Month: March 2016

DraftKings, FanDuel to suspend college fantasy games

In the latest move in the year’s shrinking of their business, DraftKings and FanDuel agreed Thursday to suspend indefinitely all games involving college sports, effective next week after college basketball’s Final Four ends. The move is the “best path forward” and comes after “productive” discussions with the NCAA, the two behemoths of online daily-fantasy sports said, according to National Public Radio. “As a part of a new agreement with the NCAA, we have decided to voluntarily and indefinitely suspend college sports contests in all states upon the conclusion of this week’s college basketball games,” Fan Duel said. College football and basketball are much less lucrative for daily-fantasy sites than are the professional equivalents, and the move will affect the industry little as it comes under increasing pressure in many states to be regulated as gambling enterprises. Still the NCAA praised the move to end money-making games surrounding amateur contests. “This action culminates months of hard work between all parties to reach a place that is good for amateur sports and most importantly, the young people who participate,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told ESPN.

The hypocrisy here is truly breathtaking..  These tools at the NCAA and ESPN make MILLIONS, and yet they have the nerve to lecture DraftKings and FanDuel, and brow beat them about fans making a little dinero on their web sites.  Seriously?!?  Heck, NCAA coaches make 6 figures, for crying out loud.

Historian discovers secret notes hidden in 500-year-old Bible

A historian in the U.K. has discovered secret notes hidden in the text of England’s first printed Bible. Recent analysis of the Latin Bible, which was published in 1535 by Henry VIII’s printer, has revealed fascinating English annotations made during the 16th-century Reformation. The Reformation was a period of immense upheaval in England, which saw the Church of England break away from the authority of the Catholic Church in Rome. Housed in the library of Lambeth Palace, which is the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bible is one of just seven surviving copies. “We know virtually nothing about this unique Bible – whose preface was written by Henry himself – outside of the surviving copies,” said Eyal Poleg, a historian at Queen Mary University of London, in a press release. Close inspection revealed that heavy paper had been pasted over blank parts of the Bible. “The challenge was how to uncover the annotations without damaging the book,” explained Poleg. The historian brought in Graham Davis, a specialist in 3D x-ray imaging at the university’s School of Dentistry. The experts took two images in long exposure. For one image, a light sheet slid beneath the pages was turned on, for another, it was turned off. The first image revealed all the annotations, scrambled with the printed text, while the second picture showed only the printed text. Davis wrote a piece of software to “subtract” the second image from the first, revealing a clear picture of the annotations, which are written in English. “The annotations are copied from the famous ‘Great Bible’ of Thomas Cromwell, seen as the epitome of the English Reformation,” explained the university, in its press release. “Written between 1539 and 1549, they were covered and disguised with thick paper in 1600.” Poleg said that the annotations support the idea that the Reformation was a gradual process. “Until recently, it was widely assumed that the Reformation caused a complete break, a Rubicon moment when people stopped being Catholics and accepted Protestantism, rejected saints, and replaced Latin with English,” he explained. “This Bible is a unique witness to a time when the conservative Latin and the reformist English were used together, showing that the Reformation was a slow, complex, and gradual process.” Poleg’s research also uncovered a handwritten transaction between two men on the back page of the book. The transaction states that James Elys Cutpurse of London promised to pay William Cheffyn of Calais 20 shillings, or would go to the notorious Marshalsea prison. Subsequent research conducted by Poleg revealed that Cutpurse was hanged in July 1152. In medieval English, Cutpurse means ‘pickpocket’. “Beyond Mr Cutpurse’s illustrious occupation, the fact that we know when he died is significant,” said Poleg. “It allows us to date and trace the journey of the book with remarkable accuracy – the transaction obviously couldn’t have taken place after his death.”

