Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday's Rubble

I must confess to being surprised that the draft pick (a closely guarded secret) didn't make the front page

First from the blitz:

Britain voted to leave the European Union last year, or don't you remember

"May offers plan for Europeans to stay in Britain after Brexit" by James Kanter New York Times   June 22, 2017

Got a fire under her.

BRUSSELS — Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, the body that organizes summit meetings, invoked the John Lennon song “Imagine” in discussing his hopes for a change of heart.

“Some of my British friends have even asked me whether Brexit could be reversed, and whether I could imagine an outcome where the UK stays part of the EU,” Tusk told reporters. “I told them that, in fact, the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve. So, who knows? You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one.”

Yes, they “dream about changing the world,” and were I not so insulted I'd answer that knock on the door (checking video first, though).

Does he know what Lennon would think of his blocs participation in the wars?

--more--"

If you happened to answer the the bell:

"The FCC alleged that Adrian Abramovich, of Miami, ran a robocall operation that made 96 million calls over three months last year. The calls would offer fake travel and vacation deals, using TripAdvisor’s name, in an attempt to fleece consumers, the FCC said....."

Same as that Israeli kid.

As long as it doesn't effect the tennis:

"Strawberries, a treat eaten every year at the Wimbledon tennis championships, could cost Britons a lot more if Brexit leaves farms without enough seasonal workers from overseas. And there are signs labor shortages are already emerging. Strawberry and raspberry prices will jump 35 percent to 50 percent if British growers lose access to summer workers, almost all of whom come from other European Union nations, according to a report commissioned by industry group British Summer Fruits. That would cut UK fruit output and mean imports would be needed to make up for the shortfall. That may be a sooner-than-expected problem. In May, labor providers found it harder to supply fruit and vegetable growers with foreign workers."

In any event, it's an excuse to raise prices.

They take bitcoins?

"Blockchain, the London-based bitcoin currency service provider, has raised $40 million of new funding, representing one of the largest investment rounds in the financial technology sector since Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. New investors in the company, which provides technology such as virtual bitcoin wallets and analytical tools for the digital currency’s underlying system, include Google’s GV, which led the funding with Lakestar. Existing investors, including Lightspeed Venture Partners and Sir Richard Branson, provided new financing. Bitcoin, and the blockchain system that powers it, is one of several virtual currencies and the value of one bitcoin skyrocketed more than 300 percent in the last year."

It's called cooption. They are never going to let you print your own money, even virtually. Going to turn it into another number on the Wall $treet wheel.


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"French president proposes expansion of his counterterrorism powers" by James McAuley and Michael Birnbaum Washington Post  June 22, 2017

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron’s government on Thursday proposed a significant expansion of the authorities’ powers to fight terrorism, alarming civil liberties advocates even as defenders said the plans would help keep France’s citizens safe.

The proposal follows a series of attempted terror strikes in Paris and Brussels in recent weeks and several bloody attacks in Britain claimed by Islamic State-inspired militants. Those have prompted European leaders to search for new strategies to combat terrorism.

Before Macron’s election last month, he said he would seek new approaches. But he also cast himself as a friend of the Muslim world and said that France’s 132-year colonization of Algeria involved ‘‘crimes against humanity.’’ His far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen, sought to paint him as weak on Islamist violence.

What about today's war crimes, you know, the ones you can do something about? 

Oh, right, French guilty of them, too.

The changes proposed Thursday would wind down a state of emergency that gave security officials broad powers after the November 2015 Paris attacks, which claimed 130 lives. Some of those powers would be made permanent, including the ability to temporarily shutter places of worship that promote extremism and to conduct searches with fewer restrictions.

The draft plan would also strip some oversight powers from judges and give security officials more latitude to act without judicial review.

‘‘I think we have achieved a good balance,’’ Interior Minister Gérard Collomb told reporters after a meeting of the Cabinet during which he proposed the law. ‘‘The aim is to put an end to the state of emergency.’’

End it by adopting it, wow. French sure are some smooth talkers.

Both Macron and his predecessor, François Hollande, have sought to end the state of emergency, which has been extended several times since the Paris attacks. It is due to expire July 15, although Macron has asked for it to be prolonged until November. Both Hollande and Macron feared the political blowback if they ended the state of emergency only to face another terror strike, analysts say.

The threat was underlined Monday, when a 31-year-old man rammed a car packed with explosives and guns into a police van on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. He died in the attack, but no one else was injured.

Any crisis drills scheduled for today?

Critics of the emergency powers say they have been applied indiscriminately. Even some analysts who say expanded powers could be useful in disrupting terror plots say the efficacy wears off as militants develop new tactics.

‘‘Emergency powers are effective because they are unusual,’’ said François Heisbourg, an analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research. ‘‘If you make them usual, they cease to be effective.’’

OMG!

--more--"

Related:

"Louis Vuitton is working to open a factory in the United States as demand for its iconic canvas-and-leather handbags continues to rise. The LVMH-owned brand is also likely to add an additional production site in France, and could expand its workshop in Portugal, chief executive Michael Burke said. LVMH chairman Bernard Arnault first floated the possibility of a Louis Vuitton factory in the the Carolinas or Texas during a January visit to New York to meet with then President-elect Trump. Global demand for luxury goods is bouncing back faster than expected after economic uncertainty in China and a terror-related slump in European sales had stymied growth for high-end brands during several years."

That's the price of pushing the propaganda agenda, $orry, even in a world for luxury.

Also see: 

"Newton police are looking for two women who stole an estimated $12,000 worth of pocketbooks from the Bloomingdale’s store at the Chestnut Hill Mall and then sped off on Route 9 by running a red light, police said. The women were captured on surveillance cameras as they walked out of the store Monday and as they ran to an SUV parked in the lot of the mall, said Newton Police Lieutenant Bruce Apotheker, a department spokesman. He said once the women got into the SUV, they drove out of the lot quickly, narrowly missing another vehicle in the lot. At the mall exit, the women drove through a red light, cutting in front of westbound traffic on Route 9 before turning east on the busy road. The SUV, with the Massachusetts license plate of 16CW, had been reported stolen, police said....."



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"Former State Department Security Officer Accused of Spying for China" New York Times News Service  June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — A former State Department diplomatic security officer and military contractor was charged with conducting espionage for China after FBI agents found top-secret documents and apparently incriminating messages on a communications device he brought back from Shanghai, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Kevin Patrick Mallory, 60, of Leesburg, Va., made his initial appearance in US District Court in Alexandria, the department said.

“The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious, and these charges should send a message to anyone who would consider violating the public’s trust and compromising our national security by disclosing classified information,” Dana J. Boente, acting assistant attorney general for national security and US attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement.

Whatever happened to that loser, anyway?

Geremy C. Kamens, a federal public defender identified on the docket as representing Mallory, did not respond to an e-mail inquiry.

Mallory left the government in 2012 and was working as a self-employed consultant when he was arrested, according to an FBI complaint.

In April, it said, Mallory was returning from a trip to Shanghai when a Customs and Border Protection search of his carry-on luggage revealed that he was bringing $16,500 in undeclared cash into the United States.

In a subsequent FBI interview, the complaint said, Mallory said he had met an unnamed person at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank that the US government believes acts as a cutout for the Chinese intelligence service.

Same thing over here.

--souce--"

China's military on the move?

"Tesla is in talks to set up a car factory in China" by Carlos Tejada New York Times  June 23, 2017

HONG KONG — In a statement Thursday, Tesla Motors said it needed to set up more overseas factories to make cars that customers could afford. Such a strategy is a must in China, which charges steep tariffs for imported cars.

Well, he did quit Trump's tech council. Probably didn't want to get tweet-bombed.

“To better serve the Chinese market, Tesla is in the process of discussing about the possibility of setting up factory locally with the Shanghai government,” a spokeswoman, Duan Zhengzheng, said in a statement.  “Tesla has always been devoted to cultivating the Chinese market,” she said. China accounted for about 15 percent of Tesla’s revenue last year.

Tesla’s negotiations do not guarantee that a plant will be built. Under Chinese law, such a project would require Tesla to find a Chinese joint-venture partner. While China is full of Chevrolets, Fords, and Volkswagens, most are made in factories jointly owned by a foreign automaker and a local company.

Shanghai controls SAIC Motor Corp., one of China’s largest automakers and a partner for General Motors and Volkswagen. It was not clear whether Tesla’s negotiations with the city government would steer the company to negotiate with SAIC. Calls to the Chinese automaker were not returned.

A Chinese Tesla factory could represent a big symbolic victory for Beijing. Spurred by incessant pollution and increasing dependence on foreign oil, China for the past several years has pushed to be a leader in electric car development.

Sounds like a country we all know and love, 'eh, Americans?

