July 23, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 9:42 AM


Iran condemns Munich mall attack that killed 9 (AFP AND TIMES OF ISRAEL STAFF July 23, 2016)

 Iran on Saturday condemned a shooting spree at a busy shopping center in Munich a day earlier, in which a teenage German-Iranian gunman killed nine people before committing suicide.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi denounced "the killing of innocent and defenseless people" and expressed Iran's solidarity with the German government and people, official IRNA news agency reported.

Ghasemi also called for a "relentless and comprehensive fight" to eradicate violence.

Posted by orrinj at 9:36 AM


Erdogan's mass appeal saved him on coup night (PASCALE TROUILLAUD, July 23, 2016, Times of Israel)

In the tense hours when rebel troops attacked with fighter jets and tanks, and commandos were closing in on him, Erdogan called directly on the Turkish people to resist the mutineers.

Using the social media he previously despised, and sometimes blocked, he mobilized the citizens who confronted and stopped the plotters.

"What makes Erdogan different is that he knew the people would move when he asked them to," said Can Acun, a researcher with Turkish think-tank SETA.

"He was aware of the strong linkage between him and the people that he had strengthened through long years."

Having risen from working-class roots, Erdogan served as Istanbul mayor and went on to lead the nation, as premier and then president, in a success story celebrated by his loyal Muslim conservative base. [...]

[I]n many working-class areas and the vast Anatolian heartland, Erdogan is beloved by millions who celebrate a bigger role for Islam in public life, have benefited from a revitalized economy, and share a new sense of national pride under a potent ruler.

Erdogan won the 2014 election with 52 percent of the vote, making him "the first directly elected president of the people, with an added legitimacy," said Pierini.

Unfortunately, the Brotherhood moved too slowly in Egypt, so it was ill-equipped to thwart a similarly anti-democratic coup.

Posted by orrinj at 9:17 AM


Tim Kaine, Pro-Israel Centrist From Virginia, Hillary Clinton's Vice President Pick (Nathan Guttman, Jul 22, 2016, Forward)

Virginia's Kaine is a centrist pro-Israel choice who should please moderate Jewish voters as Hillary's No. 2.

"He's not going to appeal to the Bernie Sanders voters. He's a centrist," Ron Halber, executive director of the Greater Washington JCRC, told the Forward. [...]

Kaine, who has also served as head of the Democratic National Committee, has visited Israel several times and has supported the funding of Iron Dome systems and the U.S.-Israel Strategic Partnership Act. Halber noted that he was a "very good friend" of the U.S.-Israel partnership, but he added that if chosen as vice president, he may want to see movement on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. "His social background and his sympathy to the oppressed will likely make him want to see a solution," he said, "but he will also support defending Israel in the U.N. and expanding the relationship."

Kaine is a member of a small group of senators who participate in a biweekly reflection group organized by the Faith and Politics Institute.

"I had many, many personal deep conversations with him, and he is genuinely a friend of Israel," said Rabbi Jack Moline, one of the group's moderators. Moline believes that much of Kaine's worldview was shaped during his work as a Jesuit missionary in Honduras. "It had an immense influence on his understanding of the need to make the world a better place."

In Virginia, Kaine hosted the first Passover Seder in the governor's mansion.

Before entering the U.S. Senate the well-liked Kaine had been the mayor of Richmond, governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Kaine, 58, is a fluent Spanish speaker after serving as a missionary in Honduras, and his presence on the ticket could help Clinton in Virginia, a heavily contested swing state.

Tim Kaine's abortion predicament : Once again, the Democratic VP prospect's record on abortion rights is under scrutiny. (DARREN SAMUELSOHN and DANIEL STRAUSS 07/04/16, Politico)

Tim Kaine has been here before: a leading vice-presidential contender with a complicated stance on abortion that doesn't neatly align with the one held by the top of the ticket.

His personal opposition to abortion generated significant scrutiny back in 2008 when Barack Obama, an abortion rights supporter, included the then-Virginia governor on his shortlist of running mates. Kaine's hometown newspaper in Richmond flagged the potentially awkward partnership right away, pointing out the philosophical and policy differences in a side-by-side graphic widely republished by media outlets across the country. [...]

