AuthorTopic: Knarf's Knewz Channel  (Read 954594 times)

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'Olympic Destroyer' malware targeted Pyeongchang Games: firms
« Reply #11190 on: February 13, 2018, 03:37:30 AM »
(Reuters) - Several U.S. cyber security firms said on Monday that they had uncovered a computer virus dubbed “Olympic Destroyer” that was likely used in an attack on Friday’s opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

Games Organizers confirmed the attack on Sunday, saying that it affected internet and television services but did not compromise critical operations. Organizers did not say who was behind the attack or provide detailed discussion of the malware, though a spokesman said that all issues had been resolved as of Saturday.

Researchers with cyber security firms Cisco Systems Inc, CrowdStrike and FireEye Inc said in blog posts and statements to Reuters on Monday that they had analyzed computer code they believed was used in Friday’s attack.

All three security companies said the Olympic Destroyer malware was designed to knock computers offline by deleting critical system files, which would render the machines useless.

The three firms said they did not know who was behind the attack.

“Disruption is the clear objective in this type of attack and it leaves us confident in thinking that the actors behind this were after embarrassment of the Olympic committee during the opening ceremony,” Cisco said in its blog.

The attack took the Olympics website offline, which meant that some people could not print out tickets and WiFi used by reporters covering the games did not work during the opening ceremony, according to Cisco.

The attack did not affect the performance of drones, which were initially scheduled to be included in the opening ceremony, but later pulled from the program, organizers said in a statement.

The drone light show was canceled because there were too many spectators standing in the area where it was supposed to take place, the statement said.
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Elon Musk plans new SpaceX drone ship, A Shortfall of Gravitas
« Reply #11191 on: February 13, 2018, 03:43:35 AM »

CAPE CANAVERAL — A new SpaceX drone ship under construction will help the company handle increased launch operations and likely call the Space Coast home, CEO Elon Musk said Monday.

The company's third ship, named A Shortfall of Gravitas, will join Of Course I Still Love You for East Coast booster landing operations, Musk said via Twitter in response to the USA TODAY Network. The latter is based at Port Canaveral and returns Falcon 9 boosters to facilities near the port for post-launch checkouts.

Musk also confirmed that for Falcon Heavy missions, the rocket's two side boosters will not always return to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station like they did during last week's premiere launch. In some cases involving tight fuel margins and heavy satellites, having two ships based on the Space Coast will mean both sail out at the same time and play host to tandem ocean landings.

SpaceX operates its third ship, named Just Read the Instructions, on the West Coast for launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. All three are named after spacecraft featured in Scottish author Iain M. Banks' Culture novels.

Of Course I Still Love You, though, was damaged during the first Falcon Heavy mission that took flight from Kennedy Space Center — the rocket's center core missed the ship by about 300 feet, but the force of its 300 mph water impact was enough to "take out" two engines on the ship.

"Not enough ignition fluid to light the outer two engines after several three engine relights," Musk also said Monday on the center core's landing failure. "Fix is pretty obvious."

SpaceX teams at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, meanwhile, are targeting no earlier than 12:35 a.m. ET on Feb. 22 for the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 40. Hispasat 30W-6, a commercial communications satellite, will be boosted to a geostationary transfer orbit.
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Judge awards 5Pointz graffiti artists $6.7M after works destroyed
« Reply #11192 on: February 13, 2018, 03:48:00 AM »

LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens  — A New York judge has awarded $6.7 million to graffiti artists who sued after their work was destroyed on buildings torn down to make room for luxury condos.

Federal Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn noted Monday there was no remorse from the owner of the warehouse buildings. Long Island Developer Jerry Wolkoff allowed the painting for decades on the property.

In November 2017 during a three-week trial, twenty-one aerosol artists sued the owner of a Long Island City, Queens site known as 5Pointz.

The case was based on the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990. That federal law allows artists "to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature, and any intentional or grossly negligent destruction of that work"

Their work was painted over in 2013 and the buildings were torn down a year later. Construction began on two 40-story residential apartment buildings in 2015.

The judge said he would not have assessed so much in damages if the owner had awaited his permits and demolished the art 10 months later than he did. Wolkoff ordered crews to whitewash the building one night. Wolkoff tells PIX11 News he plans to appeal the ruling.

Before they vanished, the graffiti artworks became a tourist attraction, drawing thousands of spectators daily and forming a backdrop to the 2013 movie, "Now You See Me," and a site for an Usher tour, the judge noted.

All the while, the crime-ridden neighborhood gradually improved and it became the "world's largest collection of quality outdoor aerosol art," though a system set up by the artists meant some paintings were temporary while others were given permanent status, Block wrote.

The ruling followed a trial in November, when Block said the "respectful, articulate and credible" artists testified about "striking technical and artistic mastery and vision worthy of display in prominent museums if not on the walls of 5Pointz."

He noted one artist came from London, another from rural West Virginia, while others were products of prestigious art schools. Some were self-taught.

He said he was impressed with the breadth of the artists' works and how many works "spoke to the social issues of our times."

Jerry Wolkoff, who owned the buildings, had conceded he allowed the spray-paint artists to use the buildings as a canvas for decades but said they always knew they would be torn down someday. His lawyer, David Ebert, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

The artists had once hoped to buy the properties, before their value soared to over $200 million.