That has raised concern in Western countries. In March, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China complained that Chinese law requires manufacturers who set up shop in China to transfer crucial technology to their Chinese partners.

The complaint coincides with a broader debate over China’s plan — called Made in China 2025 — to become self-sufficient in some technology industries. That plan has led to concerns that China will nurture and subsidize domestic competitors to Western companies.

That have a MIIC pouring money into things, too?

Still, it is not clear what arrangements Tesla would make in China. The battery is central to any electric car technology. Tesla has invested heavily in its $5 billion Nevada factory, called the Gigafactory, to produce batteries.....

--more--"

Time to leave China, by any means possible.

"Japanese authorities said Thursday they have obtained a data recording device from a container ship to help determine why it collided with a US destroyer, killing seven American sailors. Japanese transport safety officials said they obtained the voyage data recorder, similar to an airplane’s ‘‘black box,’’ from the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal, which is currently docked in Yokohama near Tokyo. The safety board is focusing on the cause of the collision and the lessons to be learned, while Japan’s coast guard is investigating possible professional negligence. The Japanese coast guard has revised its estimate of the collision time from an initial 2:20 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. after interviewing the Crystal’s crewmembers and examining the ship’s location. The US Navy still uses 2:20 a.m. as the time of the collision, but US military officials say they have no intention to dispute the Japanese coast guard, and that the investigation will settle the issue....." 

Is there ever an instance where the U.S. military tells the truth?

And the bear continues to make inroads after invading Alaska.


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"Afghan bombing kills dozens of workers lined up for pay" Globe wires  June 22, 2017

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A Taliban car bombing killed at least 34 people and wounded 60 others as they lined up at a bank to collect their pay on Thursday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials.

Can't get those troops there fast enough.

The attacker drove into a crowd in front of a branch of the New Kabul Bank in the city, detonating a car bomb so potent that some victims were blown into the nearby Helmand River, officials said.

Meanwhile, the ones in Europe don't even injure anyone. Wow.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in the southern province, which has been the center of bitter battles between the insurgents and security forces, aided by NATO troops.

The militants, who are believed to control nearly 80 percent of the province’s countryside, increasingly have been making a push into Lashkar Gah to try to take the city.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said in an e-mail that the bomb targeted Afghan security personnel collecting their salaries. He said no civilians were killed and gave a higher death toll. But the provincial governor and police chief emphasized that most of the dead were civilians. Witnesses said children were among the wounded.

Think about this for a minute. How stupid is it to line up at the bank, and how did the Taliban get wind of it? 

I mean, I accept something like this as real, but who really knows? Consider the source.

Helmand’s governor, Hayatullah Hayat, said that civilians and soldiers were among the dead and wounded, including children. “Most of the victims were civilians, but some were military, and we are investigating why military men came to a bank in the city, since they should collect their pay from bank branches on their bases,” Hayat said.

Many victims were hard to identify because the bodies were so badly mutilated, said Mualadad Tobagar, the head of the Boost Hospital, where most of the victims were taken.

The attacker struck as scores of people, including many Afghan soldiers and civil servants, waited outside the bank ahead of the Eid-al-Fitr holiday.

A border policeman who was at the scene of the deafening explosion said many people were missing in the ensuing chaos as bystanders, survivors, and ambulances struggled to get the most seriously wounded to the hospital.

A 12-year-old girl named Hosnia was crying outside the bank as she searched for her father.

‘‘I couldn’t find anyone, my brother and my father,’’ she said. ‘‘My father told me he will take me to buy shoes. We came here and then there was the explosion.’

You need to WATCH your environment.

The Taliban recently have overrun Helmand’s key Sangin district, where British and US troops had fought for years to keep them at bay.

Looks like losing to me.

--more--"

From where the next terror attack comes:

Qatar Airways can no longer fly to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates.
Qatar Airways can no longer fly to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images/File). 

"Qatar Airways eyes 10% stake in American Airlines" by Micah Maidenberg and Amie Tsang New York Times  June 22, 2017

NEW YORK — Qatar Airways has expressed interest in buying up to 10 percent of American Airlines, an unsolicited approach that comes amid criticism from US carriers that Persian Gulf competitors have an unfair advantage.

The state-owned Qatar Airways said it intended to purchase at least $808 million of the American carrier’s stock on the open market, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. The Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar al-Baker, approached the American Airlines chief, Doug Parker, about the possible purchase.

Qatar’s move reflects the broad ambitions of the carrier, which has grown from a small, regional player focused on the Middle East to a global carrier with flights to 150 destinations. The airline has plans to bolster its presence in the United States, where it already flies to 10 cities.

But the carrier’s expansion has set off a bitter fight with rivals in the United States. American, along with other major domestic players, has accused Qatar and other Gulf airlines of violating air treaties, called Open Skies agreements, by fueling their growth with huge subsidies from their government backers.

American said in the securities filing that the proposed transaction “does not alter” its conviction that the federal government must enforce its Open Skies deal with the Qatari government to “ensure fair competition.” Matt Miller, a spokesman at American Airlines, declined to comment beyond the securities filing.

A spokesman for Qatar Airways in New York declined to comment.

Shares of American Airlines were up about 1 percent Thursday.

A purchase by Qatar Airways could set up a standoff at a time when the Gulf carrier is already under pressure. Any such purchase is subject to the approval of the American Airlines board, as well as to an antitrust review of the Department of Justice.

Several US carriers, including American Airlines, have previously complained to the Trump administration about the subsidies that the Gulf carriers receive from their government backers. The money, the US carriers wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, has allowed such companies “to operate without concern for turning a profit” and “therefore focus entirely on stripping market share and driving out competition.”

That's ballsy of them given their poor service and increasing fares in the face of a $15 billion bailout after 9/11.

The US companies are playing to President Trump’s “America first” agenda, saying the subsidies hurt the country’s job market. “For every long-haul route lost or foregone as a result of subsidized Gulf carrier competition, more than 1,500 American jobs are lost,” the letter in February said.

Qatar Airways has also been ensnared in an international dispute, as Saudi Arabia and four other Arab states recently cut ties with Qatar. The carrier can no longer fly to Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the United Arab Emirates.

Travel to the United States has been slumping in recent months for a range of reasons, including Trump’s attempts to enact a travel ban for citizens from some predominantly Muslim countries.

I'm sorry, what's that?

--more--"

"Egypt says 7 militants killed in raid on desert camp" AP  June 23, 2017

CAIRO — Egypt’s Interior Ministry says it has killed seven people in connection with recent attacks on the country’s embattled Christian minority, including three church bombings and a deadly bus shooting, all claimed by the Islamic State group.

The ministry said in a Thursday statement that the militants, who were killed in an exchange of fire, were hiding in a western desert camp. It did not provide any further details.

Attacks on Coptic Christians have claimed the lives of more than 100 people and injured scores since December.

Earlier on Thursday, the state-run MENA news agency reported that Egypt’s Cabinet approved a three-month extension of the state of emergency, declared by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi following twin Palm Sunday church bombings.

Why not make it permanent like France?

--more--"


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"Ghana court rejects resettlement of Guantánamo Bay detainees" New York Times News Service  June 22, 2017

ACCRA, Ghana — The Supreme Court of Ghana ruled Thursday that the government’s decision to allow two former Guantánamo Bay detainees to live in the country was unconstitutional.

Last year, Ghana signed an agreement with the United States to allow the two detainees, Khalid Mohammed Salih al-Dhuby and Mahmmoud Omar Mohammed Bin Atef, both citizens of Yemen, to resettle in Ghana. The two were captured by Afghan forces in late 2001 and turned over to the United States, and detained at the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants for 14 years, accused of being members of Al Qaeda.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court justices ruled that Ghana’s government, then led by President John Dramani Mahama, erred in approving the detainees’ transfer, saying that the agreement with the United States was an international one that required approval by parliament. Two Ghanaian citizens had brought the case before the court, accusing the government of illegally allowing the men to enter Ghana.

Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo said that unless the government submitted the agreement to parliament for approval within three months, the two men would be returned to the United States.

Mahama, who was president at the time the deal was struck, had said that the two men did not present a security threat and that the United States had directly requested that Ghana accept them for resettlement. The deal drew criticism from religious and civic groups, who cited worries about security.

The current president, Nana Akufo-Addo, has not indicated how he will respond to the court’s decision.

What does the U.S. want him to do?

Otherwise, we will start seeing loads of stories about Ghana.

--souce--"


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Now from the march:

"‘I’m worth the trouble, quite frankly’: A defiant Nancy Pelosi dismisses her critics" by Mike DeBonis The Washington Post  June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, confronted her critics — both Republicans and Democrats — on Thursday after Democratic losses in Tuesday’s House special elections brought new scrutiny to her leadership and fresh calls for her to step aside lest she drag down her party’s candidates in the 2018 midterms.

