September 10, 2020

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Posted by orrinj at 7:42 PM


Court blocks Trump's move to exclude undocumented immigrants from census (Orion Rummler, 9/10/20, Axios)

A three-judge federal court in New York on Thursday blocked the Trump administration's push to exclude undocumented immigrants from influencing congressional apportionment as determined by the 2020 Census.

Posted by orrinj at 4:17 PM


Portland mayor bans cops from using tear gas during protests (The Associated Press, September 10, 2020)

The mayor of Portland on Thursday police in Oregon's largest city to stop using tear gas for crowd control during the frequently violent protests that have racked the city for more than three months since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Mayor Ted Wheeler, a Democrat, was tear gassed when he went to a demonstration against the presence of federal authorities dispatched to the city to protect federal property.

Posted by orrinj at 4:09 PM


3 Cops Caught on Video Punching and Restraining a Black Teen During an Arrest (Trone Dowd, September 10, 2020, vice News)

Three Louisiana cops caught on video restraining and repeatedly punching a Black 16-year-old during an arrest at a bowling alley are no longer on the beat while the department investigates.

The incident took place Saturday night outside Acadiana Lanes in Lafayette, shortly after a 911 call reported that someone in the vicinity was armed with a gun, according to the Lafayette Police Department. Sometime around 11:30 p.m., police arrived on the scene. The unidentified officers approached a pair of twin teenagers, later identified as Jabari and Gerard Celestine by their attorney Ron Haley Jr., as they were standing outside the bowling alley waiting to enter, as required by the state's COVID-19 safety measures.

Though it's still unclear what happened in the moments before onlookers started filming, Haley says one of the officers walked up to Jabari and began to read him his rights before placing handcuffs on him. His brother looked on and approached the officers, according to Haley.

On video, police are seen grabbing Gerard and taking him to the ground. In another video, two cops are seen restraining the teen as a third straddles him and throws punches to the teen's back before placing handcuffs on him. At least two other cops are seen standing in front of the scuffle as onlookers scream and plead with the police to let the kid go.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Say yes to the world: On Nietzsche and affirmation (TOMASZ STAWISZYNSKI, 10 September, 2020, Big Think)

The sentence is: "God is dead."

It appeared for the first time in 1882, in The Gay Science by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most important philosophers of modern times. But the world is familiar with it mainly from another of Nietzsche's works, perhaps his most famous, written a year later, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. This very strange, poetic text, full of unusual metaphors and lyrical inspiration, predicts the coming of a new era. Its prophet is to be the eponymous Zarathustra, a figure whose name Nietzsche took from an ancient Persian priest, the creator of Zoroastrianism, one of the world's oldest monotheistic religions. But despite the mystical aura that Zarathustra radiates, his message has nothing to do with conventional religious ideas. Quite the contrary - for he announces the death of God. And consequently challenges people to conduct a thorough revaluation of everything they think about the world and about themselves.

But what does 'the death of God' mean? Certainly not death in the literal sense - it is not that after aeons of existence a divine being, an old man with a long grey beard who resides in heaven, suddenly ceases to be. Nothing of the kind. The 'death of God' is simply a metaphor for the historical moment whose advent Nietzsche sensed perfectly in advance. The moment when religion - both as a prospect from which to perceive reality, and as a specific doctrine, in particular Christianity - was bound to undergo irrevocable disintegration.

In Nietzsche's view, these were the ultimate consequences of processes that were set off within Western culture by the age of enlightenment. The new independence of human reason that came about at this time, the creation of the framework of modern science, the departure from the stage of self-incurred immaturity - as Immanuel Kant expressed it - led to the erosion of the great edifice of the religious view of the world. Humanity had finally produced tools that allowed it to distinguish mythology from knowledge, and by this token to unmask the claims of religious institutions and high priests. Finally it was possible to see that the power and social status they had enjoyed until now was entirely built on phantasmal foundations.

Nietzsche's incoherence flows from the fact that his personal philosophy required him to oppose everything external to him.  The predictable result was that: "he was completely ignored, he was very sick most of his life, he had continuous migraines, he never found a woman he could marry, he was in love with a woman but she wasn't interested in him, he had very few friends and had not very much money." There are no Nietzscheans.  God won.

Posted by orrinj at 2:56 PM


U.S. Identifies Rudy Ally and Biden Dirt-Peddler as an 'Active Russian Agent' (Noah Shachtman, Sep. 10, 2020, Reuters)

The president's personal lawyer has been working closely with "an active Russian agent" trying to smear the president's chief political rival.

That's the conclusion of the U.S. Treasury Department, which sanctioned on Thursday one of Rudy Giuliani's Ukrainian allies for interference in the upcoming U.S. elections. Andriy Derkach worked closely with Giuliani--and with the Trump-friendly cable network, OANN--to push accusations of political misconduct against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Derkach, a member of Kyiv's parliament and son of a former KGB officer, has also been supplying documents to Republicans on Capitol Hill, where Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) is conducting an election-eve investigation into the Bidens. 

Derkach--described by the Treasury Department as "an active Russian agent for over a decade, maintaining close connections with the Russian Intelligence Services"--stands accused of orchestrating a "covert influence campaign centered on cultivating false and unsubstantiated narratives" about the Bidens via "edited audio tapes and other unsupported information," which launched "corruption investigations in both Ukraine and the United States designed to culminate prior to election day."

As The Daily Beast previously reported, Derkach has been cozying up to team Trump for months--meeting with Giuliani in Kyiv in December of last year to push the conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. (That's "a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services," Fiona Hill, Trump's former top aide for Russia policy, told Congress.)

Posted by orrinj at 2:53 PM


The U.S. drops to No. 28 on this global well-being index (Nicole Lyn Pesce, 9/10/11, Market Watch)

So much for America being No. 1 -- the United States has dropped to No. 28 in a new report measuring social progress around the world.

In fact, out of 163 countries, only three -- the U.S., Brazil and Hungary -- have citizens who are worse off now than they were about a decade ago.

This is according to the Social Progress Index, which began measuring the quality of life (independent of economic indicators) across the globe in 2011. It looks at 50 well-being metrics -- such as access to health care, education, nutrition, safety, the environment and freedom -- to measure quality of life. And America has fallen from 19th place in 2011 to 28th place this year, despite the country's overall wealth, cultural impact and military power compared with the rest of the planet.

Donald has achieved what bin Laden could not. Luckily, his days of terror will be even shorter-lived.

Posted by orrinj at 2:49 PM


Senate Republicans fail to advance coronavirus stimulus bill as stalemate drags on (Jacob Pramuk, 9/10/20, CNBC)

The Senate failed Thursday to advance a Republican coronavirus stimulus plan, the latest blow to stalled efforts to pass another package to mitigate the pandemic's economic damage. 

The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed on a procedural step to move toward passage. All Democrats present, and one Republican -- Rand Paul of Kentucky -- opposed it in a 52-47 vote. 

Posted by orrinj at 2:37 PM


'I saved his a--': Trump boasted that he protected Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Jamal Khashoggi's brutal murder, Woodward's new book says (Sonam Sheth and John Haltiwanger, 9/10/20, Business Insider)

President Donald Trump bragged that he protected Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) from congressional scrutiny after the brutal assassination of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

So long as the oppress Muslims, the Trumpbots are on board.

Posted by orrinj at 9:38 AM


GOP Senators Trail Challengers By Double Digits in Two Key Battlegrounds: Poll (JAMES WALKER, 9/10/20, Newsweek)

According to the latest swing state surveys from Redfield and Wilton Strategies, Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) was lagging 15 points behind the former astronaut Mark Kelly as of last week.

Thirty-eight percent of state voters said they would back the Republican incumbent on November 3, while 53 percent opted for her main challenger. A further 7 percent told pollsters they didn't know how they would vote, and 2 percent backed a third party candidate.

Over in North Carolina, Redfield and Wilton Strategies found a similar margin separating Sen. Thom Tillis (R) and the Democratic candidate Cal Cunningham.

In 2016, the down-ballot candidates carried Donald over the line.  

Posted by orrinj at 9:31 AM


An evolutionary roll of the dice explains why we're not perfect (University of Bath, 9/09/20, Science Daily)

If evolution selects for the fittest organisms, why do we still have imperfections? Scientists at the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath investigating this question have found that in species with small populations, chance events take precedence over natural selection, allowing imperfections to creep in.

Short version: no one thinks Natural Selection works any more.

Posted by orrinj at 9:01 AM


Varian Fry - an unlikely American hero: Varian Fry went to Vichy France in 1940 and rescued 1,500 people from the Nazis for the simple, banal reason that he 'felt obliged to help' (Baruch Tenembaum, SEP 10, 2020, Times of Israel)

As the 53rd anniversary of his passing is approaching, I would like to celebrate the courageous life of Varian Fry. This young and brilliant editor, arrived in German-occupied France in early August 1940 as an emissary of the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC), an entity he founded with friends and with the support of the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. His aim was to strive to save the Jews who were trying to flee the Nazi inferno.

He settled in a small hotel in Marseilles and from there he launched a high-risk clandestine operation to rescue some of Europe's foremost intellectual and writers.
Armed with USD $3,000 in cash, he immediately set out to organize a rescue network using illegal means, including black market funds, forged documents and secret escape routes over the Pyrenees. He even managed to convince President Roosevelt to authorize a limited number of visas for some refugees to enter the US.

Initially, he had a list of some 200 reputable figures of the arts but early on he recognized that the need was much greater and he decided to expand his mission to be able to reach out to many more people who were trying to escape from the Nazis and their local henchmen.

Over the next year, Fry and a select team of Americans and French helped some 1,500 refugees to flee from France to Spain, and it is estimated that they provided significant support to at least 2,000 others.

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The Robot will see you now: Artificial intelligence in Israel's hospitals (Jon Medved, SEP 9, 2020,Times of Israel)

Within a decade, more than 90 percent of surgical procedures will be performed by robots and 70% of hospital visits will take place in the patient's own home using telemedicine.

That's the startling prediction from Dr. Eyal Zimlichman, deputy director of Sheba, Israel's largest hospital near Tel Aviv, where he is also chief medical officer and chief innovation officer. [...]

Dr. Zimlichman is masterminding the development of the world's first "Hospital at Home," where instead of doctors and nurses traveling to residences, they do their rounds remotely, using the latest technology.

Artificial intelligence and micro-robotics have thoroughly transformed modern medicine, allowing practitioners to see deeper, decide faster and heal better than ever before. David Harel, Co-Founder & President of Cytoreason, will explain how his company is developing computational to speed up drug trials and replace mice. Now technology is about to reshape the hospitals themselves.

Patients can be monitored in their own homes while medical staff perform their daily rounds using AI-enhanced imaging devices delivered to their doors, like the remote technology developed by Tytocare. Large numbers of hospital beds will become redundant, reserved for critical cases. The need for in-patient and out-patient space will shrink, halting the sprawl of physical hospital facilities and dramatically downsizing traditional treatment wards.

Mercy Hospital in St Louis, MO blazed the trail with Mercy Virtual, where healthcare is being transformed through specialist teams trained in the use of the new technology. Mercy Virtual patients no longer have to physically seek out care or entirely reorient their lives to gain access to specialists. Virtual technology brings the care to them.

The pandemic's best side effects are the damage done to the two most deflation resistant--due to subsides--institutions: medicine and academia.
Posted by orrinj at 8:34 AM


There are 7 bombshell allegations in a damning new Trump administration whistleblower report (Cody Fenwick, 9/10/20, AlterNet)

2. The complaint makes a compelling case that former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen repeatedly and deliberately lied to Congress to exaggerate the threat at the border.

Murphy said that the secretary purposely tried to blur the distinction between "Known or Suspected Terrorists" (KSTs) and other categories of migrants, thereby misleadingly suggesting the border posed a greater threat of terrorism than it actually does. Even after he explained these distinctions to Nielsen, Murphy said, she consistently misled Congress about the matter:

Prior to Secretary Nielsen's testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on December 20, 2018, Mr. Murphy attended a preparation session that went over the information within the proposed testimony. During that session, Mr. Murphy sought to clarify for Secretary Nielsen the distinction between a KST and a Special Interest Alien ("SIA"). An SIA is a term of art created by U.S. Customs and Border Protection meant to describe a category of migrants who come from countries where there is a significant terrorism threat but regarding whom there is no individualized basis for suspecting the person is themselves a terrorist. An SIA does not constitute a KST.

Notwithstanding the clarification provided by Mr. Murphy, he has a good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen subsequently provided on December 20, 2018, regarding KSTs constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information. This assessment formed the basis of the anonymous OIG complaint Mr. Murphy submitted on November 2, 2018. On January 9, 2019, without consulting with Messrs. Glawe or Murphy, DHS issued a document - apparently crafted by Messrs. Wolf and Taylor, and Ms. Marquadt - entitled "Myth/Fact: Known and Suspected Terrorists/Special Interest Aliens". The document contained erroneous information regarding the number of KSTs and SIAs encountered along the southwest border.

On March 5, 2019, Mr. Murphy participated in another preparation session with Secretary Nielsen, this time in advance of her testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security. Messrs. Wolf and Taylor were also present. During the session, Mr. Murphy provided Secretary Nielsen with documentation reflecting that the number of documented KSTs crossing the southwest border only consisted of no more than three individuals, not 3,755 individuals as she had previously attested to in her testimony on December 20, 2018. 3 Mr. Wolf and Mr. Taylor responded by saying Secretary Nielsen should claim the details were classified, state any KST crossing was one too many and deflect away from addressing the significant discrepancy in the data. Mr. Murphy advised Secretary Nielsen that he did not believe that was appropriate, and noted that the few "known" KSTs who were apprehended were derivative contacts, in so much as they merely had a name or phone number of a person who was known to be in contact with a terrorist. At that point, Mr. Murphy was removed from the meeting by Mr. Wolf. He then informed Messrs. Glawe and Hanna what transpired that evening.

It is Mr. Murphy's good faith belief that the testimony Secretary Nielsen delivered on March 6, 2019, regarding KSTs again constituted a knowing and deliberate submission of false material information. Mr. Murphy outlined that assessment in his anonymous May 13, 2019, OIG complaint.

3. Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli illegally tried to distort intelligence reports he viewed as too favorable to asylum seekers, claiming they were concocted by the "Deep State," the complaint said. 

In December 2019, Mr. Murphy attended a meeting with Messrs. Cuccinelli and Glawe to discuss intelligence reports regarding conditions in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The intelligence reports were designed to help asylum officers render better determinations regarding their legal standards. Mr. Murphy's team at DHS I&A completed the intelligence reports and he presented them to Mr. Cuccinelli in the meeting. Mr. Murphy defended the work in the reports, but Mr. Cuccinelli stated he wanted changes to the information outlining high levels of corruption, violence, and poor economic conditions in the three respective countries. Mr. Cuccinelli expressed frustration with the intelligence reports, and he accused unknown "deep state intelligence analysts" of compiling the intelligence information to undermine President Donald J. Trump's ("President Trump") policy objectives with respect to asylum. Notwithstanding Mr. Murphy's response that the intelligence reports' assessments were consistent with past assessments made for several years, Mr. Cuccinelli ordered Messrs. Murphy and Glawe to identify the names of the "deep state" individuals who compiled the intelligence reports and to either fire or reassign them immediately.

After the meeting, Mr. Murphy informed Mr. Glawe that Mr. Cuccinelli's instructions were illegal, as well as constituted an abuse of authority and improper administration of an intelligence program.

Posted by orrinj at 8:17 AM


Biden raised the pandemic alarm in October as Trump complained about iPhone buttons (AP, 5/28/20)

Joe Biden tweeted about the US's lack of preparedness for a pandemic in October, according to a tweet the former vice president reposted on Thursday.

The former vice president paired his 25 October tweet with one from the same day last year by Donald Trump, in which the president complained to Apple's Tim Cook about the functionality of his iPhone.

Mr Biden's tweet read: "We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security."

He continued: "We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilises the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores."

Posted by orrinj at 8:11 AM


Extremely Transparent and Incredibly Remote  (Julia Herbst, 9/10/20, Fast Company)

"It's definitely [for] calm waters," says engineer Lien Van Den Steen, as Thursday afternoon sun streams through a window in her Ghent, Belgium, home. 

From his home in Minnesota, Timm Ideker, a regional sales director, drops a link into the chat for a kayak that breaks into pieces for easy transportation. "I have some concerns that this just means it's going to leak in seven places," says Simon Mansfield, a member of GitLab's sales team, in Cardiff, Wales. 

For most employees, this sort of conversation would be a brief sidebar from work, but discussing kayaks--and weekend plans and favorite board games--is the entire point of this call. Employees from any GitLab team (or time zone) log on to these recurring 30-minute Company Calls to replicate the casual conversations that happen naturally when coworkers share the same office. 

The company, which makes an application that enables developers to collaborate while writing and launching software, has no physical headquarters. Instead, it consists of more than 1,300 employees spread across 67 countries and nearly every time zone, all of them working either from home or (in nonpandemic times) in coworking spaces. Research shows that talking about non-work-related things with colleagues facilitates trust, helps break down silos among departments, and makes employees more productive. At GitLab, all of this needs to happen remotely. 

The company takes these relaxed interactions so seriously that it has a specified protocol in its employee handbook, which is publicly available online in its entirety. If printed, it would span more than 7,100 pages.  
The section on "Informal Communication in an All-Remote Environment" meticulously details more than three dozen ways coworkers can virtually connect beyond the basic Zoom call, from Donut Bot chats (where members of the #donut_be_strangers Slack channel are randomly paired) to Juice Box talks (for family members of employees to get to know one another). There are also international pizza parties, virtual scavenger hunts, and a shared "Team DJ Zoom Room."

Before pandemic lockdowns hit the U.S., in March, just 2% of the country's wage and salaried employees worked from home full time. By May, more than two-thirds of white-collar workers in America were logging on from their residences. It's been an unexpected success for many. In a July study by Lenovo, nearly two-thirds of the more than 20,000 global respondents said they got more done working from home--despite COVID-19 distractions. Mindful of the ongoing pandemic (and the potential to save money on office space and salaries), some companies--Facebook, Twitter, and Square among them--are now offering employees the option of working from home permanently. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:53 AM


Posted by orrinj at 7:26 AM


Norwegian lawmaker nominates Trump for Nobel Peace Prize (Jan M. Olsen , 9/09/20, AP)

An anti-immigrant Norwegian lawmaker said Wednesday that he has nominated U.S. President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in the Middle East.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM

"THEY WON'T STAY BOUGHT!" (profanity alert):


At first glance Donald Trump should be relieved that a Fox News host will moderate the first presidential debate on September 29. Many observers consider the network to be the de facto propaganda arm of the White House, and its hosts are among Trump's most loyal surrogates. Chris Wallace, who will be behind the moderator's desk later this month, is the rare exception: a Fox anchor who is unafraid to confront Trump. "Any Republican who thinks Wallace will go easy on Trump is badly mistaken. He's no joke," a former West Wing official said. 

The Trump campaign had hoped that the Commission on Presidential Debates would choose Bret Baier or Martha MacCallum, Fox anchors who are seen as less aggressive than Wallace. Sources close to Trump are worried that Trump is unprepared to handle what Wallace could throw at him. The two have history. In July, Wallace's contentious interview with Trump featured the president boasting that he passed a cognitive test. "Well, it's not the hardest test," Wallace responded. "It shows a picture and it says, 'What's that?' And it's an elephant." [...]

Perhaps anticipating a grilling by Wallace, Trump has been ratcheting up his anger at Fox. Last week Trump called on Fox to fire national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin after she appeared on air and confirmed parts of Jeffrey Goldberg's explosive Atlantic story detailing Trump allegedly making disparaging comments about America's war dead. Trump has also taken to promoting fringe Fox competitor One America News, which has provided glowing coverage of the president and amplified pro-Trump conspiracy theories. 

In private Trump blames Fox Corp. cochairman Rupert Murdoch for allowing segments like Griffin's on the air. Sources who've spoken with Trump told me Trump thinks Murdoch wants him to lose. "Trump definitely thinks Rupert is not in his corner," a Republican close to the White House said. Trump is not entirely wrong. Sources close to Murdoch said Murdoch has told people he thinks Trump will lose in November. Murdoch is thinking about how to steer his media empire into a post-Trump environment. "This is about business for Rupert," one source said. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:15 AM


Scandal-plagued pro-Trump nonprofit was quietly dissolved after sketchy cash giveaways (Roger Sollenberger, 9/10/20, Salon)

The Urban Revitalization Coalition (URC), a controversial nonprofit organization run by two of President Trump's most prominent Black surrogates, appears to have been effectively closed down this spring after reports that its cash giveaways to Black voters may have violated IRS rules governing nonprofits.

The shutdown happened before the IRS automatically revoked the group's tax status on May 15 for "not filing a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years." The URC was eventually placed on the IRS "Automatic Revocation List" on Aug. 11, and, according to co-founder Darrell Scott -- a Cleveland pastor closely allied to the Trump campaign -- was first notified of this by CNN.

Posted by orrinj at 6:46 AM


Iran: US has no option but to return to nuclear deal (MEMO, September 10, 2020)

The US has no alternative but to return to the nuclear deal from which it withdrew in 2018, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said.

In statements yesterday, Rouhani added that the US had "made a mistake" after withdrawing from the nuclear deal, saying that Tehran had been under all kinds of pressure for the past three years.

He stressed that the United States has put a lot of difficulties and obstacles ahead of Iran, and that the US administration has left no other solution other than returning to the nuclear agreement.

"Americans will not be able to achieve their goals [as far as Iran is concerned]. They do regret it and they have to reconsider the current situation, and they will. This is a dead-end for the US and they must retreat, otherwise they will be facing serious impediments."

Restoring the deal is inadequate though, Joe needs to formalize the alliance beginning with lifting all sanctions and establishing a trade deal.

Posted by orrinj at 6:42 AM


Biden Campaign Firm Hit by Suspected Kremlin Hacking Attack (Jamie Ross, Sep. 10, 2020, Daily Beast)

Intelligence officials have long been warning that Russian agents will inevitably try to interfere in the 2020 campaign--now some appear to have been caught targeting a key Biden campaign firm.

Reuters reported Thursday morning that suspected Russian state-backed hackers have attempted to breach the systems at Washington-based SKDKnickerbocker, a strategy and communications firm working hand-in-glove with Joe Biden's campaign. The attacks, which took place over the past two months, were unsuccessful.

