Feb 07

Today’s News 7th February 2018

  • Germany Still Holds The Most Winter Olympics Medals

    The first ever Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix in the French Alps in 1924 – 16 nations took part, competing for medals in 9 disciplines.

    The most recent winter games were held in the Russian resort of Sochi in 2014, where 88 nations competed in 15 disciplines.

    This week, the 23rd games will start with an opening ceremony in Pyeongchang in South Korea on Saturday. They will go on for two weeks, until February 25.

    As Statista’s Dyfed Loesche notes, Germany has so far been able to rake in most medals at the Winter Olympics, standing at 377 today. This is counting in all medals German teams have acquired, from Nazi Germany, through to Germany divided in to East and West and after reunification in 1990.

    Infographic: Germany Still Holds Most Medals | Statista

    You will find more infographics at Statista

    In second place, Russia had a good run in Sochi, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to bar 43 Russian athletes from competing at this year’s winter games, as they stand accused to have profited from systematic doping in 2014.

    On Thursday the international sports court CAS overturned some of these suspensions.

  • Little Barbies: Sex Trafficking Of Young Girls Is America's Dirty Little Secret

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    They’re called the Little Barbies.

    Children, young girls—some as young as 9 years old—are being bought and sold for sex in America. The average age for a young woman being sold for sex is now 13 years old.

    This is America’s dirty little secret.

    According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children,Children are being targeted and sold for sex in America every day.”

    Sex trafficking—especially when it comes to the buying and selling of young girls—has become big business in America, the fastest growing business in organized crime and the second most-lucrative commodity traded illegally after drugs and guns.

    As investigative journalist Amy Fine Collins notes, “It’s become more lucrative and much safer to sell malleable teens than drugs or guns. A pound of heroin or an AK-47 can be retailed once, but a young girl can be sold 10 to 15 times a day.”

    Consider this: every two minutes, a child is exploited in the sex industry.

    According to USA Today, adults purchase children for sex at least 2.5 million times a year in the United States.

    Who buys a child for sex? Otherwise ordinary men from all walks of life.

    They could be your co-worker, doctor, pastor or spouse,” writes journalist Tim Swarens, who spent more than a year investigating the sex trade in America.

    In Georgia alone, it is estimated that 7,200 men (half of them in their 30s) seek to purchase sex with adolescent girls each month, averaging roughly 300 a day.

    On average, a child might be raped by 6,000 men during a five-year period of servitude.

    It is estimated that at least 100,000 children—girls and boys—are bought and sold for sex in the U.S. every year, with as many as 300,000 children in danger of being trafficked each year. Some of these children are forcefully abducted, others are runaways, and still others are sold into the system by relatives and acquaintances.

    “Human trafficking—the commercial sexual exploitation of American children and women, via the Internet, strip clubs, escort services, or street prostitution—is on its way to becoming one of the worst crimes in the U.S.,” said prosecutor Krishna Patel.

    This is not a problem found only in big cities.

    It’s happening everywhere, right under our noses, in suburbs, cities and towns across the nation.

    As Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children points out, “The only way not to find this in any American city is simply not to look for it.”

    It is estimated that there are 100,000 to 150,000 under-aged child sex workers in the U.S.

    Every year, the girls being bought and sold gets younger and younger.

    Social media makes it all too easy for young people to be preyed upon by sexual predators.

    As one news center reported, “Finding girls is easy for pimps. They look on MySpace, Facebook, and other social networks. They and their assistants cruise malls, high schools and middle schools. They pick them up at bus stops. On the trolley. Girl-to-girl recruitment sometimes happens.” Foster homes and youth shelters have also become prime targets for traffickers.

    With a growing demand for sexual slavery and an endless supply of girls and women who can be targeted for abduction, this is not a problem that’s going away anytime soon.

    In fact, this growing evil is, for all intents and purposes, out in the open: trafficked women and children are advertised on the internet, transported on the interstate, and bought and sold in swanky hotels.

    Indeed, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government’s war on sex trafficking—much like the government’s war on terrorism, drugs and crime—has become a perfect excuse for inflicting more police state tactics (police check points, searches, surveillance, and heightened security) on a vulnerable public, while doing little to make our communities safer.

    So what can you do?

    Educate yourselves and your children about this growing menace in our communities.

    Stop feeding the monster: Sex trafficking is part of a larger continuum in America that runs the gamut from homelessness, poverty, and self-esteem issues to sexualized television, the glorification of a pimp/ho culture—what is often referred to as the pornification of America—and a billion dollar sex industry built on the back of pornography, music, entertainment, etc.

    This epidemic is largely one of our own making, especially in a corporate age where the value placed on human life takes a backseat to profit. It is estimated that the porn industry brings in more money than Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

    Call on your city councils, elected officials and police departments to make the battle against sex trafficking a top priority, more so even than the so-called war on terror and drugs and the militarization of law enforcement.

