Partly Cloudy   31.0F  |  Forecast »
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print

Today's News Headlines

President Trump's personal doctor told the media this week that the president's 4-hour health checkup shows that he is in excellent health.  Read more.

President Trump's personal doctor told the media this week that the president's 4-hour health checkup shows that he is in excellent health. Read more.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 18, 2018

 

With hardly any budging on either side and an expected arm wrestle to the finish, the government shutdown is looming as Republicans and Democrats again today try to lay the groundwork for a DACA deal and negotiate for an immigration deal by this weekend.

The government’s funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday and House GOP leaders plan to bring to the floor Thursday or Friday a short-term spending bill to keep the government running through Feb. 16. But the measure faces hurdles in both chambers of Congress and little time to clear them.

In the clearest sign yet that Democrats may be prepared to withhold their support for the stopgap spending bill, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) struck a new angry tone over the lack of a deal so far to provide new protections for Dreamers, young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents.

Spending bills need 60 votes to pass the Senate, where Republicans hold 51 seats.  Schumer said there was little interest in the House GOP’s one-month spending bill.

“The revulsion toward that bill was broad and strong,” Mr. Schumer said of Senate Democrats’ closed-door discussion Wednesday, though he held back from saying Democrats would block the bill.

Democrats are hoping to seize back control of both the House and Senate in this year’s midterm elections and some senators up for re-election in states won by President Donald Trump are reluctant to shutter the government as collateral damage in the fight over immigration policy.

But already some Senate Democrats who voted for the last short-term spending bill said they would oppose this one, absent an immigration deal, including both Democrats from New Mexico.

Mr. Trump ended the Obama-era program shielding the Dreamers from deportation in September, giving Congress until March 5 to negotiate a replacement to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. Senior lawmakers and administration officials appeared to make little progress on that front Wednesday.

Although Sens. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) unveiled bipartisan immigration legislation, Mr. Trump’s objections in a contentious meeting last week, in which he dismissed “s---hole countries” in Africa, dimmed its prospects. Mr. Graham pitched the bill to Senate Republicans at their closed-door lunch Wednesday, but won over just six other GOP votes.

 

“To my Republican colleagues, this is a defining moment for our party,” Mr. Graham said from the Senate floor. “Are we going to continue to be the party that can’t get to yes? Are we going to continue to be the party that always has a reason not to do DACA?”

Mr. Durbin predicted that all 49 Senate Democrats would support the plan.  “My gut is that it wouldn’t pass,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.), who said he didn’t support the bill because it wasn’t comprehensive enough.

Mr. Trump told reporters yesterday  that a government shutdown “could happen” by the end of the week.

“The president certainly doesn’t want a shutdown, and if one happens I think you only have one place to look, and that’s to the Democrats,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, urging lawmakers to get on board with the short-term spending bill.

The Durbin-Graham bill would legalize the Dreamers, with a 10-to-12-year path to citizenship, and provide about $2.7 billion in funding for border security and operations. It would end the diversity visa lottery, which randomly awards 50,000 green cards to would-be immigrants from underrepresented countries, and impose a modest limit on green-card holders to sponsor adult children for immigration to the U.S.

 “The problem of course is border security is so generic that they interpret it to mean changes in asylum-seeker policy. We thought it was about the border and the border being strong,” Mr. Durbin said. “We can’t fix the entire immigration system in a matter of hours.”

GOP lawmakers and aides said the group was seeking a vote on the House floor on a far more conservative proposal from GOP Reps. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Raul Labrador of Idaho, Michael McCaul of Texas and Martha McSally of Arizona that extends well beyond the four topics that Mr. Trump and lawmakers agreed to negotiate on last week.

The Goodlatte bill would provide $30 billion to build a wall along the Mexico border and tighten border security, crack down on so-called sanctuary cities that don’t cooperate with federal immigration enforcement, and require employers to use E-Verify, which allows them to check prospective workers’ immigration status. It would also provide Dreamers three years of renewable legal status but not green cards or a path to citizenship.

“That’s getting more traction,” said Rep. Warren Davidson (R., Ohio), a member of the Freedom Caucus who said he was undecided on whether to support the one-month spending bill.

Many conservatives have started urging GOP leaders to bring the Goodlatte immigration bill up for a vote, but GOP aides believe it could fail, diminishing House Republicans’ leverage in the immigration negotiations.

The Goodlatte bill goes much further than Democrats want on wall funding and other provisions, meaning even if it passes the House it would face almost certain failure in the Senate.

Mr. Ryan told House Republicans Wednesday morning that they would start “listening sessions” for GOP lawmakers to learn more about the Goodlatte bill.

In a bid to build support for the one-month spending bill, GOP leaders included a six-year reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a one-year suspension in the health-insurance tax and a two-year suspension of both the medical-device tax and the Cadillac tax, a levy on generous employer plans.

In the Riverside, California suburb of Perris, 13 starving siblings have been found held captive after one of the children escaped through a window.  The kids were said to have eaten only once a day and shower only twice a year according to a law enforcement officials.

Those disturbing details emerged just hours before David Allen Turpin, 57, and his wife, Louisa Anna Turpin, 49, were expected to make their first court appearance. They face torture and child endangerment charges.   Their home in Perris, was a veritable prison, where some of the couple’s 13 children, ranging in age from 2 to 29 years old, were chained to furniture, officials have said. The rooms inside the brown-and-beige four-bedroom house were filled with urine, the law enforcement official said.

All of the children have been admitted to hospitals for treatment for severe malnutrition. They are receiving antibiotics, vitamins and nutrients, the law enforcement official said. Doctors were concerned about the kids going into shock since they are so malnourished. Psychologists will be brought in to evaluate them when their physical conditions improve, the official added.

The Turpins, who are being held on $9 million bail, had little contact with their family in West Virginia, and shocked relatives have said they had no idea what the couple was allegedly doing.

“They were just like any ordinary family,” said Betty Turpin, the 81-year-old mother of David Turpin. “And they had such good relationships. I’m not just saying this stuff. These kids — we were amazed. They were ‘sweetie’ this and ‘sweetie’ that to each other.”   Betty Turpin told another outlet her son told her he had so many kids because God wanted him to, and that he shared her Pentecostal Christian faith but was not affiliated with a church in California.

“I feel they were model Christians,” she told the Southern California News Group on Wednesday. “It’s hard to believe all of this. Over the years, the Lord knows what happened.”

"They weren't allowed to watch TV. They weren't allowed to talk on the phone, have friends over, stuff like that. Normal things that kids do,” she said.

Investigators are trying to determine if religion played a part in the imprisonment and alleged torture of the Turpin children, according to the law enforcement official. The minor children have been polite and cooperative, but they have not been able to provide statements, the official said. Investigators are still trying to obtain statements from the adult victims.

The secret of the house on Muir Woods Road began to spill out on Sunday when the Turpins' 17-year-old daughter escaped through a window and called 911 with a cellphone she took from the home, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department said. She is believed to have a mental capacity below her age, the law enforcement official said.

"Further investigation revealed several children shackled to their beds with chains and padlocks in dark and foul-smelling surroundings, but the parents were unable to immediately provide a logical reason why their children were restrained in that manner,” the department said in a statement.

It was only after freeing them that deputies discovered that seven of who they thought were severely emaciated kids, were actually adults "ranging in age from 18 to 29."  The investigation continues.

Amazon Inc. said today it’s now down to a short list of 20 metropolitan areas for its planned second headquarters, kicking off an intense final selection in the contest for the tech giant’s investment and jobs.

The finalists, chosen from among 238 places that applied in October, included New York, Boston and Chicago, all big cities with convenient access to airports, robust tech talent and sufficient mass transportation.

Some surprise candidates included Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis.

Amazon says it expects to create as many as 50,000 jobs paying an average of $100,000 or more and generate more than $5 billion in investments over nearly two decades.  The company also expects to build or acquire 500,000-plus square feet of office space to open the first phase of its project as soon as next year, according to its request for proposals. Amazon said Thursday it expects to make a location decision in 2018.

The promise of those benefits has triggered a bidding war among applicants, in what economic-development experts have said is one of the most public and broadest contests to woo corporate investments in decades. Cities and regions across North America have offered big incentives and quirky proposals to try to attract the online retail giant.

The race puts Amazon in the position of kingmaker for cities across North America at a time when its business is booming. But the choice to split headquarters also comes as technology giants face more concerns about their increasing dominance in certain industries.

Cities Amazon Is Considering for a Second Amazon Headquarters

  • Atlanta
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Montgomery County, Md.
  • Nashville
  • Newark, N.J.
  • New York City
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Toronto
  • Washington D.C.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson keeps tracks of his president’s daily tweets.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said during a talk at Stanford University on Wednesday that he doesn’t have Twitter, but he receives print-outs of Donald Trump’s tweets so he can figure out how to “use” them. He said that though the process may seem cumbersome, he’s “actually concluded that’s not a bad system.” He added that he doesn’t know in advance if or when Trump plans to tweet, so “there’s not a whole lot I’m gonna do until it’s out there.” By the time his staff hands him the papers, Tillerson said, early reactions to Trump’s tweets have usually started filtering in, so he has a fuller picture of what to do next. “It might be five minutes, or it might be an hour before somebody hands me a piece of paper and says, ‘Hey, the president’s tweeted this out’.”

… To most everyone’s surprise, when asked about Trump’s tweets, Tillerson replied, “It is a great tool when it’s used well. The president has used it to great effect, by bypassing the way you traditionally communicate.”

An Idaho family was surprised to find a secret room hidden under their home. Brittany Bush and her family were woken by a crashing noise at 4 AM on Tuesday. After venturing downstairs to explore, they found nothing. Later in the day, however, Brittany popped to the garage and discovered what had startled her in the night — a huge sinkhole had opened up, revealing a hidden room below. It wasn’t just a room. The Bushes soon discovered shelving, a woman’s handbag, hair curlers, children’s toys, and even a decades-old letter. The room wasn’t on the property records and the real estate agent selling the place wasn’t aware of its existence.

… Brittany and her husband called their insurance provider to find out what to do. An engineer came to and said he was surprised the garage floor had last so long. Apparently the cement was just two inches thick. The engineer said there’s a possibility of another room. The Bushes are now cleaning out the room. They’re hoping nothing sinister turns up.

Someone is buying Colorado’s highest peak.   A 14,000-foot Colorado mountain was just sold to the highest bidder. Towering 14,047 feet above the southern Colorado landscape, Culebra Peak is the highest peak in the world to be privately owned. The peak is part of the $105 million sale of the 83,368-acre Cielo Vista Ranch ranch. Culebra is part of a property that includes 18 peaks over 13,000 feet along 22 miles.

… The 83,000 acres include three four-bedroom homes, a three-bedroom home, an office with two apartments and two bunkhouses, and a barn. The land is home to thousands of elk, deer, and bighorn sheep, and more than 100 miles of fishable creeks.

Dog catches a ride for 900 after its family left for vacation.   Being loyal is a trait that’s long been associated with dogs, but a pup named Rusty took it to the next level, embarking on a Homeward Bound-style expedition by hitchhiking more than 900 miles across Australia after the pet’s family went on vacation without him. The three-year-old terrier traveled across the country by stowing away in the back of a truck on the highway.

As we all know, during snow removal you can’t park on certain sides of the street, so one Montreal resident decided to use this as an opportunity to confuse the heck out of the cops. They sculpted what seems to be a Delorian entirely out of snow. The car looked so real that some people in the comment section thought it was an actual car covered in snow and couldn’t figure out what the joke was. The cops were fooled and even had to call backup.

Glitches in a video of astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) prove it is a fake set up that is filmed on Earth, according to new claims. A video, which is doing the rounds on the conspiracy theory circuit, shows three astronauts speaking during a live broadcast inside the ISS. However, as the trio wave goodbye to viewers on Earth, the screen appears to glitch around their bodies, while the backdrop seemingly remains the same. Then the whole feed is mysteriously cut. Conspiracy theorists claim the ISS is not in space and all footage is faked here on Earth. They say the fact the broadcast problems happen only to the astronauts is proof they have been edited into a backdrop. Many people, particularly lunar landings deniers, claim the ISS was never sent into space.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17, 2018

 

The weekend deadline for Congress to actually work together and get something done for DACA Dreamers and also keep the government running is now looming and down to a couple long days.  Senators are working to salvage a bipartisan plan to protect “Dreamers”—young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. by their parents—as the divide grew over an immigration deal seen as key to avoiding a government shutdown this weekend.

The White House has said the negotiations must include that Congress allocate billions for President Donald Trump’s promised border wall with Mexico.  Protect the borders, that’s all he wants for America.  Saving Dreamers, is secondary on the list.  It’s a showdown and Democrats and Republicans will of course try to stall and kick the can down the road a ways.

Without a spending agreement by 12:01 a.m. Saturday, the government will partially shut down operations. Many Senate Democrats were noncommittal Tuesday over whether they would allow a shutdown in an election year in which control of the Senate is in play.

Republicans were already preparing to accuse Democrats of shutting services because they didn’t get an immigration deal.    But Democrats said Mr. Trump’s dismissal of “S---hole countries” in Africa in a closed meeting last week with lawmakers positioned him as the person who upset the negotiations.

The immigration issue is growing more urgent as the calendar ticks toward March 5, the date Mr. Trump set for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, to end officially. 

 Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), an architect of the bipartisan Senate immigration plan, quizzed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on whether she understood that Republicans weren’t going to get everything they want in a compromise deal. And he bemoaned the seeming transformation of Mr. Trump from the deal-making optimist on display at a bipartisan discussion a week ago.

“I don’t know where that guy went. I want him back,” he said.

Ms. Nielsen was at the meeting in which Mr. Trump reportedly made the vulgar remark, but said at Tuesday’s hearing she couldn’t recall it.  That drew attacks from incredulous Democrats.

“Your silence and amnesia is complicity,” Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and likely future democratic candidate for president, shouted in response.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said an injunction issued last week by a federal district court barring the cancellation of the DACA program might mean lawmakers have more time to reach an immigration deal. He is seeking to separate the issue from the stopgap spending bill needed this week to prevent a shutdown.

The Justice Department said Tuesday it was appealing that court decision, but meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has resumed accepting DACA renewal applications.

“It is clear that Congress has at least until March at a minimum and possibly even longer to reach a compromise,” Mr. McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders complained that the Graham-Durbin proposal of $1.6 billion for a border wall was only “one-tenth” of what the president actually wants. DHS recently laid out a 10-year, $18 billion plan to build more than 700 miles of new and replacement barriers, which the administration now appears to be insisting upon. Mr. Short said the concern is that Congress would provide one year’s funding and no more in future years.

Democrats have some leverage this week because their votes are needed in the Senate and possibly the House to keep the government funded.  Some Democrats want to withhold votes on a funding measure without an immigration deal, but that is an uncomfortable situation for many of the 10 red-state Senate Democrats up for re-election this year.

While the members of the media, most of which can’t believe that Donald Trump is president and can barely keep up with his daily routine, President Trump.   Age 71, is in excellent health and scored a perfect result on a cognitive assessment, his White House physician said Tuesday in revealing results from a recent examination.

Based on the results, the president is “very healthy and will remain so for the duration of his presidency,” said Ronny Jackson, who previously served as a physician to Barack Obama when he was president.

Dr. Jackson said he encouraged Mr. Trump to lose weight by exercising and modifying his diet. The president, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighs 239 pounds, which means he is overweight according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calculator of Body Mass Index.

Mr. Trump had his first annual routine physical as president on Friday at Walter Reed Medical Center, and it took around four hours, Dr. Jackson told reporters.   Dr. Jackson also said Mr. Trump had strong cardiac health, which he attributed to his avoiding alcohol and tobacco as well as “incredible genes,” and that a battery of tests had yielded normal results.

“He doesn’t have a dedicated, defined exercise program…so that’s what I’m working on,” said Dr. Jackson.

He said that there was no clinical guideline suggesting he should administer an extensive cognitive assessment to a patient like Mr. Trump, but that he did so anyway, “because the president asked me to do it.” The test, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, yielded a perfect score of 30 out of 30, the physician said.

Dr. Jackson said Tuesday he would like to see the president lose 10 to 15 pounds as “a reasonable goal,” adding that he believed the president was more enthusiastic about the exercise changes than dietary ones. He also said that he was still considering the best exercise regimen to propose but that it was likely to include a low-impact workout such as use of an elliptical machine.

He said that the president continued to take a cholesterol-lowering drug and would likely increase his dose of that, as well as aspirin daily for cardiac health, a multivitamin, and Propecia for male-pattern hair loss. That is all.

Marching into the Winter Olympic games together – yes, South Korea struck a deal with North Korea today, saying to mark the occasion, they will enter the games together next month.  The  Winter Olympics that will bring hundreds of North Korean athletes, cheerleaders and other officials to the South and they will march in together.  The deal, announced this morning by South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, will also bring South Korean athletes and performers north of the demilitarized zone for training at a North Korean ski resort and a cultural event at a scenic mountain resort.

Under the terms of the deal, the two Koreas will walk into the opening ceremony of next month’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, under one flag. The two countries’ women’s ice hockey teams will unite to form a joint Korean squad.  The North will send 230 cheerleaders to the Olympics and a 30-member taekwondo demonstration team, followed by a 150-member delegation to the Paralympics in March.

Veteran sues after scalpel found inside his body.  A U.S. Army veteran had surgery in 2013 at a Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Connecticut. According to a lawsuit, four years later doctors discovered that a sharp metal surgical instrument had been accidentally left inside the veteran’s body. The lawsuit alleges that a trainee surgeon performed the radical prostatectomy at VA Connecticut Healthcare System.

After the surgery, the veteran (Glenford Turner) had unidentifiable abdominal pain. Nobody could figure out what it was. The object was discovered when the man went in for an MRI in 2017 for a separate medical issue. The magnet in the MRI machine reacted to the scalpel in his abdomen and caused a lot of pain. An X-ray revealed a five-inch scalpel in the abdomen.

Highway worked trapped inside truck after collision with deer.  Hitting a deer can be a nasty, sometimes life-threatening ordeal for the driver. A Maryland highway worker experienced that first hand when a collision with a deer trapped him inside his truck. Fire crews were called to the scene and, luckily, the driver was freed from the wreckage. The deer didn’t make it.

This ski jacket holds plenty of beers…or beverages.  What’s almost as bad a drunk behind the wheel of a car? A drunk flying down a mountain on skis. So why PBR teamed up with a clothing company to create a ski jacket that holds up to 12 beers is a mystery. It’s a $250 ski jacket made by 686 Technical Apparel that essentially encourages you to get drunk on the slopes. • VIDEO

An unknown couple have a warning for Caribbean beachgoers: watch out for burrowing worms. The unnamed pair were left in severe discomfort after parasites, known as hookworm larvae, burrowed into their skin following time on the sand in Martinique. The 52-year-old woman said she felt an initial burning sensation before an eruption of ‘red pinprick marks’ the next day. The husband also got a rash. The pair were given antibiotics, antifungal agents and steroids on their cruise ship but they didn’t work. The couple were treated with a medication (ivermectin) used to combat parasites which can treat scabies and head lice.

Jamaican Women qualify for Olympic Bobsled.  Thirty years after a team of Jamaican bobsledders inspired a Disney movie with their unlikely appearance at the Calgary Winter Olympics, the country will send its first female bobsled team to compete in Pyeongchang. Over the weekend, the Jamaican women’s bobsled team became the first female athletes from Jamaica to qualify for the Olympics.

A contraceptive app has been reported to government officials in Sweden after being blamed for 37 unwanted pregnancies. The Natural Cycles app is designed to work by scanning women’s body temperature during their menstrual cycle to inform them when they can have unprotected sex. Those days show up in green on a calendar. On the days marked in red, couples are advised to use other contraceptive methods such as condoms. Last year, Natural Cycles released a study it funded stating that the app was more effective than the contraceptive pill.

… Now a hospital in Stockholm has reported Natural Cycles to the Swedish Medical Products Agency — a government body that regulates medical devices — after 37 women who used the app became pregnant during the last four months of 2017.

… Natural Cycles said in a statement: “No contraception is 100 percent effective … Natural Cycles has a Pearl Index of 7, which means it is 93 percent effective at typical use, which we also communicate. Our studies have repeatedly shown that our app provides a high level of effectiveness similar to other methods.”

TUESDAY, JANUARY 16, 2018

 

Whatever the words actually were from President Trump in his private meeting last week, this Friday the government runs out of money and the firestorm around many issues  facing Democrats and Republicans will come to a head very soon.  Congress would like to fund the government and also reach a deal on immigration and spending levels instead of the possible government shutdown looms at week’s end.

Congressional aides say they are expecting a short-term deal funding the government for a few weeks to come to the table, but caution that is by no means guaranteed. Some said prospects for any deal had diminished because of controversial reported comments last week from President Trump in a meeting with lawmakers about his desire to stop immigration from “s---hole countries.”

“Trump’s latest self-created outrage makes it harder for us to get Democrats on board for anything,” said Doug Heye, a former top Republican congressional aide. “It’s not issue specific, it’s not just limited to immigration. That’s the challenge when we have these outbursts.”

Asked about his comments Sunday, Mr. Trump denied reports of his remarks, saying “they weren’t made,” and accused Democrats of backing away from a deal. Two Republican senators also called into question the reports quoting Mr. Trump, though others in attendance have confirmed them.  Trump also tweeted yesterday that he blamed Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin for having “totally misrepresented what was said at the DACA meeting. Deals can’t get made when there is no trust! Durbin blew DACA and is hurting our Military.”

GOP and Democratic leaders had engaged with the White House last week on a deal on federal spending that would bring Democratic support to prevent a government shutdown and include protections for young people, known as Dreamers, who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children. It also could include enhanced border security measures, a White House priority.  Absent a spending bill, the federal government would shut nonemergency functions starting Saturday at 12:01AM.

Democrats say that they will maintain their pressure this week to withhold support for a funding deal that doesn’t contain legislation on DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which covers the young immigrants. Republican leaders say they want an immigration deal to be separate from a spending deal.

Meanwhile, Republicans are fighting for an increase in military spending, working on a two-year deal that would not only prevent the budget limits known as the sequester from kicking in, but potentially raise spending beyond that. Democrats, whose votes will be needed to pass spending bills in the Senate and possibly the House, insist that domestic spending levels should be increased on parity with defense spending.

House GOP leaders spent the weekend at a planning conference and will meet with Republican lawmakers on tonight to discuss the spending negotiations, a senior GOP aide said.

“The mood is so raw over immigration that this issue alone could prompt a shutdown, so I think chances of a shutdown on Friday at midnight are a bit above 50%,” said Greg Valliere, the chief global strategist at Horizon Investments.  “Trump’s provocative tweets don’t help;  Democrats are itching for a fight with him.”

Mr. Trump on Sunday blamed Democrats for the lack of progress on a deal.

“I think you have a lot of sticking points, but they’re all Democrat sticking points, because we are ready, willing, and able to make a deal, but they don’t want to,” he said yesterday at a meeting with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.)

Some congressional aides now say a likely outcome is another short-term spending bill that pushes the deadline out until around mid-February. Congress passed two short-term spending bills in December.  A short-term deal may also provoke the ire of Republican defense hawks, who say short-term measures hamstring military leaders.

Honda, Volvo and Lincoln win Car And Truck of the Year Awards at Detroit Auto Show.  The winners of the 2018 North American Car and Truck of the Year come from Honda, Volvo and Lincoln. The competition was stiff in all three categories but the Accord, XC60 and Navigator managed to stand out from the crowd and impress the judges as something special.

 

The emergency worker who mistakenly caused a ballistic missile alert to be sent across Hawaii has been identified.  What would you do with him?  He has been reassigned pending outcome of an internal investigation. A spokesman for the Hawaii Emergency Management System did not say on Monday what the worker would be doing but said it is a role that has no access to the warning system.

 

If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t go out to eat. According to a Georgia State University study, people dining with other people consume 44% more food than when they eat alone, mainly because they spend more time at the table. A related study, published in the journal Appetite, revealed that women tend to mirror the eating patterns of their same-sex dining friends.

If you’ve got a young child and you want them getting a good night’s sleep, keep their screen time to a minimum. A new study out of Germany says higher use of electronic media is tied to poorer sleep quality in children as young as three. The study investigated the association between media consumption — such as television, DVDs and computer gaming — with overall sleep quality. Higher electronic media consumption was strongly linked to poor overall sleep quality, including worsening bedtime resistance, sleep anxiety, and daytime sleepiness.

… For the first couple of years of a child’s life their screen time should not exceed 30 minutes.

A new Chick-fil-A restaurant in North Dakota that had barely opened its doors to the public is now facing major social media backlash after asking a nursing mother to leave the restaurant. Macy Hornung recently attended a soft opening of a Chick-fil-A in Fargo, only to be asked to leave immediately because she decided to breastfeed her child at the table. Hornung voiced her opinion about the incident on Facebook later, writing, “The owner basically kicked me out for breastfeeding without a cover.” Since then, her post has gone viral, igniting quite a stir on the internet. • LINK

Aaron Rodgers has a new girlfriend and Danica Patrick confirmed Monday she is dating the Green Bay Packers quarterback, Rodgers. The two first met at the 2012 ESPY Awards and that despite her allegiance to the Bears, she always rooted for him as a player. Patrick now admits to being a whole-team Packers fan.

Meghan Markle has been a media darling ever since her relationship with Prince Harry became known. As soon as she started getting an increasing amount of attention, fans and curious people alike started scrambling to find out more about the actress. As it turns out, “Meghan” isn’t her real name — it’s just a nickname. Her full name is actually Rachel Meghan Markle. Prince Harry and Meghan are set to wed on May 19.

You may plan to attend the Winter Olympics in South Korea, but best not to visit the north.    Americans can travel to North Korea, if they wish — but it may just be a death wish. The U.S. State Department has issued a stark warning to people setting out for North Korea, cautioning that anyone heading to the dangerous dictatorship should prepare for the possibility of not returning. Those who wish to travel to North Korea must be approved for a special validation, which are handed out on “very limited circumstances.” U.S. travelers given the approval to experience Kim Jong Un’s regime should then prepare for the worst — including drafting a will and making funeral and property arrangements with family and friends.

… The State Department says: “Draft a will and designate appropriate insurance beneficiaries and/or power of attorney; discuss a plan with loved ones regarding care/custody of children, pets, property, belongings, non-liquid assets (collections, artwork, etc.), funeral wishes, etc.”

Make no mistake about it, President Trump’s first year in the Oval Office was extraordinary for business and Wall Street.  The tax overhaul that President Donald Trump signed into law last month capped a year in which his initiatives on taxes, regulation—and many of his public pronouncements on the economy—have been broadly welcomed by business.

Trade presents some particularly difficult decisions ahead.  Nafta, and the president’s threat to pull the U.S. out of it, remains a concern both for U.S. companies that have grown up around the free trade it brought to the continent, and farmers who have taken advantage of markets in Mexico and Canada that the pact has opened for their exports.

Business leaders are also eager for the Trump administration to make good on a push to refurbish the nation’s infrastructure, which has raised expectations for companies across the economy, especially in heavy machinery and construction services. But an almost certain fight looms over how to pay for it, conspiring with election-year pressures to make it that much more difficult.

Other promises from the administration and allies in Congress—like an effort to rein in entitlement programs—are viewed with even more skepticism as the time before midterm congressional elections dwindles.

“Mark my words, there is no way in hell that they are that dumb to take up Medicare or Social Security in the election year,” said Tommy Thompson, the former Republican governor of Wisconsin and a board member of  Centene Corporation, which administers some health programs, at a presentation for investors. “It would be tantamount to saying, ‘We don’t want to govern anymore.’”

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 2018  Martin Luther King Jr. Day

 

What happened in Hawaii?  The Federal Communications Commission wants to know.  FCC, state of Hawaii and local city officials there are today reviewing the U.S. wireless emergency alert system after a false warning over an incoming ballistic missile rattled Hawaii on Saturday, exposing what officials say are troubling shortcomings in the network.

On Saturday, Hawaiians received a terrifying message on their phones, repeated on television and radio stations, which had received a similar alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

But actually, it was something of a drill, in that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) was running a routine test at the end of a shift and accidentally sent the message state-wide. Unfortunately, it took 38 minutes for the agency to correct the alert with a second alert. Although state leaders quickly tweeted out corrections, Hawaiians who were waiting for an all-clear from the same outlet spent more than half an hour in suspense.

… In a press conference Saturday, Vern Miyagi, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency Administrator, apologized: “We spent the last few months trying to get ahead of this whole threat so that we could provide as much notification and preparation time to the public. … I accept responsibility for this, this is my team, we made a mistake.”

… Miyagi added that the message was sent in error when an employee accidentally designated that the message was supposed to be an “event” rather than a “test” in the software that sent notifications.

Critics say the national alert system—which is used by local officials to issue real-time notifications in case of disasters and other emergencies—needs better testing. They say it is vulnerable to false alarms and should be enhanced with better safeguards to prevent errors as well as faster cancellation of mistakes.

State and local officials say the system makes it impossible to send targeted alerts, forcing them to make tough calls over whether to issue broad warnings that go beyond areas in danger.  The concern is growing not only because of the error in Hawaii, but also due to mounting nuclear tensions with North Korea in general.  Recent attacks in New York and natural disasters in Texas and California have also brought the system under scrutiny, as officials have been criticized both for sending alerts too widely and for failing to send them widely enough.

Saturday’s false alarm suggests that a years long process of transforming the system from one heavily reliant on television and radio broadcasts, where most people got their information years ago, to the world of texts and cellphones still faces problems.  Nationally, officials are questioning the arrangement following Hawaii’s mishap, which state authorities say was triggered by one employee during a routine test and during a shift change.

“If it really is the case that a single employee could hit the wrong button and send out this kind of alert, obviously that system needs to be redesigned,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said Sunday the lapse in Hawaii was “absolutely unacceptable,” causing a “wave of panic” and threatening to undermine public confidence in the alerts. Hawaii, Mr. Pai said, “did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place.” He said he would work with state and local officials to review the system.

The wireless alert system, which warns people through mobile phones and other digital devices, became operational in 2012 as a partnership between the FCC, the telecommunications industry and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  National, state or local authorities, including police departments and the National Weather Service, can send alerts through the system. The U.S. president is also authorized to send alerts.  But as the alarm in Hawaii shows, the system remains shaky in some ways. There are no strict rules about the sending of alerts, and consumers are able to block them, except for alerts sent by the president. At least one agency sent an alert following armed robbery to help catch the suspect, according to FEMA, a narrower application than the system was designed for.

To avoid mistakes, Mr. Walter said only “limited personnel” who work with alerts are permitted to send them out. Even then, they are advised to double-check with the agency requesting the alert—a police department requesting a “shelter in place” alert, for example—to make sure it is accurate.

Hawaii’s process for sending out alerts has already been changed since the episode to require two people instead of one, state officials said. Hawaii officials also have suspended drills until an analysis of the misfire can be completed, and they have established a “cancel” command that can be triggered within seconds of an error. During the Saturday event, officials took 38 minutes to issue an alert canceling the misfire.

Even before Saturday’s incident, the FCC was focusing on complaints that alerts are often transmitted too broadly.  Mr. Pai has proposed new standards requiring wireless carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc. to narrow the area affected.

 “When the people of Hawaii got this message yesterday, they’re literally going through this feeling of, ‘I have got minutes to find my loved ones, to say my last goodbyes, to figure out where could I possibly find shelter that would protect them from a nuclear attack’—and not having an answer to those questions,” she said.

 

The heat is still on President Trump while two Republican senators called into question whether President Donald Trump used the term “s---hole countries” in a meeting with lawmakers on immigration last week, as critics of the president didn’t back down and continued to suggest his words were racist.

“I am telling you that he did not use that word,” Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), who attended the meeting, said on ABC’s “This Week.”  Mr. Perdue said much of the reporting on the meeting has been a “gross misrepresentation.”   Mr. Trump also denied making unspecified remarks attributed to him from the meeting.

“Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments? They weren’t made,” he told reporters Sunday evening.  He also said he would tell a person who said he was racist: “No, no, I’m not a racist. I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you. “

The comments showed no signs of quelling a political storm over Mr. Trump’s words at an Oval Office meeting last Thursday on the future of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which Mr. Trump has said he is ending. The reported vulgarity prompted condemnation world-wide, including at the United Nations and among countries that have long been U.S. allies.

While others at the meeting cited Mr. Trump saying “shithole countries,” Mr. Perdue’s statement was the first outright denial that Mr. Trump referred to some countries in the vulgar fashion at the meeting.

Senator Tom Cotton, (R., Ark.), who also attended the session, said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “I did not hear that word either,” but that “the president did react with pretty tough language” to show his displeasure at a suggested compromise on immigration. Mr. Trump, in Florida, seized on the comments. “Did you see what various senators in the room said about my comments? They were not made,” he told reporters.

Democrats and some Republicans have called for an apology from Mr. Trump for the reported remarks, which have sharpened the debate over the future of DACA. Some lawmakers fear of a government shutdown as some Democrats say DACA should be reauthorized as part of any long-term government funding bill.

