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       *** MANDOS POST *** I have been thinking about writing another post about Britain and Brexit for some time, but every time I started it, there’d be literally another new dramatic twist, so I’d stop.  But now it seems like a corner is being turned. What the corner really is, we’ll still have time […]
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National Security Briefings for Trump should be suspended

If you haven’t seen the NYTimes front page this morning, get over there now and read Secret Ledger for Ukraine Lists Cash for Top Trump Aide. It’s about Paul Manafort, who is an unpaid campaign manager for Donald Trump. The report is about how Manafort’s name is on a Ukranian ledger and shows that he was to be compensated for millions of dollars. Unknown at this time is whether he actually received the money.

What do you think?

Yeah, me too.

If you’re looking for some decent background information on this report, you might try Slate’s TrumpCast. These episodes are particularly informative:

The Moscow Mule (guest Frank Foer)

America’s Putin (guest Masha Gessen)

The Post-Modern Manchurian Candidate (guest Anne Applebaum)

The first two podcasts were recorded back in June and early July before the DNC hack.

We’ve heard about Trump’s alleged ties to Putin for awhile now and speculation is he owes the Russians for something and that’s what’s driving his statements on Ukraine and NATO.

In the interest of national security, Donald Trump’s access to national security briefings of classified information should be suspended until we know the extent of his and his campaign manager’s ties to Putin and the Russians.

This is more important than partisan politics at the moment.

 

 

 

More Joy

Joy’s adventures in (M)other Russia continues with a troupe of ballet dancers on a bus. In this episode, they travel through Chechnya, Ossetia, Inigushetia and other unpronounceable places on their way to Sochi.

This is the way to do it if you’re young, not rich and have loads of talent. Hit the road and have fun.

Saturday Morning News and Views

Good Morning Conflucians!!!!

A giant 8.8 magnitude earthquake has hit Chile and triggered a tsunami

President Michelle Bachelet confirmed 47 deaths and said more were possible. Telephone and power lines were down, making damage assessments difficult in the early morning darkness.

“Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it’s like the end of the world,” one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged buildings and forced staff to evacuate the regional hospital.

According to The New York Times,

The quake downed buildings and houses in Santiago and knocked out a major bridge connecting the northern and southern sections of the country.

It struck at 3:34 a.m. local time and was centered about 200 miles southwest of Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The epicenter was some 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live.

Phone lines were down in Concepcion as of 7:30 a.m. and no reports were coming out of that area. The quake in Chile was 1,000 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.0 earthquake that caused widespread damage in Haiti on Jan 12, killing at least 230,000, earthquake experts reported on CNN International.

The U.S. Geological Survey and eyewitnesses reported more than a dozen aftershocks, including two measuring magnitude 6.2 and 6.9.

Only hours earlier, there was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake off the southern coast of Japan. A tsunami was predicted, but did not take place.

The late late night TC crowd was discussing this insane video of Trent Franks (R-Arizona) being asked about hate radio and Rush Limbaugh and then doing a quick pirouette to talking about abortion and “killing innocent babies.” He calls Obama “the abortion president” and he thinks African Americans were better off under slavery because (he claims) “half of all black babies are aborted.” Oh, and Rush Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox because he cares so much about humanity.

Just who is voting for politicians like this? Thinking about the possible answers to that question gives me the creeps.

And speaking of forced servitude, why don’t they just set Tilikum the serial killer whale free?

Three years ago, Russ Rector, a Fort Lauderdale dolphin trainer turned marine mammal activist, said he wrote SeaWorld a letter warning it was pushing its show mammals too hard to wow audiences, thereby inviting attacks on trainers.

On Wednesday, a killer whale named Tilikum implicated in two previous fatalities attacked a trainer during a show at the Orlando theme park, dragging her around like a toy and drowning her in front of horrified visitors.

“I warned them this was going to happen,” Rector said. “Happy animals don’t kill their trainers.”

