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What happens when a SparklyMoron goes down-market?

What happens when a SparklyMoron goes down-market?

 
Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Envy

Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Envy

With its recent round of layoffs—the biggest in its history—Microsoft hopes to be more able to confront technological change.

If Microsoft were a city, it would contain more residents than Berkeley—at last count, some hundred and twenty-seven thousand. On Thursday morning, Microsoft’s C.E.O., Satya Nadella, sent a letter informing employees that up to eighteen thousand of them would be told to leave within the next year. This is, by far, the biggest round of layoffs in the company’s thirty-nine-year history. The announcement came three months after Microsoft acquired Nokia’s mobile-phone business, and most of the layoffs—twelve and a half thousand—will come from eliminating the overlap from that deal. Middle managers, too, will be cut, to improve the company’s byzantine structure.

In many industries—retail, fast food—a corporation’s head count is seen as a measure of its impressiveness. In the technology world, it signifies bloat. Even Facebook’s six-thousand-member staff makes people nervous. WhatsApp, the messaging service that Facebook bought earlier this year, had fifty-five employees when it was acquired; Instagram, an earlier Facebook purchase, had thirteen. The tinier a company is, the reasoning goes, the faster it can move. Still, even those who anticipated some layoffs at Microsoft following the Nokia deal didn’t expect so many. Rick Sherlund, a veteran Microsoft analyst, had predicted that five to ten per cent of the workforce would be laid off. When he learned of the actual reductions—a cut of fourteen per cent—he wrote, in a note to clients, that they were “bolder” than expected.

 
A quarter of the world’s most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

A quarter of the world’s most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

Emily Badger

Those same cities are home to only 11 percent of the total global population.

As I mentioned last week, college graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education. This clustering of the well-educated — who are drawn to cities with a high quality of life and good jobs, further pushing up the cost of rent there — isn't limited to the United States, though.

Ugne Saltenyte, an analyst at the market research firm Euromonitor, recently calculated that 24 percent of the world's population over 15 years of age and with the equivalent of a two-year degree or more is concentrated in the world's 100 largest cities. These same 100 cities — Saltenyte is counting full metropolitan areas here — are home to just 11 percent of the world's total population.

 
Can Practice Overcome a Lack of Talent?

Can Practice Overcome a Lack of Talent?

By Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D.

Recent books such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and Talent is Overrated have suggested that deliberate practice – structured practice designed to improve performance in music, sports, games, or a profession – accounts for most of the difference between average and “star performers.” But does it?

 
Next Gold Rush: Legal Marijuana Feeds Entrepreneurs’ Dreams

Next Gold Rush: Legal Marijuana Feeds Entrepreneurs’ Dreams

Like the glint of gold or rumors of oil in ages past, the advent of legal, recreational marijuana is beginning to reshape economies in Colorado and Washington State.

Marijuana is beckoning thousands of entrepreneurs and workers, investors and hucksters from across the country, each looking to cash in on a rapidly changing industry that offers hefty portions of both promise and peril.

At convention centers and in hotel meeting rooms, start-up companies are floating sales pitches for marijuana delivery services or apps to name-tagged investors who sip red wine and munch on hempseed snacks. This year, hundreds of people seeking jobs lined up for blocks in downtown Denver, résumés in hand, for an industry-sponsored marijuana job fair. Some have traveled far, leaving security jobs in Ohio or software jobs in Indiana to move for marijuana, hoping the industry has room for them.

“It’s the wild, wild West,” said Tom Bollich, who moved from the world of mobile apps in Silicon Valley to become the chief executive of a company based in Boulder, Colo., that builds climate systems for marijuana growers.

With marijuana now legal for medical use in 23 states and Washington, D.C., and full legalization heading to the ballot in Alaska and Oregon, the size of the noncriminal marijuana industry is expected to grow to about $2.6 billion this year from about $1.5 billion last year, according to estimates by the ArcView Group, a marijuana research and investment firm in San Francisco.

 
For the G.O.P., Fine Line Seen on Migration

For the G.O.P., Fine Line Seen on Migration

In 1996, when a surge in illegal immigration collided with the overheated politics of a presidential election, Republicans demanded a strict crackdown.

