Later On

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

Archive for May 3rd, 2018

Medeco locks: Wow

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I had not heard of them, but now I want one for the apartment. You can Google various reviews and descriptions. The Wikipedia article does discuss vulnerabilities, though. Still, it looks substantially better than the average lock.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

The Scandal Tearing Apart America’s Largest Protestant Denomination

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Jonathan Meritt reports in the Atlantic:

Over the past 20 years, the Southern Baptist Convention has weathered an onslaught of controversies, from renaming the denomination to repudiating the Confederate flag. But in the end, all it took to potentially rend the organization in two was a single quote about domestic violence from a solitary leader that most Americans have never even heard of.

Paige Patterson is the 75-year-old president of Fort Worth’s Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which claims to be one of the largest schools of its kind in the world. He is lionized among Baptists for his role in the “conservative resurgence,” which is what some call the movement to oust theological liberals beginning in the 1970s. But this week, his past legacy and present credibility were called into question when a 2000 audio recording surfaced in which Patterson said he has counseled physically abused women to avoid divorce and to focus instead on praying for their violent husbands, and to “be submissive in every way that you can.”

Domestic-violence advocates quickly and unsurprisingly condemned the remarks, but, and as The Washington Post reported, it sent “leaders scrambling to respond.”

Some notable SBC leaders echoed concerns about Patterson’s comments and whether he should step down. Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, a book-publishing house and retail chain that is owned by the SBC, released a statement denouncing domestic abuse and calling out Patterson by name. Ed Stetzer, a former Southern Baptist employee who is currently a professor at Wheaton College, penned an article for Christianity Today arguing that Patterson must resign post-haste. Others, including theologian Albert Mohler and mega-church pastor Matt Chandler, also made statementscondemning spousal abuse.

But the tight-knit Southern Baptist boys’ club is not so easily unraveled, and many leaders have sheltered their colleague. Some have simply remained mum. The denomination’s Executive Committee has not acknowledged the controversy despite the media coverage it has received. Current SBC President Steve Gaines has also stayed silent, though today he curiously tweeted, “You must not speak everything that crosses your mind” and encouraged people to “read your Bible more than you check [social media].” Others have actually offered their support. For example, Atlanta-based pastor and former SBC President Johnny Hunt took to Twitter to praise Patterson as “a man of God and a man of your word.”

It’s not difficult to denounce domestic violence, and it shouldn’t be controversial. And yet, America’s largest Protestant denomination now seems to be ethically schizophrenic when it comes to the topic.

In the days since the scandal was first sparked, the situation for Patterson has worsened substantially:

  • First came another quote from the same audio clip, in which Patterson is heard telling a story about a female congregant of his who confessed to being abused by her husband. Rather than report the incident to the authorities or help the woman escape, he sent her back to her spouse and asked her to pray “not out loud, but quietly.” The woman returned the next Sunday with two black eyes, a sight which Patterson said made him “very happy” because it made her husband feel guilty enough to attend church for the first time.
  • Next came the release of Patterson’s defiant public statement in which he only conceded that his remarks were “probably unwise” before painting himself as a martyr who has been subjected to a campaign of “mischaracterization” fueled by “lies.”
  • Then, a video recording from 2014 emerged in which Patterson resembles the ghost of Roy Moore, objectifying and sexualizing a 16-year-old girl in a sermon illustration.
  • If that were not enough, a news story published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1997 surfaced in which Patterson was asked about women and quipped, “I think everybody should own at least one.”
  • Patterson offered an interview to the denomination’s publicity arm, Baptist Press, in hopes of doing some damage control. But he made things worse by confirming that he believes “non-injurious physical abuse which happens in so many marriages” might spur a woman to “pray [her husband] through this.” (Baptist Press later manipulated the quote to read “minor non-injurious abuse” claiming that it better aligned with Patterson’s intention.)
  • Finally, The Washington Post published an article noting that Patterson has been named as a defendant in a lawsuit, which claims he knew about child-molestation accusations against a close friend of his, fellow Southern Baptist Paul Pressler, but chose to cover it up rather than report it.

A wave of such damning allegations and confirmed quotes would be enough to drag down almost any giant. In a #MeToo moment, it’s astounding that Patterson is still standing. But Southern Baptists are a loyal bunch. One wonders if Baptists’ loyalty to one of yesterday’s leaders is blinding them to the optics of his present involvement and the damage to their public witness should he remain in power.

It doesn’t take a fortune teller to recognize that this will not end well.

At the denomination’s annual gathering next month, Patterson is scheduled to give the coveted keynote sermon. A growing number of Southern Baptists are  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Daily life, Religion

How Many Civilians Did Trump Kill in Drone Strikes Last Year?

