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Shrinkage: Revised GDP Number Shows 1% Contraction in Q1 2014

Via Time:

The U.S.’ Gross Domestic Product contracted by 1 percent in the first quarter of 2014, marking the first contraction in years as government economists revised earlier figures by taking stock of additional glum measures

The U.S. economy contracted by 1% in the first quarter, marking the first GDP contraction in three years, according to revised estimates released by the Commerce Department on Thursday.

The figure was revised downwards from an earlier estimate of 0.1% growth, as government economists took stock of additional glum measures. The Commerce Department noted that on top of a winter wallop to retail and construction, real GDP was dragged down further by a rise in imports and a marked decline in inventory growth. The last time real GDP contracted was in the first quarter of 2011 at the tail end of a punishing recession. . .

Let's see them try to blame bad weather on this new number. - Greg Pollowitz

CNN: Obama Placed Shinseki on ‘Probation’ Last Week; Is on ‘Thin Ice’

Via Steve Brusk, CNN:

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On the day President Obama addressed the future leaders of the Army, he had a lackey go out and through a retired four-star Army general under the bus. This is an Obama problem, not a Shinseki problem. - Greg Pollowitz
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Twitter Co-Founder on the Leadership Lessons of Star Trek TNG

Via Washington Post:

Awaiting comment from William Shatner. . . - Greg Pollowitz

WaPost Editors on POTUS at West Point: ‘Obama Continues His Retreat’

Via Washington Post:

PRESIDENT OBAMA has retrenched U.S. global engagement in a way that has shaken the confidence of many U.S. allies and encouraged some adversaries. That conclusion can be heard not just from Republican hawks but also from senior officials from Singapore to France and, more quietly, from some leading congressional Democrats. As he has so often in his political career, Mr. Obama has elected to respond to the critical consensus not by adjusting policy but rather by delivering a big speech.

In his address Wednesday to the graduating cadets at West Point , Mr. Obama marshaled a virtual corps of straw men, dismissing those who “say that every problem has a military solution,” who “think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak,” who favor putting “American troops into the middle of [Syria’s] increasingly sectarian civil war,” who propose “invading every country that harbors terrorist networks” and who think that “working through international institutions . . . or respecting international law is a sign of weakness.”. . .

- Greg Pollowitz

The Only Thing That Stops a Bad Man with a Gun Is a Cowboy with a Lasso?

Via NY Daily News:

A gun-touting Georgia man was lassoed and then tied up by a cowboy after he fired shots at a church-organized Memorial Day weekend rodeo.

Celestino Moras, 25, reportedly showed up uninvited — and extremely drunk — to the Cassville, Bartow County, picnic event Sunday.

When asked to leave, he allegedly pulled out a pistol and started shooting — causing 300 of the guests to take off running.

Three people suffered minor injuries.

But he soon ran out of bullets, and was then lassoed by one of the rodeo cowboys. . .

Yippee-ki-ya mother. . .

Well, you know the rest.

- Greg Pollowitz
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Snowden Claims He Was an Undercover Spy For CIA, NSA

Via New York Post:

Former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked details of massive US intelligence-gathering programs, said in a US TV interview he “was trained as a spy” and had worked undercover overseas for US government agencies.

In an advance excerpt of his interview in Moscow with “NBC Nightly News” that aired on Tuesday, Snowden rejected comments by critics that he was a low-level analyst.

“Well, it’s no secret that the US tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than they do out of people,” Snowden told NBC news anchor Brian Williams. . .

If this is true, then his going to Russia is much worse, no? More of a defection now. - Greg Pollowitz

Cliven Bundy Leaves the Republican Party

Via the Christian Science Monitor:

A Nevada rancher whose dispute with the US Bureau of Land Management drew national attention is no longer a Republican.

Cliven Bundy has switched his affiliation to the Independent American Party.

Bundy and his supporters, some of them armed militia members, thwarted a BLM roundup of his cattle nearBunkerville in April.

The BLM says he owes more than $1 million in grazing fees and penalties for trespassing without a permit over 20 years, but he refuses to acknowledge federal authority on public lands. . .

I guess this means no big cookout at the Bundy ranch if Las Vegas gets the 2016 GOP convention. -

U.S. Training ‘Elite Antiterror Troops’ For Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali.

Via New York Times:

United States Special Operations troops are forming elite counterterrorism units in four countries in North and West Africa that American officials say are pivotal in the widening war against Al Qaeda’s affiliates and associates on the continent, even as they acknowledge the difficulties of working with weak allies.

