EU declares war on search engines

Jun. 28th, 2017 03:44 pm
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by blackjedii

The European Union Just Showed Democrats How To Take On Monopolies

WASHINGTON ― European antitrust officials slapped Google with a record $2.7 billion fine on Tuesday for manipulating search results to favor its own services.

The ruling, which came after a seven-year investigation, exposes what critics described as the failure of U.S. regulators to rein in monopolies at home, forcing their victims to seek recourse in the European Union.

“The U.S. does not do antitrust regulation,” Matt Stoller, an antitrust expert at the nonpartisan New America Foundation’s Open Markets program, told HuffPost. “That’s the key difference. [Europeans] actually do antitrust.”

But what is most surprising about America’s kid-gloves approach to antitrust policy is that it is not limited to Republicans, who are often open about their philosophical objections to regulating monopolistic behavior. In recent decades, influential Democrats have proved just as, if not more, willing to let companies with concentrated financial power off the hook, experts told HuffPost.

“It would be hard to be worse than the [Obama] administration on this,” Stoller said. “The failure of leadership was incredibly profound. That said, it could always get worse, but I don’t think we know enough.”

A monopoly is a company that controls such a large share of an industry that it has the power to dictate prices or engage in other behavior that limits competition. Sometimes companies without sole monopoly power conspire to control prices, forming what are known as cartels.

For many Americans, the word “monopoly” conjures images of robber baron-owned railroad and steel conglomerates from the turn of the 20th century. The trust-busting policies of former President Theodore Roosevelt put an end to them, a certain popular wisdom goes, giving us the thriving, competitive economy we have today.

In reality, as Stoller laid out in a lengthy essay in The Atlantic in October, cutting monopoly business and financial power down to size was the product of constant battles with big money interests that picked up significantly during the New Deal of the 1930s.

Responding to the banking abuses that led to the Great Depression, populist Democrats, often from rural parts of the country, battled the monopolies of their era in order to protect their constituent farmers and local businesses. Antitrust legislation allowed for companies that grew too large or abused their size to be fined or broken up, and Congress, together with the executive branch’s Federal Trade Commission, often put those laws to work.

For several decades, their policing paid off: There were no major financial crises, small towns thrived and the typical worker’s pay climbed steadily.

But by the mid-1970s, a new generation of Democrats concluded that the tight regulation of the New Deal era was outdated, or at least in need of less vigilant enforcement, according to Stoller.

Monopolies swelled once again, leading to the present day, when concentrated wealth and anticompetitive behavior are just as often the province of socially liberal tech giants as that of Wall Street or traditional industry.

Google and Facebook, for example, together now rake in some 85 percent of all internet advertising dollars.

It’s that kind of power that companies can use to prevent new players from entering the market and cripple those that manage to rear their heads. In one infamous case, Google drove the small website to the brink of extinction in 2016 by offering the site’s data in its search results without consent, effectively depriving the upstart company of most of its traffic, the lifeblood of its business.

The divergent U.S. and European approaches to Google’s behavior in recent years exemplify the transatlantic divide on antitrust policy and the key role Democrats have played in lax enforcement in the U.S.

The Obama administration opted not to sue the tech giant, against the advice of its own antitrust division, according to The Wall Street Journal. In 2012, FTC officials reckoned that Google abused and relied on anticompetitive strategies in ways that unfairly disadvantaged both internet users and rival businesses, according to an unredacted report accidentally sent to the Journal in 2015. The agency report recommended bringing a lawsuit against Google in what would easily have been the biggest antitrust case since the Justice Department sued Microsoft in the 1990s for abusing its dominance in the hardware market to sell its software.

The FTC disputed the Journal’s report, claiming the “Commission’s decision on the search allegations was in accord with the recommendations of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, Bureau of Economics, and Office of General Counsel.

“Some of the FTC’s staff attorneys on the search investigation raised concerns about several other Google practices. In response, the Commission obtained commitments from Google regarding certain of those practices. Over the last two years, Google has abided by those commitments.”

Indeed, in 2013, FTC commissioners voted unanimously to end the investigation after Google agreed to make some minor tweaks, giving advertisers more control over data from ad campaigns and websites the choice to opt out of search results. Then-Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the voluntary changes provided “more relief for American consumers faster than any other option.”

Leibowitz, who now represents corporate clients, including cable giant Comcast, on antitrust matters, declined to comment on the record for this article. A spokesman for former President Barack Obama did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But as part of the agreement with the U.S. government, Google made no commitments to stop promoting its own e-commerce, food reviews and other services over competitors or to halt deals with websites that publish its search results to ice out rival search engines. So companies such as Yelp, Expedia and News Corp. turned to regulators at the European Commission, an EU governing body, to take action.

“In Europe, they’re more aggressive about dominance,” Robert Lande, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, told HuffPost. “In the U.S., there’s a really strong presumption that you got your dominance by efficiency, by something that’s good for consumers, and you maintain it by efficiency. Only once in a blue moon do we step over the line and say you got your dominance through something anticompetitive.”

Part of the problem may be that U.S. laws set a higher bar for what constitutes unfair market dominance, according to Harry First, a law professor at New York University.

“In the U.S., you have to show that Google used its position in one market to get a monopoly in the other market, so they’d have to acquire a monopoly or be getting close to getting a monopoly,” First told HuffPost. “In Europe, you don’t have to show that. You just have to show that you are gaining some sort of advantage in that other market.”

Critics accuse the EU of a bias against U.S. companies and point to the dominance of U.S. giants across Europe as evidence that the continent’s regulatory regimes stifle its tech sectors. Last August, EU antitrust officials ordered Apple to pay Ireland up to $14.5 billion in taxes. In May, the commission fined Facebook about $122 million for providing regulators with misleading statements during the social networking behemoth’s $19 billion acquisition of the messaging service WhatsApp.

Those critics include several Democratic House members, particularly from districts where large tech companies reside. In November 2014, six House Democrats joined six Republican colleagues in a letter to top EU parliamentarians arguing against a resolution supportive of breaking up part of Google into separate companies. Ten of the 12 members of Congress received donations from Google.

In the run-up to the EU’s recent decision against Google, lobbyists were soliciting signatures from members of Congress for a letter condemning the EU’s antitrust policies that alleged anti-American discrimination. The letter, published by Politico on Tuesday without signatures, inveighed against the EU’s “aggressive and heavy-handed antitrust enforcement action against American companies.”

HuffPost asked the five remaining House Democrats who had signed the 2014 letter ― California Reps. Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, Eric Swalwell, Tony Cardenas and Colorado Rep. Jared Polis ― if they had signed the more recent missive making the rounds and whether they had a reaction to the final ruling. We posed the same question to Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who unseated Mike Honda, the sixth Democrat on the 2014 letter.

Of those who responded, the offices of Eshoo and Lofgren said they were not familiar with the letter obtained by Politico, and a staff member for Khanna said simply that he had not signed it.

Lofgren, whose third-largest campaign contributor last election cycle was Google’s parent company, Alphabet, chose to comment on the ruling.

“Rather than offering consumers a truly competitive marketplace with European companies rivaling their American counterparts, the European Commission is attempting to regulate innovation and competition into existence,” Lofgren said in a statement. “This is unfair to European consumers, and unfair to the U.S. companies participating in European markets.”

