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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,635

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After straw ban, California builds a non-plastic future

Kaleigh Laurino keeps an eye on her drink when she meets up with friends at a bar — not because she fears that someone might spike her cocktail, but because she doesn’t want her reusable stainless-steel straw cleared away yet again with the empty glasses.

“My friends are like, are you serious?” said Laurino, 26, a content specialist from Long Beach. But Laurino, who has long been serious about ditching single-use plastics — even before a restriction on their use became California law in January — now carries a small pouch with her that holds a reusable straw and small, bristled cleaning brush.

Ever since California became the first state to bar full-service restaurants from automatically giving out single-use plastic straws, many Californians have been bracing for its impact. And some have definitely not been pleased to find out they have to specifically ask for one if they want to sip their drink through a straw.

Madison Mersola, who works as a server at the Open Sesame restaurant in the Belmont Shore neighborhood of Long Beach, said the early days of the new law were rocky, especially since the restaurant decided to eliminate straws, not just reserve them for people who asked for them. Mersola said she supported the ban on single-use straws — “I saw that terrible video that went around with the straw in the turtle’s nose” — but it wasn’t a view always shared by the people she was serving.


Feds say they've busted a $1.2-billion Medicare scam that targeted seniors

Source: LA Times

Federal authorities said Tuesday that they’ve broken up a $1.2-billion Medicare scam that peddled unneeded orthopedic braces to hundreds of thousands of seniors via foreign call centers.

The Justice Department announced charges against 24 people across the United States, including doctors accused of writing bogus prescriptions for unneeded back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces. Others charged include owners of call centers, telemedicine firms and medical equipment companies, including two people from Glendora in the San Gabriel Valley.

The Health and Human Services inspector general’s office said the fast-moving scam morphed into multiple related schemes, fueled by kickbacks among the parties involved. The FBI and 17 U.S. attorney’s offices took part in the crackdown. Arrests were made Tuesday morning.

Medicare said it’s taking action against 130 medical equipment companies implicated. They billed the program a total of $1.7 billion, of which more than $900 million was paid out.

Read more: https://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-medicare-scam-back-brace-seniors-20190409-story.html

Bank of America to raise minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021

Source: Washington Post

Bank of America said Tuesday that it would raise its minimum wage to $20 an hour by 2021, a move that comes a day before banking industry leaders are scheduled to be grilled on Capitol Hill on their record profits a decade after the financial crisis.

The pay increase will affect all of the Charlotte-based bank’s more than 200,000 employees, the bank said.

Bank of America’s announcement comes as Democratic lawmakers push legislation to raise the federal minimum wage from the current $7.25 to $15 per hour by 2024 amid a tight labor market. Workers are receiving the largest wage increases since the Great Recession as employers struggle to find enough people to fill their ranks.

“The job market is very healthy, and this is one way to help employee retention,” Ken Leon, director of equity research at CFRA Research, said of Bank of America’s announcement.

Read more: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/04/09/bank-america-raise-minimum-wage-hour-by/

It's a start.

Dissecting brains to find the biological answers to the mysteries of mental disorders

About noon most days, the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in East Baltimore gets a case — that is, a brain. It arrives in an inconspicuous red cooler. Almost immediately, resident neuropathologist Rahul Bharadwaj gets to work, carefully inspecting it for any abnormalities, such as tumors or lesions.

Often, the brains come from the Maryland Medical Examiner’s Office, just a 15-minute drive across town. On other days, they are flown in — packed on dry ice — from around the country.

Since opening in 2011, the institute has amassed more than 3,000 of these post-mortem brains that they are studying to better understand the biological mechanisms behind such neuropsychiatric disorders as schizophrenia, major depression, substance abuse, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. About 100 brain banks exist across the country for all sorts of brain diseases. But Lieber, founded with the support and funding of a wealthy couple whose daughter suffered a psychotic break in her 20s, is the biggest collection dedicated specifically to mental conditions.

Current therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders — antipsychotics and antidepressants — treat symptoms rather than the underlying cause of illness, which remains largely unknown. And while they can be lifesaving for certain people, they can cause unpleasant and sometimes serious side effects. In some cases, they won't work at all.


Interesting article but maybe not for the squeamish.

Trump Vows Extensive Search To Find New DHS Director With Ideal Personality Disorders

WASHINGTON—Following the announcement that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was leaving her post, President Trump told reporters Monday he would conduct an extensive search to find a replacement with the right personality disorders necessary for the role.

“Though I admired Kirstjen’s ability to remain cold and detached when questioned about the decision to tear apart families at the border, we require someone with an even greater lack of empathy to do this job properly,” said the president, who praised Nielsen for putting children in cages but explained that the ideal candidate for the position must possess a degree of psychopathy so severe that they believe no law or moral code of any kind applies to them.

“The next person to head the department must be blessed with strong narcissistic tendencies, of course, but also a consistent record of profoundly antisocial behavior. We need someone both spiteful and cruel, but also willing to totally disregard right and wrong. Basically, the new secretary will need to have a psychological makeup that allows them to look people in the eye and tell them, without hesitation, that we don’t want any non-Americans entering the United States unless they’re coming from one of a very limited group of countries in northern Europe.”

