20 October 2017

The rich, screwed by their own greed yet again

The San Francisco Chronicle has an article by Matier & Ross about rich people who wish they'd paid their taxes:

Thanks to a little-noticed auction sale, a South Bay couple are the proud owners of one of the most exclusive streets in San Francisco, California and now they’re looking for ways to make their purchase pay.
Tina Lam and Michael Cheng (photo, above) snatched up Presidio Terrace, the block-long, private oval street lined by thirty-five mega-million-dollar mansions for $90,000 and change in a city-run auction stemming from an unpaid tax bill. They outlasted several other bidders.
Now they’re looking to cash in, maybe by charging the residents of those mansions to park on their own private street.
Those residents value their privacy, and their exclusivity. Past homeowners have included Senator Dianne Feinstein and her financier husband, Richard Blum; House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi; and the late Mayor Joseph Alioto. A guard is stationed round the clock at the stone-gate entrance to the street to keep the curious away.
So imagine the residents’ surprise when San Jose, California residents Cheng and Lam wound up with the street, its sidewalksm and every other bit of “common ground” in the private development that has been managed by the homeowners since at least 1905. That includes a string of well-coiffed garden islands, palm trees and other greenery that enhance the gated and guarded community at the end of Washington Street, just off Arguello Boulevard and down the hill from the Presidio.
“We just got lucky,”said Cheng, a real estate investor.
The homeowners, however, are crying foul and want the Board of Supervisors to negate the sale.
The couple’s purchase appears to be the culmination of a comedy of errors involving a fourteen-dollar-a-year property tax bill that the homeowners association failed to pay for three decades. It’s something that the owners of all two hundred private streets in San Francisco are obliged to do.
In a letter to the city last month, Scott Emblidge, the attorney for the Presidio Homeowners Association, said the group had failed to pay up because its tax bill was being mailed to the Kearny Street address used by an accountant who hadn’t worked for the homeowners since the 1980s.
Two years ago, the city’s tax office put the property up for sale in an online auction, seeking to recover less than a thousand dollars in unpaid back taxes, penalties, and interest. Cheng and Lam, trawling for real estate opportunities in the city, pounced on the offer, snatching up the parcel with a $90,100 bid, sight unseen.
Since the purchase in April of 2015, the couple have been quietly sitting on the property, talking to a number of land-use attorneys to explore their options.
“We were looking to get title insurance so it could be marketable,” Cheng said. He and his wife see plenty of financial opportunity, especially from the more than a hundred parking spaces on the street that they now control.
“We could charge a reasonable rent on it,” Cheng said.
If the Presidio Terrace residents aren’t interested in paying for parking privileges, perhaps some of their neighbors outside the gates, in a city where parking is at a premium, would be. Unsurprisingly, the residents were more than a little upset when they belatedly found out what had happened. They didn’t learn that their street and sidewalks had been sold until they were contacted on 30 May 2017 by a title search company working on behalf of Cheng and Lam, said Emblidge. The title search outfit wanted to know if the residents had any interest in buying back the property from the couple, the lawyer said. “I was shocked to learn this could happen, and am deeply troubled that anyone would choose to take advantage of the situation and buy our street and sidewalks,” said one homeowner, who asked not to be named because of pending litigation.
Last month, the homeowners petitioned the Board of Supervisors for a hearing to rescind the tax sale. The board has scheduled a hearing for October. In addition, the homeowners association has sued the couple and the city, seeking to block Cheng and Lam from selling the street to anyone while the city appeal is pending, a move residents fear could complicate their efforts to reclaim the land.
The residents say the city had an obligation to post a notice in Presidio Terrace notifying neighbors of the pending auction back in 2015, something that “would have been simple and inexpensive for the city to accomplish.”
Treasurer-Tax Collector Jose Cisneros’ office says the city did what the law requires.
“Ninety-nine percent of property owners in San Francisco know what they need to do, and they pay their taxes on time, and they keep their mailing address up to date,” said spokeswoman Amanda Fried. “There is nothing that our office can do” about the sale now, she added. Fried said that, as far as she knows, the Board of Supervisors “has never done a hearing of rescission”, and that, because it’s been more than two years since Cheng and Lam bought the property, it could be tough to overturn the sale now.
As for the threat to charge them for parking, the residents suspect it’s part of a pressure campaign by the couple to force the homeowners association to shell out big bucks to buy back the street. The couple, however, say they’re in no hurry to sell.
“I’m a first-generation immigrant, and the first time I came to San Francisco I fell in love with the city,” said Lam, an engineer in Silicon Valley, who was born in Hong Kong and came to the US for college. “I really just wanted to own something in San Francisco because of my affinity for the city,” Lam said.
There’s a bit of irony in the couple’s purchase. Until a 1948 US Supreme Court ruling banning the enforcement of racial covenants, homes in Presidio Terrace could be purchased only by whites.
“The more we dug into this,” said the Taiwan-born Cheng, “the more interesting it got.”
Rico says it's high time rich stupid people got their comeuppance...

Cross-species behavior

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this:

Only in Texas

Rico's friend Kelley forwards this:
The city of Dallas, Texas passed an ordinance stating that, if a driver
is pulled over by law enforcement and is not able to provide
proof of insurance, the car must be towed. To retrieve the car after being
impounded, they must show proof of insurance to have the car released.
This has made it easy for Dallas to get uninsured cars off the roads.
Shortly after the No Insurance ordinance was passed, the Dallas
impound lots began to fill up, and were full after only nine days.
Over eighty percent of the impounded cars were driven by illegals.
Now, not only must they provide proof of insurance to have their car
released, they have to pay for the cost of the tow, a $350 fine, and
twenty dollars for every day their car is kept in the lot. Guess what?
Accident rates went down by nearly fifty percent, and Dallas' solution got uninsured
drivers off the road without making them show proof of nationality.
Rico says leave it to the Texans...

Ha, ha, missed

Space.com has an article about a near-miss:


ARTICLE
Rico says we were lucky this time...

Back in the Series after 29 years

Yahoo has an article by Tim Brown about the Dodgers:

After 29 years and an untold number of replays of the astonishing home run that was their last real highlight, the Los Angeles Dodgers have returned to the World Series.
On a mild Thursday night at Wrigley Field, the Dodgers defeated the Chicago Cubs, 11-1, to win the best-of-seven National League Championship Series in five games. They will play the winner of the American League Championship Series, with the New York Yankees currently leading that series, three games to two, in a World Series that opens on Tuesday night in Los Angeles.
The Dodgers led Thursday night by 7-0 after three innings, and, just as the Cubs had begun to convince themselves they might inch back into the World Series, the Dodgers had once led, three games to none. Enrique Hernandez, the utilityman and occasional starter, hit a solo home run in the second inning, a grand slam in the third and a two-run home run in the ninth in support of ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw pitched six innings and allowed one run.
In the last World Series played at Dodger Stadium, a gimpy Kirk Gibson struck a pinch-hit, two-run, walk-off home run against the Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley, the Dodgers won in five, and a generation of Dodgers fans subsisted on that memory, along with a few near misses.
Since then the Dodgers, once among the most stable franchises in all sports, were sold by the O’Malleys, bought by Fox, bought by Frank McCourt, and bought by Guggenheim. Tommy Lasorda retired, which brought Bill Russell, a little Glenn Hoffman, some Davey Johnson, five years of Jim Tracy, two of Grady Little, three of Joe Torre, five of Don Mattingly, and now Dave Roberts; they’re on their eighth general manager and their fifth president. Sure, it’s going on thirty years, but that’s a lot of new ideas, new directions, new strategies, and what it got them was nearly three decades of sometimes good, sometimes horrific baseball, and never anything of real substance by late October.
These Dodgers, in their third season under baseball operations president Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi, their second with Roberts as manager, won 104 games, a franchise best since 1953, five years before it moved out of Brooklyn. They swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the best-of-five division series, then won the first three games of the NLCS before clinching with some authority in Game 5.
It was Wrigley as usual on Thursday night, same as ever, crowded and loud and hoping for the best. Former catcher David Ross, a local favorite, tossed the ceremonial first pitch accompanied by his familiar theme song, Forever Young.
The fans dutifully booed all the proper people, among them the umpires and Dodgers they’d heard of. Kyle Schwarber reached his position in left field, removed his cap, and reintroduced himself to the bleachers. Then he danced to Mosaico Del Cacique, turning in slow circles and grinning.
The Cubs would play again, with their only option being to win. Their recent history said they wouldn’t scare, given they’d won the final three games of the past World Series and, just last week, Game 5 of their division series against the Washington Nationals. Still, it’s a precarious existence, given to variables such as it being Kershaw’s turn to pitch and Hernandez finding his home run stroke.
Enrique Hernandez drilled three home runs against the Cubs, including a grand slam to lead the Dodgers to the World Series.
Jose Quintana started for the Cubs, intent on doing a better job of attacking the strike zone, though he’d walked only two batters and allowed two runs across five innings of Game 1. (Both walks scored.) Then he walked the first batter of the game, Chris Taylor, but took him nine pitches to do it. Cody Bellinger doubled him home. Hernandez, who’d homered eleven times in the regular season and never in twenty-nine previous postseason at-bats, hit the first pitch of the second inning into the basket atop the brick wall in center field. The Dodgers led, 2-0, then, in the third inning, their first four batters reached base. Out went Quintana, in came Cubs reliever Hector Rondon, and on the first pitch of his next at-bat, with the bases loaded, Hernandez homered into the basket in right field. He’d received two pitches, hit two home runs and driven in five. The Dodgers led, 7-0, and a thin Cubs bullpen was in full bloom, and Kershaw had thrown but 27 pitches. The rest was a lesson in pitching to the big part of the ballpark and measuring Kershaw’s readiness for Game 1 of the World Series. He threw 89 pitches and was removed after six innings with the Dodgers in front, 9-1. Not long after, before a crowd of 42,735, Ross reappeared, sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame, asked for more runs, and shook his fist. The folks would have a little more time to rehash memories of last October, and wish each other well, and promise to catch up again in April.
In a couple innings, the inevitable came, Kenley Jansen on the mound, Willson Contreas at the plate. Dodgers players and coaches massed on the infield, so much behind them, and the World Series five days away.
Rico says it matters naught to him, but Los Angeles will go nuts...

19 October 2017

Trump for the day UF

WHAT has an article by Dan Lamothe, Lindsey Bever. and Eli Rosenberg about Trump's latest gaffe:
President Trump, in a personal phone call to a grieving military father, offered him $25,000 and said he would direct his staff to establish an online fundraiser for the family, but neither happened, the father said.
Chris Baldridge, the father of Army Sergeant Dillon Baldridge, said that Trump called him at his home in Zebulon, North Carolina, a few weeks after his 22-year-old son and two fellow soldiers were fatally shot by an Afghan police officer on 10 June 2017. Their phone conversation lasted about fifteen minutes, Baldridge said, and centered for a time on the father’s struggle with the manner in which his son was killed, shot by someone he was training.
“I said, ‘Me and my wife would rather our son died in trench warfare,’ ” Baldridge said. “I feel like he got murdered over there.”
Trump’s offer of $25,000 adds a dimension to his relationships with Gold Star families, and the disclosure follows questions about how often the president has called or written to the parents or spouses of those killed.
The Washington Post contacted the White House about Baldridge’s account on Wednesday morning, but officials declined to discuss the events in detail.
But in a statement Wednesday afternoon, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said: “The check has been sent. It’s disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the President, and using it to advance the media’s biased agenda.”
It took 18 months for President Barack Obama to fulfill a similar promise made to the family of Kayla Mueller, who was killed in 2015 while she was held captive by the Islamic State in Syria. Obama’s undisclosed sum, for a charity set up in Mueller’s name, arrived only after a report by ABC News called attention to what the president later described as an oversight.
[12 days of silence: How Trump handled the deadliest combat incident of his presidency]
Trump said this week that he has “called every family of somebody that’s died, and it’s the hardest call to make.” At least 20 Americans have been killed in action since he became commander in chief in January. The Post interviewed the families of 13. About half had received phone calls, they said. The others said they had not heard from the president.

In his call with Trump, Baldridge, a construction worker, expressed frustration with the military’s survivor benefits program. Because his ex-wife was listed as their son’s beneficiary, she was expected to receive the Pentagon’s $100,000 death gratuity — even though “I can barely rub two nickels together,” he told Trump.
The president’s response shocked him.
“He said, ‘I’m going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,’ and I was just floored,” Baldridge said. “I could not believe he was saying that, and I wish I had it recorded because the man did say this. He said, ‘No other president has ever done something like this,’ but he said, ‘I’m going to do it.’ ”
 Play Video 2:23
Gold Star widow said Trump's phone call was ‘heartfelt’
Natasha De Alencar describes her phone call with President Trump, who called her after her husband, Mark Rochetto De Alencar, was killed in action. (Thomas Johnson/The Washington Post)
The president has been on the defensive since details emerged of his phone call Tuesday with the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, who was killed Oct. 4 along with three other U.S. soldiers in Niger. After not addressing the incident for 12 days, Trump on Monday falsely claimed that previous presidents never or rarely called the families of fallen service members. In fact, they did so regularly.

[The private life of Sgt. La David Johnson, the slain soldier ensnared in a Trump controversy]
White House officials circulated a statement of sympathy for the soldiers killed in Niger after the attack, but it was never released, Politico reported Wednesday. It is not clear why the statement was never released, but it was prepared when the Pentagon had said only that three soldiers were killed and before officials disclosed that a fourth soldier, Johnson, also was killed. His body was recovered Oct. 6, two days after the attack.
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) said Trump called Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, on Tuesday and said her husband “knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway.” Wilson was riding in a limousine with the widow and said she heard the conversation on speakerphone.
Attempts to reach Myeshia Johnson on Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Trump denied the allegation Wednesday, saying in a tweet that Wilson had “totally fabricated” what happened and that he had “proof.” But the soldier’s childhood guardian, Cowanda Jones-Johnson, told The Post that she also was in the car when Trump called, and said that “President Trump did disrespect my son and my daughter and also me and my husband.”

Trump later expanded his denial, saying that he did not say what Wilson alleged and that “she knows it.”
He added: “I had a very nice conversation with the woman, with the wife who was — sounded like a lovely woman. Did not say what the congresswoman said, and most people aren’t too surprised to hear that.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president, saying in a news briefing that Trump was “completely respectful” during the call. Several White House officials, including Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, were in the room at the time, she said.
In all, seven Gold Star families contacted by The Post said they have had phone conversations with Trump. Most said they appreciated the gesture. Four other families said they have not received a call and were upset. One said Trump had not called but that they knew the late soldier would not want his death politicized. An additional family said it had corresponded with the White House but declined to elaborate.
The Associated Press reached one other family, that of Army Spec. Etienne Murphy, 22. His mother said she received neither a call nor a letter from the president.