DACA provides work permits and safe harbor from deportation to about 690,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, often known as Dreamers.

Mr. Trump has challenged Congress to replace the program with legislation offering similar protections, but lawmakers have so far been unable to agree on how. The president has said funding for a border wall must be part of any agreement on DACA.

On Sunday, he blamed Democrats for problems reaching an agreement. “DACA is probably dead because the Democrats don’t really want it, they just want to talk and take desperately needed money away from our military,” he tweeted.

At the Oval Office meeting, Mr. Cotton said, the president was frustrated that Sens. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), in presenting a bipartisan proposal, “proposed not to fix that system but to expand it, to create more quotas and more set-asides for other countries.”

By Mr. Durbin’s account, the president responded with a vulgarity, saying, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Mr. Trump also reportedly said the U.S. should focus on bringing in more immigrants from Norway. Mr. Graham has confirmed the incendiary comments, and has said he directly confronted Mr. Trump about them.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who was at the Oval Office meeting, said Sunday “I don’t recall him saying that exact phrase.”

The flu is widespread across the entire nation and is becoming one of the worst seasons for it in many years according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday, urging Americans to take precautions and get a flu shot even though the vaccine may not protect them fully.   Transmission is likely to remain intense for several more weeks, though it is possible that it is at its current peak, the agency noted in its latest update Friday. Flu is widespread in 49 states, leaving out only Hawaii.

 

“The flu season may be peaking now, but we know from past experience that it will take many more weeks for flu activity to truly slow down,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald in a teleconference with reporters.

This season is bad because the vast majority of flu cases so far have been caused by a strain known as H3N2, an influenza A virus dreaded by doctors and public-health officials for the heavy toll it can take on the elderly and children, with more hospitalizations and deaths than usual. The virus also has a penchant for mutating rapidly, making it difficult to protect people.

 

The rate of hospitalizations rose last week to 22.7 per 100,000 people, up from 13.7 the week before, the CDC reported. The highest rates were among those 65 years old and older—the population group that is traditionally hardest hit by the flu.  

The flu has killed at least 3 in the state of Oregon in the past week alone.

But rates are high and rising also among 50- to 64-year-olds, said Daniel Jernigan, director of the CDC’s influenza division.

The hospitalization rate among children under 5 years old also nearly doubled, he said, and seven more pediatric deaths were reported, bringing the total to 20, he said.

The high rates of flu illness make this season one of the worst since 2009.

This year, preliminary data suggest the vaccines are likely about  only 30% effective against H3N2 and closer to 40% against all viruses that they include, Dr. Jernigan said.

 

The CDC is also taking steps to address spot shortages of antiviral medications, said Dr. Jernigan, which can lessen the severity of the flu and should be given immediately to patients who are severely ill or hospitalized. There are adequate supplies nationally of the drugs, including generic forms, he said. The drugs are oseltamivir or Tamiflu, zanamivir or Relenza, and peramivir or Rapivab, an intravenous medication.

Richard Zimmerman, professor of family medicine and flu vaccine researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, has treated multiple patients with flu recently, prescribing antivirals presumptively if they have the right symptoms, before tests confirm the disease. “We’re in the middle of the wave,” of influenza A and expecting a second wave of influenza B later in the season, he said.

While many bugs strike in the winter, flu is identifiable, he said: fever of 101 degrees or more, a substantial cough and aches. Some people may also have a sore throat, he said.

The common cold generally causes runny nose, cough and possibly mild fever and aches.

U.S. News and World Report just released its annual list of the best jobs in America. To determine the nationwide ranking, a team of researchers gathered data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on 100 popular jobs. Then, they ranked each position based on characteristics such as demand, work/life balance, and growth potential. While dentists have been considered the best job in America for the past several years, one tech position offers a better overall lifestyle, according to the report. Software developers earned the highest rank on this year’s survey of the best jobs in America. Not only do these skilled techies earn an average salary of $108,080, but they’re also likely to be hired fast. And the huge demand for software developers isn’t expected to drop anytime soon, either.

… The Top 5: Software Developer; Dentist; Physician Assistant; Nurse Practitioner; Orthodontist.

Parents, get ready to be grossed out. A new study has found when babies crawl, their movement across floors, especially carpeted surfaces, kicks up high levels of dirt, skin cells, bacteria, pollen, and fungal spores. The infants inhale a dose of bio bits in their lungs that is four times what an adult would breathe walking across the same floor.

… As alarming as that sounds, researchers (Purdue University) say that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: “Many studies have shown that inhalation exposure to microbes and allergen-carrying particles in that portion of life plays a significant role in both the development of, and protection from, asthma and allergic diseases. There are studies that have shown that being exposed to a high diversity and concentration of biological materials may reduce the prevalence of asthma and allergies later in life.”

Dan Gurney, the first racer to achieve wins in Formula One, NASCAR and IndyCar and one of the most revered and accomplished figures in motorsports history, died Sunday. He was 86.

A shortage of intravenous fluids and bags amid a severe flu season has forced U.S. hospitals to find new methods to deliver some medicines. Blame hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico, one of the primary manufacturers of medical supplies. Baxter International’s Puerto Rico plant, which produces 44 percent of the IV bags used in U.S. hospitals, sustained major damage during Hurricane Maria in September. B. Braun Medical Inc., responsible for producing 10 percent of IV bags used in the United States, also has faced production issues before and after the storm. The effects of the shortage has been exacerbated by a severe flu season.

While the Detroit Auto Show was held over the weekend with some spectacular new vehicles like the 2019 Mustang Bullitt, in another part of the world a red cedar tree trunk on wheels is up for auction after setting the world record as the world’s fastest log car. The Cedar Rocket was built by the team at Pioneer Log Homes of Williams Lake, British Columbia, whose wood-based creations earned them four seasons as the stars of the TV show Timber Kings. Although he’s usually building luxury log homes, company founder Bryan Reid Sr. came up with the idea for the car after attending the Barrett-Jackson luxury car auction in Arizona back in 2014. • VIDEO

… The single Western red cedar uses parts from a Mazda RX-8 sports car and turbines to give it juice. They opted to make the car electric after realizing the complexity of keeping a fuel tank in a wooden vehicle.

One of London’s leading restaurants has launched a new pricing model based on the travel industry, with different charges depending on the day of the week and time of your booking. Bob Bob Ricard, known for a luxurious dining room, is offering exactly the same menu, only prices are 25 percent lower for off-peak times such as Monday lunch and 15 percent off mid-peak, including dinner on Tuesdays and Sundays. Book for Saturday night and it’s full price.

Most of us can’t install much of anything.  A new survey reveals 75% of Americans who purchase gadgets like streaming devices, smart TVs, printers and wifi routers try setting them up on their own. The study reveals nearly a third of those who do give up and call tech support.

Rodman gets a DUI.  Southern California cops arrested Dennis Rodman for alleged drunken driving, forcing him into an overnight stay behind bars. The 56-year-old former NBA star was pulled over at 11 p.m. Saturday for unspecified vehicle code violations. He failed a field sobriety test and consented to a breathalyzer exam, where he blew a blood-alcohol level greater than the legal limit of .08. Rodman was taken to the city jail booked for alleged DUI before where he was released without bail at 6:15 Sunday morning.

It’s Girl Scout Cookie time.   Some background: Individual troops began organizing cookie sales as early as 1917 to fund the troop’s activities. The first record of such a sale was by the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma, in December of 1917. In 1922, the Girl Scout magazine The American Girl suggested cookie sales as a fund-raiser and provided recipes. In 1933, Girl Scouts in Philadelphia organized the first official “Girl Scout Cookie” sale, selling homemade cookies in the windows of local utility companies. The first Girl Scout cookie recipe was a sugar cookie. In 1936 the national organization began licensing commercial bakers to produce them.

SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 2018

 

Officials in Hawaii and the U.S. military are trying to figure out how an emergency message was improperly sent to all cellphones, the media and authorities in the state this morning at 8:07AM, which began an immediate panic all over the Hawaiian islands.  It was a false alarm but left residents and tourists there in panic looking for shelter and waiting to hear what to do for more than an hour.

An emergency alert sent to Hawaiians this morning with a warning that a “ballistic missile threat” was “inbound to Hawaii”. 

Hawaii’s state of Office of Emergency Management says it was likely human error or possibly a hacker into their systems.   The alert, which was pushed to mobile phones which read “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

At 8:45, a second message followed, saying, “There is no missile threat or danger to the state of Hawaii. Repeat false alarm.” The second message was not in all capital letters.  In addition to the mobile alerts, sirens sounded, Hawaii residents said.

Kim Quintano’s husband woke her up after seeing the alert on his phone.

“We were freaking out because we know there’s nowhere to go. There are no shelters. There’s nowhere to go,” she said.

The two Honolulu residents live on the fifth floor of a high-rise building. Her husband searched online and found a tweet from Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat, saying it was a false alarm.

“I can’t get over that it took them 40 minutes to send another phone alert to tell people there was no missile,” said Ms. Quintano, 37.  “How many heart attacks were caused by that?”  Lawmakers in Hawaii were quick to call for fixes to the system.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, also a Democrat, tweeted, “At a time of heightened tensions, we need to make sure all information released to the community is accurate. We need to get to the bottom of what happened and make sure it never happens again.”  Deputy White House Press Secretary Lindsay Walters issued a statement after the false alarm saying President Donald Trump had been briefed on the matter and adding, “This was purely a state exercise.”

Nate Bingham, owner of Hawaiian Style Rentals and Sales near the beach in Waikiki, said he got the alert as he was pulling scooters and bikes out to start the day.

“We all got the same alert at the same time,” he said. “We basically left everything as it was, threw the keys to the scooter in the shop and locked everything up.”

Mr. Bingham purchased a few bottles of water at a local convenience store and drove home to see his wife. By the time he arrived, the false alarm message arrived. He headed back to work, where he was greeted with a line of people hoping to rent scooters and bicycles.

“People are just going back on with their vacation,” he said. “I have this pit in my stomach, still but life is just going on.”

The building U.S. tension with North Korea has prompted Hawaii to bring back an attack-warning siren that was discontinued in the 1980s. The system also includes mobile alerts and more sophisticated systems than were used previously.  The state has set up tones to be blasted from about 400 sirens that were installed during World War II and are different from those the state uses for tsunami and hurricane warnings.

The state has also aired TV ads warning locals to “get inside, stay inside” if an attack happens.

 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 2018

 

For every success President Trump seems to have for himself and his administration, then there’s a statement that makes Americans, Senators and Congressmen, and world leaders hold their heads with some disgust.   Today, Trump is denying he he questioned why the U.S. would immigrants from “s---hole countries”.  And the world’s nation, great ones and poor ones don’t like the tough language either.  

 “The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used,“ the president wrote on Twitter today,  referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects young undocumented immigrants from deportation. “What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!”

In a series of tweets Friday morning, the president also said he wanted to prevent the nation from having to take in immigrants from “high crime countries which are doing badly.”

The agreement presented by a bipartisan group of senators a day earlier would give a path to citizenship for so-called “Dreamers” and make other immigration policy changes. The senators presented their plan at the White House, but it was met with opposition from conservative lawmakers who also attended the meeting.

At that meeting, asking why the U.S. would want to admit people from Africa, the source of many diversity lottery applicants, Mr. Trump asked lawmakers, “Why do we want all these people from these s---hole countries here?  We should have people from places like Norway.” 

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress said Mr. Trump’s remark was “offensive.” “Developing countries experience difficulties,” the party said. “The U.S. faces difficulties.”  Botswana’s government, which summoned the U.S. ambassador to explain the comments, asked “why President Trump must use this descriptor and derogatory word, when talking about countries with whom the U.S. has had cordial and mutually beneficial relations for so many years.”  A spokeswoman for the African Union, the continental bloc, said she was “frankly alarmed” by the reports. United Nations human-rights spokesman Rupert Colville said “there is no other word one can use as racist.”

Trump called the agreement presented on Thursday a “big step backwards” and called for a “merit-based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level.” Under the agreement presented Thursday, he said, the “Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly.”

“Chain & lottery” refer to the current system of family-based immigration that enables naturalized citizens, after a yearslong waiting period, to bring over some close relatives, and the diversity lottery visa program that admits immigrants from underrepresented countries.

Mr. Trump today also accused Democrats of seeking to “defund” the military, a reference to the looming threat of a partial government shutdown.  Democrats have some leverage as their votes are needed to keep the government running past next Friday. It was unclear whether they would be willing to force a partial shutdown over the immigration dispute.

“Sadly, Democrats want to stop paying our troops and government workers in order to give a sweetheart deal, not a fair deal, for DACA. Take care of our Military, and our Country, FIRST!” the president wrote on Twitter.

The White House and lawmakers in both parties say they want to reach an agreement, but many conservative Republicans are demanding a long list of immigration-policy changes that Democrats oppose, including tougher workplace enforcement. It was unclear whether Mr. Trump would be willing to sign something into law over their objections.

The agreement reached in the Senate gives Mr. Trump much but not all of what he has requested, according to Senate aides. It allocates $1.6 billion toward a border fence, which he asked for in 2018. It ends the diversity lottery, and it imposes some modest new limits on the ability of citizens and green-card holders to sponsor relatives.

It also gives the Dreamers a 10-to-12-year path to citizenship, extends to their parents three-year work permits, and offers green cards to people who have been living in the U.S. for years under Temporary Protected Status programs that Mr. Trump is ending.

In another tweet Friday, Mr. Trump said he “never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country.”  He added, “I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!”

Just in case China is watching every U.S. military base in the country and around the world on video surveillance cameras-all of which are made in China, the U.S. Army is now in the process of removing all of them.

A congressional committee plans to hold a hearing this month into whether small businesses face cybersecurity risks from using the equipment.

Fort Leonard Wood, an Army base in Missouri’s Ozarks, replaced five cameras on the base branded and made by Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co. , said Col. Christopher Beck, the base’s chief of staff. He said officials at the base acted after reading media reports about the company.  “We never believed [the cameras] were a security risk. They were always on a closed network,” Col. Beck said. The decision to replace the cameras was meant to “remove any negative perception” surrounding them following media reports, he added, without elaborating.

The cameras, made by Hikvision, the world’s largest maker of surveillance cameras, is 42% owned by the Chinese government.  Many security-system vendors in the U.S. refuse to carry Hikvision cameras or place restrictions on their purchase, concerned they could be used by Beijing to spy on Americans.  A Hikvision spokeswoman said the company “believes the products it builds and distributes around the world must meet the highest standards of not only quality but also security. We stand by our products and processes.”

Hikvision has repeatedly said its devices are safe and secure. The company hasn’t been accused by authorities of using its devices to spy.

The Fort Leonard Wood base has 187 security cameras in all and the Hikvision devices were used to monitor roads and a parking lot and other things.  . “At no time did any of these cameras cover a high-security or high-security critical asset,” Col. Beck said.

In another move highlighting concern over Hikvision’s cameras, the chairman of a House of Representatives committee said he is calling a hearing that will look into whether Hikvision cameras pose potential risks to businesses as entryways for hackers.

Security vulnerabilities in Hikvision’s cameras were highlighted last year in a notice issued by the Department of Homeland Security, which said some of its devices were easily exploitable by outside hackers.

A Hikvision spokeswoman said the company issued a firmware patch addressing the vulnerability within a week of being made aware of it. A DHS official confirmed Hikvision had issued the patch by the time the department’s notice was issued in early May.

Hikvision has said the bulk of its devices are sold by third-party distributors and that it cannot access any of its cameras after they are sold to customers. In addition, the company has said its state-owned shareholder, China Electronics Technology Group Co., has no day-to-day role in the company’s operations.

Security experts say safeguards in the camera industry are poor and risks are growing with the proliferation of internet-connected devices.

Facebook says it will overhaul the way it presents news and information on its platform, as it struggles to address criticism from users and others about the quality of the content shared there and its effect on society.

Yes, even if two billion people are using Facebook, they are getting tired of your video of the fire in the area, the endless cat videos and your personal tour of the museum event. 

Under planned changes announced Thursday, Facebook will favor posts, photos and videos in the news feed that are shared and discussed among users and their friends over those posted by businesses and news organizations—a likely blow to companies that rely on Facebook to reach customers.  The company also is weighing another major change that could eventually elevate media outlets deemed more trustworthy compared with publishers considered less credible, people familiar with the matter said.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday called the initial move “a major change in how we build Facebook” that would decrease how much time users spend on the platform and hurt publisher traffic, but ultimately make users happier and boost Facebook’s business.

The other potential change would involve ranking news outlets based on some measures of true credibility, such as public polling about news outlets, and whether readers are willing to pay for news from particular publishers, the people familiar with the matter said. Such variables would inform the Facebook algorithms that determine which publishers’ posts are pushed higher in the feed, one of the people said.

Such a move would thrust Facebook into an even more active role in deciding what content is acceptable on its site—a role that makes some publishers uneasy. The company hasn’t decided whether to proceed with that shift, and it may choose not to do so.

This potential change, as well as the steps outlined Thursday, illustrate Zuckerberg’s willingness to make big changes and consider ideas he previously resisted to address the growing risks looming over the company that he co-founded 14 years ago.

 

Facebook is getting more bad reviews that  “passive” social-media use could be harmful to users’ mental health.  The company’s product teams will now focus on driving “meaningful social interactions” rather showing relevant content. Facebook’s internal analysis found that this kind of engagement was more likely to happen among friends than among strangers commenting on public content including news articles shared by publications.  For now, be ready for the day of endless videos clips and check-ins at places by your friends and colleagues…that you could care less about.

 

Hammered by Costo, Amazon.com and other retailers, over 60 Sam’s Clubs, owned by Walmarts will be closing.   Some are too close to a nearby Walmart, others just aren’t doing well enough.   The average Sam’s Club employees 175 full and part time employees, so 11, 000 people will likely be impacted.   Some stores have already closed; others will close within just weeks. Ten of the closed stores will be turned into e-commerce distribution centers.

Scientists have discover huge sheets of ice below the surface of Mars.   In the weekly publication Science, it has been revealed that eight regions on Mars have been discovered to have large sheets of water ice below the surface. It’s no secret to scientists that Mars has ice and water, but they had no idea just how much the planet was hiding until these regions were found.

… This new information will help scientists figure out how people could live on Mars in the future.

An Oklahoma dog managed to make the 20-mile trek back to a family that couldn’t keep her. The Seminole Humane Society wrote on Facebook that the owners of Cathleen, a six-year-old Great Pyrenees mix, moved into a house in Seminole, Oklahoma, without a fenced yard several months ago, so her owners gave her to someone 20 miles away. But Cathleen, still very much attached to her original owners, walked from her new home to her old one in Seminole. Twice.

… After her two treks back to her original home in Seminole, Cathleen’s new owners gave her up to the Humane Society because they could not control her wanderings. For $25, Cathleen is now up for adoption, but this time at a home with a fenced yard.

People don’t really have time to notice many of your mistakes and screw-ups.  Yes, when you say something stupid at work, things seem to take a bad turn.  Oh, things sure took a bad turn. Mortifying to you and in your head. You dumped that drink!  How can you live with being such a klutz? Who there will ever forget it? Take a deep breath. Stop obsessing because it probably wasn’t as bad as you think. Research shows that far fewer people notice our gaffes than we believe. And those who do notice that we did something judge us less harshly than we imagine.

Here comes Blue Monday, the unhappiest day of the year, January 15th.   An expert in seasonal disorders first identified January as the most stressful month. And now there’s a formula that works out the worst day of the year — and this year it’s Monday, January 15. The formula takes into account lousy weather, debts owed after the holidays and the amount of time before you abandon your New Year’s resolutions.

Authorities Thursday recovered all of the jewels stolen by axe-weilding robbers in a heist from the Ritz Paris. French police found a bag dropped by one of the five robbers containing the $5.62 million worth of jewels stolen from the five-star Paris hotel on Wednesday night. Three men have been arrested for the heist, while two others remain at large.

New app for the fridge can tell you what to eat today.   A free app called Yummly can tell you what to cook by scanning the contents of your fridge. It scans items to pull up relevant recipes that fit your preferences. It also works with Whirlpool’s smart appliances to control the oven and more.

Winter is perhaps helping you to gain more weight because of a lack of…sunlight.

Many of us know the feeling of putting on a few pounds during the wintertime. But as it turns out, winter weight gain might not entirely be our fault. University of Alberta researchers found that the fat cells that lie just beneath our skin shrink when exposed to the blue light emitted by the sun — they don’t store as much fat.

… However, researchers caution people that exposure to sunlight is not a safe or recommended way to lose weight. And they pointed out that their finding is only an initial observation, and researchers don’t know yet how intense sunlight needs to be before it can cause select fat cells to shrink.

THURSDAY, JANUARY 11, 2018

 

More money for your friendly and hardworking Walmart Store employees coming from the company who today said it would raise starting pay to $11 per hour for all its U.S. employees and hand out one-time bonuses as competition for low-wage workers intensifies and new tax legislation will add billions to the retailer’s profits.   The giant retailer is the largest private employer in the world with 2.3 million employees, including around 1.5 million in the U.S. Its current starting salary in the U.S. is $10 an hour after workers take a training course. The new wage increase will take effect in February.

This is the third U.S.-wide minimum wage increase at the company since 2015 as it works to improve its 4,700 U.S. stores while investing heavily to compete with Amazon.com Inc. online.

The company said the salary change would add $300 million to its annual expenses and it expects to take a $400 million charge in the current quarter for the one-time bonus. The amount of the bonus will vary based on length of service, reaching up to $1,000 for an individual with 20 years of service.

Walmart, which had nearly $500 billion in global revenue last year, is expected to get billions in savings from the tax overhaul, which lowers the U.S. corporate rate to 21% from 35%. Retailers have had one of the highest average effective tax rates because much of their operations are U.S.-based. Also, their industry has done little manufacturing or research and development so they don’t benefit from deductions on those activities.

“We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business,” said Wal-Mart Chief Executive Doug McMillon in a release.

With the additional expected profit, Wal-Mart is considering investments in “lower prices for customers, better wages and training for associates and investments in the future of our company, including in technology,” he said.

Several other large U.S. employers have announced plans to raise wages or pay bonuses in the wake of the tax overhaul. The day the legislation was signed by President Donald Trump, AT&T Inc. and Comcast Corp. said they would pay a $1,000 bonus to most of their U.S. employees, or more than 300,000 people. Wells Fargo & Co. said it would raise its starting pay to $15 an hour.

The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009, but dozens of states and municipalities have implemented higher levels in recent years. An $11 hourly wage is the minimum required in Massachusetts and Washington state. Retailers, restaurants and other employers of hourly workers have also raised wages to compete for talent, economists say.

Ignoring the weather-related evacuations.  Police officials say on the day after mudslides killed 17 people and destroyed 100 homes, analyzing the massive scope of  the rains and mudslide disaster shows that far toomany California residents where caught off-guard.  Rescue workers continue searching for at least two dozen missing people, and are working to reach dozens more that may be trapped in homes surrounded by the walls of mud.  Of 1,200 people given mandatory evacuation orders in the Montecito area, only 200 heeded the warning to leave, said Shawn Boyd, a spokesman with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services, citing preliminary information.

“They all decided they didn’t want to go,” he said.

Mr. Boyd said at least 15 of the dead were recovered in the mandatory evacuation zone, but it wasn’t clear if all who died lived in those areas.   In the broader county of Santa Barbara, 7,000 people were in areas requiring mandatory evacuation and 23,000 were in voluntary evacuation zones, said a spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s office. A significant number of people chose to stay put, the spokeswoman said, declining to confirm specific numbers in the area in and around Montecito, which was hardest hit.

Even for those accustomed to preparing for the familiar California pattern of drought, fires, and floods, the death toll and destruction were unexpected. Officials said that was explained in large part by the decision of many not to evacuate.

Montecito, an unincorporated neighborhood in Santa Barbara County best known for the wealthy executives and celebrities who own homes there, wasn’t entirely under mandatory evacuation orders. Some neighborhoods were under voluntary guidelines.

New guidelines are going into place from the White House Trump administration today for Medicaid-related Americans.   The idea to to help states impose the first-ever work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries, one of the biggest changes in the program’s 50-year history.   That approach contrasts with a move the administration made with less fanfare earlier in the week to extend waivers that allow food-stamp recipients in 33 states to avoid work requirements.

The different approaches reflect the complex political forces that surround safety-net programs. Many conservatives argue that people shouldn’t receive government aid without working if they can, but officials in some states want to spare their residents such requirements.

The new work guidelines issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services aim to transform Medicaid, in states seeking a program revamp, from a guaranteed benefit based on income to a program that can deny aid to many adults if certain conditions aren’t met. States can determine what can qualify as work under the requirements, such as education or community service.

“This is in response to proposals we are receiving from states,” said Seema Verma, who heads CMS. “This effort is about helping people rise out of poverty.”

Earlier this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture said, in an update on its website, that it was letting five states and parts of 28 others extend waivers they received under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program during the Obama years. The extension allows the states to exempt adult food-stamp recipients for an additional year from rules that they must work, train or go to school, or lose the benefit.

The food-stamp waivers were widespread during the last economic downturn, when the Obama administration granted them to states that cited high unemployment. Over the past four years, waivers have been consistently given to recipients in at least two-thirds of the states.

Advocates of overhauling the nation’s income-based social programs have long cited food stamps, which are used by about 43 million Americans, as a prime target for work requirements. President Donald Trump has signaled a desire to broadly revamp welfare programs this year, though during the campaign he promised to protect safety-net programs.

The USDA’s move on food stamps suggests that many states are still loath to impose work requirements.
The work requirements, which date to a broad overhaul of welfare programs in 1996, don’t apply to adults who are disabled or have dependents. Democrats contend that many food-stamp enrollees already work, and overly stringent requirements that they document their efforts merely dissuade people from getting needed aid.

Thursday’s administration’s move on Medicaid came months after a failed GOP push last year in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, an effort that stumbled in part because governors of both parties wanted to protect Medicaid.

States so far seeking Medicaid waivers to impose work-related requirements include Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

All quite from the Abedin-Weiner divorce.  There won’t be any hot gossip coming out of the Huma Abedin-Anthony Weiner divorce proceedings because the former couple has agreed to finalize the divorce out of court. A statement from Abedin’s attorney said they finalized out of court “in order to reduce any impact of these proceedings on their child.”   Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s personal assistant, filed for divorce in May after Weiner pleaded guilty to sexting with a minor.

You may lose weight if you think you’re getting exercise.  Can your perception of your exercise habits change your weight? A Harvard researcher performed an experiment with hotel maids. She found that the maids didn’t consider what they did as exercise, although their daily work activity exceeded recommendations. Half the maids were told their activity levels met the surgeon general’s definition of an active lifestyle. One month later, the group that had the information was found to have lower weight, lower blood pressure, and smaller waists. However, there was no indication of changes in the group’s overall activity.

Messenger Kids is now available on the Amazon Appstore, meaning children can now use the latest Facebook app on their Amazon Fire Tablet. The Fire Tablet is seen as a child-friendly tablet thanks to its durability and affordability. Facebook launched Messenger Kids in December as an app aimed at children aged between six and 12. This is because Kids under 13 aren’t legally allowed to sign up for a Facebook account. Messenger Kids was initially only available on iOS, but it’s now available on Amazon too.

… Messenger Kids is essentially Facebook for tweens. It’s a child-friendly version of Facebook that “lets kids connect with people they love but also has the level of control parents want”. Parents are given complete control over the app; downloading it, signing in using their own Facebook login details, and even managing contacts. There’s one-on-one group chat, child-friendly masks, emojis, and GIFs, and the ability for kids to send photos, videos, and messages.

TV killer.  Authorities have charged an Arkansas man who went outside for a cigarette break during a football game broadcast, came back in and allegedly stabbed his wife to death. The reason? She changed the channel away from the game he was watching.

 

Unfazed but frozen for a while.  There’s a certain human arrogance that comes every time we get a Snowmageddon or a bomb cyclone. We assume that while we’re shivering through single-digit and sub-zero temps, most of the rest of animal kingdom is also struggling. If we can’t handle the cold, who — or what — can? Alligators, for one. The ‘gators at Swamp Park, in southeastern North Carolina, live in water that, for the first time, froze over. They were unfazed.

… When alligators get cold, they brumate, a period of dormancy similar to hibernation. They slow down their metabolism and their breathing and go into a semi-vegetative state. Right before the surface freezes, they stick their snouts out of the water so they can continue breathing. Swamp Park has ten alligators will stay frozen in the ice till the weather warms up.

There’s currently a dog on the space shuttle.  Kinda.  A stuffed toy dog gets to float around on the International Space Station as a sweet reminder of home. Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov posted a photo of the critter on Twitter Wednesday: Shkaplerov’s cousin made the small poodle, which features a classic poofy-legged haircut, and modeled it after the astronaut’s family dog. The cosmonaut’s daughter asked him to take it with him into space, but he didn’t just pack it away in his luggage. It had a job. • IMAGE

… The poodle acted as a “zero-G indicator” during the Soyuz flight that took three ISS crew members up to the station in December. The space travelers are strapped down, so they tie a small object — in this case the poodle — where they can see it. When it floats, they know they’ve reached the realm of microgravity.

Crazy at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas.  Companies show off a lot of weird stuff at CES — connected dog collars, smart litter boxes and even shoes that can detect when you fall and send an alert to friends’ or family members’ phones. But this week’s creepiest and oddest booth is for a company called Psychasec. Psychasec bills itself vaguely as technology that morphs human bodies and promises a way to keep people alive. Two models at the booth show off artificial bodies sculpted to perfect form. The premise is to encourage attendees to sign up for a “sleeve” into which they can transfer their consciousness and upgrade their body. There are also body bags with people inside them. The booth is the most disturbing exhibit CES attendees will come across. • IMAGE

… The catch: Psychasec is fake, and the booth is a promotion for Netflix’s upcoming sci-fi show Altered Carbon, which begins streaming in February. The show is based on a classic cyberpunk novel (by Richard K. Morgan) and takes place more than 300 years in the future. The setup: “Society has been transformed by new technology: consciousness can be digitized; human bodies are interchangeable; death is no longer permanent.”

What’s the most popular name of all time?   Every year, lists come out proclaiming the most popular baby names of the year in various countries. Some are legit — like the one from the Social Security Administration — while others are random popularity lists generated by baby websites. But now a study has found the most popular baby name of all time.

… Biotechnologist and blogger David Taylor developed a metric that considers a name’s popularity and the rate of its rise and decline. The results differ from lists proclaiming the most popular names for each year, as “trendy” names are generally extremely popular for a relatively small amount of time.

… Taylor found that in 1947, the name Linda skyrocketed in popularity, accounting for almost 5.5 percent of girls born that year. Taylor found no other U.S. baby name had come close to that level of popularity since then, making Linda the trendiest name of all time.

… Baby name site Nameberry produces its own list of popular names, which is updated each month based on names that are receiving the most attention in searches. It currently has Olivia in first place, followed by Cora, Amelia, Charlotte and Isla for girls, while Atticus, Asher, Jack, Theodore and Jasper are the most clicked on names for boys.

Fire at the Ice Hotel.   In Canada, Quebec City has a world famous ice hotel. But for now it’s temporarily shut down due to fire. A small blaze broke out in one of the hotel’s 45 guest rooms early Tuesday morning, forcing the evacuation of the structure, which is made completely out of ice. While the flames did not spread and caused little damage to the structure itself, the smoke quickly made its way through the hotel. The cause is still under investigation.

Meet Robotmart.  Robotmart was introduced this week at CES 2018 in Las Vegas. It’s a fully autonomous grocery store on wheels. The robot-bus-thing will bring fruits, vegetables, and other perishable items from the supermarket aisle to customers’ doors. Supermarket chains would license the robots, which would pull up in front of a customer’s home, allowing them to ‘shop’ just steps from their fridge.

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10, 2018

 

California is now fighting rain and mudslides in area hit earlier by wildwifes, which is now causing evacuations around the community of Montecito and others in Santa Barbara County.  Thirteen people have been killed by the mudslides and thousands are now evacuated.

The hilly terrain with burned hills loosened by torrential rain are washing away homes and cars and shutting down freeways.  At least 25 were injured and at least 50 had to be rescued by helicopters, according to reports.

Hardest hit was the area in and around Montecito, in Santa Barbara County, where all of the fatalities were reported—along with about two dozen injuries after mud roared down from a mountain denuded of vegetation in the recent wildfire, sweeping away several dozen homes and other structures, emergency officials said. Some neighborhoods were under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, but it is unclear if those who died were in those areas.

In the kind of steep terrain that surrounds Los Angeles, mud and debris can begin flowing within just 15 minutes of a downpour—rushing down the mountain as fast as 50 miles an hour, said Dennis Staley, a landslide specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo. The threat of mudslides to populated areas has grown markedly, he said, because so many more people have moved into fire-prone zones in California and other mountain states.

