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Berlin Film Review: ‘U – July 22’

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 06:30 AM PST

Inasmuch as there could ever be a good time to premiere a film about the 2011 Utøya massacre, “U – July 22” arrives at a particularly tender, difficult moment. Unspooling at the Berlin Film Festival five days after the Parkland mass shooting in Florida, Erik Poppe‘s appropriately agonizing single-take reconstruction of the right-wing terrorist attack that left 69 dead at a political youth camp on a Norwegian island will prompt particularly heated debate as to the ethics and ultimate value of recreating contemporary tragedy as an exercise in cinematic tension. There’s little arguing with the technical agility and brute impact of Poppe’s film, however, which also makes the prudent choice of maintaining the victims’ perspective — fictionalized, but drawn from survivors’ accounts — to the end, while the shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, is barely glimpsed on screen.

If “U – July 22” avoids some of the grisliest pitfalls of such dramatization, however, those concessions won’t settle the more complicated question of whether or not it needs to exist at all. It may teach us nothing about the events of July 22, 2011 that we didn’t already know — save, perhaps, for a more heart-stoppingly tactile impression of what it might have been like to be caught in the maelstrom for nearly 90 nightmarish minutes. There is an argument to be made for its status as a kind of operational in-memoriam monument: a flat reminder of what happened, lest too many subsequent shootings make prospective viewers forget this one’s appalling specifics, rendered in digital stock rather than bronze. However the debate proceeds, the film remains an awfully challenging sell internationally, though festival programmers will continue to stoke the fire.

Fully aware that it’s walking on eggshells merely by taking on this material in the first place, “U – July 22” includes not one but two disclaimers in its closing credits. The first clarifies that all its characters are the invented creations of screenwriters Siv Rajendram Eliassen and Anna Bache-Wiig; the second defends its screenplay’s fact-rooted fabrication by admitting, “Its basis is one truth — others may exist.”

Indeed, in filtering the events at hand through the imagined experience of 18-year-old Kaja (a formidable Andrea Berntzen, who has something of the doughty teenage Jennifer Lawrence about her), Poppe and the writers have personalized and narrativized the Utøya tragedy to make it emotionally compelling to viewers. Though few would describe the resulting film as “entertainment,” the selection of a heroine — a conscientious leader type doing her best to stay alive while looking out for others — to root for amid the chaos, and the clicking conduction of suspense as to her fate, are subjective ploys that won’t sit well with viewers who approach “U – July 22” seeking a longer view.

In the moment, the film’s manipulations are effective at a heart-in-mouth level. The isolating arm’s-length formalism of Gus van Sant’s “Elephant” is emphatically not the approach Poppe (best known for such glossy, audience-friendly pictures as “A Thousand Times Good Night” and “The King’s Choice”) has taken here. Nor is anything approaching documentary technique — save for dialogue-free, CCTV-style footage at the film’s outset detailing the car bomb explosion in central Oslo, also executed by Breivik, that preceded the shootings by just two hours, killing eight. Cut to the remote, idyllic island of Utøya, where news of the attack is slowly trickling through to 500 teenagers gathered for a summer camp run by the left-wing Workers’ Youth League — stuttered and staggered by a faint cellphone signal.

Working from the start with a roving camera, propulsively steered by Martin Otterbeck, Poppe sticks close to popular, responsible Kaja as she absorbs the tragedy and lightly admonishes her more fun-loving younger sister Emilie (Elli Rhiannon Müller Osborne) for showing insufficient solemnity in the circumstances. Mere minutes pass before the first gunshots are heard in the distance, and fevered, uncomprehending panic ensues. Though Kaja initially makes a run for it with a group of friends, her needling concern for the missing Emilie spurs her to go it alone, like a horror film’s final girl — bolting for her life across the campsite, the surrounding woodland and finally the island’s crevice-laden shore as regular gunfire dully rings in her ears. (Bullets practically serve as a score in Gisle Tveito’s disorienting, multi-directional sound design.)

