Storm Sweeps Gulf States, Midnight Heist

Heavy Weather: A violent storm system swept across Gulf Coast states yesterday bringing tornadoes and flooding. Four people died when a tree fell on a mobile home in Alabama. Some of the heaviest rains are expected tonight in Georgia.

Nation: Four children died in an Amarillo, Tex. home after someone who lived there fumigated the house with pesticide that turned into a toxic gas when it came into contact with water. The pesticide contained aluminum phosphide, which when mixed with water, creates phosphine gas. A 17-year-old died in the house and the other three children were declared dead at a hospital.

Five other people who were exposed to the gas were reported in stable condition. All of them may have been exposed for several days.

Midnight Heist: A group of thieves broke into a Manhattan jewelry wholesaler on New Year’s Eve only blocks from Times Square and made off with $6 million worth of jewelry just as the ball dropped.

Seven thousand New York cops were working crowd security at Times Square.

The target was Gregg Ruth, a commercial jewelry store known for rare yellow and pink diamonds. Police say the thieves were so efficient that it looked like someone had inside knowledge of the store. Security video shows the thieves smashing their way in to the sixth floor business. There’s a clear picture of one of them, a bearded white man wearing a hoodie.

World: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under investigation on suspicion that he accepted illicit gifts and favors from businessmen. Police investigators spent three hours questioning Netanyahu in his official residence.

The Israeli Ministry of Justice issued a statement saying the police had gathered testimony from dozens of witnesses, some of them from out of the country, and seized documents during an investigation that has gone on for months.

Netanyahu has said, “This will all come to nothing, because there is nothing.”

Twitter Relations: Executing Twitter Diplomacy before he’s even president, Donald Trump declared yesterday that, “North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!”

Actually, what North Korea said was that it was going to test an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US. But never mind the details. Trump didn’t say how he would stop it, but he included a complaint about China. “China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!”

No, these communications were not written by a 14-year-old who just got dissed at the mall.

The Crystal Ball: Disbelief among his critics is giving way to reality as the number of days to Donald Trump’s inauguration shrinks. A lot of ink and pixels are being devoted to what a Trump presidency will look like.

Columnist Ross Douthat writes in the NY Times that, “The president-elect’s strong-arming of the private sector, his media-bashing tweets, and his feud with the intelligence community all hint at an authoritarian timeline ahead.” He adds,

“But anyone who fears incompetence more than tyranny has plenty of evidence as well. Trump’s tweets might be a sign, not of an incipient autocrat, but of an unstable narcissist who will undermine himself at every step.”

In a column titled “America Becomes a Stan,” Paul Krugman writes that the US under Trump is in danger of becoming like an Asian autocracy akin to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan; “We are, after all, about to hand over power to a man who has spent his whole adult life trying to build a cult of personality around himself.” He says, “Abraham Lincoln may have led a team of rivals; Donald Trump seems to be assembling a team of cronies, choosing billionaires with obvious, deep conflicts of interest for many key positions in his administration.”

Ethical Culture: Some journalists have written that, with Trump’s co-mingling of business and government, we are about to embark upon an era of corruption that pales anything we’ve seen before. Under Donald Trump, government is expected to be open for business in every sense of the word.

Perhaps by coincidence, and perhaps not, the Republican House voted yesterday to seriously weaken the independent Office of Congressional Ethics set up in 2008 after three members were sent to jail. The vote guts the OCE and intends to instead divert complaints to an ethics committee run by the members themselves.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Page Two

Jaw Meet Floor

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Small President

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Cuba Diaries

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Alphabet of Maladies

Friday, February 26, 2016

The Healthcare Confusion Act

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Freedom from Speech

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Too Big to Fire

Friday, June 19, 2015

More Probable Than Not

Thursday, May 14, 2015

It's Been Said

" 'The enemy of the people,'" was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017 ... It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase 'enemy of the people,' that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of 'annihilating such individuals' who disagreed with the supreme leader."
Arizona republican Sen. Jeff Flake speaking on the floor today.

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