The NRA’s New Start

Grind for May 10th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins


Just What We Needed

The Headline

Infamous Vietnam War hero to lead NRA

The Grind

The National Rifle Association on Monday announced it had selected retired Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, 74, to lead the organization after current President Pete Brownell said he would be stepping down to focus on his family business.

North’s appointment comes amid a resurgence of anti-gun sentiment following the tragedies in Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, but NRA Vice President Wayne LaPierre thinks North is up to the job.

“Oliver North is a legendary warrior for American freedom, a gifted communicator, and skilled leader. In these time, I can think of no one better suited to serve as our president,” said LaPierre.

North, who is the closest thing the NRA has to a celebrity, said he is “honored to have been selected” and is “eager to hit the ground running as the new NRA president.”

The Background

North earned multiple medals during his military career, but is most famous for his work during the Reagan Administration. As a national security aide, North played a central role in the Iran-Contra affair – an illegal weapons deal with Iran that was intended to facilitate the release of US hostages in Lebanon.

North was indicted on 16 felony counts and hit with a 3-year prison sentence after he lied to investigators about his role in the deal. The charges were dismissed in 1991, and North went on to become a best-selling author and Fox News analyst.

North quit his job with Fox after accepting the NRA position and will assume leadership of the organization in a few weeks.



Follow The Leader

The Headline

Guatemala moves its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

The Grind

Guatemala was the first country to follow the United States in moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This week, contractors began preparing the new office with furniture and fresh paint. All personnel have already relocated to begin work in the new location.

“I was moved to see the flag of Guatemala waving in Jerusalem in advance of the opening of the Guatemalan embassy later this month,” tweeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has offered assistance and “preferential treatment” to the first 10 countries to move their embassies.

The Details

The US embassy in Jerusalem plans to open on May 14th, and the Guatemalan embassy on May 16th.

“I would like to thank President Trump for leading the way,” said Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales. “His courageous decision has encouraged us to do what is right.”

President Trump last December announced the United States would finally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that the US embassy would no longer be in Tel Aviv.

The controversial decision was condemned by the Arab League, which called on Trump to reverse it, and many world leaders worry the move will ruin all chances of a future peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians – who both insist they have a right to control Jerusalem.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley believes the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will streamline peace negotiations by removing a key sticking point: Palestine’s demand to establish East Jerusalem as its capital.

“I strongly believe this is going to move the ball forward for the peace process,” said Haley.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The temperature of the earth’s interior increases by 1 degree every 60 feet down.

Ending Abortion In Iowa

Grind for May 9th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.” – Abraham Lincoln


Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fire

The Headline

Volcanic eruption in Hawaii threatens residents

The Grind

Nearly 2,000 people were ordered to evacuate after Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on Thursday.

Hawaii’s National Guard was called in to assist with evacuations and emergencies while authorities warned residents about “extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas.”

Thursday’s eruption occurred hours after a 5.0 magnitude quake and was followed by a 6.9 magnitude quake Friday. The second quake, which is not expected to cause a tsunami, occurred in almost exactly the same location as the deadly 7.1 magnitude quake in 1975.

The Details

Residents who had ignored the evacuation orders were forced to flee Friday when lava shot out of cracks in the ground created by the quakes.

“Eruptive activity resumes from a new vent in Leilani subdivision on the Island of Hawaii,” tweeted the US Geological Survey at 5:15am Friday. The agency also posted videos of lava flowing across roads and near houses.

“You can’t really predict what Pele is going to do,” said resident Julie Woolsey. “It’s hard to keep up. We’re hoping our house doesn’t burn down.”

Woolsey evacuated Thursday with her daughter, grandson, and dogs. She was forced to let her chickens fend for themselves.



Experts have been monitoring the Kilauea volcano since March, when they noticed significant pressure within the Pu’u O’o crater. That crater collapsed on April 30th, sending magma flowing underground beneath highways and neighborhoods.

This geological disturbance caused more than 600 temblors in the past week, and geologists in recent days warned that lava could break through the surface at any moment.



Trending

The Headline

Iowa’s “heartbeat” bill is the strictest abortion regulation in the country

The Grind

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds on Friday signed a bill that bans doctors from performing abortions just six weeks after conception. This is before many women even know they are pregnant.