Baldridge said that after the president made his $25,000 offer, he joked with Trump that he would bail him out if he got arrested for helping. The White House has done nothing else other than send a condolence letter from Trump, the father said.
“I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest,” the father said. “I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, ‘Damn, no check.’ Just a letter saying ‘I’m sorry.’ ”
The experiences of other Gold Star families were more typical.
The family of Sgt. Cameron H. Thomas, a 23-year-old Army Ranger killed April 27 in a raid on the Islamic State in Afghanistan, met with Vice President Pence at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as the soldier’s casket arrived from overseas. They had a 20-minute call with Trump about two weeks later, said Thomas’s father, Andre.
“He gave his condolences and made some comments how different his paperwork was when it went across his desk,” the father said in a phone interview. “Said most of the paperwork he sees in these types of death says, ‘He’s respected by his peers.’ He said Cameron’s stuck out because it said he was respected and loved by his peers.”
Thomas said he spoke at length about his son’s love for the Army and his determination to become a Ranger, a distinction he earned at age 19. About midway through the phone call, Thomas said he told Trump that he had voted for him, and “that got him on another tangent” that extended the conversation for about 10 minutes.”
The president then spoke about his work in office and “the strides that he’s made in the short time he’d been president,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the family was touched by the phone call. The father of a Mormon family with 12 children, seven of them adopted, Thomas said he was concerned about the attention that his son’s death could bring. But talking to the president helped him put things in perspective and realize that his son “belonged to the country.”
“Politics is politics, and maybe some people wouldn’t care to hear from him,” he said. “But putting politics aside, it does mean a lot to a family, their child.”
William J. Lee, 40, said his entire family spoke by phone with Trump after his brother, Army 1st Lt. Weston Lee, 25, was killed in Mosul, Iraq, on April 29.
“He was very cordial and very nice,” Lee said, of the call, which he said lasted about five or six minutes.
Lee said the president spoke to them about “how impressive my brother was, how he had read the reports, reading everything about Weston, and he could tell how amazing he was. And talking to us, he could tell how strong we were and how strong he must have been. We were all pretty devastated.
“It meant something, the leader of our nation calling us and showing the honor and respect to my brother that I feel my brother earned,” Lee said, his voice cracking.
Quinn Butler, whose 27-year-old brother, Aaron, was killed in August by an explosion in Afghanistan, said that their parents received numerous letters from generals and other leaders, but no call or letter from Trump.
Staff Sgt. Aaron Butler, a Special Forces soldier, was very supportive of Trump and appreciative for what he has done for the military, his brother said. Quinn Butler said his brother believed that Trump helped initiate some changes that have enabled commanders to make more progress against the militants in Afghanistan.
Butler said that he was surprised that his parents did not receive a call from Trump, considering his brother was a “very elite soldier, a soldier who had given everything.” But he said that the soldier would not want his death politicized.
“I think that Aaron would be very upset if anything was manipulated to show that he didn’t support Trump and that he wasn’t appreciative of the things that he did do, because he was,” the brother said.
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Euvince Brooks’s son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed Aug. 13 in Iraq. He has not heard from the White House. The president’s claim this week that he had called every military family to lose a son or daughter only upset the Brooks family more.
Brooks said that after watching the news on Tuesday night he wanted to set up a Twitter account to try to get the president’s attention.
“I said to my daughter, ‘Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he’s a liar?’” he said. “You know when you hear people lying, and you want to fight? That’s the way I feel last night. He’s a damn liar.”
Rico says that dumb doesn't begin to describe the guy...

Yorktown, 1781 UF


History.com has an article about the big British defeat by George Washington and the colonial army:
Hopelessly trapped at Yorktown, Virginia, British General Lord Cornwallis surrenders eight thousand British soldiers and seamen to a larger Franco-American force, effectively bringing an end to the American Revolution.
Lord Cornwallis was one of the most capable British generals. In 1776, he drove General George Washington’s forces out of New Jersey, and, in 1780, he won a stunning victory over General Horatio Gates’ army at Camden, South Carolina. Cornwallis’ subsequent invasion of North Carolina was less successful, however, and in April of 1781 he led his weary and battered troops toward the Virginia coast, where he could maintain seaborne lines of communication with the large British army of General Henry Clinton, based in New York City. After conducting a series of raids against towns and plantations in Virginia, Cornwallis settled in the tidewater town of Yorktown in August. The British immediately began fortifying the town and the adjacent promontory of Gloucester Point across the York River.
General George Washington instructed the Marquis de Lafayette, who was in Virginia with an American army of around five thousand men, to block Cornwallis’ escape from Yorktown by land. In the meantime, Washington’s troops in New York were joined by a French army of four thousand men under the Count de Rochambeau. Washington and Rochambeau made plans to attack Cornwallis with the assistance of a large French fleet under the Count de Grasse, and on August 21 they crossed the Hudson River to march south to Yorktown. Covering 200 miles in 15 days, the allied force reached the head of Chesapeake Bay in early September.
Meanwhile, a British fleet under Admiral Thomas Graves failed to break French naval superiority at the Battle of Virginia Capes on September 5, denying Cornwallis his expected reinforcements. Beginning September 14, de Grasse transported Washington and Rochambeau’s men down the Chesapeake to Virginia, where they joined Lafayette and completed the encirclement of Yorktown on September 28. De Grasse landed another 3,000 French troops carried by his fleet. During the first two weeks of October, the 14,000 Franco-American troops gradually overcame the fortified British positions with the aid of de Grasse’s warships. A large British fleet carrying 7,000 men set out to rescue Cornwallis, but it was too late.
On October 19, General Cornwallis surrendered 7,087 officers and men, 900 seamen, 144 cannons, 15 galleys, a frigate, and 30 transport ships. Pleading illness, he did not attend the surrender ceremony, but his second-in-command, General Charles O’Hara, carried Cornwallis’ sword to the American and French commanders. As the British and Hessian troops marched out to surrender, the British bands played the song “The World Turned Upside Down.”
Although the war persisted on the high seas and in other theaters, the Patriot victory at Yorktown effectively ended fighting in the American colonies. Peace negotiations began in 1782, and on September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, formally recognizing the United States as a free and independent nation after eight years of war.
Rico says

18 October 2017

Lest we forget

It was only sixteen years ago:

