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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
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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

Via GeorgeRRMartin.com:

 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. . .

LET SLIP THE DOLPHINS OF WAR! -
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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

Obama Meets the Pope

Via CNN:

U.S. President Barack Obama and Pope Francis met for the first time Thursday at Vatican City.

The two world leaders greeted each other with a smile and a handshake, and posed for pictures before sitting down across a table from each other.

The tete-a-tete was an opportunity for a reset of sorts between the Obama administration and Catholic leadership following several years of strained relations.

The goal: focus on areas where two of the world’s most influential men agree and gently tread ground where they differ.

That means the President and the Pontiff will, as the White House said in a statement, focus on “shared commitment to fighting poverty and growing (income) inequality” and gingerly navigate such thornier topics as same-sex marriage, contraception and abortion.

“In general, they’ll be looking for areas of conversation where there is great agreement between the Vatican and the administration,” said Steve Schneck, director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Science: Running Marathons Might Cause Heart Disease

Via the WSJ:

. . .A study published in the current edition of Missouri Medicine found that 50 men who had run at least one marathon a year for 25 years had higher levels of coronary-artery plaque than a control group of sedentary men. A British Medical Journal study published this year compared the carotid arteries of 42 Boston Marathon qualifiers with their much-less active spouses. “We hypothesized that the runners would have a more favourable atherosclerotic risk profile,” says the article. As it turned out, that hypothesis was wrong.

A small body of research suggests that heart problems may arise not in spite of extreme-endurance exercise but because of it. That has led some cardiologists to theorize that, beyond a certain point, exercise stops preventing and starts causing heart disease.

“Studies support a potential increased risk of coronary artery disease, myocardial fibrosis and sudden cardiac death in marathoners,” Peter McCullough, a Baylor University cardiologist, wrote as lead author of an editorial in the current Missouri Medicine. . .

 

Glad I dodged this bullet. - Greg Pollowitz

Most of the Ukrainian Military in Crimea Expected to Join Russia Military

Via McClatchy:

Ukraine’s interim defense minister resigned Tuesday, citing the shame of losing Crimea to Russia during his one month in office.

A short time later, the Ukrainian parliament voted in an interim replacement, a colonel-general who earlier this month was briefly kidnapped from his post in Crimea.

The departure of Ihor Tenyukh, a politician who belongs to the right-wing Svoboda party, and his replacement by Col. Gen. Mykhailo Koval, a top officer in the country’s border protection service, came as the depth of the defeat in Crimea _ and Ukraine’s inability to respond to the crisis _ continued to come into focus.

The Defense Ministry said it expected only 4,300 of the 18,000 troops who were stationed in Crimea to remain in the Ukrainian military _ less than 24 percent. Others said they expected that most of the rest would join the Russian army, which has offered much higher pay and more generous retirement benefits to any Ukrainian soldier who switches sides.

“They are Russian, and they will serve Russia,” said Sergey Kunitsyn, a former mayor of Sevastopol in Crimea who’s now a member of parliament representing the region. “What else would they do? They speak Russian. Their heritage is Russian. They accept Russian culture. Their loyalty was to Crimea, not Ukraine.”. . .

How soon until East Ukraine is created? I say by July. - Greg Pollowitz

Copenhagen Zoo Kills 4 Lions

Via CNN:

 A Danish zoo that made international headlines last month when it killed a healthy giraffe is once again in the news after it killed four lions to make way for a new male.

The lions were killed Monday, said Tobias Stenbaek Bro, a spokesman for the Copenhagen Zoo.

Two of those were young lions that were not old enough to survive by themselves and would have been killed by the new male lion if it had the chance, Bro told CNN. He said the zoo had tried to place them elsewhere, “but unfortunately there wasn’t any interest.”

The other two are the youngsters’ parents, described by the Copenhagen Zoo as a “very old” breeding pair.

The new male lion was brought from Givskud Zoo, also in Denmark, to form a breeding group with the Copenhagen Zoo’s two 18-month-old females, born on site in 2012. . .

These are the same lions that got to eat the giraffe this zoo killed about a month ago. I wonder which animal at the zoo gets to eat these lions? - Greg Pollowitz

Girl Shaves Head to Support Her Friend with Cancer, Gets Suspended

Via NBC News 9:

It was meant as a gesture of solidarity: a girl in Grand Junction shaved her head to support her friend, who is battling cancer. However, family members say the girl’s school didn’t see it that way and said it violated the dress code policy. Now, what started as a simple gesture is turning into a battle over whether hair should matter in school.

For the two girls on the playground, though, Monday afternoon was all about sharing fun in the sun and sporting matching bald heads.

“It felt like the right thing to do,” Kamryn Renfro said.

With her parents’ permission, Kamryn shaved her head in support of her cancer-stricken friend, 11-year-old Delaney Clements. She lost her hair because she is undergoing chemotherapy in her fight against neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer.

Delaney loved what her friend did.

“It made me feel very special and that I’m not alone,” she said.