Block said he hoped the award would give teeth to a federal law that should have kept Wolkoff from demolishing them for at least 10 months, when he had all his permits.

Artists then could have easily rescued some paintings from siding, plywood or sheet-rock before the rollers, spray machines and buckets of white paint arrived.

"Wolkoff has been singularly unrepentant. He was given multiple opportunities to admit the whitewashing was a mistake, show remorse, or suggest he would do things differently if he had another chance," Block said.

"Wolkoff could care less. As he callously testified," the judge said. "The sloppy, half-hearted nature of the whitewashing left the works easily visible under thin layers of cheap, white paint, reminding the plaintiffs on a daily basis what had happened. The mutilated works were visible by millions of people on the passing 7 train."
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Chinese New Year: Welcoming the Year of the Dog
« Reply #11193 on: February 13, 2018, 03:51:54 AM »

Scrambling for Chinese sweetcakes during Grebeg Sudiro festival on February 11 in Solo City, Central Java, Indonesia. Grebeg Sudiro festival is held as a prelude to Chinese New Year, which falls on February 16, welcoming the Year of the Dog

Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival or the Lunar New Year,  is one of the most celebrated events across the globe. The date of celebration varies every year.

The traditions and celebrations go back in time and are transmitted from generations to generation; they welcome health, wealth and good relationships over the coming year.

1) When and where is it celebrated?

    This year, the Chinese New celebrations start on Friday, February 16. The first day falls on the new moon between January 21 and February 20.

    In 2017, the first day of the New Year was marked on January 28. The celebration lasts 15 days.
    It is celebrated in countries that have an important Chinese population including Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mauritius, Australia, and the Philippines.

2) What does it commemorate?

    The festival is an opportunity to honour deities as well as ancestors.

    It is believed that it originated in the Shang Dynasty when people held ceremonies in honour of gods and ancestors at the beginning of the year.
    China adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1911, so the festivities were renamed the Spring Festival.

    The celebration is rich in stories and myths. One of the most popular is about the mythical beast Nian, who would eat livestock, crops and people. To avert such destruction, people would put food at their doors. The beast was also known for being scared of loud noises (firecrackers) and the colour red.

3) How is it celebrated?

    Chinese New Year is an occasion for families to gather and celebrate. It is known for being highly colourful, with people lighting fireworks and watching traditional lion dances.
    On Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to keep away bad luck.

    It is traditional for every family to clean their house to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for incoming good luck.

    Windows and doors are decorated with red paper strips and couplets about good fortune, wealth and longevity. Red symbolises good fortune in Chinese tradition; children will be given red envelopes of money.
    The family dinner is one of the most important meals for Chinese families. Getting home for that dinner leads to one of China's biggest migrations every year.

    In 2018, Chinese are expected to make nearly three million trips from February to March.

4) Chinese Zodiac

    The Chinese Zodiac moves in a 12-year cycle; those born in 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, and 2018 were born in the Year of the Dog.

    According to Asian astrology, your year of birth - and the animal this represents - set many of your personality traits.

    People born in the Year of the Dog are described as independent, sincere, communicative and loyal.
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Recruitment of child soldiers still rising in South Sudan
« Reply #11194 on: February 13, 2018, 03:57:51 AM »
Yambio, South Sudan - John was taken when he was 15 years old. He is one of 700 children who were forcibly recruited by South Sudan's National Liberation Movement.

"They arrested me when we were going to the garden," he told Al Jazeera.

"Life in the bush was hard and if you leave, they will look for you until they find you again and they will take you back."

The civil war in South Sudan is now in its fifth year. It has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Monday marked International Day against the use of Child Soldiers. According to the UN, the number of children recruited in South Sudan is still rising.

Sarah, who is 13, was also taken by the National Liberation Movement.

"I was in the garden working and I saw these people coming and I started to run," she said.

"They told me to come - why am I running? I stopped and they said to me if I run they will shoot me with the gun, and I stopped running."
Against their will

Rights groups say nearly all armed groups in the world's youngest country recruited children to fight.

On Thursday the National Liberation movement released more than 300 children in Yambio.

Brigadier Abel Matthew of the armed group denies the children were taken against their will in the first place.

"They were not really forced but the conditions back then forced them and all of us together," he told Al Jazeera.

Nearly 2,000 children have been demobilised in the past five years, but they are being replaced.

According to UNICEF, the number of child soldiers in South Sudan has been increasing since the war began in 2013.

That is despite all the warring sides repeatedly stating that they will stop recruiting children and release those already enlisted.
A way of life

Many children who have been released have no idea where their families are.

For others, fighting has become a way of life.

"The biggest challenge is reintegration," Unicef's Mahombo Mdoe told Al Jazeera.

"It's a process that takes time, two to three years for that child to go back home and resettle. We still have more kids to be released.

"Our real concern is the reintegration of these children so that they don't get re-recruited again."

John and Sarah say they do not want to return to the battlefield.

But they also fear what lies ahead after their past experiences and wonder if they may be forced to fight again.
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It's not me, it's you: six comedians on their best and worst love stories
« Reply #11195 on: February 13, 2018, 04:09:11 AM »
Five comedians spill their guts and tell us about the romantic failures they won’t forget. Dare to share yours?

“Love is rich with both honey and venom,” goes the Latin proverb.

For the various comedians we spoke to this Valentine’s Day about the romantic failures they won’t forget, this was often the case.

