June 15, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 8:07 PM



Fans might not know the identity of the older man in the Angels uniform observing workouts and games at the minor league complex, but Bobby Knoop is there just about every day that school is in session for the youngest of the Angels farmhands.

The 78-year-old former big league second baseman and major league coach watches workouts and games from his ubiquitous lawn chair, perched behind the fence on one of the complex fields. Here he can get a good view of what's happening on the field, occasionally taking breaks between innings to work on the crossword puzzle from the daily newspaper. At times, he'll head to a side field to hit fungoes and give individual instruction to infielders. During the Arizona League season or when there's an extended spring training game in Tempe Diablo Stadium, he settles into a seat on the concourse level, where he gets a bird's eye view of the field.

Bottom line--if there's baseball happening at the Angels minor league complex, Knoop is likely nearby.

Knoop's professional career dates back to 1956 when the Southern California teenager signed with the Milwaukee Braves. Selected by the Angels in the December 1963 Rule 5 draft, Knoop made his big league debut in 1964, launching a playing career that spanned nine seasons with the Angels, White Sox and Royals. Regarded as one of the best defensive second basemen of his era, Knoop won three Gold Gloves. In his best years he teamed with All-Star shortstop Jim Fregosi, who played 18 years in the bigs followed by a 15-year managerial career.

"He was my teammate, of course, but more than that he was my roommate," Knoop said about the late Fregosi, ". . . my closest and dearest friend in baseball."

Knoop's acrobatic movements around the keystone earned him the nickname "Nureyev," after Rudolph Nureyev, the Russian ballet dancer of the era. That name was coined by Angels beat writers after Knoop told them his mother insisted he take ballet lessons as a child. 

...for Jimmy Reese.

Posted by orrinj at 8:02 PM


Lobbyist for Russian interests says he attended dinners hosted by Sessions  (Stephanie Kirchgaessner, 15 June 2017, The Guardian)

An American lobbyist for Russian interests who helped craft an important foreign policy speech for Donald Trump has confirmed that he attended two dinners hosted by Jeff Sessions during the 2016 campaign, apparently contradicting the attorney general's sworn testimony given this week.

Sessions testified under oath on Tuesday that he did not believe he had any contacts with lobbyists working for Russian interests over the course of Trump's campaign. But Richard Burt, a former ambassador to Germany during the Reagan administration, who has represented Russian interests in Washington, told the Guardian that he could confirm previous media reports that stated he had contacts with Sessions at the time.

"I did attend two dinners with groups of former Republican foreign policy officials and Senator Sessions," Burt said.

Posted by orrinj at 11:55 AM


Kerry killed peace by coddling Israel (Dan Rothem, 6/15/17, Times of Israel)

Earlier this week, Haaretz revealed the contents of the draft peace proposals developed by Secretary of State John Kerry and presented to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in early 2014. The documents are the most comprehensive American attempt to present the outlines of a peace agreement since Israeli-Palestinian negotiations began more than a quarter of a century ago. What the texts demonstrate, strikingly, is how inadequate and uninformed was Kerry's understanding of the building blocks that a peace agreement must entail. [...]

Clearly, on Jerusalem the American language fell significantly short of what Palestinians heard in the past. While Clinton, Barak, and Olmert endorsed Palestinian sovereignty in all the Arab parts of East Jerusalem (except the Old City, where Olmert envisioned an internationalized special regime), Kerry succumbed to Netanyahu's intransigence against Palestinian sovereignty in any part of Jerusalem, limiting the American position to a mere acknowledgment of Palestinian aspirations there. Only after having discredited himself by articulating this overtly Israeli-biased formula in February did Kerry ultimately arrive at ideas inferior to, but not contradicting, what Clinton had introduced in 2000.

On refugees, the American text unabashedly and exclusively addressed Israeli interests but failed to even mention narrative issues dear to Palestinians: recognition of refugee rights and of responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem. Clinton, Barak, and Olmert dealt to varying degrees with these issues. The Palestinians rejected all formulas as insufficient. Why Kerry believed his inferior formula would be acceptable to Abbas is a mystery.