At 0845 on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with twenty thousand gallons of jet fuel crashed (photo) into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the eightieth floor of the hundred-and-ten-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower and its twin got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, eighteen minutes after the first plane hit, a second Boeing 767, United Airlines Flight 175, appeared out of the sky, turned sharply toward the World Trade Center, and sliced into the south tower at about the sixtieth floor. The collision caused a massive explosion that showered burning debris over surrounding buildings and the streets below. America was under attack.
The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, they were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and its continued military presence in the Middle East. Some of the terrorists had lived in the United States for more than a year and had taken flying lessons at American commercial flight schools. Others had slipped into the US in the months before 11 September and acted as the “muscle” in the operation. The nineteen terrorists easily smuggled box-cutters and knives through security at three East Coast airports and boarded four flights bound for California, chosen because the planes were loaded with fuel for the long transcontinental journey. Soon after takeoff, the terrorists commandeered the four planes and took the controls, transforming the ordinary commuter jets into guided missiles.
As millions watched in horror the events unfolding in New York City, American Airlines Flight 77 circled over downtown Washington and slammed into the west side of the Pentagon at 0945. Jet fuel from the Boeing 757 caused a devastating inferno that led to a structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building. All told, over a hundred military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.
Less than fifteen minutes after the terrorists struck the nerve center of the military, the horror in New York City took a catastrophic turn for the worse when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed in a massive cloud of dust and smoke. The structural steel of the skyscraper, built to withstand winds in excess of two hundred mph and a large conventional fire, could not withstand the tremendous heat generated by the burning jet fuel. At 1030, the other Trade Center tower collapsed. Close to three thousand people died in the World Trade Center and its vicinity, including a staggering 343 firefighters and paramedics, two dozen New York City police officers, and 37 Port Authority police officers who were struggling to complete an evacuation of the buildings and save the office workers trapped on higher floors. Only six people in the World Trade Center towers at the time of their collapse survived. Almost ten thousand other people were treated for injuries, many severe.
Meanwhile, a fourth California-bound plane, United Flight 93, was hijacked about forty minutes after leaving Newark International Airport in New Jersey. Because the plane had been delayed in taking off, passengers on board learned of events in New York and Washington via cell phone and Airfone calls to the ground. Knowing that the aircraft was not returning to an airport as the hijackers claimed, a group of passengers and flight attendants planned an insurrection. One of the passengers, Thomas Burnett, Jr., told his wife over the phone that “I know we’re all going to die. There’s three of us who are going to do something about it. I love you, honey.” Another passenger, Todd Beamer, was heard saying “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll” over an open line. Sandy Bradshaw, a flight attendant, called her husband and explained that she had slipped into a galley and was filling pitchers with boiling water. Her last words to him were “everyone’s running to first class. I’ve got to go. Bye.”
The passengers fought the four hijackers and are suspected to have attacked the cockpit with a fire extinguisher. The plane then flipped over and sped toward the ground at upwards of five hundred miles per hour, crashing in a rural field in western Pennsylvania at 1010. All 45 people aboard were killed. Its intended target is not known, but theories include the White House, the Capitol, the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, or one of several nuclear power plants along the eastern seaboard.
At 1900, President George W. Bush, who had spent the day being shuttled around the country because of security concerns, returned to the White House. At 2100, he delivered a televised address from the Oval Office, declaring that “terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve.” In a reference to the eventual military response he declared: “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”
Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led international effort to oust the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and destroy Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network based there, began on 7 October 2001. Bin Laden was killed during a raid of his compound in Pakistan by American forces on 2 May 2011.
Rico says they're still at it...

Stars colliding UF

Space.com has an article by Elizabeth Howell about the usual amazing events out there:

VIDEO

Telescopes all over the world and in space were busy on 17 August 2017, when scientists made the first-ever observations of both light and gravitational waves from a single cosmic event. Here are some of the stunning images of the event, including some from the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as artists' illustrations that give insight into the complex workings of this energetic collision.
The eruption of light and gravitational waves (ripples in the universal fabric known as space-time) was produced by an event known as a kilonova, or the collision and merger of two neutron stars, which are the dead cores of stars that stopped burning fuel. This is the first time scientists have directly observed a kilonova eruption, scientists said during a news conference on 16 October.
Astronomers at today's news conference said that this detection of both light and gravitational waves marks the beginning of the era of multi-messenger astrophysics, which means studying the cosmos with fundamentally different types of information, such as gravitational waves and light.
Dozens of observatories detected the event using every wavelength of light, from radio waves to gamma-rays. The event was observed in gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which has two detectors located in the US, and the Virgo gravitational-wave observatory in Italy.
Neutron stars are the leftover, dense cores of larger stars that ended their lives in supernova explosions. When two neutron stars merge, they can explode as a kilonova, as shown in this artist's impression. While kilonovas are believed to be rare, the observations confirm that these objects also produce heavy elements such as gold and platinum, including those found on Earth. Several observatories saw light from the event, in addition to the observations by LIGO and Virgo. All of the gravitational wave signals that LIGO has observed previously (and the one previous detection by Virgo) came from merging black holes. The object detected on 17 August 2018 is in the galaxy NGC 4993 and is about a hundred and thirty million light-years from Earth.
The kilonova explosion was spotted in the galaxy NGC 4993, which shown here in an image from the Hubble Space Telescope. The kilonova is visible here to the upper left of the very bright galactic center, and appears as a golden-yellow spot. Astronomers have two names for the 17 August event, depending on what type of phenomenon is referred to. GW170817 refers to the gravitational waves observed from the merger, while GRB 170817A looks at the gamma-ray burst produced by the neutron-star merger. Gamma-ray bursts are the brightest known electromagnetic events in the universe, and can be created by a few different phenomena.
This wider view of NGC 4993 comes from the Visible MultiObject Spectrograph (VIMOS) on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. The kilonova explosion is also visible here — it is the small, white speck immediately above and to the left of the galaxy's center. (This image shows exactly where the kilonova is.) A statement from ESO describes the galaxy as "not itself unusual," even though it will go down in history as the home of the first observed kilonova. The galaxy was first discovered in 1789 by the astronomer William Herschel, and is in the constellation Hydra. Amateur observers can use telescopes to see the galaxy as a fuzzy object, which is located near galaxies M83 and M68.
Mapping gravitational wave sources
This map shows the locations of all five gravitational-wave signals detected by LIGO since the first detection in 2015. In the background is an optical image of the Milky Way; the discoveries are plotted on the entire celestial sphere, which is represented as a translucent dome. The gravitational waves come from relatively small sources (the two neutron stars were each only about the size of a large city), but LIGO cannot pinpoint the location of those sources: It can only provide scientists with a wide area from which the source originated. When the Virgo detector began detecting signals, however, and combined them with LIGO's two detectors, researchers were able narrow down this range somewhat. It is only with light-based telescopes that researchers were finally able to pinpoint the location of a gravitational-wave source on the sky. [In Videos: Gravitational-Wave Detection from Neutron-Star Crash]

Ultraviolet glow


The Aug. 17 kilonova was also visible in ultraviolet light, as spotted by NASA's Swift telescope. The Swift ultraviolet and optical telescope imaged the event about 15 hours after other observatories detected the gravitational waves and gamma-ray burst on Aug. 17. Just 12 days later, on Aug. 29, the kilonova faded and became undetectable in ultraviolet light. This image uses false colors and is based on data from images taken with three ultraviolet filters. Inset is a magnified view of the galaxy.

X-ray burst


This image combines optical observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and X-ray observations from NASA's space-based Chandra X-ray Observatory. While Hubble saw optical and infrared light from hot debris associated with the kilonova, Chandra saw an X-ray afterglow on Aug. 26, nine days after the merger. The X-rays come from a jet of material and light directed toward Earth that was initially too narrow to be observable, but expanded and eventually became visible, according to NASA.

Extreme explosion


The kilonova on Aug. 17 was visible to several instruments on multiple telescopes that are all managed by the European Southern Observatory. Some of those observations are shown here in a composite image. Upper left: Observations from the OmegaCAM (a wide-field imager) on the Very Large Telescope array (VLT) Survey Telescope (VST). Upper right: The VISTA InfraRed CAMera (VIRCAM) on the VISTA (Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy). Lower left: The Gamma-ray Burst Optical/Near-infrared Detector (GROND) on the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope. Lower right: The Visible MultiObject Spectrograph (VIMOS) on the VLT. Center: The Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer on the VLT.
Rico says the universe continues to amaze...

Disrupting Da Wawah

The Regimental Quartermaster has an article about a fake (fortunately) 'device' found at the Cedar Creek reenactment:


Hoax device temporarily halts the reenactment 
On Saturday, 14 October 2018, at 1600, a suspicious device was reported in Sutler's Row shortly after the completion of the day's reenactment. Local authorities were called and quickly responded, evacuating all personnel from the area. The device was disrupted in a controlled method by authorities. No additional devices were found. While it did disrupt activities for the day, it was not successful in deterring reenactors, living historians, or sutlers who had traveled so far to enjoy this annual event sponsored by the not-for-profit Cedar Creek Foundation

Anyone else notice?