These are some of the most entertaining, poignant, endearing and awkward stories of failed love from America’s funniest people, which goes to show: happily never after isn’t always a bad thing.

Casey Wilson: He was a man amongst men

I’ve had so many spectacularly bad Valentine’s Days but this one stands out.

I was a high school senior in Alexandria, Virginia. I was in DC at Christmas time and I met this guy. A kid. I was a junior in high school, and he was a freshman, in ninth grade.

You don’t often see an “older gal” romancing a freshman. I thought he was like wildly charming, a man amongst men. We started dating – casually – because I lived in Virginia and he lived in DC.

I came to find out he was the heir to a toy company fortune. I was very titillated and intrigued by that.

We’d gone out on two dates and I may or may not have taken his virginity. At the time, I felt very much like it was Romeo and Juliet, like we lived in two different worlds. I went to this public school from that movie Remember the Titans and he went to this very fancy private school in DC. I felt very like we were being kept apart by class structure.

On Valentine’s Day I put my foot down: “You’re coming to Alexandria.” Of course, he had to ride the metro because he was too young to drive.

I decided that we would go to TGI Fridays with another couple. I’m waiting and waiting for him; he was supposed to call me when he got to the metro. I never get a phone call. Now my friends are over, they’re in my living room, they’re very drunk, talking to my parents, and I get this phone call. I think it’s him. It was his mom.

“I want you to stay away from my son. He’s not taking any metro to see you. He won’t be seeing you again – ever.”

His mom broke up with me. I think she got wind of the fact that we had slept together and freaked out.

Look – as a mother of two young sons now, I don’t blame her. Looking back, I was way too aggressive. I wouldn’t want any of my kids dating me. Nuh-uh. Of course, I’m still hanging onto a little anger, but I’m going to try to let it all go because now I empathize with her. I’m in her shoes now – minus the humungous fortune.

Erin Gibson: I got stood up for Katy Perry

I was working as a writer-director at Funny or Die and I had done a video with a celebrity who contacted me a couple weeks later and said, “I want to set you up with a friend of mine.”

His friend is Josh Groban. I don’t date celebrities. I am not on that level, so I was flattered that person thought I could move up the rungs.

So me and Josh are texting, and I suggest we get dinner the next day, which is Friday. And he’s like, “Oh, I think I’m coming down with something.” I thought that made sense since he’s a singer, he’s probably really sensitive about his voice.

On Friday, I go to Sarah Silverman’s birthday party with my ex-husband, who I am still friends with – that’s another story – and he has to leave to go to another party. I’m there alone when I meet this handsome guy. Me and handsome guy talk for four continuous hours.

We were sitting on a pool chair and I had this dumb app on my phone that lets you look at the stars, and it tells you what constellations are what, and we’re doing that, and we’re there so long my one friend there kept coming up and going, “Are you guys on acid? I don’t understand. Why are you sitting here for so long?”

And I’m thinking, “We like each other, dummy.”

The party ends, we get in the elevator and guess who is also leaving the party? Josh Groban and he’s with Katy Perry. He didn’t see me or recognize me. He did me the biggest favor standing me up for Katy Perry because handsome guy is now my husband.

Bryan Safi: I lied about shaving my chest hair

It wasn’t until my senior year of college at NYU that I had come to terms with my sexuality.

I bought a poster of my favorite movie from childhood – Big Business – and put it on my dorm room wall. I threw a comforter on my bed purchased on a trip to Dollywood for my 21st birthday when I was still “straight” – a quilted image of Dolly’s enormous head and hair, an eagle swooping in on her, with the quote, “Oh Bless her Lord, she’s an eagle when she flies.”

And with that, I was ready to date men.

My first love was a guy I only went on a couple dates with. He came from Westport Connecticut, and he was a painter. He was the perfect combo of Mr Big and Aidan, and he was into me!

He asked me to come visit him for the weekend and stay overnight. This was something I’d never done. Up to this point, we had only kissed. It shot me up with confidence and then right after, gave me shot of self-doubt. Have you ever noticed that whenever anyone has a crush on you, all you think about is what’s wrong with you?

For me, it often comes down to my chest hair. I had plenty of it, so I decided to shave it off.

When I arrived in Connecticut we got dinner, got a little drunk, got into bed, got going.

“What’s going on with your chest? Did you shave it?”


“It’s really spikey.”

“It’s always been spikey. It’s kind of a sensitive subject.” Lie.

When I got back to New York, things were weird. I hadn’t heard from him in a few days but finally he called and said, “Hey. We need to talk. My throat really hurts. Any idea why?”

“Because you’re sick?”

“Or because you gave me an STD?”

“I think maybe you’re just sick.”

“I think maybe you’re just a liar.”

I was humiliated. How could he call me a liar?!

“I’m not a liar!”

“What about your chest hair?”

I hung up. I was a liar. And it wasn’t an STD. I found out months later that he really was just sick.

Sandy Chansamone: Dating on Tinder ... back in the day

I met my boyfriend on Tinder. So you know it’s going to last…

We’re going on three years now.

Whenever people ask me how we started a conversation, I confidently say I’m pretty sure he said something super funny. Months later, I logged into my Tinder account to reminisce about how it all started. It turns out his first words to me were, “Hi Sandy :)” I guess my memory isn’t as good as I thought.