Fascinating!!   🙂

 

Opinion: Democrats Like Corporate Free Speech Well Enough When They Agree with It

First, there was Chevron; now, there’s Exxon. The international oil-and-gas company is currently the target of two investigations — one by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman, the second by California attorney general Kamala Harris. The prosecutors allege that Exxon “defrauded” its shareholders and the general public by misleading them about the impact of man-made climate change. In reality, Schneiderman and Harris, both Democrats, are using their prestigious perch to hassle a company for having views with which they disagree. And their recklessness is spreading. This week, attorneys general from 15 other states and territories joined Schneiderman and Harris in New York to announce that they, too, have no qualms about employing their offices in a naked display of political muscle; a couple of them are vowing to look into fossil-fuel operations in their jurisdictions. The coalition calls itself “AGs United for Clean Power.” Delete “Clean,” and the name would be more accurate. Democrats have long thrilled to the prospect of slapping biodegradable handcuffs around the wrists of those who disagree with them on the subject of climate change. In 2014, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. waxed tyrannical about tossing the “treasonous” Koch brothers into a sustainably designed jail cell, and climate scientists have fantasized about using RICO laws against “climate-change deniers.” It does not matter that “the science” is far from settled, that the “97 percent” consensus of scientists is bunk, or that there is a First Amendment that permits disagreement about matters of political debate. “Climate change is real; it is a threat to all the people we represent,” declared Schneiderman on Tuesday. And it’s time for a frog-march. Coincidentally, another Democrat is all in for frog-marches, just for different perps. On Thursday, in a letter to Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White calling for an investigation into “contradictory statements” by financial-services providers with regard to a pending Department of Labor rule, Massachusetts senator Liz Warren observed: “Corporate interests have become accustomed to saying whatever they want about Washington policy debates, with little accountability when their predictions prove to be inaccurate.” Nudge, nudge. Add to these the years of handwringing over Citizens United, and Democrats seem to have a decided distaste for businesses’ weighing in freely on matters of public interest — and no compunctions about using the levers of the law to spank them for it. Coincidentally, that’s not the case where businesses agree with Democrats. In stark contrast with the above, several major corporations — Apple, Disney, the National Football League, and Salesforce.com — recently cowed Georgia governor Nathan Deal into vetoing a modest religious-freedom bill earlier this month; the bill would have provided limited state protections for religious believers’ free-exercise rights, often under pressure in the wake of the Supreme Court’s same-sex-marriage decision. Meanwhile, in North Carolina, a similar coalition of groups is trying to force the governor and legislature to repeal a bill that, among other things, requires that individuals using single-sex, multiple-occupancy bathrooms use the facilities that correspond to their birth-certificate gender. This is one instance of corporate free speech that Democrats are happy to endorse. As they did last year, when an uproar from businesses helped force Indiana governor Mike Pence into “clarifying” his state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Democrats are thrilled that Apple and the NFL and the rest are displaying a “conscience” and using the tactics at their disposal to influence public life. For the Left, businesses have a license to participate corporately in political life to the extent that they promote Democratic interests. Anything else is a license for Democrats to use the tools of the state to bring them to heel. A relationship between the government and private enterprise that is reduced to power relations is an unsustainable one. This is a climate that needs to change.

Indeed..  Ian Tuttle is the author of that outstanding op/ed.

US, allies seek to put pressure on North Korea at nuclear summit

Faced with a North Korean regime bent on developing a nuclear-armed long-range missile, President Obama will meet Thursday in Washington with several world leaders — including those of China, Japan and South Korea — in an effort to hammer out a “united” response. In a Washington Post opinion piece, Obama called for the international community to “remain united in the face of North Korea’s continued provocations.” “The additional sanctions recently imposed on Pyongyang by the United Nations Security Council show that violations have consequences,” Obama said. North Korea launched a short-range projectile Tuesday, the latest in a series of short-range missile launches and artillery system tests from the dictatorship. South Korean officials said it was not clear whether the test was a ballistic missile or an artillery shell, but officials told the Associated Press the test was likely in response to increased military drills from South Korea. A North Korean nuclear test in January as well a long-range missile launch in February ramped up tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul, leading to larger military drills from South Korea. At the summit, Obama is scheduled to meet with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean resident Park Geun-hye. Both U.S. allies share anxiety over neighboring North Korea. Obama also will hold meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and French President Francois Holland.