The secretive program, financed in part with millions of dollars in classified Pentagon spending and carried out by trainers, including members of the Army’s Green Berets and Delta Force, was begun last year to instruct and equip hundreds of handpicked commandos in LibyaNigerMauritania and Mali.

The goal over the next few years is to build homegrown African counterterrorism teams capable of combating fighters like those in Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that abducted nearly 300 Nigerian schoolgirls last month. American military specialists are helping Nigerian officers in their efforts to rescue the girls.

“Training indigenous forces to go after threats in their own country is what we need to be doing,” said Michael A. Sheehan, who advocated the counterterrorism program last year when he was the senior Pentagon official in charge of Special Operations policy. Mr. Sheehan now holds the distinguished chair at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

As the United States military seeks to extend its counterterrorism reach in Africa, President Obama is expected to appear at West Point on Wednesday to emphasize a foreign policy that would avoid large land wars, like those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and instead stress the training of allied and partner nations to battle militants on their own soil.

 

As the recent coup in Mali was led by those trained by the U.S. trained military, I'm not sure we'll like the eventual outcome of this. - Greg Pollowitz

#YesAllWomen and #BringBackOurGirls Gets Support of Iran’s Khamenei

Via Twitter:

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We've reached peak-hashtag now. - Greg Pollowitz

Meet the Real Life ‘X-Men’ Among Us

Via PC Mag:

9 Humans With Real-Life X-Men Mutant Super Powers

Today, rabid fan boys and girls around the world will stand in line for hours to see X-Men: Days of Future Past. But if it’s mutant super powers they wanted to see, there’s no need to depend on some fictional, CGI-enhanced Hollywood make-em-ups. There are very real people with very real gene-based super abilities all around us!

First, let’s start off with the fact that mutations do not mean retractable adamantium claws nor the ability to control the weather. In fact, these little genetic typos typically result in very minor changes, which (when they aren’t deadly) are often not visible.

Mutations are the means by which nature adds new variants into the genetic pool. If these traits are advantageous (or at least benign), they are passed along through the generations until they become a normal part of a species’ grander gene pool.

Without mutations, evolution would not be possible—species could never gain new abilities or attributes. For example, in our species’ recent past (around 12,000 years ago), a single human had a mutation which gave him the “superpower” to drink cow’s milk and not get sick, which was then passed to half the world’s population. Now we have cheeseburgers.

Scientists believe that every time the human genome duplicates itself there are around 100 new mutations. They’re pretty common, and usually negligible. However, it would stand to reason that within the pantheon of human mutations, some would express themselves in the form of extraordinary superhuman abilities.

Check out our slideshow for nine examples of medically verified human abilities resulting from minute changes in genetic code. Or, to put it in a much more interesting way: Here are nine examples of real-life mutant super heroes. . .

I'm not a fan of listicle-journalism, but some of these were interesting. Like the Hulk-baby in No. 2. - Greg Pollowitz

Firefighter Reunited with the Abandoned Newborn He Rescued 18 Years Ago

Via WISTV:

A Gibson County man who saved a newborn baby’s life 18 years ago surprised her at her high school graduation.   

Little Skyler James was saved by current AMR Rep. Charlie Heflin in 1995. 

Skyler recently graduated from Charleston High School in Charleston, Illinois. Following the ceremony, little did she know she was in for an emotional reunion.

The story begins back in November, 1995 on a very cold morning in Champagne, Illinois.

“My birth mother abandoned me,” said Skyler. “I was left in a cemetery. That night, there was a call put out to the dispatchers.”

An anonymous woman called 911 around 7a.m. that morning and told dispatchers a child had been abandoned under a pine tree at Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Police and fire crews were dispatched there, but couldn’t find anything.

That’s when local firefighter Charlie Heflin, who happened to be listening to the scanner traffic, decided to help.

On a hunch, Charlie went to a different nearby cemetery to look for the infant.

He didn’t find anything and started walking to his truck, but something told him to check again.

“I heard a little whimper when I got close to the tree,’ said Charlie. “I dug down inside this real huge pine tree and found her.”

Charlie says he scooped up the baby girl who was covered in blood and leaves, umbilical cord still attached, and was clinging to life in the sub-zero temperatures.

“I handed her off to the paramedics and I didn’t see her since,” said Charlie.

Skyler was adopted five days later by Bonnie and Greg James.

When Skyler turned five, Bonnie started looking for Charlie.

“We had his name from the newspaper,” said Bonnie. “Social media wasn’t what it is today back then.”