They passed a measure in the House that would have allowed states to bar children who were in the country illegally from public schools. Senator Bob Dole, Republican of Kansas, the party’s nominee for president, called for limiting social services to immigrants in the country illegally. Patrick J. Buchanan, one of Mr. Dole’s rivals, had promised to build an electric fence along the border with Mexico.

When Mr. Dole lost to Bill Clinton that year, he received just 21 percent of the Hispanic vote — a record low for a Republican nominee — and the party has never really recovered, even as the Hispanic vote has come to represent 10 percent of the presidential electorate, doubling from 1996.

Today, as a wave of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America poses a new crisis for Congress and the White House, Republicans are struggling to calibrate a response that is both tough and humane, mindful of the need to reconcile their freighted history with Hispanic voters and the passions of a conservative base that sees any easing of immigration rules as heresy.

Some senior Republicans are warning that the party cannot rebuild its reputation with Hispanics if it is drawn into another emotional fight over cracking down on migrants — especially when so many are young children who are escaping extreme poverty and violence. But pleas for compassion and even modest proposals for change are dividing the party, and setting off intense resistance among conservative Republicans who have resisted a broader overhaul of immigration.

Gestures of sympathy, like a trip to the border by Glenn Beck, the conservative radio and television personality who has raised more than $2 million to buy teddy bears, shoes and food for migrant children, were met with scorn and derision. Some anti-immigrant activists responded to news that the government was buying new clothing for the detainees by organizing a campaign to mail them dirty underwear.

 
Docs Show Clinton Skeptical About Osama

Docs Show Clinton Skeptical About Osama

By Ben Jacobs

Among the revelations from the Clinton Library's document dump on Friday was that a 1999 New York Times article caused Bill Clinton to be concerned that the CIA had overstated the threat posted by Osama Bin Laden.

In a handwritten note to his National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger, prompted by a New York Times article on Osama Bin Laden, Clinton wrote “If this article is right, the CIA sure overstated its case to me —what are the facts?” The note appears to be prompted by an April, 1999 article in the New York Times by Tim Weiner with the headline “U.S. Hard Put to Find Proof Bin Laden Directed Attacks.” The piece suggested that Bin Laden’s influence and power had been overstated in the aftermath of Al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. The article was published nine months after the embassy bombings which were promptly followed by U.S. cruise missile strikes on sites linked with Bin Laden in Afghanistan and Sudan. 

Clinton's note seems to have set off a correspondence between Berger and two critical staffers on the National Security Council, Richard Clarke and Daniel Benjamin, on the subject. However, those exchanges were not disclosed as they contained classified national security information. It turns out though that the article may have overstated its case. Al-Qaeda, under Bin Laden's leadership, launched the attacks of September 11, 2001 as well as a bombing on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors .

 
Understanding What Hamas Wants

Understanding What Hamas Wants

Five observations about the Gaza conflict, including praise for the insights of an American ex-president

By Jeffrey Goldberg

1. We can thank former President Bill Clinton for perfect clarity in his comments about the chaos and horror of Gaza. In an interview on Indian television, Clinton—who told us in his memoir that Palestinian self-destructiveness (in the form of Yasir Arafat’s various delusions and prevarications) undid his effort to bring about a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict—blames the Muslim Brotherhood’s Gaza affiliate, Hamas, for adopting a policy of deliberate self-murder in order to present Israel with a set of impossible dilemmas. “Hamas was perfectly well aware of what would happen if they started raining rockets in Israel,” Clinton said. “They fired a thousand of them. And they have a strategy designed to force Israel to kill their own civilians so that the rest of the world will condemn them.”

..................................

The goal of Hamas—the actual, overarching goal—is to terrorize the Jews of Israel, through mass murder, into abandoning their country. If generations of Palestinians have to be sacrificed to that goal, well, Hamas believes such sacrifices are theologically justified.   

 
Obama's foes on border crisis: Democrats

From left: Patrick Leahy, Raul Grijalva, Barack Obama, Luis Gutierrez and Tom Harkin are pictured in this composite image. | AP Photos

Obama's foes on border crisis: Democrats

By SEUNG MIN KIM and MANU RAJU

President Barack Obama’s response to the southern border crisis is under fire from an unlikely source: fellow Democrats.

