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IT’S REALLY NOT THAT UNCOMMON: The New York Post is reporting that a Washington research firm of former journalists were behind the salacious Russian/Trump dossier:

Fusion GPS describes itself as a “research and strategic intelligence firm” founded by “three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters.” But congressional sources says it’s actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump agenda. “These weren’t mercenaries or hired guns,” a congressional source familiar with the dossier probe said. “These guys had a vested personal and ideological interest in smearing Trump and boosting Hillary’s chances of winning the White House.”

The fact is that that firms creating opposition research are often staffed with former journalists, who use their connections in the editorial world to redistribute this sort of thing. (Naturally, there are “right-leaning” as well as “left-leaning” firms of this sort.) Work in a newsroom long enough and you’ll begin to recognize “oppo” when you see it.  Sadly, a number of journalists who were laid off by big news outfits and can’t find work elsewhere have resorted to doing this kind of work. As news organizations cut back on reporting, it’s easier than ever to get “oppo” published as news without sufficient fact-checking. What’s the opposite of a virtuous circle?

**Update: Austin Bay answers the question.

HEALTH: Extra virgin olive oil staves off Alzheimer’s, preserves memory, new study shows.

It’s important to know that there’s been confusion about which extra-virgin olive oils are actually extra virgin, and which ones are cut by the mob with lesser oils. My wife Melissa researched and found three brands which are believed to be the genuine article, one in each price category of low(ish), medium, and high.

For everyday use, Kirkland’s (yes, the Costco house label) extra virgin is supposedly just that, and it’s what we use for non-fancy salad dressings, frying croutons, adding depth to red sauces — anywhere you want good olive oil but don’t need to break the bank. The next step up is from California Olive Ranch. It’s great for Caesars, dipping bread, tossed pasta, and the like. And for when the tomatoes are in peak ripeness for making Caprese, we have a bottle of Bariani stashed away in the back of the pantry. The three bottles all cost about $20-$25 but vary greatly in size. Mostly what you’re paying for is the greater concentration of grassy/fruity/buttery flavor as you step up the scale.

Flavor-wise though, even the Kirkland stands head and shoulders above typical supermarket fare, and I suspect that the same is true of the health benefits.

PAGING PAJAMA BOY! I had no idea such drugs existed, but the potential for screwing up a lot of young lives is humongous…The Daily Signal reports “New Paper Says Puberty Blockers Aren’t the Answer to Gender Confusion“:

“Increasingly, gender therapists and physicians argue that children as young as nine should be given puberty-blocking drugs if they experience gender dysphoria. But a new article by three medical experts reveals that there is little scientific evidence to support such a radical procedure.”

I’m pretty opened-minded about the whole gender-identity thing — what do I care what you call yourself? — but like gay conversion therapy and similar “treatments”, when you start messing with kids there’s a lot of potential harm. You add to that the statistic that “41 percent of people who identify as transgender will attempt suicide at some point in their lives, compared to 4.6 percent of the general population” and sooner or later there’s going to be some heartbreak somewhere.

CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: Spinning American Food: Viande Americaine is definitely food, but it isn’t American.

Here we were in Saint Quentin, and it was 10 o’clock, and I hadn’t eaten for many many hours, and I confess, I had a certain curiosity as to how a provincial French restaurateur would interpret my native cuisine.

The answer, in case you’re wondering, is “oddly.” Not nearly as odd as the “Mexican” food you find in Europe, which has always reminded me of the plastic nigiri in the windows of sushi restaurants: It looks just as it should, but don’t try taking a bite…. In Saint Quentin’s Le Golden Pub, the American food was at least both food and American. Sort of.

Americans certainly do enjoy our bagels with cream cheese. But we do not enjoy them enough to put them on the dinner menu of our local pub.

Instead I settled on a meal as quintessentially American as the stars and stripes, or the Solo cup: a burger, a soda and a banana split.

The burger came with a local cheese called Maroilles that I’d never heard of. The canonical American burger cheeses are, like the ideal American, a simple, friendly lot. These cheeses are selected heavily for melting ability and unobtrusiveness, rather than complexity or dark charm. This cheese was assertive and pungent, and still quite solid. Atop that cheese sat aioli, and a profusion of cornichons rather than dill pickles. The bread was some sort of ciabatta, too big for the patty and rather more chewy than Americans expect from a hamburger bun. . . .

At least the burger could reasonably be recognized as a burger. My banana split, on the other hand, was an enormous confection, round rather than banana-shaped, and taking up a sizeable dinner plate. It contained a few paltry coins of banana, buried in approximately 1,700 calories of whipped cream. The fudge sauce was not hot, and had assumed a texture somewhere between those of Magic Shell and a gummy bear.

Someone should protest.

THIS IS CNN: Human-brain eating CNN host declares Trump “piece of shit [who] is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind.” As P.J. Gladnick writes at NewsBusters, “Reza Aslan, the human brain-eating CNN host of Believer expressed not the slightest hint of sympathy for the victims of the June 3 terror attacks in London on Twitter. Instead, he was solely animated by intense hatred of President Donald Trump to the extent that he cursed him out as you can see in the following tweet: ‘This piece of shit is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind.’”

The 21st century isn’t really working out the way I had hoped, as the Insta-professor would say. But Aslan’s meltdown is another reminder, that as Victor Davis Hanson recently noted, “progressive” media and Democrats have formed an anti-Trump “Fusion Party:”

The media brag that they now more or less run the Democratic agenda. Univision’s Jorge Ramos (whose daughter worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign) recently thundered:

Our position, I think, has to be much more aggressive. And we should not expect the Democrats to do that job. It is our job. If we don’t question the president, if we don’t question his lies, if we don’t do it, who is going to do it? It’s an uncomfortable position.

In other words, Ramos confessed that the Democratic party apparently has neither new ideas nor a political agenda that would win over the public, and thus self-appointed journalistic grandees like him would have to step forward and lead the anti-Trump opposition as they shape the news.

Fellow panelist and CNN’s media correspondent Brian Stelter answered Ramos, “You’re almost saying we’re a stand-in for the Democrats.” Thereby, Stelter inadvertently confirmed Trump White House adviser Steve Bannon’s widely criticized but prescient assertion that the media are in fact “the opposition party” — and should be treated as such.

Gosh Brian, why would anyone think the media, not least of which CNN, is a stand-in for the Democratic Party?

21ST CENTURY HEADLINES: This start-up is offering $8,000 blood transfusions from teens to people who want to fight aging. Crap, and here I am giving away my high-octane stuff for free.

HONESTLY, I’D JUST AS SOON PASS: This is what it’s like to be struck by lightning. “Of every ten people hit by lightning, nine will survive to tell the tale. But they could suffer a variety of short- and long-term effects. The list is lengthy and daunting: cardiac arrest, confusion, seizures, dizziness, muscle aches, deafness, headaches, memory deficits, distractibility, personality changes and chronic pain, among others.”

FASTER, PLEASE: ‘This is not the end’: Experimental therapy that targets genes gives cancer patients hope. “In August 2014, Joho stumbled into Hopkins for her first infusion of the immunotherapy drug Keytruda. She was in agony from a malignant mass in her midsection, and even with the copious amounts of OxyContin she was swallowing, she needed a new fentanyl patch on her arm every 48 hours. Yet within just days, the excruciating back pain had eased. Then an unfamiliar sensation — hunger — returned. She burst into tears when she realized what it was. As months went by, her tumor shrank and ultimately disappeared. She stopped treatment this past August, free from all signs of disease.”

BARREL, SCRAPED: Dem Senator Uses Info From Conspiracy Blogs To Draw Trump-Russia Connections.

Democratic Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey uses conspiracy theory-laden blogs as sources for information on alleged Trump-Russia connections, according to a top aide in his office.

“In fact, subpoenas have now been issued in Northern Virginia in regard to General Flynn and General Flynn’s associates. A grand jury has been empaneled up in New York,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a Wednesday CNN interview.

One of Markey’s top aides told The Daily Caller that his sources were Louise Mensch’s blog and a left-wing blog called the Palmer Report. Markey did not mention these sources in his television appearance.

A spokeswoman later released a statement that said: “This morning Senator Markey erroneously reported that a grand jury has been empaneled in New York related to the wider inquiry of possible Trump campaign and administration ties to Russia. Senator Markey does not have direct intelligence that is the case, and the information he was provided during a briefing is not substantiated. Subpoenas have been issued in Eastern Virginia, but Senator Markey apologizes for the confusion.”

That’s the kind of confusion one usually sows with a purpose.

GO FURTHER HIGHER: Brand-new Ford Fusions used to smuggle marijuana from Mexico.

New 2017 Ford Fusions shipped from Mexico had their spare tires swapped for packages of marijuana, not only making their way to dealer lots but onto the driveway of an 86-year-old Minnesota man. According to Alpha News, more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana were recovered from 22 vehicles, most of which traveled north on the same train car.

The drugs were found between February and March of this year. A contractor for Burlington Northern Sante Fe railroad tipped off authorities after discovering drugs in two cars. The contractor was inspecting the Fusions before loading them onto a transport headed to dealerships. Thirteen other cars, all from the same railcar, had already made their way to dealer lots. Each car had 40 to 60 pounds of marijuana in the trunk. In March, another Minnesota dealer found another seven Fusions packed with drugs.

That might have been a fine way to get the marijuana into the country, but the smugglers don’t appear to have thought through how or when to get it back out of the cars.

FASTER, PLEASE: FDA approves first new drug to treat ALS in 20 Years.

“This is the first new treatment approved by the FDA for ALS in many years, and we are pleased that people with ALS will now have an additional option,” he said.

It’s in fact the first new drug approved for ALs since 1995, when riluzole, sold under the brand name Rilutek, was approved.

Radicava is given in the form of an intravenous infusion, with two weeks of daily treatments followed by a two week break.

Tests on a very small group of 137 patients showed those who got the drug had slower declines compared to those who did not.

It comes at a price. Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America says the drug will cost more than $1,000 per infusion.

“If taken annually for 12 months or 13 cycles, according to the dosing and administration in the label, the cost before government discounts, will be $145,524,” the company said.

Cheaper, too, please.

HMM: Full Senate heads to rare classified meeting at the White House on North Korea.

Congressional aides told Reuters that the meeting was originally scheduled to take place at a secured room at the Capitol, but President Trump asked to move the meeting to the White House.

Salon reported that the meeting will occur in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building auditorium. It will reportedly be made into a “sensitive compartmented information facility”—which means top secret information can be shared. The briefing will take place at 3 p.m. ET.

Some aides on the Hill have expressed confusion about the circumstances of the meeting. Salon wrote, “this could be a preparation for war—or just a forced attempt at a pre-100 days photo op.”

The meeting will be attended by some of Trump’s top cabinet members, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—who will chair the meeting– and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

The fact of the meeting itself should send a message overseas, but that still leaves the question of which Senator will be the first to leak.

ACTUAL “SMART DIPLOMACY” IN ACTION: “White House officials said Mr. Trump took a personal interest in her case…. He just said, ‘Let’s bring her home.’”

It’s hard — isn’t it? — for the liberal media to give President Trump credit for anything, but they should gracefully give him the credit he genuinely deserves. Imagine what the NYT would look like if President Obama had brought Aya Hijazi home! Trump was portrayed in a negative light for cozying up to Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, but the Obama administration tried and failed to bring Hijazi home. . . .

Let’s talk about which is better, Obama’s words or Trump’s words? Do Trump’s words seem ridiculous and clownish — calling Sisi “fantastic” — when we see that Trump got results? . . .

Successful action is camouflaged in verbiage about things that have been said. Some of his words may sound like confusion, but that doesn’t mean Trump is confused about what he is saying. Maybe he knows how to use words. There’s an awful lot of evidence that he does. You can look down on him and call him confused, but when the results come in, you ought to question your analysis of what he is doing with words.

Acknowledging that would interfere with the smugness.