He pledged in his 2005 gubernatorial campaign to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies in the state by promoting adoption and abstinence-focused education. That cycle, the state NARAL chapter ripped Kaine's GOP opponent, Jerry Kilgore, as "an extremely anti-choice candidate" but still withheld its endorsement of Kaine because he "embraces many of the restrictions on a woman's right to choose."

In a 2007 NARAL scorecard, Kaine was described as a "mixed-choice" governor and his state got an F grade thanks in part to a number of laws and other policies restricting access to abortions. Two years later, Kaine upset both local and national reproductive rights groups by signing a law that authorized the sale of customized "Choose Life" license plates. Kaine argued he was supporting free speech, but his critics complained that the law would fund pro-life organizations and didn't square with another very important hat that he was wearing at the time: Obama's personally picked head of the Democratic National Committee.

Kaine brings many other attributes as a running mate, including a widely respected reputation for bipartisanship, after serving just under four years in the Senate, and his own proven political chops winning three straight statewide races in the critical battleground of Virginia. But the hot button issue of abortion, where he has a much more nuanced stance than many of his fellow Democrats, is the baggage he carries.

The next presidential race just got tougher for the GOP, because the sitting VP will already own the issues Republicans need to run on to win.

It's a very savvy appeal to constituencies she can poach : Catholics, neocons, Bushies, Evangelicals, goo-goos, etc.

The now-defunct Project Exile that Kaine backed was so unusual it was championed by Republicans and Democrats alike and by both the top U.S. gun lobby group and gun-control advocates. But the federal program launched in 1997 in Richmond, Virginia, was also criticized at the time as a racially biased initiative that condemned young black men to lengthy prison terms. [...]

As Richmond mayor from 1998 to 2001, Kaine, 58, was a vocal supporter of Project Exile, crediting it with reducing the city's murder rate.

Its goal was to literally live up to its name by making illegal gun possession a federal, not a state, crime, which allowed prosecutors to send convicted felons, most of them black, to a distant federal penitentiary for at least five years.

July 22, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:18 PM


Trump loves to talk about ratings, but his convention speech got beat by John McCain (Sarah Frostenson, July 22, 2016, Vox)

Donald Trump has spent much of his presidential campaign touting his ability to drive ratings -- but his speech at the Republican National Convention Thursday didn't quite deliver. [...]

Trump drew 32.2 million viewers to watch the final night of the RNC. That falls well behind the 40 million who watched John McCain accept the Republican nomination in 2008 -- and slightly ahead of the 30.3 million who tuned in for Mitt Romney's 2012 address.

Posted by orrinj at 4:38 PM


Many 2012 Republican campaign promises have come true under .... Obama? (Christine Romans, 7/22/16, CNNMoney)

Mitt Romney four years ago pledged to bring the unemployment rate down to 6% by the end of 2016. Back then the jobless rate was above 8%. But it has moved steadily lower, falling below 5% today. The economy has added some 9 million jobs. In 2014, the U.S. saw the fastest job growth since 1999, and the second best in 2015.

The "Obama economy" has also delivered on other Republican promises.

Four years ago, presidential hopefuls Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich promised gas prices below $2.50 a gallon and the GOP platform called for more domestic oil production. During the second Obama administration, domestic oil production has surged to a record (in part because of fracking) and America's abundant oil supplies have helped slam oil prices and bring gas prices down to $2.20 a gallon.

In the stock market, blue chips have never been higher. Since the week of the 2012 convention in Tampa, the Dow has shot up more than 40%, rising from 13,000 to over 18,500.

The bitter reality for the Right and the Left is that the UR is who we hoped McCain/Romney would be.
Posted by orrinj at 4:29 PM


Fact-checking Donald Trump's Republican National Convention speech: 6 things he got wrong  (ALFRED NG, 7/21/16, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)

Here are six parts of the reported draft that were about as real as Trump's "publicist," John Miller.

"Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration's rollback of criminal enforcement"

Nationwide, violent crime is actually at its lowest point since 1970, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, and the number is steadily declining.