Republicans have seized on the ballooning number of unaccompanied children crossing into Texas as proof of Obama’s failed immigration policies. But Democrats are also frustrated and are increasingly blaming the White House for bungling the response to the situation on the border.

As Congress struggles to agree on emergency funding in response to the crisis, Democrats are taking the White House to task any chance they get.

They are giving floor speeches, arguing the administration doesn’t understand the root cause of the crisis. They are sparring with administration officials in closed-door discussions. And they say Obama should have better consulted lawmakers before backing a policy change deeply opposed by their party.

“They sure didn’t check with me,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “I don’t know who they checked with, but I just think it was kind of a quick reaction without really thinking about the humanitarian aspects of this.”

Tension between the administration and congressional Democrats is becoming more common. Many Democrats are still fuming about last year’s troubled rollout of Obamacare. The party has been on the defensive over the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner trade swap. The recent veterans health care scandal left many angry. And with Obama’s poll numbers tanking, many plainly fear that all the bad news will make it harder to maintain control of the Senate in the fall elections.

When it comes to the border, the intraparty dispute centers on a law signed in the final days of George W. Bush’s presidency that is meant to shield immigrant children from trafficking. But it’s led to an unintended effect: Because of backlogs in the immigration court system, unaccompanied children from countries other than Mexico or Canada – who are guaranteed their day in court under that law – can end up staying in the U.S. for years as they wait for a hearing.

 
Bergdahl’s Bitter Homecoming

Bergdahl’s Bitter Homecoming

By Jean Kim

According to reports, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has not yet contacted his family. That seems strange to most, but the reintegration process after war (and especially after capture) is anything but simple.

In Michael Hastings’ June 2012 Rolling Stone profile of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the author notes that perhaps the turning point in Bergdahl’s fateful disappearance was his witnessing a child being run over by an MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle). Bergdahl wrote about the incident in a bitter final email to his father, shortly before his capture by the Taliban.

 
Obama to host immigration meeting with Central American leaders

Barbie Miller, left, yells as she joins demonstrators outside the Mexican Consulate Friday, July 18, 2014, in Houston.   Prospects for action on the U.S.-Mexico border crisis faded Thursday as lawmakers traded accusations rather than solutions, raising chances that Congress will go into its summer recess without doing anything about the tens of thousands of migrant children streaming into South Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Obama to host immigration meeting with Central American leaders

By Dave Boyer - The Washington Times

President Obama will host the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador next week to discuss ways to “stem the flow” of illegal immigration, as the White House said Friday the U.S. began to return families from all three countries this week.

Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden will speak with the Central American leaders at the White House next Friday about ways “to promote safe, legal, and orderly migration between our countries in a spirit of shared responsibility, including with respect to the return of family units, which began this week for all three countries.”

 
How Flights Like MH17 Decide Their Routes

How Flights Like MH17 Decide Their Routes

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was among many airlines flying through the eastern Ukraine airspace in recent weeks. A look at how airlines decide where to fly.

 
Russia Has Become Dangerous Again

The illusion of a stable Europe died yesterday with the murdered passengers of MH17.

By David Frum

It was not even a month ago that Vladimir Putin stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the elected leaders of the Western world to commemorate the D-Day invasion. I hope whoever issued that invitation has the decency to feel some embarrassment today. Through the past eight months of escalating Russian violence against Ukraine, too many European governments have treated the Ukraine issue as remote and marginal: regrettable, yes, but not a threat to the peace of the continent. It was more important, they felt, to sustain a normal relationship with Russia. That illusion died yesterday along with the murdered passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Russia is funding, arming, and urging forward a violent insurgency against an elected European government. In Crimea, Russia sent troops across an internationally recognized border, seized territory, and intimidated and abused the conquered population. This is not a bilateral Ukraine-Russia conflict, in the way that, for example, the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008 could be dismissed as a bilateral conflict. It’s a challenge to the stability of the whole continent.

For a decade after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Europeans hoped that Russia would and could evolve into a country at peace with itself and its neighbors, as Germany has so notably done since 1945. Russia was invited to join the Group of Seven industrialized nations (G7). NATO redefined its mission, reorienting itself as a global peacekeeping organization rather than a Western alliance designed to contain Russia. NATO extended a kind of associate status to Russia, and Russia was assured that no U.S. troops would be stationed in former Warsaw Pact territories.