 “It’s a mess. The mud was so high everywhere,” said Franco Rizzo, a Santa Barbara resident who drove two hours this morning—a trip that usually takes 15 minutes—to pick up his friend in Montecito who had called for help.

The friend, had tried to open his door, saw 3 feet of mud, and called Mr. Rizzo to pick him up, Mr. Rizzo said. “We’ve never seen the freeway empty, northbound and southbound,” he said. He made it to a block away from his friend’s bungalow-style home, but couldn’t move any further and hasn’t heard back from his friend in hours.

Six inches of mud filled parts of the lobby of the Montecito Inn, a boutique hotel in Santa Barbara about a mile and a half away from the evacuation zone, said an owner, Jim Copus.

 

At The White House yesterday, President Donald Trump met with Democrats and Republicans and today says he’s optimistic that an immigration deal could soon be reached on “Dreamers” and agreed with lawmakers to limit talks to four policy areas during the bipartisan meeting.

Commanding the room and looking more presidential than ever, the dealmaking Trump offered various formulations for what an agreement might look like during rare negotiations in full view of reporters and television viewers. He suggested Congress could protect the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers and improve border security, while putting other contentious issues off for later. At other times, he said some of his additional conservative priorities must be included.

Throughout the conversation, Mr. Trump insisted that the border-security part of a legislative package include his controversial wall with Mexico, which Democrats and some Republicans oppose.

 “I really do believe Democratic and Republican, the people sitting around this table, want to get something done,” Mr. Trump said, with Democrats seated on either side of him. “And I think we’re on our way to do it.”

In September, Mr. Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, asking Congress to intervene with a legislative fix. Under that plan, starting March 5, large numbers of Dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. as children, would lose their protections.

But in a court ruling late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup temporarily blocked the ending of the DACA programing.

The White House meeting included nearly two dozen lawmakers with a wide range of views on immigration, but with the clock ticking toward the expiration of the Dreamers’ protections, remarks from members of both parties suggested an agreement was possible. None was announced, though lawmakers said they would meet again Wednesday.

One of the toughest issues to resolve involves the elements of a border security package. At the meeting, Mr. Trump repeated his desire for funding for a border wall. When Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) objected to his price tag, Mr. Trump suggested he could build it for less than the $18 billion his administration estimated.

Throughout the public portion of the meeting, the president suggested agreement was close at hand. When some lawmakers made clear that Mr. Trump’s support was key to a final deal, he replied: “When this group comes back with an agreement, I’m signing it.”

 

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 9, 2018

 

There’s only one person left for Special counsel Robert Mueller to interview and it’s President Donald Trump.  Then maybe the Democrats can get back to working for the American people.  Yesterday Mueller  informed lawyers for President Donald Trump that he may seek an interview with the president early this year, prompting concerns within the Trump legal team over terms of the questioning, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A request would mark a major milepost in the special counsel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice and Trump associates’ ties to Russia.

In a December meeting in Washington with Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, Mr. Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, raised the possibility of interviewing Mr. Trump “soon,” but he wasn’t definitive, according to the person familiar with the matter. James Quarles, a Mueller deputy, also attended the meeting, that person said.

Some members of Mr. Trump’s legal team believe a meeting between the president and Mr. Mueller would be “gratuitous,” the person said. The lawyers have discussed accepting written questions from Mr. Mueller and delivering written answers from the president to queries that are “appropriate and respectful of the office,” the person said, adding that the talks with Mr. Mueller are in a “preliminary” stage.

A spokesman for the special counsel declined to comment on the possibility of an interview with the president.

Mr. Dowd, who heads Mr. Trump’s private legal team, said: “The White House does not comment on communications with the Office of the Special Counsel out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process. The White House is continuing its full cooperation with the Office of the Special Counsel in order to facilitate the earliest possible resolution.”

Mr. Mueller is investigating whether any members of Mr. Trump’s team worked with Russia in what the U.S. intelligence community has said was a wide-ranging effort by the Kremlin to meddle in the 2016 U.S. election, which Moscow has denied.

As part of his probe, Mr. Mueller’s team also is examining whether the president obstructed justice by firing James Comey as FBI director in May, while the agency’s Russia investigation was under way.

Mr. Trump has said his campaign didn’t work with Russia, although several people in Mr. Trump’s orbit have admitted to having had contact with Russians during the campaign.

The special counsel has interviewed dozens of top White House officials and campaign aides, including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus. Lawyers for Mr. Trump have anticipated for months that Mr. Mueller may want to interview their client as part of his probe.

It was a comeback and college championship game of all times last night as Alabama won its fifth national championship in the past nine years, with a 26-23 overtime thriller that featured a furious second-half comeback, a devastating missed field goal and an instant-classic ending.

The Georgia Bulldogs dominated the first half, dismantling the Crimson Tide with a bruising defensive effort, the student seemed ready to overtake the teacher.  But as Alabama returned to the field for the third quarter, coach Nick Saban sent an resounding message that carried not just across the sideline here at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but across the entire college football world:  The old master won’t relinquish his post quite yet.

 

In a surprise move, Saban replaced struggling quarterback Jalen Hurts with backup Tua Tagovailoa, a true freshman from Hawaii who last appeared against an FBS opponent in October. The unorthodox decision brought the Crimson Tide back from the abyss, reminding Georgia that the imitator rarely beats the original.

 

After kicker Andy Pappanastos shanked a 36-yard kick at the end of regulation—a stunning miscue that gave Georgia life after it relinquished a 13-0 halftime advantage—the Crimson Tide survived. The Bulldogs opened the extra frame with a 51-yard field goal to regain the lead and then sacked Tagovailoa for a 16-yard loss, a play that put Georgia on the verge of its first title since 1980.

Then, like a lightning bolt, Tagovailoa unleashed a 41-yard bomb to DeVonta Smith for the game-ending touchdown.

“We needed a spark on offense,” Saban said afterward. “I thought Tua would give us a better chance and a spark, which he certainly did.”

The victory re-established the Crimson Tide’s position atop the sport following last season’s heartbreaking loss to Clemson and cemented Saban’s status as perhaps the greatest coach in college football history. Saban earned the sixth title of his career—and his fifth with Alabama—tying the legendary Bear Bryant’s record. This one proved particularly satisfying, because Saban defeated a team designed at its core to disrupt the Crimson Tide’s seemingly unending stretch of dominance.

North Korea to Send Delegation to Winter Olympics, Commits to Military Talks

South Korea sought unsuccessfully to raise the North’s nuclear program during bilateral talks, but the two sides reached a deal for Pyongyang to participate in next month’s Winter Olympics and agreed to hold military talks, providing a small opening to the stalemate on the peninsula.

The face-to-face discussions will begin today at the demilitarized zone that divides the peninsula were the two Koreas’ first since December 2015, and came after months of soaring tensions stemming from Pyongyang’s nuclear-weapons development.   North Korea will send a delegation of athletes, a taekwondo demonstration team, high-level officials, supporters and journalists to the Olympics in the South Korean ski resort of Pyeongchang, according to a joint statement after Tuesday’s talks.

“Senior officials from North and South Korea will be able to mingle naturally at the Winter Olympics alongside members of the international community and thereby provide an opportunity to discuss current affairs,” Seoul’s government said. The Koreas also agreed to hold military talks to reduce tensions, the statement said, though it wasn’t clear when they would occur.

But the statement contained no mention of the North’s atomic-weapons program, and South Korean officials said Pyongyang’s delegates had voiced anger when Seoul broached the North’s weapons program.

In a briefing after the talks, North Korea’s chief delegate, Ri Son Gwon, said it was “ridiculous” to raise the subject of the North’s nuclear weapons, which he said were “strictly aimed at the U.S.”

“They do not target our brethren, nor do they target China and Russia,” he said.

2017 was a rough and expensive weather year.  With three strong hurricanes, wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes, and drought, the United States tallied a record high bill last year for weather disasters: $306 billion. The US had 16 disasters in 2017 with damage exceeding a billion dollars. That ties 2011 for the number of billion-dollar disasters, but the total cost blew past the previous record of $215 billion in 2005.

… Three of the five most expensive hurricanes in US history hit last year. Hurricane Harvey cost $125 billion, second only to 2005’s Katrina, while Maria cost $90 billion, ranking third. Irma was $50 billion, for the fifth most expensive hurricane.

… Western wildfires fanned by heat racked up $18 billion in damage, triple the previous US wildfire record.

The Peoria Zoo in Illinois is celebrating the arrival of the zoo’s latest newborn, a baby girl giraffe, whose mother delivered at 2:38 AM on January 7. This is the second child for Vivian the giraffe, who brought a baby boy into the world in July 2016. Vivian and her mate, Taji, also had a baby in February of 2015, but that one died three hours after birth upon showing signs of neurological distress. Vivian was pregnant for 465 days.

Virtual reality company Pixo has created a VR experience for Oregonians who don’t know how to pump their own gas. The state law has recently changed, allowing many in the state to fill their own tanks. But apparently some in the Beaver State are troubled by the thought of handling gallons of flammable fuel. So now the people or Oregon — or anyone, for that matter — can practice using their VR headset. • LINK

You’re being tracked all the time on the web.   According to new research that will surprise almost no one, over 77% of websites track users as they navigate around the web. The widely used mechanism for much of the tracking is an image file of a single pixel. The researchers (Ghostery and Cliqz) examined 144 million web pages and found that just under a quarter (22.6%) use no trackers at all.

Job interview body language.  Deciding whether to nod, fidget or look someone in the eye during a job interview has a different effect on the prospects of male and female candidates. A study found body language appropriate to your gender is an important factor in the way potential employees are received. Women who adopted more feminine behavior, such as looking away and nodding at an interviewer, were rated more highly than those who had masculine traits such as being more assertive. Men who made direct eye contact with the interviewer and fidgeted less were rated better than other male candidates.

Missouri….to visit or not.   The state of Missouri was named one of the top 10 places not to visit in 2018 by the travel website Fodors. No other city, state or province in North America made the list. The travel site points out that while Missouri is “full of wonders” such as limestone caverns and the Budweiser Clydesdales, the reasons not to visit the state outweigh the benefits. Discrimination and crime are the top reasons, including an advisory from the NAACP to not visit Missouri.

… Other places on Fodor’s don’t visit list include The Galápagos, Mt. Everest, Honduras and Cuba.

An Ohio man has been found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2016 beating death of his elderly mother after saying he killed her because Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak told him to. The attorney for 48-year-old Derrick Williams of Akron says his client will likely be sent to a secure psychiatric facility after his commitment hearing later this month.

 

MONDAY, JANUARY 8, 2018

 

A Washington state sheriff’s deputy who was the first to respond to a 911 call about a home invasion was shot and killed late last night and the suspect is still at large today.  The Pierce County Sheriff’s Office had not released the deputy’s name early Monday. 

 Someone called the Sheriff’s Office just before 11:30 a.m. saying an intruder was inside a home in Frederickson, a suburb just southeast of Tacoma.

During the call dispatchers heard screaming and the sounds of a scuffle.  They alerted deputies, and one arrived about six minutes later.  The responding deputy encountered two burglary suspects, the Sheriff’s Office said on its Facebook page. During the ensuing chase, police believe at least one of the suspects fired shots.

When other law enforcement officers arrived, they found one of the suspected burglars dead of a gunshot wound.   Nearby, they discovered the fatally wounded deputy.  He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead around 2 a.m. Authorities have launched a manhunt for the other suspect, and blocked off several roads in the area.

Calling out your president boss and then expecting forgiveness isn’t going to happen for former Presiden Trump strategist Steve Bannon.   Bannon tells some he would now like to mend fences with White House staffers and the president.   The retreat by Mr. Bannon came as the Republican Party sought to unite around key legislative priorities ahead of the midterm campaign season.

In a statement, Mr. Bannon, who was ousted from his White House role over the summer but has continued to occasionally advise President Donald Trump, said his support for the president is “unwavering.” The statement followed last week’s release of scathing comments by Mr. Bannon about some top presidential advisers, including Trump family members, in Michael Wolff’s, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”

The quotes attributed to Mr. Bannon in the book, which he didn’t dispute, spurred four days of attacks by the president, who said his ex-adviser—whom he dubbed “Sloppy Steve”—had “lost his mind” and “cried when he got fired.”

The simmering feud came as Mr. Trump gathered with GOP legislative leaders at Camp David Friday and Saturday to discuss how to push the party’s agenda in Congress in the short window before campaigning begins for November. They focused on issues including national security, immigration, infrastructure and health care, according to a White House official.

A news conference Saturday at the end of the retreat put on display the tensions between Republican lawmakers’ desire to focus on the legislative agenda and the president’s attention on the controversy. In brief remarks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) expressed hope for “a year of more bipartisan cooperation.”  House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said Republicans had a “very bold agenda for 2018.” Lawmakers also have a pressing deadline: The government’s funding expires at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 20.

Veterans of past administrations and political consultants said Mr. Trump’s continued focus on the book threatens to complicate the GOP agenda in the coming year.

“You need more discipline, not less discipline, and you seem to have little discipline still,” said Craig Fuller, who served as assistant to former President Ronald Reagan for cabinet affairs. “That does have consequences, especially in a midterm election cycle, where it’s hard to pass things anyway.”

Kids and iPhones and smartphones.  It’s reached an addictive crisis point according to many teachers organizations and concerned parents groups across the country.   While making Apple Inc. billions of dollars, now some big shareholders are asking to help make their own company more socially responsible.

A leading activist investor and a pension fund are saying the smartphone maker needs to respond to what some see as a growing public-health crisis of youth phone addiction.

Jana Partners LLC and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, or Calstrs, which control about $2 billion of Apple shares, sent a letter to Apple on Saturday urging it to develop new software tools that would help parents control and limit phone use more easily and to study the impact of overuse on mental health.

The Apple push is a preamble to a new several-billion-dollar fund Jana is seeking to raise this year to target companies it believes can be better corporate citizens. It is the first instance of a big Wall Street activist seeking to profit from the kind of social-responsibility campaign typically associated with a small fringe of investors.

Adding splash, rock star Sting and his wife, Trudie Styler, will be on an advisory board along with Sister Patricia A. Daly, a nun who successfully fought Exxon Mobil Corp. over environmental disclosures, and Robert Eccles, an expert on sustainable investing.   The Apple campaign would be unusual for an activist like Jana, which normally urges companies to make financial changes. But the investors believe that Apple’s highflying stock could be hurt in coming decades if it faces a backlash and that proactive moves could generate goodwill and keep consumers loyal to Apple brands.

“Apple can play a defining role in signaling to the industry that paying special attention to the health and development of the next generation is both good business and the right thing to do,” the shareholders wrote in the letter.

Obsessive teenage smartphone usage has sparked a debate among academics, parents and even the people who helped create the iPhone.  Some have raised concerns about increased rates in teen depression and suicide and worry that phones are replacing old-fashioned human interaction.  It is part of a broader re-evaluation of the effects on society of technology companies such as Google andAmazon.com Inc. and social-media companies like Facebook and Snap Chat, which are facing questions about their reach into everyday life.

Apple hasn’t offered any public guidance to parents on how to manage children’s smartphone use or taken a position on at what age they should begin using iPhones.  Apple and its rivals point to features that give parents some measure of control. Apple, for instance, gives parents the ability to choose which apps, content and services their children can access.

Chief Executive Tim Cook has led Apple’s efforts to be a more socially responsible company, for instance on environmental and immigration issues, and said in an interview with the New York Times last year that Apple has a “moral responsibility” to help the U.S. economy.  Apple has shown willingness to use software to address potentially negative consequences of phone usage. Amid rising concerns about distracted driving, the company last year updated its software with a “do not disturb while driving” feature, which enables the iPhone to detect when someone is behind the wheel and automatically silence notifications.

The iPhone is the backbone of a business that generated $48.35 billion in profit in fiscal 2017. It helped turn Apple into the world’s largest publicly listed company by market value, and anticipation of strong sales of its latest model, the iPhone X, helped its stock rise 50% in the past year. Apple phones made up 43% of U.S. smartphones in use in 2016 and an estimated 86 million Americans over age 13 own an iPhone.

It's not just a problem for Oregonians, millions of Americans are struggling to pay rent. According to a Harvard report, almost 21 million people were considered burdened by the price of rent in 2016.  Those polled says their rent is too high and eating too much into their paychecks, and rents and mortgages just keep rising while paychecks are not.

Meaning more than 30 percent of incomes is dedicated to housing and utilities. Some are in even worse shape. The study shows that 25 percent of renters pay more than half of their income for housing. Losing such a big chunk of your check can impact your savings and force tough spending decisions down the road. Like deciding whether to pay rent or pay for food.  There is some good news.  An improving economy and for some, rising paychecks have helped ease the burden for some renters. But affluent renters combined with high building and land costs are driving the prices up.

Here are seven suggested ways you might be able to lower payments:

  1. Try to switch providers every year.
  2. Call your cable company to see if you can negotiate a lower rate.
  3. Cut the cord and switch to a streaming service.
  4. Consider getting a roommate.
  5. If you are a good renter -- haggle with your landlord.
  6. Try to talk the company out of raising your rent when it comes time to renew.
  7. If an appliance breaks, ask your landlord about getting credit on your next rent statement.

Saving the freezing sea turtles.  The Northeastern United States recently got hit by a bomb cyclone that produced freezing and below freezing temperatures. While people can go indoors and cozy up with blankets and a fire, wild animals have a much harder time staying warm. For young sea turtles in the New England area, the cold is a new experience as they usually spend their time in warmer waters near Florida. Rescuers went out to the chilly Northeastern waters and used a net to scoop up eight young sea turtles and bring them down to Florida. There, they rehabilitate the animals and got them ready to go back out into the wild. Since Florida is now experiencing unusually cold weather, turtles along the Florida coast are also being saved as well. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers have rescued over 100 sea turtles in Florida alone.

While most of us are moving forward with positive hopes for the New Year, on the first Monday of ever year family lawyers are gearing up for what is always their busiest work week. Today is unofficially known as “Divorce Day,” the day when the largest number of couples around the globe begin initiating separation and divorce procedures.

In California, Google workers lose their bicycles every day.   Last summer, it emerged that some of Google’s bikes — intended to help Googlers move quickly and in environmentally friendly fashion around the company’s sprawling campus and surrounding areas — were sleeping with the fishes in a nearby creek. Now, a new report has revealed that 100 to 250 Google bikes go missing every week, on average. The Wall Street Journal article says the disappearances often aren’t the work of ordinary thieves. Many residents of Mountain View, a city of 80,000 that has effectively become Google’s company town, see the employee perk as a community service.

… Mountain View Mayor Ken Rosenberg even admitted to helping himself to a Google bike to go to a movie after a meeting at the company’s campus.

… Google has hired 30 contractors to prowl the city in five vans looking for lost or stolen bikes — only a third of which have GPS trackers.

Although there’s nothing quite like an ice cold glass of beer to quench the thirst, it can cause all sorts of problems for those of us who already struggle with digestive issues.  According to Max Bakker, the only Master Cicerone in New York (a certification that recognizes exceptional understanding of beer brewing and pairing), much of the bloating caused by beer comes from the way it’s poured. We all think that tilting the glass and pouring slowly creates the perfect, headless pint but that actually means that the CO2 in beer has nowhere to escape to.  And that means that all that gas is going straight into your stomach. Add a salty beer snack into the mix and the bloating only gets worse: as soon as that grub gets into your stomach and disturbs the liquid, it starts releasing the CO2 and makes you feel even more uncomfortable.

… We’re not talking about a tiny amount of gas; when you tilt the glass, CO2 that’s 2.5 times the volume of beer you’ve drunk can be released into your belly.

Armpit hair is coming back. Trending for 2018 is armpit hair. Celebrity’s on-board include Lourdes Leon who is following in her mother Madonna’s footsteps and Kiersey Clemons. And they are not the only ones. Twenty-five per cent of millennial women in the US have given their razors the boot when it comes to their armpits. Some even dye their pit hair zany colors or sprinkle them with glitter.

… Paris Jackson has commented on this trend: “I love hair, and sweat, and BO. I [freaking] love it, I think it’s great.”

More ads could be coming your way in your car.  Here’s what you do in your spanking new, internet-connected car when you approach a red or yellow light: slow down way ahead, creep forward slowly — and make sure you never come to a stop.  Here’s why you do it: If you stop moving, your car will start serving you ads on the dashboard. Auto-tech firm Telenav has just announced an “in-car advertising platform” for cars that connect to the internet. Telenav wants to sell the system to major auto manufacturers. And although it’s probably the last thing many consumers want, vehicle owners will pay more for connected-car services if they decline the ads.

Queen Elizabeth is one of the world’s most recognizable celebrities, and Wikipedia says the proof is in the views. The Queen had the third-most popular Wikipedia page in 2017. The only person that outranked Queen Elizabeth for the 2017 Wikipedia list was Donald Trump. Ahead of Trump and the Queen for the top Wikipedia page of the year is “Deaths in 2017”.

She started college at 12 and had a PH.D at 23.   At 12-years-old, most of us were busy adjusting to junior high school, but North Carolina native Julia Lepper was busy working towards her first associate’s degree. Now, after two associate’s degrees from Cape Fear Community College and a bachelor’s degree from UNC Wilmington, the 23-year-old has graduated with her Ph.D from the University of Wisconsin. Her parents said they knew Julia was gifted from an early age. To help her excel, they began to home school her.

… Julia is nervous but excited to get out into “the real world.” Even though her mother would like for her to return home to North Carolina, Julia has hopes of landing a job in Japan.

Take a nap, improve your memory.  Research conducted by a brain researcher (at the University of Haifa in Israel) explores the possibility that naps help lock in sometimes fleeting long-term memories. The study finds a 90-minute daytime snooze might help the most. Long-term memory refers to memories that stay with us for years, such as “what” memories — a car accident that happened yesterday — or “how to” memories, such as one’s learned ability to play the drums or play a sport particularly well.

 

FRIDAY, JANUARY 5, 2017

 

It’s the blizzard of the winter hitting today all across the Midwest to the east coast, New York and Pennsylvania and up to Maine.  The snowstorm is barreling across the east bringing with it up to 18 inches of snow in some locations already.

It will be followed by frigid air which is already in Illinois and Ohio at just 7 degrees for the high temperature today, and heavy winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour.

The weather service predicted daytime highs of about 15 degrees for New York City on this Friday, with wind chills as low as -10 degrees.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said the state may approach record lows this weekend with temperatures potentially dropping to -12 degrees or as low as -40 with the wind chill in some places.

Representatives for NJ Transit and for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates New York City’s subway and buses, as well as the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, said they expected to resume normal service today and through the weekend as the snow hits.

The storm hit the Northeast after blanketing swaths of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas with snow Wednesday.

On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for New York City, Long Island and Westchester County.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency with a focus on Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

By Thursday evening the storm had dropped 15 inches of snow in parts of Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island and 9 inches of snow in parts of New York City, including Manhattan.

The severe storm forced the region’s ports to close. By afternoon, most flights out of John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International airports had been canceled.

 “The weather is terrible out there,” said Andrea Bowman, 45 years old, a nursing assistant who was waiting for the subway in Manhattan. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

 

The Labor Department said the U.S. economy added 148,000 jobs in December as the unemployment rate held at a record 17-year low.

The December jobs number came in weaker than what economists and many analysts were expecting, but don't expect the disappointment to halt stocks' run higher, or dramatically change expectations for interest-rate increases in 2018, some traders are saying today.  Department stores were likely being as efficient with payroll as possible.

"It's not a big driver," said Justin Wiggs, managing director in equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus, adding that until there have been a couple meetings with Jerome Powell after he replaces Chairwoman Janet Yellen it will be difficult to ascertain where the Federal Reserve is going in terms of its rate increase policy.

It was a good year for manufacturing jobs and the economy is getting stronger every month.   The U.S. added 196,000 manufacturing jobs last year.  That's the most since 2014 and comes after the sector lost roughly 16,000 jobs in 2016.

Manufacturing growth has been accelerating recently as the global economic recovery picks up steam and the dollar continues to weaken, making U.S. products cheaper abroad.  Robert Frick, an economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, said growth in the factory sector filters through to other parts of the economy, boosting things like equipment sales.

Whether the border wall will ultimately get built is a long way away, but today The White House and Trump administration is asking Congress for nearly $18 billion to construct more than 700 miles of new and replacement barriers along the southwest border, offering its most detailed description yet of the president’s vision for the wall.

It would bring another giant spark to the economy in border states and the request if granted, would be a major expansion from the 654 miles of barrier now, bringing the total to nearly 1,000 miles—about half of the entire southwest border.

The plans are laid out in a document prepared by the Department of Homeland Security for a group of senators who asked the administration to detail its request for border security. The document was described to The Wall Street Journal by two people who had seen it.

In total, the administration details about $33 billion in desired new border-security spending, including funding for technology, personnel and roads. The document refers to this as “critical physical border security requirements.”

President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to build a “big, beautiful wall” on the border to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking, and promised Mexico would pay for it. Congress hasn’t agreed to spend any money on the project, and Mexico has repeatedly said it won’t fund it.

The document, from the Customs and Border Protection agency at the Department of Homeland Security, envisions the border-wall project unfolding over 10 years. If carried out as described, by 2027, about 970 miles of the 2,000-mile southwest border would have some sort of fencing or wall separating the U.S. from Mexico.

It comes as lawmakers and the White House negotiate an immigration package that would legalize young undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, a group known as Dreamers. The White House has demanded that border security be included in the legislation, and last month a group of GOP senators asked for details of what the White House is seeking.

While the Midwest to the east coast is getting hit with snow, ice, wind and cold weather, in Florida it is also cold – so cold that iguanas are falling from their perches in suburban trees. The National Weather Service in Miami said temperatures dipped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit early Thursday in parts of South Florida. That’s chilly enough to immobilize green iguanas common in Miami’s suburbs. A TV station shared images of an iguana on its back on a road. • IMAGE

APP STORE HAD $300 MILLION IN PURCHASES ON JANUARY 1 _ Apple has shared some staggering statistics about how well the App Store is doing. On January 1, 2018, the App Store had $300 million in purchases.

… Over 500 million people visit the App Store every week.

Why is gas priced at nine-tenths of a cent?  Marketing.  The Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford, Oregon, quotes Craig Randolph, an oil company’s V.P. of retail operations. He says the nine-tenths of a cent is just a marketing gimmick that likely begun during the 1970 “gas wars.” Over the years, it became the standard.

… One web site argues that the precision of nine-tenths gives motorists a “false sense of accuracy” over their purchase. It goes on to state that this method of pricing “requires that almost all purchases be rounded to the nearest whole cent,” which benefits oil companies.

…  Dr. James Madachy believes it’s primarily a marketing thing (“It looks cheaper”), but acknowledges charging nine-tenths of a cent can be unfair to the consumer. According to Madachy, the state of Iowa “outlawed the practice for four years during the 1980s.” However, the movement (if you can call it that) didn’t have much success.

The hospital gown seems to be getting a makeover at major hospitals.  least one type of improvement in coverage Americans can look forward to: the end of the dreaded exposed rear end created by back-tying hospital gowns. In partnership with students from Parsons School of Design, “healthwear company” Care and Wear, has created a new kimono-inspired hospital gown that opens in the front, has a shielding pleat in the back, replaces five types of gowns with one, and allows for partial exposure through the use of ties and snaps. This month MedStar, a 10-hospital nonprofit health care system, has begun testing the gown at one of its smaller community hospitals, the Montgomery Medical Center in Olney, Maryland. If the trial run is successful, MedStar will use the gown in its other locations.

Donald Trump’s former press secretary Sean Spicer admitted Thursday that he “screwed up” in some of his White House press briefings. He told reporters this week: “There were times where I screwed up. There’s no question about. The inauguration [crowd size] … I would say that’s first and foremost.” Spicer was referring to a briefing he gave the day after the inauguration where he insisted, falsely, that Trump had “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe.”

They are smoking pot in Vermont.  The Vermont House of Representatives voted on Thursday to legalize possession and home cultivation of marijuana. Gov. Phil Scott has promised to sign the bill into law after the Senate votes to approve the new language, expected next week.

 

The new book about Donald Trump is sparking interest and speculation and will be well read for sure.  The publisher of an explosive new book about Donald Trump’s first year in the White House is allowing sales to begin early due to high demand. Henry Holt & Company, the publisher of journalist Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is allowing several retailers to begin selling the book today (Friday), four days earlier than its original publication date.

… Book retail executives say Trump’s tweets about the book are the lone reason there has been a big spike in interest and in online preorders.

Mom says she found a cure for the common cold. There are tons of parents who absolutely live by home remedies when it comes to their kids’ minor illnesses. Mom Debbie Vigan took to Facebook to share her find: “So [my son] had a little cold so I put potatoes in his socks last night around 8-9pm. He didn’t cough through the night, nose isn’t running, isn’t as congested and he slept for 12 hours.” The mother also included a photo of the potatoes she had taken out of her son’s socks in the morning. The used potato slices had oxidized completely, looking a sickly black color.

… According to her Facebook post, Debbie read about the home remedy — where else — on the Internet. While there seems to be very little scientific evidence to support these claims, many people online credit the home remedy with curing the common cold and reducing fevers. Some claim the potatoes work by drawing “toxins” out of the body, which reduces illness and helps absorb body temperature to reduce fevers. Again, there remains little to no scientific evidence that these claims are true.

So long Boeing 747.   On Wednesday, Delta Airlines flight 9771 flew from Atlanta to Pinal Airpark in Arizona. It wasn’t a full flight — just 48 people were on board. But it was a milestone — and not just for the two people who got married mid-flight — for it marked the very last flight of a Boeing 747 being operated by a U.S. airline. Delta’s last scheduled passenger service with the jumbo was actually late in December, at which point it conducted a farewell tour and then some charter flights. But as of this week, after 51 long years in service, if you want to ride a 747 you’ll need to be traveling abroad.

Comcast reportedly fired about 500 salespeople shortly before Christmas, despite claiming that the company would create thousands of new jobs in exchange for a big tax cut. Comcast apparently tried to keep the firings secret while it lobbied for the tax cut that was eventually passed into law. The Philadelphia Inquirer revealed the Comcast firings this week in an article based on information from an anonymous former employee, Comcast documents, and other sources in the company.

The moon is about to do something it hasn’t done in years.  Get red again.  Call it whatever you like — a blue red moon, a purple moon, a blood moon — but the moon will be a special sight on January 31. Three separate celestial events will occur simultaneously that night, resulting in what some are calling a super blue blood moon eclipse. The astronomical rarity hasn’t happened for more than 150 years.

… A super moon, like the one visible on New Year’s Day, is the term for when a full moon is closest to the Earth in its orbit, appearing bigger and brighter than normal.

… On January 31, the moon will be full for the second time in a month, a rare occasion — it happens once every two and a half years — known as a blue moon.

… To top it off, there will also be a total lunar eclipse. But unlike last year’s solar eclipse, this sky-watching event isn’t going to be as visible in the continental United States. The best views of the middle-of-the-night eclipse will be in central and eastern Asia, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia, although Alaska and Hawaii will also get a glimpse.

 

THURSDAY, JANUARY 4, 2018

 

Another day, another former Trump White House strategist with disparaging remarks about the President. President Trump publicly repudiated Steve Bannon, his former senior strategist, after a new book surfaced in which Mr. Bannon made scathing and highly personal criticisms of some of the president’s top advisers, including several family members.

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency,” Mr. Trump said in a statement released to reporters on Wednesday. “When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind.”

In the new Bannon book to be published soon, Bannon says a June 2016 meeting between top Trump campaign aides and a Russian lawyer “treasonous” and aired concerns that missteps by aides could lead to legal jeopardy for the president.  Of course Bannon wasn’t even with the campaign for another month so how would he have exact knowledge of the meeting's details.   The meeting has become a focus of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign aides colluded with the Kremlin in the interference. Mr. Trump has said his campaign didn’t collude with Russia, and Moscow has denied meddling in the U.S. election.

The president’s statement was released after the publication of quotes and excerpts from “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff.  In the book, Bannon sharply criticizes the president’s adult children and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, all of whom Mr. Bannon sparred with during his six months inside the administration.  Mr. Bannon is quoted as describing Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and a White House adviser, as “dumb as a brick.” A spokeswoman for Ms. Trump didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Bannon declined to comment. A person close to him said Mr. Bannon didn’t deny his quotes in the book.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders called the book “trashy tabloid fiction” that was “filled with false and misleading accounts.”

Late Wednesday, an attorney for President Trump and his campaign sent a letter to Mr. Bannon demanding that he “cease and desist” making disparaging statements to the news media about Mr. Trump and his family. The letter from attorney Charles Harder said that Mr. Bannon violated the terms of his employment agreement with the Trump campaign by making the comments.

The letter contends that Mr. Bannon also discloses “confidential information” to Mr. Wolff.  In talking to Mr. Wolff, Mr. Bannon “in some cases” made “outright defamatory statements” about the president and his family, the letter alleged.  The letter called on Mr. Bannon to confirm within 24 hours that he will comply with the demands.

