Intel to release updated microcode going back at least 5 years

To fix the problems associated with the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities, Intel will be releasing microcode [i.e. BIOS] updates going back quite far. How far? Initially they said going back to the 4th generation Core processors but now they are planning to go even farther. At least back as far as Core 2 Duo days. Updates will be available from OEMS and not Windows Update.

You can find the announcement here.

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From another mass shooting to a huge deficit projected for infrastructure

Donald Trump unveiled a US$4.4 trillion budget for next year that heralds an era of $1 trillion-plus federal deficits and — unlike the plan he released last year — never comes close to promising a balanced ledger even after 10 years.

The growing deficits reflect the impact of last year’s tax overhaul, which is projected to cause federal tax revenue to drop and does not yet reflect last week’s two-year bipartisan $300 billion pact that wholly rejects Trump’s plans to slash domestic agencies.

Trump’s budget includes money to start building 65 miles of border wall in south Texas as well as money to bring immigration jails up to a capacity of 47,000 and add 2,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees and 750 Border Patrol agents. [He just has to get his money for The Trump Wall any way he can.] A deficit of $1.2 trillion is more plausible after last week’s budget pact and $90 billion worth of disaster aid is tacked on. That’s more than double the 2019 deficit the administration promised last year. The new budget sees accumulating deficits of $7.2 trillion over the coming decade; Trump’s plan last year projected a 10-year shortfall of $3.2 trillion.

The Trump administration is making a push to sell off federal assets as part of its infrastructure plan. Among the targets: Reagan National and Dulles International airports and two major parkways serving the Washington region, as well as power assets around the country, according to a copy of the proposal. It was not immediately clear what public or private entity might buy those roads, whether they might be tolled, or other details. Same with the two airports in Virginia, which are leased from the federal government.

The White House says its plan will create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure. Only $200 billion of that, however, would come from direct federal spending, according to White House aides. The rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio.

To help pay for the infrastructure, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed hiking the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since 1993, to raise $394 billion over 10 years. Over the past year, Democrats have accused Trump of seeking to create the $200 billion infrastructure fund by proposing cuts to other infrastructure-related programs.

Trump tweeted “This will be a big week for Infrastructure. After so stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East, it is now time to start investing in OUR Country!” He then rambles on how that money could have been used for America’s infrastructure. That amount is inflated as experts say after anticipated future spending on veterans and other factors related to the wars so far are added it would be $5.6 trillion. Most of that money went to American businesses [fighter jets, tanks, etc.]as well as the military [paying personnel, training, etc.]. It’s not like it all went directly to the Middle Eastern countries.

Over the past 40 years, the deficit has averaged about 4% of gross domestic product, the measure of the nation’s total economic output. The Congressional Budget Office recently projected that the recently passed tax-cut bill will move the deficit up to 5% of GDP. But that was before the deal, which slaps on another $300 billion and puts us on track to have deficits as high as 7% of gross domestic product.

Trump, in a speech and in tweets, mentioned only that the shooter in Florida had a mental illness but mentioned nothing about guns [his friends at the NRA must have been happy]. Meanwhile, the leader of a white nationalist militia called the Republic of Florida said the shooter was a member of his group and participated in exercises in Tallahassee but did the shooting on his own without the group’s knowledge.

Trump tweeted “Am also working with Congress on many fronts.” Where have we heard this before. He will probably announce some initiative regarding his Trump Wall or maybe immigration. Somehow equating that the alleged shooter wasn’t born in the US. And that will be it.

Student Sarah Chadwick, who survived the high school shooting that left 17 dead in Florida, wants Trump and Congress to “do something” about gun control, rather than simply offering thoughts and prayers to the victims of America’s latest mass shooting. “I don’t want your condolences you f—ing (piece) of s—, my friends and teachers were shot. Multiple of my fellow classmates are dead,” Chadwick wrote. “Do something instead of sending prayers. Prayers won’t fix this. But gun control will prevent it from happening again.”

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions called the shooting a “tragic event”, adding: “We’re going to work on it in many ways to do something about it.” Good luck there….

Sessions spoke in generalities, and did not address reports that the weapon used in the shooting was acquired legally. Instead, he spoke of gang violence and the threat it poses to children. I don’t think the mass murderer was part of a gang. You don’t need a permit or license to buy a gun in Florida and you don’t have to register it either.

Amid renewed debate over gun control after the school shooting in Florida, House Speaker Paul Ryan is arguing that now is not the time to wage political battles.

“This is one of those moments where we just need to step back and count our blessings,” he told reporters at a news conference at the Capitol. Sure Paul. And that’s what the government has said probably after every mass shooting in the last 20 years and then after “stepping back” nothing happens and then there is another mass shooting.

The Trump administration was working to kill a bipartisan deal on immigration that could be the best chance to get a bill through the Senate. The legislation from a group of 16 bipartisan senators would offer nearly 2 million young undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children before 2012 a path to citizenship over 10 to 12 years. The deal and three others were defeated in the end. Wasn’t it trump who wanted more bipartisan deals?

The plan would also place $25 billion in a guarded trust for border security, would cut a small number of green cards each year for adult children of current green card holders, and would prevent parents from being sponsored for citizenship by their US citizen children if that child gained citizenship through the pathway created in the bill or if they brought the child to the US illegally. Some of these parts were endorsed by Trump in a previous plan.