"In our nation's capital, killings have risen by 50%"

Assuming the billionaire is referring to Washington, D.C., 2016 murders have actually decreased by 9%, from the same date in July in 2015, according to the city's police department

Trump could be referring to a 54% increase in D.C. murders from 2014 to 2015, but he's ignoring the fact that overall crime actually dropped 4% that same year. Murders have actually been gradually decreasing since 2008, when President Obama took office, until the 2015 spike.

Posted by orrinj at 4:25 PM


Please clap: Kansas jobs are up but so is unemployment rate (YAEL T. ABOUHALKAH, 7/22/16, Kansas City Star)

[K]ansas had the seventh worst job growth rate in the country from June 2015 to June of this year at a puny 0.2 percent.

The state has been among the bottom 10 in the nation for adding jobs in much of the last year, along with North Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana, among others. [...]

Summed up, the promises by Brownback that his 2012 tax cuts were going to stimulate a strong surge in employment haven't come true, even while dozens of other states are doing far, far better than Kansas. The Brownback claim that the national economy is dragging down the Kansas economy looks pretty weak, given the impressive job gains in states such as Utah, Oregon and California.

Posted by orrinj at 4:22 PM


S&P 500 CLOSES AT ALL-TIME HIGH: Here's what you need to know (Akin Oyedele , 7/22/16, Business Insider)

[T]he S&P 500 inched above its previous closing high once again. 

The Dow finished the week higher, after breaking a nine-day streak of gains to all-time highs on Thursday.

First, the scoreboard:

Dow: 18,570.79, +53.56, (0.29%)

S&P 500: 2,175.03, +9.86, (0.46%)

Nasdaq: 5,100.16, +26.26, (0.52%)

WTI crude oil: $44.19, -$0.56, (-1.3%)

Posted by orrinj at 4:05 PM


Posted by orrinj at 4:00 PM


Housing Market Moving At Fastest Pace In Nearly A Decade, Study Reveals (Troy McMullen, 7/22/16, FORBES)

June marked the fastest, most competitive housing market since 2009, according to a survey by national real estate brokerage Redfin.

The realtor says homes went under contract in just 41 days in June, the shortest time seen since Redfin began tracking the market in 2009, and four fewer days than last June. And 25.9 percent of homes went off the market in just two weeks, up from 22.6 percent last year.

Not surprisingly, a shortage of supply and soaring demand in many places is driving the trend, says David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:52 PM


$42 Billion of Medicare and Medicaid Fraud Thwarted by 'Big Data' Analytics (Eric Pianin, July 22, 2016, Fiscal Times0

Touting a breakthrough in combating rampant fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid health care systems, the Obama Administration on Wednesday told Congress that it had prevented $42 billion of improper payments to doctors and other medical providers in fiscal 2013 and 2014 by using more sophisticated detection methods. [...]

The results have marked a turnaround in the government success rate in preventing the loss of billions of dollars allotted to the healthcare of seniors, the poor, children and the disabled. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) says every dollar that was invested in the agency's Medicare "integrity efforts" saved $12.40 for the Medicare program.

Posted by orrinj at 2:52 PM


How Erdogan has managed to create a lasting appeal in Turkey (Thomas Seibert, July 3, 2016, The National)

One reason for Mr Erdogan's lasting appeal is the economy. Many Turks who still remember the days of hyperinflation and economic crashes cherish the stability and growing affluence under Mr Erdogan's rule. Turkey's GNP has almost tripled since his Justice and Development Party (AKP) took power in 2002. The number of cars on Turkish roads has more than doubled. Many people can afford an apartment to live in and a holiday for the first time in their lives. Although two-digit growth rates are a thing of the past, the economy is expanding enough to keep many people reasonably happy. Warning signs such as rising credit card debts have so far failed to make voters blame Mr Erdogan for their woes.

Another big factor is the president's undisputed political talent. Even though he lives in a 1,100-room palace in Ankara, he still succeeds in presenting himself as the simple man from Kasimpasa, the lower middle-class neighbourhood in Istanbul where he grew up, lacing his speeches with colloquialisms and tough talk to fire up his supporters.

