Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Stepping Back

It's a deja vu and not because of another dud of a storm.

(UPDATE: Upon further investigation, I've been restored for the moment. I don't know what is with the yo-yo. Even with that.... it's over. The post cover-up, post-conspiracy attempt at control has failed thus old-fashioned censorship must be reimposed.)

245 State Police troopers earned more than $200,000 last year The allure of big pay for long hours has raised concerns among critics that troopers could be too tired to safely do their jobs and that State Police could save money simply by hiring more troopers to cut down on overtime hours.

Hey, “if they’re going to put the time and the effort in, and they can make the money that’s offered to them, why not? It’s like any other profession.” 

It's their top value?

Yeah, get what you can get like any other profession:

"Seth Moulton could see boost from special election in Pennsylvania" by Astead W. Herndon Globe Staff  March 13, 2018

WASHINGTON — When the nation’s political class tunes in to Tuesday’s hotly contested special congressional election race in Pennsylvania, one Massachusetts man will be particularly invested in the result: Representative Seth Moulton.

Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb, the upstart attorney and former Marine who has surprisingly closed the gap in a deep-red congressional district, is one of the dozens of former service members Moulton has endorsed for Congress in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

Polls — and the national attention that comes with them — have started shifting in Lamb’s direction, putting him in a position to pull off one of the biggest electoral upsets of the post-Trump era.

The narrative for a Democratic House has been out there for months, and what the rigged results will do is give the "political class" an additional lever against Trump as well as keeping the investigation alive and preserving possible impeachment proceedings. Get your popcorn!

Moulton and Lamb are united by military service and an antiestablishment streak that has caused both men to speak out against House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. A Lamb victory could raise Moulton’s profile as a kingmaker within the Democratic Party.

And he has the endorsement of non other than Bill Kristol (looks like Capuano done, too, in the upcoming women's wave and change election).

A lackluster performance, on the other hand, could reveal the limits of Moulton’s ability to sway voters in conservative districts and tap into anti-Trump energy.

Moulton “could be very well-positioned if this works out,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant. “It’s a good gamble. It makes him look as if he’s on the cutting edge of a new generations of politicians.”

During a recent campaign speech, Moulton said Lamb should go to Washington because he’s willing to take on members of his own party who “just aren’t getting it done.”

Lamb’s district, Pennsylvania’s 18th, voted for Donald Trump by 20 percentage points more than Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. In the days before Tuesday’s vote, Trump had invested a significant amount of political capital backing Republican candidate Rick Saccone.

He even traveled to the state Saturday to hold a raucous campaign-style rally, at which he mused on topics including giving drug dealers the death penalty, Celebrity Apprentice ratings, and the supposed attractiveness of his younger self.


On the final day of campaigning, Donald Trump Jr. traveled through a candy shop with Saccone, imploring Republicans to vote and criticizing the media for focusing on criticism of Saccone.

“God knows, if it’s going to make it difficult for Trump, the media’s going to be all over it,” the president’s oldest son said.

You, too, Junior.

Still, political observers say Trump’s backing may not be enough. Despite the Republican Party’s advantages in the district, polls released Monday indicate that Lamb leads Saccone by two to six points.

Democrats are attempting to lower expectations before the vote, but some see signs that liberals are on their way to a surprising victory in Pennsylvania’s steel country, an outcome that would deeply embarrass Republicans.

The hullabaloo over the election is particularly interesting considering the district itself will soon disappear because of a court mandate that Pennsylvania redraw its congressional maps after years of Republican gerrymandering.

Still, Democrats want to use the race as another way to needle Trump.

“Democrats keep winning these special elections, and it reinforces the idea that Democrats have momentum going into the midterm elections in November,” said Jim Manley, a longtime Democratic strategist. “No matter what happens in Pennsylvania, there should be no reason this race is as close as it is. It’s clear people want an alternative to Trump.”

Manley pointed to the string of special elections and governor’s races that have gone the way of Democrats in recent months.

Democrats swept to victory in governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey, and Senator Doug Jones surprised Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama special election race in December 2017. Democrats have also won a spate of state legislature races around the country, including in districts, like the one in Pennsylvania, that strongly backed Trump in 2016.

Moulton, however, has criticized the Democratic Party’s candidate recruitment efforts and has called on the party to find a “new generation of leaders” who are more likely to break the establishment mold.

Lamb has vowed not to vote to back Pelosi if he is elected to Congress and has taken several other moderate positions.

Then he's a sexist?

He has been considered by some to be a test case of Moulton’s brand of antiestablishment rhetoric.

Why not just switch parties?

“If he loses big, it’s a bad day for Moulton,” Sheinkopf said. “But if he comes within a shot, he’ll look like a genius for predicting what’s ahead and that he’ll be out in front of the new generation.”

