Sunday, May 28, 2017

No Honor--Trump Steals Family Seal

At the Trump National Golf Club outside Washington, which hosted the Senior PGA. Championship this weekend, the president’s coat of arms is everywhere-- but it turns out the coat of arms was ripped off from a Welsh family and Trump is not even allowed to use it over in the U.K.

The British are known to take matters of heraldry seriously-- the seal was granted by British authorities in 1939 to Joseph Edward Davies, the third husband of Marjorie Merriweather Post.  Joseph D. Tydings, a Democrat and former United States senator from Maryland who is the grandson of Davies, learned that Trump was using the emblem without permission when he visited Mar-a-Lago.  The copied version of the family seal is identical, except for the word "Integrity", which was ironically eliminated and replaced with the name "Trump"

Trump thad ride to bring the American version to Scotland a decade ago. He used the emblem on promotional materials when he started marketing a new golf course development in Aberdeenshire, on Scotland’s east coast. But the materials ran afoul of the coat-of-arms authorities in Scotland.

The College of Arms, which oversees coats of arms in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, provided more detail. The emblem originally submitted in 2007 by Trump to Britain’s trademark office matched one that had been granted to the Davies, an American of Welsh descent who once served as ambassador to the Soviet Union. The trademark was denied.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Flash Mob Protests Trump Golf Course

A California grassroots protest group had a flash of inspiration: Members would scurry onto an open space near Donald Trump’s National Golf Course in Rancho Palos Verdes and arrange themselves to spell out “RESIST!”

The Saturday action by Indivisible San Pedro — whose members sometimes refer to themselves as “The Indivisibles” — went off without a hitch. Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies showed up, but the protest was peaceful and broke no laws. While the 30-foot-tall “letters” look like they’re in the center of Trump’s coastal golf course — and close to the clubhouse — they were actually created by some 200 protesters in a small park connected to the grounds. The California Coastal Commission, which guards public access to the Pacific Ocean, protects the park from encroachment from the golf course.

Organizers planned the strike to be lightning-fast. “We wanted an element of surprise,” said retired journalist and Indivisible group member Peter Martin. “By the time the Trump people figured out what we were doing, we’d be gone.”

The group studied public access and parking, and learned they didn’t need a permit for their protest. They met with a member of the Coastal Commission who told them they absolutely had a First Amendment right to protest at the spot, said Martin.

Theater professional and group member Melanie Jones planned out most of the logistics, said Martin. She calculated how many people — two deep and lying down — it would take to make each letter “tall” enough to be easily filmed by a hired drone. The group practiced forming letters during one of its weekly meetings.

Participants were told to be at the site at 9 a.m. and wearing white. They gathered at different picnic tables to meet with their specific “letter captain.” The entire letter-creating operation took about 15 minutes, and people sang “God Bless America” as they lay in their human “Resist” message, Martin said. Then they were out of there.

“We had a good time,” said Martin.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Breaking: Trump Fires FBI Director

In a shocking development, Donald Trump has fired FBI Director Comey.  No one saw it coming-- apparently it was in the works for about a week between Jeff Sessions and the White House.  Many have commented on whether it was appropriate for Sessions (who had recused himself from the Russian investigation) to be involved in the removal of the man actually running the Russian investigation.

In a total weasel move, Trump's letter didn't state his personal reasons for making the decision, but rather shifted the blame to a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (presumably Jeff Sessions was too stupid to write it).   Even worse, Trump didn't have the balls to call Comey himself to deliver the news--- Comey found out when the news of his firing came over CNN on a TV in a conference room where he was speaking to FBI employees in the Los Angeles field office.  In a move that demonstrated how personal this was for Trump, he had the letter delivered to the FBI building by his personal bodyguard (Keith Schiller) instead of the White House Counsel or Chief of Staff.  People are even speculating that the White House had no idea that Comey was on travel status in Los Angeles.

Of course, nobody believes that Trump fired Comey because of how he publicly dealt with the Clinton email invesigation.  Trump himself praised Comey during the campaign and said he was 'being brave" in how he handled her case.  If Trump did have any issue with Comey over the Clinton email handling, he would have fired him the day after inauguration.

