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Directors of Captain America: The Winter Soldier Say the Film is About Obama’s ‘Kill List’

Via Mother Jones:

There are currently no plans to screen Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the White House, as far as the film’s directors have heard. But if it makes it to the White House family theater, President Obama would be watching one big-budget, action-packed, and Scarlett Johansson-starring critique of his controversial terror-suspect “kill list.”

This isn’t me reading things into a mainstream comic-book movie. It’s what the directors themselves will tell you.

“[Marvel] said they wanted to make a political thriller,” Joe Russo, who directed the film with his brother Anthony, tells Mother Jones. “So we said if you want to make a political thriller, all the great political thrillers have very current issues in them that reflect the anxiety of the audience…That gives it an immediacy, it makes it relevant. So [Anthony] and I just looked at the issues that were causing anxiety for us, because we read a lot and are politically inclined. And a lot of that stuff had to do with civil liberties issues, drone strikes, the president’s kill list, preemptive technology”—all themes they worked into the film, working closely with screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. . .

Now I want to see it even more. - Greg Pollowitz

Kevin Spacey: ‘SOS Venezuela’


For many weeks now, tens of thousands of Venezuelans have taken to the streets in protest.

These students were standing for basic human freedoms and engaging in the right to protest, which is a sacred right whether in Boston, Belarus, or Venezuela. The government of Venezuela responded with heavy-handed repression. Within two weeks Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the opposition party, Voluntad Popular, called for nationwide peaceful demonstrations to address the problems facing the country. These problems include chronic food shortages, the highest inflation in the world and ongoing censorship of the media. Even the Oscars were not allowed to be broadcast – for the first time in Venezuelan history.

More than 1,400 students were arrested, there are more than 40 confirmed cases of torture and Leopoldo Lopez still sits in a Venezuelan military prison.  He has urged the students to exercise their legal rights to peaceful protest and free speech and he repeatedly emphasized they must do so without violence. President Maduro has blamed Lopez for the violence that has beset the country and ordered his arrest on charges of murder, arson and terrorism.  To date, the government has presented no evidence of the charges against him and their legal case is falling apart.

Amnesty International said the charges against Lopez recall “politically motivated attempts to silence dissent.”  Human Rights Watch says “the Venezuelan government has openly embraced the classic tactics of an authoritarian regime: jailing its opponents, muzzling the media and intimidating civil society.”. . .

Nice to see someboy in Hollywood who gets it. - Greg Pollowitz

Rahm Won’t End Chicago’s Sister-City Agreement With Moscow

Via the Chicago Sun Times:

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday put the quick kibosh on a resolution urging him to suspend Chicago’s Sister Cities agreement with Moscow until Russia withdraws from Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.

Samuel C. Scott III, board chairman of Chicago Sister Cities International, had already registered his opposition to the resolution, only to be overruled by the City Council’s Committee on Human Relations.

But that was before Emanuel stepped in and called a halt to the idea of punishing Moscow. Instead, the City Council approved a vanilla resolution standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the people of Ukraine, but held the Sister Cities resolution.

“I don’t believe that the city of Chicago should conduct its own foreign policy separate from the United State government,” the mayor said. . . 

Heckuva job, Rahm. - Greg Pollowitz

Putin Divorce Final; Next: SWM Seeks Country to Invade?

Via AFP:

The Kremlin confirmed Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has finalised the divorce from his wife of 30 years Lyudmila following the couple’s sudden split last summer.

Putin’s official biography, which described him as recently as March 27 as “Married. Wife Lyudmila Aleksandrovna Putina,” now states simply that he has two daughters with no mention of a first lady.

The president’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed to state-owned Itar-TASS news agency that “the divorce has completed.”

The Putins in June of last year delivered a shock announcement that they were splitting up after three decades of marriage, in a choreographed statement to a state television reporter after attending a ballet performance in Moscow.

“It was a joint decision,” Putin said at the time, while his wife said that the marriage is over because “we practically never see each other,” calling it a “civilised divorce.” . . .

I hope Vlad turns his dating life into a Russian reality show of sorts. Ratings gold! - Greg Pollowitz

Gov. Christie, RGA Raise $23.5M in First Quarter

Via Washington Post:

The Republican Governors Association raised $23.5 million during the first three months of 2014, the organization will announce Thursday. It’s a record haul for the RGA, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R).

The RGA has nearly $60 million in the bank, money it will need as it seeks to defend 22 seats compared to just 14 for Democrats. Most of the money the RGA raised came from the group’s 527 arm, which hauled in more than $22 million. The 501(c)(4) affiliate raised $1.3 million.

Christie, who has come under intense scrutiny and criticism from Democrats in the wake of a traffic scandal involving his former aides and appointees, has led the RGA since late 2013. Under his watch, the RGA has brought in big bucks. The groups’s previous first quarter best was $9.1 million in 2010. . .

