Big Win For Women

Grind for May 20th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.


Trying Something New

The Headline

New vaccine could halt Ebola outbreak in DRC

The Grind

Ebola outbreaks have occurred somewhat regularly over the past four decades, with the most deadly episode claiming more than 11,000 lives in West Africa between 2014 and 2016.

Health officials this month declared an “outbreak” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). As of last Monday, there had been 41 cases and 20 deaths.

Health officials in the past have stopped the spread of Ebola using “contact tracing” – a tedious procedure in which officials ask each patient to provide a list of any individuals they may have come into contact with recently. Officials then monitor everyone on the list for signs of infection.

As you can imagine, this method leaves ample room for mistakes and oversight.

The Details

Health officials this time are hopeful that a new vaccine can help stop the spread of Ebola.

Clinical trials suggest the V920 vaccine can effectively immunize uninfected individuals from Ebola. V920 has yet to earn FDA approval, but the agency is allowing the DRC to use it under its “compassionate use” policy.

The key problem now is how to transport the vaccine through DRC’s rough terrain fast enough to reach those most likely to have come into contact with an infected individual. On top of that, the vaccine must be kept between 76° F and 112° F at all times.

“Still, while using V920 might not be simple, it has the potential to play a major role in preventing this Ebola outbreak from turning out like the one in West Africa just a couple of years back,” notes Futurism. And if the FDA and WHO are able to prove that V920 is safe and effective, “Ebola’s reign of terror over the world might finally come to an end.”



Congratulations

The Headline

Gina Haspel becomes first woman to lead CIA

The Grind

Senate lawmakers on Thursday confirmed Gina Haspel as CIA Director, making her the first female to lead the intelligence agency.

The vote was tight, with 54 Senators voting in favor and 45 voting against. Those who opposed Haspel disagreed with her use of waterboarding and other harsh tactics to obtain information from suspected al-Qaida members in Thailand in 2002.

Haspel was further criticized for her 2005 effort to destroy videotapes of the waterboardings she oversaw.

“With the benefit of hindsight and my experience as a senior agency leader, the enhanced interrogation program is not one the CIA should have undertaken,” wrote Haspel.

During her confirmation hearing, Haspel promised Senators she would not initiate any new detention and interrogation programs during her tenure as CIA Director.

The Background

Haspel, 61, has been working undercover for the CIA in the US and other countries since 1985. Her undercover status was lifted in 2017 when she became deputy director under Mike Pompeo.

Haspel’s nomination makes her the first career CIA officer to lead the spy agency since William Colby in 1973. Haspel was nominated to fill the position vacated by Mike Pompeo, who became Secretary of State after Trump fired Rex Tillerson.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… More than 6,000 people with pillow-related injuries check into U.S. emergency rooms every year!

Treading Dangerous Waters

Grind for May 19th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald


Dark Roast

The Headline

LAPD busted for using predictive algorithm to stop crimes before they are committed

The Grind

The Los Angeles Police Department this month was forced to unveil a controversial crime-predicting program after a lawsuit filed by the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition.

LAPD documents provide “evidence that policing algorithms, which require officers to keep a checklist of (and keep an eye on) 12 people deemed most likely to commit a crime, are continuing to propagate a vicious cycle of disproportionately high arrests of black Angelinos, as well as other racial minorities,” reports In Justice Today.

The Details

The program relies on artificial intelligence to predict which individuals are most likely to commit a crime. A person earns “points” for past offenses and encounters with police. People with the most points are monitored in expectation of future crimes.

Encounters with police are often unavoidable for persons of interest, and each encounter resets the clock for future surveillance – which can last up to two years since their last interaction with police.

Other problems with the system include:

– The algorithms rely on data from a city where minority neighborhoods are over-policed.

– Individuals trying to move on from past crimes face extra surveillance.

– Individuals who may be associated with or know about criminal activity can face extra surveillance even if they have done nothing wrong.

“When we look at LAPD stops, the black population is completely overrepresented,” said Jamie Garcia, a lead organizer for the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition. The algorithms direct cops to “find these people and to basically harass them…If you’re constantly being surveilled, constantly being harassed, the chance of something going wrong…The next thing you know you’re a chalk outline.”

