31 July 2017

Idiots, all of them

Rachael Revesz has a Yahoo article via The Independent about really bad police work:
A sixteen-year-old died after he took several sips of liquid meth in front of smiling and laughing Border Patrol officers to prove it was “apple juice”.
Mexican high school student Cruz Velazquez is shown on CCTV footage (above) taking the drink after he was stopped from entering the US at a border crossing. He died within two hours of what experts called a “massive overdose”. The officers were not reprimanded or prosecuted and are still employed today. The footage, obtained three years later, showed the jovial behavior of the officers and the context of the teenager’s death for the first time.
Liquid methamphetamine is a powerful and highly-addictive drug that is dissolved into an amber liquid. Cruz was carrying two bottles, provided by a cartel in Mexico. One bottle was supposed to be black tea and the other apple juice, but both were the same color and had a syrup-like consistency.
US Customs and Border Protection officers Adrian Parellon and Valerie Baird were later accused in a lawsuit of outrageous conduct that put the teenager’s life in jeopardy. They denied the allegations and said the teenager volunteered to drink the drugs. The officers were also accused of failing to conduct a test on the liquid; testing kits were available to the officers at the time.
In the footage, Baird is seen to make a gesture, encouraging the boy to drink from one of the bottles, which he does. Parellon then seems to make another gesture to drink from the second bottle, pushing it towards him and smiling at his colleague.
Minutes later, the officers watch the teenager take yet more sips. In total, he took four.
The contents of the bottles were later found to be a hundred times stronger than a typical dose of methamphetamine. Within minutes the boy was sweating profusely and shaking as his blood pressure rose, and he was quickly unable to stand.
"What you see, I think, is a basic lack of compassion and decency toward a sixteen-year-old boy," his lawyer, Eugene Iredale, told ABC. "Almost a delight that you would see in children who just pull the wings off flies slowly, a smile when he’s being asked to drink something and being put in this position."
Within minutes of drinking from the two bottles, Cruz began to convulse on the floor, screaming in pain. He called out in Spanish, including me corazon, me hermana, and me prima.
He was taken into custody before being rushed to a hospital, handcuffed to a gurney, where he died. Baird also went to the hospital. on advice from her colleagues, as she had a drop of the liquid meth on her fingers. She said she heard the teenager’s screams from the emergency room, but denied feeling guilty that he had died.
His lawyer said he believed Cruz, from Tijuana, Mexico, was hired as a mole, and paid to transport the bottles to the US, and had been told his sister would be killed if he failed to cross the border.
After a review, the Customs and Border Protection said “no further action was warranted and the officers involved were not disciplined.”
The San Diego County’s Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the death was accidental.
Cruz' family filed a lawsuit in Federal court in California and settled for one million dollars in March of 2017.
Rico says these idiots should not be government employees for very long, and only cost us a million bucks...

Fast, even for Trump

Yahoo has an article by Christopher Wilson about the latest Trump firing:

White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci (photo) has been removed from his position after just eleven days on the job.
Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement. “Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team.  We wish him all the best.”
The president announced via Twitter that he would replace his now former chief of staff Reince Priebus with retired, four-star general John Kelly, who had been serving as Secretary of Homeland Security. Priebus left his post that same day, saying he agreed that Kelly was the right man for the job in a pair of televised exit interviews. Scaramucci accepted his short-lived role on 21 July, shortly after the abrupt departure of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. He made headlines less than a week after assuming the post with a profane interview with The New Yorker in which he insulted members of the White House staff, including Priebus, who he also singled out in attacks on Twitter, suggested he believed the one-time RNC chair had leaked information to the media.
The New York Times reported that Scaramucci’s removal came at Kelly’s request. While Scaramucci reported directly to President Trump, the communications director traditionally reports to the White House chief of staff; the arrangement with Scaramucci was a break with protocol.
Over the weekend reports surfaced that that Scaramucci’s wife had filed for divorce in early July of 2017. As news of Scaramucci’s removal broke, reporters raced to Spicer’s office. Spicer, who had announced his resignation when Scaramucci took the job to which he aspired, declined to confirm the news, but was all smiles.
While he he had already stepped into the public eye, Scaramucci’s official start date was set for 15 August, meaning his tenure ended literally before it began.
Rico says , yet again, he wonders why anyone is willing to serve in this wacky administration...

The universe as time machine UF

Time has an article by Alex Fitzpatrick and Josh Raab about astronomy:

When you gaze up at the night sky, you're not just looking at celestial objects far away in space; you're looking at objects far away in time, too.
The light from a distant star can take thousands of years to reach Earth. That means astrophotography, images of the night sky, is the closest thing we may have to a time machine. The best astrophotography is breathtakingly beautiful to boot.
Below are several images shortlisted for the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2017 awards, meaning they represent the most stunning astrophotography work in the world. They include images of the Northern Lights, a crescent Moon, and the Milky Way.
The final winners of the contest will be announced on 14 Sept 2017 at London, England's Royal Observatory Greenwich.
Yulia Zhulikova, auroral crown, Murmansk, Russia, 3 January 2017
Canon EOS 6D camera, 14 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 3200, four two-second exposures combined. During an astrophotography tour of the Murmansk region with Stas Korotkiy, an amateur astronomer and popularizer of astronomy in Russia, the turquoise of the Aurora Borealis swirls above the snow covered trees. Illuminated by street lamps, the trees glow a vivid pink forming a contrasting frame for Nature’s greatest lightshow:

Steve Brown, scintillating Sirius (above)
The seemingly pop art inspired canvas of the rainbow of colors exhibited by the brightest star in our sky, Sirius. These colors are obvious to the naked eye and more so through the eyepiece of a telescope, but are difficult to capture in an image. To do this the photographer had to somehow ‘freeze’ each color as it happened by taking a series of videos at different levels of focus and then extracted the frames from each video to make up this composite image. By capturing the star out of focus, the light from Sirius was spread out over a larger area, which resulted in the colors it displayed being more obvious. The image is made up of 782 different frames at different levels of focus. There is a single frame of a focused Sirius in the centre of the image.
Stokesley, North Yorkshire, UK. 11 January 2016.
Canon EOS 600D camera with Star Adventurer tracking mount, 250 mm lens, ISO 3200, composite of 782 images

Agurtxane Concellon
Aurora over Sea
The purples and greens of the Northern Lights radiate over the coal mining city of Svea, in the archipelago of Svalbard. The earthy landscape below the glittering sky is illuminated by the strong lights of industry at the pier of Svea.
Svea, Svalbard, Norway, Feb. 25, 2017
Nikon D810 camera, 15 mm f/2.8 lens, ISO 500, 13-second exposure
Brandon Yoshizawa
Fall Milk
The snow-clad mountain in the Eastern Sierras towers over the rusty aspen grove aligned perfectly in front of it, whilst our galaxy the Milky Way glistens above.
Eastern Sierras, Calif. Oct. 21, 2016
Nikon D750 camera, 50 mm f/1.8 lens, foreground: f/8, ISO 500, 10-second exposure, sky: f/2.5, ISO 6400, 6-second exposure
Warren Keller
NGC 2023
Lying in the constellation of Orion, at a distance of 1467 light years from our planet is the emission and reflection nebula NGC 2023. Most often photographed next to the famous Horsehead Nebula, the photographer has instead given NGC 2023 the spotlight in order to try and bring out all of the wonderful detail seen across its diameter of 4 light years, making it one of the largest reflection nebulae ever discovered. Partner Steve Mazlin is the lead processor on this one for SSRO.
Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, near La Serena, Chile. Jan 2, 2016.
RCOS 16-inch f/11.3 reflector telescope, PlaneWave Ascension 200HR mount, FLI PL16803 camera, 1800-second exposure
Ainsley Bennett
Crescent Moon over the Needles
The 7% waxing crescent Moon setting in the evening sky over the Needles Lighthouse at the western tip of the Isle of Wight. Despite the Moon being a thin crescent, the rest of its shape is defined by sunlight reflecting back from the Earth’s surface.
Alum Bay, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, UK, 3 October 2016
Nikon D810 camera, 200 mm f/5.6 lens, ISO 500, 2.5-second exposure
Michael Wilkinson
Ghostly Sun
The Sun photographed in Calcium-K light, depicting the star’s inner chromosphere. In the colour-rendering scheme used, the surface is shown as negative, with the sunspots as bright spots, but the area outside the limb is shown with increased contrast, highlighting a surge on the western limb, and several small prominences. Although the Sun is shown entering a quieter phase, a lot of activity is still taking place, illustrating just how dynamic our star is.
Groningen, Netherlands. April 4, 2017.
APM 80 mm f/6 refractor telescope, Vixen Great Polaris mount, ZWO ASI178MM camera, stack of 400 frames
Giorgia Hofer
Super Moon
The magnificent sight of the Super Moon illuminating the night sky as it sets behind the Marmarole, in the heart of the Dolomites in Italy. On the night of 14 November 2016, the Moon was at perigee at 356,511 km away from the centre of Earth, the closest occurrence since 1948. It will not be closer again until 2034. On this night, the Moon was 30% brighter and 14% bigger than other full moons.
Laggio di Cadore, Province of Belluno, Italy. Nov. 15, 2016.
Nikon D750 camera, 400 mm f/8 lens, ISO 250, background: f/7.1, ISO 200, 1/1000-second exposure, foreground: f/8, ISO 250, ½-second exposure
Andrew Whyte
The Lost Hour
The radiant, concentric star trails seemingly spinning over a lone stargazer against the glowing purples and pinks of the night sky during the hour when the clocks ‘spring forward’ to begin British Summer Time. With time so intrinsically linked to celestial activity, a one-hour star trail seemed the perfect metaphor. Through the use of long exposures, the trails depict the rotation of the Earth on its axis centring on the north celestial pole, the sky moving anti-clockwise around this point.
Titchfield, Hampshire, UK. March 26, 2016.
Sony α7s camera, 17 mm f/4 lens, ISO 1600, 120 x 30-second exposures
Rico says WHAT

The Chinese win again

The BBC has an article about censorship:

The creators of several Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have criticized Apple's decision to remove their products from its App Store in China.
The BBC understands that as many as sixty VPNs were pulled over the weekend.
Apple said it was legally required to remove them because they did not comply with new regulations. It refused to confirm the exact number of apps withdrawn, but did not deny the figure. It added that dozens of legal VPN apps were still available.
One provider of the technology has said it will file an appeal with Apple.
VPNs allow users to mask their identity online by funneling web browsing and other internet activity through another computer, sometimes one in a different country.
As a result, users can hide their IP addresses and access online material that has been censored or blocked by their internet service provider.
A company that analyses mobile app sales, www.aso100.com, has told the BBC that more than sixty VPNs were no longer available in Apple's Chinese-mainland App Store.
Golden Frog, the company that distributes VyprVPN, was critical of the decision, saying it would file an appeal with Apple. "If Apple views accessibility as a human right, we would hope Apple will likewise recognize internet access as a human right (as the UN has even ruled it as such) and would choose human rights over profits," said Golden Frog's president Sunday Yokubaitis in a blog post.
ExpressVPN said it was "dismayed" that the tech giant had "sided with censorship."
The apps are still available in Apple's App Stores outside China.
Rico says you don't dare fuck with your largest supplier and a growing market...

30 July 2017

Putin responds

Yahoo has an AFP article about the Russian response:

President Vladimir Putin  (photo) said nearly eight hundred American diplomats must leave Russia, and warned ties with Washington could be gridlocked for a long time, in a move that followed tough new American sanctions.
The Russian foreign ministry had earlier demanded Washington cut its diplomatic presence in Russia by September to 455, the same number Moscow has in the US.
"More than a thousand people were working and are still working" at the US embassy and consulates, Putin said in an interview with Rossia-24 television. "755 people must stop their activities in Russia."
Putin added that an upturn in Russia's relations with Washington could not be expected "any time soon. We have waited long enough, hoping that the situation would perhaps change for the better," he said. "But it seems that even if the situation is changing, it's not for any time soon."
On Thursday, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill to toughen sanctions on Russia for allegedly meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and for its annexation of the Crimea in 2014. Iran and North Korea are also targeted in the sanctions bill.
The law now goes to President Donald Trump, who had made an improvement in ties with Russia a plank of his election campaign.
Moscow on Friday ordered the US to slash its number of diplomats in Russia to 455 and froze two embassy compounds, a Moscow summer house and a storage facility in the city, from 1 August.
In December, the then-president Barack Obama ordered out 35 Russian diplomats and closed down two embassy summer houses that Washington said were being used by Moscow for espionage.
Rico says it was to be expected...

More Trump insults

Trump insults and threatens GOP senators in long rant after health bill failure:
A day after Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare collapsed, Trump wrote they “look like fools” and went after the filibuster, which had nothing to do with the vote.

29 July 2017

Another thing Rico can't afford

Rico says he may need a new watch, but it will not, alas, be this one:

You kiss your mother with that mouth?

Esquire has an article by Jack Holmes about The Mooch's rant:

Today, the Mooch truly became the Trump administration's communications director. He formally joined earlier in the week, but today Anthony Scaramucci (photo) really arrived: in a remarkable interview with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, the Mooch ranted about White House leakers, shivved a couple of colleagues, and dove into a level of vulgarity that, like so much about this administration, is surely unprecedented from a White House official in an on-the-record interview. Below is a collection of his very best one-liners, courtesy of the Goodfellas character who has begun Season Two of our national reality show in hot pursuit of the White House rat: 
"I'm not Steve Bannon, I'm not trying to suck my own cock."
"Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac. 'Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.'"
"They're trying to resist me, but it's not going to work. I've done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they're going to have to go fuck themselves."
"What I'm going to do is, I will eliminate everyone in the comms team and we'll start over... I asked these guys not to leak anything and they can't help themselves... You're an American citizen, this is a major catastrophe for the American country. So I'm asking you, as an American patriot, to give me a sense of who leaked it."
"Okay, I'm going to fire every one of them, and then you haven't protected anybody, so the entire place will be fired over the next two weeks."
"They'll all be fired by me. I fired one guy the other day. I have three to four people I'll fire tomorrow. I'll get to the person who leaked that to you. Reince Priebus, if you want to leak something, he'll be asked to resign very shortly."
"What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President's agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people."
"Okay, the Mooch showed up a week ago. [Yes, he is referring to himself as The Mooch.] This is going to get cleaned up very shortly, okay? Because I nailed these guys. I've got digital fingerprints on everything they've done through the FBI and the fucking Department of Justice."
"Yeah, let me go, though, because I've gotta start tweeting some shit to make this guy crazy." [He soon tweeted, then deleted, a felony accusation against Priebus.] What a time to be alive.
Rico says he's a perfect addition to the Trump team, as Stephen Colbert pointed out:

Season Two of our national reality show has begun, and the producers have introduced a new character to keep the people tuned in. Gliding into an administration full of outsized, often cartoonishly evil figures is The Mooch, the Goodfellas character set on finding The Leakers and providing late-night shows with lay-up content. In pursuit of the rat, you see, Scaramucci called up The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza to unleash an extraordinarily vulgar tirade about Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, and autofellatio. Soon after, Stephen Colbert took the Late Show stage (above) and welcomed the Mooch (and his anti-rat rant) with open arms, accepting this "guy ordering a martini in the bowling alley" as yet another gift from the comedy gods.
The quotes out of that interview almost need no joke accompaniment, but Colbert obliged nonetheless. "If Bannon could do that," he said, referencing the indelible mental image painted by The Mooch, "he'd never leave the White House." Colbert homed in on the Mooch's disdain for backstabbing, insisting he's only interested in "stabbing you from the front". And the Late Show chief also had some fun with Scaramucci's unreal fixation on The Leakers: "His message is subtle here," Colbert grinned, "but the Mooch does not like the leaks."
While the Mooch has as little regard for the truth or the good of the country as anyone else in this kakistocratic administration, it's hard not to feel his version of Trumpian service is preferable to Sean Spicer's boorish denials or Steve Bannon's conniving white nationalism. Scaramucci is just a money-hungry Wall Street type with a sudden, intense, and slightly weird loyalty to the President. He expresses that through undeniably entertaining, quite-frankly hilarious verbal tornados that often scoop up other members of this shameful White House and send them spinning. Now that we've traveled deep into The Darkest Timeline, we may as well take our laughs where we can get them.
Rico says he had to look up kakistocratic...

Haka by the All-Blacks

Rico says they scare him, and he doesn't even play rugby:

The Queen of neon

Vanity Fair has an article by Erika Harwood about what Queen Elizabeth wears (including her hats):



Rico says it's not quite Lady Gaga, but pretty good for an old gal who runs half the world...

Dunkirk, the aftermath

Time has an article about what happened after the evacuation:

The 1940 evacuation at Dunkirk, the subject of Christopher Nolan's critically-acclaimed new film, remains one of World War Two's most striking episodes. However, for many troops, Dunkirk was only the beginning. The following is an excerpt from Time-Life's new special edition, World War II: Dunkirk, available on Amazon:
After the last rescue boats left Dunkirk harbor on 4 June 1940, the Germans captured some forty thousand French troops left behind, as well as at least forty thousand British soldiers in the vicinity of Dunkirk. Theirs is a story that is often overlooked but, for the next five years, until war’s end, large numbers of these POWs would be mistreated and abused in violation of the Geneva Convention guidelines governing the sick, wounded, prisoners of war, and civilians. As described in Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind, by Sean Longden, some were summarily executed. The POWs were denied food and medical treatment. The wounded were jeered at. To lower officer morale, the Nazis told British officers that they would lose their rank and be sent to the salt mines to work. They were forced to drink ditch water and eat putrid food. As noted by Longden
“These dreadful days were never forgotten by those who endured them. They had fought the battles to ensure the successful evacuation of over three hundred thousand fellow soldiers. Their sacrifice had brought the salvation of the British nation. Yet they had been forgotten, while those who escaped and made their way back home were hailed as heroes.”
The crimes began as Dunkirk was being evacuated. On 28 May, the SS Totenkopf Division marched about a hundred members of the Second Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, which had just surrendered, to a pit in a farm in Le Paradis and murdered them with machine gun fire. A similar
 atrocity unfolded on the
 same day with the Second
Battalion of the Royal
 Warwickshire Regiment,
 which had been captured
 near Wormhout; they were forced into a barn and massacred with grenades.
As the war dragged on, forced marches became more common, sometimes with very little food or none at all; one British battalion reported receiving only two sugar lumps and two tablespoons of a mixture of carrots and potatoes per day. On arriving at train stations the POWs were loaded into cattle cars for trips to work sites in Germany and Poland.
British soldier Charlie Waite’s story was not uncommon. A twenty-year-old from Essex, Waite was captured on 20 May. He was moved from place to place, kept prisoner on a farm in Poland, and forced to work the fields with Nazi guards watching. In the frigid winter of 1944–45, on a forced march of nearly a thousand miles from Poland to just outside of Berlin, Waite almost died. He finally was rescued in April by Allied forces as the war was drawing to a close. He described his two forced marches, one when he was captured in 1940 and the second in 1945, in his book, Survivor of the Long March: Five Years as a POW
“The first march was in hot weather and I was still wearing my greatcoat, but I was in good physical shape. But, in 1945, we had the additional challenges of one of the coldest winters on record, after having suffered years of misery, fear, exhaustion, and starvation and of watching fellow men die and helping to bury them by the roadside. Those are things you never forget.”
British soldier Peter Wagstaff recalled similar treatment. Just twenty when he was captured, Wagstaff and his fellow POWs were threatened by their Nazi captors. Some were killed. “The Kommandant, a German we called the ‘Purple Emperor,’ told us, ‘If you look out of the window you are going to be shot.’ One officer said he was still going to do it, and he was shot. But you took it because it was part of life. You accepted it. This was happening all the time. You didn’t have time to analyze yourself. You are fighting to keep alive.”
Meanwhile, the French military was in tatters, and seemed poised for defeat. From the day of the German invasion on 10 May through the evacuation of Dunkirk, France had lost two dozen infantry divisions, including six of seven motorized divisions. Instead of four armored divisions equipped with two hundred tanks each, the country now had three, each equipped with forty. The new French commander, Maxime Weygand, transferred soldiers from the Maginot Line, but could muster only 43 infantry divisions to face the Third Reich’s 104. Allied assistance had disappeared. The British had withdrawn all but two divisions south of Dunkirk, and the Belgian Army had surrendered.
The French were further hampered by a lack of strategic clarity. Premier Paul Reynaud favored a Dunkirk-like evacuation to North Africa, where the army could be protected by the French Fleet and the Royal Navy while it reconstituted itself, gathered additional forces from the French colonies, and took delivery on a fleet of planes from the Americans. Commander Weygand, however, opposed such a move, and vowed to remain on French soil to defend his homeland. Within Reynaud’s cabinet, there was an appeasement faction, coalescing around Deputy Premier Marshal Pétain, which was considering a potential deal with Hitler.
General Alan Brooke returned to France to command the few remaining British units and judged the situation untenable. In a tense conversation with Churchill, Brooke demanded a further evacuation and, when Churchill argued that a British presence was needed to make the French feel supported, Brooke replied: “It is impossible to make a corpse feel.”
The French fought as well as they could, relying on small groups of troops and armaments gathered into tight factions called “hedgehogs”. From 5 June to 7 June, these pockets of resistance slowed the Germans as they crossed the marshes of the Somme at Hangst in the west and at Péronne in the east. At Amiens, ninety miles northwest of Paris, the German Tenth Panzer Division lost two thirds of its tanks in just three days. The Seventh Panzer Division, led by Erwin Rommel, finally broke through in the west and charged twenty miles south of the Somme to cut off one British division, which retreated and later evacuated. As the days proceeded, Rommel simply directed his panzers around the remaining Hedgehogs, and the French were unable to mount an effective counterattack. It didn’t take long for the Germans, whose panzers were rolling rapidly through the country, to wear down the French; Paris fell on 14 June.
On 17 June, Rommel covered a hundred and fifty miles westward and, on 19 June, he captured Cherbourg. The French government, which had been in a state of crisis for weeks, signed an armistice on 22 June. The agreement divided France into two parts, the northern half under direct German occupation and the south under a puppet regime led by Pétain. It had taken the Germans just eighteen days after Dunkirk to capture France.
Britain now stood alone against the Nazis, and many wondered whether it would be the next to concede. Some members of the British government, beginning to regret the rise of the uncompromising Churchill, considered what sort of an agreement might be reached with the German leader. Hitler tentatively planned for a British invasion, code-named Operation Sea Lion, but he knew that such an incursion would be risky, difficult, and very costly, and so he waited for a British peace offer.
Churchill was having none of it. Brilliantly spinning the defeat at Dunkirk into an expression of the Dunkirk spirit, Churchill urged his people to display the grit of the British troops and the can-do attitude of the civilians who had volunteered their ships for the rescue operation. He quickly replaced the equipment lost in France. He began currying a relationship with American President Franklin Roosevelt, who signaled his intention to assist the British in any way he could. In July, when Hitler’s bombers began attacking English cities in an effort to force surrender, Churchill prepared the nation for the three-month-long siege that would come to be called the Battle of Britain.
On 20 August, as the aerial conflict entered its most intense stage, Churchill took to the airways to pay tribute to the courageous pilots of the RAF: “The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”
On 15 September, the Luftwaffe launched over a thousand aircraft in the campaign’s most concentrated bombing raid yet against London. The assault failed to produce the desired results, with the British capital escaping serious harm. Instead, twenty German planes were damaged and another sixty shot down. To cut his losses, Hitler scaled back the raids in favor of the limited nighttime strikes known as The Blitz, which continued until May of 1941. The RAF had stood up to the Luftwaffe and won. The threat of a German invasion was over. Soon, as Churchill predicted, the “tide of the world war” would shift toward the forces of freedom. During the next five years, Churchill and the British leadership were able to expand the size of the British army, add new planes to the resources of the RAF, repair and replace the ships lost at Dunkirk, and reestablish the British Navy as one of the most powerful in the world. Newly fortified, British soldiers fought against advances in North Africa and the Middle East by the Axis forces.
Without Dunkirk, none of this would have been possible, nor would Britain have been able to hold out until December of 1941 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the Americans into the war as a critical ally.
When the Allied forces landed in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944, three of the eight divisions that took part were British. Two were dropped from the air and one arrived by ship and stormed the beaches beside its American allies. The victory that followed was sweet for all involved, but for the British, it was more than that. It was redemption.
Read more in Time-Life’s new special edition, World War II: Dunkirk, available on Amazon.

Rico says if you see the movie, that's just the start...

History for the day: 1958: NASA created

History.com has this for 29 July:

On this day in 1958, Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America’s activities in space. NASA has since sponsored space expeditions, both human and mechanical, that have yielded vital information about the solar system and universe. It has also launched numerous earth-orbiting satellites that have been instrumental in everything from weather forecasting to navigation to global communications.
NASA was created in response to the then-Soviet Union’s 4 October 1957 launch of its first satellite, Sputnik I. The two hundred-pound, basketball-sized satellite orbited the earth in a hundred minutes. The Sputnik launch caught Americans by surprise and sparked fears that the Soviets might also be capable of sending missiles with nuclear weapons from Europe to America. The United States prided itself on being at the forefront of technology, and, embarrassed, immediately began developing a response, signaling the start of the US-Soviet space race.
On 3 November 1957, the then-Soviets launched Sputnik II, which carried a dog named Laika (who died in space). In December, America attempted to launch a satellite of its own, called Vanguard, but it exploded shortly after takeoff. On 31 January 1958, things went better with Explorer I, the first American satellite to successfully orbit the earth. In July of that year, Congress passed legislation officially establishing NASA from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies, and confirming the country’s commitment to winning the space race. In May of 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared thatAmerica should put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade. On 20 July 1969, NASA’s Apollo 11 mission achieved that goal and made history when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the Moon, saying “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
NASA has continued to make great advances in space exploration since the first moonwalk, including playing a major part in the construction of the International Space Station. The agency has also suffered tragic setbacks, however, such as the disasters that killed the crews of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986 and the Columbia space shuttle in 2003. In 2004, President George Bush challenged NASA to return to the moon by 2020 and establish “an extended human presence” there that could serve as a launching point for “human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.”
Rico says who knew, in 1958, that we'd get to the Moon and Mars and and (via satellite) as far as Pluto...

28 July 2017

White House infighting

The Washington Post has an article by Jenna Johnson about Preibus and Scaramucci, whining:

On Monday, President Trump told his communications staff they needed to “get on the same page,” according to a person briefed on the meeting. The bad-news stories slammed into the White House in pitiless succession on Tuesday, leaving President Trump’s battle-scarred West Wing aides staring at their flat screens in glassy-eyed shock.
The disclosure that Trump divulged classified intelligence to Russian officials that had been provided by Israel was another blow to a besieged White House staff recovering from the mishandled firing of James B. Comey, the FBI director.
The day was capped by the even more stunning revelation that the president had prodded Comey to drop an investigation into Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser. That prompted a stampede of reporters from the White House briefing room into the lower press gallery of the White House, where Trump’s first-line defenders had few answers but an abundance of anxieties about their job security.
The president’s appetite for chaos, coupled with his disregard for the self-protective conventions of the presidency, has left his staff confused and squabbling. And his own mood, according to two advisers who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has become sour and dark, and he has turned against most of his aides, even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, describing them in a fury as “incompetent”, according to one of those advisers.
As the maelstrom raged around the staff, reports swirled inside the White House that the President was about to embark on a major shake-up, probably starting with the dismissal or reassignment of Sean Spicer, the press secretary.
President Trump’s rattled staff kept close tabs on a meeting early Monday in which the President summoned Mr. Spicer; the deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders; and the communications director, Michael Dubke, to lecture them on the need “to get on the same page”, according to a person briefed on the meeting.
By the end of the day, it seemed that Spicer had, for the moment, survived. People close to the president said Trump was considering the firing of several lower-level staff members, including several hired by Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, while weighing a plan to hand most day-to-day briefing responsibilities to Sanders.
Even as Trump reassured advisers like Spicer that their jobs were safe on Monday, he told other advisers that he knew he needed to make big changes, but did not know which direction to go, nor whom to select.
In the meantime, the White House hunkered down for what staff members now realize will be an extended siege, not a one- or two-day bad news cycle. The stress was taking its toll. Late Monday, reporters could hear senior aides shouting from behind closed doors as they discussed how to respond after Washington Post reporters informed them of an article they were writing that first reported the news about the president’s divulging of intelligence.
As they struggled to limit the fallout on Monday, Spicer and other Trump aides decided to send Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser, to serve as a surrogate.
They realized that selecting such a high-ranking official would in some ways validate the story, but they wanted to establish a credible witness account exonerating the president from wrongdoing before the barrage of Twitter posts they knew would be coming from Trump on Tuesday.
The White House Counsel’s Office worked with the national security adviser, an Army general, on framing language, producing a clipped sound bite: “The story that came out tonight as reported is false.” As he was working on his statement, General McMaster, a former combat commander who appeared uncomfortable in a civilian suit and black-framed glasses, nearly ran into reporters staking out Spicer’s office. “This is the last place in the world I wanted to be,” he said, perhaps in jest.
As the general approached microphones on the blacktop in front of the West Wing, one of his deputies responsible for coping with the fallout could be seen peering behind the pack of reporters to see how her boss’s statement was being received.
On Capitol Hill, there were signs that Republicans, who mostly held the line after Comey’s ouster, were growing alarmed by Trump’s White House operation and impatient for something to be done about it.
“There need to be serious changes at the White House, immediately,” said Senator Patrick J. Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican who wants Mr. Trump to appoint a Democrat to head the FBI. On Tuesday, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, called on Trump to operate with “less drama.”
In his comments to reporters on Monday, Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican close to some in the White House, was more explicit:
“Obviously they’re in a downward spiral right now,” he said, “and they’ve got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening.”
A dozen of Trump’s aides and associates, while echoing Trump’s defiance, privately agreed with Corker’s view. They spoke candidly, in a way they were unwilling to do just weeks ago, about the damage that the administration’s standing has suffered in recent weeks and the fatigue that was setting in after months of having to defend the President’s missteps, Twitter posts, and unpredictable actions. The latest crisis comes at the worst possible moment for Trump’s team. His national security and foreign policy staffs have been spending much of their time planning for his coming eight-day trip to the Middle East and Europe, his first major overseas trip as President, and an opportunity, they thought, to reset the narrative of his presidency after the lingering controversy of Comey’s sudden dismissal last week. There is a growing sense that Trump seems unwilling or unable to do the necessary things to keep himself out of trouble and that the presidency has done little to tame a shoot-from-the-hip-into-his-own-foot style that characterized his campaign. Some of Trump’s senior advisers fear leaving him alone in meetings with foreign leaders out of concern he might speak out of turn. General McMaster, in particular, has tried to insert caveats or gentle corrections into conversations when he believes the President is straying off topic or onto boggy diplomatic ground. This has, at times, chafed the President, according to two officials with knowledge of the situation. Trump, who still openly laments having to dismiss Flynn, has complained that General McMaster talks too much in meetings, and the president has referred to him as “a pain”, according to one of the officials. In private, three administration officials conceded that they could not publicly articulate their most compelling and honest defense of the president for divulging classified intelligence to the Russians: that Trump, a hasty and indifferent reader of his briefing materials, simply did not possess the interest or the knowledge of the granular details of intelligence gathering to leak specific sources and methods of intelligence gathering that would harm American allies. McMaster all but said that publicly from the briefing room lectern. “The president wasn’t even aware where this information came from,” McMaster said. “He wasn’t briefed on the source or method of the information either.”

Rico says he wonders why anyone volunteers to work for this idiot...

North Korea, at it again

Yahoo has an article from The Associated Press by Mari Yamaguchi about the latest missile firing:

North Korea fired a ballistic missile Friday night which flew longer than any of its previous missiles and landed in the ocean off Japan, according to officials from Japan, South Korea, and the United States.
There was no immediate announcement of the type of missile. On 4 July 2017, North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile in a major step toward its goal of developing nuclear-armed missiles capable of reaching the United States.
Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the missile launched Friday flew for about 45 minutes, about five minutes longer than the ICBM on 4 July, and landed west of Japan's island of HokkaidoSuga said officials are analyzing whether it was an ICBM. He said Japan has lodged a strong protest with North Korea over the launch. "North Korea's repeated provocative acts absolutely can not be accepted," he said.
Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the coast guard issued safety warnings to aircraft and ships.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he called a meeting of Japan's National Security Council.
South Korea and the United States also confirmed the launch. "We are assessing and will have more information soon," said Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the missile was launched from North Korea's northern Jagang province.
There was no immediate confirmation of the launch by North Korea. The day's broadcast on state-run television had already ended when the news broke at around midnight Pyongyang time. 27 July is a major national holiday in North Korea called Victory in the Fatherland Liberation War Day. North Korea generally waits hours or sometimes a day or more before announcing launches, often with a raft of photos in the ruling party newspaper or on television news. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is usually shown at the site to observe and supervise major launches.
Late night launches are rare. North Korea usually conducts its missile and underground nuclear tests in the morning. It's likely the North launched the missile at night and from the remote province of Jagang to demonstrate its operational versatility. To have a real deterrent, it's important for North Korea to prove it can launch whenever and wherever it chooses, making it harder for foreign military observers trying to detect their activities ahead of time.
Yoji Koda, a retired admiral in Japan's Maritime Self Defense Force, said in an interview with NHK that information that the missile flew 45 minutes and landed west of Hokkaido suggest that it was most likely another ICBM.
Analysts say the Hwasong 14 ICBM launched by North Korea on 4 July could be capable of reaching most of Alaska or possibly Hawai'i, if fired in an attacking trajectory. It was launched at a very steep angle, a technique called lofting, and reached a height of more than fifteen hundred miles) before splashing down in the ocean six hundred miles) away.
Rico says we really need to take Un out...

Armless, but still tough

Yahoo has an article by Craig Bannister about a wounded warrior, still fighting:

When a veteran who lost an arm serving in Iraq took on celebrities and media to voice his support of President Donald Trump’s ban on transgenders in the military, he set off a social media firestorm.
It began when J.R. Salzman (photo), who was injured in 2006 during an enemy attack while serving in the Army, retweeted a post mocking the liberal media’s outrage and overreaction to Trump’s announcement:
“Today you'll see how out of touch the media is. No transgenders in the military is an obvious thing. They'll treat it like Jim Crow laws.”
Then, when NBC News posted a tweet about Trump’s ban, Salzman replied:
“Suddenly thousands of people who never served a day in the military will become experts.”
But, things really heated up when he took on Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of giving classified government materials to WikiLeaks, whose prison sentence was commuted by President Barack Obama.
When Manning complained in a tweet that the military has money for the F-35 fighter plane, but not for a “few” transgender servicemen, Salzman retweeted a mocking reply:
“The F-35 doesn't think it's a tank.”
Then, when Manning accused a supporter of the ban of wanting to jail all transgenders, Manning replied that “Just because you got pardoned doesn't mean you're innocent,” adding that “The rest of us did our jobs and served with honor.”
That’s when the Twitter back-and-forth began. After declaring that “Nothing pisses off troops more than individuality and special treatment,” Salzman began responding to hostile posts by describing the high-stress, tension-filled environment in which those in the military serve. and concluding that was no place for mentally ill or “confused” people:
“Now take someone confused about whether they are a man or a woman. Take those psychological and emotional issues and put them in that environment.”
“Take someone who is right off the bat not uniform or part of the same team. Give them special treatment because of their identity.”
“Take that person, put them in that stressful war environment and watch what happens. It's a fucking ticking time bomb.”
“We had guys who couldn't hack it. When faced with combat situations they crumbled. They had mental and emotional issues. They were a liability.”
“War is no place for people who are mentally, emotionally, or physically confused or in turmoil.”
Then, when pop singer Lady Gaga tweeted to President Trump that half of the transgender people he had banned were already suicidal, Salzman retweeted Gaga’s post, saying that she was actually making his point for him:
“I didn't foresee Lady Gaga validating what I said about transgenders in the military, but there it is.”
Over the next two hours, Salzman was overwhelmed with media requests and comments and gained five thousand new Twitter followers. He tweeted that he wasn’t looking for fame, and that he had nothing against anyone, but was simply voicing his belief that military service is “not a social experiment”:
“For the record, I suddenly have thousands of notifications. If you sent me a tweet looking for a response you're not going to get it. Sorry.” 
“I'm being bombarded with media requests. Here's the deal. I'm not doing them. I'm not here to be a spokesman or a martyr for anyone's cause. This is not an ideological issue for me. I don't care if you're gay, straight, black, white, transgender or whatever. I really don't.”
“Serving in the military is a privilege not a right. And it is sure as hell not a social experiment.”
But, this isn’t the first time Salzman has made waves using social media to call out liberal Hollywood activists.
In January, Salzman took on Meryl Streep’s politically-charged, anti-Trump, rant at the Golden Globe Awards, and producer Judd Apatow’s praise of it, with social media posts of his military service and injury.
Wednesday’s Twitter storm ended when Salzman finally tweeted that he had “wasted” enough of his day on Twitter and needed to get back to work in order to earn a living:
“What started as a few random tweets over my coffee this morning turned into a wasted day. I need to get some work done. Sorry, people, but I can't pay my bills with tweets.”
“I gained roughly five thousand followers today. Absolutely insane. My notifications are still blowing up faster than I can read them.”
Finally, on Thursday, Salzman tweeted that he might just stop voicing his views on Twitter from now on:
“Next time a hot button military topic comes up, maybe I'll just keep my mouth shut.”
Rico says that Salzman, at least, earned the right to have an opinion...

27 July 2017

Mad magazine strikes again

Kenzie Bryant has an article in Vanity Fair about a great illustration:

Pablo Picasso once said that “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” He also said: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Another quote goes: “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” The guy was a real quote factory, and also the inspiration for Mad Magazine’s August 2017 cover, which features, The MADtropolitan Museum of Art: The Trump Collection 2017.” Come, take a walk through a new gallery of great works of a small man:
“There's obviously a huge shortage of Trump material out there and we pride ourselves on being trailblazers,” Mad editor-in-chief John Ficarra told Vanity Fair. “Seriously, Putin asked us to do it,” he added.
The artwork is, in some way, taking a page from the man himself, who has never hesitated to celebrate his own likeness or even put his face on a magazine cover where it doesn’t belong. Is Mad just giving Trump what he wants by putting him in iconic works of art? That may depend on whether he recognizes Wyeth's Christina’s World or DegasDancer Tilting in the first place. 
The magazine will be available on newsstands on 8 August.
Rico says not since Nixon have they had such a good subject for satire...

Reagan had more luck in Berlin...

...even though it took a few years:

Rico says he was never a big fan of Ronnie, neither as governor of California nor President, but many loved him, if only for Death Valley Days (no video, sorry):

A town's pie supply is threatened when the loveless lady baker decides to leave.

The current President isn't funny...

...but JFK was:

except when he was being serious:

But his speechwriters didn't check their translation; in German,
a 'Berliner' is a doughnut, not a resident of the city...

Great ad for a great drug

Rico says it's good that they can cure Hepatitis C now, and are touting it with a great ad:

Clarion goes to Congress

Rico says he missed the start of the telecast, sorry, but you can pick it up elsewhere:

Anti-gay politics

Nick Visser has a Huffington Post article via Yahoo about gay 'rights':

The Department of Justice (DOJ) argued in a legal brief on Wednesday that the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 offers no protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, a position advocacy groups condemned as “shameful” and “politically driven.”
DOJ lawyers, arguing under Attorney General Jeff Sessions (photo, above; presumably to be removed soon by Trump), submitted an amicus brief to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in which they said the Department did not believe the law, which bans discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin, applies to lesbian and gay people. The brief was filed as part of a lawsuit filed by a now-deceased skydiving instructor, Donald Zarda, who said he was fired for his sexual orientation. His lawyers contend the dismissal violated of the act’s Title VII, which prohibits employment discrimination.
“The sole question here is whether, as a matter of law, Title VII reaches sexual orientation discrimination,” the DOJ brief says. “It does not, as has been settled for decades. Any efforts to amend Title VII’s scope should be directed to Congress, rather than the courts.” It adds: “The essential element of sex discrimination under Title VII is that employees of one sex must be treated worse than similarly-situated employees of the other sex, and sexual orientation discrimination simply does not have that effect.”
Including sexual orientation in Title VII has been hazy, even under President Barack Obama, multiple outlets noted. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found transgender people were covered by the provision, but there has been no clear ruling on whether gay people are afforded the same protections. (The EEOC, beginning in 2015, has said Title VII forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, but court rulings have complicated the issue.)
The Justice Department said the EEOC does not have the power to decide the issue.
“The EEOC is not speaking for the United States and its position about the scope of Title VII is entitled to no deference beyond its power to persuade,” the DOJ brief reads.
LGBTQ advocacy groups swiftly condemned the Justice Department, hours after President Donald Trump ordered that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military.
“In one fell swoop, Trump’s DOJ has provided a roadmap for dismantling years of Federal protections and declared that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may no longer be protected by landmark civil rights laws such as the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, or Title VII,” Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “For over a decade, courts have determined that discrimination on the basis of LGBTQ status is unlawful discrimination under Federal law. Today’s filing is a shameful retrenchment of an outmoded interpretation that forfeits faithful interpretation of current law to achieve a politically-driven and legally specious result.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the DOJ position “one more gratuitous and extraordinary attack on LGBT people’s civil rights,” and said it would defend Americans’ rights in the courts. 
“The Sessions-led Justice Department and the Trump administration are actively working to expose people to discrimination,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a statement. “Fortunately, courts will decide whether the Civil Rights Act protects LGBT people, not an Attorney General and a White House that are hell-bent on playing politics with people’s lives.”
Rico says that playing politics with people’s lives is what Trump and Congress do best...

New tax rate

Ian Salisbury has a Money article about the latest notion by one of Trump's people, Steve Bannon:

On Wednesday afternoon, news broke that top White House advisor Steve Bannon is reportedly calling for a top marginal tax rate of forty-four percent on the wealthiest Americans, specifically those earning more than five million dollars a year.
While at this point, the idea is merely what Washington insiders term a "trial balloon", it provoked some confusion online.
Here's why: right now the top marginal rate, which kicks in at $418,400 for singles, is only 39.6%. (That doesn't reflect payroll taxes, although it appears that Bannon's proposal doesn't either.) So Bannon's proposed top rate would represent a hefty increase for at least a tiny sliver of multimillionaire top earners.
And if you know anything about Republicans, it's probably that they are the party of cutting taxes, not raising them.
Indeed, the tax plan Trump has already proposed includes a top marginal income tax rate of 35%, significantly lower than the current one. It also includes a number of other goodies aimed at the wealthy, such as lower rates for business income and the complete elimination of the estate tax.
That said, President Trump has promised to be a different kind of Republican, at various time hinting that, like Bannon, he thinks the very wealthy aren't being taxed enough. At one point during last year's campaign, he even told reporters that his own tax plan was "going to cost me a fortune".
So what does Bannon's latest move actually mean? Given congressional Republicans' long-standing dedication to lowering taxes across the board, including for the very rich, it's hard to envision the proposal actually becoming law. Indeed, given the difficulty of passing healthcare legislation, some commentators have been suggesting that cutting taxes may be one of the few things that still really unites all or nearly all Republicans.
It's more likely that Bannon is trying to send an encouraging signal to the voters he sees as making up Trump's real base: onetime Democrats in states like Michigan and Pennsylvania who were attracted by Trump's promise of manufacturing jobs, rather than conventional Republican economic policies.That said, the tweet sowed some online buzz. Television star Debra Messing, for instance, whose Twitter personality can safely be described as "coastal liberal", lashed out at Bannon on Wednesday, seeming to reflexively assume his proposal was to cut, rather than raise, rates on top earners.
Rico says he wishes he had the problem...

A lot of money

Jennifer Calfas has a Time article about a very rich man:

It's official: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world.
With a net worth of more than ninety billion dollars, Bezos surpassed fellow Seattle, Washington resident and Microsoft founder Bill Gates when shares for Amazon surged on Thursday morning, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He now has about a half billion more than Gates.
Bezos, the CEO of the e-commerce giant that has grown dramatically from its original purpose of selling books online, owns seventeen percent of his company. Shares for Amazon rose almost two percent on Thursday to $1,071.31, increasing Bezos' net worth by more than a billion dollars.
Shares jumped ahead of Amazon's quarterly earnings report, which is expected to show more growth from the online retailer.
Earlier this year, Bezos was among the top ranks of the world's richest men, with a net worth of about ninety billion dollars. Since then, Amazon has made key investments, including purchasing Whole Foods and expanding its role at the forefront of e-commerce with a record-breaking Amazon Prime Day earlier this month, where sales grew sixty percent from the same sale last year.
According to Forbes, Bezos first became one of the four hundred richest Americans in 1998, a year after Amazon.com went public, with a net worth of almost two billion dollars. Bezos is now the third American, including Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, to hold the coveted title of richest man in the world.
One major difference between the billionaires is that both Gates and Buffett have committed to donating at least half of their wealth to charity, and have encouraged others among their ranks to do so as well. Bezos has not yet made the pledge, but just ahead of Amazon's purchase of Whole Foods in June of 2017, Bezos asked his followers on Twitter for ideas of how he could donate his wealth.
Rico says he'd be happy with a few percent of any of that...

No changes to transgender policy (yet)

Yahoo has an article by Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali about impending changes to who can serve:

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford (photo), said in a written message to military leaders that there has been no change yet to the military's policy on transgender personnel, despite plans for a ban announced by President Donald Trump.
"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance," Dunford, said in the written message to service chiefs, commanders, and senior enlisted leaders, first reported by Reuters. "In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect. As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions."
Trump issued his surprise announcement on Wednesday in a series of Twitter postings, saying he would ban transgender people from the military, a move appealing to some in his conservative political base, but creating vast uncertainty for thousands of transgender service members.
As a presidential candidate, Trump last year vowed to fight for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people. His decision drew condemnation from rights groups and some lawmakers in both parties as politically motivated discrimination, but was praised by conservative activists and some of his fellow Republicans.
Although the White House said Trump had "extensive discussions with his national security team," his announcement appeared to catch the Pentagon off guard.
The White House said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was informed after the president made the decision on Tuesday to go ahead.
Dunford, in his message to the military, appeared to acknowledge uncertainty in the ranks. He started his message by saying: "I know there are questions about yesterday's announcement on the transgender policy by the President."
Trump, who cited "tremendous medical costs and disruption" as a justification for the ban, did not specify how it would be implemented.
It remained unclear whether the policy would apply to existing transgender service members or new transgender recruits.
Rico says being in the military isn't really fun for anyone, let alone the transgendered... (And why can't some nerd out there hack Trump's Twitter account?) Given that one of Rico's friends has a transgender child, this hits closer to home.

Rico, too

Alicia Adamczyk has a Money article about people getting screwed by Trump:

In a two-bedroom apartment in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, forty-year-old Jean Shenk flips through photos of her travels to Prague, Vienna, and Delhi. She shows off souvenirs she picked up in the Netherlands and the Dominican Republic, as well as places closer to home, like New Orleans.
Moments later, she brings out four keepsakes from a much different journey: three pacemakers and a piece of Dacron, a polyester fiber that her surgeon used to strengthen her aorta in multiple heart surgeries.
Shenk was diagnosed at age 8 with Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that compromises the body’s connective tissue, including the eyes, blood vessels, and bones. It affects everyone differently but, in Shenk’s case, the aorta is enlarged to a life-threatening degree. As she described it, she is always at risk of her heart "exploding”.
So far, Shenk has endured two open-heart surgeries and seven other operations, ranging from aortic grafts to pacemaker insertions. Her latest complication, in October of 2016, has left her unable to work or travel the world any longer. Even vacuuming her apartment is too physically demanding; the photos and statues decorating her home are bittersweet reminders of a different life.
Between the surgeries, visits to specialists, and prescriptions, Shenk estimates her health insurer has spent well over a million dollars on care related to her condition over the years. She has a six-inch stack of medical bills from the past year alone, including a fifty-thousand-dollar helicopter ride after she was transferred to the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania for emergency surgery. She likens managing her illness to a full-time job, from dealing with insurers and billing agencies, to scheduling appointments, to keeping up-to-date on the latest research. She currently has COBRA coverage through her old employer, but when that runs out she will have to shop on the individual market.
Over the past year, bills and doctor appointments have been far from her only worries. Like millions of people across the country who have a pre-existing medical condition, meaning a health issue that pre-dates new health insurance coverage, she is terrified of what the possible repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) would mean for her access to health care.
“The uncertainty with health care that we’re experiencing right now, I just don’t have a huge financial backlog that I can say ‘Oh, I’ll be okay,’” she says, sifting through three years’ worth of medical bills at her kitchen table.
Stories like Shenk’s became catalysts for opposition to replacement health care bills drafted by Republicans in both the House and Senate this year. The bills would have allowed insurers to charge people with pre-existing conditions significantly more for comprehensive coverage in the individual market than they currently pay, leading many to forego coverage or become financially destitute, said five health care experts interviewed for this story (the ACA banned charging people with pre-existing conditions more for coverage or denying them outright, and put other protections in place to defray costs).
Meanwhile, a straight repeal of the ACA with no replacement, a move endorsed by both President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, could revert the individual market to the pre-ACA days, when people with serious health conditions like cancer or a genetic condition like Marfan Syndrome were uninsurable, while other issues, like high blood pressure or asthma, could cause premiums to sky-rocket to unaffordable levels.
According to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, thirty percent of adults under the age of 65 had medical conditions that could have led insurers to deny them coverage before the ACA. That tens of millions of people could lose insurance coverage sparked nation-wide protests over the past seven months, while thousands of other Americans have used Twitter and Facebook to share stories of their personal medical nightmares, questioning what will happen to them if the ACA's protections are rolled back. “Everybody either has a pre-existing condition or knows somebody close to them who has a pre-existing condition,” says Dania Palanker, assistant research professor at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University. “It isn’t difficult to imagine what happens when pre-existing protections go away, because we were there a few years ago, and people could not buy insurance.”
Organic search interest for the term “pre-existing condition” saw a thousand-percent increase from April of 2017 to May of 2017, when the House's bill details were released, according to social-media analytics firm ListenFirst. Video after video of constituents confronting lawmakers has gone viral in the ensuing months, including an exchange between Katy McFarland and Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton back in February. “Without the coverage for pre-existing conditions, I will die,” she said at his Town Hall. “That is not hyperbole. I will die.” In late May, comedian Jimmy Kimmel started a national debate about pre-existing conditions when he talked about his newborn son’s heart condition and begged lawmakers to reconsider stripping consumer protections.
The outrage over the Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and its potential consequences, which included twenty-two million more uninsured by 2026 and millions paying more for coverage, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, were too politically potent for some lawmakers in the upper chamber to accept. Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine publicly denounced it from the get-go, saying it did not sufficiently protect people with pre-existing conditions. At the same time, President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Congressional leaders vowed repeatedly that the new bill would keep the protections in place to rally support. Public opinion wasn't swayed: at the end of June, the bill had an abysmal seventeen percent approval rating, according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll, and it was, essentially, declared dead in mid-July.
Still, GOP efforts to replace former President Barack Obama’s crowning legislative achievement are far from over. McConnell has vowed to hold a vote, a Motion to Proceed, to debate repealing the ACA with no replacement; it passed the Senate on Tuesday, with Senators Collins and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska the sole Republicans to vote against the measure. But that the Senate will pass something, anything, after years of promising to do so still seems likely, says Palanker. “We’ve been here before,” she says. “In March we thought there would no longer be a vote in the House and then there was a vote in May. Things are still on the table.”
As Republican lawmakers work out their next move, conversations with a dozen people with pre-existing conditions made clear that many Americans are still deeply worried about what would happen to them, their friends, and their loved ones if the ACA is repealed.
Protesters rally outside a Harden County Republican party fundraiser where Senate Majority Leader McConnell is scheduled to speak in ElizabethtownProtesters rally outside a Harden County Republican party fundraiser where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, June 30, 2017.  Bryan Woolston—Reuters
The ACA’s repeal is a terrifying prospect for people like 22-year-old Jessica Cunningham, who has over a dozen medical conditions that could be defined as pre-existing. The most serious of Cunningham’s conditions are migrainous vertigo and basilar migraines, which leave her dizzy and disoriented and, left untreated, could be fatal.
She’s currently on a handful of medications to manage them, totaling roughly $1,200 per month. While the ACA ensures that 10 essential benefits, including prescription drugs, mental health coverage and maternity care services, are covered in all health care plans offered on the individual market, Republican plans would allow states to redefine those benefits.
Cunningham, who is in graduate school for social work in Boston, says there’s no way she could pay for her premiums, prescriptions, and school. In her mind, the bills put forth by the House and Senate demonstrate a serious lack of empathy for people with serious medical conditions.
“I have a job, I work, I am doing everything I should be doing. And I feel like a lot of people subscribe to this belief that if bad things happen to you it’s because you’re a bad person, and that’s not the case,” says Cunningham. "I’m not this entitled millennial that thinks I deserve everything handed to me on a silver platter.”
Though the original Senate bill was thought to die last week, Cunningham's fears are not assuaged. “I'm still anxious about it,” she says. “People keep referring to it as the ‘zombie bill’ which is pretty apt. Just because [a] version is dead doesn't mean that another one won't crop up in a few months to take its place.”
She’s not wrong. Each day there’s a new development (or three): The bill is doomed, now it’s sure to pass; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has written an amendment that will win over the GOP hold-outs; the vote will happen before July 4th, now in the first half of August, now the Senate will vote on a bill no one has read. Yet even with all of the delays, not once during the entire process has a public hearing been held for a bill that will affect tens of millions of lives and about one-sixth of the country's economy.
The opacity of the process and the near-constant tweaks and changes are taking a toll on the people who rely on individual market coverage and Medicaid.
“It’s a cloud hanging over our heads,” says Stephen Mayer, 64, of Newberg, Oregon. “My wife [who is 59] thinks the anxiety she’s feeling about it all is triggering her headaches. I’m regularly thinking about what I need to do to adjust our living budget to ensure that we won’t be too adversely impacted by the anticipated premium rate increase. But with nothing concrete coming out of D.C, it’s all still a big question mark.”
“As I have always said, let ObamaCare fail and then come together and do a great healthcare plan,” President Trump tweeted after the Senate stalled a vote on the bill last week. That type of rhetoric coming out of the White House is engendering further panic in people like 62-year-old Rhode Island resident Anne Devaney.
Devaney opened her own consulting company in 2015 after she was laid off from her corporate job. Though she’s battled breast cancer in the past and currently manages allergies, asthma, and high cholesterol, she was able to find a plan on the individual market that costs just under $700 per month. It’s more than she’d like to pay, but it’s still affordable.
Throughout the past seven months, though, she says she’s considered giving up her consulting work to find a job that offers employer-sponsored insurance. Those fears haven’t let up.
“I remain concerned about the options available to the [Trump] administration to gut the protections and requirements enacted under the Obama administration,” says Devaney. “I have to expect a significant premium increase. Insurers will hike prices since they expect only more expensive people like me to enroll.”
170726-pre-existing-conditions-aaron-guestAaron Guest, 27, at his home in Lexington, Kentucky. Photograph by Luke Sharrett for MONEY
170726-pre-existing-conditions-aaron-guest-2Guest takes medicine for OCD and migraines. Photograph by Luke Sharrett for MONEY
Aaron Guest, too, is apprehensive about what the Trump administration could do to rollback certain protections, such as prescription drug coverage. Guest, a 27-year-old Ph.D. student in Lexington, Kentucky, has been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder and migraines, and currently takes prescriptions that cost him between $40 and $50 per month with his insurance. If insurers are able to cherry-pick which benefits they cover, Guest worries he will no longer be able to afford his medications.
“There still is very much the opportunity for repeal with delayed replace, and that would be traumatic,” he says. “I don’t even know how to describe how that makes me feel.”
The past few months have been a “wake up call” for him and others on how easily health care coverage can be gained and lost in one of the richest countries in the world. “It won’t work if you try to destroy it, so I think the fears are still there,” he says. “I could wake up tomorrow and there could be a new bill. You never know right now.”
170726-pre-existing-conditions-thelma-greenThelma Green relies on Medicaid to help her day-to-day life. Photograph by Benedict Evans for MONEY
170726-pre-existing-conditions-thelma-green-2Thelma Green’s crutches. Photograph by Benedict Evans for MONEY
It's not just people in the individual market who are worrying about what's going on in Washington. One of the primary cost-saving measures in the original Senate bill comes from capping spending on the Medicaid program, resulting in an estimated $772 billion in cuts over the next decade.
According to Marty Ford, senior executive officer of public policy for The Arc, the nation’s largest disability rights organization, capping Medicaid, which currently provides health coverage for some 74.5 million children and low income and disabled adults, to such a degree would result in states cutting programs and redefining eligibility requirements. All told, the CBO estimated 15 million fewer people would be covered by the program in 2026 relative to the ACA.
That includes people like 57-year-old Thelma Green. Green has cerebral palsy, and depends on Medicaid to pay for care ranging from doctor’s visits to an in-home nursing aide who assists her for eight hours each day. She also needs special shoes to help her walk, and uses crutches and a wheelchair, all of which Medicaid covers. “It’s so many people who need that in order to get around, to live a normal life,” she says about the program.
For Green, restructuring Medicaid means more than a premium increase or higher out-of-pocket costs; it means her ability to live an independent and fulfilling life is undermined. Because benefits like personal assistants and other types of in-home care are classified as optional under Medicaid, they would be among the first things cut if state funds are squeezed. “No matter what they cut, we’re going to get hurt. Not just me, but a lot of other people will get hurt,” she says.
That’s why dozens of disabled activists took over McConnell’s office in late June of 2017 after the Senate bill text was released, including 33-year-old Laura Halvorson. Photos and videos from the June 23rd “die in”, depicting Capitol police arresting some protesters and forcibly removing others, including Halvorson, went viral on social media. Halvorson, who has muscular dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair, lost her employer-sponsored health care in 2016, and relies on ACA coverage for her breathing machine and motorized wheelchair, as well as long term services and supports, which are covered by Medicaid.
“I was willing to put my body on the line,” Halvorson said a few days after the protest. “Health care is a life or death matter, so I wanted to make sure our voices were heard.”
Halvorson and other activists are hoping to influence lawmakers like Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, where one out of four residents relies on Medicaid. “As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” Capito said in a statement last week. “I have serious concerns about how we continue to provide affordable care to those who have benefited from West Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid.” Capito voted "yes" on the Motion to Proceed to debate on the Senate's bill.
Indeed, Georgetown’s Palanker says there's little reason to celebrate, even if the Senate does not repeal and replace the ACA this year. “The reality is we probably will see legislation again that will attempt to cap Medicaid, attempt to roll back protections in the individual market,” she says.
Back in Bethlehem, Shenk says that lawmakers like Collins and Murkowski, standing up for people with pre-existing conditions, is allowing her a bit of breathing room after months of constant anxiety. “I’m still very much looking at everything cautiously because they could turn around and do something else to blow it up,” she says. “I can’t stop worrying because we don’t have a complete solution yet, for anything. But I can at least take some solace in the fact that some politicians are looking out for their constituents. That helps.”
Still, she hopes Republicans will refocus their efforts and work with their Democratic colleagues for some true fixes to the US’s health care system, including further expanding Medicaid and lowering premiums for people in the individual market who don’t currently receive Federal subsidies.“I don’t want to see the Democrats gloating either, I want to see everybody come together,” says Shenk. “If they start talking to each other, something good could come out of all of this.”
Rico says there's gotta be some cripple out there willing to take Trump (and Pence) out... (And Rico's ride in the helicopter probably cost his insurer fifty thousand dollars, too.)

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