Lamb has largely, but not entirely, avoided tying himself to national Democrats. Vice President Joe Biden, who was born in Scranton, has campaigned with him.


#MeToo hasn't caught up with Creepy Joe yet?

Representative Joe Kennedy III, the Democrat from Brookline, also endorsed Lamb and traveled to his field office last month (although local media chided Lamb for keeping the event quiet and telling reporters he had no public events that day, only to discover Lamb had tweeted a photo of them together).

The pre$$ takes things personally when you lie to them (while they lie to the rest of us). 

Is that any way to start off a political career, by lying and covering up?

Saccone, for his part, has decided that embracing Trump wholeheartedly is his best political strategy. Even before Saturday’s joint campaign-style rally with the president, Saccone has called himself “Trump before Trump” and has echoed Trump’s desires to reduce immigration and reinvigorate the coal mining industry.

Saccone, 60, is a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He also has a military background, having served in the Air Force.

Democrats “have a hatred of our president,” Saccone said Monday at a closing campaign rally. “And I’ll tell you some more — my wife and I saw it again today — they have a hatred for God.” 

I don't know about that second one, but he's spot on with the first hatred.

If he loses, it could foreshadow what is already expected to be a difficult midterm election cycle for Republicans. While Trump remains popular with the GOP base, a series of special elections over the past year have shown that he has been driving higher voter turnout among Democrats while alienating independent voters.

Republicans have been hoping that the passage of their massive tax cuts and the climbing stock market numbers would help override some of Trump’s low popularity numbers.

In an effort to downplay expectations, GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has said she expects it to be a “tight, tight race.” McDaniel also demeaned Lamb as a Republican in disguise. “He’s progun, he’s protariff, he’s pro-Trump essentially,’’ she said.


"President Trump blocked Singapore chipmaker Broadcom from pursuing a hostile takeover of US rival Qualcomm on national-security grounds. The decision, announced late Monday, abruptly ends Broadcom’s four-month $121 billion bid to buy Qualcomm — a deal that would have been the largest ever completed in the technology industry. Neither Broadcom nor Qualcomm immediately responded to requests for comment. Broadcom faced challenges almost from the start of its quest. Qualcomm quickly spurned its unsolicited suitor and continued to resist even after Broadcom raised its original offer from $103 billion. Broadcom’s Singapore connections complicated matters, raising fears about a prominent US chipmaker being owned by a foreign company. Although its name isn’t widely known outside the technology industry, Qualcomm is one of the world’s leading makers of the processors that power many smartphones and other mobile devices. Qualcomm also owns patents on key pieces of mobile technology that Apple and other manufacturers rely upon in their products. Trump decided to squelch Broadcom’s bid on the recommendation of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews foreign purchases of US entities."

Also seeUS blocks Broadcom from buying Qualcomm

A recent analysis by The Washington Post showed Republican-allied groups have outspent Democrats by more than $9 million on the race by the end of February. Democratic groups spent only $855,591.....



Metropolitan Opera terminates relationship with James Levine over ‘sexually abusive’ conduct" by Malcolm Gay Globe Staff  March 12, 2018

My printed piece carried the New York Times report that halfway through started crying poor Met! 

So what is with the shell game, Globe?

Paper is going to the dogs.

"One-quarter of Mass. residents know someone who died from opioids, survey suggests" by Felice J. Freyer Globe Staff  March 12, 2018

The stigma that surrounds addiction persists: The vast majority of respondents believe addicted people are at least partially to blame for their illness, and two-thirds think that a lack of desire to stop using drugs is a major barrier to recovery.

The findings offer a glimpse into public attitudes six years into an epidemic that has touched every corner of the state and claimed more than 2,000 lives last year.

Survey responses suggest many people consider addiction a disease and a public health problem, but in what Michael Botticelli, executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center, called “some troubling contradictions” they continue to blame the people who become addicted. That view runs counter to generally held medical opinion that addiction is a chronic illness brought on by environmental and genetic factors.

“We’re clinging to the belief that it is a personal choice,” Botticelli said.

Isn't it? Is there no responsibility for yourself or your actions at all?

Asked to name the biggest issue facing their communities, 18 percent of respondents mentioned addiction, drugs, or opioid abuse in 2018. As recently as 2014, only 4 percent put those issues at the top of the list in a similar survey that Blue Cross conducted for internal use.

Still, respondents seem to have mixed feelings about people who are addicted.

More than half believe the opioid epidemic is a public health issue, rather than a matter for law enforcement. And yet only 4 in 10 who participated in the survey said they believe that addiction is a disease, and 28 percent say it’s a choice.

About 82 percent believe that people addicted to opioids bear all, most, or some of the blame for their addiction. Two-thirds pointed to “not wanting to give up addiction” as a major barrier to recovery.

These views suggest a misunderstanding of the role of choice in addiction, said Dr. Sarah E. Wakeman, medical director of the Substance Use Disorders Initiative at Massachusetts General Hospital.

