Author Archives: Kestrel

Late blogging

Too much on my plate.

On this day in history.

Nearly a year after the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and a band of followers cross into Canada hoping to find safe haven from the U.S. Army.

On June 25, 1876, Sitting Bull’s warriors had joined with other Indians in the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Montana, which resulted in the massacre of George Custer and five troops of the 7th Cavalry. Worried that their great victory would provoke a massive retaliation by the U.S. military, the Indians scattered into smaller bands. During the following year, the U.S. Army tracked down and attacked several of these groups, forcing them to surrender and move to reservations.

Sitting Bull and his followers, however, managed to avoid a decisive confrontation with the U.S. Army. They spent the summer and winter after Little Big Horn hunting buffalo in Montana and fighting small skirmishes with soldiers.

There is no ‘Freedom of Thought’ in the Bill of Rights.

Hours after the Senate allowed a controversial anti-discrimination law to officially take effect in the nation’s capital, a group of pro-life organizations released a joint statement pledging to continue operating in accordance with their beliefs—thereby putting themselves at risk of violating the law.

“Despite the enactment of this unjust law, we will continue to hire employees who share our commitment to the dignity of every member of the human family,” reads the statement released by Alliance Defending Freedom, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Americans United for Life and Americans United for Life Action, March for Life, Concerned Women for America and the Susan B. Anthony List.

Critics say the measure “prohibits employers in the District, including nonsectarian pro-life and religious organizations, from ‘discriminating’ on the basis of ‘decisions’ reached by employees related to ‘reproductive health’ matters, including the taking of innocent human life by abortion.”

The D.C. City Council temporarily prohibits the law from being used to force employers to cover abortion procedures, but that exemption expires after 225 days.

The measure, officially transmitted to Congress on March 6, was challenged under the Home Rule Act of 1973.

What does she have to apologize for?

Freedom of speech evidently …

Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas

Pamela Geller, the woman behind the Texas cartoon contest attacked by two gunmen late Sunday, knew what she was doing when she staged the controversial event featuring irreverent depictions of the prophet Muhammad in Garland, Tex.

Protests in Tel Aviv

Israeli mounted police charged hundreds of ethnic Ethiopian citizens and fired stun grenades on Sunday to try to clear one of the most violent protests in memory in the heart of Tel Aviv.

The protesters, Israeli Jews of Ethiopian origin, were demonstrating against what they say is police racism and brutality after the emergence last week of a video clip that showed policemen shoving and punching a black soldier.

Demonstrators overturned a police car and threw bottles and stones at officers in riot gear at Rabin Square in the heart of Israel’s commercial capital. At least 20 officers were injured and a number of protesters were arrested, police said.

Cool …

Robotics championship draws the brightest science students from around the world to compete for NASA’s attention

So refreshing to see some new thought inside the party.

Thirty-seven-year-old freshman Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has become a conservative foil to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Cotton surprised his colleagues last week by exploiting a procedural loophole that allowed him to circumvent negotiations on Iran between McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.).

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In this case, Cotton was able to file an amendment to legislation granting Congress power to review a nuclear deal with Iran that would require Iran to recognize Israel. If the amendment is added to the bill, it would kill it, according to members in both parties.

The power play reflects Cotton’s emerging Senate role as a conservative check on McConnell, who many on the right suspect is too much of a dealmaker for his own good.

Bad conservatism is still better than good liberalism.

My MEP friends from other countries can’t understand it. “Please explain what’s happening in Britain,” they say. “One party wrecks the economy and the other party fixes it. Why isn’t the second party ten points ahead?”

You may be wondering the same thing. So am I; and so, though they hate to admit it, are almost all Britain’s political observers.

Five years ago, Gordon Brown’s Labour government ran the highest deficit in Europe. It racked up debts (this is the really unforgiveable bit) while the economy was growing. When the crash hit, a little before the 2010 general election, Britain was braced for a Greek-style collapse. The leader of the Liberals in the European Parliament, former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, told us that we would soon be on our knees begging to be allowed to join the euro. (How’s that working out for you, by the way, Guy?)

Five years on, what has happened? Under a Conservative-led coalition, Britain hasn’t just edged back from the precipice — it has built the kind of recovery that European countries can only dream of. Ours is the fastest-growing economy in the G7. We have, incredibly, created more jobs over the past five years than the other 27 members of the EU put together: 2 million new jobs in a nation of 64 million.

