Interesting Bits

08/04/2017 10:39

A Well-LIved Life

August 4, 1892: English medical missionary Sir Wilfred T. Grenfell arrives in Labrador, Newfoundland. He labored as a physician and missionary for 42 years and was instrumental in building orphanages, hospitals, cooperative stores, and other community organizations.  (Ever notice there's a lot of Christians who do things like that?)

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08/04/2017 10:15

Obama and Russia. Not a Pretty Story

Facing the Russian invasion of Ukraine, former President Barack Obama first reacted with boredom, then with mild sanctions, then with moderate sanctions. As Russia systematically broke its cease-fire agreements and expanded its control over Eastern Ukraine, Obama did even less than that. When the Russians then shot down a passenger airliner, killing 298 people, Obama did nothing.

Humility amidst failure? Not Obama. Just a month prior to the downing of MH-17, Obama gave a particularly ludicrous Ben Rhodes-written speech at West Point in which he praised himself for his Ukraine policy.

"Because of American leadership," he said, "the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies ... And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks."

The rotting bodies of MH-17 render judgment on those words.

As do the bodies that followed. After all, Obama's sustained weakness gave Putin confidence to turn Syria into rubble. Obama was the leader who allowed Russia to send repeated Trojan Horses against the American-led international order.

Then, when it came to Russia's sustained attack on American democracy, Obama's response was worse than nothing. As with the Osama bin Laden raid, he took months to make a decision. He then shuttered a couple of buildings and sent a few diplomats home. He should have destroyed the GRU's computer mainframes.

This is not to excuse Trump's policy mistakes towards Putin. But it is to offer context. Obama was very, very weak on Russia.

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08/04/2017 7:44

Can Be Expected From Liberals

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08/04/2017 7:18

Joyless adaptation of Stephen King's 'The Dark Tower'

An L.A Times critic doesn't give high ratings to Stephen King's omnibus. But the books were probably very difficult to bring to the screen. There's one notable line in the review " J.R.R. Tolkien was reportedly a key influence on King’s novels, which may explain why the movie’s version of the Dark Tower looks like an Eye of Sauron with self-esteem issues."  That is funny without making any sense.

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08/04/2017 7:05

U.S. job growth surges in July

The U.S. economy added 209,000 jobs in July, according to government data released Friday morning, surpassing economists' expectations.

The unemployment rate ticked down to 4.3 percent, compared with 4.4 percent in June, and wages rose by 2.5 percent from the year before to $26.36 in July.

Job gains were broadly spread across many sectors, with the healthcare, food and beverage and business service industries recording the strongest gains.

July’s additions also signify a notable turning point for the U.S. economy: After accounting for shifts in population, the level of employment has returned to what it was at in November 2007, before the recession decimated the job market, according to new research by the Brooking Institution’s Hamilton project.

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08/03/2017 6:34

Illegal immigrants cost taxpayers nearly $750 billion over lifetime: Report

Steven A. Camarota, research director at the Center for Immigration Studies, crunched the numbers and found that the current population of illegal immigrants will drain nearly $750 billion from taxpayers over their lifetimes — amounting to six times the deportation costs.

“Sometimes people say look, we couldn’t deport everybody because it’s prohibitively expensive,” Mr. Camarota said. “But if your only concern is fiscal cost, it’s pretty clear that letting them stay is a hell of a lot more expensive.”

The researcher said he doesn’t actually support a mass deportation of all illegal immigrants, but said it’s important to spark a conversation about costs and benefits as President Trump vows to step up removals of illegal immigrants who already in the U.S.

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08/03/2017 4:43

Trinity College Reinstates Professor Who Said White People Should ‘F***ing Die’

Trinity reached the decision because, like many other colleges, it has failed to draw meaningful lines between valid and invalid claims on academic freedom.  That failure plunges colleges ever deeper into the mire of ethnic chauvinism, categorical hatreds, anti-intellectual diatribe, mind-deadening vulgarity, and psychopathology. Worse, we are getting used to this mire and finding it harder to defend essential distinctions. If we are at the point where #LetThemFuckingDie is upheld as a wholesome exercise in “extra-mural” academic speech, we are in serious trouble.

Trinity’s dilemma is in large part a matter of a double standard, created to coddle black radicals on campus. The prevailing view among colleges and universities is that robust declarations of racial resentment by African-American professors or students should be considered within the bounds of academic freedom. This allowance is a one-way street. Similarly abusive language from a white or Asian professor would almost certainly be met with severe sanctions.

