Undercovered News for 9-17-2018

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News and opinion for libertarians:

West Coast billionaires buy dying legacy media companies

Fraying Ties With Trump Put Jim Mattis’s Fate in Doubt

7 Civilians Killed in Yemen Air Strike
7 civilians killed in Yemen air strike: At least seven civilians were killed in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in the Huran district of central Yemen’s Bayda province on Sunday, an official and rebel media reported Monday.

Syrians in Regime Areas Vote in First Local Polls since 2011
Regime areas vote in first local polls since 2011: Syrians in government-controlled areas cast their ballots on Sunday in the first local elections there since 2011, when the country’s ill-fated uprising erupted against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

California professor, writer of confidential Brett Kavanaugh letter, speaks out about her allegation of sexual assault
Ford contacted The Washington Post through its tip line in July, when Kavanaugh was on the shortlist to replace the late Justice Anthony Kennedy. She had also contacted her congresswoman, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), around the same time. Through Eshoo’s office, Ford sent a letter to Feinstein in late July. She said the incident occurred in the 1980s when both were in high school. Ford recalled a “stumbling drunk” Kavanaugh and a friend corralling her into a bedroom.

“While his friend watched, she said, Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it,” The Washington Post’s Emma Brown reports. “When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.” “I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Ford said. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.” Ford said she escaped when Kavanaugh’s friend, Mark Judge, jumped on them. She locked herself in a bathroom and eventually ran out of the house.

She stayed quiet until 2012, when she shared her story during couples therapy with her husband. The Post reviewed portions of the therapist’s notes, which did not include Kavanaugh’s name. The Post also reviewed the results of a polygraph test Ford took in August that was administered by a former FBI agent. The results showed her statement summarizing her allegations was accurate. Ford is “[a] registered Democrat who has made small contributions to political organizations,” Brown writes. “By late August, Ford had decided not to come forward, calculating that doing so would upend her life and probably would not affect Kavanaugh’s confirmation.” But her calculation changed after her story leaked last week. Much more: wapo.st/2NMZAho

Read the letter Christine Blasey Ford sent accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconductwww.cnn.com/2018/09/16/politics/blasey-ford-kavanaugh-letter-feinstein/index.html

Most of Europe Is a Lot Poorer than Most of the United States

Senate set to vote on plan to combat opioid epidemic
“There is a bipartisan sense of urgency because this is our worst public health epidemic, and it affects virtually every community,” Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said. Congress has steered roughly $4.7 billion toward the opioid crisis in an omnibus budget bill approved in March, and Alexander said an additional $3.7 billion is likely to be appropriated for fiscal 2019.

“The Senate’s Opioid Crisis Response Act, which includes more than 70 proposals that grew out of a series of hearings, aims to close some of the legal loopholes and deal with regulatory issues that have allowed the drugs to proliferate and made it harder for those who are addicted to get treatment,” Collins writes. “One of the bill’s key proposals seeks to curb the flow of fentanyl and other opioids coming into the U.S. via mail from places like China.”

Thanks to rationalreview.com/ for their work.

Page: FBI didn’t have a case for collusion when Mueller was appointed
“Former FBI attorney Lisa Page, in a bombshell revelation, says the agency could not prove collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign before Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed. Page told a closed-door joint session of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees in mid-July that investigators could not make the charge, according to a transcript of her deposition reviewed by Fox News. ‘I think this represents that even as far as May 2017, we still couldn’t answer the question,’ Page said. … her testimony refers to a point in the investigation from over a year ago and it’s unclear where the probe stands now.”

Justice Department Attempts to Suppress Evidence That the Border Patrol Targeted Humanitarian Volunteers
“Four volunteers with a faith-based humanitarian group drove onto a remote wilderness refuge in southern Arizona last summer hoping to prevent an unnecessary loss of life. A distress call had come in, a woman reporting that two family members and a friend were without water in one of the deadliest sections of the U.S.-Mexico border. For hours, the volunteers’ messages to the Border Patrol went unanswered. With summer in the Sonoran Desert being the deadliest time of year, they set off in a pickup truck, racing to the peak where the migrants were said to be. Once on the refuge, the volunteers were tracked by federal agents, beginning a process that would lead to federal charges. Now, more than a year later, they each face a year prison, and Trump administration prosecutors are fighting to keep the communications of law enforcement officials celebrating their prosecution from becoming public.”