 Vladimir Putin’s ascent to power crushed those hopes. For a long time, however, Europeans—and Americans too—hesitated to acknowledge what was happening in Russia. There were some good reasons for this hesitation: Putin did sometimes cooperate with the Western world—in Afghanistan, for example. There were bad reasons too. As energy prices rose after 2000, the Russian economy recovered. Russia had more of value to sell to the rest of the world, and more money to buy things that the West had to sell—more money, too, to buy Western politicians.

 
Men aren't entitled to women's time or affection.

sad man

Men aren't entitled to women's time or affection. But it's a hard lesson to learn

cord jefferson

Cord Jefferson

Beware a bro who knows what he 'deserves': the friendzone is only purgatory if women's decisions are less valid

 
Two-thirds of illegal immigrant children approved for asylum: report

From left, Raul Amador Sanchez, 7, from Georgia, Alexandra Diaz, 9, and her brother Andy Diaz, 7, both from Baltimore, Md., hold up signs as they join their parent during a news conference of immigrant families and children’s advocates responding to the President Barack Obama’s response to the crisis of unaccompanied children and families illegally entering the US, Monday, July 7, 2014, on the steps of St. John's Church in Washington. A top Obama administration official says no one, not even children trying to escape violent countries, can illegally enter the United States without eventually facing deportation proceedings. But Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson basically acknowledged Sunday that such proceedings might be long delayed, and he said that coping with floods of unaccompanied minors crossing the border is a legal and humanitarian dilemma for the US. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Two-thirds of illegal immigrant children approved for asylum: report

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times

Nearly two-thirds of unaccompanied illegal immigrant children requesting asylum this year have had their initial applications approved, the House Judiciary Committee reported Friday in data that suggests those kids surging across the border who ask to stay will likely be able to gain admission to the U.S.

 
Company co-founded by Nancy Pelosi’s son charged with securities fraud

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. speaks at the Generation Progress's annual Make Progress National Summit in Washington, Wednesday,July 16, 2014. The summit brings together progressive leaders and young people. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Company co-founded by Nancy Pelosi’s son charged with securities fraud

By Elizabeth Harrington

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged a company cofounded by Paul Pelosi Jr. with fraud on Wednesday after learning that two convicted criminals were running the business.

Paul Pelosi Jr., the son of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), was the president and chief operating officer of Natural Blue Resources Inc., an investment company he cofounded that focuses on “environmentally-friendly” ventures.

The SEC charged four individuals with fraud, including former New Mexico Gov. Toney Anaya, and suspended trading in the company’s stock. Pelosi owned over 10 million shares in the company in 2009.

The SEC said Wednesday the company was “secretly controlled” by James E. Cohen and Joseph Corazzi, both of whom had previous fraud convictions. Corazzi violated federal securities laws and was barred from acting as an officer or director of a public company. Cohen was previously incarcerated for financial fraud.

Cohen and Corazzi said they were “outside consultants,” but according to the SEC, they actually controlled Natural Blue’s business decisions “without disclosing their past brushes with the law to investors.” The pair made hundreds of thousands of dollars off the company.

 
It’s Finally Time to Stand Up to Putin

By James Kirchick

The world is in shock at the Malaysian Airlines shoot-down, but it shouldn’t be. Moscow is at the root of the problem and it’s long past time that we confront the regime.

And thus far, the West has been reluctant to strike the cancer at its source. France is on schedule to deliver two Mistral amphibious assault ships to Russia, having signed a contract for the vessels after Moscow invaded and occupied another neighbor, Georgia, in 2008. This week, it was reported that Italy, which currently occupies the EU presidency, was attempting to water down a further round of sanctions. And on Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel— considered one of the continent’s toughest leaders when it comes to dealing with Russia—could be seen chatting next to Putin at the World Cup in Rio De Janeiro.

Only on Wednesday did the United States and European Union announce more sanctions on Russia. But by then, it was too late. Putin had long ago decided to sow violence and discord in Ukraine, waging a proxy war against a country that had ousted a corrupt, Moscow-backed regime in favor of a Western-leaning government. Mainstream media accounts of a “civil war” fought among Ukrainians mask the reality: an old-fashioned war of aggression launched by a powerful country against a weaker one.