Blah, blah, blah…  More talk…and no real action.  Typical..

Turkey: Gulen ‘Islamic Cult’ May Be Coming to U.S. Military Bases

Charter schools that may soon be operating on military bases in the United States are linked to what the Turkish government describes as an Islamic cult run by Fethullah Gülen, a powerful cleric living in Pennsylvania. The allegations come from lawyer Robert R. Amsterdam, founder of international law firm Amsterdam and Partners LLP, writing at The Hill. As Amsterdam forthrightly discloses early in the piece, his firm has been “engaged by the Republic of Turkey – a key NATO ally in a hotbed region – to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the operations and geopolitical influence of the Gülen organization, which is behind the Coral Academy of Science and over 140 other public charter schools scattered across 26 American states.” This is a reference to the Muslim cleric Gülen, whom Amsterdam describes as “a reclusive but influential Imam living under self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania to avoid criminal prosecution in his native Turkey.” Gülen is a powerful and determined opponent of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Coral Academy of Science in Las Vegas is negotiating with the United States Air Force to open a charter school at Nellis Air Force Base this fall. Amsterdam says his firm’s investigation revealed that the Gülen organization “uses charter schools and affiliated businesses in the U.S. to misappropriate and launder state and federal education dollars, which the organization then uses for its own benefit to develop political power in this country and globally.” He also alleges that the organization abuses the H1-B visa program to import Turkish teachers into the United States, improbably claiming there are no qualified American teachers available for the positions, and then controls these Turkish educators by holding their visas hostage, even using the threat of deportation to force salary kickbacks from the teachers. Amsterdam says that contributions, both voluntary and coerced, from Gülen’s estimated six million followers around the world give his organization assets worth $20 billion to $50 billion. Amsterdam describes the schools’ secret agenda as trying to “instill Turkish culture and Gülenist ideology in our American students,” with an eye toward creating “a Gülenist following of high achievers, incubated in our local community schools across the country.” He says this agenda has been pursued by Gülenist schools in other countries and warns, “there is great peril in allowing it to flourish in this country,” noting that Gülen’s organization has been described by international authorities as a cross between a secretive political movement and a cult. There is little doubt that Gülen has great influence in Turkey and has been fighting a political war against the Erdogan government, with many Turkish news stories ultimately tracing back to Gülen, although the international press does not always mention him. For example, the Turkish government’s recent crackdown on several news agencies is part of the Erdogan-Gülen war, as Erdogan has accused them of having ties to Gülen. Zaman, for example, a formerly anti-Erdogan publication, was accused of having ties to Gulen before being seized and turned into a newspaper that now runs headlines like “Praise Heaped on Erdogan! The Most Courageous Leader.” “Erdogan accuses Gülen of conspiring to overthrow the government by building a network of supporters in the judiciary, police and media. Gülen denies the charges,” the UK Guardian reported in early March, echoing the accusations leveled by Amsterdam at The Hill. Amsterdam cites estimates that Gülen’s network of schools, and the followers they indoctrinated, ultimately gave him control over “more than half of the entire Turkish police force.” As the Guardian recalls, it was a corruption investigation in 2013 by “police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to Gülen,” targeting Erdogan’s inner circle, that kicked off the feud between the former political allies. Gülen was in the Turkish headlines again on Thursday, as Hurriyet Daily News reports the Turkish General Staff denying that “some members of the military allegedly linked to the Fethullah Gülen movement were planning a coup d’état” while Erdogan is visiting the United States. The General Staff further accused media outlets floating such speculation of seeking to undermine the morale of the armed forces and said it would take legal action against them. Given that one of the outlets in question is Newsweek, the prospects of such legal action succeeding seem remote. One opposition party politician insisted that Turkey’s political system is too strong to suffer a coup and offered the rather circular argument that if Gülen’s operation — which he referred to as the “Fethullahist Terror Organization” or FETO — was strong enough to pull off a coup, they would not need one; in essence, they would be able to take over the government without the fireworks of attempting to overthrow the Turkish armed forces. The Gülen movement prefers to be known as “Hizmet,” and through its news portal on March 25, it published an editorial from Gülen strongly denouncing the Brussels terror attack. “Regardless of the perpetrators and their stated purposes, every terrorist attack is a murder and an attack on the sanctity of life itself, and deserves condemnation in the strongest terms. Neither a religion nor any human being with a conscience can condone such cruelty,” he wrote. “Those who carry out such attacks and who support the perpetrators are oblivious to the ethos of the religion that they proclaim, and inflict the biggest damage to the religion’s reputation in the world. Those who consciously perpetrate such acts have lost touch with their very humanity, and do not represent any religious identity.” Such sentiments are unlikely to alleviate the suspicions of Gülen’s critics, who charge that his influence is a national security threat. “In light of Gülen’s modus operandi elsewhere, the Department of Homeland Security should be asking itself why such a non-transparent, religion-based organization would seek to establish itself on our military bases, teaching the children of our service men and women,” Amsterdam concludes at The Hill.

