Later On

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

Archive for April 22nd, 2021

Interim report on portable induction burner

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As regular readers know, I some time back purchased a portable induction burner, which I use now for all my stove-top cooking. (The coil burners on my apartment stove are awful, and rather than replace them, I decided to switch to an induction burner.) An earlier post on the unit I bought (on Wirecutter’s recommendation: beware Wirecutter) has now been updated. A video post on how induction burners work still applies.

The burner now wending its way to me has a 9″ coil compared to the Duxtop 6450’s measly 4″ coil, which would heat only the center of a 12″ cast-iron skillet. The 9″ coil of the Max Burton 6600 (aka the 18XL) should produce much more even heat.

More after it arrives and I have a chance to use it.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2021 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

It’s no longer hypothetical: Democrats Ask Justice Barrett To Recuse In Case Involving Nonprofit Donor Privacy

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Nina Totenberg reports for NPR:

Democratic members of the House and Senate Judiciary committees are asking U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett to recuse herself from participating in a case involving a conservative nonprofit with ties to a group that gave at least $1 million to fund a “national campaign” to win Senate confirmation of her Supreme Court nomination.

At her confirmation hearing, Barrett refused to answer questions about whether she would recuse in the case, which was then pending before the court, but had not been granted review. At the time, she said it would “not be appropriate for me as a judicial nominee to offer an opinion about such abstract issues or hypotheticals.”

But after she was confirmed, the court agreed to review the case, and there was no indication of a Barrett recusal.

The case, which is to be argued next week, was brought by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, created by the conservative Koch brothers. It challenges a California law, similar to those in other states, that requires tax-exempt nonprofits to attach to their state tax filing an IRS form that discloses the identity of their large donors. The foundation is seeking a broad constitutional ruling that would keep its donor identities secret. [Generally speaking, those engaged in dubious activities do not wish their identities known. – LG]

The Democratic lawmakers’ letter to Barrett notes that “just minutes after your nomination by former President Trump last September,” the Americans for Prosperity Foundation’s sister organization, Americans for Prosperity, announced in a press release it was mounting a “Full Scale Campaign to Confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.” The campaign was characterized as “a significant national ad campaign focusing on eleven states” and that the organization would spend “in the seven figures” — in other words, at least $1 million.

The letter goes on to cite both statutory provisions of federal law governing judicial ethics and constitutional law that the lawmakers contend require Barrett either to recuse herself or explain why she is not doing so.

The letter to Barrett comes at an awkward time for the justice. On Monday, Politico reported she has just received a $2 million advance for a book about how judges are not supposed to bring their personal feelings into their rulings. On Tuesday,  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the report:

Gillers is author of the leading textbook on legal ethics, titled Regulation of Lawyers: Problems of Law and Ethics.

The rules of judicial conduct, codified under federal law, require that “any justice, judge, or magistrate judges of the United states shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality may be questioned.” And, as Gillers observes, significantly, the standard under that statute is not whether the judge thinks he or she is biased. It is whether a reasonable, objective person, when told that a group with ties to an important case before the court spent at minimum $1 million to win confirmation for Barrett, would have doubts about the justice’s impartiality.

“I think the answer is that a reasonable person would have such doubts,” said Gillers, noting that this case arises not six years after a confirmation, but six months.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2021 at 1:37 pm

When the state becomes a criminal enterprise: State Foster Care Agencies Take Millions Of Dollars Owed To Children In Their Care

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Eli Hager and Joseph Shapiro report for NPR:

Tristen Hunter was 16 and preparing to leave foster care in Juneau, Alaska, when a social worker mentioned that the state agency responsible for protecting him had been taking his money for years.

Hunter’s mother died when he was little, and his father later went to prison, court records show, leaving him in a foster home. In the years that followed, he was owed nearly $700 a month in federal survivor benefits, an amount based on Social Security contributions from his mother’s paychecks. He doesn’t remember Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services ever informing him that it was routing this money — his safety net — into state coffers.

“It’s really messed up to steal money from kids who grew up in foster care,” said Hunter, now 21, who says he is struggling to afford college, rent and car payments. “We get out and we don’t have anybody or anything. This is exactly what survivor benefits are for.”

Roughly 10% of foster youth in the U.S. are entitled to Social Security benefits, either because their parents have died or because they have a physical or mental disability that would leave them in poverty without financial help. This money — typically more than $700 per month, though survivor benefits vary — is considered their property under federal law.

The Marshall Project and NPR have found that in at least 36 states and Washington, D.C., state foster care agencies comb through their case files to find kids entitled to these benefits, then apply to Social Security to become each child’s financial representative, a process permitted by federal regulations. Once approved, the agencies take the money, almost always without notifying the children, their loved ones or lawyers.

At least 10 state foster care agencies hire for-profit companies to obtain millions of dollars in Social Security benefits intended for the most vulnerable children in state care each year, according to a review of hundreds of pages of contract documents. A private firm that Alaska used while Hunter was in state care referred to acquiring benefits from people with disabilities as “a major line of business” in company records.