IF ONLY IT DID THAT FOR YOUNG HUMANS: Young Human Blood Makes Old Mice Smarter. “A protein found in young human blood plasma can improve brain function in old mice. The finding, published on 19 April in Nature, is the first time a human protein has been shown to have this effect. It’s also the latest evidence that infusions of ‘young blood’ can reverse symptoms of ageing, including memory loss, decrease in muscle function and metabolism, and loss of bone structure.”

So I guess mark this as support for the hypothesis that there are “youthening” elements in younger blood, as opposed to the hypothesis that there are “pro-aging” elements in old blood. Though there’s no reason why both can’t be true. Either way, faster, please!

DISASTER: Cyber attack would leave East Coast dazed, Energy Dept. says. “A cyber attack on the East Coast’s energy system would result in widespread public confusion as everything from electricity to gasoline supplies would be cut off for as much as several weeks, the Energy Department said Tuesday. The agency released a report outlining the results of a major cyber-attack simulation conducted in December called ‘Liberty Eclipse.'”

You’ll want a generator, an inverter, a solar battery charger — and plenty of storable food, water, and water filtration.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: How Spy Agency Hackers Pose As – Anybody.

The recently released WikiLeaks archives of alleged CIA hacking tools have led some cybersecurity specialists to believe that a unit called Umbrage is facilitating CIA false flag operations by acquiring and repurposing techniques – either those found online, stolen from other governments, or purchased from private security firms and illicit groups acting as brokers. Whether the CIA conducts such false flag operations remains unconfirmed. Some commentators – including WikiLeaks – have alleged that that the intention of repurposing tools is to imitate other actors, rather than that the CIA is simply improving its own arsenal. This charge rests on shaky ground at best. After all, once attacks are deployed, others can copy their techniques. A thriving market for hacking techniques has appeared in recent years. It would be surprising if government spy agencies were not taking advantage of it.

To add to the confusion, multiple actors sometimes use the same tools. For example, the 2012 attack against Saudi Aramco and the 2014 attack against Sony Pictures had in common a disk-wiping tool called RawDisk. Yet the Saudi Aramco attack has largely been attributed to Iran, while the Sony attack was blamed on North Korea – even resulting in U.S. imposed sanctions.

If a false flag operation is to be successful, it cannot rely on a single bogus lead. Some experts question whether any false flag operation can completely deceive everyone. Some false flag gambits may be meant as warning shots. “A state might try to send a signal to another state,” says Maurer, “knowing the victim state will be capable of attributing the true source, while all or most other states will not notice.”

Who can see past the false flags to fix blame for cyber attacks? The Kaspersky Lab paper argues that major signals intelligence agencies, particularly the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ, are capable of attributing attacks with certainty and confidence. The problem is, the secret agencies cannot make their cases in public. “As intelligence agencies,” the paper says, “they are blessed with the ability to see but not to publically substantiate, the gift to attribute without being believed.”

This is the kind of report which used to fill you with confidence about our spy agencies, but now makes you wonder exactly whom those tools are being used against.

RIP ALLAN HOLDSWORTH; the brilliant jazz-fusion guitarist died unexpectedly at age 70.

His early album I.O.U. was a favorite of mine and my guitar teacher when I first started playing, and I still play it on a regular basis. I had hoped to see him play live at least once, but I did get to interview him by phone for a piece Guitar World assigned me a decade ago on the history of Carvin guitars, which he endorsed. Incredibly charming and understated man — you had no idea that you were speaking with a guitarist so good, he influenced Eddie Van Halen and about whom jazz-fusion pioneer John McLaughlin (also equipped with monster chops) was quoted as saying, “I’d steal everything Allan was doing, if only I could figure out what the heck it was that he was doing.”

PROMISES, PROMISES: The Future Of Energy Isn’t Fossil Fuels Or Renewables, It’s Nuclear Fusion.

One day this will be true. I hope.

PRICE, MEET DEMAND: Gillette, Bleeding Market Share, Cuts Prices of Razors.

Refills for Gillette men’s razors range from around $2 to $6 per cartridge, depending on the features, when not bought in bulk. That compares with Schick’s $2 to $2.75 per cartridge, when not bought in bulk. The cheapest Dollar Shave Club option features refills for 20-cents a cartridge.

Even as lower-cost shave clubs entered the scene, P&G continued to roll out new, pricier products, such as a razor featuring a swiveling-ball hinge that allows the blade to pivot. Last month, the company filed a patent application for a razor cartridge that heats up.

Among the items getting a price cut: cartridges for the Fusion razor that features five blades in a single head and a special trimmer on the back for hard-to-reach areas. A four-pack that was selling for around $19.50 will now go for closer to $15. On average, prices will fall by 12%, P&G says.

The best disposable shave you can get is from old-fashioned double-edge safety razors, which run from about 10¢ to 25¢ apiece and last all week.

DAVID HARSANYI: Why “Fight Club” Still Matters: Chuck Palahniuk’s story of hopelessness and masculinity is more powerful than ever.

If I were the kind of person who recklessly intellectualized pop culture, I’d contend that Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club” was the coda to GenXers’ disaffection with the 1970s and ’80s, a distillation of angst and confusion created by assaults on masculinity. “We’re a generation of men raised by women,” the nameless narrator famously explains. That echoes a familiar complaint these days.

When I first read the book in my mid-20s, it wasn’t a profound literary experience, but rather something visceral — maybe culturally akin to watching “Pulp Fiction” for the first time, if “Pulp Fiction” had a moral (amoral?) center. While “Fight Club” is violent and funny, it’s also a book about despair, isolation, pessimism, and slackerism. Palahniuk’s lean sentences toy with unpleasant notions; his characters speak about men in a ways they understand but rarely express. I’m not sure there is any other book quite like it.

Rereading “Fight Club” might have made me feel older, but its satire and prose still stand out in a culture teeming with phony edginess. Perhaps it’s just sentimentality about the ’90s, but so much of today’s output seems an exercise in back patting. “Mr. Robot” or “Girls” — or, well, any other supposedly socially conscientious film, show, or novel that pops into my head while writing this — are preachy exercises that bolster notions already fully embraced by its audience. No one is challenged, because being challenged means being offended.

Not long ago, I ran across an article in which Palahniuk took credit for the use of the term “snowflake,” a moniker some people on Right use to insult the easily outraged on the Left. The line in the book is: “You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.”

Read the whole thing.

FASTER, PLEASE: A Norfolk doctor found a treatment for sepsis. Now he’s trying to get the ICU world to listen.

Valerie Hobbs, 53, was in the throes of sepsis – an infection coursing through her veins that was causing her blood pressure to tank, her organs to fail and her breathing to flag.

“When you have a person that young who’s going to die, you start thinking, ‘What else can we pull out of the bag?’ ” said Dr. Paul Marik, who was on duty that day in the intensive care unit of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

In this case, he reached for Vitamin C.

Marik, chief of pulmonary and critical care at Eastern Virginia Medical School, had recently read medical journal articles involving the vitamin, and decided to order IV infusions of it, along with hydrocortisone, a steroid, to reduce inflammation.

Then, he went home.

The next morning, Hobbs had improved so much she was removed from four different medications used to boost her blood pressure. Her kidney function was better. Her breathing eased.

Three days later, she left the ICU.

That was in January 2016. Today, Hobbs is back at her home in Norfolk.

“At first we thought it was a coincidence, that maybe the stars aligned just right and she got lucky,” Marik said.

Ten days later, another patient, a paraplegic, arrived in the ICU with sepsis, and Marik prescribed the same thing. That patient improved as well.

A third patient, a man so sick with pneumonia he was on a ventilator, also received the treatment. The results were the same.

Faster, please. But there’s a catch:

He wants there to be a comprehensive study, and he said that Stanford University has expressed some interest. But he said it will be difficult to fund because it uses drugs that have been on the market for decades: “We are curing it for $60. No one will make any money off it.”

Studies take money, and that money often comes from pharmaceutical companies.

Somebody should fund it. A friend on Facebook suggests that health insurance companies should fund it, since it could save them a bundle.

NOTHING TO SEE HERE, MOVE ALONG: Secret Service had removed alarm sensors from fence intruder scaled.

The fence-jumper who wandered around the White House complex for 17 minutes was able to elude the Secret Service in part because the agency has taken down alarm sensors along an area of one fence that he scaled, according to two sources familiar with details of the incident.

The intruder, identified as Jonathan Tran, was able to jump over three different fences, including at least one between the Treasury Department and the east area of the White House complex shortly before midnight March 10.

Tran was able to scale that particular area of the fence without setting off alarms because they had been removed, leading to confusion among officers about his whereabouts and whether an intruder was inside the White House complex, the sources told the Examiner.

Trump still has his private security, right?


“I have met only a very few people—and most of these were not Americans—who had any real desire to be free,” James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time. “Freedom is hard to bear. It can be objected that I am speaking of political freedom in spiritual terms, but the political institutions of any nation are always menaced and are ultimately controlled by the spiritual state of that nation. We are controlled here by our confusion, far more than we know, and the American dream has therefore become something much more closely resembling a nightmare, on the private, domestic, and international levels.”

James Baldwin was right. I know, because I saw the great American nightmare—the vapid confusion, the spiritual decay—in Madison Square Garden last week. Its name was Billy Joel.

The singer’s profound awfulness is hardly news. Ron Rosenbaum was being charitable when he crowned Joel “the worst pop singer ever,” and I myself have spent more time than an emotionally stable person should musing about Joel’s solipsistic and soulless schlock. And I might’ve let him walk gently into the good night if my friend and former Tablet colleague Adam Chandler hadn’t enticed me to go and behold Joel in person, and if that concert hadn’t taken place just a month after the inauguration of Donald John Trump to the presidency of the United States of America, and if I didn’t come to believe, cowering in the arena among the mid-aged boppers who were there to give “Uptown Girl” one more stroll down memory lane, that Billy Joel is not an individual artist but a symptom of more or less everything that is wrong with America today.

Really? Joel has an impressive back catalog of hit songs, and enough adoring fans to buy tickets and fill up sports arenas, so it seems like an equitable transaction between pop artist and consumer. Tablet has run some excellent articles, but this piece attacks the hapless Joel — and his fans — with a chainsaw. As with the millions of gallons of ink from sniffy “Not Our Class, Dear” elites who have slagged the other fellow namechecked in its headline (dating back at least to the Spy magazine days of the 1980s), it’s giving me strange new respect to an artist I’ve never really cared much for, beyond the occasional well-crafted song such as “Pressure” and “My Life.”

Related: People Who Like Céline Dion Are People, Too.

MICHAEL WALSH: The Empire Strikes Back:

Mike Flynn, a good man who saw the enemy clearly, and had the courage to name it, saw Russia not as an enemy but a geopolitical adversary with whom we could make common cause against Islam — and who also vowed to shake up a complacent and malfeasant IC — was its first scalp, and an object lesson to new CIA Director Mike Pompeo should he have any reformist notions. As for the media, having previously failed to take down Trump aides Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, Flynn was the next best thing; their joy today is unbounded.

Is this what you thought you voted for in November? Is this how you thought American democracy worked? Is this the country you want to live in?

Welcome to the Deep State, the democracy-sapping embeds at the heart of our democracy who have not taken the expulsion of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party lightly. They realize that the Trump administration poses a mortal threat to their hegemony, and so have enlisted an army of Democrats, some Republicans, the “neverTrumpumpkin” conservative die-hards, leftist thugs, Black Lives Matter and anybody else they can blackmail, browbeat or enlist. They mean business.

Read the whole thing.


GOOD: Doctors See Gains Against ‘an Urgent Threat,’ C. Diff. Infection rates seem to be dropping, as hospitals take infection-control more seriously. Plus:

As for new treatments, experts see encouraging prospects:

• In the next few weeks, the drug maker Merck will begin marketing bezlotoxumab (brand name: Zinplava), shown to reduce C. diff recurrences.