He’s very sweet, wears all black and is all tatted up. He’s a kind soul and we ugly cry at least once every episode of Game of Thrones because there is always a reason to ugly cry watching Game of Thrones. If a dragon is ever at risk of being harmed, our eyes well up immediately. We share the same passion for all you can eat Korean BBQ, and work well as a team.

The one downside to finding someone online, particularly Tinder, is that it is very limited in the information you get. I don’t know what Tinder is like now, but back in my day, Tinder just gave you a first name, age, a few pictures and a short blurb about them.

By the third date it dawned on me: I don’t know his last name.

He told me it’s Landey.

If this works out, I’m going to be Sandy Landey. Sometimes life plays cruel jokes on you.

Molly Kiernan: The best friend that got away

I’m recovered from an eating disorder. My anorexia, bulimia and binge-eating disorder took over my early 20s. It was hard to keep a job, hard to maintain relationships, and hard to even get out of bed most days. Finding comedy was one of the most important parts of my recovery: it gave me something to be passionate about.

My illness really affected all of my relationships, and the one I still haven’t recovered from is a friendship I had in college. Let’s call this person Todd.

I met Todd the first day of my freshman year of college, and we immediately hit it off. We were both a little out of place at this big sports school in the midwest and preferred to spend Saturdays listening to music instead of going to football games. Whenever we went, we’d stand next to each other and pretend to know what was happening.

We were one of those pairings that spent so much time together, everyone assumed we were dating or asked why we weren’t. I really cared about him but wasn’t ready to admit to myself that I liked him as more than a friend. I wasn’t ready to really fall in love.

Todd helped me through some really dark and depressing times, but I made a mistake that hurt our relationship. I didn’t open up to him. I didn’t tell him how much I needed him, how great I thought he was or how we should’ve dated.

Some of this was not my fault. My disorder left me unable to really feel emotions. It wasn’t until I had already graduated from school and went through about a year of intense therapy and nutritional treatment that I started to feel again.

That’s when I sent Todd this incredibly embarrassing email. I spilled my guts about how I thought we were meant to be together, even though I hadn’t talked to him in so long.

When all of your emotions come flooding back at once, you feel them big and hard. It’s emotion-vomit. They get all over the place and come out in weird ways: like a long email sent from a treatment center in Boston to your friend who was now living an entirely new life in California.

Todd responded very nicely but he had moved on. No shit. I was sad, but I understood. I don’t think about Todd romantically anymore. But I think about how our friendship has never recovered. He visits New York sometimes, but I’m never the first one he calls.

I wouldn’t want to date him now, but I miss my old best friend, and in that sense, he’s “the one that got away.”

Neal Medlyn: In junior high I gave my date a $300 “mum” of flowers with a teddy bear in the middle. She was mortified

I grew up in a tiny town in East Texas which has a tradition of homecoming mums. Homecoming is a football game and after it is the homecoming dance. Traditionally you invite someone to be your date, kind of like prom but open to all comers.

The homecoming mums were gifts you’d give your date: elaborate flowers with ribbons and football-themed gewgaws hanging all over them in your school’s colors.

When I was in junior high, after going through a phase of rabidly collecting comic books, my allowance money started to pile up since I rarely left my bedroom where I spent most of my time writing house music on my keyboard. I asked my friend Michelle to be my date. It seemed obvious it was just as friends, but I think I hoped it would be more than that once she saw my moves on the dance floor.

To that end, and because I was flush with cash, I went to the florist and bought the most expensive, insane, elaborate mum of all time. I think it cost almost $300. It was, like, five feet long. It had a teddy bear in the center of the flower. I seem to remember it lit up. It was crazy.

The day of homecoming, I gave it to Michelle, who was mortified. She wore it for a few minutes, I think to humor me, but then took it off because, like I said, it was an insane thing to give someone. It was the first of many times in my life that I did or gave someone something that was wildly out of scale and ended up being embarrassing for everyone involved.
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Shipping first as LNG tanker crosses Arctic in winter without icebreaker escort
« Reply #11196 on: February 13, 2018, 04:12:11 AM »
Teekay vessel Eduard Toll is designed to cut through ice and take advantage of the opening of Russia’s Arctic coastline to industry

The Eduard Toll is named after a Russian geologist and explorer

An LNG tanker designed for icy conditions has become the first commercial ship to travel the Arctic’s northern sea route in winter.

It marks a milestone in the opening up of Russia’s northern coastline, as thawing polar ice makes industrial development and maritime trade increasingly viable.

The Teekay vessel Eduard Toll set out from South Korea in December for Sabetta terminal in northern Russia, cutting through ice 1.8m thick. Last month, it completed the route, delivering a load of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Montoir, France. Its voyage was captured by the crew in a timelapse video.

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Bermuda-based firm Teekay is investing in six ships to serve the Yamal LNG project in northern Russia. A similarly designed vessel owned by Sovcomflot made the same passage last August. This small and growing Arctic-ready fleet can operate independently of icebreaker escorts, which are also in high demand.

Arctic sea ice is steadily thinning and receding, with seasonal fluctuation, as global temperatures rise due to human activity. In January 2018, ice extent hit another record low for the month, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Center.

While polar conditions remain tough, the trend creates market opportunities. The northern sea route is shorter than alternatives through the Suez Canal for many trade links between Europe and Asia.