Chinese regime may reject new trade talks if more tariffs imposed
“The Chinese government may decline to participate in proposed trade talks with the United States later this month if the Trump administration moves forward with additional tariffs on imported Chinese goods, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing Chinese officials. The U.S. had proposed the talks, but at the same time moved forward with planning additional tariffs on some $200 billion of Chinese products, the Journal reported. The report quoted one senior Chinese official saying the country would not negotiate ‘with a gun pointed to its head.’ Other officials who advise the country’s leaders are suggesting China impose limits on the sale of parts and supplies needed by U.S. businesses, using ‘export restraints’ to threaten their supply chains.”

FEMA to test presidential phone-spamming system
“President Donald Trump may soon be communicating with you directly on your phone — even if you don’t follow him on Twitter. Next Thursday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will do its first test of a system that allows the president to send a message to most U.S. cellphones. More than 100 mobile carriers, including all the major wireless firms, are participating in the roll out, FEMA stated in a message on its website posted Thursday. … The test is supposed to take place at 2:18 p.m. EDT on Sept. 20. Under the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act of 2006, cellphone users cannot opt out of the presidential alerts.”

Manafort agrees to plead guilty in deal with Robert Mueller
“Former Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort has agreed to plead guilty in a deal to resolve charges filed by special counsel Robert Mueller, but it is not clear if the longtime Republican operative will cooperate with prosecutors against President Donald Trump. If he does, Manafort could prove to be a significant witness for Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as possible collusion by members of Trump campaign with Moscow.”

NM: Space observatory at centre of alien conspiracy asks for “patience” after evacuation by the FBI
“A space observatory at the centre of swirling alien conspiracy theories has asked for ‘patience’ as it continues to be locked down. The Sunspot Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico caught the attention of the world when it was shut down by FBI agents who reportedly swooped on the facility after arriving in elite Blackhawk helicopters. It led immediately to suggestions the advanced technology inside of the facility spotted something it shouldn’t — such as proof of extraterrestrials, UFOs or even some baseless speculation that the observatory had spotted that the sun has started dying. The fact the observatory is only about 120 miles from the site of the Roswell UFO incident has only fuelled speculation. The FBI and the administrators of the facility have said only that the shutdown happened because of a ‘security issue.’”

GOP rejects effort to force release of documents about private Trump-Putin meeting
“House Republicans on Thursday rejected a push by Democrats to obtain documents from the administration about President Trump’s one-on-one summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee rallied behind a resolution that would have directed the executive branch to send to Congress ‘copies of all documents, records, communications, transcripts, summaries, notes, memoranda, and read-aheads’ related to Trump’s July summit with Putin in Helsinki. … Lawmakers on the committee voted along party lines to reject the effort Thursday afternoon.”

Are we sure it can’t happen here?

TGIF: Are We Sure It Can’t Happen Here?

“One runs a risk whenever one cites the 20th century’s great terror states while discussing current ominous developments in the western democracies. Apparent comparisons of the United States or western and central European countries to Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia will inevitably be hooted down with accusations of alarmist conspiracy-mongering and worse, shameful ahistoricity. Nevertheless, that must not keep us from noticing and pointing to contemporary events that bear an eerie resemblance, however slight, to things that went on in those totalitarian terror states. Such regimes don’t spring up overnight. They emerge, and looking at history, we can see that their more or less gradual emergence have telltale signs that we would do well to keep an eye out for. We can’t rest comfortably with the cliche that ‘it can’t happen here.’”

Concentrated benefits and diffused costs explain the persistence of tariffs
“Tariffs hurt more people than they help. So why do those outnumbered few keep winning so many political victories at the majority’s expense? The answer can be found in the concept of concentrated benefits and diffused costs. Gordon Tullock gives an example of this with his Tullock Economic Development Plan, which ‘involves placing a dollar of additional tax on each income tax form in the United States and paying the resulting funds to Tullock, whose economy would develop rapidly’ (see more on this plan on p.13 of ‘Virtuous Capitalism,’ Fred Smith’s and my 2015 paper on rent-seeking). For the losing majority, a dollar per year is not worth the trouble of going all the way to Washington and trying to get Congress to change policy. But Tullock has hundreds of millions of reasons to fight as hard as he can to keep that unfair policy in place. That is why concentrated beneficiaries usually win out over indifferent majorities.”

