The first of two parts
For RealClearPolitics, Adam O’Neal writes: Last month, as the Senate was busy negotiating the final details of its Ukraine aid package, Majority Leader Harry Reid became temporarily distracted with a campaign finance issue. Since winning re-election in 2010, Reid’s campaign had purchased gifts for supporters and donors from vendors like Bed Bath & Beyond, Amazon, Nordstrom, and the Senate gift shop, among others. But one round of spending was directed to a less recognizable firm: Ryan Elisabeth, a jewelry line.
In 2012 and 2013, the campaign spent $31,267 purchasing gifts from the company, which is owned by Reid’s granddaughter, Ryan Elisabeth Reid. All told, she took in nearly seven times more cash than all vendors of donor gifts combined during that period of time.
Veteran Nevada political journalist Jon Ralston first reported the news after receiving a tip about the expenditures. (Ryan Elisabeth’s last name did not appear on the FEC reports, and the senator’s office initially failed to confirm her identity.) While Sen. Reid does not appear to have broken the law, he understood that the purchases created a perception of favoritism. Lamenting the unwanted attention heaped on his granddaughter, he decided after the news broke that “it would be best to pay for her work out of my own pocket.”
This was not the first time that Reid had mixed family and politics — or potentially run afoul of ethics rules.
Harry Reid has spent more than 40 years in government, starting as a small city’s attorney and eventually becoming the most powerful senator in the country. He has raised tens of millions of dollars in political contributions, established himself as an institution in Nevada politics along the way, and made himself a very wealthy man. His humble roots — from growing up in a remote desert town to working six days a week as a Capitol police officer while in law school — are legend in Washington and Nevada. Reid exhibits the toughness of a once destitute boy who completely transformed his life through determination, hard work — and good luck. Read the rest of this entry »
We can survive cranks, but not a criminal government.
For NRO, Kevin D. Williamson writes: Cliven Bundy’s racial rhetoric is indefensible, and it has inspired a lot of half-bright commentary from the left today directed at your favorite correspondent, mostly variations on this theme: Don’t you feel stupid for having compared him to Mohandas Gandhi?
Short version: No. There is a time to break the law, and the fact that the law is against you does not mean that justice is against you. The law was against Washington and Martin Luther King Jr., too. That does not mean that what is transpiring in Nevada is the American Revolution or the civil-rights movement; it means that there is a time to break the law. As I wrote, “Cliven Bundy may very well be a nut job, but one thing is for sure: The federal government wouldn’t treat a tortoise the way it has treated him.”
Critics on the left, being an ignorant bunch, may be unaware of the fact, but the example of Mohandas Gandhi is here particularly apt, given that the great man had some pretty creepy ideas about everything from race to homosexuality, for example writing that blacks aspired to nothing more than passing their time in “indolence and nakedness,” objecting to blacks’ being housed in Indian neighborhoods, etc. Americans, many of whom seem to believe that Mr. Gandhi’s first name was “Mahatma,” generally confuse the Indian historical figure, a man whose biography contains some complexity, with the relatively straightforward character from the Richard Attenborough movie. We remember Gandhi and admire him because he was right about the thing most closely associated with him. In the same way, there is more to the life of Thomas Jefferson than his having been a slave owner. The question of standing in opposition to a domineering federal government that acts as the absentee landlord for nine-tenths of the state of Nevada is only incidentally related to Cliven Bundy’s having backward views about race. Mr. Bundy’s remarks reflect poorly on the man, not on the issue with which the man is associated. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent call for the PLA to speed up building an integrated space and air force has drawn keen international attention. Foreign media are giving sensationalizing reports on that. There is no shortage of bold speculation. Some media have even reported that China is testing an aerospaceplane codenamed Shenlong that is able to reach the US in one hour. It deals a heavy blow at the US if what they report is true.
According to a report the US has most recently published, China is testing Shenlong aerospace fighter that is able to reach the US in one hour. The report says that Shenlong is much smaller than US X-37B fighter and has been researched for much less time, but it can carry small rockets with surprising power.
