Today’s News: July 24, 2019

World News

COMMUNISM: Cuba Running Out of Medicine

Breitbart – Healthcare authorities in Cuba blamed a “complex situation” Tuesday for growing shortages of basic medicines that many in the country need to stay alive, stating that as many as 44 key medications will remain elusive nationwide throughout August.

The drugs listed as at risk for the greatest shortages include beta blockers for high blood pressure, hypertension medications, and antipsychotics.

Locals on the island have complained in recent months that some drugs are so difficult to find that patients and their families are forced to camp out overnight at their local pharmacy, hoping to secure a prime place in line to purchase some of the small shipments when they arrive. The shortage is part of a larger economic crisis on the island that has forced Cubans to stand on lines for hours to buy basic goods like chicken, cooking oil, and flour.

Cuba’s repressive communist regime controls the nation’s dilapidated healthcare system, which invests heavily in sending doctors abroad on what survivors of the system call slave missions in exchange for lucrative contracts that fuel the central government in Havana. The Cuban slave doctor system – which provides healthcare throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia – also functions as a propaganda campaign, successfully earning the praise of global institutions and leftist American celebrities.

At home, the Cuban regime actively manipulates health statistics to make the communist system appear more successful than it is.

Quoted in the Communist Party’s official newspaper, Granma, on Tuesday, the head of operations at Cuba’s largest medical supplier, BioCubaFarma, blamed the shortages on suppliers of the raw materials necessary to manufacture the drugs.

Inside reports of deaths, sickness that have consumed Dominican Republic

NY Post – There’s fear surrounding the Dominican Republic these days.

In just the past few months, the beach oasis has been battered by a steady stream of disturbing reports about tourist deaths, sudden illness and violent assaults.

At least 36 Americans have died on the island since January 2018 — and many more have been plagued by “nightmare” illnesses, The Post has found.

That death total — which includes everything from unexplained illnesses to drownings to cosmetic surgery gone bad — is even higher than reports have previously suggested.

Though more than 2.7 million US tourists travel each year to the Caribbean nation, many without incident, the cases have revealed a wide range of dangers facing travelers.

The fatalities and other bizarre incidents — such as the high-profile case of Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz’s shooting and a Delaware woman’s alleged hours-long assault — have unsettled would-be visitors. Tourism has taken a massive hit, with the number of trips booked for July and August plummeting by more than 74 percent.

Beijing takes aim at USA, Taiwan in new military blueprint

The Hour – China sharpened its hostility toward the United States and Taiwan in a new high-level report on its future military strategy that accused Washington and its allies of undermining global stability.

Releasing the document on Wednesday, officials of the People’s Liberation Army repeatedly warned that Beijing would be willing to deploy military force to assert its claims over Taiwan. The self-ruled island has pulled closer to the Trump administration and agreed this month to buy $2.2 billion in weapons, including M1A2T Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles.

Taiwan’s incumbent Democratic Progressive Party favors declaring formal independence from China, a move that could spark confrontation in the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s most heavily militarized flash points. China’s navy this month sailed its sole aircraft carrier into the strait in a show of force reminiscent of similar U.S. operations two decades ago that showcased American military dominance in Asia.

“If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military would not hesitate to go to war,” Chinese military spokesman Wu Qian said as he laid out what officials called a revised national defense policy for “the New Era” – a catchphrase that denotes the imprimatur of China’s assertive leader, Xi Jinping.

The military blueprint comes as tensions simmer in the western Pacific and China moves to enforce its strategic aims across the region, including in the disputed South China Sea. Beijing views democratically ruled Taiwan, which separated from the Communist-ruled mainland in 1949, as a renegade province.

War Drums: Europe Readies A Naval Task Force As Iran Threatens To “Secure” The Strait Of Hormuz

Economic Collapse Blog – It is funny – for decades we have never had any problems with commercial ships passing through the Persian Gulf, but all of a sudden it has become a major flashpoint.  As you will see below, the Iranians are now warning that they plan to “secure” the Strait of Hormuz, and meanwhile a plan for a European-led naval task force to confront the Iranians is rapidly coming together.  The seizure of a British tanker a few days ago really rattled British officials, and they are determined to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. Of course the more the Persian Gulf region becomes saturated with military assets, the more likely it is that a “mistake” will happen, and it sure won’t take much of a spark to start World War 3 at this point.

Today, close to 20 percent of all the oil produced in the entire world passes through the Strait of Hormuz, and that makes it an exceedingly important waterway.  U.S. and European officials continue to stress the importance of freedom of navigation through the area, and they appear to be losing patience with the Iranians.

But Iran does not intend to back down one bit.  On Tuesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi said that his country “will use its best efforts” to secure the Strait of Hormuz.  The following comes from the Jerusalem Post

“Iran will use its best efforts to secure the region, particularly the Strait of Hormuz, and will not allow any disturbance in shipping in this sensitive area,” Araqchi told French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, IRNA reported.

Boris Johnson becomes PM with promise of Brexit by 31 October

The Guardian – Boris Johnson has become the UK’s new prime minister, promising to defy “the doubters, the doomsters and the gloomsters” by completing Brexit with a deal by 31 October.

Standing outside Downing Street after visiting the Queen, he gave a speech infused with patriotic pronouncements, saying the “people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts”.

He also tore into Theresa May’s record of failing to deliver Brexit, saying there had been “three years of unfounded self-doubt” under her government and it was “time to change the record to recover our natural and historic role as an enterprising, outward-looking and truly global Britain”.

ohnson told the nation: “I pay tribute to the fortitude and patience of my predecessor and her deep sense of public service.

“But in spite of all her efforts, it has become clear that there are pessimists at home and abroad who think after three years of indecision that this country has become a prisoner to the old arguments of 2016 and in this home of democracy we are incapable of honouring a democratic mandate.

“And so I am standing before you today, to tell you the British people, that those critics are wrong – the doubters, the doomsters, the gloomsters are going to get it wrong again.”

He set out a series of domestic priorities, including more money for schools, hospital upgrades, the police and social care, promising that “the buck stops with me”.

But the major focus of Johnson’s speech was his determination to carry out Brexit within the next 99 days.

“We are going to fulfil the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on 31 October no ifs or buts,” he said.

“And we will do a new deal, a better deal that will maximise the opportunities of Brexit while allowing us to develop a new and exciting partnership with the rest of Europe based on free trade and mutual support.

“I have every confidence that in 99 days’ time we will have cracked it. But you know what, we aren’t going to wait 99 days because the British people have had enough of waiting. The time has come to act, to take decisions, to give strong leadership and to change this country for the better.”

While Johnson said he believed a deal was likely, he sent a warning shot that he is preparing to blame Brussels if a fresh agreement cannot be reached.

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U.S. News, Politics & Government

Puerto Rico governor is expected to resign

CNN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to resign Wednesday after more than a week of protests that rocked the island’s capital city, a source familiar with the situation told CNN. Thousands have jammed the streets of San Juan calling for the governor’s resignation after Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published a series of group messages between the governor and his inner circle that included homophobic and misogynistic language and jokes about Hurricane Maria victims

Senate Overwhelmingly Passes 9/11 First Responder Bill

NBC – The Senate voted Tuesday to extend funding for first responders suffering health problems as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.  In a 97-2 vote, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill that makes victims’ compensation fund for 9/11 first responders permanent

Trump transition adviser convicted on foreign-agent charges

Politico – A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner of Michael Flynn, on a pair of foreign-agent felony charges stemming from work the two men did for Turkish interests during the final months of the Trump presidential campaign in 2016.

The verdicts, returned by jurors in Alexandria, Va., after a weeklong trial and only about four hours of deliberation, amount to a belated courtroom victory for special counsel Robert Mueller, who investigated the $600,000 lobbying and public relations contract at the heart of the case and then handed the matter off to other federal prosecutors after Flynn’s guilty plea to a false-statement charge in 2017.

Trump sues Democrats to shield New York tax returns

Politico – President Donald Trump is going to court to prevent House Democrats from getting his long-hidden tax returns from the state of New York.

In a suit filed Tuesday in Washington, he asked a federal court to prevent Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal from taking advantage of a recently passed New York law designed to give Neal access to Trump’s confidential state tax filings.

The suit, which targets both Neal and New York officials, comes as the Massachusetts Democrat is simultaneously suing Trump for his federal tax returns.

Neal has been lukewarm on the prospects of tapping the New York law, suggesting that using it could undermine his bid for six years of Trump’s federal personal returns and select business returns. The president’s lawsuit expresses concern that Neal could nevertheless act on the law at any time.

It contends that Democrats do not have a legitimate reason for seeking Trump’s New York returns “because the committee’s jurisdiction is limited to federal taxes, no legislation could possibly result from a request for the president’s state tax returns.”

The suit also argues the New York law violates the First Amendment of the Constitution because it was enacted “to discriminate and retaliate against President Trump for his speech and politics.”

Congress Rushes to Spend Billions on Space Weapons—Even if They Don’t Work

Defence One – Even a bare-bones system would be ridiculously costly, and more likely to foster war than prevent it.

Before the GOP-controlled Congress spends billions of your tax dollars on new, highly controversial weapons in space, you might think it would seek the opinion of the Defense Department. But no. Strange as it may seem, Republicans are rushing ahead with space-based missile interceptors over the objections of the White House and before a Pentagon review on the subject has been completed.

It’s almost as if congressional leaders want to spend money on space weapons no matter whether the military wants them or if they even work.

This week Congress approved the development of missile interceptors in space as part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, calling for a working prototype by 2022. Last year’s defense bill contained similar language, but specified that the project would only move ahead if endorsed by the Defense Department’s ongoing Missile Defense Review, which has yet to see the light of day.

Rather than wait for the Pentagon review, this year Congress acted without it. An amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, struck out the Pentagon review in the name of removing “the legal hurdle” to developing space weapons. The effect was to order up missile interceptors in space whether or not the Pentagon thinks it’s a good idea.

This gift from Congress has not been well-received. In June, the White House released a statement saying it “strongly objects” to the Cruz amendment as an “unfunded mandate,” and urged Congress to wait for the results of the ongoing review, calling any decision on development “premature at this point.”

Robert Mueller Caught Contradicting His Report in Testimony to Congress

Breitbart – Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) caught former Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a contradiction in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday morning, noting that Mueller was saying something different now than he said in his report.

Democrats had hauled Mueller before the committee after the report found that there had been no collusion between any American and the Russian government in attempting to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and failed to arrive at a conclusion about obstruction of justice. (Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein determined that there was insufficient basis for an obstruction of justice prosecution.)

Dissatisfied with the outcome of the investigation, and with President Donald Trump’s repeated claims of exoneration, Democrats were eager to have Mueller testify directly. He agreed to do so but stated that he would not testify to anything that was different from his report.

In his opening statement, Mueller stated: “We did not address collusion, which is not a legal term. rather, we focused on whether the evidence was sufficient to charge any member of the campaign with taking part in a criminal conspiracy, and it was not.”

That statement suggested that the report had not, in fact, concluded that Trump had colluded with Russia — contrary to what the president has said, and with common public understanding of the report.

Collins began by asking Mueller whether “collusion” and “conspiracy” were synonymous. Mueller said, “No.”

However, Collins read Mueller’s own report to him: “On page 180 of volume one of your report, you wrote, ‘As defined in legal dictionaries, collusion is largely synonymous with conspiracy as that crime is set forth in the general federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. 371; … Are you sitting here today testifying something different than what your report states?”

Mueller struggled to explain the contradiction, and ultimately admitted that the interpretation in his report was the correct one — rather than the answer he had just given Congress.

Economy & Business

USDA Seeks to Close Loophole Allowing 3.1 Million Additional SNAP Users

Breitbart – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a proposal Tuesday that would close a “loophole” allowing 3.1 million people who already receive benefits from a non-cash welfare program to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that the draft rule on the Federal Register would close a loophole that would allow people in 43 U.S. states to automatically receive food stamp benefits through SNAP if they receive benefits through a program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

“For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint,” said Perdue in a press release.

The agency is seeking to close this loophole by requiring TANF benefit recipients to go through an income background check to determine their eligibility for SNAP and exclude “broad-based categorical eligibility” that allows those with higher incomes to partake in SNAP benefits, according to USDA officials.

The USDA states that the proposal would save taxpayers $2.5 billion a year and would remove approximately 3.1 million people from food stamps.

Science & Technology

New York City could ban the unauthorized sale of phone location data

The Verge – New York City might effectively ban the controversial practice of selling consumers’ phone location data, if a new bill proposed this week passes the city council.

Fines up to $10,000

The bill, believed to be the first of its kind, would require wireless carriers and apps to get explicit permission before giving third parties geolocation data collected within the city. Under the plan, the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications would be tasked with enforcing the bill, and could levy steep penalties on offenders. A violator could be fined $1,000 for each violation, or $10,000 for each person’s data shared, if multiple violations happened on the same day.

The bill will move to committee hearings ahead of a wider council vote.

Businesses that sell geolocation information have faced new scrutiny in the past year, as multiple investigations have spotlighted how the sensitive data is widely available, often without consumers noticing. Still, while the Federal Communications Commission has said it’s investigating the issue, there’s been little federal or local action. 

The hottest phones for the next billion users aren’t smartphones

MSN – The hottest phones for the world’s next billion users aren’t made by smartphone leaders Samsung Electronics Co. or Apple Inc. In fact, they aren’t even smartphones. 

Millions of first-time internet consumers from the Ivory Coast to India and Indonesia are connecting to the web on a new breed of device that costs only about $25. The gadgets look like the inexpensive Nokia Corp. phones that were big about two decades ago. But these hybrid phones, fueled by inexpensive mobile data, provide some basic apps and internet access in addition to calling and texting.

Smart feature phones, as they are known, are one of the mobile-phone industry’s fastest-growing and least-known segments, providing a simple way for some of the world’s poorest people to enter the internet economy.

While global smartphone sales began sliding last year as markets became saturated, smart feature phone shipments tripled to around 75 million from 2017, according to research firm Counterpoint. Some 84 million are likely to be shipped this year.

Even as rich nations start to roll out 5G technologies, some 3.4 billion people around the world remain cut off from the internet, according to We Are Social, another research firm. Most of them already use traditional, unconnected mobile phones, meaning they can easily make the transition to similarly shaped devices capable of high-speed web connections.

Take the case of Kamlesh Kumar, who makes about $80 a month selling mangoes, avocados and lychees off the sidewalk in New Delhi.

Two years ago the 35-year-old decided to replace his inexpensive mobile phone that lacked web access. He couldn’t afford even the cheapest, bare-bones smartphones that cost around $100. So he paid about $20 for a smart feature phone, called the JioPhone, from Indian mobile operator Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Now he listens to Bollywood music on the job, using Google’s built in voice assistant to search for Hindi-language tunes on YouTube. At night his family crowds around the device to watch movies.

“I couldn’t do anything on my old phone,” he said. Mr. Kumar pays less than $2.50 a month for all the mobile data he needs.

‘Zombie Eating’: 88% Of Adults Dine While Staring At A Screen, Survey Finds

Study Finds – So many of us spend a great deal of time each day staring at screens; from computer desktops at work to smartphones or television during our free time, the average American is spending more time staring at a screen than ever before. Now, a new survey of 2,000 adults has found that a whopping 88% are so-called “zombie eaters” who stare at some type of screen while eating.

The survey, commissioned by Pretzel Crisps, aimed to shed some light on American eating habits. The results indicate that Americans are so glued to their screens, they rarely stop staring even to eat. In fact, the average U.S. eater will stare at their phone twice over the course of any given meal, and will only have five screen-free meals per week.

It’s clear from the survey’s findings that “zombie eating” is an almost universal practice in today’s culture; 91% of respondents reported watching television while eating a meal or snack, and 49% say they watch TV while eating on a regular basis.

Evidently, many people are very picky about what they watch while eating as well, with 83% of respondents reporting that they’ve had food go cold while they deliberate on what to watch. Sometimes whatever is on the screen takes precedence over the food that is right in front of us; 86% of respondents say they’ve even forgotten to eat their meal because they were preoccupied by a screen.

So, what is keeping Americans so busy that they can’t unglue themselves from a screen to eat? According to the survey, the number one reason (50%) Americans stay on their smartphones while eating is to read or send emails. Additionally, 48% stay on their phones to check out social media, 37% watch YouTube videos, and 36% say they focus on work-related activities.

FTC Slap on Wrist for Zuckerberg

AP – Federal regulators have fined Facebook $5 billion for privacy violations and are instituting new oversight and restrictions on its business. But they are only holding CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible in a limited fashion.

The fine is the largest the Federal Trade Commission has levied on a tech company, though it won’t make much of a dent for a company that had nearly $56 billion in revenue last year.

As part of the agency’s settlement with Facebook, Zuckerberg will have to personally certify his company’s compliance with its privacy programs. The FTC said that false certifications could expose him to civil or criminal penalties.

Some experts had thought the FTC might fine Zuckerberg directly or seriously limit his authority over the company.

“The magnitude of the $5 billion penalty and sweeping conduct relief are unprecedented in the history of the FTC,” Joe Simons, the chairman of the FTC, said in a statement. He added that the new restrictions are designed “to change Facebook’s entire privacy culture to decrease the likelihood of continued violations.”

Facebook isn’t admitting any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Two of the five commissioners opposed the settlement and said they would have preferred litigation to seek tougher penalties.

Facebook’s top lawyer, Colin Stretch, said the company’s FTC settlement will lead to more rigorous management of user privacy — including more technical controls to better automate privacy safeguards.

Facebook will also pay a separate $100 million fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges it made misleading disclosures about the risk of misuse of Facebook user data. Though Facebook isn’t officially admitting wrongdoing there either, Stretch said in a blog post that Facebook should have disclosed more to investors.

Health

Vitamin D is essential for your heart

Mercola – Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with high blood pressure in adults, and researchers have now found that low levels in infants and children may increase the risk of high blood pressure in later childhood and teen years.

The combination of vitamin D and estrogen is linked with a reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in postmenopausal women. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome rises in menopause, which may be related to ovarian failure or the redistribution of fat to the stomach area with estrogen deficiency.

Vitamin D deficiency may affect up to 75% or more of American adults and teens, which is influenced by lifestyle factors such as pollution and a reduced number of hours in the sun; the only definitive way to know if you’re deficient is through a blood test.

Vitamin D deficiency is linked to some cancers, bowel conditions, autoimmune diseases and all-cause mortality. If you consider supplementation, remember D3 and D2 are not the same and you need vitamin K2 MK-7 form to prevent arterial calcification

The many potential health benefits of curcumin

Mercola – Curcumin is a substance found in turmeric, a spice with a rich history of use in cooking and folk medicine for thousands of years.

Turmeric has been used in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. Indians used it as an antiseptic for cuts and burns, a remedy for gastrointestinal discomfort and respiratory conditions and more.

Discover how it may benefit your health in various ways, and how you can obtain it through your diet

Spikenard may boost memory and cognitive function

Mercola – Spikenard is an herb originating from the Himalayas. It’s commonly used to make an essential oil that’s added to perfumes due to its sweet, balsamic and earthy scent.

Spikenard is famous in Ayurvedic medicine for its cognitive, psychological and neurological benefits