    Stop prosecuting adults for victimless “crimes” such as growing lettuce in their front yard and focus on putting away the pimps and buyers who victimize these young women.

    Finally, the police need to do a better job of training, identifying and responding to these issues; communities and social services need to do a better job of protecting runaways, who are the primary targets of traffickers; legislators need to pass legislation aimed at prosecuting traffickers and “johns,” the buyers who drive the demand for sex slaves; and hotels need to stop enabling these traffickers, by providing them with rooms and cover for their dirty deeds.

    That so many women and children continue to be victimized, brutalized and treated like human cargo is due to three things: one, a consumer demand that is increasingly lucrative for everyone involved—except the victims; two, a level of corruption so invasive on both a local and international scale that there is little hope of working through established channels for change; and three, an eerie silence from individuals who fail to speak out against such atrocities.

    But the truth is that we are all guilty of contributing to this human suffering. The traffickers are guilty. The consumers are guilty. The corrupt law enforcement officials are guilty. The women’s groups who do nothing are guilty. The foreign peacekeepers and aid workers who contribute to the demand for sex slaves are guilty. Most of all, every individual who does not raise a hue and cry over the atrocities being committed against women and children in almost every nation around the globe—including the United States—is guilty.

  • Student-Loan Crisis Worsens; Looming Defaults Strain Govt Bailout Program

    As the student loan bubble continues to burst, record numbers of Americans enrolling in government subsidized student loan debt-forgiveness plans, known as income-driven repayment, are on track to send the US student-loan program into negative territory, according to a report by the Department of Education’s inspector general.

    Debt-laden graduates search for the six-figure jobs they were promised

    The plans, known as income-driven repayment, set monthly payments as a percentage of a borrower’s earnings and typically forgive balances after 10 or 25 years, depending on the borrower’s career field and debt amounts.

    Overall, borrowers in income-driven repayment will repay less than what they originally borrowed, the report said, draining the program of billions of dollars in expected revenue. –WSJ

    As we reported last month, nearly 40% of student loans taken out in 2004 may default by 2023 according to a report by the Brookings Institute – blowing past all previous projections.

    a

    Of note, approximately 5% of undergraduates took out private student loans in 2004, which swelled to 14% of undergraduates by 2008 – 2,901,000 students according to ticas.org. Private student loans, as opposed to federal student loans, are unable to participate in income-driven government repayment programs

    The federal student loan system had originally been projected to turn a profit of $25 billion on all loans made up to Sept. 30, 2015 – however that number has been revised down to $5 billion, according to the IG report. The income-driven repayment program alone will cost the government $11.5 billion in revenue. 

    “The data show the total costs for all loans…approaching an overall positive subsidy,” which translates to a net cost to taxpayers, i.e. the program going into the red – according Patrick Howard, the department’s assistant inspector general for audit.

    a

    The IG report was highly critical of the Department of Education for a glaring lack of transparency over the student loan program – which has grown to one of America’s largest consumer loan portfolios. A cumulative $1.4 trillion in federal student debt is owed by 43 million Americans – which is unable to be discharged in bankruptcy. As such, the debt forgiveness program is the only hope if the six-figure job borrowers were promised before taking out a six-figure loan didn’t materialize. 

    Republicans in Congress have criticized the debt forgiveness plan created by the Obama administration, as they say the plans are being taken advantage of on a large scale. 

    “What was designed as a temporary safety net has become the standard where students expect their debt to be forgiven after a certain amount of time,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.), head of the committee overseeing education, told the Senate during a hearing last week. “We will not know the impact of so many borrowers being in this program for another decade, when the first set of borrowers begin to have their debt forgiven.”

    The Department of Education has committed to providing more transparency going forward, stating in the report that it is “committed to the transparent communication of the Federal student loan program costs, including describing trends in repayment options that may impact future estimated costs.” 

    As we reported last July, the US saw its largest one-month outlay on record at $429 billion, 33% higher than its July 2016 outlay –  because the Treasury revised up its estimates of the subsidy cost of student loans, and to a lesser extent housing, it guarantees.

    a

    Here is the CBO explanation:

    Outlays for the Department of Education rose by $31 billion (or 51 percent), because the department revised upward, by roughly $39 billion, the estimated net subsidy costs of loans and loan guarantees issued in prior years—a change much larger than last year’s $7 billion upward revision. If the effects of those revisions were excluded, outlays for the department for the first nine months of fiscal year 2017 would have fallen by $2 billion (or 3 percent).

    Outlays for the Department of Housing and Urban Development rose by $29 billion, primarily because the department made upward revisions in June 2017, but downward revisions in April 2016, to the estimated net subsidy costs of loans and loan guarantees issued in prior years.

    While the federal student loan debacle is going to fall on the shoulders of US taxpayers, it will be interesting to see how private lenders – such as Wells Fargo, adapt to 40% of their 2004 loans defaulting within the next five years. 