After briefly addressing the health care bill unveiled Tuesday by Senate Republicans, Pelosi spent the bulk of her weekly news conference playing down the special election losses, defending her leadership and lashing out at a cadre of ‘‘blatantly self-serving’’ internal critics inside the House Democratic Caucus.

Related:

"A commission of historians, authors, and community leaders will solicit public input and make suggestions about how to ‘‘set the historical record straight’’ on the monuments in the former Confederate capital.  ‘‘Equal parts myth and deception, they were the ‘alternative facts’ of their time — a false narrative etched in stone and bronze more than 100 years ago — not only to lionize the architects and defenders of slavery, but to perpetuate the tyranny and terror of Jim Crow and reassert a new era of white supremacy. Whether we like it or not, they are part of our history,’’ Mayor Levar Stoney said at a news conference....."

It's an epiphany.

‘‘When it comes to personal ambition and having fun on TV, have your fun,’’ Pelosi said. ‘‘I love the arena. I thrive on competition, and I welcome the discussion. . . . But I feel very confident in the support that I have in my caucus.’’

She added: ‘‘Every action has a reaction, I try to say that to them. Every attack provokes a massive reaction that is very encouraging to me from my members, from our supporters outside and across the country.’’

That's her problem; she doesn't understand what the word condescension means.

Pelosi’s most vocal Democratic critics in recent days consist mainly of members who opposed her bid last year for an eighth two-year term as the party leader in the House.

‘‘Nancy Pelosi was a great speaker. She is a great leader. But her time has come and gone,’’ Representative Kathleen Rice, Democrat of New York, said Thursday on MSNBC. ‘‘I believe that she is not the leader for the future of the Democratic Party. It’s that simple.’’

 No, she is not the future, but she did make history. She was the first, and so far only, female Speaker of the House.

Top GOP leaders frequently say that they have no better ally in electing House Republicans than Pelosi, given her wide name recognition and dismal image among conservative and moderate voters— a point echoed Thursday by none other than President Trump in a tweet.

That's when I turn off the phone.

In a retort Thursday, Pelosi said, ‘‘You want me to sing my praises, is that what you’re saying? Well, I’m a master legislator. I am a strategic, politically astute leader. My leadership is recognized by many around the country, and that is why I’m able to attract the [financial] support that I do, which is essential to our elections, sad to say. . . . I have experience in winning the Congress. When people said to us in ‘05 that you don’t have a chance, be prepared for a Republican permanent majority, [former Senate Democratic leader] Harry Reid and I didn’t accept that.’’

OMG, she has totally lost it and is living in a world of in$ulated and i$olated delu$ion!!

Pelosi added that Republicans have long sought to target Democratic leaders in their advertising, ‘‘and usually they go after the most effective leaders.’’

‘‘I don’t think that any party should allow the opposite party to choose their leaders,’’ she said.....

Only so much they can do.

--more--"

I don't want to rip on her, but there have been multiple videos over the last few months that show her either drunk or demented. It is time to go.

"The Senate bill retains the basic structure of President Obama’s signature health care law, which most of us call Obamacare. Except that all the parts have been whittled down and weakened....."

Good thing GOP opposition imperils the bill.

"Experts have dismissed Trump’s claims of ineligible voters faking their way into ballot booths as lacking evidence and overblown, the stuff of conspiracy websites. A focus on Russian hacking, however, would put additional attention on the topic of Vladimir Putin’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election, an issue that Trump’s White House has vigorously sought to downplay....."

Calls it a hoax, and he is playing into their hands while being part of the game (as are a few others, sad to say). Fact is, there was meddling. Just wasn't by Russia. Was from inside the US government intelligence community. It's a great shell game they have going, Trump here, Democraps here, ma$$ media hates him, triangulation of distraction and political discord while the war machine rolls along.

Also serves to discredit a false Internet rumor of a pedophile ring, a viral Internet rumor known as ‘‘Pizzagate.’’ The fact is you need to look elsewhere for the real investigation, and not to the pre$$ from the very same elite that minimize and cover up such things with spotty vagaries in their coverage. Not only that, they celebrate them with golf tournaments. Even Trump may have a problem, and he knows it.

Of course, it's never hard to believe when it involves religious abuse (it will be even easier now. Less to navigate). You even win awards and get movies made for exposing that.

I suppose you could say he didn't kill anyone, and that is an important distinction.

Judge Goldsmith halts deportation of Iraqi Christians

"Francisco Rodriguez worked as a mechanical engineer in his native El Salvador, and things were going well at his company....."

President Trump says he has no ‘tapes’ of Comey conversations

Anybody hear shots fired?

"Army general demoted as sex scandals continue" by Craig Whitlock The Washington Post  June 23, 2017

The Army has demoted the former commander of the 1st Infantry Division for having ‘‘an inappropriate relationship’’ with a junior officer, the latest in a string of episodes in which Army generals have landed in trouble for personal misconduct.

Wayne Grigsby Jr., who also served as the commander of Fort Riley, Kansas, was reprimanded and demoted from major general to brigadier general after investigators found that he had called and texted a female captain more than 850 times over 10 months and was spending time at her home, according to Army documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Grigsby is the sixth general in the past year whom the Army has punished for sexual misconduct or improper interactions with women, although Army leaders have been reluctant to talk about the issue. The Army relieved Grigsby of command last September, citing a ‘‘loss of confidence’’ in his ability to lead. But officials provided no other details and kept the outcome of the investigation a secret for six months.

Just doing some cleaning up of the Staff is all.

In a statement, Grigsby said he was ‘‘embarrassed and disappointed in myself’’ and apologized for causing pain to his family and the Army.....

I won't add to it.

--more--"

Captain still has to salute, and so do you recruits.


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"Slightly more people sought US unemployment benefits last week, but the number of applications remained at a historically low level that suggests the job market is healthy, the Labor Department says....."

Yeah, participation is at the lowest it has been in over 40 years, but.... the lies from the Labor Department are the wor$t.

"J. Crew Group Inc.’s debt restructuring can’t go forward because not all lenders agreed to it, and it seals the deal on an improper shift of trademark assets to benefit the retailers’ private equity owners, two holdouts said. Funds affiliated with Eaton Vance Corp. and Highland Capital Management sued J.Crew and the agent to its $1.57 billion term loan in New York State Supreme Court Thursday. They say the agent, Wilmington Savings Fund Society FSB, needed unanimous consent of lenders for the deal it inked earlier this month; consenting to the restructuring deal and waiving potential lawsuits against J. Crew over its controversial transfer of its trademark assets last year. On Wednesday, J. Crew said that 88 percent of lenders consented to the deal."

I'm not part of that CREW.

"Etsy, the online marketplace for people to sell crafts and handmade products, announced this week its second round of job cuts in a little more than a month as it attempts to refocus operations. On Wednesday, the New York-based company said it would be cutting 140 jobs, adding to a round of cuts announced on May 2. All told, Etsy said it would be eliminating 230 positions, or about 22 percent of what its workforce was at the end of 2016. The reductions will focus on areas such as marketing, product management, and administration, and they will mainly target the Brooklyn headquarters. Etsy rose to prominence as an early e-commerce site catering to the crafting crowd, but it has encountered stiff competition in recent years as a number of large companies and small began to offer similar platforms for people to sell what they make."

At least the banks are in good shape:

"Once universally dreaded by banks, the Federal Reserve’s annual stress tests are becoming less stressful. The nation’s largest banks breezed through the first phase of their annual tests Thursday, demonstrating that they have enough capital to withstand the type of financial shock that nearly ruined the industry and the world economy in 2008. The banking system, according to the test results, has an even larger capital cushion than it did going into last year’s exam. That is likely to increase calls from the financial industry and its allies in the Trump administration and Congress to start watering down the regulations."

Time to Staple this post together and get to the office:

"Staples Inc. chief executive Shira Goodman says she’s determined to put her company on a growth track again, but the Framingham office supplier appears ready to attempt that feat away from Wall Street’s watchful eyes, under private ownership. Talks with private equity firm Sycamore Partners seem to be nearing a resolution. It’s a tough time to be in retail, and private ownership isn’t a panacea. These investors often clamor for dividends and expense cuts, just like with public companies. Everyone still has a boss, somewhere. However, Staples would at least get more flexibility to make Goodman’s vision of revenue growth a reality....."

Staples CEO Shira Goodman has focused less on stores.
Staples CEO Shira Goodman has focused less on stores (Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff). 

At least stocks edged up slightly -- in case you were not WATCHing.

Find A Penny.....

.... pick it up, and all day you'll have good luck (provided it is heads up):

"Man charged with killing Malden woman had been arrested for earlier attack" by Emily Sweeney and Jacob Geanous Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent  June 22, 2017

MALDEN — About a month ago, Malden police arrested Ryan S. Power on domestic violence charges after the mother of his two children told officers he pushed her to the ground in the Lebanon Street residence where they lived.