In other words, LAPD units are ordered to check up on persons of interest, without probable cause, to check for things like outstanding warrants or illegal gun seizures. Each encounter adds to that person’s point score, which leads to more surveillance.

And as social science shows us, people who are made to feel like criminals are more likely to become criminals.



Good Timing

The Headline

Trump Administration considers “gag rule” that could block funding for Planned Parenthood

The Grind

The Trump Administration is thinking about reinstating a Reagan-era “domestic gag rule” that would prevent family planning clinics that receive Title X funding from talking about abortion or referring patients to abortion providers.

The rule would also require clinics to be physically and financially separate from abortion services.

Democrats rightly argue that the rule is specifically designed to defund Planned Parenthood, which accounts for more than 40% of Title X funds.

The Implication

Republicans are frustrated by Trump’s failure to defund Planned Parenthood, and cutting the abortion provider’s access to federal funds just before midterms elections could go a long way towards maintaining the party’s majority in Congress.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has received letters signed by more than 80 pro-life groups and over 200 GOP members of Congress pushing to reinstate the gag rule.

“For far too long the Title X Family Planning Program has been integrated with abortion centers,” reads the letter. “It is time to act swiftly to disentangle abortion centers from the Title X network. Doing so would be consistent with the President’s pledge and subsequent actions to defund Planned Parenthood and reallocate funding to alternative providers.”

Success in reinstating the gag rule could result in more voters coming out to support lawmakers who pushed for action on this, but it will also galvanize pro-choice Democrats who insist the restrictions would be a disaster for low-income women seeking access to reproductive healthcare.

“We’ve seen dramatic examples of what happens when states like Texas and Indiana tamper with family planning funds: substantial numbers of people are deprived of healthcare they want, resulting in significantly higher rates of STIs and unintended pregnancy,” said ACLU President Clare Coleman.

The ACLU joined Planned Parenthood affiliates in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Utah in a lawsuit which claims the gag rule is specifically designed to defund Planned Parenthood and to benefit clinics that promote abstinence over contraception.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The University of Alaska stretches over 4 time zones.

New Funding For The Border Wall

Grind for May 18th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.” – Abraham Lincoln


A Good Idea

The Headline

Louisiana Senator wants drug cartels to pay for border wall

The Grind

Republican Senator Bill Cassidy (LA) has introduced a proposal that would enhance border security with money collected from drug traffickers.

“The cartels move about $110 billion dollars a year from the US to Mexico. If we can stop that, confiscate the money, we can use cartel money to build the wall.”

The proposal offers a unique solution to Trump’s promised border wall, which has been delayed thanks to Democratic lawmakers’ refusal to provide funding.

Mexico has also refused to help fund the wall.

The Details

Efforts to crack down on money laundering and drug trafficking at the southern border would be funded using government bonds, which would be repaid using the money collected from cartels.

“It won’t be the Mexican government; it will be the Mexican cartels, and that’s probably the better party to bill there,” Cassidy told reporters last Sunday.

Cassidy also called on the federal government to hold mayors of “sanctuary cities” accountable for their “illegal” behavior. He specifically referenced Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who in February warned constituents about an imminent ICE raid.

“If you have a mayor who’s subverting the law, allowing people who are criminals to beat it out, before they get arrested and then in some cases, those criminals go out and commit other crimes, there should be a consequence on a federal level, but ideally the voters would vote them out. Most voters want safe streets, not less safe streets.”



It’s About Time

The Headline

George Soros gives up on Hungary

The Grind

George Soros on Tuesday announced he would be pulling his Open Society Foundations out of Budapest and moving operations to Berlin.

The move follows months of fierce opposition from the ruling Fidesz Party and Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who won a landslide victory in April after a re-election campaign based on opposition to Soros.

Orban has repeatedly warned voters that Soros’s liberal immigration policies threaten to flood Hungary with Muslim immigrants and undermine the national culture.

