If you think the government has no business telling business its business, this has been a pretty great year. If, on the other hand, you think government has a role to play in ensuring fair play by companies that have shown themselves to be guided almost exclusively by self-interest and a disregard for consumers and public welfare, this year has been nothing short of horrendous. And 2018 doesn't look much better. The Trump administration has been single-mindedly focused on getting rid of rules and regulations that businesses say hindered competition, innovation and free markets. "The consumer protections that were put in place over the past two generations are being destroyed brick by brick under the Trump administration," said Sally Greenberg, executive director of the National Consumers League. read more
Early in 2017, Donald Trump was worried the dollar was getting too strong. At the start of 2018, he has nothing to worry about. This year, the US dollar recorded an annual decline for the first time in five years. The ICE dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of six other currencies, fell nearly 10% in 2017. That's biggest annual decline since 2003 when the US dollar fell almost 15%. ... Most analysts predict a similarly tough year for the greenback in 2018. Goldman Sachs expects a "soggy dollar," meaning a dollar that has "all but finished pricing the relative strength of the US vs. the global economy."
When Dan Schetter saw how the weather was shaping up on Christmas Day -- below zero temperatures and a wind chill hovering around -25 degrees -- he knew it would be a great day for surfing a blustery Lake Superior. Even better, they were fantastic conditions to grow his signature ice beard. ... "It's not like we're trying to out-ice beard each other," he said of other surfers. "I just happen to have the biggest ice beard."
A 67-year-old Slidell man [in Louisiana] who served as a go-between for an international team of scammers running a "Nigerian prince" email scheme has been arrested after an 18-month investigation. Michael Neu, who is neither Nigerian nor a prince, has been charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering. Neu helped shuttle fraudulently obtained money to his co-conspirators, some of whom actually do live in Nigeria, according to the Slidell Police Department.
"My wife's nurse had to stand for 30 mins and administer a drug slowly through a syringe because there are almost no IV bags in the continental U.S. anymore. See, they were all manufactured in a Puerto Rican factory which still isn't fixed," [Ben Boyer] wrote. "Meanwhile that stupid swollen --- golfs," he added. The tweet spread like wildfire. By Saturday morning, it had more than 100,000 likes and 62,000 retweets. "I think probably it wouldn't have blown up without that there," Boyer said of his allusion to President Trump in an interview with Newsweek. "I don't regret it. Those are very much the words that I feel. But this stuff goes beyond that." read more
"Eight hundred," says the auctioneer. "900 ... 1,000 ... 1,100 ... " Sold. For 1,200 Libyan dinars -- the equivalent of $800. Not a used car, a piece of land, or an item of furniture. Not "merchandise" at all, but two human beings. ... The auctions take place in a seemingly normal town in Libya filled with people leading regular lives. Children play in the street; people go to work, talk to friends and cook dinners for their families. But inside the slave auctions it's like we've stepped back in time. The only thing missing is the shackles around the migrants' wrists and ankles.
A Muskegon area man's video captured a 40-vehicle pile-up along southbound U.S. 31 as it happened Friday, Dec. 29. Jim Perreault posted cell phone video taken from his pickup to his Facebook page on Friday. The crash, involving dozens of vehicles, closed the southbound lanes of U.S. 31 at Holton Road about 2 p.m. ... Perreault's video shows his vehicle in the ditch. As he's waiting, other vehicles can be seen sliding by and smashing into already crashed vehicles. At one point in the video, Perreault notes that his truck has been struck three times. read more
President Trump has fired the entire council that advises his administration about the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Washington Post reported on Saturday. Patrick Sullivan, an epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta who works on HIV testing programs, told the newspaper the members were informed by letter this week that their terminations were effective immediately. The Washington Post said the council, which was set up in 1995, makes national HIV/AIDS strategy recommendations -- a five-year plan which sets out how health officials should respond to the epidemic. ... The mass dismissal follows the resignation in June of six other representatives of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, who said at the time they were frustrated with Trump's health care policies. read more
Russian interference, obsolete voting machines, and tight races -- lots of them -- could be a chaotic combination. Nearly four years after U.S. officials intercepted a classified cable from Russia's military intelligence unit, laying out a playbook for the use of fake online personas to spread disinformation abroad, the U.S. has yet to mount a full-scale response. According to the [Washington] Post, U.S. spy agencies have planned a "half-dozen specific operations to counter the Russian threat," but "one year after those instructions were given, the Trump White House remains divided over whether to act." read more
There's something about a new year that gets people reflective about their lives. They think that when the page turns to a new year, the things they need to do to improve their lives will come into focus. Old bad habits are wiped from the slate and forgotten. Start an exercise program, lose weight, get laid more. Travel, read more books, contact forgotten friends. Whatever deficiency they think exists in their life will now be made whole with dedication and willpower. This year I will again make the same simple resolution that I've made for the last several years, Be better in every way. What's yours?
For the first time food scientists have managed to produced bacon that does not include nitrites from vegetables or curing agents. The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently warns that bacon cured with nitrites is as dangerous as asbestos and smoking, because the chemicals produce carcinogenic nitrosamines when ingested. They have estimated that around 34,000 bowel and colon cancer deaths each year are directly attributable to diets which are high in processed meat. The WHO has also calculated that eating two rashers of nitrite-cured bacon per day increases the risk of contracting bowel cancer by 18 percent. read more
During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia's top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. About three weeks earlier, Papadopoulos had been told that Moscow had thousands of emails that would embarrass Clinton, apparently stolen in an effort to try to damage her campaign. ... The information that Mr. Papadopoulos gave to the Australians answers one of the lingering mysteries of the past year: What so alarmed American officials to provoke the F.B.I. to open a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign months before the presidential election? It was not, as Trump and other politicians have alleged, a dossier compiled by a former British spy hired by a rival campaign. read more
The year 2018 has arrived in Europe and is coming to North America. During this year we can expect the Winter Olympics, launch of NASA's Insight spacecraft to Mars and the World Cup of soccer. CNN has live video of celebrations as midnight strikes and the new year begins.
I don't know if Donald Trump is going to be making any New Year's resolutions for 2018, but here's a thought: How about not threatening to start a nuclear war with North Korea? It seems likely that Trump officials are, in fact, talking about a military strike in which the United States would target a symbolic location in North Korea to retaliate for a missile test, much as the administration targeted an airfield in Syria following a chemical weapons use. Still, I think the Trumpkins are bluffing. They are, to borrow a Soviet phrase, just trying to "rattle the pots and pans," hoping to frighten North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and China's Xi Jinping. Of course, they may still get us all killed. read more
Breitbart News is covering up its recent promotion of an openly white nationalist and anti-Semitic congressional candidate, Paul Nehlen. Meanwhile, Joel Pollak, the site's senior editor-a-large and frequent spokesman, is falsely claiming the site hasn't covered him in "months." In reality, Nehlen's public association with white nationalists dates back more than a year and was contemporaneous with Beitbart's relentless promotion of his primary challenge to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). On December 18, just 10 days ago, Nehlen was a guest on a Breitbart radio show, Whatever It Takes with Curt Schilling. The interview was posted to Breitbart's account on SoundCloud but quietly removed in the last few days.
A guest at Disney World got very, er, animated while attending the Hall of Presidents attraction on Wednesday. At the point in the proceedings where an animatronic version of Donald Trump takes the presidential oath, comedian and actor Jay Malsky decided to add some editorial commentary. As heard at the 1:20 mark in the video above, Malsky began chanting "Lock him up!" ... Later, Malsky told the blog Theme Park University that he didn't stop chanting until "a few folks walked towards me and security came to make sure it didn't turn into a Trump rally." read more