Legal scholars and historians are comparing these events to Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox in 1973.   To most of these observers, the Comey firing is a grotesque abuse of power-- and it is now abundantly clear that Trump does not recognize the concept of checks and balances in our democracy.  Comey wouldn't explicitly rule out Trump as being under investigation in his Hill testimony last week, and Trump was pissed.  Trump's pathetic non-sequitur in his letter (where he squeezed in a mention that Comey allegedly said to him three times he wasn't under investigation) makes that clear.  Everyone in the federal government should take note-- displease King Trump and your career will be in jeopardy.   This alone may explain why career prosecutor Rod Rosenstein would agree to be complicit in this controversy.

Almost assuredly, there will be monumental pressure for Rosenstein to appoint a special prosecutor on the Russia investigation.  There is widespread concern now that they real reason Comey was fired was because the FBI's Russian investigation was getting to close to Trump for comfort.  The only way for the American public to have any confidence in our democracy is to have a special prosecutor to uncover the truth of whether Russia was involved in steering the election and whether anyone in the Trump campaign (or even Trump himself) was involved.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Guess Who Skipped History Class?

Donald Trump continues to make news for all the wrong reasons-- today, he mulled over the Civil War and suggested President Andrew Jackson could have prevented it.   Jackson, a populist who Trump often gets compared to, was elected in 1828 and died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War began. He was also a slave owner.

In an interview on SiriusXM, Trump displayed an appalling lack of knowledge of American history.  "[Jackson] was a very tough person, but he had a big heart," Trump began.  Trump then claimed that Jackson was "really angry' with "what was happening with regard to the Civil War." 

'[Jackson] said there's no reason for this,' Trump continued. "People, don't realize, you know, the Civil War, you think about it why? People don't ask that question," according to Trump.  "But why was there the Civil War?" Trump said. "Why could that one not been worked out?"

'People don't ask that question. But why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not been worked out?' Trump asked.

The reason that people don't ask that question is because the answer is abundantly clear.  Most educated Americans now know that the Civil War was about slavery.

Conservative commentator David Frum tried to put a positive spin on Trump's amazing display of ignorance, tweeting, "At least Trump does seem aware that Andrew Jackson is dead."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Yes, This Is Actually The Leader Of The Free World Talking

The Associated Press published the transcript of its interview with Trump-- it's unbelievable that people actually voted for this mental midget.

Here he  is lying about generating Chris Wallace's highest ratings (he didn't) and being more popular thatn 9/11:
    TRUMP: … [I]t’s interesting, I have, seem to get very high ratings. I definitely. You know Chris Wallace had 9.2 million people, it’s the highest in the history of the show. I have all the ratings for all those morning shows. When I go, they go double, triple. Chris Wallace, look back during the Army-Navy football game, I did his show that morning.

    AP: I remember, right.

    TRUMP: It had 9.2 million people. It’s the highest they’ve ever had. On any, on air, (CBS “Face the Nation” host John) Dickerson had 5.2 million people. It’s the highest for “Face the Nation” or as I call it, “Deface the Nation.” It’s the highest for “Deface the Nation” since the World Trade Center. Since the World Trade Center came down. It’s a tremendous advantage.
And how he learned that missiles kill people (no kidding):
TRUMP: Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area — you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away — and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility.
And how he learned that the government is really YOOGE:
    TRUMP: The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world. The second-largest company in the world is the Defense Department. The third-largest company in the world is Social Security. The fourth-largest — you know, you go down the list.

    AP: Right.

    TRUMP. It’s massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.
And still whining:
TRUMP: I used to get great press. I get the worst press. I get such dishonest reporting with the media. That’s another thing that really has — I’ve never had anything like it before. It happened during the primaries, and I said, you know, when I won, I said, “Well the one thing good is now I’ll get good press.” And it got worse. (unintelligible) So that was one thing that a little bit of a surprise to me. I thought the press would become better, and it actually, in my opinion, got more nasty.
And here he is claiming the wall will stop all drugs:
TRUMP: If we stop 1 percent of the drugs from coming in — and we’ll stop all of it. But if we stop 1 percent of the drugs because we have the wall — they’re coming around in certain areas, but if you have a wall, they can’t do it because it’s a real wall. That’s a tremendously good investment, 1 percent. The drugs pouring through on the southern border are unbelievable. We’re becoming a drug culture, there’s so much. And most of it’s coming from the southern border. The wall will stop the drugs.
And here is, all conflicted about Wikileaks-- he likes the info they release, but yet he doesn't:
    TRUMP: When Wikileaks came out … never heard of Wikileaks, never heard of it. When Wikileaks came out, all I was just saying is, “Well, look at all this information here, this is pretty good stuff.” You know, they tried to hack the Republican, the RNC, but we had good defenses. They didn’t have defenses, which is pretty bad management. But we had good defenses, they tried to hack both of them. They weren’t able to get through to Republicans. No, I found it very interesting when I read this stuff and I said, “Wow.” It was just a figure of speech. I said, “Well, look at this. It’s good reading.”