With the entire ordeal staged, like Sebastian Schipper’s recent “Victoria,” in an exacting, significantly ground-covering single shot, “U – July 22” is designed to be as immersive as it is exhausting, and largely succeeds — though it lumps in some moments of sticky contrivance, as when Kaja sings a bell-clear, a capella rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” to comfort her fellow victims as they await their fate. It’s only once proceedings finally, mercifully cut to black that the moral conundrum of the whole enterprise kicks back in: Does “U – July 22” finally leave its audience with anything? How could it, given the numbing senselessness of what it depicts? Perhaps that’s the very point of Poppe’s film; it’s for the individual viewer to decide if that emptiness is enough.

The global space race, 2.0

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 06:07 AM PST

(Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan is a senior fellow and the head of the nuclear and space policy initiative at the Observer Research Foundation.)

NEW DELHI — The recent launch of the SpaceX rocket Falcon Heavy is a good illustration of the entry of efficient and innovative private players into an arena long considered the preserve of national governments. But this does not mean that national competition in outer space is disappearing. If anything, it is actually accelerating in Asia. China’s growing space prowess is leading to a space race with India and Japan, which are beginning to pool their resources to better match Beijing.

The India-Japan strategic partnership has grown enormously in the last decade. Last September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recognized the salience of outer space in their bilateral relations and “welcomed the deepening of cooperation between the space agencies of the two countries in the field of Earth observation, satellite-based navigation, space sciences and lunar exploration.” And as the president of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) proclaimed two months later: “India and Japan will lead the space sector in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Then, in December, JAXA and the Indian Space Research Organization agreed to study a joint “lunar polar exploration” mission, to be completed this March. This will lead to a joint expedition that is expected to land a remotely piloted vehicle on the surface of the moon to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

Both India and Japan have undertaken successful lunar missions before, but only to study the moon via satellites that orbited above; neither has sent a craft to land on the moon’s surface. And neither country has carried out a lunar mission in almost a decade. Both are acutely aware of what China has accomplished, with four moon missions between 2007 and 2014 alone. China’s technological dominance weighs on the Asian strategic balance, and both India and Japan are clearly feeling the pressure.

One attempt to catch up was a joint India-Japan moon mission that was a finalist for the Google Lunar XPrize competition. TeamIndus, an Indian private aerospace firm, planned to carry a Japanese rover developed by Japan’s Team Hakuto on its spacecraft. But the Google Lunar XPrize competition itself came to an end — none of the teams could meet the launch deadline of March 31, 2018.

The emergence of private space research entities in India represents an exciting development. Though the TeamIndus lunar mission was canceled, the team is working on a couple of different projects, including a satellite bus and a solar-powered drone, both of which it seeks to commercialize in the near future. As Rahul Narayan, the founder of TeamIndus, said: “From an investment standpoint, this will be a three-to-five-year journey until we can stabilize as a standalone company. We are looking at equity investors to come in and take the risk of helping us build the product. By year end, we can start to generate revenues from what we do.”

Asia’s growing space race is indicative of the larger geopolitical competition in the region. China’s rise and the strategic uncertainties it has created are particularly worrying to India and Japan, leading to surprisingly fast-growing India-Japan strategic cooperation.

Though India and Japan have had no history of direct conflict, the two were on opposite sides of the Cold War divide, with Japan formally allied with the United States and India tilting heavily to the Soviet side, leading to cordial but cool ties for decades. But China’s rise has affected both countries and led to an emerging India-Japan consensus on a whole host of global commons issues, such as maritime security and protection of the sea lanes of communication.

The growing intensity of competition in outer space is partially due to the growing number of commercial players and partially due to underlying geopolitical tensions. As during the Cold War, outer space has become one more area of the strategic competition on Earth. This means that the race to return to the moon, as well as to explore the moon and asteroids for mining and resource extraction, are likely to intensify in the coming years.

