Saturday, June 24, 2017

Saturday Clean-Up

Just sifting through today's rubble as I log in:

"By all means, the investigations into Russian meddling, and possible collusion with the Trump campaign, should continue. But sometimes following the money isn’t the only way, or even the best way, to detect serious misconduct by public officials....."

That was on my back page; this was the above-the-fold lead:

"US debated way to deter Putin’s vote meddling" by Greg Miller and Ellen Nakashima Washington Post  June 24, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow.

That is an ACT of WAR!

The Obama administration also secretly debated dozens of options for deterring or punishing Russia, including cyberattacks on Russian infrastructure, the release of CIA-gathered material that might embarrass Putin, and sanctions that officials said could “crater” the Russian economy.

The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.

“It is the hardest thing about my entire time in government to defend,” said a former senior Obama administration official involved in White House deliberations on Russia. “I feel like we sort of choked.”

Obama didn't want his legacy to be WWIII. He left that to Trump.

The report brought to the White House was drawn from sourcing deep inside the Russian government that detailed Putin’s direct involvement in a cyber campaign to disrupt and discredit the presidential race. 

I don't believe that garbage. The sabotage campaign came from within. Wikileaks was used as a conduit to establish the narrative.

At the time, the outlines of the Russian assault on the US election were increasingly apparent.

WaPo = Bezos = CIA, sorry. 

Even the word choice is full of inference. It's pure propaganda via the pri$m of the pre$$.

Hackers with ties to Russian intelligence services had been rummaging through Democratic Party computer networks, as well as some Republican systems, for more than a year.

Oh, Repugs were hacked, too, and how come the Dems didn't turn over the servers to the FBI?

In July, the FBI had opened an investigation of contacts between Russian officials and Trump associates. And on July 22, nearly 20,000 e-mails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were dumped online by WikiLeaks, but at the highest levels of government, among those responsible for managing the crisis, the first moment of true foreboding about Russia’s intentions arrived with that CIA intelligence.

It's good fiction if you like that sort of thing.

The material was so sensitive that Brennan, the CIA director, kept it out of the president’s daily briefing, concerned that even that restricted report’s distribution was too broad.

Woa, woa, woa!!! 

It's not like he read them, but was that Brennan's call to make?

To guard against leaks, subsequent meetings in the situation room followed the same protocols as planning sessions for the Osama bin Laden raid.

In the months since, the post-election period has been dominated by investigations into whether Trump associates colluded with Russia before the election and whether the president sought to obstruct the FBI inquiry afterward. That spectacle has obscured the magnitude of Moscow’s attempt to hijack a precious and now vulnerable-seeming American democratic process.

Unreal. 

And remember, despite all this interference talk, the pukes will come back at the end and say it didn't change the election at all. The vote was fair, because to question that calls into question all 535 seats on the Hill. So they interfered, but not really.

Btw, when is the AIPAC rep due to stop by the office, and is the summer vacation to Israel, all expenses paid, lined up yet?

Beset by allegations of hidden ties between his campaign and Russia, Trump has shown no inclination to revisit the matter and has denied any collusion or obstruction on his part. As a result, the expulsions and modest sanctions announced by Obama on Dec. 29 continue to stand as the United States’ most forceful response.

“The punishment did not fit the crime,” said Michael McFaul, who served as the US ambassador to Russia for the Obama administration from 2012 to 2014. “Russia violated our sovereignty, meddling in one of our most sacred acts as a democracy — electing our president.’’

“The Kremlin should have paid a much higher price for that attack. And US policymakers now — both in the White House and Congress — should consider new actions to deter future Russian interventions,” McFaul said.

F*** that. Let's invade like Hitler did. Stop pussy-footing around, if that isn't too politically incorrect of me.

Btw, how many hundreds of foreign elections has the CIA screwed with or then overthrown the results?

The Senate this month passed a bill that would impose additional election- and Ukraine-related sanctions on Moscow and limit Trump’s ability to lift them. The measure requires House approval, however, and Trump’s signature.