    AP: But that didn’t mean that you supported what Assange is doing?

    TRUMP: No, I don’t support or unsupport. It was just information. They shouldn’t have allowed it to get out.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

GOP's Willful Ignorance

The situation in Syria has basically been unchanged over the past four years-- other than the thousands of Syrians that have died at the hands of Assad (using weapons provided by Russia). But it seems that a lot of Republicans have changed their minds regarding U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

What do you think made the difference between 2013 and 2017? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

So Much For Nepotism Laws

After Donald Trump was elected, he said his children would serve no role in his administration.

Mere months later, the Trump White House announced Ivanka Trump would join the administration as a senior adviser to Donald Trump. But in an attempt to assuage taxpayers, they said Ivanka's role would be unpaid. 

Then came reports that Ivanka would be issued government equipments and communication devices-- for what reason, if she's not a government employee?   She is also going to be issued a top government clearance-- again for what reason if she is not a government employee and has no demonstrated need to see classified information?  Aren't security clearances supposed to be granted on a need to know basis?

This week provided further revelations that made clear that Trump's flouting of nepotism laws would be costing taxpayers even MORE money.  The White House announced that  Ivanka ( “special” assistant to the president) has hired a chief of staff.   And she will also be getting a taxpayer-funded spokesperson.

The White House is assuring everyone that Ivanke will still be following all ethics laws, however.  Who really believes that BS, anyway?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Think Twice About Going Back To United

The doctor dragged off a United Airlines flight suffered even further insult from the callous airline.   It has now come to light that on top of physically ejecting a paying customer, the airline did not take the time to release their luggage to Dr. Dao and his wife, instead sending it back to Kentucky and leaving them with nothing.

To make matters worse, United’s promise to reimburse the cost of the flight to the other terrorized passengers comes with a catch.  In order to get the refund, the affected customers have to promise not to sue United.  But the hits keep coming.

The same day of the infamous Chicago incident, a man on a United flight from Houston to Calgary was stung by a scorpion. The venomous creature fell from an overhead bin and landed on Richard Bell's hair as he was eating lunch in his business class seat.   United offered the passenger compensation, but the victim mysteriously refused to comment on the terms of that compensation.

On top of those stinging reports came another story of United's cruelty.  Last week, an elderly woman with a degenerative bone disease and severe arthritis was left in distress and pain after a United light from Los Angeles to Melbourne turned into a 16-hour ordeal thanks to callous United Airlines crew.

94-year-old Australian grandmother, Paz Orquiza was returning from what will likely be her last-ever visit to family in Los Angeles.  Orquiza's family had booked her a $3,600 business class ticket so she could fly in comfort. Her daughter, Rose, flew in economy, helping out with feeding and chair adjustments.  There were no problems with these arrangements on the outbound trip to Los Angeles..

But when the mother and daughter boarded the return flight to Australia, the United crew wouldn't allow the Rose to leave economy to help her elderly mother - and United staff wouldn't help either,  The flight attendant, without any sympathy or compassion, told the daughter that she could either take her mother to economy class, buy a business-class ticket for herself or leave the elderly woman to suffer on her own.

And so the 94-year-old-- who spends most of her days bed-bound--  was moved to the more cramped economy class.  Upon arrival to Australia, the elderly woman's legs had swollen, her neck was stiff and her whole body ached.  According to her daughter, her mother suffered great distress and pain from the ordeal, requiring strong pain medication and Valium to help with sleep.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Patriots Snub Trump

There was a BIG difference between the photo of the New England Super Bowl champs when they visited Obama back in 2015 and when they visited Trump earlier today.   Can you tell?

A whopping thirty-four players elected to skip the ceremony, another embarrassment for the embattled Trump.  The full list of boycotting players:  Tom Brady, LaGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, James White, Danny Amendola, Michael Floyd, Martellus Bennett, Shaq Mason, LaAdrian Waddle, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Chris Long, Vincent Valentine, Dont'a Hightower, Barkevious Mingo, Malcom Butler, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Cyrus Jones, Devin McCourty, Logan Ryan, Ryan Allen, Jonathan Freeny, Tre Jackson, Greg Scruggs, Chris Barker, Trevor Bates, Jamil Douglas, Chase Farris, Tyler Gaffney, Woodrow Hamilton, Devin Lucien, and DeAndrew White. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Which Way Did He Go, George? Which Way Did He Go?

