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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,795

Journal Archives

Epstein's Island, 'Little St. Jeff's': A Hideaway Where Money Bought Influence

Jeffrey Epstein once described the United States Virgin Islands as “my favorite place to be.”

When he was there, Mr. Epstein had a knack for getting his way, according to public records and interviews with residents and local officials.

Mr. Epstein, the accused sex trafficker who committed suicide in a Manhattan jail this month, used these islands as a personal and corporate hideaway, negotiating lucrative local tax breaks even as he faced federal investigations for sexual misconduct.

He cultivated close ties to the islands’ political and financial elite. He employed a governor’s wife. He hired an architecture firm owned by that governor’s uncle. He donated money, sponsored scholarships and even gave dozens of computers to a local lawmaker to distribute.


The Joe Walsh Challenge

Joe Walsh, a one-term congressman from Illinois who became a fiery right-wing radio host, announced on Sunday that he would challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination. The former Tea Party favorite declared Mr. Trump “completely unfit” to be president, before adding that “everyone” in the Republican Party knows it.

If so, Republicans have a strange way of showing it. Mr. Walsh has become the target of attacks from a party base and conservative media complex that is enraptured with the president.

Late on Monday night I received an email from a strongly pro-Trump political pundit with whom I am periodically in touch. Our differences over Mr. Trump are quite deep, but we’ve managed to share our differing perspectives in a reasonably respectful manner.

He started his email by quoting Mr. Walsh, who during a television interview said, “I wouldn’t call myself a racist but I would say” that “I’ve said racist things on Twitter.”


While Wall St. Talks of Recession, Bond Investors Make a Killing

For stock investors, the trade war has been nothing but trouble. For bond investors, it’s been a dream.

Unable to stomach turbulence driven by the escalating conflict between China and the United States, and leery of a darkening outlook for the economy, investors have been pulling money out of the stock market and buying bonds, the traditional place to park cash during times of uncertainty.

The rush has turned parts of the ordinarily boring bond market into a better bet than stocks. The gains are unusual; by some measures, bonds are having their best year since 2002. And they do carry risks for investors who are buying now. If the concerns that have lured investors into the bond market dissipate — because Washington and Beijing reach a trade deal, for example — then bond prices could start to fall.

When investors expect the economy to grow, they typically turn to investments like stocks that might rise fast as company profits increase.


U.S. Cyberattack Hurt Iran's Ability to Target Oil Tankers, Officials Say

Source: New York Times

A secret cyberattack against Iran in June wiped out a critical database used by Iran’s paramilitary arm to plot attacks against oil tankers and degraded Tehran’s ability to covertly target shipping traffic in the Persian Gulf, at least temporarily, according to senior American officials.

Iran is still trying to recover information destroyed in the June 20 attack and restart some of the computer systems — including military communications networks — taken offline, the officials said.

Senior officials discussed the results of the strike in part to quell doubts within the Trump administration about whether the benefits of the operation outweighed the cost — lost intelligence and lost access to a critical network used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Iran’s paramilitary forces.

The United States and Iran have long been involved in an undeclared cyberconflict, one carefully calibrated to remain in the gray zone between war and peace. The June 20 strike was a critical attack in that ongoing battle, officials said, and it went forward even after President Trump called off a retaliatory airstrike that day after Iran shot down an American drone.

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/us/politics/us-iran-cyber-attack.html

Kirsten Gillibrand Drops Out of Democratic Presidential Race

Source: New York Times

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who presented herself in the presidential race as a champion of women and families, said Wednesday that she was withdrawing from the Democratic primary after failing to qualify for a third debate next month — a development she described as fatal to her candidacy.

Ms. Gillibrand said in an interview that she would endorse another candidate in the primary but had not yet picked a favorite. Though she stopped short of saying she would endorse a woman, Ms. Gillibrand, who has made electing women to Congress a personal cause, said the next president had to be capable of uniting the country and suggested that a woman might be best suited for the job.

“I think that women have a unique ability to bring people together and heal this country,” Ms. Gillibrand said, adding, “I think a woman nominee would be inspiring and exciting.”

But she added: “I will support whoever the nominee is, and I will do whatever it takes to beat Trump.”

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/us/politics/kirsten-gillibrand-2020-drop-out.html

SpaceX Starhopper rocket takes a bigger hop as Elon Musk prepares for Mars

Source: LA Times

SpaceX’s stubby rocket Starhopper shot into the air Tuesday afternoon in a test launch that brings Elon Musk’s company closer to his vision of human travel to Mars.