At press time, a team of psychiatrists had reportedly presented the president with a stack of résumés that consisted solely of individuals housed in supermax prisons and White House senior adviser Stephen Miller.


The full Mueller report could be released -- if the House opens preliminary impeachment hearings

The uncertain prospect that the House Judiciary Committee will receive the raw, unredacted report generated by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III got even less certain Friday. A decision by the federal court of appeals in Washington now confronts the House leadership and Attorney General William P. Barr with some difficult political choices.

In a 2-to-1 decision in McKeever v. Barr, the court reaffirmed the principle of grand jury secrecy and concluded that a court has no “inherent power” to release grand jury information. This decision will give Barr a plausible basis to resist the Judiciary Committee’s subpoena of the entire Mueller report, even if the committee goes to court to enforce it. But both the House and the attorney general have ways to cope with this obstacle, if they have the political will and the professional judgment to do so.

In McKeever, two Republican appointees, including President Trump’s former deputy White House counsel, concluded that grand jury information must remain confidential unless a request for disclosure falls within one of the narrow exceptions listed in the federal rules of criminal procedure. The court refused to allow the disclosure of grand jury proceedings relating to the 1957 indictment of an FBI agent suspected of conspiring with the regime of Dominican Republic dictator Rafael Trujillo to kidnap and murder an outspoken critic. Even though all the witnesses and principals died long ago, the court concluded that a historian writing a book about the incident could not get access to the grand jury proceedings.

In the face of Barr’s decision not to disclose any of the Mueller report to the public or even to the House Judiciary Committee chaired by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D- N.Y.) until Barr and his team have scrubbed the report of grand jury information (and other material), Nadler and committee Democrats have authorized a subpoena for the full report, setting the stage for a court fight over the committee’s right to see grand jury information. Although the public need underlying the request for disclosure in McKeever was much less pressing, the decision in that case undermines the position of Nadler’s committee, because the controlling federal rule contains no exception allowing congressional “oversight” committees to demand access to otherwise secret grand jury proceedings.


Kirstjen Nielsen's attempt to suck up to Trump ended badly. It always does.

“I have determined,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wrote in her resignation letter Sunday night, “that it is the right time for me to step aside.”

And how did she come to this determination?

Well, maybe it was that her boss, the president, had just demanded her resignation and then tweeted news of her ouster to his nearly 60 million followers.

This was vintage Nielsen: boldly asserting the dubious in the face of the obvious. During her rocky tenure, she secured the homeland against facts and decency alike as she struggled in vain to suck up to President Trump and thereby keep her job.


The Ethiopians are building a massive dam, and Egypt is worried

Since Ethiopia announced plans nearly a decade ago to build a massive hydroelectric dam along the Blue Nile tributary, the Egyptian government has waited in dread at the prospects that its freshwater lifeline could slow by as much as 25%.

Alternately threatening and negotiating, Egyptian officials have sought to scuttle or minimize the impact of the planned 6,450-megawatt facility. But the project has moved inexorably forward and construction, slowed by contracting corruption allegations, is nearly two-thirds complete.

With the dam now due to open next year, the specter of a military confrontation has waned and negotiators are instead debating how long the process of filling the dam should take — with Ethiopia planning to fill it in three years and Egypt asking for 15 years to better prepare for the future.

“We don’t have any other resource in Egypt except the Nile water,” warned professor Nader Nour el-Din, a soil and water expert at Cairo University. “This will harm Egypt.”


Florida man arrested for burglarizing cars in jail parking lot moments after being released

A man was arrested in Florida for allegedly breaking into cars in the jail parking lot moments after he was released, according to police.

Michael Casey Lewis, 37, was originally arrested on charges of grand theft Thursday morning, the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Department said in a statement.

Lewis had just bonded out of county jail and been released Thursday when deputies said they spotted him behaving suspiciously.

“After being released, deputies in the parking lot of the jail observed Lewis pulling car door handles and learned he had just burglarized several cars right there at the jail,” the statement said.


Redaction of Mueller Report Halted as Barr Passes Out from Sharpie Fumes

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The redaction of the Mueller report stalled on Monday after the Attorney General, William Barr, passed out from inhaling fumes from multiple Sharpie markers.

Barr, who had been working around the clock to redact the report before its release, reportedly lost consciousness while trying to black out a seventy-four-page section detailing Donald Trump, Jr.,’s contacts with more than three dozen Russian individuals.

“You cannot use that many Sharpies, for hours on end, without proper ventilation,” a Justice Department staffer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said. “This was a disaster waiting to happen.”

The insentient Barr was rushed to Walter Reed medical center, where a grim-faced hospital spokesperson described his condition as “Ben Carson–like.”

At the White House, the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, offered a more upbeat assessment. “We expect Attorney General Barr to make a swift and full recovery, so that he can get to work on the President’s taxes,” she said.

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