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08/03/2017 10:56

Diversity is Death or Mutilation

Some Deliveroo riders have refused to work in parts of London after a spate of acid attacks.

The food delivery company said 71 of its drivers had refused jobs in London and seven have been reassigned to different locations after raising concerns about their safety.

A Deliveroo moped rider was among those attacked during a rampage through the London Borough of Hackney last month that saw five people injured within 90 minutes.

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08/03/2017 10:27

Obama's IRS Lied to American People

The Obama administration “misled” Americans into thinking signing up for Obamacare would be cheaper than it really was, according to an inspector general’s report Thursday that said the IRS dramatically understated the actual cost of enrolling.

IRS officials sent the letters to try to prod Americans to comply with the 2010 health law’s “individual mandate” that penalizes them for not holding coverage.

But as part of the letters, the IRS said most people could find plans for $75 a month or less, once government subsidies were figured in.

That was untrue — in fact, the average cost was more than twice that figure, at $168 a month, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said.

“Many of the nearly 7.5 million taxpayers who receive letters and seek insurance may feel misled if the actual cost of their insurance is much higher than the $75 per month detailed in their notification letter,” the inspector general concluded.

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08/03/2017 7:51

Senior EPA Official Resigns

Elizabeth Southerland retired from her job at the EPA by flipping the bird to President Trump.

She spent 30 years at the EPA, most recently as director of the Office of Science and Technology for the agency’s Water Office.

Given that the EPA ruined the Animas River thank God and Greyhound she is gone then.

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08/03/2017 7:45

About That UnMasking Scandal

This mega-scandal, by the way, has been building for months, though you would hardly know by the near-silence it's been treated with in the media.

But there are exceptions. Back on May 24, the online journal Circa reported that the scandal was far more serious than it first appeared.

"The National Security Agency under former President Barack Obama routinely violated American privacy protections while scouring through overseas intercepts and failed to disclose the extent of the problems until the final days before Donald Trump was elected president last fall, according to once top-secret documents that chronicle some of the most serious constitutional abuses to date by the U.S. intelligence community," wrote Circa investigative reporter Sara A. Carter.

Now, this week, Carter reports that the scandal is much bigger than suspected. A review of government documents found that "government officials conducted 30,355 searches in 2016 seeking information about Americans in NSA intercept meta-data, which include telephone numbers and email addresses," Carter wrote.

She notes that the election-year searches by Obama's political aides and other government officials jumped 27.5% from 2015, tripling the "9,500 such searches" in 2013. "In 2016 the administration also scoured the actual contents of NSA intercepted calls and emails for 5,288 Americans, an increase of 13% over the prior year and a massive spike from the 198 names searched in 2013."

Before the Obama administration, under rules propagated by former President George H.W. Bush, "unmasking" incidental intelligence targets was strictly limited and frowned upon. Even after 9/11, despite increased surveillance of people with potential terrorist ties, the rules stayed in place. The potential for abuse, they knew, was too great.

But that ended in 2011 as Obama, using the pretense of fighting a War on Terror that he never even believed in, loosened the rules. As the Washington Examiner reported earlier this week, in 2013 National Intelligence Director James Clapper formally loosened the rules on "unmasking" the names of congressional staffers, elected officials and others.

That major violations occurred under this program seems clear. Last week, House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats noted that "the total requests for Americans' names by Obama political aides numbered in the hundreds during Obama's last year in office and often lacked a specific intelligence community justification," according to The Hill.

In particular, Nunes pointed out that "one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests" in 2016. Speculation is that the official was U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power.

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08/03/2017 7:12

Americans Making Money Again

It’s happened again: Retirement savings account balances have hit all-time highs.

A string of record 401(k) and IRA account totals now stretches across three consecutive quarters, according to second-quarter data from Fidelity Investments. The data covers 22,155 companies and 15.1 million 401(k) plan participants, as well as 8.8 million IRA accounts. The performance reflects the impressive display of endurance training by a stock market that just keeps on running, as well as increased employee and employer contributions to retirement accounts. 

The average 401(k) account balance stands at $97,700 as of June 30. That’s a 9.6 percent gain from the $89,100 average of a year ago, and a big leap from the $73,300 average of five years ago. Average IRA totals, meanwhile, rose to $100,200 from $89,600 a year ago and $73,100 in 2012.

For the 12 months ending June 30, market gains accounted for 72 percent of the rise in retirement account balances at Fidelity. Over that same period, the Standard & Poor’s 500 had a total return of 17.9 percent. 