How crazy is this?!?  I’ve spent some time at Nellis AFB in Vegas..  and I’m pretty sure military parents there would not want their kids being exposed to this..

States’ rights advocates eye convention to bypass Congress, amend Constitution

What if a supermajority of states could override a federal law or Supreme Court ruling? That’s just one idea being proposed by advocates of a “convention of states” to amend the U.S. Constitution. “The American people are mad and they’re looking for a way to say, ‘No more,’” said Brooke Rollins, president and CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. “Our founders, in their brilliance, gave us a tool to do that. And it’s Article V.” Article V of the Constitution allows a minimum of two-thirds of the states to call for a convention to propose amendments, in turn going around Congress. The push to do so has proceeded in fits and starts over the last several years, driven by a desire for states to debate a range of constitutional changes dealing with everything from campaign finance reform to balanced budgets. So far, six states have signed on — Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Florida, Indiana and Tennessee. Indiana was the latest to sign on, approving a resolution endorsing the effort earlier this month. But organizers would need another 28 to bring their plan to fruition, and call the convention. If they reach that level of support, states would be entering uncharted territory. “It has never happened before in the history of the United States,” said Robert Schapiro, dean of Emory University School of Law. In an election cycle that has defied conventional wisdom, though, supporters of a convention of states believe right now may be the very best time to try something different. “The mood of the public is tired of business as usual,” said Buzz Brockway, a Republican state representative who sponsored Georgia’s convention of states resolution. Brockway told Fox News he believes such a convention could achieve consensus on such issues as campaign finance reform, term limits and balanced budgets. Even if states fall short of the two-thirds supermajority needed to call for a convention to propose amendments (and the three-quarters required to ratify them), Brockway said the effort itself could encourage change. “In the ‘80s, President Reagan actually came out and said he was in favor of a balanced budget convention,” Brockway said. “That spurred Washington to act. And they didn’t actually pass a balanced budget amendment, but they came extremely close. So, I think at the worst case, this will spur Congress to action. The best case, we’ll have actual amendments that are proposed that states can consider.” Schapiro has doubts about how far the effort will go. “There have been efforts before to have states call for a constitutional convention. And with regard to certain issues, states have come fairly close,” he said. “But, given the divided times which we face, and given the broad brush of these amendments, I think it’s unlikely to garner the kind of support that would be necessary actually to reach that two-thirds benchmark.”