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That’s from a post by Kevin Drum:

From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration has chosen to ignore an executive order that requires the White House to issue an annual report on the number of civilians and enemy fighters killed by American counterterrorism strikes. The mandate for the report, which was due May 1, was established by former president Barack Obama in 2016 as part of a broader effort to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding drone operations in places such as Yemen, Somalia and Libya….The decision on the civilian casualty report is part of a broader shift in U.S. counterterrorism policy to withhold more information about U.S. drone strikes and the rules governing them, reversing Obama-era policies dating to 2013.

I think we can guess why the Trump administration is hesitant to release this report. Via Airwars, here’s an estimate of civilians killed in conventional airstrikes in Iraq and Syria: [see above – LG]

If civilian deaths from drone strikes are anything similar, Trump’s team is killing five to ten times as many civilians as Obama did. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 4:16 pm

They’re starting to turn against each other: A Pruitt Aide’s Attack on Zinke Angers the White House

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Elaina Plott reports in the Atlantic:

As Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt faces a seemingly endless stream of scandal, his team is scrambling to divert the spotlight to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. And the White House isn’t happy about it.

In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts, as well as correspondence reviewed by The Atlantic.

“This did not happen, and it’s categorically false,” EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said.

The stories were shopped with the intention of “taking the heat off of Pruitt,” the sources said, in the aftermath of the EPA chief’s punishing congressional hearing last week. They both added, however, that most reporters felt the story was not solid enough to run. On Thursday, Patrick Howley of Big League Politics published a piece on the allegations; he did not respond to request for comment as to his sources.

Abboud alleged to reporters that an Interior staffer conspired with former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski to leak damaging information about the EPA, as part of a rivalry between Zinke and Pruitt. The collaboration, Abboud claimed, allowed the Interior staffer to prop up Zinke at the expense of Pruitt, and Chmielewski to “get back” at his former boss.

Abboud offered to connect reporters with Healy Baumgardner as a second source, according to a person with direct knowledge. Baumgardner, a former Trump campaign official, is a global energy lobbyist for the U.S.-China Exchange. She’s close to some EPA officials, the source, as well as an EPA official, confirmed. Baumgardner did not immediately return a request for comment.

According to the two sources, Interior staffers who fielded the reporters’ calls were able to ascertain that Abboud, who is a former Trump campaign official, was behind the stories. The Interior Department’s White House liaison then called the White House Presidential Personnel Office to complain about his conduct.

On Wednesday, a PPO official called top aides at the EPA “enraged” about Abboud’s efforts, according to a senior EPA official. The PPO official inquired whether Abboud was a “Schedule C” appointee, which would place him within PPO’s jurisdiction and thus give it the ability to fire him. But the official was informed that Abboud is an “administratively determined” hire, which means that only Pruitt himself has the ability to fire him. It is unclear the extent to which Pruitt was aware of these events.

Even so, the message from PPO, according to the senior official, was: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 4:08 pm

“Draining the swamp”: Trump’s Appointees Pledged Not to Lobby After They Leave. Now They’re Lobbying.

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Derek Kravitz and Alex Mierjeski report in ProPublica:

Lobbyists who joined the Trump administrationand now want to return to their old trade have a problem: President Trump said they can’t.

Days after taking office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order requiring every political appointee to sign a pledge as a condition of taking office. The appointees agreed not to lobby the agencies they had worked in for five years after they left government service. Nor would they lobby anyone in the White House or political appointees across federal agencies for the duration of the Trump administration.

But never doubt the ingenuity of the Washington swamp class. At least eight former Trump officials have found ways around the so-called ethics pledge.

Using staffing lists compiled for ProPublica’s Trump Town, the first exhaustive database of current political appointees, we found at least 184 people who have left the Trump administration. Of those, at least six former officials are now registered lobbyists and several others work at firms in roles that resemble lobbying in all but name.

Their techniques vary from the bureaucratic to the audacious: Some former officials are tiptoeing around the rules by not registering as lobbyists or by exploiting loopholes. Others obtained special waivers allowing them to go back to lobbying. And at least one never signed the pledge at all.

Needless to say, roundtrip traffic between lobbying and government has long been endemic in Washington. The Obama administration, despite campaign promises to the contrary, hired dozens of previously registered lobbyists and many officials returned to K Street firms afterward. “The revolving door is a persistent feature of Washington if you work in an administration and you develop some expertise over an area of policymaking,” said Lee Drutman, a senior fellow who studies lobbying at New America, a left-leaning Washington think tank. “There’s a high demand for someone with your knowledge and connections.”

Candidate Trump famously vowed to put an end to such D.C. practices by “draining the swamp.” Indeed, in some respects, the Trump administration’s ethics pledge is tougher than those in place under Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Trump’s version expanded the prohibition from lobbying to what his executive order called “lobbying activities” after people leave government. This was intended to stop former officials not only from communicating directly with government officials but also from helping other lobbyists do that.