Mr Erdogan, a practising Muslim, can pull this off because he rose to fame as the leader of a social sea-change in Turkey. Under the AKP's rule, the country's traditional secularist elites were pushed out by a new class of more observant Turks. The Islamic headscarf is a symbol of that change: 20 years ago, the only women in headscarves in posh Istanbul malls were the ones cleaning the rest rooms; today they drive their Porsches right up to the valets and toss them the car keys as they swan in to shop at designer boutiques.

Turkey coup: How mobiles beat tanks and saved Erdogan (Thom Poole, 7/18/16, BBC News)

Hours after the attempted coup began, Turkey's defiant president appealed to supporters to take to the streets and confront the rebels.

But when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed the nation as events unfolded on Friday, he did not do it from the back of a tank, but from a smartphone held up to the camera of broadcaster CNN Turk.

It was an extraordinary moment on an extraordinary night, but one that tells us much about why Mr Erdogan is still in power, and why thousands of soldiers are now in jail.

The coup failed for a number of reasons. Chiefly, the organisers lacked broader military backing and failed to gain public and political support.

But another explanation may lie in the very different ideas the two sides had about how to get their message across. [...]

Troops also stormed CNN Turk during the night, its Facebook live feed left showing an empty desk and chair.

"We are broadcasting until the last minute, as we think it is important for Turkish democracy and the future of the country," said CNN Turk anchor Basak Sengul, before being ushered out of the studio.

It was Mr Erdogan's message, however, that proved most important and which, combined with similar statements from other senior Turkish politicians, showed the country's democratic leadership was safe and well.

By the time he flew back to Istanbul from the Marmaris holiday resort in southern Turkey, thousands had defied the curfew, some lying down in front of tanks to halt their movement.

Even if those behind the coup had been able to control traditional media, they could not stop people accessing news on Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and other platforms.

Posted by orrinj at 2:45 PM


Libyan forces report gains against IS in battle for Sirte (Reuters, 7/22/16)

Libyan forces said on Friday they had edged further into the center of Sirte as they seek to recapture the city from Islamic State, following heavy fighting until late the previous evening that left dozens dead.

Forces aligned with Libya's United Nations-backed government in Tripoli advanced rapidly on the militant group's Libyan stronghold in May, but they have faced resistance from snipers, suicide bombers and mines as they have closed in on the city center.

Sirte had been controlled by Islamic State since last year, becoming its most important base outside Syria and Iraq, and its loss would be a major setback for the group.

When the Arab world looks like Eastern Europe in twenty-five years, everyone will claim credit for the work the Bush and Obama administrations did largely without any support from the opposition party.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Catalan support for split from Spain grows: poll (Reuters, 7/22/16)

Catalonia, which has its own language and accounts for about a fifth of Spain's economy, has long harbored a strong separatist movement.

Pro-independence parties have since last year held a majority in the local parliament, though public support for a breakaway has ebbed and flowed since soaring in 2012 at the height of a nationwide recession.

According to the survey published on Friday by the regional government's official pollster, 47.7 percent of Catalans responded positively when asked if they wanted Catalonia to become an independent state. Some 42.4 percent said no.

Posted by orrinj at 2:25 PM


In first general election speech, Donald Trump rants about how Ted Cruz's dad plotted with JFK's assassin (Becca Stanek, 7/22/16, The Week)

As Trump explained it, he just "had to" respond to Cruz's reasons for refusing to endorse him. "I don't know his father. I met him once. I think he's a lovely guy," Trump said of Rafael during his farewell address in Cleveland. "All I did is point out the fact that on the cover of the National Enquirer there was a picture of him and crazy Lee Harvey Oswald having breakfast."

And, Trump continued, the National Enquirer is usually a pretty reliable source of information. "This was a magazine that, in many respects, should be well-respected," Trump said. "I mean if that was The New York Times, they would have gotten Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting."

Posted by orrinj at 11:04 AM


The Boom Goes On: China's Electric Car Sales Up 162% So Far This Year (Tycho De Feijter, 7/21/16, Forbes)

The spectacular growth of the New Energy Vehicle (NEV) market in China continues; state media reports that sales were up a massive 162% to 170,000 units in the first half of the year. NEVs include pure-electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).