Even as the U.S. maintains a technological edge in this domain, China is fast catching up. The energized strategic partnership between Moscow and Beijing — another new strategic entente — will only accelerate it. Private players are adding a new dimension to this space race, but national programs are driven by much older and more potent imperatives. As geopolitical competitions sharpen around the globe, those government-led efforts could turn out to be more important than private expeditions.

Berlinale: ‘The War Has Ended’ Awarded Two Co-Production Market Prizes

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 05:49 AM PST

Two out of three prestigious monetary prizes, given each year at the Berlinale Co-Production Market, have been awarded to a co-production from producers in Poland, Germany and Israel. Hagar Ben Asher’s “The War Has Ended” was awarded with both the Eurimage Co-Production Development Award and the Arte International Prize. Chinese project “Tropical Memories” received the VFF Talent Highlight Award.

The Eurimages prize was announced Sunday evening, the second day of the market, and offers an endowment of €20,000 ($24,800) intended as a development grant. “The War Has Ended” is a co-production between Poland’s Madants, Germany’s Match Factory Prods. and Israel’s Transfax Film Prods., which presented it in Berlin.

Monday saw the two further prizes announced with “The War Has Ended” also claiming the Arte prize, which awards a $7,445 prize to an artistically outstanding project drawn from the selection of the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

VFF Talent Highlight winner “Tropical Memories,” presented by Chinese producer Jing Wang and directed by Shipei Wan, received $12,400 in prize money, which has been offered by the Munich-based Verwertungsgesellschaft der Film und Fernsehproduzenten since 2004 to recognize a promising project by an up-and-coming filmmaker selected from the Berlinale’s Talent Project Market. Other nominated projects from Israeli producer Maya Fischer and Danish producer Charlotte de la Gournerie received a nomination prize of $1,240 and an opportunity to pitch their projects at the Co-Production Market.

The winners were selected by this year’s jury, which comprised Csaba Bereczki from Hungary and Doreen Boonekamp from the Netherlands.

The Co-Production Market, which runs Feb. 17-21, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. Part of the European Film Market, it offers producers of 36 selected narrative feature projects the opportunity to meet potential co-producers and financiers. Over its five-day span, 600 participants take part in more than 1,300 individual meetings.

The first recipient of the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award was Emily Atef’s “3 Days in Quiberon” in 2015. Atef’s completed film is screening in competition at the Berlin Film Festival Monday night.

The True Cost of Trump’s National Defense Strategy

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 05:46 AM PST

 On January 20, the U.S. Department of Defense released the Trump administration’s National Defense Strategy, followed nearly a month later by the president’s budget request for fiscal year 2019. Happily, the two are reasonably well aligned, an outcome that is never assured given how disconnected the processes of strategy formulation and budget building can be. Both documents clearly prioritize strategic competition with China and Russia. But good strategy involves decisions not only about what to prioritize but what not to. Unfortunately, neither document makes clear what missions the Department of Defense is going to end or deemphasize in order to shift focus to this new and very resource-intensive top priority of “expanding the competitive space” against countries investing heavily in high-end capabilities designed to limit U.S. freedom of action (known as “anti-access/area-denial” capabilities). This omission is a problem. As large as the expected increase for defense spending is in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, it is still not enough to cover everything.

In his remarks rolling out the request for the increase, David L. Norquist, the chief financial officer and controller at the Department of Defense, emphasized that this new budget was shaped by the new strategy, despite its concurrent construction. How large the defense budget needs to be depends on what the body politic wants the force to be able to do, which is the subject of the strategy. Budgets are not strategic documents, but when done correctly they are a necessary component of making a strategy real.