‘First Time in Human History’: People 65 and Older Will Outnumber Children Under 5

Sometime in the next four years the global population of human beings who are 65 and older will surpass those under 5 for the first time, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. “For the first time in human history, people aged 65 and older will outnumber children under age 5,” says the report, entitled “An Aging World: 2015.” “This crossing is just around the corner, before 2020,” says the report. “These two age groups will then continue to grow in opposite directions,” it says. “By 2050, the proportion of the population 65 and older (15.6 percent) will be more than double that of children under age 5 (7.2 percent). “This unique demographic phenomenon of the ‘crossing’ is unprecedented,” says the Census Bureau. The Census Bureau report included a ranking of “The World’s 25 Oldest Countries and Areas” in 2015 based on the percentage of the country’s population that was 65 or older. While Japan ranked as the oldest country, the other 24 in the top 25 included 22 European countries, plus Canada and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. The world’s youngest countries were in the Persian Gulf. “The percentage of the population aged 65 and over in 2015 ranked from a high of 26.6 percent for Japan to a low of around 1 percent for Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” said the report. “Of the world’s 25 oldest countries and areas in 2015, 22 are in Europe, with Germany or Italy leading the ranks of European countries for many years, including currently.” After Japan, with 26.6 percent of its population 65 or older, Germany ranked No. 2 with 21.5 percent of its population 65 or older. Italy ranked No. 3 with 21.2 percent of its population 65 or older; and Greece ranked No. 4 with 20.5 percent of its population 25 or older. The Census Bureau report estimates that between now and 2050, the population that is 65 and older will more than double while the population under 20 years of age see almost no growth. At the same time, those in what the report calls “the working age population”—people who are 20 to 64 years of age—will increase by only 25.6 percent. “Among the 7.3 billion people worldwide in 2015, an estimated 8.5 percent, or 617.1 million, are aged 65 and older,” says the report. “The number of older people is projected to increase more than 60 percent in just 15 years—in 2030, there will be about 1 billion older people globally, equivalent to 12.0 percent of the total population. “The share of older population will continue to grow in the following 20 years—by 2050, there will be 1.6 billion older people worldwide, representing 16.7 percent of the total world population of 9.4 billion,” says the report. “This is equivalent to an average annual increase of 27.1 million older people from 2015 to 2050. “In contrast to the 150 percent expansion of the population aged 65 and over in the next 35 years, the youth population (under age 20) is projected to remain almost flat, 2.5 billion in 2015 and 2.6 billion in 2050,” the report says. “Over the same period, the working-age population (aged 20 to 64) will increase only moderately, 25.6 percent,” the Census Bureau says. “The working-age popula­tion share of total population will shrink slightly in the decades to come, largely due to the impact of low fertility and increasing life expectancy.” While there has been a global increase in human longevity, it is not the primary force driving the global population toward a demographic where the elderly will outnumber young children. “The main demographic force behind population aging is declining fertility rates,” says the Census Bureau report. “Populations with high fertility tend to have a young age distribution with a high proportion of children and a low proportion of older people, while those with low fertility have the opposite, resulting in an older society.” “In many countries today, the total fertility rate (TFR) has fallen below the 2.1 children that a couple needs to replace themselves,” says the report. “In 2015, the TFR is near or below replacement levels in all world regions except Africa.” Europe has a particularly low fertility rate. “The more developed countries in Europe, where fertility reduction started more than 100 years ago, have had TFR levels below replacement rate since the 1970s,” says the Census Bureau report. “Currently, the average TFR for Europe is a very low 1.6.” In the United States in 2015, according to the report, 14.9 percent of the population is 65 or older. In 2050, the report estimates, 22.1 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 or older. The Census Bureau report includes a sidebar on “Support of Childless Older People in an Aging Europe.” “Traditionally, children are the mainstay of old age support, espe­cially when only one parent is still living,” says this sidebar authored by researcher Martina Brandt at Dortmund University and Christian Deindl at University of Cologne. “However, people are not only living longer but also having fewer children, with rising childlessness among the older people.” “Thus new challenges arise: Who will provide help and care to the childless older people?” they write. “On what support networks can they rely? And, what role does the state play in care provision?”