 
Five million Americans in for premium spikes if Obamacare challenge is successful

**FILE** Applicants line up outside the SEIU-UHW office during a health care enrollment event in Commerce, Calif., on March 31, 2014. (Associated Press)

Five million Americans in for premium spikes if Obamacare challenge is successful: study

By Tom Howell Jr. - The Washington Times

A Washington-based consultancy estimated Thursday that 5 million Americans would see their health premiums spike if the courts rule in favor of a lawsuit that seeks to cut off Obamacare subsidies to about two-thirds of the states.

Consumers who purchased health plans on an insurance exchange run by the federal government would see an average premium increase of 76 percent if the plaintiffs prevail over the Obama administration, according to Avalere Health.

The suit, Halbig v. Burwell, argues the Affordable Care Act explicitly reserved subsidies for people who purchased a plan on an exchange “established by the State.” In real terms, that would mean the 15 exchanges set up and run by 14 states and the District.

 
On Hectic Day, 'No Drama' Obama Sticks to Schedule

On Hectic Day, 'No Drama' Obama Sticks to Schedule

By Peter Nicholas

Barack Obama's unflappability was a selling point on the 2008 campaign trail, with aides proudly donning T-shirts reading, "No Drama Obama." But as much of an asset as it was for the candidate, Mr. Obama's steady-as-she-goes approach to life can cause problems as president.

This conflict was on full display Thursday, as Mr. Obama decided to stick to his regular schedule amid news reports of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet crash in Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people. That decision generated a split-screen aspect to Mr. Obama’s day, as TV networks broke into regular programming to broadcast pictures of smoldering plane wreckage while the president appeared to go about his regular business.

Mr. Obama first learned of the crash Thursday morning, and then took Air Force One to Delaware to give a routine speech on transportation infrastructure. Arriving there, he stopped first for lunch at the Charcoal Pit restaurant near Wilmington. “Biden told me the burgers are pretty good,” he said, in reference to his vice president, whose home state is Delaware. At the Charcoal Pit, he had lunch with a woman who had written him a letter laying out her troubles as a single mother. It’s all part of a larger strategy on Mr. Obama’s part to leave Washington when he can, mix it up with everyday people and draw attention to his domestic policy goals.

Taking the stage in the afternoon, Mr. Obama made his first comments on the crash, calling it a “terrible tragedy” and saying the U.S. will “offer any assistance we can to help determine what happened, and why.” He said a top priority was to find out whether there were any Americans on board the flight. The remarks lasted less than a minute, and he then moved on to his planned speech about public works projects that also took aim at Republicans for opposing his policy goals.

From there, Mr. Obama flew to New York City for a pair of planned Democratic fundraising events, the first of which had about 30 people contributing up to $32,400, according to a press pool report. As he was en route, news reports popped up about Israel sending ground troops into Gaza.

Still, critics said Mr. Obama made the wrong decision on his schedule. “With all that’s happening in the world right now, I think everyone would agree that the last thing the president should be doing tonight is fundraising,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.

 
The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Working with Chronic Pain

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly of Working with Chronic Pain

By Mark Borigini, M.D.

If you have chronic pain and are in the workforce, you should make every attempt to settle into an occupation that isn't too physically demanding and allows you to work at your own pace. Research into these issues has been performed, and the results have allowed for a rough approximation of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the job market.

 
Boehner needs Democratic votes to repeal law on illegal minors

Boehner needs Democratic votes to repeal law on illegal minors

Byron York

After more than a year of contentious debate, could Congress be any more divided over the issue of immigration? The answer is yes.

In the House, positions are hardening over what to do about the tens of thousands of families and unaccompanied young immigrants illegally crossing the southwestern border into the United States.

On one side are Republicans, and a few Democrats, who support changing a 2008 law that makes it impossible to quickly return the young immigrants to their home countries. On the other side is the House Democratic leadership, which after an initial period of waffling is now dead-set against such a change.

The House could quickly be headed toward a situation in which one side’s top priority is the other side’s deal-killer.