And this strategy wants the armed forces to do a lot. Day to day, they must “deter aggression in … the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East; degrade terrorists and WMD threats; and defend U.S. interests from challenges below the level of armed conflict.” In times of war, the mobilized force must “be capable of: defeating aggression by a major power; deterring an opportunistic aggression elsewhere; and disrupting imminent terrorist attacks and WMD threats.” In addition, the force must always defend the homeland and deter strategic attacks. This guidance represents an expansion of the Obama administration’s first defense strategy, the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which at the time was criticized for being overly broad and underresourced.

Nothing in the unclassified summary of the National Defense Strategy indicates that the Pentagon will be reducing any of its current commitments-indeed, by all appearances they are increasing. In fact, when asked during his rollout of the strategy whether the administration would be decreasing its focus on counterinsurgency-a time- and manpower-intensive mission-in order to shift resources to strategic competition with China and Russia, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said no. Invoking the academic strategist Colin Gray, he noted, “the enemy will always move against your perceived weakness. We cannot … say we’re not going to do counterinsurgency, because you know what’s going to happen. And so we’re going to have to do it.”

In sum, Trump’s defense strategy dictates that the military must be able to operate continuously in three diverse geographic regions. At the same time, it needs to be investing in advanced capabilities and sustaining the readiness required to defeat a major power and combat terrorist organizations, all the while keeping the United States safe from weapons of mass destruction delivered by either state or nonstate actors. This set of missions brings with it some very large bills. To make this strategy real, the department must increase investments in developing and fielding the high-end capabilities required to retain the United States’ technological edge against China and Russia. It needs to modernize the aging nuclear triad. And it must sustain a force large and well-equipped enough to continuously operate in three diverse regions in ways that meaningfully deter would-be aggressors and combat terrorist threats.

Still, the fiscal year 2019 defense budget request provides $686 billion in total, resources that can cover an awful lot. The largest increases by percentage are in the research, development, test, and evaluation and procurement accounts-13 and 10 percent, respectively. These funds go toward capabilities such as missile defense; advanced aircraft and ships such as the F-35, P-8A, and DDG-51; and next-generation space systems. These investments make sense to support a strategy that prioritizes strategic competition with Russia and China, who are investing heavily in advanced capabilities that are designed to limit U.S. freedom of action in their regions. The budget also sustains plans to modernize the nuclear triad and makes necessary improvements to U.S. military space architecture, which are required because space is now a contested environment. Lastly, the budget repairs broken glass left by nearly a decade of budget instability and cuts made across the board, rather than guided by strategic priorities. These repairs include: increasing numbers of service members to fill out understaffed units; replenishing depleted stocks of precision-guided munitions; and sustaining military bases, airfields, and training ranges that have fallen into disrepair. But it is still not enough to cover everything the strategy wants the force to be able to do.

The midterm budget plan, known as the Future Years Defense Program, announced in this proposal is the most concerning disconnect between the expansive strategy and fiscal reality. It projects that for the years 2020 through 2023, the defense budget requests will grow only at the rate of inflation-and even then, it uses a highly optimistic assumption for inflation rates given current trends, which are increasing. With this projection, the Defense Department will start each budget year already behind the curve-personnel and maintenance costs grow faster than the rate of inflation, due to factors like the increased cost of health care economywide and increasingly complex military platforms with longer life spans. Put all these factors together, and it is likely that, after this initial increase in fiscal year 2019, the defense budget will actually shrink in real terms for the next several years. If current defense leaders are pinning their hopes on back-office reform to generate savings that can cover this gap, they are likely to be disappointed, as so many of their predecessors have been.

The bottom line is that U.S. strategic ambition now exceeds resource reality. But then again, it usually will. Leaders in the national security space manage this gap by making calculated decisions about where to accept risk. It is not enough for a strategy to announce clear priorities, as this one has done. It must also clearly tell the department what it should stop doing, or do less of. We can hope that the classified National Defense Strategy gives the Pentagon explicit guidance in this vein. If defense leaders do not make some difficult decisions, the result will be a force that is stretched too thin. Tough choices are less tough when budgets are growing, but leaders still have to make them. Otherwise we will continue to experience the readiness challenges the force is currently facing, and worse. Units risk spending so much time deployed that they do not have adequate time for maintenance and training, one of the likely factors in last year’s navy ship collisions in the Pacific. The result could be a force with little ability to surge in response to a crisis.