A study in The New England Journal of Medicine last month reported that the drug, which uses an antibody against a C. diff toxin, reduced recurrences to 16 to 17 percent. With a placebo, the infection recurred in 26 to 28 percent of patients.

The drug is expensive, at $3,800 for a one-time intravenous infusion, but Merck has said its patient-assistance program will cover Zinplava for those unable to pay.

• Dr. Gerding and his team have conducted trials of an orally administered liquid containing spores of a C. diff strain that does not produce toxins or cause illness, but supplants the toxic strains.

His small study of 168 patients, published in JAMA, showed that the most effective dose brought the recurrence rate down to 5 percent. (Dr. Gerding receives consulting fees from several pharmaceutical firms.)

• Several dozen studies of another promising method of reducing recurrence, the gross-sounding fecal transplant, are underway at research centers.

I don’t know why people are so grossed out about fecal transplants. And honestly, that looks the most promising.

THE FAKE NEWS PROBLEM, THEN AND NOW: At Tablet, James Kirchick explains “Why the left is also responsible for the proliferation of inaccurate information—and why the big beneficiary is Donald Trump:”

Now that Trump is in the White House, much of the media feels uninhibited in their campaign to destroy him, seeing the unprecedented nature of his presidency as license to get away with anything. Take Jonathan Weisman, deputy Washington editor of The New York Times. Since he was targeted by pro-Trump, anti-Semitic Twitter trolls last summer, Weisman—a man who is supposed to at least feign objectivity—has completely dropped any pretense of political independence. His own Twitter feed—like the feeds of a growing number of Times reporters—is a constant stream of anti-Trump invective indistinguishable from committed anti-Trump pundits like myself.

Why do I hold myself and Jonathan Weisman to such wildly differing standards? Because my job is to opine and provoke. His job is to accurately report on events, so that I know that the things I am reacting to are real, rather than the products of angry mass hallucinations or partisan messaging campaigns. By publicly refusing to do his job, he makes my job (and all our jobs as engaged citizens) much harder because I can’t reasonably trust that what I read in The New York Times is factual or based on good sourcing. Who in their right mind inside the Trump administration would talk to The New York Times, except to mislead the paper’s reporters and editors, by spinning them up or sending them off on wild goose chases that serve the administration’s own aims? How can I trust that what I read in the paper’s news columns isn’t hopelessly distorted by the angry bias evident in the social-media feeds of the paper’s editors and reporters? Much of the reporting on the Trump administration thus far seems to be so poorly sourced, riddled with caricature and negative wishful thinking as to be actively misleading, for all intents and purposes “fake news.” The beneficiary of the resulting confusion and hysteria is not The New York Times or its readers. It’s Donald Trump.

But Kirchick’s take doesn’t feel all that far removed from how left-leaning media critic Jack Shafer, then with the Washington Post-owned Slate described the state of the MSM in May of 2008, with an assist from the since-deceased Michael Crichton:

In 1993, novelist Michael Crichton riled the news business with a Wired magazine essay titled “Mediasaurus,” in which he prophesied the death of the mass media—specifically the New York Times and the commercial networks. “Vanished, without a trace,” he wrote.

* * * * * * * *

“[T]he American media produce a product of very poor quality,” he lectured. “Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it’s sold without warranty. It’s flashy but it’s basically junk.”

* * * * * * * *

As we pass his prediction’s 15-year anniversary, I’ve got to declare advantage Crichton. Rot afflicts the newspaper industry, which is shedding staff, circulation, and revenues. It’s gotten so bad in newspaperville that some people want Google to buy the Times and run it as a charity! Evening news viewership continues to evaporate, and while the mass media aren’t going extinct tomorrow, Crichton’s original observations about the media future now ring more true than false. Ask any journalist.

That was nearly decade ago, building on an article that Crichton wrote a quarter century ago. And yet things have only gotten exponentially worse for the media in the years since, passing through their quasi-religious hagiography of the Obama era along the way. Just think of the MSM as Democrat party operatives with bylines, and it all makes sense.

UPDATE: Mark Hemingway on “The Problem of Two Unreliable Narrators: Trump Versus the Media — When both the person in power and his critics are both perceived as lacking credibility, the person in power is likely to come out on top.”

AT AMAZON, Vitamins, Minerals and Nutrients for Seniors.

MICHAEL WALSH: Trump, Senate Ready to Rumble Over Spending Cuts.

Reagan ran against big government in general; Trump has run against corrupt Washington — and the fat cats of the GOP — very specifically. As previous presidents have learned, there’s something to be gained from placating powerful senators; but as LBJ showed, there’s even more to be achieved by beating them into submission by any means necessary. let’s hope Trump takes the latter course — losing even a symbolic round over discretionary spending to the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party at this point would be a serious error, especially given the big battles to come.

If Trump governs like a one-term president, he’ll be a two-term president. Vice-versa, and his own base will dump him in 2020.

Any governing coalition which has grown as large as the GOP has is going to feature serious fault lines — and bigly winners and losers as the faults settle.

Trump seems like the kind of fellow who prefers winning.

NO, BUT HUGE EMPIRES OF GRAFT ARE BUILT ON PROMOTING SUCH CONFUSION: Rand Paul slams Bernie Sanders: Socialism not the same as compassion.

SO APPARENTLY IT WAS THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION that got Legal Insurrection’s YouTube channel taken down, claiming that the audio it posted of speakers at the MLA’s debate on anti-Israel sanctions was some sort of “copyright infringement.”

It’s probably a bad idea to make bogus copyright claims against a Cornell law professor, especially one who’s represented by blogosphere legal titan Ron “the Shark” Coleman.

FUSION GPS: The Sordid History of the Firm Behind the Trump-Russia Dossier.

Mark Hemingway:

That’s not all Fusion GPS has been up to in recent years. In 2015, Planned Parenthood was stung by a video expose that detailed its involvement in human organ trafficking—organs harvested from the bodies obtained after abortions. Those behind the expose, David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress, knew they would be severely scrutinized so they released dozens of hours of raw footage that their documentary evidence was culled from to show that their reports had not been selectively edited. Nor were they misrepresenting the shocking statements of Planned Parenthood officials.

Nonetheless, Planned Parenthood produced a “forensic report” concluding that the videos had in fact been manipulated. The author of that report was none other than Fusion GPS. If you bothered to read the details of Fusion GPS’s report it made some damning concessions, even admitting there was no “widespread evidence of substantive video manipulation.” But overall, the report was calculated to be misleading and was nothing but an underhanded PR stunt for Planned Parenthood. Naturally, Fusion GPS’s report was uncritically covered by a credulous media. Politico’s headline was “Report for Planned Parenthood finds sting videos manipulated.” The New York Times went with “Planned Parenthood Videos Were Altered, Analysis Finds.” Neither report mentioned the controversy about Fusion GPS’s attacks on GOP donors or otherwise suggested the firm had partisan motivations.

Indeed, it seems that the media have been uncritically amplifying Fusion GPS’s disinformation campaigns for years now.

Read the whole thing.

HACKING: Five things to watch for in Russia hearings.

Here’s one:

What evidence does the IC have that Putin wanted to assist Trump?

The CIA reportedly believes that Russia was explicitly trying to help Trump — raising politically explosive questions about the degree to which it succeeded.

Publicly, the administration has been much more circumspect.

“President Obama and this administration is 100 percent certain in the role that Russia played in trying to sow discord and confusion and getting involved, through the cyber domain, in our electoral process,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told CNN Tuesday.

Reports of the CIA’s stronger assessment are based on anonymous leaks to a number of publications.

The leaks have given ammunition to critics who say the Obama administration is trying to undercut Trump before he takes office on Jan. 20.

“There are real questions about why there have been so many leaks over the last seven or eight weeks from the administration about the motivations or the intentions of Vladimir Putin or other foreign leaders,” Cotton said Tuesday.

While we’re at it, let Senate committee ask about the truth of the information released by Wikileaks, and get that on the record.

THERE’S SOME SERIOUS CONFUSION IN THAT HEAD: Merkel’s New Year message expresses Europe’s immigration contradiction in a nutshell.  Maybe in all their heads.

MEDICINE: New Brain Cells Help Fight Cancer.

The treatment, called CAR-T cell therapy, has been used for blood cancers, but its value for solid tumors is unknown. City of Hope has been testing injecting the cells directly into the brain.

First, [50-year-old brain cancer victim Richard] Grady had more surgery to remove three of his largest tumors. Then he got six weekly infusions of the cells through a tube into his brain, where the biggest one had been. No cancer recurred there, but the remaining tumors continued to grow, new ones appeared, and cancer spread to his spine.

Doctors decided on a bold step: placing a second tube in his brain, into a cavity where spinal fluid is made, and putting the cells there.

“The idea was to have the flow of the spinal fluid carry the T cells to different locations,” along the route the cancer had taken, Badie said.

After three treatments, all tumors had shrunk dramatically. After the 10th treatment, “we saw all the tumors disappear,” and Grady was able to cut back on other medicines and return to work, Badie said.

New tumors, though, have now emerged in different spots in his brain and spine, and he is getting radiation treatment. But his response to immunotherapy lasted more than seven months, and “for him to live more than a year and half” after starting it is amazing for a situation where survival often is measured in weeks, Badie said.

Amazing, indeed.


CAPITAL CONTROLS: Companies Face Delays Getting Cash Out of China. “New regulations aimed at slowing the yuan’s decline create confusion for multinationals.”

As of late November, firms that want to exchange yuan into dollars in China now need approval for any transaction greater than $5 million. They also face tighter limits on amounts they can transfer in and out of bank accounts in China to affiliates in other countries, in a practice known as “cross-border sweeping.”

“We hear a lot questions from corporates about whether they will be able to repatriate their money in the future,” said Alexander Tietze, managing director at Acon Actienbank AG, a German bank that advises companies on Chinese investments. He expects foreign investments in China to slow, and cautioned that foreign takeovers or plans for new joint ventures could fail because of the controls.

With the Chinese economy struggling, multinationals have fewer opportunities to reinvest there, which makes it more difficult for them to do much with money trapped in China.

A weak yuan threatens China with a balance-of-payments crisis and a severe currency contraction. But tightening currency controls does nothing good for the country’s business climate — or the strength of the yuan.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: In Title IX Industry, Chaos and Confusion.

Every constituency and interest group involved with the increasingly complex and expensive process of campus sexual assault adjudication—administrators, consultants, victim advocates, due process hawks, and defense attorneys—is waiting with bated breath to see how the incoming administration will navigate the explosive terrain of Title IX enforcement. Inside Higher Education highlights the uncertainty swirling around the industry as to whether the administration will reverse the Obama administration’s aggressive measures reducing due process for students accused of sexual assault—and if so, what kind of effect that will have on the ground. . . .

There is no way to know exactly what actions the administration will take in this area, especially because a new head of the Office for Civil Rights in Education (the agency responsible for promulgating Title IX regulations) has yet to be appointed. It seems reasonable to expect that some of the Obama-era guidance will be rolled back, although an administration run by someone who has made comments that would likely be enough to convict him in a campus proceeding might be cognizant of the political optics of acting too aggressively in this area.

Then there is the possibility that no matter what action the Trump administration takes or doesn’t take on Title IX, near-universal anti-Trump horror on college campuses will make the climate more favorable to sexual assault activists. Much of academia has sworn to resist the Trump administration; this might entail a further leftward lurch on key culture war questions. Then again, if schools go too far in reducing due process, it’s not inconceivable that an enterprising right-leaning (or civil libertarian) head of OCR could take campuses to task for violating Title IX by discriminating against male students.

As with much else about the incoming Trump administration, the unsettled area of campus sexual misconduct law is highlighting the perils of government-by-executive-regulation (something that the New Yorker’s Jeannie Suk has discussed with respect to the transgender bathroom issue). To avoid further creative partisan rule-making on such an important and charged question, Congress would be well-advised to pass real legislation clarifying what Title IX actually requires, the mandate of various agencies charged with enforcing it, and its relationship to federal funding in higher education.

