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A 4-Day Workweek? A Test Run Shows a Surprising Result

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Charlotte Graham-McLay reports in the NY Times:

 A New Zealand firm that let its employees work four days a week while being paid for five says the experiment was so successful that it hoped to make the change permanent.

The firm, Perpetual Guardian, which manages trusts, wills and estates, found the change actually boosted productivity among its 240 employees, who said they spent more time with their families, exercising, cooking, and working in their gardens.

The firm ran the experiment — which reduced the workweek to 32 hours from 40 — in March and April this year, and asked two researchers to study the effects on staff.

Jarrod Haar, a human resources professor at Auckland University of Technology, said employees reported a 24 percent improvement in work-life balance, and came back to work energized after their days off.

“Supervisors said staff were more creative, their attendance was better, they were on time, and they didn’t leave early or take long breaks,” Mr. Haar said. “Their actual job performance didn’t change when doing it over four days instead of five.”

Similar experiments in other countries have tested the concept of reducing work hours as a way of improving individual productivity. In Sweden, a trial in the city of Gothenburg mandated a six-hour day, and officials found employees completed the same amount of work or even more. But when France mandated a 35-hour workweek in 2000, businesses complained of reduced competitiveness and increased hiring costs.

[Is the 9-to-5 approach still ideal for workers? We asked the experts]

In Perpetual Guardian’s case, workers said the change motivated them to find ways of increasing their productivity while in the office. Meetings were reduced from two hours to 30 minutes, and employees created signals for their colleagues that they needed time to work without distraction.

“They worked out where they were wasting time and worked smarter, not harder,” Mr. Haar said.

Andrew Barnes, the company’s founder, said he believed his was the first business in the world to pay staff for 40 hours when working 32; other firms have allowed employees to work shorter weeks by compressing the standard 40 hours into fewer days, or allowed people to work part-time for a reduced salary.

Mr. Barnes said he came up with the idea for a four-day workweek after reading a report that suggested people spent less than three hours of their work day productively employed, and another that said distractions at work could have effects on staff akin to losing a night’s sleep or smoking marijuana.

He said the results of Perpetual Guardian’s trial showed that when hiring staff, supervisors should negotiate tasks to be performed, rather than basing contracts on hours new employees spent in the office.

“Otherwise you’re saying, ‘I’m too lazy to figure out what I want from you, so I’m just going to pay you for showing up,’” Mr. Barnes said.

“A contract should be about an agreed level of productivity,” he added. “If you deliver that in less time, why should I cut your pay?”

He said working mothers stood to benefit most from the policy, since those returning to work from maternity leave often negotiated part-time hours, but performed the equivalent of full-time work.

Tammy Barker, a senior client manager with the firm, agreed with Mr. Barnes’s assessment.

Ms. Barker, a mother of two who lives in Auckland, said she spent her day off each week running personal errands, attending appointments and shopping for groceries, which allowed her to spend more time with her family on weekends.

She had realized during the trial how often she jumped between tasks at work as her concentration waned.

“Because there was a focus on our productivity, I made a point of doing one thing at a time, and turning myself back to it when I felt I was drifting off,” she said. “At the end of each day, I felt I had got a lot more done.”

Noting that the company had seen lower electricity bills with 20 percent less staff in the office each day, Mr. Barnes said the change in work hours could have wider implications if more companies adopted such a strategy.

“You’ve got 20 percent of cars off the road in rush hour; there are implications for urban design, such as smaller offices,” he said.

Perpetual Guardian’s board will now consider making the change permanent. . .

Continue reading.

See also this article (listed on the Useful Posts page):  The Gospel of Consumption

Written by LeisureGuy

19 July 2018 at 4:01 pm

US Media Accurately Reports Effect of New Dark Money Rules

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Kevin Drum has a good post:

Over at National Review, Charles Cooke is annoyed at our nation’s media. You see, under new IRS rules certain nonprofit groups will no longer have to report the names of donors over $5,000—groups like the NRA, the Koch Brothers, various chambers of commerce, and so forth. But wait:

The change applies to every single 501(c)(4) in America. CNN could just as easily — and just as misleadingly — have placed the story under the headline, “NAACP will no longer need to identify their donors to the IRS.” Or it could have mentioned, say, Planned Parenthood. Or SEIU. Or Everytown for Gun Safety. Or the Sierra Club. Or . . .

