Tuesday April 16th, 2019

"It Is Not A Question of Who Is Right Or Wrong But What Is Right Or Wrong That Counts."
--Geoff Metcalf
 
World & National
Focus shifts to 'sacred objects' in Notre Dame sacristy as flames extinguished
Roof, spire collapse but bell towers apparently spared at landmark
                Fire at Historic Notre Dame Cathedral Is Out

Jim Costain, a German-based economist taking in the sights with his wife and two young children, thought at first it was just a reflection of the famed lights of Paris he glimpsed through the restaurant window in the heart of the French capital. It took a few minutes for him to realize that the glare was, in fact, the first flames engulfing the Notre Dame Cathedral, which the family had toured just hours earlier.

“We watched for hours,” Mr. Costain said, as did much of Paris, France, and the world as social media and television cameras tracked the red, yellow and orange inferno spreading remorselessly across the roof of the 850-year-old national symbol. “It seems that they’re saving the majority of the cathedral, but I can only imagine how much is lost inside.”
                                  Smoke is seen in the interior of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, Monday, April 15, 2019. A catastrophic fire engulfed the upper reaches of Paris' soaring Notre Dame Cathedral as it was undergoing renovations Monday, threatening one of the greatest architectural treasures of the Western world as tourists and Parisians looked on aghast from the streets below. (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

Over the course the next several agonizing hours, when French Catholics thought they would be preparing for Holy Week and Easter observances, Parisian firefighters raced to save what they could of the iconic structure, even as the cathedral’s signature spire and rose window surrendered to the flames. As night fell on the smoldering church, a sober French President Emmanuel Macron announced that on a bleak day for France, the cathedral’s twin bell towers and basic structure had apparently been preserved despite the devastation.
CROSS REMAINS IN THE RUINS...
CATHEDRAL SAVED FROM TOTAL DESTRUCTION...
AGE, DESIGN FOILED FIREFIGHTERS...
NINE CENTURIES OF HISTORY BROUGHT CRASHING DOWN...
HOLY WEEK HORROR...
CATASTROPHIC...
SOUL OF PARIS...
Tears and shock...
Macron Presides Over Rare Unity...
Donations pour in as crews assess damage...
Could take DECADES to rebuild...
FLASHBACK 2016: ISIS behind failed Notre Dame attack...
Terror group celebrates 'punishment'...



French billionaires pledge 300 million euros ($339M) to rebuild Notre Dame Cathedral


One of France’s richest families promptly stepped up to calls from the country’s president to help rebuild the Cathedral of Notre Dame and pledged about $113 million to restore the gutted Paris icon. Shortly after, another wealthy family offered $226 million to the restoration fund.

“My father and I have decided to release immediately from the funds of Artemis a sum of 100 million euros to participate in the effort that will be necessary for the complete reconstruction of Notre Dame,” François-Henri Pinault said in a statement quoted by Le Figaro and other French news outlets.



North Carolina Senate passes 'born-alive' abortion bill


A bill requiring doctors and nurses to protect and care for children born alive during a failed late-term abortion cleared the North Carolina Senate on Monday, handing social conservatives a victory that could ultimately be undone by the Democratic governor.

The Republican-drafted legislation specifies that health care practitioners should grant those children born alive the same protections as any other newborn patient. Those who don’t do so could face a felony and active prison time, along with potential $250,000 fines and other monetary damages. A mother can’t be prosecuted, but health care providers who fail to report any improper care to authorities could be charged.

“This has nothing to do with limiting abortion in any way,” said Republican Sen. Joyce Krawiec, the bill’s sponsor, in floor debate. “This bill changes nothing except how that born-alive infant is treated.”



Mueller Report to Be Released to Public Thursday Morning

                   Mueller Report to Be Released to Public Thursday Morning

The Justice Department expects to make a redacted version of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on the Russia investigation public Thursday morning, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The redacted report would be sent to Congress and also made available to the public, spokeswoman Kerri Kupec said.

As Washington counted down until the release, President Donald Trump stepped up his attacks in an eleventh-hour effort to undermine the report's findings.

  • Trump Blasts Mueller Report Before Release
  • Rep. Turner: Mueller Report Restores Confidence in Democracy
  • Dershowitz: Dems Have 'Unbelievable' Double Standard on Mueller
  • ABC: WH Has 'Significant Concern' About Mueller Report



  • 2020 Democrats struggle to raise money faster than they spend it


    Sen. Bernard Sanders and Sen. Kamala D. Harris raised campaign cash much faster than they spent it this year, according to federal reports filed Monday, demonstrating that their operations can go the distance in a presidential race.

    Neither raised as much money as President Trump’s $30 million haul in the first quarter. But the two Democrats showed they have the potential to hang in against the Trump campaign, which was pulling in $4 for every $1 it spent.

    As soon as the reports were filed with the Federal Elections Commission, Ms. Harris seized on Mr. Trump’s fund-raising prowess to prod supporters to chip in for her campaign.



    Pelosi appears to take new jab at Ocasio-Cortez, says ‘a glass of water’ with a ‘D’ could win their districts

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Monday made a point to heap more praise on Democrats who flipped Republican seats in the 2018 midterms and downplayed representatives like herself and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who carried districts where a "glass of water" with a "D" next to it could win.

    “When we won this election, it wasn’t in districts like mine or Alexandria’s,” Pelosi said. “[S]he’s a wonderful member of Congress as I think all of our colleagues will attest. But those are districts that are solidly Democratic.”

    To drive the point home she picked up a water glass next to her and said: “This glass of water would win with a ‘D’ next to its name in those districts.”