But evidence suggests the EU deals equally harshly with its own companies. Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s top antitrust official, has hit major European firms with similar penalties for anticompetitive behavior, including a fine of more than $3 billion on major European truck makers in July.

Niamh Dunne, an assistant professor of competition law at the London School of Economics, said European regulators don’t apply the same kid-gloves approach to intervening in markets as their U.S. counterparts.

“It’s received wisdom in the U.S. you don’t want to intervene in the digital economy partly because it’s too new and partly because it’s too innovative, so you don’t want to replace beneficial market competition with inefficient government regulation,” Dunne told HuffPost. “As the digital economy becomes more established … maybe there needs to be recognition that, in these markets, competition problems can and might arise.”

For progressives eager to use the grassroot momentum unleashed by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ insurgent bid for the Democratic nomination last year to push the party leftward, antitrust policy could be a flag to rally around. Despite being out of power in Washington, the party could turn to state attorneys general. Tom Miller, the Democratic top cop in Iowa currently serving his ninth consecutive term, successfully led the antitrust battle against Microsoft in the late 1990s.

But the Democratic attorneys general best positioned to take on monopolies have shrunk from the fight, Stoller said. New York’s Eric Schneiderman vowed to become the new sheriff of Wall Street after winning election in 2010 amid the Great Recession, but he has failed to prosecute any significant antitrust case since taking office in 2010, Stoller said.

“He’s done nothing, literally nothing,” he said. “It is totally pathetic.”

Schneiderman’s office pointed out that the attorney general has brought several cases against corporations, including health insurers, pharmaceutical companies and tech companies, over mergers, price-fixing and other anti-competitive practices.

For example, his office said, the attorney general joined with the Justice Department and several other states to block the merger of Anthem and Cigna earlier this year. His office also sued in 2014 to block a pharmaceutical company from switching patients to a new Alzheimer’s drug formula to prevent competition from a new generic version, despite federal regulators declining to step in.

“The Attorney General has been a national leader in tackling some of the toughest antitrust challenges, with a focus on cases that have the biggest impact on New Yorkers,” the New York attorney general’s office spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said in a statement. “We have ― and will continue to ― do what it takes to ensure New York’s residents and businesses can benefit from truly competitive markets ― no matter what happens on the federal level.”

Stoller was unimpressed with examples from the A.G.’s office of its antitrust wins, noting that many are cases in which New York has merely collaborated with other states or the federal government.

Stoller also said that former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, now a Democratic U.S. senator and frequent topic of 2020 presidential speculation, ignored the breeding ground for modern monopolies in her state’s Silicon Valley.

“She certainly didn’t do anything when she was there,” Stoller said.

A spokeswoman for Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, antitrust policy has slowly crept its way back into the liberal discourse, thanks to the scholarship of figures like Barry Lynn, a former business journalist who directs the program at the New America Foundation think tank, where Stoller hangs his hat.

In the Senate, Wall Street nemesis Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has taken up the antitrust banner ― or “stick,” as she dubbed it in a May speech to Democratic donors and activists at the Four Seasons hotel in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

“It is time to do what Teddy Roosevelt did: Pick up the antitrust stick again. The stick has collected some dust, but the laws are still on the books,” she said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) responded to the EU’s fine by calling on the FTC to investigate Google. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said she would be keeping a closer eye on “dominant internet platforms” in her capacity as ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition and Consumer Rights.

Other congressional antitrust advocates include Khanna, whose district is squarely in Silicon Valley. He was the only member of Congress to publicly express concerns about the implications of Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods earlier this month.

“Technology companies are starting to take center stage,” Yong Chao, an antitrust expert and associate economics professor at the University of Louisville, told HuffPost. “In the future, we should see more and more digital giants being investigated under antitrust laws.”

And energy behind the antitrust movement has come from an unexpected source: President Donald Trump. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to block AT&T’s proposed acquisition of CNN-owner Time Warner, claiming “it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.”

As with so many of Trump’s populist campaign vows, he is unlikely to follow through. Makan Delrahim, his pick to head the Department of Justice’s antitrust division, has indicated he would greenlight the mega-merger.

Still, there is nothing like a successful presidential run to show politicians from both parties which ideas resonate with broad swaths of the public. And based on Trump’s performance, antitrust policy sells.

“Trump paid more attention to antitrust than any major presidential candidate since William Jennings Bryan in 1896 to 1900,” law professor Lande said of the three-time Democratic presidential nominee from Nebraska. “Trump made it an issue, many times he rallied his base and found popular support for what I might call an old-fashioned populist antitrust position.”

source is hufflepoff house

[syndicated profile] in_the_pipeline_feed

Posted by Derek Lowe

For many complex diseases, you’ll find that there are a couple of hypotheses floating around them that are hard to prove and hard to disprove: one is that they’re actually caused by some (as yet unrecognized) infectious agent, and the other is that that they’re actually an autoimmune/inflammatory disorder. You can also recognize that these two can have features in common, as seen in something like Guillian-Barré syndrome, where a (usually innocuous and often hardly noticed) viral infection or other stimulus can lead to a sudden autoimmune crisis. A whole list of conditions have had such explanations attached to them, more or less persuasively: Alzheimer’s, obesity, various forms of arthritis (with little doubt on the autoimmune side), diabetes (Type I, certainly, but even Type II), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and more. Those links lead mainly to autoimmune explanations, but infectious-agent hypotheses are found quite easily as well, and going back many years.

A new paper adds what might be strong evidence to the Parkinson’s explanation. It’s been known for some time that there’s an association between the disease and MHC (major histocompatibility complex) alleles although (at the same time) having another autoimmune disease doesn’t seem to raise the risk for Parkinson’s itself. That’s interesting, in that the brain has mostly been thought of as an “immunoprivileged” compartment, but it’s also been increasingly clear that this doctrine is not as solid as it might be. Many CNS conditions have an undeniable inflammatory component, and it’s also quite possible that they lead to less-restrictive blood-brain barriers (or perhaps it’s the latter leading to the former?) In 2014, a paper came out (from some of the same authors on the current one) on MHC expression in postmortem neuronal tissue from Parkinson’s patients suggesting that catecholinergic neurons might be particularly vulnerable to autoimmune attack in this population.

The latest work extends this line of evidence by looking at specific peptide sequences from alpha-synuclein, which is a protein famously noted to be aggregated in the neurons of Parkinson’s patients. It turns out that T-cells from such patients (and not from controls) recognize these peptides, and this process appears to drive a cytotoxic immune response. This would tie in very well with the MHC genetic connections, and may well be putting us towards a better, more comprehensive explanation of the whole disease.

In general, for diseases that seem to have both a genetic susceptibility component and an environmental exposure/history one, you’d have to think that there could well be an immune system mechanism involved. That’s the part of our bodies that most clearly responds to our own environmental exposures (thus the possibility of vaccination), and is (at the same time) genetically unique to each individual. Add in the way that immune system is capable of inflicting major continuing damage to whatever cell population it targets, and you have the scope to explain almost anything. But without hard data, that explanation isn’t worth much – just saying “Must be some autoimmune thing” doesn’t advance the field. Now, with Parkinson’s the hard data may well be coming in.