Hmmm. That seems like a good point. Let’s see how the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal reported the story. They’ll give it to us without a bunch of liberal bias:

Some of the largest groups affected include an arm of the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, a group tied to billionaires Charles and David Koch….For the past few years, Republicans have been examining the Schedule B requirements, questioning how useful the information is to the IRS and arguing that donors could face harassment if the information is inadvertently released.

In 2016, the House passed a bill to eliminate the requirement, but the Obama administration opposed it and it didn’t become law….“The IRS’s decision is a move in the right direction to end activist regulators’ culture of intimidation to silence political speech,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) “More and more states were using these documents to chill political discourse, rather than encourage it.”

Democrats blasted the decision and warned that the IRS would have one less tool to figure out whether groups are complying with the law. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) said he will vote against President Donald Trump’s pick to run the IRS unless he promises to reverse the move. “President Trump’s late-night giveaway to shady donors and interest groups makes dark money even darker,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) “The NRA and other special interest groups can now fully operate in the shadows and push their corrupt agendas without any transparency or accountability.” Democrats have warned that changing the disclosure requirement could allow foreign money into U.S. politics without notice.

So it appears that (a) the biggest beneficiaries are conservative groups, (b) Republicans tried to repeal the reporting requirement in 2016, (c) Obama opposed it, (d) Mitch McConnell is in favor of repeal, and (e) Nancy Pelosi is against it. Reading between the lines, conservatives are all in favor of repeal and liberals are all opposed to repeal because it’s conservative groups that don’t want anyone to know who their big donors are. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2018 at 7:37 pm

A big “uh-oh”: Top Voting Machine Vendor Admits It Installed Remote-Access Software on Systems Sold to States

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Kim Zetter reports in Motherboard about how the top voting-machine vendor put out a little electronic “Welcome” mat for Russia:

The nation’s top voting machine maker has admitted in a letter to a federal lawmaker that the company installed remote-access software on election-management systems it sold over a period of six years, raising questions about the security of those systems and the integrity of elections that were conducted with them.

In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) in April and obtained recently by Motherboard, Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had “provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,” which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them.

The statement contradicts what the company told me and fact checkers for a story I wrote for the New York Times in February. At that time, a spokesperson said ES&S had never installed pcAnywhere on any election system it sold. “None of the employees, … including long-tenured employees, has any knowledge that our voting systems have ever been sold with remote-access software,” the spokesperson said.

ES&S did not respond on Monday to questions from Motherboard, and it’s not clear why the company changed its response between February and April. Lawmakers, however, have subpoena powers that can compel a company to hand over documents or provide sworn testimony on a matter lawmakers are investigating, and a statement made to lawmakers that is later proven false can have greater consequence for a company than one made to reporters.

ES&S is the top voting machine maker in the country, a position it held in the years 2000-2006 when it was installing pcAnywhere on its systems. The company’s machines were used statewide in a number of states, and at least 60 percent of ballots cast in the US in 2006 were tabulated on ES&S election-management systems. It’s not clear why ES&S would have only installed the software on the systems of “a small number of customers” and not all customers, unless other customers objected or had state laws preventing this.

The company told Wyden it stopped installing pcAnywhere on systems in December 2007, after the Election Assistance Commission, which oversees the federal testing and certification of election systems used in the US, released new voting system standards. Those standards required that any election system submitted for federal testing and certification thereafter could contain only software essential for voting and tabulation. Although the standards only went into effect in 2007, they were created in 2005 in a very public process during which the security of voting machines was being discussed frequently in newspapers and on Capitol Hill.

Election-management systems are not the voting terminals that voters use to cast their ballots, but are just as critical: they sit in county election offices and contain software that in some counties is used to program all the voting machines used in the county; the systems also tabulate final results aggregated from voting machines.