You could do this by regulation, but yeah. On the other hand, when you see the huge edifice of “interpretation” and “guidance” that the bureaucracy has managed to build based on Title IX’s single sentence providing that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance,” you have to wonder.

For more on how that happened, everyone who’s interested should read Robert Shibley’s Twisting Title IX.

PRIVACY: Evernote’s privacy policy allows its employees to read your notes, and you can’t opt out.

Evernote’s CEO, Chris O’Neill, has responded to yesterday’s reports about the company’s privacy policy. His response both affirms and clarifies what was stated in our post above.

We recently announced an update to Evernote’s privacy policy that we communicated poorly, and it resulted in some understandable confusion. We’ve heard your concerns, and we apologize for any angst we may have caused. In response to the questions you’ve raised, let me be clear about what’s not changing and what is changing.

O’Neill goes on to explain that Evernote employees do not view the content of user notes except in very limited cases, such as where required by the law, troubleshooting, etc. The number of employees who are authorized to view this content is extremely limited by Evernote’s existing policies, and the CEO is personally involved in defining them. From this, users will not have the option of opting out of, and it’s been this way well prior to the recent privacy policy update.

What is changing, as O’Neill notes, is what we explained in our original post. Customers that opt in to machine learning may have their data viewed by Evernote employees to ensure that the features are working properly. However, O’Neill does clarify how this data will be accessed, and whether or not it is personally identifiable:

If you choose to participate in these experimental features, you’ll enjoy a more personalized experience. Select Evernote employees may see random content to ensure the features are working properly but they won’t know who it belongs to. They’ll only see the snippet they’re checking. Not only that, but if a machine identifies any personal information, it will mask it from the employee.

These are key details that were not properly explained in the initial update to the privacy policy, and it resulted in the outrage that we saw yesterday.

There would seem to be both plusses and minuses to Evernote’s terms of service, and it’s best that you know — stripped of the hype — exactly what you’re agreeing to.


Thomas Szasz is not the hero we deserve, but the one we need right now.

That’s the implicit takeaway from Fusion‘s impressive profile of Yellowbrick, a mental health facility and trauma center for a certain kind of patient: relatively privileged millennials who can’t seem to adjust to the demands of adult life.

Based on my reading of the Fusion story, there doesn’t seem to be anything especially wrong with these people, in a medical sense—or, put another way, they’re suffering from the same kinds of fears, traumas, and stresses that plague practically everyone. But the patients have been convinced—scammed may be the better word—to believe that their struggles are diagnosable, treatable, and fixable. With the right therapy and medicine, and for the right price, 20-somethings who can’t hold jobs, finish school, or form lasting relationships will be transformed into fully functioning adults.

Did I mention that Yellowbrick costs $28,000 per month? There’s that. Patients must commit to stay at least 10 weeks, but many stay much longer—until their parents run out of money.

My father told me many tales of the Progressive transition center he attended as a young man in New Jersey, after a rather prominent Hawaiian safe space zone was rudely violated in December of 1941. The cost of tuition was much cheaper, its methods a bit rougher in those less enlightened days, but the end results were surprisingly impressive.

I GUESS ‘MAYBE JUST A CIGARETTE MORE’ IS OUT, TOO: SJWs Rewrite ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ to Emphasize Consent.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” isn’t a song about date rape. It’s a cleverly told musical version of the age-old dance of seduction, where both dancers know exactly what they’re doing, every step of the way to an almost predetermined ending. “Hook-up culture” doesn’t teach those dance steps, which leads to lots of confusion and the occasional tragedy — such as ruining a charming and timeless cold-weather favorite.

WALTER OLSON EXPLAINS THINGS TO CLUELESS EDTIORS: There is no ‘hate speech’ exception.

The confusion in your editorial begins with its headline, “Hate speech is not free speech.” Under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, there is no “hate speech” exception to America’s general rule of free speech.

Speech cannot be punished simply because someone thinks it embodies hatred unless it independently falls into some recognized exception such as threats, incitement of imminent violence, targeted harassment and so forth, If speech does fall into such an exception, it lacks protection whether or not it expresses hate. That is the view of the U.S. Supreme Court. . . .

You appear to regard walkouts in which some Montgomery County students have taken to the streets during school hours as a “healthy expression of protest,” even though (legality aside) they cause serious disruption to classroom learning and pose various risks to traffic and people (as in the attack on one student by several others during a march in Rockville).

If public schools are to maintain a semblance of political neutrality, they must not greet some walkouts favorably (as with a liberal excused-absence policy) unless they would extend similar indulgence to students who walked out of class to march on the opposite side of the same questions.

All sorts of institutions are now making explicit what has long been inferred from their actions: That they’ve taken sides.

A METAPHOR FOR HILLARY AND THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Blood from Old Mice Makes Young Mice Decrepit.

Five days later, old mice did see some benefits from having young blood in their veins, including better muscle repair. But Conboy, who reported her findings in Nature Communications, says the really striking finding was just how bad old blood was for the younger animals. The aged blood inhibited the formation of brain cells in young mice and caused the animals to fall behind their peers in a strength test where they are hung upside down on a wire mesh. “The young mice became almost as decrepit as the old ones,” she says.

The research suggests that one day, instead of getting transfusions from young people, aged people will instead go to a medical facility to get their blood cleared of proteins that may build up and promote aging. Conboy says she and other scientists are working to identify what those molecules are.

Faster, please. Plus:

Given the swift and negative effects of old blood on younger mice—the results appeared immediately—this type of research could eventually raise questions about the age of blood-bank donors. A 2008 study in Blood found that the average age of blood donors in the U.S. was 35, but since repeat donors tend to be older, about 35 percent of blood came from people over 50, including many in their 60s.


HEALTH: Lilly Alzheimer’s drug fails in latest study.

The drug, solanezumab, missed the study’s main goal of significantly slowing cognitive decline in patients compared to a placebo or fake drug.

Eli Lilly and Co. had been studying the drug in patients with mild cases of the disease.

Current Alzheimer’s treatments like Aricept and Namenda only temporarily ease symptoms such as memory loss, confusion and agitation. They don’t slow, stop or reverse the mental decline that happens when the brain’s nerve cells stop functioning normally.

Faster, please.


After the election, a handful of Twitter loyalists confessed to feeling alienation over the role the service played in their lives, and the country, this year.

“At best, it was just quips and outrages — a diet of candy,” wrote Brent Simmons, a well-known software developer who took his feed dark after blaming the service for, among other things, being part of the system that helped elect Mr. Trump.

But it was less partisan outrage and more a feeling of exhaustion that inspired a new round of quitter Twitter last week.

“Twitter is toxic,” tweeted Steve Kovach, a writer at the Business Insider website who likened the service to an unshakable addiction. “I can’t stand it anymore,” he told me in a private message on Twitter. “I started regularly deleting my tweets this summer and unfollowed everyone and started over. It was driving me nuts and making me sad.” Mr. Kovach said he has had trouble sticking with his self-imposed ban, but that the campaign’s end had strengthened his resolve.

I’ve been off Twitter for over a month and I’m amazed at how little I miss it. It was addictive while I was on it, but now it seems like a weird little obsessive place that has little importance in the wider world — which is what I thought of it before I got sucked in. Plus, I strongly dislike the company and its management, and don’t want to support them.

What’s more, since I got off I’m calmer and happier, and I feel like I got a sizable infusion of fresh brain cells. Marc Andreessen, who quit about the same time I did, reports something similar.



When the heroics of the Spanish Civil War come up — Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, Hemingway’s fictions or the effusions of various poets — there is a very large and usually unremarked elephant in the room: Orwell, who actually fought, and Hemingway who wrote about fighting, were on the wrong side.

The strategic point is simple: had the Stalinists won war, then during the period of the Hitler-Stalin pact from 1939 to mid-1941, they would have allowed Hitler to cross Spain and seize Gibraltar. Had this happened, the British forces in the Mediterranean, including the British Empire’s last remaining field army in action, would have been cut off. The British army and fleet could probably have been supplied through the Suez Canal, at least for a while, but their positions would have been immeasurably weakened, and the enemy’s position immeasurably strengthened.

— Hal G.P. Colebatch, “Orwell’s Bad Republicans,” the American Spectator, August 7th, 2007.

Chaser: Spain faces condemnation as it prepares to refuel Russian battle group heading to bomb Aleppo.

—The London Telegraph, today.

Hangover: Adjacent to the above Telegraph article is the headline “Trump says Clinton’s foreign policy would start World War Three.”

Say, who was America’s Secretary of State in 2011, when Syria imploded?

K-12 IMPLOSION UPDATE: What Politicians Mean When They Ask for More Education Spending.

Per-student spending on K-12 education has risen steadily over the last two decades, but student test scores, and teacher salaries, are stagnant. Why hasn’t this massive increase in investment produced better teachers and better opportunity for students? The short-answer, according to a new Manhattan Institute report by Josh McGee: State and local governments have catastrophically mismanaged their teacher pension systems. The cash infusion to K-12 has been used largely to pay for irresponsible pension promises politicians made to teachers’ unions and justified to the public with shoddy accounting. . . .

In other words, to cover benefits for retirees, states need to dig into education funds that might otherwise be used to attract and retain good teachers or buy better textbooks and build new facilities. So long as state governments are unwilling to reform the blue model pension-for-life civil service system, and so long as teachers unions continue to wield outsized influence in so many state legislatures, this pattern seems likely to continue indefinitely.

Campaigns to increase spending on schools are always popular, and understandably so: Education ought to be a great equalizing force in our society and, in theory, an efficient way to invest in the future. The problem is that in many states, new “K-12 spending” isn’t really an investment so much as a transfer payment to retired employees of the public schools who have been promised untenable lifetime pension benefits.

Well, you can generally figure out which policy elites will favor based on what’s more conducive to graft.

THE PUBLIC PENSION CRISIS may be worse than we think:

Regular readers of this blog know that a pension meteor is headed for state and local governments, and that deceptive accounting practices obscure the likely scope of the destruction. The biggest source of confusion has to do with rates of return: Most pension funds assume that their assets will grow at rates of seven to eight percent per year indefinitely, a virtual impossibility in this age of low interest rates and sluggish growth.

A recent Governing magazine report highlights another way liabilities can be mismeasured. Many taxpayers live in jurisdictions that are on the hook for pensions from many different government agencies, including city governments, county governments, and school districts. So while the per capita pension debt for the City of Denver is just $709 per capita, for example, the “overlapping” obligations on its taxpayers are actually nearly eight times that high. . . .

Estimating the true cost of unfunded pension obligations is a messy business. Numbers publicly touted by politicians, unions and the actuaries they employ tend to downplay the $3.4 trillion problem and the existential threat it poses to blue model governance nationwide.

A sustainable fix to America’s public pensions will likely require intensive reforms to state and local governance, including the replacement of defined-benefit plans with 401(k)s and robust checks on the lobbying and political power of public sector unions. But the first step toward implementing these changes is for public administrators to come clean with taxpayers about the extent of the mess they are in. Until public sector pension funds are governed by the same rigorous accounting rules that apply in the private sector, it’s likely that instead of gradual reforms, states and localities will continue to govern by crisis, propping up the current system with every last cent and then declaring bankruptcy or asking for bailouts when it all comes tumbling down.

Just one of several calamities our unprecedentedly awful political class has saddled us with.

HAVE YOU HUGGED A FRACKER TODAY? Even More OPEC Confusion: Unclear Who Cuts First, If Anyone, As Production Hits New Record High.

THE HILL: GOP chairmen slam ‘unusual restrictions’ on FBI Clinton probe.

Four Republican committee chairmen on Wednesday pressed Attorney General Loretta Lynch on what they termed “the unusual restrictions” placed on the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of State.

In a letter to Lynch, they pointed to a pair of letters from Beth Wilkinson, an attorney for two of Clinton’s lawyers, that laid out a limited immunity agreement that the Department of Justice (DOJ) agreed to in exchange for cooperation with the investigation.