The 2008 law, formally known as the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, is a measure originally passed to fight sex trafficking of minors. For young people who come to the United States illegally from non-contiguous countries — that is, from anywhere other than Canada or Mexico — the law establishes an elaborate and very lengthy procedure in which the federal government is required to house the child, bring in experts to determine the child’s best interest, unite the child with any family members in the U.S., pay for the child’s legal representation and more — and only then, years later, to determine whether the child has an actual legal right to be in this country.

If, on the other hand, the child has come to the United States from Mexico — a contiguous country — he or she can be returned within 72 hours. One obvious fix for the current crisis would be to allow the government to treat children from Central America the same way the law allows officials to treat children from Mexico now.

That change is expected to be the centerpiece of a report from the House Republican immigration working group, appointed June 24 by Speaker John Boehner. “I don’t know how you can address the problem down there without looking at the ’08 law,” Boehner told reporters Thursday morning. “I don’t know how Congress can send more money to the border to begin to mitigate the problem if you don’t do something about the ’08 law that’s being abused — and it is being abused.”

 
Putin moves quickly to control crash information

Russian President Vladimir Putin informed President Obama of the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet near the end of a telephone call about U.S. sanctions. (Associated Press)

Putin moves quickly to control crash information

By S.A. Miller - The Washington Times

Russian President Vladimir Putin loomed over the catastrophe of a downed Malaysia Airlines passenger jet from the start Thursday, as Russian news agencies reported that he was the first to inform President Obama of the crash and he quickly placed blame on his adversaries in the Ukrainian government.

 
5 Things to Know on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

5 Things to Know on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

A Malaysia Airlines plane carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew crashed Thursday in the battle-torn east Ukraine region of Donetsk, where U.S. intelligence agencies say it was struck by a ground-to-air missile. The agencies are divided over whether the missile was launched by the Russian military or by pro-Russia separatist rebels, who officials say lack the expertise to bring down a commercial jet in midflight. The crash follows the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March.

 
Ambivalent Men and the Women Who Love Them

Ambivalent Men and the Women Who Love Them

By Jill P. Weber, Ph.D.

The non-committal, emotionally unavailable man pairing with an overly attentive female who is willing to hang in there–no matter what–is a surprisingly common relationship. Always eager to sew wild oats, the male in this dynamic is frequently described as “a player.” Whether you are an ambivalent man or a woman who loves one, there is a way out of this trap.

 
Boehner on border bill: No Can Do...

Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said he can't envision a U.S. response to the border crisis that doesn't involving speeding up the process of returning unaccompanied Central American children home. (Associated Press)

Boehner: No bill on border surge

By Stephen Dinan - The Washington Times

House Speaker John A. Boehner was pessimistic Thursday that Congress will pass a bill to address the surge of illegal immigrant children before lawmakers head home for a monthlong August vacation, as the gap between Democrats and Republicans grows wider.

President Obama had called for $3.7 billion in new spending and for changes to existing laws to make it easier to deport illegal immigrants, but his Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill have rejected those changes to the law, while GOP leaders say no money will pass without them.

“I don’t know how you can address the problem down there without looking at the ‘08 law,” Mr. Boehner said. “I don’t know how Congress can send more money to the border to begin to mitigate the problem if you don’t do something about the ‘08 law that’s being abused. And it is being abused.”

 
Russia Denies Role in Downing of Airliner

The crash site in Ukraine of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was still unsecured on Friday.

Flight Path of Jet Over Combat Zone in Ukraine Questioned

By SABRINA TAVERNISE and KEITH BRADSHER 

The Russian defense ministry sharply denied on Friday any involvement in the missile strike that Ukrainian officials said brought down a Malaysia Airlines flight, and many began questioning why the airline had chosen to fly a civilian aircraft over a combat zone.

 Russian officials were adamant that they had nothing to do with the disaster, continuing to point fingers at the Ukrainian government and military. “In view of various types of speculation concerning operations of the Russian armed forces in the areas bordering Ukraine, we affirm that the anti-aircraft means of the Russian armed forces did not operate in that region on July 17,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

The Russian defense statement noted that units of the Ukrainian Army possessed the BUK M1 air defense missile launchers that officials said were most likely responsible for bringing the jetliner down. Much of the speculation surrounding the crash has focused on that system, particularly since the pro-Russian separatist forces in eastern Ukraine bragged on social media in late June that they had taken possession of a BUK system after capturing a Ukrainian military base.