Former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s office, indicating he’s poised to cooperate in the investigation, according to sources familiar with the case. Gates has already spoken to Mueller’s team about his case and has been in plea negotiations for about a month. He’s had what criminal lawyers call a “Queen for a Day” interview, in which a defendant answers any questions from the prosecutors’ team, including about his own case and other potential criminal activity he witnessed.

Nearly a year into Trump’s administration [based on last November’s information], senior-level staffers — including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Rob Porter — remained on interim clearances even as other senior advisers were granted full security access. It requires those with full permanent clearances to remain vigilant about what information is shared with those still operating on an interim basis.

Now there are still more than 100 staffers in the Executive Office of the President who were operating on interim clearances more than a year after Trump was elected. Some officials who started on January 20, 2017, and were without permanent clearances by November include a special assistant to the president for national security affairs and the National Security Council’s senior director for international cybersecurity.

Some others had been approved for permanent access to top secret information but were still working off interim access to Sensitive Compartmented Information including Don McGahn, the White House counsel, and Sarah Sanders, the press secretary. Other notable staffers, like former NBC “Apprentice” star Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who has since left the White House, had no security clearance nor applied for one.

In a five-page memo to the White House counsel, national security adviser and deputy chief of staff for operations, chief of staff John Kelly called for all background check investigations into potential top White House officials to be delivered directly to the White House Counsel’s office by the FBI and for the FBI to share “significant derogatory information” uncovered in the course of investigations into senior staff with the White House within 48 hours.

Kelly also directed his staff to discontinue top level security clearances for any staffer whose background investigation or adjudication process has been pending since before last June.

Porter was involved in serious discussions to be promoted when he abruptly resigned from the White House last week amid allegations that he abused his two ex-wives. Porter had been actively lobbying to take on new policy portfolios outside the traditional scope of the staff secretary. One of the areas Porter was set to delve further into was trade policy, according to the person. Porter was a regular attendee at a weekly trade meeting among top-level administration officials. He was also being considered for the deputy chief of staff position.

The FBI obtained photos of the bruised face of Colbie Holderness [ex-wife of Porter] seven days after Trump’s inauguration last year raising questions about what information McGahn had at his disposal regarding Porter.

Several White House officials, including Kelly, were receptive to promoting Porter. Kelly had told associates that Porter was one of the few competent professionals on his staff and wanted to ensure that he was being used to his full potential. Senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump also viewed Porter as a professional, competent staffer and worked to elevate his standing inside the West Wing.

White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders claims that Trump and the White House takes “domestic violence very seriously”. But Trump never said anything. He never addressed the victims – just Porter and very positively [such as have a great career elsewhere].

Ryan said the “Vetting system needs fixing” as the House Oversight Committee’s investigation of the White House’s handling of Rob Porter’s employment following domestic violence allegations. Maybe they should apply Trump’s “extreme vetting”.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is saying he needs to fly first class because of unpleasant interactions [“incidents”] with other travelers. Pruitt used a $1,641.43 first-class seat for a short flight in June from Washington to New York City. Pruitt’s ticket cost six times what EPA paid for his aides seated in coach. Federal regulations allow government travelers to fly business class or first class when no cheaper options are “reasonably available” or if there are exceptional security circumstances.

Pruitt is the first EPA administrator to have a 24-hour security detail that accompanies him at all times, even at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. He has also taken other security precautions, including the addition of a $25,000 soundproof “privacy booth” to prevent eavesdropping on his phone calls and spending $3,000 to have his office swept for hidden listening devices. Is his job more secretive than the chief of staff or even the President?

Records show Pruitt has taken at least four flights on non-commercial aircraft, costing more than $58,000. EPA has said all of those flights were necessary and pre-approved by ethics lawyers. Nominated by Trump, Pruitt has previous had issues with his travel arrangements as well as “winning” the job considering his anti-environment stance he has.

Fannie Mae, the government-controlled mortgage company, said its net worth sank to a negative $3.7 billion after it had to “remeasure” its deferred tax assets to the tune of $9.9 billion as required by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by Trump just before the end of the year.

Puerto Rico’s Housing Department said Wednesday it will suspend a $133 million deal with a U.S. company hired to repair homes damaged by Hurricane Maria because a review board found the contract was improperly awarded. But a company vice-president, Daniel Craig, had been nominated by Trump to the No. 2 position at FEMA but later withdrew from consideration. As an ex-FEMA official under former President George W. Bush, had faced a 2011 federal investigation that concluded he falsified government travel and timekeeping records — findings he has rejected as being the result of a poor investigation.

Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, said that he paid $130,000 of his own money to porn star, Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had a sexual encounter with the President before his time in office. “Neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign was a party to the transaction with Ms. Clifford, and neither reimbursed me for the payment, either directly or indirectly.” I guess Melania Trump won’t be happy.

Just weeks before the 2016 election, Cohen reportedly created a private LLC to pay Daniels following an alleged July 2006 encounter with Trump, The Wall Street Journal reported in January. He says he neither told Trump nor anyone else in the Trump Organization he was making the payment. And he was not paid back in any way, shape or form.