July 21, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:41 PM


Here's what every speaker at the Republican convention should have, but didn't, tell you (Dara Lind, July 18, 2016, Vox)

Violent crime has been declining since the early 1990s -- and it dropped every year from 2008 to 2015. The US/Mexico border is more secure than it was when Obama became president, and there are fewer unauthorized immigrants living in the US -- although since immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than American citizens, that shouldn't matter to your safety anyway.

Posted by orrinj at 7:59 PM


More Republicans Favor Path to Citizenship Than Wall (Jeffrey M. Jones, 7/20/16, Gallup)

Two-thirds of Americans oppose immigration plans advocated by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. In contrast, 84% favor a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants living in the U.S., a plan backed by Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Notably, significantly more Republicans favor a path to citizenship than support building a border wall or deporting illegal immigrants. [...]

At least three in four Republicans (76%), independents (85%) and Democrats (91%) favor a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the U.S. illegally who meet certain requirements over a period of time.

...to assume everyone else must naturally be as racist as you are.  Americans aren't.

Posted by orrinj at 11:57 AM


Low mortgage rates help boost U.S. home resales to 9-year high (Reuters, 7/21/16)

U.S. home resales unexpectedly rose in June to their fastest pace in more than nine years as low mortgage interest rates drew buyers into the market, a positive sign for the economy.

The National Association of Realtors said on Thursday existing home sales increased 1.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.57 million units last month, the highest level since February 2007. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast a 5.48 million-unit pace in June. Sales were up 3 percent from a year ago.

U.S. jobless claims hit three-month low (LUCIA MUTIKANI, 7/21/16, Reuters)

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, hitting a three-month low as the labor market continues to gather momentum.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 253,000 for the week ended July 16, the lowest reading since April, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the prior week were unrevised.

Claims are near the 43-year low of 248,000 touched in mid-April. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast initial claims rising to 265,000 in the latest week.

Posted by orrinj at 11:51 AM


How they blew the coup (A Correspondent in Turkey, July 20, 2016, Al Monitor)

The National Intelligence Organization (MIT) had received information about a possible coup attempt. It was not the first time that MIT had received such raw intelligence. Director Hakan Fidan worked diligently from 3 p.m. until early the next morning to abort the attempt. Fidan contacted the top brass at the General Staff and took measures to potentially head off any coup. At that point, the coup plotters, much better organized and greater in number than initially thought, decided to move the timing forward rather than abort the operation. In short, Fidan's diligence forced them to launch their plot six hours earlier than planned.

This had important repercussions that made the plotters appear incompetent. First, they failed to impose proper command and control over the armed forces. Indeed, early in the process, Brig. Gen. Semih Terzi, a prominent plotter, was killed by a junior officer. Terzi's death not only demoralized the coup plotters but also crippled their command and control system. The plot could no longer be controlled from a single center, and instead weakly linked groups launched uncoordinated actions.

One question has perplexed many: If the operation were a real coup attempt, why was Erdogan not detained at the start? Because some of the groups lacked means of communication and therefore did not know that the timing had been changed. The members of the elite commando unit that had been tasked with seizing Erdogan at the resort town of Marmaris had turned in their mobile gadgets and thus could not be alerted to the altered plan. Sticking to the original plan, they went to detain Erdogan at around 3 a.m. and couldn't find him.

High-level security personnel told Al-Monitor that the coup plotters had not planned to kill Erdogan or Fidan, but rather to hold them captive to further humiliate them. The most elite forces of the Turkish air force Search and Rescue Team and Underwater Defense and Attack were charged with capturing Erdogan. That is why his hotel in Marmaris was not bombed. There are lingering fears that unaccounted-for commandos from these coup units could carry out targeted assassinations.

Failures were also evident in the efforts of the coup plotters to take control of Turkish media outlets. First, they failed to seize Turksat, Turkey's satellite and cable communications company, and therefore take control of mobile communications, including disabling them. Had they done so, it would have prevented Erdogan from using FaceTime to speak to the public and broadcast his message on television. The small detachments sent to take control of state and private channels were not only too late, but also too small in numbers to be effective.