 

House Speaker Paul Ryan and other congressional leaders emerged Wednesday from a meeting with White House officials without a budget deal, as Democrats intensified their push to reach an immigration agreement as part of the negotiations.  Lawmakers returning to Washington from their holiday break have less than three weeks before the government’s current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 20. The path to keeping the government funded likely hinges on resolving many thorny issues that Congress has been postponing.   The top four congressional leaders met with senior White House officials Wednesday afternoon. The talks were complicated, they indicated, by a debate over how to reach a dealaimed at aiding young undocumented immigrants and tightening border security.

The tenor of the meeting was “surprisingly good,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) told senior Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas) said.

 “It’s time that Congress pass DACA protections into law and fix this once and for all,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, on Wednesday.  Mr. Schumer said Democrats were willing to support some new measures to tighten border security along with measures legalizing the Dreamers, but drew the line at a physical wall along the length of the border with Mexico.

“If our Republican colleagues and the president engage in good faith in that negotiation—without unreasonable demands like the absurdly expensive and ineffective border wall, that publicly many Republicans oppose and privately many more do—I do not doubt that we can reach an agreement on DACA that’s acceptable to both sides,” he said.

Democrats said the increase in nondefense spending is necessary for other critical needs, including combating the opioid epidemic, health-care research and diplomacy.

Subaru Inc. has some new 2018 models in the works, which is helping them become one of the world’s most profitable car companies by selling Japanese-inspired wagons to American buyers with unconventional tastes.

Now, with its dependence on the U.S. market increasing, the Tokyo-based auto maker is launching the Ascent, an eight-seater sport-utility vehicle that it hopes will appeal to middle America’s infatuation with larger and heavier cars.

Two-thirds of new vehicle buyers in the U.S. chose SUVs or pickup trucks, according to Kelley Blue Book, up from about half in 2013—a trend that has helped boost overall transaction prices.

When the Ascent goes on sale this summer—starting in the low $30,000s—Subaru will join Volkswagen AG , Nissan Motor Co. , Hyundai Motor Corp. and other foreign brands adding bigger vehicles to their lineups.   The U.S. accounts for nearly 70% of Subaru’s global sales volume.

Subaru’s Ascent, with an all-wheel drive and a prominent trucklike front grille, is designed to meet the preferences of American drivers. The model has 19 cup holders and boasts nearly twice as much towing capacity as the company’s popular Outback model, a crossover wagon.

Many U.S. dealerships are welcoming the new addition, saying that Subaru’s existing line hasn’t been able to stem an exodus of owners abandoning the brand in search of more towing power, seating options and extra room.   Subaru says the Ascent is designed to be roomier and more stylish than its star-crossed predecessor, capable of taking on the Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander, two of the most popular midsize SUVs, both featuring plenty of cargo space and plush interiors.

“Our best business opportunity is to go big,” Subaru executive vice president Takeshi Tachimori said during an interview at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. The century-old company has pumped $1.5 billion over the past five years to expand an Indiana plant where the Ascent will be built alongside smaller models.

Americans bought a record 647,956 Subaru vehicles last year, nearly twice as many as five years ago, the company said.  This gives Subaru a 3.8% market share—on par with Hyundai’s 3.9%, according to Autodata Corp.

Subaru expects U.S. growth to continue with the Ascent coming to market, and has forecast a slight sales increase for its current fiscal year through March to 668,000 vehicles. 

Well, nobody won the Powerball Jackpot last night which means an even bigger cash prize will now be available in the next drawing on Saturday night.  The size of the jackpot jumped to an estimated $550 million from the $460 million prize heading into Wednesday's drawing.

The winning numbers that no one managed to claim were 2, 18, 37, 39, and 42, with a Powerball number of 12.

But just because no one claimed the jackpot doesn't mean there were no winners. In fact at least six tickets won secondary prizes of $1 million or more. Be sure to check your tickets -- every year billions of dollars in prize money goes unclaimed.  And there's another chance to win big coming up.

With no jackpot winner since Oct. 13, Mega Millions has an estimated jackpot of $418 million up for grabs tonight.

Americans do love buying lottery tickets. They spent more than $80 billion on them in 2016. That's more than they spent on movies, video games, music, sports tickets and books -- combined.

Defying federal government laws to contact ICE, the state of Washington is now suing Motel 6, alleging the low-cost hotel chain repeatedly provided detailed information about guests to federal immigration authorities for at least two years in violation of a state consumer protection law.  Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday that at least six corporate-owned hotels provided U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials daily lists of guests, including their names, driver’s license numbers, dates of birth and room numbers.

“The scale of what Motel 6 was doing is deeply disturbing to me,” Mr. Ferguson said. “My message for Motel 6 is I am taking this case very, very seriously. They will be held accountable.”

Officials at Motel 6, which is owned by private-equity firm Blackstone Group LP, didn’t respond to requests for comment Wednesday. The chain has said in the past that it instructed hotel operators to refrain from voluntarily and routinely sharing guest information with federal immigration authorities.

Mr. Ferguson said Motel 6 committed more than 9,000 violations of the state’s Consumer Protection Act for what he described as egregious privacy violations from about Jan. 1, 2015, through September 2017.  He said the company’s practice of voluntarily sharing guest information also violated the budget hotel chain’s own privacy policy.  The state lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Seattle, seeks a permanent injunction to block the hotel chain from sharing guest information without a warrant.  Washington officials said at least six hotels in the state routinely provided lists of guests to ICE and at least six people suspected of being in the country illegally were detained as a result.  Mr. Ferguson said guest lists were provided daily and the hotel chain kept records of the information sharing using a “law enforcement acknowledgement form.”

ICE spokeswoman Yasmeen Pitts O’Keefe said Wednesday the agency receives “viable enforcement tips from a host of sources” but declined to discuss its possible interactions with Motel 6. She added that motels and hotels have “frequently been exploited by criminal organizations engaged in highly dangerous illegal enterprises, including human trafficking and human smuggling.”

The agency isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit.  The company said it would tell staff at all of its more than 1,400 locations in the U.S. that they are prohibited from voluntarily providing such information to immigration authorities. “We will be undertaking a comprehensive review of our current practices and then issue updated, company-wide guidelines,” Motel 6 said at the time.  The Motel 6 chain has more than 110,000 rooms in the U.S., making it the sixth-largest brand, according to STR. Holiday Inn Express, with more than 177,000 rooms, is the largest.

In November 2016, the Los Angeles city attorney sued G6 Hospitality, alleging that a Motel 6 location in the city’s San Fernando Valley was being used as a base for drug dealers and prostitution rings. Last August the city reached a $250,000 settlement with the owners, which included an agreement for guest registration requirements and a “do not rent” list for known criminals.

Are you attending the Royal Wedding in May?  When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get married in May, they won’t be the only ones celebrating. The event could generate an economic windfall for Britain —as much as $680 million. That’s because of an expected influx of tourists, along with locals spending extra money as they celebrate the big day on May 19. The Office of National Statistics says that 350,000 visitors came to the U.K. for the 2011 wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and a similar surge is predicted for the May 19 event.

Christmas gifts of things like power tools given to dedicated do-it-yourself home handymen sends thousands of them to the hospital in the weeks after the holiday. A medical expert says, “They’ll be trying out a new saw or a new power-staple gun and next thing you know they are in the [emergency room] with a nail through their arm.”

Mount Vernon’s Revolutionary War Theater just reopened after a $2 million renovation, and it’s giving visitors a truly immersive history experience. As part of the renovation, the George Washington-centric museum in Virginia has created a new 17-minute film that shows off the best the new Revolutionary War Theater has to offer as it dives into some of the pivotal battles of the American Revolution. The film explores three of Washington’s major campaigns: Boston, Trenton, and Yorktown, placing guests within the ranks of the Revolutionary forces to give a more personal view of just how terrible conditions were. The 4D effects bring the weather inside the theater, immersing viewers in fog and falling snow as well as creating dramatic lighting. The seats vibrate and rumble as if shaking from canon fire, and shells appear to fly overhead.

Nacho Fries from Taco Bell.  That’s right. Taco Bell’s dollar menu has just upped its game with Nacho Fries. Taco Bell announced that the new item will see a “limited release” starting on January 25. Taco Bell describes the sliced potatoes as being dusted with seasoning and served with a side of their signature and somewhat spicy nacho cheese dip.

A new service in Oklahoma City promises a free DUI attorney for offenders in exchange of a baseline fee. The DUI Warranty, Option 2 advertises its service as a “DUI protection plan.” The starting plan of $20 ensures a free attorney if a client is arrested for a DUI.

… A DUI Warranty spokesperson said, “There are those people out there that are perfectly reasonable, responsible people that happen to get themselves in situations where they may be losing their jobs, drivers licenses or the ability to work from a DUI issued that they may not be able to afford.” The company says it does not encourage drunk driving by any means. In fact, the company lists “option 1” as not drinking and driving. They recommend calling for services such as Uber or Lyft.

Skittles and Valentine’s Day.  For the first time since late August, Skittles has released its newest festive flavor(s). According to junk food Instagram @junkbanter, Skittles’ brand new multi-flavored “Love Mix” is available in stores right now. Flavors include: watermelon, white grape, strawberry, cherry, and yumberry — a pitted fruit that looks like a raspberry and tastes like cranberry or pomegranate. In addition to @junkbanter, other snack food Instagrammers including @candyhunting and @junkfoodonthego have found the bagged confectionary on store shelves in Target.

Studies show housework is the third-leading cause of arguments between married couples, right behind money and sex. Women spend 6 to 24 hours per week on household chores. In the book The Truth About Love, relationship consultant Pat Love offers a few tips on getting your man to carry a larger share of the load.

… DO stop picking up after him. After stepping on his dirty socks and underwear for a week, he’ll get the idea that they will stay on the floor until he picks them up. [We at the (jock) show suggests you DON’T light his messes on fire. While certainly a safety hazard, this line of action also creates a bigger mess.]

… DO tell him specifically what you want him to do. Give him specific tasks to complete. [We suggest you DON’T point and grunt.]

… DO praise him when he does well. Like well-trained dogs, positive reinforcement is the key to getting the behavior you want from your man. [The (jock) show recommends you DON’T hit him with a rolled up newspaper when he does poorly. Like poorly trained dogs, such punishment will only anger and confuse him.]

 

WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 3, 2018

 

Back to work, Congressional leaders and White House officials will sit today and try to iron out differences over spending on the Pentagon and other government agencies, with lawmakers hoping to avoid more short-term patches.

Congress voted before the holidays to keep the government open with a stop-gap spending bill and pushing the debate into the new year. Lawmakers returning to Washington have just three weeks before that current spending measure expires on  Jan. 19.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) will host a meeting  Wednesday afternoon with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.). They will be joined by Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney as they resume discussions over how to boost federal spending above the lower levels that will kick in unless Congress intervenes.

“Marc Short and Mick Mulvaney look forward to meeting on the Hill tomorrow to discuss budget caps with congressional leaders,” Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said Tuesday.

Democrats said they may bring up additional pressing issues as well, such as immigration policy and children’s health care.

Aides to the top congressional leaders have been meeting with White House staff including Mr. Short for weeks, but GOP leaders were focused on passing the tax overhaul, which squeaked through both chambers late last month. Now with the tax bill out of the way, aides said they were optimistic lawmakers could get closer to striking a budget deal, though sticking points remain.

Both parties want to increase spending for the military, but Democrats want to see that matched with an equal increase for nonmilitary spending, a concept they call “parity” in spending.

Wages in America are beginning to notch up so 2018 already has a good feel to it.  In U.S. cities with the tightest labor markets, workers are finding something that’s long been missing from the broader economic expansion: faster-growing paychecks.

Workers in metro areas with the lowest unemployment are experiencing among the strongest wage growth in the country. The labor market in places like Minneapolis, Denver and Fort Myers, Fla., where unemployment rates stand near or even below 3%, has now tightened to a point where businesses are raising pay to attract employees, often from competitors.  Nationally, wage growth has been stuck in neutral for the past two years, even as the unemployment rate has declined to the lowest level in 17 years.

During the past year, even Americans who had previously given up looking for work—so-called discouraged workers who aren’t counted in the unemployment rate—have come off the sidelines and returned to the labor force. And fewer people are now stuck in part-time jobs when they desire full-time work. That potentially points to improved income gains nationally in 2018, something the Federal Reserve will be monitoring as it looks for signs of nascent inflation.

City-level data “show the relationship between wage growth and a tight labor market still holds,” said Adam Kamins, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics. “You’re seeing the first movers into full employment and past it, with the uptick in wage growth.”

Competition for skilled workers has become especially fierce in industries such as construction, information technology and manufacturing, according to local economists and businesses.

Large metro areas including Denver, San Jose, Calif., and Austin, Texas,​ also have unemployment rates below 4% and are experiencing wage growth of at least double the 2% national average. The same trend is happening in smaller areas including Fort Myers, Des Moines, Iowa, and Ogden, Utah.

Low unemployment hasn’t been a reasonable predictor of wage growth throughout the economic expansion. In 2010 and ’12, wage growth in the 100 largest metro areas was clustered near 2% annually, regardless of the jobless rate, according to analysis by Moody’s Analytics.

A number of factors have helped keep wage growth in check since the recession ended in 2009. The unemployment rate may also not have fully reflected the degree of slack in the labor market because some Americans were too discouraged to look for work and others were stuck in part-time jobs.  But in areas facing worker shortages, companies are left with little choice but to raise wages.

Talking.  North and South Korean officials are thawing their relationship as the new year starts.  A special hotline for the first time in almost two years, is set for signaling a tentative thaw on the divided peninsula and highlighting differences between Seoul and Washington over how to deal with a nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

The reactivation of the telephone link across the demilitarized zone—severed by the North in 2016—came as South Korea’s government moved swiftly to follow-up on a New Year’s Day suggestion by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that he would be open to talks.

The North dialed the South and the call lasted about 20 minutes, according to the South’s unification ministry. “Hello, this is [name] speaking,” were the first words from a North Korean official on the line, according to the ministry, which didn’t release the North Korean official’s name or a full transcript.

The unification ministry said the call was conducted between staffers to ensure that the line was usable.

Seoul has proposed a face-to-face meeting next week on the North’s possible participation in winter Olympic Games being hosted in the South in February. South Korean officials have said they also want to discuss the North’s atomic-weapons program, which has made significant advances in the past year.

The tenor of the South’s diplomatic outreach offered a stark contrast to the tone from Washington, where President Donald Trump tweeted that he had a “Nuclear Button” that “is a much bigger & more powerful one” than one Mr. Kim boasted about in a New Year’s Day speech.

On Tuesday, Mr. Trump also tweeted about possible talks between North and South, writing: “Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not—we will see.”

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

By pursuing talks with the South, Pyongyang is likely seeking to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington—betting that would make a U.S. military attack less likely and lead to an easing of sanctions. Similar efforts by the North in the past to weaken the alliance have largely failed.

 

TUESDAY, JANUARY 2, 2018

 

It’s 2018, a new year and Congress gets back to work.  For the Democrats, Doug Jones will be sworn in Wednesday as Alabama’s newest senator, bolstering his party’s moderate wing and raising the prospect of growing philosophical divides among Senate Democrats.

After Mr. Jones is seated, Republicans will control 51 seats compared with 49 for Democrats. With that narrow majority, Republicans can lose no more than one GOP vote and still confirm President Donald Trump’s nominees on party-line votes. It also means that Republicans will need Democratic support to pass most legislation, which typically requires 60 votes to move past procedural hurdles.

How Mr. Jones—and the Democrats—use their strengthened position will go a long way toward determining what Congress accomplishes heading into the 2018 midterm elections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) wants to reach bipartisan deals in areas such as infrastructure spending. Yet, many Democrats are still brooding about last year, when Republicans cut the tax rate on the richest Americans, toppled a pillar of the Affordable Care Act, and put a conservative on the Supreme Court by using hardball partisan tactics.

No Democrat supported the GOP tax measure and the repeal of a mandate that individuals buy health-care insurance. Only three of them joined Republicans in voting to confirm Justice Neil M. Gorsuch on the nation’s highest court.

“I’m starting fresh,” Mr. Jones said in an interview. He said he wants to “reach some consensus to try to get things done,” and that “I want to do that not only across the aisle but within my own party. We’ve still got divergent views even within the party. I want to be that voice to try to bring people together.”

Feeling what other leaders in nations across the world must deal with these days, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has complete unrest going on his Iran and today blamed the U.S. and other enemies about the biggest protests in nearly a decade breaking out across the country.  A government crackdown on the unrest has been building as the protests threatened to continue for a sixth day and the death toll climbed to above 20, according to Iranian media reports.

 

“In recent days’ incidents, the enemies of Iran made a pact to cause problems for the Islamic system using various tools available to them, including money, weapons, politics and intelligence services,” Mr. Khamenei said, according to his official website.

The Supreme Leader didn’t say which of the enemies he believed were causing trouble and didn’t elaborate further. His words carry more weight than those of anyone else in Iran’s top-heavy system, in which he has final say in matters of state and direct control over the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the country’s most potent military force.

Some world leaders have slammed the Islamic Republic’s leadership response to the protests and encouraged protesters in recent days as the unrest spread across the country.

 

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Iranians were finally acting against a regime he called brutal and corrupt. “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights,” he tweeted. “The U.S. is watching!”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Iran’s regime would one day fall, and wished the protesters success in their quest. Israel’s foreign ministry, however, declined to comment on the protests, warning statements that appeared to stoke the unrest could bolster the Iranian regime’s claims it is under siege from foreign powers.

The protests have been widespread, cropping up in dozens of cities across the country. Some have drawn large crowds, while others have been smaller groups marching down streets and chanting. They have not yet reached the sheer scale of a movement in 2009, when mass protests by the so-called Green Movement challenged voting results that gave hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term.

 

At least 12 people died Monday, according to state-run and semi-official media, including two policemen and one member of the IRGC, adding to the death toll from earlier clashes.  Six were killed Monday night as they attempted to storm a police station and steal weapons in Qahderijan, a small city in central Iran, according to a state television website. Another three were killed in Khomeinishahr in central Iran, state television reported, without giving further details.

Okay, let’s put the same faces on the daily news as we always have.  NBC has named Hoda Kotb as co-anchor of the “Today” show following the firing of longtime co-anchor Matt Lauer, the network said today.

Ms. Kotb has been a co-host for the last hour of show since 2008. Her appointment to serve as co-anchor with Savannah Guthrie comes just over a month after Mr. Lauer was fired for sexual misconduct. Mr. Lauer had been a “Today” anchor for about 21 years.  NBC is owned by Comcast Corp.   Ms. Kotb has worked for NBC News since 1998. Ms. Kotb, who has also been a “Dateline” correspondent, will continue co-hosting the 10 a.m. hour of the show with Kathie Lee Gifford, the network said.

 

“This has to be the most popular decision NBC News has ever made and I am so thrilled,” Ms. Guthrie said during Tuesday’s show.   “Hoda, you are a partner and a friend and a sister and I am so happy to be doing this.”

“I’m pinching myself,” Ms. Kotb said during the show.

Robocalls were as bad as ever in 2017.  Complaints about automated telemarketing calls jumped last year, and have quintupled since 2009. A Federal Trade Commission report says that in 2017, the agency received over 375,000 complaints per month about automated robocalls, up from only 63,000 per month in 2009. That’s a total of 4.5 million robocall complaints, plus an additional 2.5 million complaints about live telemarketing calls. For comparison, there were 3.4 million robocalls and 1.8 million live calls in 2016.

… The report says that robocalls are steadily increasing because of cheap access to internet calling services and autodialing, and because it’s getting easier for spammers to hide their true identity and location. And in 2017 people reported more “neighborhood” number spoofing, where calls appear to come from a local area code.

First U.S. baby of 2018 not born in the states.  At the end of every calendar year, parents-to-be around the US wonder if their bundle of joy will be the one to nab the nation’s “first baby” honors. In 2018, that distinction goes to Logan James Lynch Perez — and he wasn’t born in any of the 50 states. The 6-pound, 15-inch infant was welcomed at two seconds after midnight Monday in Guam, a US territory.

On Monday California launched the first legal retail sales of marijuana, with people lining up early for ribbon cuttings, freebies and offerings ranging from joints to gummy bears to weed with names like Red Dragon.  Sales were brisk in the stores lucky to score one of the roughly 100 state licenses issued so far, but customers in some of the state’s largest cities were out of luck. Los Angeles and San Francisco hadn’t authorized shops in time to get state licenses and other cities, such as Riverside and Fresno, blocked sales altogether.

… California voters in 2016 made it legal for adults 21 and older to grow, possess and use limited quantities of marijuana, but it wasn’t legal to sell it for recreational purposes until Monday.

… Some 21 states have either legalized the use of marijuana or decriminalized it. Another 20+ allow marijuana for medical reasons.

Powerball and Megamillions are BIG.   More than a few people will start 2018 as multi-millionaires. Tuesday night’s Mega Millions jackpot has grown to $343 million and Wednesday’s Powerball jackpot is $440 million.

An Ohio man’s tongue-in-cheek obituary blames the winless Cleveland Browns for contributing to his demise. The obituary published in the Sandusky Register says Paul Stark died Wednesday at a hospice facility after a brief illness “exacerbated by the hopeless condition of the Cleveland Browns.”

… Stark’s obituary includes a nugget of the optimism. It says the 80-year-old “passed just before the Browns were prepared to turn the corner.”

LG TV has a new 88 inch screen, so we hope you didn’t buy a smaller one over the holidays. LG has unveiled a record-breaking 88-inch OLED TV that can show 8K pictures — but good luck finding anything to watch on it. The TV has 33 million pixels — four times as many pixels as current 4K UHD TVs.

Bosses don’t like love at the workplace, especially after 2017.  You may have your eye on the cutie in the next cubical, but don’t tell the boss. A survey of 43 human resource managers finds that more than a quarter think passion in the office has a negative impact on the work environment.

You may break up soon.  Winter is the season of the most breakups, believe it or not. A survey shows that 38 percent of all breakups by singles occur in the dreary months of winter. But never fear, spring is near: Only 15 percent of singles break up in the spring. About 23 percent break-up in the summer and fall. Other fun facts:

• 63 percent of break-ups are initiated by women.
• 4 percent say the hardest part of breaking up is getting back your stuff.

Job Resume misspelled words.   Your resume is your first chance to make a good impression with hiring managers. One misspelled word might not seem like a huge deal, but it can mean the difference between looking competent and appearing lazy. An Accountemps survey of 300 senior managers found that 63 percent of employers would reject a job candidate who had just one or two typos on their resume. Most misspellings on resumes slip through the cracks because spellcheck doesn’t catch them. The most common misspelling on resumes is a shockingly simple word.

… Career coach and resume writer Jared Redick of Resume Studio in San Francisco tells Business Insider that the most common misspelling he sees by far is confusing “lead” with “led.” If you’re talking about how you run meetings at your current job, the correct spelling is “lead,” which is in the present tense. If the bullet point is from a former position, use lead’s past tense: led. Yes, “lead” as in the metal can also be pronounced “led,” but most people have no need to discuss chemical elements on their job resumes.

New Year and likely the same boss.   For most people, it’s back to work today after a holiday weekend with family and friends. And for many, a new study shows, it will be under a bad boss. Nearly two of five bosses don’t keep their word and more than a fourth bad mouth those they supervise to co-workers (according to a Florida State University study).

And those all-too-common poor managers create plenty of problems for companies as well, leading to poor morale, less production and higher turnover. The old saying goes that employees don’t leave their job or company, they leave their boss. And here’s more proof from the study…

• 39 percent of workers said their supervisor failed to keep promises.
• 37 percent said their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
• 31 percent said their supervisor gave them the “silent treatment” in the past year.
• 27 percent said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
• 24 percent said their supervisor invaded their privacy.
• 23 percent said their supervisor blamed others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 29, 2017

 

Today, South Korea has seized a Hong Kong-registered ship suspected of sending oil to a North Korean vessel at sea, in direct violations agreed to by the U.S., China and the United Nations.  No oil is to go to North Korea as as part of efforts to tighten enforcement of on Pyongyang.

The Lighthouse Winmore is suspected of transferring up to 600 tons of oil to a North Korean ship on Oct. 19, days after loading the fuel at Yeosu, South Korea, the official said Friday. The move violated U.N. sanctions that ban such transfers of refined petroleum to North Korean vessels, he said.

The ship was held by South Korean customs officials on Nov. 24 after it returned to Yeosu, the official said. U.S. authorities provided relevant intelligence and information regarding the ship before the interception, he added.

“This case is representative of how North Korea tries to tactically go around U.N. Security Council sanctions using illegal networks,” the official said. “Seoul authorities will report to the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee after taking relevant action.”

The Lighthouse Winmore’s crew members will be allowed to return to their home countries after investigations are completed, the official said. He couldn’t confirm a report from South Korea’s semiofficial Yonhap news agency that said the Winmore had 25 crew members who were Chinese and Myanmar nationals.

The ship operates as a Hong Kong-flagged vessel. Calls to the company secretary listed on Win More Shipping Ltd.’s Hong Kong registry filing went unanswered Friday.

The Lighthouse Winmore is one of 10 ships that U.S. officials want blacklisted for violating U.N. sanctions that ban or limit the sale of oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea. If those ships are blacklisted, U.N. member countries would be required to bar them from their ports.

A post to President Donald Trump’s Twitter account on Thursday accused China of violating sanctions on North Korea, saying the president is “very disappointed that China is allowing oil to go into North Korea.” China denied it has violated sanctions.  China’s Foreign Ministry has denied knowledge of any alleged fuel transfers between Chinese and North Korean ships and questioned the veracity of the claims.

Why are larger cities with more growth, jobs and education getting further away from the life in rural American and smaller cities?   About 1 in 7 Americans lives in rural parts of the country, sitting outside any metropolitan area. A generation ago, most of these places had working economies, a strong social fabric and a way of life that drew a steady stream of urban migrants.

Today, many small cities are in crisis. Populations are aging, more working-age adults collect disability, and trends in teen pregnancy and divorce are diverging for the worse from metro areas. Deaths by suicide and in maternity are on the rise. Bank lending and business startups are falling behind. Here is the data that tells the story. For decades, as migration to America’s small towns rose and fell, they barely managed to keep growing. Rural families formed and had just enough children to offset losses from those who left and those who died.

More recently, fewer young adults stayed or returned home after college or from distant jobs. That meant fewer marriages and fewer children. City-weary arrivals dwindled as well, meaning populations have shrunk.

In the 1990s, a few rural areas began to record more deaths than births. Then the deep recession of 2007-2009 lowered U.S. birthrates and slowed migration and immigration. Collectively, all of rural America now faces the grim prospect of natural decrease, meaning more deaths than births over time. Few immigrants are moving to rural areas. Most seek work and neighbors in places that are familiar, which largely means urban areas. This has opened a cultural gulf between diverse, growing cities and mostly white, aging small towns.

Social trends have weakened rural families. Couples marry earlier in rural areas, but marriages can founder in a shaky economy. Among women ages 20 to 34 who live in rural areas, 6.5% are divorced, compared with 3.6% of their counterparts in large cities. One reason is that almost two-thirds of city women in that age group have never been married, compared with just half of rural women. mLater marriage means fewer opportunities for divorce.

A continuing public-health campaign to limit teenage births has produced a related urban-rural gap. The campaign includes education programs and access to contraceptives. While teen births are falling around the U.S., they are falling much faster in urban areas, where the campaigns have been more effective. One factor behind falling teen birthrates:

Rising college attendance by women. In 2015, for the first time, the share of women ages 25 and older who held at least a bachelor’s degree topped that of men. Women earn 57% of new bachelor’s degrees. This tide has risen most sharply in large cities and their suburbs. Education gaps have long-term consequences. More jobs—especially full-time jobs with benefits—require a bachelor’s or advanced degree. Without a larger share of college graduates, small towns have little hope of closing the income gap.

The recession hammered Americans’ net worth, which had been slipping for years in rural areas. For many families, the bulk of their net worth is in home equity. The housing-market boom and collapse hit fast-growing suburbs hardest but didn’t spare small towns.   The stock-market boom and resurgent urban-home prices have largely benefited upper-income households, widening the urban-rural gap in family net worth.

The violent crime rate for major cities has fallen enough to match that of small towns, wiping out much of the “safety premium” that rural America once enjoyed. This shift weakens one of the motives to move from urban to rural areas, especially for families with children.

Circumstances behind rural poverty vary—for instance, among American Indian reservations, migrant-worker settlements and small towns that lose employers. Rural poverty has persistently run higher than urban poverty.

Men in rural areas are working less. They are typically older and less educated than their urban counterparts, reducing the number of jobs they are eligible for and the pay they can secure. Rates of disability among small-town workers have long been higher, partly due to such physically taxing jobs as farming and mining. The rates are rising faster, too, in part, because rural workers tend to be older. One cause is the lack of capital for new or small businesses. Adjusted for inflation, loans by banks of less than $1 million haven't recovered in rural areas since the recession.

 In the past couple of decades, better prevention and treatment have produced gains against heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer. The biggest improvements occurred in large cities, thanks to lower smoking rates, widespread cholesterol-lowering drugs and better emergency care, among other factors. The same pattern appears in death rates from cancer, the No. 2 killer in the U.S. Rates have fallen sharply in major cities and barely in rural areas. (Rates are adjusted to cancel effects due solely to some groups being older and more likely to be diagnosed with cancer.) The best gains stem from prevention, screening and treatment.  That requires good primary care, advanced surgical treatments and drug trials at specialized hospitals.  Diabetes rates indicate an ominous long-term problem for rural areas. They are higher than in urban areas and rising faster.

One grim measure of the quality of rural life is the rising maternal death rate. More pregnant women have high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity or a history of drug use. Yet rural care for pregnant women is slipping. From 2005 to 2014, 15% of rural hospitals closed or ended maternity services. In suburban and urban areas, 5% did. Closures can prompt obstetrician/gynecologists to move, eroding health care for rural women.

 The nation’s suicide rate is also becoming worst in small towns. Suicide is often traced to untreated clinical depression or other mental-health troubles.  Smaller cities will have to learn to save themselves.

Apple is apologizing for its  handling of concerns about performance issues in iPhones with older batteries in the wake of a wave of consumer complaints.

“We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down,” Apple said in a note posted to its website on Thursday. “We apologize.”  The company said it will slash prices of replacement batteries and add, in the coming year, software that gives insight into the health of an iPhone battery. It also released a detailed support page explaining battery issues.

 

Apple has been under fire since early December from users and tech analysts who said they had noticed a slowdown in the performance of older iPhones. The criticism was fueled further last week when John Poole, founder of the computer-performance testing group Geekbench, wrote a blog post speculating that Apple was intentionally throttling performance on phones with older batteries.  Apple then said last week it slowed the phone’s performance as batteries age to prevent the iPhone from unexpectedly shutting down. When it is struggling to meet power demands, the phone can suddenly shut down to protect its “electronic components,” the company said. Apple initially slowed older phones, including the iPhone 6, 6s and SE, but recently extended the throttling to newer iPhone 7 models.

 

Apple was quickly criticized by bloggers and technology pundits for not disclosing the practice sooner, and the incident has caused some users to question the quality of Apple’s devices and the motivation behind Apple’s choice to curb performance. The company also is facing numerous lawsuits over the issue.

 

The U.S. adds another new person every 18 seconds.  The combined total of births, deaths, and net immigration will add one more person to the total U.S. population every 18 seconds in 2018. The U.S. population on New Year’s Day 2018 is projected to be 326,971,407. At the projected growth rate, the U.S. population could be expected to grow by about 1.75 million in 2018. The data were published Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

… The agency’s estimate the country’s population grows by one person every second is based on three elements: one birth every 8 seconds; one death every 10 seconds; and one international migrant (net) every 29 seconds.

… The global population on New Year’s Day is projected to reach 7,444,443,881, a 1.07% increase since last January 1, adding about 78.52 million people to the world’s population.

Apple has been in hot water for the last few weeks after the company admitted that it sometimes reduced processor speeds on iPhones with aging batteries as a way to balance performance and battery life. On Thursday, the company apologized for not being more transparent with its customers and released more details on how exactly iOS manages battery and performance.

… For starters, the company says that “we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades.”

… To help mitigate the confusion Apple caused, the company is now offering reduced out-of-warranty battery replacement. For $29, you can get a new battery for your phone regardless of whether it’s covered by AppleCare or not; that’s down from the old $79 fee. Unfortunately, that’s only a temporary discount that will last through the end of 2018. Additionally, Apple says it is going to release an iOS update early next year that’ll give users more info on the health of their iPhone’s battery so they can see if its condition is affect phone performance.

You may think your bathroom scales are the only way to weigh yourself. But in a new medical breakthrough, scientists have discovered ‘internal bathroom scales’ already do the job for you. Swedish researchers have uncovered evidence of a mechanism in the brain of mice that operates in the exact same way. According to the researchers (University of Gothenburg) body weight is recorded by the brain whenever someone stands. If it notices an increase in weight, it triggers a signal that subconsciously tells the brain to stop eating so much food.