Trump on Friday suggested in a television interview that special counsel Robert Mueller has a close personal relationship with fired FBI director James Comey that could disqualify Mueller from credibly overseeing the Russia investigation.

In the interview with Fox News, Trump claimed Mueller was ‘‘very, very good friends with Comey, which is bothersome.’’

Trump repeatedly refused to say whether he believed Mueller would have to recuse himself from the inquiry. ‘‘We’ll have to see,’’ he said.....

I'm not expecting the pre$$ to get into the coziness of the relationship between Comey, Mueller, and the Clintons. 

So when do Loretta Lynch and Susan Rice get subpoenaed? The cover up of Clinton corruption and the unmasking of Obama's political spying operation have gotten lost in all the sound, smoke, and fury surrounding Russia.

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"FBI investigating Manafort real estate deals" by Mike McIntire New York Times   June 23, 2017

NEW YORK — Federal investigators are examining financial transactions involving Paul Manafort and his son-in-law, who embarked on a series of real estate deals in recent years fueled by millions of dollars from Manafort, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The transactions involve the financing of apartments and luxury homes in New York and California using money from Manafort, as well as from other investors solicited by the son-in-law, Jeffrey Yohai, including the actor Dustin Hoffman and his son.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal officials had requested his bank records from Citizens Financial Group, and NBC News said a subpoena had been issued for records related to a $3.5 million loan obtained last August by a shell company, Summerbreeze LLC., linked to Manafort.

Manafort declined to comment. A lawyer for Yohai did not respond to a request for comment.

The Summerbreeze loan was part of a series of mortgages over the past year, totaling $20 million, secured by properties belonging to Manafort or his wife. Some of that money appears to have been used by Manafort to try to salvage his investments with Yohai.

Court records show that Manafort and his wife invested at least $4 million in several California properties, part of a real estate business that one of Manafort’s daughters described as a joint venture between her father and Yohai.

I'm reading this and I'm wondering, WHERE are the RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS?

The partnership was unexpected given Manafort’s early opinion of his son-in-law, as described in text messages belonging to Andrea Manafort, one of Paul Manafort’s two daughters, which were hacked last year and posted on a website used by Ukrainian hackers.

They kept that one in the shadows, huh?

In the messages, Andrea Manafort said in 2013 that her father “wholeheartedly opposes” her sister Jessica’s marriage to Yohai, whose financial problems had deeply concerned Manafort.

Yet within two years, Yohai, who had a degree in journalism and became a real estate professional only in 2011, was forming shell companies to purchase luxury properties in the Hollywood Hills, worth tens of millions of dollars, which Manafort would put money into......

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You know who Trump's favorite player is, right? 

Not his favorite team, though.

Meanwhile, on the other sideline:

Healey’s top target these days is Trump

That's very interesting. Republican attorneys general launched a similar assault on President Obama’s agenda when he was in office, and why is it that the feds have to investigate corruption on Beacon Hill, AGs office always late to mortgage swindles, student loan scams, and all the rest, they only investigate after something appears in the pre$$. It's almost as if their job is to cover up the crimes of the powerful. Her office also knows all about the health charge disparity regarding Partners (one could call it extortion) and yet nothing is done.


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Speaking of your health:

"Republican senator vital to health bill’s passage won’t support it" by Jonathan Martin New York Times   June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, perhaps the most vulnerable Republican facing reelection in 2018, became the fifth GOP senator to declare his opposition to the bill in its current form. The others are Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Ted Cruz of Texas, but Heller did not rule out ultimately voting for a version of the bill.

What skeletons are in his closet?

Planned Parenthood, which would lose all federal support under the bill, is mobilizing furiously to bring down the Republicans’ broader legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act before it reaches President Trump’s desk. Moderate Republican senators such as Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have expressed deep misgivings over the Planned Parenthood provision, which would deprive the organization of more than 40 percent of its funding, jeopardizing health care for women in states like theirs, but restoring Medicaid reimbursements to the women’s health organization could cost just as many votes on the right.

