Earlier this week, news erupted about the Boy Scout’s “Perversion Files.” The Perversion Files (which the Scouts call, “ineligible volunteer files,”) detail as many as 12,000 boys that, while participating in scout programs - were sexually abused by Scout leaders.
Now, portions of the Perversion Files have leaked before, so the general information is nothing new. What has recently come forward is that the number of abused boys and abusers is much, much higher than previously reported.
The way I understand it is that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) hired someone to do a five year internal investigation and that investigation concluded the number leaders who sexually assaulted boys in the program is not the 3,000 as had been previously reported, but is actually closer to 8000.
Let that sink in for a moment. That’s eight thousand men - volunteer leaders in the BSA, that have been accused of molesting more than 12,000 boys. So the “Ineligible Volunteer Files” is a detailed list of all the men who have “had their registration with the Boy Scouts revoked - because of reasonable allegations of child sex abuse.”
This all came to light when attorney Jeff Anderson released sworn testimony from Janet Warren, a psychiatry professor at the University of Virginia. Warren had been hired by the Boy Scouts to conduct the above mentioned study of the sex abuse files. Warren found that the evidence in the files was actually much worse than what the BSA imagined. She found the number of abused boys and abusers was thousands more than initially thought. Warren also made it clear that she found no evidence of a cover up by the BSA to hide this information and that she will present a more detailed report sometime during the summer.
Unlike the Catholic church, who just shuffles abusers around to new parishes and/or different cities - at least the Boy Scouts fired the abuser and didn’t allow them to work with youth ever again. I mean, it’s not much, but at least it’s that.
With something like two and a half million children participating in the Boy Scouts, if there are thousands of victims who come forward (and hundreds and hundreds of them are coming forward - some as young as 15, and one as old as 75) - this could be a financial disaster the BSA. As a non profit organization, they would not be able to financially handle thousands of lawsuits and would probably declare bankruptcy, which would shield them from lawsuits but allow them to continue operations.
Michael Surbaugh, the Chief Executive of the Boy Scouts said this at a lengthy press conference:
"I want to reiterate our steadfast support for victims of abuse. We are outraged that there have been times when individuals took advantage of our programs to abuse innocent children … We care deeply about all victims of child abuse and sincerely apologize to anyone who was harmed during their time in scouting. We believe victims, and we pay for unlimited counseling by a provider of their choice, and we encourage them to come forward. At no time have we ever knowingly allowed a perpetrator to work with youth, and we mandate that all leaders, volunteers and staff members nationwide immediately report any abuse allegations to law enforcement. Throughout our history, we have enacted strong youth protection policies to prevent future abuse, including mandatory youth protection trainings and a formal leader-selection process that includes criminal background checks. Since the 1920's, we have maintained a Volunteer Screening Database to prevent individuals accused of abuse or inappropriate conduct from joining or re-entering our programs, a practice recommended in 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control for all youth-serving organizations."
Okay. Well, I do believe him. I doubt BSA leadership “knowingly allowed” predators to work with youth. Again, the Perversion Files clearly state that abusers were fired after “reasonable evidence.” Which suggests that the BSA knew about the allegations, believed the victim and fired the alleged abuser. But, and here’s the sticky point - didn’t contact authorities. Which might have been a problem.
Interestingly enough, I just read that the Boy Scouts filed suit against several of their insurers for “refusing to cover its sex abuse legal liabilities.” But, like insurance companies everywhere, said insurance agents found a way not to pay a cent of coverage for the BSA by claiming, “the Boy Scouts neglected to take meaningful precautionary action.”
Hrmmm. Okay. Maybe. The Boy Scouts claim they have a screening process and a “protection system” in place. Which makes sense. Clearly, their process doesn’t work as well as they thought, but it certainly suggests they are “taking meaningful precautionary action,” so I don’t know what the F those insurance companies are talking about. I even found a part of their screening process / protection system listed in a CNN story:
Sounds like meaningful precautionary action to me. Anyway, - the courts will work all that out. Until then, more and more victims continue to come forward.
The latest challenge sweeping social media is the “Shell On” challenge in which teens Snapchat videos of themselves eating through fruit skin, cardboard boxes and plastic bags containing their food.
Although this appears to not be as dangerous as the Tide Pod or Boiling Water Challenge, it can cause choking and asphyxiation.
In the video linked on the front page the teen takes bites out of fruit with their peel, and then bites through a cereal box.
Last year we learned of the “Boiling Water Challenge” in which kids drink boiling water from a straw or have it poured all over their body. Then they topped it off with a more dangerous challenge, the “Fire Challenge.”
The Fire Challenge is executed by pouring rubbing alcohol on one’s body and then setting oneself on fire. A video records the victim running into a tub or shower to wash it off, and this trend has gone viral.
Unfortunately it’s one of the most dangerous. A 12 year-old girl from Detroit who participated in this challenge is undergoing multiple surgeries to repair burns afflicting close to 50% of her body.
Multiple cases of the “Fire Challenge” have been reported over the years, including a 12 year-old boy from Georgia.