People make a choice when they first try drugs, Wakeman acknowledged, but nearly everyone makes that choice: Most people experiment with drugs and walk away unscathed. “Only a minority have a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors that makes them vulnerable to the disease of addiction,” she said.

OMG! They are trying to say you can be born a drug addict, and how do they know people have walked away unscathed?

Once people become addicted, the illness limits their ability to make good choices by impairing the parts of the brain involved with motivation, reward, and impulse control, Wakeman said.

Just wondering where the ADDICTION to MONEY fits into all this.

Nearly half of survey respondents think the epidemic is getting worse, and only 1 in 10 think it’s getting better.

But the specialists interviewed pointed to signs of hope, including a drop-off in opioid-related deaths and a slight decline in fatal and nonfatal overdoses in Massachusetts in 2017, compared with 2016.

“We are making progress,” said Vic DiGravio, chief executive of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare, a trade group. “But I think people do have an accurate sense that it still could be getting worse. We are still in the midst of a crisis.”

Blue Cross’s Dr. Ken Duckworth, Blue Cross’s medical director for behavioral health, asserted that access to addiction treatment is improving. “It doesn’t mean you can always get exactly what you want exactly when you need it,” he said. “But services are expanding.” 

As they cut health budgets and ration care.


Of course, when it comes to pot.....


"Austin, Texas, on alert after series of deadly package bombs" by Will Weissert and David Warren Associated Press  March 12, 2018

Hmmm, Austin, the home of Alex Jones and liberal Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas — The packages did not appear to have gone through the Postal Service or private carriers such as UPS but were left on doorsteps without a knock or ringing of doorbells.

The explosions happened during the South by Southwest music, film and technology festival, which brings about 400,000 visitors to Austin each year.

The police chief urged visitors to ‘‘be aware of what’s going on.’’

‘‘Enjoy yourself. Have a good time,’’ he said. ‘‘There’s no reason to believe that you are at any greater risk other than be aware, look for things that are suspicious.’’

Four years ago, a driver plowed through a barricade and into festival-goers, killing four people and injuring many others. Additional security measures were taken in the aftermath, including additional policing, tougher security checks, and brighter street lighting.

The three explosions occurred in different parts of East Austin.

FBI teams from Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas were investigating as was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Manley said anyone receiving a package they were not expecting should call 911.

‘‘Under no circumstances should you touch them, move them, or handle them in any way,’’ he said......


The false flag nature of these strategy of tension events is so obvious and sad. 

"Trump to view wall prototypes at border; In Calexico, not much has changed" by Elliot Spagat Associated Press  March 12, 2018

CALEXICO, Calif. — The daily commute from Mexico to California farms is the same as it was before Donald Trump became president.

Hundreds of Mexicans cross the border and line the sidewalks of Calexico’s tiny downtown by 4 a.m., napping on cardboard sheets and blankets or sipping coffee from a 24-hour doughnut shop until buses leave for the fields.

For decades, cross-border commuters have picked lettuce, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and other vegetables that make California’s Imperial Valley ‘‘America’s Salad Bowl’’ from December through March.

As Trump visits the border Tuesday, the harvest is a reminder of how little has changed despite heated immigration rhetoric in Washington.

The current border barriers extend the same 654 miles they did under President Barack Obama, and more than a year after the Government Accountability Office urged the Department of Homeland Security to develop a way to measure the effectiveness of barriers, DHS has no such tool ready.

A February 2017 report by the GAO found government has no way to measure how well barriers work, where they work best, or whether less expensive alternatives could be found.

Trump also pledged during the campaign to expand the Border Patrol by 5,000 agents, but staffing fell during his first year in office further below a congressional mandate because the government has been unable to keep pace with attrition and retirements.

In Tijuana, tens of thousands of commuters still line up weekday mornings for San Diego at the nation’s busiest border crossing, some for jobs in landscaping, housekeeping, hotel, and shipyards.

The majority are US citizens and legal residents or holders of ‘‘border crossing cards’’ that are given to millions of Mexicans in border areas for short visits. The border crossing cards do not include work authorization, but some break the rules.

Even concern about Trump’s threat to end the North American Free Trade Agreement is tempered by awareness that border economies have been integrated for decades. Mexican ‘‘maquiladora’’ plants, which assemble duty-free raw materials for export to the United States, have made televisions, medical supplies, and other goods since the 1960s.

Workers in the Mexicali area rise about 1 a.m., carpool to the border crossing, and wait about an hour to reach Calexico’s portico-covered sidewalks by 4 a.m. Some beat the border bottleneck by crossing at midnight to sleep in their cars in Calexico. Fewer workers make the trek now than 20 and 30 years ago. But not because of Trump.

Steve Scaroni, one of Imperial Valley’s largest labor contractors, blames the drop on lack of interest among younger Mexicans, which has forced him to rely more on short-term farmworker visas known as H-2As.