Funding for Planned Parenthood has been a perennial issue since Republicans won control of the House in 2010, and each time, Republican leaders have finessed it by saying the matter would be settled in a broader health care bill. Planned Parenthood’s political wing invested $30 million to encourage voters to turn out in last year’s elections alone. That effort fell short, but it will introduce a blitz ahead of the Senate vote, using a surge of donations since Trump’s election to press supporters to call their senators. Protests are also planned in Washington.....

Notice how the selling of fetal tissue scandal has been neglected?

I'm not saying such science shouldn't be used; I'm just noting what is missing from the discussion.

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It's like a Bo$ton City Council meeting in there, so much so that I don't have the words to describe it. Maybe if I sang them.....

"Minuteman Health shifting to for-profit status" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Globe Staff  June 23, 2017

Minuteman Health Inc., an insurer launched with millions of taxpayer dollars, said Friday it is seeking to ditch its nonprofit structure next year and sell plans under a new for-profit entity.

They want to make a penny or two.

Executives of the Boston-based company said the change is necessary because the company faces regulations that are too burdensome. The company struggled to grow its membership and lost money after its launch in 2013.

Did you know that before 1973 it was illegal to profit off of health care?

Minuteman was created under a program of the Affordable Care Act that was designed to offer lower-cost insurance options for individuals and small businesses. About two dozen such insurers were launched with $2.4 billion in federal funds — including $156 million for Minuteman. Many of the insurers struggled and shut down. One insurer in Maryland recently converted to a for-profit.

Tom Policelli, Minuteman’s chief executive, said the company wants to do business as a for-profit because under current rules, it cannot grow its membership substantially beyond individuals and small businesses. Insurers such as Minuteman that sell plans in that market must comply with a controversial policy known as risk adjustment, which requires insurers with healthier members to make payments to insurers with sicker members. Minuteman has long complained that risk adjustment has hurt the company’s finances and ability to grow.

Executives said they will stop selling plans under their current corporate structure as of Jan. 1. Instead, they have formed a new company, Minuteman Insurance Co., to sell health plans in 2018.

Minuteman has about 37,000 members; they are not expected to see any interruption in coverage this year, but the new for-profit company still needs approval to sell insurance in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Executives have yet to raise enough capital to get approval from insurance regulators. They also must establish contracts with health care providers and design new health plans before a deadline of mid-August, regulators in both states said.

Where is Healey?

After stumbling in Massachusetts, Minuteman expanded to New Hampshire and now has the bulk of its members there. New Hampshire Republicans seized on the company’s announcement Friday as an example of the failure of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

In Washington, Republicans in Congress have drafted legislation to undo much of that sweeping law, which they blame for imposing onerous mandates and driving up health care costs. The law expanded insurance coverage to millions of Americans.

“Today’s announcement by Minuteman Health is more clear evidence that Obamacare has failed and that our nation’s health care system demands reform,” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu said. “It further underscores why Washington must act now to reform our health care system and take actions to stabilize our individual health insurance market.”

And to anyone who has been following along here, you know that means if nothing else there will be a $20 billion (?) bailout for insurance companies. That will $tabilize the health of the markets. As for you.....

Policelli said executives remain committed to selling affordable plans to individuals and businesses in New Hampshire and Massachusetts once they get approval to operate under the new company.

Minuteman executives did not say how much money they must raise to win approval for their new company. “We’re all very optimistic and confident about the path we’re on,” Policelli said.

If Minuteman doesn’t gain approval to sell plans for Jan. 1, its members will have to select a plan from another insurance carrier to stay covered in 2018. Individuals buying insurance on the Massachusetts Health Connector have nine other insurers to choose from, while individuals in New Hampshire have a choice of three other insurers.....

Their “intention is to pick up right where they left off.” 

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Even if the center were open:

"Closure of Somerville mental health center unsettles a community" by Sara Salinas Globe Correspondent  June 23, 2017

SOMERVILLE — On Thursday, moving boxes sat piled up. After 30 years of serving as a resource for people with mental illness, developmental disability, and financial challenges, the Ruby Rogers Center will shutter the office Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Mental Health acknowledged that funding will be cut effective July 1, but said Ruby Rogers’ leadership rejected efforts to include the center in the contracting and budgeting process.