“I believe that all innocent life is precious and sacred,” said Governor Reynolds at the signing ceremony. “I understand that not everyone will agree with this decision, but if death is determined when a heart stops beating, then doesn’t a beating heart indicate life?”

Iowa’s “heartbeat” bill makes exemptions for rape, incest, and cases in which the mother’s life is in danger. It provides immunity to women who seek abortions in spite of the law but punishes doctors who perform illegal procedures. It also restricts the use of fetal tissue in research.

The Implication

The victory in Iowa comes amid a nationwide push for stricter abortion laws from conservative lawmakers who hope an influx of right-leaning judicial appointments under President Trump could give them a chance to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“The bold pro-life action taken by the Iowa legislature reflects growing national pro-life sentiment and restlessness under the extreme status quo imposed by Roe v. Wade,” says Marjorie Dannenfelser, who leads the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List. “While Roe has not yet been reversed, it has been soundly rejected in the court of opinion. “

The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and others have already promised to challenge the law.

“We know that abortion bans don’t end abortion,” argues Des Moines resident Jennifer Weatherby, 32, who joined pro-choice supporters Friday at the Capitol Building to oppose the bill. “This just ends safe abortion.”

Iowa’s House of Representatives passed the bill Tuesday after a small group of Republicans threatened to withhold their votes on critical budget bills until the measure was brought to the floor. It was approved by the Senate at 2:30am that morning.

Not a single Democrat in either chamber voted in favor of the bill.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… All the gold ever mined could be molded into a cube 60 feet high and 60 feet wide.

Shameful Politics

Grind for May 8th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald


Keep Your Head Down

The Headline

Russia investigation could have a big impact on midterm elections

The Grind

Special Counsel Robert Muller’s investigation into the 2016 presidential election will have to conclude soon to avoid any appearance of trying to influence the 2018 midterm elections, reports The Wall Street Journal.

“I think it is the obligation of every reasonable prosecutor to minimize the duration of that cloud or cause lightning to strike as quickly as possible,” said former New York prosecutor Preet Bharara.

Mueller’s investigation, which has dragged on for more than a year, has produced nothing more than a handful of indictments against Russian individuals and companies for using social media to “sow discord” into American politics.

The investigation has produced no proof that Donald Trump “colluded” with Russia.

The Details

While the Department of Justice urges personnel not to time investigations for the purpose of influencing elections, there are no laws forcing Mueller to end his investigation or keep quiet.

“There aren’t any rules around how we act in the run-up to an election…there’s a norm, you avoid any action in the run-up to an election that might have an impact, if you can,” said former FBI head James Comey.

Comey, who obviously broke that norm when he re-opened the Clinton email investigation days before the 2016 election, says he is “sure” that Mueller would not do anything to harm Republicans or aid Democrats in the upcoming elections.



For Shame

The Headline

Energy company pays activists to support new power plant

The Grind

Rumors that an energy company called “Entergy” paid actors to express support for the construction of a $210 million gas-powered facility in New Orleans were confirmed this week by investigative news site The Lens.

Actors were paid to attend City Hall meetings and comment on the benefits of the power plant – which they said would create jobs and provide clean, reliable power.

Months before the allegations surfaced, The Lens commented on the unusual number of bright orange T-shirts worn by attendees at a meeting last October and quoted the company’s CEO as saying, “I think we’ve got them outnumbered.”

The New Orleans City Council approved Entergy’s proposal on March 8th.

The Implication

According to Facebook messages obtained by The Lens, actors were offered $60 to attend meetings and $200 to deliver a speech, as well as “free pizza and a round of drinks after it’s over.”

Actors were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement and to avoid speaking with the media. They were told numerous times not to tell anyone they were being paid.

“It was very shady, very secretive, especially when we got paid. They literally paid us under the table,” said one actor.

The allegations against Entergy prompted a lawsuit from environmental groups, who insist opponents were turned away from meetings while supporters – some of them paid – were allowed to enter early.

Entergy says the meetings were “first-come, first-serve” and insists it did not pay anyone to attend, but one of the actors said he was instructed to arrive early “so if there are any protestors we got that whole room filled” before they arrive.

