Special Investigator Robert Mueller has so far unsealed over 100 criminal charges against 19 people (13 are Russians).
Just today, Rick Gates (age 45), Trump’s deputy campaign manager in 2016-17, pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States, and to lying to FBI investigators.
Additional charges were also brought today against Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager for a few months in 2016. Manafort (age 68) now faces dozens of counts of money laundering* and bank fraud charges. He maintains his innocence (good luck with that). *We’re talking tens of millions of dollars here.
The most tantalizing questions remain.
Why did Trump fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017?
Why did Trump lie about Don Jr’s meeting with the Russians in June 2016?
Why does the FBI refuse to give son-in-law Jared Kushner a security clearance?
This sheet of ‘Great Plains Prairie’ stamps (issued 2001) was on sale on-line, and I ordered it for my stamp collection. The manila envelope that the sheet had arrived in today, had itself some interesting stamps on. Are these old stamps even legit? I wondered .. but it turns out they are. Postage stamps do not have expiration dates, as a general rule.
Hey, a buffalo! I thought, as I spotted one at the Target store’s toy section yesterday. I got one for my African animals collection.
This is a cheapie one ($3.50, made by a company called Terra), and I will still look for one from my favorite purveyor of animal figurines, the German company called Schleich. The Terra-made buffalo does have a lilac-breasted roller (‘troupand’) sitting on its back, a nice touch.
On today, the President’s Day holiday here in the United States, the findings of the 2018 survey by an expert panel has President Donald Trump rated dead last*.
At this early point, he is already deemed worse than even James Buchanan, the Union’s 15th president. (Wikipedia: After leaving office, Buchanan spent most of his remaining years defending himself from public blame for the Civil War).
*Even among self-identified Republicans and conservatives on the panel, Trump came in 40th of 44.
We had a little sleet and snow mix here in the city today – somewhat unusual for February – and the temperature only went up to 38 °F/ 3°C. There was bright sun with clear blue skies in the afternoon. I ventured out for a walk, but the icy wind made me turn around and go home after a few blocks.
Exactly how Russia interfered with the 2016 Presidential Election in the USA, became much clearer on Friday.
The Dept of Justice charged 13 Russian nationals with using stolen identities and exploiting YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to wage a well-funded and well-coordinated campaign to promote Trump and to tear down Hillary Clinton.
What’s still not clear: to what extent Trump, Trump Jr and Trump campaign staff colluded with the Russians – and to what extent they obstructed the Mueller investigation. Yes, Deputy AG Rosenstein said bluntly on Friday: “There is no allegation in this indictment that any American had any knowledge” of Russian involvement .. but surely more indictments are forthcoming.
Fake-News-President Trump launched a tweetstorm on Friday & Saturday full of denials and I-told-you-so’s. He quoted Rosenstein and others, claimed exoneration from colluding with the Russians, said this had no effect on the election, and again attacked the FBI.
17 kids were shot dead in a Florida high school yesterday. So: another gunman joined the long list of mass murderers enabled by the National Rifle Association, loose gun laws, and the inaction of Congress in the United States.
Many, many Americans had hoped the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut would be a turning point. Below is a graphic from the New York Times that shows the accomplishments of our lawmakers since then. (Keep scrolling down to look for a colored square).
I loved the short pairs program of Chinese figure skaters Sui Wenjing and Han Cong. Their music was k.d. lang’s dreamy, languid rendition* of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, and the skaters delivered a flawless and emotional performance. Wow.
*Lang sang it at the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
A study out just this past December, of US mortality data for the period 1979 to 2012, revealed that there is a curious jump in the death rate at age 62, especially for men (not so much for women). Why is that? Researchers think the eligibility for social security payments at age 62, and retirement at that age, is the combined culprit.
Retirement from a desk job could very well have long-term benefits (more exercise, less stress, being better able to take care of oneself). But it could also mean the person becomes more sedentary after doing physical labor as part of his job, smokes more, or even drives around a lot more, and end up in a traffic accident.
Says one of the authors of the study: ‘We aren’t necessarily saying people shouldn’t retire. But if you are thinking about retirement, particularly if you are 62 and your health is poor to start with, think of preventive health measures. Stay healthy, see a physician, don’t just sit on the couch, but don’t overdo it, either. Be careful about driving. Just be careful. It’s a tricky time’.