Another opinion:

Naomi Rose, a senior scientist for the Humane Society of the United States, which has campaigned at marine parks, said Tilikum’s reputation was well known and that SeaWorld specifically forbade trainers from entering the orca’s tank.

“He clearly has some sort of issue with people in the water with him,” she said of the orca.

Rose and many marine mammal activists believe the stress of life in a tank is acute for orcas, large animals that roam deep waters in close-knit pods.

“They’re moody,” she said. Rector, who has campaigned for years to free Lolita, a female orca that has spent nearly four decades in captivity at the Seaquarium in Miami, says it leaves them “demented.”

Lolita, Rose said, has not been linked to any serious attacks on trainers, but its old tank-mate, Hugo, died of a cranial bleeding in 1980 that activists blamed on the orca ramming its head against the sides of a small tank.

Can you blame a whale for getting mad when he is kept in a tiny container and forced to perform tricks for humans instead of being able to swim freely in the ocean? And get this, another trainer says Dawn Brancheau’s horrible death was all her own fault.

A former co-worker told the station that trainer Dawn Brancheau was to blame when her hair floated over the mouth of killer whale Tilikum. The massive creature responded by dragging her under Wednesday, and she drowned.

Thad Lacinak, a former head trainer at SeaWorld, said the trainers knew to stay away from the whale’s mouth. “The protocol was not to be around Tilikum’s mouth while you’re laying down,” he said.

Reporter Emily Turner explained that Lacinak said Brancheau “became too comfortable with the animal she loved so much.”

And can you believe there are still pictures and video on-line of Breacheau’s last moments? What is wrong with us? Set these beautiful, intelligent animals free!

Did you know that Matt Taibbi and an expat named Mark Ames ran an alternative newspaper in Russia for years? I didn’t. Yesterday I posted a link to an article by Ames on Ayn Rand’s obsession with a vicious serial killer who liked to dismember little girls.

From there, I was directed to Ames’ website and learned that this month’s Vanity Fair has an in-depth story on the “The unlikely life and sudden death of The Exile, Russia’s angriest newspaper.” Ames is also the author of a book on workplace and school shootings in which he argues that Americans don’t want to face what is really going on in this rage killings–that bullying and alienation in schools and workplaces are driving both kids and adults to the point where they just can’t take it anymore. Sounds controversial yet interesting. I reserved it at my local library.

President Obama got up really early this morning so he could offer more “compromises” to Republicans in his weekly radio address.

“I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge,” Obama said.

“The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses cannot wait. Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.

The President didn’t mention that the bill he supports doesn’t do anything to help lower health care costs for ordinary Americans or prevent insurance companies from refusing to pay for care for people with preexisting conditions.

This article in New Scientist reports on research suggesting that ancient humans may have communicated in a written language much earlier than previously thought: The writing on the cave wall

Until now, the accepted view has been that our ancestors underwent a “creative explosion” around 30,000 to 40,000 years ago, when they suddenly began to think abstractly and create rock art. This idea is supported by the plethora of stunning cave paintings, like those at Chauvet, which started to proliferate across Europe around this time. Writing, on the other hand, appeared to come much later, with the earliest records of a pictographic writing system dating back to just 5000 years ago.

Few researchers, though, had given any serious thought to the relatively small and inconspicuous marks around the cave paintings. The evidence of humanity’s early creativity, they thought, was clearly in the elaborate drawings.

While some scholars like Clottes had recorded the presence of cave signs at individual sites, Genevieve von Petzinger, then a student at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, was surprised to find that no one had brought all these records together to compare signs from different caves. And so, under the supervision of April Nowell, also at the University of Victoria, she devised an ambitious masters project. She compiled a comprehensive database of all recorded cave signs from 146 sites in France, covering 25,000 years of prehistory from 35,000 to 10,000 years ago.

What emerged was startling: 26 signs, all drawn in the same style, appeared again and again at numerous sites (see illustration). Admittedly, some of the symbols are pretty basic, like straight lines, circles and triangles, but the fact that many of the more complex designs also appeared in several places hinted to von Petzinger and Nowell that they were meaningful – perhaps even the seeds of written communication.