However, when Kamryn tried to go back to school at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction this week, she wasn’t allowed in. Turns out, having a shaved head is a violation of the school’s dress code policy. Delaney’s mom, Wendy Campbell, couldn’t believe it. . .

You don't suspend a kid who support her friend like this -- you give her an award. What idiot is running this school? - Greg Pollowitz

How Investigators Determined Flight 370 Flew South

Via CNN:

Monday’s announcement by Malaysia’s Prime Minister acknowledging that missing Flight 370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean opens the door to a big question: How did new number crunching confirm the Boeing 777’s path?

Now we know for sure “there’s no way it went north,” said Inmarsat Senior Vice President Chris McLaughlin.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that the plane was last tracked over the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth, Australia. Malaysian Airlines has informed passengers’ relatives that “all lives are lost,” a relative told CNN.

Monday’s announcement brings new questions about the mystery that has captivated the planet for more than two weeks. It also provoked a call that all airliners be constantly tracked.

The mathematics-based process used by Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to reveal the definitive path was described by McLaughlin as “groundbreaking.”

The mathematics-based process used by Inmarsat and the UK’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) to reveal the definitive path was described by McLaughlin as “groundbreaking.”

“We’ve done something new,” he said.

Here’s how the process works in a nutshell: Inmarsat officials and engineers were able to determine whether the plane was flying away or toward the satellite’s location by expansion or compression of the satellite’s signal. . .

This is the best explanation so far that I've seen. - Greg Pollowitz

Venezuela Moves to ‘Tame’ Black-Market Dollar Trading

Via Reuters:

Venezuela launched a new free-floating foreign exchange system on Monday that offered dollars for eight times the official price in a move the government says will tame the black market but which critics see as a massive devaluation.

The central bank said the price for dollars on the inaugural day of the Sicad 2 system was 51.8 bolivars. Private bank operators who took part said demand was high but offers thin.

The new platform added a third state-sanctioned exchange rate to the South American OPEC member’s 11-year-old currency controls, with dollars selling at 6.3 bolivars for preferential goods and around 11 bolivars for other items. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

Mayor de Blasio to NYC’s Bike-Share Program: Drop Dead

Via New York Post:

Citi Bike honchos need tens of millions of dollars to save the struggling bicycle-share program — but Mayor de Blasio said Friday that it won’t come from the wallets of New York City taxpayers.

“At this point, city budget money is not on the table,” he said. “We will collaborate with them to help them find ways to be more efficient and more effective.”

The program was launched last year with a promise from Mayor Michael Bloomberg that it would not require public funding.

But lawsuits, glitches and a lack of use have made Citi Bike’s first year a rough ride — and the program needs a small fortune to stay in business, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. . .

Good for the mayor. More here from Jillian Kay Melchior in the Corner.

- Greg Pollowitz

Hawaii Cops Want To Keep Exemption That Lets Them Sleep with Prostitutes

Via ABC News:

Honolulu police officers have urged lawmakers to keep an exemption in state law that allows undercover officers to have sex with prostitutes during investigations, touching off a heated debate.

Authorities say they need the legal protection to catch lawbreakers in the act. Critics, including human trafficking experts and other police, say it’s unnecessary and could further victimize sex workers, many of whom have been forced into the trade.

Police haven’t said how often — or even if — they use the provision. And when they asked legislators to preserve it, they made assurances that internal policies and procedures are in place to prevent officers from taking advantage of it.

But expert Derek Marsh says the exemption is “antiquated at best” and that police can easily do without it.

“It doesn’t help your case, and at worst you further traumatize someone. And do you think he or she is going to trust a cop again?” asked Marsh, who trains California police in best practices on human trafficking cases and twice has testified to Congress about the issue. . .

No, cops don't need this law. - Greg Pollowitz

Sean Penn Offering Acting Classes in Venezuela

Via Various Sources:

[GP] I was putting together some updates on Venezuela and Ukraine and came across this gem of a story. . .

– CNN Latino: Sean Penn to offer government sponsored acting classes in Venezuela

Venezuelan acting students will have the opportunity to get some helpful hints from someone who sure knows the craft – Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn.

The country’s President Nicolas Maduro announced recently the “Milk” actor would be offering classes to students through the Foundation La Villa Del Cine in Caracas, according to a statement on the government’s official website.

The announcement came after he finalized a meeting at the government palace of Miraflores with Penn and Haiti’s Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

. . .Wonderful. And in other news. . .

Venezuela

– CNN: Death toll climbs as protests still rage in Venezuela

– EconomistSupport among the poor for the government of Nicolás Maduro is conditional

Ukraine 

– AP: Russian upper house approves Crimea annexation

– BBC: EU signs association deal with Ukraine

– TimePutin – No need for further retaliation against U.S.

