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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
May 19, 2018

As despair continues to engulf Venezuela, voters go to the polls

Source: LA Times

Mariana Leal won't be voting in Sunday's presidential election because she believes the fix is in for President Nicolas Maduro to win reelection. Besides, the physical therapist from Caracas has something better to do: pack for her imminent departure from Venezuela.

"These elections don't mean anything," said Leal, 29, as she prepared to sell her last possessions in her east Caracas apartment before leaving for Colombia. "There won't be any real change. To the contrary, the deterioration of the country will accelerate."

Leal's intention to skip voting and determination to leave her native country are typical of the sentiments of many Venezuelans ahead of Sunday's election in which Maduro is expected to win his race against former Lara state Gov. Henri Falcon and evangelist preacher Javier Bertucci.

Disgust with Maduro among Venezuelans is running high due to the lack of food, medical care, galloping annual inflation of 14,000%, and a poverty rate that now encompasses 80% of the population. Reports of widespread hunger and massive unemployment are common.

Read more: http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-venezuela-election-20180519-story.html

May 18, 2018

Mohawked Rex Tillerson Warns U.S. Democracy Threatened By Fascist Pigs Fucking Over The Working Man

WASHINGTON—Challenging American citizens to band together, rise up, and break out of their “mind prisons,” mohawked former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson Thursday warned that U.S. democracy was being threatened by plutocratic fascist pigs fucking over the working man.

“These totalitarian autocrats are coming to fuck you, man,” said Tillerson, pausing briefly to strike a match off his teeth, light a hand-rolled cigarette, and mutter that the goddamn fat cats love seeing all us hamsters spin in our little wheels to power their trip.

“You all need to stop being fucking sheep and see the world for what it is, man. It’s past fucking time we went out and dragged these corporatist parasites kicking and screaming through the streets—and if anybody disagrees, I’ve got two middle fingers for them right here.”

Tillerson responded to a follow-up question concerning his relationship with Donald Trump by saying “here’s how I feel about that piece of shit,” flipping over the lectern, and kicking Breitbart correspondent Charlie Spiering in the crotch.


May 17, 2018

Read The Complaint: Avenatti Sued By Ex-Law Partner For Breach Of Contract

Stormy Daniels attorney Michael Avenatti was sued Wednesday for breach of contract by his former law partner Jason Frank.

Frank alleges that Avenatti violated a settlement agreement that had been reached in December. Under the terms of the settlement, according to the complaint, Avenatti’s law firm was to pay Frank $4.85 million, with a $2 million installment due by May 14. Avenatti failed to wire the installment, the complaint alleges.

In a statement to TPM, Frank’s attorney Eric M. George said that Avenatti’s law firm “entered into a crystal clear written settlement agreement to resolve a prior lawsuit brought by Jason Frank, his former law partner.”

“The settlement agreement was approved by a federal court and was a condition of his law firm exiting bankruptcy,” he said. ” Under this settlement, Mr. Avenatti’s law firm was required to pay Mr. Frank $4.85 million, all of which was personally guaranteed by Mr. Avenatti.”



May 14, 2018

Why making money in the stock market just got a lot more difficult

For almost a decade, it’s been extremely difficult to lose money in the U.S. stock market. Over the next decade, it could be hard to do anything but, according to analysts at Morgan Stanley.

The outlook for market returns has precipitously worsened in recent months, with analysts and investors growing increasingly confident that the lengthy bull market that began in the wake of the financial crisis could be, if not coming to a close, petering out. More market participants view the economy as being in the late stage of its cycle, and a recession is widely expected in the next few years. All of that could result in an equity-market environment that’s a mirror image of recent years, where gains were pretty much uninterrupted, and volatility was subdued.

“2018 is seeing multiple tailwinds of the last nine years abate,” Morgan Stanley analysts wrote in a report to clients that was entitled “The End of Easy,” in reference to the investing environment. “Decelerating growth, rising inflation and tightening policy leave us with below-consensus 12-month return forecasts for most risk assets. After nine years of markets outperforming the real economy, we think the opposite now applies as policy tightens.”

As part of its call, Morgan Stanley reduced its view on global equities to equal weight, saying they were “in a range-trading regime with limited 12-month upside.” It raised its exposure to cash, following Goldman Sachs, which last week upgraded its view on the asset class on a short-term basis.


May 14, 2018

People haven't been this optimistic about house prices since just before the crash

House prices are soaring and, despite warnings from some analysts, most Americans believe they will continue to soar.

A majority of U.S. adults (64%) continue to believe home prices in their local area will increase over the next year, a survey released this week by polling firm Gallup concluded. That’s up nine percentage points over the past two years and is the highest percentage since before the housing market crash and Great Recession in the mid-2000s.

The level of optimism is edging closer to the 70% of adults in 2005 who said prices would continue rising. That, of course, was less than one year before the peak of the housing market bubble in early 2006, which was largely fueled by a wave of subprime lending. (Roughly one-quarter of respondents in both 2005 and 2018 said they believed house prices would remain the same.)

In 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession, only 22% of Americans believed house prices would rise. But optimism about the housing market has made a slow recovery—along with the market itself—in the intervening years. Today, only 10% in the Gallup survey believe prices will fall. That compares to 5% who felt similarly pessimistic in 2005, just two years before the crash.