[syndicated profile] thejimquisition_feed

Posted by Jim Sterling

I should point out that Ian and I are friends, because otherwise this episode would come off really harsh. More than normal.

But anyway, let’s hear about human wreckage, being Jason Voorhees for a joke, and Benjamin Button as a film critic.

Follow Ian on Twitter! Also check out The Parapod and The Mental Podcast.

The Blood is the Life for 28-06-2017

Jun. 28th, 2017 11:00 am
miss_s_b: (Default)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
miss_s_b: Vince Cable's happy face (Politics: Vince - happy face)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Definitely not standing: Jo Swinson, Jamie Stone, Layla Moran, Wera Hobhouse, Tom Brake, Tim Farron, Alistair Carmichael, Norman Lamb, Ed Davey
Probably not standing: Stephen Lloyd, Christine Jardine
Probably standing:
Definitely standing: Vince Cable

... Oh arse.

Look, coronations are bad. The "candidate" does not get examined, does not get their feet held to whatever fire the membership is stoking, does not have to state any positions before the crown is lowered. Recent political leaders who have had a coronation rather than an election include TMay, Arlene Foster, and Gordon Brown. We do not want to be in that company.

But even if coronations were ok, the coronation of someone who's published views are 1, so often at odds with the membership and 2, so changeable depending on who he is talking to... Lads, this is really, really, REALLY not good. And given the article I linked to in the very first piece I wrote on potential leadership elections after the GE, this whole situation smells really fucking funny and I do not like it one bit.

I'm in conversation with a bunch of other senior Lib Dems members of the awkward squad to try to do something about this. I mean, if there was a proper election and the members decided that Vince was the best person, that's one thing, but this is just a subversion of party democracy, and I hate it. Eurgh.

But if we can't do something about it... I don't know. The scissors are feeling very close to my membership card right now.

ETA: OfC given the legendary efficiency of the LDHQ membership department, if I were to cut up my membership card and send it back we'd probably have had another 2 general elections before they got round to processing my resignation...
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by moonshaz

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) says it’s time for Democrats to run on single-payer health care across the country.

President Barack Obama “tried to move us forward with health care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” Warren, referring to Mitt Romney, said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Tuesday.

“Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer,” she said.

Warren’s comments represent a shift to her position on the U.S. health care system. In March, she said her support for switching to single-payer ― in which the government handles coverage of health care costs, rather than insurance companies ― would depend on whether Democrats could find Republican lawmakers willing to help fix the Affordable Care Act passed under Obama.

Republicans, however, have focused on trying to repeal and replace Obamacare. And neither a bill the House passed nor one the Senate is considering ― both of which would cause more than 20 million people to lose health insurance, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates ― has any support among Democrats.

Last week, a high-profile effort to establish a single-payer health care system in California stalled amid concerns from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in the state over how to pay for the estimated $330 billion to $400 billion measure. California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) called the measure “woefully inadequate.”

National Democrats have been reluctant to call for putting single-payer at the top of their party platform. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who supports single-payer, rejected the idea earlier this year, saying the issue should be left up to the states because Congress is not ready for it yet.

Republicans say single-payer is unpopular and turns off voters. Mtt Gorman, communications director at the National Republican Campaign Committee, goaded Democrats to heed Warren’s call for such a system.

The White House is also using the specter of single-payer to persuade Senate Republicans to vote for their party’s health care bill.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted that plans by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to introduce a bill that would create a single-payer system “lays out” the choice for GOP senators wary of the bill their leaders unveiled last week.

In her Journal interview, Warren called on Democrats to ditch half-measures and commit to progressive policies that they believe in.

“It’s not like we’re trying to sell stuff that people don’t want. … It’s not that at all,” she said. “It’s that we haven’t gotten up there and been as clear about our values as we should be, or as clear and concrete about how we’re going to get there.

Source: HuffPost

All I can say is "Go, Liz!"
[syndicated profile] captainawkward_feed

Posted by JenniferP

Hey Cap!

Okay so this is going to be a little complex, but  I hope that you could maybe provide some insight on the situation. 

I met a guy online (a long-distance situation) and we’ve been in contact almost daily for a year and a half now. We’ve gotten to know each other and it turns out that we’re on the same wavelength and get along so well. In the past I had asked him if he had a girlfriend because I didn’t want to get in the middle of anything (we have “intimate” moments), and he said no and that he used to but that he wasn’t happy. But just recently, he messaged me that he had finally broken up with his girlfriend! So my questions are actually:

1. Initially I felt hurt that he lied, but approaching the situation calmly,  it’s difficult not to comfort him, I mean we ARE friends and we do feel a little more than what friendship feels like. When he told me I politely thanked him for telling me and asked if he wanted to talk about it. 

When he opened up a little about it, he said that he thought that it would make him feel better, but after doing it, he felt sad. But he also kept telling me that it had been a long time coming, and that he had been wanting to do it for so long. I’ve never had happy breakups even when I was the one to break it, so I told him that sadness for a while is normal, and that if he had wanted to do it for so long then, there’s a fundamental basis for it that’s obviously important. So now, how do I actually comfort him?

2. I’m confused about the situation. At times he tells me that I make him smile, that he wants to be with me, and I believe because if I didn’t, then we would’ve stopped talking ages ago. The connection and attraction that we have are both pretty strong, and I actually want him and want it to work, and I have plans to see him in a few months. I don’t know what to make of it – him telling me that he’s now free, how he initially feels about it, and so on. So Cap’n, can you please help me make sense of it? Thank you Cap’n!


You asked for my take on “a complex situation” (from your email subject line).

Whatever this guy is to you and however you feel about each other, he lied to you about having a girlfriend all this time. And it’s not like he never mentioned it and you never asked. You asked him directly because you were not comfortable doing “intimate stuff” if he was involved with someone else, and he said no. And then you talked almost every day for a year and a half. He didn’t “forget” that he had a girlfriend or “forget” to mention her.

It’s also highly possible/probable that he lied to his girlfriend about having an “intimate” friend who he had attraction and “almost daily” contact with. Like, maybe they had some kind of agreement or open relationship and everything was cool, but since he’s describing himself as now being “free,” I think it was…not cool?

You’re asking how to comfort him and he seems to want you to comfort him. Okay? Who’s comforting you about the confusingness of being lied to all this time? What is he doing to make you feel better about being hurt?