The man who organized the actors, Garrett Wilkerson, works for an LA-based service called “Crowds on Demand.” As the name suggests, the service pays actors to create the illusion of grassroots support (a practice known as “astroturfing”). While dishonest and misleading, the practice appears to be legal.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The light hitting the earth right now is 30 thousand years old.

Will China Follow In Venezuela’s Footsteps?

Grind for May 7th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end.” – HP Lovecraft


Groundbreaking

The Headline

Australian researchers develop “smart pill” that can track digestive health

The Grind

A team of researchers in Melbourne, Australia is working on a “smart pill” that sends real-time data from your gut straight to your smartphone.

The ingestible sensor, which is about the size of a typical vitamin, measures the gases, liquids, and microbiome activity in your gut. In the past, such data could only be collected through surgery or fecal samples.

The pill’s inventors, Dr. Kyle Berean and Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh, believe the device could eliminate the need to conduct colonoscopies and other uncomfortable procedures.

“Our ingestible sensors offer a potential diagnostic tool for many disorders of the gut from food nutrient malabsorption to colon cancer. It is good news that a less invasive procedure will now be an option for so many people in the future,” explains Kalantar-zadeh.

The Implication

The team’s first human trial confirmed the sensor’s safety and its ability to measure gases inside the body.

“Smart pills are harmless and there is no risk of capsule retention,” says Dr. Berean. In other words, the pill will pass normally through a patient’s digestive system and there is no chance it will get lost or stuck inside the body.

The trial also revealed a previously unknown immune reaction inside the stomach.

“We found that the stomach releases oxidizing chemicals to break down and beat foreign compounds that are staying in the stomach for longer than usual,” says Kalantar-zadeh. In this case, that “foreign compound” was the sensor.

Kalantar-zadeh and his team hope the pill will improve doctors’ ability to diagnose, prevent, and learn more about gastrointestinal disorders like IBS. The pill could also “help us better understand how debilitating disease like colon cancer occur.”

The team is gearing up to begin Phase II human trials and has already established a new company, called Atmo Biosciences, in anticipation of bringing the sensor to consumers.



Happy Birthday

The Headline

Chinese president celebrates Karl Marx’s birthday

The Grind

Karl Marx is “the greatest thinker of modern times,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping last Friday during a speech in Beijing.

The speech was among a number of events honoring the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx – the German philosopher whose political ideas inspired communism.

Xi in February celebrated the 170th anniversary of The Communist Manifesto and urged party members to view Marxist theory as a “way of life” and a “spiritual pursuit.”

The Implication

Xi’s celebration of Karl Marx hearkens back to former leaders like Mao Zedong, the communist revolutionary who founded the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and is a way to prop up the CPC and distinguish China from Western capitalism.

The celebration of Marx is also a way for Xi to defend himself against those who view his consolidation of power with suspicion.

“Marx and Lenin…are useful for Xi Jinping because their teachings justify what he is doing – namely, concentrating all powers in the Communist Party and concentrating all powers in the top leader himself,” says Chinese policy expert Willy Lam.

Xi’s fervent support for Karl Marx is a shift from China’s three previous leaders, who eschewed the ideals of communism in favor of “opening up.”

“Writing Marxism onto the flag of the Chinese Communist Party was totally correct,” said Xi, adding that “socialism” is necessary in order to achieve the “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”



China’s adherence to socialism is dangerous because it is unsustainable.

In recent years we have watched the total economic collapse in socialist Venezuela – a country of about 31 million. Just think of the global ramifications should this same catastrophe occur in China – a country of more than 1 billion.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Europe is the only continent without a desert.

Hawaii Is About To Blow

Grind for May 6th, 2018

FIRST SIP:

“If you think anyone is sane you just don’t know enough about them.” – Christopher Moore


Things Are Heating Up

The Headline

Earthquake in Hawaii could trigger volcanic eruption

The Grind

The island of Hawaii was rocked by a 5.0 magnitude earthquake on Thursday after experiencing more than 600 tremors in the past few days.

The quake caused “rockfalls and possibly an additional collapse” in a crater on the Kilauea volcano, which is located in the southeast region of the Big Island.

The Background

Kilauea is an active volcano that has erupted somewhat consistently since 1983. The volcano has been under close watch since March, when geologists noticed significant pressure within the Pu’u O’o crater.