Finally and most elaborately, we arrive at the question of borders. At least three members of Kerry's team and one informed outsider told me -- both during and after Kerry's failed effort -- that Netanyahu went "even beyond Olmert" on borders. It sounded unreliable, but I eagerly anticipated the publication of the text.

The American language stated that borders will be based on the 1967 lines with "mutually-agreed swaps whose size and location will be negotiated," so that Palestine's eventual territory will be "corresponding in size" to the West Bank and Gaza territory conquered by Israel in 1967. These positions, in some variations, are what Palestinians had heard from Clinton, Bush, Obama, Barak, and Olmert. And despite the good intentions of them all, it falls short of Abbas's basic need: that swaps -- representing a compromise on top of the Palestinian historic compromise of forfeiting 78 percent of historical Palestine and settling for the 22 percent that is the West Bank and Gaza -- will need to be equal in size and quality. And despite all past evidence that any attempt to gain an advantage for Israel of even one-half of one percent in the swap ratio is a deal breaker, Kerry and his team stretched the English language to its limits, avoiding at all cost the only word that could bring about a breakthrough: 'equal.'

Posted by orrinj at 11:50 AM


Manafort still doing international work (KENNETH P. VOGEL, 06/15/2017, Politico)

Manafort in recent weeks has either consulted or worked with a Chinese construction billionaire looking to expand his business overseas and a telecommunications firm interested in regulatory approval from governments in Asia and the Middle East, as well as an investment fund claiming links to the Chinese government, according to documents and interviews.

Manafort quietly consulted on a proposal under which the Chinese fund -- the China Development Fund -- would invest $30 billion or more in the Puerto Rican government's bond debt and possibly the island's critical infrastructure, according to documents and interviews with four people familiar with the negotiations, including a Manafort business partner.

One of the people, a lawyer involved in the discussions, said Manafort indicated that he could convince the Trump administration to support any resulting deal, because he's remained in contact with Trump's team, and that he played a role in helping to soften Trump's tough campaign rhetoric on China.

Posted by orrinj at 11:48 AM


CEOs to Trump: You're failing (Matt Egan, June 15, 2017, CNN)

A stunning 50% of the CEOs, business execs, government officials and academics surveyed at the annual Yale CEO Summit give Trump an "F" for his first 130 days in office.

The survey, released earlier this week, found that another 21% give Trump's performance a "D" so far. Just 1% of the 125 leaders polled awarded the billionaire an "A."

Posted by orrinj at 11:27 AM


Why treating breast cancer with less may be more (Ashish A. Deshmukh, Anna Likhacheva, 6/15/17, The Conversation)

For decades, breast cancer was considered such a formidable foe that doctors who treated it and women who had it wanted to use everything in their arsenal to fight it.

That included the radical Halsted mastectomy, which often took out chest muscles along with the breast and left women disfigured.

It also included lengthy radiation treatments, sometimes for as long as seven weeks (known as conventionally fractionated radiation), given every day Monday through Friday after surgery. This form of radiation comes at great cost to women and causes hardships for those who live far away from radiation clinics. [...]

Multiple randomized trials have shown that a 3- to 4-week course of whole breast radiation therapy is equivalent to a 6- to 8-week course. In fact, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines endorse the short hypofractionated course as the preferred approach.

Despite all this, American doctors have not widely adopted the new strategy. The reasons for this are varied, including dissemination of new findings to private practitioners and financial incentives of treating with a longer course. Our current fee-for-service reimbursement structure pays more for the longer treatment, which may be a factor in the surprisingly slow adoption of the convenient hypofractionated whole breast radiotherapy approach.

Posted by orrinj at 11:20 AM


Poll: Americans don't think Trump respects the nation's traditions (Darlene Superville and Emily Swanson, 6/15/17, )

Most Americans say they think President Trump has little to no respect for the country's democratic traditions, according to a new poll that underscores the difficulty Mr. Trump faces in uniting a country deeply divided about his leadership. [...]

Trump was unpopular among Americans overall even as he was elected president, but the poll shows that even many Republicans have doubts. Nearly a third of Republicans and independents who lean toward the Republican party think Trump has little to no respect for the country's democratic institutions, and a quarter disapprove of the job he's doing as president.