Scaroni’s main objective is to expand the H-2A visa program, which covered about 165,000 workers in 2016. On his annual visit to Washington in February to meet members of Congress and other officials, he decided within two hours that nothing changed under Trump.

‘‘Washington is not going to fix anything,’’ he said. ‘‘You’ve got too many people — lobbyists, politicians, attorneys — who make money off the dysfunction.”


Also see:

Death penalty sought in 8 Mississippi killings

South Carolina man charged in slayings of four relatives

Democrats fault Trump for backsliding on guns

One of them is Senator Markey.

"Bag may have hit fuel switch before helicopter crash" by Jennifer Peltz Associated Press  March 12, 2018

NEW YORK — The pilot who survived a helicopter crash that killed his five passengers told investigators he believed a passenger’s bag might have hit an emergency fuel shutoff switch in the moments before the chopper went down, a federal official said Monday.

The official said the National Transportation Safety Board also is scrutinizing why an emergency flotation device apparently didn’t deploy properly when the tour helicopter went down in the East River.

The floats are supposed to keep a helicopter upright; the Eurocopter AS350 that crashed Sunday overturned and submerged.

The official was briefed on the investigation but not authorized to speak publicly about it and spoke on condition of anonymity.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators began working Monday to determine what caused the crash, which killed a Texas firefighter, an Argentine woman, a young video journalist, and two others on what authorities said was a charter flight to take photos.

Pilot Richard Vance, who managed to free himself from the rapidly sinking chopper, was the only survivor.

No one answered an e-mail Monday to Vance, 33, a licensed commercial pilot for seven years who is also licensed as a flight instructor.....



"50 die as plane crashes, catches fire in Nepal" by Binaj Gurubacharya Associated Press  March 12, 2018

KATHMANDU, Nepal — A plane carrying 71 people from Bangladesh swerved erratically before crashing and erupting in flames as it attempted a landing Monday in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, killing at least 50 people, officials and witnesses said.

A recording of the conversations between the pilot and air traffic controllers indicated confusion over which direction the plane should land.

The exact number of dead and injured remained unclear amid the chaos of the crash and the rush of badly injured people to nearby hospitals, but Brigadier General Gokul Bhandari, the Nepal army spokesman, said it was clear that at least 50 people had died.

US-Bangla Airlines flight BS211 from Dhaka to Kathmandu was carrying 67 passengers and four crew members, according to an airline spokesman. The airline is part of the US-Bangla Group, an American-Bangladeshi joint venture that also includes real estate, education, and agriculture.

An AP journalist who arrived at the scene soon after the crash saw the twin-propeller plane broken into several large pieces, with dozens of firefighters and rescue workers clustered around the wreckage in a grassy field near the runway.

And yet there was only a whole in the ground in Shanksville.

Hundreds of people stood on a nearby hill, staring down at what remained of the Bombardier Dash 8 aircraft.

The plane swerved repeatedly as it prepared to land in Kathmandu, said Amanda Summers, an American working in Nepal. The crowded city sits in a valley in the Himalayan foothills.

‘‘It was flying so low I thought it was going to run into the mountains,’’ said Summers, who watched the crash from the terrace of her home office, not far from the airport. ‘‘All of a sudden there was a blast and then another blast.’’

Fire crews put out the flames quickly, perhaps within a minute, she said, though for a time clouds of thick, dark smoke rose into the sky above the city.

The plane had circled Tribhuvan International Airport twice as it waited for clearance to land, Mohammed Selim, the airline’s manager in Kathmandu, told Dhaka-based Somoy TV by telephone. The plane was 17 years old, company officials said.....


RelatedIndia grounds Airbus model because of safety concerns

"Britain blames Russia for nerve agent attack on former spy" by Ellen Barry and Richard Pérez-Peña New York Times  March 12, 2018

LONDON — Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, in an address to Parliament, said that her government had summoned the Russian ambassador to demand an explanation, and that Britain expected a response from Russia by the end of the day Tuesday.

The relationship between Russia and Britain under May has been punctuated by repeated confrontation, over the annexation of Crimea and Russian interference in elections, among other issues.

They didn't annex Crimea, so..... SIGH!

But Britain has held back from aggressive retaliatory measures. Expelling Russian spies, for example, would mean a cutoff in Britain’s own flow of information from Moscow if Russia retaliated. Restricting visas would hurt Russian businessmen, officials and dissidents who have made Britain their home.

Moscow has insisted that it played no role in the attack, and did so again Monday.

“This is a circus show in the British Parliament,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told journalists in Moscow, according to the Interfax news agency.

She's right.

Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s foreign affairs committee, was equally dismissive. Whatever Skripal may have once done, he said, he posed no threat to Russia now.