The Details

OSF says it is leaving an “increasingly repressive political and legal environment in Hungary” and the organization’s president, Patrick Gaspard, has accused Orban of “misrepresenting” Soros’s work and “repressing civil society [in Hungary] for the sake of political gain.”

Orban and his new government are currently working to pass a “Stop Soros” bill that would impose crippling taxes on NGOs working with migrants and give the government the ability to ban any organization it deems a “threat to national security.”

Activists claim the legislation against Soros and OSF is another step towards authoritarianism for Orban, who in recent years has increased his control over the media and placed allies in control of once-independent institutions.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… 90 percent of women who walk into a department store immediately turn to the right.

America Can’t Win For Losing

Grind for May 17th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald


Between A Rock And A Hard Place

The Headline

Seattle wants to fix homeless crisis with help from Amazon

The Grind

The city of Seattle is proposing a head tax on big corporations to help pay for shelters and other services as it struggles to address an unprecedented increase in homelessness.

The head tax would be about $20 million for Amazon, which employs more than 45,000 Seattle residents. The annual tax would increase to $39 million in 2021 when the head tax switches to a 0.7% payroll tax.

Supporters of the head tax insist Amazon is at least partially responsible for the massive increase in rent that has driven Seattle residents into the streets.

“We need companies that are profitable and making billions of dollars every year to help with the folks that are being forced out of housing and ending up on the street,” says Seattle City Council member Mike O’Brien.

The Implication

Amazon has responded to the tax proposal by threatening to halt a construction project that could add as many as 7,000 jobs and to sub-lease a building it was intending to occupy. Amazon’s employees also oppose the tax because they are afraid of losing their jobs.

The city of Seattle does not collect tax on income or capital gains, and has a law which blocks it from increasing property tax by more than 1% per year. These regressive policies leave the city with little room to find the money it needs to address the homeless crisis.

The decision lawmakers are facing is whether to tax residents (thereby increasing the problem they are trying to solve) or to tax corporations, which could drive those employers away and result in job loss.



Cities currently vying for Amazon’s “HQ2” should take note of the crisis in Seattle before they offer up tax breaks they might not be able to make up for with the increased population, traffic, and rent that comes with America’s favorite online retailer.

“The more desperate cities become, the more leverage corporations will wield over them,” notes Huffington Post. “And, simultaneously, the more frustrated their populations will get at the constant tax raises and hikes.”



Trending

The Headline

US embassy move incites violence at Israel-Gaza border

The Grind

Protests at the Israel-Gaza border worsened on Monday as the Trump Administration celebrated the opening of its new embassy in Jerusalem.

Nearly 60 protestors were killed and over 2,000 wounded – a figure that makes Monday the most violent day on the border since the war in 2014.

The Israeli military used live fire and tear gas to disperse protestors, who assaulted the border en masse with burning objects and other weapons.

Israel’s security agency claims Hamas (funded by Iran) is using the protests as cover to launch a future assault on the border.

The Details

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the opening of the US embassy at a ceremony attended by Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Treasury Sec. Steven Mnuchin.

Administration officials insisted Monday’s protests wouldn’t hurt future peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and supported Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas.

Here’s how other countries responded to the violence:

– France disapproved of the US embassy move.

– Saudi Arabia and others condemned Israel for using live fire on ‘innocent’ Palestinian protestors.

– Iran claimed the embassy move will ‘speed up the annihilation’ of Israel.

– The Palestinian Authority demanded international action against what it views as illegal activity from Israel.

– Kuwait called for an emergency UNSC meeting.

– Turkey announced three days of mourning for those killed and recalled its ambassadors from Israel and the US.

Violence at the border is expected to continue tomorrow, when Palestinians observe a day of mourning marking the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel.

Meanwhile, the Guatemalan embassy in Jerusalem is scheduled to open on Wednesday.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Every hour one billion cells in the body must be replaced.

Consequences Of Solar Power

Grind for May 16th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Ocean is more ancient than the mountains, and freighted with the memories and the dreams of Time.” – HP Lovecraft


The Future Is Now

The Headline

NASA will send tiny helicopter to Mars

The Grind

NASA last Friday announced plans to send a four-pound helicopter to Mars as part of its 2020 rover mission.