The crater floor collapsed on April 30th, and magma began leaking underground. Magma is currently present beneath major highways and communities, and experts fear lava could shoot out of the cracks created by the earthquakes.

“A lava breakout remains a possibility – and it could happen quickly,” warns geologist Janet Babb.

Residents have been warned to prepare for evacuation in case of an eruption.



Show Of Force

The Headline

Pentagon accuses China of using lasers to distract US pilots

The Grind

At least two American pilots suffered eye injuries last month when they were exposed to “military-grade laser beams” while flying over the African nation of Djibouti.

The Pentagon believes these lasers came from China’s military base in Djibouti, which is located less than 10 miles from America’s military base there.

The American base, Camp Lemonnier, is a critically important location in the fight against terror given its proximity to Yemen and Somalia, where the US military regularly targets terrorists in airstrikes.

Troops at Camp Lemonnier were forced to halt air operations last week after a series of “accidents” involving aircraft.

The Details

The State Department this week filed an official diplomatic protest with China and urged Beijing to conduct its own investigation into the lasers.

The military issued a Notice to Airmen warning pilots about “unauthorized laser activity” and urging them to “exercise extreme caution” when flying over Djibouti.

China has so far refused to comment on the situation, but in the past has complained about foreign aircraft flying over its African base.

Former Air Force Colonel Trey Meeks says China’s actions are “just short of war.” The use of lasers to distract pilots indicates “intentional negligence, as well as complete disregard for aviation safety and international norms… I would certainly view it as harassment.”

China’s use of lasers could also represent a violation of the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, of which China is a signatory.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… In 2011, a 200 ft circular anomaly in the Baltic Sea that has unusual characteristics and almost perfectly etched curvatures was discovered. To this day, its origin remains unknown.

More Migrants More Problems

Grind for May 5th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Until the rise of American advertising, it never occurred to anyone anywhere in the world that the teenager was a captive in a hostile world of adults.” – Gore Vidal


Victory At Last

The Headline

Basque terror group announces dissolution

The Grind

After a terror campaign spanning more than 50 years, the Basque terror group known as “ETA” has finally announced its dissolution.

In a letter dated April 16th, ETA promised to dismantle all of its structures and acknowledged its failure to resolve the Basque “political conflict.”

The terror group has been blamed for more than 800 deaths, and Madrid has made it clear that police will not stop investigating those deaths, nor will they stop tracking down ETA members, just because the group has decided to disband.

The Spanish government also made it clear that ETA would receive no concessions for its decision.

“ETA obtained nothing through its promise to stop killing, and it will obtain nothing by announcing what they call dissolution,” said Spain’s Interior Minister.

The Background

ETA is a separatist movement that sought to establish its own state in the Basque region of northern Spain/southern France.

ETA began in the 60’s as a group of students opposed to General Francisco Franco. The group assassinated Franco’s successor in 1975, but continued its armed insurgency against Madrid even after the government awarded the Basque region significant autonomy.

ETA declared a ceasefire in 2011 and relinquished its weapons in 2017. The group plans to hold an official dissolution ceremony later this week.

The group’s announcement marks the end of one of the longest terror campaigns in modern Europe. While the victory is important, it is somewhat unsurprising.

“The news reflected what has been evident for years, that ETA is a spent force, its ranks decimated by arrests, its popularity minimal in the Basque region,” reported The New York Times. “In their long struggle, the government has won.”



Deja Brew

The Headline

Greece overwhelmed by refugees – again

The Grind

Migrants are flooding into Greece once again, and local officials are unsure whether the country can withstand another influx.

Nearly 3,000 illegals crossed the Evros River into Greece during the month of April (that’s about half the number to arrive in all of 2017) and the situation is “on the verge of spinning out of control,” says local mayor Dimitris Mavrides.

“Our reception facilities are overwhelmed…far more are coming than are actually being registered,” complains Mavrides. The government sent “120 extra police” to deal with the chaos at the border, but “they are temporary and simply not enough.”

The Details

The situation is reminiscent of the crisis in 2015, when more than half a million refugees crossed the Aegean Sea to get to Greece. Crossing the Evros is a much safer option.