  • "Hostiles…"

    Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

    I don’t like going to the movies. Too much hassle, too many commercials and previews, too expensive, and 90% of the movies are worthless drivel, SJW inspired crap, or government buoyed propaganda. Last weekend was my wife’s birthday and she wanted to see a movie. When she shockingly suggested a western, I reluctantly agreed. So my wife and one of my sons got in the car and headed to an old Franks theater in Montgomeryville that only charges $8.50. I had seen a brief review of Hostiles on-line and saw it got a decent rating on rotten tomatoes. I was looking forward to being mildly entertained.

    The next two hours and fifteen minutes of this dark, somber, violent, morally ambiguous treatise about the old west cannot be described as enjoyable.

    But I did find it riveting and thought provoking. Christian Bale, as Captain Joseph Blocker, mournfully carries out his duties without a single smile crossing his bearded countenance for the entire movie. The tone, atmosphere and message of this film reminded me of my favorite western and subject of the final part of my five part series based on Clint Eastwood movies – Unforgiven. One of the soldiers in Hostiles even has dialogue almost matching Will Munny’s foreboding exchange at the end of Unforgiven:

    “That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. And I’m here to kill you, Little Bill, for what you did to Ned.”

    It was clear to me Scott Cooper, the director, was paying tribute to Eastwood and his Academy Award winning revisionist western classic, with his dark cinematography, introspective atmosphere, and themes of good, evil, heroism, aging, duty and courage. Movies in this age of shallowness, disinformation, and fake news rarely broach subjects like the treatment of Native Americans in the 1800s.

    The usual superficial Hollywood treatment paints a black and white picture of good and evil; right and wrong; good guys and bad guys, when the true picture is a swirling surreal portrait of opacity and moral relativism. The reason Unforgiven is considered a classic is its honest portrayal of the brutality, murder, reputation, heroes, villains, and the blurred line between good and evil.

    Hostiles tells the story of Captain Joseph Blocker who is on the verge of retirement after decades of fighting Indians, with a reputation as the most relentless, brutal and unforgiving Indian fighter in the U.S. Cavalry. By order of the president he is tasked with returning a paroled and dying of cancer Cheyenne Chief – Yellow Hawk – to his home Valley of the Bears in Montana so he can be buried in his birthplace. He initially refuses the assignment because of his blind hatred of all Indians and specifically Yellow Hawk.

    During his decades of fighting Indians, he found Yellow Hawk to be his equal in murderous brutality and disdain for his enemies. He personally slaughtered four of Blocker’s closest friends. His colonel threatens him with court martial and the loss of his government pension if he does not carry out his orders. Always the good soldier, he obeys and leads his hand-picked men as they begin their mission.

    Shortly after undertaking their mission they come across a burnt out homestead where a Comanche renegade war party had killed and scalped the patriarch, shot and killed his three children and left a shattered wife who had hidden in the woods to escape slaughter. The stoic, gruff, hard hearted Blocker makes the executive decision to escort this broken woman to safety, the soldier displaying a degree of compassion that almost renders him unrecognizable.

    The dangerous journey to Montana becomes a metaphor for Blocker’s passage from blind hatred to trust, understanding and retrieval of his humanity. After a lifetime of barbarity and animosity, killing without remorse because he didn’t see his enemy as human, Blocker gradually gains perspective and empathy.

    Image result for yellow hawk hostiles

    After his unit is attacked by the same murderous Comanche war party and he loses some of his few soldiers, Blocker reluctantly removes the chains from Yellow Hawk, who gives his word to help defend their small contingent. They prove their worth and allegiance by sneaking out of camp in the middle of the night and slaughtering the Comanche warriors and then returning. Blocker silently acknowledges this act, beginning to shift his preconceived beliefs about Yellow Hawk and his Cheyenne brethren.

    A grudging respect between mortal enemies develops as the journey and metaphor intersect and the violence of the old West continues unabated. The line between heroes, villains, bravery, cowardice, murder and self-defense blurs, as the concept of morality is distorted by the lawlessness of an unforgiving world. The old West was far more complex than portrayed by the Hollywood entertainment complex.

    Despite a well-crafted film and an Academy Award winning lead, I believe this western will not connect with Americans and draw a large audience because we are in the midst of a Fourth Turning.

    Movies and books become blockbusters when they reflect the current mood of the country. The violent backdrop of Hostiles fits into the current paradigm, but its message of compromise, understanding, and reconciliation is inconsistent with the current disposition of the American populace.

    Americans are in a fighting mood. Just as physical altercations broke out on the floors of Congress in the 1850s and compromise became impossible, the current animosity in the political realm has crossed the point of no return. Self-proclaimed moderates have no say in the current poisoned partisan atmosphere. The pure hatred and vitriolic loathing of opponents for control of this country has reached a breaking point.