« Last Edit: February 13, 2018, 04:15:22 AM by knarf »
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White House releases budget, forecasts a decade of mounting debt
« Reply #11197 on: February 13, 2018, 04:17:48 AM »

The Trump administration proposed a spending plan on Monday that projects deficits as far as the eye can see, giving up the longtime Republican goal of a balanced budget to champion a spending plan replete with cash for a host of military programs and some domestic ones the president's supporters might admire.

The budget calls for about $716 billion in annual defense spending, more than $100 billion above the level Trump requested last year. Add in the tax cuts Republicans pushed through in December and the extra spending Congress approved just last week, and the result is a flood of red ink projected to send the national debt ever higher.

Trump's budget anticipates deficits throughout the next 10 years even if Congress were to approve some $3 trillion in cuts over that same time period that he's proposing for a wide range of federal programs. Both parties already rejected most of those cuts last year and have shown little interest in pursuing them.

The deficits persist even though the White House is forecasting extremely optimistic levels of economic growth. If growth falls short of those projections — most economists think it will — deficits would be higher still.

As a result, the budget marks something of a milestone — the Trump administration's abandonment of the quest for budget balance that the Republican Party has claimed as a guiding light for years, at least rhetorically.

In reality, deficits have often soared under Republican presidents as the party has put cutting taxes ahead of balancing budgets on its list of priorities. In the past, however, Republican administrations have taken pains to at least come up with a budget that would balance on paper.

The budget unveiling led off with the administration's infrastructure plan, released with a statement from the president promising to build gleaming new roads, bridges and highways "all across our land."

Despite the bold promise, the plan involves a relatively small amount of new federal spending — $200 billion offset, at least partially, by cuts to other programs. The administration claims the new money would spur some $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investments from state, local and private sources, but that would depend to a large degree on the willingness of local and state officials to raise taxes for transportation projects.

"Washington no longer will be a roadblock to progress," Trump told a group of state and local officials gathered at the White House.

Progress, as laid out in the budget, means building and spending on projects important to Trump's core supporters. The president proposes investment in popular causes including fighting the opioid epidemic and bolstering medical care for veterans.

He is also asking for $1.6 billion to build 65 miles of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas, just one installment of the larger border wall promise that helped propel him to the Oval Office. He also proposed pouring more money into immigration enforcement.

But Trump's plan also defines progress as cutting programs that many of his voters don't like, including climate-change research at the Environmental Protection Agency and programs under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

He also once again is proposing to eliminate federal money for a number of longtime conservative targets, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Congress brushed aside those ideas last year.

His budget would slash almost $700 billion in federal healthcare spending that helps low- and moderate-income Americans who rely on insurance marketplaces created by the 2010 healthcare law.

As Republicans proposed last year, the plan would replace much existing healthcare spending with grants to states, allowing each one to craft its own health program. Similar proposals last year failed in the Senate, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has indicated that the chamber won't consider another run at Obamacare this year.

The spending blueprint also outlines nearly $1.5 trillion in cuts over the next decade to Medicaid, the government health plan for the poor — another proposal that was rejected in Congress last year.

The administration said the sweeping reductions reflect a goal to cut regulation and "empower patients and doctors." Independent studies, as well as evaluations by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, however, have projected that cuts of that magnitude would leave tens of millions of Americans without health coverage.

One illustration of the gap between the budget and congressional reality: Last week, as administration officials were putting the final touches on their spending plan, lawmakers reached a bipartisan budget deal that included an agreement to raise spending on both military and domestic programs over the next two years. Congress is highly unlikely to throw out its own decisions in favor of embracing those of the president.

Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, acknowledged as much in the letter he sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) transmitting the budget on Monday. The administration doesn't believe the new spending decisions "comport with its vision" for the role and size of the government, Mulvaney wrote

Ryan was circumspect.

"This budget lays out a thoughtful, detailed and responsible blueprint for achieving our shared agenda," he said Monday.

The unlikely cuts are just part of what makes Monday's budget partially fiction. The spending plan also assumes that the country's economic growth will surge to greater than 3% this year and stay above that level for several years to come — a projection most economists think is optimistic. The CBO estimates that the gross domestic product will expand at somewhere around 2% a year over the coming years.

Because government revenues rise with economic growth, the deficit will be even higher than the budget acknowledges if the administration's rosy forecast proves inaccurate.

"The country is facing a massive fiscal challenge, and the president's budget doesn't own up to these realities and fails to call for a suite of credible policies that would help change course," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which over the years has chastised presidents of both parties for not balancing the budget.

"The budget has too many gimmicks, exaggerated savings and rosy assumptions. Most troubling, it doesn't make the credible hard choices necessary to help bring the debt back to more manageable levels."

In recent years, Republicans preached that message loudly. GOP lawmakers, led in part by Mulvaney, fought President Obama's spending plans through much of his presidency, insisting that the government should not spend more than it takes in.

Obama ran a large deficit in his first few years as the government spent heavily to stimulate the economy after the deep recession. The deficit then began a steady decline through most of the rest of Obama's tenure. The deficit began to increase again in the 2016 fiscal year and has climbed since. It is expected to top $1 trillion by next year.

That left Republicans who sounded the warning bell under a Democratic president in an awkward place on Monday.

As Washington pored over the budget proposal, the president's fellow Republicans emphasized the rough-draft nature of the proposal, particularly in terms of its costs.

"It is just that, a first step," said Sen. Michael B. Enzi (R-Wyo.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee.