… However, the internal scales don’t work for those who sit down too long, such as office workers who spend hours sitting at their desk or TV binge-watchers.

They drop a ball in Times Square. Here’s a list of other stuff dropped around the world on New Year’s Eve.

If divorcing, who should pay the remaining debt and bills?  A lawyer says the pressure today on young couples to stage increasingly expensive “fairytale” weddings is now so great that some are still trying to pay off the bills when they get divorced.

… One law firm, which handles around 300 divorces a year, said that a small but significant number of such disputes that his firm sees center on who should clear loans used to pay for the couple’s honeymoon or the wedding ceremony itself.

 

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2017

 

Right now is a good time to pay your property taxes.  Homeowners across the nation are rushing this week to prepay their property taxes for 2018 before the Republican tax law kicks in Jan. 1 and effectively raises the levy on higher-end homes.   The new legislation, which President Donald Trump signed into law last week, caps at $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes that filers can deduct from their federal tax bill. That means those whose tax bills regularly exceed that amount could benefit by paying more tax in 2017, when the deduction has no limit.

Municipal offices in a number of states saw a busy post-Christmas rush yesterday, as taxpayers calculated the effects of the new law. In Fairfax County, Va., where property values have risen sharply in recent years, hundreds of people lined up at the government center to prepay. Across the Potomac River, in Montgomery County, Md., the county council held a special session Tuesday morning to pass legislation allowing residents to prepay their taxes.

The new tax law “is a middle-class tax hike for us, and we’re trying to postpone at least some of that for at least one more year,” said Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer.

In Massachusetts, local treasurers welcomed the sudden surge in tax receipts. “It’s been insane here,” said James McAuliffe, the town treasurer in the Boston suburb of Milton, adding that he went to the bank Tuesday morning to deposit early property-tax receipts and would likely have to go again in the afternoon.  “Thank you, Mr. Trump, for solving my cash-flow issues,” said Mr. McAuliffe, who estimated that about half the residents of his municipality would hit the new $10,000 cap. “It’s become a very expensive town.”

The $10,000 limit also covers state and local income and sales taxes, but lawmakers drafting the bill barred people from prepaying those other levies. “It left it up to the localities whether or not they would allow you to prepay” property taxes, said Nicole Kaeding, an economist at the Tax Foundation.

It’s a quagmire at city and county government offices this week regarding the chance to prepay property taxes ahead of time, but the Internal Revenue Service is cautioning that not all property-tax prepayments can be deducted amid a rush of homeowners paying their 2018 property taxes before the Republican tax law takes effect in January.   The IRS said property taxes that haven’t been assessed before 2018 won’t be deductible on 2017 tax returns. State and local law determines when property taxes are assessed and those dates vary by location, the IRS said.

“A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017,” the IRS said in its advisory.

The new tax bill signed into law on Friday caps the amount that tax filers can deduct in state and local income, sales and property taxes at $10,000, beginning next year.  Many homeowners in high tax states like New York and California have been scrambling to prepay their 2018 property taxes before year-end in order to claim a full deduction on their 2017 tax return.  But many municipalities don’t have full 2018 property tax bills ready.

Officials in New York’s Westchester County said Tuesday that the county wouldn’t be able calculate the final tax obligations for each of its municipalities before the end of the year. In New Jersey, most towns have calculated the property tax bills for the first and second quarter of 2018, but not for the third and fourth quarter.

The IRS also cited a number of provisions that taxpayers can still deduct in 2017. “Time remains to make charitable donations,” the advisory said.

In Alabama, someone doesn’t know when to quit.   Republican Roy Moore isn’t riding off quietly into the sunset.   The U.S. senate candidate, who lost a fiercely contested special election to Democrat Doug Jones on Dec. 12, filed a lawsuit to block the certification of the vote scheduled for today.   In a complaint filed in a state court late Wednesday, Mr. Moore called for a state investigation into “potential election fraud.”

Mr. Moore hasn’t conceded he lost the race, though preliminary vote tallies show Mr. Jones received about 20,000 more votes than Mr. Moore out of more than 1.3 million cast.

“This is not a Republican or Democrat issue as election integrity should matter to everyone,” he said in a statement.

Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill told the Associated Press Wednesday evening that he has no intention of delaying the canvassing board meeting.

“It is not going to delay certification and Doug Jones will be certified (Thursday) at 1 p.m. and he will be sworn in by Vice President Pence on the third of January,” Mr. Merrill said.​

Mr. Jones, widely considered the winner, will be the first Democrat sent to the U.S. Senate from Alabama in more than two decades. His victory was a defeat for President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Mr. Moore despite allegations, first reported in the Washington Post, that Mr. Moore had inappropriate relationships with adolescent girls decades ago.

Sam Coleman, a spokesman for Mr. Jones’ transition team, dismissed the complaint as a “desperate attempt by Roy Moore to subvert the will of the people.”

“The election is over,” he said in an email. “It’s time to move on.”

CPAs are suddenly very popular.  The fine points of pass-through business income and the state-and-local-tax deduction are now the hot talk and everyone is talking to their CPA or looking for a better one.  “You realize how relevant it is, and you realize how important it is to helping your clients,” said Adam Katz, a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP tax partner specializing in international taxes. “You find yourself at the center of a lot of very important discussions.”

But CPAs are now paying a price for that new tax bill passed, like enjoying 12- 16-hour days, carry-in pizza for every meal and postponed or canceled time off for the holidays. They have had to scramble to bone up on each complex, shifting version of the tax overhaul and field waves of inquiries from anxious clients.

“I’ve been in every morning about 6:30, go home to eat around 6, back online, check out around 9:30,” said Jeff Watkins, a tax attorney and CPA who works with wealthy clients at EKS&H LLLP in Denver. “I sent an email yesterday to a bunch of clients saying I’ll work through the weekend trying to figure things out.”

The process has been even more difficult because the provisions of the overhaul kept changing, right up to the final version in mid-December.

Some CPAs felt compelled to quickly learn each new version and follow every twist and turn. “You find yourself reading pages and pages of legislation trying to figure out what it means,” PwC’s Mr. Katz said. “It’s like a big jigsaw puzzle.”

Others preferred to wait until the law was finalized. “I was trying to stay away from learning about laws that are not yet law,” said Jeffrey Baddish, a CPA at Shalik Morris & Co. in Woodbury, N.Y.

December is always busy for tax preparers as they help clients position portfolios before a new tax year begins. But the rush to get the tax overhaul enacted by Christmas, and the uncertainty about many of its provisions until the very end, has made the pace especially hectic this year.

is trying to help some clients with multiple homes prepay their property taxes by the end of the year, before the new law limits taxpayers’ ability to deductthose taxes. One client who has two homes in Colorado and a home in Hawaii could save tens of thousands of dollars by prepaying. “We’re trying to figure out the math,” he said. All that work will have a payoff, at least: CPAs acknowledge the complexity of the new overhaul is likely to ensure demand for their services remains high. There is no more talk that tax rules would be so simple that returns could fit on a postcard.

In particular, changes in the pass-through rules, which govern businesses where the income is reported on the owner’s individual tax return, are “going to create so much work for us,” said Mark Soukup, president of Soukup Bush & Associates, a Fort Collins, Colo., accounting firm. “I hate to be flip, but it’s going to be an accountant’s retirement act.”

Yesterday in court, three different U.S. cities filed a federal lawsuit to force the Pentagon to properly report dishonorable discharges to a federal gun background-check system after a court-martialed Air Force veteran killed 26 people in a Texas church last month.

The lawsuit, brought by officials in New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia, seeks to secure full military compliance with federal requirements meant to ensure that those found guilty of   while in uniform can’t buy guns once they are kicked out of the service.In the recent shooting in Texas, Devin Kelley, who was thrown out of the Air Force in 2012 for assault against his wife and stepson, used a gun he purchased legally, but which he should have been barred from buying.

The military’s existing reporting system requires people like Mr. Kelley to be reported to an FBI central database used during standard background checks to buy weapons. The Texas case revealed a systemic failure of the military’s reporting system to forward the required information.

The lawsuit “is intended to prevent such senseless carnage from ever again being inflicted by current or former members of the military who should be blocked from acquiring guns or licenses to carry guns,” lawyers for the three cities said. “No new laws are required to achieve that goal.”

The cities allege the Defense Department is moving too slowly both with internal investigations and with plans to comply with existing laws. The lawsuit asks the court to force the Pentagon to take action to “diligently implement, and consistently apply, the unambiguous laws that have been on the books for decades.”

In response, Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson said: “The department continues to work with the services as they review and refine their policies and procedures to ensure qualifying criminal history information is submitted to the FBI for entry into the NCIC database.”

After Mr. Kelley’s rampage, the Air Force acknowledged it had failed to report him to civilian databases, which in turn prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to order a review of reporting procedures across all military services.

Weeks later, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the Army had experienced “a significant amount of omissions” in its reporting system and had neglected to report to civilian authorities an estimated 10% to 20% of the thousands of dishonorable discharges mandated for reporting.

A December report by the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General concluded the military has a spotty record in informing the FBI about cases in which its personnel have been court-martialed and convicted of serious offenses, such as manslaughter, sexual assault and larceny.  According to the report, 2,502 service members were convicted of serious offenses in 2015 and 2016. In 24% of those cases, the military services failed to submit what are known as “fingerprint cards” so they could be included in an FBI database. In 31% of the cases, the services failed to inform the FBI on the final disposition of the cases.

“Any missing fingerprint card and final disposition report can have serious, even tragic, consequences, as may have occurred in the recent church shooting in Texas,” the report said. “The failure to populate FBI databases with all the required fingerprint records can result in someone purchasing a weapon who should not. It can also hinder criminal investigations and potentially impact law enforcement and national security interests.”

The Air Force, the report noted, had the best record in submitting the required information. It failed to provide fingerprint and final disposition reports in 14% of the cases it handled. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps track records were significantly worse.

At a Senate hearing in December, Glenn Fine, the Defense Department’s acting inspector general, testified that the department has known about these issues for decades but has not fixed them. 

Fedex and UPS smiling if you don’t like your gifts.  Don’t like your holiday present? That’s a gift for FedEx and UPS. Consumers will return about $90 billion worth of goods this holiday season. That sum amounts to close to a quarter of the total value of goods returned each year.

… January marks the peak of returns, accounting for 51 percent of returns, but many consumers waste little time in returning their unwanted items right after Christmas. December 26 through December 31 accounts for 40 percent of returns.

… UPS said 5.8 million packages were shipped back to retailers in the first full week of January this year.

It’s not all glamour for professional basketball players. At least, when you’re playing in the G-League — the NBA’s minor league.  Marquis Teague and Trahson Burrell play for the G-League’s Memphis Hustle. On Christmas Eve, they were flying on American Airlines flight 3756 from Dallas to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. They weren’t flying First Class. However, two passengers who were gave them their blankets as a gesture of kindness. When the two players took their seats in coach a flight attendant accused them of stealing the blankets. Words were exchanged and, as happens on planes, those words led to the two players being asked off the flight. The Hustle’s assistant coach Darnell Lazare believes this was a clear case of racial profiling.

… American responded: “We apologize for what occurred on this flight. We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down. Our team at American, along with Envoy Air, is reviewing what happened, and will be reaching out to them.”

When a post from an old friend comes up on Facebook, do you read it? Donya McCoy of Pennsylvania sure is glad her old friends read hers. When Donya’s young daughter was diagnosed with a rare metabolic disease, she didn’t have many options. Her baby’s prognosis was bad — but doctors had a revolutionary idea. The new piece of Kennedy’s liver couldn’t come from someone she was related to. Donya was willing to do whatever she could to get her daughter what she needed. She decided Facebook was her best bet, so she posted a status. It was Donya’s old high school friend, Mike Thompson, who saw the post. He is a firefighter, and was willing to be the donor. And it worked.

Gaming Disorder may be classified at a mental illness.  There’s a certain point at which a gaming hobby can become too much. The World Health Organization is considering adding “gaming disorder” to the list of mental health conditions in its next update of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The 11th version of the ICD is not yet set, but the addition would be a recognition that a pastime can become problematic if it leads to a form of addictive behavior.

… Specifically, the draft’s language states that gaming behavior could be a disorder if it meets three characteristics: if a person loses control over their gaming habits, if they start to prioritize gaming over many other interests or activities, and if they continue playing despite clear negative consequences. This would add gaming to a list of other behaviors that can become problematic if people lose control over them, including gambling and disorders related to the use of substances like alcohol, marijuana, caffeine, or nicotine.

Erie has 53 inches of snow.  Be careful what you wish for: Residents of Erie, Pennsylvania who were dreaming of a white Christmas got more than they bargained for when a jaw-dropping 53 inches of snow fell on the city and its surrounding areas over a 30-hour period. The white stuff started to fall on Christmas Day, and by the end of Monday there was a total of 34 inches on the ground. It was a record-setting total for the city, clobbering its previous snowiest-day-ever, when 20 inches fell on November 11, 1956. But Mother Nature wasn’t done with them yet.

… The heavy snowfall continued into Tuesday morning, dropping another 19 inches, for a grand total of 53 inches of snow — just under 4½ feet — by Tuesday morning. But it’s still not over; the snow is expected to continue through today (Wednesday).

… Check out some photos.

 

 Since 2010, Library of Congress has been archiving every single public tweet: Yours, ours, the president’s. But on Tuesday, the institution announced it will no longer archive every one of our status updates. As of January 1, the library will only acquire tweets “on a very selective basis.” The library doesn’t say how many tweets has in its collection now, but in 2013 it said it was collecting a half a billion tweets a day.

Ever order something on Amazon.com — something small, perhaps — and it shows up in a box 20 times the necessary size? Blame robots. Amazon uses some super complicated software to determine which box to use, but it’s not based solely on the size of the product. Instead, the software also takes into account the actual truck that will be carrying your package to a distribution center, as well as the other boxes that will be in the truck. The software is basically playing Tetris to find the most efficient way to stack boxes inside the truck. Sometimes a truck won’t have as many packages to carry, and Amazon will automatically put your product into a larger box. That way there’s less empty room in the back of the truck. Which is good. Otherwise, the packages would slide around and could get damaged.

Women have long surpassed men in the arena of environmental action; across age groups and countries, females tend to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Compared to men, women litter less, recycle more, and leave a smaller carbon footprint. It’s not that men don’t care about the environment. But they also tend to want to feel macho, and they worry that eco-friendly behaviors might brand them as feminine. Yes, it really is almost 2018.

… The research consisted of seven experiments involving more than 2,000 American and Chinese participants. The study showed that there is a psychological link between eco-friendliness and perceptions of femininity. Due to this “green-feminine stereotype,” both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviors, and consumers as more feminine than their non-green counterparts.

 

TUESDAY, DECEMBER 26, 2017

 

Department store retailers are having a great season with shopping spending more this season than in the past three years.  Fueled by high consumer confidence and a robust job market, U.S. retail sales in the holiday period rose at their best pace since 2011, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks both online and in-store spending.

Sales, excluding automobiles, rose 4.9% from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve, compared with a 3.7% gain in the same period last year.  Online shopping rose 18.1%.  “It started with a bang in the week leading up to Black Friday,” said Sarah Quinlan, a senior vice president of marketing insights at Mastercard. She added that retailers benefited this year from Christmas Day falling on a Monday, giving shoppers a full weekend to scoop up last-minute purchases. Dec. 23 ranked next to Black Friday in terms of spending, according to Mastercard.

 

“Overall, this year was a big win for retail,” Ms. Quinlan said.

 

It’s relief to department-store giants like Macy’s Inc. to mall favorites like Gap Inc.—that struggled through a difficult year of store closures, declining foot traffic and bankruptcies by chains including the Sports Authority, Toys ‘R’ Us and Payless Shoes.  Shares of Macy’s and Gap, for example, have jumped 24% and 18%, respectively, in the past month, compared with a 3% gain in the S&P 500.

 

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has rallied 40% on the year and, like online nemesis Amazon.com Inc., is trading near all-time highs.  Consumer confidence rose to a 17-year-high in November, while unemployment fell to a 17-year low in October.

 

No one should be complaining these days that there is nothing to watch on TV.

Last year, more than 450 scripted TV shows aired across broadcast, cable and streaming services, according to research from FX Networks. This year is on pace for even more scripted series, FX Networks Chief Executive John Landgraf said in August.

And viewers have more ways to watch than ever, thanks to the rise in streaming services that offer content on demand on any device, anywhere there is a cellphone or Wi-Fi signal.

More than 200 streaming services now compete for U.S. customers, including one from Sports Illustrated and an entertainment package called Philo lacking all sports, market research company Parks Associates said.

Even Walt Disney Co., which has agreed to buy select 21st Century Fox assets for $52.4 billion in stock, is getting in on the action with plans to launch an ESPN subscription video service in 2018 and a family friendly one in 2019 featuring its Marvel and “Star Wars” properties.

With the growth of more direct-to-consumer video platforms comes skyrocketing investment in original programming, from Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”—which this year became the first show from a streaming service to win the Emmyfor Outstanding Drama Series—to Netflix’s “The Crown” and the CBS All Access streaming exclusive “Star Trek: Discovery.”  Apple Inc. in August also said that it is joining the race, with plans to invest about $1 billion in original shows over the next year. Social-media giant Facebook Inc. likewise is willing to spend as much as $1 billion to cultivate original shows for its platform through 2018. Yet the efforts from Apple and Facebook pale in comparison with the $7 billion to $8 billion Netflix plans to spend licensing shows and creating original programming next year.

Some caution the new golden age of TV can’t last.   FX’s Mr. Landgraf has dubbed this the era of “peak TV,” warning there aren’t enough compelling story lines, creative talent or viewers to sustain the current pace.

While viewers are devoting their weekends to binge-watching “Stranger Things” and Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete,” the rapid emergence of streaming is wreaking havoc on the traditional TV business offered by Comcast, AT&T Inc., Charter Communications Inc. and others.

Consumers increasingly are cutting the cable cord in favor of less expensive online offerings or opting for skinnier bundles of TV networks that are closer to the “a la carte” dream.  The trend led to an accelerating dropin traditional pay-TV customers, with major distributors from Charter and Comcast to DirecTV and Dish Network losing a combined 2.6 million subscribers in the first nine months of the year.

The public's interest and faith in Special Counsel Robert Mueller is dropping fast.   Mueller is of course at the helm of the Justice Department’s probe into Russian interference in the presidential election, which he and his tam have been at for seven months with little to show for it.  One in three Americans either have no opinion of him or don’t know who he is, according to the latest NBC News poll

Positive feelings for Mueller was 28% in June and today that number has been reduced to 15%.  It’s time for him to wrap things up as Congress with head back to Washington D.C. next week.

Even the media have openly questioned Mr. Mueller’s credibility following reports that the special counsel over the summer took an FBI agent off of the Russia probe who had sent text messages disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, appointed to that role by President Trump, told Congress this month that he has no reason to question how Mr. Mueller is running his shop. 

Rosenstein said Mr. Mueller took “appropriate action” and removed the agent, Peter Strzok, immediately upon learning of the alleged texts in July.

Meanwhile, the president, along with his allies have ratcheted up their criticism of the Mueller probe after the text messages became public and following the actions involving Messrs. Manafort, Flynn and Papadopoulos.

Still, the December poll suggests the public’s view on Mr. Mueller is poised to keep shifting, and possibly wildly.  

Queen Elizabeth used her Christmas message to officially welcome Meghan Markle into the family. Displaying a photograph of Prince Harry and Megan as they celebrated their engagement in the garden of Kensington Palace, the Queen said she is looking forward to welcoming new members of the family in 2018. This year the Queen also paid tribute to her husband, the 96-year-old Duke of Edinburgh, in the year of their 70th anniversary, highlighting his “unique sense of humor”.

For the second year in a row, the Cleveland Browns will control the first round of the NFL draft. Cleveland secured the No. 1 overall pick with Sunday’s 20-3 loss to the Bears, a defeat that left the Browns with a staggering 0-15 mark on the year. The Browns become the first team to pick No. 1 overall in back-to-back drafts since Cleveland did the same in 1999 and 2000.

… With the Steelers up next and still fighting for playoff positioning in the AFC, the prospect of an 0-16 season is very real.

Working and gaining weight go hand in hand. Or hand to mouth.  Every employee strives for a fatter paycheck — but a survey shows that most are getting a plumper waistline instead. Cold weather, holidays and office parties can make the problem even worse. Forty-nine percent of workers say they’ve gained weight at their current jobs. Twenty-eight percent of workers have gained more than 10 pounds at his or her present job, while an additional 13 percent of employees have gained more than 20 pounds.

Some communities hate traffic-savvy navigation apps like Waze. A congested highway can send hundreds of commuters down streets that clearly weren’t meant for more than more than a handful of cars at any given time. And one town has apparently had enough. Leonia, New Jersey will close 60 streets to everyone but residents and workers at peak driving periods (6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 9PM) from January 22 onward. If you’re using a nav app, the town may effectively cease to exist at rush hour. It’s extreme, but Leonia is in an unusual position. When slow traffic steers people through the town, it can prove a nightmare for residents who might not even have a chance to leave home until the traffic clears. The town’s police chief said Leonia had tried limited closures and warning navigation app providers, but that just pushed problems on to other streets — and that’s assuming drivers heeded the redirections in the first place.

Workers are productive for about three hours a day.  Your brain is a muscle. Exercise it, but also give it plenty of rest. A new report says long hours at work increase your risk of heart disease by 40%, making it almost as dangerous as smoking. Also, the extra hours aren’t likely to help you get more done: One British survey found workers were only productive for about 3 hours in an 8-hour work day. You’re better off taking time to do nothing, allowing your brain to enter a resting state called the default-mode network.

Feel like you start the new year ready to reinvent your life, only to find that, a month later, you’ve given up on everything and are living a life that’s totally indistinguishable from last year? Maybe the problem isn’t you. Maybe you’re just bored of making and breaking the same resolutions over and over again. So why not break the rut this year? Try a new resolution — something creative and interesting.

… Choose one person you disagree with and take them out to lunch. Most of us are guilty of “other-ing” people who think or act differently than we do. As a result, we stop seeing their humanity and focus on their differences. Is there anyone you find yourself judging or negatively stereotyping because of their views? Invite them to lunch. However, before you meet, agree on some ground rules — that neither of you will persuade, defend or interrupt. Be curious, conversational and real. And be sure to listen.

… Schedule weekly time to be bored.
If your brain is always occupied, then you’re probably missing out on some of your best ideas. When you get bored, you ignite a network in your brain called the “default mode,” where we connect disparate ideas and solve some of our most nagging problems. Also during boredom we do something called “autobiographical planning.” This is when we look back at our lives, we take note of the big moments, we create a personal narrative, and then we set goals and we figure out what steps we need to take to reach them.

… Become pen pals with someone in prison. When Marlon Peterson was in prison, he began receiving letters filled with stories and cartoons from schoolchildren. They made him feel like he mattered, and he also shared them with two of his friends who were inmates. Now they’re all published writers, gun violence prevention advocates, and youth program innovators — and Marlon says he owes it to the pen-pal program. Once a month, gather some friends to write letters to people at a local prison. Your words might provide the motivation and hope that they need to rebuild their lives.

… Do one thing that scares you — knowing you’ll get rejected. Want to get over a fear of rejection? Jump head first into it. For 30 days, find a new way to get rejected every day. Like ask for a “burger refill” the next time you’re at a restaurant. Or, ask a stranger for $100. By the end, you’ll desensitize yourself from the pain of rejection — a pain that could be holding you back from goals you want to accomplish.

… Talk to a stranger every week. It’s easy to get swept up in your routine and forget about the people around you. This year, commit to talking to strangers — whether it’s the person waiting in line with you at the grocery store, someone you see everyday on your morning commute, or a parent at your child’s school. Even if it’s just “hello” or a “how are you doing today,” those little interactions can brighten your day and make another person feel seen.

Alan Robinson and Walter Macfarlane have been the best of friends for 60 years. But the Oahu, Hawaii men, got a life-changing surprise just in time for the holidays when they discovered they’re actually biological brothers. Walter had been searching for his father and decided to get a DNA test. When the results came back, the anonymous username Robi747 came back as a match in many ears. Walter knew his friend Alan Robinson often went by the nickname Robi — and he used to fly 747 airplanes.  After a few phone calls back and forth, the men learned they shared the same birth mother. The two best friends who are now brothers say it was the best Christmas present they could have imagined.

 

Friday, Dec. 22, 2017

Perhaps one of the most memorable political years in recent memory as President Donald Trump and the Republican controlled Congress, who opened their first year in full control of Washington on rocky terms, are surely confident now as they close the year with a major tax overhaul bill passed and looking toward 2018.

After the high-profile collapse of a health-care bill last summer to replace Obama care, the tax legislation itself is a victory that changes the narrative of the first year, some observers said.

“To be viewed as an effective president, you have to be viewed as winning on Capitol Hill, and this ends the year on an up note for him,” said Ken Duberstein, former chief of staff for Republican President Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Trump and Congress will add their 11th-hour achievements to the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and other conservative judges to federal courts and the rollback of Obama-era regulations through the Congressional Review Act, which until now had been frequently cited by supporters of the administration.

The White House, after court fights, also managed to get a modified version of Mr. Trump’s travel ban in place, and the president has been able to implement a more vigorous process for vetting people before they enter the U.S. He has withdrawn the U.S. from an Asia trade deal, and is in the process of renegotiating a similar pact with Mexico and Canada, fulfilling two other campaign promises.

Republicans, who had grown anxious that they wouldn’t have enough to show voters after their first year in control of the White House and Congress, cheered the tax bill’s passage as evidence of a new relationship.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Mr. Trump, hosting GOP lawmakers at the White House Wednesday.

“This is just the beginning,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah).

Skeptics counter that it will be more difficult to carry that momentum into next year, but that has proven to be wrong all along in 2017.  Business is growing, the economy is growing and the stock market is at a record high.   On Thursday, the House and Senate passed a stopgap spending bill that keeps the government funded through Jan. 19 and punts bigger debates over immigration and spending into January. Next year’s agenda is also expected to include an infrastructure bill and an attempt to overhaul the welfare system.

The Republicans’ challenges will also be complicated by the midterm elections in which they will be fighting to hold their majorities in the House and Senate. Strong Democratic turnout in the November Virginia governor’s race and this month’s special Senate election in Alabama, both of which the Republicans lost, is viewed by both parties as a major threat to the GOP.

“I see a historical trend cutting against us—the average loss of seats is 32 for a president’s first midterm and that’s just the average,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in an interview this week. “So what I keep telling people is we have the wind at our face, historically speaking.”

Democrats need a net gain of 24 seats to retake control of the House, and just two to recapture the Senate.

GOP lawmakers also said they have gotten better at not reading too much into Mr. Trump’s tweets—which they still view as unhelpful. “It’s almost like that star quarterback who always makes these gestures that are just inappropriate,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R., Fla.), a senior member of the House whip team. “I still love the team and I like to win—I just don’t always condone the actions of my quarterback.”

Inside the White House, officials believe that in passing the tax bill they created work habits they can now successfully apply to future policy battles.

Before the evening was over, Congress passed a stopgap spending bill that keeps the government funded through mid-January, avoiding a looming shutdown but punting thorny policy debates into next year.

In a 66-32 vote, the Senate approved a monthlong spending bill keeping the government running through Jan. 19. The bill, which passed the House earlier Thursday, now heads to the White House, where President Donald Trump was expected to sign it.

The bill marks the latest in a series of short-term spending measures Congress has passed while struggling to hammer out a broader budget deal. While the measure would keep the government open beyond the expiration of its current funding at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, lawmakers were set to leave Washington without having resolved stubborn divisions over issues that could produce an uglier showdown in January.

Congress is likely to return next year with just a few weeks to reach a two-year budget deal, a reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and how to handle the so-called Dreamers, young people living in the U.S. illegally who were brought here as children.  In the meantime, it’s Christmas break in Washington D.C.

 

Major department and specialty stores are fighting for your last minute shopping dollars and who has the edge, online or in-store purchase from local stores.  Only you know what to do now.  In this final stretch of shopping, sales are expected to continue to bring strong.

More e-commerce sites are offering fast or even same-day delivery options, though many free-shipping deadlines have passed.  Traditional retailers, meanwhile, are pushing in-store pickup for last-minute web orders, and many have added same-day delivery options as well.

Amazon.com is offering Prime members free two-day shipping on orders placed as late as today, Friday, and free same-day shipping on orders as late as Dec. 24 in more than 8,000 cities and towns.

Because Christmas falls on a Monday this year, consumers have an extra full weekend to shop in stores—giving bricks-and-mortar retailers a slight sales advantage.  Web retailers, meanwhile, have stepped up communications with shoppers about shipping deadlines and package delays, hoping to head off weekend disappointments.

“Having Christmas Eve on a Sunday, I won’t lie to you, is pretty sweet for retailers,” said Charlie Cole, chief digital officer for Tumi, which operates about 170 U.S. stores.

The luggage brand also sells online and made changes there to accommodate nervous shoppers this year, including new order-tracking software and notification emails that alerted existing customers about approaching cutoff dates for cheaper shipping options. Tumi also added a “smart gift” option, a way for a buyer to tell a recipient by email that a gift is en route, and for the recipient to specify preferences such as color of a bag. It is likely to cut down on returns, Mr. Cole said.

Many retailers added same-day shipping to compete with Amazon.

Best Buy is planning to make Christmas Eve deliveries in 40 markets for orders placed by noon that day, a spokesman said.

Overall, online sales since Nov. 1 are up about 23% compared with the same period last year, according to reports.  

Eve Benton of Medford, Ore., used Amazon’s two-day shipping option last week to order presents for her nieces and nephews, but she isn’t taking chances with online sellers this week.

“Shipping one week out might be a little bit unreliable,” the 43-year-old said. She plans in-person visits to Old Navy, Macy’s and  Sees Candies for the rest of her shopping list.

 

To attract customers like Ms. Benton, retailers are promoting in-store pickup services. At WalMart customers can place online orders as late as 4 p.m. on Dec. 23, then retrieve them Christmas Eve at one of its 4,700 U.S. locations.  In-store pickup demand typically doubles during the two weeks before Christmas, a spokeswoman said, though she declined to say what the retailer expects to see this year. In-store pickup is a way for Wal-Mart to keep fulfilling online orders in time for Christmas, even though its cutoff date for free shipping in many areas has passed.

Hot sellers in the day or two before Christmas tend to be items shoppers forgot, like wrapping paper, paper towels, food and last-minute gifts. 

So far, the U.S. numbers for Americans signing up for any of the Affordable Care Act plans through the federal HealthCare.gov insurance marketplace is down  compared with last year’s open-enrollment period, affected by challenges including a shorter sign-up window and some steep premium increases.

But the 4% falloff, to around 8.8 million sign-ups from about 9.2 million, was narrower than some insurers and analysts had projected. In addition, some state exchanges, including in California, Washington, New York and Minnesota, said sign-ups for ACA plans so far were up compared with a year ago.

The enrollment period for 2018 ACA plans ended Dec. 15 for HealthCare.gov, which is used by 39 states, but a number of insurance marketplaces operated by states are continuing to let consumers choose coverage, so a final tally on 2018 enrollment won’t be available for several weeks.

Of the 8.8 million consumers who were signed up for plans on HealthCare.gov during the federal exchange’s enrollment period, which started Nov. 1, about 2.4 million were new consumers, while 6.4 million were returning enrollees, including people automatically re-enrolled in plans.

President Trump said Wednesday the tax overhaul would have the effect of repealing the ACA because of its provision that strips the insurance mandate. “We have essentially repealed Obamacare,” Mr. Trump told reporters after the overhaul passed.

Among those who aren’t subsidy-eligible, insurance brokers and insurers say many are turning to skinnier, more limited products that are also cheaper. One type of coverage, short-term products, is likely to become more appealing to consumers when, as expected, the Trump administration allows the duration of such plans, now capped at three months, to extend as long as a year.

Papa Johns founder and public face, John Schnatter is stepping down as the company’s chief executive officer. Papa John’s did not provide a reason for Schnatter’s departure, other than saying that, in addition to retaining his role as chairman, he will also “pursue his personal passion for entrepreneurship, leadership development and education.” 2017 has been turbulent for the pizza chain, whose stock has fallen over 30%.

Cookies and milk for breakfast is just nuts — except in the U-S-of-A. Chips Ahoy! cereal hits store shelves Tuesday (December 26). It’s like Cookie Crisp, only instead of small cookies that don’t get too soggy too fast in milk, you get Chips Ahoy cookies that don’t get too soggy too fast in milk. Each cereal bit looks like a mini-me of the original cookie and is specked with tiny chocolate chips.

WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon reportedly made more moves towards possibly bringing his former professional football league back. The failed XFL was a project of McMahon’s back in 2001 which lasted just that year. It now looks like he will attempt to resurrect that concept, or build something new out of it, based on reports of trademarks and recently sold shares of WWE stock.