Software like pcAnywhere is used by system administrators to access and control systems from a remote location to conduct maintenance or upgrade or alter software. But election-management systems and voting machines are supposed to be air-gapped for security reasons—that is, disconnected from the internet and from any other systems that are connected to the internet. ES&S customers who had pcAnywhere installed also had modems on their election-management systems so ES&S technicians could dial into the systems and use the software to troubleshoot, thereby creating a potential port of entry for hackers as well.

In May 2006 in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, ES&S technicians used the pcAnywhere software installed on that county’s election-management system for hours trying to reconcile vote discrepancies in a local election, according to a report filed at the time. And in a contract with Michigan, which covered 2006 to 2009, ES&S discussed its use of pcAnywhere and modems for this purpose.

“In some cases, the Technical Support representative accesses the customer’s system through PCAnywhere—off-the-shelf software which allows immediate access to the customer’s data and network system from a remote location—to gain insight into the issue and offer precise solutions,” ES&S wrote in a June 2007 addendum to the contract. “ES&S technicians can use PCAnywhere to view a client computer, assess the exact situation that caused a software issue and to view data files.”

Motherboard asked a Michigan spokesman if any officials in his state ever installed the pcAnywhere software that ES&S recommended they install, but got no response.

The presence of such software makes a system more vulnerable to attack from hackers, especially if  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

In 2006, the same period when ES&S says it was still installing pcAnywhere on election systems, hackers stole the source code for the pcAnyhere software, though the public didn’t learn of this until years later in 2012 when a hacker posted some of the source code online, forcing Symantec, the distributor of pcAnywhere, to admit that it had been stolen years earlier. Source code is invaluable to hackers because it allows them to examine the code to find security flaws they can exploit. When Symantec admitted to the theft in 2012, it took the unprecedented step of warning users to disable or uninstall the software until it could make sure that any security flaws in the software had been patched.

Around this same time, security researchers discovered a critical vulnerability in pcAnywhere that would allow an attacker to seize control of a system that had the software installed on it, without needing to authenticate themselves to the system with a password. And other researchers with the security firm Rapid7 scanned the internet for any computers that were online and had pcAnywhere installed on them and found nearly 150,000 were configured in a way that would allow direct access to them.

It’s not clear if election officials who had pcAnywhere installed on their systems, ever patched this and other security flaws that were in the software.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2018 at 1:25 pm

Keep an Eye on the Magnitsky Act

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Kevin Drum points out something important:

Back in 2016, when Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya met at Trump Tower with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, the alleged topic of conversation was the Magnitsky Act.

Now bear with me here. The Magnitsky Act is named after Russian tax accountant Sergei Magnitsky, who discovered a $230 million fraud among Russian tax officials back in 2009. Naturally Magnitsky himself was arrested, since the powers-that-be in Russia don’t abide these kinds of accusations, and he was eventually beaten to death while he was in prison. His friend Bill Browder was outraged and publicized what had happened, which led to Congress passing the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act in 2012 by a vote of 92-4. Russia, as expected, was infuriated, because it targeted the country’s most powerful oligarchs in the only way that really hurts them: by freezing their money and their travel overseas. Julia Ioffe explains:

The first decade of Putin’s rule was a bonanza for state security structures. Using tactics similar to those used in the Browder-Magnitsky case, government officials, especially those in Putin’s native FSB, enriched themselves….They pillaged and nearly wiped out small and medium-sized businesses in Russia, jailing many of their owners in the process. Government programs and projects were dreamt up not to be built or actualized, but to allow their proponents to pocket parts of the state budget.

….Back then, a Russian businessman told me it felt like “the day before Pompeii,” with everyone stealing as much as they could as quickly as possible—and then whisking it out of the country….The families of the Russian elite often don’t live in Russia. They live in Paris, in London, Geneva, New York, Los Angeles. That’s where their money lives, too, and where their children go to school and where their families seek medical treatment—which is one of the reasons the Russian education and medical systems are falling apart, robbed by corruption of what little resources they had.

