Friday, July 14, 2017

Trump's Trap

Far be it from me to have $ympathy For the Devil, but..... looks like the Saudis were set up:

"Tillerson comes up short in effort to resolve Qatar dispute" by Gardiner Harris New York Times  July 13, 2017

KUWAIT CITY — After three days of sipping tea with royalty on white couches in ornate palaces, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson left the Middle East on Thursday having failed to resolve a bitter dispute among regional allies.

How much longer will Rex keep the faith before resigning?

His last stop in his effort at shuttle diplomacy was in Doha, the capital of Qatar, where he consulted Thursday with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the emir of the tiny gas-rich country, about his meetings the day before with the Saudi-led coalition behind the embargo of Qatar — an action that threatens a variety of US priorities in the region.

A man of few words even among friends, Tillerson has been nearly mute in the presence of reporters during the trip, and he left for home without saying anything of consequence publicly about his negotiations.

A meeting Wednesday at the royal airport lounge in Jiddah with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir gave some hope of progress, as the two men huddled together for a long talk and then sat nearly knee-to-knee and simultaneously consulted their mobile phones, but Tillerson left Jiddah on Wednesday night without even attempting the usual tight-smiled announcements of incremental progress.

As he left Qatar on Thursday, Tillerson shook hands with Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Thani, the brother of the emir, who was overhead saying to Tillerson, “Hope to see you again under better circumstances.”

US administrations generally end with top officials less enamored with the Saudis than when their tenures began, and an accelerated version of that disillusionment now seems underway in the Trump administration.

President Trump’s exultant summit in Riyadh in May was a high point in relations between the two countries, but the Saudis’ decision two weeks later to abruptly cut off all land, air, and sea connections with Qatar — home to the largest US military facility in the Middle East — initially bewildered and has increasingly frustrated Tillerson.

You are reading this from the highest authority, the paper of record. Saved the best for first.

The Saudis and their allies said the embargo was intended to stop Qatar from funding terrorism. But this explanation persuaded almost no one at the State Department since the Saudis are widely believed to fund schools and groups around the world that encourage Islamic extremism; 15 of the 19 hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were Saudi, as was Osama bin Laden. 

When the pre$$ starts FLOGGING THEM WITH THAT you know they have been double-crossed! Trump seems to do that a lot (ask China about the two-faced stabs in the back).

Trump, though, has repeatedly trumpeted the Saudis’ view and openly sides with them in the dispute with Qatar.

On Tuesday, Tillerson signed an agreement with Qatar to curb and monitor that country’s funding of groups tied to terrorism. The agreement proved, Tillerson said, that the Qataris had leapfrogged their Persian Gulf rivals by being “the first to respond to President Trump’s challenge at the Riyadh summit to stop the funding of terrorism.”

The Saudis and their allies responded Wednesday with a blistering news release saying that the agreement was not enough, and that the embargo would not be lifted. The countries have demanded that Qatar shut down the news network Al Jazeera, close a Turkish military base and downgrade ties with Iran.

Why would they now want to bite the hand that is protecting them?

This was a dumb move. The Saudis stepped right into a pile of camel dung on this.

Unlike all of his modern predecessors, Tillerson brought a rump contingent of two reporters on his plane; the rest of the journalists who cover the secretary of state had to fly commercially to the region in hopes of watching his progress.

Please stop complaining about the treatment you are getting from an administration you despise.

And although he allowed photographers to chronicle his meetings at the beginning of each, he did not hold a single news conference or background briefing during the trip, as was once routine with previous secretaries of state.

Well, I tried, and just be thankful you were along for the ride.

Part of the reason a deal could not be reached may have something to do with Trump’s embrace of King Salman of Saudi Arabia; the president’s support is thought to have given the kingdom the confidence to start and then stick by the embargo regardless of Tillerson’s increasingly urgent and frustrated pleadings.

Whether the ongoing dispute between Qatar and the other US allies in the Persian Gulf has strategic consequences may become clear as soon as next week, when representatives from more than 70 countries united against the Islamic State will convene in Washington to discuss how to rebuild and govern Mosul and other areas of Iraq newly liberated from the group’s control.

The Trump administration, which has refused to engage in nation building, is hoping to rally a united Arab world to undertake the huge effort, but as the Qatar crisis demonstrates, such unity may be difficult to achieve.

Neither did the last two guys, but I didn't see any complaining coming from on high then.


The AmeriKan pre$$ version of coffee (as opposed to tea):

"With a push from Trump’s envoy, Israel and the Palestinians make a water deal" by William Booth Washington Post  July 13, 2017

JERUSALEM — President Trump’s Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, on Thursday announced a water-sharing agreement between Israel and the Palestinians that will provide additional supply to the parched populations in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip.

The deal is part of a larger, previously announced plan to draw salty water from the Red Sea to a massive desalination plant, which will then move fresh water via pipeline to Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians.