Meanwhile, just as the Defense Department is feeling pretty flush, especially compared to recent years, this same president’s budget request slashes funding for much of the rest of the U.S. foreign policy apparatus. A budget that increases defense spending while gutting other modalities of U.S. power is not a recipe for sustained U.S. global leadership. In 2013, when then General Mattis said, “if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition,” he was not describing an optimal approach to U.S. foreign policy. He was stating what used to be common knowledge-that continued U.S. preeminence requires not only a strong military but also a full diplomatic toolkit.

This article was originally published on ForeignAffairs.com.

Robert B. Reich: Has the real meaning of America been lost?

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 05:10 AM PST

When Donald Trump and his followers refer to “America,” what do they mean?

Some see a country of white, English-speaking Christians.

Others want a land inhabited by self-seeking individuals free to accumulate as much money and power as possible, who pay taxes only to protect their assets from criminals and foreign aggressors.

Others think mainly about flags, national anthems, pledges of allegiance, military parades and secure borders.

Trump encourages a combination of all three — tribalism, libertarianism and loyalty.

But the core of our national identity has not been any of this. It has been found in the ideals we share — political equality, equal opportunity, freedom of speech and of the press, a dedication to open inquiry and truth, and to democracy and the rule of law.

We are not a race. We are not a creed. We are a conviction — that all people are created equal, that people should be judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and that government should be of the people, by the people and for the people.

Political scientist Carl Friedrich, comparing Americans to Gallic people, noted that “to be an American is an ideal, while to be a Frenchman is a fact.”

That idealism led Abraham Lincoln to proclaim that America might yet be the “last best hope” for humankind. It prompted Emma Lazarus, some two decades later, to welcome to American the world’s “tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It inspired the poems of Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, and the songs of Woody Guthrie. All turned their love for America into demands that we live up to our ideals.

“This land is your land, this land is my land,” sang Guthrie.

“Let America be America again,” pleaded Hughes. “The land that never has been yet — /And yet must be — the land where every man is free. / The land that’s mind — the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME –.”

That idealism sought to preserve and protect our democracy — not inundate it with big money, or allow one party or candidate to suppress votes from rivals, or permit a foreign power to intrude on our elections.

It spawned a patriotism that once required all of us take on a fair share of the burdens of keeping America going — paying taxes in full rather than seeking loopholes or squirreling money away in foreign tax shelters, and serving in the armed forces or volunteering in our communities rather than relying on others to do the work.

These ideals compelled us to join together for the common good — not pander to bigotry or divisiveness, or fuel racist or religious or ethnic divisions.

The idea of a common good was once widely understood and accepted in America. After all, the U.S. Constitution was designed for “We the people” seeking to “promote the general welfare” — not for “me the narcissist seeking as much wealth and power as possible.”

Yet the common good seems to have disappeared. The phrase is rarely uttered today, not even by commencement speakers or politicians.

There’s growing evidence of its loss — in CEOs who gouge their customers and loot their corporations; Wall Street bankers who defraud their investors; athletes involved in doping scandals; doctors who do unnecessary procedures to collect fatter fees; and film producers and publicists who choose not to see that a powerful movie mogul they depend on is sexually harassing and abusing women.

We see its loss in politicians who take donations from wealthy donors and corporations and then enact laws their patrons want, or shutter the government when they don’t get the partisan results they seek.

And in a president of the United States who has repeatedly lied about important issues, refuses to put his financial holdings into a blind trust and personally profits from his office, and foments racial and ethnic conflict.

This unbridled selfishness, this contempt for the public, this win-at-any-cost mentality, is eroding America.