“This already is not our issue,” Dzhabarov told Interfax. “He had access neither to our secrets nor facilities. He was of no use to us, to Russia in general.”

Still, amid denials last week by Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, an anchor on Russia’s state-controlled news broadcast struck a different note, warning Russians not to betray their country. If they do, he said, “Don’t choose Britain as a place to live.”

Yeah, MI-5 will turn on you in a moment to further the war agenda.

In her address to Parliament, May said the nerve agent was part of a group known as Novichok, the Russian term for “newcomer.” The chemical was produced by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, and, at the time, was believed to be far more lethal than anything in the US arsenal.

Did they offer any PROOF? NO!

Nor did they comment on the UK chemical weapons lab 5 miles away.

Yeah, they used you as guinea pigs but they are telling the truth now.

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Vil Mirzayanov, a chemist who helped develop the agent, said that Soviet laboratories had developed enough of the substance to kill several hundred thousand people.

Dispersed in a powder, Novichok nerve agents blocked the breakdown of a neurotransmitter controlling muscular contractions, leading to respiratory and cardiac arrest, Mirzayanov told investigators at the time.

Over the past week, chemical weapons experts fanned out through the sleepy cathedral city of Salisbury.

“What it says to Russians living in the UK or those thinking of leaving the country is: Disloyalty is always punishable, you will never be free of us and you will never be safe, wherever you live,” John Lough and James Sherr, Russia specialists at the British think tank Chatham House, wrote. “What it says to the British government is: We believe you are weak, we have no respect for you.”

Skripal is one of several opponents of President Vladimir Putin’s government, in Britain and elsewhere, who have been the victims of murder or attempted murder.....

Oddly, the web version added this:

In an interview on Monday, Secretary of State Rex. W. Tillerson expressed astonishment at the use in a public space of a substance like the nerve agent. “It’s almost beyond comprehension that a state, an organized state, would do something like that,” he said. “A nonstate actor, I could understand. A state actor — I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action.”

Rex, we hardly knew ye!


"North Korea faces no more conditions for talks" Associated Press  March 12, 2018

WASHINGTON — Uncertainty still lingers over plans for the first-ever meeting of a sitting US president and a North Korean leader.

Four days after the surprise announcement that President Trump had agreed to meet the North’s Kim Jong Un by May, Washington has yet to hear directly from Pyongyang on the invitation extended by Kim via South Korean intermediaries.

‘‘It’s very early stages,’’ Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters Monday in Abuja, Nigeria, on a swing through Africa, when asked about plans for the meeting, expected in May. ‘‘We’ve not heard anything directly back from North Korea, although we expect to hear something directly from them.’’

He's been out of the loop and now we know why.

A summit between two nations that have remained in a state of war since the Korean War would be a remarkable turnabout after a year of heightened tensions. Kim has pushed his isolated nation closer to having a nuclear-tipped missile that can strike the US mainland. Trump has vowed to prevent that, by force if necessary.

On Friday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the meeting wouldn’t take place ‘‘until we see concrete actions that match the words and the rhetoric of North Korea.’’

But Deputy White House spokesman Raj Shah said on Sunday that no additional conditions are being stipulated.

He stressed that North Korea must stick to the commitments that were relayed by South Korean officials who met with Kim last week and then came to Washington and briefed Trump.....


The offer puts the president in a dilemma.

"Trump is breaking all the rules, and that could be great for America" by Niall Ferguson March 12, 2018

Give Trump his due, he is capable of self-mockery. His speech at the recent Gridiron Club dinner might equally well have been delivered by Alec Baldwin, whose career has been relaunched by his Trump impersonation on “Saturday Night Live.”

“I won’t rule out direct talks with Kim Jong Un,” said Trump. “I just won’t. As far as the risk of dealing with a madman is concerned, that’s his problem, not mine.” 

That is funny, and what that snippet does is tell you how hyperbolic the ma$$ media coverage is of the man.

Notice, too, that in the middle of this comedy routine, Trump revealed exactly what he was planning to do with respect to North Korea. “By the way,” he told his audience, “a couple days ago they said, ‘We would like to talk,’ and I said, ‘So would we, but you have to de-nuke, you have to de-nuke.’ So let’s see what happens. . . . We will be meeting, and we’ll see if anything positive happens.” Not a single news outlet got the joke that this wasn’t a joke.

Of course, this could all end in just the kind of train-wreck-plus-dumpster-fire predicted ad nauseam by the president’s critics. But consider, if you dare, what a future historian might one day write:

“President Trump had no experience of foreign affairs, but he soon grasped how disastrously his predecessor had bungled the North Korean nuclear threat. He applied sustained pressure on Pyongyang, directly through new UN-mandated sanctions, and indirectly by menacing China with threats of military action or a trade war.