On Wednesday, shortly before 10 a.m., police responded once again to Lebanon Street, this time arriving to find Leah Penny, 31, lying on the floor “unresponsive” near the bottom of a staircase in the home. She had a dog leash wrapped around her neck and was lying face up, authorities said.

She was later pronounced dead.

According to Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan’s office, the couple’s two children were on the second floor, unharmed.

On Thursday, Power appeared in Malden District Court, where he pleaded not guilty to charges that he killed Penny; he was ordered held without bail. His head hung and his eyes were cast downward for most of the arraignment.

That's what they would have done to you long ago, and maybe they should.

After the May incident, Power, 32, was ordered to have no contact with Penny, records show. Penny did not obtain a restraining order, according to Ryan’s office.

After allegedly killing Penny, Power fled to Seabrook, N.H., where he was taken into custody by police in connection with her death.

On Lebanon Street, a small bouquet of pink roses was placed in front of the home where the couple lived. A card read “Rest in peace Lea (sic). May your children continue to feel your presence.” It was signed “Ann, Malden neighbor.”

As they sat in the yard next door, Julie and Maureen Simopoulos expressed shock at the alleged murder.

“It’s like it’s not real,” said Maureen. “You look at the house and think ‘Oh, my goodness. A couple of days ago, I just said ‘Hi’ to her.”

This report I believe. It's a real event. Really happened. Serves no real propaganda purpose.

“She was always very sweet,” Julie said of Penny. “I would see her with her kids and she would always say ‘Hi.’ ”

They saw less of Power, who always seemed to be working, they said.

When he was around, Power was “ . . . always very nice, very respectful and would help me shovel in the winter,” Maureen Simopoulos said. “What happened was so unexpected.”

Well, not really. You just didn't know what was going on.

According to court records, Power went to Probate and Family Court in 2015 on issues related to custody and visitation. The case was dismissed one month later, records show.

During the incident on May 30, Power allegedly grabbed the couple’s two children and rushed with them over to his mother’s house, also in Malden, police wrote. The children were reunited with their mother after police arrested Power.

Penny “stated that her boyfriend and father of her children, Ryan Power, was accusing her of cheating on him,’’ police wrote. “During the argument Power pushed Leah to the ground. She then got up and pushed him back.”

Malden police wrote that they alerted the Department of Children and Families about the incident after Power was charged with domestic violence.

DCF still not fixed, huh? And now budget cuts are coming.

According to a Malden police report, Power has three obvious tattoos: one on his left forearm with the phrase “Never Give Up,’’ a second on his right forearm that reads “Never Forget,” and a third on the left side of his chest — a tattoo of a “crazy dude.”

--more--"

Also seeNew look for old Salem cemetery

Where did the grant come from?

Related:

"Chelmsford police are searching for a loaded police-issue shotgun that was stolen from the back of an officer’s unmarked police vehicle either late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, officials said. According to a release from the Chelmsford police department, “Thieves broke into the garage of a Chelmsford police detective and stole several sets of keys from inside. The thieves then stole a 2011 Ford Taurus and a Saturn wagon from the detective’s driveway.” “I don’t think he was targeted as an officer,” Chelmsford police Chief James Spinney said. “I don’t know how sophisticated they are; this could have just been a crime of opportunity,” Spinney said. Police later recovered the Saturn not far from the officer’s home, authorities said....."

Yeah, it's a real no-brainer.

"A 19-year-old Lawrence woman was found dead inside a Braintree hotel Thursday morning, and officials believe the case is suspicious, the Norfolk district attorney’s office said....."

They are sending a cop over now.

"A Dedham man was charged with assault after allegedly attacking a delivery driver in Roxbury, stealing his car, and crashing it into a MBTA bus Wednesday. Boston police were called to investigate a fight between two people on Edgerly Road about 5:30 p.m., officials said. Officers learned that Alejandro Trigo, 21, allegedly attacked a delivery driver with a baton as the man was waiting to pick up food, hitting him in the head and shoulder, police said. Trigo then stole the man’s keys and took off in the car, police said. He allegedly drove for about 10 minutes before crashing the vehicle into two empty cars and an MBTA bus on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge. The bus driver was the only one inside and was not hurt in the crash, police said. Trigo was arrested at the scene, police said. He was arraigned Thursday in Roxbury Municipal Court on charges of carjacking, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, leaving the scene of a collision, and unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. He was held on $20,000 bail....."

Clear the way!

"Mayor Martin J. Walsh said that Ortiz was there for the city when it needed someone to lean on in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings....."

Didn't they make a movie about that?

Quick, call it in the air, heads or tails?

(It landed on its edge?)

For Big Papi, a lot of love amid a ration of razzing

It's okay when Big Dave uses a word I haven't typed on this blog in a long, long time.

"A woman was fatally injured Thursday when she was struck by an MBTA Orange Line train at Ruggles Station in Roxbury, Transit Police Superintendent Richard Sullivan said. The incident is under investigation, and no further information is currently available, Sullivan said....." 

Would now be appropriate to use it (as blog editor frowns)? I don't know who she was, but another precious soul lost.

Olynyk stands tall at Scholar Athletes gala

Girl’s intense medical journey intersected with Mayor Walsh’s

Cost more than a penny:

"Cancer researcher awarded $22m in suit against Steward Health Care" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Globe Staff  June 23, 2017

A Suffolk Superior Court jury on Thursday awarded more than $22 million to a cancer scientist who sued Steward Health Care System for breaching her contract and causing an unusual series of events that led to the destruction of her laboratory.

The jury sided with the scientist, Lynn Hlatky, who argued that Steward broke its agreement when it spun off her research lab at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in 2013 and stopped supporting her work. Hlatky’s lawyers estimated that with interest, she will win $34 million in payments from Steward.

Hlatky, a longtime cancer researcher, called the verdict a huge victory. “We feel vindicated,” she said, vowing to use the money to restart her cancer lab.

But Steward, the state’s largest for-profit hospital company, said the verdict was “outrageous and unwarranted.” Steward called into question Hlatky’s work — calling it a “speculative research project that failed to produce any usable treatments for cancer patients” — and vowed to appeal.

Steward operates nine Massachusetts hospitals and has been moving aggressively to grow nationwide.

The company and the scientists already have spent three years battling in court. If Steward appeals, the case could drag on for months or years more.

The dispute stems from a lab that Hlatky ran on the campus of St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton, where she conducted experiments with cancer cells. After Steward acquired the hospital in 2010, the company decided to stop conducting basic research and transferred the operations of Hlatky’s lab to a nonprofit called Genesys Research Institute.

But Genesys encountered severe financial problems. It closed Hlatky’s lab in September 2014 and ultimately filed for bankruptcy. At one time, the lab had about 30 employees.

In the bankruptcy process, Hlatky’s lab was liquidated. The equipment was sold at auction, while thousands of little containers filled with cells and other biological research materials were incinerated.

Hlatky blamed Steward for causing that unfortunate chain of events. She sued the company, fighting in court for millions of dollars in damages. She said she needed the money in order to hire former colleagues and re-open her lab, known as the Center of Cancer Systems Biology.

Hlatky’s case against Steward was based on a 2012 employment contract in which the company promised to pay about half of her base salary of $425,000 a year. The other half was to come from research grants.

Steward also promised $323,000 a year for three years for Hlatky to recruit staff and make research-related expenses.

Lot of money in cancer. Why would you ever want to cure it? More customers. You offer the cure to the elite, that's all. Not enough to go around, and would cost way too much.

Last week, a jury ruled that Steward breached that contract. On Thursday, jurors decided that the company also owed Hlatky damages.

Hlatky, who said she received her PhD in biophysics from the University of California Berkeley in 1985, has spent her career in cancer research. Since her lab at St. Elizabeth’s was shuttered, she has been filling her time by editing and reviewing scientific papers and grants.

“We feel fabulous, and we’re anxious to get back to work,” Hlatky said in an interview after the verdict was announced. “This is not just me. This is a team, a big team that worked very, very hard on that science.”

Cool your jets, it could take years. In the meantime, maybe you should look for work. 

Jeffrey N. Catalano, a trial lawyer who serves as president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said juries tend to hold employment contracts sacred.

“If they feel an employee has been unfairly treated in an employment context, we’ve seen they can render substantial verdicts,” said Catalano, who was not involved in the case.

“You’re talking about a medical researcher and a brilliant scientist,” he added. “People in Massachusetts have deep respect for people who are committing themselves to scientific research, bettering humanity in a way. I think that was probably a compelling force in the jury’s decision to render such a substantial reward.”

Hlatky’s lab, which won millions in federal research grants, had been studying the process by which normal cells become cancer cells.