For a while in my life I was the queen of the long-distance sextual relationship. I’m really good at longing and storytelling and someday, and because the Internet is magic I kept finding people who were also good at those things and together we’d spin some tales and build up all this anticipation and then we’d finally meet in person and…


…one by one…

  • …”I’m single. Well, actually I’m divorced. ‘Separated’ is more like it. Well, we will be separated soon, just, not yet. It’s just not the right time.” (These people are definitely still married to each other).
  • …Told me he was 45, was really 55.
  • …Was at least 15 years older than any photo he’d posted on line or showed me.
  • …He was not all that into me once we met in person.
  • …I was not all that into him once we met in person.
  • …Good on the phone, selfish and annoying in bed.
  • …Bad with consent and careless about safe sex.
  • …Or, sexually AWESOME, bad with everything else.
  • …I was but one of the sympathetic and imaginative ladies in his harem of long-distance ladies.
  • …Or, I was now “his only friend” and/or “only reason to live.”
  • …In one case the “harem of ladies” AND “you’re my only real friend” situation were both true? (Ugh.)
  • “She’s just my roommate, I swear.” (She was his girlfriend.)(Who was working her ass off to support him through a crisis.)
  • …Showed up to my city for a visit with no money and expected to move in with me…the first time we met. (NOPE!)
  • Hey come to my son’s birthday party I want you to finally meet my friends and my mom and my son…bring your video camera and take some home movies for me…oh, also, I will treat you like the hired videographer and my mom will treat you like the caterer/party planner because my real actual girlfriend who I’ve never mentioned is also here and nobody knows about you.” (TRUE STORY, Y’ALL)(I ACTUALLY PUT ON A CLEAN SHIRT AND WENT TO THIS DUMPSTER FIRE OF A “PARTY” AND TOOK VIDEO AND PUT SNACKS ON PLATTERS AND SMILED)

Me, Aged 24-33 = A MESS. A mess with a big phone bill who sent novels worth of sexy and attentive instant messages and emails to verbal, imaginative, interesting men in far-off cities.

These Gentlemen of Mystery I got tangled up with often had a lot to recommend them at the beginning. We had great chemistry, they made me feel important and sexy in a way I hadn’t before, they allowed me to spin out a fantasy life over time and distance and distract me from the mundane day-to-day, there was an inherent drama in traveling to meet them or them traveling to meet me, I got a lot of excitement out of each ping saying I had a new email or text message or IM and those methods of communication were fertile ground for a charismatic and wordy person like myself. Long distance romance spins out in words and you can collect those words and re-read them and go live inside the story you’re making and have actual evidence of the other person’s thoughts and feelings and fill in the spaces in those lovely, lovely blanks. Plus, I got to say “I have a boyfriend” without having to deal with the reality of an actual boyfriend up in my space and business all the time. I liked the version of myself I could create with these men.I liked being In Love. I liked practicing being In Love…from a safe distance.

Long distance relationships are real relationships, relationships that start online and grow over time are real relationships, and they can work – My Facebook wall is covered with too many cute pictures of the offspring that resulted from cross-country flights and leaps of faith and love to ever say that they can’t.

That said, if you’re planning a long-term future with someone, proximity eventually matters. Seeing a person’s living space, seeing how your intended love interacts with the people around them, seeing them in their milieu and day-to-day life, having the evidence of your own eyes and ears and other senses to guide you about whether this person is good for you, whether they are compatible with you, whether the picture they presented to you is congruent to the picture you observe, learning how you are together when it’s not just the adrenaline rush of a quick few days or some texts between classes or those late night phone calls…it’s important. It’s part of this and you can’t skip past it to happily ever after. You have to reckon with boring real everyday life.

Besides meeting online from a distance, the men I met during that period of my life all had two very important things in common:

1) They all *lied to me* about something really important early on in the relationship.

2) Being long-distance made the lie harder to spot. This meant that it took longer for the truth to come out, during which time I became very invested in the relationship and it was much harder to leave than if I had known what was up right away.

In all cases, I found out about the lie and I chose to believe the explanations and justifications they threw at me, usually some version of “I didn’t want to hurt you,” “I knew you would hate me when you found out and things were going so well between us that I was afraid to ruin it,” or “I lied initially when we first met because I didn’t realize how much I would fall in love with you, and then it was never a good time to undo the damage.

In 100% of these cases, I would choose to “be the bigger person,” look past the red flags, demonstrate how empathetic and chill and forgiving I could be, and, 100% of the time, a situation that was about *a lie they told me* would turn into *me reassuring and “comforting” them.* For how they hadn’t meant to hurt me.

Because RealLoveTakesWorkAndCompromiseYaKnow.

The Mediocre Dude With 1,000 Faces:I understand if you hate me now” or “You probably hate me now.

Past Me:I could never hate you!

Current Me: “Pssssttt hey you don’t have to hate him to know that you deserve better than this. You could say ‘I don’t hate you but I don’t think this is going to work out, sorry, bye‘ and hang up the phone now.” 

Mediocre Max (Mike/Milton/Marvin/Martin/Merle/Matt/Mitt/Melvin/Merv/Mark/Mario/Mason)(Marco/Micah/Maxwell/Miguel/Malik/Miles/Marshall/Murph/Malcolm): “It’s just that I have a bad history with [ENTIRE SAD LIFE STORY] and I don’t really know how to [TREAT YOU/WOMEN WELL] because of [REASONS THAT ARE COMPLETELY NOT MY FAULT] + [CODED WORDS THAT INDICATE YOU SHOULD HAVE EXTREMELY LOW EXPECTATIONS OF WHAT I CAN DO BETTER IN THE FUTURE] + [WORDS THAT INDICATE THAT WE SHOULD CONTINUE HAVING SEX, WHATEVER HAPPENS].

Past Me: “It’s okay! I forgive you! I know you love me and we can make it work.” (i.e. My emotional labor can solve anything!)

Current Me: “He said a lot of words but none of them were actually an apology. Huh. That’s interesting. What if you told him, ‘I don’t want to make you feel worse right now, but I also don’t want to keep talking about this. I wish you all good things, but I just can’t be with someone who doesn’t tell me the truth. Let’s end this now before we both get more entangled and hurt?‘”

My dear Letter Writer, forgive me, probably 50% of this blog is me trying to yell through time to my past self – “Run away! He’s not worth it! You deserve better!” Let’s bring it back to you.

Your dude isn’t necessarily like the dudes I met and your experiences won’t necessarily be just like mine. People fuck up and make mistakes, not every relationship ends or begins cleanly, and maybe this friend you have is genuinely sorry for lying to you about his romantic situation for so long while you were doing whatever intimate & sexy stuff you had going on. You want this to happen and I want to be optimistic for you and give everyone the benefit of the doubt here. So what I have are questions:

  • Has he told you he’s sorry?
  • Has he used words like “I’m sorry I lied to you about that, I shouldn’t have done that, that wasn’t okay, I understand why you’d be upset” without trying to self-justify or make you feel sorry for him or comfort him?
  • Have you said (or do you feel like you’re able to say): “Hey, sorry you’re hurting, but can we talk for a second about how I had no idea you had this girlfriend until just now? That’s messed up and it doesn’t make me feel good.
  • Does he try to “rules-lawyer” his way out of a difficult conversation, like, “We weren’t technically together when that happened, so it doesn’t really count as a lie”?
  • Is there a vibe where you’re like “Ok technically he has a point, so why do I still feel so crappy?
  • Which is more important – you feeling good, safe, able to trust – or him winning the point?
  • What does he do for you?
  • What has he done for you lately?
  • Do you trust him to tell you the truth from now on?
  • What would happen if you took a couple of weeks off from talking with him so much?
  • Another version of the above question: What’s That Thing in your current, day-to-day life that you’re ignoring or avoiding or putting off while you dream about Someday, When You’re Together?
  • Could you work a little more on That Thing and a little less on This Sexy And Complicated Dude at least for the time being?