“#BREAKING @NASA news! Our next rover to Mars will carry the first helicopter ever to fly over the surface of another world,” tweeted NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on May 11th.

The Details

Foremost among the challenges faced by the helicopter’s creators was the Red Planet’s weak atmosphere. To take off from Mars, the tiny helicopter will have to spin its blades 3,000x per minute while carrying batteries and other equipment.

The helicopter will also have to be somewhat autonomous thanks to the sheer distance between Earth and Mars. Even traveling at the speed of light, signals sent from Earth will take several minutes to reach the helicopter (and vice versa).

When it gets to Mars in February 2021, the helicopter will perform scouting missions to search for ideal landing sites that could benefit future astronauts. The helicopter will also assist with geology research currently being conducted by rovers Opportunity and Curiosity.

If all goes according to plan, the four-pound aircraft could provide us with valuable information that could take us one step closer to sending men to Mars.



Upping The Ante

The Headline

Will California’s new solar panel law help or hurt residents?

The Grind

California’s Energy Commission on May 9th approved a set of regulations that will require all new homes and apartment buildings to utilize solar power. The rules also require new buildings to use energy-efficient ventilation, insulation, and lighting.

Builders will have the option to add solar panels to individual structures or to create shared systems for groups of homes; buildings located areas of constant shade will be exempt.

The mandate, if approved by California’s Building Standard Commission, will take effect starting in January 2020.

The Implication

Experts have compared the mandate’s effect on greenhouse gases to removing 115,000 cars from the road, but opponents worry the new rules will make it even harder for California residents to find affordable housing.

The state of California certainly leads the way in terms of “green policy,” but it comes in dead last in terms of affordable housing. Despite its vast amount of land, California has far fewer homes than it needs to support its population of 39.5 million.

While the mandate is expected to save homeowners about $633 per month on bills and maintenance, it could increase the price of home construction by about $9,500.

The average rent and home price in California are already well above national averages. As of 2015, the average rent was $1,240 per month and the average price of a home was $437,000.

“[The solar panel mandate] is great for wealthier homeowners, but for everybody else it’s one more reason to not go to California or leave ASAP,” says economic policy analyst Jimmy Pethokoukis. “What [California governments] should focus on is affordability and lowering the cost of living for Californians.”




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The first alarm clock could only ring at 4 a.m.

Amazon Is Hacking Alexa

Grind for May 15th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald


Too Good To Be True

The Headline

North Korea promises to dismantle nuclear site

The Grind

North Korea on Saturday announced it would be dismantling the Punggye-ri nuclear site starting May 23rd. Since 2006, the site has been the location of six nuclear tests – two of which took place in 2017.

The announcement to destroy the site follows through with a commitment Kim Jong-un made to South Korean President Moon Jae-in when the two met for the first time in April. At the time, experts doubted Kim’s intent to follow through with the promise.

The Kim regime said it would destroy all tunnels, research sites, and observation facilities at the test site and has invited journalists from around the world to watch.

The Details

The regime also said it would suspend all nuclear and missile tests, but that it would continue with “subcritical” nuclear testing – a method of testing nuclear weapons without causing an explosion.

North Korea’s announcement comes just days after Sec. of State Mike Pompeo returned home from Pyongyang with three Americans who had been held hostage there for more than a year. During his visit, Pompeo solidified plans for Trump to meet with Kim on June 12th in Singapore.

Confirmation of the meeting between Trump and Kim is a “game changer in terms of diplomacy,” said Senator John McCain (R-AZ). “Often these kinds of processes lead up to a presidential-level meeting if they are successful…This is completely flipping the script on that, and so it will start at the highest possible levels. The upside is that maybe this makes a deal more possible. The downside is if it fails then we’ve hit the diplomatic cliff and could fall off the other side.”



Welcome To The Jungle

The Headline

Smart speakers are a unique challenge for American brands

The Grind

As more and more Americans use smart speakers to order groceries and other basic goods, brands are scrambling to figure out how they can get Alexa to suggest their products.