….What made Russian officialdom so mad about the Magnitsky Act is that it was the first time that there was some kind of roadblock to getting stolen money to safety. In Russia, after all, officers and bureaucrats could steal it again, the same way they had stolen it in the first place: a raid, an extortion racket, a crooked court case with forged documents—the possibilities are endless. Protecting the money meant getting it out of Russia. But what happens if you get it out of Russia and it’s frozen by Western authorities? What’s the point of stealing all that money if you can’t enjoy the Miami condo it bought you? What’s the point if you can’t use it to travel to the Côte d’Azur in luxury?

So far, 49 of Russia’s richest and most powerful oligarchs, all of them friends of Putin, have been targeted by the Magnitsky Act:

  1. DROGANOV, Aleksey O.
  2. KARPOV, Pavel
  3. KOMNOV, Dmitriy
  4. KHIMINA, Yelena
  5. KRIVORUCHKO, Aleksey
  6. KUZNETSOV, Artem
  7. LOGUNOV, Oleg
  8. PECHEGIN, Andrey I.
  9. PODOPRIGOROV, Sergei G.
  10. PROKOPENKO, Ivan Pavlovitch
  11. SILCHENKO, Oleg F.
  12. STASHINA, Yelena
  13. STEPANOVA, Olga G.
  14. TOLCHINSKIY, Dmitri M.
  15. UKHNALYOVA, Svetlana
  16. VINOGRADOVA, Natalya V.
  17. BOGATIROV, Letscha
  18. DUKUZOV, Kazbek
  19. LITVINOVA, Larisa Anatolievna
  20. KRATOV, Dmitry Borisovich
  21. GAUS, Alexandra Viktorovna
  22. TAGIYEV, Fikret
  23. ALISOV, Igor Borisovich
  24. MARKELOV, Viktor Aleksandrovich
  25. KLYUEV, Dmitry Vladislavovich
  26. STEPANOV, Vladlen Yurievich
  27. KHLEBNIKOV, Vyacheslav Georgievich
  28. AKHAYEV, Musa
  29. SUGAIPOV, Umar
  30. KRECHETOV, Andrei Alexandrovich
  31. DAUDOV, Magomed Khozhakhmedovich
  32. ALAUDINOV, Apti Kharonovich
  33. GRIN, Victor Yakovlevich
  34. STRIZHOV, Andrei Alexandrovich
  35. ANICHIN, Aleksey Vasilyevich
  36. KIBIS, Boris Borisovich
  37. URZHUMTSEV, Oleg Vyacheslavovich
  38. LAPSHOV, Pavel Vladimirovich
  39. ANTONOV, Yevgeni Yuvenalievich
  40. PLAKSIN, Gennady Nikolaevich
  41. LUGOVOI, Andrei Konstantinovich
  42. KOVTUN, Dmitri
  43. BASTRYKIN, Alexander Ivanovich
  44. GORDIEVSKY, Stanislav Evgenievich
  45. MAYOROVA, Yulia
  46. KATAEV, Ayub Vakhaevich
  47. PAVLOV, Andrei
  48. SHESHENYA, Alexei Nikolaevich
  49. KADYROV, Ramzan Akhmatovich

So what’s the point of all this detail? Just this: Britain passed its own version of the Magnitsky Act earlier this year. Ditto for the Netherlands. Estonia too (“we won’t leave such unfriendly steps without a due response,” Russia threatened). There’s even a move afoot to pass an EU-wide Magnitsky Act, which would truly be a disaster for Russia’s elite. So perhaps it’s no surprise that at the Helsinki summit Putin specifically called out Bill Browder, the man who’s probably more responsible than anyone for getting the original Magnitsky Act passed. Here’s what Putin said:

Business associates of Mr. Browder have earned over $1.5 billion in Russia. They never paid any taxes, neither in Russia nor in the United States, and yet the money escaped the country. They were transferred to the United States. They sent huge amount of money, $400 million as a contribution to the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Well, that’s the personal case. It might have been legal, the contribution itself, but the way the money was earned was illegal.

