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Zorro

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Gender: Male
Hometown: America's Finest City
Current location: District 50
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 9,501

Journal Archives

New US Defense Bill 'Direct Threat,' Says Russia

Serving as the latest figurative jab in the two countries’ ongoing publicity war, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson called the United States' newest defense spending authorization a “hostile” act Tuesday, Politico reported.

President Barack Obama, following Congress’ passage of the $618.7 billion National Defense Authorization Act earlier this month, signed the spending bill into law Friday and Russian spokesperson Maria Zakharova said the intended funding for Syrian anti-government rebels, who she called “bloody thugs,” was a “direct threat” to Russian aircraft, soldiers and its embassy in Syria.

Zakharova also addressed the timing of the bill, as Obama transitions out and President-elect Donald Trump in, could create further issues for the oft-at-odds nations.

“The passing of this law in the last days of team Obama is an indication the administration is planting a landmine for the future administration of Donald Trump, in an attempt to complicate affairs in the international arena,” Zakharova said.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/us-defense-bill-direct-threat-150352293.html

Car Brands Ranked by Owner Satisfaction

Consumer Reports’ Annual Owner Satisfaction Survey tells us how subscribers feel about the cars they bought. But how do the car brands themselves match up? After all, one outstanding model—or a disappointing one—doesn’t define a brand.

Our brand rankings represent owner sentiment across each brand’s product line. (Model satisfaction is determined by the percentage of owners who responded “definitely yes” to the question of whether they would buy the same vehicle if they had it to do all over again.) To determine brand love—or disdain—we took a straight average of the satisfaction score for each brand’s models.

In order to qualify, the brand had to have at least two models with data. For this analysis, we focused on cars from model years 2014-2017 to represent the current state of the brands, which included over 300,000 vehicles from the survey.

Our survey revealed that the Tesla, Porsche, Audi, and Subaru brands remained in the top four spots, again this year. Some other brands were on the move. Lincoln climbed from 21st place last year to 12th this year, and Hyundai shot up to 13th from 24th, based on the strength of new and recently redesigned models.

http://www.consumerreports.org/car-reliability-owner-satisfaction/car-brands-ranked-by-satisfaction/

By striking a single word, Congress shakes up U.S. nuclear defense doctrine

By removing a single word from legislation governing the military, Congress has laid the groundwork for both a major shift in U.S. nuclear defense doctrine and a costly effort to field space-based weaponry.

Experts say the changes, approved by overwhelming majorities in both the House and Senate, could aggravate tensions with Russia and China and prompt a renewed nuclear arms race. The bill awaits action by President Obama. The White House has not said what he will do.

For decades, America’s defense against nuclear attack has rested on twin pillars: The nation’s homeland missile defense system is designed to thwart a small-scale, or “limited,” attack by the likes of North Korea or Iran. As for the threat of a large-scale strike by China or Russia, the prospect of massive U.S. retaliation is supposed to deter both from ever launching missiles.

Central to this strategy was a one-word qualifier – “limited” -- used to define the mission of the homeland defense system. The language was carefully crafted to avoid reigniting an arms race among the superpowers.

http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-missile-defense-unlimited-20161221-snap-20161221-story.html

GOP introduces plan to massively cut Social Security

Source: Yahoo Finance

On Thursday, Rep. Sam Johnson, a Republican from Texas and chair of the Ways and Means Committee, introduced legislation to significantly cut Social Security.

The bill introduced by Johnson, who is also the chair of the Social Security subcommittee, slashes benefits, adds means testing, and would raise the retirement age from 67 to 69.

For most workers, the bill would cut Social Security benefits substantially. As Michael Linden, associate director for tax and budget policy at Center for American Progress, pointed out on Twitter, a letter from Social Security’s Office of the Actuary calculated workers making around $50,000 would see checks shrink by between 11% and 35%.

Nearly every income bracket would see a reduction, save for the very bottom. People making around $12,280 in 2016 who have worked for 30 years would see an increase of around 20%. But young people making the same amount would be hit hard by the changes. If they had 14 years of work experience by 2016, they would see their benefits cut in half.

Read more: https://www.yahoo.com/news/gop-introduces-plan-to-massively-cut-social-security-222200857.html

United Airlines will begin charging to use overhead bins in 2017

Gone are the days of the free sandwiches, the complimentary pillows, the headphones that didn’t cost $5. The in-flight comforts that were once a given are now nothing more than a nostalgic reminder of decades past.

Out went the free checked bag, in came the fees for those few extra inches of leg room. Want to make sure you sit next to your children on a flight? On some airlines, there’s a fee for that.

Now, on United Airlines, you won’t necessarily get the use of an overhead bin, without paying more money.