Ever since South African President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last Thursday was postponed, there was a buzz that his ouster is near, finally.
Zuma assumed office in 2009, and soon disgraced himself and the presidency with corruption and incompetence (see newspaper clipping below). Last December, South Africa’s Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa became the ruling African National Congress party’s chairman, resulting in a leadership crisis.
Word on Monday night in South Africa was that the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting had ended with a decision to recall Zuma. Sources say Zuma had earlier agreed to resign – but on the condition that he stay put 3 more months in office. It was rejected by the NEC.
Tue 2/13 update: President Jacob Zuma is expected to brief the media at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday.
Wed 2/13 update: Zuma gave a rambling, meandering response to the moves by the ANC to get him to quit. (He basically asked ‘What did I do wrong?’ and plans to stay on at least until June). There’s a little ‘as you sow, so you shall reap’ going on here. The ANC had protected Zuma for far too long.
Wed night 2/13: Zuma announces that he is resigning with immediate effect. (Good riddance).
‘The Wave’ is one of a few newly constructed buildings close by Century Link Field (football field) south of Seattle’s Pioneer Square district.
The Wave has a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The studios start at $1,500 a month, and the two-bedrooms can run up to $6,000 a month, depending on the floor space. The Amtrak station with trains south to Portland and north to Vancouver is right there by these buildings, as is the light rail station to Seatac airport and elsewhere in the city.
It was great to see the unified Korean team come into the Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony. One could argue that Korea is the only divided country that remains in the world. For example, there was North and South Vietnam (united in 1975), East and West Germany (united in 1990), and South North and South Yemen (also united in 1990). And yes, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but one cannot see it become one country again.
I read that support for Korean unification is fading, though. Some 50% of young South Koreans regard North Korea as an outright enemy, that they want nothing to do with. The harsh reality is that there is a yawning chasm between the economies of the countries. The per capita income difference between the South and North is 20 to 1. For West Germany and East Germany it was 3 to 1.
Hey! The 2018 Winter Games is underway. US figure skater the ‘quad king*’ Nathan Chen (18) made his debut on Friday in Pyeongchang, but disappointed. He failed to properly execute the quad triple toe, and fell on another jump, ending up in fourth place. ‘Was it nerves? What went wrong?’ inquired an interviewer. “I wasn’t nervous,’ Chen said. ‘I felt pretty comfortable, I was relaxed and ready to go.’ He did admit that he ‘got ahead of myself. I think I was a little too excited.’
*Chen is the first figure skater to land five quadruple lutz jumps (four rotations) in one program. These jumps take a lot of energy, physically and emotionally. Chen is also the only undefeated men’s skater in the world this season.
I picked up this physics handbook at a secondhand bookstore today. What in the world do I want to do with it? Well, it is very similar to one that I had as a freshman engineering student, and it brings back happy memories.
The first chapter has tables that illustrate the orders of magnitude in time, mass and length that physics deal with. The rest of the book is packed with pictures and diagrams.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX team had a spectacularly successful Falcon rocket lift-off and recovery of two booster units today. (The middle booster failed to land on its drone ship target and was lost).
This rocket is called Falcon Heavy because it can lift nearly 64 metric tons (141,000 lbs) into orbit*. Check out the photos that SpaceX had posted on Flickr, here.
*The massive Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, could deliver 137 tons into orbit. There was also a Russian rocket, the Energia, that made flights in 1987 and 1988 that could lift 100 tons into space.
Well – it was a bit of a bloodbath today in the stock market with the Dow Jones down another 4.6%. Note to media: Why sensationalize it further by reporting the 1,175 points loss as the ‘biggest ever’ – technically true, but misleading? Percentage-wise it’s only the biggest drop since 2011 for the Dow.
Bloomberg reports that the robo-advisor websites from Betterment and Wealthfront crashed today. (Too much traffic). Ironically, robo-trading algorithms are suspected as the culprits for accelerating the 900 point loss to 1,600 points (6.2%*) in the afternoon, before the market recovered somewhat to the 1,175 points loss at the close.
*At 7% down for the S&P 500, the trading curb circuit-breakers would have halted trading for 15 minutes.