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Zorro's Journal
Zorro's Journal
January 11, 2019

Pancho Villa, prostitutes and spies: The U.S.-Mexico border wall's wild origin story

On an August afternoon in 1918, a mysterious man approached the U.S.-Mexico border in the bustling town of Nogales.

For decades, the boundary between the two countries had been little more than an imaginary line in the sand, marked only by the occasional - often crumbling - pillar in the Sonoran desert. But rampant smuggling, the Mexican Revolution and the outbreak of World War I had split the border town in two, sowing fear and stoking tensions.

As the man walked towards Mexico, where Mexican soldiers were waving him on, a U.S. Customs inspector suddenly ordered him to halt.

Unheeded and suspecting the man was a smuggler, the customs inspector drew his gun.


January 11, 2019

This is exactly what collusion looks like

News that President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort provided 2016 presidential campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian national with suspected ties to Russian intelligence, starkly contrasts with Trump’s repeated claims there was “no collusion” with Russia during his campaign. This is exactly what collusion looks like. What remains to be seen is whether that collusion was also a crime.

We’ve already seen the legal theory that could make Manafort’s sharing of the polling data a criminal offense. Last February, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III indicted 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies for their alleged extensive efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, primarily through the use of fake social media accounts. The lead charge in Mueller’s indictment was “conspiracy to defraud the United States.” Conspiracy — a partnership in crime — is the legal equivalent of collusion. It covers agreements to impair, obstruct or defeat lawful government functions, including those related to administering federal elections and to regulating the activities of foreign agents within the United States. Mueller charged that the Russian defendants engaged in just such a conspiracy by posing as American political activists and otherwise concealing their efforts to help Trump win the election.

One of the Russian companies, Concord Management & Consulting LLC, appeared in court to contest the indictment. The company mounted a vigorous challenge to the conspiracy charge, claiming the government’s legal theory was invalid for a number of reasons. But in November, a federal judge rejected Concord’s arguments.

As of now, only Russians are charged in that indictment. But if there is evidence that Manafort or others in the Trump campaign agreed to help the Russians in their efforts, they could potentially be implicated in the same conspiracy. This would be true even if the Americans did not directly participate in any of the fake social media campaigns or other Russian activities. You can be guilty of conspiring to help others commit crimes even if you do not directly take part in those crimes yourself.


January 10, 2019

Detectives: Burglar in Closed Police Substation Left ID

To identify the burglary suspect who broke into a closed Florida police substation and ate an officer's chicken dinner, detectives didn't need to lift fingerprints or get DNA from the discarded meal.

The ID cards authorities say the suspect left behind did the trick.

Boynton Beach police said Wednesday that officers arriving for a morning shift at a department substation last week found a broken window and the remains of a hastily eaten chicken dinner scattered in the kitchen.

Finding a suspect wasn't hard. They say 29-year-old Yvelande Jean-Pierre left behind her wallet, which contained her two identification cards.


Florida woman!

January 10, 2019

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to celebrate second term as crisis deepens

Source: USA Today

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro will be sworn into a second term Thursday amid international calls for him to step down and a devastating economic crisis, but with some long-time friends in attendance both from abroad and at home.

A dozen Latin American governments and Canada in a coalition have rejected the legitimacy of Maduro’s next term, and Washington has sanctioned top officials in his government, but Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Bolivian President Evo Morales were coming to Caracas to show their support.

And while Maduro’s popularity has plunged amid scarcities, hyperinflation and rising authoritarianism that have sparked a mass emigration, supporters who receive government subsidies in shantytowns continue to back the man who took over for the late Hugo Chavez.

“It’s not the president’s fault,” said Frances Velazquez, a 43-year-old mother of two who survives on government-subsidized boxes of rice, flour and cooking oil. Velazquez blamed opportunists who drive up the prices on scarce items making life difficult for families like hers.

Read more: https://news.yahoo.com/venezuelan-president-nicolas-maduro-celebrate-080723138.html

January 10, 2019

Latin America has never seen a crisis like Venezuela before

The epic political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is due to pass a new juncture Thursday when President Nicolás Maduro is sworn in for a second six-year term. His first saw an implosion unprecedented in modern Latin American history: Though his country was not at war, its economy shrank by 50 percent. What was once the region’s richest society was swept by epidemics of malnutrition, preventable diseases and violent crime. Three million people fled the country. Yet Mr. Maduro, having orchestrated a fraudulent reelection, presses on with what the regime describes as a socialist revolution, with tutoring from Cuba and predatory loans from Russia and China.

If there is any light in this bleak picture, it is that Venezuela’s neighbors are edging toward more assertive action to stem a crisis that, with the massive flow of refugees, threatens to destabilize several other countries. Last week, 13 governments, including Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Canada, issued a statement declaring Mr. Maduro’s presidency illegitimate and threatening sanctions. Peru imposed travel and banking restrictions on Mr. Maduro and his cabinet, and several countries said they would recognize the opposition-controlled National Assembly as Venezuela’s only legitimate institution.

Unfortunately, that is unlikely to move the regime. Mr. Maduro has already survived challenges that usually topple governments, including months of mass street protests in 2017 and inflation that soared to 1 million percent last year. That’s partly because critical shortages of food, water, medicine and power have kept many Venezuelans preoccupied with day-to-day survival, while the availability of refuge in neighboring countries has provided an escape valve. But Mr. Maduro, like Hugo Chávez before him, has not hesitated to employ crude repression. A report issued Wednesday by Human Rights Watch said it had documented 380 cases of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of government opponents since 2014, including at least 31 cases of torture. That includes dozens of military personnel suspected of coup-plotting.