“The Wilkinson letters raise serious questions about why DOJ would consent to such substantial limitations on the scope of its investigation, and how [FBI Director James] Comey’s statements on the scope of the investigation comport with the reality of what the FBI was permitted to investigate,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) wrote.

Members of a few committees and “one or two staff members” were allowed to review the letters last week but could not take notes or make any record of them, according to lawmakers.

According to members who saw the documents, Wilkinson and the DOJ negotiated a deal for Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson, who sorted Clinton’s personal emails from her work-related ones before turning over 30,000 to the State Department in 2014.

Mills and Samuelson, who were acting as Clinton’s attorneys throughout the proceedings, turned over their computers to the FBI as part of the investigation.

The immunity deal promised that the Justice Department would not prosecute Mills or Samuelson based on information obtained from the laptops.

It also limited the emails that the FBI was allowed to review to those sent between June 1, 2014, and Feb. 1, 2015, and promised that the DOJ would destroy the laptops at the close of the probe.

Wilkinson has said that she advised Mills and Samuelson to take the deal “because of the confusion surrounding the various agencies’ positions on the after-the-fact classification decisions.”

The four lawmakers took issue with the restrictions on reviewing the letters, the timeframe limitations and the agreement to destroy the laptops.

The timeframe limitations, according to the Wednesday letter, “would necessarily have excluded, for example, any emails from Cheryl Mills to Paul Combetta in late 2014 or early 2015 directing the destruction or concealment of federal records.”

Yeah, how about that.

21ST CENTURY HEADLINES: Colorado gives marijuana candy a new look to avoid confusion.

A requirement that edible marijuana products come with a diamond-shaped stamp and the letters T-H-C — not just on the packaging but on the brownies, candies and other edibles themselves — takes effect Saturday.

The rule referencing marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient was added after complaints that the treats look too much their non-intoxicating counterparts. It is the first such requirement in any legal weed state.

Colorado’s new “universal symbol” for foods that contain marijuana is designed to give the treats a distinct look even after they’re out of the packaging. In other words, a pot cookie being passed around a high school cafeteria no longer will look so innocent, giving parents a way to identify marijuana edibles without smelling or tasting them.

That seems like a prudent regulation.

I THOUGHT OBAMACARE WAS GOING TO FIX THIS: “The reaction to opening a medical bill these days is often shock and confusion — for the insured and the uninsured. Prices and deductibles keep rising, policies are drowning in fine print, and doctors are jumping on and off networks. So why hasn’t the growing burden of health care gotten more attention in the presidential campaign?”

WHEN A COUGH IS NOT JUST A COUGH. At Commentary, Matthew Continetti writes, “the worst day of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign has to be September 11, 2016. An hour and a half into a 9/11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero, Clinton suddenly left and was spirited to her daughter’s apartment three miles away:”

At first there was confusion, since Clinton departed without the pool of reporters that follow her every move. Then a spokesman said that she had left because she was feeling “overheated.” Then a video surfaced in which Clinton struggled to reach her SUV, and had to be lifted by staff members into the vehicle. Then Clinton appeared outside the apartment and said she felt great. And then, hours after the event, the campaign released a statement by Clinton’s physician saying that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia two days before.

This sequence of events was more than bizarre. It exemplified the opacity and dissimulation, the changing explanations and outright lies, for which Clinton is known. There couldn’t be a worse way for her to combat her reputation for dishonesty and untrustworthiness than to have a medical episode at a 9/11 memorial, be tight-lipped about what happened, and then say she’d had a serious illness for days.

The media did not come across any better. MSNBC weekend anchor Alex Witt ascribed Clinton’s departure to the New York weather that day, which in her words was “humid,” “horrible,” “horrific,” and “ridiculously awful.” It was 79 degrees. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell said Clinton had looked fine to her. Brian Stelter of CNN warned his peers not to give credence to “conspiracy theories.”

Apparently, the Washington Post didn’t get the message, publishing a John le Carré-esque conspiracy theory yesterday that Hillary may have been poisoned – by Trump or Putin: “Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist who has made the NFL so uncomfortable with his discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in the brains of deceased players, suggests that Hillary Clinton’s campaign be checked for possible poisons after her collapse Sunday in New York…. But this is Omalu, whose credentials and tenacity are well known. He wasn’t giving up on Twitter, adding that his reasoning is that he does not trust Russian President Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who has expressed admiration for Putin.”

As Ed Morrissey notes in response, “Hillary has had Secret Service protection for years, and even more so over the course of the campaign…[But] one thing is certain :Dr. Omalu isn’t buying the pneumonia explanation. Will Hillary start complaining about conspiracy theorists on the Left now, and perhaps start a new basket of deplorables with Omalu as the first entry. We could get Will Smith to play Omalu again in The Deplorables II: Putin on the Fritz. I wonder what kind of reception Omalu will get the next time he testifies before Congress … or if we hear much from him in the future at all after this.”


Tim Kaine’s political formation wasn’t pro-American or pro-Catholic, it was pro-Soviet.

Journalistic and academic research has now shown that Liberation Theology itself was quite possibly a product of a Kremlin disinformation campaign designed to undermine the Church and bring Catholic countries into the Soviet sphere. The top-ranking Soviet Bloc defector of the Cold War, Gen. Ion Pacepa admits that he was personally involved in the operation.

And contrary to the myth, this was never Pope Francis’ theology of choice.

According to Argentine Jesuits, he was never favorable to Marxist-tinged theology. Open to debate, yes. A proponent, no.

In 2005, he directly discussed “Liberation Theology,” “Christian socialism” and other “revolutionary” ways of thinking, saying: “After the collapse of ‘real socialism,’ these currents of thought were plunged into confusion. Incapable of either radical reformulation or new creativity, they survived by inertia, even if there are still some today who, anachronistically, would like to propose [them] again.”

Liberation Theology’s recent second wind has been achieved by disavowing its Marxist roots. Francis’ doctrinal chief Cardinal Mueller is seen as friendly, but stated: “true liberation theology is opposed to Marxism.”

That wasn’t the case in the 1980s. Then, Kaine embraced not some reconstituted, post-Marxist version, but the hardcore, Cold War variety — an avowed Marxist ideology inimical to the institutional Catholic Church and to the United States.

Which definitely makes him “Ready for Hillary.”

THE GREAT BOOR OF THE GALAXY: On the 50th anniversary of Star Trek’s network debut, Matthew Continetti describes Gene Roddenberry as a “Liberal visionary? Maybe. But he was also an insecure, misogynistic hack,” and increasingly, his own worst enemy, particularly after the original Star Trek was cancelled by NBC:

For all of the control Roddenberry exercised over Star Trek, the franchise prospered only when it was under the aegis of others. As early as one month before the show’s premiere, an exhausted and embattled Roddenberry took a vacation. Television veteran Gene L. Coon, a Marine veteran of the Pacific, was hired as producer. “To a large degree,” write Gross and Altman, “it would be Coon who would ultimately define the show creatively in the coming months.”

The Star Trek that has imprinted itself on fans for decades is Gene L. Coon’s. His shows deepened the relationships between Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy. He created the Klingons. There was more humor. Says writer David Gerrold, “Gene L. Coon created the noble image that everyone gives Roddenberry the most credit for.” Shatner puts it this way: “Gene Coon had more to do with the infusion of life into Star Trek than any other single person.”

With Coon at the helm Roddenberry turned to other projects, and to his own worst instincts. He was a horn dog. Affairs with police secretaries had been just the start. While on the force he had become friends with Jack Webb, the star and producer of Dragnet, who eased his entry into Hollywood and competed with him for the affections of actress Majel Barrett. Meanwhile Roddenberry also had an affair with the actress, singer, and model Nichelle Nichols. His relationship with Barrett was an open secret, lasting a decade before he divorced his wife. He and Barrett got married in 1969. (Their son, Rod, was born in 1974.) As for Nichols, Roddenberry cast her in a history-making role as Star Trek’s Lieutenant Uhura.

Ande Richardson, an assistant to Gene Coon who had worked for Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, says, “Gene Roddenberry was a sexist, manipulative person who disregarded women.” She mentions several examples. “He would have women walking from Bill Theiss’s fitting rooms through to his office in the skimpiest outfits so he could perv them.” In the twenty-third century of Roddenberry’s imagination, it is unlikely that “perv” is still a verb.

As Continetti writes, “Star Trek is whoever is writing it at a given moment. Roddenberry, like many great innovators, fused two elements — Westerns and the aspirations of the New Frontier — to create something that in retrospect appears absolutely necessary and obvious. Star Trek: The Next Generation writer-producer Burton Armus, whose credits include NYPD Blue, says, ‘Look, Roddenberry can’t write very well. He came out with a concept that suddenly got hot, so he moved his house into this spaceship and he lived on it for the rest of his life.’”

Read the whole thing.

ZIKA: W.H.O. Clarifies Advice on Sex and Pregnancy in Zika Regions. “A spokeswoman said the agency made the announcement to clear up earlier confusion over whether it was advising women to avoid pregnancy during the epidemic. The W.H.O. is not offering such advice, although, she conceded, officials did appear to have said as much in June. The W.H.O. also suggested that men and women who visit and return from areas with mosquito-borne Zika transmission practice protected sex or abstinence for six months. The advice to wait that long — instead of eight weeks, the previous limit — is based on new evidence about the persistence of the virus in semen.”

This just gets better and better.

REVIEW: 2017 Ford Fusion Sport. 325 horsepower, compared to, what, 220 in the original Ford Taurus SHO? Which was really fast.

TRAIN-WRECK UPDATE: Aetna’s Retreat From Obamacare Is More Than It Seems.

Bigger insurers gain more pricing power against rapidly consolidating provider networks. They also gain more pricing power with customers. Industries dominated by a few major players are not, in general, known for their high quality and low costs. Allowing the mergers to go through could stave off the immediate problem with the Obamacare exchanges at the cost of raising insurance costs for everyone else — and giving Democrats big headaches in 2018 and 2020.

The calculation is further complicated by the fact that the exchanges and the mergers are regulated by different agencies. Health and Human Services ultimately oversees exchange operations, while the attorney general is the one trying to block the mergers. They both work for the same president, of course. But it would not be the first time that internecine battles between different parts of the same government further complicated an already complicated game.

Whatever the truth of the matter, and whatever the outcome, we can expect to see a lot of such quandaries going forward. The exchanges do not seem to be stabilizing; instead, they seem to be growing more unstable over time, particularly outside large urban areas where there are enough providers and slack capacity in the health-care system to provide some check on the problems that have plagued insurers elsewhere.

Insurers cannot simply go on eating those losses forever. They certainly won’t do so for free. Unless the exchanges get a rapid infusion of healthier customers who pay substantial premiums without using much care, insurers are going to keep pulling out of the areas where they are losing money. Or at the very least, they will demand benefits from the government to make it worth their while to stay.

Well, ObamaCare was always meant to fail and lead to single-payer government healthcare. Related: Colorado’s Single-Payer Health Care Would Die a Fiery Death.

I’VE BEEN WRITING ABOUT THIS FOR A WHILE: The Next Health Fad? Blood Transfusions from Young People. “Ambrosia is planning on giving 600 patients four rounds of weekly blood infusions coming from 16- to 25-year-olds. Ambrosia founder Jesse Karmazin, who went to Stanford Medical School, said in an e-mail that he was inundated with interview requests and unable to speak today. . . . Another company called Alkahest has been conducting a clinical trial with young blood infused into patients with probable Alzheimer’s. Its results are expected out by the end of the year.”

DID AUSSIE GOVERNMENT GIVE CLINTON FOUNDATION $20M, $50M OR $88M? The disclosures are all over the map on this question and the confusion reflects the apparent impossibility of knowing who gave how much when to Bill and Hillary’s favorite “charity.” Or into whose pocket the money was deposited after it was given.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who led the House effort that prompted the IRS to investigate the Clinton Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group that the foundation “has failed to accurately report tens of millions of dollars in foreign government grants, including some while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state.” Such reporting failure is a federal crime and also under multiple state charitable laws and regulations.