"Balancing the budget should always be the goal," added Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), Enzi's counterpart in the House.

But Democrats bemoaned a world in which the administration would even suggest such deep cuts to social programs for the poor and aged — especially so soon on the heels of generous tax cuts to rich people and corporations.

"While corporations reap billions in tax giveaways, older Americans who at least knew if they got sick when they got older they'd be taken care of, now have to worry," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), the chamber's minority leader.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the president's budget proposal a "brutal collection of broken promises and staggering cuts."
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Re: The Deadly Rule of the Oligarchs - Chris Hedges
« Reply #11198 on: February 13, 2018, 04:23:47 AM »
I made a separate thread for this one in Geopolitics earlier this morning.,10632.msg146921/topicseen.html#msg146921


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Israeli police recommend indictment of Netanyahu
« Reply #11199 on: February 14, 2018, 03:49:26 AM »
Israeli police have recommended indicting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for bribery, fraud and breach of trust after months of investigation into two corruption cases.

The recommendations on Tuesday will now go to the attorney general, who will decide whether to prosecute him or not.

Netanyahu appeared defiant in a live television address later on Tuesday, saying he intends to stay in power and that the police recommendations would "end with nothing".

"All I did was for the benefit of the state of Israel," Netanyahu said, as reported by The Jerusalem Post.

"This is what I did up until now and what I will continue to do."
Two cases

The prime minister has been investigated in relation to two corruption cases.

In the first investigation, known Case 1000, Netanyahu is suspected of accepting gifts from wealthy businessmen in exchange for political favours, Israeli media reported.

"There is sufficient evidence against the [prime minister] on suspicions for the offence of accepting bribes, fraud and breach of trust," Israeli police said in a statement.

Police allege Netanyahu received champagne, cigars, jewellery and clothing valued at around $280,000, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

The second investigation, Case 2000, involves allegations that Netanyahu tried to come to a deal for positive coverage in Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, in exchange for weakening its rival, Israel Hayom.

Police said that probe also turned up "sufficient evidence" to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Jerusalem, said Netanyahu's response was in line with his position "throughout this case, still insisting that he is innocent, that nothing will come from this".

"It's now being passed over to the attorney general to decide whether to indict him or not," Fawcett reported.

Later on Tuesday, Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint List, a bloc of Palestinian political parties in the Israeli parliament, said that Netanyahu was "corrupt and dangerous".

"Netanyahu must go home," he wrote on Twitter.
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Russia gets $41.5 billion boost from OPEC deal
« Reply #11200 on: February 14, 2018, 03:53:47 AM »
 Since the start of the OPEC-Russia production cut deal, Russia’s oil companies and government have received the equivalent of around $41.5 billion more in proceeds, thanks to the higher oil prices.

Due to the higher oil prices as a result of the pact, Russia’s federal budget has received so far $29.41 billion (1.7 trillion rubles) more, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak tweeted on Tuesday. The oil companies - a combined $12.11 billion (700 billion rubles) more since the beginning of 2017.

The higher revenues are the result of the $15-$20 increase in oil prices, compared to the price of oil before the deal between OPEC and a dozen non-OPEC nations led by Russia was signed, the minister said.

Russia is cutting 300,000 bpd as part of the pact with OPEC, and although there have been voices and speculation that some Russian companies are unhappy with the agreement that hampers their production expansion plans, Moscow has been keeping its end of the deal so far.

Russia’s crude oil production in January was basically flat compared to December 2017, after rising production at foreign firm-led projects compensated for small declines at the two major Russian oil producers, Rosneft and Lukoil.

The oil price rally earlier this year has caused many to wonder whether Russia and/or some OPEC members could ditch the deal because they wouldn’t want oil prices too high—a scenario that could incentivize US shale production too much.

US production is beating previous growth expectations, while minister Novak said in an interview with Russian news agency Interfax that the goal of the OPEC-Russia deal in bringing the oil market back to balance had been two-thirds achieved.

Asked how the cartel and allies will exit the deal, Novak said that it should be gradual and will likely take several months—between two and five months—to avoid a sharp increase in production that could again result in oversupply.
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‘Money can’t buy happiness’ debunked by income study
« Reply #11201 on: February 14, 2018, 03:56:36 AM »

Floyd Mayweather throwing cash at Conor McGregor

 In news that will come as no surprise to cash-strapped individuals the world over, researchers have revealed that there is an optimal amount of money a person needs to be happy. Spoiler: it’s a lot.

Researchers at Purdue University in Indiana studied data from 1.7 million people in 164 countries and found that in order for a person in the US to be truly happy, they need to be pulling in $95,000 a year.

In order to be a little less happy, but have “emotional well-being”, basically being happy with your day-to-day life, you need to drawing $60,000 to $75,000 per annum.

“That might be surprising as what we see on TV and what advertisers tell us we need would indicate that there is no ceiling when it comes to how much money is needed for happiness, but we now see there are some thresholds,” study lead Andrew T. Jebb said in a university press release. The research was published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

Perhaps unsurprisingly there was “substantial variation across world regions, with satiation occurring later in wealthier regions for life satisfaction,” Jebb added. “This could be because evaluations tend to be more influenced by the standards by which individuals compare themselves to other people.”

However - and this may come as a surprise given how extraordinarily happy the global super-rich appear to be on Instagram - there is a monetary limit to happiness. If this financial level is surpassed, it can lead to “reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of well-being.”