Steward took aim Thursday at Hlatky and the “runaway” jury that sided with her. The company cast Hlatky’s work as inconsequential and said the money spent on her research could have been put to better use.

“As a physician, I feel the funds in question would be much better spent providing treatment to low-income cancer patients and other patients with chronic diseases in underserved communities – rather than enriching one disgruntled litigant,” Dr. Michael Callum, Steward’s executive vice president, said in a statement.

He said Steward spent millions to support Hlatky’s lab and tried to help move the lab to a new setting, but he said that no other institution in town was interested.

Hlakty said that was Steward’s fault: “The reason we couldn’t move is because Steward was holding our equipment, it was holding our samples, and our grants were tied up.”

The scientist, who has spent much of the past several years in courtrooms, promised to continue fighting in court as long as necessary.

Steward, backed by the New York private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, entered Massachusetts about seven years ago when it acquired the struggling Caritas Christi hospitals. The company has grown, but it also shuttered the troubled Quincy Medical Center in 2014.

Given the pedophilia scandal within the Church, it comes as no surprise that they would literally sleep with devil.

After selling some ofits hospital properties for an infusion of funding, Steward has been expanding nationally — something its chief executive, Dr. Ralph de la Torre, has long wanted to do.

Last month, Steward announced a nearly $2 billion deal with IASIS Healthcare of Franklin, Tenn., which would make it the largest private for-profit hospital operator in the country. That followed the company’s acquisition of eight hospitals in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida for $304 million.

Starting to roar, can you here them?

--more--"

You know, now that I think of it..... pick 'em all up.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Evening WATCH

It's a neighborhood thing:

"The wildly popular fidget spinners that seem to be in the hands of half the children in the United States are potentially dangerous, a consumer watchdog group warned Wednesday. The small plastic and metal spinners, already banned in many schools because they distract students, can fall apart, and the small pieces can create a choking hazard, Boston-based World Against Toys Causing Harm said in its summer safety report, released on the first day of summer. Children in Texas and Oregon have been taken to hospitals recently after choking on fidget spinner pieces, WATCH said. One required surgery. German customs officials last week destroyed 39 tons of the hand-held whirling gizmos over safety concerns. But WATCH doesn’t tell the whole story and ‘‘tends to needlessly frighten parents,’’ said Joan Lawrence, vice president of safety standards at the Toy Association, an industry group of toy manufacturers and retailers that helps develop safety standards. Toy safety is highly regulated under federal law, she said."

Time for my rounds, and the most important thing is..... 

"From clicks to bricks: Online shoe site M.Gemi to open Boston store" by Janelle Nanos Globe Staff  June 20, 2017

You can’t have too many shoes. Or enough venture capital. At least if you are trying to do what Ben Fischman is trying to do.

Fischman, a serial entrepreneur whose first startup was the Lids baseball cap chain, has raised $16 million for his latest venture, M.Gemi, a Boston-based online retailer that sells high-end Italian-made men’s and women’s shoes at prices far lower than their couture counterparts. The company has brought in a total of $47.2 million from investors.

About says it all, I gue$$.

In addition to Tuesday’s funding announcement, M.Gemi said it plans to open its second “fit shop,” an outlet in the Prudential Center where customers can check out its latest offerings before buying online.

After a career in Boston retail that started nearly 25 years ago, Fischman says he’s come full circle with a brick-and-mortar store.

“You hear so many people blaming e-commerce for the failure of the malls or traditional retailers,” Fischman said recently on the phone from M.Gemi’s office in Florence. “It really has to do with these retailers who thought they would never change and refused to disrupt their own business.”

That does it! I have HAD IT!

His new goal: To use the lessons drawn from e-commerce to create a smarter in-store experience for shoe shoppers. He calls it “disrupting luxury.”

Experiences led Fischman to learn about the importance of brand-building, and using e-mail marketing to add drama and drum-up business. It also led him to appreciate the unique infatuation a shoe buyer has when they’re on the hunt for the perfect pair.

“The word we use is obsession. We love our clients to be obsessed with what we do, whether it’s the 15-year-olds wearing baseball caps, or being daily obsessed with Rue La La sales,” he said.

Is that healthy though?

Fischman launched M.Gemi two years after stepping down from Rue La La in 2013. He established partnerships with Italian shoe factories, many of which had been passed over as larger luxury brands began move their manufacturing to Asia. By tracking trends, the company’s designers and data scientists use a rapid supply chain to gather real time information about what the customer wants, and to then determine what is and isn’t selling.

Now the company is bringing that same data-driven sensibility to storefronts. The Prudential Center store is M.Gemi’s second fit shop; the first opened in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood in December. Like e-retailers Warby Parker, Bonobos, and Everlane, it’s using a physical outpost as a chance to introduce shoppers to the brand.

“Retailers are finding that having an omni-channel strategy is beneficial,” said Jeff Donnelly, the managing director for real estate equity research at Wells Fargo’s Boston office. Research has shown that having both a physical and online presence spurs sales on both channels, he said. “Some people see it as a form of 24/7 advertising.”

But that doesn’t mean shoppers will go home with a pair of M.Gemis, which average $250 a pair, upon first meeting.

“We did not want it to feel like a traditional retail shoe store,” said the company’s president and cofounder, Cheryl Kaplan. While so many luxury stores feel off-limits to shoppers, the fit shops aim to be accessible. “It’s not transactional, it’s a place they like to go.”

That thinking manifests in many ways: There are no cash registers or counters, instead, associates gather shoppers’ fit and style preference data on tablets. Rather than pay rent to inventory thousands of styles and sizes, the stores will have only two of each shoe on-site; should you decide to buy, the company will ship your pair from their warehouse in a few days.

If I wanted to order them from a warehouse I would have stayed home and done it online!

Associates use their tablets to place orders, but they’re also noting shopping preferences — a predilection for pumps perhaps, or a fondness for kitten heels — and use that data to steer purchases online later. The store will also echo the online drama of the weekly “drops” of new products in order to lure customers in. 

I just want a goddamn pair of shoes, not a sales pitch to go with them.

Fischman says the new fit shops and funding — which includes a new investor, Burda Principal Investments based in Germany — will help the company expand its footprint, both in the United States and abroad.....

HA-HA-HA. Very punny.

--more--"

The neighborhood beat:

"Wayfair’s founders achieve billionaire status" by Tom Metcalf Bloomberg News  June 21, 2017

SAN FRANCISCO —The once-frugal founders of Wayfair Inc. have become billionaires after a revenue surge helped the online retailer’s value rise to a record.

Investors embracing the Boston company’s expansion strategy pushed the stock to a record high last week, giving cofounders Niraj Shah and Steve Conine a net worth of $1.37 billion each, as of noon Wednesday, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

Together, they hold 40 percent and nearly all voting rights for the online seller of sofas, beds, and a wide variety of other home furnishings — a reflection of the thrifty approach they pursued for almost a decade as they spurned outside capital.

“I probably spent three years bugging Niraj to take my money,” said Alex Finkelstein, a venture capitalist at Spark Capital who led a $165 million investment round in 2011 and served on Wayfair’s board until 2015. “They built the company to an incredible scale without raising money.”

Shah, 43, and Conine, 44, declined to comment.

Wayfair shares have more than doubled this year, the best performance, by far, in the 97-company S&P Retail Select Industry Index, which includes Amazon.com. The stock closed at $75.41 Wednesday, up 1.2 percent.

Shah and Conine, who met at Cornell University and studied engineering, founded Wayfair in 2002 and stitched together a network of more than 250 stand-alone websites, including EveryGrandfatherClock.com and HotPlates.com. Almost a decade later, they began to consolidate the sites and set out to build brand awareness. To pay for it, they raised $351 million in venture funding in 2011 and about $283 million in an initial public offering three years later.

Wayfair’s revenue more than quintupled from 2012 to 2016, to about $3.38 billion, while its net loss more than doubled from 2015 to $194.4 million as the company increased spending on advertising, infrastructure, and international expansion.

Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg predict Wayfair will post additional losses this year and next before approaching break-even in 2019.

The quest for revenue has produced a vocal cohort of skeptics who question whether Wayfair’s business model can ever result in profits.

Bearish bets on the company account for 24 percent of the publicly traded float, making it the 145th-most-shorted stock in the Russell 2000 Index.

Who knows it is going to dump, and these guys grabbing the loot before the collapse?

Citron Research’s Andrew Left argues that the retailer is simply buying growth. “They are showing no path toward profitability whatsoever,” he said.

That is why they need the state tax subsidies.

Oh, btw.....

Left also suggested that Jeff Bezos’s Amazon.com may enter the market, and Furniture Today reported in April that the online retail giant may change its furniture-selling platform so that stores can offer custom delivery services at different prices.