Like or hate Christie, this is an impressive haul and will help the conservaitve cause at the state level. -

Blue Cross/Blue Shield: 15% to 20% Not Paying First Premium

Via National Journal:

One of the biggest players in Obamacare’s exchanges says 15 to 20 percent of its new customers aren’t paying their first premium—which means they’re not actually covered.

The latest data come from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, whose members—known collectively as “Blues” plans—are participating in the exchanges in almost every state. Roughly 80 to 85 percent of people who selected a Blues plan through the exchanges went on to pay their first month’s premium, a BCBSA spokeswoman said Wednesday.

The new statistics, particularly from such a large carrier, help define how many people are actually getting covered under the Affordable Care Act. 

The Blues’ experience is in line with anecdotal estimates from other insurance executives, who indicated earlier in the enrollment process that they received payments from about 80 percent of people who selected their plans.

The Blues’ latest estimate includes policies that took effect Feb. 1 or earlier, the spokeswoman said.

Some health care analysts have suggested that the payment rate could improve later in the enrollment window, as plans had more time to track down consumers who hadn’t paid. . .

This drops the number enrolled down to around 6 million, but there's still a question -- at least in my mind -- on how many of the 7 million have gotten through the entire process and have actually put a policy in the shopping cart. We shall see. - Greg Pollowitz

Another Unexpected Rise in Jobless Claims

Via Reuters:

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, but the underlying trend continued to point to some strength in the labor market.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims for the week ended March 22 were revised to show 1,000 fewer applications received than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast first-time applications for jobless benefits rising to 317,000 in the week ended March 29.

The four-week moving average for new claims, considered a better measure of underlying labor market conditions as it irons out week-to-week volatility, nudged up 250 to 319,500. This indicates a firmer bias in the labor market.

A Labor Department analyst said no states were estimated and there were no special factors influencing the state level data.

The government made revisions to the model it uses to smooth the claims data for seasonal fluctuations. It also revised claims data going back to 2009.

Despite last week’s increase, claims have been generally stable in March, which should support expectations of an acceleration in job growth during the month. . .

A good rule for Obamanomics is to always expect the unexpected bad news. - Greg Pollowitz

Oops: Former Ukrainian President Now Thinks Inviting Russian Troops into Crimea was a Bad Idea

Via Sydney Mornng Herald:

In his first interview since fleeing to Russia, Ukraine’s ousted president said on Wednesday that he was “wrong” to have invited Russian troops into Crimea and vowed to try to persuade Russia to return the coveted Black Sea peninsula.

Defensive and at times teary-eyed, Viktor Yanukovych told The Associated Press and Russia’s state NTV television that he still hopes to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin to get the annexed region back.

“Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy,” the 63-year-old Yanukovych said, insisting that Russia’s takeover of Crimea wouldn’t have happened if he had stayed in power. He fled Ukraine in February after three months of protests focused on corruption and on his decision to seek closer ties to Russia instead of the European Union.

Mr Yanukovych denied the allegations of corruption, saying he built his palatial residence outside of Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, with his own money. He also denied responsibility for the sniper deaths of about 80 protesters in Kiev in February, for which he has been charged by Ukraine’s interim government. . .

Well, maybe he'd like to go back to Ukraine then? - Greg Pollowitz

Paging Sean ‘Spicoli’ Penn: Cuba-Like Food Rationing in Venezuela

Via Fox News:

Battling food shortages, the government is rolling out a new ID system that is either a grocery loyalty card with extra muscle or the most dramatic step yet toward rationing in Venezuela, depending on who is describing it. 

President Nicólas Maduro’s administration says the cards to track families’ purchases will foil people who stock up on groceries at subsidized prices and then illegally resell them for several times the amount. Critics say it’s another sign the oil-rich Venezuelan economy is headed toward Cuba-style dysfunction.

Registration begins at more than 100 government-run supermarkets across the country Tuesday, and working-class shoppers who sometimes endure hours-long lines at government-run stores to buy groceries at steeply reduced prices are welcoming the plan.

“The rich people have things all hoarded away, and they pull the strings,” said Juan Rodríguez, who waited two hours to enter the government-run Abastos Bicentenario supermarket near downtown Caracas on Monday, and then waited another three hours to check out.

Rigid currency controls and a shortage of U.S. dollars make it increasingly difficult for Venezuelans to find imported basic products like milk, flour, toilet paper and cooking oil. Price controls don’t help either, with producers complaining that some goods are priced too low to make a profit and justify production. . .

Sean Penn's line from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" comes to mind: "Learning about Cuba, and having some food." Why yes, Sean -- this rationing plan in Venezuela does look a lot like Cuba's:

- Greg Pollowitz

Bible-Impaired Noah Sails, Cruises, Launches, Floats Has $44-Million Opening Weekend

Via The Wrap:

The Biblical epic “Noah” rode a tide of controversy to a $44 million opening, sailing past “Divergent” and into the top spot at the domestic box office this weekend.

Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of the Old Testament tale surged on Saturday and finished well ahead of expectations that had been tempered by months of negative buzz — mainly from church groups wary of the “Black Swan” director’s edgy style and reports that the film strayed too far from Scripture. Distributor Paramount, which backed the film with New Regency, even added a statement at the beginning of the movie noting that it was a dramatic interpretation.

The surprising showing by “Noah” overshadowed a strong performance by Lionsgate’s young-adult sci-fi tale “Divergent.” The adventure tale starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James finished second with $27.7 million, just a 49 percent drop from its big opening last weekend, and will cross the $100 million mark in the next day or two. . .

I understand why Christians were angry at this version of “Noah,” but I don’t understand why they expected something better. It’s Hollywood. Take a film like “Captain Phillips,” for example. Filmmakers changed the actual story for one they thought would be better on screen, and "Phillips" happened mere years ago, with witnesses. - Greg Pollowitz

News Updates: Venezuela, Ukraine, Koreas

Valerie Jarrett Promotes Obamacare on the ‘Single Most Annoying Show on the Internet’

Via Naked DC:

[. . .] Anyway, I know you’ve missed us, but in our absence, it seems that the Obama Administration has ramped  up their health care salesmanship by forcing a host of surrogates to humiliate themselves in “pop culture” arenas in order to convince people under 35 to sign their supple, youthful flesh up on the exchanges before March 31st (which actually isn’t the real deadline) in order to help pay for their parents and grandparents to get free care.  The latest victim of the White House’s communications scheme is Valerie Jarrett, who submitted herself to the whiny whims of’s “Top That” webcast, which is the single most annoying show on the Internet, hosted by two people who, were it not for utility for entertainment gossip, would be agitating for a doubled minimum wage for their fast food job. . . 

While Venezuela and Ukraine burn, top Obama officials are doing this? Video at the link above, screenshot here: 

- Greg Pollowitz

Details Released on Debris Spotted in Search for MH370

Via the Australian Maritime Safety Authority :

Five aircraft spotted multiple objects of various colours during Friday’s search for the missing Malaysian 
Airlines flight MH370. 
Search activities have now concluded. A total of 256,000 square kilometres was searched. 
Photographic imagery of the objects was captured and will be assessed overnight. 
The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and 
recovered by ships. 
A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3 Orion reported sighting a number of objects white or light in 
colour and a fishing buoy. 
A Royal Australian Air Force P3 Orion relocated the objects detected by the RNZAF Orion and reported 
it had seen two blue/grey rectangular objects floating in the ocean. 
A second RAAF P3 Orion spotted various objects of various colours in a separate part of the search area 
about 546 kilometres away. 
A total of ten planes were tasked by AMSA in today’s search and all have now departed the search area. 
AMSA has tasked Chinese Maritime Administration patrol ship, Haixun 01, which is in the search area 
and will be in a position to relocate the objects on Saturday. 
Friday’s search area was shifted north after international air crash investigators in Malaysia provided the 
latest credible lead available to AMSA. 
This was on the advice of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB). 
Weather conditions in the area are expected to be reasonable for searching on Saturday. 


- Greg Pollowitz

Public Service Announcement: Meet the Picocita, Hangover Cure

Via Gothamist:

. . .Now a picocita is one of those fun beer refreshers, like the Mexican beer cocktail michelada, but better. It starts with a beer, usually Gallo Draft, a lesser quality brew than its popular cousin, simply called Gallo. While both are produced in Guatemala, Draft is only available in Mexico, where it’s sold dirt cheap, so if these guys have it in Antigua, someone’s probably made a ‘daytrip’ north in a pickup.

One of the guys working the truck hands you and your friend a Gallo Draft in a small paper bag and you watch your friend take a few sips before returning it. You follow suit. The bartender/ceviche slinger then fills your Drafts with ingredients in this order—a spoonful of salt, a spoonful of chile/chopped onion/vinegar mix, a generous squeeze of lime, a generous squeeze of Worcestershire sauce and another good dose of lime juice. The beers are handed back to you, the paper bags wet from condensation and a bit of lime juice.

You take a sip. You feel revived. The spice of the chile jolts you out of your fog and the tang from the Worcestershire sauce, lime, and the bubbles from the beer perk up your tongue. The onion settles your stomach and the salt makes you crave water (Hangover Cure 101: Drinking lots of fluids is a good thing). Your friend watches you with knowing eyes, as the power of the picocita takes its effect, instantly changing your outlook on the day. . .

And now NRO readers can go into the weekend full prepared. You're welcome. - Greg Pollowitz

Good News: Brazil Reducing Support of Maduro in Venezuela

Via Reuters:

Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy and diplomatic power, has toned down its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro because of disappointment over how he is handling mounting economic problems and opposition-led street protests.

