worldly, secular, materialist, communist or populist. Or they relativize it, as if there are other more important matters, or the only thing that counts is one particular ethical issue or cause that they themselves defend. Our defence of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate, for at stake is the dignity of a human life, which is always sacred and demands love for each person, regardless of his or her stage of development. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned and the underprivileged, the vulnerable infirm and elderly exposed to covert euthanasia, the victims of human trafficking, new forms of slavery, and every form of rejection. We cannot uphold an ideal of holiness that would ignore injustice in a world where some revel, spend with abandon and live only for the latest consumer goods, even as others look on from afar, living their entire lives in abject poverty.

The Washington Post reports that “traditionalists” are not going to be happy with this. Apparently it’s disgraceful to suggest that the things Jesus cared the most about were the things he talked the most about. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2018 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

Change in probability of death from 1990-2016 for age range 20-55, by state

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That’s from this post by Kevin Drum, who points out in an earlier post:

The differences here are huge and are “strongly linked to the burden of substance use disorders, cirrhosis, and self-harm.” I imagine they’re also linked to the effort each state has put into improving its health care system.

But read both posts and look at the source.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2018 at 2:58 pm

Escapes, Riots and Beatings. But States Can’t Seem to Ditch Private Prisons.

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Timothy Williams and Richard Opel, Jr., report in the NY Times:

In Arizona in 2015, a riot broke out in a private prison where previously three inmates had escaped and murdered a vacationing couple.

After order was restored, the state revoked the contract of Management & Training Corporation and hired another private prison firm, the GEO Group.

Three years earlier, the GEO Group had surrendered its contract to run a Mississippi prison after a federal judge ruled that the inmates had not been protected from gang violence. The replacement: Management & Training Corporation.

The staying power of the two companies shows how private prisons maintain their hold on the nation’s criminal justice system despite large-scale failures. The field is dominated by a handful of companies who have swallowed the competition and entrenched their positions through aggressive lawyering, intricate financial arrangements and in some cases, according to lawsuits by the Mississippi attorney general, bribery and kickbacks.

Though a federal review found private prisons are more dangerous than government-run prisons for both guards and inmates, the Trump administration indicated earlier this year that it will expand their use.

Private prison companies can be found at every level of government, housing 9 percent of the nation’s prisoners. They emerged in the 1980s, when the number of inmates was quickly outstripping capacity, and they have an outsize influence in certain states, including Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi and New Mexico.

Despite hundreds of lawsuits, findings that private prisons save taxpayers little to no money, and evidence of repeated constitutional violations, the number of privately housed inmates has risen fastersince 2000 than the overall number of prisoners. In 2016, the number rose by about 1.5 percent, according to Justice Department figures.

Last week, Frank Shaw, a warden for Management & Training, or MTC, at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, was called to testify in a federal trial claiming that the prison routinely failed to shield inmates from beatings and left them so desperate for medical attention that they lit fires in their cells. Mr. Shaw had also been the warden in Arizona during the riot.

The trial concluded on Monday; the judge has yet to issue a decision.

Even states that have sworn off private prisons, or tried to cut back on their use, have found it difficult to extricate themselves. After the prisoners escaped in Arizona, the state tried to reduce the number of inmates held in that prison. But MTC claimed the state was violating its contract, which guaranteed a certain number of beds would be filled. Arizona had to pay the company $3 million. MTC still operates a facility in the state.

States that use private prisons can find themselves limited to a few big players. The largest are GEO Group, based in Florida; CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America), based in Tennessee; and MTC, based in Utah. Two of the past four directors of the Federal Bureau of Prisons were later hired by CoreCivic.

George Zoley, chief executive of GEO Group, made $9.6 million in 2017 — almost double his 2016 earnings, according to S.E.C. filings. Damon T. Hininger, CoreCivic’s chief executive, earned $2.3 million in total compensation in 2017, according to the records.

GEO Group and CoreCivic, which are publicly traded, had revenues last year of $2.3 billion and $1.8 billion. Much less is known about MTC, which is privately held. A company spokesman declined to answer a number of emailed questions about its operations and revenues, but said the company was dedicated to helping “at-risk individuals” gain the tools for success.