Why would he spent $130,000 to make Daniels go away — and not tell her story — if her story was fundamentally without merit? It has been reported that Cohen was shopping a book proposal that would touch on Daniels’ story.

Meanwhile, The New Yorker published a report based on a handwritten account from Karen McDougal who detailed her alleged affair with Donald Trump for nine months from June 2006 to April 2007, when Trump was two years into his marriage with Melania Trump.

More than one in three Trump administration staffers have left the White House in its first year, a pace that far eclipses the rate of departures in the previous five White Houses, according to a study done by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas of the Brookings Institute. The pace of resignations, firings and other assorted departures from the Trump White House is twice what it was in George W. Bush’s first year as president and triple that of Barack Obama’s first year in office.

Trump administration is proposing to replace nearly half of poor Americans’ monthly cash benefits with a box of food. It would affect households that receive at least $90 a month in food stamps, or roughly 38 million people.

Instead of receiving all their food stamp funds, households would get a box of food that the government describes as nutritious and 100% grown and produced in the U.S. The so-called USDA America’s Harvest Box would contain items such as shelf-stable milk, juice, grains, cereals, pasta, canned meat, poultry or fish, and canned fruits and vegetables. The box would be valued at about half of the SNAP recipient’s monthly benefit. The remainder of their benefits would be given to them on electronic benefit cards, as before.

The proposal would save nearly $130 billion over 10 years, as well as improve the nutritional value of the program and reduce the potential for fraud, according to the administration. Consumer advocates questioned whether the federal government could save that much money by purchasing and distributing food on its own. Also, families would not know what food they would get in advance nor have any choice regarding what they receive and it could be difficult for families to pick up the box, especially if they don’t have a car.

The wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Louise Linton, goofed again by posing in the March issue of ELLE in a provocative poses [see also here]. Remember that not only did she emerge from a government jet in designer clothes [whose labels she initially tagged in her photo] she got into a spat with a commenter who questioned whether such a display of wealth was appropriate. She’s since apologized, but she still regrets how she handled it.

Trump tweeted “4.2 million hard working Americans have already received a large Bonus and/or Pay Increase because of our recently Passed Tax Cut & Jobs Bill….and it will only get better! We are far ahead of schedule.” With the tax cuts, shouldn’t every worker in the US [and not just 4.2 million] have received tax cuts in their paychecks by now? And what schedule?

No to Democratic memo, a few resignations, but no shutdown [for now]

The spending bill Donald Trump signed only ensures that the government is funded through March 23 — which means there could be another shutdown in just six weeks. The bill also raises the debt ceiling by the appropriate amount until March 2019.

Trump tweeted “This Bill is a BIG VICTORY for our Military, but much waste in order to get Dem votes. Fortunately, DACA not included in this Bill, negotiations to start now!” Shouldn’t that be “Unfortunately” or he doesn’t want DACA in any legislation. I’m almost sure that anything the Democrats proposed will help people in the US.

Senate leaders unveiled a two-year budget deal, but the plan needed to pass the House where it’s already facing strong headwinds. Some senators from the  Republicans [adding to debt] and Democrats [DACA/Dreamers] are opposed to the bill.

“The other thing is there is a huge hypocrisy factor here,” said Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. “Republicans lambasted President Obama to no end for trillion dollar deficits and now they have put forward a trillion dollar deficit. And I don’t know I think the American people are going to be surprised, upset, hurt that so the so-called conservatives got elected and turned out not to be much different than the people they were criticizing.” Paul is pushing for an amendment to maintain budget caps, but Senate sources say leaders have no plan to give Paul such a concession.

Trump said he supports a government shutdown if Democrats won’t agree to tighten immigration laws, undercutting ongoing bipartisan negotiations on Capitol Hill. Not much of a negotiation if you are trying to force a deal down someone’s throat. “We’ll do a shutdown and it’s worth it for our country. I’d love to see a shutdown if we don’t get this stuff taken care of.” Ummm. “Worth it?”

Trump won’t release the Democratic rebuttal to the Republican intelligence memo alleging FBI abuses of its surveillance authority at this time, and has sent it back to the House Intelligence Committee for changes. The claim is that the Democratic rebuttal contains numerous classified and sensitive sections. But earlier in the day Trump told reporters at the White House “It’s gonna be released soon.”

The FBI and Department of Justice were supposed to verify the Democratic rebuttal didn’t contain anything that could cause a security problem before it got sent to Trump to sign. So if it got sent to Trump, then the FBI and Department of Justice approved of it – which means the rejections is nonsense and/or just political.

Senior aides to Trump knew for months about allegations of domestic abuse levied against top White House staffer Rob Porter by his ex-wives, even as Porter’s stock in the West Wing continued to rise. Trump himself supposedly first learned of the allegations this week but has expressed no sympathy towards the women who are accusing Porter of abuse.

Porter’s ex-wives detailed the allegations to the FBI over the course of a routine background check. A year into the administration, Porter does not hold a security clearance. Porter has now resigned.

By early fall, it was widely known among Trump’s top aides — including chief of staff John Kelly — both that Porter was facing troubles in obtaining the clearance and that his ex-wives claimed he had abused them. No action was taken to remove him from the staff. Instead, Kelly and others oversaw an elevation in Porter’s standing. He was one of a handful of aides who helped draft last week’s State of the Union address. Even an ex-girlfriend from 2016 complained about abuse.