Posted by orrinj at 8:40 AM


Oil hits six-week low as OPEC fails to curb oversupply (Christopher Johnson, 6/15/17, Reuters)

Oil prices dropped to six-week lows on Thursday, under pressure from high global inventories and doubts about OPEC's ability to implement agreed production cuts.

Posted by orrinj at 7:21 AM


Democrats and Republicans: Play Ball! (Carl M. Cannon, June 15, 2017, Real Clear Politics)

Speaking for the 40 percent of Americans who no longer identify with either party, something that transcends temporary shows of bipartisanship would be welcome. Pelosi made such a gesture Wednesday. From the House floor, while looking in the direction of the Republicans, she said she prays weekly for every member of Congress and for Donald Trump's family--and even for a "successful" Trump presidency.

So, what would a gesture look like on the baseball diamond? Here's a modest idea. Instead of Democrats competing against Republicans, how about choosing up sides the way American kids do on the schoolyard? Each team captain would pick a player, in order, and they must alternate picks, one Republican, then one Democrat. Don't play against the other party, play with them--for this one night.

We've seen overtures like this before. Members stood on the Capitol steps and sang together on 9/11. For a while, they sat with an opposite-party buddy during the State of the Union address. Maybe this one could start a trend--a new kind of streak in a game that has been one of streaks. Before winning, 8-7, last year, the Republicans had lost seven annual congressional baseball games in a row. Prior to that, Democrats had dropped 11 of the previous 12.

At one point in the late 1950s, Sam Rayburn got so tired of Democrats losing that he cancelled the game under the pretext that members had more important things to do. From the beginning--and this game began in 1909--each party has been vigilant lest the other team bring in a ringer. The GOP figured out how to do it first: In 1968, North Carolina voters sent former St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Wilmer "Vinegar Bend" Mizell to Congress. Only six or seven years removed from the major leagues, Mizell proved unhittable for Democratic batters.

The Democratic manager is reported to have strode out to the mound with the following ultimatum: "If this guy throws one more pitch, we walk off the field." And so, an unwritten rule was instituted: former pros can participate in the congressional game, but not at the position they played in the majors.

This tradition lasted until 1987, when the Republicans tried to avenge a loss the year before by trotting Jim Bunning out to the mound. He was freshman House member from Kentucky, and would also become an actual baseball Hall of Famer with a plaque in Cooperstown and everything. He was also 55 years old, however, and the Democrats ended up winning a wild game, 15-14. But who cares?

Winning an exhibition game is not what matters. What matters is that these people learn to work together. Maybe if they played together first, it would help. Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican, seems to think so. Davis was at the plate taking batting practice Wednesday morning when the first shots rang out. He didn't put the blame solely on a disturbed gunman. He faulted the vicious and overheated nature of our current national political discourse.  "This hate has led to gunfire," he said, his voice rising with emotion. "It has to stop."

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


U.S. Continues Military Relations With Qatar, Despite Alleged 'Terrorism' Links (Radio Liberty, June 15, 2017)

The U.S. military conducted naval exercises with Qatar on June 14 and readied an agreement to sell the small Persian Gulf nation fighter jets, despite White House charges that it sponsors "terrorism."

Two U.S. Navy vessels arrived in Doha to take part in a joint military exercise with the Qatari Emiri Navy, Qatar news agency QNA reported. [...]

Moreover, the Pentagon last week praised Qatar for its "enduring commitment to regional security."

It's not terrorism when we do it.

Posted by orrinj at 7:12 AM


An Aztec Temple Emerges in Heart of Mexico City (REUTERS, JUNE 12, 2017)

The site is near the Templo Mayor, another massive Aztec ruin. The excavations, begun in 2009, reveal a section of what was the foundation of a huge circular temple dedicated to the Aztec wind god Ehecatl and a part of a ritual ball court.

Archaeologists have also found 32 severed male neck vertebrae in a pile just off the court -- probably sacrifices linked to the Aztec ballgame.

Ritual beheadings for delay of game?

Posted by orrinj at 6:55 AM


Cuba's Castro sets elections timetable (Deutsche-Welle, 6/15/17)

Municipal assembly delegates are nominated by neighbors and do not have to belong to the Communist Party, although the path to the National Assembly and ultimately to the presidency is controlled by the party.