The crash remained the subject of intense debate in the small Ukrainian town of Grabovo, as residents tried to come to grips with what had unfolded in the fields where they work, just yards from their homes.

Two villagers said quietly that they had seen the flash of a rocket in the sky around the time the plane went down. Victor, who said he was too afraid to give his last name, said that he had been in his garden at the time and that he had seen “the light coming from a rocket.”

He said it had come from the direction of Snizhne, a city where the Ukrainian military has been bombing rebel positions frequently for more than a week. “It was a rocket, I’m sure of it,” he said.

 
Plane crash builds pressure on West

Plane crash builds pressure on West

By JOSH GERSTEIN

President Barack Obama is pictured. | AP Photo

The immediate hours after the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 brought far more questions than answers.

But one thing was clear: The deaths of nearly 300 people will put new pressure on the White House and European leaders to address the conflict in Ukraine and confront Russian President Vladimir Putin.

President Barack Obama tried on Wednesday — just hours before the plane went down — to get out in front of the chaos in the region by announcing tougher sanctions against Russian entities. But the tragedy shows there is a long way to go.

“Given its continued provocations in Ukraine … I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions,” Obama told reporters Wednesday in a hastily announced press room speech. “Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine.”

If Russia or Ukrainian separatists are responsible for the apparent shoot-down, tougher sanctions against Russia are almost certain to be forthcoming from the Obama administration and Europe, analysts said Thursday. European leaders, especially, will have to face their reluctance to deal with potential blowback — including the possibility that Russia will retaliate by restricting or cutting off energy supplies crucial to countries like Germany.

“I think the West has to say, ‘The gloves are coming off,’” former State Department official David Kramer said. “I would think and hope that at a minimum the U.S. and Europe significantly widen their sanctions. That seems to be a minimal step in this to impose sectoral sanctions.”

 
Why Putin Let MH17 Get Shot Down

top-box

Why Putin Let MH17 Get Shot Down

Russia has been escalating its war in Ukraine for weeks. The urgency to win turned to recklessness.

On Wednesday morning the front page of Foreign Policy magazine had a massive headline, one that should have sent a shockwave through the geopolitical landscape: Russia Is Firing Missiles At Ukraine. 

The story followed the revelation that, on Wednesday, several Russian citizens posted videos to social media which they say show GRAD rockets being fired from Russian territory toward Ukraine. By triangulating the different camera angles, my team at The Interpreter proved that the unguided rockets were indeed being fired into Ukraine from Russia. Thursday morning, there were reports that a group of Ukrainian soldiers had been hit by the rocket fire and were actually receiving medical treatment on the other side of the border, ironically enough in the same town from which the rockets had been launched in the first place.

This should have been huge news. How could things in Ukraine have deteriorated to the point where Putin was now engaged in such a reckless act of aggression? Of course, it was huge news... but for only a few hours. Quickly this headline was buried under the news that another Malaysian airlines flight was missing, and evidence is steadily growing that either Russian-backed separatists or Russia itself may have fired the missile that brought it down.

Why would Putin want to shoot down a commercial airliner? And if it was an accident, why would Putin allow the separatists to have a weapon this powerful without having full control over how it was used? 

The first thing we have to understand is that the Kremlin spent a lot of time and money to bring down, either deliberately or accidentally, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. The prime suspect is a Buk surface-to-air missile system. This is not a shoulder-fired weapon easily smuggled across the border, a point-and-shoot heat-seeking weapon that could be used with little training by anyone who got their hands on it. This is an advanced and battle-proven series of highly sophisticated vehicles which coordinate to track targets with radar and fire missiles so advanced that they were designed to knock smart bombs and cruise missiles out of the sky. Whoever launched this weapon was highly trained and extremely well-equipped.

How, then, could such an advanced weapons system mistake a civilian airliner for a Ukrainian military aircraft? The short answer is that while the Buk system is able to work in isolation, it was never meant to. These types of advanced anti-aircraft systems would typically be used as part of a whole-military response to a threat, utilizing a nation-wide radar system, airborne radar systems, and a coordinated command and control structure that would identify targets and call the shots.