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that the Trump administration had said was steaming toward North Korea was actually conducting exercises off the coast of Australia, a U.S. defense official has acknowledged.

Last week, Trump boasted that he was sending an "armada" to North Korea.  "Very powerful," he added. 

Just a few days later, on April 15, the U.S. Navy published a photo showing the USS Carl Vinson Strike Group transiting the Sunda Strait.  From April 16 to 18, the website Go Navy reported that the Vinson group was in the Indian Ocean.  Oops!

What followed was a glorified rendition of Willoughby the hound dog-- with White House and Defense officials contradicting each other and pointing fingers.   A Defense Department spokesperson was unsure if the Navy had had any conversations with Defense Secretary Mattis’ office or the Joint Staff following the mix-up, but said it was “not the Navy’s place” to speak with the White House about it.

The communications mix-up has raised eyebrows among Korea experts. "If you threaten them and your threat is not credible, it's only going to undermine whatever your policy toward them is. And that could be a logical conclusion from what's just happened," said North Korea expert Joel Wit at the 38 North monitoring group, run by Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies.

The White House had no comment, referring questions to the Pentagon. The Pentagon directed all queries to U.S. Pacific Command.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

United Brutalizes Paying Customer For The Convenience of United Employees

A man was violently dragged off a United Airlines after the company says it overbooked the flight.

Video posted to social media shows the man screaming as security personnel pry him out of his chair, causing his head to bash against an armrest. He’s then dragged down the aisle on his back as horrified witnesses film on their phones and scream out in disgust.

According to witnesses, airline staff were initially looking for one volunteer to give up a seat before the flight from Chicago to Louisville boarded. Passengers were offered $400 and a hotel stay.

Witnesses stated that after the flight boarded, staff announced that they now needed four people to volunteer to give up seats for United employees (not due to overbooking as United claimed).  The amount was increased to $800, and passengers were told the plane wouldn’t leave until four people volunteered.

When nobody offered, staff announced a computer would select four people. One couple cooperated and left. The man who was later to be brutalized by the airline was also selected.

United later released a cold-hearted statement, saying, "one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.  We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”

When the airline's attempt to deflect blame to "authorities" failed, United CEO Oscar Muñoz was forced to put out an additional statement, apologizing for having to “re-accommodate these customers.”  Muñoz later tried to blame the beat-up customer, labeling him as "belligerent".

In response, many are vowing to never do business with the airline again. The incident also comes just two weeks after the company found itself in hot water for refusing to allow three girls to board a flight because they were wearing leggings.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Trump Follows Tried-and-True GOP Formula: When There's Trouble At Home, Start A War in the Middle East

After four years of grandstanding, Trump flip-flopped on Syria last night.  So what changed?  Some picture of suffering children?  There were plenty of suffering children back in 2013.

So far today, there has been little to no outrage among Republicans-- many of the same people who said back in 2013 that Obama could not constitutionally take military action in Syria without prior congressional authorization.  What's the difference now?

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Warning To Pedestrians in South Yorkshire: Get Off The Road

Don't follow this one too closely
After 33 attempts, 14 different instructors, 85 lessons and $12,000 in taxi fares over 25 years, Christian Whiteley-Mason of South Yorkshire, England finally passed his driving test.

"I can't believe I've actually finally passed after all these years," said the mechanically misfortuned motorist. "I'm still in shock!"  The 42-year-old home care manager first took a drivers test in 1992 and quickly racked up a succession of test fails.  Even his husband Darren, thought he'd never pass, joking with him 'You're an accident waiting to happen.'

"There was this one examiner at the Barnsley test center who I used to pray I didn't get. She was notoriously tough and she failed me every time.  I had 56 lessons with my first instructor and eventually he told me to just give up as I would never pass," admitted the tortured Tyke.

By 2003, after Christian had failed his test a monumental 32 times, he admitted defeat and finally gave up on his dream of driving and decided it wasn't for him.  "I'd just had enough, I just thought I¹m never going to get it.," said Christian.

Even when he turned 40 and decided to give it another go, he had a few additional lessons but didn't stick with it, and never got as far as taking his test.  "I just got bored with it," Christian admitted. "I couldn't see the point."