“In March 2018, he stepped up the pressure by announcing new tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. These tariffs would have hurt America’s allies more than China, but Beijing got the message. Xi Jinping was well aware a trade war directed by the US against China would hurt China much more than the United States, potentially reducing Chinese exports to America by up to 20 percent.

“The president’s critics were stunned by the subsequent US-North Korean Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, signed in Pyongyang in 2019, and utterly dumbfounded by the 2020 Chinese-American Trade Agreement, which committed China to eliminate the bilateral trade deficit by the end of his second presidential term.”

Could it happen? I know it seems fanciful, but.....


"Japan’s government altered documents in scandal linked to prime minister’s wife" by Mari Yamaguchi Associated Press  March 12, 2018

TOKYO — Japan’s Finance Ministry acknowledged Monday that it doctored documents in a widening scandal linked to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife that has rattled his government and caused its support ratings to slide.

Government would never do that.

Abe quickly apologized Monday on behalf of ministry officials but did not mention his wife or her suspected role in the scandal.

‘‘People are looking critically at the developments, and I take it seriously,’’ he said, promising to pursue a thorough investigation into what caused the problem.

The altered documents relate to the 2016 sale of state land to school operator Moritomo Gakuen in Osaka at one-seventh of the appraised value with the alleged involvement of first lady Akie Abe, who supported the school’s ultra-nationalistic education policy.

An investigation by the ministry showed the school operator told officials that Akie Abe encouraged him to proceed with the land deal, and several conservative lawmakers had contacted the ministry about the school plan, but it was not clear whether they violated any law.

It said one document originally noted that the school operator was involved with a powerful pro-Abe political lobby, Nippon Kaigi, of which Abe was vice chairman, but that comment had later been deleted.

The scandal, which surfaced a year ago, has smoldered despite a major election victory by Abe in July as opposition lawmakers continued to scrutinize the case. It erupted again in recent weeks after a major newspaper reported that it found evidence the ministry had altered records after the scandal broke.

Finance Minister Taro Aso said the investigation found 14 altered documents. He said the documents were falsified to match explanations that an official in charge of the land deal, Nobuhisa Sagawa, provided to Parliament in response to opposition lawmakers’ questions.

Sagawa later was promoted to National Tax Agency chief in what critics alleged was a reward for stonewalling the questioning. He resigned last Friday to take responsibility for his replies, and another official linked to the scandal reportedly killed himself. Sagawa also acknowledged destroying documents.

Aso denied there had been any political pressure, but declined to disclose where the instructions came from and who was responsible. Abe said Aso will not step down.

Finance Ministry officials confirmed that a reference to Akie Abe having recommended the land deal was deleted from a document.

Yasunori Kagoike, then head of Moritomo Gakuen, purchased the land to build an elementary school where Abe’s wife briefly served as honorary principal. The Abes are known to have supported the school’s nationalistic philosophy of education.

Opposition lawmakers allege political pressure was involved in the land sale, but Abe has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, said the document doctoring by the ministry ‘‘shakes the foundation of Japan’s democracy.’’


"Chaos in two towns as Turkish as Syrian forces close in" Associated Press  March 12, 2018

BEIRUT — Parallel offensives waged by Turkey and the Syrian government on two separate towns in Syria on Monday pushed residents into overcrowded shelters for safety as others tried to flee the advancing forces by road.

Residents and displaced families in the besieged town of Douma in the rebel-held Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta were sleeping in shops and in the streets as basements in the town filled up beyond capacity, said Haitham Bakkar, a local resident.

‘‘We are afraid of the assault,’’ Bakkar said of the government’s efforts to take the town amid a ferocious campaign of shelling and airstrikes.

Meanwhile, thousands of people were fleeing the northwestern town of Afrin as Turkish troops and Turkey-backed opposition fighters moved closer to encircling it.

Ebrahim Ebrahim, a Europe-based spokesman for the largest Kurdish group in Syria, the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, said those fleeing were heading toward government-controlled areas.

The fleeing residents are fearful that Turkish troops and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters might commit atrocities against the Kurds and minority Christians, Alawites and Yazidis in the town.

Turkish troops have destroyed water and power stations that supply Afrin.

‘‘Water has been cut from Afrin for a week now,” said resident Serbest Hassan. “Everyone is very scared of what’s coming now that the Turkish occupying forces are getting closer to the town’s center.’’

He said 800,000 civilians in Afrin were now facing a humanitarian ‘‘catastrophe’’ amid food shortages and relentless Turkish airstrikes.

Not Yemen.


"Over five years, pope produces major shift in church culture" by Nicole Winfield Associated Press  March 12, 2018

VATICAN CITY — A consensus view is forming that history’s first Latin American pope may be a victim of unrealistic expectations and his own culture.

Also known as conventional myth.

Nevertheless, Francis’ first five years have been an introduction to a new kind of pope, one who prizes straight talk over theology, and mercy over moral discussion. 

Tell that to the Chileans!