“In a boat it can take as little as three minutes to cross and is far cheaper [than the Aegean route],” says Mavrides. But more importantly, the Evros crossing was not covered by an EU deal that significantly reduced Aegean crossings.

“They are coming precisely because it is not part of the deal and because word has got out…If they get here and are processed, they are free to go anywhere on the mainland.”

Analysts believe the migration was caused by Turkey’s military offenses in northern Syria, with locals running in fear of imminent attacks from NATO members.

Greeks believe Turkey is deliberately letting people leave the country in order to put pressure on European governments. In the past, Turkey has used the threat of mass migration to pressure Europe on its demands for money, visa-free travel, and progress on its EU application.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… The brain receives 20% of the body’s oxygen and 25% of total body glucose utilization, despite it accounting for only 2% of a person’s weight (about 1.4 kilograms).

What Is Iran Up To?

Grind for May 4th, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“You will become way less concerned with what other people think of you when you realize how seldom they do.” – David Foster Wallace


Say What??

The Headline

A New York judge wants Iran to pay for 9/11

The Grind

Federal Judge George Daniels on Tuesday issued a default judgement against Iran ordering the country to pay $6 billion to the family members of those killed during the terror attack on September 11th, 2001.

Daniels claims that Iran help train the 9/11 attackers and that it’s Central Bank and Revolutionary Guard Corps are directly responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 people.

The Background

Tuesday’s ruling against Iran contrasts the official investigation into 9/11, which suggests Saudi Arabia could be responsible for the attack. Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were from Saudi Arabia, one was from Egypt, one was from Lebanon, and two were from the UAE.

Victims’ families are also suing Saudi Arabia.

These lawsuits are only possible thanks to the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act of 2016, which enabled US courts to sue other countries in cases involving terrorism.



While I understand that the family members of victims want someone to blame, that someone is not Iran. Daniels’s ruling is senseless, stupid, and risky. Not only does the verdict do nothing to help victims, but it opens the US to major lawsuits from enemies throughout the world. Such lawsuits could tie up our courts for decades.



Explosive Discovery

The Headline

Iranian nuclear plans obtained by Israel may trigger new inspections

The Grind

The Israeli government on Monday announced it had obtained a trove of data about Iran’s nuclear program – including blueprints, thousands of pages of text, photos, and more than 200 CDs.

The information, which was allegedly stolen from a vault in Tehran, was presented to reporters by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu himself, a key Trump ally who, like Trump, opposes the nuclear deal with Iran.

The Implication

As Netanyahu pointed out during his presentation, the new information contradicts promises from Iran’s leaders – who insist the country has never pursued nuclear weapons.

Netanyahu says he is ready to share the documents with the IAEA, the agency responsible for ensuring Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.

“Certainly if this is what they say it is, this is quite a jackpot,” says Olli Heinonen, a former weapons inspector who now works for the Foundation of Defense of Democracies.

Included in the documents are old plans to build five 10-kiloton nuclear weapons. If nothing else, the new information will help the IAEA make better decisions about Iran.

Former UN weapons inspector David Albright says the IAEA could use the new information to seek inspections of new locations. “Here we have a jigsaw puzzle with 30-40% of the pieces [turned into] one that has 99% of the pieces,” says Albright. “The picture is clear.”




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Napoleon constructed his battle plans in a sandbox.

A Recipe For Disaster

Grind for May 3rd, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Many people spend more time in planning the wedding than they do in planning the marriage.” – Zig Ziglar


Foreign Politics

The Headline

Filipino president urges workers in Kuwait to come home

The Grind

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday urged workers in Kuwait to come home and vowed to permanently block his citizens from seeking work there.

More than 260,000 Filipinos currently work in Kuwait. Most of them are houseworkers. Duterte described the treatment of these workers as a “calamity” and offered to provide financial aid and jobs for workers seeking to escape their abusive employers in Kuwait.

Critics say the government doesn’t have the resources to back Duterte’s offer.

The offer is “reckless, shortsighted, and uncaring,” complains Senator Risa Hontiveros. “President Duterte should stop gambling with the lives and employment of thousands of OFWs, and the welfare of their families, in a desperate attempt to break the diplomatic impasse.”

As many as 60,000 Filipino workers are expected to return home.