One would think children, especially teens, innately know that fire is dangerous but maybe the younger generation has been so protected that they haven’t experienced the basic concepts of danger and inadvertently underestimate its force.
Challenges that involve dangerous stunts have been around for some time. The Choking Challenge induced children to suffocate themselves for the high of feeling asphyxiated. The Tide Pod Challenge tempted kids to put colorful cleaning packets in their mouths, hoping they wouldn’t burst.
The Cinnamon Challenge sparked thousands to inhale the common kitchen spice and cough till they puked. Then the Condom Challenge offered two options where one dropped a condom filled with water on a friends face, or snorted one through the nose.
We adults can’t for the life of us figure out what the reward is in performing these challenges, but presume it's fame and awe among friends and social media followers. But these challenges prove dangerous and in some cases deadly. Unfortunately the YouTube Clips never show the after effects of these pranks…maybe they should.
Intensified by the early fight for money and backers among Democratic presidential hopefuls, Medicare for All and similar single-payer insurance programs have been promoted with increased volume. While there are differences among the “I’ll give you more for less” sales pitches, they share the common central premise that such plans have far lower administrative costs than private insurance, so their version of reform will produce a massive infusion of available resources.
However, the “proof” offered for those administrative cost savings claims mainly consists of constant repetition, with candidates then quickly moving on to the free lunches they would supposedly enable. But given that claim’s central place in their proposals, we must question that premise and with it, the glib answers claimed for it.
How Should We Measure Administrative Efficiency?
For health care plans, the standard measure of efficiency is administrative costs as a percentage of total costs. And in those comparisons, Medicare appears substantially more efficient. But that does not mean there would be savings if people were moved from private insurance to Medicare for All.
The primary reason is that Medicare beneficiaries are far older and less healthy than the population. That makes health care costs far higher per Medicare beneficiary. In fact, before Obamacare, medical expenditures per Medicare beneficiary were routinely more than double those for the privately insured. However, nonmedical administrative costs are only slightly related to total medical expenditures. They are primarily related to the number of persons covered. This causes the standard measure to grossly exaggerate Medicare’s relative administrative efficiency.
Consider an example. Say both Medicare and private insurance beneficiaries had identical administrative costs of $500 each, but the Medicare patient received $5,000 in benefits, while the private patient received $2,500 in benefits. Medicare would show a 10 percent share of administrative costs, and private insurance would show a 20 percent share. In other words, despite the same administrative cost per beneficiary—that is, the same actual efficiency—the standard measure makes private insurance administrative costs look twice as expensive as Medicare.
Simply ask what would happen to administrative expenses if one private insurance beneficiary was moved into Medicare in the example above. Despite Medicare supposedly being half as costly in that regard, administrative costs would not change. No resources would be freed up. And given that the administrative cost per Medicare beneficiary is actually higher than for private insurance, the shift of someone into Medicare would increase administrative costs—leaving fewer resources, rather than more—available for medical care.
What Should Be Included in Medicare’s Administrative Costs?
The public-private comparison also typically compares the administrative costs of private insurance to those that show up in Medicare’s budget. But many of the administrative costs do not show up there. They appear in other agencies’ budgets. The costs of collecting taxes appear in the IRS budget. The costs of collecting premiums appear in Social Security’s budget. Many of the accounting, building, and marketing expenses appear in the Health and Human Services budget. Including those costs would roughly double Medicare’s reported administrative costs.
How Should We Count Taxes on Private Insurance?
Private insurance administrative costs are generally defined as premiums paid in minus claims paid out. However, that means everything except claims payments are counted as administrative costs whether or not they have anything to do with administration. For example, many states impose a premium tax (averaging about 2 percent) on health insurers, and those tax payments are incorrectly categorized as administrative costs. This also makes Medicare, which is exempt from such taxes, look relatively more efficient than it really is.
How Should We Count Disease Management and On-Call Consultation Services?
As with taxes, counting private insurance administrative costs as total premiums minus claims paid introduces other measurement distortions, as well. Insurance companies offer disease-management and on-call nurse consultation services. However, those services do not generate insurance claims. Consequently, those costs are also counted as administrative rather than medical.
How Should We Count Fraud and Fraud Prevention Efforts?
Waste, fraud, and efforts at their prevention also complicate administrative efficiency comparisons. Consider what happens if Medicare (estimates of whose excess spending exceed $50 billion yearly) spent less on prevention efforts. It would look more efficient because its administrative costs would be lower and because undetected excess spending would be counted as medical expenses, not waste. In contrast, insurance companies, whose bottom lines are at stake, are much more diligent about eliminating such excess spending. But those efforts, even though they can generate very large overall savings ($1 of fraud prevention has been estimated to reduce those costs by as much as $15), raise their measured administrative cost percentage, making them look less efficient.
How Should We Treat the “Excess Burden” Caused by Switching to Single Payer Systems?
In addition to all these biases exaggerating private insurance administrative costs and understating Medicare’s administrative costs, another large difference should be noted. When people pay more to get better private insurance coverage, they don’t treat it as a tax, but as part of their employee compensation. Under Medicare for All, however, higher payments into the system will not provide greater benefits. That means that Americans will rationally start treating those payments as taxes in exchange for nothing.
It will, therefore, act as a large income tax increase with correspondingly large economic distortions. Those distortions, created by the wedges taxes impose between what buyers pay and what sellers keep, reflect the wealth destroyed by the reduction in mutually beneficial market arrangements that result, which economists call excess burdens. While not incorporated in official comparisons, they are very large added costs of single-payer systems compared to private medical insurance.
One study found that even the “lowest plausible assumption about the excess burden engendered by the tax system raises the true costs of delivering Medicare benefits to about 20-25 percent of Medicare outlays,” imposing costs far higher than any supposed private insurance administrative cost deficiency.
It is striking how much single-payer promoters rush past their repetitions of administrative cost savings claims before quickly turning to their vote-buying promises in large part funded by them. It almost seems that they don’t want voters to think carefully about those claims. And that might reflect an accurate judgment. If people questioned the basis of those promised solutions, it would reveal supposed administrative cost savings to be the opposite once the compounded mismeasurements are deciphered, and it would not be anyone’s ticket into the White House.
Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University and a guest columnist to the Penny Press. His recent books include Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies (2014) and Apostle of Peace (2013). This piece was originally published on fee.orgm then pennypresslv, reprinted here in full, with permission.
36 lots of losartan potassium and losartan potassium/hydrochlorothiazide have been initiated by Torrent Ltd Pharmaceuticals due to a detection of N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid (NMBA). NMBA, according to Toronto Research Chemicals, is a known carcinogen in a wide range of animal species. There have been no reports of users becoming ill and the recall is being done out of precaution.
N-Nitroso-N-methyl-4-aminobutyric acid (NMBA) was the third chemical detected resulting in the latest two recalls of losartan, an angiotensin receptor blocker commonly used to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). It is believed to have been created during the manufacturing process of the generic drug.
The FDA reports:
Earlier this Fall, ScieGen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. recalled certain lots of irbesartan, a similar angiotensin receptor blocker used in blood pressure management.
The recalls initially began last summer when FDA recalled a number of lots of valsartan due to an “impurity,” N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) that is known to cause cancer in animals. Weeks later they additionally found traces of N-nitrosodiethylamine (NDEA).
According to Reuters, earlier last summer, the MHRA, Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, located in the UK, said the appearance of the impurity, NDMA, came after a change in the process for making valsartan at one facility owned by Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals, a company in Linhai, China.
In animals, NDMA is known to cause liver and lung cancer. In humans its carcinogenic risk is unknown, however the CDC states it may cause liver function impairment and cirrhosis.
With NDEA, data is limited, but due to its classification as a nitrosamine and its prevalence in tobacco smoke it is classified as a probable human carcinogen.
According to New Jersey Department of Health’s website, NDEA has been linked to liver, lung and gastrointestinal tract cancer in animals.
Losartan, valsartan and irbesartan are medications in the class of angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) used for high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Those taking either tablet for their blood pressure are urged to not abruptly stop their medication but rather check with their medical provider and pharmacy to see if their particular prescription is involved in the recall.
I suspect more recalls will follow as processes may be similar across multiple pharmaceutical facilities and NMBA, NDMA and NDEA are byproducts that may not be individually unique to just one “brand” of medication manufacturing.
One joy of studying history, especially the 20th Century, is to see how life has changed. To my great satisfaction, our daughter Karyn has a fondness for the subject and especially the aspect of it that shows how people lived then versus now, particularly as reflected in popular culture.
As some folks know, I still collect sports and non-sports cards. I believe in the adage that he who dies with the most baseball cards, wins. Such cards and related ephemera are a great reflection of the times when they were produced and a deep insight into the real history and culture of their eras.
Recently, I acquired a reprint set of the first issue of football cards, which included 35 National Football League players and the immortal Knute Rockne, who had coached at Notre Dame and shaped much of the early game.
The original set, produced in 1935 by the National Chicle Co. of Cambridge MA is too expensive for a non-corrupt former elected official, because it includes the most valuable football card ever, number 34 Bronko Nagurski, as well as number 9 Rockne. They can command five-figure prices in near-mint condition. My reproductions, easily distinguished from the real items, cost a few dollars.
Among other things, all the players are pictured in actual football poses, not with fur coats, bling and shades as some stars have been in recent years. The front sides are art, not photographs, and they use very bright colors, attractive compositions and simple designs with football backgrounds.
The text on the back of the cards, written by Eddie Casey, then coach of the Boston Redskins and formerly Harvard, shows how real sports and life were then as compared to today.
A few things really struck me. The first was the line in Nagurski’s biography on the back that said: “A product of the wheat farm country, he stills works the soil between action on the football field and professional wrestling mat.” This is a great example of a feature of many cards even into the middle-1950s: the discussion of the player’s off-season job.
Their pay was so modest that many had to hold an off-season job for a decent living. Quite the opposite of the sometimes multi-million-dollar guaranteed levels even for rookies in some professional leagues now and the long-term contracts with mid-eight-figure annual pay for some stars.