You don’t have to dump him as a sacrifice to my younger self, but you also don’t have to comfort him through any of this. You don’t have to overlook the hurt you’re feeling in the name of being a good friend right now. If he’s good for you, and a good friend to you, maybe let him do the work of showing you that goodness before you invest more of yourself in his comfort?



My Denver Comic Con Schedule

Jun. 27th, 2017 11:09 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

Hey! I’m going to Denver Comic Con this weekend! I’ll be on panels and signing books! Here is my schedule!


Laughter in the Face of Disaster (Friday 6/30 11AM Room 407),

Military Scifi an Institution (Friday 6/30 3PM DCCP4 – Keystone City Room),

Fight the Power! Fiction for Political Change (Friday 6/30 4:30PM Room 402),

The Writing Process of Best Sellers (Saturday 7/1 12PM Room 407),

The Hardness Scale – Is Fiction Better Squishy or Solid? (Saturday 7/1 3PM Room 407),

Economics, Value and Motivating Your Character (Sunday 7/2 11AM Room 407).


Friday 6/30 from 1PM-2:50PM at Tattered Cover Signing Booth 2,

Saturday 7/1 from  10:30AM-11:50PM at the Tattered Cover Signing Booth,

Sunday 7/2 from 2PM-4PM at Tattered Cover Signing Booth 2.

Come see me!

Also, thanks to Sisters in Geek, who collected up this information in this article on my and other authors’ schedules, so I didn’t have to. You’re the best, Sisters in Geek!

New Books and ARCs, 6/27/17

Jun. 27th, 2017 07:35 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

We interrupt this Tuesday afternoon to bring this fresh stack of new books and ARCs that have arrived at the Scalzi Compound. What here is a book you would like in your possession? Tell us in the comments!

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Posted by Rebecca Watson

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Sorta transcript:

This past weekend, the nice folks at the California Academy of Sciences invited me to join their “Snapshot Cal Coast” initiative, in which they ask the people of California to get out to the beach and take ALL THE PHOTOS! It just so happens that the opening “BioBlitz” was at my favorite beach in beautiful Half Moon Bay, so I had to go…even though it meant waking up at 4am and driving an hour through the fog just to get there at a historic low tide, when we could comb through tidal pools to check out marine life.

We used the iNaturalist app, which is basically Instagram for people who love science. It’s free and super easy — if you see a plant or animal you think is cool or weird or pretty or interesting, you take a photo of it and upload it. It’ll automatically tag the location, and you can type in what species or class or kingdom you think it might be. Then you post it, and other people can view it and help you finalize your identification.

I got to speak with one Cal Academy scientist, Dr. Rebecca Johnson, about why the data we were collecting on iNaturalist was so important:

“We use the iNaturalist platform. There’s a community, a social network, and once the community agrees on an identification, those data are sent to “GBIF,” or the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, which is where biodiversity data from natural history museums is shared.

“And so, for scientists and folks interested in conservation who want to know where things have been seen, where species have been found, species and current data, historic or recent, that’s a place to start. Anybody can use those data, because all these data are open and freely available.

So that’s one more passive way they can be used. But we’re really interested in our work and how species’ range have changed along the California coast. So we do a lot of work here, and we’ve seen some things move north with warming waters, especially last year when we had a warm water blob off our coast. Combined with El Niño we saw species bring things more southerly here. But to really understand how things are changing we need people everywhere, at least all along the California coast, if not the whole west coast. It’s only by working together that we can do that. So our questions are about what’s changing and what species’ ranges are changing, and also just to collect and gather baseline data so when things change that we don’t know, that aren’t changing yet, we can see that.”

I had a blast creeping around the tidepools, and you will, too! If you live near the California coast, check out the Cal Academy website for info on events happening near you. Or if you’re more of a loner or not nearby any events, just head outside with your phone and the app and start documenting! It’s a lot of fun, and you end up with a catalogue of all the cool stuff you saw. And as a bonus, you’re helping scientists!

If you’re heading to the tide pools, I recommend donning some waterproof boots (or at least packing a spare pair of socks and shoes) and maybe even getting a waterproof case for your phone, which you can find for surprisingly cheap online! I somehow managed to get through the day without dropping my phone in a tide pool, but I plan to do a lot more of these and I’m pretty realistic about my own clumsiness.

Thanks once again to Cal Academy for inviting me along to an event that combines all my favorite things: the great outdoors, science, and fellow nerds!

copperbadge: (Default)
[personal profile] copperbadge
A few days ago, Mum found out that she may have a close blood relative she didn’t know about, who was the product of an affair and put up for adoption after he was born. Details are sketchy but we worked out from his birth year that it’s possible his birth parents met at a party my mother’s parents threw. 

I only know all this because she asked me to look into him and make sure it wasn’t a scam, and while it’s not a scam it’s also fucking uncanny how similar he and I are – not just physical appearance but hobbies and personality (as much as you can get personality from a facebook and a blog). He’s ten years older than me, but otherwise we’re pretty similar. 

I emailed her like “I think this guy’s on the level, he’s just looking for a missing piece of his family” and had to stifle a strong urge to be like “Also I want to hang out with him, so be nice.” 

I hope Mum likes him, I want to be his Facebook Friend. 

from Tumblr
[syndicated profile] in_the_pipeline_feed

Posted by Derek Lowe

Well, maybe. I have to admit that my first reaction was disbelief. Merck has come out this morning with a statement that its long-running outcomes trial with anacetrapib, their cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP) inhibitor, had positive results. Specifically, they say that the trial. . .

. . .met its primary endpoint, significantly reducing major coronary events (defined as the composite of coronary death, myocardial infarction, and coronary revascularization) compared to placebo in patients at risk for cardiac events who are already receiving an effective LDL-C lowering regimen. The safety profile of anacetrapib in the early analysis was generally consistent with that demonstrated in previous studies of the drug, including accumulation of anacetrapib in adipose tissue, as has been previously reported. Merck plans to review the results of the trial with external experts, and will consider whether to file new drug applications with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies. The results of the REVEAL study will be presented at the European Society of Cardiology meeting on Aug. 29, 2017.

This area has been an expensive wasteland for drug development since 2006, when Pfizer’s torcetrapib (the company’s biggest drug development effort ever, at the time) unexpectedly failed in Phase III. In the years since then, every single other CETP inhibitor has failed as well. They didn’t all raise cardiovascular mortality like Pfizer’s compound, but they sure didn’t lower it, either. Merck persevered with their compound, though, in the face of all these results, and the REVEAL study is a real cardiovascular whopper: 30,000 patients, with the first participants dosed back in 2011, all of them diagnosed with cardiovascular disease and all of them given a statin for LDL lowering. Some of them have been getting anacetrapib on top of that statin dose and others have been getting statin and added placebo.