The undrinkable brine will be used to help replenish and restore the Dead Sea, which is slowly disappearing.

I know this is probably some filtered pos, but if any semblance is true then Trump's team should be commended.

Greenblatt’s mediation on the water deal was the first fruit of the Trump team’s effort to see if it can bring Israel and the Palestinians back to peace negotiations. The agreement to provide more water to the Palestinians, at a reduced rate, is also designed to build some trust between the antagonists.

Then why did they cut the power to Gaza?

Israel will begin to provide the extra water to the West Bank and Gaza Strip now. The supplies will eventually come from a desalination plant linked to Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline, to be completed in four or five years.

What did they have them on, thirst rations (answer is yes; what was allowed through was just enough to keep them all hungry)?

Greenblatt, who has been taking meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called the water deal ‘‘an important step forward.’’

The question is, will Abass be along?

Trump’s envoy declined to answer any questions at the news conference here about how his effort to renew peace negotiations are going.

Mazin Ghunaim, head of the Palestinian Water Authority, said the increased supply of water ‘‘will reduce the suffering of the Palestinian people, which has been worsened by the beginning of summer and the crises that they are living through.’’

About one-third of the additional supply will go to Gaza, ‘‘where more than 97 percent of the water is not drinkable,’’ he said. 

I'm staggered by that (war crime? It's a civilian population). 

Then again, I don't want to complain and have Israel shut off the spigot.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Israel’s minister of regional cooperation, said that after years of stalemates, the Red Sea project will now go forward. He thanked both Greenblatt and the Palestinians. He called the desalination and pipeline venture the ‘‘biggest, most ambitious project ever initiated in our area.’’

‘‘It will supply a significant amount of water to Jordan, to Israel, and to the Palestinians. It will help us challenge the biggest problem the Dead Sea is facing — the evaporation of a meter a year — and it will also harness green energy,’’ Hanegbi said.


No sooner was the water turned on than:

Two officers killed in attack near in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

Meanwhile, on the other side of the country:

Gunmen kill 5 policemen near Egypt’s oldest pyramid in Giza

Oh, I'm sorry, I thought that said Gaza.


"2 female suicide bombers in Cameroon kill at least 15" Associated Press  July 14, 2017

YAOUNDE, Cameroon — At least 15 people were killed as two female suicide bombers carried out the latest attack in Cameroon’s far north, the government said Thursday, and another 42 people were wounded.

The attackers entered the town of Waza late Wednesday and one detonated explosives near a group of youths, Governor Midjiyawa Bakary said.

Nigeria-based Boko Haram extremists have been crossing borders to stage attacks in countries, including Cameroon, that contribute to a military force that seeks to eliminate the insurgency. The Islamic extremists have killed more than 20,000 people in their eight-year existence and abducted thousands of others.

Boko Haram increasingly has used girls and young women to carry out attacks on marketplaces, checkpoints and other targets. Some young women who escaped the extremist group have said girls are drugged and forced to carry out suicide missions.

The attacks in Cameroon’s far north, the poorest part of the country, have been a factor in returning 13,000 Nigerian refugees who had fled Boko Haram back to their nation.

The suicide attacks, roadside bombings, and raids on villages also have been ‘‘complicating humanitarian operations and subjecting civilians to persistent danger,’’ the UN humanitarian agency said.

The Boko Haram-fueled crisis is part of what the UN has called the largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years, with millions facing hunger.



"MIT postdoc associate accused of insider trading" by Lauren Feiner Globe Correspondent  July 13, 2017

“Want to Commit Insider Trading? Here’s How Not to Do It.” That was the title of an article a MIT postdoctoral associate allegedly read shortly before he used confidential information to buy stock options that federal prosecutors say made him nearly $120,000.

Fei Yan, 31, was arrested in his Cambridge home Wednesday morning on charges of insider trading. He turned his illegal profit by purchasing and selling options in Stillwater Mining Co. and Mattress Firm Holding Corp., according to complaints filed by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Yan was released on a $500,000 unsecured bond after a hearing in Boston federal court on Wednesday. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Authorities say Yan’s wife, through her work as an attorney, obtained information about impending acquisitions involving Stillwater and Mattress Firm. The complaints do not name her or her employer, but London-based Linklaters confirmed a Reuters report that Yan’s wife worked there.

“We will continue to cooperate fully with the authorities on this matter, and the relevant associate has been suspended, pending further investigation, without access to the firm’s systems and confidential information,” Linklaters said in a statement.

Yan’s wife was allegedly working on acquisitions involving Mattress Firm and Stillwater in 2016, during the period when Fei Yan began buying stock options in the two firms. Linklaters represented Steinhoff International Holdings NV, which in August 2016 said it was buying Mattress Firm. It also worked with Sibanye Gold Limited of South Africa, which announced its acquisition of Stillwater in December of last year.