There is information that Fujiang Longxi Bearing (Group) Corp., Ltd. conscientiously cooperated with the research…
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Today, Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed into law House Bill 60 , the most comprehensive pro-gun legislation in state history. HB 60 passed in the Georgia Senate by a 37-18 vote on March 18 and in the state House of Representatives by a 112-58 vote on March 20. HB 60 will take effect on July 1, 2014.
HB 60 enacts the following pro-gun reforms for all law-abiding gun owners in Georgia:
- Removes fingerprinting for renewal of Weapons Carry Licenses (WCL).
- Prohibits the state from creating and maintaining a database of WCL holders.
- Creates an absolute defense for the legal use of deadly force in the face of a violent attack.
- Lowers the age to obtain a concealed WCL for self-defense from 21 to 18 for active duty military, with specific training.
- Allows for the use of firearm sound suppressors while hunting.
- Repeals the unnecessary and duplicative state-required license for a firearms dealer, instead requiring only a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
- Prohibits a ban on firearms in public housing, ensuring that the right to self-defense should not be infringed based on where one calls home.
- Codifies the ability to legally carry, with a WCL, in sterile/non-secure areas of airports.
From The Chinese University of Hong Kong: A New Algorithm That Recognizes Faces Better Than People CanPosted: April 24, 2014
It’s already a little eerie when Facebook suggests tags for who it recognizes in your photo, especially for faces that are small, blurry, or otherwise difficult to distinguish. What if Facebook were even better–better at recognizing people in pictures than you are?
Two computer scientists are announcing they’ve made a program that is better at matching photos than people are, the Physics arXiv Blog reports. This is the first time a program has performed better than people at recognizing people.
To be sure, the new algorithm, developed at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, outperforms people in a very specific task with a very specific set of photos. The Hong Kong researchers asked the algorithm to tell whether two faces are the same, drawing from a set of 13,000 photos of 600 public figures. Humans get the right answer 97.53 percent of the time, on this test. The Chinese University of Hong Kong algorithm is right 98.52 percent of the time. (You can try some sample matches at the Physics arXiv Blog!)
This Day in History : Library of Congress Established April 24th, 1800, by President John Adams for $5000Posted: April 24, 2014
President John Adams approves legislation to appropriate $5,000 to purchase “such books as may be necessary for the use of Congress,” thus establishing the Library of Congress. The first books, ordered from London, arrived in 1801 and were stored in the U.S. Capitol, the library’s first home. The first library catalog, dated April 1802, listed 964 volumes and nine maps. Twelve years later, the British army invaded the city of Washington and burned the Capitol, including the then 3,000-volume Library of Congress.
Former president Thomas Jefferson, who advocated the expansion of the library during his two terms in office, responded to the loss by selling his personal library, the largest and finest in the country, to Congress to “recommence” the library. The purchase of Jefferson’s 6,487 volumes was approved in the next year, and a professional librarian, George Watterston, was hired to replace the House clerks in the administration of the library. In 1851, a second major fire at the library destroyed about two-thirds of its 55,000 volumes, including two-thirds of the Thomas Jefferson library. Congress responded quickly and generously to the disaster, and within a few years a majority of the lost books were replaced. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are 12 celebrities who have been convicted of killing other people, whether they meant to or not.
One year after his breakout hit “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Matthew Broderick was driving with then-girlfriend Jennifer Gray (who played his sister in the movie) while on vacation in Northern Ireland when his rental car swerved into the wrong lane and killed a 28-year-old woman and her mother. He was charged with careless driving and fined $175. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
“Mork and Mindy” and “Designing Women” actress Fay Dewitt was convicted of stabbing and killing her husband with a letter opener in 1965…(see the whole 12-pack of killer celebs)
ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, exchanged bows with the president before demonstrating that it could kick a soccer ball.
“How about that, that was pretty impressive,” Obama marveled after the demonstration.
Later, during a meeting with students Obama mentioned his meeting with ASIMO.
“We saw some truly amazing robots — although I have to say the robots were a little scary. They were too lifelike. They were amazing.”
TOKYO (AP) — The voice was slightly halting, childlike. “Welcome to Miraikan, Mr. President, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
President Barack Obama bowed, looking delighted.