“At this point they are asking themselves, ‘Overall, how am I doing?’ and ‘How do I compare to other people?’” Jebb said. “These findings speak to a broader issue of money and happiness across cultures. Money is only a part of what really makes us happy, and we’re learning more about the limits of money.”
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US trying to create ‘quasi-state’ on large part of Syria’s land
« Reply #11202 on: February 14, 2018, 04:01:14 AM »
 The US has likely taken a “course to create a quasi-state” in the Kurdish SDF militia-held regions of Syria, despite the proclaimed adherence to the territorial integrity of the country, Russia’s FM Sergey Lavrov said.

The US activities in Syria are driven by undertaking “dangerous, unilateral steps” instead of trying to “achieve a common understanding” between all the parties, Lavrov told reporters on Tuesday.

He warned that Washington’s true goal might be the partitioning of Syria. The recent steps of Washington, including the creation of the so-called Border Security Force (BSF), operating under the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), have prompted even more questions in Moscow.

“We’ve raised these questions multiple times but have not received a coherent answer besides a general motto ‘Don’t’ worry we’re for the territorial integrity of Syria.’ In reality, it looks otherwise though,” Lavrov stated.

The recent US steps "look more and more like a part of a course to create a quasi-state of sorts on a large chunk of Syrian territory,” Foreign Minister said. “Autonomous, independent from Damascus governing bodies are being created in this territory, money keeps flowing there to keep them functional. Law enforcement, created there, is receiving weaponry.”

The UN should pay attention to this situation and take steps to prevent any “external players” from “jeopardizing the principles of reconciliation set by the Resolution 2254,” Lavrov said. Such actions on part of the UN are especially important after the reconciliation process received a “powerful impulse from the Syrian National Dialogue Congress in Sochi.” The reconciliation process should definitely include representatives of Syria’s Kurdish minority, the official stressed.

“Russia has been from the very beginning and remains a supporter of a direct Kurdish participation in all the efforts on Syrian reconciliation. Kurds are an inseparable part of the Syrian society,” the official stressed.

Earlier on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed the US plans to allocate $200 million to “stabilize” SDF-controlled areas of Syria. The top US diplomat made the announcement during a meeting of foreign ministers of the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) coalition in Kuwait.

It’s doubtful, though, that the funding would go to actually “stabilizing” these territories, but might actually be spent on additional arms for the US-backed militias in Syria, which would contribute to escalating of the conflict instead, the director of the British think-tank Gnosos, Middle East expert Ammar Waqqaf believes.

“The real thing is, we believe, that the United States is preparing the ground for a long-term separation, or a permanent, actually separation of the eastern and the north eastern part of Syria from the Syrian state under the guise of the Kurdish-led democratic sort of state,” Waqqaf told RT. “The $200 million that are being pledged today are not going to bring back electricity and water to the devastated Raqqa, we believe, but probably bring more weapons to the Kurds, which is going to put some pressure on other minorities in the region to accept Kurdish supremacy under the United States’ umbrella.”
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When Life Gives You Lemons
« Reply #11203 on: February 14, 2018, 04:16:15 AM »

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Sponsor An Immigrant Yourself
« Reply #11204 on: February 14, 2018, 04:19:26 AM »
No, really: A new kind of visa would let individual Americans—instead of corporations—reap the economic benefits of migration.

The raw emotions generated by immigration policy—provoked by heartrending stories of families torn apart by deportation, or citizens murdered by illegal immigrants—have scrambled political allegiances and confused public debate. Republicans, usually the champions of family values and small government, now want to restrict family reunification and give bureaucrats the power to screen people who want to enter the country. Democrats, traditionally the allies of the working class, want big business to select immigrants and have given scant attention to the legitimate interests of working-class natives.

The only way to end this politically charged debate is to think carefully about benefits and costs as well as politics and perceptions. We need a new immigration system that offers liberal admission policies but targets its benefits to native workers rather than corporations.

Economic research provides little doubt that immigration benefits our economy. Highly educated immigrants offer their skills, entrepreneurial drive and much-needed expertise for our most important industries. Low-skilled migrants are willing to do back-breaking but vitally important labor that most Americans refuse. Both types bring their purchasing power, which increases the demand for American services and American-made goods, and their cultural heritage, which enriches ours.

The problem posed by migration is that the benefits are not evenly distributed. They flow to the migrants themselves and the corporations that hire them. Consumers do receive better products and lower prices, but ordinary people don’t really perceive these benefits. And working-class people may suffer a decline in their wages (some or many of them, depending on which economist you ask, but most agree the decline is not large), or (certainly, in most cases) believe that immigration undercuts their wages and threatens their cultural values.

So, immigration expands the economic pie but gives too meager a slice to ordinary people. The goal must be to retain, and in fact expand, immigration while ensuring that its benefits are distributed fairly. The current system does the opposite: channeling the benefits of migration to immigrants and domestic elites. Right now, special classes of citizens—mostly corporations (and in practice, big corporations) and family members—can sponsor temporary or permanent migrants, benefiting shareholders mainly, as well as ethnic enclaves.

This system should be wiped away and replaced with a system of citizenship sponsorship for immigrants that we call a Visas Between Individuals Program. Under this new system, all citizens would have the right to sponsor a migrant for economic purposes.