This is not the kind of personal shout out we usually get from Putin at these events. But he’s desperate. So with all this out of the way, let’s go back in time to the Trump Tower meeting and ask again: what was that all about? Well, it was about the Magnitsky Act, which the Russians urgently want repealed. But it was also about delivering dirt on Hillary Clinton. And this is the dirt: $400 million in sketchy campaign contributions from Bill Browder and his cronies. That didn’t work out—largely because it wasn’t true—but not for lack of trying. No matter where you turn, the Magnitsky Act is staring you in the face. If there’s any single thing that Vladimir Putin is pissed off about, this is it.

So what did Putin and Trump talk about in their secret 2-hour meeting with no aides present? If I had to take a guess, I’d say it was the Magnitsky Act. Keep an eye on this over the next few months.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 July 2018 at 11:14 am

Plutonium is missing, but the government says nothing

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One endemic problem of strongly hierarchical organizations is that problems are hidden away and covered up rather than exposed and solved. We see this in the military, in the church, in police departments, in universities, and now in Rick Perry’s Department of Energy. Patrick Malone and Jeffrey Smith report at the Center for Public Integrity:

Two security experts from the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory drove to San Antonio, Texas, in March 2017 with a sensitive mission: to retrieve dangerous nuclear materials from a nonprofit research lab there.

Their task, according to documents and interviews, was to ensure that the radioactive materials did not fall into the wrong hands on the way back to Idaho, where the government maintains a stockpile of nuclear explosive materials for the military and others.

To ensure they got the right items, the specialists from Idaho brought radiation detectors and small samples of dangerous materials to calibrate them: specifically, a plastic-covered disk of plutonium, a material that can be used to fuel nuclear weapons, and another of cesium, a highly radioactive isotope that could potentially be used in a so-called “dirty” radioactive bomb.

But when they stopped at a Marriott hotel just off Highway 410, in a high-crime neighborhood filled with temp agencies and ranch homes, they left those sensors on the back seat of their rented Ford Expedition. When they awoke the next morning, the window had been smashed and the special valises holding these sensors and nuclear materials had vanished.

More than a year later, state and federal officials don’t know where the plutonium – one of the most valuable and dangerous substances on earth – is. Nor has the cesium been recovered.

No public announcement of the March 21 incident has been made by either the San Antonio police or by the FBI, which the police consulted by telephone. When asked, officials at the lab and in San Antonio declined to say exactly how much plutonium and cesium were missing. But Idaho lab spokeswoman Sarah Neumann said the plutonium in particular wasn’t enough to be fashioned into a nuclear bomb.

It is nonetheless now part of a much larger amount of plutonium that over the years has gone quietly missing from stockpiles owned by the U.S. military, often without any public notice.

Unlike civilian stocks, which are closely monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and openly regulated – with reports of thefts or disappearances sent to an international agency in Vienna — the handling of military stocks tended by the Department of Energy is much less transparent.

The Energy Department, which declined comment for this story, doesn’t talk about instances of lost and stolen nuclear material produced for the military. It also has been less willing than the commission to punish its contractors when they lose track of such material, several incidents suggest.

That nontransparent approach doesn’t match the government’s rhetoric.

Protecting bomb-usable materials, like the plutonium that went missing in San Antonio, “is an overriding national priority,” President Obama’s press office said in a fact sheet distributed during the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit that he hosted in late March 2016, a Washington event attended by more than 50 heads of state.

The administration boasted in the declaration that America’s security standards for military-grade materials “meet or exceed the recommendations for civilian nuclear materials” made by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. It also touted the strength of its tracking of such materials, which it said would “ensure timely detection and investigation of anomalies, and deter insider theft/diversion.”

The United States also boasted about its transparency, explaining that it “has published studies and reviews of nuclear security incidents, including lessons learned and corrective actions taken.”

President Donald Trump, speaking to a military audience at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 21, 2017, parroted the Obama administration’s refrain that “we must prevent nuclear weapons and materials from coming into the hands of terrorists and being used against us, or anywhere in the world for that matter.”

