Demagogue Me with a Spoon

Requesting and/or accepting dirt from a foreign country is basically Potus operandi at the White House these days. When asked by George Stephanopoulos if he'd accept opposition research from those outside the US, Trump explained: "I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening ... If somebody called from a country, Norway, [and said] ‘we have information on your opponent' -- oh, I think I'd want to hear it." (Me too. On OPPOsite Day.) When told that the FBI director said that anyone who receives an offer for such information should contact the agency immediately, Trump shot back: "The FBI director is wrong, because frankly it doesn't happen like that in life." Not in our current national life, anyway. As long as someone in this White House can accept such foreign assistance without any risk of penalty, we can expect that the behavior will be par for the course (and the course will be owned by the president, while the green fees, cart rental, and other associated costs will be picked up by American tax payers).

+ AP: "A federal watchdog agency recommended Thursday that President Donald Trump fire one of his most ardent defenders, counselor Kellyanne Conway, for repeatedly violating a law that limits political activity by government workers." (The Justice Department will probably respond by investigating the watchdog...)


Assad State of Affairs

"Chemical weapons have been used more than 330 times in Syria. 98% of the attacks were by the government; 2% were by ISIS. 90% of the attacks occurred after Assad crossed Obama's 'red line' in 2013. 92% of the victims of gassing, bombing, and sieges in Syria have been civilians." MoJo's Shane Bauer: Behind the Lines. "I went to Syria to understand America's role in one of the 21st century's greatest tragedies."


In Hormuz Way

"Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz came under a suspected attack Thursday, setting one of them ablaze in the latest mysterious assault targeting vessels in a region crucial to global energy supplies amid heightened tension between Iran and the US." AP: Tankers struck near Strait of Hormuz amid Iran-US tensions.

+ BBC: Why does the Strait of Hormuz matter?

+ From Mike Pompeo: "It is the assessment by the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today." Here's the latest from CNN.


Main Landmine

"The rise of Beijing has been the major global story of the new century. But the very breadth of that ascent and the bland labels of the areas where it has edged toward dominance — trade, infrastructure, finance, tech — have served to mask the nature of the system China brings with it. That system is control." Time: Hong Kong Is on the Frontlines of a Global Battle For Freedom.


Bury the Hatchet

"It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it, breathing carbon dioxide and then depositing it via roots and decay into the soil. That's why consumers and companies often 'offset' their carbon emissions by planting carbon-sucking trees elsewhere in the world." WaPo: The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it. (My personal carbon offset efforts are similar to this model. I take a bong hit. But I never exhale.)


Insane Asylum Laws

"He was standing in a clearing, battered, surrounded by guerrillas with guns, and digging a large hole. 'You are going to see him die,' a rebel told her. Then he offered her his gun and said, 'If you shoot him, you can go home to your children.' Ana refused. 'I couldn't speak," she told me. 'I shook my head.' The rebels shot Ruby, and his body fell sideways into the hole. Then they turned to her. She was sure that they were going to kill her, too, and tried to picture her children's faces before she died. Instead, they told her that they were hungry. 'Do you know how to make tortillas?' one asked." The New Yorker: A Victim of Terrorism Faces Deportation for Helping Terrorists.


Label Libel

"Free-range eggs probably came from hens that spent most or all of their lives indoors. And then there's non-GMO ... companies now are printing that non-GMO label on things like strawberries or mangoes, which are never genetically modified. 'They're doing it to differentiate themselves, even though their product is exactly the same as everything else on the shelf.'" NPR: Why Food Reformers Have Mixed Feelings About Eco-Labels.


Bottled Rage

"Contrary to accepted standards of criminal investigation and prosecution, all available evidence was not pursued. Instead, the OSC entered into agreements that gave private law firms—representing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Treasury, and the Executive Office of former Gov. Rick Snyder—a role in deciding what information would be turned over to law enforcement." Does that explain things for you? It probably doesn't for the residents of Flint either. But at this point, no bad news or poor governmental performance could possibly surprise them. Detroit Free Press: All Flint water crisis criminal charges dismissed by attorney general's office.


Blues Rock

FiveThirtyEight: "It feels extremely weird to write this, but the St. Louis Blues are Stanley Cup champions. It took them more than half a century — in that time there were three failed Cup bids and a subsequent 25-year playoff streak that included zero Cup appearances — but this current group of Bluenotes will forever have their names engraved on the face of an ornate punch bowl."

+ "Maybe Binnington would get a call up in the event of a few injuries. Maybe he'd even give them a spot start. But he wasn't considered a real player, let alone an important one, in the Blues organization." Well, things change. The Blues' Game 7 hero was as unlikely as he was spectacular.


Bottom of the News

"He understood the pressure at the other end of the line. 'Their job is, ‘Get me Bill Murray on the phone.' They have nothing else to do. So he decided one more step was necessary. 'I just unplugged the phone and then I got this 800 number, which is very handy,' he said." Bill Murray Explains Why He Created a Secret 1-800 Number to Be Reached About Roles.

+ The Winners of The National Geographic Travel Photo Contest.