The complaints allege that Yan opened an account in his mother’s name at a brokerage firm in June 2016 to use for trading purposes. Federal officials say he purchased 300 shares of Mattress Firm and about 700 call options for Stillwater, which he sold on the first trading day following each acquisition announcement. The SEC alleges Yan made over $9,700 from his Mattress Firm shares and almost $110,000 from the Stillwater call options.

The day that Stillwater’s acquisition by Sibanye Gold was made public, Yan allegedly searched online for “insider trading cases” and “insider trading options.” Three days before, he’d searched, “how sec detect unusual trade,” the complaints allege.

Yan, who is a Chinese citizen, is charged with two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison and as much as $5 million in fines for the security fraud charges, and 20 years in prison and up to a $250,000 fine for the wire fraud charge.


Also seeLiu, Chinese dissident who won Nobel while jailed, dies at 61

Was my print top World story, may he RIP.

Nothing about North Korea today, thank God.


US doctor says treatment ‘worth trying’ in UK sick baby case

The Pope should be attending another $ickne$$:

"Two Ex-Officials of Vatican-Run Hospital Charged with Misusing Money" New York Times News Service  July 14, 2017

ROME — Two former officials of a Vatican-owned children’s hospital were charged Thursday with misappropriating nearly a half-million dollars for the renovation of the luxurious apartment of Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s second in command under Pope Benedict XVI.

The officials — Giuseppe Profiti, the former president of the Bambino Gesù pediatric hospital, and Massimo Spina, its former treasurer — were ordered to stand trial in a Vatican court on July 18.

His name is Profiti? How prophetic.

The indictments — with their indirect connection to Bertone, arguably the most powerful internal player during the last pontificate — were yet another sign of Pope Francis’ efforts to root out corruption in the church’s baroque bureaucracy. 

And another reason Benedict abdicated.

Francis, who has sought to embody his message of modesty in the Vatican by eschewing the option of living in the frescoed Apostolic Palace in favor of the simpler Santa Marta residence, has sought to increase financial transparency in a walled city-state not known for open business practices.

The Vatican is up to its neck in money laundering as well, so..... don't expect anything here.

This year, the Vatican announced an investigation into the misuse of 422,000 euros, or about $483,000, after revelations by Emiliano Fittipaldi, an Italian journalist and the author of the book “Greed.”

Bertone, who appointed Profiti, has not been charged in connection with the rerouted hospital funds, and the Vatican has said he is not under investigation. Francis removed the cardinal from power in 2013.

Bertone’s apartment renovation included high-tech sound systems and white Carrara marble.


Meanwhile, Rome burns:

"Tourists flee wildfires in Sicily in tense evacuation by sea" Associated Press  July 14, 2017

MILAN — Tourists at a resort in Sicily faced wildfires that turned their day at the beach into an emergency evacuation by sea, with many fleeing the flames in just their bathing suits and flip flops.

Wildfires fueled by heat and winds have been blazing across much of southern Italy, forcing the evacuation of some 800 tourists from the Calampiso resort in Vito Lo Capo near Trapani, Sicily.

About 20 people had to leave an island off Puglia and some 50 families were whisked away from Mount Vesuvius south of Naples.

Authorities say the number of blazes — 125 are active in Sicily alone — suggest some are tied to arson, and Italy’s environment minister did not rule out Mafia involvement in the blazes in an interview in the Corriere della Sera.

Gian Luca Galletti was quoted by Corriere as saying that there were too many fires on Mount Vesuvius for them to be spontaneous, joining voices who say the Mafia appears to be behind many of the blazes.

We call those conspiracy kooks over here. I remember one time in California a community stood up against a Blackwater training school, and next thing you knew the area was ablaze.

Of course, the Italians do know about false flags and other untoward doings of the state.

‘‘I don’t have proof, but it does not seem to be an isolated action or chance. Three ignition points are too many to be the result of carelessness or combustion,’’ Galletti said.

Around noon, the wind shifted and resort guests in Sicily were told to immediately move their cars to safer ground. They were told to gather on the beach for evacuation because the road to a nearby town was no longer safe.



"In 1921, Italian-born anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were convicted in Dedham of murdering a shoe company paymaster and his guard. (Sacco and Vanzetti were executed six years later.)" 

Weren't they later found to be innocent

Certainly wouldn't be the first time here regarding AmeriKa Ju$tu$.

Better get back to Britain:

"A year after vote, UK unveils bill to make Brexit a reality" by Jill Lawless Associated Press  July 13, 2017

LONDON — The government says the bill will ensure continuity — law on the day after Brexit will be the same as on the day before, but opponents of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government fear the legislation gives officials powers to change laws without sufficient scrutiny by lawmakers. They worry the government could water down environmental standards, employment laws, or other measures brought to Britain through EU law since it joined the bloc in 1973.