On Monday, the Rev. Bernice King, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s surviving daughter, had a private audience with the 81-year-old pope. Speaking later to the television outlet of Italian Bishops Conference, King called Francis ‘‘a leader and moral voice for the entire world.’’

‘‘The words that the pope recalled of my father — those which resonate in his heart, of peace, nonviolence, respect for the dignity of every human being, the centrality of what is human — are truly crucial today,’’ she said.

She just shamed herself and her father by speaking so highly of a bunch of pedophiles.

The Pew Research Center found that while Francis still enjoys a consistently high 84 percent favorability rating among US Catholics, an increasing number on the political right believe him to be ‘‘too liberal’’ and naive. Despite all the talk of ‘‘the Francis effect’’ bringing Catholics back to church, Pew found no evidence of a rise in self-proclaimed Catholics or Mass-goers.

There have been magical moments, but on the issue of clerical sex abuse, Francis set the bar high when he vowed ‘‘zero tolerance’’ for abuse, created an ad-hoc commission of experts to advise him, and publicly pledged that bishops would be held accountable when they botched cases.

But he scrapped a planned tribunal to judge those bishops and recently shocked even his closest advisers by dismissing accusations of coverup lodged by victims of Chile’s most notorious predator priest.

Better be careful. You will ruin the consensus view that is forming.

Last week, a coalition of Catholic women gathered in Rome to demand he provide women with a voice and a place at the decision-making table in the Catholic Church.

Francis has appointed a study commission on ordaining women deacons. He has named a woman to head the Vatican Museums. He empowered ordinary priests, not just bishops, to absolve women who have had abortions, and declared a feast day in honor of Mary Magdalene. But no woman heads a Holy See office.....


"A Vatican magazine has denounced how nuns are often treated like indentured servants by cardinals and bishops, for whom they cook and clean for next to no pay. The March edition of ‘‘Women Church World,’’ a monthly magazine of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, hit newsstands Thursday. Its expose on the treatment of religious sisters confirmed that the magazine is increasingly becoming the imprint of the Catholic Church’s #MeToo movement. Recent issues have explored the symbolic power of women’s bodies and ‘‘rape as torture.’’

Hey, at least you get a day off.


"Taliban briefly take Afghan district as security worsens" by Mujib Mashal New York Times  March 12, 2018

KABUL — The Taliban briefly captured a district in western Afghanistan on Monday, officials said, as security continued to deteriorate in the besieged province of Farah.

The fall of the district, Anardarah, came days after Afghan security forces suffered heavy casualties in another district of Farah, which borders Iran and is situated along one of the country’s most lucrative drug routes.

Afghan and Western officials warn that the country’s security could further deteriorate in the coming year, even as the US military finds itself drawn deeper into the war, with additional military advisers arriving to help Afghan forces.

The Taliban have yet to show any interest in a comprehensive peace offer made recently by the Afghan government.

Dadullah Qani, a member of the Farah provincial council, said Taliban fighters stormed Anardarah district, which used to be a safe area, and overran a number of government compounds early Monday.

Additional troops that were later sent in retook the district and pushed the Taliban back out, said Nasrat Rahimi, a spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry.

Mohammad Naseer Mehri, a spokesman for the governor of Farah, said the attack began around 4 a.m. and the Taliban had managed to enter the governor’s compound and seize it.

As the Taliban have gained territory in recent years, Farah has become a greater concern for the Afghan government. The province has repeatedly been on the verge of falling, with insurgents on several occasions managing to enter the provincial capital, Farah City.

“None of the districts in Farah are completely under Taliban control, but we can say that all of the districts are contested,” said Farid Bakhtawar, head of the provincial council.

The insurgents control 3 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, and influence or contest an additional 40 percent, according to estimates in a report by the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Defense. The Afghan government, by contrast, controls 18 percent of the country and influences 38 percent more.

On Friday, Afghan soldiers on a clearance operation in the Bala Boluk district of Farah came under heavy Taliban fire.

US officials have warned that the country’s security situation could further deteriorate in the coming year, adding to further political instability. The Afghan government, marred by infighting, has struggled to hold long-delayed elections, and it faces an increasingly vocal opposition.

“The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady Afghan National Security Forces performance, and chronic financial shortfalls,” Dan Coats, director of national intelligence, told the US Senate last week....

Then it is TIME to COME HOME!


Must be why Mattis stopped by.

How was your T experience?

T will likely skip January fare increase, but parking rates may go up soon

Call him doctor. Call him friend.

Walsh promises funding for police body cameras

Tracy Gilpin’s alleged killer won’t challenge extradition

Here’s what you should know about Nantucket’s African Meeting House

They have an IHOP?