 

- Greg Pollowitz

End of the World: GOP Now Using Hipsters in Ads

Via YouTube:

Who is the target of this ad? It's as dumb as the Obamacare "onesie" ad. - Greg Pollowitz

Opposition Mayors Targeted in Venezuela

Via the A.P.:

Venezuelan intelligence agents on Wednesday arrested the opposition mayor of the western city of San Cristobal, which has been a crucible of anti-government resistance and spawned the current wave of protests.

Then, hours later, the Supreme Court announced that the opposition mayor of San Diego, Enzo Scarano, would be removed from his post and serve 10 months and 15 days in prison for disobeying a March 12 court order to keep protesters from barricading streets in his city.

The mayors joined opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who is being held on charges of arson and conspiracy, as leading government opponents jailed by President Nicolas Maduro’s administration since the unrest began last month.

The arrest of San Cristobal Mayor Daniel Ceballos was made in Caracas hotel by agents from the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, known by its Spanish initials SEBIN, according to his aide, Ronni Pavolini.

Ceballos, who was in Caracas for a meeting of opposition mayors, had been outspoken in his criticism of what he called repression by security forces in his city. . .

While we focus on Ukraine and the missing plane, Venezuela goes uncovered and un-addressed by the president. - Greg Pollowitz

Science: Tequila Might Help You Lose Weight

Via Time:

A shot of tequila is not exactly part of a balanced diet, but sugars found within it could offer health benefits to the obese and diabetes sufferers

Sugars found in the plant that makes tequila could lower blood glucose levels for people with type 2 diabetes, and help obese people lose weight, researchers say.

A type of natural sugar called agavins come from the agave plant, which can be used to make tequila. These sugars (which are not the same as in the more commonly known agave syrup) are non-digestible and do not raise blood sugar, according to Mexican researchers.

In new research, the team of scientists fed mice a standard diet, and added agavins to some of their water. They discovered that the mice who consumed agavins ate less overall and had lower blood glucose levels. The effects were stronger than other artificial sweeteners like aspartame and agave syrup. The mice consuming agavins also produced a hormone called GLP-1 that keeps the stomach full longer and produces insulin, which is another reason it could be beneficial for people with diabetes and weight issues. . .

Maybe tequila can counteract the weight gain from marijuana? - Greg Pollowitz

Text of New Executive Order with Sanctions on Russia, Ukraine

Via the White House:

BLOCKING PROPERTY OF ADDITIONAL PERSONS CONTRIBUTING 

TO THE SITUATION IN UKRAINE

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (8 U.S.C. 1182(f)), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine — including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine — undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

(i) the persons listed in the Annex to this order; and

(ii) persons determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State:

(A) to be an official of the Government of the Russian Federation;

(B) to operate in the arms or related materiel sector in the Russian Federation;

(C) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly:

(1) a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation; or

(2) a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(D) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of:

(1) a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation; or

(2) a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order.

(b) The prohibitions in subsection (a) of this section apply except to the extent provided by statutes, or in regulations, orders, directives, or licenses that may be issued pursuant to this order, and notwithstanding any contract entered into or any license or permit granted prior to the effective date of this order.

Sec. 2. I hereby find that the unrestricted immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens determined to meet one or more of the criteria in section 1(a) of this order would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of such persons. Such persons shall be treated as persons covered by section 1 of Proclamation 8693 of July 24, 2011 (Suspension of Entry of Aliens Subject to United Nations Security Council Travel Bans and International Emergency Economic Powers Act Sanctions).

Sec. 3. I hereby determine that the making of donations of the type of articles specified in section 203(b)(2) of IEEPA (50 U.S.C. 1702(b)(2)) by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to section 1 of this order would seriously impair my ability to deal with the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660, and I hereby prohibit such donations as provided by section 1 of this order.

Sec. 4. The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:

(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and

(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.

Sec. 5. (a) Any transaction that evades or avoids, has the purpose of evading or avoiding, causes a violation of, or attempts to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

(b) Any conspiracy formed to violate any of the prohibitions set forth in this order is prohibited.

Sec. 6. For the purposes of this order:

(a) the term “person” means an individual or entity;

(b) the term “entity” means a partnership, association, trust, joint venture, corporation, group, subgroup, or other organization;

(c) the term “United States person” means any United States citizen, permanent resident alien, entity organized under the laws of the United States or any jurisdiction within the United States (including foreign branches), or any person in the United States; and

(d) the term the “Government of the Russian Federation” means the Government of the Russian Federation, any political subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including the Central Bank of the Government of the Russian Federation, and any person owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Government of the Russian Federation.

Sec. 7. For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.

Sec. 8. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to take such actions, including the promulgation of rules and regulations, and to employ all powers granted to the President by IEEPA, as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this order. The Secretary of the Treasury may redelegate any of these functions to other officers and agencies of the United States Government consistent with applicable law. All agencies of the United States Government are hereby directed to take all appropriate measures within their authority to carry out the provisions of this order.

Sec. 9. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.

Sec. 10. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 11. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time on March 17, 2014.

BARACK OBAMA

- Greg Pollowitz

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