Fox News barely mentioned Porter’s issues and resignation unlike other news outlets. [Fox News spent much of the day hyping a debunked story suggesting that former President Barack Obama had waded into the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.]

Add to this mess is that White House communications director Hope Hicks was dating Porter. Hicks helped defend Porter with a supportive statement that was put out in chief of staff John Kelly’s name. Hicks is also caught up in Robert Mueller’s investigation into obstruction of justice and other matters. She was dating ex-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski earlier in 2016. [Those on Twitter imagine Keri Russell or Allison Williams someday playing Hicks in a movie about how she sabotaged Trump and saved the country.]

Trump seemed to like Porter calling him a very smart person who has a Rhodes Scholar and a law degree. Unsure if true [probably] or a joke [less likely], Trump said he could be a Supreme Court nominee.

Questions will need to be answered such as if Trump knew about Porter’s past as well as how many more staff member in the White House still don’t have the appropriate security credentials [an estimation of between 30-40 require a clearance]. Did Kelly, a former general, ignore this as if he was in the military where abuse tends to sometime go unnoticed?

Speech writer, David Sorensen, who worked for the Council on Environmental Quality, which is part of the Executive Office of the President, has resigned for alleged spousal abuse. He denied the allegations though. His position did not require a security clearance.

To add to the weirdness, after Trump was impressed with the parade in Paris in July, he now wants a parade in Washington – as if there was none before. In Paris, he called it “one of the greatest parades” he had ever seen. Military planners will now look not only at dates and locations for the parade, but also costs, logistics and whether it is feasible to hold a parade displaying large weaponry such as tanks on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Robert O’Neill, the former Navy SEAL, who claims he fired the shot that killed Osama bin Laden is blasting Trump’s desire for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. “A military parade is third world b——-. We prepare. We deter. We fight. Stop this conversation,” O’Neill tweeted. Will Trump go after the guy who supposedly killed Bin Laden and face a probably backlash?

Jared Kushner is trying to have a request of exactly who are the major foreign shareholders in Kushner Cos, the holding company primarily controlled by his family.

District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whose impartiality was questioned by then-candidate Trump because of his Mexican heritage, is set to hear a case involving the Trump’s border wall. The case, which is being brought by the state of California and multiple groups, challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s power to waive environmental laws in their construction of a border wall.

Rachel L. Brand, the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, plans to step down after nine months on the job as the country’s top law enforcement agency has been under attack by Trump. Brand’s profile had risen in part because she is next in the line of succession behind the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein – who has been under attack by Trump on the Russian investigation. Brand’s assistant, Currie Gunn, has also left the department.

Twitter announced that more Russia-backed troll accounts were active during the 2016 US presidential election than previously thought. The social network also announced that it plans to notify some 677,775 users who either followed, retweeted or liked a tweet from more than 50,000 automated bots Russia-backed Twitter accounts during the 2016 election cycle. Add Internet Research Agency (IRA) with a total of 3,814 accounts.

Mike Revis, a 27 year old, won a state House seat in a Missouri district Trump won by 28 points, making this the 35th legislative seat Democrats have flipped nationally since the inauguration. Missouri is a deep “red” state.

In a series of hypothetical 2020 one-on-one contests conducted by SSRS, Trump trails Sen. Bernie Sanders by a 55% to 42% margin among registered voters. He lags further behind former Vice President Joe Biden by a wide 57% to 40% split, and trails television personality Oprah Winfrey by a 51% to 42% divide. Neither Sanders, 76, and Biden, 75, has ruled out a presidential bid in 2020.

While unemployment is quite low in the US, it is the Democratic leaning counties that are scooping up most of the jobs. Of the 30 counties that generated the largest share of new jobs from 2014 through 2016, Trump carried only two.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton won fewer than 500 counties and Trump won more than 2,600. But the counties that Clinton carried accounted for 72% of the nation’s increased economic output from 2014 through 2016, the most recent years for which figures are available, according to Brookings. The Clinton counties accounted for 66% of the new job growth over that period as well.

Trump has found an excuse not to go to England with all the backlash: He is complaining that the cost of the new embassy in London was too much. Yup.

With all the hoopla regarding the US announcing that their embassy will move to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv against the majority of the international community, Trump claims that they are “way ahead of schedule by years.” He said the US anticipates “having a small version of it open sometime next year.” How does he define this? Well, the embassy will be moving into another building the US currently occupies in Jerusalem.

Basically, it looks like a “token” embassy housing minimal staff while [for a while at least] most of the embassy staff will still be in Tel Aviv. This is basically the equivalent of saying you moved to a new house and just dropped off a box in the new house but still live in the old one.

Microsoft said in its earnings report that it took a $13.8 billion charge in the final three months of 2017 due to the Trump tax bill signed into law in December. With the charge, Microsoft posted a $6.3 billion net loss for the quarter. Without the charge, Microsoft’s profits hit $8.7 billion, up 10% from the same period a year earlier. Microsoft did not specify whether the charge was due to a new repatriation tax.