Program director Nanci Baren said the center as it operates now doesn’t fit the parameters for a Recovery Learning Community, client-run networks of support, as outlined by the state.

“They wanted us to become something we weren’t,” she said. “They wanted us to be like all the other RLCs. They wanted them all to be cookie-cutter identical. We’re not the same.”

Ruby Rogers is less regimented than other programs, Baren said. Programming is encouraged, but not mandatory. The center offers alternative methods of therapy, like in-house pets and karaoke.

More than anything, Baren said, Ruby Rogers is a safe, stable place to go for people who can’t go anywhere else.

I know how they feel.

“Most of our members wouldn’t last two days at one of the other [recovery learning centers],” she said. “We give everybody second, maybe third chances -- for most things.”

When rumors of budget cuts circulated in February, members of Ruby Rogers and the larger community started delivering letters of support to the center. Most were hand-written; some in Spanish; a few as long as eight pages.

All of them spoke of the center’s life-changing impact on Somerville residents.

Baren said she sent copies of the letters to local and state officials, in the hope they could help save the center. Ruby Rogers tried raising money on its own with a GoFundMe page, but they couldn’t get enough to sustain the operating budget.

Almost everything is donated, Baren said — food, furniture, tickets for group activities. The center runs on a budget of less than $200,000 a year, she said, but could survive on $100,000.

Attempts to reach the Somerville mayor’s office for comment were unsuccessful.

He's hazy on events.

Baren and the center will move to a temporary space in Harvard Square at the end of August, open for limited hours and only two days a week. There’s no kitchen, so Baren can’t serve food.

David Gibbs, executive director for Community Action Agency of Somerville, which works to reduce homelessness, said the closing of Ruby Rogers is part of a larger trend of dwindling social services in Somerville.

“We’ve just witnessed one social service after another leave the city over the years I’ve been around as funding cuts keep on coming,” he said. “It’s a shame to see the services that so many people depend on leave the city.”

Need to set aside tax loot for cooperate welfare first!

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Really leaves you out in the wilderness, huh?

"Families sue health insurers to cover wilderness therapy for mental illness" by Liz Kowalczyk Globe Staff  June 19, 2017

16-year-old Kayla Freilich had been struggling with panic attacks, depression, self-harm, and an eating disorder, but had resisted most treatment. And then came a suicide attempt. Desperate for answers, her frightened parents enrolled her in 11 weeks of “wilderness therapy,’’ a program that routinely entails transporting defiant teens in the middle of the night.

“We were lost,’’ said her mother, Erica Freilich, whose daughter now attends Boston University “It was either do this or watch your child die.’’

Her family’s health insurer, however, would not cover the $500-plus daily cost of wilderness therapy, which was once considered medically suspect, but now is slowly gaining acceptance as programs strive to improve safety and effectiveness. Instead, the Freilichs were forced to deplete college savings to pay for their daughter’s care.

Now, a growing number of families are challenging insurance companies that refuse to cover wilderness therapy, including a Massachusetts family that sued Harvard Pilgrim Health Care in May for refusing to pay for their son’s therapy at RedCliff Ascent, an outdoor behavioral therapy program in Utah. His mother wound up covering the $16,005 cost of treating his oppositional defiant disorder, substance use disorder, depression, and low self-esteem, the lawsuit says.

Being against or questioning authority and its lies is now apparently a mental illness.

Lawsuits have been filed in Florida, Kentucky,New York, and Utah, bolstered by federal rules expanding mental health care coverage, and by improvements in the wilderness therapy industry itself, which had been heavily criticized following a series of deaths a decade ago.

Brad Reedy, a psychologist and co-owner of Evoke, describes the benefits this way: Teens spend four to five days a week hiking, and have daily academic, reading, and written therapy assignments. As at many residential mental health facilities, they receive one or two group therapy sessions each day. A psychologist or social worker travels to the campsite once a week to provide individual therapy and run two group sessions.