Contentiously, the bill gives the government powers to fix ‘‘deficiencies’’ in EU law by what’s known as statutory instruments, which can be used without the parliamentary scrutiny usually needed to make or amend legislation. Such powers are often referred to as ‘‘Henry VIII powers’’ after the Tudor king’s bid to legislate by proclamation. 

Some would call that..... (gasp)..... dictatorship!

Civil liberties groups are concerned. Amnesty International and Liberty said the bill ‘‘gives ministers vague and broad powers that could be used to erode our rights and freedoms without proper scrutiny by those elected to protect them.’’

They already are eroding. Just look up at the camera and smile!

The bill is not expected to face debate in Parliament until the fall, and May’s minority government — weakened after a battering in last month’s general election — faces a fight.

She may not last that long, and by that I mean they dump her before then.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said getting the bill passed would be ‘‘hell’’ and predicted the government faced ‘‘a parliamentary version of guerrilla warfare.’’

Andrew Blick, a politics lecturer at King’s College London, said such executive powers are ‘‘a very sensitive subject’’ and likely to face opposition. ‘‘The issue Theresa May is going to face is that if she makes concessions she could face rebellion from the more fervent euroskeptics in her party — and if she doesn’t, there’s a risk of rebellion from another direction,’’ said Blick. ‘‘And if she’s really unlucky she’ll get both.’’

Well, if anyone knows how to handle and put those down it's the British.

The powers are temporary, expiring two years after Brexit day. Even so, Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon branded the bill a ‘‘naked power grab.’’

Not so naked if you can see it.


Been seduced yet?

"A Serbian appeals court on Thursday halted a landmark trial against eight former Bosnian Serb police officers charged with taking part in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre — another legal hurdle in the Balkan state’s struggle to come to terms with its wartime past....."

Just wondering when my nation will come to grips with its wartime past -- and present.

"Five Men Who Killed Putin Foe Are Sentenced in Russia" New York Times News Service  July 14, 2017

MOSCOW — The former Chechen security services officer convicted of gunning down opposition leader Boris Nemtsov a few steps away from the Kremlin was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison, and four accomplices were sentenced to serve between 11 and 19 years behind bars.

Nemtsov was assassinated shortly before midnight on Feb. 27, 2015, as he and his girlfriend were walking home across a bridge that links Red Square with a residential neighborhood.

The prosecutors in the case had asked the court to sentence the gunman, Zaur Dadayev, who was convicted last month, to life in prison. They said Thursday that they might appeal the judge’s decision.

A jury found Dadayev, an officer in the security services of the Kremlin-backed Chechen leader Ramzan A. Kadyrov, and four accomplices guilty, but Nemtsov’s family and his supporters have said the people who ordered the killing remain at large.

The killing of Nemtsov, a charismatic opposition leader who antagonized the Kremlin, was the most prominent political murder in Russia since Vladimir Putin came to power in 1999.

So what are you trying to say, NYT?


"Uber is ceding control of the Russian market by agreeing to merge its ride-hailing business in the country with Yandex, the Russian search-engine leader that also runs a popular taxi-booking app. For Uber, the deal marks the exit from another big market after it sold its operations in China last year to local rival Didi Chuxing. Yandex said in a statement on Thursday that Uber and Yandex Taxi would combine into a new company in Russia as well as in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan."

Can they get the Globe to the peace talks so they can cover them?


Finally, it is below the fold today:

"Trump Jr.’s e-mails pressure GOP to act on Russia" by Victoria McGrane Globe Staff  July 13, 2017

WASHINGTON — The latest bombshell revelations in President Trump’s ongoing Russia scandal are ramping up pressure on House Republicans to vote on a Russian sanctions package.

Oh, so that's what all this is.

The bipartisan bill, which passed the Senate 98-2 a month ago, has been bogged down by partisan squabbling in the House, but the revelation of e-mails that President Trump’s eldest son knowingly, and enthusiastically, met with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has added urgency to the issue and directed a spotlight on House Speaker Paul Ryan’s explanations for what is taking so long.

Whatever happened to the investigation into all of Clinton's e-mails, and where did Weiner's laptop end up?

While Democrats believe Republicans are dragging their feet at the request of the White House, Ryan said it is simply stalled because of procedural issues that need to be cleared up. “I’m a Russia hawk,” he told reporters Wednesday morning when asked about the bill.

Regardless, the optics right now are bad for Ryan — particularly bad in the wake of e-mails showing Donald Trump Jr. welcomed help from a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton — “For House Republicans wanting distance from the Russia mess . . . I have an idea: pass the new sanctions law,” tweeted Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014.....

All this noise to get them to biparti$anly pass the Russian sanctions bill.

Steny Hoyer thinks “protecting [Trump] from oversight is dangerous to our country,” after having passed on such things the last 8 years under Obama.