If you ask Alexa to “order batteries,” the device will order whichever brand you purchased last. If you haven’t used Alexa to buy batteries, the device will automatically order Amazon brand batteries.

For products that Amazon doesn’t offer directly, Alexa defaults to products with an “Amazon Choice” badge. After that, she recommends products based on reviews, price, and shipping speed.

These designations are a major threat to brands because they can’t pay to get them.

The Details

Smart speakers are only responsible for about $2 billion in annual sales, but that number is expected to climb to $40 billion by 2022.

“Niche competitors are growing. Retails are slashing prices to compete against Amazon. And commodity costs are rising,” notes CNN Money.

According to the S&P 500, General Mills has lost 28% so far this year. Procter & Gamble is down 20% and Hershey has lost 18%.

“A new Wild West has opened up,” says marketing professor Z. John Zhang. And “Alexa is the gatekeeper.”




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… There are more female than male millionaires in the United States.

Israel Teaches Iran A Lesson

Grind for May 14th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways.” – H Jackson Brown, Jr.


This Means War

The Headline

Direct confrontation between Iran and Israel following JCPOA withdrawal

The Grind

The Israeli military on Thursday launched missiles at more than 30 Iranian targets in Syria following an attempted attack on Israeli front-line positions in the Golan Heights on Wednesday.

Iran’s attack against Israel, launched by troops stationed in Syria, came one day after President Trump announced his withdrawal from the JCPOA. The attack was easily deflected by Israel’s anti-missile systems.

Israel’s retaliatory strike destroyed “nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria, said Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, including intelligence sites, weapons depots, and the rocket launcher used in Wednesday’s attack.

“If there is rain on our side, there will be a flood on their side,” warned Lieberman.

The Details

Israeli officials last weekend warned of an imminent attack from Iran and vowed to respond by hitting all Iranian targets in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday to discuss the situation.

Israel has an “obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression from Syrian territory,” Netanyahu told Putin, adding that Tehran is “trying to transfer forces and deadly weapons there with the explicit goal of attacking the state of Israel.”

Russia after the strike called for “restraint” from both sides, while the Trump Administration defended Israel’s right to self defense and warned Iran against further provocation.

Israeli troops stationed in the Golan had been on “high alert” following Trump’s decision to pull out of the JCPOA. The deal, which many viewed as the only thing preventing an all-out war between Iran and Israel, could also rekindle Netanyahu’s desire to conduct missile strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities.



The Time Has Come

The Headline

Trump announces date and time for meeting with Kim Jong-un

The Grind

President Trump on Thursday unveiled plans to meet with Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12th.

Singapore was chosen over Mongolia, which is too close to China, and the DMZ, which would suggest that Trump was meeting Kim on his own turf.

While the White House says the goal of the talks is the “irreversible” denuclearization of North Korea, Kim has described the meeting as “an excellent first step toward promotion of the positive developments on the Korean Peninsula and [the] building of a good future.”

The Details

Details about the highly anticipated meeting were announced shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned home from a trip to Pyongyang.

Traveling with him were three Korean-Americans who had been imprisoned in North Korea for over a year.

Vice President Mike Pence, who was present when the former prisoners were reunited with their families, expressed optimism about the upcoming meeting.

“If he will change, different from his father, different from his grandfather, if he will set his nation on a different path, that there’s a bright future available for the people of North Korea,” said Pence.

We are already “seeing hopeful signs from Kim Jong-un that he is prepared to embrace complete denuclearization – that’s his words,” added Pence.

Trump said that denuclearizing the peninsula will be his “proudest achievement,” but he also made it clear that he would “walk away” from negotiations if they are not productive.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… According to the Outlawz, after Tupac was cremated, his ashes were mixed with marijuana and smoked by the members of the rapper’s former group.

Gun Companies Fight Back

Grind for May 13th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” – Zig Ziglar


Be Careful What You Wish For

The Headline

Gun manufacturers abandon Dick’s Sporting Goods

The Grind

Gun manufacturers are abandoning Dick’s Sporting Goods en masse after the company hired three lobbyists to push for gun control legislation in Washington. Dick’s also said it would be destroying all unsold AR-15’s remaining in its inventory.