When David Cameron formed his coalition in 2010, commentators warned of the scary “Tory cuts” that were coming. Well, here they are: taxes down, deficit down, fuel prices down, unemployment down, household bills down, mortgages down, crime down.

Texas attack well organized?

ISIS-linked Twitter accounts reportedly claim responsibility for Texas shooting

A pair of social media accounts possibly linked to the Islamic State terror group posted messages referencing Sunday evening’s attack on a Texas free speech event moments before it happened.

The Los Angeles Times reported that a Twitter account bearing the name “Shariah is Light” posted a message with the hashtag “texasattack” at 6:35 p.m. Central Time. The account featured an image of Anwar Awlaki, an American-born cleric killed in 2011 by a drone strike in Yemen.

Moments later, authorities say two men pulled up in a car to the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland, Texas and opened fire. A school security guard was injured in the ankle before police officers shot and killed both suspects. The gunmen had not been identified as of Monday morning and their bodies lay next to their car while police searched for a possible incendiary device.

Authorities have not officially determined whether the shooting was linked to an event, a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Colorado – Jared Polis.

We pulled the foundation’s most recent tax filings from 2011 through 2013, and the findings were disturbing — less than a third of what Polis provides in funding every year actually goes to charity.

Ex-Im Bank – More trouble than you know.

Financiers: Export-Import Bank displaces private finance

“Ex-Im Bank is a competitor.” Michael Kraemer is banker at American International Group, and he was manning his company’s booth at this year’s Export-Import Bank annual conference.

AIG shelled out for a booth at the event in an effort to advertise itself to the U.S. exporters that attend the conference, because among AIG’s products is payment insurance for sellers, including exporters. If you’re selling goods overseas, you might worry about the foreign buyer never paying you, so you buy accounts receivable insurance from a private financial institution like AIG.

Or you buy it from the Export-Import Bank, which is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Competing against a government agency isn’t easy, but Ex-Im — because it is does things that the private sector would normally do — regularly competes with the private sector, a fact Ex-Im’s defenders deny.

So when you hold it to your ear …

You may one day be able to unlock your smartphone by holding it against your ear instead of your finger.

That is the goal of Bodyprint, an authentication system created by Yahoo Labs that turns a smartphone’s capacitive touchscreen into a biometric scanner. But because the scanning device is much larger than a fingerprint scanner, the system allows smartphone owners to unlock their handsets using body parts other than their fingerprint — such as their ear when answering a call.

“While the input resolution of a touchscreen is about 6 dpi, the surface area is larger, allowing the touch sensor to scan users’ body parts, such as ears, fingers, fists, and palms by pressing them against the display,” the Yahoo Labs team wrote on the project’s web page.

Strange case at Goldman Sachs

A former Goldman Sachs programmer has been convicted for the second time in four years on charges that he misused his former employer’s code, adding a new chapter to an already bizarre and controversial case that has drawn much unwanted attention to the world of high-speed trading and elicited criticism of prosecutorial overzealousness.

Sergey Aleynikov was first convicted in 2011 on espionage and theft-of-trade-secrets charges, stemming from allegations that he stole propriety source code from Goldman Sachs before leaving the firm to take a new job.

That’s gonna take a lot of pasta.

3,690 migrants rescued from Mediterranean in 1 day

Colorado – Good idea.

A bill designed to help the most economically distressed regions of the state was introduced into the Colorado Senate on Monday.

The measure, SB282, would create tax-free zones in Mesa and Pueblo counties as part of a pilot project to see if it is worthy of going statewide.

Patterned after a first-of-its-kind program in New York, the idea is designed to spark economic development by attracting new busines

I hadn’t heard about this one.

3 ex-guards indicted in inmate death at Massachusetts prison

Three former prison guards were indicted Thursday on involuntary manslaughter and civil rights charges in connection with the restraint death of a mentally ill inmate in 2009.

The Suffolk County grand jury’s indictments of former Bridgewater State Hospital guards Derek Howard, John Raposo and George Billadeau came eight months after former state Attorney General Martha Coakley named a special prosecutor to look into Joshua Messier’s death because of lingering questions about the case.

After Messier died, Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz declined to seek charges against the guards. He cited a lack of evidence despite Messier’s death being ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner.

Going just as planned.