    Hostile is the perfect description for the factions clashing for control of the American Empire. The last week revealed the Deep State conspiratorial plot to prevent Donald Trump from winning the presidency. A sitting president, his high level lackeys in the FBI and DOJ, crooked Hillary, and the left wing propaganda spewing media, colluded to steal the presidential election – essentially committing treason. A few years ago only obscure bloggers used the term Deep State to describe the shadowy wealthy interests pulling the strings behind the scenes and ruling over the peasants through a combination of fear, disinformation, surveillance, propaganda, and control of the legislative, judicial and executive branches.

    Now there is irrefutable proof Edward Bernays was telling the truth in 1928 regarding an invisible government manipulating the habits and opinions of the ignorant masses to benefit their own self interests. The level of control and manipulation has reached a tipping point. The internet, obscure bloggers, and a small but vocal irate minority setting brush fires of freedom in the minds of critical thinking citizens has foiled the plans of Deep State traitors.

    The unanticipated election of Trump has unleashed a tsunami of civil strife, plots to undermine the presidency, exposing the corporate fake news media as co-conspirators of the Deep State, and an out of control surveillance state that makes Orwell’s 1984 Big Brother seem like a piker. Make no mistake about it, there is a civil war ongoing in this country and the outcome is very much in doubt.

    The three critical factors driving this Fourth Turning continue to be civic decay, global disorder and debt.

    As described, civic decay is accelerating at an astounding rate, hurtling the country towards a Constitutional crisis. Every day new evidence of surveillance state misdeeds feeds the rage building among critical thinking non-partisan Americans. The American military empire is actively engaged in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Africa, and other countries around the globe. Turkey is at war in Syria with our Kurd allies.

    Our Al Qaeda backed rebels are fighting Assad and Russia. The Ukraine is a powder keg, with our installed lackey president pushing for conflict with Russia. Israel and Hamas are on the verge of war. Iran and Saudi Arabia are fighting a proxy war in Yemen. The Korean peninsula could explode at any moment. Global disorder is mounting in intensity and dimension. America’s belligerency, policing the world, provoking Russia and China into an alliance, and pursuing the agenda of neocons and the military industrial complex, pushes the world ever closer towards a global conflict.

    The third core element of this Fourth Turning has thus far been the component temporarily concealing the foulest aspect of this ongoing crisis. The Deep State and their financiers at the Fed and Too Big To Trust Wall Street banks have propped up a debt saturated failing financial system with tens of trillions in additional debt. By artificially suppressing interest rates; rigging stocks, currencies and precious metals through the shadowy derivatives market and dark pools; and providing free money to Wall Street bankers, they have purposely created the largest bubble in world history in stock, bond and real estate markets simultaneously. The “Everything Bubble” puts all other bubbles to shame. Just the slowing of debt creation is beginning to reveal cracks in the system.

    Image result for everything bubble zero hedge

    The average American has been led to believe the current bull market is due to an improving economy or some other such tripe. Their delusions are built on a vaporous foundation of unpayable debt and relentless propaganda spewed by the corporate media. This debt based paradigm is mathematically unsustainable. A 1% increase in interest rates blows the entire Ponzi scheme sky high – and rates have begun to rise. The ten year Treasury breaching 2.8% last week led to a 1,100 drop in the Dow in the blink of an eye. When greed turns to fear, look out below.

    Buy the dip says the Wall Street shill “experts” who are paid to tout stocks. Debt is still the key focal point which will propel this Fourth Turning towards its climax. Leverage is a beautiful thing during a crack up boom, as speculators who believe they are brilliant investors appear to get money for nothing. During the inevitable bust the highly leveraged “investing experts” see their faux wealth evaporate in an instant, while the debt remains and must be serviced.

    I wonder how the investing geniuses who bought bitcoin at $18,000 with their credit card a few weeks ago are feeling now with bitcoin below $8,000. It appears this fragile fake financial house of cards, built on a titanic mountain of dodgy debt, is wobbling and the slightest gust of wind or 25 basis point increase in interest rates endangers all of the Deep State machinations to prop up their failing social order. When average Joes and Janes see their 401ks obliterated for the third time in the last two decades, they will be enraged and susceptible to the ravings of the latest politician lunatic savior. When people lose it all, they will lose control of their reason, and all hell will break loose.

    Once financial hardship sweeps over the land, the civic decay and global disorder will fuse with the anger of the populace and thrust this crisis into a violent dimension. The use of debt by the Deep State ruling class has disguised the rot in the system, but will turbocharge the downside as financial collapse and universal dismay with those in power leads to violence, bloodshed and war.

    If you think the current environment is hostile, you haven’t studied history to understand the death and destruction wrought during the climaxes of the last two Fourth Turnings. Millions will die before this is over. We are exiting the eye of the hurricane and the risk of catastrophe is high. You can feel the swelling peril in your bones. Get your affairs in order and get ready for the next phase of this crisis.