Once it was understood that the coup plotters were not going to back down, the MIT activated its anti-aircraft guns (DShK "Dushka" 12.7 mm). This caught the coup plotters by surprise, because they did not know that the MIT possessed and was able to deploy these weapons. Anti-aircraft weapons similarly protected the Presidential Palace, which is why it did not sustain heavy loses, unlike special operations units and police headquarters in Ankara. It was the first time that the MIT demonstrated its ability to engage in combat. The helicopters transporting forces to take the MIT could not land. The MIT got through the coup attempt with only three of its personnel wounded.

Posted by orrinj at 11:44 AM


Behind the scenes, Ryan touts his agenda in Cleveland, not Trump's (GINGER GIBSON AND EMILY STEPHENSON, 7/20/16, Reuters)

"Everybody knows the tough spot Paul Ryan is in," said Annie Dickerson, a New York delegate to the convention and close adviser to Republican financier Paul Singer, referring to Ryan's dilemma in backing a candidate as the party's standard bearer in the Nov. 8 presidential election who does not represent many of its traditional values.

"He's the antidote to all the frustration that's in Cleveland this week," she said, noting that despite a public push for unity, there are those still unhappy with Trump's nomination.

Ryan, 46, is chairman of the convention at which Trump was officially nominated on Tuesday. But he has kept a low profile, avoiding the convention's opening day on Monday, and instead holding meetings with state delegations and addressing private gatherings of Republican supporters, according to aides and attendees.

At the meetings, according to attendees, Ryan has been pushing his "Better GOP" platform, a six-part agenda that shares strong similarities to the form of conservatism President George W. Bush advocated - reduced regulation, lower taxes, and welfare reform. It contrasts with the speeches typically delivered by Trump, who prefers to lambaste his opponents and skip detailed policy discussions.

Doug Heye, a former House Republican leadership aide close to Ryan, said Ryan's platform "gives them something that they can talk to constituents about that isn't divisive, that isn't name calling."

Posted by orrinj at 11:37 AM


Donald Trump's Hollywood Walk OF Fame Star Gets A Wall (MARY PASCALINE, 07/21/16, IB Times)

In Hollywood, an artist who goes by the pseudonym Plastic Jesus built a miniature wall around Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The 6-inch tall grey concrete is complete with "Keep out" signs and topped with razor wire.

Vicente Fox should offer to pay for that wall.

Posted by orrinj at 11:30 AM


GM posts record earnings and promises better times ahead (Chris Isidore, 7/21/16, CNNMoney)

GM, the nation's largest automaker, reported $2.9 billion in profit in the second quarter. That was more than double what it made a year ago. Strong sales in both the United States and China lifted sales and earnings. [...]

[E]ven if U.S. sales start to fall at GM, it is far better positioned than it was last decade, when uncompetitive labor contracts and excess factories resulted in deep losses and a bankruptcy. GM can be profitable even if sales dip dramatically from the current record levels.

Posted by orrinj at 11:23 AM


Anger grips Republican convention as Cruz snubs Trump (Simon Carswell, 7/21/16, Irish Times)

The freshman Texas senator, a conservative firebrand famed for his rebellious streak and unpopularity in Congress, was booed from stage after he told Republicans to vote their conscience in the November 8th election and declined to offer his endorsement of the New York businessman.

He sparked scenes of fury around the convention hall and one of the most dramatic moments at a modern US political party convention. It was a level of vitriol not seen since 1964 when New York governor Nelson Rockefeller was booed after calling on Republicans to repudiate ideological extremists.

The clash undermined renewed efforts by the party to restore order to a Republican convention already shaken by internal revolts and a plagiarism scandal involving Mr Trump's wife Melania.

The refusal of a prime-time speaker at a national convention to back the party's presidential nominee is highly unusual and followed a number of speakers last night who supported Mr Trump but barely mentioned his name during their addresses to the Republican gathering.

..when a man with none can plausibly lecture you about conscience.

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 AM


Trump says he might not protect NATO countries against Russia (AFP July 21, 2016)

Asked about Russian activities that have alarmed the Baltics, NATO's newest members, Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations "have fulfilled their obligations to us."

Hillary understands our obligations.