Rico says he thinks Letterman's new look is odd:

The NFL stamps its foot

Yahoo has an article by Frank Schwab about the latest on the anthem issue:

The NFL‘s position after commissioner Roger Goodell‘s news conference on Wednesday was clear: the league wants its players to stand for the national anthem.
However, it appears there will be no rule passed to force that issue.
Goodell had a news conference at the NFL’s fall meetings that lasted about twenty minutes and almost every question was related to the anthem and player protests. Goodell’s main talking point was that the NFL also will listen to its players about social issues and wants to be a part of the solution.
Everyone was focused on what will happen at NFL games with the national anthem, which has become the most divisive issue among fans that the league has seen in a long time. “We believe everyone should stand for the anthem,” Goodell said. “That’s an important part of our policy, it’s also an important part of our game that we all take great pride in. It’s also important for us to honor our flag and our country and we think our fans expect us to do that.”
The best outcome for the NFL would be for the players to stop protesting without the league making a rule change. Goodell sounded like the league hopes that, if it keeps working with its players to help with their issues of racial equality and law enforcement reform, then perhaps the protests will end. “The fact is, we have about a half a dozen players that are protesting,” Goodell said. “We hope and we’re going to continue to work to try to put that at zero. That’s what we’d like to do. But we want to make sure we’re understanding what the players are talking about, and that’s complex.”
The number Goodell cited seems low, considering seven San Francisco 49ers players alone took a knee for last Sunday’s anthem, and as many as thirty 49ers players were taking a knee two weeks ago. But it appeared he wanted to make it a point that it’s not as widespread of an issue as it is being made out to be.
Goodell was asked why the NFL wouldn’t make it a rule to stand. New York Giants owner John Mara told the Daily News that the league has no plans to make a rule about standing for the anthem. “We believe our players should stand for the national anthem. That’s an important part of our game and our moments, and we believe in that,” Goodell said. “I think we also have to keep focus on this: we have about six or seven players involved in this protest at this point. This is something, what we’ve tried to do is we’ve tried to deal with the underlying issue and understand what it is they’re protesting and try to address that matter. The important thing for us is to be able to do that and take that opportunity to make real differences in our community. That is really what’s ultimately going to be the important aspect for us long term. Because this is a long-term issue.
“I understand the way our fans feel about this issue, and we feel the same way about the importance of our flag, the importance of patriotism, and I believe our players feel that way. The will state to you and they have stated to everyone publicly, they’re not doing this in any way to be disrespectful to the flag, but they also understand how it’s being interpreted.”
Goodell was also asked about the latest tweet from President Donald Trump about the NFL
The NFL has decided that it will not force players to stand for the playing of our National Anthem. Total disrespect for our great country!
Goodell said he has not talked to Trump about the anthem issue. “We respect our country, respect our flag, respect our national anthem,” Goodell said. “I think you look at our clubs and what they do on a daily basis, look at our players and what they do and how they participate in that, we all feel very strongly about our country and our pride.”
Rico says everyone's waffling as hard as they can...

More Trump for the day

The New York Times has an article by Mark Landler and David Sanger about the Iranians:

President Trump (photo) is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, according to people who have been briefed on the matter, a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate on Iran, but is likely to leave in place the landmark deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.
Still, Trump’s expected move would allow him to tell supporters that he had disavowed the accord, while bowing to the reality that the United States would isolate itself from its allies if it sabotaged a deal with which Iran is viewed as complying. Trump repeatedly ridiculed the accord during the 2016 presidential campaign, vowing to rip it up.
White House officials cautioned that the President had not yet formally decided to “decertify” the agreement. But he faces a 15 October 2017 deadline, and he has made little secret of his intentions, most recently when he declared at the United Nations two weeks ago that the agreement was “embarrassing to the United States”.
Trump will present his decision on the deal as part of a broader American strategy to crack down on Iran for its ballistic missile program and destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East. Administration officials said he had signed off on the overall approach and hoped he would present it before the deadline.
Comment:Too bad we cannot decertify Mr. Trump.
The strategy is an effort by the Trump administration to make the nuclear agreement only part of a multidimensional approach to pressure Iran on many fronts, including its missile program, its support for militant groups like Hezbollah and its intervention in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the Assad government.
But the administration has yet to articulate that broader strategy. As a result, the nuclear deal remains the fulcrum of the relationship with Iran, and a political football in Washington.
Congress will have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions, which could sink the deal, or use the prospect of that to force Iran, and the other parties to the deal, back to the negotiating table to make changes in the agreement.
That is the approach favored by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who has emerged as a leading hard-liner on Iran and is working closely with the White House to devise its strategy. On Thursday, Cotton met with Trump to discuss Iran and other issues.
Congress and the president, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face,” Cotton said in a speech on Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Reimposing sanctions, he said, would be a “backward-looking step.”
Cotton said the United States and its allies should demand three changes to the deal: an elimination of “sunset clauses”, under which restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities are phased out in less than fourteen years; a strengthening of international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities; and a curbing the country’s ballistic and cruise-missile programs.
Democrats argue that Trump should certify the agreement, warning that the administration’s ability to press Iran on other activities it objects to would be compromised, rather than enhanced, if the United States threw the future of the agreement into question.
Britain, France and Germany, all signatories to the agreement, are watching Trump’s deliberations with deepening concern. Diplomats from the three countries, as well as from the European Union, met with dozens of senators this week to warn them that if the United States withdrew, Europe would not follow.
“For us, this is a high priority in our national security,” said Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to Washington. “We will stand by the Iran deal, and we want you not to walk away, but to comply with it. We share some of the grievances you have about Iran, and we can talk about it, and we should talk about it, but only on the basis of sticking to the deal.”
The deal is also contentious inside the administration. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both urged Trump not to back out of it, in part because that would free Iran to begin producing uranium and reprocessing plutonium immediately, not after thirteen years, as is stipulated in the agreement.
But Trump, after twice certifying the deal, has warned his aides that he would not do so again. As a result, the administration is looking for ways to claim Iran is in violation of the “spirit” of the accord, even if it has complied with inspection criteria. The International Atomic Energy Agency has said that Iran was in compliance; when it has found minor violations, they have been quickly fixed.
The president could also decline to certify it by claiming that the deal is simply not in the national security interests of the United States.
While the White House said that Trump had not formally signed a decision memo on the certification issue, he tipped his hand in mid-September with a less heralded, but in many ways more important, decision. At that time, facing another congressionally imposed deadline, he agreed to renew an exemption on sanctions on Iran.
Trump said nothing about that decision, which he came to reluctantly in a series of National Security Council meetings.
Declining to recertify Iran’s compliance would amount to a compromise. Because it is simply a notification from the White House to Congress, it has no legal effect by itself. Trump could tell his supporters that he broke with President Barack Obama on the deal, without actually violating its terms.
“It appears to be part of a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ strategy by the administration,” said Philip H. Gordon, who coordinated Middle East policy in the National Security Council during the Obama administration.
The risk, Gordon said, is that “while the administration may hope Congress refrains from passing new sanctions that cause the nuclear deal to collapse, no one can guarantee that outcome.” He noted that every Republican member of Congress voted against the deal.
The larger question is whether Trump’s “decertification” would gradually strangle the bigger goals of the nuclear negotiation: to integrate Iran with Western economies while assuring it cannot build a nuclear weapon for more than a decade.
If the Trump administration’s actions makes European banks fearful of lending billions to Iran to build new refineries, or expand other economic links with the West, it may fuel opposition to the deal inside Iran.
For its part, Iran has warned it would refuse to renegotiate the deal, or even talk about extending its length or conditions, unless the United States was also ready to make concessions on parts of the deal that have left it unhappy. While Trump argues that the United States paid too much up front in the deal to Iran, the Iranians reply that they were the ones who gave up most of their nuclear material before the arrangement went into effect.
“Are you prepared to return to us ten tons of enriched uranium?” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, asked in an interview in New York City in late September of 2017, referring to the stockpile of nuclear material, about 98 percent of the country’s nuclear fuel holdings, that Iran shipped out of the country in the opening moments of the accord.
Rico says the agreement might be “embarrassing to the United States", but not as embarrassing as Trump is...