The electoral notice coincides with a period of uncertainty for Cuba. 

The group that has ruled the country since the 1959 revolution is dying out and Cuba's main political and trade ally Venezuela is in crisis. For the past decade, Venezuelan oil subsidies have been crucial to Cuba's economy. [...]

Castro's first vice president, the 57-year-old Miguel Diaz-Canel, is widely tipped to assume Castro's mantle, but there is also talk of a radical break with the older generation and an embrace of the market reforms that have been a feature of Castro's nine-year rule.

Posted by orrinj at 6:51 AM


Tillerson retreats from pledge to fill anti-Semitism envoy post (RON KAMPEAS, June 15, 2017, Times of Israel)

Since Congress established the position with a 2004 law, the role of the envoy has been to train career State Department officers and diplomats in identifying and combating anti-Semitism and to encourage embassies and bureaus to more closely monitor anti-Semitism. The envoy has not functioned as a stand-alone entity but rather is part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and supervises about five career State Department staffers.

European Jewish community officials have said that having an envoy has delivered a message to their governments that the United States is focused on anti-Semitism.

At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., asked Tillerson for a timeline for the hire. Earlier this year there were reports that the Trump administration, eyeing massive budget cuts to the State Department, planned to eliminate the role. National Jewish groups and Congress members expressed outrage, and in April a State Department spokesman told JTA that the department did not in fact plan to eliminate the position and was reviewing candidates to fill it.

Lawmakers have noted that because the role was created by statute, the Trump administration cannot eliminate the post.

In fairness, Donald's approval rates are so low he can't afford to antagonize his base.

Posted by orrinj at 6:40 AM


Southern Baptists voted overwhelmingly to condemn 'alt-right white supremacy'  (Sarah Pulliam Bailey, June 14, 2017, Washington Post)

Members of the Southern Baptist Convention voted Wednesday to condemn a white nationalist movement, but only after fierce backlash following their decision a day earlier not to move forward with a similar resolution.

The decision was met with a standing ovation as about 5,000 members of the denomination voted at their annual convention to affirm their opposition to the alt-right movement, which seeks a whites-only state. But it was not a decision easily reached. [...]

While several Southern Baptist leaders have served on Trump's evangelical advisory board, many younger Southern Baptists -- including the denomination's Ethics and Religious Liberty president Russell Moore, 45 -- vocally opposed his candidacy. [...]

The new text of the resolution noted some of the convention's previous actions on race, including how Southern Baptists voted in 1995 to apologize for the role that slavery played in the convention's creation. It noted how in 2012 it elected its first black president. More than 20 percent of Southern Baptist congregations, it says, identifies as predominantly nonwhite.

"Racism and white supremacy are, sadly, not extinct but present all over the world in various white supremacist movements, sometimes known as 'white nationalism' or 'alt-right,' " the resolution states. Southern Baptists "decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy, as antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ" and "we denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as of the devil."

Moore and Steve Gaines, the president of the SBC, who worked on the revised resolution, declined to comment on the resolution before it came to a vote. But Moore said he was encouraged by the decision to revisit the resolution. "They recognize that white supremacy in this alt-right guise is dangerous and devilish and we need to say something," Moore said.

Posted by orrinj at 6:25 AM


Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say  (Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz, June 14, 2017, Washington Post)

The officials said Coats, Rogers and Ledgett would appear voluntarily, though it remains unclear whether they will describe in full their conversations with Trump and other top officials or will be directed by the White House to invoke executive privilege. It is doubtful that the White House could ultimately use executive privilege to try to block them from speaking to Mueller's investigators. Experts point out that the Supreme Court ruled during the Watergate scandal that officials cannot use privilege to withhold evidence in criminal prosecutions.

The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller's office has taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate that his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.

The interviews suggest that Mueller sees the question of attempted obstruction of justice as more than just a "he said, he said" dispute between the president and the fired FBI director, an official said.

Investigating Trump for possible crimes is a complicated affair, even if convincing evidence of a crime were found. The Justice Department has long held that it would not be appropriate to indict a sitting president. Instead, experts say, the onus would be on Congress to review any findings of criminal misconduct and then decide whether to initiate impeachment proceedings.