In November, Moody’s estimated that U.S. companies held about $1.4 trillion in cash overseas. Five large tech companies — Microsoft, Apple, Google, Oracle and Cisco — accounted for nearly $600 billion of that.

 

The other memo could be released

With a busy week or so, here is a catch-up post of anything Donald Trump.

The House Intelligence Committee voted unanimously to make public the Democratic memo rebutting GOP allegations that the FBI abused surveillance laws, a move that will put the issue back on Trump’s desk this week. If Trump refuses to approve, the House of Representatives will vote and if they get a majority, they could release the Democratic memo once the FBI and Department of Justice approves.

Trump claims that the House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes memo “totally vindicates me” in the Russian collusion. Another piece of propaganda. I think only his faithful will believe that.

Trump first learned of the House Intelligence Committee document last month from some Republican allies in Congress and he watched it take hold in the conservative media, including on some of his favourite Fox News programs. Trump told confidants in recent days that he believed the memo would validate his concerns that the “deep state” — an alleged shadowy network of powerful entrenched federal and military interests — had conspired to undermine the legitimacy of his presidency, according to one outside adviser.

Trump had dismissed forceful pleas from the FBI director, Christopher Wray, and the second-ranking Justice Department official, Rod Rosenstein, to keep the memo under wraps. They said the four-page document was inaccurate and lacked critical context, and they made their views known in a remarkable public statement objecting to its release. Democrats said the memo, which disclosed material about one of the most tightly held national security processes, selectively used Republican talking points in an effort to smear law enforcement.

Trump accused the House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat “Little Adam Schiff” of criminally leaking sensitive information by “…illegally leaking confidential information.” Trump did not provide evidence that Schiff has illegally leaked confidential information. [Shocking!]

Former CIA Director John Brennan scorned Devin Nunes for the release of the controversial GOP memo alleging FBI surveillance abuses, calling aspects of the move “exceptionally partisan” and saying Nunes has “abused the office” in refusing to allow Democrats on his panel to make their rebuttal document public.

Stocks went into free fall on Monday with the Dow plunged almost 1,175 points, by far its worst closing point decline on record. The White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders said in a statement that Trump was focused on “our long-term economic fundamentals, which remain exceptionally strong.” The statement cited strengthening economic growth, low unemployment and increasing wages for workers. The Dow and S&P 500 have lost just about everything they gained since the beginning of the year. [After always taking credit for the stock market increases since his first day in office, how will Trump react if the markets continue to fall.]

As Trump touted his economic agenda in Ohio, his face stared out of millions of television screens next to blaring red graphics and yellow numbers whirling like the reels on a slot machine, telling the story of a full-bore stock market plunge.

Trump has previously boasted that the stock markets broke 84 records at one point. Add the 85th: The worst single-day point fall ever.

As the market tanked, Trump was hitting Democrats for not applauding during his State of the Union speech last week. “They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘Treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess, why not,” the President said. You think someone said ” Treasonous” to him? Does he know the definition of the word?

The Trump administration is dismissing an immigration deal brokered by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as a non-starter just hours before it is expected to be formally introduced in the Senate. The bill would grant eventual citizenship to young undocumented immigrants who have been in the country since 2013 and came to the US as children, but it does not address all of the President’s stated immigration priorities. It would not immediately authorize the $30 billion that Trump is seeking to build the border wall. The bill is a companion to a piece of House legislation that has 54 co-sponsors split evenly by party.

Trump tweeted “March 5th is rapidly approaching and the Dems seem not to care about DACA. Make a deal!” Actually, 27 co-sponsors of the DACA bill were Democrats. More like he doesn’t care about them.

The House intelligence Committee was also prepared to interview Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist, as part of the Russia probe. But that meeting was put off, as Bannon refused to be interviewed. He has been subpoenaed and has now delayed answering the panel’s questions three times as the committee negotiates with his lawyer and the White House over the terms of his interview.

At issue is whether the White House will allow Bannon to answer questions about his time in the Trump administration. It was unclear if the House would hold Bannon in contempt.

The Democrats raised questions about whether the committee chairman, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes of California, coordinated with the White House in drafting the GOP memo. Nunes was asked during a Jan. 29 committee meeting whether he had coordinated the memo with the White House. “As far as I know, no,” he responded. [“As far as I know?” Either you did or you didn’t.] Trump praised Nunes in a tweet, calling him “a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!” [What did he “endure”? You say that to a person who risked his life – not for a memo lacking facts.]

A train derailment in South Carolina that killed 2 people and involved an Amtrak train could be some trouble for Amtrak as a piece of train technology was not implemented on that stretch of track that could of prevented the derailment. The same technology could of also prevented at least 2 other previous train derailment. Congress keeps on giving Amtrak and others postponement of implementing the technology continuously since it became a law to implement about 10 years ago. This includes the Trump administration.

In a since deleted Twitter post, but retweeted elsewhere, House Speaker Paul Ryan said a secretary at a school was “pleasantly surprised her pay went up $1.50 a week”. Others criticized the tweet saying it isn’t much compared to the $500,000 he received from the Koch brothers. In addition, he has also said “I have heard time and again that the middle class is getting crumbs, but I’ll take it!”