In Bernie Sanders vs. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, only workers lose
“Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders'[s] fight against corporate America over low worker pay has progressed in the Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act (aka the Stop BEZOS Act), targeted at Amazon and Walmart. Bernie claims taxpayers subsidize these corporations because many employees receive government welfare through food stamps, school meals, rental assistance or federal contributions to Medicaid. To stop this, his bill would tax companies with 500 employees or more dollar-for-dollar for the value of benefits received by workers. This is an extraordinarily dangerous policy based upon major economic misunderstandings. In fact, it is difficult to think of a worse way of helping lower income workers. However much Sanders insists otherwise, in competitive industries, workers’ pay and benefits tend to match the value of the work they’re doing. Firms cannot ‘underpay,’ or else they risk losing employees to other businesses, while ‘overpaying’ would be financial suicide. Yet this bill does not raise workers’ productivity, just the cost of hiring welfare recipients. Sanders’ ‘Corporate Welfare Tax’ threatens welfare recipients’ access to jobs.”

Grandparents in the Gulag
“Debra Cupp, 60, stood in front of the U.S. Capitol on a hot day in July holding a handmade sign: ‘Ron Cupp died waiting on compassionate release, Jan. 3, 2017.’ Her husband Ron had complained several times to prison doctors about pain in his gut. Each time, he was sent back to his cell with aspirin. When authorities finally examined him more closely, they discovered he had metastatic colon cancer. Because he was too weak to make it to the prison visiting room, Debra didn’t get to see her husband during the last three months of his life. She found out he’d died because the prison chaplain took it upon himself to call her. The Bureau of Prisons would not officially notify her of her husband’s death for another two weeks. By that time, his ashes had already arrived in the mail. … Since 2014, at least 81 federal inmates died while waiting for the government to review their applications, according to Justice Department records obtained earlier this year by the criminal justice reform advocacy group FAMM. And while 49 states have provisions for compassionate release, a June report by FAMM found that very few elderly and sick prisoners actually benefit.”

You don’t have to be a bigot to be a racist anymore

You don’t have to be a bigot to be a racist anymore — Analysis

“What is a racist? There was a time when the answer to that question was pretty clear-cut. A racist was someone who joined a group like the Ku Klux Klan, spewed racial slurs like the n-word or supported segregation. A racist was someone who thought that people of other races were inherently inferior. In the last decade or so, that’s changed. In a time of expanding definitions, you don’t have to be a bigot to be a racist anymore. You just have to have the wrong politics to be branded a racist, race baiter or race warrior. Or you can just be associated with someone who has the wrong politics. The Southern Poverty Law Center has listed David Horowitz, 79, a former 1960s radical turned conservative, as an extremist and ‘driving force’ in the ‘anti-black’ movement.”

You can’t understand Big Tech without understanding network effects. Here’s a road map.

You Can’t Understand Big Tech Without Understanding Network Effects. Here’s a Road Map.

“If an operating system can reach critical mass — the point at which the value of the platform exceeds its cost for a large number of customers — it can engage a powerful flywheel effect where more users create more value for developers and vice versa. Research has shown that the social benefit from someone buying a new computer can exceed the private benefit due to these indirect network effects. A successful platform can decrease search costs and reduce deadweight loss by brokering exchanges that never would have happened without it. But before a platform reaches that point, it must overcome a chicken-and-egg problem caused by the interdependence of demand between the customer groups. Who wants to join a two-sided market with no one on the other side? ”

Higher taxes = less innovation
“When researchers at the Show-Me Institute argue that high tax burdens encourage people to leave Kansas City and St. Louis, city leaders often react with derision. Yet when they want to encourage development in their respective cities, they employ policies intended to attract investment by — surprise — reducing taxes through abatement, tax increment financing and the like. They may not want to admit it, but they are conceding our chief argument: Tax rates affect development. Now we learn that high tax rates affect more than development. According to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, tax rates affect innovation.”

Raytheon’s war crimes in Yemen

Raytheon’s War Crimes in Yemen

“For more than three years, Raytheon, a major US defense contractor, has been aiding and abetting war crimes in Yemen, manufacturing the world’s worst humanitarian crises and profiting upon the bodies of Yemeni children torn apart by their bombs. Largely hidden from the public, billions of dollars have been made by American arms manufactures in the US-backed war in Yemen. As a result, the Saudis are able to deliberately produce massive civilian causalities, using Raytheon’s weapons with the purpose of starving the people of Yemen and depriving them of life saving medicine.”

Updates from the home office.

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