Unlike residential therapy, wilderness programs strip away everyday distractionsby requiring participants to live for weeks in the woods, mountains, or desert, where, surrounded by nature, teens can more easily contemplate their struggles and decide how to work on them, proponents say.

In 2007, they were known as boot camps.

Since then, the industry has made dramatic changes, said Michael Gass, a professor at the University of New Hampshire in kinesiology — the study of human movement — who researches the effectiveness of wilderness therapy.

The Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare Council now accredits programs as a way to improve standards, and several states, including Utah and Oregon, license them. Proponents of wilderness therapy successfully lobbied a national organization that establishes billing codes for insurance companies to come up with a code for wilderness therapy. That will take effect July 1 and will make it easier for programs to bill insurers for their services, though it doesn’t necessarily mean insurance companies will pay.

“The field has evolved,’’ said Will White, a social worker who cofounded Summit Achievement in Stow, Maine. “You are working with kids and families in crisis. They are out in the wilderness at times and that can be risky. But locked facilities can be risky too.’’

Although some studies suggest that teenagers enrolled in wilderness therapy show moderate improvement in self-esteem, behavior, and social skills, many psychologists still think the evidence is inconclusive.

Spending time in nature does seem to contribute to better health, said Jennifer Warkentin, director of professional affairs for the Massachusetts Psychological Association. But she said that does not mean that being in the wilderness is the key component to a treatment program.....

I'm lost, readers.

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Maybe the banks could lend a hand?

"Repligen agrees to buy Spectrum for $359 million" by Robert Weisman Globe Staff  June 23, 2017

Waltham life sciences company Repligen Corp., which sells products that help biotechs clear and purify drugs, Friday said it has agreed to pay $359 million to acquire privately held filtration company Spectrum Laboratories Inc.

The proposed deal, which includes a cash payment of $120 million along with 6.1 million shares of Repligen stock, will strengthen Repligen’s position in bioprocess filtration, a key component of the fast-growing biomanufacturing sector.

Spectrum, based in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., makes products used for the filtration, isolation, purification, and concentration of protein-based drugs known as monoclonal antibodies along with vaccines and cell therapies. It rang up sales of $40.2 million last year.

Repligen, traded on the Nasdaq stock exchange, has acquired four other companies in the past five years in a move to increase scale. Last December, the Waltham company paid nearly $40 million to buy TangenX Technology Corp., a Shrewsbury company that makes similar equipment.

Punny. 

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"Trump signs law to make VA more accountable for veterans’ care" by Darlene Superville Associated Press  June 23, 2017

WASHINGTON — President Trump signed a bill Friday that will make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire employees, part of a push to overhaul an agency that is struggling to serve millions of military veterans.

‘‘Our veterans have fulfilled their duty to our nation and now we must fulfill our duty to them,’’ Trump said during a White House ceremony. ‘‘To every veteran who is here with us today, I just want to say two very simple words: Thank you.’’

I don't agree with him one much, and if nothing else maybe the quality of care will improve under his watch. I just wish he wasn't making more troops need it.

Trump repeatedly promised during the election campaign to dismiss VA workers ‘‘who let our veterans down,’’ and he cast Friday’s bill signing as fulfillment of that promise.

‘‘What happened was a national disgrace and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls,’’ Trump said.

Add it to all the rest of the alphabet scandals of the Obama administration.

The measure was prompted by a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died as they waited months for care. The VA is the second-largest department in the US government, with more than 350,000 employees, and it is charged with providing health care and other services to military veterans.

Federal employee unions opposed the measure. VA Secretary David Shulkin, an Obama administration holdover, stood alongside Trump as the president jokingly suggested he’d have to invoke his reality TV catchphrase ‘‘You’re fired’’ if the reforms were not implemented.

The legislation, which many veterans’ groups supported, cleared the House last week by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 368 to 55, replacing an earlier version that Democrats had criticized as overly unfair to employees. The Senate passed the bill by voice vote a week earlier.