A CNN employee discovered copies of Department of Homeland Security documents, along with other sensitive DHS material, in the seat-back pocket of a commercial plane. The documents critiquing the response to a simulated anthrax attack on Super Bowl Sunday were marked “For Official Use Only” and “important for national security.”

Trump said that it was “disgraceful” that Indianapolis Colts linebacker Edwin Jackson was killed by a man who police believe is an undocumented immigrant in a suspected drunk driving accident over the weekend. “We must get the Dems to get tough on the Border, and with illegal immigration, FAST!” Trump tweeted. So he has to take advantage of a death for his own gain.

Already at least 4 members of the Super Bowl winners, Philadelphia Eagles, will not visit the White House. Chris Long, who didn’t attend last years as a member of the losing New England Patriots, won’t attend this year either.

The U.S. trade deficit hit the highest level in nine years in 2017 at $566 billion in 2017, highest since 2008. This defying Trump’s efforts to bring more balance to America’s trade relationships. Another failure of his.

Eleven Democratic state attorneys general sued Trump’s administration over its decision to delay implementation of an Obama-era rule that would have expanded the number of wetlands and small waterways protected by the Clean Water Act. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said last week’s decision by the Republican administration to postpone implementation of the 2015 Clean Water Rule for two years is an assault on public health.

The latest figures means nearly $2 of every $10 the campaign has spent last year has gone toward legal fees. And in the last three months of 2017, about 41% of the Trump campaign’s spending went toward legal fees, according to the campaign’s most recent Federal Election Commission filing. The firm representing Trump’s former private attorney Michael Cohen, who was also a top surrogate during the campaign, was paid $214,467 by the campaign in the final months of 2017.

Seems Trump continues to like to be a “sh?t disturber”. Trump attacked the UK’s National Health Service, claiming it is “going broke and not working” and then claimed that the “Dems want to greatly raise taxes for really bad and non-personal medical care.”

Britain’s Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt replied that ” I may disagree with claims made on that march but not ONE of them wants to live in a system where 28m [as in 28 million] people have no cover…. where all get care no matter the size of their bank balance.”

Since at least May of 2016, the National Security Agency prominently displayed a mission statement with “honesty” atop its core values. It appears its priorities have changed. On January 12, the NSA removed the mission statement before replacing it with a newer version. The new “Mission & Values” statement not only removes “honesty” as its top priority, but strips any mention of “trust,” “honor,” and “openness” from the page.

A National Security Council official presented senior members of the Trump administration and other agencies with information suggesting that the United States needs to centralize its 5G network by the end of Trump’s first term [if he gets that far] as a safeguard against Chinese cybersecurity and economic threats, according to the documents.

Sanders said “the country would be better for it” if Nancy Pelosi smiled more often. Seriously?

An FBI special agent, Josh Campbell, says he’s turned in his badge so he can publicly voice his concerns over the politicization of the bureau by Republicans in Congress and the Trump administration. Campbell served as a special assistant to former FBI Director James Comey, who Trump fired last year.

The Trump administration has withdrawn its controversial nominee to head the Council on Environmental Quality, Kathleen Hartnett White, whose selection a year ago had failed to gather momentum with some Senate Republicans raising questions about her expertise. Not surprising, her position stirred controversy because of her statements on climate change where leading scientific assessments have repeatedly found that recent climate change is fueled largely by human greenhouse gas emissions.

UN Relief and Works Agency is claiming that “We signed our new framework agreement with the U.S. in the beginning of December in which every aspect of our relationship from funding to reform discussions was covered and agreed,” Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl told The Associated Press. “They did not explain the current decision by reform-related elements.” He said he believed the funding cut was linked to the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and a subsequent vote by the UN General Assembly to denounce the decision.

New polling on that first year of Trump shows that he has a lot of work to do in bringing the country together. There are just 12 states where Trump’s job approval rating was above 50% for the entirety of 2017. That pales in comparison to the 41 states where then-President Barack Obama was above 50% approval for his first year on office.

Analysts believe a government run 5G network would be costly. Most likely the US government will simply offer financial incentives to encourage US carriers to avoid using Chinese equipment, rather than building its own network. This would reduce the choice of hardware to choose from. The same would go for any phone connecting to the network.

Crackpot dictators and wanna be dictators are using Trump’s fake news and media assaults to go after their own media. But they are going further including [errrr] trumped up charges like distributing fake news, national security issues and conspiracy. [Wonder when that will hit the US.]

Trump said he would apologize for retweeting a series of posts by a UK far-right group in November, saying he didn’t know who they were at the time. Far right groups aren’t racist? Seriously?

In an impromptu news conference [scratching your hard time], Trump said “When you have a river that is un-crossable, that you cannot cross, you don’t build a wall, OK?” And then “But we’re saving hundreds of millions of dollars, hundreds of billions of dollars, by building that wall.” {which is it? A big difference.] Then after talking about the current immigration lottery system and how flawed it is, he adds “… we are going to build a wall.” Are they related?

Something Trump can try soon: Eugene V. Debs, who had been imprisoned for speaking out against World War I and had run for president from prison.

 

 

 

Gouging people before concerts

The concert business is a real racket.

Having been a fan – but not a huge one – I decided to get a ticket to see Elton John locally on what theoretically should be his last tour [it will be a long tour].