Like three administrations before it, the Trump White House has struggled over how to respond to the Chavistas. The Treasury Department has steadily expanded sanctions, which now apply to some 70 people and cut off Venezuela’s access to U.S. banks. But though President Trump has sometimes talked of military intervention, he has rightly refrained from that, as well as from lesser measures, such as a boycott of Venezuelan oil. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has been urging Latin American governments to act, but not all are cooperating. Mexico, under its new leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, declined to join the collective condemnation of Mr. Maduro and is sending a diplomat to his inauguration.


Where are all the Chavistas who were infesting this group just a few years ago?

January 10, 2019

Trump's team had over 100 contacts with Russian-linked officials, according to think tank analysis

Members of President Donald Trump's campaign and transition team had more than 100 contacts with Russian-linked officials, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress think tank and its Moscow Project.

CAP, a liberal think tank, used publicly available court documents and reporting to tally up the number of contacts with Russian-linked officials, which includes those with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and others tied to Russian intelligence, banks and politicians.

The organizations counted each meeting and message as a separate contact.

The number of contacts was raised to 101 this week, according to CAP, after it was reported that Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, a former campaign aide, shared polling data with Manafort's former Russian business partner Konstantin Kilimnik.


Yeah, it's normal for a Presidential campaign to have contact with representatives of a hostile foreign adversary over 100 times. But remember: NO COLLUSION!

January 10, 2019

SpaceX will soon launch and land its giant Mars spaceship

SpaceX’s long-stated plans to reach the Red Planet could take a big step forward as early as February with a so-called “hopper test” of the company’s Mars spaceship prototype.

During next month’s test, the prototype will launch and briefly go up in the air before coming back down to Earth, Chief Executive Elon Musk revealed last week. But in line with typical Musk timelines, he gave himself a buffer, tweeting Saturday that four weeks “probably means eight weeks, due to unforeseen issues.”

Formerly known as BFR, the test spaceship is being assembled in south Texas, about 23 miles east of Brownsville. The vehicle is now called Starship and is intended to launch on top of a massive rocket booster called Super Heavy. The company plans to build the Super Heavy booster and production versions of the Starship at a 19-acre site at the Port of Los Angeles.

Musk has not been shy about the company’s goal of making humans into a multi-planetary species to protect against any potential extinction on Earth. But SpaceX’s current revenue streams are decidedly more terrestrial in nature — satellite launches for commercial and government customers and supply runs for NASA to the International Space Station.


January 10, 2019

The end of Trump's affair with 'his' generals

Like many a loveless marriage of convenience, the union between President Trump and “his” generals has ended in recrimination and heartbreak.

After Trump impetuously announced a troop withdrawal from Syria last month, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a retired Marine four-star general, resigned on Dec. 20 — with a letter blasting the president for not “treating allies with respect” and not “being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors.” Trump characteristically insulted him in return, demanding, “What’s he done for me?” and claiming that “President [Barack] Obama fired him and essentially so did I.” No, Mattis quit. Trump did fire White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, another former Marine general. During a post-firing interview , Kelly did not praise his boss’s achievements but rather his own success in averting disasters — including preventing Trump from breaking the law.

By then, two other generals were long gone. Michael Flynn, a retired Army three-star general, was forced out as national security adviser after just 24 days and is now a felon. His successor, H.R. McMaster, an active-duty Army three-star general, lasted just more than a year and left lamenting Trump’s failure to impose “sufficient costs” against Russia for its aggression.

Trump has been engaged in a war of words with two other retired general officers — Special Operations superstars William H. McRaven and Stanley A. McChrystal. Retired Navy Adm. McRaven, a SEAL who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, said of Trump: “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.” Trump lamely shot back: “Wouldn’t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner,” as if it was McRaven’s fault the intelligence community had trouble tracking the leader of al-Qaeda.


January 10, 2019

Seeing Green: John Boehner Stars In Pot Ad Hyping 'Rapid Growth!'

Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was spotted in a cable news ad for “the American Cannabis Summit” Wednesday, which hyped an hour-long video promoting a membership program that provides information to prospective cannabis investors.

Boehner announced in April that he was joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company with licenses to grow and dispense the drug in multiple states. It wasn’t immediately clear if the television ad was connected to Acreage.

If viewers of Wednesday’s ad texted the number that flashes on screen, they were sent a link to a webpage hosted by “the National Institute for Cannabis Investors,” which describes itself as “a global cannabis-investing news service.”

The webpage contains a single video — which can only be paused and played, though a navigable version and transcript are available elsewhere — featuring Boehner and two others reading from scripted material about the potential of cannabis for investors.


Making a lot of money investing in cannabis is certain to attract a lot of Republicans. Maybe this will be the thing to get their support in Congress.

January 10, 2019

Swarm of mysterious radio bursts seen coming from deep space

Astronomers have detected 13 high-speed bursts of radio waves coming from deep space—including one that regularly repeats. While the exact sources remain unknown, the new bevy of mysterious blasts does offer fresh clues to where and why such flashes appear across the cosmos.

Fast radio bursts, as they are known to scientists, are among the universe's most bizarre phenomena. Each burst lasts just thousandths of a second, and they all appear to be coming from far outside our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental forces of nature. Learn about the relationship between electricity and magnetism, the different wavelengths on the electromagnetic spectrum, and how an invisible force protects our entire planet.
Since these bursts were discovered in 2007, their cause has remained a puzzle. Based on estimations of the known range of their frequencies and an understanding of activity in the universe, scientists expect that nearly a thousand of them happen every day. But to date, only a handful have been found.

Now, a team using the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, has announced the additional 13 new detections, including an especially rare repeating burst. Until now, only one other repeating fast radio burst was known to exist.


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