So this is really the first positive outcomes result ever seen in CETP, thus my surprise and the surprise of most observers. But it’s not time to declare victory yet, because there are a lot of things to think about in that Merck statement:

  1. You will note that the company says it will “consider” whether to file an NDA. On the one hand, that’s appropriately cautious language, but at the same time, companies usually announce that they’re marching ahead to NDA filing after announcing positive results. This makes a person wonder what the magnitude of these positive results might have been. It’s certainly possible that the trial came out nominally positive, but not positive enough to give anacetrapib a chance in the (crowded) cardiovascular market. It’s all about effect size.
  2. Some observers this morning have wondered if the positive trial outcome is due to the compound’s effects on HDL (which is raises) or on LDL (which it lowers). I think that’s impossible to say at this point, but it’s worth noting that Eli Lilly’s compound did both of those and had no effect at all on cardiovascular outcomes. Since all these patients were already on atorvastatin, you also have to wonder how much effect on LDL anacetrapib could pile on, and what the clinical implications of that would be. But it’s certainly still possible that the HDL-raising effects, which are the main reason that everyone piled into CETP in the first place, aren’t doing anything.
  3. Note the statement on the safety of the drug. “Generally consistent” is appropriate language, although not a ringing endorsement, and it’s interesting that the statement specifically mentions the accumulation of the drug in adipose tissue. CETP inhibitors are famously greasy molecules, and it’s not surprising that they would do something like this, but it’s not a desirable feature.

So we’re going to have to wait to see if this clinical trial turns into anything more than an eventual trivia question. Merck might well be finding themselves in the position of King Pyrrhus (“Another victory of this sort and we will be completely undone”). I wondered back in 2011 if that might not be the outcome, and I certainly wasn’t alone. Merck’s stock went up in premarket trading on this announcement, but I think that’s premature. The history of this target should tell us that no one should count a CETP victory until every last bit of the news is in.

The Big Idea: Desirina Boskovich

Jun. 27th, 2017 01:18 pm
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Posted by John Scalzi

Memory and language: Two concepts that Desirinia Boskovich had in mind for her novella Never Now Always. And now, here she is, to remember to you, in words, why they were important to her story.


There are key moments and motifs in fiction that we latch onto as readers, and as writers. Symbolic scenes that loom large for us because they connect in some deeper way with our own buried nightmares and past traumas.

For me one of those moments is in C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair, where every single day, bound to that chair, the prince remembers how much he’s forgotten. Fleetingly, he understands he’s a prisoner and also that he can do nothing about it, imprisoned equally by his own enchanted brain.

I was just six or seven when I read this and the horror of it simply overwhelmed me and then infiltrated me: that moment when you know, and simultaneously know the knowledge won’t last.

I think it terrifies me because the vulnerability and powerlessness of that moment is so crushing and absolute.

In Never Now Always, I set out to explore the terror of that moment. And also to face it and conquer it, putting my characters in the same predicament, yet giving them tools to fight.

So the story centers on Lolo, a child who finds herself trapped in a mysterious labyrinth under the supervision of a horde of voiceless alien Caretakers. She is surrounded by many other children, but none of them know how they ended up there, or what happened before. And as the Caretakers subject the children to psychological experiments focused on trauma and memory, their ability to form short-term memories is limited, too. Everything they learn, or think they learn, just slips between their fingers like water.

Then Lolo hits on the concept of writing — scrawling drawings and pictographs as simply as possible, designed to represent these fleeting pieces of story to her future self. Hoping that she stays the same, that her perception persists enough from day to day that when she sees those scribblings later, she’ll still know what they mean.

For me, as the writer of the novella, it was more complicated. The deeper I got into the story, the more I realized how truly challenging it would be to tell a story where the mechanics of narrative are broken, where one thing doesn’t always lead to another and pieces of story don’t necessarily add up.

In some ways every scene felt like a first scene. There are gaps in this story, and continuity errors.

But I also realized that while I wanted my reader to feel somewhat disoriented, I could not let them remain as disoriented as the characters, because that would really not be an enjoyable story to read.

So I also ended up depending heavily on language to do the work — I tried to anchor everything in touch and taste and feelings, always in the present tense, a language reinvented for children whose sense of time is confined to a narrow slice of perpetual now. Everything that’s happening to them is happening in the immediate, and the present is the only moment that matters.

And in that perpetual now is where I think my characters — and I, myself — find redemption and solace. Because love is deeper than language. Because my dog doesn’t need to remember all the days of his life with me to know that with me he’s loved and safe and home; “yesterday” and “tomorrow” don’t actually mean anything. As always, my dog is wiser than I am. So I gave Lolo a dog, too, to help her figure it out.

In the end, the story returns to the one idea I find most comforting: that in this world and the next, life after life, we always make our way back to protect those who’ve protected us, and to be reunited with the souls we’ve loved.

I hope it’s true.


Never Now Always: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

State of the SB

Jun. 27th, 2017 11:22 am
miss_s_b: (Mood: Drama queen)
[personal profile] miss_s_b
Hate everything.
Having cashflow problems, some of which are my fault, and some of which are other people's fault, and all of which are beyond my control and therefore incredibly frustrating.
Cashflow problems meaning I am having to cancel on commitments, which I hate doing.
Politics in general is full of arseholes who keep arsing.
Work is frustrating, because I can't do the things I need to do for various stupid reasons (also beyond my control).
Have had no sleep and lots of pointless arguments with members of household, which means I am dangerously low on spoons, grumpy and frazzled.
And to top it all, my right tit is a big scabby painful mess.

Here's hoping you lot are all a bit happier...
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by namey

Out-of-town money pouring into South Florida real estate is as old as Henry Flagler.

But the tale of Igor Zorin offers a 21st-century twist with all the weirdness modern Miami has to offer: Russian cash, a motorcycle club named after Russia’s powerful special forces and a condo tower branded by Donald Trump.

Zorin is a Russian government official who has spent nearly $8 million on waterfront South Florida homes, hardly financially prudent given his bureaucrat’s salary of $75,000 per year. He runs a state-owned broadcasting company that, among other duties, operates sound systems for the annual military parade that sends columns of soldiers and tanks rumbling through Moscow’s Red Square.

Zorin has other Miami connections, too: His local business associate, Svyatoslav Mangushev, a Russian intelligence officer turned Miami real-estate investor, helped found a biker club called Spetsnaz M.C. Spetsnaz is a group of motorcycle-loving South Florida expatriates who named themselves after the Russian equivalent of Delta Force or Seal Team Six.

Spetsnaz members once asked for official recognition from Russia’s biggest biker gang, the Night Wolves, an infamous group that has strong ties to Russia’s security services. The Night Wolves played a role in the Ukrainian uprising, once had their flag flown in outer space by Russian cosmonauts and are under U.S. sanctions.

Zorin and Mangushev have ties in both Russia and the United States: In Russia, security firms that have been linked to Mangushev have won $2.4 million worth of contracts from Zorin’s agency since 2015. In Miami, Mangushev once transferred a Florida company that owned a $1.5 million condo out of his name and into Zorin’s. No deed of sale was recorded, meaning the price paid — if any — is unknown.

The condo is one of three units Zorin owned at Trump Palace, a ritzy tower in Sunny Isles Beach built by a local developer and branded by the Trump Organization. Their total value? $5.4 million. Zorin still owns two condos there, plus a $3.3 million home in Bal Harbour.

But back in Russia, none of those properties appear in the public disclosure forms Zorin is required to fill out as a government official. That’s illegal under Russian law and would trouble Zorin’s bosses, according to Ilya Shumanov, deputy director of the Russian chapter of Transparency International, a global anti-graft watchdog.