July 20, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 7:19 PM


Jill Harth, woman who sued Trump over alleged sexual assault, breaks silence : Harth stands by claims of incident described in 1997 lawsuit as 'attempted rape' and wants apology from Trump: 'Don't call me a liar' (Lucia Graves, 20 July 2016, The Guardian)

In an hour-long interview at the Guardian's New York office on Tuesday, Harth said she stands by her charges against Trump, which run from low-grade sexual harassment to an episode her lawyers described in the lawsuit as "attempted 'rape'".

She first met Trump in December 1992 at his offices in Trump Tower, where she and her then romantic partner, George Houraney, were making a business presentation. The couple wanted to recruit Trump to back their American Dream festival, in which Harth oversaw a pin-up competition known as American Dream Calendar Girls. Harth described that meeting as "the highlight of our career".

But in other ways, it was something of a lowlight: Trump took an interest in Harth immediately and began subjecting her to a steady string of unwanted sexual advances, detailed by Harth in her complaint.

There was the initial leering in that first December meeting in Trump Tower, and the inappropriate questions after her relationship status. It continued the next night over dinner at the Plaza Hotel's Oak Room, where at a dinner with beauty pageant contestants she alleges he groped her under the table.

It culminated in January 1993, when Harth and Houraney were visiting his Florida mansion, Mar-a-Lago, to finalize and then celebrate the beauty pageant deal with a party.

After business concluded, Harth and Houraney were on tour of Mar-a-Lago along with a group of young pageant contestants - Trump wanted to "see the quality of the girls he was sponsoring", Harth recalled - when he pulled her aside into one of the children's bedrooms.

"He pushed me up against the wall, and had his hands all over me and tried to get up my dress again," Harth recalled, "and I had to physically say: 'What are you doing? Stop it.' It was a shocking thing to have him do this because he knew I was with George, he knew they were in the next room. And how could he be doing this when I'm there for business?"

One could argue that he's using racial and religious hatreds as a tactic, but his misogyny lies at the core of his being.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 PM


Why Paul Ryan Should Vote for Hillary Clinton (Ciro Scotti July 20, 2016, Fiscal Times)

In his speech, Ryan called for party unity, but as Reuters reports, he has been pushing his own agenda behind the scenes in Cleveland. An adviser to GOP super-donor Paul Singer called Ryan the "antidote" to all the frustration, and presumably impotency, that the establishment feels with having the national showcase snatched out of its hands.

Ryan's "Better Way" blueprint of where to take the country is at once a more traditional Republican path on the economy, taxes and national security and a methodical vision in competition with the fiery, off-the-cuff positions taken by Trump.

More important, if the GOP's 2012 vice-presidential candidate is able to save Congress from a Democratic sweep, he is going to be a hero to his party with a Santa Claus-sized sack of IOUs from politicians across the country whose bacon he has saved from what could be a Trump inferno on Nov. 8.

To pull that off, Ryan needs money, and he's getting it.

Related: Cleveland Protests Turn Violent as Trump Receives GOP Nomination

According to The Hill, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee will have raised close to $48 million between January and June, its biggest six-month haul ever. Most of that is being attributed to Ryan's fund-raising prowess.

But also driving that fat-cat number, The Hill says, is the fact that a lot of the GOP's big donors are declining to put their money where Trump's mouth is and are supporting Ryan and his fellow down-ballot candidates instead. 

July 19, 2016

Posted by orrinj at 8:45 PM


The Man Who Created Bigfoot (Leah Sottile  Jul 5, 2016, Outside)
Bob Gimlin was a small town cowboy when his friend coaxed him into hunting the famous mythical creature 50 years ago. Today, as the legend of Bigfoot has grown, Gimlin is viewed by the community of believers around the country as something of a prophet.

For weeks in the fall of 1967 the cowboys rode from sunrise to sunset in search of the creature no one had ever captured on film. Two rodeo men from Washington's apple country, they'd traveled to Northern California's thick forest. They'd read headlines of unidentifiable footprints. The smaller cowboy was driven by a long obsession with the mythic beast known as Bigfoot; the other liked to see things for himself.