I’ll wrap this up with a feel-good story from a few days ago about a 3-year-old girl who was saved from freezing to death by her dog Blue: Police Credit Dog With Saving Lost Girl’s Life

“She was able to stay warm with the dog. And it probably was one of things that saved her life. It was extremely cold out here,” Sgt. Jeff Newnum of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office told KPHO, a CBS news affiliate in Phoenix. “God watched over her last night.”

Victoria Bensch vanished while playing outside with the family’s Queensland Heeler around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Search teams scoured the rocky terrain surrounding Victoria’s Cordes Lakes, Ariz., home, but as the night wore on, and temperatures dipped into the 30s, there was still no sign of her.

When the sun rose Friday morning, a rescue helicopter spotted movement below. It was Blue, hovering close to the missing girl, nearly half a mile from their home.

Even as medics approached, Blue kept Victoria, who was only wearing a T-shirt, pants and tennis shoes, safe.

“I think the dog was initially apprehensive of me. I was a little concerned he might bite me when I first walked up, but as I just walked right past the dog, the [animal] realized I was there to help,”

Awwww….

So what are you reading this morning?

HAVE A STUPENDOUS SATURDAY!!!!!!!

Friday Morning: What’s Happening?

valentine-underpants-w-hearts-picking-up-paper-784998

Good morning everyone! These are the news stories that caught my eye this morning. Be sure to add your own links in the comments.

The All-Encompassing Health Care Nightmare

Boston Globe: Democrats oppose tax in health bill

To pay for the 10-year, $856 billion bill Baucus wants to tax high-value insurance plans, those worth $21,000 for a family and $8,000 for an individual. The Montana Democrat says those are “Cadillac plans’’ enjoyed by a small minority of Americans. Aides said about 10 percent of plans and 8 percent of taxpayers could be affected.

The tax, which President Obama embraced in his speech to Congress last week, is a major source of revenue for Baucus’s bill, bringing in an estimated $215 billion over 10 years. Baucus and other supporters of the measure say it would help drive down health care costs over the long term by encouraging companies to move toward less expensive health plans and workers to use less care.

But other Democratic senators fear that the tax would reach deep into middle-class pocketbooks, and labor unions are upset. Senators John F. Kerry of Massachusetts and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, members of the Finance Committee, say they want to limit the tax before signing off on the bill.

“We need to make it fairer to working people so that working folks don’t get dragged into this at a level where they just don’t have the incomes to support it,’’ Kerry told reporters after a closed-door committee meeting to discuss the bill.

Insurers and business groups also oppose the new tax and other fees in the bill, and the US Chamber of Commerce is wasting no time making its objections known.

New York Times: Rockefeller stands up for liberals on health care

All summer, the White House deferred to Senator Max Baucus, the Democrat from Montana who heads the Senate Finance Committee, as he negotiated with two moderate Democrats and three Republicans. Their failure to agree on a bipartisan bill left the administration scrambling to pass an overhaul with Democratic votes alone.

And that has emboldened liberals like the 72-year-old Mr. Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat. He heads the health subcommittee of Mr. Baucus’s panel, and yet he was relegated to the sidelines as the so-called Gang of Six talked and talked. Senate liberals are now pushing for an overhaul fully on Democratic terms — legislation more like that in the House, where liberal Democrats dominate.

Washington Post: Affordability Is Major Challenge for Reform

How to make insurance more affordable to the estimated 30 million uninsured people who would be required to buy coverage under the Baucus proposal is emerging as a central challenge as the long-awaited plan advances to full committee debate Tuesday. Democrats and Republicans alike worry that a bill intended to address one source of financial hardship — the skyrocketing cost of health care — could lead to another, in the form of hefty premiums.

“It’s very clear that the driving issue of this debate is affordability, particularly for middle-class folks. And the Democratic caucus is very much committed to getting this issue right,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a Finance Committee member who said he will offer amendments next week in an effort to improve affordability and choice.