Major manufacturers like Mossberg, Springfield Armory, and MKS Supply responded to these decisions by ending their business relationships with Dick’s.

MKS President Charles Brown accused Dick’s of “villainizing” modern sporting rifles and Mossberg CEO Iver Mossberg urged consumers to “visit one of the thousands of pro-Second Amendment firearm retailers” instead of Dick’s.

The NRA accused Dick’s of “punishing law-abiding citizens” and the National Shooting Sports Foundation announced it was revoking Dick’s membership.

The Background

Dick’s Sporting Goods in February announced it would no longer sell assault-style weapons or sell firearms to individuals under the age of 21.

These new restrictions, which earned condemnation from gun owners, came in response to the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida – where a teen used an AR-15 to murder 17 students and faculty.

At the time, Dick’s CEO Edward Stack said he supported the Second Amendment and considered “the vast majority of gun owners” to be “responsible, law-abiding citizens.”

Dick’s more recent decision to hire lobbyists has called into question the sincerity of his statement and could represent millions of dollars in losses for his company.



Taking Sides

The Headline

Ranchers upset over proposal to bring back grizzly bears

The Grind

Cattle ranchers in Washington state were shocked when they heard about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plans to bring grizzly bears back to North Cascades National Park.

Cattle rancher Craig Verasjka, who holds grazing permits on federally-owned land near the park, worries the grizzlies will prey on his cattle or stress them to the point where they will no longer breed.

“We thought we had somebody on our side and now Zinke pulls this on us,” says Verasjka, who voted enthusiastically for Trump in 2016. “We’re not happy.”

The Details

As Okanogan County Commissioner Jim Detro point outs, you can’t frighten a grizzly like you can a black bear. “I can run out on my back porch and scream and scare the hell out of a black bear, you’re not going to do that with a grizzly bear. They’ll hunt you up.”

Other Washington residents say Zinke is using the proposal as an excuse to score an “environmental win” after Trump’s 2017 decision to shrink the size of two national monuments in Utah.

Zinke’s proposal has received some support from local environmentalists (most of whom live in cities where bears would not roam) and from the area’s Native American population, which views the grizzly bear as a symbol of strength and courage.

“They have the right to be here before any other species because they were indigenous to this area since the beginning of time,” says Lorrie Sue Nelson, a descendant of the Colville Tribes. “The invader here is the cattle industry.”




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Over 90% of all fish caught are caught in the northern hemisphere.

NYC’s Safe Injection Facilities

Grind for May 12th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Confidence is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking tartar sauce with you.” – Zig Ziglar


Welcome Home

The Headline

Sec. of State visits North Korea and returns home with freed prisoners

The Grind

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un this week to discuss Kim’s upcoming meeting with President Trump.

Officials confirmed Wednesday the leaders had agreed on a date and time and that more details would be unveiled soon.

Pompeo’s trip was his second visit to Pyongyang this year. Unlike the first, which was shrouded in secrecy, this trip was publicized as key preparation for the highly anticipated meeting between Trump and Kim.

“For decades we have been adversaries,” said Pompeo. “Now, we are hopeful that we can work together to resolve this conflict.”

The Details

Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang coincided with the release of three Korean-Americans who had been held hostage there for more than a year.

“I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting,” tweeted Trump on Wednesday. “They seem to be in good health.”

The success of Pompeo’s trip bodes well for Trump’s upcoming meeting, where he will discuss denuclearization with Kim.

In the meantime, all sanctions on North Korea will remain in effect until the regime agrees to permanently dismantle its nuclear and missile programs.



Helping Or Hurting

The Headline

NYC wants to build safe injection facilities for opioid addicts

The Grind

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to open four “safe injection facilities” (SIFs) where drug users can inject heroin and opioids without fear of arrest.

The facilities would be staffed with medical professionals armed with naloxone (a drug that can stop the effects of an opioid overdose) and with social workers, who would speak with users about treatment options.

The Background

There are dozens of SIFs in operation throughout the world, but fierce political opposition has so far prevented them from opening in the United States.