The Background

The economy of the Philippines is strongly dependent on its 10 million overseas workers, or OFWs, who send money back to family members living in a country that lacks resources and high-paying jobs.

In February, the Filipino government blocked its citizens from seeking jobs in Kuwait following reports of suspicious deaths – including the murder of a Filipino house worker whose body was found inside a freezer with signs of torture.

The ban came alongside a rescue operation in which officials from the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait helped thousands of Filipino workers escape their employers in Kuwait.

Kuwait condemned the action as a violation of its sovereignty and responded by expelling the Filipino ambassador and withdrawing its envoy from Manila.

Duterte’s statement about making the ban permanent throws into question a labor deal the two countries had been negotiating.



Proceed With Caution

The Headline

Russia has a floating nuclear power plant

The Grind

Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom launched “the world’s only floating nuclear power unit” from St. Petersburg on Saturday.

The plant, which took nine years to build, is heading north towards Murmansk – where it will be supplied with nuclear fuel.

From there it will be towed to the Arctic port of Pevek in remote northeast Russia. The entire journey will take more than a year.

The Implication

Moscow has plans to build a fleet of floating nuclear plants, and Greenpeace has warned of a “Chernobyl on ice” if something goes wrong.

Russia insists the only purpose of the plants is to provide power for industrial plants, port cities, and other facilities in remote areas of Russia.

“The nuclear power plant has two KLT-40S reactor units that can generate up to 70MW of electric energy and 50 Gcal/hr of heat energy during its normal operation,” said Rosatom. “This is enough to keep the activity of the town populated with 100,000 people.”

Russia’s plans to load the plant with nuclear fuel at the beginning of its journey were scrapped after significant opposition from Greenpeace and the countries the facility will pass on its journey.

Greenpeace Russia says it “still considers the very concept of a floating nuclear power plant too dangerous and a senseless technological solution.”

Rosatom insists the facility was designed with a “great margin of safety” and that its two nuclear reactors are “invincible” to natural disasters.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… In 1987, a Chicago TV station had its broadcast interrupted by a pirate signal that shows a man in a Max Headroom mask mumbling and being spanked with a fly swatter. Despite investigations by the FCC and FBI, this became the only known incident in which a hacker interrupted a major TV broadcast without getting caught.

Big Wins For Republicans

Grind for May 2nd, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” – Mark Twain



Safe (For Now)

The Headline

Texas: Controversial voter ID law will remain in place for 2018 elections

The Grind

The 5th Circuit Court on Friday upheld a strict voter ID law that requires Texans to show government-issued IDs when they vote.

The law – S.B. 5 – was passed in an effort to address complaints that a former law – S.B. 14 – disadvantaged minority voters.

S.B. 5 gives voters without a government-issued ID the opportunity to vote if they sign an affidavit confirming their identity and swearing that a “reasonable impediment” blocked them from obtaining a legal ID. These individuals may also be required to show “supporting” forms of identification such as paychecks, bank statements, and utility bills.

The Details

The 5th Circuit in a 2-1 decision deemed S.B. 5 a suitable update to the former law. “The legislature succeeded in its goal” to “cure all the flaws cited in evidence when the case was first tried,” wrote Circuit Judge Edith Jones.

Opponents continue to insist that S.B. 5 makes it harder for minorities to vote and warn that the criminal penalties for lying on an affidavit will scare people away from using that option to vote.

“S.B. 5 does not fully remove the burden disproportionately placed on poor and minority voters; it just creates a new and different burden,” wrote Circuit Court Judge James E. Graves Jr. in his dissenting opinion.

His opinion is valid, but as Texas AG Ken Paxton explains, voter ID laws are an essential element of democracy:

“Safeguarding the integrity of our election is essential to preserving our democracy. The revised voter ID law removes any burden on voters who cannot obtain a photo ID.”

Despite Paxton’s commonsense argument, Democrats continue to insist that everyone should be allowed to vote whether or not they can provide proof of their identity.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, has made it clear that opponents will continue their fruitless challenge against S.B. 5:

“It is important to note that this decision does not affect a trial court’s intentional discrimination and effects rulings,” wrote Ifill. “We maintain that no voter should ever be turned away from the polls because of an ID requirement and we will continue to aggressively pursue the right to vote wherever it is challenged.”



What Did You Expect?