Astronomers have spotted a red giant, a dying star, similar to our sun. It’s 530 light-years away and the images reveal what will happen to our own sun in about 5 billion years. And it’s not good. Researchers say our sun will have grown into a red giant star, more than a hundred times larger than its current size. While this metamorphosis into the giant star will change the solar system, scientists are unsure what will happen to Earth.  It will probably destroy any form of life on our planet, but whether the Earth’s rocky core will survive is uncertain.

Santa has wheels. Thousands of them, cranked out by hand from throw-away wood scraps, then painted and polished to bring smiles to the faces of kids around the world who may never have owned a toy of any kind, let alone a speedy roadster from Tiny Tim’s Toy Factory in West Jordan, Utah. 82-year-old Alton Thacker started his toy workshop and foundation in 2002 and now gives away more than 85,000 cars a year to children from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe in addition to needy kids at children’s hospitals and homeless shelters in his own community. Thacker, a retired barber, says, “Basically, we’ll give cars to anyone who wants them, especially if they’re going on an overseas trip and have room to tuck a few into their suitcases.”

Ten minute exercise routines may work.  Exercise is something most of us need more of, but often don’t have the time to do. But a new study (Western University in London, Canada) has found that even short, 10-minute aerobic exercise routines can dramatically boost our critical thinking skills and ability to focus. During the study, researchers examined two groups of people. One group was inactive for 10 minutes while the other did 10 minutes of medium to fast-paced physical activity on a stationary bike. After the 10 minutes were up, each participant from both groups went through a grueling cognitive task devised to test the parts of their brains that are responsible for decision-making skills and inhibition. The group that did 10 minutes of exercise scored higher than the participants who were inactive. They answered more questions correctly, and their response times were better.

After more than two years of work on Germany’s highest construction site, a world record-breaking cableway in the Bavarian Alps opened today (Friday). The gondola breaks three records for any hanging cable car system — the tallest steel tower, the longest cableway span and the highest elevation difference. The $59 million cableway will shuttle thousands of service members and families who go skiing on the German Alps. Aside from the view, the new cable car brings other benefits, like decreased wait times. Compared to the previous gondola, 30 minutes was cut from the travel time and four times many passengers, 580 per hour, can travel up the mountain.

 

Thursday, Dec. 21, 2017

An historic day in Washington D.C. yesterday as the U.S. Congress gave final approval to the proposed $1.5 trillion tax cut, delivering a major victory for President Donald Trump and GOP leaders after nearly a year in political control of the capital.

Your tax costs are going down, finally.  At the heart of the plan—the most sweeping since 1986—is a cut in the corporate tax rate to 21% from 35% that is expected to provide a stimulus to the U.S. economy as soon as next year.  The tax plan also cuts individual tax rates and aims to simplify the tax code by eliminating some deductions, trimming others, and jettisoning a personal exemption.

Individuals could see the impact as soon as February on their paychecks. In 2019, about 48% of households will receive a tax cut of greater than $500, according to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, though the tax cuts will peter out over time and the plan’s longer-term implications for growth remain open.

Starting in 2019, the GOP plan also includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most people get health insurance or pay a penalty, another GOP priority.

The bill encountered a last-minute hitch that required the House to revote Wednesday. And the president’s signing of the bill may not happen until January. One of Mr. Trump’s top economic advisers, Gary Cohn, said Wednesday the timing of the bill’s signing depends on the outcome of separate talks in Congress about a government-spending measure.

Yesterday the president and congressional leaders celebrated the tax plan’s clearance through Congress at a gathering on the South Lawn of the White House. Earlier, surrounded by his cabinet in the Cabinet Room, Mr. Trump previewed some of his likely pitch to voters, predicting that financial markets would surge following passage of the legislation.

“I don’t think the market has even begun to realize how good these are,” Mr. Trump said. In recent months, the GOP president has touted stock-market gains as a reason to support the tax bill.

Mr. Trump described the package as providing “a tremendous amount of relief for the middle class.”

“It’s really, above all else, it’s a jobs bill,” he said.

Democrats said the tax plan doesn’t provide enough direct relief to the middle class and warn of health premium increases and future spending cuts. They point to an analysis from the Joint Committee on Taxation that shows less than 25% of individual tax cuts will go to the middle class, and those breaks expire after 2025.  But today, it’s a victory for the American worker and their wallets.

Large economic growth is moving in the U.S. as output grew at a 3.2% annual rate in the third quarter of 2017, according the government numbers released today.

The Commerce Department released the new figure as part of a routine revision of data on quarterly economic growth. The agency previously reported that gross domestic product, the broadest sum of goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at a 3.3% rate from July through September.   The third quarter ranked as the economy’s best since the first three months of 2015 when it also notched 3.2% growth. Consumer spending remained solid overall, as did business investment, and exports continued to grow, reflecting a strengthening global economy.

As we head into the holiday season, the economy appears to be in one of its strongest stretches of growth in a decade.   The trends point to a steadily growing economy ahead of the $1.5 trillion tax cut approved this week by Congress and set now to take effect next year.

If you’ve been waiting to do your shopping, that is what retailers are figuring too.  Procrastinators, this is your season.  That’s why many large retailers will be open around the clock this weekend.

•Kohl's. Starting 7 a.m. Thursday, most stores in the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based department store chain will be open around the clock through 6 p.m. Christmas Eve.

This is the fifth year Kohl's has offered 24 hour shopping leading up to Christmas "to offer customers a convenient opportunity to complete their last-minute holiday shopping when it works best for their schedule," said Jon Grosso, Kohl’s executive vice president and director of stores, in a statement.

Toys R Us.  A 63-hour shopping spree starts 6 a.m. Friday at Toys R Us stores nationwide, which will stay open through 9 p.m. Christmas Eve, said Joe Contrino, a spokesman for the New Jersey-based toy store chain.

The extra shopping time will be popular among consumers who have missed online shipping deadlines.  According to the National Retail Federation, Saturday is expected to be one of the biggest shopping days of the year. About 126 million consumers will shop on so-called Super Saturday, the organization predicts.

The federation's annual survey showed more than half of U.S. adults surveyed were expected to finish their holiday gifting shopping by Wednesday.

In Melbourne, Australia today, a driver of a car plowed into Christmas shoppers injuring eighteen of them, many critically.   Police say that while the crash was considered to be deliberate, there was no evidence of a link to terrorism.

Eighteen people were injured, including at least one young child, when the car hit pedestrians outside Melbourne's iconic Flinders Street station just after 4.40 p.m. local time.  Witnesses said they saw people flung into the air after being hit by the car, which was barreling down the road at around 60 miles per hour.

Police arrived on the scene within 15 seconds and the man was taken into custody by an off-duty police officer after attempting to resist arrest, Patton said. Both the man and the police officer were injured in the scuffle.

A 24-year-old man was also arrested at the scene, after he was seen filming the incident on his phone. Police found three knives in his bag. The man is being interviewed by police but Patton said at this stage, "we don't yet have any relationship established between the 24-year-old man and the driver... in fact, there may be no relationship between them."

The driver was known to Victorian Police due to "historical assault matters" and a history of drug use. "We understand he is on a mental health plan and receiving treatment for a mental illness," Patton said.   Paramedics took 19 people to nearby hospitals, including the driver. Two others were treated at the scene. 

Eat your vegetables and leafy greens.  Nutrients found in green leafy vegetables just might make your mind 11 years younger, according to a new study.

Dementia, a decline in memory and cognitive function, is one of the most feared aspects of aging. But those who reported eating their vegetables seem to be more successful in staving it off.

Researchers at Rush University and Tufts University studied 1,000 people and found that those who reported eating one to two daily servings of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, lettuce or spinach, had slower rates of cognitive decline.  The new research was published today in the journal Neurology.

Study participants completed food frequency questionnaires, which asked how often they ate certain foods in the past year. The researchers then estimated the levels of nutrients consumed by each participant based on their responses.  The people in the study also underwent yearly testing of their memory and cognitive function.

The group of participants who ate the most servings of leafy greens per day (an average of only 1.3 servings daily) had slower cognitive decline than those who ate fewer leafy greens, researchers found. Statistically, the effect was similar to being 11 years younger.

The findings suggest this benefit is likely from important nutrients found in these vegetables, such as folate, lutein and nitrate, which were also associated with slower cognitive decline, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, lead author of the study and author of a new book “Diet for the MIND: The Latest Science on What to Eat to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Cognitive Decline,” said.

This may be because the nutrients protect against inflammation, stress and damaging changes in the brain, as has been reported in prior studies, according to the researchers.

The design of the study could only show an association, not that eating these vegetables actually causes the lower rates of dementia. Additionally, much of the data is based off the reports of study participants, a possible source of bias or inaccuracy because few people can say for sure how many kale salads they ate in the past year.

Still, the findings are promising, according to one expert not involved in the research.

“A healthy diet is good for your body,” Dr. Gayatri Devi, a neurologist specializing in memory disorders at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and author of the recently released book “The Spectrum of Hope: An Optimistic and New Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias.”

Olympic gold-medal-winning gymnast McKayla Maroney filed a lawsuit on Wednesday against the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics, alleging that officials had her sign a confidential financial settlement to keep secret the sexual abuse she endured by team doctor Larry Nassar.

In papers filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Maroney contends she signed a $1.25 million settlement agreement with USA Gymnastics in December 2016. Maroney claims in her lawsuit that USA Gymnastics paid her the settlement, in violation of California state law, in return for her not publicly disclosing Nassar’s abuse. Maroney’s attorney said she willingly entered into the agreement but did so at a time when she was emotionally traumatized by the news that Nassar had sexually abused dozens of other women.

A Louisiana veterinarian is accused of fatally shooting her neighbor’s 15-month-old dog because the dog was barking. Dr. Kelly Folse was arrested this week on charges of aggravated cruelty to animals, illegal discharge of a firearm and two counts of drug possession after allegedly shooting her neighbor’s American bulldog, named Bruizer. On December 13, Bruizer was found in the backyard of his owner’s home lying in the grass suffering from a gunshot wound to the head. He had been left outside in the yard while his owner was at work.

A 79-year-old skier lost a belt full of cash while skiing down Aspen Mountain in Colorado. $10,000 in cash, to be exact. Yep — the gentleman was carrying ten grand in cold hard cash while skiing down a mountain. According to the skier, he carried the money around because he didn’t want to leave it alone in his hotel room. But while $10,000 would be important to anyone, it was especially important to the skier. He had just moved to Colorado from Florida and aimed to live off that cash for the four months that he was there. But when he realized that his money belt was gone, he feared the worst. Unbeknownst to him, a complete stranger found the money belt and took it straight to the guest services department.

The seemingly harmless Facebook quizzes that populate your feed could wind up providing unscrupulous hackers with the answers to your online security questions. The quizzes often ask users to answer a series of sharable personal questions, ranging from the name of their pet to their birth city. Some people see them as a fun way to bond with friends, or a way to make new ones. But as a security expert points out, many of these questions are similar — if not identical — to security questions used by banks and other institutions.

… The posts that ask what was your first grade teacher, who was your childhood best friend, your first car, the place you [were] born, your favorite place, your first pet, where did you go on your first flight … those are the same questions asked when setting up accounts as security questions. You are potentially giving out the answers to your security questions without realizing it.

The Indiana Attorney General’s office has filed a lawsuit against the Abbey Inn in Nashville, Indiana, “claiming the hotel’s policy of leveling a charge against guests for negative reviews violated the state’s Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.” Katrina Arthur and her husband stayed in the Abbey Inn hotel in Brown County in March 2016. They said problems started as soon as they arrived. They say the room “was unkempt, and it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since the last people stayed there. … We checked the sheets and I found hairs and dirt.” She said the hotel had no visible staff they could talk to at the time, and that calling the number on the front desk didn’t work.

… When Arthur received an email after her stay asking her to leave a review, she decided to be honest. However, soon after leaving the review, Arthur says she was charged $350 and threatened with legal action, prompting her to delete the review. She has not received the money back.

 

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2017

 

The new tax bill is nearly done and today Congress stands on the verge of passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut and the largest structural overhaul of the tax system since 1986.

The Senate passed the tax-overhaul bill, 51-48, around 12:45 a.m. Wednesday after it sailed through the House on a 227-203 vote on Tuesday.

A last-minute glitch because of Senate rules forced Republican leaders to schedule another vote in the House later this morning.  The result isn’t likely to be any different, and the measure will head to President Trump for his signature, though no date has been set.

The Senate vote was purely along party lines, with Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) absent.  In the House, every Democrat who was present voted no, as did 12 Republicans, almost all from high-tax states.

The Republican plan offers deep tax cuts for businesses, lower rates for many individuals and a narrower estate tax. Corporate shareholders, business owners and most households will win, at least in the first few years. But there will be losers, too, including some households living in regions where state and local taxes are high. Most of the tax cuts will take effect in January, and many workers will see bigger paychecks from reduced tax withholding by February.

“We ran on it in 2016. We spent 2017 working on this legislation, and here it is. We’re getting it done,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.). “This was a promise made and this is a promise kept.”

 “It’s a capstone to a very successful first year,” he said. “We think we’ve had a huge impact on the country.”

For Democrats, who found unity in opposition, the tax bill and its weak rating in polls will likely turn into campaign ads about Republicans helping corporations and warnings that cuts to programs such as Medicare are coming.

“The tax bill Republicans jammed through Congress today stacks the cards against working Americans while rewarding big Republican donors and the Trump family,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D., N.J.). “In this bill, Congress put its thumb on the scale for the wealthy and well-connected.”

Many households are still sizing it up. Joyce Prior, a 59-year-old accountant who contracts out to companies and lives in Salem, Wis., said her tax bill could go down, but not enough to change her plans. She and her husband make between $80,000 and $90,000 a year.

“We could do a little bit more toward the house that we want to do,” she said. “But I mean, $500 isn’t really enough of an incentive to me.”

Ultimately, its success will depend on how the economy responds. The legislation will cut the U.S. corporate tax rate to 21% from 35%, a move cheered by companies as crucial for encouraging investment in the U.S. It will also allow faster write-offs for business investments, sharply limit companies’ ability to deduct interest expenses and usher in a new set of untested rules for taxing international profits.

U.S. corporations will pay a one-time tax of up to 15.5% on profits they have stockpiled abroad. Going forward, many will face no U.S. taxes on their foreign income, a change that puts the U.S. in line with other major developed countries. The bill includes rules to prevent companies from shifting more profits to low-tax jurisdictions to take advantage of that benefit, though Democrats said they aren’t tough enough.

 

Will your taxes go up or down with the new proposed tax bill?

With the Republican tax overhaul moving closer to fruition, the few provisions left that affect retirement savers present a mixed bag.

Given that the most controversial proposal—to cap the amount Americans can contribute before taxes to 401(k) plans—failed to survive the legislative process, “the bill is largely positive” for 401(k) savers, says Michael Webb, vice president of consulting firm Cammack Retirement Group. For example, he said, the final legislation gives participants in retirement plans more time to repay loans.

Here are two things retirement savers need to know about the new tax law:

1. 401(k) borrowers will have more time to repay loans

Under the legislation, people who leave a company with a 401(k) loan outstanding would be able to repay the loan by the day they file their federal tax returns. Currently, such employees are typically required to repay 401(k) loans within 60 days of their departure. Those who fail to do so must pay income tax on the loan’s balance. Borrowers younger than 59½ also often owe a 10% penalty.

For many 401(k) borrowers, the new rule will provide extra time in which toget the money back into a 401(k) account or roll it over to an individual retirement account, where it can grow tax -deferred.

2. The tax package would do away with recharacterizations of Roth conversions.With a recharacterization, investors who convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA can “undo” the conversion, nullifying the tax bill they would otherwise have to pay.

With a traditional IRA, account owners generallyget to subtract their contributions from their income. Instead, they must pay ordinary income tax on the money when they withdraw it. A Roth, in contrast, offers no upfront tax deduction but allows the money to be withdrawn tax-free.

Converting from a traditional IRA to a Roth—and paying income tax in the process—is a way toset aside a tax-free pot of retirement money that can be used when distributions from a regular IRA or 401(k) would push the account owner into a higher tax bracket or trigger higher Medicare premiums.

The recharacterization strategy—which must be carried out by Oct.15 of the year following a conversion—is frequently used by people who convert a traditional IRA to a Roth only to see the account balance fall. By recharacterizing, they can get out of paying taxes on profits that no longer exist.

Recharacterizations are also used by people who discover they don’t have the cash to pay the tax bill, says Ed Slott, an IRA expert in Rockville Centre, N.Y. Mr. Slott says that if the measure remains in the law—as seems likely— people should“ do smaller conversions that they know they can afford.”

Taxpayers who did a conversion this year and are considering recharacterizing it must act by the end of 2017.

Deadly tour bus crash in Mexico kills American tourists.  A tour bus destined for Mayan ruins in eastern Mexico flipped over on a two-lane highway yesterday, leaving a dozen people dead and many more injured.   Among those hurt were seven Americans and two Swedish tourists, according to a spokesman for the Quintana Roo state Civil Defense agency, which also said it was looking into the cause of the crash.

The bus ended up on its side in vegetation along the two-lane road. Video taken after the crash showed some survivors lying on the pavement and others walking around. One body lay on the roadside covered by a white sheet or other object, as the crash scene was cordoned off with yellow police tape.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman in Mexico City said officials were en route to the scene of the accident, about 100 miles from Tulum. The official added that those in need of medical attention had been transferred to several nearby hospitals.

The embassy expected to "have eyes on the ground before the end of the day, today," according to the spokesman. Embassy officials issued a statement expressing condolences "to all those affected by this tragedy."Nearly all the passengers aboard the bus were also passengers on two Royal Caribbean cruises — the Celebrity Equinox and Serenade of the Seas — which set off from Miami. 

The deadly Amtrak train crash earlier this week in under full investigation by the NTSB and the rush to launch service on a new, faster service from Seattle to Portland was flawed from the beginning.  The critical GPS-based speed-control technology that could have prevented a derailment was not active before the train set off on its maiden voyage.

Work to install new technology known as positive train control isn’t expected to be completed until next spring on the newly opened 15-mile  span where the train derailed, according to Sound Transit, the public agency that owns the tracks.

The train was going 80 mph in a 30 mph zone Monday when it raced off the rails as they curved toward a bridge, hurtling train cars onto a highway below, investigators said. Three people were killed, and dozens were injured. Federal investigators say they are looking into whether the engineer was distracted.

A positive train control system could have detected the speeding and automatically applied the brakes to stop the train, said Najmedin Meshkati, a University of Southern California professor who has studied the technology for three decades.

“It is another layer of safety,” he said.

Amtrak and the Washington Department of Transportation started publicizing the switch to the new route in October. Amtrak CEO Richard Anderson said that “no one wants PTC more than me” but would not directly answer questions about why it is taking so long to get the speed-control technology up and running across the board.

“I’m a huge believer in positive train control,” he said at a news conference Tuesday evening. “It just makes so much scientific sense.”

Anderson said the company’s safety culture can continue to improve and said the crash should be seen as a “wake-up call.”

“It’s not acceptable that we’re involved in these types of accidents,” he said.

Railroads are under government orders to install positive train control by the end of 2018 after the industry lobbied Congress to extend earlier deadlines, citing complexity and cost.

Monday’s wreck is just the latest example of a deadly crash that experts say could have been prevented if the technology were in place to slow down the train when engineers go too fast, get distracted or fall ill.

Saturday, 156 million American plan to be shopping.  Be prepared.  The biggest shopping day of the holiday season is approaching, with 66 percent of adult Americans — an estimated 155.7 million people – planning to or considering taking advantage of Super Saturday sales to complete their holiday gift list.

… Super Saturday — or Panic Saturday — is the last Saturday before Christmas, a major day of revenue for American retailers, marking the end of the shopping season they and many customers believe begins on Black Friday. Super Saturday targets last-minute shoppers.

Just over four months after a young Charlottesville woman was killed when a car plowed into people protesting a white nationalist rally, the Virginia city will dedicate part of the street where she was marching in her honor. Charlottesville is holding a ceremony this morning (Wednesday) to designate part of 4th Street “Honorary Heather Heyer Way.”

Facebook has announced a plan to alert users when someone uploads photos of them to Facebook. Facebook says the feature will “help you detect when others might be attempting to use your image as their profile picture”. The social media giant said the new feature is optional — users will only receive alerts if they opt-in and if they are in the friend network of the person who posted the photos.

People who retire early die sooner than those who keep working past 65. US Census data reveal a clear correlation between premature death and premature retirement. The data, analyzed by Cornell University, is particularly stark among men, who have a 20 percent higher mortality risk if they start claiming Social Security benefits at 62 — three years premature

It’s every pet owner’s worst nightmare: entrusting your fur baby to the care of supposed professionals only to shockingly discover you’ve been sorely mistaken. Adding insult to injury? Seeing this hard truth with your own eyes when you’re thousands of miles away and unable to immediately rescue your beloved animal. This is the scenario Mike La Salvia of Tallmadge, Ohio, found himself and his pup Leo in.

While La Salvia was vacationing in Mexico earlier this month he alleges he checked the doggie daycare’s webcam and witnessed one of the staff members drag Leo by the collar and kick him twice. The distraught dog owner says he abruptly cut short his trip and then spent 48 hours in various airports trying to make his way home last-minute to his pup in Ohio. He said his feelings upon viewing the webcam footage were “total pain.”

While La Salvia was en route home to Leo, his sister quickly removed Leo from the day care center and watched him until her brother returned. The woman who allegedly abused Leo did not respond to a request for comment. La Salvia says he plans to file a police report against her.

Ann Hoover and Allen Seelhammer, both residents at the Brookdale Senior Living Center in Texas (New Braunfels) were both married until their spouses passed away. 78-year-old Allen was married for 57 years and 87-year-old Ann was wed for 23. But it seems like they were both given a second chance to love when Ann moved into the senior living center almost two months ago. Ann and Allen reportedly fell in love when she started hanging out with him during mealtimes and events. The spark grew, and just 30 days later, they announced that they were getting married. The whirlwind romance made Allen say, “I’ve never been so happy in my life.” Ann adds her take on her new beau, saying, “I’ve got a cute little fella who I’m crazy about and he acts like he likes me, too.”

Swedish fathers have been told to take five months off work after a government investigation suggested increasing the country’s parental allowance to encourage fairer sharing of leave between men and women. Sweden currently offers 480 days of subsidized leave per child, which parents can share as they wish, with 390 paid for by the taxpayer at a rate of about 80 percent of their salary. At least three months of that leave is allocated to each parent on a “use it or lose it” basis. A government report has recommended that the allowance be boosted to five months, to increase gender equality in time off for childcare.

… Sweden has some of the most generous parental policies in Europe and in 1971 became the first country in the world to allow parents to split leave

Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017

NTSB Officials are on the scene with their investigation into what caused an Amtrak train to derail on its inaugural run as it hit a tight curve at nearly 80 miles per hour in a tight 30 pmh curve over the freeway.  At least 3 are dead, many injured, some critically.

 “It’s too early to tell” why the train was traveling at that speed, NTSB board member Bella Dinh-Zarr said upon arriving last night.  The speed of the train was already obtained from data recording from the train’s rear locomotive, Ms. Dinh-Zarr said, adding the chief investigator was now at the scene of the crash.  The accident sent 12 train cars and an engine careening off the tracks; some of the cars dangled over Interstate 5.

 

Crews began the difficult task Monday evening of disassembling the train cars. Workers operating cranes and other large machinery were moving into position to begin the work of clearing the wreckage from the highway and the train tracks. Part of the train is still hanging over the edge of an overpass and onto the highway.

Capt. Dan Hall of the Washington State Patrol said he didn’t know when the work would be completed.  Traveling from Seattle to Portland, Ore., Train 501 derailed as it hit a tight curve along the Point Defiance Bypass, a newly completed shortcut that was meant to enable Amtrak trains to avoid a winding rail route it shares with freight trains.

Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak, offered revised figures on how many people were on the train, saying there were 80 passengers, five employees and one technician on what was supposed to be a celebratory first ride.  Crew members haven’t been interviewed yet, Ms. Dinh-Zarr said, and the board hadn't determined whether a system that can prevent accidents—called Positive Train Control—was installed in the section of the track in question.

 

Finally, it looks as if the middle class households will get a positive shake from the $61 billion in tax cuts in 2019 under the Republican tax plan poised for passage this week.  That word coming from the Congressional  Committee on Taxation.

That amounts to 23% of the tax cuts that go directly to individuals. By 2027, however, these households would get a net tax increase, because tax cuts are set to expire under the proposed law.  The calculations are based on estimates of cuts going to households that earn $20,000 to $100,000 a year in wages, dividends and benefits. Those households account for about half of all U.S. tax filers, with nearly a quarter making more and a quarter making less.

The Trump administration has emphasized the benefits of the tax plan for middle-income households.  America’s most-affluent households, those earning $500,000 or more a year, which account for 1% of filers, would also get $61 billion in cuts in the first year, according to the JCT analysis. They would get a cut of $12 billion by 2027.

That includes income earned by pass-through businesses such as partnerships and S-corporations that pay taxes on individual returns. It doesn’t include the benefits of estate-tax reductions.  Much of the rest would go to businesses in the form of corporate tax cuts, according to the analysis.

The tax plan took another step toward passage Monday, when Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who had been on the fence, said she would support the bill. Mr. Trump plans to sign the bill this week, if passed.

Monday, Dec. 18, 2017

DEADLY TRAIN ACCIDENT UPDATE

The Latest on an Amtrak train derailment in Washington state, 12:50 p.m.

Authorities say a total of 13 train cars jumped the tracks Monday in a deadly Amtrak derailment south of Seattle.  At least six people are dead.

Hospital officials say at least two people are in critical condition and 11 others are seriously injured after a deadly train derailment outside Seattle.

Four hospitals say 50 people have been hospitalized but didn't immediately report all of their conditions. At least one person was in surgery Monday.

The Amtrak train running between Tacoma and Portland, Oregon, derailed south of Seattle as it was making its first run as part of a faster service that local authorities had warned could be dangerous.

Washington State Patrol spokeswoman Brooke Bova says the train had 12 cars and two engines traveling between Tacoma and Portland, Oregon.

Bova says five vehicles and two semitrailers underneath the train on Interstate 5 were hit when cars came off the tracks from above.

It wasn't clear how many train cars fell onto the road Monday.

The National Transportation Safety Board says it's sending a team, with the first members arriving Monday afternoon.

Board member Bella Dinn-Zarr told reporters in Washington, D.C., that it's too early to tell whether speed contributed to the accident.

The section of track where an Amtrak train derailed had just been upgraded as part of a $181 million project for a new faster route.  Sound Transit, the public transit system for the Seattle area, owns the track and oversaw construction of the upgrades.  Agency spokeswoman Kimberly Reason says extensive testing was done before the opening of the system Monday but didn't immediately have further details.

Daniel Konzelman says they saw train cars with the roofs ripped off or tipped upside down Monday and a few vehicles on the roadway that were damaged.

He says they climbed into train cars and found injured passengers, some who were pinned underneath the train and others who appeared to be dead.

President Donald Trump is offering "thoughts and prayers" for those involved in the train derailment in Washington state.

Fatalities are reported today in Washington state near Tacoma as an Amtrak passenger train derailed Monday, dropping multiple train cars off an Interstate 5 overpass and killing several people on the train in Pierce County, Washington, according to the spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff's Office.

Several motorists in vehicles that were struck by the fallen train cars suffered injuries, but there were no fatalities among people in those vehicles, the sheriff's office said.

The deaths "are all contained to the train," said Ed Troyer, the Pierce County Sheriff's Office spokesman. "It's pretty horrific."

All southbound lanes of the interstate are closed due to the derailment and the sight stunned motorists heading to work. The incident took place at 7:40 a.m. near DuPont, between Tacoma and Olympia.

The new Tax Bill vote should happen this week as Republicans are on the cutting edge of finally passing a historic overhaul of the U.S. tax system.  It also means there’s a new period of uncertainy and  perhaps instability in the tax code, because the plan is advancing without bipartisan support and with expiration dates that guarantee it will be revisited for years.

A $1.5 trillion reduction in the overall tax burden over a decade accompanies the most sweeping rewrite of U.S. business and income taxes since the Reagan era, achieving goals long sought by many conservative economists and politicians. But to get the bill through a closely divided Congress, Republicans made many of its pieces time-limited.  Individual tax cuts and a new 20% deduction for millions of businesses are scheduled to vanish after 2025. A corporate-tax-rate cut and international tax rules are permanent to encourage long-run planning, but other business provisions arrive, then disappear.

Key features—including the $2,000 child tax credit and a $10,000 cap on the state and local deduction—aren’t indexed to inflation, eroding their real value over time.

Congress will need to make substantive and technical corrections as problems arise, said Martin Sullivan, chief economist at Tax Analysts, a nonprofit publisher of tax note

“It’s just the beginning. It’s a whole new chapter,” he said. “It’s built on unstable financial foundations and on unstable political foundations. And it was built in great haste.”

The vote is expected on Tuesday and then the plan is to send it to  President Donald Trump’s desk. With a 52-48 majority in the Senate, Republicans can lose two votes and still pass the measure. One complication emerged Sunday when Mr. Trump said Sen. John McCain, who is battling brain cancer, was headed home to Arizona. The president said Mr. McCain would return to Washington if his vote was needed for the bill to pass.   The GOP tax bill is expected to become law without a single vote from the opposing party. That, too, makes it unstable and a target.

It would be hard for a future Congress to shrink the new tax bill’s $2,000 child tax credit or the bigger standard deduction, for example.

“People are going to see this in their paychecks,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on CBS Sunday.

But other pieces—a doubled estate-tax exemption, a new tax break for pass-through business owners, the 21% corporate tax rate, limits on the state and local tax deduction for individuals—are ripe to be reversed or scaled back.

 “Anything that benefits the middle class or low-income families will be made permanent,” Mr. Riedl said. “But anything that benefits exclusively upper-income families is in danger.”

Major delays and no power for Atlanta airline passengers on Sunday.  After a sudden electrical outage halted flights to and from Atlanta’s giant airport for 11 hours on Sunday, the lights came on again around midnight but airport operations won’t return to normal on Monday as airlines struggle to get back on track.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic and a major hub for Delta Air Lines Inc., said power was fully restored around midnight Sunday after going out around 1 p.m. ET. The outage meant elevators and the airport train were inoperable, baggage belt systems were out and check-in agents had no computer access.

Thousands of fliers were trapped in the airport Sunday, well into the start of the hectic holiday travel period. This means that planes are full and there will be few seats available for passengers on later flights as airlines tried to restore regular service.

The airport tweeted early Monday that the power was back on, airport concession shops and restaurants were opening and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints were operational. The airport also told fliers that if they had tickets for Sunday flights, they would have to reprint them before security screening.

Hartsfield handles about 104 million passengers a year, with a total of 2,500 arriving and departing flights a day.

Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers says he will sell the team. The owner of the Carolina Panthers announced late Sunday he will be selling the team. The announcement comes in the wake of accusations against him that include sexual harassment and a racial slur toward a scout who has since left the team.

According to a Sports Illustrated report the Panthers have settled with at least four former employees regarding inappropriate workplace behavior by Richardson.

Every state has bad drivers. But which one really has subpar drivers? That honor has been bestowed to California. A study (conducted by QuoteWizard) found that 2017 saw an increase in moving violations as well as DUI arrests in California. The states with the worst drivers:

  1. California
  2. Minnesota
  3. Utah
  4. South Carolina
  5. Washington

… The state with the best drivers is Rhode Island.

… Find where your state ranks.

… And here are the best and worst drivers by city.

There’s a new world record for sailing around the world solo. Frenchman Francois Gabart completed the feat on Sunday with a time of 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes, and 35 seconds. If that doesn’t exactly seem fast, consider that he beat the previous record, set just last year by fellow Frenchman Thomas Coville, by more than six days.

While Donald Trump’s approval ratings have hit the lowest mark ever for a first-term president, First Lady Melania’s ratings are on the rise. In the newest poll Donald’s approval numbers are 32%. Trump is losing popularity even among his core audience, with a new poll finding that he has dropped over 30 points among loyal Fox News viewers.

… But as Donald Trump sinks, Melania Trump is surging in the other direction. A new Gallup poll conducted from December 4 to December 11 shows that a majority of Americans have a positive view of the First Lady, an increase of 17 points since Donald Trump took office in January.

Twelve-Year-Old Alissa Wade had an entourage bring her to school in Dallas on Friday. A group of 50 bikers escorted the girl to her middle school after learning she was being bullied. The bikers started to rev their engines as they got closer to the school and sent a clear message that bullying is wrong.

When winter dumps a messy mix around the country, many grocery stores sell out of bread and milk. These perishables, including toilet paper — which doesn’t go bad but does run out — has an interesting history. According to Accuweather.com, New Englanders can take credit for the tradition of purchasing of milk and break prior to a storm. Accuweather says it was the monumental blizzard in 1978 that trapped many in homes for weeks that gets at least some credit. An article from November 24, 1950 detailed a milk shortage brought on by the devastating winter storm. Some markets also reportedly resorted to rationing bread due to the storm that dumped almost three feet of snow. The incident has had lasting ramifications for pre-storm rituals.