Some states also take veterans’ benefits from children with a parent who died in the military, though this has become less common as casualties have declined since the Iraq War.

State foster care agencies collected more than $165 million from these children in 2018 alone, according to the most recent survey data from the research group Child Trends. And the number is likely much higher, according to Social Security Administration data for 10 states obtained by a member of Congress and shared with The Marshall Project and NPR. In New York, California and a handful of other states, foster care is run by counties, many of which also take this money, our reporting shows.

Nationwide, foster care agencies are funded through a complicated web of federal and state grants and subsidies, paid for by taxpayers. Children’s Social Security benefits were not intended to be one of those funding streams, according to federal law.

In a Marshall Project/NPR survey of all 50 state child services agencies, most pointed out that it is legal for them to apply to the Social Security Administration to become the financial representative for foster children’s benefits — though federal regulations state that a parent, foster parent, relative or family friend is preferred. Almost all said they take kids’ money as reimbursement for the cost of foster care, putting the funds in individual accounts to recoup what the state has paid for each child’s room and board.

In interviews, several officials also said . . .

Continue reading. There’s more — an example of the US breaking down.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2021 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Government, Law

Homeopathic ER Doctors

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Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2021 at 1:14 pm

Posted in Humor, Medical, Science, Video

The Case of the Sovereign Individual: Unlocking the Mystery of Rey Rivera

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A Small Subset of Agora-World, 1980-Present

Dave Troy has a fascinating article in Medium that seems to expose the tip of an iceberg:

On the evening of May 16th, 2006, Rey Rivera received a phone call, left his north Baltimore house in a hurry, and was never heard from again. Several days later, his body was found after his co-workers observed a hole in a lower roof of the Belvedere Hotel, located near his employer’s offices. With the help of the hotel’s staff, they located Rey’s badly injured and decomposed body in an unused conference room. Rey had been dead several days, and it is widely believed he died the same day he disappeared, probably as a result of a fall through the building’s lower roof. Police ruled the cause of his death as “undetermined.”

I generally research and write about disinformation—not unsolved murder mysteries. So in that sense, this case is completely outside of my normal area of expertise. But fate had other plans. You see, the Belvedere Hotel is across the street from my office in Baltimore. And I know Baltimore intimately—its quirks, characters, and irregularities—and I also am familiar with Rey’s former employer, Agora Financial.

And it was through my “Big History” essay series about the events of January 6th that I was directed back to both Agora and to Rey Rivera. After compiling some recent research on Agora’s history, I thought to re-watch Season 1, Episode 1 (Mystery on a Rooftop) of the 2020 Netflix reboot of “Unsolved Mysteries.” My memories about the Rivera case flooded back—and I realized there was a major overlap with my “Big History” analysis.

The show relied heavily on interviews with two investigative reporters, Stephen Janis and Jayne Miller. As fate would have it, I have known both of them for years, and count them as friends. I spoke with both of them at some length, and was able to flesh out my conclusions.

Agora Publishing was founded in 1978 by Bill Bonner and James Dale Davidson around a single financial publication called “International Living,” with appeal to people who enjoyed travel, lucrative investments, and importantly, minimizing their tax bills. The US tax code at that time (even more than now) was a labyrinth of loopholes and shelters such that anyone with sufficient motivation could find any number of ways to disguise profits as losses, and minimize taxes to near zero.

Over the next few decades, Agora sprouted a plethora of different newsletter products directed at different sub-audiences. One of the newsletters they started was called “The Strategic Investor.” Its editors were Bill Bonner, James Dale Davidson, and William Rees-Mogg— the former editor of the London Times and a member of the House of Lords—whom they cheekily sold as being connected to the MI5 intelligence agency.

In 1996, James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg published a book called The Sovereign Individual, predicting the rise of phenomena such as cryptocurrency (they called it Digital Cash) and the eventual collapse of the nation state. The book advised people to start shopping for multiple residences and looking for jurisdictions that would give them the “best deal” in terms of taxes, perks, and other living arrangements. The hardcore libertarian investor Peter Thiel (and now CEO of Palantir) wrote the foreword for more recent revisions of the book.

This is the story of how Rey Rivera fell into the secret world behind Agora— and didn’t make it out. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more. And follow the links in the article.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2021 at 12:17 pm

Mumtaz in the morning

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Mumtaz uses the Grooming Dept Kairos formula, which contains tallow and lanolin. West Coast Shaving (currently sold out of this Grooming Dept soap, but they have quite a few others) describes the fragrance:

Mumtaz is scented with a spicy, musky, oriental aroma. Citrus notes of bergamot, lemon, mandarin, and orange blend with floral notes of jasmine and rose. Incense, vanilla, opoponax, civet, tonka bean, cedarwood, Iris continue the complex olfactory delight. Then a base of patchouli, vetiver, leather, musk, and sandalwood round out the fragrance.

It’s a very affirming fragrance that augers a good start to the day. With the RazoRock Game Changer .68-P, the shave went very well indeed, and a splash of Diplomat aftershave finished the job.

Written by Leisureguy

22 April 2021 at 10:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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