The Veterans Affairs bill was backed by Shulkin, who had called the department’s employee accountability process ‘‘clearly broken.’’ The new law will lower the burden of proof to fire employees, allowing for dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.

In a separate development Friday, officials said military chiefs will seek a six-month delay before letting transgender people enlist in their services.

That should prove interesting. This politically-correct gender identity confusion is going to destroy the military from within. 

That is no disrespect to transgenders; however, the military's purpose is to fight and win wars, not function as a laboratory for social experimentation. Now I know that in the past there has been segregation, but that was not based on sex. 

In any event, let them have it their way. It's their war machine, not mine.

After meetings this week, the service leaders reached an agreement that rejected Army and Air Force requests for a two-year wait and reflected broader concerns that a longer delay would trigger criticism on Capitol Hill, officials familiar with the talks said.

The new request for a delay will go to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis for a final decision, said the officials, who weren’t authorized to discuss the internal deliberations publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when then-Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ended the ban, declaring it the right thing to do. Since Oct. 1, transgender troops have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.

But Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical, and other standards and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months. The military chiefs had said they needed time to study the issue and its effects on the readiness of the force before taking that step.....

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Now, in to battle you go......


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"Russia has fired cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea on positions of the Islamic State in Syria, the Defense Ministry said on Friday, Moscow’s latest show of strength. Separately, a senior Russian lawmaker said Moscow is ‘‘nearly 100 percent’’ sure that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the top ISIS leader, was killed in a Russian airstrike last month....."

"Arab nations issue harsh demands to Qatar" by Ben Hubbard New York Times   June 23, 2017

BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia and three other Arab countries that recently cut diplomatic ties with Qatar issued a list of demands Friday, insisting that the Persian Gulf nation shut down the news network Al-Jazeera, abandon ties with Islamist groups, and provide details on its funding for political dissidents.

The demands, presented to Qatar through mediators from Kuwait, risked pulling other powers deeper into the rift by calling on the country to shut a Turkish military base and to downgrade its ties with Iran. Iran and Qatar share a large gas field that provides much of Qatar’s wealth. The demands signaled an escalation in the deepest political crisis among Arab Gulf countries in years, after nations including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates cut economic, diplomatic, and travel ties with Qatar this month, accusing it of supporting terrorism.

That is where my print ended; the rest is web version.

Qatari officials did not immediately respond Friday, but they have denied supporting extremists and said that they would neither negotiate while under a blockade nor submit to demands that undermined the country’s sovereignty.

Al-Jazeera, one of the Arab world’s most widely watched satellite news channels, denounced the demand for its closure as an attack on journalism.

In a statement posted on its website, Al-Jazeera said the Saudis and their partners were trying to “silence the freedom of expression in the region and to suppress people’s right to information and the right to be heard.”

All of the nations involved are US allies, and Qatar and Bahrain host large US military bases. But analysts have said the Trump administration has sent mixed signals, exacerbating the rift.

After the Arab nations announced that they were cutting ties with Qatar, President Trump posted his support on Twitter and even suggested he had been responsible for the move.

But that did not stop his
administration from signing a previously approved deal for Qatar to buy $12 billion of US F-15 warplanes. 

I gue$$ if all U.S. allies are fighting each other.... $$$$$$$

As the crisis has dragged on, US diplomats have complained privately that the Arab nations were taking too long to present their demands, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that they must be “reasonable and actionable.”

Qatar has historically played a maverick role in the Gulf Cooperation Council, a regional group that also includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

It maintains ties with a range of Islamist groups throughout the region, relationships that other countries have found useful when negotiating hostage releases but have complained about when those groups challenge their rule.

Qatar has also
opened its doors to members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates consider a terrorist organization; to members of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group; and to the Afghan Taliban. It has also financed Al-Jazeera, which is often critical of Qatar’s rivals. 

That was their main sin.

Those stances have rankled others in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which see political Islam as a threat to their monarchies. And Qatar’s support for the Arab Spring uprisings and for the Muslim Brotherhood have angered countries including Egypt.

For the benefit of whom?

Other nations, including Turkey, have stood up for Qatar.