Without binding notions about right and wrong, only the most unscrupulous get ahead. When it’s all about winning, only the most unprincipled succeed. This is not a society. It’s not even a civilization, because there’s no civility at its core.

If we’re losing our national identity it’s not because we now come in more colors, practice more religions and speak more languages than we once did.

It is because we are forgetting the real meaning of America — the ideals on which our nation was built. We are losing our sense of the common good.

(Robert Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. Robert Reich’s new book, “The Common Good,” is out Feb. 20. His documentary, “Saving Capitalism,” is available on Netflix.)

Jon Bon Jovi launches his own wine

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 05:00 AM PST

Jon Bon Jovi has launched his own brand of rosé wine.

The ‘Living On A Prayer’singer is a big fan of what he calls “pink juice” and, along with his son Jesse, has teamed up with acclaimed French winemaker Gerard Bertand to produce Diving Into Hampton Water.

Jon said: “Creating this wine with Gerard was just as creative as collaborating with another songwriter, Gerard uses his talents and wine knowledge just like a gifted musician. And working with my son on this has been an amazing experience.”

Jesse said: “We’d tried rose from everywhere. But when we visited Gerard, we realised that there is an entire coastline in France that is producing some of the best-kept secrets on earth.”

The idea came from the time the 55-year-old singer spent in the Hamptons with his family, enjoying a glass of wine, dubbed “Hampton Water” by 23-year-old Jesse.

After travelling the South of France and tasting a number of rosés, the ‘Always’ hitmaker – who, as well as Jesse, also has daughter Stephanie, 24, and sons Jacob, 15, and Romeo, 13, with wife Dorothea – found he and Gerard had more than just wine in common.

He said: “We just hit it off immediately. We found that we shared a love of family, food, friends, and of course, great wine and great music.”

Diving Into Hampton Water will hit shelves this spring.

The Bon Jovi frontman joins a strong of celebrities who have their own wine, including Drew Barrymore, Fergie, Kate Hudson, Sting and John Legend.

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie also went into winemaking together before their split.

La demencia de las armas en EEUU

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 04:34 AM PST

El corresponsal extranjero y columnista de The Miami Herald y El Nuevo Herald

El presidente Trump ha dicho que el joven que masacró a 17 personas en una escuela de la Florida estaba “mentalmente trastornado”. Es probable que así sea, pero los millones de estadounidenses que siguen votando por legisladores que defienden las ventas prácticamente sin restricciones de rifles semiautomáticos también tienen una gran responsabilidad por la demencia de este tipo de asesinatos masivos.

La mayoría republicana del Congreso ha venido apoyando las ventas de armas de una manera virtualmente ilimitada, incluso para personas con graves problemas de salud mental. El Senado incluso votó en contra de un proyecto de ley en 2016 que hubiera prohibido la venta de armas a personas que están en la lista del FBI de potenciales terroristas. Por absurdo que parezca, un potencial terrorista no puede subirse a un avión en este país, pero puede comprar un fusil semiautomático.

Fíjense en estos datos:

– El ataque a la escuela Marjory Stoneman Douglas en Florida fue el tiroteo masivo número 30 en el país en 2018, según el Archivo de Violencia de Armas. Y solo estamos en febrero.

– Ha habido más de 1,600 tiroteos masivos desde 2012, según el Archivo de Violencia de Armas. Todos estos tiroteos masivos resultaron en 1,829 personas muertas y 6,447 heridas.

– Estados Unidos tiene la mayor cantidad de armas de fuego en manos privadas del mundo. Hay 89 armas por cada 100 personas en Estados Unidos, comparado con 46 armas en Suiza, 45 en Finlandia y 32 en Suecia, según el Small Arms Survey de 2007.

