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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
March 31, 2017

Venezuela's Maduro decried as 'dictator' after Congress annulled

Opposition leaders branded Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro a "dictator" on Thursday after the Supreme Court took over the functions of Congress and pushed a lengthy political standoff to new heights.

There was swift and widespread international condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, where the opposition won a majority in late 2015 amid an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen Maduro's popularity plummet.

The head of the 34-nation Organization of International States (OAS), Luis Almagro, said the Venezuelan court had dealt the final blows to democracy and accused Maduro's "regime" of carrying out a "coup."

Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala and Panama expressed strong concerns while Peru withdrew its envoy after what it termed a rupture of democracy.


March 30, 2017

White House seeks to weaken Freedom Caucus after health care debacle

The state of health care talks may be uncertain, but one thing is not: The knives are out for the House Freedom Caucus.

The White House and congressional leadership clearly want to put the right-wing group of 30 or so House lawmakers on the defensive by blaming it for last week’s climactic demise of a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.

That may be a way for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to make another attempt at passing a health care bill through the House, or simply to try to change a dynamic that could make it harder for President Trump to accomplish anything significant.

At the moment, there is plenty of talk about salvaging the repeal effort, with some reports suggesting that Ryan might make a second attempt in a few days.


It's a battle of colossal assholes.

March 29, 2017


WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a fiercely defiant statement on Tuesday, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, denied that any member of the White House staff has ever worked “in any way, shape, or form” for the benefit of the United States.

Angrily addressing the press corps, Spicer said that any allegations that members of the Trump Administration have ever acted in concert or collusion with the United States are “unequivocally false.”

“At no time during the transition or afterward did any member of the Trump team have meetings, conversations, or any other contacts that furthered the interests of the United States of America,” Spicer said. “In the thousands of communications that took place, the United States never came up even once.”

Drawing a stark contrast with the Administration of former President Barack Obama, Spicer said that many members of Obama’s staff were “clearly and flagrantly working for the United States government at all times.”


March 29, 2017

The Dangerous National Security Implications of Trumps Obamacare Fiasco

Whatever his staff might say, however much the White House finger may be pointed at Speaker Paul Ryan, it is President Donald Trump who is the biggest loser in the Republican failure to bring Obamacare repeal to a vote in the House of Representatives. Trump promised America’s voters that he would rid them of Obamacare. He asserted that only he, as an outsider, had the ability to negotiate a replacement for the health care program. He has failed, at least for now, and his credibility has taken a major jolt.

Beyond the Obamacare defeat, for that is what it is, the president has yet to make good on his new immigration proposals. A single judge in Washington state stopped his first executive order, and two judges, in Hawaii and Maryland stopped his second. The decision not to have a vote on a replacement for Obamacare renders problematic Trump’s ability to bring about tax reform or modernize America’s aging infrastructure, two more of his critical priorities.

The collapse of the Republican effort to reform Obamacare has international ramifications, as well. Though he kept his promise to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trump has yet to offer a substitute of any kind. He has thereby opened the door for China to create an alternative trading bloc that excludes the United States. He has yet to declare China a currency manipulator. He has yet to renegotiate NAFTA, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. He is unlikely to be moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And he has yet to explain how he will fund a wall with Mexico, for which that country certainly will not contribute as much as a peso.

Clearly, Trump has a credibility problem that goes far beyond his tweets, which foreign leaders have begun to recognize that they can simply ignore. Whereas until now it appeared that America’s NATO partners were being frightened into spending 2 percent of GDP on defense needs, they may no longer have to do so. The Chinese may feel more confident about maintaining, or even building upon, their aggressive posture in the South China Sea. The Israelis may now look for clever ways to circumvent the president’s admonition not to build more settlements, knowing that their support in Congress — where Trump’s influence clearly has taken a blow — will remain as solid as ever. The Russians may surmise that they have little incentive to reach an understanding over Ukraine, Syria, or anywhere else. The Iranians may act on their threat to abandon the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if, as expected Congress passes new sanctions against the Tehran regime. And, most dangerously, the mad Kim Jong Un may conclude that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s threats of military action are baseless, and that he has nothing to fear from an administration that cannot even mobilize its own party in Congress to pass the president’s high-priority legislation.


March 29, 2017

White House plan to help pay for border wall is a long shot

Source: AP

The White House is calling for immediate budget cuts of $18 billion from programs like medical research, infrastructure and community development grants to help pay for the border wall that President Donald Trump repeatedly promised would be financed by Mexico.

The administration would eliminate $1.2 billion in National Institutes of Health research grants, a favorite of both parties. The community development block grant program, also popular, would be halved, amounting to a cut of $1.5 billion, and Trump would strip $500 million from a transportation project known as TIGER grants.

Like Trump's 2018 budget, which was panned by both Democrats and Republicans earlier this month, the proposals have little chance to be enacted.