I didn’t want a seat in the nose bleed section. And I wasn’t about to pay for the real premium seats or the ridiculous VIP package – the top one goes for $1200 US per ticket locally but you get all kinds of stuff [champagne, tour of the venue, lithograph (not signed), gift bag and some merchandise].

So I took one in the stands. I got a side of the stage ticket and a few rows up from the stage with a “potential partially obstructed view”.

Now comes the fun part.

They broke down the cost of the ticket. Roughly $100 per ticket but then they added another $20 in various charges which include “facilities fee”, “service charge” [about $12 there alone] and another $4 because I asked for an electronic ticket.

Wow. Most of this stuff would normally be part of the ticket price. So what is a facilities fee? The explanation of the service charge?

Of course my favorite is the amount for an electronic ticket. Now considering no person is actually doing anything physically to the ticket [it’s not like it is being stuffed in an envelope, throw on a label for my home address and then put a postage stamp on], how can they justify that charge?

 

Trump gives a no confidence vote to the FBI and DoJ

House Republicans, with the approval of Donald Trump, released a disputed GOP intelligence memo that alleges FBI abuses of its surveillance authority. The memo from the GOP and House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes alleges that then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told the House Intelligence Committee that no surveillance warrant would have been sought for a Trump campaign aide without a disputed opposition research dossier on Trump and Russia.

The memo alleges that ex-British intelligence agent Christopher Steele had an anti-Trump financial and ideological motivations that were not included in the FISA application. Senior DOJ officials knew about Steele’s anti-Trump bias, according to the memo. Nunes admits he did not read the FISA applications before writing the memo.

A FISA court granted a warrant to monitor former Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page and approved three subsequent renewals during the Trump administration, according to the memo. A judge has to approve of the warrant and renewals which includes verifying the evidence.

The memo alleges that the FISA application cited a September 2016 Yahoo News article on Page’s July 2016 trip to Moscow, but the application “incorrectly assesses that Steele did not provide information to Yahoo News. … The article does not corroborate the Steele dossier because it is derived from information leaked by Steele himself to Yahoo news,” the memo states. They and discussed quid-pro-quo deals relating to sanctions, business opportunities and Russia’s interference in the election.

The Nunes memo glaringly omits any revelation of what other supporting information might have been submitted to the FISA judge, choosing instead to focus on cherry-picked alleged omissions.

Former FBI Director James Comey signed three applications, and McCabe and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates signed at least one. But the memo also states that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein signed off on at least one FISA application for Page. Rosenstein’s role in renewing the FISA warrants has sparked Trump’s ire. Dana Boente, who is currently the FBI general counsel and was appointed by Trump’s FBI director, signed off as well on one or more of the applications.

Trump believes the purported bias was a “disgrace” and said certain people should be “ashamed of themselves.” When asked whether he retained confidence in Rosenstein or if he planned to fire him, Trump said “You figure that one out.” What he is forgetting that many he is blaming were appointed by himself or his administration. This includes McCabe and Rosenstein.

Trump continues to tell his associates he believes the highly controversial Republican memo would expose bias within the agency’s top ranks and make it easier for him to argue the Russia investigations are prejudiced against him. [Must be interesting to be a FBI agent when the president of the US doesn’t trust you. Would you want to take a bullet for him?]

House Intelligence Committee ranking member Adam Schiff is accusing Nunes of sending a different version of the memo, crafted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, alleging FBI surveillance abuses to the White House than what the committee approved. This would now make four versions of the same memo are around.

Justice Department and intelligence community, both of which opposed the release of the document, which is based on classified intelligence.

Sen. John McCain blasted Trump for approving the release of the highly controversial GOP-Nunes memo, saying “if we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin’s job for him.” McCain characterized the memo and its release as “partisan attacks” on the FBI and the Department of Justice.

FBI Director Christopher Wray sent a striking signal to the White House, issuing a rare public warning that a controversial Republican memo about the FBI’s surveillance practices omits key information that could impact its veracity. Trump had already been angered by a letter that the Justice Department sent to the House Intelligence Committee last week warning the release would be “extraordinarily reckless.”

“With regard to the House Intelligence Committee’s memorandum, the FBI was provided a limited opportunity to review this memo the day before the committee voted to release it,” the Justice Department said in a statement. “As expressed during our initial review, we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.”

Specifically, these intelligence officials are concerned that the memo will reveal what goes into a decision to monitor targets, including what kinds of communications are targeted, and how those communications are intercepted.

Trump slammed McCabe, who has resigned, and said that he didn’t remember asking who the long-time law enforcement official voted for in 2016 in May 2017. McCabe did not vote in the 2016 presidential general election, but did vote in the 2016 Republican presidential primary. McCabe was set to leave the FBI later in the year.

The Dow closed down 666 points [hmmmm], or 2.5%, its biggest percentage decline since the Brexit turmoil in June 2016 and steepest point decline since the 2008 financial crisis. The drop is on the same day as the memo being released by the Trump administration.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley says Russia did meddle in the US election – going against Trump’s beliefs.

Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller and the Russia investigation, could be next to be fired. Trump is frustrated with the way the investigation has gone and may put the blame on him. He could argue that Rosenstein failed to scrutinize the information initially used to request the warrant and therefore didn’t do his due diligence.