    Image result for exiting the eye of a hurricane

    “The risk of catastrophe will be very high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule. If there is a war, it is likely to be one of maximum risk and effort – in other words, a total war. Every Fourth Turning has registered an upward ratchet in the technology of destruction, and in mankind’s willingness to use it.” – Strauss & Howe – The Fourth Turning

  • "Sea Hunter" – A Drone Ship With No Crew Just Joined The US Naval Fleet

    In the latest installment of the Pentagon’s preparation for the fast-approaching drone wars, a prototype autonomous ship known as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV) has successfully been transferred to the United States Navy from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), after it completed its multi-year Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.

    The autonomous ship “Sea Hunter”, developed by DARPA, is shown docked in Portland, Oregon after its christening ceremony, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola

    Christened as the “Sea Hunter,” the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will take the reins from DARPA in the development process, which the anti-submarine warfare vessel could be the first of an entirely new class of warship for the United States Navy. The vessel can travel thousands of miles and even stay at sea for months without the need of a manned crew.

    “ACTUV’s move from DARPA to ONR marks a significant milestone in developing large-scale USV technology and autonomy capabilities,” said Alexander Walan, a program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office (TTO).

    “Our collaboration with ONR has brought closer to reality a future fleet in which both manned warships and capable large unmanned vessels complement each other to accomplish diverse, evolving missions,” Walan added.

    “ONR appreciates the truly impressive work by DARPA in advancing this technology, and the strong partnership we’ve had on ACTUV over the years,” said Robert Brizzolara, ONR program officer for MDUSV.

    “As ACTUV transfers from DARPA to ONR, ONR is looking forward to continuing and capitalizing on the science and technology work. In particular, we are already working on autonomous control, a challenging area that is key to maturing MDUSV and delivering it to the fleet,” he said.

    “ACTUV represents a new vision of naval surface warfare that trades small numbers of very capable, high-value assets for large numbers of commoditized, simpler platforms that are more capable in the aggregate,” said Fred Kennedy, TTO director.

    “The U.S. military has talked about the strategic importance of replacing ‘king’ and ‘queen’ pieces on the maritime chessboard with lots of ‘pawns,’ and ACTUV is a first step toward doing exactly that,” he stated.

    Newsweek outlines the cost benefits of the drone-ship and points out its strategic purpose of a “surveillance vehicle.”

    The vessel comes at a relatively cheap $20 million prospective price tag and takes only around $20,000 a day to run. This figure is less expensive than a crew-run ship and also nixes potential personnel risks when navigating dangerous missions, such as navigating a minefield. Without firepower onboard, the Sea Hunter is currently a surveillance vehicle. Its tests so far have revolved around how easily and autonomously the vessel can maneuver its 132-foot-long body, accelerate to speeds nearing 27 knots, and using use radar and cameras to spot other vessels.

     

    Sea Hunter christening ceremony in Portland, Oregon. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

    Last month, General Mark Milley warned an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Institute of Warfare event, that the United States must embrace artificial intelligence, robotics, and other emerging technologies immediately to maintain relevance on the ever so changing battlefield.

    “I don’t know if artificial intelligence is going to mean robots and machines replace humanity… but I do know the quantum computing and some of the IT technologies that are out there today are so significant and can help you [with] rapid decision-making in complex decentralized environments – that if we don’t take advantage of that in things like the network—then we would be fools because others are moving out quickly on that,” Milley said.

    “Every vehicle is going to have the capability to be robotic,” he said, stressing the importance of a vehicle’s flexibility in giving options to a commander on the front lines, giving him options without requiring different vehicles to be deployed. “He can estimate the situation, he can make a determination as to whether he wants this assault to be manned or unmanned,” Milley explained

    As a whole, the Pentagon is racing against the clock to implement future combat systems of tomorrow into the military vehicles of today. Just take note, what is happening in the United States Navy with the new addition of “Sea Hunter,” signals the modernization of America’s military will be through the adoption of autonomous vehicles. When the next major conflict breaks out, it is likely that machines will be on the front-lines waging an unemotional war against each other.

  • "Bad People Lied To A Kangaroo Court" – Americans Can Handle The Truth!

    Authored by Robert Gore via Straight Line Logic blog,

    The bigger issue is FISA’s evisceration of the Fourth Amendment.

    Due to the sensitive nature of foreign intelligence activity, FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] submissions (including renewals) before the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] are classified. As such, the public’s confidence in the integrity of the FISA process depends on the court’s ability to hold the government to the highest standard—particularly as it relates to surveillance of American citizens. However, the FISC’s rigor in protecting the rights of Americans, which is reinforced by 90-day renewals of surveillance orders, is necessarily dependent on the government’s production to the court of all material and relevant facts. This should include information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application that is known by the government. In the case of Carter Page, the government had at least four independent opportunities before the FISC to accurately provide an accounting of the relevant facts. However, our findings indicate that, as described below, material and relevant information was omitted.