When responders got to a plane crash site in Indiana on Saturday, all on board the plane had perished — except one dog that had made his way to a nearby house. The folks in the house took him in and cared for the injured dog until a veterinarian was reached. The plane had departed from Kansas City, Missouri, with a destination of Frederick, Maryland, on Saturday evening.

Nine-year-old Mikah Frye made news earlier this month when he chose to buy blankets for the homeless, rather than receive the Xbox One he had long wanted for Christmas. The idea came to him when he and his grandmother noticed several homeless individuals shivering from the cold while they were out in Ashland, Ohio. Feeling a desire to lend a helping hand, Mikah wanted to give blankets to these people, but grandma reportedly told her grandson that he had to give up something in return. So Mikah decided it would be the Xbox One that he’d give up, which would pay for 60 blankets.

… But when Microsoft heard what Mikah did, the company decided the 9-year-old would still be getting and Xbox for Christmas.

Self-taught rocket scientist “Mad” Mike Hughes believes that the earth is a flat. And Mike’s got a new way to prove it after his aborted launch attempt in November. After he was told he couldn’t launch his homemade rocket, Mike has decided he’ll go 62 miles up to the edge of space in a balloon filled with hydrogen. He says the balloon will get him 20 miles up, then a rocket will take over and put him another 40 miles above earth. Then, Mike claims, he can once and for all prove that earth is flat.

… He estimates his stunt will cost $1.8 million and that it could come together in 10 months.

… An interviewer asked Mike: “Wouldn’t it be cheaper and less deadly to just try to drill through the Earth to the other side to prove your point?” Mike responded: “You can’t. … The deepest hole ever drilled is seven-and-a-half miles and it was done in Russia. It took 12 years. You cannot drill through this planet. It dulls every drill bit. All the stuff that you learned in school — that the core is molten nickel — it’s all lies. No one knows what’s in the center of the Earth or how deep it is. I’m no expert at anything, but I know that’s a fact.”

The US government apparently suspected the truth was out there after all. The federal government spent about $22 million funding a covert Pentagon project that investigated reports of unidentified flying objects. Even though the Department of Defense decided to defund the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in 2012, its backers say the program remains in existence.

… The program investigated sightings of aircraft that appeared to move at very high speeds with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift. The program also reportedly studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft.

 

Friday, Dec. 15, 2017

The wrangling in Congress of the tax overhaul bill and various proposals seems good for Americans as the week ends today on Capitol Hill.  Many Republican senators expressed last-minute doubts about the tax-overhaul plan in Congress, possibly an attempt to strengthen their negotiating positions before a compromise plan set to be released on Friday and final votes planned for early next week.  The presence of the wavering senators, plus concerns about the health of two others, underscored the fragile position of Republicans as they try to pass a sweeping $1.4 trillion overhaul of the tax code through a Congress with narrow majorities and no Democratic support expected.

Yesterday Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said he would vote against the bill if the final measure doesn’t expand child tax credits for low-income households beyond what is currently envisioned. Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), who has also wanted a more generous child tax credit, is also undecided on the tax bill in its current form, a spokesman said.

Senate Republicans passed their tax bill 51-49 earlier this month, leaving them little margin on the final version that will emerge from a House-Senate conference committee. Mr. Rubio and Mr. Lee both voted for the bill that passed the Senate. Others say they are wavering. Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), the lone GOP no vote earlier this month, says he is undecided on the final version. Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) also say they are waiting to read the final version.  Further complicating matters, Sens. John McCain (R., Ariz.) and Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) have had health issues and missed votes this week. Party leaders are counting on their votes next week.

Mr. Rubio objects to some of the priorities Republican leaders have set in compromise talks between the House and Senate. For example, they decided to set the corporate tax rate at 21% rather than 20%, but didn’t use those extra funds to expand the child credit. They also lowered the top individual tax rate to 37%, below the top rates set in House and Senate plans.

“If you’ve found the money to lower the top rate…you can’t find at least a little bit to at least somewhat increase the refundable portion of it?” Mr. Rubio told reporters on Thursday. “I can’t in good conscience support it unless we are able to increase the refundable portion of it, and there’s ways to do it.”

In a series of tweets, he defended his push. “Tax negotiators didn’t have much trouble finding a way to lower the top tax bracket and to start the corporate tax cut a year early,” he said. “Adding at least a few hundred $’s in refundable cuts for working families who seem to always be forgotten isn’t hard to do either.”

Lawmakers on the conference committee are aiming to sign an agreement today and unveiling it to the media and the public.   President Donald Trump would then be able sign it into law and have most of it take effect in January.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R., Utah) told reporters he was concerned about Mr. Rubio’s stance but hadn’t spoken to him.

“Sen. Rubio would like to see us do a little more, and we’re trying to work with him to get there,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R., Texas), a member of the tax negotiating team. “We’re trying to figure out what we can do. I can’t give the current state of play on that since it’s in flux, but the goal is to give a $2,000-per-child tax credit, with a significant portion of that to be refundable.”

Under current law, the $1,000 credit is refundable, which means taxpayers get money back even if they don’t pay income taxes. But the current credit is limited for some very low-income families. The Senate plan would double the credit to $2,000 per child and make $1,100 of it refundable. Mr. Rubio wants to increase that $1,100 and change the income levels so more low-income families qualify for the whole credit.

The Senate bill sets the child tax credit to start expiring for households making $500,000; under current law, it begins phasing out at $75,000 for individuals and $110,000 for married couples. Making those thresholds closer to current law could pay for some of the change Mr. Rubio seeks.

With the FCC’s vote to reserve and remove the current Net Neutrality rules of the Obama Administration yesterday, what will really happen to the internet we all use daily?   Will consumers have to pay more for internet service or content?  Don’t expect any immediate changes to your wireless bill or web subscriptions. But over the coming months and years, there are two ways the internet could become more expensive.

In the near term, internet-service providers could charge content providers like Netflix and Spotify for the privilege of streaming their videos and music over internet “fast lanes,” free of interruption. Those services could in turn pass on the added cost to consumers by raising their subscriptions a few bucks a month.   So-called “paid prioritization” deals could be challenged by antitrust regulators if they are done to limit competition, rather than to pay for the cost of managing high-speed connections.  The removal of net neutrality in theory could inhibit competition for services. With fewer companies competing to offer broadband and fewer websites delivering content, prices for all of these things could go up.

Can service providers like Comcast and Verizon slow down video streaming?  The largest ISPs say they have no plans to throttle website speeds. But, they have before.

Will internet service providers be able to censor content they don’t like?  The biggest telco companies also own TV studios, websites and other businesses that compete for the attention of web users. Without net-neutrality protections, they could try to tip the playing field to their advantage by blocking access to sites with which they compete.

In the U.S., such a brazen move could provoke intervention by the Justice Department or the Federal Trade Commission, which both police unfair and anticompetitive business practices.

What measures can people take to try to avoid having their internet slowed or censored?  Read the fine print on user agreements. The FCC will require service providers to notify users if they block, slow down or give preferential treatment to any services.

Are there any ways consumers might benefit from the rollback of net-neutrality rules?  Some services have already become cheaper to consumers through so-called “zero rating” deals offered by wireless carriers. These deals include free access to high-bandwidth apps and sites like Netflix and HBO that don’t count toward a user’s mobile-data plan.

Though critics say these deals violate the principles of net neutrality because they let carriers give preferential treatment to some services, the FCC said earlier this year that it wouldn’t target companies making such offers, especially because low-income people could benefit.

With new sexual allegations happening daily in all phases of business, government, Hollywood, it’s now a minefield of problems for everyday companies with co-workers trying to navigate the workplace.

Office relationships that might have flown under the radar — particularly those between boss and subordinate — are getting a new look. And even those who might be looking to ask a co-worker on a date are thinking twice.

“People need to think hard before they enter into a workplace romance,” said Pennell Locey, a human resources expert at consulting firm Keystone Associates, who knows how complicated love can get in the workplace: She married a co-worker.

“One positive thing coming out of this is people are getting educated about what are the boundaries you should be conscious of,” she added. “It kind of takes if off autopilot.”

The office is one of the most popular places to find a lover. One out of four — 24 percent — of employees reported they have been or are currently involved in a workplace romance, according to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management.

Increasingly organizations are implementing a written or verbal policy on workplace romance — 42 percent in 2013 versus 25 percent in 2005, according to the most recent data available from the society. Most rules outlaw relationships between bosses and subordinates or push for “love contracts,” where workplace couples are required to disclose their relationships.

Workplace romances have long played a part in pop culture, whether in the films “Broadcast News,” ″Working Girl,” ″Anchorman” and “Love Actually,” or on TV shows like “Mad Men,” ″Cheers,” ″The Office,” and “Moonlighting.” One top song this holiday season is Garth Brooks’ “Ugly Christmas Sweater” with a line about “that pretty little girl from accounting.”

In the real world, workplace relationships have been for better, and worse: Bill Gates met his wife Melinda at the office. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick landed in prison because he lied under oath about his extramarital affair with a staffer.

Enjoy your leafblower and be ready for it to be taken away one day.  Why you ask?  Pollution.  How much pollution does a leaf blower emit?

The short answer is more than a car, a truck or any other modern passenger vehicle.

But because vehicles outnumber the nation’s 12 million leaf blowers by about 224 million, they still beat out the dirtier engines in total emissions.

“These small engines are notoriously high polluters. But because there are fewer of them compared to cars and trucks, they don’t emit as much total pollution,” said John Volckens, a professor of mechanical engineering at Colorado State University.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Quiet Communities, a nonprofit that advocates for quieter and cleaner lawn maintenance, estimated that in 2011 there were nearly 11 million leaf blowers and vacuums in the country, a figure they projected would grow to around 12 million by 2018.  The EPA has regulated leaf blowers and other small nonroad spark-ignition engines since 1997. The machines are divided into two categories: handheld equipment, such as leaf blowers and chain saws; and non-handheld equipment, such as lawn mowers and generators.

Emissions standards limit how many grams of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons the engines can produce per hour, taking the size of the engine into account. The pollutants are measured in laboratory tests that simulate how the engines would be used in the real world.

The California Environmental Protection Agency estimated that operating a commercial leaf blower for one hour would emit more pollution than driving a 2016 Toyota Camry for about 1,100 miles.

Overall, EPA figures show that the small nonroad spark-ignition engines contribute 1% of nitrogen oxides to total U.S. emissions, compared with 16% contributed by passenger cars; 2% of volatile organic compounds, compared with 3%; 15% of carbon monoxide, compared with 29%; and 1% of particulate matter, the same amount as passenger cars. The data, which is the latest available, are from 2014.

The pollutants contribute to a variety of health problems and cause smog, acid rain and other environmental hazards.

The reason leaf blowers and related devices are so dirty is because many use two-stroke engines.  Stroke refers to the distance a piston travels in its cylinder. A two-stroke engine rotates the crankshaft once in one cycle of internal combustion, producing power every second stroke. A four-stroke engine rotates the crankshaft twice in one cycle of internal combustion, producing power with every fourth stroke.

Four-stroke engines are more efficient, but two-stroke engines are inexpensive and pack more power. They also run in any position—even sideways or upside down—a feature made possible by the way they are lubricated.

Four-stroke engines must operate in a generally upright position because their lubricating system would spill oil, if the engine were turned upside down

Two-stroke engines lack a separate lubrication system; their oil is mixed in with the gasoline used for fuel. Some of it lubricates the engine, and some of it burns up, but a significant amount escapes through the exhaust.

All gasoline engines expel some unburned fuel in their exhaust, but two-stroke engines release a higher percentage. Still, improvements in recent years have reduced emissions, according to George Klein, an outdoor power equipment instructor at Walla Walla Community College in Washington state.

New ignition systems help two-stroke engines crank more easily, idle at slower speeds and accelerate more quickly, contributing to reductions in exhaust, Mr. Klein said. Synthetic oils burn better and allow the engines to operate with less oil in the fuel mixture. And new styles of engines use buffers of air to reduce fuel losses. Today two-stroke engines are up to 85% cleaner than before the emissions were regulated.

Nonetheless, communities such as Palm Springs, CA. have banned gas-powered leaf blowers because of concerns over noise and pollution that is emitted in front yards, according to Jamie Banks, the executive director of Quiet Communities.  She and her organization have counted at least 107 communities with different levels of restrictions.   The National Association of Landscape Professionals opposes efforts to ban the machines, and in some cases, the industry is fighting back.

Get Your Packages Mailed On Time!

If you’re sending holiday gifts to out-of-town friends and family, here are official deadlines for getting them to their destinations on time.

USPS:
Using USPS Retail Ground, ship by Thursday, December 14.
Using First-Class Mail Service, ship by Tuesday, December 19.
Using Priority Mail Service, ship by Wednesday, December 20.
Using Priority Mail Express Service, ship by Friday, December 22.
For more information, click here. https://www.usps.com/holiday/holiday-shipping-dates.htm

FedEx:
Using FedEx Ground, ship by Friday, December 15.
Using FedEx Home Delivery, ship by Monday, December 18.
Using FedEx Express Saver, ship by Tuesday, December 19.
Using FedEx 2Day, ship by Wednesday, December 20.
Using FedEx Overnight, ship by Thursday, December 21.
For more information, click here. http://www.fedex.com/us/holiday/last-days-to-ship.html

UPS:
Using UPS 3-Day Select, ship by Monday, December 18.
Using UPS 2nd Day Air, ship by Wednesday, December 20.
Using UPS Next Day Air, ship by Friday, December 22.
For more information, click here. 

Amazon:
Using Free Shipping, order by Friday, December 15.
Using Standard Shipping, order by Monday, December 18.
Using Two-Day Shipping, order by Friday, December 22.
Using One-Day Shipping, order by Saturday, December 23. (in select cities)
Using Same-Day Delivery, order by 9:30 a.m. local time on Sunday, December 24. (in select cities)
Using Two-Hour Delivery, order by 9:45 p.m. local time on Sunday, December 24. (in select cities)
For more information, click here. 

Target:
Using premium 2-day shipping, place order by 12 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19.
Using express 1-day shipping, place order by 12 p.m. on Friday, December 22.
For more information, click here.

Kohl’s:
Using standard shipping, place order by 11 p.m. CST on Monday, December 18.
Using 2-day shipping, place order by 1 p.m. CST on Tuesday, December 19
Using 1-day shipping, place order by 1 p.m. CST on Wednesday, December 20
For more information, click here. 

ToysRUs:
Using free economy shipping, place order by 11:59 p.m. ET on Monday, December 18.
Using expedited shipping, place order by 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday, December 20.
Using express shipping, place order by 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, December 20.
For more information, click here. 

One of Donald Trump’s White House aides has gone public with criticism of the Oval Office. The just-fired Omarosa, who appeared on The Apprentice, told Good Morning America Thursday she saw things while working for the president that made her “very uncomfortable” and “unhappy”.  She did not deny claims she was concerned by Trump’s stance on Charlottesville, where a woman died in clashes with white supremacists, and Roy Moore, the controversial Alabama senate candidate. Omarosa even hinted at producing a tell-all account of her time in the White House, declaring she had “a profound story that I know the world will want to hear”.

The Superbowl set for Minneapolis in February, which sits on the Mississippi River. And for attendees of the big game, backpack company XOOX will set up a zip line to run the width of river. It will span more than 800 feet across and hundreds of feet high. The zip line ride will be $30.

The TSA will want to see your gifts, so be prepared for the long lines at airports.  If you’re traveling with gifts, you might want to skip wrapping them. As the TSA points out, wrapped gifts are fine, but they may need to be unwrapped in some cases. The TSA explains: “Our officers try their best not to mangle the gift wrap, but it’s not a guarantee and it also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this. You can try to avoid this by at least ensuring your gift is a TSA-approved item. However, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and just skip the gift wrap altogether. This way, you don’t hold up the line or waste your own time.”

Facebook is testing a feature that would give its users the ability to easily switch between accounts on the same computer. You’ll click the image at the top of your page to navigate between accounts. This allows you and your family or friends to more quickly switch between Facebook accounts while using the same computer. You can choose whether or not to save your password for quicker login. If you select Remember my password, you’ll remain logged in to Facebook without having to re-enter your password each time you log in. You can also remove saved login information from your account and add extra security.

 

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2017

 

In one of the biggest entertainment network deals ever, Walt Disney Company announced today it will buy most of the assets of 21st Century Fox for $52.4 billion in stock as Disney moves to increase its footprint in video streaming and television amid a changing media landscape.

Disney’s acquisition includes the company’s Twentieth Century Fox film and Fox-TV television studios and its international and cable TV businesses. In the deal Disney will also assume about $13.7 billion of debt of 21st Century Fox. The deal is valued at $66.1 billion, Disney said

Fox Broadcasting Network and its stations, Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Sports 1 and 2 and the Big Ten Network will be listed in a separate company for shareholders, Disney said.

The new company will also include Fox’s Roku investment and a Los Angeles studio lot, while Disney will get Fox’s Hulu interests and Fox Sports Regional Networks.

Disney Chairman and Chief Executive Bob Iger, previously scheduled to retire in July of 2019, has agreed to continue in both posts through the end of 2021, Disney said today.

Most of the assets Disney is buying would be put to use in Mr. Iger’s quest to transform his company into a streaming-video giant that can go head-to-head with rivals such as Netflix Inc.  He wants Disney to have its own relationships with consumers and a broad array of content to offer them online.

Mr. Iger also wants to strengthen Disney’s largest business, television, which has taken a hit as consumers cut back on traditional cable packages and spend more time with digital providers.

The deal would mark a significant turn for Rupert Murdoch’s media empire after decades of expansion that created a titan in the entertainment industry.

The Disney-Fox deal raises the prospect of a future in which media is dominated by a few giants: Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, a combined Disney-Fox, and—if it survives the legal battle with the government—AT&T. A group of smaller companies, including CBS Corp., Viacom Inc., Sony Pictures Entertainment and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., could look to do their own deals to gain more scale and leverage in the industry.

Media companies like Disney and Fox are increasingly concerned that the biggest competitive threats in the future won’t come from rival media conglomerates, but rather from technology companies. Netflix and Amazon.com Inc. are building substantial subscription businesses by reaching consumers directly and are investing huge sums in original programming. Meanwhile, Facebook and Google are winning an overwhelming share of digital advertising dollars.

The growth of Netflix and Amazon, in particular, has changed the equation for Mr. Iger. Since becoming CEO in 2005, he has made Disney the most successful collection of brands in Hollywood due in large part to the $7.4 billion purchase of Pixar Animation Studios and subsequent deals for Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm Ltd., the maker of “Star Wars.”

Buying Fox also would further augment Disney’s collection of franchises. It would gain “Avatar,” which is already represented in the Walt Disney World theme park in Florida under a licensing deal, and Marvel’s X-Men superheroes, to which Fox has had big-screen rights since the 1990s.

Disney is making direct-to-consumer streaming services its top priority. The company is launching one called ESPN Plus, meant to supplement its cable sports giant’s TV offerings, in 2018. The following year, Disney plans to launch a family entertainment service that will include most of its movies and television shows, many of which it currently sells to Netflix in a deal that will expire next year.

Disney also spent nearly $2.6 billion for majority control of streaming technology BamTech, which is powering its new digital services.

Disney would get majority control of Hulu as well, giving it another streaming service to complement the one it is launching in 2019.

A purchase of Fox also would help Disney strengthen its existing television business. Fox’s Twentieth Century Fox Television is one of the industry’s most prolific producers with successful shows on every major broadcast network. Its hits include NBC’s “This Is Us” and ABC’s “Modern Family.”

Disney also will get Fox’s biggest television asset—the animated hit “The Simpsons,” which has generated billions in revenue for the company.

Shopping for the holidays is going strong as Americans continue spending in stores and online according to the retail numbers for November, which included Black Friday and Cyber Monday, key sales days for retailers.

Spending at stores, online-shopping websites and restaurants rose 0.8% in November from the prior month, the Commerce Department said today.

Electronics and appliance stores and online shopping websites both saw robust growth in sales last month.  When excluding the more volatile auto category, which includes cars and car parts, retail sales increased an even more robust 1% in November.  Consumer spending, the key driver of the U.S. economy, has been moving along by a historically low unemployment rate at 4.1% and repeated stock market highs and increasing values of real estate that have driven up the total net worth of U.S. households.

Spending has outpaced both inflation and wage growth, suggesting Americans are buying more and saving less.

The National Retail Federation, a group that represents retail stores, expected consumers nationwide to spend between about 4.0% more during the holiday shopping season than they had in 2016. That would make 2017 the strongest holiday season since 2014.

“We’ve had strong reports so far from various retailers that it has been a good and healthy start to the holiday buying season. It is perhaps the best start in the past few years. We heard early-on consumers were out there before Thanksgiving,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said.

Though many retailers have struggled in recent years to keep up with consumers’ shift to buying some goods online, the brick-and-mortar stores posted sales increases for November as well.

November’s retail sales reading comes one day after the Federal Reserve announced its decision to raise short-term interest rates, a sign Fed policy makers feel the economy is strengthening.

Consumers and businesses are wondering what will happen to the internet as The Federal Communications Commission is set to vote to roll back far-reaching rules governing how internet-service providers treat traffic on their networks, a move expected to empower cable and wireless providers and transform consumers’ online experience.

The 2015 “net neutrality” rules were one of the signature regulatory actions of the Obama administration, requiring broadband providers to treat all traffic equally, without blocking or slowing content, or providing fast lanes for favored sites and services.

Republicans say the shift will unwind what they consider to be a regulatory overreach, restoring vitality to the broadband economy and benefiting consumers with more choices as well as lower prices.

The FCC’s five commissioners are scheduled to vote this morning and ultimately internet-service providers such as Comcast Corp. or Verizon Communications Inc. would be free to begin offering new packages with pricing schemes that deliver some kinds of content but not others.

The 2015 “net neutrality” rules were one of the signature regulatory actions of the Obama administration, requiring broadband providers to treat all traffic equally, without blocking or slowing content, or providing fast lanes for favored sites and services.

Republicans say the shift will unwind what they consider to be a regulatory overreach, restoring vitality to the broadband economy and benefiting consumers with more choices as well as lower prices.

The FCC’s five commissioners are scheduled to vote on the rules Thursday morning, and the three Republicans on the board are widely expected to back the change.

But the issue, which has been the subject of public policy debates for more than a decade, has stirred activists who view a tightly regulated open internet as a powerful force for democracy and opportunity. Those groups have stepped up their activity ahead of the commission’s Thursday vote, which is expected to fall along party lines. They argue that the change threatens to hit consumers with higher prices and Balkanize the internet.

Groups backing the change have argued that it would be in the best interest of consumers and would help small businesses by allowing small internet providers to compete with the big ones. Advocates of the current regime say the open internet is critical to the development of small content upstarts that wouldn’t otherwise be able to compete with big content companies like Facebook or Netflix when it comes to prioritizing their content.

A tentative agreement was struck yesterday on Capitol Hill between the U.S. House and Senate Republicans today, on what could be the final version of a tax bill, clearing the way for the GOP to complete a big legislative priority before Christmas. The full details will be released tomorrow, and votes are set for next week.

“I think we’ve got a pretty good deal,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah told reporters in the Capitol.

The agreement would set the top individual tax rate at 37%, a person familiar with the deal said. That is lower than today’s 39.6% rate and lower than the top rate in each of the bills that passed the House and Senate. Republicans said they were considering that change to address concerns from high-earning residents in high-tax states who would take a hit because they would lose the ability to fully deduct state and local taxes.

The corporate rate would be 21%, the person said. That is higher than the 20% rate Republicans included in the House and Senate tax bills, and it would take effect in 2018. The Senate bill had delayed that rate cut—from today’s 35%—until 2019.

For the few that still watch The View, yesterday’s show had guests former vice president Joe Biden comforting a tearful Meghan McCain as she began to talk about her father’s brain cancer diagnosis.  Her father, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has glioblastoma — the same cancer that killed Biden’s son, Beau, in 2015.  As she fought back tears, Meghan told Biden: “I know you and your family have been through tragedy I couldn’t conceive of. What would you tell people—” Biden interrupted, walked over to her side, held her hand and talked about the breakthroughs that are occurring, and what her father means to him.

Omarosa Manigault (yes the former outrageous contestant on The Apprentice and recent Trump White House employee) was dragged out of the White House yesterday after being fired.  Multiple sources report that former Apprentice contestant Omarosa, whose resignation from her position with the Trump administration was announced Wednesday, did not leave the White House voluntarily and had to be physically restrained and escorted off the White House grounds. And the Secret Service confirms that her White House access pass was deactivated, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says  Omarosa “resigned” — not effective until January 20. Sanders did not address how Omarosa will continue to earn her taxpayer-funded salary if she no longer has access to the White House compound.

… A White House official also told the Washington Post that she did “not voluntarily resign” and was escorted off the premises, while the Wall Street Journal reports she was “physically dragged and escorted off the campus” Tuesday evening.

What would you pay to skip seeing the in-laws over the holidays? The average person says they’d pay $158.

… They’d pay $150 to avoid any talk about politics.

… They’d hand over $259 to get that child-like festive spirit back.

… Some find holiday shopping so cumbersome, they would be willing to pay $121 to have it all done for them.

… People still care about whether their significant other will love their gift, and put a price tag of $134 on their beloved’s satisfaction, not including the price of the present.

School bullies and sexual abusing men should watch out — because technology will increasingly be on the side of the victim. In California (Vacaville) a two-minute long voicemail laced with disgusting and derogatory comments has been revealed by the parents of a bullied 12-year-old. In the voicemail another student is heard saying, “I hope you get hit by a bus” — and some things that are way worse. The police and school officials are looking into it.

Target will soon offer same-day delivery, to compete against Amazon.  Target has acquired same-day delivery startup Shipt for $550 million. The deal should speed up Target’s plans to offer same-day delivery in its stores. It’s expecting to have the feature available in half its stores by early 2018, and in the “majority” of stores in time for 2018 holiday shopping. Your options will largely be limited to groceries, electronics, “essentials” and home products, but Target plans to offer products from all its major categories by the end of 2019.

… Shipt will continue to run its own business, which relies on a network of personal shoppers to fill orders, independently of Target. But Target also has an alliance with Instacart, creating some overlap.

 

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2017

It was Democrat Doug Jones winning in Alabama last night, capturing the U.S. Senate seat in that normally very Republican state.  Tuesday’s tally was an upset in an election that drove a wedge within the Republican party and gave Democrats another burst of momentum ahead of the 2018 midterm races.

The result was a defeat for President Donald Trump, who had endorsed Republican Roy Moore, and for his former White House strategist, Steve Bannon, who had made this the first major test of his strategy of supporting antiestablishment candidates to challenge the GOP old guard.  It was also the second potent signal, after Democrats swept the Virginia legislature races a month ago, that Democratic enthusiasm in the 2018 midterms could produce the sort of election wave that could flip control of Congress.

Mr. Jones, a 63-year-old former federal prosecutor, won in part by appealing to voters who believed the allegations of sexual misconduct and assault on teenage girls when Mr. Moore was in his 30s were an embarrassment to the state and disqualifier for office.

“This entire race has been about dignity and respect,” Mr. Jones said at his boisterous victory rally in Birmingham. “This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency.”

Mr. Jones pulled off his win due to high turnout by black Democratic voters and suburban Republicans who were put off by the Moore campaign travails. The sexual-misconduct allegations, which Mr. Moore denied, also seemed to create a drag for the Republican as turnout dipped in the largely white, rural counties that Republicans have counted on as a large part of their base.  Jones is the first Democrat that Alabamians have sent to the U.S. Senate in more than two decades. His pending arrival in the nation’s capital will trim the GOP’s Senate majority from 52-48 to 51-49, loosening the Republicans’ grip on power in the chamber after a year of struggling to give Mr. Trump’s agenda a legislative boost. The GOP attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed earlier this year by one vote because of defections within its own ranks.

The president posted a tweet Tuesday night congratulating Mr. Jones on “a hard fought victory,” he said. “The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time.”

In New York City yesterday, the man accused of detonating a homemade pipe bomb strapped to his body in one of the busiest transit hubs faces federal terrorism charges, according to a complaint filed in court.

 

“I did it for the Islamic State,” suspect Akayed Ullah told investigators, according to the complaint. He is charged with providing material support to a terrorist organization, use of weapons of mass destruction, bombing a place of public use, destruction of property by means of an explosive and use of a destructive device. Mr. Ullah faces up to life in prison.

“In the middle of rush hour, as everyday New Yorkers hurried to their jobs, to their schools, ready to start the work week and get going with their busy lives, one man came to kill, to maim and to destroy,” said Joon Kim, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, which brought the charges.

A lawyer for Mr. Ullah, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi immigrant, couldn’t be identified. “We are heartbroken by this attack on our city today and by the allegations being made against a member of our family,” the Ullah family said in a statement.   Ullah constructed the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn apartment about one week prior to Monday’s attack, according to the complaint. He used Christmas tree lights, wiring and a nine-volt battery to detonate the bomb, it says. He filled the bomb with metal screws, in order to cause maximum damage, then affixed the bomb to his body with zip ties, prosecutors say.

 

The explosive fizzled but burned Mr. Ullah, injured three others and disrupted morning commutes for thousands of New Yorkers. Investigators say Mr. Ullah, who had a job as an electrical worker, hadn’t appeared on authorities’ radar. Investigators say Mr. Ullah was inspired by Islamic State internet propaganda.

How deep does the hate go for President Trump no one knows, but it’s beginning to unfold in a large way. One of the FBI’s top agent and an FBI lawyer, who were involved in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email arrangement and the probe into Russian electoral meddling, exchanged texts disparaging then-candidate Donald Trump, including calling him an “idiot” and a “menace,” according to copies of the messages the Justice Department provided Congress.

Peter Strzok, 47 years old, was one of the highest-ranking agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was removed from his post with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling this past summer after a Justice Department watchdog launched an inquiry into the texts.

The messages between Mr. Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page include one in which Ms. Page tells him in August 2016: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace.”

In July 2016, during the GOP convention, Ms. Page texted Mr. Strzok: “Wow, Donald Trump is an enormous d*uche,” to which Mr. Strzok responded: “How was Trump, other than a douche?”

Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, who also briefly worked with Mr. Mueller’s office, haven’t responded to requests for comment.

FBI Director Christopher Wray was asked repeatedly about Mr. Strzok’s texts at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, but declined to answer, citing a continuing investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general, the in-house watchdog.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is scheduled to face the same committee Wednesday morning and is likely to face questions about the text messages. About 375 texts, which had been flagged by the inspector general as the most relevant, were provided to Congress late Tuesday in advance of his hearing.

Instead of being fired,  Strzok was simply reassigned to a supervisory job in the bureau’s human resources division after Mr. Mueller recently learned about the text messages.  The texts date back to 2015, including one in which Mr. Strzok refers to Mrs. Clinton’s rival for the Democratic nomination, Bernie Sanders, as “an idiot like Trump.”   In one 2016 message, Ms. Page said: “God, Trump is a loathsome human.” In response, Mr. Strzok said: “Yet he may win,” adding, “Good for Hillary.”

Mr. Trump’s allies have raised ethical concerns about some Justice Department and FBI staff, including Mr. Strzok, as Mr. Mueller’s investigation proceeds.  Supporters of Mr. Mueller’s investigation have dismissed the criticisms as politically motivated attempts to distract from a legitimate probe.

Will 21st Century Fox sellout to Disney?  With viewers turning to streaming video, sports has come to dominate traditional TV.   In 2005, sports accounted for 14 of 100 most viewed broadcasts. In 2015, it was 93 out of 100, according to Moffett Nathanson.

That is one reason behind a potential 21st Century Fox—Disney deal, which could be announced as early as this week. And it is one reason why regulators could frown on such an agreement.  People involved with the talks say that in addition to Fox’s television and movie studios and its FX and National Geographic cable networks, Disney would also acquire Fox’s regional sports networks.

The 22 networks are worth roughly $23 billion in enterprise value, according to MoffettNathanson. That makes them nearly a third of the total value of the $71 billion deal. Wall Street Journal parent company News Corp and 21st Century Fox share common ownership.

These sports networks are local cable channels that have exclusive rights to hometown games. They have been a major force behind the escalating costs of sports licensing rights. If you want to watch the Detroit Tigers on TV, for example, you have to subscribe to Fox Sports Detroit.

Combined with Disney’s ESPN and stakes in the three leading college conferences channels (Big Ten, S.E.C., and A.C.C.), the channels would give Disney a conspicuously dominant sports portfolio. This could draw the attention of regulators who are already challenging another big media deal—AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner. The issue would be how much more dominant would Disney be than Fox is right now, with its Fox Sports and regional sports networks.