The Headline

House Intel Committee finds no evidence of Trump-Russia collusion

The Grind

The House Intelligence Committee on Friday announced it had found no evidence of cooperation between Trump and the Kremlin during the 2016 presidential election.

“We found no evidence of collusion,” says Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), but we did find “perhaps some bad judgement, inappropriate meetings.”

The panel’s report agrees with Robert Mueller’s conclusion that Russia did use social media and cyberattacks in an effort to influence the election. Whether that attempt had any real effect on the election remains unknown.

The Background

Friday’s report is the culmination of a 14-month investigation that included 9 hearings, more than 70 interviews, and the review of 3,000 documents.

Democrats insist this wasn’t enough.

“There is no denying the abundant evidence that the Trump campaign sought, and was eager to accept, the assistance of a hostile foreign power bent on interfering in our election,” says Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

“It is also uncontroverted that the Russians assisted the Trump campaign through a surreptitious social media campaign, an overt paid media effort, an elaborate hacking and dumping operation targeting the DNC and Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, and potentially through additional means still under investigation.”

Two investigations into the same issue are ongoing in the Senate.



The House Intelligence Committee is comprised of 14 Republicans and 13 Democrats. The investigation was led by Mike Conaway after Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) stepped down over concerns about a secret meeting at the White House.




GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Intelligent people have more zinc and copper in their hair.

Reuniting North and South Korea

Grind for May 1st, 2018

FIRST SIP:
“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.” – Douglas Adams


It’s About Time

The Headline

North and South Korea move toward peace treaty

The Grind

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in Friday for a full day of meetings about denuclearization and easing tensions.

The summit, held just south of the DMZ, was the first time a North Korean leader has set foot in the South since 1953.

The event culminated with the singing of the Panmunjom Declaration, which states there “will be no more war on the Korean peninsula” and lays the foundation for talks with the US and China about transforming the 1953 armistice into a peace treaty.

The joint declaration also outlines plans for increased cooperation between the two sides including:

– Building a joint liaison office in the North

– Participating together in international sporting events

– Resuming inter-Korean family reunions

– Silencing loudspeakers at the border

The Details

Kim and Moon said they would hold military talks in May and seek a “phased disarmament.” The two leaders will hold a “special meeting” in June, and Moon made plans to visit Pyongyang in the fall.

The Panmunjom Declaration is vague in terms of denuclearization, which means it will be up to President Trump to negotiate the specifics with Kim when the two meet later this year.

“This is a great start and should be cause for cautious optimism,” says former State Department official Patrick McEachern.

“The public conversation should now shift from speculation on whether North Korea would consider denuclearization to how South Korea and the United States can advance this denuclearization pledge in concrete steps.”



Question Everything

The Headline

Autism rates are rising, but that doesn’t mean more people have autism

The Grind

The term autism (ASD) refers to a range of conditions characterized by difficulties with social skills, speech, repetitive behaviors, and nonverbal communications as well as unique strengths.

The symptoms of autism usually appear before age four.

According to the latest report from the CDC, about 1 in 60 American children age 8 or younger have been diagnosed with autism.

This statistic seems to suggest a threefold increase in ASD cases between 2000 and 2014, but that may not be the case.

What the report actually suggests is that “people are getting better at spotting signs of autism, and that social stigmas surrounding ASD may finally be fading as people have become better educated about it,” writes Futurism’s Dan Robitzski. The report in no way proves that rates are increasing.

The Details

Another factor that may have screwed up statistics on autism is the baseline for which the condition is diagnosed. Until recently, doctors made diagnoses based on autism symptoms in white boys.

When it comes to autism, boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed than girls. Is this a real trend? Or are physicians ill-equipped to spot ASD symptoms in other groups?

“Until we get more data based on a more comprehensive understanding of the disorder, we won’t actually know,” admits Robitzski. For example, past reports show different ASD rates when sorted by race.

There is also a major discrepancy based on location. Take New Jersey, for example, where diagnoses suggest a prevalence of ASD that is 50% higher than in Colorado, Georgia, and Tennessee.

“This is likely because some states keep better data, or the CDC had more access to records in some regions than others,” says Robitzski.

In other words, our knowledge about autism is increasing. And that’s a good thing no matter how you look at it.




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