How many impeachable alphabet scandals were there, anyway? NSA, IRS, VA, DEA, EPA, I'm sure I'm missing a bunch more.


Surprised to see this on page A8, especially since it was breaking news on the networks:

"Mr. Macron and Mr. Trump have had an unusual relationship, characterized in public primarily by a few forceful, awkward handshakes — particularly their first, which Mr. Macron made clear was an effort to show the American president that he could not be bullied.

For the embattled American president, trips overseas — the visit to France will be his third abroad in two months — have been a surprising pleasure, a reprieve from days filled with cable news coverage of the Russia investigation, and swirling questions of whether his campaign aides worked in concert with the foreign power.

I don't watch the news channels. 

Well, that's not entirely true. I do tune into the BBC once in a while for the 6 pm news.

For Mr. Macron, who took office in May, the visit is a chance to establish himself, if only by default, as Mr. Trump’s first point of contact in Western Europe, at a time when Britain is distracted by its plans to leave the European Union, and Germany is focused on its national elections in the fall.

It is an unlikely partnership, given Mr. Trump’s stated admiration for Marine Le Pen, the far-right populist whom Mr. Macron defeated in May, and the leaders’ radically different worldviews. Mr. Macron is a pro-European technocrat who admires Silicon Valley, while Mr. Trump is an “America First” nationalist who is skeptical of multilateral institutions like the European Union.

That's where my print copy of the Globe cut it.

Mr. Trump’s visit to Paris began with an airport arrival ceremony. He then attended a meeting with troops at the American ambassador’s residence while Melania Trump, the first lady, toured the Necker children’s hospital.

“I always say how important it is to have, you know, teachers in children’s lives,” Mrs. Trump said. “It’s the most important. They see them every day and spend so much time. It’s very important in the child’s life.”

“You look very good. Very strong,” Mrs. Trump told a 14-year-old girl in a wheelchair. “One day you will be walking and running.”

At the ambassador’s residence, Mr. Trump joined a lunch that was also attended by Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director; Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser; and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president also addressed military personnel and their families, before departing for the Hôtel National des Invalides, a sprawling patchwork of museums that includes the tomb of the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. 

He was one of those, you know, and here is Trump with his entourage of generals.

At one point when the two presidential couples were together, Mr. Trump told Mrs. Macron, “You’re in such good shape.” 

He hit on Macron's mother, 'er, wife?

Actually, maybe they could swap. The ages would then align better.

Later, the two leaders had a meeting at the Élysée, the presidential palace, followed by the joint news conference. The men capped the day with a dinner at Le Jules Verne, the elite, blue-lobster-serving restaurant ensconced in the Eiffel Tower.

That meal was something of a surprise, considering Mr. Trump’s fondness for ketchup-doused steak and cheeseburgers.....

The rest is obessessed with DJT Jr. and eagerness to get dirt on the Clintons (I'm shocked, shocked, that an AmeriKan political campaign would do such things. Now if you will excuse me I need to take a pee and dossier it).



"On July 14, 1789, in an event symbolizing the start of the French Revolution, citizens of Paris stormed the Bastille prison and released the seven prisoners inside.

In 1798, Congress passed the Sedition Act, making it a federal crime to publish false, scandalous, or malicious writing about the United States government.

In 1881, outlaw William H. Bonney Jr., alias ‘‘Billy the Kid,’’ was shot and killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner in present-day New Mexico.

In 1980, the Republican national convention opened in Detroit, where nominee-apparent Ronald Reagan told a welcoming rally he and his supporters were determined to ‘‘make America great again.’’

Last year, terror struck Bastille Day celebrations in the French Riviera city of Nice as a large truck plowed into a festive crowd, killing 86 people in an attack claimed by Islamic State extremists; the driver was shot dead by police."

President Trump attends Bastille Day parade as guest of honor

Not everywhere:

"The lack of specifics in Trump’s plans was also a problem for the CBO. It said that in many cases where Trump’s policy initiatives lacked details, its analysts had to use place-holder figures....."

In other words, it's the same crap as yesterday.

Trump’s nothing-burger is actually a supersized double whopper

See if you can choke that down without laughing.

It takes a trip to Paris to ask Trump a question

Whine, whine, whine. 

I don't blame him for not wanting to talk to them.

‘Let the chips fall where they may’ on Russia probe, Scott Brown says

How ominous.

Two national monuments are no longer up for review

Elevator trouble closes Washington Monument indefinitely

It's the latest in a series of woes and they don’t know exactly what’s wrong.

Judge expands list of relatives exempted from travel ban

The taking of Francisco Rodriguez

He was a janitor at MIT, and it's good to see the Globe take up the Iranian cause, too.

Jimmy Carter treated for dehydration at Canadian hospital

The guy is cutting wood at 92?