The Turkish defense minister, Fikri Isik, rejected the demand that Qatar close the Turkish military base and suggested that Turkey would enhance its presence there as a show of support.

“Strengthening the Turkish base would be a positive step in terms of the gulf’s security,” he said, according to Reuters. “Re-evaluating the base agreement with Qatar is not on our agenda.”

Analysts said that many of the other demands would be hard for Qatar to meet, especially in the 10-day period the four nations gave the nation to comply.

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RelatedWhat’s behind the rift with Qatar?

WWIII. 

Better grab the first flight home:

"As Logan runway work ends, communities eagerly await plane noise study" by Adam Vaccaro Globe Staff  June 23, 2017

Neighborhoods that have seen — and heard — more airplanes flying overhead should get some relief.

For residents frustrated by the overhead rumbling for years, the increase was the last straw. Despite Medford Mayor Stephanie Burke’s concern, the added noise this spring seems to have galvanized critics of the flight paths, said Peter Houk, a Medford resident and member of Massport’s community advisory committee.

“The closure happened and we started getting more of those planes. And then I started just hearing from all types of people I had never heard from before,” he said. “There’s a groundswell.”

At the same time, residents in several Boston suburbs have long sought relief from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Massachusetts Port Authority, which runs Logan Airport. Their efforts have intensified since 2013, when Logan instituted a GPS-based routing system that created more regulated flight patterns to improve safety and fuel efficiency.

More precise routes, however, meant the volume of planes flying over specific areas increased sharply. At the same time, the number of flights in and out of Logan has jumped appreciably.

“That has caused a concentration of traffic over pretty narrow, tightly confined corridors, and it has made life pretty miserable for a lot of folks,” said Alan Wright, a Roslindale resident and advisory committee member.

Thomas Glynn, chief executive officer of Massport, said the increased frequency of certain routes has made things worse for residents with the misfortune of living underneath. While some areas now experience fewer flights, the noise can be “unrelenting” for those residents, he said.

Advocates for quieter skies are eagerly awaiting an ongoing $1 million study of plane noise, financed by Massport and the FAA. Announced last year, the study will review ways to address the issue, both short- and long-term.

While some of the study’s recommendations will be presented to the FAA later this year, “It is too early to tell how long it might take to implement any of the recommended changes,” the FAA said in a statement.....

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Oh, stop your complaining.

"At least 40 people were killed and nearly 100 wounded Friday in four separate bomb and gun attacks in three major Pakistani cities, officials said. A suicide bomber was involved in the first car bombing near the office of the provincial police chief that killed at least 12 people and wounded 20 in the southwestern city of Quetta. Hours later bombings hit a crowded market in a Shi’ite-dominated city in Parachinar, the main city in the Kurram tribal region. Twenty-four people were killed, according to an official. Friday evening, gunmen in the port city of Karachi killed four police officers at a restaurant."


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"North Korea responded for the first time to US accusations that it had fatally brutalized Otto F. Warmbier, the captive college student, asserting he was given medical treatment and treated with respect. His death outraged the United States and worsened already-poor relations with North Korea. In a separate development Friday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is scheduled to meet with President Trump in Washington this month to discuss a joint strategy on how to stop the North’s pursuit of nuclear weapons....."

They already have them, therefore they are not pursuing them. 

WTF, NYT?

Related:

"A federal judge issued a stinging rebuke Friday of disciplinary practices at Wisconsin’s youth prisons, saying state officials have demonstrated a ‘‘callous indifference’’ to the harm caused to juvenile inmates by the use of solitary confinement, pepper spray, and shackles. Those tactics used at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake prisons probably amount to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment and are outside the national norms for juvenile correction, US District Judge James Peterson said. ‘‘Ted Kaczynski has less restrictive solitary confinement than youth at Lincoln Hills,’’ the judge said, referring to the convicted killer known as the Unabomber. Peterson did not immediately halt the practices but ordered the state Department of Correction and attorneys who challenged the tactics to agree within two weeks to a series of changes he outlined in court....." 