“Amazon could be a big threat and might easily take away shoppers, as anybody who’d shop on Wayfair is likely already an Amazon customer,” said Seema Shah, an analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Bezos is a threat to everybody.”

Shah and Conine, who have more than 95 percent of their personal fortunes tied to Wayfair, remain undaunted, arguing that the furniture category is protected from Amazon’s advance.

“We are pretty bullish that the investments we’ve been making are working,” Shah said on a May 9 conference call with analysts. “There’s still a lot of those gains ahead of us.”

And if they need to get bought out they have a nice ne$t egg.

--more--"

So what will you be watching tonight?

"Steven Mnuchin has officially declared he’s out of the motion-picture business. The Treasury secretary, who had promised to sell his stake in a Hollywood financing company RatPac-Dune by last week, said in a filing released Tuesday that he has completed all divestitures under his ethics agreement. He didn’t name a buyer or disclose a sale price. That would mean the former Goldman Sachs Group executive and onetime hedge fund manager will no longer back major motion pictures such as “Wonder Woman” while helping run the economy for President Trump. Mnuchin has co-financed blockbusters including “Avatar,” one of the biggest box-office successes ever, and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” RatPac-Dune struck a deal with Warner Bros. in 2013 to provide $450 million in funding for as many as 75 movies. “Wonder Woman” has already taken in more than $570 million, according to Box Office Mojo, after scoring the largest opening for a film directed by a woman."

I'm saddened that he was involved with Avatar, and how she doing?

Don't let the Midnight Special shine a light on you:

"What are those weird green things under the highway?" by Steve Annear Globe Staff  June 21, 2017

People are comparing the large green objects that suddenly appeared beneath Interstate 93 between the South End and South Boston to enormous invasive insects or creatures from outer space.

But fear not — the city isn’t being overrun by creepy monsters lurking below the busy overpass.

Trolls?

The tall metal frames that were erected last month are actually just artistic light fixtures that are part of an ongoing reinvention project headed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

The state budget is allegedly bleeding but they have money for this?

Called “Infra-Space 1,” the project’s overall goal is to transform the dark and desolate area beneath the highway into a place that’s more inviting, while also offering increased accessibility to residents and neighbors, according to MassDOT officials.

The green fixtures, which are referred to as “dinosaur lights” because of their shape and design, are meant to add to the overall ambiance of the reimagined space between Albany Street and Frontage Road.

They come with cameras?

On a Facebook page for South Boston residents Monday, the presence of the unusual formations had many users scratching their heads, as they tried to make sense of their arrival.

“Praying Mantis?” one person wrote on the discussion thread.

“Alien overlords?” someone else joked....

--more--"

RelatedGlobe Saw a UFO

Trump's March to the Sea

"In Midwest, Trump seeks his base’s embrace" by Jonathan Lemire Associated Press  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Struggling to advance his agenda in Washington, President Trump looked to the Midwest on Wednesday in search of his supporters’ warm embrace and to celebrate a Republican congressional victory in an election viewed as an early referendum on his presidency.

Trump began his day by reveling in Karen Handel’s victory in a special election in a House district in suburban Atlanta. By the evening, he was set to tour a community college agriculture program in Iowa and hold a campaign-style rally.

Trump, no stranger to victory laps, seemed poised to turn his visit to a campaign battleground state that he captured in November into a celebration of his resilience — despite the cloud of investigations that has enveloped his administration and sent his public opinion poll numbers tumbling.

With the appearance in Cedar Rapids, he will have held five rallies in the first five months in office.

The event underscores Trump’s comfort in a campaign setting. He has said that he misses barnstorming and appears far more at ease when going after Democrats than trying to push through his own legislative agenda.

All presidents love political distractions.

The White House is making a renewed push to get the president out of Washington. The capital is consumed with the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election and Trump’s firing of the director of the FBI.

Related: 

"The Obama administration feared that acknowledging Russian meddling in the 2016 election would reveal too much about intelligence gathering and be interpreted as “taking sides” in the race, the former secretary of homeland security said Wednesday....." 

It's every day something with the Globe on that issue, and Jeh reveals much there. 

He unknowingly admitted that yes, the Obama administration was using the apparatus of government to spy on the opposition's campaign (how Nixonian of them), and yes, that's how Sessions, Flynn, et al, were unmasked. 

Strange how that scandal, the worst ever regarding an executive administration, just disappears down the memory hole -- although it has shut up Obama.

Campaign rallies energize Trump by placing him in front of supporters who have stuck by him and are likely to dismiss the investigations as Beltway chatter. 

And the fact that there is no there there. Seth Rich was the leaker, and they offed him.

Iowa, with its large share of independent voters, could be a proving ground for whether Trump can count on the support of voters beyond his base.

Unaffiliated, or ‘‘no party’’ voters, as they are known in Iowa, make up 36 percent of the electorate, compared with 33 percent who are registered Republicans and 31 percent registered as Democrats.

Self-identified independents in Iowa voted for Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by a 13-percentage-point margin last year, according to exit polls that were conducted for The Associated Press and television networks. That margin helped Trump take the state by nearly 9 points.

Barack Obama had won it for the Democrats in the previous two elections.

Hillary, Hillary, did you also not visit Iowa in addition to Wisconsin? 

Instead she was down in North Carolina!

Trump held a Des Moines rally in December as part of his transition-era ‘‘thank you’’ tour of states where he had won, but he has not been back to the state since.

If he had been back, the pre$$ would have criticized him for that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a supporter. I am opposed to him on my only issue, war policy, and  there is silence from the left on that.

The rally was expected to include a tribute to a former Iowa governor, Terry Branstad, who was picked by Trump to be ambassador to China.

Maybe he can help smooth things over.

Trump’s stop at Kirkwood Community College was intended to draw attention to the school’s advancements in high-tech agriculture. Scheduled to join him were Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as part of the administration’s effort this week to highlight the importance of technology.

But much of Trump’s attention was on the suburbs of Atlanta and the just-concluded race in the 6th Congressional District.

Democrats had lavished attention and money on Tuesday’s special election, hoping for a victory that would underscore Republican worries about Trump and serve as a harbinger of a Democratic wave in 2018.

Still could happen. Riggings, 'er, elections still 15 months away. Will depend on how well Trump is towing the line.

Instead, Handel’s victory, in a traditional Republican stronghold that rarely produces a competitive contest, was met with a sign of relief among the GOP. It was the fourth straight special election that went to the Republicans.

Trump tweeted several times during the evening and capped the night off with a text message to his supporters.....

--more--"

In its wake was a sigh of despair from Democrats:

"Anguished Democrats bicker over meaning of Georgia loss" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Staff  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Twin defeats in the Georgia and South Carolina special House elections set off paroxysms of angst and second-guessing among Democrats on Wednesday, revealing a party confused by the political landscape and struggling to come up with a fresh message.

Republican-lite not cutting it anymore?

The Republican victories gave President Trump and company a four-for-four sweep in defending special election seats since he assumed office. The results also showed that a chaotic and scandal-plagued presidency has not ushered in a new political alchemy, where red districts would easily turn blue. Party affiliation still matters deeply, meaning that Republican voters are not abandoning local candidates, even if some have soured on Trump.

The takeaway: No matter how much it spends, even amid an unfolding White House scandal, the Democratic Party’s goal of flipping 24 House seats to regain the majority in 2018 will be difficult — especially if opponents can continue to successfully paint them as elitist defenders of an out-of-touch Washington establishment.

Opponents don't have to "paint" them that way; it's obvious to anyone who can $ee they have done it to them$elves.

“The road back to a Democratic House majority will be long and hard,” said Ben Ray Luján, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a memo to representatives that laid out his case for staying the course.

Didn't work for H.W. (check watch).

But other Democrats, including Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton, called for a change in strategy, saying the losses should be a “wake-up” for a party that needs to appeal to more centrist voters. In an interview, Moulton said that an increasing number of Democratic House legislators have told him that they share his view.

“As a party, we’ve grown a little bit tired. As a party, we’ve grown a bit out of touch,” said Moulton, who was among a band of rebellious House Democrats last year who opposed returning House minority leader Nancy Pelosi to her post. “Leadership has got to take responsibility. That means explaining what went wrong and, more importantly, how is next time going to be different.”

More centri$m hasn't worked, because as Truman said, "Given a choice between a Republican and a Republican, Americans will vote for the real Republican every time." 

What has happened is the Democrats, the left, the liberals, the $ociali$ts in Europe, they have all sold out to the same corporate machine that have the Repuglicans. That's why they can only talk identity politics and social issues, other than flogging the dead horse of Russian interference (box for AIPAC donations over there). 