But by his tenth wedding anniversary, Christian had increasingly been required to travel for work and was finding it more difficult to get by without being able to drive. "I had to either get taxis or rely on other people and it was costing me a fortune. So in January that was it, I just decided I was going to go for it."

Christian recounted the days leading up to the fateful day:  "There must be a God because I prayed every night that I wouldn't get that same examiner who'd kept failing me, and [the day of the test] I didn't."  Not only did he pass on his first attempt, but he only got marked down for three minor errors.  Admittedly, Christian increased his chances by taking the automatic-only driving test. 

"I'm so proud of myself. It's changed my life to be honest. I felt like I'd achieved everything I really wanted to achieve, this was the one thing left I had to do.  My motto was always been don¹t stop believing,"  Christian told reporters.  He celebrated the occasion by buying a second hand smart car, which he named Percy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trump Continues His War On Privacy

Visitors to the U.S. could be forced to provide cellphone contacts and social-media passwords and answer questions about their ideology, according to Trump administration officials, measures that could intrude into the lives of millions of foreigners.

The changes could apply to visitors from America’s closest allies as well as other nations and include subjecting more visa applicants to intense security reviews. Together, they would amount to the “extreme vetting” touted by Trump.

Administration officials conducting a review of vetting procedures aim to replace what they see as a presumption toward letting people into the country with a more skeptical outlook.  “If there is any doubt about a person’s intentions coming to the United States, they should have to overcome—really and truly prove to our satisfaction—that they are coming for legitimate reasons,” said Gene Hamilton, senior counselor to the Department of Homeland Security.

Their full scope has yet to be publicly discussed and would be sure to generate significant controversy, both at home, from civil libertarians and others who see the questions as infringing on privacy rights, and abroad, as other nations could impose retaliatory requirements on Americans seeking visas.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bill O'Reilly Enters No-Ad Zone

Over a dozen companies have pulled advertising from the “The O’Reilly Factor” following revelations that the bombastic host has paid millions of dollars in hush money to keep the accusations of sexual harassment out of the headlines and the court room.

Following an explosive New York Times report that O’Reilly and Fox News had paid around $13 million in settlements addressing complaints brought by five of the conservative host’s previous female colleagues, advertisers moved to remove their commercials from the hit show. Among the first were automakers Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai.

The exodus gained momentum after the NYT article, with Mitsubishi Motors, T. Rowe Price, Wayfair, Bayer, Credit Karma and Lexus among those confirming to reporters that they had pulled advertising from O’Reilly’s show.

BuzzFeed News reached out to about 50 companies that advertise on “The O’Reilly Factor” and confirmed Tuesday that automaker BMW, Sanofi Consumer Healthcare and marketing company Constant Contact had pulled commercials.  Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline also told BuzzFeed that it has temporarily pulled advertising.

Insurance company Allstate, the men’s clothing line Untuckit and pet food company Ainsworth Pet Nutrition all confirmed Tuesday that they are withdrawing commercials from the show, NBC News reported.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thai Junta Provides No Justice For Dead Policeman

Red Bull heir gets away with murder
Vorayuth Yoovidhaya, the grandson of the billionaire who invented the energy drink Red Bull, has once again failed to appear at a Bangkok prosecutor's office to face charges for killing a police officer with his Ferrari in 2012.

The ongoing failure by the Thai military junta to bring Vorayuth to justice are now commonly cited as the most prominent example of the untouchability of the super-rich in Thailand.

Police Sergeant-Major Wichian Klanprasert was riding his motorbike along Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road when he was hit by a grey Ferrari, which dragged his body more than 300 feet down the road, before driving off.  Investigating officers followed a trail of brake fluid to a luxury home less than a kilometer away, owned by one of Thailand's wealthiest families.

The badly-dented Ferrari was there, but initially the police were persuaded by private guards to detain a driver employed by the family as their main suspect.  When the police subsequently discovered the car had actually been driven by 27-year-old Vorayuth, he was tested and found to have excessive alcohol in his blood - but he claimed this was from drinking at home after the accident.

The police calculated that Vorayuth was driving over 100 mph, over twice the speed limit.  It took the police six months to prepare criminal charges of speeding, reckless driving causing death, and fleeing the scene of an accident.  At the time, Bangkok police chief Kamronwit Thoopkrajang promised the public that the culprit in Sergeant-Major Wichian's death would be brought to justice, or he would resign.