Can't really complain about what the North Koreans did.

Also related: Jury deadlocks in Ohio officer’s murder retrial, the latest racially charged police shooting case to show the reluctance of US jurors to convict officers.

Justices side with immigrant who got bad legal advice

They are going to let him stay in Korea.

"The Dalai Lama visited the area in the fall of 2014, making appearances at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Citi Performing Arts Wang Theatre, and the Boston Marriott Copley Place. A session he held at TD Garden was attended by an estimated 10,000 people. The visit wasn’t without controversy, however, as protesters from the California-based group International Shugden Community accused him of discrimination and human rights violations, according to media reports. Earlier this month, meanwhile, his visit to the University of California, San Diego, was met with opposition on a campus where about 13 percent of students hail from China. The Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama — winner of a 1989 Nobel Peace Prize — of being a separatist and sowing division....."

He's a CIA asset, and China knows it.

Maybe the Globe will challenge him when he gets here.

"The forest fire and haze disaster in Southeast Asia last year, caused mostly by land clearing, may have led to the deaths of more than 100,000 people, according to a study released Monday by researchers from Harvard and Columbia universities. The vast majority of the pollution cases were in Indonesia, where fires were deliberately set to clear land for agriculture. The study, led by public health and atmospheric modeling scientists, estimated...."

Seas are boiling, the air is bad, and the Earth’s warming more extensive, a new study says.

They say it's the hottest its been in 2 million -- yeah, with an m -- years.

London fire could result in manslaughter charges, UK police say

That is still standing?


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

Time to drop my load:

"United Parcel Service Inc. sees a day when your latest purchase may be dropped off not by a brown-clad delivery driver, but by an octocopter drone. The world’s largest courier took a step closer to that future on Monday, launching an unmanned aerial vehicle from the roof of a UPS truck about a quarter-mile to a blueberry farm outside Tampa. The drone dropped off a package at a home on the property, and returned to the truck, which had moved about 2,000 feet. The test shows how UPS is looking to drones as a way to cut costs and ease delivery in hard-to-reach places. Deploying the aircraft in rural areas — where the distance between stops drives up fuel and labor costs — is one of the more promising applications."

Slow Saturday Special: Caught Black-Handed

"Alleged tagger arrested by Boston police with paint can in hand" by John R. Ellement Globe Staff  June 23, 2017

Sometimes policing does not involve a great deal of detective work, and one such case took place early Thursday in Brighton, where Boston police were keeping an eye open for taggers who have recently taken to defacing neighborhood buildings.

Around 1:30 a.m. Thursday, officers walking in the 1200 block of Commonwealth Avenue came across a man standing next to what was once the unremarkable wall of the Five Guys restaurant. The man, later identified as 27-year-old Jackson Elliott, allegedly had a can of black spray paint in his hand, police said.

On the wall was fresh graffiti in black spray paint, police said....

--more--"

Who knew he was illiterate?

Related:

"A Weymouth man was shot twice in the legs early Friday while sitting in his car on the Southern Artery, a shooting that Quincy police do not believe was a random incident. Detectives discovered suspected drugs and a sum of cash inside the car after the victim was removed by ambulance crews....."

The clues would seem to lead to organized crime of some kind.

"These pictures blow up on social media because they are seen as evidence of how easy it is to overcome stereotypes and bridge racial divides, but instead of exploding ugly stereotypes, these faux-feel-good stories unwittingly trade in them, leveraging our unconscious biases and reinforcing wrong-headed ideas about racial dynamics. Race is easier to talk about when things are black and white, of course. One unabashed racist in the comments on the escalator post put the problem into sharp focus: “That’s a black life [that] matters,” he wrote. “Those that are rioting, tearing down and destroying ... not so much.”

Is it it just me, or is he not only excusing violence but calling for it? Reading it made me “feel yucky,” and every single life is precious -- although I can understand an organ of Zioni$t $upremaci$m not seeing it that way.

With black hands also comes a black heart.

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.


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

"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....."



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


"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.


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

"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--"


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

"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--"


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


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.


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

"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.