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Monday, November 20, 2017

Donald Trump has an inflated view of his assets. The president's family business is worth about one-tenth of the value he has claimed, according to an analysis of the latest figures he has filed with the federal government. Some of the discrepancy is due to a downturn in business, but the rest is credited to an overheated imagination, according to Crain's New York Business reporter Aaron Elstein, who examined the numbers. Elstein told NPR he feels a bit like he was played. In 2016 the Trump Organization reported nearly $9.5 billion in sales. But recent public filings by the president indicate that the company's actual revenue that year was only as much as $700 million, Crain's said. Crain's determined Trump has been reporting inflated revenue since at least 2010. After examining the latest figures Trump has filed, Crain's this month bounced the Trump Organization from the No. 3 spot on its list of largest privately held New York City companies down to No. 40. read more


Ralph Shortey, former Oklahoma state senator and a county campaign coordinator for President Donald Trump's campaign last year, will plead guilty to a child sex trafficking offense for soliciting sex from a 17-year-old boy in March.

In exchange for his guilty plea, government prosecutors have agreed to drop three counts of child pornography against him.

Shortey is scheduled to plead guilty on November 30, two weeks before his trial was set to commence on December 5. Sex trafficking of a minor carries a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison, but Shortey faces the possibility of being sent to life in prison for the offense at a sentencing hearing in early 2018. read more


Friday, November 17, 2017

The world's first human head transplant has been carried out on a corpse in China in an 18-hour operation that showed it was possible to successfully reconnect the spine, nerves and blood vessels.

At a press conference in Vienna on Friday morning, Italian Professor Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, announced that a team at Harbin Medical University had "realised the first human head transplant" and said an operation on a live human will take place "imminently".

The operation was carried out by a team led by Dr Xiaoping Ren, who last year successfully grafted a head onto the body of a monkey. read more


One of Trump's judicial nominees is a ghost hunter who has written several novellas about paranormal activities. The appointment of Brett Talley, 36, for a lifetime post as an Alabama federal judge is raising eyebrows because he has never tried a case. It also emerged he failed to disclose on a conflict-of-interest questionnaire that his wife is a White House lawyer. But he did divulge his Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group membership. The Harvard-educated lawyer was unanimously deemed "not qualified" by the American Bar Association to serve an appointment on the US District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. read more


Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, who holds Hillary Clinton's former seat, said on Thursday that Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency after his inappropriate relationship with an intern came to light nearly 20 years ago.

Asked directly if she believed Mr. Clinton should have stepped down at the time, Ms. Gillibrand took a long pause and said, "Yes, I think that is the appropriate response."


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And...

Secular humanists won't be spared a sobering intellectual reckoning with first contact. Copernicus removed Earth from the center of the universe, and Darwin yanked humans down into the muck with the rest of the animal kingdom. But even within this framework, human beings have continued to regard ourselves as nature's pinnacle. We have continued treating "lower" creatures with great cruelty. We have marveled that existence itself was authored in such a way as to generate, from the simplest materials and axioms, beings like us. We have flattered ourselves that we are, in the words of Carl Sagan, "the universe's way of knowing itself." These are secular ways of saying we are made in the image of God.

We may be humbled to one day find ourselves joined, across the distance of stars, to a more ancient web of minds, fellow travelers in the long journey of time. We may receive from them an education in the real history of civilizations, young, old, and extinct. We may be introduced to galactic-scale artworks, borne of million-year traditions. We may be asked to participate in scientific observations that can be carried out only by multiple civilizations, separated by hundreds of light-years. Observations of this scope may disclose aspects of nature that we cannot now fathom. We may come to know a new metaphysics. If we're lucky, we will come to know a new ethics. We'll emerge from our existential shock feeling newly alive to our shared humanity. The first light to reach us in this dark forest may illuminate our home world too.

Saudi prince killed in helicopter crash near Yemen border
www.bbc.com

Here's the interesting bit:

"Prince Mansour was the son of Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, a former intelligence chief who was crown prince between January and April 2015, when he was pushed aside by Prince Mohammed's father, King Salman, now 81."

"The document took so long to produce, however, and the process of its production was so tortuous, that it had unanticipated results. First of all, by the time it was released, the United States had already entered the war, and Russia was irrevocably on the way out. Contrary to the wishes of those who framed it, the Balfour Declaration did not influence the outcome of World War I. But surely it influenced what happened after."

During the war, the British government had been attempting to win over the Zionists with one hand, while coaxing Arabs into serving its interests with the other. It successfully encouraged Husayn ibn Ali, the sharif of Mecca, to rebel against their common enemy, the Ottoman Empire. When the sharif launched his insurrection, he did so believing that the United Kingdom had promised to support the establishment of an independent Arab kingdom, including Palestine, of which he would be the leader -- not a home in Palestine for the Jewish people. He therefore viewed the Balfour Declaration as a great betrayal. After November 2, 1917, neither he nor his followers would trust "perfidious Albion."

Nor would many Zionists (although Weizmann remained an Anglophile all his life). This is because they had discovered that even as the British government was promising Palestine to them, it was bound by the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 to cede the north of the country to France and the holy cities to government by international condominium. Of course, Zionists did not view the Balfour Declaration as a betrayal, but they knew now that the British government was capable of forsaking them.

What they never learned was that Lloyd George had been prepared to betray them even as they celebrated the declaration he made possible. In January 1918, mere weeks after issuing it, he had sent an emissary to speak with the Turks about a separate peace. Having Turkey out of the war would be a greater contribution to an Allied victory than anything concerning Jews and Arabs. Lloyd George offered the Turks various inducements. One was that if the Ottomans deserted Germany, their flag could continue to fly over Palestine. Had they accepted this offer, no one would be referring to the Balfour Declaration today.

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