Just three weeks prior to Skyler’s graduation, Bonnie found Charlie on Facebook. She called the Patoka Fire Station and finally got a hold of him.

“The call was, ‘Are you Charlie Heflin? Do you remember rescuing a baby back in 1995,’” said Charlie. “My heart just sank.”. . .

Wow. - Greg Pollowitz

2.42 Million More Cars Recalled by GM

Via Los Angeles Times:

General Motors’ recall saga continued Tuesday with the beleaguered automaker recalling another 2.42 million vehicles for four separate issues. The move also means GM will take a $400-million charge against second-quarter earnings.

None of the four recalls is related to GM’s faulty ignition switches. That issue, which has been linked to at least 13 deaths and recalls of 2.6 million vehicles, has prompted federal fines and several investigations into why GM neglected to issue the recalls for more than a decade.

Tuesday’s recalls bring the total number of GM recalls in 2014 to 13.7 million vehicles.

The most serious issue involved 1,402 Cadillac Escalade and Escalade ESVs from the 2015 model year. The hulking luxury SUVs have front passenger airbags that were not properly attached to the instrument panel. As a result, they may only partially deploy in a crash. . .

Are there any GM cars that haven't been recalled? - Greg Pollowitz

John Kerry Doesn’t Mention Boko Haram in Commencement Speech at Boston College

Via BostInno:

. . .In times of crisis, violence, strife, epidemic, and instability – believe me – the world still looks to the United States of America as a partner of first resort. People aren’t worried about our presence; they’re worried about our leaving. One of the great privileges of being Secretary of State is getting to see that firsthand.

In December, I walked through the devastation left behind by the typhoon in the Philippines. The U.S. military and USAID had arrived on the scene before countries that are much closer than we are.

This month in the Democratic Republic of Congo, I saw how the United States is supporting surgeons and Catholic nuns helping victims of violence and abuse.

And just a few weeks ago in Ethiopia, I saw what our sustained commitment to combating AIDS is achieving. Local doctors and nurses are making possible the dream of an AIDS-free generation. We’re on the cusp of achieving that.

And what we have done to turn back the armies of defeatism and indifference in the fight against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and even polio – this work should give every one of you confidence to confront another cross-border, cross-generational challenge, the challenge of a changing climate. If we’re going to live up to our values, this is a test that we have to meet.

Now look, I know this is hard, because I spent almost 30 years in the United States Senate pushing this issue, trying to get colleagues to move. We got up to maybe 55 votes, couldn’t quite get to 60. And I know it’s hard to feel the urgency. As we sit here on an absolutely beautiful morning in Boston, you might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your community, or your families. But let me tell you, it is.

Two major recent reports, one from the UN and one from retired U.S. military leaders, warn us not just of the crippling consequences to come, but that some of them are already here. Ninety-seven percent of the world’s scientists tell us this is urgent. Why? Because if crops can’t grow, there’ll be food insecurity. If there’s less water because of longer droughts, if there are stronger and more powerful storms, things will change in a hurry and they will change for the worse.

Climate change is directly related to the potential of greater conflict and greater stability – instability. I’m telling you that there are people in parts of the world – in Africa today, they fight each other over water. They kill each over it. And if glaciers are melting and there’s less water available and more people, that is a challenge we have to face. And guess what? It is the poorest and the weakest who face the greatest risk. As Father Drinan would say, we should be in anguish over this. (Applause.). . .

I've excerpted the part where he talks about Africa. How can he deliver an address at college founded with a "Jesuit, Catholic mission," and where female student outnumber male students 52% -- 48% and not speak about the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam? As noted, he does speak about Africa, but only as it relates to his and the president's policy ideas on energy and global warming. 

There are close to 300 young girls who only cared about getting an education now living as slaves, and John Kerry offers them solar panels. #BringBackOurAmerica

- Greg Pollowitz

Obama Is ‘Madder Than Hell’ at VA Problems

Via USA Today:

President Obama is “madder than hell” over delays at VA hospitals that may have contributed to the deaths of patients, and is determined to make improvements, a top aide says.

“At the same time that we’re looking at accountability we want to continue to perform to provide our veterans the services that they have earned,” said White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough in an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS’ Face The Nation.

A variety of investigations are focused on claims across the country that VA delay contributed to deaths, and that officials falsified records to conceal the lengths of waiting times for patients. . .