    House Intelligence Committee FISA Memorandum, 1/18/18, Declassified 2/2/18

    It’s hard to read the above without laughing. The only people who think that the government in a non-adversarial, secret, non-reviewable judicial proceeding will produce “all material and relevant facts,” including “information potentially favorable to the target of the FISA application,” are those pathetically deluded souls who believe that when rules, regulations, and laws are promulgated everyone complies, including the government that promulgated them. They’re always shocked when reality proves otherwise.

    The rest of us might want to consider what it took for this exposure of potential government wrongdoing before the FISC. The House Intelligence Committee (HIC) pressed for months and was forced to threaten subpoenas before the Department of Justice and the FBI turned over the evidence upon which its memorandum is based.

    If this wasn’t such a high-profile partisan battle, impinging on the presidency, that effort never would have been made. Had Hillary Clinton been elected or Democrats controlled Congress, none of this would have seen the light of day. The intelligence agencies and the FBI can rest assured, it will be business as usual before the FISC: non-adversarial, secret, non-reviewable proceedings in which they can allege, unchallenged, pretty much anything they want, their surveillance requests rubber-stamped by the court (historically it’s approved over 99 percent of all requests).

    It is a measure of President Trump’s contempt for civil liberties that he just signed a reauthorization of the FISA law that was used to infringe his civil liberties. The reauthorization expands the government’s surveillance and bulk data capture of Americans’ personal information pursuant to general warrants that do not “require probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” (Fourth Amendment, US Bill of Rights).

    Most importantly, the reauthorization “would permit the use of evidence of crimes in federal court even when it is discovered during mass surveillance authorized by general warrants.”  Trump will overlook that little infringement of his rights in the interests of expanding his access to information and the power implicit in such access. He pursues power and is quite proficient at it. Civil liberties can be a real hindrance.

    Incidentally, the HIC released its memo to Congress after FISA was reauthorized. HIC Republicans favored that reauthorization, despite what they have alleged about nefarious activities before the FISC. Their memo might have changed some votes. Anybody think the timing was a coincidence?

    The FISC enables the government to end run Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights. The HIC memo is a tree, FISA’s destruction of civil liberties the forest. Investigations, possibly indictments, trials, and convictions, will grind on for years and provide plenty of grist for plenty of commentators’ mills. The investigations will eventually wind down, but FISA may be forever. Comey and the Clintons might be in jail, but we all could be, based on evidence obtained without probable cause via general warrants, the government’s data gathering rubber-stamped by its kangaroo court.

    As for the HIC’s memo, it’s a fine piece of legal craftsmanship, although it’s not a legal document per se. It confines itself to one matter: the DOJ and FBI’s request for a probable cause order—and three subsequent renewals—authorizing electronic surveillance of Trump campaign volunteer advisor Carter Page.

    In the understated, cautious style that is the hallmark of competent legal investigatory work, the memo makes a prima facie case that certain individuals broke various laws. While the evidence underlying conclusions about various DOJ and FBI officials’ misrepresentations and omissions to the FISC, their biases, and ties to Fusion GPS has not been made public, there is almost certainly an ample evidentiary basis for those conclusions.

    That evidence, the Democrats’ “counter-memo” and their evidence, and the FISA application and renewals should all be released to the public. The classified information isn’t protecting vital state secrets; it’s protecting officials from embarrassment and possible criminal charges. The American people are smarter and more honorable than those arguing for continuing secrecy; they can handle the truth.

    It’s been claimed that the HIC memo plays into Russia’s or Putin’s hands, or that US intelligence capabilities have been or could be irreparably damaged if information was released, without explaining how those consequences could flow. An unfortunate aspect of the American establishment is that it seals itself off from hostile questions in adversarial settings. Never underestimate the power of a question. It would only take one or two to demonstrate that intelligence flunkies, Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, John McCain, and a host of media commentators are either lying through their teeth or have no idea what they’re talking about.

    Speaking of big issues, the biggest issue of them all, unsustainable global debt, made an unbidden appearance last week as bond yields broke long-term trend lines to the upside and stocks gave way to the downside. Possible subversion of a duly elected president and even FISA’s evisceration of the Fourth Amendment may amount to playing on the beach as the tsunami rolls in. You can’t do much about what’s going on in Washington. For the tsunami, on the other hand, you can move to higher ground if you have not already done so.

  • "We Say Peoplekind": Trudeau Mansplains To Woman That "Mankind" Is Not An Appropriate Term

    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being widely mocked over the internet after he interrupted a woman during  a town hall to admonish her over using the word “mankind” in her question, telling her to instead use “peoplekind.” Trudeau was hosting a Q&A at MacEwan University in Edmonton on Thursday as part of a cross-country tour which began in January. 