They can't talk about wealth inequality because they are part of the wealthy and privileged cla$$ and can't have any effect on policy even if they wanted to. Trump is finding that out, too, and the lobbying loot would dry up in a second. If Congre$$ withholds the tax breaks they must renew, then you all will face a primary and general election opponent. That's how it works.

His comments came after another tough post-election morning for Democrats. In a suburban Atlanta district, Republican Karen Handel beat newcomer Jon Ossoff in a special election. In South Carolina, Ralph Norman, a pro-Trump Republican, won his race Tuesday, too. Their victories followed earlier Republican special election wins in Montana and Kansas.

So Trump, like Sherman, torched Georgie before heading north.

Even so, with a special counsel investigating Trump’s campaign and the constant spate of divisive policies from the White House, the donor base of the Democratic Party is energized in the age of Trump, as evidenced by the $23 million spent on the race in Georgia. Activism has skyrocketed, too. What’s unclear is whether Democrats have the candidates, and the message, to translate that money and national interest into electoral victories.

Representative Joseph Kennedy III of Brookline, a member of the Democratic campaign committee’s leadership team, chose to take the glass-half-full approach to the Georgia wreckage.

Yeah, outspent 8-to-1 and still lost, and nothing sadder than a delusional Democrat in denial.

“The level of grass-roots engagement and activism we are seeing in these special elections is unprecedented,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Our job in the months ahead is to effectively channel that energy and offer voters a clear, compelling agenda that invests in working families and resists President Trump’s divisive policies.”

And you still lost?

Representative Katherine Clark, the Melrose Democrat who is a lead recruiter for the Democrats in the 2018 election cycle, said she was disheartened by Tuesday’s results, but not dismayed. Clark said she was encouraged by the energy that surrounded the special election — from the scores of volunteers to the millions of dollars in donations.

“When Jon Ossoff nearly won outright in the primary [in Georgia], this became a national race,” Clark said. “It went to a different level. But that’s not going to be true across the country when we have every member of Congress up in 2018. Messages are going to be very much localized and that’s where our candidates are going to win.”

The disagreements, even among the all-Democrat Massachusetts delegation, showed the degree to which Tuesday’s elections did little to resolve the central question for the party in 2018: “What is a winning formula for the Trump-era Democrat?”

Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in Georgia’s Sixth District, often avoided direct criticism of Trump, choosing instead to focus on a positive message of economic centrism and civility. His reward: about the same proportion of the vote in the district — 48 percent — as Hillary Clinton earned in November.

That's where they top out.

Adam Green, cofounder of the large liberal group Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Democratic candidates must be more bold going forward.

“The best way for Democrats to maximize gains in 2018 — especially in purple and red districts — is to harness the power of the resistance and field candidates who proudly challenge power on behalf of the little guy,” Green said.

Yeah, that would be a good ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. 

I'm sorry, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

I guess stealing the nomination from Sanders -- not that he was a savior -- wasn't such a good idea after all.

Republicans, on the other hand, were ecstatic Wednesday, as they woke up to another successful election. The party, already with great advantages in Congress, the White House, and state legislatures across the country, got an added bonus this week when it became clear that Trump’s woes, so far, may not be as damaging to the party in individual states as many feared.

That's Obama's legacy, btw. The destruction of the Democratic Party. All to serve his own vanity and reelection.

Trump himself celebrated the election victories on Twitter, but Whit Ayers, a Republican pollster in Washington, cautioned the party against taking too many lessons from the special races. Yes, Democrats would have received a jolt of energy had they been able to flip one of the four deeply red House districts that had special elections this year, but it was always unlikely. Plus, Democrats will have better chances of victory in some of the 2018 districts in more moderate states, such as California.

“My main takeaway is that the GOP can win in a challenging environment,” Ayers said in an interview. “The president structures a broader environment but doesn’t determine the outcome of the political races. . . . It all depends on which candidates are nominated and what campaigns they run.”

In this vein, the results from last night’s race in South Carolina were somewhat encouraging for Democrats. In that election, which drew less attention and less money than its counterpart in Georgia, the Democratic challenger greatly outperformed expectations and almost pulled off a historic upset.

But still lost. 

When is a moral victory no longer satisfying?

Green’s progressive advocacy group published an analysis Tuesday night aimed at encouraging the group’s base, even considering the losses. According to its data, if Democrats in all House districts gain 15 percentage points as they did in Tuesday night’s losing effort in South Carolina — certainly a pie-in-the-sky scenario — the party could gain nearly 90 seats in the House.....

Yeah, keep those spirits up anyway.

--more--"

Oh well.

Also seeSo much for the Democrats’ ‘resistance’ movement

Maybe they will have better luck in the Senate:

"Senate health care draft would bring wide changes" by Paige Winfield Cunningham Washington Post  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Senate leaders on Wednesday were putting the final touches on legislation that would reshape a big piece of the US health-care system by dramatically rolling back Medicaid while providing a softer landing to Americans who stand to lose coverage gained under the Affordable Care Act compared with legislation passed last month by the House.

A discussion draft circulating Wednesday afternoon among aides and lobbyists would roll back the ACA’s taxes, phase down its Medicaid expansion, rejigger its subsidies, give states wider latitude in opting out of its regulations, and eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

The bill largely mirrors the House measure that narrowly passed last month but with some significant changes. While the House legislation pegged federal insurance subsidies to age, the Senate bill would link them to income as the ACA does. The Senate proposal cuts off Medicaid expansion more gradually than the House bill, but would enact deeper long-term cuts to the health-care program for low-income Americans. It also removes language restricting federally-subsidized health plans from covering abortions, which may have run afoul of complex budget rules.

"The dead don't need health care."-- William Tecumseh Sherman

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, intends to present the draft to wary GOP senators at a meeting on Thursday morning. McConnell has vowed to hold a vote before senators go home for the July Fourth recess, but he is still seeking the 50 votes necessary to pass the major legislation under arcane budget rules. A handful of senators from conservatives to moderates are by no means persuaded that they can vote for the emerging measure.

It won't be that big a deal if they don't; will then have more time to work on it in secret. Maybe they can pair it with the insurance bailout, tax code rewrite, and annual tax breaks bill in September.

Aides stress that the GOP plan is likely to undergo more changes in order to garner the 50 votes Republicans need to pass it. Moderate senators are concerned about cutting off coverage too fast for those who gained it under Obamacare, while conservatives don’t want to leave big parts of the ACA in place.

The Senate bill would give states more leeway in opting out of the ACA’s insurance regulations through expanding the use of so-called ‘‘1332’’ waivers already embedded within the law. But it wasn’t yet clear Wednesday evening whether the waivers would go so far as allowing insurers to charge patients with preexisting conditions more - or even denying them coverage altogether.

Moderates who are on the fence about whether to support the Obamacare overhaul are likely to be pleased at the bill’s approach to subsidies because they would be based on financial need, potentially preserving coverage for more people who got insured under the ACA.

Yet the Senate bill would go farther than the House version in its approach to cutting Medicaid spending. In 2025, the measure would tie federal spending on the program to an even slower growth index than the one used in the House bill. That move could prompt states to reduce the size of their Medicaid programs.

In a move that is likely to please conservatives, the draft also proposes repealing all of the ACA taxes except for its so-called ‘‘Cadillac tax’’ on high-cost health plans in language similar to the House version. Senators had previously toyed with the idea of keeping some of the ACA’s taxes.

What kind of plans do they give to themselves? Can't we all get one of those?

The House had a difficult time passing its own measure after a roller-coaster attempt, with the first version being pulled before reaching the floor after House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., determined he did not have the votes. House Republicans went back to the drawing board and passed their own measure - which would more quickly kill Medicaid expansion and provide less-generous federal subsidies - on May 4.

Even if the Senate measure does pass the upper chamber, it will still have to pass muster with the more conservative House before any legislation could be enacted.....

They'll get 'er done.

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Isn't their anyone who will stand up to him?

Tropical Storm Cindy Reaches from east Texas to the Florida Panhandle.

Going to be a busy summer on that front, unless Trump says he's in on Paris soon.


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So what is with the Democratic base?

"FBI says gunman who shot congressman had no target in mind" by Ben Nuckols Associated Press  June 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — Adrift and nearly out of money after three months of living out of his van in the Washington area, the gunman who shot a top House Republican and four other people on a Virginia baseball field didn’t have any concrete plans to inflict violence on the Republicans he loathed, FBI officials said Wednesday.

Down by the river?

James T. Hodgkinson, 66, was shot and killed by police after he opened fire on congressional Republicans practicing for their annual charity baseball game against Democrats last week. Representative Steve Scalise of Lousiana, the House majority whip, was struck in the hip and gravely wounded. Scalise remains hospitalized, and his condition was upgraded to fair on Wednesday. All five people who were shot, including two US Capitol police officers, survived their injuries.

