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Thursday, April 27, 2017

President Donald Trump on Thursday plans to sign an executive order establishing a new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in the Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday.

Among other things, Shulkin said, the new office will advise him on disciplining poor-performing employees.

The office will work, he said, to ensure "that we identify systemic barriers that prevent us from making the right decisions and also make sure that we're honoring the commitments that we have to our whistleblowers who've come forth and identified issues so that there's not retaliation."

But Shulkin told reporters that Congress also needs to change the law to allow the VA to more expeditiously discipline and fire problem employees.

The House has already passed legislation that would make it easier to fire or demote poor-performing VA employees, though it's unclear whether the measure can gain enough Democratic support to pass the Senate.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

This may not surprise anyone aged 18 to 34 but according to U.S. Census data, if you're in that age bracket, your life differs wildly from your parents. Gone are the steady jobs and home ownership of yore. Gone too is married life -- more 18-34 year-olds live with their parents than with a spouse. The U.S. Census Bureau report found that the extent to which young people reached milestones like living alone was "tied to economic security." ... The study compared the 18-34 year old age group with young adults in 1975, their parents' generation. Back then, eight in 10 people were married by 30. Now, young people wait longer. By the age of 45, eight in 10 are married too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Shia LeBeouf's latest stunt is to spend a month isolated in a cabin in Finland's remote Lapland region with his only communication with the outside world coming via text message to visitors to a Helsinki museum. The project is called #ALONETOGETHER and involves the other two members of the actor's art collective, Nastja Ronkko and Luke Turner. Ronkko and Turner are also spending time isolated in separate cabins in Lapland beginning Wednesday. Visitors to the Kiasama museum in Helsinki can visit a cabin and send a text to LaBeouf, Ronkko and Turner, who can respond to visitors but can't talk to one another. -- ABC News read more

The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said.

The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page's communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page was acting as an agent of a foreign power, in this case Russia, according to the officials.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The term "stingray" is like "Kleenex" -- in that it's a brand name that became so prominent, it's used to describe any similar product. The federal government tends to call these devices "cell-site simulators," and they're also known as IMSI catchers. Whatever you call them, they share a handful of things in common: They're illegal for civilians to use; they're expensive, ranging from some $40,000 to more than half a million dollars if you include accessories; their legality is still being figured out in our court system; and they vacuum up cell phone locations. Strikingly, only a handful of states, including California, Utah, Virginia, and Washington, actually require a warrant for their use, and to date there is no federal law that regulates them. read more


There's one thing nobody is talking about: why the school is ------.

Does anyone think it started out ------? "Hey, let's build a school in this new neighborhood, but let's make it a really bad one." NO, of course not. They build a neighborhood and the population gets to a certain point that it overwhelms the existing schools and the district builds a new one. Redistricting occurs and kids start attending the new school. In many, many cases, that's the end of the story. Kids live in the burbs, attend the school which exists for decades, and everyone is happy.

But not always. Sometimes something happens that changes the neighborhood. A new mass transit line is put in. A highway is pushed through. Some dipsticks on the city council approve a rezoning plan that allows for some seedier businesses to move in. Urban sprawl absorbs the little neighborhood. Some apartment complexes are built. The people who thought that their little house in their little neighborhood was going to be their forever house start selling their homes and moving. Prices drop. People with less money to spend who want a house start buying. One or two foreclosures pushes the prices down further. More people sell their houses, or rent them. The tax base dwindles. Crime rises.

The school starts to feel the hurt.

What had been a school full of middle class kids and a bevy of parent volunteers is now a school with lower income kids who aren't as concerned about grades and college...nor are their parents, who both work. There are more disciplinary problems. Funding is reallocated away from teachers into things like resource officers and special education. Young families who would have moved to the neighborhood 25 years ago now go online and see how bad the school is and avoid the area. In an effort to boost the school's performance, district lines are redrawn, pulling in students from better neighborhoods. In the near term it boosts school performance but predictably, people start moving out of the better neighborhood because their kid is being forced to go to a worse school. Now another neighborhood starts to decline.

This sounds like a fable, but it's a cautionary tale. I've seen this happening in two different areas. If you drive south down Blanding Boulevard south of Jacksonville, you're passing thousands of homes tucked away in little neighborhoods that have experienced what I just described. All the people who could afford to moved away to Eagle Harbor or Oakleaf or Fleming Island. Orange Park High School is the rundown remnant. Here in Maryland, it's already happened in Oxon Hill and I'm watching the same thing happening in Waldorf.

#4 You're living in deluded denial. You have no idea what China is up to. They'll steal anything. The Pentagon has a huge problem with them counterfeiting electronics. They have fake Apple stores in China. They copy clothing. They fake FOOD, both for humans and pets. 2-3% of world trade is counterfeit Chinese goods...about half of all counterfeit goods.


Growing over 10,000% in the last two decades, counterfeit products exist in virtually every area, including food, beverages, clothes, shoes, pharmaceuticals, electronics, auto parts, toys, and currency. The spread of counterfeit goods is worldwide, and in 2008 a study by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimated the global value of all counterfeit goods reached $650 billion every year, doubling the estimated annual profit made from the sale of illegal drugs worldwide according to data collected by Illicit Trade Monitor. The same study projected that in 2015 the upper bound of the global value of counterfeit and pirated goods could be $1.77 trillion, a number that is roughly equal to the GDP of Brazil. Counterfeit products make up 5 to 7% of world trade and have cost an estimated 2.5 million jobs worldwide, with 750,000 jobs lost in the U.S. alone.


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