    Aimee, a member of South Korean feminist church World Mission Society Church of God, asked a question about removing Canadian restrictions on religious organizations when Trudeau corrected her. 

    Aimee: We came here today to ask you to also look into the policies that religious charitable organizations have in our legislations so that it can also be changed because maternal love is the love that’s going to change the future of mankind.

    Trudeau: We — we like to say “peoplekind,” not necessarily “mankind” ’cause it’s more inclusive. 

    Aimee tells the Daily Mail that she wasn’t offended by Trudeau’s comment, saying “It wasn’t negative,’ and adding “Did it look like I was bothered by it?” 

    And while Aimee may not have been bothered per-se, Twitter was merciless to the politically correct Prime Minister:

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

  • Steve Wynn Resigns As CEO Of Wynn Resorts After Sex Allegations.

    Little more than a week after the Wall Street Journal published a stunning report about casino mogul Steve Wynn’s decades-long history of sexual assault, harassment and abuse, the casino mogul has stepped down from the eponymous company that he founded back in 2002.

    In a statement, Wynn said Max Maddox, the company’s president, will succeed him as CEO, and Boone Wayson will take over as non-executive chairman, effective immediately.

    Wynn

    Wynn decried the “rush to judgment” over the allegations for forcing him to step down. He has steadfastly denied the allegations in the WSJ report.

    “In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity,” Wynn said. “As I have reflected upon the environment this has created – one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts – I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.”

    The decision comes 10 days after he stepped down as finance chair of the Republican National Committee.

    Since the WSJ’s original blockbuster, more women have come forward to accuse Wynn of abuse, including one former employee who said Wynn coerced her into sex multiple times back in the late 1980s because he said he wanted to know what it felt like to have sex with a grandmother, according to a Las Vegas Review-Journal report.

    In the statement, Wayson lauded Wynn for his “pivotal” role in “transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today.”

    Since the original WSJ report, Wynn Resorts’ stock has shed almost a quarter of its value.

    * * *

    Read the statement in its entirety below:

    STATEMENT FROM WYNN RESORTS:

    The Board of Directors of Wynn Resorts reluctantly announced today that it accepted the resignation of Steve Wynn as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors.  The board has appointed Matt Maddox, currently President of the Company, as its CEO, and Boone Wayson as Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, effective immediately.

    “It is with a collective heavy heart, that the board of directors of Wynn Resorts today accepted the resignation of our founder, CEO and friend Steve Wynn,” said non-executive director of the board Boone Wayson.  “Steve Wynn is an industry giant.  He is a philanthropist and a beloved leader and visionary.  He played the pivotal role in transforming Las Vegas into the entertainment destination it is today. He also assembled a world-class team of executives that will continue to meet the high standards of excellence that Steve Wynn created and the Wynn brand has come to represent.”

    Steve Wynn created modern Las Vegas.  He transformed the city into an economic powerhouse by making it a world-wide tourist destination.  He designed, built and operated the most iconic resorts on the Las Vegas strip, beginning with the Mirage, then Treasure Island, the Bellagio, Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.  Wynn Macau, Mr. Wynn’s first resort in the SAR of Macau in China, was designated by Forbes Travel Guide as the best resort in the world.  Along with Wynn Palace in Cotai, the company built by Steve Wynn has been recognized as having more Five Star awards than any independent hotel company in the world.

    Wynn Resorts remains as committed as ever to upholding the highest standards and being an inclusive and supportive employer.  In fact, more than 40 percent of all Wynn Las Vegas management are women; the highest in the gaming industry. The company will continue to fully focus on its operations at Wynn Macau, Wynn Palace and Wynn Las Vegas; the development and opening of the first phase of Wynn Paradise Park, currently under construction on the former Wynn golf course; as well as the construction of Wynn Boston Harbor, which will open in June 2019.  

    Details of Mr. Wynn’s separation agreement will be disclosed when they are finalized.

    STATEMENT FROM STEVE WYNN:

    “In the last couple of weeks, I have found myself the focus of an avalanche of negative publicity.  As I have reflected upon the environment this has created — one in which a rush to judgment takes precedence over everything else, including the facts — I have reached the conclusion I cannot continue to be effective in my current roles.  Therefore, effective immediately, I have decided to step down as CEO and Chairman of the Board of Wynn Resorts, a company I founded and that I love.

    “The Wynn Resorts team and I have built houses of brick.  Which is to say, the institution we created — a collection of the finest designers and architects ever assembled, as well as an operating philosophy now ingrained in the minds and hearts of our entire team — will remain standing for the long term.   I am extremely proud of everything we have built at this company.  Most of all, I am proud of our employees.

    “The succession plan laid out by the Board of Directors and which I wholeheartedly endorse now places Matt Maddox in the CEO seat.  With Matt, Wynn Resorts is in good hands.  He and his team are well positioned to carry on the plans and vision for the company I created.  