And the drip, drip, drip continues.


ROBERT MCMANUS: No Equivalence: The premeditated murder of five Dallas cops was unjustifiable, under any circumstances.

To the untrained eye, the attack appears to have been well-planned and carried out with precision. In this respect, it was fundamentally different than the events that brought hundreds of demonstrators to downtown Dallas Thursday—the police-custody deaths of black men in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and St. Paul, Minnesota, in a welter of chaos, confusion, and conflicting claims of guilt, innocence, and intent.

Baton Rouge and St. Paul, like so many of the similarly tragic police-custody deaths that preceded them, may have been the product of circumstance, or of incompetence, or maybe they were even crimes. Each must be examined in context and judged accordingly. But Dallas was cold-blooded murder—nothing more, nothing less. Attempts to assign equivalence to the horror of it—to suggest, as some are already doing, that Dallas is somehow just deserts for Baton Rouge or St. Paul or Baltimore or Ferguson, or even for Eric Garner’s death on Staten Island two long years ago—is morally repugnant.

Moreover, the claim on many lips that “guns” are the issue is correct only in the most abstract sense. To blame inanimate objects for Dallas, Orlando, or San Bernardino, is to deprive both the victims and their executioners of their fundamental humanity. The Dallas gunmen may be evil beyond comprehension, but it is their actions, not their weapons, that must be of principal concern to decent people. The killers, and not just the killing, must be condemned without equivocation. Far too few people are willing to do this. So, guns are an easy out.

Well, it’s the only way Dem politicans can avoid the contradiction of being anti-police but wanting urban centers to prosper. But as Richard Fernandez notes, the contradictions are coming home to roost.


This election year so far has emblemized the perfect storm of unrest and confusion—and an even more worrisome response to it. In the past, when 51 percent of societies no longer believed in or wished to defend their collective values and traditions, there were no longer reasons for them to continue. And so they did not—a warning we should heed.

Read the whole thing.

A GENTLE REMINDER FROM DAVID FRENCH: Christians Didn’t Commit the Orlando Massacre.

If you read just the major news outlets, there might be some confusion about that.

THE HILL: Why a power grid attack is a nightmare scenario.

Stores are closed. Cell service is failing. Broadband Internet is gone.

Hospitals are operating on generators, but rapidly running out of fuel.

Garbage is rotting in the streets, and clean water is scarce as people boil water stored in bathtubs to stop the spread of bacteria.

And escape?

There is none, because planes can’t fly, trains can’t run, and gas stations can’t pump fuel.

This is the “nightmare scenario” that lawmakers have been warning you about.

The threat of an attack on the nation’s power grid is all too real for the network security professionals who labor every day to keep the country safe.

“In order to restore civilized society, the power has got to be back on,” said Scott Aaronson, who oversees the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), an industry-government emergency response program.

While cybersecurity experts and industry executives describe such warnings as alarmist, intelligence officials say people underestimate how destructive a power outage can be.

The most damaging kind of attack, specialists say, would be carefully coordinated to strike multiple power stations.

If hackers were to knock out 100 strategically chosen generators in the Northeast, for example, the damaged power grid would quickly overload, causing a cascade of secondary outages across multiple states. While some areas could recover quickly, others might be without power for weeks.

The scenario isn’t completely hypothetical. Lawmakers and government officials got a preview in 2003, when a blackout spread from the coastal Northeast into the Midwest and Canada.

“If you think of how crippled our region is when we lose power for just a couple of days, the implications of a deliberate widespread attack on the power grid for the East Coast, say, would cause devastation,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Well, if I were mounting a grid attack, I’d also launch cyber-attacks on things, and organizations, needed to recover from it. And perhaps mix it with some physical attacks to create more confusion.

Bill Forstchen, call your office.

WHEN MALE IS FEMALE, BLACK IS WHITE, AND OLD IS YOUNG: Peder Zane explores the meaning of the Obama Administration’s absurd interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of discrimination “on the basis of sex”:

A dispute about bathroom rights turned into a Pandora’s box of philosophical riddles about the nature of identity and the meaning of truth on May 13 when the Departments of Justice and Education issued a letter prohibiting “discrimination based on a student’s gender identity.”

The letter defines gender identity as “an individual’s internal sense of gender.” It also states “there is no medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that students must meet as a prerequisite to being treated consistent with their gender identity.” . . .

Sex is a biological fact. Almost everyone is born with distinct physical markers that define us as male or female.

Gender is a social construct that refers to the fluid range of expected behaviors taught to boys and girls. . . .

Though the administration might have the best of intentions, its fusion of sex and gender raises complex questions. Race, for example, is even more of a social construct than gender. Men and women will always be biologically distinct, but race is almost entirely an invention. It wasn’t too long ago that Italians, Jews and Aryans were considered separate races. . . .

Similarly, if one’s sex is a choice, why not one’s age? As 60 becomes the new 40, we increasingly see age as an attitude rather than a number. If I believe I am 65, what basis do you have for disagreeing with me? . . .It might sound absurd, but, given that logic, why can’t a white person claim the benefits of affirmative action or a middle-aged man demand Medicare and Social Security?

Exactly. If I feel like a 25 year-old black male today, who has a moral or legal basis to challenge this self identity? And if they dare to do so, they are “discriminating” against me based upon my age, race and gender.

Orwell would be so proud of today’s totalitarian progressives: “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

As a legal matter, however, interpreting a 1964 law that bans discrimination “on the basis of sex” as banning discrimination “on the basis of sexual identity” is patently absurd. The 11 brave States that have filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama Administration’s newfound construction of the 1964 Civil Rights Act will ultimately prevail, as congressional intent drives statutory construction.

UPDATE (FROM GLENN): A reader sends this takeoff on the #ManEnough4Hillary campaign.


THE LAST LAUGH: Woman skewers Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in amazing obituary.



Confusion about the difference between social networking and social media is why most people haven’t noticed the decline of social networking. People don’t stop to think about the difference.

The sharing of social media — professionally produced videos, articles, podcasts and photos — is gradually replacing the sharing of personal content about one’s life.

For example, as you read my column, this article is being shared on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other so-called “social networking” sites. But that isn’t social networking; it’s social media.

Just ask Twitter

Micro-blogging, micro-schmogging. No matter what you call it, Twitter is included in every roundup, comparison or article about social networking. It’s universally included in the “social network” category.

That’s why it’s telling that Twitter last week reportedly recategorized itself in Apple’s App Store. The company removed its app from the “social networking” category and put it into the “news” category.

The move transformed Twitter from the No. 5 social networking app in the App Store to the No. 1 news app. The move also redefines Twitter: It’s no longer a place where people connect with other people to talk about their lives; it’s now a place where people get news.

Well, whatever news Twitter deigns to share with them, given that earlier this year, Twitter exited both social networking and social media to become social justice warriors.

As is usually the case when a company exits its core function to go full-on SJW, fewer and fewer investors are being social when it comes to trading their stock.

Related: Facebook admits to censoring Conservative websites while freely promoting left-wing ones.

Earlier: Ebay Blocks ‘Draw Mohammed’ Winning Cartoon from Auction.

NOBEL PEACE PRIZE UPDATE: Pentagon tap dances around ‘boots on the ground.’

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell what the Pentagon spokesman is saying, especially when he’s discussing the shadowy role U.S. special operations forces are playing in Syria.

The ostensible reason for the obfuscation is understandable: security and force protection. The less anyone knows about what the elite U.S. commandos are doing, and where they are doing it, the easier it is for them to do their job.

But that can also lead to a lot of confusion. Are U.S. troops fighting the Islamic State in Syria? Are they in danger? Are they on the front lines, behind the front lines, or nowhere near the front lines? Are they calling in airstrikes? Providing tactical advice? Weapons? What exactly are they up to?

What follows is a deconstruction of Monday’s briefing from Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook, and a translation from Pentagonese to English.

Short version: We’re engaged in slow and ineffectual escalation for political reasons. That always ends well.

EVERYTHING HE TOUCHES. . . Obama’s push to hire veterans is causing confusion and resentment, officials say.


Unfortunately, as taxes and onerous regulation continue to increase, the U.S. personal savings rate has decreased to 5.5 percent. Our savings rate was two to three times higher than that in the 1970s and 1980s, with a peak of 17 percent in 1975.

Today, many lack the recommended savings level of three to six months of income. In fact, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey, only 53 percent of adults would be able to cover an emergency expense of $400 without selling an asset or borrowing.

Part of the problem is the tax code being too complex, making it difficult for people to understand their options to invest and save for the future. A more streamlined and flexible saving account to enable and encourage savings is needed. To that end, we have introduced the Universal Savings Account Act, legislation that will empower all individuals to set aside money for all of life’s challenges and opportunities.

Similar to Roth Individual Retirement Accounts, the Universal Savings Accounts established in our bill are designed to offer tax-free earnings and distributions without the restrictions, confusion, and penalties associated with other tax-advantaged accounts. With these accounts, any American adult could save and invest up to $5,500 per year of post-tax income without being burdened by additional taxes when those investments grow.

Or we could just abolish the Income Tax, and replace it with consumption taxes.

FRACK THIS: No Agreement on Oil Freeze at Doha Meeting.

The sticking point was Iran’s participation, or lack thereof:

Saudi Arabia’s position that Iran join the freeze or there would be no deal scuttled the discussions before they started, participants said, and the meeting descended into sniping and confusion.

On Saturday, the day before the meeting, Saudi Arabia’s powerful deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was quoted by Bloomberg News as ruling out any deal that didn’t include Iran.

Other Saudi officials in the delegation had signaled on Saturday evening that the kingdom would consider a freeze without Iran’s participation, and a draft agreement was circulated, according to participants.

Maybe this is one of those non-Kissingerian formulations where both sides can lose.

LATEST HYPOCRISY OF THE LEFT: CULTURAL APPROPRIATION: “Way to go Fusion, you forced us to have to defend Justin Bieber. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.”

LIFE IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Twins married to twins resort to plastic surgery in order to tell each other apart.

A set of identical twin brothers and their wives, a set of identical twin sisters, are resorting to plastic surgery in order to tell each other apart.

The two couples, from the Shanxi province in China, often find it difficult to tell which twin is their spouse and which is their in-law, leading to frustration and confusion.

After several mix-ups, the couples are resorting to plastic surgery in order to differentiate their appearances.

They must be unusually identical. I’ve known several sets of twins and it was usually possible to tell the difference after a while.

‘Batman v. Superman,’ ‘Star Wars’ and Hollywood’s New Obsession With the “Requel,” as explored by the Hollywood Reporter:

Holy box office! The industry’s latest trend isn’t a sequel or reboot, it’s a hybrid engineered to capture nostalgia and launch a new (and lucrative) film universe.

Hollywood’s done the remakes, reboots, prequels and three­quels. The latest obsession: the “requel,” a movie that’s both a reboot and a sequel, blending old with new in an effort to extend the life of a franchise and, in the best cases, reinvent it for a “universe” of follow-up movies.

Regarding “Batman v. Superman v. your sense of hearing,” last week James Lileks wrote:

If you’d told me as a child that the future would contain almost nothing but superhero movies with all my favorite characters, and that my future self wouldn’t be surprised if they greenlit “Fin Fang Foom v Paste-Pot Pete” I would have looked up in confusion: “What do you mean, greenlit? I don’t understand the term.”

Never mind, that’s not the point. All your childhood joys will be brought to life at the cost of billions of dollars, shown in 3-D on indoor screens the size of the Starlight Drive-in. You win. The kids win. All your stories become the dominant American cultural product.

I would have been ecstatic. But I wouldn’t have expected that I would tire of the bombast, the unreality of the action, the feeling of leaving the theater with a lacerated spleen. I wouldn’t have thought that I’d put on the earlier Michael Bay movies because now they looked like Ingmar Bergman stories of a guy playing chess for an hour.