His greeter, after all, was a 55-inch-tall, give or take, humanoid robot with the look of a diminutive Star Wars storm trooper.
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Obama said, pausing to watch the robot, named ASIMO, perform during a tour of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Read the rest of this entry »
PYONGYANG, North Korea — Eric Talmadge reports: Step aside, Sea of Blood Opera. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un‘s favorite guitar-slinging, miniskirt-sporting girl group, the Moranbong Band, is back. And these ladies know how to shimmy.
After a six-month hiatus, the queens of North Korea’s pop scene are once again playing to standing-room-only crowds and rave reviews in the state media. They’re the darlings of primetime TV, such as it is. Even athletes at this month’s Pyongyang marathon were treated to one of the band’s livelier tunes – blared at them from a sound truck.
More than merely a pop sensation, the Moranbong Band, said to have been hand-picked by Kim himself, has since its stage debut in 2012 come to be the softer, more hummable face of the new Kim regime, despite speculation at least one of its members had fallen out of favor in connection with the purge of Kim’s once-powerful uncle earlier this year. Read the rest of this entry »
ABC News reports: An Afghan security guard opened fire on a group of doctors at a Kabul hospital on Thursday, killing three American doctors and leaving two other people wounded, officials said. A father and son were among the victims, ABC News has learned.
According to Kabul police, a female American nurse was also wounded in the attack.
The victims’ identities are not yet known, but the U.S. Embassy in Kabul confirmed that they are Americans. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Friday afternoon, the time when officials make announcements they hope no one will notice, the State Department declared that it is putting off a decision on Keystone XL indefinitely — or at least, it seems, well past November’s midterm elections. This time, the excuse is litigation in Nebraska over the proposed route, because that might lead to a change in the project that various federal agencies will want to consider. The State Department might even decide to substantially restart the environmental review process . This is yet another laughable reason to delay a project that the federal government has been scrutinizing for more than five years.
At this point, there is little doubt about the big picture. After two thorough environmental analyses, State Department experts determined that the pipeline’s impact probably would be minimal, even on climate change-inducing carbon dioxide emissions. The economic rewards of extracting Canadian oil are too attractive and the options for getting it out of the country are too numerous. We would rather see Canadian crude traveling a well-built, well-regulated pipeline in the United States than on the rail cars, barges and ocean tankers that will move it until cheaper options inevitably come online. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Washington Times, Douglas Ernst reports: The Pentagon’s research agency tasked with developing breakthrough technologies for national security has come up with a plan for dealing with shrinking budgets: robotic flight crews..
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is currently working on technology that will be able to replace up to five crew members on military aircraft, in effect making the lone human operator a “mission supervisor,” tech magazine Wired reported.
The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) would offer the military a “tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would enable the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft to enable operation with reduced onboard crew,” DARPA said….(read more)
Is it constitutional to require strippers to wear pasties and G-strings?
In 1991’s Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc, the Supreme Court ruled that go-go dancers in Indiana could indeed be compelled to cover up their naughty bits. The decision upholding such bans is the subject of the provocative—and nudity-filled!—play Arguendo.
“Justices start off in swivel chairs just like the real justices,” explains Arguendo’s director John Collins. “Then those chairs are rolling all around the stage, the podium rolls around the stage, and eventually some actual, total, nudity gets involved in the argument as well.” The play’s text is faithful to Barnes’ oral arguments. “What you hear in Arguendo is exactly what you would have heard in the courtroom,” says Collins.
The lobby of Washington D.C.’s Woolly Mammoth Theatre hosts an interactive exhibit that allows the audience to engage the facts of the case and arrive at its own conclusion.
“I hope what you’re left with is that it’s not the easiest case in the world,” says Collins. “There are interesting questions on both sides of it.”
Collins spoke with Reason TV about the unique power of live performance, Arguendo’s experimental staging, and the irony that theaters, unlike strip clubs, are generally exempted from bans on public nudity. Read the rest of this entry »
Calling the Industry Standard Guide Too Technical, Timothy Hill Brews Up a New Flavor Wheel
The 31-year-old purchaser for Durham, N.C., roaster Counter Culture Coffee has rolled out a new version of a tool long used by coffee tasters to elicit the adjectives that may be on the tip of the tongue: a flavor wheel.