    I want to thank all of the employees who have made Wynn Resorts the most admired resort company in the world, and for the support I have received from them in recent weeks.  Most importantly, I want everyone to continue to be proud of this company and the many unique ways it will forever continue to delight guests.”

     

  • Whole Foods Employees Miserable: "Seeing Someone Cry At Work Is Becoming Normal"

    Whole Foods’ new inventory management system aimed at improving efficiency and cutting down on waste is taking a toll on employees, who say the system’s stringent procedures and graded “scorecards” have crushed morale and led to widespread food shortages, reports Business Insider

    The new system, called order-to-shelf, or OTS, “has a strict set of procedures for purchasing, displaying, and storing products on store shelves and in back rooms. To make sure stores comply, Whole Foods relies on “scorecards” that evaluate everything from the accuracy of signage to the proper recording of theft, or “shrink.”

    Some employees, who walk through stores with managers to ensure compliance, describe the system as onerous and stress-inducing. Conversations with 27 current and recently departed Whole Foods workers, including cashiers and corporate employees — some of whom have been with the company for nearly two decades — say the system is seen by many as punitive. –BI

    Terrified employees report constant fear over losing their jobs over the OTS “scorecards,” which anything below 89.9% can qualify as a failing score – resulting in possible firings. 

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Store managers test employees twice weekly, according to company documents, while corporate employees from the store’s Austin, Texas headquarters conduct monthly walkthroughs which stores must themselves pass. 

    I wake up in the middle of the night from nightmares about maps and inventory, and when regional leadership is going to come in and see one thing wrong, and fail the team,” a supervisor at a West Coast Whole Foods told Business Insider. “The stress has created such a tense working environment. Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal.”

     

    Despite the heart-palpitating shortcomings of the OTS system, employees, supervisors and industry analysts have said that Whole Foods’ previous inventory management system was inefficient and needed to be updated. 

    “Whole Foods had a very decentralized approach, which adds complexity, and complexity adds cost,” said Jim Holbrook, CEO of private label and retail consultancy Daymon Worldwide, which recently started working with Whole Foods.

    Under the old system, buyers at the store and regional levels had more sway over what to sell. With OTS, however, those decisions have been shifted to the Austin corporate offices – a similar approach to conventional supermarkets like Safeway and Kroger. 

    It remains to be seen whether this business model — and OTS — will work for Whole Foods. Holbrook believes it will. He said Amazon, which purchased Whole Foods last year for $13.7 billion, would be able to help Whole Foods work out the kinks with OTS.

    “Amazon is very good at managing logistics behind the scenes,” Holbrook said. “Whole Foods will be a better shopping experience as a result.”

    Many employees are also hopeful that Amazon will fix the new system.

    “We all just hope that Amazon will walk into some stores and see all the holes on the shelf,” a 12-year employee of a Midwest Whole Foods said. –BI

    In their defense, Whole Foods says it’s order-to-shelf (OTS) system allows employees more time to engage with customers – a poorly thought out response. 

    “The team members are really excited about” order-to-shelf, said Whole Foods EVP of operations David Lannon last year on a call with investors, adding “They’re really proud when they’re able to achieve that, which is lower out-of-stocks, less inventory in the store, being able to be on the sales floor talking to customers and selling more products.”

    Boston Whole Foods (Paul Fantoni)

    Whole Foods employees around the country thought that was hilarious. One such disaffected West Coast supervisor said “On my most recent time card, I clocked over 10 hours of overtime, sitting at a desk doing OTS work,” adding “Rather than focusing on guest service, I’ve had team members cleaning facial-care testers and facing the shelves, so that everything looks perfect and untouched at all times.”

    Many Whole Foods employees at the corporate and store levels still don’t understand how OTS works, employees said.

    “OTS has confused so many smart, logical, and experienced individuals, the befuddlement is now a thing, a life all its own,” an employee of a Chicago-area store said. “It’s a collective confusion — constantly changing, no clear answers to the questions that never were, until now.”

    An employee of a North Carolina Whole Foods said: “No one really knows this business model, and those who are doing the scorecards — even regional leadership — are not clear on practices and consequently are constantly providing the department leaders with inaccurate directions. All this comes at a time when labor has been reduced to an unachievable level given the requirements of the OTS model.

    Other employees have complained about a lack of training as a key reason as to why the OTS system is failing. 

    “The problem lies in lack of training and the fact that every single member of management from store level to corporate is over tasked and overburdened,” according to one former corporate employee who conducted walkthroughs at East Coast locations. 

    Some even suggested that Whole Foods corporate had no clue about working in stores – and that the new OTS protocols were absurd. 

    “In the beginning, we actually had a checklist where one task was to initial that you initialed off another task.” 

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

Digest powered by RSS Digest

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: