RT – Despite being “cocked and loaded” to launch an assault on Iran, President Donald Trump says that he eventually decided the strike would have been “not proportionate” to the downing of the unmanned US drone.
Accusing the Islamic Republic of shooting down the US surveillance drone over “international waters”, Trump tweeted Friday that he had pulled the plug on an attack 10 minutes before the strike was to take place.
“10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our Military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” Trump said in a series of tweets. “Sanctions are biting & more added last night.”
Infowars – Donald Trump was not elected to get us involved in more wars – he was elected to end the ones he inherited from the war-mongering 16 years that preceded his inauguration.
When he took office, President Trump inherited a situation in which the U.S. military was actively involved in no fewer than seven different civil wars across the Middle East and Africa. Although we still remain in Afghanistan with a diminished presence, he has otherwise greatly reduced U.S. involvement, destroying ISIS in Syria before dramatically reducing our presence in that unalterable sh*thole as well.
Despite the constant drumbeat by or fake news media that he is somehow himself a “war-monger,” the truth is that Trump’s conduct of foreign affairs has dramatically scaled back international tensions all over the world.
Al Jazeera – Iran‘s Ambassador to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi, in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said the drone “was in full stealth mode as it had turned off its identification equipment and engaged in a clear spying operation.”
“Despite repeated radio warnings, it entered into the Iranian airspace where the air defense system of the Islamic Republic of Iran, acting under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, targeted the intruding aircraft at 04:05 hours.”
Ravanchi has called for the international community to demand a stop to what he calls “unlawful and destabilising measures” by the United States in the Gulf.
Al Jazeera – Demonstrators gather outside legislature calling for China extradition bill withdrawal and city leader’s resignation.
The New American – A six-year-old Canadian girl was so traumatized by her public school’s lessons on gender that her parents have filed a complaint with their province’s human rights tribunal, reports the Montreal-based Post Millennial.
According to the complaint, filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by Jason and Pamela Buffone on behalf of their daughter (referred to as “N”), until January 2018, N loved school and had no gender confusion whatsoever. Then, as part of her teacher’s lessons on gender, she was made to watch a YouTube video called He, She and They?!? — Gender: Queer Kid Stuff #2. In the video (screenshot shown), whose theme song proclaims, “Gay means happy,” children are told that “some people aren’t boys or girls” and that there are those whose don’t “feel like a ‘she’ or a ‘he’” and prefer to be called “they.”
The teacher continued to teach such lessons throughout the semester. N told her mother that the teacher said “there is no such thing as girls and boys” and “girls are not real and boys are not real.”
“By mid-March,” writes the Post Millennial, “N’s parents could see the lessons were having an impact on their daughter, as she began spontaneously and repeatedly asking them why her identity as a girl was ‘not real.’ She asked if she could ‘go to a doctor’ about the fact that she was a girl.”
The Buffones met with the teacher and discovered she was wholly supportive of the gender lessons and unconcerned about their effects on N.
A telephone call with the principal was no more productive, though the Buffones did learn that the teacher had initiated the lessons because one student in the class was experiencing some gender confusion. According to the Post Millennial, Pamela Buffone later learned that “the parents of the child did not want the issue to be addressed by lessons on gender; they merely wanted the other children to be taught to act respectfully and not to bully their child.”
Subsequent meetings with the school board and curriculum superintendent also failed to allay the Buffones’ concerns, so they enrolled N in another school, where she is happy.
Now they have filed their complaint with the human rights tribunal, alleging that the teacher, with the support of her superiors, “subjected N to ongoing discrimination on the basis of gender and gender identity, by a series of lessons that denied the existence of the female gender and biological sex and undermined the value of identifying as a female.”
Human Events – A Polish lawmaker and committee chairman on trans-Atlantic trade has invited Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to visit former concentration camps in his country in an effort to educate the freshman legislator.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has recently been embroiled in a war of words with the political right, and indeed members of her own Democratic Party, after suggesting the Trump administration was running “concentration camps” in the United States.
Dominik Tarczyński, a member of the Polish Sejm (parliament), wrote to Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday, in a letter seen exclusively by Human Events.
In his communication, Tarczyński writes: “I write to you out of distress in having learned of your recent statements regarding concentration camps.
“As you should be aware, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi) who led Germany, were responsible for the darkest period in my country’s and our whole continent’s history by devising a chain of concentration camps in order to exterminate those who they believed were subhuman, or a threat to their imperialistic machinations- this included both Jewish Poles and non-Jewish Poles and as a result we lost six million of our citizens.
“While under German Nazi occupation, a number of concentration camps were set up in my country, Poland. It has caused a deep wound that persists on our proud Polish and European history that we must deal with every single day, and that we reaffirm to one another can never be forgotten, and never allowed to happen again.
“This is why when someone cheapens the history, or uses it for political point-scoring, we become agitated and upset.”
U.S. News, Politics & Government
NYT – The Senate voted Thursday to block the Trump administration from selling arms to Saudi Arabia, launching a new challenge to President Trump’s alliance with the country amid rising tensions in the Middle East.
Trump has promised to veto the measures. The White House said stopping the sales “would send a message that the United States is abandoning its partners and allies at the very moment when threats to them are increasing.”
The American Mirror – When the festivities begin at the Communist Party USA’s 100th birthday bash in Chicago this weekend, they’ll have a lot to celebrate.
Many of the policies communists championed for years are coming to fruition, from special privileges for illegal immigrants to the government takeover disguised as the Green New Deal, though it’s self-professed Democrat socialists promoting the communist agenda.
The Washington Times reports:
The connections between the Communists and the increasingly active Democratic left wing have been highlighted by Ms. (Alexandria) Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernard Sanders, who emerged from the democratic socialist movement to become leading critics of capitalism and guiding lights of the broader Democratic Party.
“The left is very excited that Sanders has normalized socialism, and in a sense he’s doing what they wanted to do,” Harvey Klehr, history professor at Emory College, told the news site. “So now I imagine those in the CPUSA think they’re not members of the Democratic Party but they want to take it over.”
Last year, several radically left members of congress won their seats under the banner of Justice Democrats, and the Green New Deal proposed by the group’s leader, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, reads like a wish list for communists, from government guaranteed jobs, college, and healthcare for all to stronger government controls over the energy industry and the mandated elimination of fossil fuels.
The Texas Tribune – The gap between Texas’ Hispanic and white populations continued to narrow last year when the state gained almost nine Hispanic residents for every additional white resident.
With Hispanics expected to become the largest population group in Texas as soon as 2022, new population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed the Hispanic population climbed to nearly 11.4 million — an annual gain of 214,736 through July 2018 and an increase of 1.9 million since 2010.
The white population, meanwhile, grew by just 24,075 last year. Texas still has a bigger white population — up to 11.9 million last year — but it has only grown by roughly 484,000 since 2010. The white population’s growth has been so sluggish this decade that it barely surpassed total growth among Asian Texans, who make up a tiny share of the total population, in the same time period.
The estimates come as lawmakers begin to sharpen their focus on the 2021 redistricting cycle, when they’ll have to redraw the state’s congressional and legislative maps to account for population growth. And they highlight the extent to which the demographics of the state continue to shift against the Republican Party.
During the last go-around, which is still being litigated in federal court, Hispanics accounted for about 65% of the state’s growth. With about two years of growth left to go, their share of Texas’ population increase since 2010 reached 54% last July.
The Hispanic community is growing in numbers across the state. But 47% of Texas Hispanics now live in the state’s five biggest counties — Harris, Bexar, Dallas, Tarrant and Travis. Home to Houston, Harris County leads that list with more than 2 million Hispanic residents. But Hispanic growth since 2010 continues to be most significant in Tarrant County.
With a growth rate of 26%, the Hispanic population in Tarrant County reached 609,236 last year — up from 482,977 in 2010.
But while Hispanics’ numbers are growing the most, the state’s Asian community is growing the fastest.
Al Jazeera – A United States federal appeals court said on Thursday that new Trump administration rules imposing additional hurdles for women seeking abortions can take effect while the government appeals decisions that blocked them.
The new rules ban taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals and prohibit clinics that receive federal money from sharing office space with abortion providers – a rule that critics said would force many to find new locations, undergo expensive remodels or shut down. Many considered the rules an attack on Planned Parenthood.
More than 20 states and several civil rights and health organisations challenged the rules in cases filed in Oregon, Washington and California.
Judges in all three states blocked the rules from taking effect, with Oregon and Washington judges issuing nationwide injunctions. One judge called the new policy “madness”.
But a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco called the rules a “reasonable” interpretation of a federal law that prohibits taxpayer-funded health clinics from advocating, encouraging or promoting abortion.
Charlotte Observer – At least a dozen Confederate statues have been defaced around the South so far in 2019.
The vandalism and heated protests last year around the University of North Carolina’s Silent Sam statue in Chapel Hill attracted international attention, but smaller acts of vandalism and protest are more frequent.
In the years since deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in August 2017, scores of Confederate memorials have been taken down around the country, The New York Times reports. Many more have been vandalized over the past two years.
The Blaze – An Illinois state lawmaker, during a town hall over a proposed ban on semiautomatic weapons, responded to a gun owner’s questions about the bill by threatening to change the bill to call for outright confiscation of previously legally-obtained firearms, according to a video posted by the Illinois State Rifle Association.
The discussion was about Senate Bill 107, which would ban future purchases of semiautomatic guns and require those who keep previously purchased semiautomatics to pay a fine and register the weapon.
During the town hall, state Sen. Julie Morrison was faced with a valid line of questioning from a gun owner who would be impacted by the bill: If the guns are safe enough to allow some people to keep them with a fine, why would they need to be banned at all?
“You want me to turn them over to the state police unless I pay a fine for each firearm and register them, then I get to keep them. If I get to keep it — if I pay a fine and register it — then how dangerous is it in the first place and why do you need to ban it at all?” the gun owner asked.
His question brought applause from the other attendees, and after thinking about it for a moment, Morrison took things the opposite direction.
“Well, you just maybe changed my mind,” Morrison replied. “Maybe we won’t have a fine at all, maybe it’ll just be a confiscation and we won’t have to worry about paying the fine.”
Daily Caller – A former Democratic congressional aide who doxxed Republican senators during a confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will be sentenced to prison Wednesday.
Former computer administrator Jackson Cosko carried out what prosecutors said was the largest known data theft in Senate history and used it to blackmail a witness, to plot to extort a senator and to threaten others.
He left operational spy devices on the Senate network that went undetected by police even after he was arrested and his plot was discovered, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors are seeking to make an example of Cosko for criminally attacking people who disagreed with him politically, citing a rise in such incidents.
Fox – Republican lawmakers in Oregon are in hot water after they refused to partake in a historic vote Thursday to implement a cap-and-trade program to help rein in industrial carbon emissions.
Gov. Kate Brown authorized the state police to round up the 12 Republicans who walked out of the Capitol in protest of the bill and bring them back to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed the measure will make Oregon the second state in the country after California to implement such a program.
“After many hours of well-intentioned, respectful negotiations on Wednesday, the Senate has come to an impasse. The Senate Republicans have decided to abandon their duty to serve their constituents and walk out,” Brown said. “The Senate Democrats have requested the assistance of the Oregon State Police to bring back their colleagues to finish the work they committed to push forward for Oregonians. As the executive of the agency, I am authorizing the State Police to fulfill the Senate Democrats’ request.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building. They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Republican representatives pushed back on the governor’s reprimand.
“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., of Grants Pass, said in a statement Thursday morning. “We have endured threats of arrest, fines and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.”
During a campaign stop in Manchester, N.H. on Wednesday, the Democrat likened concerns over mandatory vaccinations to the abortion.
“To me, it’s no different than the abortion debate,” NBC News reporter Julia Jester says Williamson told supporters. “The U.S. government doesn’t tell any citizen, in my book, what they have to do with their body or their child.”
The author and spiritual adviser also reportedly called mandatory vaccinations “draconian and Orwellian.”
AP – A 40-foot-tall, World War I memorial cross can continue to stand on public land in Maryland, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday in an important decision about the use of religious symbols in American life.
The justices said preserving a long-standing religious monument is very different from allowing the building of a new one. And the court concluded that the nearly 100-year-old memorial’s presence on a grassy highway median doesn’t violate the Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over others. Seven of the court’s nine justices sided with the cross’ backers, a lineup that crossed ideological lines.
The case had been closely watched for its potential impact on other monuments. Defenders of the cross in Bladensburg, a suburb of the nation’s capital, had argued that a ruling against them could doom hundreds of war memorials that use crosses to commemorate soldiers who died.
But the case was also seen as an indication of how far the court’s conservative majority would be willing to go in approving of religious symbols in public life. In the end, a majority of the justices signed on to a relatively narrow ruling, declining to go as far as they had been urged to by some of the cross’ defenders.
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a majority opinion for himself and four colleagues that “when time’s passage imbues a religiously expressive monument, symbol or practice with this kind of familiarly and historical significance, removing It may no longer appear neutral.”
“A government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion,” Alito wrote
Politico – Roy Moore, the controversial Republican judge who lost a 2017 Senate race in deep-red Alabama amid allegations of sexual misconduct with young girls decades ago, is defying GOP opposition and running again in 2020, he announced Thursday.
“I will run for the United States Senate in 2020,” Moore said this afternoon at an event in Montgomery, Ala. “Can I win? Yes, I can win. Not only can I, but they know I can. That’s why there’s such opposition.
The Sun – TOP US politicians have been given a secret briefing about UFOs, it has been revealed.
The Senators on the Intelligence Committee were given the briefing about a series of encounters between US Navy planes and unidentified aircraft, one of them has said.
A spokeswoman for Senator Mark Warner, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, confirmed the briefing took place.
“If naval pilots are running into unexplained interference in the air, that’s a safety concern Senator Warner believes we need to get to the bottom of,” Rachel Cohen told Politico.
Donald Trump said he too has been briefed on UFOs but admitted he doesn’t believe in them.
The Navy itself didn’t comment on the latest meeting but has in the past confirmed that it provides briefings for the Congressional members by Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators.
Earlier this year, the Navy revealed there have been reported sightings of UFOs hovering above top-secret military bases and flying near aircraft.
The daily sightings came over the course of 2014 and 2015 and were reported to the Pentagon and Congress.
Briefing requests by Congress members have been on the increase since it was revealed the Pentagon’s shadowy Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) still investigates UFO sightings, the New York Post reported.
Free Thought Project – The 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld a US District Court decision that refused to throw out a civil lawsuit against an Arkansas police officer who arrested a man who yelled a curse word at the officer as he conducted a traffic stop on another citizen.
According to court documents, in 2015 Arkansas State Trooper Lagarian Cross was performing a traffic stop on a Fort Smith highway when he heard a passerby yell “f*ck you” out of the window of a moving car. The remark prompted Cross to end his traffic stop and pursue the car. After making the stop, Cross arrested Eric Roshaun Thurairajah on a charge of disorderly conduct, stating the profanity constituted “unreasonable or excessive noise.”
Thurairajah spent hours in jail for the utterance, court records say, before the charge was dropped and he was released under his own recognizance.
Thurairajah, however, was not done.
After spending eight hours barefoot in a jail cell with a toilet that had overflowed, he filed suit against Cross, alleging that the trooper violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights by arresting him unjustly.There is no more basic constitutional right than free speech.
Cross attempted to have the case thrown out, citing qualified immunity—a legal doctrine that shields government officials from lawsuits—but was denied by the US District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. In that 2017 ruling, the court ruled Cross’s arrest violated Thurairajah’s clearly established rights under the Constitution, voiding his qualified immunity protection.
The Court’s Ruling
On Monday, the 8th Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling, allowing Thurairajah to proceed in his lawsuit against Cross. W. Whitfield Hyman, Thurairajah’s attorney, called the court’s decision a win for free speech.
“This was a simple case about freedom of expression that is a small step forward for protecting personal freedom,” Hyman told me in an email.
he 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday upheld a US District Court decision that refused to throw out a civil lawsuit against an Arkansas police officer who arrested a man who yelled a curse word at the officer as he conducted a traffic stop on another citizen.
The ruling is also important because it weakens qualified immunity, which often shields government officials from consequences for bad behavior. (Read, for example, this Cato Institute article describing a state caseworker who strip-searched a four-year-old girl.)
NY Times – To find real solitude, you have to go out of range. But every year that’s harder to do, as America’s off-the-grid places disappear.
A few weeks ago, I drove down a back road in West Virginia and into a parallel reality. Sometime after I passed Spruce Mountain, my phone lost service — and I knew it would remain comatose for the next few days. When I spun the dial on the car radio, static roared out of every channel. I had entered the National Radio Quiet Zone, 13,000 square miles of mountainous terrain with few cell towers or other transmitters.
I was headed toward Green Bank, a town that adheres to the strictest ban on technology in the United States. The residents do without not only cellphones but also Wi-Fi, microwave ovens and any other devices that generate electromagnetic signals.
The ban exists to protect the Green Bank Observatory, a cluster of radio telescopes in a mountain valley. Conventional telescopes are like superpowered eyes. The instruments at Green Bank are more like superhuman ears — they can tune into frequencies from the lowest to the highest ends of the spectrum. The telescopes are powerful enough to detect the death throes of a star, but also terribly vulnerable to our loud world. Even a short-circuiting electric toothbrush could blot out the whisper of the Big Bang.
Physicists travel here to measure gravitational waves. Astronomers study stardust. The observatory has also become a hub for alien hunters who hope to detect messages sent from other planets. And in the past decade, the town has become a destination for “electrosensitives” who believe they’re allergic to cellphone towers — some of them going so far as to wrap their bedrooms in mesh in hopes of screening out what they believe to be harmful rays.
This town, in other words, calls out to many kinds of eccentrics. And I guess I am one of them.
I came in hopes of finding a certain kind of wildness and solitude. I live in Massachusetts, and I often disappear into the forests and rivers to clear my head. I’ve always loved the moment when the bars on my phone disappear. When I’m out of range entirely, floating along in a kayak, time grows elastic. I stare down into that other kingdom below me, at the minnows darting through the duckweed, and feel deeply free — no one’s watching; no one knows where I am.
In theory, I could achieve this kind of freedom anywhere by shutting off my cellphone and observing an “internet sabbath.” But that has never worked for me — and I suspect it doesn’t for most other people either. Turn off your phone and you can almost hear it wheedling to be turned on again.
To experience the deepest solitude, you need to enter the land where the internet ends.
Ten years ago, it was easy to do that. But lately, even in the backwoods, my cellphone springs to life, clamoring for attention.
The off-grid places are disappearing. And that’s as it should be. We must wire up rural America; cell service is now a utility almost as essential as electricity or heat. In April, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it will hold the biggest auction of radio spectrum in this country’s history; the auction, scheduled for late this year, is part of an effort to spread cell coverage to even the most remote towns ahead of the rollout of 5G networks.
Unfortunately, ownership of the telecommunication grids will go to corporate giants rather than to the communities themselves. But even so, small towns are fighting to be wired up. It’s likely that in 10 or years, the country will be blanketed with signal, from sea to shining sea.
I’m hopeful that when that happens, we might retain just a few quiet places where it’s still possible to disconnect.
Activists have already created “dark sky reserves” to protect wilderness from artificial light. In the future, might we also create “privacy reserves” where we can go to escape the ubiquitous internet?
Economy & Business
AFP – The Federal Reserve opened the door to an interest rate cut on Wednesday, vowing to act to keep the economy growing as uncertainties about trade and other issues mount.
US Federal Reserve chief Jerome Powell said trade friction and slowing growth worldwide have led many central bankers to feel the case for an interest rate cut has “strengthened” but most still want to see more data before making a move.
But one policymaker dissented in the vote, advocating for an immediate cut — something President Donald Trump has been calling for loudly and which many economists say is necessary given the damage done by the escalating trade frictions.
CNBC – Stocks rallied on Thursday, led by strong gains in tech and energy shares, as Wall Street cheered the possibility that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates next month.
The S&P 500 surged 1% to 2,954.18, a record close. The broad index also hit an intraday record of 2,958.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 249.17 points higher at 26,753.17. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.8% to end the day at 8,051.34.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell below 2% for the first time since November 2016. Investors cheered the decline in the benchmark for mortgage rates and corporate bonds.
The energy sector rose more than 2% to lead all 11 S&P 500 sectors higher as oil prices jumped. Tech gained 1.4% after shares of Oracle surged more than 8% on stronger-than-forecast earnings. General Electric’s 2.8% rise pushed the industrials sector up more than 1.6% on the day.
“Markets are based on numbers and perception. If the perception is rates are getting cut, that’s going to drive markets higher,” said Kathy Entwistle, senior vice president of wealth management at UBS. “UBS’ stance up until yesterday was we wouldn’t see any rate cuts this year. Now we see a much larger chance of a 50-basis-point cut.”
The Fed said Wednesday it stands ready to battle growing global and domestic economic risks as they took stock of intensifying trade tensions and growing concerns about inflation. Most Fed policymakers slashed their rate outlook for the rest of the calendar year by approximately half a percentage point in the previous session, while Chairman Jerome Powell said others agree the case for lower rates is building.
RT – Global crude prices have jumped on foot of the escalating tensions in the Middle East, where a US military drone was shot down by Iranian forces over the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for oil supplies.
RT’s Boom Bust talked to David McAlvany of McAlvany Financial Group and to former Pentagon Official Michael Maloof, to discuss various aspects of the incident.
“It will be very disconcerting throughout the Gulf because not only oil and gas travel over there but a lot of commerce… for all those countries in the Persian Gulf. So, I think overnight we will all have a global recession set in,” Maloof warned.
Yahoo – While some people have received some surprise tax bills when filing their returns, corporations continue to avoid paying tax — thanks to a cocktail of tax credits, loopholes, and exemptions.
Thanks to the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), Amazon’s federal tax responsibility is 21% (down from 35% in previous years). But with the help of tax breaks, according to corporate filings, Amazon won’t be paying a dime to Uncle Sam despite posting more than $11.2 billion in profits in 2018.
How is that possible?
“It’s hard to know exactly what they’re doing,” said Steve Wamhoff, ITEP’s Director of Federal Tax Policy. “In their public documents they don’t lay out their tax strategy. So it’s unclear exactly which breaks [the company is taking advantage of]. They vaguely say tax credits. One could think of many different ways a corporation could do this, like the depreciation breaks which were expanded under TCJA.”
Fox – The cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions has already begun to drive Opens a New Window. some residents away from high-tax Opens a New Window. states like New York and New Jersey, but experts say that trend is only going to intensify.
“It took a few months for taxpayers to realize the dollar implications – until they actually filed their tax returns this year,” Alan Goldenberg, a principal at Friedman LLP, told FOX Business. “It quantified the impact of the loss of the SALT deduction when people saw it in front of their eyes on their tax return.”
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act introduced a number of reforms, including the notorious $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions, which has caused Americans to look into establishing legal primary residences in states where they can limit their liabilities.
Since the implementation of the law, Goldenberg said he has “certainly” had some clients relocate. Typically, these are individuals that have second homes in states with a more favorable tax climate – like Florida – along with wealthy people and individuals whose jobs do not require them to be tied to a specific location. The latter category can include people in the service industry or consultants.
States that some Americans have already begun leaving for are Florida, Texas and Nevada, all three of which have no individual income tax.
Goldenberg expects to see “more and more” taxpayers looking to move in the wake of this year’s tax season, which remains ongoing for those who filed for a six-month extension.
Daily News – Just when you think things in the city of Los Angeles couldn’t be any more dysfunctional, they manage to take the cake yet again. The City Council is seriously kicking around a new tax on property owners for leaving homes vacant.
Just think of it as the “Tom Bodett tax” — either landlords leave the light on for ya, or they pay up.
City Councilmen Mike Bonin, Marqueece Harris-Dawson, Paul Koretz and David Ryu have asked city staffers to come up with a plan for an “empty homes penalty” or vacancy tax.
“No bed in this city should be empty when people are being forced to sleep on pavement. … Empty-home penalties encourage landlords to keep people housed, and they help raise needed funds to create more affordable housing. This is an important tool for addressing one of the root causes of homelessness in L.A., and it is a step we desperately need to take,” Bonin said.
Bonin claims that there are over 100,000 vacant units in Los Angeles, and about 60,000 homeless people. So just give every homeless person a vacant place to live and voila! No homeless.
The problem with this so-called solution to homelessness is that the lights may be on, but nobody’s home.
Penalizing the owners of vacant units is a typical big-government solution to an economic issue disguised as a remedy for homelessness. When all you have is a hammer, after a while everything starts to look like a nail.
Property owners are already operating vacant units at a loss because they pay property taxes, special assessments, mortgages and regular upkeep, but derive no income from them. Now you want to add to their losses. How does this lead to more affordable housing for Los Angeles?
Energy & Environment
RT – Beijing needs to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and give more financial and policy support to its nuclear sector, senior Chinese industry official Wang Shoujun said.
“Going with nuclear power has already become a state strategy, and nuclear exports will help optimize our export trade and free up domestic high-end manufacturing capacity,” he said at the China People’s Political Consultative Conference.
According to the official, China has to improve research and development, localize the production of key nuclear components, and grow both the domestic and foreign nuclear markets to make the most of the country’s “comprehensive advantages” in costs and technology.
The former chairman of the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), Wang said that the country could build as many as 30 overseas nuclear reactors over the next decade through its involvement in the BRI.
He pointed out that nuclear projects could bring Chinese firms as much as 1 trillion yuan ($145.52 billion) by 2030.
Forty-one Belt and Road nations already have nuclear power programs or are planning to develop them, according to Wang. China only needs to secure a 20-percent market share to create five million new jobs in the sector, he said.
Science & Technology
NextGov – Homeland Security is looking for innovative robots that can navigate underground tunnels and communicate with headquarters.
Customs and Border Protection uses technology to scan faces, probe vehicles and keep a watchful eye on the border from the skies above. The agency—with help from Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate—also is looking to send robots into underground tunnels and other places where its sensors can’t communicate.
The Science and Technology Directorate released a request for information Monday to get a sense of the market for robotic communications technology. Specifically, the agency is looking for off-the-shelf tech that can capture and transmit data—including photos and video—and map hard to reach places.
“DHS S&T is interested in evaluating robotic communication capabilities to characterize underground structures, contents, threats and obstacles along the U.S. southern border,” according to the RFI. “These environments range in size and shape, but are all characterized by lack of GPS-signal, short distance—less than 50 meters—line of sight, and a variety of building materials.”
NextGov – The department seeks a new platform to identify people using fingerprints, irises and faces, and eventually DNA, palm prints, scars and tattoos.
The Homeland Security Department is looking to upgrade the software it uses to analyze biometric data on hundreds of millions of people around the globe, and it plans to store that information in Amazon’s cloud.
The agency’s Office of Biometric Identity Management will replace its legacy biometric analysis platform, called the Automated Biometric Identification System, or IDENT, with a new, more robust system hosted by Amazon Web Services, according to a request for information released Monday.
IDENT essentially serves as an enterprisewide clearinghouse for troves of biometric and biographic data collected by the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service and other Homeland Security components. The system links fingerprint, iris and face data to biographic information, allowing officials to quickly identify suspected terrorists, immigration violators, criminals and anyone else included in their databases.
In total, IDENT contains information on more than 250 million people, a Homeland Security spokesperson told Nextgov.
According to the solicitation, Homeland Security is in the process of replacing IDENT with the Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology System, or HART. The new system will include the same biometric recognition features as its predecessor, and potentially additional tools that could identify individuals based on DNA, palm prints, scars, physical markings and tattoos.
RT – In a groundbreaking treatment, cancer patients’ immune systems are being genetically reprogrammed to fight their terminal cancer for them, with promising results.
In the UK, a number of National Health Service (NHS) patients with lymphoma at King’s College Hospital have been given CAR-T, a “living drug” that is unique to each patient as it contains some of their own cells.
“It is a very exciting new development and it gives new hope to a lot of our patients,” Victoria Potter, haematologist at King’s College Hospital told the BBC. “It’s amazing to be able to see these people, who you may have not been able to give any hope to, actually achieving remission.”
Parts of a patient’s immune system, the white blood cells, are taken and frozen in nitrogen before being sent to laboratories in the US where they are genetically reprogrammed to find and destroy cancer, instead of killing viruses and bacteria like they normally would. The cells then become chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, or CAR-T and are put back into the patient’s bloodstream, where they grow and get to work battling cancer.
NPR – A Russian scientist says he wants to create more genetically modified babies, flouting international objections that such a step would be premature, unethical and irresponsible.
Denis Rebrikov, a molecular biologist who heads a gene-editing lab at the Kulakov National Medical Research Center for Obstetrics, Gynecology and Perinatology in Moscow, claims he has developed a safe — and therefore acceptable — way to create gene-edited babies.
“How it can be unethical if we will make [a] healthy baby instead of diseased?” Rebrikov told NPR during his first broadcast interview. “Why? Why [is it] unethical?”
Rebrikov wants to create babies from embryos whose DNA he would edit to protect the resulting children from HIV. Rebrikov would edit a gene called CCR5 to replicate a naturally occurring variation that protects people from HIV.
“The rationale is to guarantee that the baby will be HIV-negative — that’s it,” Rebrikov says.
It’s the same rationale given by a Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, when he created the world’s first gene-edited babies. The birth of the gene-modified twin Chinese girls last year triggered an international firestorm, as well as calls for a global moratorium on creating gene-edited babies until doing so can be demonstrated to be safe and necessary.
Rebrikov says his research has shown that it’s possible to make precise genetic changes in embryos using the gene-editing technique CRISPR. He claims to have verified the safety by comparing the DNA of edited embryos with the unedited DNA of the couples used to create them.
Toronto Sun – Mobile technology has transformed the way we live – how we read, work, communicate, shop and date. But we already know this.
What we have not yet grasped is the way the tiny machines in front of us are remolding our skeletons, possibly altering not just the behaviors we exhibit but the bodies we inhabit.
New research in biomechanics suggests that young people are developing hornlike spikes at the back of their skulls – bone spurs caused by the forward tilt of the head, which shifts weight from the spine to the muscles at the back of the head, causing bone growth in the connecting tendons and ligaments. The weight transfer that causes the buildup can be compared to the way the skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure or abrasion.
The result is a hook or hornlike feature jutting out from the skull, just above the neck.
In academic papers, a pair of researchers at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, argues that the prevalence of the bone growth in younger adults points to shifting body posture brought about by the use of modern technology. They say smartphones and other handheld devices are contorting the human form, requiring users to bend their heads forward to make sense of what’s happening on the miniature screens.
The researchers said their discovery marks the first documentation of a physiological or skeletal adaptation to the penetration of advanced technology into everyday life.
KHN – Across the nation, public health departments are redirecting scarce resources to try to control the spread of measles. Their success relies on shoe-leather detective work that is one of the great untold costs of the measles resurgence.
On any given day, more than 4,000 people pass through the library at California State University-Los Angeles.
On April 11, one of them had measles. The building has only one entrance, which means that anyone who entered or exited the library within two hours of that person’s visit potentially was exposed to one of the most contagious diseases on Earth.
It’s the stuff of public health nightmares: Everyone at the library between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. that day had to be identified, warned and possibly quarantined. Measles is so contagious that up to 90% of people close to an infected person who are not protected by a vaccine or previous case of the disease will become infected. But how could the university figure out who had been in the library during that time frame? And which of those people were vulnerable to infection?
Rooting out answers to such questions is the job of the public health detectives who work at health departments across the country.
Using basic techniques in place for over 100 years, public health investigators work to control an outbreak before it balloons. Such investigations have evolved with new technologies but remain among the best defenses against infectious disease outbreaks — and among the great untold costs of an epidemic.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which has confirmed 566 measles cases since September, has spent more than $2.3 million on related investigations. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health estimates spending as much as $2,000 to track down each contact of a confirmed patient — and it has made hundreds of such efforts in recent months.
“Public health departments across the country have had their budgets tightened in a sustained fashion over the past 15 years,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease specialist at Vanderbilt University. “There are no public health departments that are like firemen playing pinochle and waiting for an outbreak. They have other things to do, and they have to put aside those tasks to deal with an outbreak.”
CBS – Nearly a decade after Bill Reynolds and Mark Sersansie first learned about one of the most outrageous medical frauds in California history, they met with some of the patients who say they are still suffering from the devastating consequences of this scam.
“After surgery, it was nothing but pain-filled days,” said patient Derika Moses. “I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t be a parent.”
“I didn’t want to live anymore,” said patient Gisela Fabila.
“You didn’t want to live anymore?” Alex Ferrer, host of “Whistleblower,” asked.
“No. One time, I was planning, ‘I’m going to go outside, and I’m going to run’ — said, ‘I’m going to kill …'” Fabila recalled in tears.
Ferrer, a police officer-turned-lawyer-turned judge, takes viewers on Sersansie and Reynolds’ journey from the hallways of southern California hospitals to the homes of patients who suffered the consequences of this scam in the latest “Whistleblower” episode, “The Billion Dollar Back Surgery Scam: Patients in Pain and Peril,” airing Friday, June 21 at 8/7c on CBS.
Together the men would discover an illegal scheme, where middlemen were paid to find patients who had back problems stemming from work-related injuries and doctors were paid kickbacks to perform the spinal surgeries at specific hospitals.
“One of the physicians … wanted … Super Bowl tickets, airfare and hotel,” said Sersansie, who worked in sales for a California medical supply company.
Many patients say the scam left them in unbearable pain from surgeries, some say, they didn’t need in the first place.
“This was entirely a medically unnecessary surgery that was performed,” said patient Josh Lash.
Ultimately, they would learn that hospitals were not only overbilling for the spinal hardware but, in many instances, dangerous counterfeit hardware was implanted into the backs of innocent people.
“I’m looking at invoices that ranged anywhere from $350,000 to $475,000,” said Reynolds, a medical fraud investigator.
Moses has had much of her spinal hardware removed. “We’ve had experts come out,” she said, “that have identified my screws as being counterfeit screws.”
Counterfeit screws were mixed in with FDA-approved screws made by a reputable medical device company from South Korea.
“Those screws go into patients’ … bones … little pieces of those threads can break off in people’s bodies and end up in their tissue,” attorney Justin Berger explained. “It can cause serious complications.”
Berger represents the patients interviewed by “Whistleblower,” Sersansie and Reynolds, and others who have sued based on the scam.
Business Insider – Toxic makeup is nothing new: The ancient Greeks used heavy metals on their skin, and Egyptian queens wore black kohl eye makeup that was made with lead.
But last week, trace amounts of asbestos — a known cancer causer — were found in concealer as well as sparkly makeup marketed to kids at Claire’s, a reminder that toxic chemicals and compounds still lurk in beauty products. In March, Claire’s also voluntarily recalled some of its eye shadow and face powder after asbestos was found in those products as well.
The issue isn’t limited to cosmetics: The FDA recently warned about dangerous bacteria in a no-rinse cleansing foam used by hospital patients, alerted tattoo artists about ink contaminated with microorganisms, and found yeast in Young Living essential oils.
In part, these problems arise because US beauty products are largely unregulated.
“The law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market,” the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes.
Some toxic ingredients (like asbestos) are inadvertently added during the manufacturing process, while product makers put others in purposefully to help with absorption, shine, shimmer, or a non-greasy feel. Studies suggest that chemicals from the products people put on their faces and bodies can show up later in urine. Certain compounds, especially when mixed together in the body, might up a person’s odds of developing cancer or mess with their reproductive ability.
But it’s nearly impossible for consumers to determine what’s in cosmetics even by reading the labels, since many compounds can be considered trade secrets and hide in the “parfum” or “fragrance” ingredients on a list.
Healthy Holistic Living – Oil is a common ingredient in many foods, making it a popular kitchen item. And while there are many different types of oils, it’s pretty obvious that not all are created equal when it comes to things like taste, consistency, price, and especially health benefits.
One of the most used oils is canola oil. However, as enticing as that price tag looks, canola oil has dark secrets that are just now being revealed.