The companies employ a variety of strategies, including hiring former corrections officials in high-level positions and giving what are sometimes enormous campaign contributions. GEO Group and CoreCivic gave close to half a million dollars to support Mr. Trump’s candidacy and inauguration. After he was elected, their stock prices soared.

Industry officials say they provide cost-effective ways to house inmates, and that they continue to expand into rehabilitation programs as more states seek alternatives to prison. CoreCivic says about 10,000 people in its facilities have obtained high school equivalency diplomas in the past five years, reflecting the company’s efforts to improve the ability of inmates to re-enter society.

But some lawmakers say the claims of cost savings and other benefits do not check out. “There is no convincing argument of why we should have private prisons,” said Mike Fasano, a former Republican state senator from Pasco County, Fla., who voted against a 2012 measure to privatize much of Florida’s prison system.

GEO Group, which did not respond to a request for comment, gave more than $1 million to state candidates and parties in Florida in the two years leading up to the vote, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics. But the proposal was narrowly defeated, Mr. Fasano said, over fears about jeopardizing public safety and hurting public corrections workers, as well as concerns that the promised cost savings would not materialize.

In Mississippi, the state’s three private prisons were once operated by GEO Group and are now run by MTC.

A fourth, Walnut Grove, was closed in 2016, four years after a federal judge wrote that the prison “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” and placed the prison under federal oversight.

But the state is still paying for it. In the 1990s, Mississippi issued bonds to pay for prison construction, including some facilities intended to be privately run. It still owes $91 million for Walnut Grove, according to state documents. .

In a related case, both companies are being sued by the state attorney general for racketeering in connection with a corruption scandal that led to the conviction of Christopher Epps, a former state corrections director. In 2017, he was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison after receiving some $1.4 million in bribes and kickbacks from companies vying for state prison contracts.

Cecil McCrory, a former state legislator, was also convicted in the scandal. He did consulting work for both GEO Group and MTC, which paid him $12,000 a month, according to the indictment. . .

Continue reading.

It’s pretty clear why states can’t quit private prisons: corruption. Later in the report:

The state declined to settle a separate lawsuit filed on behalf of inmates at the East Mississippi facility by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. For the past two months, the resulting trial has presented evidence of rampant violence and chronic neglect amid shortages of guards and medical staff. Although four out of five inmates there are mentally ill, East Mississippi has not had a psychiatrist on its staff since November.

Inmates have testified that rival gangs were the prison’s de facto rulers, even deciding which cells new inmates were allowed to occupy. Last year, an inmate with a mobile phone — available on the prison’s black market for $800 — filmed himself beating another inmate and posted the video on Facebook. MTC gives guards less pay and training than government correction officers receive.

Still, Pelicia E. Hall, the state prison commissioner, testified that she had no plans to cut ties to MTC. [And why is that? I would look to her finances and remuneration (and promises) from MTC. – LG]

Some states have found themselves with few alternatives when they have tried to curb their use of private prisons.

Hawaii, which sends a quarter of its prisoners to a private prison in Eloy, Ariz., sought to bring them home after the murder of two Hawaiian inmates and allegations of abuse in 2010. One inmate had been stabbed 140 times.

Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who was governor of Hawaii at the time, declared that the policy of sending prisoners away “costs money, it costs lives, it costs communities.” But Hawaii’s largest prison is filled to capacity, so the state has continued to send inmates to Arizona.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2018 at 9:58 am

Rose in the morning

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D.R. Harris Rose shaving cream is extremely nice. I squeezed a small amount onto the damp Simpson Emperor 3 Best and have a fine lather for three passes.

Maggard Razors’ V3A head is extremely nice: highly efficient and IMO as comfortable as the V3. Here it’s mounted on a UFO handle, and with three trouble-free passes the morning stubble was no more.

A small splash of Bulgarian Rose aftershave from Saint Charles Shave, and the day already seems very good.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 April 2018 at 8:44 am

Posted in Shaving

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