GOP operative Peter W. Smith took his own life in Minnesota 

Looks like he got Seth Riched.

So what does the money say?

"Banks and technology companies led US stocks to modest gains Thursday, pushing the Dow Jones industrial average to its second record in two days. Big retail chains and other consumer-focused stocks were among the gainers. Energy companies rose as the price of crude oil increased. Phone companies and utilities lagged the market. The major indexes are all on pace to end the week with gains. Trading was mostly subdued for much of the day as investors weighed new economic data on applications for unemployment benefits and prices at the wholesale level. Overall, investors were focused on the coming wave of corporate earnings. Banks and other financials stocks posted the largest gains. T. Rowe Price Group added 4.8 percent, Goldman Sachs Group rose 1.3 percent, and Morgan Stanley picked up 1.2 percent. On Friday, several big banks, including Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo release their second-quarter results. PayPal gained 2.4 percent. Several large retailers had a good day. Macy’s rose 4.1 percent. Investors cheered Target’s latest quarterly outlook. The retailer raised its second-quarter forecasts and said sales and customer traffic increased. The stock gained 4.8 percent....."


"Fewer Americans applied for jobless aid last week, as the number of people seeking benefits has stayed near historic lows pointing to a robust job marketthe Labor Department said Thursday....."

I'm sure there is another side to the story.

"An Airbnb host who canceled a reservation and told the guest, ‘‘One word says it all. Asian,’’ has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and attend a college course in Asian-American studies, officials with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said Thursday. The guest, Dyne Suh, had booked the home as part of a ski trip with her fiancé and friends in Big Bear in February. When she was close to the house, Suh messaged host Tami Barker through the Airbnb app, but the host canceled the reservation after a dispute over additional guests. Barker told Suh in a series of messages that she wouldn’t rent to her if she were the last person on Earth. ‘‘One word says it all. Asian,’’ one message said. When Suh told Barker that she would complain to Airbnb, Barker wrote, ‘‘It’s why we have Trump . . . I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.’’

That means war, and thus the loser -- some cartoon character.

Now they are telling us Trump has an imaginary friend.


He better get to a doctor then:

"Senate GOP leaders unveil health care bill to try winning over skeptics" by Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan New York Times   July 13, 2017

WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders on Thursday unveiled a fresh proposal to repeal and replace the health care law.

The new bill would convert Medicaid from an open-ended entitlement to a system of fixed payments to states, but in the event of a public health emergency, state Medicaid spending in a particular part of a state would not be counted toward the spending limits, known as per capita caps.

In a departure from current law, the bill would allow insurers, under certain conditions, to offer health plans that did not comply with standards in the Affordable Care Act. Under that law, insurers sell regulated health plans through a public insurance exchange in each state.

A summary of majority leader, Mitch McConnell’s bill, circulating on Capitol Hill, describes his proposal this way: If an insurer offered “sufficient minimum coverage” on the exchange that remains subject to federal mandates in the Affordable Care Act, it could also offer coverage outside the exchange that would be exempt from many of those mandates.

Policies that comply with the health care act would provide more extensive coverage but would also attract sicker people with higher medical costs. To address this concern, the GOP bill would create a fund to make payments to insurers for the costs of covering high-risk people enrolled in health plans on the exchanges.

Senator Ted Cruz, Republican from Texas, has pushed to allow stripped-down plans, and he called the inclusion of the provision “very encouraging.”

“I think we’re making serious progress towards coming together and unifying our conference and getting a bill that can command the support of at least 50 senators and pass into law,” Cruz said on the radio station KFYI.

“I think failing to get this done would be really catastrophic,” he added, “and I don’t think any of the Republican senators want to see failure come out of this.”

You have to hand it to McConnell, he is a master. He understands the Senate and its rules, and the fact that he could conceivably get something like this passed shows how lucky Republicans are to have him as leader. He puts Reid to shame. Frankly, I'm a little in awe of the guy right now.

People who enroll in catastrophic health insurance plans would be eligible for federal tax credits to help pay premiums. Such plans typically have lower premiums and high deductibles. But under the current health care law, consumers generally cannot use the tax credits for such plans.

The bill would, for the first time, allow people to use tax-favored health savings accounts to pay insurance premiums. Republicans said this policy change would increase health care coverage.

The tax credits and savings accounts don't mean much to most of us.

The bill also provides $45 billion to help combat the opioid abuse crisis — a provision that is particularly important to two Republican senators who opposed the previous version of the bill, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

I'll partake of that below.

But the revised bill is broadly similar to the earlier measure that Senate leaders hoped to vote on before the Fourth of July recess, though the new version includes some additional provisions meant to entice reluctant Republican senators with varying policy concerns.