Is this "let me be clear, I'm mad as hell" or just a regular "I'm mad as hell"? - Greg Pollowitz

Mark Twain Too Racist for Nevada Tribe

Via Fox News:

An effort to name a Lake Tahoe cove after American literary icon Mark Twain has been scuttled for the second time in three years, citing opposition from a tribe that says the writer held racist views of Native Americans.

The Nevada State Board on Geographic Names this week voted to indefinitely table the request after hearing opposition from the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, whose ancestral homeland includes Lake Tahoe. Darrel Cruz, head of the tribe’s cultural resource department, said the late author did not deserve to have a scenic cove on the lake’s northeast shore named for Samuel Clemens, Twain’s real name.

“Samuel Clemens had racist views on the native people of this country and has captured those views in his literature,” Cruz wrote in a letter to the board. “Therefore, we cannot support the notion of giving a place name in Lake Tahoe to Samuel Clemens.”. . .

Unbelievable. - Greg Pollowitz

South Korea’s President on the Ferry Disaster: ‘The ultimate responsibility. . .incident is mine.’

Via :

South Korea’s president announced plans Monday to disband the coast guard and root out corruption and collusion between regulators and shipping companies that furious citizens believe led to a ferry disaster last month that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

President Park Geun-hye’s first televised address to the nation since the April 16 sinking began with a deep bow and ended with her tearfully reading the names of passengers and crew who died trying to save others. With her approval ratings plummeting ahead of mayoral and governor elections in about two weeks, the speech sought to acknowledge widespread anger over government failures as well as chart a path forward.

Most of the victims were students from a single high school near Seoul who were traveling to the southern tourist island of Jeju.

“We failed to rescue students who we could have saved,” Park said. “The ultimate responsibility for not properly dealing with this incident is mine.”. . .

I wish our politicians -- both parties -- would display even a sliver of this sense of responsibility. - Greg Pollowitz

The Center for American Progress Wants Oversight Changes to Obamacare

Via Reuters:

A group of healthcare experts close to the White House is urging the Obama administration to appoint a new chief executive officer to oversee Obamacare’s online health insurance exchanges and safeguard the next open enrollment period that begins in six months.

The recommendation, in a report due to be released by the Washington-based Center for American Progress think tank, calls for a major shakeup within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which presided over last year’s disastrous rollout of the federal market portal, HealthCare.gov.

The idea would be to take the exchanges out of the current bureaucracy and put them in the hands of a CEO with private-sector experience who could run them as true e-commerce sites. The CEO would answer only to President Barack Obama and his intended new health secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell.

CAP’s plan would have the CEO assume full oversight of both federal and state exchanges, as well as insurers and market regulations, but not Medicare or Medicaid.

The White House said in a statement it had not reviewed the CAP recommendation, but was open to considering “all ideas” that might improve the law’s implementation after the botched October rollout and subsequent recovery.

In other words, Obamacare is still broken and CAP knows it. - Greg Pollowitz

Army Ranger Who Helped Rescue Jessica Lynch Dies After Attack in Afghanistan

Via Stars and Stripes:

A Fort Bliss command sergeant major died at a Texas hospital a week after his unit was attacked in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said Thursday.

Command Sgt. Maj. Martin R. Barreras, 49, of Tuscon, Ariz., died Tuesday at San Antonio Military Medical Center from wounds sustained when enemy forces opened fire on his unit May 6 in Herat province.

Fox News reported Friday that a friend and fellow Ranger said in an email that Barreras was the leader of the Army unit that conducted the successful rescue of Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital. The friend said Barreras personally handed Lynch to another soldier to transfer her to the helicopter that evacuated her from the area.

And in a story on military.com, he is credited with advising the actors in the 2001 film, “Black Hawk Down.”

Then-Sgt. 1st Class Martin Barreras was quoted as saying, “I want them to remember the sense of teamwork that is inherent to a Ranger organization and the amount of attention to detail that’s required from every individual that is part of that team.”

Barreras was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas.

“Command Sgt. Maj. Barreras was my friend and battle buddy,” Lt. Col. Edward Brady said. “I’ve spent more time with him than my wife since I’ve taken command. I believe that I was the luckiest battalion commander in the Army to have him as my (command sergeant major).”. . .

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Michelle Obama’s New Hashtags: #DrinkH2O and #SpreadTheWater

Via Twitter:
Because we need a dog and the Federal Government to remind us we're thirsty. - Greg Pollowitz

Woody Allen Weighs In on Alec Baldwin and His Bicycle Arrest

Via Twitter:

 

Thankfully there's "one and only" Woody Allen. - Greg Pollowitz

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