The overhead bin: “one of the last sacred conveniences of air travel,” as an angry Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., put it Sunday as he denounced the move.

http://www.denverpost.com/2016/12/06/united-airlines-charging-to-use-overhead-bins/

Venezuela's PDVSA seeks compensation in 'staggering' U.S. bribe case

A unit of Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA has asked a U.S. court to order two businessmen to compensate it for carrying out a "staggering" bribery scheme that cost the company $600 million in losses.

A motion filed last Wednesday in federal court in Houston marked the first time PDVSA had formally intervened in the case, part of a U.S. Justice Department investigation into bribery of company officials.

PDVSA subsidiary Bariven SA complained in court papers that prosecutors had ignored their statutory obligation to inform Bariven of its rights as a victim of a scheme by Venezuelan businessmen Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera.

Bariven sought restitution from Rincon and Shiera, who have pleaded guilty to charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/venezuelas-pdvsa-seeks-compensation-staggering-u-bribe-case-163908371--finance.html

This should get interesting.

Security raised at L.A. rail line after threat warning from foreign country

Source: Reuters

Federal and Los Angeles officials said on Monday they had been alerted by authorities in another country to a "specific" threat against the city's Red Line commuter rail system, prompting them to beef up security and alert the public.

"This threat is imminent, ... it is very specific," Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told an evening news conference. "But the credibility still needs to be vetted."

Law enforcement officials at the news conference said the threat had been relayed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation by a law enforcement agency in another country, where the threat had originated. Officials did not identify the country.

The male caller, speaking in English, had warned authorities in that country of an attack against a Red Line station across the street from the Universal Studios theme park on Tuesday, Beck said.

Read more: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-losangeles-threat-idUSKBN13V04I

The monetary meltdown in Venezuela

Venezuela has run out of cash. Not metaphorically, mind you: The country literally doesn’t have enough cash to go around.

Two weeks ago, facing an acute shortage of paper money, bank regulators capped cash withdrawals at 10,000 Venezuelan bolivars per day — about $5.25.

As I write this, following an almighty rout on the black market, those same 10,000 bolivars are worth less than half that much: $2.17. (By the time you read this, the real number’s likely lower.)

Stop and think about that: How on earth can a country work when the most cash anyone there is allowed to withdraw from their bank account in a day is two bucks and change?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/the-monetary-meltdown-in-venezuela/2016/12/02/094daa50-b80e-11e6-a677-b608fbb3aaf6_story.html

Want Groceries in Venezuela? First Stop at Six ATMs

Domingris Montano did the calculations as she stood in the rain at the midpoint of a queue outside a bank in Caracas. She needed to buy groceries. A package of rice would cost 3,500 bolivars, more than half the daily withdrawal limit, and the automated teller machine might be empty by the time her turn came. Maybe she could hit a few more before dark?

“I’ve had to go to six different ATMs just to get 6,000 bolivars,” said Montano, a 36-year-old hair stylist, poking her head out from under her umbrella to see if the people ahead of her at the Banesco Banco Universal CA branch were moving forward. They weren’t.

Lines are nothing new in Venezuela, where the economy is shattered, inflation is soaring and the currency fell a staggering 67 percent against the U.S. dollar on the black market last month alone -- making 6,000 bolivars worth just $1.30. Now added to the indignities of daily life in a country desperately short on most everything except crime is the ATM hustle, as banks crack down on what customers can take out, setting measly maximums.

Resourceful residents employ a variety of tactics, including the multiple debit-card ploy: If you somehow wrangle more than one, you can go to town at the dispenser, to the horror of those behind you. Banks have set it up so people have to retrieve their money in as many as seven transactions -- maybe the hope is they’ll get tired and give up -- and everyone who can see what’s going on at the window counts. At seven, there’s a sigh of relief that deliverance is a step closer. If a second card appears and the whole process starts over, there’s swearing under the breath and praying the guy doesn’t pull out a third.

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/want-groceries-venezuela-first-stop-100000773.html

Venezuela rejects Mercosur suspension: foreign minister

Venezuela on Friday angrily rejected its suspension from the South American economic bloc Mercosur, saying it did not recognize the action taken by the group's four other member states.

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay had informed the leftist government in Caracas that it was being suspended for failing to meet democratic and trade standards, a Brazilian government source said Thursday.

"Venezuela does not recognize this null and void action sustained by the Law of the Jungle of some officials who are destroying MERCOSUR," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said on her Twitter account.

Although Venezuela joined Mercosur in 2012, the other members complain it has yet to ratify a number of rules governing trade, politics, democracy and human rights.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/venezuela-rejects-mercosur-suspension-113933357.html
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