So I’m done. Except for the next Captain America, which is a great series of movies. In the next one he fights Iron Man! Good. If anyone needs a good beatdown by a God-fearing patriotic man with a sense of decorum, it’s Tony Stark. I also hope they make more Ant-Man and Thor, and hopes are high for Dr. Strange. He’s a magician! And he fights a guy whose head is on fire. Awesome!

I wonder what used to keep grown-ups from being excited about such things. Besides shame, that is.

As I wrote here last week, if you’re wondering how Hollywood went from Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane and Casablanca, to Batman Versus Superman and Quentin Tarantino’s entire oeuvre, the remarkably influential 1960s-1970s-era New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael is the linchpin between old and new Hollywood. But as Taxi Driver screenwriter Paul Schrader (whose early career Kael championed) once said, “It was fun watching the applecart being upset. but now where do we go for apples?”

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Massive Document Leak Details Offshore Accounts Connected to Putin and Other Leaders.

In one of the largest and most far-reaching document leaks in modern history, more than 370 journalists from 76 countries spent over a year plowing through 11.5 million records on offshore accounts and dummy corporations created by a secretive Panamanian law firm.

What the group—which was co-ordinated by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and over 100 media entities around the globe—found was a trove of files that detail the holdings of 140 politicians and public officials, including the prime ministers of Iceland and Pakistan and the president of Ukraine.

The documents, which cover more than 40 years worth of offshore companies created by the Mossack Fonseca firm, also exposed the holdings of a dozen other global leaders. According to the ICIJ they show how officials tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin moved as much as $2 billion in Russian currency through a variety of banks and dummy corporations.

The millions of leaked documents were obtained by reporters at the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which shared them with the ICIJ and other media partners. In the U.S., those partners included Univision, the Miami Herald and The McClatchy Co. Univision-owned Fusion has published a look at the documents and their impact.

The leak “provides details of the hidden financial dealings of 128 more politicians and public officials around the world,” the ICIJ says. “The cache of 11.5 million records shows how a global industry of law firms and big banks sells financial secrecy to politicians, fraudsters and drug traffickers as well as billionaires, celebrities and sports stars.”

There’s plenty of crookedness and corruption here, but the real problem is that tax laws almost everywhere are too intrusive, and take too much money. Simpler taxes and lower rates wouldn’t stop the Putin-bribery, but they’d put a big dent in the rest, which provides cover.

More here.

GOOD: F.D.A. Clears Use of New Test to Screen Blood Donations for Zika.

The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it would allow the use of an experimental test to screen blood donations for contamination with the Zika virus.

The move means that Puerto Rico, which had halted local blood donations and had imported nearly 6,000 units of red blood from the continental United States, will soon be able to resume collecting donations from residents. And it should help blood banks elsewhere in the country avoid similar ordeals.

“The bottom line is we are going to work with blood centers in Puerto Rico to try to help as many as possible make use of the investigational test,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the F.D.A.’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

He estimated that the test, manufactured by Roche Molecular Systems, would be ready “within the next week or so.”

Experts noted that it took almost a year to develop a test to screen blood donations for West Nile virus, and some applauded the rapid progress described Wednesday.

“It is amazingly fast,” said Dr. Darrell J. Triulzi, the director of the division of transfusion medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. “This is a testament to the speed at which industry was able to respond to a need.”

He added that the F.D.A. deserved praise for fast-tracking the test.

I’m going to put a lot more work than usual into mosquito control in my backyard this year.

“ANONYMOUS SOURCE” ISN’T SUPPOSED TO BE ANONYMOUS TO THE REPORTER:  Cosmo Wenman, who does real 3D scans of artworks, investigates how the NYT and others got fooled into reporting a hoax 3D scanning “art heist.”

The New York Times’ March 1, 2016 story “Swiping a Priceless Antiquity … With a Scanner and a 3-D Printer” by Charly Wilder tells how two German artists made a surreptitious, unauthorized 3D scan of the iconic bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin.

The artists, Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, make a case for repatriating artifacts to their native countries and use Nefertiti as their focal point. They also point out that the Neues Museum has made its own high-quality 3D scan of the bust, and that the museum should share that data with the public. As a protest, they released their own scan to the public, and the quality of their scan is extraordinary.

The story has received a great deal of attention and Al-badri and Nelles have earned much praise for their efforts to digitally repatriate important cultural artifacts. Unfortunately, there are serious problems with their story and The Times’ account.

The Times reports that artists Al-badri and Nelles used a modified Microsoft Kinect scanner hidden under clothing to gather the scan data of the bust. Following the Times story, there have been several independent and exhaustive descriptions of how their scan data simply cannot have been gathered in the way Al-badri and Nelles claim. For the specifics, I refer you to analysis by Paul Docherty and Fred Kahl. They correctly point out that the Kinect scanner has fundamentally low resolution and accuracy, and that even under ideal conditions, it simply cannot acquire data as detailed as what the artists have made available. The artists’ account simply cannot be true.


He figures out what probably happens and concludes:

All of this confusion stems from bad institutional practices regarding secrecy: The Neues Museum is hoarding 3D scans that by all rights it should share with the public, and The New York Times has allowed anonymous sources into the chain of custody of the facts of its story.

Read the whole thing here.


Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 9.19.24 AM

It’s not a crazy idea, actually. Webb would bolster Trump’s weak foreign policy/national security credentials, and help pull Democrats away from Hillary, probably without alienating many GOP voters.

ALOE VERA NOW CAUSES CANCER IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA: For those of you not familiar with California’s Proposition 65, this 2009 L.A. Times article is a reasonable introduction:

Whether you are pumping gas or buying a fillet of salmon, your eyes have no doubt landed on an ominous sign documenting the presence of “chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.”

Such alarming notices began appearing in the state in 1986 thanks to Proposition 65, otherwise known as the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, which prohibits businesses from discharging potentially harmful chemicals in drinking water and requires them to disclose the presence of such chemicals on their premises. The 19-page list of hundreds of potentially dangerous chemicals kept by the state is updated annually.

Today, the warnings are everywhere: parking lots, hardware stores, hospitals and just about any decent-sized business including, as of May, those of medical marijuana suppliers — because marijuana smoke is now on the list of known carcinogens.

Flash-forward to 2016, when as the California Political Review notes, Aloe Vera has been added to the state’s Prop. 65 List:

You read that correctly: Aloe vera. In December of last year, the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published its intent to list Aloe vera, whole leave extract to the Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer. Despite the widely accepted extensive health benefits of Aloe vera, an unelected regulator in Sacramento can now tell you and all consumers it will cause cancer, even if no cases of cancer from Aloe vera exposure exist.

The problem is that the 800+ chemicals listed in Proposition 65 are not devised to protect consumers, but rather serve as a cash cow for private trial lawyers to sue small business and reap the hefty settlement payout. Since 1986, nearly 20,000 lawsuits have been filed, adding up to over half a billion dollars in settlement payments by business owners.

Unfortunately, the most profitable thing regulators give to trial lawyers at the expense of job creators is confusion. Recent Proposition 65 proposed regulatory revisions create compliance difficulties, increase frivolous litigation, and add consumer confusion.

Which for trial lawyers, is a feature, not a bug. Or as Ayn Rand wrote a half century ago in Atlas Shrugged, “There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for me to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed or enforced nor objectively interpreted — and you create a nation of law-breakers — and then you cash in on guilt.”

NEWSFLASH: HOMELAND SECURITY STILL A JOKE. Fusion Center Issues New Statement on Its Warning That Police Should Watch Out for Don’t-Tread-on-Me Flags.

CHANGE: France restricts blood transfusions over Zika virus.

I’M SO OLD I REMEMBER WHEN PROFILING WAS BAD: Utah Fusion Center Warns Cops: Watch Out for Don’t-Tread-on-Me Flags.

The report includes several “visual indicators” to help police determine whether they’re dealing with “extremist and disaffected individuals.” These range from images associated with specific political groups, such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, to a more generic patriotic symbol, the Gadsden flag—a famous Revolutionary War banner featuring a coiled rattlesnake and the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me.” One of the “indicators” is a slightly altered version of a picture popular with fans of the Grateful Dead; the guide does not note this potential source of confusion, describing it only as “common sovereign citizen imagery.”

Homeland Security remains a joke.

DIVERSITY IS OUR STRENGTH: Muslim extremists’ ‘campaign of lies’ to undermine the government’s fight against terror.

Islamist activists linked to Cage, a group known to sympathise with terrorists, are using coordinated leaks to mainstream news organisations, including the BBC, to spread fear and confusion in Muslim communities about the Government’s anti-terror policy, Prevent.

Investigations by the Telegraph reveal that several widely reported recent stories about Prevent are false or exaggerated – and many of the supposedly “ordinary Muslim” victims are in fact activists in the campaign, known as Prevent Watch. The stories include a claim which became a cause célèbre for Prevent’s opponents – that a Muslim schoolboy from London was “interrogated like a criminal” for using the phrase “ecoterrorism” in class. The boy’s mother, Ifhat Smith, who took the story to the media, presented herself as a traumatised ordinary Londoner. She is in fact an activist in the Prevent Watch campaign and a key figure in the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which believes in replacing secular democratic government with Islamic government.

This is no surprise. And neither is the press’s gullibility.

AT LEAST THIS CONFUSION OF FICTION AND REALITY IS FUNNY: Red faces at National Archive after Baldrick poem published with WW1 soldiers’ diaries.  To be fair it wasn’t their fault.  It was his plan.  It involved a turnip.

COMMON CORE WILL COST FOUR TIMES MORE THAN PROJECTED: And as is so often the case, California is getting the worst of it.

A California commission has just decided the technology costs for Common Core tests are an unfunded mandate, which will require state taxpayers to cough up approximately $4 billion more to local school districts, Californian and former U.S. Department of Education official Ze’ev Wurman tells The Federalist.

This adds to the extra $3.5 billion the legislature gave schools for Common Core in spring 2015 and a separate infusion of $1.7 billion Gov. Jerry Brown snagged for Common Core spread across fiscal years 2014 and 2015. That makes a total of approximately $9.2 billion above and beyond existing tax expenditures Californians will pay to have Common Core injected into their state.

This even though both vested and independent analyses found that California’s pre-Common Core curriculum mandates were of higher quality than the Common Core that replaced it. You read that right: Californians got their kids worse instruction, and are paying $9.2 billion extra for it.

I have a fourth grader subject to Common Core math, and I can tell you there’s also a huge hidden cost in having to re-teach my child the right way to do his homework.

PROGRESS TOWARD SAVING THE PLANET: Advanced Nuclear Startup Terrestrial Energy Lands Initial Funding.

One of the most promising developers of advanced nuclear power plants, the Canadian startup Terrestrial Energy, has landed $7 million in funding. Although the investment is small, it is an important signal that the private sector might back innovative nuclear reactors as the search for low- or no-carbon forms of power generation accelerates.

More than $1.3 billion in private capital has been invested in North American companies working on advanced nuclear reactor technologies, according to Third Way, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. But much of that money has gone to companies pursuing nuclear fusion, which is in a far earlier stage than technologies that employ fission, the conventional form of nuclear power (see “Finally, Fusion Takes Small Steps Toward Reality”).

In addition to the money Terrestrial Energy has raised from undisclosed investors, Transatomic Power, a nuclear startup founded by a pair of MIT PhDs, has raised $6.3 million from investors including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. Nevertheless, many new nuclear startups are still scrambling to fund their research and development programs. Terrestrial’s funding is “good news for everyone,” says Transatomic founder Leslie Dewan, “because it provides market validation for the sector as a whole.”

Faster, please.


Cruz’s speeches are marked by what you might call pagan brutalism. There is not a hint of compassion, gentleness and mercy. Instead, his speeches are marked by a long list of enemies, and vows to crush, shred, destroy, bomb them. When he is speaking in a church the contrast between the setting and the emotional tone he sets is jarring.