Comey confirmed publicly in congressional testimony on March 20 that the bureau was investigating possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Russians. [...]

As part of the probe, the special counsel has also gathered Comey's written accounts of his conversations with Trump. The president has accused Comey of lying about those encounters.

Mueller is overseeing a host of investigations involving people who are or were in Trump's orbit, people familiar with the probe said. The investigation is examining possible contacts with Russian operatives as well as any suspicious financial activity related to those individuals.

Posted by orrinj at 6:19 AM


Posted by orrinj at 6:12 AM


Senate Votes To Limit Trump's Power To Lift Russia Sanctions (Michele Kelemen, 6/15/17, NPR)

The Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill to impose new sanctions on Russia and to make sure the Trump administration doesn't change course without congressional buy in.

Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, one of the sponsors of the legislation, says, "Americans are concerned about Russia's behavior in the Ukraine and Syria and they are concerned about Russia's increased cyber intrusions. "Many of us on both sides of the aisle feel the U.S. needs to be much stronger in its response to Russia."

Crapo says Russia's President Vladimir Putin has become increasingly belligerent, nationalistic and autocratic.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire adds that it was important to send a bipartisan message to the Kremlin, which she says tried to undermine U.S. elections.

Posted by orrinj at 5:56 AM


Too much medical care: bad for you, bad for health care systems (H. GILBERT WELCH, JUNE 15, 2017, Stat)

Here's a question to ask your doctor: Have you ever had a patient who suffered from getting too much medical care? Assuming she has the time and the inclination to talk, I bet you'll hear an interesting story.

A 2011 survey of American primary care physicians found that nearly half thought their patients received too much medical care. Remember, that's doctors talking.

Medical interventions toward the end of life are probably the most familiar example of too much medical care. Death is often preceded by multiple visits to the hospital or prolonged stays, which typically involve procedures and interventions. These may or may not lengthen life, but they almost certainly make it more painful.

For the last 25 years, I have examined the other end of the spectrum: too much medical care among those who are well. In the past, people sought medical care because they were sick. Now we encourage the well to get examined to determine if they are not, in fact, sick.

Old doctor joke: What is a well person? Someone who hasn't yet been thoroughly examined.

Posted by orrinj at 5:45 AM


Child Health Insurance Rates Go Up Across U.S., Down in Maine (Jackie Farwell, 6/14/17, Governing)

In Maine, 6 percent of children, or about 14,000, lack health insurance. That's a 50 percent increase from 2010, when 4 percent had no coverage, according to the foundation's 2017 Kids Count Data Book.

Only one other state, North Dakota, saw increasing numbers of uninsured children between 2010 and 2015, the report found.

In the rest of the country, the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare was largely responsible for fewer children lacking health insurance in 2015 than before the recession, according to the report. Maine did not expand the health insurance program for low-income residents, and instead tightened eligibility for Medicaid during the past five years under Gov. Paul LePage.

Posted by orrinj at 5:39 AM


This Soccer Club Has Everything You'd Want Except ... (LEANDER SCHAERLAECKENS, JUNE 14, 2017, NY Times)

In most every way, Asbury Park F.C. is like any professional soccer club in the world. It has slick jerseys manufactured by a major sporting goods brand, with a shirt sponsor and a recognizable logo in the club's black-and-white color scheme.

The team is nicknamed "the Tillies," a somewhat mystifying shorthand to new followers befitting a historic team. Even the F.C. suffix connotes a more European "football club" rather than a less authentic-sounding "soccer club."

Naturally, A.P.F.C., as it is referred to by those in the know, maintains carefully curated social media accounts and sells an extensive merchandise line, including new and retro replica jerseys. All are available in an online shop that tends to sell out quickly whenever a new item is introduced. With celebrity fans as brand ambassadors and architectural renderings of their plans for a new stadium, the Tillies are similar to any club with ambition.

But in one significant way, Asbury Park Football Club is different from every other soccer team: It doesn't actually play soccer.

The author also has one of the great Twitter handles : @LeanderAlphabet