The goal, as Trump put it at a Wisconsin campaign rally in October 2016, was to “expand the definition of ‘lobbyist’ so we close all the loopholes that former government officials use by labeling themselves consultants, advisers, all of these different things, and they get away with murder.”

Violating the pledge exposes former officials to possible extended bans on lobbying, civil proceedings or fines, or being barred from lobbying entirely.

Paradoxically, experts warn that tougher enforcement could be spurring the growth of “shadow” lobbyists. That’s the term for those whose tasks look much like lobbying but which they label, say, “strategic consulting.” It also applies to those who don’t meet the legal threshold requiring them to formally register as lobbyists. According to the Lobbying Disclosure Act, a lobbyist must register if he or she spends “20 percent or more of his or her time in services for [a] client over any three-month period.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 3:47 pm

The FBI Is in Crisis. It’s Worse Than You Think

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Eric Lichtblau reports in TIME:

In normal times, the televisions are humming at the FBI’s 56 field offices nationwide, piping in the latest news as agents work their investigations. But these days, some agents say, the TVs are often off to avoid the crush of bad stories about the FBI itself. The bureau, which is used to making headlines for nabbing crooks, has been grabbing the spotlight for unwanted reasons: fired leaders, texts between lovers and, most of all, attacks by President Trump. “I don’t care what channel it’s on,” says Tom O’Connor, a veteran investigator in Washington who leads the FBI Agents Association. “All you hear is negative stuff about the FBI … It gets depressing.”

Many view Trump’s attacks as self-serving: he has called the renowned agency an “embarrassment to our country” and its investigations of his business and political dealings a “witch hunt.” But as much as the bureau’s roughly 14,000 special agents might like to tune out the news, internal and external reports have found lapses throughout the agency, and longtime observers, looking past the partisan haze, see a troubling picture: something really is wrong at the FBI.

The Justice Department’s Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, will soon release a much-anticipated assessment of Democratic and Republican charges that officials at the FBI interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign. That year-long probe, sources familiar with it tell TIME, is expected to come down particularly hard on former FBI director James Comey, who is currently on a high-profile book tour. It will likely find that Comey breached Justice Department protocols in a July 5, 2016, press conference when he criticized Hillary Clinton for using a private email server as Secretary of State even as he cleared her of any crimes, the sources say. The report is expected to also hit Comey for the way he reopened the Clinton email probe less than two weeks before the election, the sources say.

The report closely follows an earlier one in April by Horowitz, which showed that the ousted deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, had lied to the bureau’s internal investigations branch to cover up a leak he orchestrated about Clinton’s family foundation less than two weeks before the election. (The case has since been referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., for potential prosecution.) Another IG report in March found that FBI retaliation against internal whistle-blowers was continuing despite years of bureau pledges to fix the problem. Last fall, Horowitz found that the FBI wasn’t adequately investigating “high-risk” employees who failed polygraph tests.

There have been other painful, more public failures as well: missed opportunities to prevent mass shootings that go beyond the much-publicized overlooked warnings in the Parkland, Fla., school killings; an anguishing delay in the sexual-molestation probe into Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar; and evidence of misconduct by agents in the aftermath of standoffs with armed militias in Nevada and Oregon. FBI agents are facing criminal charges ranging from obstruction to leaking classified material. And then there’s potentially the widest-reaching failure of all: the FBI’s miss of the Russian influence operation against the 2016 election, which went largely undetected for more than two years.

In the course of two dozen interviews for this story, agents and others expressed concern that the tumult is threatening the cooperation of informants, local and state police officials, and allies overseas. Even those who lived through past crises say the current one is more damaging. “We’ve seen ups and downs, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” says Robert Anderson, a senior official at the FBI who retired in 2015.

The FBI’s crisis of credibility appears to have seeped into the jury room. The number of convictions in FBI-led investigations has declined in each of the last five years, dropping nearly 11% over that period, according to a TIME analysis of data obtained from the Justice Department by researchers at Syracuse University. “We’ve already seen where the bad guys and witnesses look at those FBI credentials, and it might not carry the same weight anymore,” says O’Connor.

Indeed, public support for the FBI has plunged. A PBS NewsHour survey in April showed a 10-point drop–from 71% to 61%–in the prior two months among Americans who thought the FBI was “just trying to do its job” and an 8-point jump–from 23% to 31%–among those who thought it was “biased against the Trump Administration.”

The FBI, of course, continues to do good work. On April 25, local authorities in Sacramento and the FBI announced the dramatic arrest of the Golden State Killer. That same day it helped bust 39 people in Pennsylvania in a cocaine-trafficking investigation, 14 prison employees in South Carolina in a bribery case and two men in New Jersey in a $5.3 million tax-evasion probe. Assistant FBI Director William F. Sweeney Jr., who runs the New York field office and oversaw the April 9 raid against Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, says his agents’ response to the turmoil has been to “double down and [say], ‘Hey, we’re gonna keep on moving.’”