Supporters insist SIFs provide a safe, clean environment for addicts to do what they would otherwise be doing on the street. Sure, this can clean up a neighborhood, but should we really be facilitating illegal drugs use?

“It is a crime not only to use illicit narcotics, but to manage and maintain sites on which such drugs are used and distributed,” said the Justice Department in a statement.

In addition to the legality issues, opponents argue that SIFs would exacerbate America’s drug problem by removing incentives for users to quit, creating new users, and boosting the illegal drug trade.

Opioid abuse is a serious problem in the United States that in 2016 claimed the lives of nearly 65,000 people. There is a safe injection facility in Vancouver that likes to brag about how it has stopped more than 6,000 overdose deaths since it opened in 2003, but these overdoses would not have needed to be stopped if the users were in rehab instead of shooting up in a clinic.

In my opinion, giving addicts a “safe space” to continue taking a drug that might kill them is not a solution to the problem – it’s admitting defeat.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The word ‘mortgage’ comes from a French law term that means ‘death pledge’.

Reining In Iran

Grind for May 11th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.


Trending

The Headline

Trump pulls US out of Iran deal

The Grind

President Trump on Tuesday announced the United States would withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (known as the JCPOA) and reinstate nuclear sanctions.

“It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement,” said Trump. “The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen.”

Trump has repeatedly blasted the JCPOA as the worst deal ever negotiated and has been vowing to end it since his days on the campaign trail.

This is what we know so far, Trump hates the deal because he believes:

– The deal gave billions of dollars to an “evil” regime

– The deal does not address Iran’s other nefarious activities, including missile development, proxy wars in Yemen and Syria, and funding of terrorism

– The deal’s restrictions on uranium enrichment end in 2025

– The deal’s rules on inspections benefit Iran

– The deal is one of Obama’s key legacies

Trump also believes Iran violated the deal despite opposing claims from US intelligence agencies, the IAEA, and the JCPOA’s other signatories.

The Implication

Everyone agrees Iran should never possess a nuclear weapon, but what we can’t seem to agree on is how to prevent it from happening.

World leaders in recent months warned Trump that exiting the JCPOA would give Iran the perfect excuse to resume uranium enrichment and pursue nuclear development, while Trump insists the deal gave Iran more opportunities to pursue these goals.

World leaders also insisted that the inspections allowed by the JCPOA enabled us to monitor Iran and that in destroying the deal we will have no way of finding out what they are up to.

Trump on Tuesday said he would be willing to negotiate a new deal with Iran but knows Iran will refuse. Tehran had already promised to resume uranium enrichment and to exit the deal if the United States pulled out.



Proceed With Caution

The Headline

Israel claims Iran is preparing to attack

The Grind

Last weekend, Israeli media claimed Iran was preparing to use its proxies in Syria to launch a missile strike against military targets in northern Israel.

The would-be attack follows an airstrike in Syria that killed a handful of Iranian personnel on April 9th. Iran blames Israel for the attack, and tensions between the two countries were already strained following the incursion of an armed Iranian drone into northern Israel in February.

The Details

Israel is ready for “every scenario,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday. “We don’t want confrontation, but if there needs to be one, it is better now than later.”

Israeli defense systems are more than capable of dealing with a missile attack, but officials have threatened to respond to any strike on Israeli soil by hitting every Iranian target in Syria.

Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz even suggested a strike on Israel could result in the assassination of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “If Assad allows Iran to turn Syria into a military vanguard against us…he should know that would be the end of him, the end of his regime.”

Any attack launched from Syria would implicate Russian President Vladimir Putin, who would not attack a US ally over such a small provocation.

Israel’s decision to publicize intelligence about the imminent attack could be enough to avoid or at least postpone it, and Netanyahu on Wednesday will visit Moscow to speak with Putin about the situation.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… According to the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Shu general Zhuge Liang had to defend a town with a mere 100 troops against an army of 150,000. He hid his men, flung open the gates, and sat on the walls playing a lute. The opposing general of Wei, Sima Yi, certain it was a trap, ordered a retreat.