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08/03/2017 7:05

The Red Menace is Back

With China’s efforts to undermine geopolitical stability by creating an air-and-naval base in the South China Sea, threatening the integrity of international shipping lanes, The PRC is looking more like a revisionist power every day. Given that, Beijing’s efforts to size American property and shield its pariah state ally from censure have finally become unacceptable.

This is not the Cold War, but the socialist threat has not disappeared. Socialist regimes continue to menace their regions, oppress their people, and pose a risk to American national security. With rare bipartisan consensus, the United States is reengaging in the noble fight against an authoritarian ideology.

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08/02/2017 9:38

So the NYT, etc. got it Wrong

The Justice Department was attacked as racist due to a false New York Times story claiming the DOJ was working to protect white students from discrimination.

The Times story inferred that an internal personnel posting seeking volunteers to investigate “possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions” was meant to look at policies discriminating “against white applicants.”

The Daily Caller first reported that a DOJ source said this Times article “appears to assume it deals with white students without evidence.” DOJ spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores later put out a statement confirming this.

“Press reports regarding the personnel posting in the Civil Rights Division have been inaccurate. The posting sought volunteers to investigate one administrative complaint filed by a coalition of 64 Asian-American associations in May 2015 that the prior Administration left unresolved,” Flores wrote. “The complaint alleges racial discrimination against Asian Americans in a university’s admissions policy and practices.”

The May 2015 complaint centered around Asian-Americans claiming they got passed over for worse students due to quotas at Ivy League schools.

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08/02/2017 8:30

Talk About Inequality

There’s a reason government jobs are so sought after: The average government salary is nearly double the average American worker’s.

The average government salary in 2016 was $83,072, according to a report on federal salaries from the Office of Personnel Management released in July.

By comparison, the average wage index for the U.S. in 2015, the most recent available calculation, was $48,098, according to the Social Security Administration.

Unsurprisingly, federal employees in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding metropolitan areas of Maryland and Virginia, where the managers and top-level agency executives work, had the highest average salaries.

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08/02/2017 4:23

And Who would have Guessed?

Favor factory? Huma emails reveal Clinton allies seeking jobs, meetings from Clinton State Department

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08/02/2017 4:13

Europe's Cities Absorb Sharia Law

The Western public appears fascinated by Islamic veils. Ismail Sacranie, a founder of Modestly Active, the manufacturer that designs burkinis, told the New York Times that 35% of their clients are non-Muslim. Aheda Zanetti, a Lebanese woman living in Australia who invented the burkini, claims that 40% of her sales are to non-Muslim women. The Western public, which has been romanticizing Islam, is apparently absorbing the pieties of Islamic law. The Spectator called it "a new puritanism" and "why some feminists make common cause with Islam".

To paraphrase the American writer Daniel Greenfield, the irony of women celebrating their own suppression is both heartbreaking and stupefying.

Europe might soon have to apologize to the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker. She was criticized -- denounced -- for advising women to keep "at an arm's length" from strangers to avoid sexual harassment.

If the West keeps on betraying the democratic value of individual freedom on which Western civilization is based, Islamic fundamentalists, like those who imposed burqas on Libyan women, will start imposing them on Western women. They may even begin with those feminist élites who first created the sexual revolution to emancipate women in the 1960s, and who are now infatuated with an obscurantist garment that hides women in a portable prison.

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08/02/2017 11:08

The Proverbial Two-Edged Sword

Scientists have successfully edited the DNA of human embryos to erase a heritable heart condition, cracking open the doors to a controversial new era in medicine.

This is the first time gene editing on human embryos has been conducted in the United States. Researchers said in interviews this week that they consider their work very basic. The embryos were allowed to grow for only a few days and there was never any intention to implant them to create a pregnancy. But they also acknowledged that they will continue to move forward with the science with the ultimate goal of being able to “correct” disease-causing genes in embryos that will develop into babies.

News of the remarkable experiment began to circulate last week, but details became public Wednesday with a paper in the journal Nature.

The experiment is the latest example of how the laboratory tool known as CRISPR (or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a type of “molecular scissors,” is pushing the boundaries of our ability to manipulate life and has been received with both excitement and horror.

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08/02/2017 11:02

News From My Home State

Florida woman arrested after pelting brother with chicken nuggets  (I'm sure she had a good reason. But at least she didn't shoot the guy.)

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