    An imaginary look at an imaginary 2020 election


    The polls haven’t yet opened, and it’s already time to count the ballots. Everybody wants to know who won next year. It’s not much of a horse race yet, but we’ve got a lot of horses, even if most of them will eventually run straight to the glue works.

    But for those who can’t wait to know who won next year, a new poll of Wall Street insiders finds that 70 percent of those polled told the RBC Capital Markets investment they expect Donald Trump to win election to a second term. Since money talks and bullshine walks, a lot of investors will take this to the bank.

    This accords with what the economists at Goldman Sachs, the loudest voice on the street, are telling their followers. Incumbent presidents have a “built-in advantage” of 5 to 6 percent of the popular vote, says Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist, and that counts for a lot.



    Acknowledging political reality in the Middle East


    President Trump’s recent announcement that the United States would “fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights” is an acknowledgement of political reality that will strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, provide greater security and stability in the region and further cement support among the president’s evangelical base. Recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over this land is yet another bold policy step that sets the Trump administration apart.

    An American president’s statements can be powerful, but only when backed up by clear and decisive action. Unfortunately, the words of America’s leaders have sometimes meant little to our friends (and adversaries) around the world because those words stood alone without a commitment to action.

    Under President Trump, the world sees and understands that the United States is a true friend of Israel. Whether it was moving the U.S. embassy to and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, straightforwardly dealing with the threat posed by Iran, or acknowledging the sovereignty of Israel over its land, Mr. Trump is making history as perhaps the most pro-Israel president ever.

    "It is discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit."
    -- Noel Coward
         (1899-1973) British playwright

    Medal of Honor
    Army Medal of Honor

    The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force which can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States.
    GeneTrerally presented to its recipient by the President of the United States of America in the name of Congress.
    The first award of the Medal of Honor was made March 25, 1863 to Private JACOB PARROTT.The last award of the Medal of Honor was made September 15, 2011 to Sergeant DAKOTA MEYER.

    Since then there have been:  • 3458 recipients of the Medal of Honor.
        • Today there are 85 Living Recipients of the Medal of Honor. 

    Citation

    Captain Humbert R. Versace distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism during the period of 29 October 1963 to 26 September 1965, while serving as S-2 Advisor, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Detachment 52, Ca Mau, Republic of Vietnam. While accompanying a Civilian Irregular Defense Group patrol engaged in combat operations in Thoi Binh District, An Xuyen Province, Captain Versace and the patrol came under sudden and intense mortar, automatic weapons, and small arms fire from elements of a heavily armed enemy battalion. As the battle raged, Captain Versace, although severely wounded in the knee and back by hostile fire, fought valiantly and continued to engage enemy targets. Weakened by his wounds and fatigued by the fierce firefight, Captain Versace stubbornly resisted capture by the over-powering Viet Cong force with the last full measure of his strength and ammunition. Taken prisoner by the Viet Cong, he exemplified the tenets of the Code of Conduct from the time he entered into Prisoner of War status. Captain Versace assumed command of his fellow American soldiers, scorned the enemy's exhaustive interrogation and indoctrination efforts, and made three unsuccessful attempts to escape, despite his weakened condition which was brought about by his wounds and the extreme privation and hardships he was forced to endure. During his captivity, Captain Versace was segregated in an isolated prisoner of war cage, manacled in irons for prolonged periods of time, and placed on extremely reduced ration. The enemy was unable to break his indomitable will, his faith in God, and his trust in the United States of America. Captain Versace, an American fighting man who epitomized the principles of his country and the Code of Conduct, was executed by the Viet Cong on 26 September 1965. Captain Versace's gallant actions in close contact with an enemy force and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect the utmost credit upon himself and the United States Army.


    From the Archives

    We Have Met the Enemy…

          
    Geoff Metcalf
    “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
                  
    --Benjamin Franklin
    “The American people must be willing to give up a degree of personal privacy in exchange for safety and security.”
                  
    --Louis Freeh
    In the wake of the clamor over the most recent WikiLeaks data dump, ‘Vault 7’, ‘UMBRAGE’, et al, it should be noted this is not really anything new. What we are seeing here is simply the evolution of something that goes back to the late 50s (to the incomplete best knowledge I have).

    It is kinda cool to finally see even The New York Times acknowledging material I was writing about in 1998.

    In April of 1998 I wrote “Privacy has become an anachronism.” I was commenting on “a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more.” I was explaining ‘Echelon’, the illegitimate offspring of a UKUSA Treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its purpose was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster, which allegedly shares common goals. The system was so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency folk from Fort Meade could work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval (a court order) or disclosing the operation. And this was all pre-9/11 and pre-the anti-constitutional  'Patriot Act'.

    It is illegal (without a Judge’s signed permission) for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have long been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

    I often fictionalized the genesis of ‘Echelon’ as an informal meeting of a group of post war American and British intelligence types drinking in some remote rustic bar. An imagined CIA type complains to his MI6 buddy about the hassles of US laws preventing US intelligence from surveillance of bad guys, and the Brit echoes the same complaint.

    “Hey wait a moment mate,” says Nigel, the make-believe MI6 guy, “I can spy on your guys and you can spy on our bad players…why don’t we just come up with a mechanism whereby we spy on your villains, you spy on our villains, and we just ‘share’ the intel?”

    This system was called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than most of you. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was, and is, to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals.

    The London Telegraph reported in December of 1997 that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

    The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

    “The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON was designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

    An interesting sidebar appeared in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which was a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathered and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise was known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

    The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

    Most of this information is from y 1998 piece.  Echelon has developed, matured, and morphed into a much more powerful hybrid. ‘Carnivore’ was software to help triage the cacophony of data. Vault 7 and ‘Umbrage’ are logical (some would argue “insidious”) growth.

        More to follow…