The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released in February, similarly emphasized the threat posed by nuclear terrorism, and asserted that “preventing the illicit acquisition of a nuclear weapon, nuclear materials, or related technology and expertise by a violent extremist organization is a significant U.S. national security priority.”

But America’s record of safeguarding such materials isn’t sterling. Gaps between the amount of plutonium that nuclear weapons companies have produced and the amount that the government can actually locate occur frequently enough for officials to have created an acronym for it – MUF, meaning “material unaccounted for.”

Just a cat or a brick

The gaps have shown up at multiple nodes in the production and deployment cycle for nuclear arms: at factories where plutonium and highly-enriched uranium have been made, at storage sites where the materials are held in reserve, at research centers where the materials are loaned for study, at waste sites where they are disposed, and during transit between many of these facilities.

Production of the bomb materials was so frantic during the Cold War that a total of roughly six tons of the material – enough to fuel hundreds of nuclear explosives – has been declared as MUF by the government, with most of it presumed to have been trapped in factory pipes, filters, and machines, or improperly logged in paperwork. (That figure, which dates from 2012, has not been publicly updated.)

For nearly 40 years, “DOE officials and their predecessors … did not have an effective capability within their accounting systems to know if significant quantities of” bomb-grade uranium were being diverted to illicit use, according to Charles Ferguson, a physicist who is now director of the Nuclear and Radiation Studies Board at the National Academies of Sciences.

The Government Accountability Office declared in Sept. 2015 that the department also had never conducted an authoritative inventory of the location and quantity of plutonium loaned by the United States to other nations, and that eleven foreign sites with U.S.-made bomb-grade uranium had not been visited by U.S. inspectors in the previous 20 years. Many sites inspected before 2010 lacked rigorous security systems, the GAO warned.

Asked for comment, National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Greg Wolfe said in an email on June 29 that his agency is still working with DOE on that inventory, three years later. He did not say when it would be finished. . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more in the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 3:30 pm

“I’m Bill Browder. Here’s the Biggest Mistake Putin Made When Trying to Get Access to Me Through Trump.”

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Bill Browder has an interesting piece in TIME. The editor notes:

Browder is the founder and CEO of Hermitage Capital Management and was the largest foreign investor in Russia until 2005. Since 2009 when his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, died in prison after uncovering a $230 million fraud committed by Russian government officials, Browder has been leading a campaign to expose Russia’s endemic corruption and human rights abuses

Browder writes:

I wasn’t watching the Donald Trump–Vladimir Putin press conference from Helsinki. But when my phone started burning up with messages, I knew something was going on. I quickly discovered that Putin had mentioned me by name. No journalist had asked about me. He just brought me up out of the blue.

Putin offered to allow American investigators to interview the 12 Russian intelligence agents just indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in exchange for allowing Russians to have access to me and those close to me. This is no idle threat. For the last ten years, I’ve been trying to avoid getting killed by Putin’s regime, and there already exists a trail of dead bodies connected to its desire to see me dead. Amazingly, Trump stood next to him, appearing to nod approvingly. He even later said that he considered it “an incredible offer.”

I’m lodged so firmly under Putin’s skin because I’m the person responsible for getting the Magnitsky Act passed in the United States in 2012. This is a law that allows the U.S. government to freeze assets and ban visas of human-rights violators around the world. Some of these human-rights violators had killed Sergei Magnitsky, my Russian lawyer who was murdered in a Moscow jail for uncovering a massive $230 million government-corruption scheme that we’ve since traced to known Putin cronies. In essence, Putin received some of the proceeds of this crime, and he is terrified that the Magnitsky Act could be applied to his offshore fortune, which is probably one of the largest amassed in modern times.

The Helsinki summit is not the first time my name has come up at a Putin press conference. Back in 2006 at the G-8 Conference in St. Petersburg, a young reporter for the Moscow Times asked why I’d been denied an entry visa to Russia and declared a threat to national security, all with no explanation. She pointed out that I was the biggest foreign investor in the Russian stock market, and that the prime minister of the United Kingdom had asked Putin about my situation earlier that day.