“It appears that little has changed at the core of the bill,” the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said on the Senate floor. “The Republican Trumpcare bill still slashes Medicaid. The cuts are every bit as Draconian as they were in the previous version — a devastating blow to rural hospitals, to Americans in nursing homes, to those struggling with opioid addiction and so many more.” 

I hear some buzzing, what is that?

Like the previous bill, it would end the requirement that most Americans have health coverage, and it would make deep cuts to Medicaid, capping payments to states and rolling back its expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Though some Republican senators expressed concern about how the previous bill would affect Medicaid, Senate leaders stuck with the same approach in the new version.

In a notable change, the bill would keep the two taxes imposed by the health care law on people with high incomes: the 3.8 percent tax on investment income and the 0.9 percent payroll tax. The taxes apply to individuals with income over $200,000 and couples with income over $250,000. 

I'm $tunned.

Both of those taxes would have been repealed under the previous Senate bill, reducing federal revenue by about $231 billion over a decade, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Republicans expect that an analysis of the new bill will be released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office early next week.

McConnell has said he intends to take up the revised bill next week, although it is unclear if he would try to move ahead if he did not know for sure whether he had the votes to begin debate — or to ultimately pass the bill....

If I were Republican, I couldn't think of safer hands to be in.


You know, despite all their problems, the Republicans are obviously better positioned than the Democrats.

"US says taxpayers lost $1.3 billion in health care fraud cases" by Tom Schoenberg and David McLaughlin Bloomberg  July 13, 2017

More than four hundred people were charged in a sweeping crackdown on health care fraud that cost taxpayers $1.3 billion, in part through bogus treatment programs that contributed to the country’s opioid epidemic, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday. 

That's why I question the money.

Sessions called the nationwide takedown the largest in US history, with doctors and other individuals charged for improperly prescribing and distributing opioids and other narcotics and billing Medicaid and Medicare.

Of the 412 people charged, 56 were doctors and 120 cases were related to opioids, Sessions said. Arrests were made in cities including Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Miami, as well as in southern Florida, which is home to hundreds of residential drug addiction treatment centers.

If you can't have faith in the health $y$tem.... sigh.

“Too many trusted medical professionals like doctors and nurses and pharmacists have chosen to violate their oaths and put greed ahead of their patients,” said Sessions, speaking at a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington. “Amazingly, some have made the practices into multimillion dollar criminal enterprises. They seem oblivious to the disastrous consequences of their greed.”

He's discovered the pharmaceutical indu$try!

Federal prosecutors, some of whom have been working on cases for a year or more, were directed to accelerate their efforts in time for Thursday’s announcement, a person familiar with the matter said. The Government Accountability Office did an investigation and found last year that the sign-up process for the Affordable Care Act exchanges was “vulnerable to fraud.”


More than 500,000 people received high amounts of opioid painkillers out of the 43.6 million who were signed up for Medicare’s optional prescription drug benefit last year, according to a report on opioid use released Thursday by the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, which investigates waste, fraud, and abuse in government health programs, including Medicare and Medicaid. A high amount is considered equivalent to 12 Vicodin 10 milligram tablets or 16 Percocet 5 milligram pills a day for at least three months.

The report also identified 401 doctors who had questionable prescribing practices and were either giving opioids to patients who already received a high number or those who appeared to be doctor shopping. Those doctors wrote a total of 256,260 opioid prescriptions at risk of abusing the painkillers, costing Medicare $66.5 million. Oxycodone was the most commonly prescribed opioid.

More than 33,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. About 19,000 of those deaths are linked to heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The overdose numbers are typically updated at the end of the year.

Southern Florida has the biggest concentration of residential treatment centers in the country — hundreds are based mainly in single-family homes in and around Delray Beach, a small town in Palm Beach County, north of Miami. A December 2016 grand jury report commissioned by the State Attorney for Palm Beach County found addiction treatment centers to be rife with operators who use deceptive marketing, illegal patient brokering, and fraudulent insurance claims to profit from addicts

Then all those TV commercials morning, noon, and night, are a scam? 

The actor looks like he has so much concern and compassion!

Fraudulent claims became so rampant that Cigna Corp., the fourth-biggest US health insurer, quit Florida’s Obamacare market in the fall of 2015, ahead of the sign-up period for 2016 plans. At the time, the company blamed fraudulent and abusive practices by drug-treatment centers for driving up its costs.