The Trump administration has released a sweeping list of prominent Russian business and political figures, in defiance of Moscow and implementing a Congressional law designed to punish Russia for election meddling. It listed every senior member of the political administration at the Kremlin, and every Russian oligarch with a net worth of $1 billion or more. The administration stopped short of imposing any new punishments, saying the legislation was already doing its job.

Russia said a US Treasury report that could extend sanctions against Moscow for meddling in the 2016 US presidential elections is “a direct and obvious attempt” to interfere in its own upcoming presidential vote. They claim this because the Treasury must send Congress a list of rich Russian business figures and detail their ties to Russian President Vladimir Poutine.

Former Trump team legal spokesperson Mark Corallo had concerns that White House communications director Hope Hicks could be considering obstructing justice after a comment she reportedly made about emails between Donald Trump Jr. and Russians, according to a New York Times story. Hicks allegedly told President Donald Trump on a conference call that the Trump Jr. emails “will never get out.”

Unsure how US sanctions [in the US] affect some billionaires in Russia and their election unless the billionaires are using their US money to support Poutine. Russian elections are not for another 7 weeks or so in which Poutine is expected to easily win a fourth term in office [the main opposition leader is barred from running as he has a conviction for embezzlement, a charge that critics say is politically motivated.].

Haley is rumored to have an affair with Trump. The Grammy Awards had a skit of various celebrities who were reading from Michael Wolff’s best seller about Trump, Fire and Fury. She tweeted her disapproval over a skit involving Hillary Clinton candidate “auditioning” to perform the audio version of the book. She didn’t seem to care about the others in the skit.

Donald Trump Jr., tweeted his displeasure as well as some snark at Clinton claiming it was “a great consolation prize for losing the presidency”.

As if Trump’s end of the week wasn’t busy enough, Trump threatened to cut off aid to countries that allow drugs into the United States during a visit to the Customs and Border Protection National Training Center in Virginia. Trump specifically name-checked El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico in his criticism of countries whose citizens are coming into the United States illegally. [Maybe it’s cheaper if those countries cracked down on smuggling than him building his wall. Note that Guatemala is/was in Trump’s good graces when they agreed to move their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, following the US’ decision].

Trump’s campaign website is offering this chance for a few seconds of fame to supporters who donate to his re-election effort. The campaign’s original pitch was $35, but a subsequent email from the Trump campaign provided a link for donors to contribute as little as $1 to have their name displayed during a livestream of President Trump’s State of the Union address.

Melania Trump went to the State of the Union before her hubby. White House Press Secretary Sarah “Simpleton” Sanders claims it is to greet various politicians [as if she knows them by name] while the hubby can walk straight in.

Almost half of Americans who watched President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address [48%] say they had a “very positive” impression of the speech, down from 57% of speech-watchers after his first address to match Barack Obama’s rating after his first State of the Union address, according to a conducted by SSRS. There were more Republican voters who were watching the speech as SSRS conducted the poll only for those watching

Where have we heard this before? Trump said the 45.6 million people who watched his State of the Union was “the highest number in history.” Obama, Bush and Clinton had higher. He did tell the truth [for once] when he said Fox “beat every other Network, for the first time ever, with 11.7 million people tuning in.”

Trump, in remarks at a Republican congressional retreat in West Virginia, knocked Democrats for a lack of applause or standing up during his State of the Union address and “To get it done we’ll have to make some compromises unless we elect more Republicans.”

Outside lawyers created a limited liability company called the Patriot Legal Expenses Fund Trust, which will raise money from donors to pay legal expenses for multiple individuals, according to emails between those attorneys and a government agency. This is for White House officials and former Trump campaign aides embroiled in the Russia investigation.

It will “pay for or help defray legal expenses, which can include attorneys’ fees, court filing fees, litigation costs or other related fees and costs,” according to a draft document.

This week was so busy [particularly with the memo], that expect another blog posting sometime early next week.

 

Office 2019 is coming soon, only Windows 10 is supported

Microsoft has announced that the upcoming release of Office 2019 – expected in the second half of 2018 [and I suspect in early October when a feature update of Windows 10 will be released] – will only support the currently supported editions of Windows 10 [a.k.a. “Semi-annual Channel”], Windows 10 LTSC 2018 and as well as the next LTSC version of Server.

Yes. There will be no support for Windows 7 or Windows 8.1.

And as a nothing big piece of news, Office 2019 – non-server applications – will only be available in the Click-and-Run deployment. That means you download a stub [or executable] and it will download Office from the Internet. [So you better have a decent speed for the internet.]

Server applications will continue to be available with the traditional MSI format.

Finally, Microsoft has also cut some of the support time for Office 2019 desktop applications. As of the Office 2019 release, there will be 5 years of full support and just 2 years of extended support.

Considering Windows 10 is just barely coming close to breaking the 50% mark in deployments, they are shutting themselves out in some potential sales. That said they have the issue where Windows 7 is still huge and Windows 8.1 is very small. They can’t stop Windows 8.1 support but continue Windows 7 support.

Microsoft is assuming those millions of Windows 7 users will upgrade to Windows 10 as support ends in less than 2 years. But there are still quite a few using Windows XP and even Windows Vista.