Putin frowned. “To be honest, I don’t know why this particular person has been refused entry to Russia. I can imagine that this person has broken the laws of our country, and if others do the same we’ll refuse them entry, too.”

“This person.” Putin almost never utters the names of his enemies — except for mine, which he lately seems to utter at every opportunity. To my mind, this can only mean that he is seriously rattled.

Since 2012, Putin has made it perhaps his largest foreign policy priority to have the Magnitsky Act repealed. But none of his efforts have worked. Not only has it not been repealed, it’s spread to six additional countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, the Baltic states and Gibraltar. There are eight other countries with Magnitsky Acts on deck: Sweden, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia, South Africa and Ukraine. The Magnitsky Act is going viral, and countries that have Magnitsky Acts are sanctioning Putin’s cronies, who I imagine soon will be sanctioned by other countries as well.

In addition, the Global Magnitsky Justice Campaign has investigated and found the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed and was killed over. There arenow a number of live law-enforcement investigations around the worlddetermining just who benefited from this crime. These have resulted in tens of millions of dollars of frozen assets. Furthermore, these investigations don’t only put at risk the beneficiaries of this crime, but the benificiaries of many other similar crimes. These people are ready to kill to keep their money. Losing it would be devastating.

Putin’s latest allegation that I donated $400 million to Hillary Clinton is so ludicrous and untrue that it falls into delusion. I’ve never made a political donation to Hillary Clinton or any other political candidate. It’s in the same category as other Russian government allegations against me: they accused me of being a serial killerthey accused me of being a CIA/MI6 agent determined to destroy the Russian government; and they accused me of somehow stealing $4.8 billion of IMF money back in the 1990s that was destined for the Russian Treasury. These guys have seriously lost their cool and are beginning to make mistakes.

The biggest mistake that Putin made in his offer today to effectively swap me for the 12 Russian agents is that he went to the wrong head of state. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2018 at 1:47 pm

Trump’s Tariffs and High Prices Are Sinking the Midwest

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Kevin Drum notes the beating the Midwest is taking from Trump:

You can call ’em tariffs or you can call ’em taxes, but they’re all the same to me. Tory Newmyer reports from the heartland:

In Iowa, Mike Naig, the state’s Republican secretary of agriculture…. “Current commodity prices are not equaling the cost of production … There has been a 20 percent drop in prices.” In South Dakota, Kolberg-Pioneer, which manufactures equipment for making crushed stone and gravel, is contemplating its second price increase of the year to deal with  higher steel prices thanks to Trump’s metals tariffs…. Meanwhile, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader’s Dana Ferguson and Jeremy Fugleberg report the trade fight has “already cost South Dakota farmers and ranchers hundreds of millions of dollars, experts said, as the value of their crops has dipped.”

….In Utah, the steel tariffs could add roughly $15 million to the cost of a new state prison already over budget. …In Wisconsin, a range of businesses are feeling the effects of retaliatory tariffs from Canada, designed as a “surgical strike” on the state and others that backed Trump, Scott Gordon of the Wisconsin State Farmer writes: “With new tariffs on greeting cards, tissue paper, napkins, toilet paper and even playing cards, Canada puts pressure on a range of products that has represented more than $2 billion in exports from Wisconsin to that nation over the past decade.”

That’s just a sampling. Some other headlines:

  • From WECT in North Carolina: “Trump’s trade war with China could affect local jobs”
  • From the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri: “’Trying to keep the faith’: Missouri farmers brace for Trump’s trade war — and drought”
  • From WKRG in Mobile, Ala.: “Local leaders say Trump tariffs threaten Mobile economy
  • From The Day in New London, Conn.: “Local manufacturers feel the pain of aluminum, steel tariffs
  • From the South Bend Tribune in Indiana: “Indiana farmers not exempt from prolonged tariff battle”

Do all these folks still think it was a great idea to vote for Trump? Dave Weigel takes the pulse of the Midwest: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2018 at 10:25 am

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