Throughout 2013, Vorayuth failed to appear seven times to hear the charges, with his lawyers providing an array of justifications, from him being on business overseas to feeling unwell.  In September 2013 the prosecutor ordered police to arrest him after his seventh no-show, but nothing happened.  At the end of that month, the statute of limitations on the speeding charge expired. Against a backdrop of growing political turmoil in Thailand, the case faded from public view.

Public interest in it was revived only after a horrifying road accident last year, involving another wealthy young man who drove his luxury car at high speed into another vehicle, killing two graduate students.  People started asking what had happened to the Red Bull heir-- and the military junta, which had promised to address the abuses of previous governments, felt forced to act.

In March last year, the Attorney-General announced that he would once again press charges against Vorayuth.  But throughout 2016, lawyers for the Red Bull heir successfully postponed repeated requests for him to report to the prosecutor's office, claiming that their client had filed a complaint of unfair treatment to the National Legislative Assembly, the military-appointed parliament.

The police continue to insist they can do nothing.  Asked by the BBC why they have not issued an arrest warrant against the accused, as requested three and a half years ago, they said that it is up to the Attorney-General's office to act.  The Attorney-General's office says he cannot be indicted unless he appears in person.

According to his lawyers, Vorayuth is currently on business in the UK. The Attorney-General has once again granted a postponement, to next month.

The statute of limitations on the most serious charge against Vorayuth, of reckless driving causing death, expires in the year 2027.  Few people are betting that he will face any legal sanction, or any consequences before that deadline frees him completely.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Putin Government Rounding Up Gay Men

More than 100 gay men have been detained and at least three have been killed by authorities in Chechnya, according to a Russian newspaper cited in a report in the New York Times.

According to government and police sources, the new developments follow a week of rumors about gay men mysteriously disappearing off the streets of the Russian republic.  Dozens of men between the ages of 16 and 50 have been detained “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” according to Novaya Gazeta.

The report blamed local authorities for the men’s detention and identified three men as murder victims. It’s thought that the actual number of dead may be higher.

A spokesman for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who is a vocal supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, denied that any such activities have taken place. He further suggested that there are no gay people in the country at all.

“You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” spokesman Alvi Karimov said in a statement obtained by Radio Free Europe on Saturday. “If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

The Russian Federation is known for its hostility to the LGBTQ community. Since 2013, it has upheld an anti-gay propaganda law that sharply curtails the public expression of LGBTQ identities.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Violent Protests Amid Constitutional Crisis In Paraguay

Demonstrators in Paraguay have set fire to the country's parliament building during violent protests against a bill that would lift presidential term limits.  One activist was killed and at least 30 others injured, including three lawmakers and a senator.  It was the worst violence of its kind since Paraguay became a democracy in 1992.

Under the 1992 constitution, introduced after the dictatorship, a head of state may only serve a single five-year term. But sitting President Horacio Cartes is trying to remove the restriction and run for re-election.

Protesters were photographed smashing in windows of the congress building in the capital, Asuncion and setting fire to the interior.  Protesters ransacked the offices of those who had backed the bill, according to reports.

Opposition activist Rodrigo Quintana, 25, was killed by a rubber bullet fired by police when they stormed the offices of the opposition Liberal party.  "The police barged in, threw people face down to the ground," according to Liberal Party leader Efrain Alegre, who was also hurt. "They came in aggressively, breaking the doors, it was savagery."

In a statement released on Twitter, President Cartes appealed for calm. "Democracy is not conquered or defended with violence and you can be sure this government will continue to put its best effort into maintaining order in the republic," he said.

Protesters had taken to the streets following a secret meeting of 25 senators - a slight majority of the house - which approved a bill to amend the constitution.  The bill must also be approved by the other house of parliament - the chamber of deputies - where President Cartes' party holds an outright majority.  A similar proposal had been previously rejected in August.  Before the secret vote took place, Congress voted first to change the rules that required lawmakers to wait a year before voting again.

Opponents say the bill will weaken the country's democratic institutions.  Opposition senator Desiree Masi said: "A coup has been carried out. We will resist and we invite the people to resist with us."

Paraguay was controlled by military ruler General Alfredo Stroessner, who seized power in a coup, from 1954 until 1989.  The new constitution in 1992 created the modern government but there has been a long period of political instability and party infighting, as well as a failed coup attempt.