Winner of $560m Powerball jackpot can stay anonymous, but there’s a catch

Lawrence man charged with pouring lighter fluid over girlfriend and their baby during fight

Pine Manor College removed from academic probation

Family, friends bid farewell to slain mom, children in West Brookfield

Two more teens charged in shooting and beating death of 17-year-old in Dorchester

Market Basket employee suffers serious burns in Tewksbury store

Now for the Banker's, 'er, Bu$ine$$ section:

Massport wants public realm improvements as it seeks developers for remaining Seaport land

Despite gains, ‘motherhood penalty’ persists

Sarepta will seek accelerated approval for 2nd Duchenne muscular dystrophy drug

"Judge dismisses nurses’ suit challenging Brigham and Women’s vaccination policy" by Priyanka Dayal McCluskey Globe Staff  March 12, 2018

A Suffolk Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the Massachusetts Nurses Association that challenged the flu vaccination policy for employees at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Judge Anthony M. Campo said the nurses association did not have the standing to bring the suit, which questioned the legality of the hospital’s policy.

Brigham officials said last fall that employees must be vaccinated against the flu, unless they are granted exceptions for medical or religious reasons. Hospital workers who do not get the vaccine must wear face masks when they’re around patients.

In November, the court denied the union’s request for an injunction to immediately stop the policy from going into effect.

The nurses union represents about 3,400 nurses at the Brigham, one of the state’s largest hospitals.

Union leaders have argued that the mandatory vaccination policy goes too far. “To take away someone’s livelihood for a vaccine that [is not very] effective is an overreach,” spokesman David Schildmeier said.

He said the union is disappointed in the judge’s ruling and is considering whether to appeal.....


Senate bill would diminish banks’ mortgage disclosures Support among Senate Democrats helped lift the banking bill toward passage in a rare show of bipartisanship in Congress.

Tells you who really calls the shots in Congre$$ and exposes the phoniness of politics for all to see.

Central banks warned to weigh risks of virtual currencies

Fearing trade war, EU warns of protectionism ‘dead end’

You can "largely blame China."

"Not so sweet: Most Necco employees may face layoffs" by Katheleen Conti Globe Staff  March 12, 2018

Mass layoffs may be on the horizon at New England Confectionery Co. in Revere.

Necco chief executive Michael McGee notified the state and Revere Mayor Brian M. Arrigo that 395 workers — most of its workforce — could be laid off if the troubled candymaker cannot find a buyer.

McGee stated in the March 6 notice that the company “has been in ongoing negotiations with potential buyers to allow for its continued operations,” but that if a sale is not completed or if the company opts for layoffs, employees could be terminated as soon as 60 days from the date of the notice.

“We deeply regret and understand the uncertainty this action may cause our valued employees,” McGee said in the letter.

Employees who could be affected include cooks, hard candy makers, truck operators, various machine operators and attendants, and administrative positions — including the chief financial officer and chief executive.

The 830,000-square-foot building at 135 American Legion Highway was sold last year for nearly $55 million to Atlantic Management and VMD Cos. Its lease is set to end at the end of August. Necco, which has been making the classic Necco Wafers since 1847, as well as other sweets, remains Revere’s largest employer. As of 2011, Necco had roughly 500 employees.


That sucks.

"Jeffrey Immelt received $8.11 million in compensation for his final months running General Electric Co., even as the company stumbled through one of the most tumultuous stretches in its 126-year history. The former chief executive officer and chairman received $2.86 million in salary during 2017, GE said in a regulatory filing Monday. Immelt, 62, who stepped down as the top executive in August and from the board two months later, also got $1.87 million in perks, mostly relocation benefits. The remaining $3.37 million reflected a change in the value of his pension and deferred compensation. While GE had started to show signs of stress early last year, the company fell hard in the months after Immelt’s exit. New CEO John Flannery slashed the dividend, replaced many top managers, and announced deep cost cuts to help deal with cash-flow shortfalls and flagging demand for gas turbines, locomotives, and other industrial equipment. GE was the worst performing stock in the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2017, plunging 45 percent and losing $125 billion in market value. Immelt, who led GE for 16 years, exited with benefits and deferred shares worth about $100 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That included a pension of roughly $84 million and about $10 million in deferred compensation. He was recently named chairman of Athenahealth Inc."

Try to think of it as a reward for failure. 

"America’s gambling industry predicts $10 billion will be bet on the March Madness college basketball tournament — nearly all of it illegally or off-the-books. That’s one of the reasons the American Gaming Association favors the full legalization and regulation of sports betting in the United States. The group found 54 million people — or about a quarter of the U.S. adult population — participated in a sports betting pool last year. The US Supreme Court is weeks away from ruling on New Jersey’s challenge to a law limiting legal sports betting to just four states: Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon. AGA President Geoff Freeman says only 3 percent of the $10 billion the group predicts will be wagered on the games will be done through legal Nevada sports books."

Just a drop in the box, and there is a dark cloud hanging over this year's tournament.

Time to retire and let someone else be your valentine.