Here’s how the program would work: Imagine a woman named Mary Turner, who lives in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was recently laid off from a chicken-processing plant and makes ends meet by walking and taking care of her neighbors’ pets. Mary could expand her little business by hiring some workers, but no one in the area would accept a wage she can afford. Mary goes online—to a new kind of international gig economy website, a Fiverr for immigrants—and applies to sponsor a migrant. She enters information about what she needs: someone with rudimentary English skills, no criminal record and an affection for animals. She offers a room in her basement, meals and $5 an hour. (Sponsors under this program would be exempt from paying minimum wage.) The website offers Mary some matches—people living in foreign countries who would like to spend some time in the United States and earn some money. After some back and forth, Mary interviews a woman named Sofia who lives in Paraguay.

Sofia, who grew up in a village, has endured hardships that few Americans can imagine. She is eager to earn some money so that she could move to her nation’s capital city and get some vocational training. A few weeks later, Sofia arrives in Wheeling, after taking a one-week training course on American ways. If things don’t work out, the agency that runs the website will find a new match for Sofia, and Mary will find someone new as well.

While the program might seem crazy at first, it would not be that different from the existing H1-B program, except that individuals like Mary rather than corporations like Google and Exxon would sponsor the workers. Second, the program is not that different from the au pair program run by the State Department, nominally under the J-1 cultural exchange visa program, but in reality a nanny migrant-labor program used by upper-middle class American families.

A Visas Between Individuals Program would extend the benefits of these types of immigration programs to everyone, rather than just to corporations and the affluent. It would also achieve the goals of both sides of the immigration debate—better than their own proposals do. Immigrants would no longer have special privileges to sponsor family members, while working-class voters would enjoy dramatic benefits.

According to our calculations, a typical family of four could boost its income by $10,000 to 20,000 by hosting migrants. The reason is that migrants to the United States usually increase their wages many times, allowing them to pay as much as $6,000 to hosts for sponsorships (and our average family could sponsor up to four visas, one for each member).

This financial benefit for working families would be a larger increase in income than they have received over the last 40 years of economic growth. (Median household income in the United States was about $50,000 in 1977 and is roughly $59,000 today.) At the same time, a Visas Between Individuals Program would be true to Republican free-market and small-government principles by drastically reducing the role of government bureaucrats, who would merely run security checks on migrants rather than trying to evaluate their likely contributions to the economy.

Many people will worry that the Sofias of the world would be exploited by their sponsors. But all health and safety laws would apply to them, and periodic inspections could be undertaken (as exist for the J-1 au pair program, where admittedly occasional exploitation also occurs). Yes, Mary would be able to pay Sofia less than the minimum wage, but even at $5 an hour, Sofia would earn many times what she earns on a farm in Paraguay. Sofia would be free to leave at any time if she did not like the conditions of her employment. Effectively, this system allows the benefits of exchange in international labor that are permitted by online labor markets like Fiverr and Amazon Mechanical Turk to extend to a much broader range of tasks that need to be done in person, from dog walking to construction work.

Wouldn’t lower-income Americans oppose a Visas between Individuals Program because of fears that these immigrants would take away their jobs? At first, maybe. But they would soon realize that they can use the program to make money for themselves. Like Sofia, many Americans would like to start or expand small businesses. Others might try, in entrepreneurial fashion, to find foreign workers for American businesses—which would not be allowed to sponsor migrants under our proposal—taking a cut in the process. Google and Exxon would need to pay people like Mary to find migrants for their businesses. Other Americans would sponsor migrants for low-skilled agricultural work, or to work in factories that move back on shore to take advantage of newly available cheap labor, or to work in their own businesses. A great free market using migrant labor would flourish, creating new jobs for working class natives as supervisors and agents. (Wealthy families could sponsor migrants, too, but there are fewer of them, and they would likely find a $6,000 boost in income not worth the trouble—while the money would be a tremendous gain for sponsors with more limited prospects.)

One of the most fascinating findings of social scientists is that the people who oppose immigration the most are not those who live among migrants. The fear of migrants is largely based on ignorance about who they are. That’s why people who live among migrants tend to support immigration or not to oppose it too much. By making sponsorship accessible to all Americans, a Visas Between Individuals Program would spread migrants throughout the United States rather than concentrating them in Silicon Valley, the big cities, and certain agricultural areas near the southern border. Sponsors will normally want the migrants they sponsor to live near them. Or Americans might move to areas of high migrant demand to take advantage of the opportunity to sponsor migrants there. It is hard to demonize the person who lives in your basement, or the basement of your neighbor, and has increased your income greatly. Most migrants, even those who came here illegally, obey the law and work extremely hard, in ways that are hard not to admire.

A Visas Between Individuals Program would offer advantages to working people, while preserving America’s historic commitment to immigration. Democrats should understand that it would increase the wealth and well-being of low-income Americans and impoverished foreigners, while Republicans should appreciate how it would contribute to economic growth, which offers benefits to all. Moreover, a Visas Between Individuals Program does so in the spirit of the market, by allowing every citizen to choose how she uses her right to sponsor visas rather than allowing corporations or governments to manage migration. The program puts the burden of responsibility and choice as well as the freedom to profit on hard-working Americans who seek to better their lot.

Immigration is just one of any number of social problems that can be solved with what we call “radical markets.” By exploiting the logic of the market in an area that is normally bureaucratized, we can advance equality as well as economic growth.
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