The test was Starhopper’s second and highest hop. The craft — a test vehicle for the Raptor engine that will be included in more sophisticated prototypes — was intended to fly about 500 feet in the air Tuesday.

The craft is set to be retired after Tuesday’s flight and cannibalized for parts as the company ramps up work on Starship, the rocket it hopes to send to Mars.

Last month Starhopper made its first-ever flight, hovering for a number of seconds before landing back on the ground. That test was intended to reach an altitude of about 65 feet. In a July 25 tweet, SpaceX Chief Executive Musk called the flight successful and cheered that “water towers can fly,” a reference to the prototype’s squat, rounded appearance.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-08-27/spacex-starhopper-mars-prototype-test

Ex-Google engineer Anthony Levandowski is charged with trade secrets theft

Source: LA Times

Former Google engineer Anthony Levandowski was charged Tuesday with stealing self-driving car technology from the company shortly before joining Uber’s efforts to catch up in the high-stakes race to build robotic vehicles.

The indictment filed Tuesday by the U.S. attorney’s office in San Jose is an offshoot of a lawsuit filed in 2017 by Waymo, a self-driving car pioneer that spun off from Google and is still owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet. Uber agreed last year to pay Waymo $245 million to settle the case, but the presiding judge made an unusual recommendation to open a criminal investigation, having seen enough evidence to conclude a theft may have occurred.

Uber has considered self-driving technology crucial for its survival and for countering potential competitive threats from Waymo and dozens of other companies working on robotic vehicles. Uber wants to build self-driving cars so it can eliminate the need to have a human behind the wheel, one of the biggest expenses in its still-unprofitable ride-hailing service.

Levandowski, a pioneer in robotic vehicles, was charged with 33 counts of trade secret theft. Each count carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, totaling $8.25 million if convicted of all counts.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2019-08-27/ex-google-engineer-anthony-levandowski-is-charged-with-trade-secrets-theft

A man's truck was stolen while he was robbing a store across the street, police say

A Washington man who reported his truck as stolen was arrested after police determined he was robbing a store when the vehicle was taken.

William Kelley, 42, told police he'd left his red 1992 Chevy pickup truck in a parking lot after a night out a tavern, according to a release from the Kennewick Police Department. When he returned to pick it up early Sunday, he said, he left the keys on the seat and went to find a bathroom.

Surveillance footage of the area obtained by police shows a man on a bicycle ride by and spot the keys. The thief can then be seen tossing his bike in the back and fleeing the scene.

Kelley called police to report the theft, but because he had a prior warrant for his arrest, he was booked.


Bangladesh rules women need not say if virgins on marriage certificates

Bangladesh's top court has ruled that women need no longer declare if they are virgins on marriage certificates after a five-year legal battle by women's rights groups trying to protect women's privacy and potential humiliation.

Marriage laws in the Muslim-majority country in South Asia had required a bride had to state on her marriage certificate if she was a "kumari" - meaning virgin - a widow, or divorced.

But the nation's High Court on Sunday ordered the government to remove the word "kumari" and replace it with "unmarried", a move welcomed on Tuesday but women's rights groups.

According to the ruling, the groom would now also have to disclose if he was unmarried, divorced or a widower.


Trump and the Art of the Flail

The “very stable genius” in the Oval Office is, in fact, extremely unstable, in word and deed. That’s not a psychological diagnosis, although you can make that case too. It’s just a straightforward description of his behavior. And his instability is starting to have serious economic consequences.

To see what I mean about Trump’s behavior, just consider his moves on China trade over the past month, which have been so erratic that even those of us who follow this stuff professionally have been having a hard time keeping track.

First, Trump unexpectedly announced plans to greatly expand the range of Chinese goods subject to tariffs. Then he had his officials declare China a currency manipulator — which happens to be one of the few economic sins of which the Chinese are innocent. Then, perhaps fearing the political fallout from the higher prices of many consumer goods from China during the holiday season, which would result from the tariff hikes, he postponed — but didn’t cancel — them.

Wait, there’s more. China, predictably, responded to the new United States tariffs with new tariffs on U.S. imports. Trump, apparently enraged, declared that he would raise his tariffs even higher, and declared that he was ordering U.S. companies to wind down their business in China (which is not something he has the legal authority to do). But at the Group of 7 summit in Biarritz he suggested that he was having “second thoughts,” only to have the White House declare that he actually wished he had raised tariffs even more.

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