The shift, while subtle, has deprived Maduro of some of the regional backing he wants at a time of food shortages, high inflation and political uncertainty in the OPEC nation.

Broadly speaking, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff remains an ally of Maduro. While Rousseff is more moderate, both are part of a generation of leftist Latin American presidents who grew up opposing pro-Washington governments and believe they are united by a mission to help the poor.

However, Rousseff has been increasingly disappointed by some of Maduro’s actions and has reined in the more enthusiastic support that characterized Brazil-Venezuela relations under his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, according to two officials close to Rousseff’s government. . . 


The U.S. is ignoring Venezuela -- where we could make a difference -- in favor of Ukraine. Bad move. And we should be doing more to pressure Brazil to stop supporting Maduro all together, going as far as using the Olympics in 2016 as leverage. -

Meet the Dem Enablers of ‘Shrimp Boy’ and State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco)

Via the Los Angeles Times:

In the years after his release from prison, Raymond Chow insisted he had gone straight and tried to prove it by posting photos with celebrities and endorsements from politicians across his Facebook profile.

The profile shows the organized crime figure known as “Shrimp Boy” rubbing shoulders with the likes of former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, NFL football player Vernon Davis and Randy Jackson of the Jackson Five.

But even by Chow’s standards for mingling with the famous and powerful, the summer of 2012 was a good one for Shrimp Boy.

According to posts he wrote on his Facebook timeline, he gave multiple speeches in June, including one to a middle school he hoped would “help the kids stay positive and out of trouble.”

In July, Chow was honored as a “Change Agent” at an annual “In the Trenches” awards ceremony in San Francisco.

He later posted photos of honorary certificates he received from Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee. Another photo showed he had been recognized in a letter from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“Thank you for your tireless dedication to providing outstanding service to the residents of San Francisco,” Lee wrote.

“Your efforts to turn your life around and help others do the same has been an inspiration to us all,” said Ammiano.

Feinstein wrote: “Serving as an inspiration and a role model to others, you have had a great impact on those in need of guidance.”

But a criminal complaint released Wednesday by federal authorities portrays Chow’s public displays of going straight as nothing more than a façade. . .

If this story gets 1/10th the coverage of Christie and the bridge, Dem heads will roll. If. . . - Greg Pollowitz

Obama: “‘You would have thought’ Putin would not ‘revert back’ to Cold War practices

Via Mark Knoller -- CBS:



[GP]Some excerpts from Mark Knoller’s Twitter feed this morning. . .

And here’s the analysis of Russia’s troop movement from POTUS. It’s like a coin-flip. . .

Really? I kinda remember somebody predicting this. . .


- Greg Pollowitz

George R.R. Martin Releases Chapter from The Winds of Winter


 She woke with a gasp, not knowing who she was, or where.

The smell of blood was heavy in her nostrils… or was that her nightmare, lingering? She had dreamed of wolves again, of running through some dark pine forest with a great pack at her hells, hard on the scent of prey.

Half-light filled the room, grey and gloomy. Shivering, she sat up in bed and ran a hand across her scalp. Stubble bristled against her palm. I need to shave before Izembaro sees. Mercy, I’m Mercy, and tonight I’ll be raped and murdered. Her true name was Mercedene, but Mercy was all anyone ever called her…

Except in dreams. She took a breath to quiet the howling in her heart, trying to remember more of what she’d dreamt, but most of it had gone already. There had been blood in it, though, and a full moon overhead, and a tree that watched her as she ran. . .

Boom. - Greg Pollowitz

Russia Now Controls Ukraine’s War Dolphins and Sea Lions

Via Fox News:

The dolphins and sea lions trained by the Ukrainian navy in Crimea for military operations are now in the hands of the Russian navy following the peninsula’s absorption by Russia.

The Ukrainian navy resumed the program, which was scrapped just before the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 2012 at one of the two aquariums in the Crimean port city of Sevastopol, which is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The center worked on developing new methods of training dolphins and sea lions so they could be used to locate underwater weapons and divers. . .


Video: Out-of-Money USPS Sponsors New Spider-Man Movie

Via ECommerceBytes:

The U.S. Postal Service and Sony Pictures are collaborating on a marketing campaign to promote Priority Mail and a movie called “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ due out in theaters nationwide on May 2, 2014.

USPS Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Nagisa Manabe said, “Our Priority Mail products share many qualities with a Super Hero of Spider-Man’s caliber, namely those of speed, agility and reliability. Like Spider-Man, our priority has always been the people we serve. We pride ourselves on our commitment to public service and delivering for our customers, and we are excited about enlisting Spider-Man to help promote our Priority Mail offerings.”. . .

And here's the video:


- Greg Pollowitz


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