At a news conference on Wednesday, FBI officials gave an overview of the evidence they’ve gathered on Hodgkinson. They said he acted alone and had no connections to terror groups. But they said they had not yet clarified who, if anyone, he planned to target, or why, beyond his animus toward President Trump and the Republicans he felt were ruining the country. It wasn’t even clear whether he had prior plans to attack the baseball practice or whether he just happened upon it the morning of June 14, said Tim Slater, who leads the criminal division of the FBI’s Washington field office.

‘‘At this point in the investigation, it appears more spontaneous,’’ Slater said.

Look at them downplay and make excuses for this guy! 

Yup, another lone wolf that will tell no tales.

Hodgkinson had a piece of paper with the names of six members of Congress written on it, Slater said, but the note lacked any further context and there was no evidence from his computer, phone, or other belongings that indicated he planned to target those officials. Slater declined to name the officials whose names were on the note or say whether they were Republicans or Democrats or were at the baseball practice.

What more do you need, and not naming them means they were all Republicans.

Scalise, 51, ‘‘continues to make good progress,’’ according to a statement issued Wednesday by MedStar Washington Hospital Center, ‘‘and is beginning an extended period of healing and rehabilitation.’’ House Speaker Paul Ryan said that Scalise ‘‘is on the road to recovery.’’

Hogkinson was an unemployed home inspector from Belleville, Ill., who frequently railed against Republicans in letters to the editor and angry social media posts. In November, shortly after Trump was elected, he purchased the two guns that he used in the shooting, a rifle and a 9mm handgun.

Neighbors called police as Hodgkinson conducted target practice on his property, but he did not violate any laws, the FBI said.

In March, Hodgkinson left Illinois and drove to Alexandria, Virginia, where he lived in his van in a YMCA parking lot. He rented out a storage unit where he kept more than 200 rounds of ammunition, among other belongings. He had two laptop computers, a cellphone and a digital camera. The FBI has not finished scouring those devices for evidence, Slater said.

In April, Hogkinson made the tourist rounds in Washington, visiting monuments, museums, the US Capitol, and the Dirksen Senate Office Building and taking pictures, the FBI said. He also took pictures of the baseball field where he would later fire more than 60 shots.

‘‘The FBI does not believe that these photographs represented surveillance of intended targets,’’ the FBI said in a statement.

Hodgkinson also visited the office of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose campaign he had worked on as a volunteer, and was in e-mail contact with the two Democratic senators from his home state.

The FBI statement and Slater’s comments painted a picture of a down-on-his-luck man with few future prospects. Hodgkinson was taking prescription drugs, although Slater did not say what the drugs were for or whether he was abusing them.

UH-OH!!!!

‘‘He was running out of money. He was not employed at the time of the event, and he was looking for some local employment. He was married for 30 years, and it appears that that marriage was not going so well,’’ Slater said. ‘‘It was just a pattern of life where you could tell things were not going well.’’

At least looking for a job helped the economic numbers.

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Also see: Hodgkinson’s Disease

Related: "Last year, Dennis Hastert arrived at a Minnesota prison to serve his 15-month sentence in a hush-money case involving revelations that the former House speaker had sexually abused at least four boys."

Did you know the two were connected?

"Nabra Hassanen, 17, was remembered as a shining example of kindness and openness during the services. Police said Hassanen was bludgeoned with a baseball bat Sunday by a motorist who drove up to about 15 Muslim teens walking or bicycling along the road. Police said he became enraged after having words with a boy in the group. Police say they have no evidence pointing to a hate crime by Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, a Salvadoran suspected of being in the country illegally...."

Yeah, only white people commit hate crimes, and I've always wondered who commits a crime of love? Bankers when they loot you?


*****************************


Just keep heading north, like Lee into Pennsylvania:

"Family urges calm after Milwaukee ex-cop’s acquittal" by Ivan Moreno Associated Press  June 22, 2017

MILWAUKEE — 23-year-old Sylville Smith’s family members reacted angrily to the verdict, swearing and storming from the courtroom. Outside, one man shouted obscenities at a sheriff’s deputy as he was held back by other family members.

I don't blame them.

Later, his father, Patrick Smith, said the killing was ‘‘in cold blood,’’ but he urged people not to react violently to the verdict.

‘‘I really don’t want them to act irrationally toward the cops because all cops ain’t bad,’’ he said.

That's true.

Smith’s family filed a civil lawsuit against Dominique Heaggan-Brown, who is also black, and the city, family attorney David Owens announced after the verdict. He said it had become clear since the shooting that Heaggan-Brown never should have been on the force.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who made the decision to charge Heaggan-Brown, said he did not agree with the verdict but would respect it.

Heaggan-Brown was fired from the police force in October after being charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case. The sexual assault case was not mentioned during the trial because it is being handled separately and knowledge of it could prejudice the jury.

Smith’s shooting was among a string of killings of blacks by police in recent years that have increased debate about race and policing.....

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Also see: Copping Out: Upper Midwest

"Canadian man charged in stabbing of airport officer in Flint"  Associated Press  June 22, 2017

FLINT, Mich. — A police officer was stabbed in the neck at the Flint airport Wednesday in what authorities are investigating as a possible act of terrorism.

The suspect was immediately taken into custody, and federal prosecutors hours later revealed he was charged with committing violence at an airport. They identified him as Amor Ftouhi of Quebec.

The criminal complaint says Ftouhi stabbed Lieutenant Jeff Neville with a large knife and declared ‘‘Allahu akbar,’’ the Arabic phrase for ‘‘God is great.’’ The FBI, which is leading the investigation, said Ftouhi said something similar to ‘‘you have killed people in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and we are all going to die.’’

When they yell Allabar Ahkakar you know it is a complete fiction.

It's like a handful of mind-f*** psyops every day now.

The FBI added in the criminal complaint that Ftouhi asked an officer who subdued him why he didn’t kill him.

Where do you think you are, Minnesota or Wisconsin?

The attack just before 10 a.m. at Bishop International Airport prompted an evacuation and extra security elsewhere in the Michigan city about 50 miles northwest of Detroit. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said President Trump was briefed on the stabbing.....

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Stay away from the airlines, and there is no sanctuary in Canada.

I wouldn't try Mexico, either:

"Murders spike in Mexico, with May deadliest month in decades" Associated Press  June 22, 2017

MEXICO CITY — May was Mexico’s bloodiest month in at least 20 years, and homicides are up sharply in 2017 compared with last year, new government crime statistics show.

Statistics published Tuesday by the Interior Department said 2,186 people were murdered last month. The previous monthly high was 2,131 in May 2011, according to a review of publicly available records that date back to 1997.

During the first five months of 2017, there were 9,916 killings nationwide — an increase of about 30 percent over the 7,638 slain during the same period last year.

‘‘Pretty grim. Not shocking, because we’ve seen this for months,’’ Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said. ‘‘But, yeah, it’s really grim.’’

Mexico launched a militarized offensive over a decade ago to combat drug cartels that plague parts of the country. Homicides fell somewhat after peaking in 2011 but have risen again.

At the state level, Baja California Sur saw the biggest jump in the first five months of 2017. After registering 36 killings during the same period in 2016, the nymber spiked by 369 percent to 169 this year.

Hope said the violence is being driven in part by ‘‘the weakening of the Sinaloa drug cartel,’’ whose top boss, Joaquin ‘‘El Chapo’’ Guzman, was extradited to face drug charges in the United States earlier this year. Hope also noted ‘‘the parallel rise of the Jalisco cartel.’’ 

Is that who the U.S. government is now supporting?

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Also see:

"President Trump’s top trade negotiator said there’s no deadline to reach a deal on revamping the North American Free Trade Agreement, and if talks end in a deadlock the United States will be compelled to rethink its strategy. The United States plans to start re-negotiating NAFTA with partners Canada and Mexico on Aug. 16 and the government wants the discussions to move quickly, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. The United States is currently engaging in a 90-day consultation period with domestic industry, lawmakers and the public to get ready for the start of official talks."

Back in the USSA:

"‘Second tier’ US ranks 18th in study of well-being" Bloomberg  June 22, 2017

NEW YORK —The results of the the Social Progress Imperative’s annual survey ranks nations based on 50 metrics. The Social Progress Index, released this week, is compiled from social and environmental data that come as close as possible to revealing how people live.

Let's get it started!

Scandinavia walked away with the top four of 128 slots. Denmark scored the highest. America came in at 18.

Well, I don't know about that.

SPI produces the report in part to help city, state, and national policy makers diagnose and (ideally) address their most pressing challenges. The group’s chief executive, Michael Green, said America ‘‘is failing to address basic human needs, equip citizens to improve their quality of life, protect the environment, and provide opportunity for everyone to make personal choices and reach their full potential.’’

As a result, the United States is ranked as a second-tier nation.....

But with the best flag.

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