Friday, July 21, 2017

Trump Stirs The Pot; Sessions Soldiers On

Amid reports that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's inquiry is expanding in scope, and just hours after Trump had publicly criticized his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions nevertheless had to appear at a press event for a major DOJ operation, where he gave a muted defense of his continued work for the Trump administration.

Sessions insisted that he would continue in his job “as long as that is appropriate”, despite Trump’s unexpectedly critical remarks.  “We wholeheartedly join in the priorities of President Trump,” Sessions said, adding later: “I am totally confident that we can continue to run this office in an efficient way.”.

Rod Rosenstein, who earned Trump’s ire by choosing to appoint an special prosecutor to oversee the Russia investigation, made a more spirited defense, telling reporters: “I was proud to be here yesterday, I’m proud to be here today and I will be proud to work here tomorrow.”

In a half-hearted attempt to turn attention back to DOJ's work in fighting transnational crime, Sessions noted that the take-down of the dark website AlphaBay was an example of DOJ carrying out one of the president’s top priorities.

After a barrage of questions regarding the Russia investigation and Trump's criticism of Sessions, reporters were asked if any of them had questions about the AlphaBay case. When not a single reporter raised a hand, the press conference was abruptly ended.  Sessions left the briefing room to reporters repeated shouted questions: “Attorney General Sessions, will you not resign?” One reported asked if Sessions feared being “seen as a zombie attorney general”. He made no answer.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Is Putin Scared Of Poland?


A plane carrying Russian President Vladimir Putin made a 300 mile detour to avoid flying over Poland and the Baltic States on his way to the G20 summit.

According to the FlightRadar24 website, the Russian government jet flying from Moscow to Hamburg on Thursday deviated from the direct route over Belarus and Poland.

Poland and the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have been particularly vocal in their criticism of Moscow since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

The Ilyushin with the registration number RA-96022 flew over the Baltic Sea, crossing on its way territory of neutral Finland and Sweden before making its final approach to Germany.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on the reasons for the detour.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Beached Whale Spotted At New Jersey Shore

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is facing heavy criticism after he was photographed relaxing on a state beach he had ordered closed to the public.

The Republican gave the go-ahead for non-essential services to be shut down - including the Island State Beach Park - over the 4 July holiday weekend because of a budget impasse.


Christie then lied about his whereabouts on Sunday, saying his family was spending the weekend at the governor's residence In Princeton and he was commuting to work by state helicopter.  "

"I didn't get any sun today," he claimed, before the aerial photos emerged.  The pictures show Christie and his family on an otherwise empty beach.  Other visitors were turned away due to closure of state parks as part of a partial government shutdown. The lack of a state budget resulted in the shutdown, which included the closure of Island State Beach Park, one of New Jersey's few free public beaches.

After being confronted with the photographs, Christie spokesman Brian Murray was forced to admit the governor had "briefly" been on the beach "talking to his wife and family before heading into the office."

"He did not get any sun. He had a baseball hat on," Murray added.

The partial government shutdown in New Jersey arose because state legislators had not passed a health insurance bill that Christie said had to be passed alongside the state's budget.  New Jersey is one of at least nine states that were unable to meet their budget deadlines at the beginning of the month.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DOD Finally Admits That The Manning Leak Was No Big Deal

The publication of hundreds of thousands of secret documents leaked by the Army soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010 had no strategic impact on the American war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, a newly released Pentagon analysis concluded.

The main finding of the DOD report, written a year after the breach, was that Manning’s uploading of more than 700,000 secret files to the open information organization WikiLeaks had no significant strategic effect on the U.S. war efforts.

The belated publication of the analysis gives the lie to the official story maintained over several years that the leak had caused serious harm to U.S. national security.

It also calls attention to the disproportionately severe punishment that was meted out to Manning – 35 years in military prison, the harshest sentence in history for an official leak. And it raises questions about the continuing investigation by DOJ into the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.

The conclusions are contained in the final report of the information review task force that the DoD set up in the wake of the Manning leaks to look into their impact in the hope of mitigating any damage.

The report, obtained by  BuzzFeed’s investigative reporter Jason Leopold under the Freedom of Information Act, is so heavily redacted that its original 107 pages have been reduced to 35. Nonetheless, some key findings can still be gleaned from it.  On Afghanistan, the review finds that there was no “significant ‘strategic impact’ to the release of this information”.  Similarly, the study of the impact on the Iraq war concludes “with high confidence that disclosure of the Iraq data set will have no direct personal impact on current and former senior US leadership in Iraq”.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Then Fail, Caesar!

Hundreds of Trump voters have been venting their anger over Shakespeare in the Park 's recent production of "Julius Caesar" which featured a Trump-like actor in the title role.  There was no outrage over a similar production five years ago that featured a Barack Obama lookalike in the title role. A sampling of the recent vitriol:

"Your play depicting the murder of our President is nothing but pure hatred. You are vial [sic] despicable excuses for human beings. I wish you all the worst possible life you could have and hope you all get sick and die."

 "Hope you all who did this play about Trump are the first do [sic] die when ISIS COMES TO YOU fucking sumbags [sic]."

 "What exactly were you idiots thinking about producing a play that depicts the killing of our President? Does anyone over there have an ounce of morality, decency, and or common sense? Your organization is a disgrace to the community and to the arts. If you have a problem with the president protest, as is your constitutional right or just vote him out. I will do my best to ensure taxpayers' dollars are not used in the future to fund your disrespect and stupidity!"

Problem is, these threats (misspellings and grammatical errors included) were mistakenly sent to other Shakespeare companies across the country, including those in Massachusetts, Dallas and Washington, DC. 

"It's a case of mistaken identity," admits Raphael Parry, the artistic director at Shakespeare Dallas.  Yet he remains unsympathetic, saying.  "If you don't want to see political commentary, don't go see it.  Don't blast everyone who's in theatre or the arts. It's unbelievable. It's shocking. People need to do their research before they blast off."


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.

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