Given the contentious state of U.S.-Russia relations, owning properties in the United States is considered a black mark against officials like Zorin, according to Shumanov.

“It’s like he owned a place in Hell,” he said.

Zorin was not an original buyer at Trump Palace, meaning his funds would not have gone to the Trump Organization, which signed lucrative deals to brand several condo towers in South Florida in the early 2000s. The Trump name is attractive to Russian buyers and helped turn Sunny Isles Beach into a high-rise condo haven sometimes called “Little Moscow.”

Mangushev is a former officer in Russia’s security service, the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB. He first appeared in Miami around 2010.

In Russia, he ran a group of companies called Alpha-Anticriminal that provided security for some of Russia’s biggest state-owned companies and government agencies. The Alpha-Anticriminal companies were listed under the name of a relative until 2014, according to Russian corporate records.

Alpha Team is an elite Spetsnaz counter-terrorism unit that operates within Russia’s security service. Mangushev told Russian media that he is a former Alpha Team officer and that many of his employees are veterans of Russia’s security service.

Zorin would not comment for this story. A Miami attorney for Mangushev, Olesia Belchenko, declined to answer a list of written questions, except to say that her client sold his Russian security firms in 2013 and has no business relationship with Zorin.

But publicly available records suggest Zorin and Mangushev are connected. In 2011, Zorin wrote a letter of recommendation for Alpha-Anticriminal, posted on the group’s website. While Mangushev’s attorney said he no longer owns Alpha-Anticriminal and its related entities, Russian corporate records still list him as the majority owner of one Alpha-Anticriminal company that is in the process of being dissolved. In addition, he manages a U.S. company called Alpha-Anticriminal. And the website for his South Florida realty firm, Alpha Realty, lists Alpha-Anticriminal as a “partner.”

Mangushev and his affiliated companies own nearly $10 million in South Florida real estate, including a Brickell condo, a Hollywood office building, an Aventura boat slip and a vacant residential lot near Liberty City, according to property records. Court records show that he once tried to evict his wife from a unit at the Trump Palace that charged $9,000 per month in rent. The eviction case began one year after he was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery and she filed a domestic violence injunction against him, later dropped.

‘Putin’s biker’

Military veterans are a growing part of America’s biker culture. But few clubs can brag of an association with Russia’s special forces.

Spetsnaz M.C. was founded two years ago by Mangushev and other Russian expatriates, including a decorated Broward Sheriff’s deputy.

Spetsnaz is a broad term in the Russian military that encompasses counter-terrorism strike teams, elite assault forces and special units of the FSB. Veterans of Russia’s security services often rise to high positions in business and government, including President Vladimir Putin, a former director of the FSB.

Zorin is not listed as a Spetsnaz bike club member. However, his disclosure form states that he owns two motorcycles, one made by BMW, the other by Honda. It’s not known whether he served in the special forces.

The political views of Spetsnaz club members veer toward nationalism.

In a 2010 interview with a Russian media outlet, Mangushev criticized immigration and its potential to wreak the “rapid destruction of national and cultural identity.” In 2014, the future president of the Spetsnaz club wrote to Russia’s most notorious biker group, the Night Wolves, asking to become an official affiliate.

he letter was penned by German Bickbau, a Broward Sheriff’s deputy who has received several commendations for his law enforcement work, according to his personnel file.

“There’s a spirit in the Night Wolves,” Bickbau wrote in Russian in 2014, according to the Night Wolves website. “There’s something that’s not in the other groups. There’s the spirit of Russia. That is why we are awaiting [your] decision.”

During the invasion of Crimea and uprising in Ukraine, the Night Wolves took their hogs to the road to join Russian-backed separatist fighters. Their leader, Alexander Zaldostanov, a plastic surgery specialist nicknamed “the Surgeon,” has been decorated by Putin. He is considered a close ally of the Kremlin. In 2015, Russian cosmonauts flew the Night Wolves’ flag above the International Space Station.

The United States has a less charitable view: In 2014, the Treasury Department put Zaldostanov and the Night Wolves under sanction for their role in the Ukrainian conflict. U.S. officials said the Night Wolves had abducted a Ukrainian border guard, stormed a Ukrainian naval base and smuggled a senior Ukrainian official out of the country.

In addition, “the Night Wolves have been closely connected to the Russian special services [and] have helped to recruit separatist fighters,” a Treasury news release said.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration unveiled new Ukraine-related sanctions against 38 individuals and groups, including two Night Wolves administrators and two organizations affiliated with the gang.

It’s not known whether the group ever agreed to recognize Spetsnaz.

In South Florida, Spetsnaz members have performed charity work and ridden up and down the East Coast, according to the group’s website. They met with New York City Russian-American law enforcement officers and have opened a Moscow chapter. Corporate paperwork filed in Florida says Spetsnaz members are “family-oriented motorcycle enthusiasts from [the] former Soviet Union who served in [the] armed forces and like-minded individuals” who wish to promote motorcycle safety in Russia and the United States.

Mangushev repeatedly hung up the phone when contacted by reporters at a Miami number. He is involved in civil litigation with his business partners, Gennady Alekseenko and Inessa Pozdnyakova, over his local real-estate company.

Bickbau, who resigned as president last year, did not return calls.

Home away from home

Corruption is a major problem in Russia, sparking massive opposition-led protests in March. And South Florida figures big as a hiding place for mysterious funds. Russian organized crime groups are known to operate in the region.

“If a person needs to hide dirty money, my bet is that this person is going to South Florida,” said Shumanov of Transparency International. “It is an ideal place for … laundering money through luxury real estate. The prices are rising, the investment is protected and there are dozens of ways to hide the beneficial owner of an expensive condominium, house or villa.”

All that money rushing into Miami has helped push home prices far beyond what most locals can afford.

U.S. law enforcement is taking note of Miami’s reputation as a lock box for suspect money. Among the highest-profile incidents that have left the local real-estate industry feeling under siege: unprecedented federal monitoring of shell companies buying pricey homes in cash. A wave of disclosures from the release of the secret offshore files known as the Panama Papers. And now a special prosecutor-led investigation that could focus on potential links between Russian operatives and President Donald Trump’s business empire, with its large South Florida footprint.

None of Zorin’s property purchases used bank financing, meaning he most likely paid cash. He made roughly $75,000 in 2015 and $159,000 in 2016, according to his latest disclosure forms.

The Trump unit he got from Mangushev was later sold to a woman who appears to be Mangushev’s relative for $1.5 million, Florida records show.

Meanwhile, Alpha-Anticriminal has won dozens of contracts from Zorin’s government firm, according to official records examined by the Herald in Russia. In his disclosures, Zorin failed to mention his South Florida business connection with Mangushev.

“It is a conflict of interest that should have been reported to [Zorin’s] superior,” Shumanov said.

Russian government officials are supposed to report any properties they own overseas, thanks to anti-corruption reforms signed by Putin. Starting in July, a new law will ban officials from owning shares of foreign businesses, such as the Florida limited liability companies Zorin used to buy his Miami-area homes or a used-tire business that Miami-Dade court records show he once tried to purchase. Officials are already prohibited from owning foreign bank accounts.