Another shooting

Juliet Linderman has a Yahoo article via the Associated Press about another idiot with a gub:

A Maryland sheriff says three people have been killed and two were wounded during a shooting at an office park in the northeastern part of the state, is just south of the Interstate 95 interchange with Route 24.
Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler identified the shooter Wednesday morning as 37-year-old Radee Labeeb Prince. He says Prince opened fire with a handgun and police are looking for him. He is considered armed and dangerous.
The suspect and the victims were all associated with a company at the Emmorton Business Park in Edgewood, Maryland. The sheriff says the two wounded people are in serious condition. Nearby schools have been locked down as a precaution.
Rico says the problem isn't gubs, it's who uses them...

Trump for the day...

...denying saying stupid things, yet again, in this BBC article:

President Donald Trump says a claim that he made insensitive remarks to the recently-bereaved widow of a soldier is "totally fabricated".
Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said he had told the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson that "he knew what he was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway."
The Democratic lawmaker said she was shocked by the alleged comments.
Sergeant Johnson was among four American soldiers killed in Niger by Islamist militants this month. Trump had already been criticized for not contacting the families of the dead servicemen immediately after the fatal ambush on 4 October 2017.
Rico says sounds like something he'd say, the moron...

Tough lady gives tongue...

...but not how he wanted it, according to a BBC article:

Carrie Fisher once gave a Hollywood producer a cow's tongue after learning he had assaulted one of her friends. Heather Ross, who works in the film industry, told Fisher about how the unnamed producer sexually assaulted her in his car. Fisher reacted by personally delivering a cow tongue in a Tiffany box wrapped in a bow to his office in Los Angeles, California.
Ross revealed the story on a US radio station, 94.9 FM, in light of the recent Harvey Weinstein allegations. Ross spoke about how she contacted the producer, who is not Weinstein, to try and be a part of his new project.
After meeting up, she says the producer forced himself on her in his car after making an excuse to pull over, then reached over and climbed on top of her. Ross told the radio show she managed to push the producer off her, but as she fled, he said: "You'll never make a movie in my town and get the fuck out of my car."
When she told Fisher about what had happened, the late Star Wars actress took matters into her own hands. "About two weeks later, she sent me a message online and said, 'I just saw your attacker at Sony Studios. I knew he would probably be there, so I went to his office and personally delivered a Tiffany box wrapped with a white bow.'"
Ross continued: "I asked her what was inside and she said that 'it was a cow's tongue from Jerry's Famous Deli in Westwood, California, with a note that said if you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box!'" Ross added that knowing the Star Wars actress had her back had left a lasting impression on her.
"It felt validating to know, okay, first of all, this woman who I love as a friend was not just a fake Hollywood friend. That's who Carrie Fisher was. She spoke out and she put things out there in your face," she said.
Fisher, best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, died at the age of sixty in December of 2016.
Rico says that, with some women, it doesn't pay to mess with 'em...

History for the day: 1867: acquiring Alaska

History.com has an article about buying Alaska:

On 18 October 1867, the US formally took possession of Alaska after purchasing the territory from Russia for just over seven million dollars, or less than two cents an acre. The Alaska purchase comprised 586,412 square miles, about twice the size of Texas, and was championed by William Henry Seward, the enthusiastically expansionist Secretary of State under President Andrew Johnson.
Russia wanted to sell its Alaska territory, which was remote, sparsely populated, and difficult to defend, to the US rather than risk losing it in battle with a rival such as Great Britain. Negotiations between Seward (1801-1872) and the Russian minister to the US, Eduard de Stoeckl, began in March of 1867. However, the American public believed the land to be barren and worthless and dubbed the purchase Seward’s Folly and Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden, among other derogatory names. Some animosity toward the project may have been a byproduct of President Johnson’s own unpopularity. As the seventeenth president, Johnson battled with radical Republicans in Congress over Reconstruction policies following the Civil War. He was impeached in 1868, but acquitted by a single vote. Nevertheless, Congress eventually ratified the Alaska deal. Public opinion of the purchase turned more favorable when gold was discovered in a tributary of Alaska’s Klondike River in 1896, sparking a gold rush. Alaska became the forty-ninth state on 3 January 1959, and is now recognized for its vast natural resources. Today, a quarter percent of America’s oil and over fifty percent of its seafood come from Alaska. It is also the largest state in area, about one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states combined, though it remains sparsely populated. The name Alaska is derived from the Aleut word alyeska, which means “great land”. Alaska has two official state holidays to commemorate its origins: Seward’s Day, observed on the last Monday in March, celebrates the 30 March 1867, signing of the land treaty between the US and Russia, and Alaska Day, observed on 18 October, marking the anniversary of the formal land transfer.
Rico says we screwed the Russians on the deal.

Worth a trip to Nawlins

Rico says he would go, if he had the money:


Hendrix at Woodstock

Another classic from Rico's childhood:

17 October 2017

11:11, of course...

More Trump for the day

Mark Landler and David Sanger have a New York Times article about Trump:

President Trump (photo, above) is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, according to people who have been briefed on the matter, a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate on Iran but is likely to leave in place the landmark deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.
Still, Trump’s expected move would allow him to tell supporters that he had disavowed the accord, while bowing to the reality that the United States would isolate itself from its allies if it sabotaged a deal with which Iran is viewed as complying. Trump repeatedly ridiculed the accord during the 2016 presidential campaign, vowing to rip it up.
White House officials cautioned that the president had not yet formally decided to “decertify” the agreement. But he faces a 15 October 2017 deadline, and he has made little secret of his intentions, most recently when he declared at the United Nations two weeks ago that the agreement was “embarrassing to the United States.”
Trump will present his decision on the deal as part of a broader American strategy to crack down on Iran for its ballistic missile program and destabilizing actions throughout the Middle East. Administration officials said he had signed off on the overall approach and hoped he would present it before the deadline. 
Chris on 6 October 2017:
The Iran nuclear deal can help build relations with Iran and allow progress for peace but Trumpelstiltzkin and his ilk use the tiresome... 
6 October 2017
Here we go again, Benjamin Netanyahu and the paid minions of AIPAC in Congress alongside a Trump Administration which is more Likud than Republican... Too bad we cannot decertify Trump.
The strategy is an effort by the Trump administration to make the nuclear agreement only part of a multidimensional approach to pressure Iran on many fronts, including its missile program, its support for militant groups like Hezbollah, and its intervention in the Syrian civil war on behalf of the Assad government. But the administration has yet to articulate that broader strategy. As a result, the nuclear deal remains the fulcrum of the relationship with Iran, and a political football in Washington.
Congress will have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions, which could sink the deal, or use the prospect of that to force Iran and the other parties to the deal back to the negotiating table to make changes in the agreement.
That is the approach favored by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who has emerged as a leading hard-liner on Iran and is working closely with the White House to devise its strategy. On Thursday, Cotton met with Trump to discuss Iran and other issues. “Congress and the president, working together, should lay out how the deal must change and, if it doesn’t, the consequences Iran will face,” Cotton said in a speech on Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations. Reimposing sanctions, he said, would be a “backward-looking step.”
Cotton said the United States and its allies should demand three changes to the deal: an elimination of “sunset clauses”, under which restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities are phased out in less than fourteen years; a strengthening of international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities; and a curbing the country’s ballistic and cruise-missile programs.
Democrats argue that Trump should certify the agreement, warning the administration’s ability to press Iran on other activities it objects to would be compromised rather than enhanced if the United States threw the future of the agreement into question.
Britain, France, and Germany, all signatories to the agreement, are watching Trump’s deliberations with deepening concern. Diplomats from the three countries, as well as from the European Union, met with dozens of senators this week to warn them that if the United States withdrew, Europe would not follow.
“For us, this is a high priority in our national security,” said Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to Washington. “We will stand by the Iran deal, and we want you not to walk away, but to comply with it. We share some of the grievances you have about Iran, and we can talk about it, and we should talk about it, but only on the basis of sticking to the deal.”
The deal is also contentious inside the administration. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis have both urged Trump not to back out of it, in part because that would free Iran to begin producing uranium and reprocessing plutonium immediately, not after thirteen years, as is stipulated in the agreement.
But Trump, after twice certifying the deal, has warned his aides that he would not do so again. As a result, the administration is looking for ways to claim Iran is in violation of the “spirit” of the accord, even if it has complied with inspection criteria. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that Iran was in compliance; when it has found minor violations, they have been quickly fixed.
The president could also decline to certify it by claiming that the deal is simply not in the national security interests of the United States.
While the White House said that Trump had not formally signed a decision memo on the certification issue, he tipped his hand in mid-September with a less heralded, but in many ways more important, decision. At that time, facing another congressionally imposed deadline, he agreed to renew an exemption on sanctions on Iran.
Trump said nothing about that decision, which he came to reluctantly in a series of National Security Council meetings. Declining to recertify Iran’s compliance would amount to a compromise. Because it is simply a notification from the White House to Congress, it has no legal effect by itself. Trump could tell his supporters that he broke with President Barack Obama on the deal, without actually violating its terms.
“It appears to be part of a ‘have your cake and eat it too’ strategy by the administration,” said Philip H. Gordon, who coordinated Middle East policy in the National Security Council during the Obama administration. The risk, Gordon said, is that “while the administration may hope Congress refrains from passing new sanctions that cause the nuclear deal to collapse, no one can guarantee that outcome.” He noted that every Republican member of Congress voted against the deal.
The larger question is whether Trump’s “decertification” would gradually strangle the bigger goals of the nuclear negotiation: to integrate Iran with Western economies while assuring it can not build a nuclear weapon for more than a decade.
If the Trump administration’s actions makes European banks fearful of lending billions to Iran to build new refineries, or expand other economic links with the West, it may fuel opposition to the deal inside Iran.
For its part, Iran has warned it would refuse to renegotiate the deal, or even talk about extending its length or conditions, unless the United States was also ready to make concessions on parts of the deal that have left it unhappy. While Trump argues that the United States paid too much up front in the deal to Iran, the Iranians reply that they were the ones who gave up most of their nuclear material before the arrangement went into effect.
“Are you prepared to return to us ten tons of enriched uranium?” Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, asked in an interview in New York City in late September, referring to the stockpile of nuclear material, about 98 percent of the country’s nuclear fuel holdings, that Iran shipped out of the country in the opening moments of the accord.
Reuters has a Yahoo article by Dan Levine:
A US judge has blocked President Donald Trump's latest bid to impose restrictions on citizens from eight countries entering the United States, which had been set to take effect this week.
The open-ended ban, announced last month, targeted people from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. It was the latest version of a policy that had previously targeted six Muslim-majority countries but had been restricted by the Supreme Court.
The state of Hawai'i sued in Federal court in Honolulu, Hawai'i to block Trump's latest policy, arguing that Federal immigration law did not give him the authority to impose the restrictions. US District Judge Derrick Watson had previously blocked Trump's last travel ban in March. In his ruling on Tuesday, Watson said Hawai'i is likely to succeed in proving that Trump's latest travel ban violates Federal immigration law.
The policy "suffers from precisely the same maladies as its predecessor: it lacks sufficient findings that the entry of more than a hundred and fifty million nationals from six specified countries would be 'detrimental to the interests of the United States,'" Watson wrote.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump had promised as a candidate "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States." 
Rico says that Trump made a lot of promises to get elected, but is finding them hard to implement...

Another Korean war, maybe

Yahoo has an Associated Press article by Edith M. Lederer about the worsening situation in Korea:
North Korea’s deputy UN ambassador warned on Monday that the situation on the Korean peninsula “has reached the touch-and-go point, and a nuclear war may break out any moment”.
Kim In Ryong told the United Nations General Assembly’s disarmament committee that North Korea is the only country in the world that has been subjected to “such an extreme and direct nuclear threat” from the United States since the 1970s, and said the country has the right to possess nuclear weapons in self-defense. He pointed to large-scale military exercises every year using “nuclear assets” and said what is more dangerous is what he called an American plan to stage a “secret operation aimed at the removal of our supreme leadership.”
This year, Kim said, North Korea completed its “state nuclear force and thus became the full-fledged nuclear power which possesses the delivery means of various ranges, including the atomic bomb, the H-bomb, and intercontinental ballistic rockets.”
“The entire US mainland is within our firing range, and if the US dares to invade our sacred territory, even an inch, it will not escape our severe punishment in any part of the globe,” he warned.
According to state media, nearly five million North Koreans want to enlist or reenlist in the nation’s army, in part due to President Trump’s fiery rhetoric against the regime of Kim Jong Un.
Kim’s speech follows escalating threats between North Korea and the United States, and increasingly tough UN sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that his country is curtailing economic, scientific and other ties with North Korea in line with UN sanctions, and the European Union announced new sanctions on Pyongyang for developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday that diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving the North Korean crisis “will continue until the first bomb drops”. His commitment to diplomacy came despite President Donald Trump’s tweets several weeks ago that his chief envoy was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom he derisively referred to as Little Rocket Man:
North Korea’s deputy U.N. ambassador called his country’s nuclear and missile arsenal “a precious strategic asset that cannot be reversed or bartered for anything. Unless the hostile policy and the nuclear threat of the US is thoroughly eradicated, we will never put our nuclear weapons and ballistic rockets on the negotiating table under any circumstances,” Kim said. He told the disarmament committee that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, (DPRK) North Korea’s official name, had hoped for a nuclear-free world.
Instead, Kim said, all nuclear states are accelerating the modernization of their weapons and “reviving a nuclear arms race reminiscent of the Cold War era.” He noted that the nuclear weapon states, including the United States, boycotted negotiations for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that was approved in July by 122 countries at the United Nations. “The DPRK consistently supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the efforts for denuclearization of the entire world,” he said. But as long as the United States rejects the treaty and “constantly threatens and blackmails the DPRK with nuclear weapons, the DPRK is not in position to accede to the treaty.”
Rico says the last one, technically, never ended...