For many years canola oil has been thought to be one of the healthier choices. Everywhere you look you will see praise about how incredibly helpful and healthy it is. And a lot of this information has even proven true.
For example, canola oil is a monounsaturated fat, making it a healthier alternative to animal fats. For this reason, it’s often compared to and categorized with other healthy oils such as safflower oil, olive oil, and peanut oil. (1, 2)
Canola oil has also been proven to reduce total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, and improve insulin sensitivity. This seems to make it a great option for those suffering from diabetes. (3, 4)
But while these facts seem to paint a pretty picture of this shiny yellow oil, new research has shown that all this hubbub about canola oil might be just a facade to hide its truly bad side.
Brain Health Deterioration
A study was recently conducted on mice revealing some of canola oil’s dark secrets. During the study, one group of mice was given a regular diet, and another group was given the same diet along with a supplement of canola oil. After one year the mice were subjected to a number of tests. Surprisingly, the mice who had been taking the canola oil supplement showed memory deterioration and degenerative learning ability. (5)
Additionally, the mice who had canola oil in their diet for a year gained considerably more weight than rats with no canola oil in their diet. (5) This study has given us new insight as to the true nature of canola oil. All of this information has opened our eyes to more hidden dangers of canola oil. Researchers’ next task is to conduct more studies in order to really hone in on the negative effects of canola oil and how long these effects may last.
Steering clear of that deceiving canola oil will be a lot easier if you know what to replace it with. One fantastic alternative is olive oil.
Extra virgin olive oil has been tried and tested to be one of the healthiest fats out there. One study actually shows that olive oil is beneficial for memory and brain health, and it has even been shown to improve memory impairment in Alzheimer’s patients! So you might even say it’s canola oil’s archenemy. (6, 7)
Whether you choose olive oil or some other alternative, one thing is clear. Unless you don’t mind seeing your brain and memory slowly deteriorate, you might want to keep canola oil off of your grocery list and out of your kitchen.
Mercury News – When the 17-year-old arrived at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, his entire jaw was cracked and a chunk of the bone had been completely shattered. Several of his teeth were missing and there was a hole in his chin.
“That’s an injury we see in high-speed motor vehicle crashes,” Katie W. Russell, a pediatric surgeon who treated the teenager in March last year, told The Washington Post. “It’s a big injury.”
Jonathan Skirko, a pediatric ear, nose and throat surgeon who operated on the boy, told The Post the damage looked “kind of like a close-range gunshot wound.”
But the teen, whose mother identified him as Austin, wasn’t in a car crash, and he didn’t get shot. He was using a vape pen when it exploded in his mouth.
The details of Austin’s case were published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine with the goal of raising awareness about the dangers of using e-cigarettes, Russell said.
MSN – Firefighters tapped their creative juices Thursday in order to rescue a flock of mighty ducklings that became trapped in a storm drain pipe in Littleton, Colorado.
One clever South Metro Fire Rescue crew member realized he was in need of a quack call to complete the mission and turned to YouTube for assistance. The firefighter played audio on his cell phone of duck calls to lure out the four ducklings.
The department later shared their valiant rescue on Twitter.
The flock was safely reunited with their mother, according to firefighters.
SunnySkyz – Researchers in Switzerland have discovered that certain music helps strengthen brain development in premature babies.
Babies born very prematurely are at high risk of developing neuropsychological disorders, so researchers at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG) proposed a unique solution: music written especially for them.
Results published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in the United States, show that the neural networks of premature infants who have listened to this music, and in particular a network involved in many sensory and cognitive functions, are developing much better.
The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the HUG welcomes each year 80 children born between 24 and 32 weeks of pregnancy. The vast majority will survive, but half will later develop neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning difficulties, attentional or emotional disorders.
“At birth, these babies’ brains are still immature. Brain development must therefore continue in the intensive care unit, in an incubator, under very different conditions than if they were still in their mother’s womb,” said Petra Hüppi, professor at the UNIGE Faculty of Medicine and Head of the HUG Development and Growth Division, who directed this work.
As thehearing system is functional early on, music appeared to be a good option.
“Luckily, we met the composer Andreas Vollenweider, who had already conducted musical projects with fragile populations and who showed great interest in creating music suitable for premature children,” said Hüppi.
Researchers found that without music, premature babies generally had poorer functional connectivity between brain areas than full-term babies, confirming the negative effect of prematurity.
The first children enrolled in the study are now 6 years old, at which age cognitive problems begin to be detectable. Scientists will now meet again their young patients to conduct a full cognitive and socio-emotional assessment and observe whether the positive outcomes measured in their first weeks of life have been sustained.
Good News Network – Three beagles successfully showed they are capable of identifying lung cancer by scent, a first step in identifying specific biomarkers for the disease – and researchers say the dogs’ abilities may lead to the development of a safe, effective, and inexpensive means for mass cancer screening.
After eight weeks of training, the beagles – chosen for their superior olfactory receptor genes – were able to distinguish between blood serum samples taken from patients with malignant lung cancer and healthy controls with 97% accuracy. The double-blind study is published in the July edition of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
“We’re using the dogs to sort through the layers of scent until we identify the tell-tale biomarkers,” says Thomas Quinn, professor at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and lead author on this study. “There is still a great deal of work ahead, but we’re making good progress.”
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide for both women and men, and more than 200,000 people annually in the United States receive a diagnosis of lung cancer.