President Cartes' term is due to end in 2018.  The change, if approved, would also allow former President Fernando Lugo to run again.  Lugo was ousted in 2012 over his handling of a land eviction in which 17 people were killed.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Dictator Maduro Engineers Takeover of Venezuelan Congress

Dictator Nicholas Maduro tightened his grip even further on Venezuela by engineering a Supreme Court takeover of the functions of Congress.

The Maduro-controlled Supreme Court had already annulled most National Assembly decisions since the opposition won a legislative majority in late 2015 due to voter fury over an unprecedented economic crisis.  But late on Wednesday, the court issued a new ruling declaring that it was assuming complete control of the legislature’s role in the Venezuelan government.

“As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ,” the court said in its decision.

The contempt charge stems from vote-buying accusations against three lawmakers from southern Amazonas state.  Although the three legislators are no longer members of congress, the supreme court continues to use their case as an excuse to usurp the powers of congress, saying that parliamentary leaders did not handle their case properly.

The Venezuelan supreme court has been stacked over the years with political allies and supporters of Maduro.  Critics of Maduro called the "contempt" charge an excuse for the president to consolidate unchecked power over the country and muzzle the opposition-- as his popularity plummets amid widespread disgust over a severe recession, hyperinflation and acute shortages of food and medicine.

The controversial Supreme Court ruling was instigated by Maduro's desire to obtain approval for oil joint ventures without the constitutionally-required vote by congress.  Maduro is now desperately attempting to raise funds for bond payments and a reeling economy, by selling stakes in its oil fields to foreign countries.  Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA recently offered Russia’s Rosneft a stake in the Petrolia oil joint venture.

Spooked by the opposition’s warning that investment deals bypassing Congress would not be valid, foreign oil companies are closely following the developments and refusing to comment on the political situation.

The opposition promised new street protests-- but that tactic has failed in the past despite marches that have drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters.

Last year, the opposition pushed for a referendum to recall Maduro and force a new presidential election, but Maduro officials thwarted those efforts.  In addition, the Maduro government also postponed local electoral races that were supposed to have been held in 2016.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Dirty President Delivers Dirty Air and Dirty Water For Dirty Coal Owners

“You’re going back to work”  

Put that lie in the Trump Hall of Fame next to “We’re going to have insurance for everybody”

Trump signed an executive order this week to dismantle the Clean Power Plan.  Along for the ride as glorified stage props were a set of coal miners provided for the occasion by some of the mining executives who were there to see Trump deliver on his promise to dismantle environment protections for his corporate overlords.  Trump said to the coal miners standing nearby: "You know what it says, right? You're going back to work."  But the problem is this:  Trump’s actions won’t help miners. They won’t help the industry.

What Trump’s executive orders will do is enable more polluting forms of surface mining-- especially, mountaintop removal (MTR).  MTR is important to mining companies because it's the cheapest way to mine in the Appalachians. And the reason it’s the cheapest is that it takes fewer people. By enabling MTR, Trump allows producers that use it to undercut producers working with methods that both employ more people and are less harmful to the environment.

The bottom reality is this: There are zero new coal power plants under construction. There are zero in the planning stages. There are zero being proposed.

The coal industry can’t make a comeback, because there’s simply nowhere else to sell any coal. In fact, even with Trump in office signing away environmental laws left and right, more coal-fired plants are closing. The shrinking market that remains will be dominated not by coal from the Ohio and West Virginia miners that flanked Trump, but from Wyoming, where thick seams, high automation, and economies of scale make coal much less costly to produce.

And thanks to Bush-Cheney deregulated franking, it was actually cheap natural gas that wiped out demand for coal in Appalachia, not Obama regulations. And it was mountaintop removal mining that wiped out the mining jobs.  Which means that these misguided folks have failed for a heaping dose of Trump bullshit.   Even the largest mine owner in Ohio says that the jobs are not coming back even if demand for coal increases.

Untold numbers of coal miners have died over the years because of blatant disregard for safety by greedy mine owners. Pensions have been stolen and health care for black lung rolled back. And now they have voted for the man who is colluding with these greedy bastards to set them back even further.  How many times do these folks have to be screwed over before they recognize who is messing with their lives and their families?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

GOP Destroys Privacy Protections In An Effort To Please Its Corporate Overlords

In the latest movement by the GOP to benefit corporations at the expense of ordinary Americans, Congress has just swept aside widely popular online privacy protections.  In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers (Verizon, AT&T and Comcast) from following consumer protections (approved just last year) that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves.