The firing of GRAD rockets and the shooting down of a civilian airplane are part of a pattern, a last-ditch desperate attempt to salvage a win in eastern Ukraine at any cost. In the last several weeks, Russia has pumped dozens of tanks, self-powered howitzers, armored vehicles and militants across the border to the Russian-backed insurgents.

 
Top Marine Corps general slams Obama’s handling of Iraq

** FILE ** Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos, right, accompanied by Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington on Dec. 3, 2010. (Associated Press)

Top Marine Corps general slams Obama’s handling of Iraq

By Douglas Ernst

Four-star Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, used a speaking engagement at the Brookings Institute on Tuesday to deliver a stinging rebuke of the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq.

“I have a hard time believing that had we been there, and worked with the government, and worked with parliament, and worked with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, I don’t think we’d be in the same shape we’re in today,” Gen. Amos said, the Fiscal Times reported Wednesday.

t is rare for an active-duty serviceman to give such blunt public criticism of a sitting president. While Gen. Amos was careful not to mention the president by name, The Fiscal Times reported that the top general’s upcoming retirement this fall may have played a role in his decision.

“We may think we’re done with all of these nasty, thorny, tacky little things that are going on around the world — and I’d argue that if you’re in that nation, it’s not a tacky, little thing for you. We may think we’re done with them, but they’re not done with us,” the commandant of the Marine Corps added, the paper reported. “We’re probably the only country in the world that has the resources and the capability to be able to do some of this that others can’t.”

 
Political Duel for California Governor Spans Nation

Political Duel for California Governor Spans Nation

Gov. Jerry Brown has a little-known Republican challenger campaigning against him across California, taunting him on issues from taxes to transit. But his most formidable Republican adversary is turning out to be a fellow Californian who wields his power from an office 2,700 miles away: Representative Kevin McCarthy, the incoming House majority leader.

In the weeks since Mr. McCarthy, who represents Bakersfield, was elected to the No. 2 position in the House of Representatives, the powerful California governor has found himself facing a no-less-powerful legislator with clout and a platform unlike any he has confronted since he took office. Mr. McCarthy may someday be remembered as a last gasp of Republicanism in this increasingly Democratic state — at least in the view of some Democrats — but for now, he is emerging as an ideological and politically wily opponent, a former State Assembly minority leader with strong opinions on how things should be done back home.

 

Within days of being elected majority leader, to replace Eric Cantor after his surprise loss in a Republican primary, Mr. McCarthy escalated his long-held opposition to Mr. Brown’s signature project, a 520-mile, $68 billion high-speed train that would run from San Francisco to Los Angeles, vowing to do what he could to kill it. “If Sacramento looks to Washington to pay for the train, that will never happen,” he said in an interview last week.

Further, Mr. McCarthy said he would push Republican legislation responding to the severe drought here — which he called the “crisis of the century in California” — by, among other things, rolling back federal environmental protections for endangered smelt and salmon populations, which farmers complained cost them water for irrigation. Mr. Brown denounced the bill as “an unwelcome and divisive intrusion into California’s efforts to manage this severe crisis.”

And Mr. McCarthy declared on Fox News his opposition to funding the Export-Import Bank — and this week, Mr. Brown joined 31 governors in signing a letter to congressional leaders asserting that such a move would “place U.S. companies at a serious disadvantage, which would inevitably lead to fewer exports and the loss of thousands of jobs in our states.”

In the course of an interview, conducted by telephone during his weekly visit to his district, Mr. McCarthy offered strong criticism of Democratic policies and Mr. Brown’s leadership style.

“There are some tough challenges in California, and the governor’s answer is always to raise more taxes,” Mr. McCarthy said. “That’s going to harm the economy.”

 
New App Lets You Track And SELL Your Personal Data

Josh Evans

NSA Taps Tech.JPEG

'We need market driven change to help get the trust and realize all the benefits'

Although it is currently in its early stages, the CitizenMe app will eventually inform users of what data is being gathered on them, and give them the option to sell this data directly to the advertisers, cutting out data brokers, Forbes reports.

Users will be able to choose what data they want shared and will be compensated through Paypal, bank transfers or Bitcoin. Though Forbes notes that the payments will be relatively small.

 
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