After baseballer Carl Furillo won the National League batting crown in 1953, he returned to his winter job as an elevator repairman for Otis Elevators, according to one of his cards. Perhaps more than any other fact, that illustrates what I mean about life being real then.
Another item is that the text on the first 27 cards is essentially a tutorial for kids and adults on how to play certain positions and actions, as depicted by the player on the front. From all aspects of kicking, passing, receiving and handling the ball both in the open field and when plunging into the line to the need for defensive ends on kickoffs to stay in their lanes and turn the ball carrier to the middle of the field, etc.
These cards were meant for real fans of the time, not for kids ripping open packs to find a rare insert or special card.
A third aspect of how real everything was then is the height and weight statistics. Only one of the 35 players tipped the scales above 220 pounds (number 11 Turk Edwards at 250) and none were taller than 6’ 3.” Some colleges today have all their starting linemen at 300 pounds plus.
Perhaps the most endearing thing is that coach Casey knew his football, as shown in the final text on Nagurski: “He is as much a tradition to [his alma mater] Minnesota football today as Red Grange is to Illinois.”
The text on the next card ends: “Now, reaching the end of his professional career as a player he is following the footsteps of Red Grange in becoming an assistant coach to the bears.”
Illini fans then and now have always known that Grange was the greatest college football player ever.
Now, if only my daughter Karyn would develop a taste for card collecting.
Ron Knecht is a contributing editor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe here at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission.
Governor Jimmy Davis must be rolling over in his grave right now. Louisiana’s internationally acclaimed official state song is under attack by the Louisiana Legislature. There is an effort by some south Louisiana legislators to designate the Cajun classic Jambalaya as an official public ballad. And them’s fightin’ words for those who have embraced You are my Sunshine as the sanctioned formal melody.
The Sunshine defenders point out that it could be the most recognized American ballad worldwide. Go to a small Asian community where little or no English is spoken. Start humming, You Are My Sunshine. More likely than not, the locals will join in singing the song in English. Everybody knows the words to a down-home tune written by a Louisiana country singer and movie star. And he was sworn in as Louisiana Governor seventy-five years ago this month.
A few years back, I was in Cambodia at the Golden Triangle, where Burma and Thailand converge. I was having breakfast in a rural village at an outdoor café, and the young waitress who knew a few words in English said, “You American. I love America. I sing about America.” Then, with a big grin on her face, she broke out in song and danced around the dirt floor singing You Are My Sunshine.
That’s in no way meant to belittle the Cajun tune played in dance halls and musical venues all over Louisiana and much of the south. But there is a vast difference between the two songs. Sunshine was written and sung by a Louisiana native who happened to end up as governor. Jambalaya was written by Hank Williams, who was born, raised and is buried in Alabama. Haven’t we here in the Bayou State been humiliated enough by Alabama football to have to have our state song written by another Roll Tide advocate?
Actually, Jambalaya’s melody is basically the same tune taken from the song Grand Texas, about a lost love; a woman who left the country singer to go with someone else to “Big Texas,” where ever that’s supposed to be. So we have an Alabama song written off a Texas tune that may end up as the Bayou Nation’s new state song.
And what about some of the Jambalaya lyrics? A line in the song is “For tonight, I’m-a gonna see my ma cher a mi-o.” OK. I get ma cher. Even us uneducated rednecks know that ma cher means “my dear.” But what about this a mi-o. The word doesn’t exist. I’ve checked slang dictionaries in French and Spanish. No such word.
Now I’ll admit it’s a bit hard to defend some of the lyrics in Sunshine. Take the stanzas:
You told me once, dear, you really loved me
And no one else could come between
But now you’ve left me and love another
You have shattered all my dreams
I’ll concede such verbiage doesn’t set the best example for our young folks to aspire to greater heights. But hey, it’s only a song. Just like the partying words of Jambalaya, I guess it really doesn’t make much of a difference. Outside of a bar or dancehall, when was the last time you heard either song being sung? So maybe it’s just as well to have two state songs.
Being a redneck and having gotten to know Gov. Jimmie Davis back in the 1970’s, I’m just partial to You are my Sunshine. And just who was Sunshine? A past lover? A devoted family member? No. Sunshine was Jimmie Davis’s horse. The palomino mare is buried up on the Davis family farm above my old home of Ferriday. I pass that way occasionally and remember back on my conversations with the Governor. And yes. I do hum a few bars of what will always be my favorite Louisiana song, You Are My Sunshine.
Here is a message to Democrat dim bulbs everywhere who, after the Mueller report’s release, cannot, as one of their favorite organizations is so aptly named - move on.
On November 8, 2016, Donald John Trump whupped your collective ass.
On April 18, 2019, your collective ass got whupped again—this time by your own designated agent, Robert Mueller.
You still don’t understand that the average American voter thinks you are full of crap. That the reason Hillary lost was not the Russians but that she called half of America, “deplorable.”
No, you want to get rid of the President by any means possible - or impossible.
Go ahead and impeach the President. Please. Let cocky little jerks like Jerrold Nadler and Adam Schiftless rule the day with their pseudo-intellectual bullcrap. Paraphrasing the immortal words of the late George Wallace, I’ll bet they couldn’t even park a bicycle straight. Both of these clowns are like the freshman in college who got beat up every day by the seniors and now, they’re going to show us.
Meanwhile, we DO have a crisis at the border.
And the economy IS doing quite well.
A classic episode of a TV show, WKRP in Cincinnati, ends with the station manager saying, “As God is my witness, I swear I thought turkeys could fly.”
Who would have thought that the writers in 1978 could have imagined today’s Democrats 41 years later.
We know a few things.
One is that turkeys CANNOT fly.
Two is that Democrats in the House of Representatives are auditioning to be turkeys.
In 448 pages, (available on pennypressnv.com) you see a President who has little or no patience for fools and has never been afraid to say so to anyone who paid attention.
The fact is that Donald Trump is the President of the United States. If the President wishes to fire anyone in the executive branch at any time for any reason, it may be a political firestorm, but not a legal one. Richard Nixon fired Archibald Cox. The firing stuck because Nixon was the President and in charge of the executive branch.
Had Trump fired Mueller or Jeff Sessions, it might have caused him political agita, but I’d put money on this Supreme Court ruling out obstruction of justice if it ever got that far.
And, as far as these clowns - yes, clowns - who chair various committees in the House go, if I were the Attorney General I would not answer their demands with nice letters. I would call a press conference and tell them to blow it out their…anal orifices. Or something like that. But that’s just me.
Although, I would observe that many of my fellow average American voters tend to feel the same way and use the same or similar language in their unguarded moments.
And as far as impeachment goes, the aforementioned clowns are playing with the possibility of going years before Democrats ever win an election in many places again. If they’re that stupid.
First, we know for a fact that impeachment would just be a symbolic gesture. There is NO WAY they get 67 votes in the Senate to remove the President. And if Indian imposter Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren thinks her call for impeachment will help her run for the Democratic nomination, we sure hope the Democrats ARE that stupid.
Having spent 20 years of my life in Las Vegas, I wouldn’t put any money on either side of that proposition.
A man in an Easter Bunny costume jumped to the defense of a woman involved in a bar brawl. It’s not clear how the fight began but, Sunday evening (on Easter) outside Orlando’s Underground Public House the unidentified man and woman started hitting each other. To me, they both look clearly drunk and so it was more of a lame drunk slap fest than an actual brawl. Which, is probably why no one was actually hurt.
Anyway, the man and woman were fighting and, typical of soulless a-holes everywhere these days - no one bothered to help her or break up the fight - instead everyone just took out their phones and recorded it!
That is - until the Easter Bunny stepped in. As you can clearly see in the linked video (on the front page) a man in an Easter Bunny costume hopped in and started throwing punches at the man involved in the brawl. Much to the delight of the crowd, who stood by and recorded the event.
The brawl doesn’t last long and within a minute a bike cop on patrol shows up and breaks everything up. No arrests were made and according to a witness or two, the cop shook the Easter Bunny’s hand and thanked him for helping.
Everyone went home.
Turns out - the man in the costume is Antoine McDonald - wanted felon. McDonald has a record a mile long (as they say) and an outstanding warrant in New Jersey. His rap sheet is littered with armed robbery, car burglary, harassment and identity theft. After the bar he told various social media outlets that he was the person in the costume and that he, typically wasn’t a violent person.
According to cops in his former home state, McDonald fled New Jersey after the arrest warrant was issued and so never appeared in court. New Jersey police even, “thought he fled to Florida.”
Turns out - they were right! McDonald was in Florida. In an Easter Bunny costume. Breaking up brawls. As of Wednesday, his whereabouts are unknown. But it does go to show that people are complex. Someone can be a felon wanted for burglary, and armed robbery and still make good decisions to help people.
And other people, who are probably generally good - can stand around and record people helping other people while they themselves, do nothing to assist.
On Sunday morning, coordinated suicide bombers struck several Christian churches and luxury hotels in the cities of Batticaloa, Colombo and Negombo. At least 290 people were killed and hundreds more injured. And sadly, it sounds like the Sri Lanka government had been warned that an attack like this might occur on Easter. Intelligence agencies from the U.S. and India warned the Sri Lankan government weeks ago. Through a series of government missteps the Sri Lankan government didn’t do enough, or perhaps anything at all, to investigate the threat. I actually just read multiple accounts that the Sri Lankan government has issued an apology for not taking the threat seriously enough. Of course, after the fact - that really does sound like empty words to me.
Anyway. An obscure Muslim military group called the National Thowfeek Jamaath (NTJ) is being blamed for the Easter morning terrorist attacks. But Sri Lanka Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne said that official investigation turned up evidence that the NTJ did not act alone, telling reporters: "We do not believe these attacks were carried out by a group of people who were confined to this country … There was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded."
Sri Lanka is actually, mostly a Buddhist country, with something like 70% of the population identifying as Buddhist. According to the US State Department, the remaining 30% of the population identifies as approx. 12% Hindu, 10% Muslim, 7% Christian with the remaining few percentage points coming in as “other/none.” Even though the Muslim population is comparatively small, tension between the Muslim/Buddhist communities have flared up after a series of back and forth aggressive actions that began, supposedly, a few years ago when a young Buddhist man was attacked and killed by a group of young Muslim men.
Sri Lanka has seen the face of violence many times since 1948, when the country gained independence from Britain. Mostly the violence was from the almost three decade civil war that went from the early 80’s all the way to 2009. A civil war that ripped the country apart and left an estimated 150,000 casualties in its wake. But since the end of the civil war, the country has been relatively free from large scale violence for a decade, which is why Sunday’s coordinated bombing attacks was so shocking.
As of today, 24 suspects linked to the attack have been arrested. Here is a partial list of some of the victims with information about their lives. If you want to help, here is a link to the Sri Lanka Red Cross.
Last year I wrote “Opinion: The Turpin parents are guilty. Lock them up forever.” Well, on Friday - I got my wish. David and Louise Turpin, the parents who abused, starved and held all of their children captive, received a sentence of “25 years to life in prison.” Both of them pleaded guilty to torture, child endangerment, false imprisonment and cruelty to dependent adults.
If you do not remember the Turpin parents I’ll offer a quick recap. Last January one of their 17 year old children escaped the torture house the Turpins kept their children shackled up in. When 911 responders arrived they assumed the 17 year old was a child as young as 10 because she was so "emaciated," from starvation. The girl told authorities that her brothers and sisters were inside their house, “chained to the walls and beds.”
When authorities entered the house, sure enough - all the children from age 2 to 29 were living in miserable conditions and that yes, some of them were chained to furniture, beds, walls. Most of them were as thin as their 17 year old sister, due to malnutrition, and all of the adult children were as tiny as the younger ones, again due to the forced starvation they were all rail thin and underdeveloped.
After an investigation, authorities uncovered that the children lived a life of abuse, neglect and torture. The children were even punished for insane reasons up to and including things like this: one of the children would wash his/her hands and the Turpin parents would yank them away from the sink, choke or beat them, and then chain them to a wall for - “playing with water.” The children were only allowed to shower once a year and were only allowed one meal a day. The list of abuse goes on and on. I don't really need to say much more about it.
Well, it’s been more than a year since the children have been free from the torture house. There was no single foster home that was able to house all of them, and so they were split into three separate homes living near each other. It sounds as if they communicate often vis Skype and are all doing as well as can be possibly expected.
Some of the children even confronted their parents in court. A few of the children even said they forgive their parents and still love them. Which, I find particularly heartbreaking to hear; however, I was warmed to hear about Raider, the 3 year old Labrador comfort dog who sat by the kids as they testified. Raider has been in their lives for a while, actually. Raider is a trained dog with the Corona Police Department and has been meeting with the siblings for almost the a year. The siblings love the dog so much they asked if Raider would be allowed to sit by them while they testified. A 2017 California law allows trained therapy dogs to accompany witnesses while testifying so Raider was they judge allowed the comfort do to join them.
And that's that. The Turpin court case is over, the parents are going to jail and the thirteen survivor children who endured a life of torture get to grow up, be happy and live life. I wish them all the best.
Stranger Things, one of Netflix’s biggest hits is, allegedly - plagiarized from another source. At least that’s the claim by Charlie Kessler, a long time Netflix digital/technical operation crew member. And - I kind of buy it. After reading more about it, the lawsuit appears to have some merit. Let me break it down for you:
Netflix released Stranger Things in July of 2016; it was an instant hit. If you have not seen it, the show is about weird, macabre happenings around the small town of Hawkins, Indiana during the early 80’s, and how several twelve year olds become unlikely heroes. The main protagonist(s) of the show come from the nearby underground Military base. A Military base that performs horrible cross dimension experiments on children!
The show dripped with Spielberg, King, Gygax nostalgic lore and was both a critic darling and fan favorite.
Now, keep in mind that if a show is released in July 2016 that means it was in pre-production probably early 2015, shot principle photography mid to late 2015 and did post production visual effects, sound editing/mixing, original score recording late 2015 to early 2016. Key point there being - we know the production of Stranger Things began at least - early 2015.
BUT - you can’t go into production unless you have a completed concept. So the Duffers had to have pitched to Netflix before they went into pre-production (obviously), then Netflix had to greenlight the show, and then get money to the producers of Stranger Things (Also, at the time the show title was “The Montauk Experiment.” This is important later)
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, as someone who bounced around the industry, I know it takes quite a bit of time. I’m going to say that all of the pitching/accepting had to begin near the end of 2014. I think that’s a reasonable estimate.
Which, brings us to Charlie Kessler. According to Kessler’s IMDB page, he worked on Netflix productions since 2015’s Jessica Jones, before that he had some crew success on other networks and video games going back to 2005. He’s been around the biz and knows the industry. And, here’s the kicker - Kessler claims that he (and his agents, maybe) met the Duffer brothers at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and pitched them the idea for a Montauk military base / conspiracy sci-fi series based on his (Kessler’s) short film “Montauk.” Kessler claims the meeting lasted “ten to fifteen minutes.”
Well, I just looked up the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival and see that it took place from April 16th to april 27th. That’s mid 2014. So the timeline for Kessler’s case works out. If he’s telling the truth, then:
Now, as you may (or may not) know the underground Montauk Air Force Base in Long Island, NY - swirls with conspiracy theories, most of which revolve around the US military conducting experiments on teleportation, thought & behavior control, black hole research, parallel universe theory and, of course - time travel. Often, these experiments were said to be using children as test subjects. Oh, and here’s a good one - even though the base shut down decades ago, no one remembers what they worked on at Montauk Air Force Base because - they’re minds were all wiped clean! =)
And if you’re thinking, “Wow, those conspiracies actually do sound just like Stranger Things” season one. Well - that’s the whole point, ain’t it? But, as you no doubt probably see - stories about Montauk Air Force Base and conspiracies surrounding it, are nothing new. And they are all similar. So, it is totally believable that, in general - two different people can have similar ideas about famous events. I buy that.
BUT - now we have a series of coincidences - there’s the timing of it all, the former show title and subsequent change, and the fact that all of this was pitched to them a few months before the Duffer brothers pitched the idea to Netflix. Again, it’s reasonable to assume that they all had similar ideas. But - it does seem suspicious. And by the way, sorting this all out is exactly what the court system is for. Right?
Now, on the flip side - the Duffer brothers say that they never, ever met Charlie Kessler and never heard any kind of pitch from him. At all. And, that he’s lying. Fair enough. Hence the lawsuit. Which has just moved forward because an L.A. judge denied summary judgement to the Duffer brothers.
What summary judgement would have meant is that, the judge could have decided the outcome of the case without a trial. Summary judgements are more likely to be held under lock and key so, for example - you and I would not have heard what the verdict and/or payout to the alleged damaged party would have been. A trial and verdict is more likely to go public. Which is something the unusually secretive Netflix didn’t want.
The Duffer brothers have been saying since day one that they came up with the idea of Stranger Things years ago. As in - back in 2010, which would have been four years before they had the alleged meeting with Kessler. TMZ even reported, “We have the emails that prove the Duffer brothers talked via email in 2010 about ideas for Stranger Things.” TMZ didn’t publish the emails but claim there are 2 from 2010 and one from 2013 where the Duffer brothers discuss the Montauk show premise between themselves. Which might suggest they didn’t steal the entire show idea.
And I will take it back to the - but two people can have similar ideas about famous world events. For example, it’s very possible that before the Duffer brothers and Kessler ever met, they all had similar ideas about Montauk. BUT, during the Kessler pitch to the Duffer brothers, it’s possible he (Kessler) pitched specific things to the Duffer’s that - ended up on Stranger Things.
That would be a problem.
The Duffer brothers, and Netflix, all say this is a meritless lawsuit and that there is definitive proof the Duffer’s didn’t steal ideas, but the judge clearly thought otherwise ruling that the Duffer’s “lack verifying evidence of the originality of their idea.”
To be perfectly honest, I suspect it’s a bit of both. I’m willing to bet that, independently of each other, both parties came up with similar ideas. Then, a pitch meeting happened between Kessler and the Duffers, coincidentally, about their similar ideas. Then, the Duffers - probably on accident - took some ideas from said pitch meeting and placed the ideas in Stranger Things. Which led Kessler to believe, “The Duffer must have taken their entire idea for Stranger Things - from my pitch meeting!”
Anyway. The case goes to trial in May.
Stranger Things season three will be released on Netflix in July, 2019.
On Passover, we read from the Book of Exodus in the Torah explaining the Hebrew’s years of enslavement and the struggle it took to free them. G-d sent Moses to ask Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II to “Let my people go.” When the Pharaoh refused, the Lord sent down 10 plagues:
Scholars have debated how these occurred and scientists have interestingly found scientific explanations for each. This is what they found:
The water of the Nile turned to “blood”. It was undrinkable. One theory is the red clay could have been washed into the river and tributaries, or “Red Tide”, an algae bloom of Oscillatoria rubescens, for example, turned the water red. Moreover the algae can release toxins that kill nearby fish. Once the water is unlivable……
Frogs swarmed into the towns and homes. One theory suggests that since frogs like to live near the water, the toxicity and smell caused them to move from the waterways to the towns. The quantity of frogs still needs an explanation but how many of us see one spider in our house and claim the whole residence is “infested”……
Infestations occurred as the next plague and could be explained by the above two. The frogs eat insects and keep the populations in control when they hang out by the marshes and rivers. The drought and unlivable water conditions cause the frogs to leave and eventually die, so insects go unchecked.
Swarms of flies encompassed the fourth plague. Scientists explain this from the lack of competing insects and frogs not around to eat them. They, in turn, fed on the dead frogs.