If Trump signs the legislation as expected, providers will be able to monitor their customers’ behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads.

The providers could also sell their users’ information directly to marketers, financial firms and other companies that mine personal data — all of whom could use the data without consumers’ consent. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission, which initially drafted the protections, would be forbidden from issuing similar rules in the future.

Search engines and streaming-video sites already collect usage data on consumers. But Internet providers know much more about a person’s activities because they can see all of the sites a customer visits.  And although consumers can easily abandon sites whose privacy practices they don’t agree with, it is far more difficult to choose a different Internet provider. Many Americans have a choice of only one or two broadband companies in their area, according to federal statistics.

Advocates for tough privacy protections online characterized the new legislation as a tremendous setback for America.  “Today’s vote means that Americans will never be safe online from having their most personal details stealthily scrutinized and sold to the highest bidder,” said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Python Swallows Indonesian Man Whole


Shocking video from Indonesia shows the sickening moment a dead man was cut out of a 23-foot-long python's stomach after being swallowed whole.  Reticulated pythons are boa constrictors that suffocate their victims before swallowing them whole.

25-year-old Akbar Salubiro, went missing after setting off to harvest palm oil in a remote village on the island of west Sulawesi, Indonesia.  After he failed to return home, concerned friends and relatives found a giant python sprawled out in Akbar's own back garden the next evening - and feared he had been suffocated and swallowed.  Akbar's lifeless body was found inside the serpent after horrified locals sliced open its belly using a 18-inch long hunting knife.

The shocking video can be viewed by clicking here

Akbar's wife, Munu, was away at the time and only found out when pictures and video emerged in the news, local media reported.  Village secretary Salubiro Junaidi said: 'People had heard cries from the palm grove the night before Akbar was found in the snake's stomach.  When the snake was captured, the boots Akbar was wearing were clearly visible in the stomach of the snake.  Residents cut open the belly of the snake and Akbar was lifeless."

Monday, March 27, 2017

Warrantless Searches Of U.S. Citizens Under Scrutiny

Escalating concerns about customs officials demanding access to travelers’ cellphones, tablets and laptops have prompted a leading free speech watchdog to take the government to court, to disclose its rules for digital privacy at the border.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University has filed a freedom of information lawsuit seeking to obtain the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) rules for “suspicionless” searches of mobile devices from US citizens and non-citizens alike.  The lawsuit seeks internal DHS directives for compelling travelers to surrender their devices; data establishing the frequency with which they occur;  procedures on what is done with the information stored on those devices, particularly when the devices belong to first amendment-protected professionals such as journalists; and any privacy or anti-discrimination assessment DHS has performed to audit its policies.

Concern about the device searches pre-date the Trump administration. DHS first began permitting warrantless searches of U.S. citizens at the border back in 2009.  The searches intensified toward the end of Obama’s tenure (fewer than 5,000 searches in 2015, growing to 25,000 in 2016).

The Trump administration’s focus on border security has intensified the trend. After the White House introduced executive orders cracking down on immigration and foreign travel, particularly among Hispanics and Muslims, DHS conducted 5,000 device searches in February alone.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Islamaphobia or Big Brother Run Amok?

The Georgia Department of Public Health has refused to issue an infant a birth certificate with the last name the couple chose for their daughter: Allah.   State officials say the child's name — ZalyKha Graceful Lorraina Allah — does not fit the naming conventions set up by state law. They say that ZalyKha's last name should either be Handy (mother's last name), Walk (father's last name) or a combination of the two.

The ACLU of Georgia has filed suit on behalf of the baby's parents, who say they can't get a Social Security number for their daughter because they don't have a birth certificate. They also anticipate problems with access to health care, schools and travel. Already, they said, they had to cancel a trip to Mexico.  "We have to make sure that the state isn't overstepping their boundaries," Walk said. "It is just plainly unfair and a violation of our rights."

ACLU of Georgia Executive Director Andrea Young said the state's decision is an example of government overreach and a violation of the First and 14th amendments. In addition, Handy and Walk have a three-year-old son who was given a birth certificate for his name, Masterful Allah, with no problem.  

Carlton F.W. Larson, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, has written extensively about parental rights to name their children.  "Naming your child is an expressive action," Larson said. "And the idea that you get to name your child, and not the state, is a fundamental right. The state would need to have a compelling reason for rejecting a name, and I don't see it. I would hope that (Handy and Walk) would win this case."


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