Of course, if his speeches — or even those of his mentors — really were filled with “pagan brutalism,” Brooks would be a true admirer of Cruz and/or his pants.

Related: Four Problems With Media Confusion Over Ted Cruz’s Quoting Of Scripture.

THESE PEOPLE DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT MUCH: 4 Problems With Media Confusion Over Ted Cruz’s Quoting Of Scripture. “So if Ted Cruz is talking about the ‘body of Christ’ rising up, he certainly isn’t talking about Jesus rising from the dead. And Jesus having already risen from the dead is astonishing, yes, but it is not a teaching that Ted Cruz introduced to society. Ignorance of it 2,000 years later is indefensible. . . . When Christians refer to being members of the body of Christ, we’re saying that we all have different spiritual gifts, but we work together as one. We are one with Christ, but also one with each other. Some of us might be preachers, some of us might be Sunday School teachers, some of us might only be able to show up every few weeks and sit silently in a pew, but we’re all doing our part as members in the body. It’s a metaphor. And, just to be extra diligent here given the state of education in this country, I’ll add that a metaphor is a figure of speech that identifies something as being the same as some unrelated thing for rhetorical effect, thus highlighting the similarities between the two.”

THE GOD PROFUSION. “Europe’s churches are empty—but don’t take that as a sign of reason’s triumph. More than half of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls,” Naomi Schaefer Riley writes in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Stark argues that, in general, the government sponsorship of religion is a hindrance to the growth of a faith. Monopoly destroys competition, and competition, he says, causes growth—in religious affiliation as much as in the marketplace for goods and services. In many places around the globe, the competition among Muslims, evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and hundreds of smaller religious groups has resulted in an atmosphere of revival. A smug complacency has been replaced by a fervor to win souls.

Not in Europe, however, where the churches, once so important, are now empty. For the champions of the secularization thesis, such a development is nothing to complain about: Empty churches are a sign of reason’s progress. Mr. Stark offers some amusing evidence to the contrary. Drawing on the Gallup poll, he notes that Europeans hold all sorts of supernatural beliefs. In Austria, 28% of respondents say they believe in fortune tellers; 32% believe in astrology; and 33% believe in lucky charms. “More than 20 percent of Swedes believe in reincarnation,” Mr. Stark writes; “half believe in mental telepathy.” More than half of Icelanders believe in huldufolk, hidden people like elves and trolls. It seems as if the former colonial outposts for European missionaries are now becoming more religious, while Europe itself is becoming interested in primitive folk beliefs.

America isn’t immune either of course; as Michael Graham asked in Redneck Nation 15 years ago, “Do you know how exasperating it is to have a New Ager make fun of your religion?”

As a graduate of Oral Roberts, I am a magnet for people who want to talk about their spiritual beliefs and/or their loathing of Christianity. My ORU experience was part of my stand-up comedy act, and it was not uncommon to be harangued after the show by audience members who wanted to get their licks in against organized religion.

After a set at a hotel in Washington State, I was dragged into a long, drawn-out discussion with a graying, balding New Ager who just couldn’t get over my evangelical background. “You seem so smart,” he kept saying. “How could you buy into that stuff?” Here’s a guy wearing a crystal around his neck to open up his chakra, who thinks that the spirit of a warrior from the lost city of Atlantis is channeled through the body of a hairdresser from Palm Springs, and who stuffs magnets in his pants to enhance his aura, and he finds evangelicalism an insult to his intelligence. I ask you: Who’s the redneck?

Come to think of it, I’m not sure if this guy—who believed in reincarnation, ghostly hauntings, and the eternal souls of animals—actually believed in God. It’s not uncommon for Northerners, especially those who like to use the word “spirituality,” to believe in all manner of metaphysical events, while not believing in the Big Guy. “Religious” people go to church and read the Bible, and Northerners view them as intolerant, ill-educated saps. “Spiritual” people go hiking, read Shirley MacLaine or L. Ron Hubbard, and are considered rational, intelligent beings.

Why, it’s almost as if mankind is factory hardwired to believe in a higher power.

THE COLOGNE SEX ASSAULTS: A Failure By Germany’s Elite.

What is apparent is that, during and since, there has been a widespread failure on the part of German authorities and elite institutions. The police failed to protect its citizens, the press dawdled in holding anyone to account (and see, too, those unanswered questions just above), and at least one politician even now seems to struggle to address the issue without suggesting that young women must somehow accommodate the possibility of assaults and “confusion.”
This all carries echoes of the Rotherham scandal, in which British authorities had for years turned a blind eye to a child abuse ring among Pakistani men in the north of England, seemingly at least in part for fear of looking racist. By the time anyone put a stop to it, an estimated 1,400 kids had been abused, often horrifically. Like the German police and politicians in this case—albeit on a much longer and larger scale—the British authorities may have put the need to appear sensitive over the need to enforce core values and basic human rights.

Western liberal elites see themselves both as feminists and as advocates for refugees, immigrants, and minorities. (As a sign at a protest in Cologne on Wednesday, photographed by Reuters, read, “Gegen Sexismus, Gegen Rassismus”—or, “Against Sexism, Against Racism.”) As principles, all of those are fine sentiments. But in the real world, Europe has just admitted large numbers of young men from cultures with aggressively different attitudes towards women. Authorities in Germany and elsewhere, as well as politicians, feminists, and other elites, are going to have to figure out, fast, how to talk and act about the clash of Western absolutes (the ability of women, dressed as they wish, to walk wherever they wish without fear is not up for debate) with immigrant cultures, or many more problems may lie ahead.

The problem is that these “elites” — not just in Germany, but throughout the West — are, for the most part, horrible human beings who must cover up their horribleness with virtue-signalling. And virtue-signalling is inconsistent with constructive action.

UPDATE: How out of touch are they? This out of touch: Germany springs to action over hate speech against migrants.


As the great 15th century Arab historian Ibn Khaldun observed, societies that get rich also tend to get soft, both in the physical sense and in the head. Over the past two centuries, Western societies, propelled by the twin forces of technology and capitalist “animal spirits,” have created a diffusion of wealth unprecedented in world history. A massive middle class emerged, and the working class received valuable protections, not only in Europe and America, but throughout parts of the world, notably East Asia, which adopted at least some of the Western ethos.

The current massive movement of people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia to Western countries suggests the enduring appeal of this model. After all, people from developing countries aren’t risking their lives to move to North Korea, Russia or China. The West remains a powerful beacon in the “clash of civilizations.”

Yet a portion of these newcomers ultimately reject our culture and, in some cases, seek to liquidate it. They do this in countries where multiculturalism urges immigrants to register as “victims,” and not indulge in Western culture, as did most previous immigrant waves. After all, why assimilate into a culture that much of the cultural elite believes to be evil?

Perhaps the biggest disconnect may involve young immigrants and their offspring, particularly students. Rather than be integrated in some ways into society, they are able, and even encouraged, not to learn about “Western civilization,” which is all but gone from campuses, with barely 2 percent retaining this requirement.

The dominant ideology on college campus – “cultural relativism” – leaves little room for anything other than a nasty take on Western history and culture. Many students, whether of immigrant parentage or descendants of the Mayflower, have only vague appreciation or knowledge of Western civilization, making them highly vulnerable to such pleading. They often go through college now with only the vaguest notion of our history, the writings of the American founders, the philosophy of the Enlightenment, our vast cultural heritage or the fundamental principles of Christianity or, if you will, Judeo-Christianity.

This extends beyond religion to the very basics – like respect for the First Amendment – that underpin our social order. . . . In virtually every part of the West, more traditional values, from the primacy of the family to religion and belief in the efficacy of market capitalism, are being undermined, with increasingly disastrous results.

Forecast: “Bad luck” ahead.

HMM: Jim Webb Attacks Clinton With Eye on Independent Run. “The lengthy condemnation on Facebook, which said, among other things that ‘Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya,’ came just days before the end of the year, which his team had previously told CNN would be reasonable time for them to make a decision about an independent bid.”

A Trump-Webb 2016 fusion ticket?

IF SHELDON ADELSON WANTS TO EXPAND HIS MEDIA HOLDINGS — OR IF SOME OTHER WEALTHY GOP DONOR WANTS TO DO SOMETHING BESIDES THROW MONEY DOWN A CAMPAIGN-DONATION RATHOLE — THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD OPPORTUNITY: Disney is looking to unload its interest in cable channel Fusion. “A few years ago, Fusion, a cable network aimed at millennials and young Latinos who make up a growing portion of the U.S. population, seemed like a good idea to the Walt Disney Co. Now — in an age of cable-cord cutting, ‘cord-nevers’ who don’t sign up for cable and the emergence of streaming online video services — not so much. Disney is looking to unload its 50% stake in the channel and digital content provider it co-owns with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision.”

At least, this is the kind of property people should be looking at.

SCORE ANOTHER ONE FOR ROBERT HEINLEIN: First results from human young blood rejuvenation trial expected.

Dracula was on to something. The idea that blood from the young can rejuvenate an ageing human body might not be too far from the truth – but no biting is required.

Next year we’ll see the first results from a trial that has given young blood to people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s in the hope that it will improve their symptoms.

There’s good reason to think it will. Years of animal experiments have shown that an infusion of young blood in older mice can improve their cognition, physical endurance and the health of several organs. It even makes them look younger.

The first few people to trial the procedure got their “taste” of young blood in 2014. It came in the form of a transfusion of blood donated by volunteers aged 30 or younger.

The team behind the trial hopes to see immediate improvements in cognition, but Tony Wyss-Coray at Stanford School of Medicine in California, who is leading the study, cautions that the procedure is very experimental. For that reason, it’s probably best to avoid private clinics that have already started offering to turn back the years in a similar manner.

Well, I suppose that depends on how urgently you need treatment.

OBAMA AND FRIENDS’ INCREDIBLE MALFEASANCE ON IRAN: “It’s official: on October 10, Iran tested an Emad ballistic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead…Iran is also known to have tested yet another nuclear-capable missile on November 21,” P. David Hornik writes, asking, “Why are Obama and his allies so gung-ho to get the deal moving, and the sanctions lifted, at any conceivable price?”

“And for the other answer, you have to follow the money. The lifting of sanctions will mean Iran gets its hands on up to $150 billion in unfrozen assets. That’s a huge infusion for doing business with eager European and Russian entities that have already been trooping to Tehran, intoxicated by the smell of ink — that is, the inking of business deals — in the air.”

Read the whole thing.

THE SAD ECONOMICS of Internet Fame.

GREAT MOMENTS IN FEMINIST EMPOWERMENT! “ISIS thinks female jihadis should stay in the kitchen. Tashfeen Malik disagreed,” A headline above an article by Yahoo’s Liz Goodwin notes:

Malik, a 29-year-old Pakistani citizen with an infant, pledged loyalty to ISIS on Facebook before the deadly attack. But her actions do not necessarily reflect the ideals and rules ISIS has laid out for women and their role in the caliphate.

ISIS has so far said publicly that Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, were “supporters of the caliphate” — refraining from calling them “soldiers,” as they have described followers in the past.

The group’s propaganda targeting Western women often features burka-clad girls toting AK-47s. ISIS’s message stresses the “empowerment” of women, according to Mia Bloom, a terror expert and professor at Georgia State University. It has been more successful in recruiting U.S. women than any other terror group, notes Karen Greenberg, the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University’s School of Law. The group claims that feminism has failed women and that in the caliphate, they will be able to be their true, nurturing selves.

Smash the bonds of patrimony with pipe bombs! Plus this:

The strict rules for women inside the caliphate are also different from what ISIS encourages women to do in their home countries, Katz said. ISIS videos that call for lone wolf attacks in the West are addressed to Muslims in general instead of “brothers,” a semantic distinction that clearly includes women.

Well, if there’s one thing we’ve learned from college campuses throughout America this year, the wrong kind of language can really be “triggering” to the impressionable — and taking the uber-PC tone of the above article to its natural conclusion, who knows what sorts of violations to a “safe space” can occur next?