– Nikolas Cruz, el joven sospechoso de haber perpetrado el asesinato masivo de la Florida con un rifle AR-15 semiautomático, compró el arma legalmente el año pasado cuando solo tenía 18 años. Cruz no tenía edad suficiente para poder comprar legalmente una cerveza, pero pudo comprar legalmente un arma de guerra.

– Las armas semiautomáticas como los rifles AR-15 se usan cada vez más en los asesinatos masivos en Estados Unidos. El hombre que mató a 58 personas en un concierto de Las Vegas el año pasado tenía varios rifles AR-15.

– No siempre ha sido así. Los ataques con rifles semiautomaticos han aumentado desde 2004, tras la expiración de una ley de prohibición de rifles de asalto de 1994. Desde entonces, el Congreso no ha renovado la prohibición, en gran parte por el cabildeo de la Asociación Nacional del Rifle (NRA).

– El Congreso ni siquiera ha querido aprobar una ley que exija verificación de antecedentes para impedir compras de armas por personas con enfermedades mentales.

– La NRA y sus afiliados gastaron alrededor de $50 millones para ayudar al presidente Trump y a los republicanos a ganar las elecciones de 2016. Entre los principales beneficiarios de los fondos de la NRA en las últimas elecciones estuvo el senador Marco Rubio, R-Florida, quien recibió $3.1 millones.

Tras el último asesinato masivo, Trump y la mayoría de los republicanos en el Congreso siguieron el guión habitual: extendieron sus sentidas condolencias a los familiares de las víctimas, y pidieron no debatir el tema de las armas durante el periodo de duelo. Ya hemos visto esa película muchas veces: después de unos días, la atención nacional pasa a otro tema, y el Congreso no hace nada.

El senador Rubio dijo después del tiroteo que “esto es inexplicable”. ¿Inexplicable? Lo inexplicable sería que no ocurrieran este tipo de masacres cuando un joven de 18 años con problemas mentales puede comprar legalmente un fusil semiautomático.

Sí, la Constitución dice que los estadounidenses tienen derecho a portar armas, pero no dice que tienen derecho a comprar un bazuca, o un misil. La Constitución también dice que los estadounidenses tienen derecho a la libertad de expresión y, sin embargo, existen leyes contra la difamación para evitar que se abuse de ese derecho.

Es hora de que Trump y los republicanos en el Congreso demuestren un liderazgo real y permitan algunas medidas, como controles de antecedentes obligatorios y efectivos para los compradores de armas. De lo contrario, solo habrá una forma de terminar con esta locura: derrocar a la mayoría republicana en el Congreso en las elecciones de noviembre.

Japan Box Office: ‘Greatest Showman’ Pitches up as Weekend Winner

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 04:33 AM PST

The Greatest Showman,” the Michael Gracey musical based on the life of P.T. Barnum, bowed atop the Japanese box office for the Feb. 17-18 weekend. It was also the only new entry to the top ten. With Fox distributing, the film scored $4.8 million on 355,000 admissions in its first three days of release. It now looks likely to finish above the $20 million mark.

Sliding from number one to number two in its second weekend on release was Warner’s romantic fantasy “Tonight, at the Movies.” The film earned $1.0 million, raising its cumulative total to $4.6 million.

Toho’s murder mystery, “The Crimes That Bind,” fell to third place with $657,000 for a cumulative total of $12 million.

How to Turn ‘Found’ Money into a Retirement Income Stream

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 04:25 AM PST

Save it or spend it? That’s the question to answer when you find extra money.

SEE ALSO: The 3 Spending Stages of Your Retirement

Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine headlined its February 2018 issue with great approaches when the figure at hand is $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000. I have some ideas, too.

The best opportunity with money that you unexpectedly discover – either from a windfall or cuts in spending you have achieved – in my view centers on “leverage,” meaning using something to maximum advantage.

‘Save or Spend’ Depends on the Context

When I consider the best use of $1,000, $10,000 or $100,000, it is in the context of creating the best retirement income plan for the investor.