May 13, 2018

Bolton: U.S. sanctions 'possible' on European firms over Iran

Source: Reuters

White House National Security adviser John Bolton on Sunday said U.S. sanctions on European companies that do business with Iran were “possible, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he remained hopeful Washington and its allies could strike a new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Bolton’s comments, in an interview with CNN’s “State of the Union, struck a more hawkish note than Pompeo’s, who was interviewed on “Fox News Sunday.”

“It’s possible. It depends on the conduct of other governments,” Bolton told CNN when asked whether the United States might impose sanctions on European companies that continue to business with Iran.

Pompeo said he was “hopeful in the days and weeks ahead we can come up with a deal that really works, that really protects the world from Iranian bad behavior, not just their nuclear program, but their missiles and their malign behavior as well.”

Read more: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-bolton/bolton-u-s-sanctions-possible-on-european-firms-over-iran-idUSKCN1IE0M9

May 12, 2018

Elon Musk shares a trip through his Hawthorne tunnel. His project in L.A. is a bumpier ride

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk unveiled a zippy video Thursday night showing the progress his company has made on a tunnel beneath the city of Hawthorne, part of his grand vision for a subterranean transportation network that whisks commuters across Los Angeles County.

Yet even as he celebrates that milestone, Musk faces new challenges on another underground project: a 2.7-mile tunnel planned along Sepulveda Boulevard on L.A.'s Westside.

Two neighborhood groups have filed a lawsuit over the city of Los Angeles' proposal to fast-track the project by exempting it from environmental review. In Culver City, where the Sepulveda tunnel could end, officials are contemplating their own court challenge. And debate continues over the effect Musk's transportation initiative could have on surface traffic, economic equity and the environment.

"There's pressure in Silicon Valley for companies to move fast and break things," said Meghan Sahli-Wells, Culver City's vice mayor. "But those companies don't have to pick up the pieces. … We're not going to let them come in here without a plan."


May 11, 2018

SpaceX Falcon 9 Block 5 first stage just successfully recovered

25th time now this has happened, but this one seemed more impressive watching the recovery ship roll and pitch in the waves.

Spectacular images, brings back memories of the Canaveral launch heydays of the 60s.

May 11, 2018

Antonio Villaraigosa: the clear choice for California governor

California is a big state with bigger contradictions. It is the wealthy tech capital of the world — and the epicenter of U.S. poverty. It is the most influential progressive state — and a tremendous educational disappointment for minority students. It is the boldest state on profoundly important issues like climate change — and one that’s unable to address the financial challenge of creating a sustainable pension system for government workers.

To address these giant California problems, the next governor must be willing to take on the most powerful factions in the state’s dominant Democratic Party. The environmentalists and trial attorneys who use state environmental laws to make adding housing stock so difficult, spurring a dire shortage that has led to sky-high rents and home prices. The teachers unions that don’t just oppose basic education reforms that have worked in other states, but use their clout to win approval of a school “accountability” program that makes it harder to hold districts accountable. The public employee unions that have fought off changes to generous pension programs that could soon consume one-quarter of the budgets of local governments and crowd out basic services like public safety, libraries and parks.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board believes that of the seven major candidates we interviewed, only two have a chance of being elected. Thankfully, this list includes the candidate with the best chance to be the aggressive reformer the state needs: Antonio Villaraigosa. The veteran Democrat’s willingness to challenge government unions while mayor of Los Angeles and his ability to get things done as speaker and majority leader in the state Assembly lend credibility to his claim that he could take on California’s political status quo.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — the only other candidate with a real chance of succeeding Jerry Brown — talks a great game, displaying a deep understanding of a vast range of state issues. Like Villaraigosa, he calls for a variety of changes in state laws that would make it easier to add more housing. But Villaraigosa’s record as L.A. mayor from 2005 to 2013 far surpasses Newsom’s record as San Francisco mayor from 2004 to 2011. Villaraigosa not only displayed an effective, judicious management style in persuading his City Council to restrain city spending during a budget-crippling recession; he won voters’ approval for ambitious transportation projects and beefed up his police force. Yes, Newsom deserves credit for his early championing of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization. But he hasn’t gotten nearly as much done — or overcome as many obstacles — as Villaraigosa. Questions about Newsom’s ability to build coalitions to advance his bold ideas have dogged him for years. His decision to skip so many debates in recent weeks didn’t help him. If he’s the frontrunner, he seems to be running scared.


May 11, 2018

What's that smell? Flower town's shift to pot creates stink

This picturesque coastal town cradled by mountains and sandy shores is a scene out of a Southern California postcard. Residents of Carpinteria say they feel lucky to live in what they consider a slice of paradise.

But change is in the air. And sometimes, they say, it stinks.

That’s because marijuana has become a new crop of choice in the farmlands surrounding this tight-knit community of 14,000, which has long helped fuel the U.S. cut flower industry.

Residents say a thick, skunk-like odor from the marijuana plants settles over the valley in the evenings and before dawn. To keep out the stench, they have tried stuffing pillows under doors, lighting incense and shutting windows, a reluctant choice since it also keeps out the cool ocean breezes that are part of the town’s allure.


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