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Thursday :: October 19, 2017

Thursday Open Thread

Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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Wednesday :: October 18, 2017

Jeff Sessions Testifies Before Senate Judiciary Committee

Jeff Sessions is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Live video link) He promises to ramp up the war on drugs, especially the war on pain meds, prescribers and manufacturers, and war on immigrants. He praises Trump's border wall. He says there can't be full amnesty for the DREAMERs.

He read out a speech on why he won't answer questions about conversations with Trump -- he says it's up to Trump to claim the executive privilege, and he's considering it but hasn't made a decision so Sessions says he can't it for him.

There are several old people on this committee who look miserable. Maybe they aren't thrilled about Sessions wanting to make it harder for them to get pain meds.

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Monday :: October 16, 2017

Trump Adviser to Bail Out Weinstein's Company

Colony Capital, owned by Trump adviser Thomas J. Barrack Jr., has agreed to bail out Harvey Weinstein's company, providing an immediate cash infusion and then buying most if not all of the assets.

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RNC and Trump Campaign Paid $2.4 Million So Far in Legal Fees For Russia

In September, the Washington Post reported that the RNC was paying out huge bucks for legal fees charged by lawyers for Donald Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. regarding Russia.

The Republican National Committee is using a pool of money stockpiled for election recounts and other legal matters to pay for [Donald] Trump's ballooning lawyer fees related to the multiple Russia investigations, directing more than $427,000 so far to lawyers representing him and his eldest son, party officials confirmed Tuesday.

Today the Washington Post reports that Trump's re-election campaign (not the RNC) shelled out more than $1 million in legal fees for Russia and Trump Sr and Jr just for last quarter. [More...]

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Monday Open Thread: This and That

I was just reading about the really high prices of Manhattan luxury condos, when I came upon this article in Curbed saying that a 90 story skyscraper is coming to Denver that will change the skyline forever. Then I saw the address: the building is going to replace the parking lot right next door to my office building. I think Denver needs a 90 story building like it needs a hole in the head. Aside from being an eyesore, it will stick out like a sore thumb.

The building will contain a "boutique hotel", 250 condos, parking for 500 vehicles, retail space, a spa and a pool -- 1 million square feet -- all in one half of a city block. Who's behind this? A New York company called Greenwich Realty Capital. [More...]

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Saturday :: October 14, 2017

Will Agreement for Raqqa Evacuation Include ISIS?

Update 11 pm MT: Answer: Yes, foreign ISIS fighters are part of the agreement and will be able to leave Raqqa. Again, as stated below, the U.S. opposed this, preferring the foreign fighters be held accountable for their crimes.
Syrian and foreign ISIL fighters have agreed to leave their one-time bastion Raqqa under an agreement brokered by tribal leaders to prevent more civilian deaths in the city. Omar Alloush, an official of the Raqqa Civil Council, said a deal had been reached to allow fighters out of the city, which is on the verge of being captured by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after months of heavy fighting.

"Foreign fighters are included in the deal," he said.

Alloush says the remaining ISIS fighters are holding 400 hundred civilian hostages at the National Hospital in Raqqa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the last Syrian ISIS fighters left by bus today, and more buses are arriving tongight which are expected to take the foreign fighters and the families from Raqqa, most likely to Deir Ezzor [More...]

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Friday :: October 13, 2017

Las Vegas Sheriff's Latest Update

Here is the interview with the Sheriff today from Las Vegas on the Mandalay Bay shootings.

He sounds defensive and nervous -- his voice is shaky. At the end, after reading accounts from victims, he begins to tremble, an associate puts his hand on his shoulder, and he ends the conference with "Vegas Strong" and takes no questions.

His explanation of the timeline made no sense to me -- probably because he doesn't describe events in order. He talks about one thing and then backtracks and then goes forward. And in his effort to avoid mentioning Paddock by name, he doesn't clearly distinguish between items, such as a "barricaded door" an "open door" and "the suspect's room." As to the security guard: [More...]

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Thursday :: October 12, 2017

Thursday Open Thread

Here's a new open thread, all topics welcome.

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AG Sessions Seeks to Tighten Asylum Rules

AG Sessions wants Congress to tighten asylum rules.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions called on Congress Thursday to tighten the rules for people seeking asylum through a system he said is filled with “rampant abuse and fraud.”

...“The system is being gamed,” Sessions said. “Over the years, smart attorneys have exploited loopholes in the law, court rulings and lack of resources to substantially undermine the intent of Congress. . . . There is no cost or risk for those who make a baseless asylum claim.”

Did he mention how the Department of Justice games the system by offering asylum to large scale drug traffickers in exchange for their testimony against other traffickers? Including murderers? I'd bet not.

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Trump Signs Executive Order Undermining Health Care Rules

Donald Trump signed an executive order today undermining rules insurance companies were required to follow by law.

President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday intended to allow small businesses and potentially individuals to buy a long-disputed type of health insurance that skirts state regulations and Affordable Care Act protections.

[More...]

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Wednesday :: October 11, 2017

Those Santa Ana Winds

With the disastrous fires and high winds occurring this week in California, you don't need a calendar to know it's October -- season of the Santa Ana winds. I've been writing about them here for 10 years. From my post in 2007:

The Southern California fires are all over the news. Every time I see hear the words "the Santa Ana winds" I start thinking about writer Joan Didion (who just happens to be my favorite author) and how she captured the phenomenon with such great imagery in Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968), her book about Haight Ashbury during the summer of 1967.

To give you a flavor, I've tracked down some of what she wrote and quote below:

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Tuesday :: October 10, 2017

Donna Karan's Unfortunate Comments on Weinstein

Here is the video of the Sunday night red carpet interview of Donna Karan about Harvey Weinstein. Karan says her remarks about Weinstein and women's accountability for how they present themselves were taken out of context.

Twitter is filled with tweets by outraged women saying they will throw out their DKNY and Donna Karan clothes and boycott the brands. And while she may have well just killed the brands with her Weinstein comments, she no longer owns them. She sold them to LVMH in 2001 (yes, that long ago) and stepped down as a designer for the companies in 2015. (Here's a 2015 interview with Karan on why she sold them.) Nor are DKNY or Donna Karan International still owned by LVMH Fashion Group.

In 2016, LVMH sold them to G-III Apparel Group. What is G-III? The American licensing and manufacturing company that holds the license to Ivanka Trump's clothing line. Boycott away. [More...]

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Monday :: October 09, 2017

LV Security Guard Shot Before Paddock Began Shooting From Windows

Here is the video of the Las Vegas Sheriff Department media update today on shooter Stephen Paddock.

Update: I'm not going to write a third post about this tonight, so I'll just update this one with what I think may be the significance of this news, having thought about it for a few hours:

I am now thinking the concert was not Paddock's target at all. He may have still been in prep mode, methodically assembling his gear for a planned attack somewhere in Vegas the next day or even the day after that, when he was surprised by the security guard outside his door. The cameras may just have been to make sure no one intruded on him while assembling his stuff. The appearance of the guard, and his shooting of him at 9:59 p.m. may have caused him to realize the gig was up and he'd be discovered shortly. So instead of abandoning his mission entirely, he just assembled what he could as fast as he could, broke out the windows and started shooting. [More...]

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Las Vegas Shooter Update

There's been all sorts of news updates on Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock over the weekend, none of which seem to offer a clue into his behavior.

One worthwhile interview I saw was that of Steve Wynn, the billionaire owner of many Las Vegas hotels. (Corrected: He built the Mirage but no longer owns it.) He said his staff was very familiar with both Paddock and Marilou Danley and they were as "vanilla" as could be -- no flags at all.

He says Paddock didn’t run up debts or have a gambling problem. Wynn said butlers, waiters and massage employees knew Paddock and his girlfriend.

The main thrust of his interview was the difference in security tactics at the Mirage and other hotels. [More...]

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ISIS Calls on Females To Launch Attacks

As ISIS continues its struggle to maintain its relevance in the virtual world as it loses more and more territory and any semblence of being a "state" in the physical world, it has added a new feature: A call to women to participate in launching attacks.

In a new edition of its Arabic language newspaper, the terrorist group told female supporters it was an “obligation” for them to wage physical jihad.

“Today, in the context of the war against the Islamic State, it has become necessary for female Muslims to fulfil their duties on all fronts in supporting the mujahedeen in this battle,” the article said, adding that women should “prepare themselves to defend their religion by sacrificing themselves by Allah”.

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