Some question whether the FBI has gotten too big and has been asked to do too many things.  . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

Later in the article:

In September, Horowitz found that bureau investigators had allowed employees with dubious polygraph results to keep their top-secret clearances for months or even years, posing “potential risks to U.S. national security.” In one instance, an FBI IT specialist with top-secret security clearance failed four polygraph tests and admitted to having created a fictitious Facebook account to communicate with a foreign national, but received no disciplinary action for that. In late 2016, Horowitz found that the FBI was getting information it shouldn’t have had access to when it used controversial parts of the Patriot Act to obtain business records in terrorism and counterintelligence cases.

Just as troubling are recent FBI missteps not yet under the IG’s microscope. At 2:31 p.m. on Jan. 5, the FBI’s round-the-clock tip center in West Virginia received a chilling phone call. The caller gave her name and said she was close to the family of an 18-year-old in Parkland, Fla., named Nikolas Cruz. Over 13 minutes, she said Cruz had posted photos of rifles he owned and animals he mutilated and that he wanted “to kill people.” She listed his Instagram accounts and suggested the FBI check for itself, saying she was worried about the thought of his “getting into a school and just shooting the place up,” according to a transcript of the call.

The FBI specialist checked Cruz’s name against a database and found that another tipster had reported 3½ months earlier that a “Nikolas Cruz” posted a comment on his YouTube channel saying, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” But neither tip was passed on to the FBI field agents in Miami or local officials in Parkland. After Cruz allegedly killed 17 people with an AR-15 rifle at his old school just six weeks later, the bureau admitted that it had dropped the ball and ordered a full review. “You look at this and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” says Anderson, the former FBI official.

The Parkland shooting was only the latest in a string of devastating misses. After Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando in June 2016, the FBI said it had investigated him twice before on terrorism suspicions, but shut the inquiries for lack of evidence. The year before, after Dylann Roof shot to death nine African-American parishioners at a South Carolina church, the FBI acknowledged that lapses in its gun background-check system allowed him to illegally buy the .45-caliber handgun he used in the massacre. And in 2011, the FBI received a tip from Russian intelligence that one of the Boston Marathon bombers had become radicalized and was planning an overseas trip to join radical Islamic groups. The FBI in Boston investigated him but found no “nexus” to terrorism.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 1:31 pm

Stovetop Popcorn With Brewer’s Yeast, Dulse, and Urfa Biber

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This sounds good, but no popcorn on a low-carb diet. Still, I pass it along. Matt Rodbard and Daniel Holzman write in Taste:

Popcorn: It’s what’s for dinner. Well, it’s what’s for those moments between lunch and dinner when you are hanging out on the sofa bingeing through the latest season of Broadchurch. Popcorn is the great in-between meal. It’s cheap, filling, kinda healthy (though let’s be honest, not really), and fun to make on your own. Popcorn is also infinitely customizable, which ensures it never gets stale. Speaking of stale, we’ve got no beef with those bags of SkinnyPop, but fresh-from-the-stovetop always tastes better to us.

So what holds people back from making popcorn DIY style? An annoyingly high ratio of unpopped to popped kernels is second only to burning the batch. You can hear the smoke alarm now. Both of these issues give home cooks pause. And lastly, getting the seasoning part right can be tricky. You’re looking for a middle ground here—a seasoning blend that is interesting, packed with saltiness, but not too weird and out there.

The key to achieving this balance is found at the health food store or the baking section of your local Whole Foods: brewer’s yeast or nutritional yeast. Brewer’s yeast is an inactive yeast that is a byproduct of beer making, while nutritional yeast is grown specifically from vegetable sugar as a seasoning product. In addition to being chock-full of vitamins, brewer’s yeast is high in glutamic acid—a free glutamate that, when mixed with salt (sodium), like in your popcorn, creates monosodium glutamate, or MSG, which has been kindly rebranded as umami, the mythic fifth “taste.” Short translation: delicious popcorn.

But we’re not stopping with just a sprinkling of brewer’s yeast. Dulse is a dried red seaweed harvested off the coast of Japan and in the chilly waters of the north Atlantic. Dulse is a natural salt substitute with a subtle whisper of the ocean. It also happens to be packed with more of those free glutamates.

You could stop there, but we like our popcorn on the slightly spicy side, just enough to tickle the tongue and keep you going back for more. You didn’t know you needed Urfa biber—a dried Turkish chile pepper with a raisin-like sweetness, a subtle spice, and the gentle acidity of a lightly roasted Ethiopian coffee—until you started cooking with it. You can rub it on lamb shoulder or shake it into a batch of chocolate brownies. It’s spectacular in popcorn, adding more flavor (Urfiness) without making your popcorn overly spicy. . .

Continue reading for the actual recipe.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

3 May 2018 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

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