15 October 2017

Weinstein for the day

Yahoo has an article by Variety about fat and ugly Harvey Weinstein: (photo, above):
The Board of Directors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has stripped disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein of his membership in the organization. The move comes after a New York Times report that alleged decades of sexual misbehavior by Weinstein, and a New Yorker story that brought more disturbing details to light, including allegations of rape. Further accusations surfaced throughout the week.
In its statement, the Academy emphasized that its decision was about more than just Weinstein.
“We have voted to expel Weinstein not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over,” the statement reads.
The Academy’s decision also follows the British Academy’s announcement last week that that organization had suspended his membership.
Weinstein himself has been nominated for an Oscar twice, as producer of John Madden’s Shakespeare in Love and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. He won the prize for Madden’s film alongside producers Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, David Parfitt, and Edward Zwick.
But Weinstein’s Oscar reach far exceeded those personal highlights. Films he distributed through Miramax Films and The Weinstein Company. amassed hundreds of nominations. Beginning with Jim Sheridan’s My Left Foot in 1989, which won actor Daniel Day-Lewis his first Academy Award, Weinstein’s films dominated the awards circuit as the independent film movement took off in the 1990s, leading to Miramax’ first major victory for Anthony Minghella’s The English Patient.
Nearly thirty films have received best picture nominations under the Miramax or the Weinstein Company banner, including Garth Davis’ Lion last year. 
The Academy’s full statement:
“The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors met today to discuss the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and has voted well in excess of the required two-thirds majority to immediately expel him from the Academy. We do so not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over. What’s at issue here is a deeply troubling problem that has no place in our society. The Board continues to work to establish ethical standards of conduct that all Academy members will be expected to exemplify.”
Rico says bad behavior won't stop suddenly...

14 October 2017

If Yellowstone exploded... UF

...it'd be a bad day for everyone.

Becky Oskin has a LiveScience article about it:

Although fears of a Yellowstone volcanic blast go viral every few years, there are better things to worry about than a catastrophic super-eruption exploding from the bowels of Yellowstone National Park (photo).
Scientists at the US Geological Survey's (USGS) Yellowstone Volcano Observatory always pooh-pooh these worrisome memes, but that doesn't mean researchers are ignoring the possible consequences of a super-eruption. Along with forecasting the damage, scientists constantly monitor the region for signs of molten rock tunneling underground. Scientists scrutinize past super-eruptions, as well as smaller volcanic blasts, to predict what would happen if the Yellowstone Volcano did blow.
Here's a deeper look at whether Yellowstone's volcano would fire up a global catastrophe: 

Most of Yellowstone National Park sits inside three overlapping calderas. The shallow, bowl-shaped depressions formed when an underground magma chamber erupted at Yellowstone. Each time, so much material spewed out that the ground collapsed downward, creating a caldera. The massive blasts struck 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago. These past eruptions serve as clues to understanding what would happen if there was another Yellowstone mega-explosion.
If a future super-eruption resembles its predecessors, then flowing lava won't be much of a threat. The older Yellowstone lava flows never traveled much farther than the park boundaries, according to the USGS. For volcanologists, the biggest worry is wind-flung ash. Imagine a circle about five hundred miles across surrounding Yellowstone; studies suggest the region inside this circle might see more than four inches of ash on the ground, scientists reported on 27 August 2014, in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems.
The ash would be pretty devastating for the United States, scientists predict. The fallout would include short-term destruction of Midwest agriculture, and rivers and streams would be clogged by gray muck.
People living in the Pacific Northwest might also be choking on Yellowstone's fallout.
"People who live upwind from eruptions need to be concerned about the big ones," said Larry Mastin, a USGS volcanologist and lead author of the 2014 ash study. Big eruptions often spawn giant umbrella clouds that push ash upwind across half the continent, Mastin said. These clouds get their name because the broad, flat cloud hovering over the volcano resembles an umbrella. "An umbrella cloud fundamentally changes how ash is distributed," Mastin said. But California and Florida, which grow most of the country's fruits and vegetables, would see only a dusting of ash.
Yellowstone Volcano's next supereruption is likely to spew vast quantities of gases such as sulfur dioxide, which forms a sulfur aerosol that absorbs sunlight and reflects some of it back to space. The resulting climate cooling could last up to a decade. The temporary climate shift could alter rainfall patterns, and, along with severe frosts, cause widespread crop losses and famine.
But a Yellowstone megablast would not wipe out life on Earth. There were no extinctions after its last three enormous eruptions, nor have other superoeruptions triggered extinctions in the last few million years.
"Are we all going to die if Yellowstone erupts? Almost certainly the answer is no," said Jamie Farrell, a Yellowstone expert and assistant research professor at the University of Utah. "There have been quite a few super-eruptions in the past couple of million years, and we're still around."
However, scientists agree there is still much to learn about the global effects of super-eruptions. The problem is that these massive outbursts are rare, striking somewhere on Earth only once or twice every million years, one study found. "We know from the geologic evidence that these were huge eruptions, but most of them occurred long enough in the past that we don't have much detail on what their consequences were," Mastin said. "These events have been so infrequent that our advice has been not to worry about it."
A far more likely damage scenario comes from the less predictable hazards, large earthquakes and hydrothermal blasts in the areas where tourists roam. "These pose a huge hazard and could have a huge impact on people," Farrell said.
Human civilization will surely survive a super-eruption, so let's bust another myth. There is no pool of molten rock churning beneath Yellowstone's iconic geysers and mud pots. The Earth's crust and mantle beneath Yellowstone are indeed hot, but they are mostly solid, with small pockets of molten rock scattered throughout, like water inside a sponge. About nine percent of the hot blob is molten, and the rest is solid, scientists reported on 15 May 2015, in the journal Science. This magma chamber rests between three to six miles beneath the park.
Estimates vary, but a magma chamber may need to reach about fifty percent melt before molten rock collects and forces its way out. "It doesn't look like at this point that the Yellowstone magma reservoir is ready for an eruption," said Farrell, co-author of the 2015 study in the journal Science.
How do researchers measure the magma? Seismic waves travel more slowly through hot or partially molten rock than they do through normal rock, so scientists can see where the magma is stored, and how much is there, by mapping out where seismic waves travel more slowly, Farrell said.
The magma storage region is not growing in size, either, at least for as long as scientists have monitored the park's underground. "It's always been this size, it's just we're getting better at seeing it," Farrell said.
As with magma mapping, the science of forecasting volcanic eruptions is always improving. Most scientists think that magma buildup would be detectable for weeks, even years, preceding a major Yellowstone eruption. Warning signs would include distinctive earthquake swarms, gas emissions, and rapid ground deformation.
Someone who knows about these warning signals might look at the park today and think, "Whoa, something weird is going on!" Yellowstone is a living volcano, and there are always small earthquakes causing tremors, and gas seeping from the ground. The volcano even breathes, the ground surface swells and sinks as gases and fluids move around the volcanic "plumbing" system beneath the park.
But the day-to-day shaking in the park does not portend doom. The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory has never seen warning signs of an impending eruption at the park, according to the USGS.
What are scientists looking for? For one, the distinctive earthquakes triggered by moving molten rock. Magma tunneling underground sets off seismic signals that are different from those generated by slipping fault lines. "We would see earthquakes moving in a pattern and getting shallower and shallower," Farrell said. To learn about the earthquake patterns to look for, revisit the 2014 eruption of the Bardarbunga Volcano in Iceland. Both amateurs and experts "watched" Bardarbunga's magma rise underground by tracking earthquakes. The eventual surface breakthrough was almost immediately announced on Twitter and other social media. As with Iceland, all of Yellowstone's seismic data is publicly available through the U.S. Geological Survey's Yellowstone Volcano Observatory and the University of Utah.
"We would have a good idea that magma is moving up into the shallow depths," Farrell said. "The bottom line is, we don't know when or if it will erupt again, but we would have adequate warning."
Rico says, like other volcanoes, it's just a matter of when, not if...
 

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