Zorin did not respond to questions in Russian about his Florida assets that were hand-delivered to his Moscow office by a reporter. His agency, the state-owned Russian Broadcasting and Alert Network (RSVO), did not respond to an email.

RSVO broadcasts state radio programs, operates emergency alert networks, provides infrastructure for telecommunication firms and handles acoustic technology for major government events, according to its website. That includes the famous Victory Day parade through Red Square celebrating the Soviet Union’s role in the defeat of Nazi Germany.

On Tuesday of this past week, as the Herald was attempting to contact Spetsnaz members in advance of publication, the motorcycle club filed paperwork with the state to shut down.

Source. / Post title credit.
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

The first time I personally encountered Harry Potter was not long after the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, came out. I was 30 and my daughter was an infant, so in neither case were these particular Scalzis the target demographic for the books, but by that time the buzz (and sales) of the series were pretty significant. So one day in the airport, while I was browsing in a bookstore, I picked up Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and opened it up near the end, to the part where Dobby the House Elf is given a sock.

I read it for a few pages to get the sense of Rowling’s style, and then put the book back on the shelf and thought, “well, okay, that’s not for me.” Why not for me? In this case, it was something about the writing of that particular scene. I could see how all the pieces fit together, and I could see how it was working, and I could also see that all of it seemed pitched to someone who wasn’t me, 30-year-old John Scalzi. This didn’t mean it wasn’t a good book or the right book for someone else; by the age of thirty I had gathered enough wisdom (and, dare I say it, humility) to recognize that “not for me” was not the same as “not for anyone.” But I didn’t feel the click that made me want to keep reading. Evidently, Harry Potter was not for me.

And that was okay! There is a lot of stuff in the common culture that is not for me, particularly when it’s pitched to people who are younger or older than I am. Dawson’s Creek and The Vampire Diaries are not for me, just like My Three Sons or Dark Shadows were not for me. Emerson Lake and Palmer was not for me, nor was N*Sync, nor is Ariana Grande. Doctor Who’s first iteration was not for me and I have to admit I’m only passably interested in the current version. I could be here for days with a list of all the things that are not for me. Again, which is fine! There are lots of things that I decided are for me. I was happy with them.

And so with Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling, whose niche in my mind I pretty much figured had been occupied by Will Stanton and Meg Murry, and Susan Cooper and Madeleine L’Engle. I didn’t worry too much about whether Kids These Days were reading The Dark is Rising or the Wrinkle in Time series, for the same reason I didn’t worry too much if today’s kids were really into Tears for Fears or the Go-Gos, to name but two bands whose discographies were pertinent to my teenage years. Every generation finds their storytellers, in literature and music and art in general. I was okay letting J.K. Rowling and her stories belong to the generation of young people after mine. Yes, I know, very gracious of me.

But as it turns out neither Harry Potter nor J.K. Rowling were done with me. First, of course, it turned out that Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley (and Rowling) weren’t Tears for Fears; they were the Beatles. And like the Beatles they weren’t just popular. They materially changed common culture — for a start, because they also changed the industry that they came out of, and the work of everyone in their field, who either responded to them or were influenced by them. Now, one may, like me, decide a phenomenon like that isn’t for you, but when literally(!) the world is changing to deal with and make room for that phenomenon, you still have to acknowledge that it’s there and work with it, or at least around it. Particularly when and if, like me, it comes out of the fields (in this case publishing and writing) you hope to be in, and in my case were eventually part of.

Second, I found another way in to Rowling’s wizarding world: through the movies, which were for me in a way that I, from that snippet of the second book, assumed the books were not. In retrospect this is not at all surprising — I was a professional film critic for several years, and I’ve written two books on film, and, as anyone who has ever read my novels can tell you, the storytelling structure of film is a huge influence on my storytelling in prose. My professional and creative interest in film helped that version of Harry Potter’s story speak to me.

(And in point of fact this is not the first time I had found the film/TV version of a story working better for me. I’ve written in detail about how I think the Peter Jackson’s take on The Lord of the Rings is better — or at least better for me, in terms of story presentation — than the Tolkien books; likewise I am deeper into the Game of Thrones universe through the TV series than I was through the books. In all these cases, I’m not suggesting the prose version has failed in some way and the films “fix” them. They obviously work for millions of people. More to the point, different media allow creators to do different things, and reach different people. As was the case here.)

Having gotten through the door with the series via film was a good thing, because as it turned out Harry Potter is for me — which is to say that I find the world that Rowling created to be deep and thoughtful and interesting in ways I didn’t expect. And because it’s interesting and engaging to me as someone who approached it as an adult, I understand better why it’s so very deeply affecting for the readers who literally grew up in tandem with Harry and Hermione and Ron and all the rest of the students at Hogwarts. They aren’t just characters to them, any more than Will Stanton or Meg Murry were just characters to me. They were and are contemporaries and friends. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts year had several million students in it. It’s a miracle they all fit in the dining hall.

One way or another, lightly or deeply, it’s turned out Harry Potter is for more people than I would have expected, all those years ago. This is one reason why 20 years after the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, we’re getting the sort of retrospectives on the series that Sgt. Pepper’s got 20 years down the road from its release, and why, just like everyone knew which Beatle was their favorite, now everyone knows which Hogwarts house they’d personally be sorted into, or would want to be.

(Personal moment here: I assumed I was a Ravenclaw, because come on, but then went to the Pottermore site and was sorted into Gryffindor, which annoyed me but on reflection I realized was correct, damn it. Also, re: the Beatles, John is Slytherin, Paul is Gryffindor, George is Ravenclaw and Ringo is so very Hufflepuff. Fight me on this).

This is not to say the Potterverse is perfect or that J.K. Rowling is infallable as a writer or human. It’s not and she’s not. But then again, none of the universes I’ve written are perfect, and I sure as hell am not infallible, either. Fictional universes don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be a space people want to explore and keep exploring, year after year. I can’t say that I know Rowling to any great extent — we’ve exchanged pleasantries on Twitter, which I try not to let her know I’ve geeked out about — but I do admire her, as a writer and a worldbuilder, and as someone who has decided that she needs to be engaged in our world and time. From her public persona at least, it’s no great surprise that Harry and Hermione and Ron came out of her brain, or that she created such great antagonists for them. I think she sees what the world can run downhill toward, and how quickly that can happen, and that people need to stand against that, and stand with each other as they do so.

Which is another reason I’m glad that I found Harry Potter is for me, and for millions of other people. We need that now in 2017. I need it now. There’s very little chance J.K. Rowling knew, 20 years ago, that her books and her characters would be needed like this today. But I hope she knows it now, today and every day.

[syndicated profile] thejimquisition_feed

Posted by Jim Sterling

First and foremost, The Jimquisition went to Mississippi Comic-Con and I got roughed up by Jason Voorhees.

Of lesser importance is our main story. Cross-platform play is being embraced by both Microsoft and Nintendo. As with mods, Sony’s being a spoilsport again.

As Minecraft and Rocket League let Xbox One and Switch players interact, PS4 folks once again get stuck with inferior products.


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October 2013

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