Some Senate Democrats, along with a key moderate Republican, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (Maine), are now discussing ways to increase assistance for individuals and families who could face premium costs of up to $15,000 per year by 2016. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on Baucus’s committee, is suggesting government assistance to insurance companies to help them control premium costs. And lawmakers in both parties are questioning whether Baucus’s main revenue source, an excise tax on insurance companies for their most generous insurance policies, would simply be passed on to consumers.

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World in Chaos Open Thread

Brain fog

Brain fog

My brain isn’t working too well this morning, thanks to a nasty head cold. Still I got up as usual and surfed around to see what’s going on in the world. Is it just me, or are things even more chaotic out there than usual? Let’s see…

Robert M. Morgenthau, district attorney of Manhattan has indicted Li Fang Wei, a Chinese businessman, for selling nuclear raw materials to Iran and using U.S. banks such as Bank of America, Citibank and J.P. Morgan Chase to launder the financial transactions. Supposedly the banks were unwitting accessories. Hmmm… why don’t I buy that excuse?

Chinese and Russian “cyberspies” have infiltrated the U.S. electric grid.

Authorities investigating the intrusions have found software tools left behind that could be used to destroy infrastructure components, the senior intelligence official said. He added, “If we go to war with them, they will try to turn them on.”

Officials said water, sewage and other infrastructure systems also were at risk.

Now isn’t that special?

Pirates have captured a U.S. flagged ship and taken 20 American crewmembers hostage off the coast of Somalia.

The container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was carrying thousands of tons of relief aid to the Kenyan port of Mombasa, the company that owns the ship said.

The ship was taken by pirates at about 7:30 a.m. local time, 280 miles southeast of the Somali city of Eyl, a known haven for pirates, a spokesman for the United States Navy said. It is owned and operated by Maersk Line Limited, a United States subsidiary of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group, the Danish shipping giant.

The Maersk Alabama was at least the sixth commercial ship commandeered by pirates this week off the Horn of Africa, one of the most notoriously lawless zones on the high seas, where pirates have been operating with near impunity despite efforts by many nations, including the United States, to intimidate them with naval warship patrols.

The death toll continues to rise after the earthquake in Italy.

At least seven strong shocks hit the region during the night, killing one person and waking people from their sleep in the tent shelters.

The tremors brought down masonry from already damaged buildings and one tremor was felt as far away as Rome.

President Obama has finally returned to Washington, D.C. after his triumphant global tour. Will that help or hurt our economic situation? Will he finally wake up and realize that Geithner and Summers are wrecking our economic system in order to save their rich friends? Or does he already know that and think it’s a good idea? Will Obama’s wooing of Muslims in Turkey make a difference or is it “just words?”

A “turning point,” a “fresh breeze” — even a “light in the darkness.” Arabs and Muslims have been charmed by President Barack Obama’s first venture into the Islamic world.

Obama’s visit to Turkey this week was full of gestures calculated at showing he is a friend to Muslims, like his headliner sound bite that the U.S will never be “at war with Islam” and his mention of the Muslims in his family. Even throwaway lines like a comment that he had to wrap up a town-hall meeting with Turkish students “before the call to prayer” showed he was no stranger to Muslims’ way of life.

To many, the town-hall format for a meeting with students in Istanbul on Tuesday sent a significant message. The sight of a U.S. president being questioned by Muslims was dramatically different from the perception many had of Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush.

What do you think? And what are you reading/hearing/watching this morning?

Missiles, Schmissles – Obama will deflect Russian missles with his mega-watt smile!

barackkennedy5

THIS IS NOT GOOD:

Obama denies Poland missile vow

US President-elect Barack Obama has not given a commitment to go ahead with plans to build part of a US missile defence system in Poland, an aide says.

He was speaking after Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s office said a pledge had been made during a phone conversation between the two men.

But Mr Obama’s foreign policy adviser, Denis McDonough, denied this.
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