Flavor wheels are colorful reference tools that aid food and beverage tasters of all stripes. Mr. Hill’s pastel-hued downloadable disc includes 140 terms, each representing a food or flavor that may be used to describe a cup of coffee, from snow peas to black currant, from clementine to “meat-like.” The terms are ones the wheel’s defenders say are accessible to most coffee drinkers.
His new wheel is gaining traction, challenging the industry standard: the nearly 20-year-old flavor wheel of the Specialty Coffee Association of America, a trade group whose members include Mr. Hill’s employer.
The SCAA’s own circular guide outlines the flavors and defects that are wafted, slurped and evaluated by coffee purveyors from Folgers to roasters like Counter Culture, whose retail coffee fetches around $15 for a 12-ounce bag. But that wheel is too technical, with terms like “enzymatic” and “nippy,” for many coffee drinkers to understand, Mr. Hill said. “It’s…not the most user-friendly wheel,” he said. Read the rest of this entry »
For the optimists, the first state visit to Japan by a U.S. president since Bill Clinton in 1996, will serve to reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance as well as of Japan’s cherished privilege of being America’s best friend in Asia, especially in the context of an increasingly volatile geopolitical situation in this region.
For the less optimistic observers, the mere fact that the strength of the alliance needs to be reaffirmed is in itself a worrying indication, given the unmistakable signs of glitches and cracks that have begun to appear. The unprecedented difficulty Japan had getting Obama to agree to a stopover in Tokyo during this tour of Asia is cited as a telltale sign of the unease that is beginning to permeate bilateral ties.
Shifting Alliances in Asia
Obama comes to Asia with a vital mission of reassuring both allies and adversaries of Uncle Sam’s commitment to maintaining order in this part of the world. That will not be easy, since recent crises in Libya, Syria and Ukraine have only demonstrated how weary America has become of flexing its muscles – even when challenged. And in Asia especially, U.S. resolve is constantly being tested and challenged by China and North Korea.
Be it in Northeast or Southeast Asia, Obama will be met with growing doubt over America’s commitment. This has led several countries to start reshuffling the cards of existing alliances. America itself, while asking its allies to beef up their defense against China, is at the same time seeking Beijing’s cooperation in managing major international issues. South Korea, a traditional U.S. ally, is drawing closer to China in a move that, viewed from Washington, could threaten the solidarity of the U.S.-Korea-Japan alliance, especially when this Sino-South Korean rapprochement is being partly fuelled by their shared anger at revisionist Japan. North Korea, too, has thrown out its traditional alliance with China and has shown signs of warming to Japan in what may jeopardize the outcome of the Chinese-led Six Party Talks over the North Korean nuclear issue. Meanwhile, the Ukraine crisis has raised the possibility of a strategic rapprochement between Russia and China in the developing context of a new Cold War. Taking an ambiguous stand on the Ukraine crisis, China will thus be able to play the “Russian card” to bargain for more U.S. concessions in the management of Asian affairs, for example in its simmering territorial feud with Japan. Read the rest of this entry »
Darren Franich and Jef Castro match classic movie art style to Don Drapers world
Former Beijing multimillionaire Xia Keming and his three companions were executed on Tuesday for killing eight people between 1999 and 2007, the Beijing Times observed on Wednesday.
Xia once served as a civil servant in Beijing. He was sentenced in 1988 to three years in prison for the illegaldealingof train tickets. After being released, Xia started a business in Shenzhen, and also owned 19 percent of shares in a Beijing-based company valued at more than 100 million yuan ($16 million).
The murder spree began when Xia asked his brother Xia Kezhi and two of his ex-cellmates to kill a business partner surnamed Liu.
In the following eight years, the four killed seven other people, including Xia Keming’s business partners, mistress and acquaintances.
To cover up their crimes, the gang bribed officials with cash, cars, luxury watches and expensive rosewood furniture. Read the rest of this entry »