But they could create bad political optics for the struggling Trump White House, since the administration asked earlier for $3 billion to pay for the Trump's controversial U.S.-Mexico border wall and other immigration enforcement plans. During the campaign, Trump promised Mexico would pay for the wall.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/white-house-eyeing-18-billion-list-social-program-102956996--finance.html

Wrecking the country. It's the Republican way.
March 28, 2017

Justice Department action signals serious legal concerns for Hunter

The Department of Justice request that the U.S. House Committee on Ethics defer action in its review of campaign-finance allegations against Rep. Duncan Hunter is a rare move that has signaled serious trouble for other lawmakers in recent history.

The Ethics Committee didn’t explicitly say why the Justice Department asked it to hold off on the review of allegations against Hunter, R-Alpine, but it effectively laid bare the existence of an ongoing criminal investigation involving the congressman’s use of campaign money.

The Ethics Committee has been reviewing allegations that Hunter spent tens of thousands of dollars for personal purposes such as health care and family trips.

Political law experts say it’s rare for the Justice Department to ask the Ethics Committee to hold off on its own investigation. In recent instances, some lawmakers have ended up behind bars.


Here's hoping the Justice Department has the goods on this POS.

March 27, 2017

America is 'waking up to walking catastrophe' of Donald Trump, former Labor secretary says

America is “waking up” to the inadequacies of Donald Trump following his humiliating failure to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a former Secretary of Labor has claimed.

In a Twitter post, Robert Reich described the President as “incompetent” and “a liar”, adding he “may well be a traitor”, in reference to ongoing allegations linking his campaign team to Russia.

“Most of America is now waking up to the walking catastrophe who is now our president,” Mr Reich said.

Mr Reich, who headed the Labor department under President Bill Clinton, picked out three key failures for the Trump administration across what he terms an “Emperor’s New Clothes” week.


March 27, 2017

AP Exclusive: 'Bathroom bill' to cost North Carolina $3.76B

Despite Republican assurances that North Carolina's "bathroom bill" isn't hurting the economy, the law limiting LGBT protections will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years, according to an Associated Press analysis.

Over the past year, North Carolina has suffered financial hits ranging from scuttled plans for a PayPal facility that would have added an estimated $2.66 billion to the state's economy to a canceled Ringo Starr concert that deprived a town's amphitheater of about $33,000 in revenue. The blows have landed in the state's biggest cities as well as towns surrounding its flagship university, and from the mountains to the coast.

North Carolina could lose hundreds of millions more because the NCAA is avoiding the state, usually a favored host. The group is set to announce sites for various championships through 2022, and North Carolina won't be among them as long as the law is on the books. The NAACP also has initiated a national economic boycott.

The AP analysis — compiled through interviews and public records requests — represents the largest reckoning yet of how much the law, passed one year ago, could cost the state. The law excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections, and requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings.


March 27, 2017

Trump Said to Issue Far-Reaching Reversal of Obama Climate Push

Source: Bloomberg

President Donald Trump is set to sign a sweeping executive order on Tuesday aimed at promoting domestic oil, coal and natural gas by reversing much of his predecessor’s efforts to address climate change.

The document lays out a broad blueprint for the Trump administration to dismantle the architecture that former President Barack Obama built to combat the phenomenon, according to details shared with Bloomberg News. Some of the changes would happen immediately, while others would take years to complete.

The order will compel federal agencies to quickly identify any actions that could burden the production or use of domestic energy resources, including nuclear power, and then work to suspend, revise or rescind the policies unless they are legally mandated, are necessary for the public interest or promote development.

It also will toss out two Obama-era directives that gave consideration of climate change a prominent role in federal rule making. One advised government agencies to factor climate change into environmental reviews, such as those governing where oil drilling should take place. The other, called the “social cost of carbon,” is a metric reflecting the potential economic damage from climate change that was used by the Obama administration to justify a suite of regulations.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-03-26/trump-said-to-issue-far-reaching-reversal-of-obama-climate-push

March 27, 2017

Gravitational Waves Boot Gigantic Black Hole from Galaxy's Core

A supermassive black hole heftier than 1 billion suns has been ejected from the core of its galaxy by gravitational waves, a new study suggests.

The monster black hole has already zoomed 35,000 light-years away from its galaxy's center, farther than Earth and its sun are from the core of our own Milky Way. And the behemoth is currently traveling outward at 4.7 million mph (7.6 million km/h) — fast enough for the black hole to escape its galaxy completely in 20 million years, researchers said.

“We estimate that it took the equivalent energy of 100 million supernovae exploding simultaneously to jettison the black hole,” study co-author Stefano Bianchi, from Roma Tre University in Italy, said in a statement. [The Strangest Black Holes in the Universe]

The study team used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to study the galaxy 3C186, which lies about 8 billion light-years from Earth. Hubble images revealed a quasar — the incredibly bright energetic signature of a supermassive black hole — within the galaxy.


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