Human foot washes ashore on beach of Vancouver, Canada. Exceptionally high tides this time of the year off British Columbia can turn the rocky western coast of Vancouver Island into a graveyard. Bones from gray whales, sea lions and killer whales wash ashore, piling on the beach. But on Thursday morning, Taz, a 6-year-old Rottweiler, sensed something different about a bone tangled in a bed of kelp. Taz darted away from her owner, Mike Johns, to inspect it. Her instincts were right. Johns followed behind her and pushed away the kelp, revealing his dog’s find: a tibia and fibula attached to a left human foot with a white ankle sock in a black running shoe.

… In any other part of the world, a sneaker with a human foot washing ashore might be a terrifying discovery, enough to frighten residents and stir fears of a gruesome murder or a serial killer on the loose. But not in British Columbia, where these discoveries have become so common that they are tracked. It was the 13th foot to wash ashore since 2007.

… Johns called the police and then used a stick to pick up what remained of the leg, carried it back to his property and locked it in his greenhouse. He worried that if it remained on the beach, it would have washed back into the ocean. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police retrieved the remains on Friday. DNA testing is currently underway.

… Since the first severed foot was discovered in August 2007, the cases have caught the attention and imagination of Canadians across the country. At first, people’s theories for how the feet came to their final resting spot ran from the logical to the hysterical. Maybe they died in a plane crash or fell overboard, some surmised, or they were dumped in the ocean by a serial killer or human traffickers. But in reality, the explanations were far less sinister. The authorities have identified eight of the 12 feet as belonging to six people, and none died by foul play.

Apple will let you pre-order apps.  If you can’t bear the thought of waiting on your phone till the exact moment a new app is released, Apple has added a feature to its App Store: pre-orders. App creators cn now take pre-orders up to 90 days in advance.

 

The science of the perfect latte.  New research (Princeton University) shows the secret to the perfect latte is the speed at which the espresso is poured. Adding espresso to warm milk at a rate of more than 8 inches per second will encourage the two liquids to arrange themselves into attractive layers as the mixture cools. This is because coffee is less dense than milk, so tends to float on top. A process called double-diffusion convection means the layers will stay in place for up to 20 minutes.

… The scientists heated the milk to 122 degrees, but two-time Australian champion barista Craig Simon says the perfect latte requires the milk to be heated to 140 degrees before it is poured.

Giant prehistoric penguins once swam off the coast of New Zealand.   An international team of scientists have announced the discovery of a previously unknown species of prehistoric penguin — that weighed 220 pounds and was 5 feet 10 inches tall. The bird waddled around off the east coast of New Zealand between 55 and 60 million years ago.

… The largest living penguin, the Emperor penguin, is around 4 feet. The scientists have named the new species Kumimanu biceae, which means ‘monster bird’.

Hey Canada, you had best reconsider your rush hour Uber ride to Tim Horton’s Restaurant, because that last infusion of coffee and Timbits might cost you more than you anticipate. Twitter user Emily Kennard reported that her friend was recently charged $14,400 (US) for a 20-minute ride through Toronto. The unnamed friend apparently attempted to dispute the charges and was initially rebuffed by Uber. Only after Kennard took to social media did Uber own up to its mistake and refund the ride.

In England, Harry and Meghan may want to take note. While royal weddings may be plotted out and choreographed within an inch of their lives, things can — and do — still go wrong. Harry may want to start planning where he’ll be the night before now if he wants to avoid the same misery which befell his brother William the night before his wedding in 2011. On wedding day to Kate, poor Will was seriously running on empty. He’d had just half an hour’s sleep the night before. To make matters worse, this lack of sleep wasn’t because he was doing anything fun or decadent. Instead, it was because he was kept awake by nerves and screaming crowds camped outside Clarence House.

Tom Brady, in his quest to become the NFL’s answer to Gwyneth Paltrow, has just launched the TB12 Method mobile app. The TB12 Method is the lifestyle brand that Brady cooked up with his personal trainer (Alex Guerrero. For the low cost of $19.99 per month or $199.99 a year, you can have their health and lifestyle advice beamed directly to your phone via the app.

… According to a TB12 press release: “The app is a resource to help users build positive daily habits that lead to greater health, well-being, and vitality in their lives and which serves as a complement and deeper dive into the concepts introduced in Tom Brady’s #1 New York Times best-seller, The TB12 Method: How to Achieve a Lifetime of Sustained Peak Performance. These core TB12 Method principles and cutting-edge concepts incorporate athletic preparation, hydration, nutrition, and rest and cognitive fitness.”

… Brady’s book, which has its critics, talks about the wonders of “recovery sleepwear,” how useless “brain games” can make you smarter, how drinking lots of water can prevent sunburns, and how special TB12 electrolytes can replace the “72 trace minerals” you lose when sweating.

Worried that your good deeds on Earth won’t guarantee you a place in heaven? Fear no more. A Seattle-based company is offering to hold a spot for you at the pearly gates, and it will even throw in a money-back guarantee. ReserveASpotInHeaven.com sells “travel kits” — complete with boarding passes, certificates and “Heaven 101” booklets — that offer the “chance to enjoy your sin-filled life” without consequence while lowering the “risk of eternal damnation.” The kits are intended to be gag gifts.

 

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017

The bombing suspect can’t stop talking.   The 27-year old man accused of detonating a homemade pipe bomb strapped to his body in one of New York City’s busiest transit hubs was charged with making a terrorist threat and supporting an act of terrorism, police said this morning at their press conference.

Akayah Ullah, a Bangladeshi immigrant, who was also was charged with possession of a weapon had been living in Brooklyn, and attempted the suicide bombing in an underground passageway connecting the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Manhattan’s Times Square subway station, the city’s busiest.  The explosive fizzled but burned Mr. Ullah, injured three others and disrupted morning commutes for thousands of New Yorkers. Investigators say Mr. Ullah, who had a job as an electrical worker, hadn’t appeared on authorities’ radar at all.  Investigators say Mr. Ullah was inspired by Islamic State internet propaganda.

Speaking on NY1 Tuesday morning, Chief James Waters, chief of counterterrorism for the NYPD, said police executed a number of search warrants overnight on the homes where authorities believe Mr. Ullah lived.  Police have also questioned multiple relatives of Mr. Ullah, according to law-enforcement officials.

In addition to a pipe, wires, matches, screws and a nine-volt battery, Mr. Ullah used wires from Christmas lights to spark the charge of the device, a senior law-enforcement official said Tuesday.

“If you look at what he attempted to make that bomb out of and what he attempted to make it into, it didn’t function with the force and power that the recipe intended."

Ullah came to the U.S. in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  He lives with his mother and siblings, the senior law-enforcement official said. The senior official said Mr. Ullah worked an “electrician-type job” in New York City. He was licensed to drive a black car or livery car from March 2012 to March 2015, though the license lapsed in 2015 and wasn’t renewed, according to a spokesman for the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission.

When Ullah was questioned by investigators, he said that he carried out the attack alone in the name of ISIS, and in the name of Muslims in the Middle East who were killed by the U.S. government, the official said. Mr. Ullah said that he had followed ISIS writings on the internet and used the web to learn how to construct the pipe bomb, the official said.  Ullah cited anger over the Gaza strip, Iraq, Syria and the Barack Obama and George W. Bush administrations as his motivation for the attack, the senior official said.

“He insisted he acted alone out of his own outrage,” the official said.

“It seems accurate he did this completely on his own. Built the device on his own, set it off on his own,” he added. “The device could’ve caused much more injury had it been put together a little better.”

Voters are turning out in large numbers today in Alabama in the special election to fill a vacant Alabama Senate seat seems close enough to provide real drama.  Polls show the race narrowed last month after Republican nominee Roy Moore was repeatedly accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers, which he has denied.  Even before that, Mr. Moore’s strength in a statewide race was in doubt. In 2012, when Republican Mitt Romney drew 61% in the presidential race in Alabama, Mr. Moore drew a smaller 52% share in his successful race for chief justice of the state’s Supreme Court.

Mr. Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, if successful, would be the first Alabama Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in 25 years.  Some of those counties have large African-American populations (Choctaw and Clarke), while others have large populations of young voters (Tuscaloosa)—two groups that have the potential to help Democrats balance the Republican tilt of the electorate. If Mr. Moore struggles in those counties again on Tuesday, that’s a bad sign for him. If he wins a few of them, he can relax a bit.

Westfield Company, the Australian operator of marquee malls from California to New York’s World Trade Center, agreed to a $15.7 billion takeover offer from European shopping-center giant Inibail-Rodamco. The deal would consolidate two of the world’s biggest mall operators at a time when brick-and-mortar retailers scramble to adapt to a tumultuous shift toward online shopping. Until recently, the pressure has been focused on mall operators in smaller, less well-heeled markets.

Westfield had been feeling the heat of a changing shopping landscape for years and shares were down 9% for the company before  the disclosure of the deal.

The military will comply and allow transgender people to opening join the U.S. military although President Trump was hoping to put a stop to it.  Yesterday, a federal judge denied a renewed bid by the White House to prevent transgender people from joining, and the order yesterday allows transgender to once again join beginning Jan. 1st.

While the Justice Department attempts further court intervention, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman, said at a news briefing that the Pentagon is “preparing to implement a previous policy to remain in compliance” with Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s order.

n San Francisco, Mayor Edwin Lee has died, according to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed.  Lee was just 65. Mr. Lee died just after 1 a.m. at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Ms. Breed said early Tuesday.

“It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee died on Tuesday,” a statement from the mayor’s office said.

The statement said family, friends and colleagues were at Mr. Lee’s side.  Mr. Lee wasn’t known to be ill. No other details have been released.  Mr. Lee was appointed mayor in 2011, replacing Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was elected the state’s lieutenant governor. He went on to win the 2011 election and was re-elected in 2015.   He was known for his work against homelessness.

 

Monday, Dec. 11, 2017

The wildfires continue to roar across parts of Southern California and continue to threaten populated neighborhoods and businesses. 

According to fire management reports, over 100,000 people have been evacuated as multiple fires continue to ravage southern California.

The Thomas fire is currently at 148,000 acres and is only 15% contained north of Santa Paula in Ventura County. Evacuations for most of Ventura City and Santa Paula were lifted Friday evening.

In Los Angeles County, the Creek fire is at 15,619 acres and 80% contained. All evacuation orders were lifted at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7, except for the Limekiln Canyon neighborhood. The Shadow Hills area north of Sunset Blvd., Ebey Canyon and Doane Canyon are open to residents only. The Rye fire is 6,049 acres and 65% contained. All evacuation for this fire have been lifted. The Skirball fire is 475 acres with 50% containment. More than 700 homes in a 3.2-square-mile area were initially evacuated, though many residents have since been permitted to return.

The Lilac Fire is now at 4,100 acres and 20% contained in San Diego County. Everything within the area bound by West Lilac Road, Interstate 15, Gopher Canyon Road and East Vista Way has been evacuated. Residents were also evacuated from the Oceanside area bordered by Burma Road, Wilshire Road, North River Road and South Mission Avenue. 

The Liberty fire is at 300 acres and 10% contained in Riverside County. All evacuations for this fire have been lifted.

 

The big ones get better or disappear and now two major hospital systems are in talks about a possible merger that would create the largest U.S. owner of hospitals, 121 of them, as a series of deals shape up to further consolidate control of the health-care landscape.

Ascension and Providence St. Joseph Health, both nonprofits, are talking about combining, according to people familiar with the discussions. A deal would create an entity of unprecedented reach, with 191 hospitals in 27 states and annual revenue of $44.8 billion, based on the most recent fiscal year. That would dethrone the nation’s largest pure hospital operator, HCA Healthcare Inc., which owns 177 hospitals and ended 2016 with $41.5 billion in revenue.

Ascension and Providence have been talking for months, and a merger is far from assured, according to the people. Talks have included a variety of arrangements short of a merger, one of the people said. 

Nearly 60% of U.S. hospitals are private nonprofits, a status that exempts them from some taxes but requires in exchange that they provide community benefits such as free care for low-income patients. Remaining U.S. hospitals are government-owned or for-profits, including leading players HCA, Tenet Healthcare Corp. , and Community Health SystemsInc.

For patients, the sector’s latest wave of consolidation could mean more tightly managed networks of medical care, which proponents say could reduce unnecessary spending but critics fear could raise prices and limit patient choice.

Pushing down the use of costly services such as emergency rooms is a focus of CVS Health Corp.’s $69 billion deal for Aetna Inc., announced last week. UnitedHealth Group Inc., the parent of the biggest U.S. health insurer, just sped up its own plunge into the health-care provider sector by saying its Optum health-services arm will buy one of the largest physician groups in the nation, adding it to a growing roster of urgent-care clinics and outpatient surgery centers.

“The goal of an insurer is to try to get people to the lowest cost-of-care site appropriate for their care,” said Brent D. Fulton, an assistant adjunct professor in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. “The hospital is the most expensive setting.”


The giant U.S. infrastructure proposal is about to get going with President Trump’s team putting finishing touches on a plan to direct federal spending of $200 billion or more.  The funds it would propose to offset with cuts elsewhere in the federal budget will leverage hundreds of billions more from local governments and private investors to pay for road, rail, water and utility upgrades.

White House officials have said for months they hoped to turn to infrastructure once Congress has enacted an overhaul of the tax code, which has occupied the Republican establishment and its business allies for the past several months. More recently, Republicans have signaled they plan to focus on another posttax priority, a revamp of the nation’s welfare system. They also hope to revisit a repeal of the Affordable Care Act next year.

Big legislation can be more difficult in an election year, but Mr. Trump’s political advisers say they believe they​have public support. That runs counter to widespread doubts in Washington that Congress will want to craft a major spending initiative on the heels of a tax package that could raise the deficit by more than $1 trillion.

 

Bitcoin is hot and now it is being put to the test with the first bitcoin futures beginning to trade yesterday, sparking a swift run-up in the price of the digital currency as the exchange provider’s website experienced outages from heavy traffic.

Trading of the hotly anticipated U.S. bitcoin futures began at 6 p.m. on Sunday on an exchange run by Cboe Global Markets Inc., while its larger rival CME Group Inc. plans to introduce its own bitcoin futures a week later.  The bitcoin contract expiring in January opened at $15,000 and rose to $16,660 within the first six minutes of trading, an 11% surge. About 1,000 contracts changed hands in the first three hours of trade.

This morning in London, the contract was changing hands at $17,500. Bitcoin itself was at $16,635.05, according to CoinDesk, having risen in the first minutes of futures trading.

The exchange halted trading Sunday for two minutes at 8:31 p.m. because ofnvolatility, a spokeswoman for Cboe said. The exchange operator can impose such halts after a 10% price swing.  Interest in the futures caused problems for Cboe’s website. “Due to heavy traffic on our website, visitors to www.cboe.com may find that it is performing slower than usual and may at times be temporarily unavailable. All trading systems are operating normally,” a Cboe spokeswoman said.

The launch of the bitcoin futures represents a milestone for the digital currency. But the new market could be roiled by hacks, technical snafus or manipulation schemes.

One risk, critics say, is that the underlying markets for bitcoin are largely unregulated and have a troubled history. Mt. Gox, once the largest bitcoin exchange, collapsed in 2014 after being robbed of more than $470 million of bitcoin. Other bitcoin exchanges have faced criminal charges of money laundering.

KEATON JONES BULLYING VIDEO 

At this point, it’s highly likely you’ve already seen the Facebook video that Kimberly Jones (of Tennessee) posted of her son Keaton sharing the pain of bullying. In the clip, which has now been viewed over 17 million times since Jones uploaded it on Friday, Keaton can be seen asking his mother why kids bully.

… In the video Keaton, seated in the passenger seat of his mom’s car, shares that he was bullied again, then asks: “What’s the point of it? Why do you find joy in taking innocent people and finding a way to be mean to them? It’s not okay.” Mom can be heard asking her son what other kids at school do to him, leading Keaton to tell his mother that they make fun of his nose, call him ugly and tell him he has no friends. With tears beginning to run down his face, he also said that they pour milk on him and stuff food into his clothes.

… At the end of the video, as he struggles through his emotions, Keaton still manages to provide a word of hope to others going through bullying: “If you are made fun of, just don’t let it bother you. Just stay strong, I guess. It’s hard. But… it’ll probably get better one day.” • VIDEO

Last week, Pennsylvania man Charles Wilson-Adams threw a very special party to celebrate his pooch’s first birthday — going all out to make sure his best pal Deuce had everything a dog could ever want. Charles threw Deuce a Star Wars-themed birthday party. Deuce is Wilson-Adams’ service dog and got a lightsaber-embroidered sweatshirt to wear when guests arrived.

Ever hear of the phrase “trip chaining”? A study says women make complex trips with multiple stops in the family car far more often than men. The study (out of Canada) has found that “trip chaining” — the practice of stopping at intermediate points during a journey — is a woman’s domain. The study said the longer the trip chain — stopping for coffee, dropping children off at school, picking up dry cleaning, all on the way to work — the more likely the driver was a woman. Men and women were equally likely to make two-stage trips, but women led men in complex trips of three, four or five and more stages.

You can stop forwarding funny emails and pics.  If you like to forward funny jokes, memes and videos to co-workers, you can stop now. 77% of the 12,000 people surveyed about work email says joke and humor emails are no welcome. Why? Time. Most survey respondents said their inboxes are flooded with enough emails and your jokes and memes aren’t helping. Plus, if they want a bit of humor they can check their social media feed.

… Bosses, your jokes and funny emails aren’t interesting at all. Almost 90% of employees said owners, bosses and managers who forward joke/funny emails should be spending their time on something else.

Christmas tree eyebrows are the latest craze in fashion. They were created by a lifestyle vlogger. Just days after an Instagram user named Taylor R. posted a photo of herself with a “decorated” eyebrows, her image quickly become popular. • IMAGE

The New York Times spoke with dozens people who’ve spent the first year of the Trump presidency in the White House and what we’ve learned is not surprising: he loves cable TV — especially Fox & Friends — and he drinks a dozen or so Diet Cokes a day.

… Breaking down Trump’s DC habit: Each 12 ounce can contains 40mg of sodium, 46mg of caffeine, as well as other ingredients like phenylalanine, aspartame, phosphoric acid, and potassium benzoate.

… The president Consimes 480mg of sodium and 552mg of caffeine every day with his dozen Diet Cokes. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended daily intake of sodium for most adults is, ideally, no more than 1500mg. Meanwhile, the Mayo Clinic says that “up to 400mg of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults.”

Surveys regularly show that our passwords to websites habits are horrible. But you know who’s the worst? Men. Yep. Men are almost three times more likely then women to use the word ‘password’ as their password. Women are 1½ more times likely to use their significant’s name in their password.

White walls in a room might feel crisp and clean, like a blank slate, but if they’re in your workplace, it’s time to repaint. Color not only affects a person’s mood, but it can also hinder a worker’s effectiveness. In a study from the University of Texas, researchers tested the impact of color on productivity by giving three groups of people clerical tasks to complete in three different rooms, each painted a different color: red, white, and aqua. Some individuals were able to block out the color “noise” of their surroundings, while others were affected by it. Some had no difficulty working in the red room, while others tended to be distracted by the color. Both groups, however, made more errors when they worked in the white room.

… Sadly, most work environments are white, off-white and gray — colors that doesn’t help us to be productive.

… Red For The Detail-Oriented. A powerful color, red stimulates the pulse and can raise blood pressure — and help increase performance in employees who have detail-oriented assignments.

… Blue For Creative Types. Blue is calming. It promotes communication, trust, and efficiency. It also helps people with creativity by opening the mind to new ideas. In the workplace, blue would be a good color in a room that is used for brainstorming.

… Don’t Paint Conference Rooms Yellow. The color of optimism, yellow is stimulating. Too much of it, however, can cause anxiety, and studies show that people are more likely to lose their temper in yellow rooms, which might make it a bad choice for conference rooms.

… Green For Inspiring Innovation. Similar to blue, green is a calming color that promotes harmony and balance. Green would be a good choice in an office where innovation is a key component.

… Avoid Gray To Keep Morale Up. While gray is psychologically neutral, the color also lacks energy. It is suppressive and prepares people for hibernation.

Today is the biggest breakup day of the year…supposedly.   ‘Tis the season to be dumped. Today (December 11) is the date couples are most likely to breakup. Digital statisticians looked at data from Facebook, analyzing thousands of messages looking for signs of a break up. From their investigations, they deduced that the peak break-up periods around the holidays fall two weeks before Christmas Day.

… The reasons for the breakups vary. For some, the idea of spending the festive period with someone they’re having doubts about brings a wave of dread. For new couples, many decide that they don’t want to bring their new date home to meet the parents or they don’t want to meet yours. For the thrifty, some realize that they’re new partner is not worth spending on.

Friday, Dec. 8, 2017

The idle threat is over in Washington D.C. and no government shutdown is expected.  Friday, Congress  passed a two-week stopgap spending bill, deferring until later in the month a bigger fight over what issues should be resolved before lawmakers leave Washington for the year.  It gives every congressman and senator a chance to get in front of media cameras and blame the other party.   And every organization the government deals with, keeps getting money as usual.

The spending patch, which will keep the government funded through Dec. 22, avoids a partial government shutdown just over a day before its current funding expires at 12:01 a.m. Saturday morning.

The bill passed in a 235-193 vote in the House, with 221 Republicans supporting it and 18 opposed. 

“We’ll be working together in the next two weeks to find a long-term solution to our funding needs while maintaining fiscal discipline,” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) said in a statement after the House vote.

Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to make sure they are in the best position to wrest legislative victories out of a frenzied push in the final weeks of the year.

Congressional leaders are working on a two-year budget agreement with President Donald Trump that would raise both military and nonmilitary spending above the levels, known as the sequester, established in a 2011 budget and debt limit fight. Those lower spending levels kicked in in 2013, but lawmakers have since then passed two budget deals bumping spending higher. The last budget deal ended in September, but lawmakers have kept the government running at that level, as of Thursday evening through Dec. 22.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) met with Mr. Ryan and President Trump yesterday afternoon and spent most of the time working on where to set spending levels for the next two-year deal, an aide said.   Republicans are pushing for $54 billion more in defense funding a year. Democrats want to ensure a comparable increase for nondefense spending, according to aides.

Employment across the U.S. is steady and employers hired workers at a strong rate in November, making the unemployment rate at a 17-year low. But wage gains remained a problem with no growth for American workers.

Sluggish wage growth has been a consistent them of this economic cycle, confounding many economists who have long posited that a falling unemployment rate would herald higher pay for workers.

Though wage growth hasn't increased particularly quickly, many economists still believe it's coming.

Wildfires all over have Southern California continue to destroy homes, structures and some businesses.  It’s now nearly 500 homes this week with over 150,000 people evacuated in some of the richest areas of L.A. County on to Ventura, CA.  In famed Bel Air, the wildfire is much smaller in size, but it has had a big impact on expensive homes. The Skirball Fire has damaged many homes in the hills of  Bel Air, Los Angeles’ most expensive neighborhood according to Zillow. At least six of those, which Zillow estimates to be worth around $20 million, were completely destroyed  in the past two days.

Sen. Al Franken said Thursday he would resign in the face of sexual-misconduct allegations, underscoring how deeply the Capitol is being shaken by the national reassessment of how men treat women and raising anxiety about which lawmakers could be next to go.

Mr. Franken made his announcement in a speech in the Senate floor saying he would resign in a few weeks.  His fellow Democratic senators want him out now.

 “Today I am announcing that in the coming weeks I will be resigning as a member of the United States Senate”  Frankin said yesterday.

Mr. Franken’s departure wouldn’t be expected to have an impact on the tax or spending fights in the Senate, where Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority.

In another development, the House Ethics Committee is seeking an interview with former congressional staffer Lauren Greene, who alleges she was sexually harassed by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas) when she worked in his office, Ms. Green’s attorney, said Les Alderman of Alderman, Devorsetz & Hora PLLC Thursday. Mr. Farenthold has denied the allegations.

Trent Franks, a conservative House member in his eighth congressional term, issued a statement late Thursday announcing he would be leaving Congress in January, after two aides reported he had asked women staff members to be surrogates to carry his children.

“Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others,” Mr. Franks said, noting that he has two children through a surrogate.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) quickly issued a statement after Mr. Franks saying once he was briefed on the reports, he found them credible encouraged the lawmaker to resign.

Amid the moves by the senator and congressman, anxiety rippled through the Capitol Thursday about who might be next.

“I firmly believe that some people will be captured in this that aren’t guilty of something because [that’s] the way the stampede starts,” Sen. Richard Burr (R., N.C.) said at a Council on Foreign Relations interview this week. “And it doesn’t necessarily stop until innocent people are stepped on.”

“People are conflicted,” said said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to House Democratic leaders. “It’s coming so fast and it’s not clear what the standards are or what they are going to be. There is going to be more on a bipartisan basis.”

“And I think what people want to figure out is, is there ever going to be some process or is it everything is an immediate death penalty.”

A news photographer captured a driver saving a wild rabbit from the California wildfires. The man pulled over and tried to scoop up the rabbit only to see it hop away from him towards large flames. He then began panicking, jumping up and down, fearing the animal would die. Seconds later, the rabbit reappeared trying to get away from the wildfire. The man then gently picked the animal up and held it in his arms to try to calm it down. • VIDEO

On Thursday Americans who compete in or support the Olympics were shocked to learn that US athletes may not be allowed to compete in South Korea in February. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders made the comments on Thursday during an on-camera press briefing, casting doubt on whether Americans would compete at the Olympics. Soon after, Sanders walked back that statement on Twitter, saying the U.S. “looks forward” to the Games.

… Sanders’ speculation on U.S. participation in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea followed similar doubt shared by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. On Wednesday, Haley told Fox News that it was an “open question” if the United States would participate in the games.

Hidden fees that show up on broadband bills after customers sign up for service have long been a source of frustration for Internet users. Because advertised prices often don’t reflect the full cost of service, the FCC in 2015 forced ISPs to be more transparent with customers about hidden fees and the consequences of exceeding data caps. The new requirements were part of the net neutrality rules — and are therefore going to be eliminated when the FCC votes to repeal the rules next week.

… While the FCC’s Chairman is proposing to keep some of the commission’s existing disclosure rules and to impose some new disclosure requirements, ISPs won’t have to tell consumers exactly what everything will cost when they sign up for service.

Monday is supposed to be the Biggest Breakup Day of the Year.  ‘Tis the season to be dumped. Monday, December 11 is the date couples are most likely to breakup. Digital statisticians looked at data from Facebook, analyzing thousands of messages looking for signs of a break up. From their investigations, they deduced that the peak break-up periods around the holidays fall two weeks before Christmas Day.

… The reasons for the breakups vary. For some, the idea of spending the festive period with someone they’re having doubts about brings a wave of dread. For new couples, many decide that they don’t want to bring their new date home to meet the parents or they don’t want to meet yours. For the thrifty, some realize that they’re new partner is not worth spending on.

Holiday Shopping is bad on the knees. If your knees are aching, holiday shopping might be the culprit. According to a survey the most common physical complaint of shoppers is knee pain. Hours of walking, lugging heavy packages and standing in lines leaves knees feeling sore and stiff.

Glen Oliver has made a habit of paying for the person behind him at Tim Hortons Restaurant Drive-Thru — it’s just what he does.  And that simple act may have helped save a life. It all started with a letter sent to the editor of the Pickering News Advertiser in Ontario, Canada. The anonymous writer said that back on July 18, they were planning to die by suicide. That is, until they got a “sign” in the Tim Hortons line. They pulled up to pay at the drive thru when the they were told “The nice man already paid for it and he said to have a great day.”

… The author of the letter to the editor wrote: “I wondered why someone would buy coffee for a stranger for no reason. Why me? Why today? If I was a religious sort I would take this as a sign. This random act of kindness was directed at me on this day for a purpose. I decided at that moment to change my plans for the day and do something nice for someone. I ended up helping a neighbor take groceries out of her car and into the house.”

… The Advertiser published excerpts from the letter, which is how Oliver’s wife saw it. They figured out by the timing, location, and wording that Oliver must’ve been the one to pay for the order. He’s been doing the little ritual for years.

There have been many different internet challenges over the years, but the latest popular trend is one called the #InvisibleBoxChallenge. It involves using both your imagination and your physical strength to pull it off. Lots of people on Twitter are posting videos of themselves attempting the trick with mixed results.

… The goal is to imagine a box in front of you, and record yourself stepping on top of it and over it. It’s harder than it sounds. The trick first popped up in August, but now it’s back in the spotlight after a cheerleader in Texas perfected it.

… There are people who do it well; there are people doing it wrong; and there are people who want no part of it.

The world is not politically correct enough just yet.  A logo of a cartoon cow has created controversy in Montclair, New Jersey. Complaints against the newly opened Dairy Air Ice Cream Co. began Monday with an open letter by local business owner Amy Tingle, who blasted the store for sexualizing women to sell ice cream and demanded that the logo be put out to pasture.

As Tingle puts it, the logo reveals a “hyper-sexualized, obviously female cow with her [rear] upended and poking through a circle, tail raised up, waiting for what? I’m not sure, but I do know that I am repulsed and offended.” The logo is not visible from the store’s exterior but is plastered on the store’s furniture, walls and cups. Tingle says the logo makes girls and women feel “as if we are things for someone else’s sexual use.” • IMAGE

… Anthony Tortoriello, owner of Dairy Air Ice Cream, could not be reached for comment. The store’s online presence has been wiped and its Instagram page set to private.

2018 will be Ultra Violet. The Pantone Color Institute has announced the Color of the Year is Pantone 18-3838. We laymen can call it Ultra Violet. • IMAGE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keywords:   National News, Klamath Falls News, Klamath Basin News, U.S. News Update, Regional News, News, White House News, Capitol Hill News, News Update, U.S. News And Information, National News Stories

Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Edit Module
Advertisement
Bookmark and Share Email this page Email Print this page Print Get this Calendar Get this Calendar

Today's News Headlines

Pet Partners/Angels in Whiskers At The Klamath County LIbrary

Jan 20, 2018 - Jan 5, 2019

This event occurs weekly on Saturday.

Read with therapy dogs! (They're very good listeners.) All ages welcome.

View event details...

Bookopoly At the Klamath County Library

Jan 20, 2018

Show off your book trivia skills at "Bookopoloy" and win a sweet prize Saturday, Jan 20th at 11 am at the downtown Klamath County Library.   We're set up a Monopoly-style board where players ages 10-18 will be quizzed on a selection of titles for children, youth, and teens. Each member of the winning team will take home $5 gift certificates to Lighthouse Yogurt Company!...

View event details...

Snowshoe Walks At Crater Lake

Jan 20, 2018 - Apr 30, 2018

This event occurs weekly on Sunday and Saturday.

Crater Lake has begun its ranger-guided walks on Saturday and Sundays at 1 pm and during the Christmas holidays. The walks are 2 hours and cover approximately 1 mile of moderately strenuous terrain. Space is limited and reservations are required. Space is limited on walks. They are a fun way to explore this winter wonderland and learn how plants and animals survive the snowy months. Walks...

View event details...

Fundraising Bingo at the Klamath Basin Senior Center

Jan 20, 2018 - Jan 5, 2019

This event occurs weekly on Thursday and Saturday.

Fundraising Bingo Opens at 4:30 pm at the Klamath Basin Senior Center 2045 Arthur Street 541-883-7171 First call at 6pm

View event details...

Youth Rising Pasta Feed

Jan 20, 2018

Youth Rising Leadership Institute Fundraiser. $7/peron. Help send our leadership team to Washington DC!

View event details...

6th Annual Dorris Lions Club Crab Feed

Jan 20, 2018

All you can eat Fresh Cracked Crab, Tri-tip, salads, clam chowder and garlic bread, Cocktails 5:30 pm, Dinner 6:30 pm. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, January 2nd by calling 530-397-5466.   Proceeds benefit Lions Community Service Projects

View event details...

OIT Women's Basketball

Jan 20, 2018

OIT Women Vs. Evergreen State

View event details...

AHRMA Northwest Awards Dinner

Jan 20, 2018

AHRMA = American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association. Awards dinner will be 6 to 11 pm at Granzella's Banquet Hall in Williams CA. Choice of tri-tip, Chicken or pasta plus numerous side dishes. No host bar opens at 6 pm Price is $35/person If you are interested in vintage motorcycle racing, this is the place for you! New members always welcome. Hotels available in the area...

View event details...

Lava Beds National Monument -Crystal Ice Cave Tours!

Jan 20, 2018 - Mar 3, 2018

This event occurs weekly on Saturday.

We have a start date for Crystal Ice Cave Tours! The first tour will be Saturday, January 6th, with tours following every Saturday after that until March (exact final tour date to be decided at a later time). Before reserving a tour, we recommend visiting our website to watch the video and look at the photos to know what to expect. https://www.nps.gov/labe/planyourvisit/crystalicecavetours.htm...

View event details...

Sporting Clays Winter Shoots with Pheasants Forever

Jan 21, 2018 - Jan 6, 2019

This event occurs weekly on Sunday.

Sporting clays winter shoots with Pheasants Forever on Stateline Road, call 541-892-9621 or 541-891-7071 for details.

View event details...

« Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10  ···  17 Next »