It’s not just us: Nearly half of state health care exchanges are struggling

A Washington Post story today says nearly half of the state health care exchanges are struggling, with rising costs and balky technology.

Minnesota fits into that category.

The story says:

Many of the online exchanges are wrestling with surging costs, especially for balky technology and expensive customer-call centers — and tepid enrollment numbers. To ease the fiscal distress, officials are considering raising fees on insurers, sharing costs with other states and pressing state lawmakers for cash infusions. Some are weighing turning over part or all of their troubled marketplaces to the federal exchange, HealthCare.gov, which is now working smoothly.

Arrests in Germany.

Police detains married couple with suspicion of planning a bomb attack on bicycle race near Frankfurt

BERLIN – Police have foiled a “possible terror attack” near Frankfurt after arresting a married couple with a homemade bomb, according to German officials.

Peter Beuth, interior minister of the Federal State of Hesse, told reporters in Wiesbaden that police had prevented a “terror attack” in Oberursel by capturing the couple Thursday morning.

He said: “We can conclude that we were able to prevent a terrorist attack.”

Stefan Mueller, police chief of Western Hesse, confirmed Thursday that the arrest of Halil D., a 35-year-old ethnic-Turkish German citizen, and his 34-year-old Turkish wife Senay D. had prevented a possible attack in Oberursel near Frankfurt.

“According to what we know at the moment, we can say that we have prevented an attack,” Mueller said in a press conference at the police headquarters in Wiesbaden.

Why is this so rare?

Taylor Swift’s Wholesome Family Values

Money doesn’t help.

As this article points out, according to data from the Census Bureau, the Baltimore school system ranked second among the nation’s 100 largest school districts in how much it spent per pupil in fiscal year 2011. Baltimore’s $15,483 per-pupil expenditure was second to New York City’s $19,770.

As for where the United States ranks:

The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system — more than any other nation covered in the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] report.

That sum inched past some developed countries and far surpassed others. Switzerland’s total spending per student was $14,922 while Mexico averaged $2,993 in 2010. The average OECD nation spent $9,313 per young person.

Geez …

Whistleblower Targeted for Exposing UN Troops Raping Children

Soon casting a vote will be a waste of time.

Yet evidence of noncitizen voting mounts. The American Civil Rights Union just filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court documenting instance after instance of noncitizens registering and voting. It urges the Court to take up a petition for certiorari filed by Kansas and Arizona seeking to overturn a bad decision on this issue by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Last February, the Heritage Foundation’s Hans A. von Spakovsky spoke before a House committee and provided examples of foreigners voting.

Worse, none of the perpetrators were prosecuted by Obama’s Justice Department. The examples provided by von Spakovsky are now before the Supreme Court in the briefs filed.

FBI arrests JP Morgan Chase former employee for selling account data

A former employee of JP Morgan Chase, the largest bank in the US, has been arrested by the FBI after a sting operation which resulted in several sets of bank account data including PINs being sold to informants and federal agents.
Details of the investigation have emerged after a deposition, given last week by an FBI special agent working on the case, was unsealed in conjunction with the arraignment of the man, Peter Persaud, in a Brooklyn court this week.

It seems the person Persaud originally approached to sell the data informed the Feds of the situation, and in later dealings with Persaud wore a wire or recorded phone calls to gather evidence. Persaud was also later introduced to an undercover FBI agent posing as an “underworld boss”.

Several sets of bank details were handed over in late 2014 and early 2015 in return for up to $2500 a time.

I think that this qualifies as ‘unusual’.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police on Wednesday arrested a 27-year-old woman who allegedly installed malware on people’s computers.

Valérie Gignac, of the Quebec municipality known as Saint-Alphonse-de-Rodriguez, allegedly eavesdropped on private conversations and spooked her victims by talking to them through their infected computers’ speakers.

She also allegedly logged on to extreme pornography websites after hijacking the computers, displaying adult content to people – including children – in Canada and other countries, the Mounties said in a statement.

Gignac allegedly posted videos on YouTube in which startled victims watch as she takes control of their infected computers.

Gignac is accused of being the owner of a Canada-based online hacking forum that has 35,000 users worldwide. The police seized the forum, in addition to Gignac’s computer equipment.

You might want to count the votes on this one.

Caving to Conservative Pressure, GOP Leadership Agrees to Hold Vote to Protect Religious Freedom in D.C.

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