"A Massachusetts woman on Thursday admitted to her role in a 17-year-old girl’s fatal heroin overdose in a Rochester, N.H., motel room in 2015. Leslie Aberle, 33, of Salisbury pleaded guilty in federal court in New Hampshire to a drug conspiracy charge stemming from the death of Evangelique Tarmey, the office of Acting US Attorney John J. Farley said in a statement. A codefendant, Mark Ross, 42, received a 20-year prison term in October. Prosecutors said Aberle drove Ross and Tarmey from Rochester to Lawrence on Oct. 16, 2015, so they could obtain heroin, and the three later returned to the Riviera Motel, where Ross was staying with Tarmey and her mother, Jazzmyn Rood. Ross provided some of the heroin to Tarmey, who was found dead in the room the following morning, the statement said. The state medical examiner determined that Tarmey died of acute fentanyl intoxication. Aberle is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 22. A plea agreement calls for both sides to recommend a 5-year prison term, prosecutors said. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office is dedicated to working with our law enforcement partners to combat the distribution of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs,” Farley said in the statement. “Fentanyl and other opioids are responsible for the deaths of far too many citizens of the Granite State. We will continue to work each day with our law enforcement partners to prosecute those who are distributing these drugs in New Hampshire.” Michael J. Ferguson, special agent in charge of the New England division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in the same release that opioid abuse remains at “epidemic levels” in the Granite State. He said his agency is “committed to aggressively [pursuing] anyone who distributes these poisons in order to profit and destroy people’s lives. This investigation demonstrates the strength and continued commitment of our local, state and federal law enforcement partners.” 

SeeRood Awakening 

That's not nice.

RelatedWorse than jail: Addicts civilly committed say DOC abused them and failed to treat them

Then there are other kinds of addicts:

"Sheldon Silver’s 2015 corruption conviction is overturned" by Benjamin Weiser New York Times   July 13, 2017

NEW YORK — A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned the 2015 corruption conviction of Sheldon Silver, the once-powerful New York State Assembly speaker who obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking official actions that benefited others, according to evidence presented at his trial.

In vacating Silver’s conviction, the appellate court cited a US Supreme Court ruling last year involving Bob McDonnell, a former Republican governor of Virginia, that narrowed the definition of the kind of official conduct that can serve as the basis of a corruption prosecution.

The Court basically legalized official corruption in that case.

The US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in Manhattan concluded, in light of the Supreme Court’s narrower definition, that the jury instructions given by the judge in Silver’s trial were erroneous and that a properly instructed jury might not have convicted him.

“We recognize that many would view the facts adduced at Silver’s trial with distaste,” Judge José A. Cabranes wrote for a unanimous three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit. “The question presented to us, however, is not how a jury would likely view the evidence presented by the government. Rather, it is whether it is clear, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a rational jury, properly instructed, would have found Silver guilty.”

That's all the print 30 pieces of silver would buy.

“Given the teachings of the Supreme Court in McDonnell,” Cabranes added, “and the particular circumstances of this case, we simply cannot reach that conclusion.” 

What are they, Jedi or Sith?

Federal prosecutors quickly vowed to retry the case, but it was nonetheless a startling development that burnished Silver’s reputation as a man whose resilience and influence in New York seemed to know no bounds.

Silver, a 73-year-old Democrat from Manhattan, served for more than two decades as Assembly speaker. He was convicted Nov. 30, 2015, of honest services fraud, extortion, and money laundering in one of the most prominent corruption trials in New York City in decades.

Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison by the judge, Valerie E. Caproni, but he was allowed to remain free pending his appeal. He forfeited his Assembly seat upon conviction.

At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Silver had obtained payments in return for actions taken on behalf of a prominent cancer researcher, Dr. Robert N. Taub of Columbia University, and two real estate developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group.

Joon H. Kim, the acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that although his office was disappointed by the ruling, “we respect it, and look forward to retrying to case.”

“We look forward to presenting to another jury the evidence of decades-long corruption by one of the most powerful politicians in New York state history,” Kim said. “Although it will be delayed, we do not expect justice to be denied.” 

I thought they got rid of Tammany Hall.

Preet Bharara, the former US attorney who had brought the case, and was later fired by the Trump administration, posted on Twitter: “The evidence was strong. The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be retried and re-convicted.”

Although the court found error in the jury instructions, it said it had found no merit in Silver’s argument that the evidence against him was insufficient for a conviction.

“We are grateful the court saw it our way and reversed the conviction on all counts,” said Steven F. Molo, one of Silver’s lawyers, of the ruling. 

It was on a technicality!

Cabranes’s appellate opinion was joined by Judges Richard C. Wesley and William K. Sessions III.



Elizabeth Warren raised $3.5 million in second quarter

The Massachusetts Democrat has built up her 2018 war chest to more than $11 million.

Also see: 

Kid Rock hints at potential US Senate run in Michigan

Lawmakers reach initial deal to expand GI education bill
Bella Preister of Omaha hugs her father, Major Jeremy Preister, as he steps off a bus to a welcoming ceremony in Lincoln on Thursday. About 90 Nebraska Army National Guard soldiers, members of the 1st Infantry Division Main Command Post-Operational Detachment, met their families for the first time after spending the past nine months deployed in Iraq.


Yikes, waterworks for me, too.

Nothing more to report from Afghanistan or Iraq today, either.

Talk about two traps, 'eh?