My plans differ slightly from Kiplinger’s: a one-time infusion of $1,000 doesn’t do much for retirement, so I imagined scenarios for a client who indicates she can reduce her annual budget by $1,000. Or the couple who rediscovered a $10,000 IRA they forgot they had. The $100,000 involves the decision to reallocate a portion of liquid, short-term savings to long-term retirement savings.


You could lease a car for $80 more per month or …

Add an extra $1,000 of yearly payments toward a more comprehensive long-term care insurance plan. That could give you and your spouse additional nursing home care that equals tens of thousands in savings several years in the future. Or perhaps a yearly life insurance bill that is $1,000 higher would buy a Boomer another $150,000 in life insurance proceeds that can be left to your beneficiary.

These actions might also allow you to comfortably take larger monthly payments from your retirement account today. In addition, insurance offers powerful tax benefits because the proceeds are received tax-free.

Leveraging an extra $1,000 a year in this way can benefit your current circumstances as well as your family’s several years from now.

See Also: QLACs: A Secret Weapon to Help Reduce RMDs


You could budget for travel, tickets, food and lodging for you and a friend at the Olympics or …

Buy income in the future in the form of a deferred income annuity, including a form called a QLAC.

Perhaps the $10K can buy lifetime payments of $5,000 a year starting at age 85. With that guarantee, you can feel confident to spend more of your savings early in retirement rather than hoarding in case you live a long time.

Those future payments can also improve your tax situation because your tax rate will probably be lower years from now.

This is clearly smart leveraging.


You could renovate your house with all the high-end ideas you see on HGTV or …

Rework your retirement plan.

In most cases, the extra investment of $100,000 will make every aspect of your plan work better for you, from short- to long-term benefits.

If your retirement plan, for example, skimps on early-in-retirement payments, you can buy lifetime income starting immediately with an immediate annuity. Or you can draw your savings down faster if you ensure late-in-retirement payments from a deferred income annuity. Or a combination of the two.

In all of these cases, you can use the leverage of insurance products to gain maximum advantage. A little discipline will help you make the most of any found money, and even relatively small amounts can produce significant benefits.

See Also: Should No-Load Variable Annuities Have a Place in Your Portfolio?

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Beyonce refused $10m deal for Blue Ivy trademark

Posted: 19 Feb 2018 03:00 AM PST

Beyonce has claimed a wedding planner blocking her bid to trademark her daughter’s name tried to sell her the rights for $10 million dollars.

The ‘Halo’ hitmaker is currently locked in a legal battle to trademark ‘Blue Ivy Carter’, the name of her and Jay-Z’s eldest child, but Veronica Morals, who owns a wedding planning business called Blue Ivy has opposed the filing.

And now, legal representatives for the star – who, as well as five-year-old Blue Ivy, also has twins Rumi and Sir, seven months, with her spouse – have claimed Morales tried to sell her company to the singer in a multimillion-dollar-deal.

Documents obtained by The Blast explained that, shortly after Morales opposed Beyonce’s trademark filing, a meeting was set up between the two parties to try and reach a settlement.

They claimed the meeting became a “business proposal”, with Morales’ lawyer giving a “long speech”, about the situation being an “opportunity for a business relationship rather than an adversarial proceeding.”

Morales is said to have put together a Power Point presentation stating why Beyonce should buy her wedding planning business, along with the Blue Ivy trademark, and together they could “begin producing products and goods”.

A package deal was allegedly offered for $10 million.

Beyonce’s legal team are now demanding the presentation be handed over as evidence that Morales’ trademark opposition is purely a money-making scheme.

The ‘Crazy In Love’ singer is not taking any chances with future trademarks.

When her twins were born last June, the couple immediately filed trademark documents for their names.

The trademarks included, “fragrances, cosmetics, key chains, baby teething rings, strollers, mugs, water bottles, hair ribbons, playing cards, tote bags, sports balls, rattles and novelty items”.