One late October afternoon near Bluff Creek, the men trundled on horseback, half a day's ride from the nearest signs of civilization. The sun shone bright, lighting the leaves all around them in a grand finale of orange and red and yellow. Roger Patterson rode in front, pausing his quarter horse to point his lens toward the leaves, the film chattering inside his rented 16mm Cine Kodak camera. When he finished, he tucked the camera into his saddlebag, leaving the leather flap open.

Bob Gimlin brought up the rear. He rode a quarter horse, leading a pony loaded with supplies behind him.* Patterson navigated around a bend where a large tree had fallen and jammed up the nearby creek--its root system upturned and exposed, like blind fingers reaching for an anchor.

The horses saw it first. Patterson's reared, kicking and protesting, then Gimlin's. Less than 100 feet away, the men saw why: a hulking gorilla-like figure covered in dark hair hurried on two legs along the creekbed. Its sloped head and torso were pushed forward, its upper back hunched, thigh muscles rippling, long arms swinging, breasts exposed.

Patterson scrambled off his spooked animal, holding its reins just long enough to reach inside his saddlebag for the camera. Gimlin, a cowboy famous through the Yakima Valley for taming wild colts and running in breakneck "suicide races" (in which riders careen down steep slopes), dropped the packhorse's rope and gripped the reins of his frightened pony to steady it.

Patterson scrambled across the uneven ground, waving the camera in one hand, the film blurry as he ran. He stopped to crouch and steady himself, then trained the lens on the strange figure, the camera shaking from his breathing. "Bob! Cover me!" he yelled over his shoulder to Gimlin, who rode toward the creek, dismounting his horse and drawing his rifle.

The picture steadied as the creature, mid-stride, turned to look over its right shoulder--just a glance--before it disappeared into the forest. A skunky, rank odor hung heavy in the air. The whole affair was over in less than a minute.

The final 59.5-second film, which the men would airmail back home to be developed, would soon become the world-famous Patterson-Gimlin film--arguably one of the most scrutinized pieces of video footage ever made. It is the cryptozoological equivalent to the Kennedy assassination's Zapruder film. The film met immediate criticisms accusing Patterson and Gimlin of being master pranksters who simply filmed a man in an ape suit and laid fake footprints in the mud.

The film tore Patterson's and Gimlin's friendship apart. Patterson partnered with his brother-in-law, Al DeAtley, to take the film on a national tour as a way to raise funds for a full-fledged expedition back at Bluff Creek. The three took equal shares in the film, but soon Gimlin felt edged out, and sold his share of the rights for less than $10 to another Bigfoot researcher.

After five years estranged, Patterson and Gimlin made amends in 1972 as Patterson lay on his deathbed, dying of cancer at age 38. Patterson apologized for ousting Gimlin, pleading with him that when he recovered that they would go back to California and catch Bigfoot. He died the next day.

Posted by orrinj at 8:27 PM


Afghan Taliban dismiss reports of slowdown since change of leader (Reuters, 7/19/16)

Afghan government and NATO officials have said government forces have had growing success against the Taliban since U.S. commanders were granted more freedom to conduct air strikes and other operations against the insurgents.

They have also pointed to apparent leadership problems within the Taliban since former leader Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour was killed in a U.S. drone strike and replaced by the hardline cleric Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada.

Posted by orrinj at 7:57 PM



[C]ameron's strangely faceless time in office speaks to something deeper than his own individual brand of non-stick PR-cum-politics; it speaks to the uniformity of the political class itself. It speaks to its shared outlook, its common policymaking trajectory, its interchangeable cast of unremarkables. That's why Cameron's time in office is so lacking in distinction. He was Tony Blair with a blue rosette: his Tory governments, albeit largely (and tellingly) in coalition, were continuations of their New Labour predecessors. What really marks Cameron out is precisely the extent to which he, and the modernised, de-toxified, de-traditionalised Conservative Party as a whole, didn't stand out - that is, the extent to which they continued the small, shrunken politics of the New Labour years, continued the long, drawn-out political retreat from arguments over socioeconomic issues, and continued the focus on the politics of behaviour, of ever earlier interventions into family life, of policies aimed at changing the way we eat or drink. 

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