Posted by orrinj at 6:39 AM


REX STOUT: A CRIME READER'S GUIDE TO THE CLASSICS: Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, and a Crime Fiction Legend (NEIL NYREN, 8/23/19, CrimeReads)

In July 1949, The New Yorker published a two-part profile of Rex Stout, "banker, barker, bookworm, bookkeeper, yeoman on the Presidential yacht Mayflower, boss of three thousand writers of propaganda in World War II, gentleman farmer and dirt farmer, big businessman, cigar salesman, pueblo guide, hotel manager, architect, cabinetmaker, pulp and slick magazine writer, propagandist for the world government, crow trainer, jumping-pig trainer, mammoth-pumpkin grower, conversationalist, politician, orator, potted-plant wizard, gastronome, musical amateur, president of the Authors Guild, usher, ostler, and pamphleteer."

Oh, and he wrote some damn fine books, too.

In 33 novels and 39 novellas between 1934 and 1975, Stout did something unique: he married the British Golden Age, puzzle-solving school of mystery fiction with the street-smart, hardboiled, thoroughly American detective novels of Chandler and Hammett to come up with a seamless blend of thought and action, narrated in a prose that was unfailingly literate, witty, and engaging.

His two heroes made the perfect odd couple: Nero Wolfe, in his late 50s, is fat, imperious, pedantic, brilliantly deductive, devoted to both his meals and his orchids, famously loath to leave his brownstone on West 35th Street, and upon occasion, capable of extraordinary nimbleness and passion. Archie Goodwin, in his 30s, is his smart-mouthed legman, tough, intuitive, tenacious, decent, possessed of a photographic memory, highly appreciative of the opposite sex, and the narrator of all the books, the voice that keeps us coming back for more.

Posted by orrinj at 6:34 AM


Trump's Desperate DOJ Dodge on Defamation (KIM WEHLE  SEPTEMBER 10, 2020, The Bulwark)

[D]OJ has a problem. In order to step into Trump's shoes, it had to file a piece of paper certifying that, when Trump called Carroll a liar, he was "acting within the scope of his office or employment at the time of the incident out of which the claim arose." Although most federal employees would prefer to have the government pick up the tab for lawsuits filed against them, DOJ only jumps into suits at its discretion. It is optional.

Under the governing regulations, deciding whether to intervene involves a two-step test. First, the conduct must have occurred in the scope of the employee's work. Second--and this is critical--"the Attorney General or his designee [must] determine[] that providing representation would otherwise be in the interest of the United States."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that DOJ's certification can be challenged before a judge. Presumably, Carroll's lawyers will ask for discovery into why DOJ determined that Trump was acting as president when he claimed repeatedly that there is no factual basis for her rape allegations. Under New York law, one of the elements for determining whether an employee is acting in his official capacity is whether Trump's act of publicly denying the rape and claiming he never met Carroll was in furtherance of the interests of his employer, the United States, and whether that act was done as part of his duties as president.

In sum, the federal judge assigned to this case will likely hear argument from the DOJ that defending Trump in a defamation suit involving an alleged rape while he was a private citizen somehow serves the interests of the United States of America.

This legal immunity ploy by Trump is all too familiar. The Supreme Court in Trump v. Vance just rejected a similar argument by Trump's lawyers that his family, his banks, and his accountants are totally immune from a grand jury subpoena because of his position as president. The Supreme Court was hung up on the notion that nobody is utterly above the law--even Trump.

Too bad the Department of Justice no longer appears to care.

Posted by orrinj at 6:21 AM


Ukrainian church leader who blamed COVID-19 on gay marriage tests positive (Daniel Villarreal, September 8, 2020, NBC News)

A prominent religious leader in Ukraine who earlier this year blamed the coronavirus pandemic on same-sex marriage has tested positive for the virus, his church announced.

Patriarch Filaret, 91, who leads the large Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kyiv Patriarchate, contracted COVID-19 and was subsequently hospitalized, the church confirmed Friday in a statement shared on its website and on Facebook. In a follow-up statement shared Tuesday, the church said its leader's health is "stable" as "treatment continues."