One would think the Pharaoh would have given in by now but he didn’t. The fifth plague caused death of Egyptian livestock. Insects carry disease and swarms of them could have caused the livestock to become diseased. Moreover, water sources were becoming scarce as well.
Egyptians became infected with boils on their skin. Insects carry disease, lack of clean water and food could make one susceptible and pathogens can enter into societies and cause epidemics. One theory suggested a smallpox outbreak occurred. Researchers found small pox scars on recovered mummies and postulated that 3000 years ago an epidemic could have occurred.
The plague of hail and fire must have been a scary one. Many have postulated that hail and fire raining from the sky could have occurred from a nearby volcano. If that’s the case why not make “volcano” the plague. But interestingly, 3500 years ago the Santorini volcano north of Crete in the Aegean Sea, erupted. And for those of us who saw Dante’s Peak, there was ash falling everywhere.
Locusts swarmed the landscape. If a volcano was nearby, I’d head south too.
The ninth plague was darkness. Without light, temperatures drop, work can’t be done, crops won’t grow. Scientists suggest this could have occurred from an eclipse, dust storm, or the plume of smoke from the volcano.
The tenth and final plague was the death of every Egyptian first-born. Scientists have some difficulty explaining this one except for many first born were out the fields helping the adults when the pestilence, boils, etc. ensued. Another theory suggests the grain stores became contaminated and the first born might have had first pick of the grain, becoming sick first.
The Bible is rich with history and lessons and such a work needs no explaining. But there are those who like to mesh science with the Bible. So for all of us celebrating our ancestor’s exodus and freedom from slavery, Happy Passover.
By now you all know that the full (but redacted) Mueller report has been made available to the public. I am slogging through it now. It’s long. Four hundred and eighty eight pages long. And I’m only one guy. It’s gonna take me awhile to get through it all.
But I have read a decent amount of it. It’s broke down into two volumes.
Volume I details Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and "if the Trump Team conspired with the Russians."
Volume II deals with the president's “actions towards the FBI investigation” and if any of said actions are "obstruction of justice."
So far - I have some thoughts.
So, what does the Mueller report actually say about Russian interference and collusion?
A lot. Like, way more than I ever expected it to. From Mueller’s introduction to Volume I of the report:
“The Russian Government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion. Evidence of Russian government operations began to surface in mid-2016. In June, the DNC and its cyber response team publicly announced that Russian hackers had compromised its computer network. Release of hacked materials -hacks that public reporting soon attributed to the Russian government-began that same month …. Trump foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos … (said) that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The information prompted the FBI on July 31st, 2016, to open an investigation into weather individuals associated with the Trump Campaign were coordinating with the Russian government in its interference activities.
That fall, two federal agencies jointly announced that the Russian government “directed recent compromises of emails from US persons and institutions, including US political organizations,” and, “these thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process.”
So, this all makes it very, very clear that Russia, a hostile foreign power, endlessly interfered in the US presidential election. That’s not even in debate.
The next part of the introduction talks about how Mueller was assigned, came on board in May of 2017 as Special Counsel and was authorized to investigate “the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election,” including any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign.
Okay. We all know this. And then the report clearly says this:
“As set forth in detail in this report, the Special Counsel’s investigation established that Russia interfered …. principally through two operations. First, a Russian entity carried out a social media campaign that favored presidential candidate Donald J. Trump and disparaged presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Second, a Russian intelligence service conducted computer-intrusion operations against entities, employees, and volunteers working on the Clinton Campaign and then released stolen documents. The investigation also identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign. Although the investigation established that the Russian perceived it would benefit from a Trump presidency and worked to secure that outcome, and that the Campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts, the investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
Hrmmm. The words “numerous links,” and “did not establish” don’t seem to fit together. Let me unpackage it all:
Mueller felt that the while the Russians instigated cyber terrorism and the Trump team accepted the stolen material there was technically “no collusion,” because both groups acted independently towards the same mutually beneficial goal.
Okay. I understand. That’s fair. The Trump team never called up the Russians and said, “Can you steal a bunch of stuff in order to help us win the election?” In which case, for it to be collusion, then the Russians would have to respond with, “Of course! We’ll break into the US Government and steal a bunch of information that will help you win!” Because that specific agreement - tacit or express - did not seem to happen - then there was “no collusion.”
Which … is not exactly how Barr’s four page summary spun it. But, whatever.
Also, I’m only about fifty pages into the report so far.
More to come.
Most of us squirt one pump of hand sanitizer, slap it together in our palms and then dry the rest off on our pants. But researchers say there is a protocol and choreography that must be performed in order to prevent the spread of millions of pathogens that could be lurking on our hands.
The World Health Organization recommends the following steps to be taken when using hand sanitizer:
The process takes about 30 seconds. However, in a study released this week, researchers from the University Hospital Basel found that if all steps were taken but performed in 15 seconds, the same results will be obtained. However, if fewer steps were taken, more bacteria/viruses/pathogens will remain on the hands.
For those who have eczema or sensitive skin, they may not tolerate the alcohol based hand sanitizers and should use soap and water instead.